The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 9-25-16

Sunday Post

Last week was an “A” week. This week seems to be a “B” week.

And speaking of Bs, this is Banned Books Week. In honor of Banned Books Week, I have two special books on my list for the week. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut has been banned or challenged many times and in many places. This satirical novel about the author’s experiences in World War II is one of the most frequently challenged books of the 1990s AND the 2000s. In one infamous case, in 2011 a school district in Missouri banned the book from the local high school.

I managed never to read it, either in high school or later, in spite of the number of times it was recommended to me. I plan to rectify that omission this week. Additionally, I have The Brothers Vonnegut, a nonfiction book about Kurt Vonnegut’s and his brother Bernard’s work at General Electric, and the ways that their work influenced Vonnegut’s writing.

The freedom to read is part of the first amendment right of freedom of the press. Because the press isn’t really free if no one is allowed to read what it publishes.

Current Giveaways:

$20 Amazon Gift Card from MK Meredith and Seducing the Tycoon
Not Quite Perfect Tour Giveaway of 1 Kindle, 1 $50 Amazon GC and 2 $25 Amazon GC.
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the UnBe-Leaf-Able September to Remember Giveaway Hop
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Banned Books Week Giveaway Hop

not quite perfect by catherine bybeeBlog Recap:

B Review: Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah and Agatha Christie
B+ Review: Not Quite Perfect by Catherine Bybee + Giveaway
B Review: Seducing the Tycoon by MK Meredith + Giveaway
B Review: The Girl in the Castle by Santa Montefiore
B- Review: A Truck Full of Money by Tracy Kidder
Stacking the Shelves (203)
Banned Books Week Giveaway Hop

slaughterhouse five by kurt vonnegutComing Next Week:

Autumn in Oxford by Alex Rosenberg (blog tour review)
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (review)
The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan (blog tour review)
Snowfall on Haven Point by RaeAnne Thayne (blog tour review)
The Brothers Vonnegut by Ginger Strand (review)

Banned Books Week Giveaway Hop


Welcome to the Banned Books Week Giveaway Hop, hosted by Bookhounds.

What is Banned Books Week?

It’s an event that is sponsored every year by the American Library Association and a whole host of other organizations to celebrate the Freedom to Read. This year, ALA is partnering with We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) to bring more attention to the unfortunate fact that books by diverse authors or with diverse content are more commonly banned or challenged than other books.

Banned Books Week focuses on efforts across the U.S. to remove or restrict access to books. I’m going to put on my librarian hat here to say that the reasons that someone might want to restrict access to, or ban, a book are many and varied. While when someone says “banned books” most people think of sex, in real life anything that makes some people uncomfortable will incite in those people the idea of banning that book so that other people aren’t exposed to whatever it is that just made them uncomfortable.

Violence gets challenged. Speaking truth to power gets challenged. Books that contain historical truths that make people uncomfortable get challenged. Books that appear to uphold an opposing, untraditional or unpopular viewpoint get challenged. And yes, books that include sexual references, or even merely seem to include sexual references, often get challenged.

As I said in my Banned Books Week post a few years ago, “Everything bothers somebody”. And if that somebody gets bothered enough, they may try to ban the book that bothered them.

But Banned Books Week is all about the Freedom to Read. Just because a book upsets one person, or even a whole group of people, does not mean that those who are upset have the right to prevent others from reading that book. If one person’s meat is another person’s poison, then one person’s book to ban is another person’s book to cherish.

This year’s Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association;American Booksellers for Free Expression; the American Library Association;American Society of Journalists and Authors; Association of American PublishersComic Book Legal Defense Fund; the Freedom to Read FoundationNational Coalition Against Censorship;National Council of Teachers of English; National Association of College Stores; People for the American WayPEN American Center and and Project Censored.  And it is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.

Diversity-banner-WEBSITE-780x300-v1For more information on Banned Books Week, including the absolutely fascinating lists of frequently challenged books, visit the official Banned Books Week site. The books on those list are guaranteed to contain more than a few surprises.

In my own celebration of Banned Books Week, I’m participating in the Banned Books Week Giveaway Hop. The prize is either a $10 Gift Card or a $10 Book, so that you can get your own Banned Book to read.

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And for more fabulous banned and bookish prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on the hop:

Stacking the Shelves (203)

Stacking the Shelves

I keep trying to tell myself that it is good news that I’m not importing a metric buttload of books every week. My self isn’t always listening. And I really, really, really want my hold on Apprentice in Death to come in at the library. I reserved the ebook. I started out #3 on the list and now I’m #2. Did they only buy one copy? Yeesh.

For Review:
Duke of Pleasure (Maiden Lane #11) by Elizabeth Hoyt
Feast of Sorrow by Crystal King
Not Quite Perfect (Not Quite #5) by Catherine Bybee (review)
Welcome to the Universe by Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michael A. Strauss, J. Richard Gott III


Review: A Truck Full of Money by Tracy Kidder

Review: A Truck Full of Money by Tracy KidderA Truck Full of Money by Tracy Kidder
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss, publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: biography, internet, nonfiction
Pages: 320
Published by Random House on September 6th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

Fortune, mania, genius, philanthropy the bestselling author of Mountains Beyond Mountains gives us the inspiring story of Paul English, the founder of and Lola. Tracy Kidder, the master of the nonfiction narrative (The Baltimore Sun) and author of the bestselling classic The Soul of a New Machine, now tells the story of Paul English, a kinetic and unconventional inventor and entrepreneur, who as a boy rebelled against authority. Growing up in working-class Boston, English discovers a medium for his talents the first time he sees a computer. As a young man, despite suffering from what would eventually be diagnosed as bipolar disorder, he begins his pilgrim s journey through the ups and downs in the brave new world of computers. Relating to the Internet as if it s an extension of his own mind, he discovers that he has a talent for conceiving innovative enterprises and building teams that can develop them, becoming a Pied Piper of geeks. His innovative management style, success, and innate sense of fair play inspire intense loyalty. Early on, one colleague observes: Someday this boy s going to get hit by a truck full of money, and I m going to be standing beside him. Yet when English does indeed make a fortune, when the travel website Kayak is sold for almost two billion dollars the first thing he thinks about is how to give the money away: What else would you do with it? The second thing he thinks is, What s next? With the power of a consummate storyteller, Tracy Kidder casts a fresh, critical, and often humorous eye on the way new ideas and new money are reshaping our culture and the world. A Truck Full of Money is a mesmerizing portrait of an irresistibly endearing man who is indefatigable, original, and as unpredictable as America itself.

My Review:

soul of a new machine by tracy kidderThe first book of Tracy Kidder’s that I ever read was The Soul of a New Machine, an inside look at the development of a new 32-bit minicomputer at Data General in the late 1970s. In internet years, that feels like several centuries ago.

The universe of computing, and the universe of the ways in which our lives are impacted by computers and related technology, has changed immeasurably since that “soul” was put into that “new machine”. But those giants at Data General are to a significant extent the ones whose shoulders the subject of this new book stand. As is Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web in 1989.

Without the evolution in computer technology that took us from computers that filled rooms to what were then called minicomputers because they were considerably smaller than that to the PC revolution to the Internet, our world would be immeasurably different. So, just as The Soul of a New Machine was the story of a group of people who helped build the revolution, A Truck Full of Money is about the soul of the new tech economy, as seen through the eyes of a man who is one of its avatars, and one of its success stories.

The story follows the career of Paul M. English, the creator of numerous companies throughout the internet age, including Boston Light, the very successful and his current company, Lola Travel. English has a knack for not just having a great idea for a company, but building a team that can carry it through to success, and subsequent sale for “a truck full of money” to someone else. And then he starts all over again.

Not every one of his ideas succeeds. But the ones that do, really, really do. Like

The author uses English’s biography to tell his story, making it both a look into the tech economy of start-ups, venture capital and failing frequently, often and hopefully upwards as well as the biography of one individual who has been mostly successful in that environment.

English himself is a fascinating character to watch, from his beginnings in working-class Boston in the 1970s to his hyper success in nearly every decade afterwards – interspersed not just with a series of failures but also with his coping with, and sometimes failing to cope with, a bipolar disorder that causes episodes of hypomania. Sometimes the black dog of depression bites hard, but more often the demons of hypomania gave English incredible amounts of energy and very little ability to process the rapid firing of his brain or the people that he needed to carry out any of his visions.

And in the middle of all of his success, his desire to help people. Not just on the intimate scale of taking care of the people who are close to him, but in the broader humanitarian goal of helping with several crises around the world, particularly in Haiti and in his Boston hometown.

Escape Rating B-: A Truck Full of Money is an interesting book, but it didn’t grab me as much as I remember The Soul of a New Machine did when I listened to it sometime in the 1990s. Admittedly, a long time ago.

One issue is that A Truck Full of Money isn’t told in a linear fashion. Each of the vignettes is interesting, but the coherent whole doesn’t emerge. Thinking about it, the non-linearity probably reflects the subject, who, when he is on, sparks ideas in multiple directions simultaneously.

We also don’t see much of the subject’s relationships with colleagues and family, except on a superficial level. The characters in this biography seem to brought on to show their function in the work rather than their place in the life. This may be a reflection of what these relationships actually are, but it feels a bit hollow.

We see a lot more of the what than the why.

While this isn’t a book about bipolar disorder, there is more depth in dealing with this part of the subject’s life than anything else that hits close to the bone.

One of the most interesting parts is seeing the way that this economy, which has powered so much of the development of the technology sector, really works. The way that venture capitalists deal with fledgling businesses, and the how and why of where their funding comes from and how they decide what to do with it, explains a lot about the way things work now.

If you’ve ever worked for a company that was bought by venture capital firms, or in an industry that is dominated by such firms, that part is fascinating.

All in all, A Truck Full of Money makes an interesting and readable bookend to The Soul of a New Machine. In a strange way, that feels like the beginning of a story, and this one feels like, not the end, but maybe the end of its middle.

Review: The Girl in the Castle by Santa Montefiore

Review: The Girl in the Castle by Santa MontefioreThe Girl in the Castle (Deverill Chronicles #1) by Santa Montefiore
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: family saga, historical fiction
Series: Deverill Chronicles #1
Pages: 576
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on September 27th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

International sensation Santa Montefiore presents the first book in a trilogy that follows three Irish women through the decades of the twentieth century—perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Hazel Gaynor.
Born on the ninth day of the ninth month in the year 1900, Kitty Deverill is special as her grandmother has always told her. Built on the stunning green hills of West Cork, Ireland, Castle Deverill is Kitty’s beloved home, where many generations of Deverills have also resided. Although she’s Anglo-Irish, Kitty’s heart completely belongs to the wild countryside of the Emerald Isle, and her devotion to her Irish-Catholic friends Bridie Doyle, the daughter of the castle’s cook, and Jack O’Leary, the vet’s son, is unmatched—even if Jack is always reminding her that she isn’t fully Irish. Still, Jack and Kitty can’t help falling in love although they both know their union faces the greatest obstacles since they are from different worlds.
Bridie cherishes her friendship with Kitty, who makes her feel more like her equal than a servant. Yet she can’t help dreaming of someday having all the wealth and glamour Kitty’s station in life affords her. But when she discovers a secret that Kitty has been keeping from her, Bridie finds herself growing resentful toward the girl in the castle who seems to have it all.
When the Irish revolt to throw over British rule in Southern Ireland, Jack enlists to fight. Worried for her safety, Jack warns Kitty to keep her distance, but she refuses and throws herself into the cause for Irish liberty, running messages and ammunition between the rebels. But as Kitty soon discovers, her allegiance to her family and her friends will be tested—and when Castle Deverill comes under attack, the only home and life she’s ever known are threatened.
A powerful story of love, loyalty, and friendship, The Girl in the Castle is an exquisitely written novel set against the magical, captivating landscape of Ireland.

My Review:

The Girl in the Castle is one of those big, sprawling historical family sagas that they don’t seem to make anymore. But maybe they should.

This is a big story. While it focuses on one family, the backdrop is large and tumultuous. The story takes place in the first quarter of the 20th century, and gives readers a glimpse into the causes and the effects of the Irish Rebellion. Our main point of view character is Kitty Deverill, a child of the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy, who feels herself to be Irish to the bone, and English not at all. But through Kitty we see the world around her, her family who both love and hate Ireland, and see that the world they ruled is fading away, while being drenched in blood.

But the Deverills aren’t the only people in their little town Ballynakelly. Kitty’s best friend is Bridie Doyle, the daughter of the Deverill cook. Bridie is the only girl Kitty’s age, and the two become fast friends in spite of their differences in class and religion. The only thing that divides them is that they both love Jack O’Leary, and neither can have him.

As the veterinarian’s son, Jack is too far above Bridie and her poverty stricken family for his family to consider her a good match for him. And aristocratic Kitty is seen as an English interloper, whether she fights for the revolution or not. Her family will see Jack as too far below them.

It’s ironic that a marriage between Jack and Kitty would end an old family curse. A curse that Kitty, gifted with the proverbial second sight, knows is all too real.

But as the Irish Free State rises, the three young friends are forced to scatter. Kitty to glittering salons in London, Bridie to a new life in America, while Jack languishes in prison as a convicted rebel.

It’s only when they all return to Castle Deverill and Ballynakelly that there is hope of healing all the wounds – if they don’t break out afresh over old and new wrongs.

Escape Rating B: This is a book that rewards sticking with it. It’s a big story and it takes a lot of pages to set up the real action. The story begins when Kitty, Bridie and Jack are all children, and it takes a while for them to reach adult age with adult sensibilities.

Not that child-Kitty isn’t very observant, but she lacks adult context that the reader has to piece together. Once the trio are all grown up, both the personal stories and the battlefields heat up.

There is a lot of tragedy in this story, with happiness being difficult for the characters to grasp, even at the end. World War I casts its shadow over much of Kitty’s teenage years, and British treatment of the Irish both during the war and immediately afterwards is as tragic as the loss of life on the battlefields and in the trenches.

Readers who loved Downton Abbey, especially the subplot involving Tom the Irish chauffeur, will find much that strikes the same chord.

The family drama and melodrama are a big part of the charm of this story. This is not a functional family, which makes them much more interesting to read about. Kitty in particular is a high-spirited young woman who refuses to bend to either society’s expectations or her mother’s. While she is capable of doing the right thing, her tendency towards self-indulgence spells trouble for future books in the series.

The other fascinating story is Bridie’s tale of rags to disgrace to riches (and social opprobrium). After her own tragedy, she moves very far from the life she was expected to lead, and becomes something new and different. She also becomes cynical and practical, at least until she returns to where she began, only to discover that not nearly enough has changed.

daughters of castle deverill by santa montefioreThis is the first book in a projected trilogy. The Girl in the Castle was published last year in Britain as Songs of Love and War to rave reviews. It ends with not a conclusion, but an extremely pregnant pause. I’m looking forward to the US release of Daughters of Castle Deverill whenever it makes it to these shores.

Review: Seducing the Tycoon by MK Meredith + Giveaway

Review: Seducing the Tycoon by MK Meredith + GiveawaySeducing the Tycoon by M.K. Meredith
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: contemporary romance
Pages: 220
Published by Entangled: Indulgence on September 19th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

International tycoon Drago De Luca has the world at his feet and he knows it. But back home in Italy, his beloved grandmother's family inn is on the verge of closing down for good, thanks to hotshot American heiress, Chase Huntington, and her new hotel. Drago has to protect Nonna's inn, even if it means getting close enough to Chase to convince her she needs to leave. But the more time he spends with Chase, the more he's drawn to her passion, her love of his culture, and the way she looks in those Louis Vuitton heels.
Chase Huntington would give anything to enjoy her time with charming, sexy-as-hell Drago in the style capital of the world, but she has to make sure the new Huntington hotel opens successfully. How else can she prove she's not just fashionista with a fortune—she’s an heiress savvy enough to take over the family’s biggest hotel back in California? But somewhere between boutiques and business plans, she falls head over Louboutins for Drago. But when Drago's true motive for spending so much time with her comes to light, it could destroy everything Chase built and everything she thought she found in Italy.

My Review:

I’m not sure whether readers will fall in love with the hero, but they will certainly fall in love with the setting! Whatever one thinks of the romance, Seducing the Tycoon definitely seduces the reader into falling for the many, many charms of Ferrara Italy.

Just as the heroine does.

This is the kind of story that always drives me just a bit crazy. The hero is lying to the heroine from the first moment they meet. There’s no misunderstandammit here. The hero begins the story by lying every time he opens his mouth. As the story progresses, he finds himself moving from lying all the time to only lying some of the time to trying to redeem all of the lies he has told before they jump up and bite him in his perfect ass.

Of course he fails. But watching him walk the tightrope and wondering when he’s going to fall off makes for a surprisingly compelling read.

This one has an unusual set up for a “marrying the billionaire” type of romance. Usually in these stories, the hero is rich and the heroine definitely isn’t. But in this particularly twist, no one is crying in their beer. Chase Huntington is every bit as wealthy an heiress, possibly more, as Drago De Luca is a business tycoon. The difference is that she inherited hers, while he made his. But Chase isn’t resting on her well-upholstered laurels. Instead, she has come to Ferrara to open the newest jewel in her family’s crown of upscale, luxury, boutique hotels. She’s been promised that if the Ferrara opening is a success, she’ll be able to secure her dream job of running the company’s Malibu hotel.

Malibu is where Chase’s family and friends are, and she’s ready to give up living out of suitcases and find a place that she can finally call home.

Drago feels duty-bound to spoil her plans, and initially doesn’t care how many of her hopes and dreams he destroys along the way. He comes into the story certain that she is a pampered rich girl who won’t be hurt by his underhanded dealings. Drago’s grandmother owns a beautiful little local inn, and running Nonna’s Inn is Nonna’s livelihood and her life. Huntington Hotels has scheduled the opening of their Ferrara hotel on the same day as Nonna’s re-opening. Drago is certain, and probably correct, that the Huntington Hotel’s publicity barrage will swamp the news, and Nonna’s re-opening will be lost in all the Huntington hoopla.

So Drago sets out to postpone the Huntington Hotel’s opening at all costs. He is certain that he can swoop in and turn “his” town against the American interloper, while sabotaging her workers and her suppliers with threats of retaliation from his many Italian holdings. He manages to step in when Chase’s on-site manager and translator runs off, and gets himself even more involved with Chase’s efforts, and the sabotaging thereof.

What Drago doesn’t count on is Chase’s own charm. Not just her obvious beauty, but the way that she truly does care about her hotel, her staff and the town in which she plans to make her mark. His threats aren’t able to keep the townspeople from falling for the American woman who takes their needs to heart, and he is finally exposed for the scum that he is.

Only to discover that Chase’s warmth and charm have won over more than just the town. And that it is far, far too late to fix what he broke. Or is it?

Escape Rating B: Seducing the Tycoon is charmingly entertaining from beginning to end. It is wonderfully light and fluffy, with a tender heart in the center.

It’s also terrific that Chase falls in love with the town every bit as much as she falls in love with Drago. Especially since the town never betrays her, while Drago, well, that is the story, isn’t it?

Chase is an easy heroine to like. While she has all the trappings of the rich and beautiful, it’s obvious from the beginning that her heart is in the right place. Her motives for making the Huntington Ferrara hotel a success have nothing to do with “killing” the competition and everything to do with making the hotel “fit” into the town and become a part of it. And her goal is not cutthroat, her goal is to go home. Only to discover that home is not where she thought it was.

One thing that I wish had been explored in more detail is the way that Chase pursues the idea of home because she doesn’t feel that she has one. Her family and friends are in Malibu, and yet her pursuit of that job seems more like it’s where she thinks she ought to be than that she feels the need to be there. Which is why Ferrara is able to pull at her heart.

Drago is not a likable hero. It’s hard to like someone who is lying so much, including, naturally, to himself most of all. His scheme is underhanded from the very beginning, and his Nonna would not approve if she knew about it. In the end, Chase does the right things for the right reasons, and Drago comes off as a heel. Which he should.

We do see more of why on his side. His entire business is based on the ends justifying the means, and he applies those same principles to saving Nonna’s Inn and dealing with Chase. He ends up questioning everything, not just the way he treats Chase, but the way he approaches his business and his family.

With a story like this one, where the hero is very unheroic for most of the story, the satisfaction of the HEA, at least for this reader, revolves around whether the hero grovels enough to justify the heroine taking him back.

neville longbottom all grown upI found it extremely satisfying to watch him squirm. I’ll let you be the judge of whether he squirmed enough.

Reviewer’s note: Every time I looked at the cover of this book, I kept thinking that the cover model looked awfully familiar. I think it’s a very grown-up Neville Longbottom from the Harry Potter movies. I’ll let you be the judge of that, too.

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MK and Entangled are giving away a $20 Amazon Gift Card to one lucky entrant on this tour:

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Review; Not Quite Perfect by Catherine Bybee + Giveaway

Review; Not Quite Perfect by Catherine Bybee + GiveawayNot Quite Perfect by Catherine Bybee
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance
Series: Not Quite #5
Pages: 314
Published by Montlake Romance on September 20th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository

New York Times bestselling author Catherine Bybee delivers the fifth heartwarming, flirty novel in the wildly popular Not Quite series.
Mary Kildare knows how to read people. It’s both why she makes a great therapist and why she refuses to trust the average bachelor. Staying fiercely independent has been her primary relationship strategy—until wealthy playboy pilot (and commitmentphobe) Glen Fairchild reappears in her life. After a yearlong teasing tug-of-war, Mary and Glen test the waters of attraction, only to find that their physical chemistry runs deeper than flirtation.
At first, a bicoastal romance suits them both—especially since Glen can swoop in and whisk Mary away on one of his company’s planes. But no matter how close they get, they’re still three thousand miles apart. And when Mary’s life is threatened, Glen realizes the one luxury he doesn’t have is time. Can he close the distance between them before it’s too late?

My Review:

I was first introduced to Catherine Bybee’s books via her MacCoinnich Time Travel series. I absolutely adored them, and wish there were a few more.

Since then, I have dipped or dived into her contemporary romance series, have found them to be just as much fun as time travel. But I seldom seem to catch them from the beginning. Her Not Quite series is no exception. I have them all, I just haven’t managed to find a round tuit yet.

not quite forever by catherine bybeeI started on this series with book 4, Not Quite Forever, which shows that it is not necessary to read this series from the beginning to enjoy whichever book is before you at the moment. This is certainly true with book 5, Not Quite Perfect. While it isn’t quite perfect, it is quite a lot of fun.

For those of us who have read Not Quite Forever, we’ve met these characters before. Mary Kildare is Dakota Laurens’ BFF. Her husband Walt is best buds with the Fairchild family, and Glen Fairchild and Mary Kildare struck sparks off of each other every time they met in that earlier story.

But Not Quite Perfect is their story. And they are not quite perfect for each other. Glen Fairchild is just what the blurb calls him – a handsome player. He’s not even looking for Ms. Right Now, more like Ms. Right Tonight. But he can’t get Mary out of his head.

And Mary is not looking for a commitphobe like Glen, while not admitting that she really isn’t willing to let anyone into her life. Mary is used to people letting her down, and she is afraid to let anyone get close enough that she begins to rely on that person. She was abandoned at a Catholic church as an infant, and is sure that anyone else she needs will abandon her as well.

Which doesn’t mean that she hasn’t managed to let some people into her life. The ex-nun who raised her, the former Sister Mary Frances, is her mother in everything but name. And BFF Dakota is the sister she never had.

But Mary is a psychologist who tends to diagnose first and ask questions later. She knows that Glen is a player, which means he can’t be relied upon. Until he proves that he can. If she will let him.

Escape Rating B+: This series is just plain good mind-candy. If you want to be swept away for a few hours, this is a great place to start.

In some ways, this is a typical contemporary romance – serious woman meets player, and sparks fly everywhere. Glen isn’t a bad guy, but Mary is certain he is bad for her. She doesn’t do casual. The problem is that right now, she isn’t doing anyone at all.

Glen decides to pursue Mary for real, because he can’t get her out of his head. And Mary decides to let him, because she can’t seem to forget him, either, not even after a year of trying.

We don’t really see Glen deal with whatever his issues might have been about commitments and avoiding them like the plague. Mary is the woman he has been waiting for, and once he figures that out, he’s all in – even before he recognizes that it’s already happened.

Mary’s story is more complicated, both because we see more of her internal dilemma, and because her external dilemma takes center stage. Someone is stalking her and she doesn’t have a clue who it might be. She doesn’t have an ex, possessive or otherwise, or at least not since college several years ago.

If one of her patients has gone off the deep end, she can’t pinpoint who it might be. If some of her marriage counseling patients went after each other, it wouldn’t be a total surprise, but she can’t see who might feel so personally betrayed by her that they would break into her house and trash it, while stealing nothing at all.

Whatever it is, it’s personal.

But as bad as the stalking is, it makes her change her life. As Glen sticks by her through thick, thin and a cross-country relationship, she learns that she can lean on him when she needs to, and that he’ll be there. It’s a lovely surprise for both of them, in the midst of a mess that nearly claims her life.

What makes the story special is that even when the chips are very, very down, Glen doesn’t ride to the rescue. It’s Mary’s story and Mary’s agency. Mary rescues herself. But she is finally ready to let Glen help her pick up the pieces – after the mess is over.

And that’s awesome.


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Review: Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah and Agatha Christie

Review: Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah and Agatha ChristieClosed Casket (New Hercule Poirot Mysteries #2) by Sophie Hannah, Agatha Christie
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: cozy mystery, mystery
Series: New Hercule Poirot #2
Pages: 320
Published by William Morrow on September 6th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

The world's most famous detective returns in this ingenious, stylish, and altogether delicious mystery from the author of the instant bestseller The Monogram Murders ("I was thrilled" -- Gillian Flynn).
"What I intend to say to you will come as a shock..."
With these words, Lady Athelinda Playford -- one of the world's most beloved children's authors -- springs a surprise on the lawyer entrusted with her will. As guests arrive for a party at her Irish mansion, Lady Playford has decided to cut off her two children without a penny . . . and leave her vast fortune to someone else: an invalid who has only weeks to live.
Among Lady Playford's visitors are two strangers: the famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, and Inspector Edward Catchpool of Scotland Yard. Neither knows why he has been invited -- until Poirot begins to wonder if Lady Playford expects a murder. But why does she seem so determined to provoke a killer? And why -- when the crime is committed despite Poirot's best efforts to stop it -- does the identity of the victim make no sense at all?
Addictive, ferociously clever, and packed with clues, wit, and murder, Closed Casket is a triumph from the author whose work is "as tricky as anything written by Agatha Christie" (Alexander McCall Smith, The New York Times Book Review).

My Review:

monogram murders by sophie hannah and agatha christieJust as in last year’s Poirot, The Monogram Murders, Closed Casket provides an extremely convoluted but incredibly fun trip back to the world of Agatha Christie’s most famous detective, the eccentric Belgian Hercule Poirot.

This case is somewhat of a direct followup to the one in The Monogram Murders. While none of the victims or suspects in that case reappear, Poirot’s young police friend and official cover, Edward Catchpool, is an integral part of this case as well.

And poor Catchpool, every time someone meets him, they refer back to that dreadful case. The solution was not dreadful at all, but Catchpool is all too aware that he did not exactly cover himself in glory, and all of the reporting on that case made his situation even worse. It was Poirot’s case, and the entire world knows it, much to Catchpool’s chagrin.

Which makes his discovery that Poirot has also been invited to Lady Athelinda Playford’s house party in Ireland both welcome and galling at the same time. Catchpool wants to solve whatever is about to happen all on his own, but he is aware that he still needs Poirot’s help. And he’s also just plain glad to see the irascible little fellow, especially as the other occupants of the household are less than agreeable. To say the least. Catchpool and Poirot have been dropped into the middle of a family melodrama, where everyone seems to be showing their worst side to everyone else.

Of course somebody ends up dead. And of course it is up to Poirot and Catchpool to figure out whodunnit.

Escape Rating B: This one is every bit as much fun as The Monogram Murders, and feels very much in the style of the later seasons of the Poirot series. Not only because Inspector Japp, Captain Hastings and Miss Lemon no longer seem to be members of Poirot’s inner circle, but also because the original mover of events, Lady Athelinda Playford, bears a sharp resemblance to Lady Ariadne Oliver of those later stories.

Lady Playford is the author of a series of children’s mystery books featuring her precocious ten-year-old heroine Shrimp Seddon. As Catchpool puts in, Shrimp is left to solve so many convoluted mysteries because the police assigned to the case are Inspector Imbecile and Sergeant Halfwit.

It’s a bit of irony that the pair of Irish gardai who come to investigate the real-life murder might double for the coppers in Shrimp Seddon’s adventures. Of course it is up to Poirot and Catchpool to handle the real investigation, over the stringent objections of their avatar of Inspector Imbecile.

Parts of this case are obvious from the beginning. Not so much the whodunnit as the why somebody dunnit. This is a case with motives aplenty. Nearly everyone wanted the dead man to be dead, albeit for different reasons. And the initial investigation rules out very few of the possibilities.

There are oodles of tempting red herrings, and all of them prove tasty to the investigation, at least for a time.

Much of this case revolves around psychology. The psychology of the killer, but mostly the psychology of the victim. The motives in the end would work as well in a 21st century thriller as they do this early-20th century murder mystery. But the melodrama is pure Poirot.

closet casket uk coverAnd just as with The Monogram Murders, the UK cover of Closed Casket does a much better job of capturing the Art Deco style that I associate with Poirot than the US cover. C’est la vie.

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews and features.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 9-18-16

Sunday Post

I may not have had any new books to put in my Stacking the Shelves post yesterday, but I already have plenty of books in my virtually towering TBR pile. Maybe I’ll get a smidgen caught up. Probably not.

This past week was an excellent one for books. Carry On was a big surprise, but it’s not often that I have a week of all A- reviews. I choose which cover is highlighted next to the recap based on which book was the best. I’m spoiled for choice this week because they were all best. I’m looking forward to next week too – there are definitely a couple of winners in there!

unbe leaf able september to remember giveaway hopCurrent Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the UnBe-Leaf-Able September to Remember Giveaway Hop

mad lizard mambo by rhys fordBlog Recap:

A- Review: Carry On by Lisa Fenn
A- Review: The White Mirror by Elsa Hart
UnBe-Leaf-Able September to Remember Giveaway Hop
A- Review: Mad Lizard Mambo by Rhys Ford
A- Review: Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
Stacking the Shelves (202)

girl in the castle by santa montefioreComing Next Week:

Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah and Agatha Christie (blog tour review)
Not Quite Perfect by Catherine Bybee (blog tour review)
Seducing the Tycoon by MK Meredith (blog tour review)
The Girl in the Castle by Santa Montefiore (review)
A Truck Full of Money by Tracy Kidder (review)

Stacking the Shelves (202)

Stacking the Shelves

This has never happened before. I got nothin’. I didn’t see any books that appealed to me either at Edelweiss or NetGalley, and my hold on Apprentice in Death by J.D. Robb has not come in at the library.

Instead, I have a kitten. Freddie, who was finally named for Frederick the Literate in the Charles Wysocki print, has been living in my office this week and hiding in the bookcase. He and Mellie have growled at each other enough under the door that we let him have the run of the house. We are hoping to eventually achieve peace in our time, but Freddie and Mellie are still scrapping. Every time she gets her floofy dander up, he finds himself another bookcase and hides behind the bottom row.

Books provide an escape for everyone. Even kittens.

freddie in the stacks