List All Book Reviews

The Battle of the Tanks

by Lloyd Clark   |   Reviewed by Melvin Steely (October 13, 2011)

Lloyd Clark's new book, The Battle of the Tanks: Kursk, 1943, is a very detailed account of the greatest tank battle of World War II. Professor Clark is an established British military historian at Sandhurst, the British West Point. He is known principally for his work on World War II. He begins by giving the reader an excellent and highly readable overview of events in the lives of Hitler and Stalin leading up to the war in the first 100 pages and devotes the remaining two thirds of the book to an almost hour by hour account of the battle. The battle itself, named Operation Citadel by the Nazis, lasted two weeks and cost over 20,000 deaths a day. The size and casualties of the war on the eastern front dwarfs that on the western front but was essential to the Allies winning the war. Clark makes military history history interesting for the reader by not only keeping a continuing narrative but also by including multiple first hand accounts of the conflict. Battle reports, diaries, interviews, memoirs and newspaper accounts are called on to illustrate the daily conflict from the offices of Hitler and Stalin to the individual foot soldier and tanker involved in the fighting. He makes generous use of maps, which are sometimes confusing, but brings the smell, fear and exhilaration of battle home to the reader page after page. For those interested in World War II military history this is a must have on the bookshelf.

Thank you to Melvin Steely for his review.

Darker Still

by Leanna R. Hieber   |   Reviewed by Lorien Forrest (October 11, 2011)

This is a young adult novel set in 1880 with 17-year old Natalie Stewart of New York City as the protagonist. The story is told entirely from her point of view. As it begins, she is finishing school and searching for something meaningful to do with herself. This task is complicated by the fact that she doesn't talk. Fortunately, Natalie is an independent-minded and determined young lady. She also has the help of a new friend, Mrs. Northe, to guide her.

Once Natalie's persona is established, Mrs. North introduces Natalie to someone else who intrigues her: an Englishman in a portrait. The 18 year old Lord has had some trouble in his life, too. Soon we learn that it is up to Natalie to extricate him from a very dangerous situation, if she can.

Part fantasy, part romance, I found this book irresistible once I started reading it.

Thank you to Lorien Forrest for her review.

Eve

by Anna Carey   |   Reviewed by Lorien Forrest (October 8, 2011)

This is the first in a planned trilogy, which I announce triumphantly. That's because I can't wait for the next installment. I'm getting ahead of myself, though. Ms. Carey's twist on dystopian America is fascinating. The world is not good - and people react predictably: some with superstition, some by snatching power, but some with courage and fortitude. Eve's background is the same as many teens in this world - she is on the cusp of adulthood. Finding to her horror that the propaganda she has been fed for most of her childhood is deception, Eve makes a choice with far-reaching consequences. One of the best I have read in quite a while.

Thank you to Lorien Forrest for her review.

Operation Napoleon

by Arnaldur Indriadason   |   Reviewed by Melvin Steely (October 5, 2011)

Operation Napoleon by Arnaldur Indriadason is a mystery thriller that will hold your attention. Indridason is an Icelandic novelist and the setting for the novel is on a glacier in Iceland. A World War II German plane, piloted by an American officer, crashed in the last days of the war and a group of Americans in the present are turning heaven and earth to find it and reclaim a secret it carries. They do not let murdering Icelandic rescuers stand in their way to retrieve and cover up the reason for the search. The author is a good writer and the story moves rapidly. If you are addicted to thrillers this is one you will find enjoyable.

Thank you to Melvin Steely for his review.

The Breath of God

by Jeffrey Small   |   Reviewed by Lorien Forrest (September 29, 2011)

The back cover reads: A murder at the Taj Mahal. A kidnapping in a sacred city. A desperate chase through a cliffside monastery. All in the pursuit of a legend that could link the world's great religious faiths. In 1887, A Russian journalist made an explosive discovery in a remote Himalayan monastery only to be condemned and silenced for the heresy he proposed. His discovery vanished shortly thereafter. Now, Grant Matthews journeys to the Himalayas in search of this ancient mystery. But Matthews couldn't have anticipated the conspiracy of zealots who would go to any lengths to prevent him from bringing this secret public. Soon he is in a race to expose a truth that will change the world's understanding of religion. A truth that his university colleagues believe is mere myth. A truth that could change his life forever--if he survives.

I love a good murder mystery. Here's one with a unique setting, in the East and in a collision of religious heritages. Grant is a likeable enough character, and I liked the main female protagonist even more. This book, even if fictional, reminds me of the best and the worst of people. Some of the behavior and though processes are a bit stereotypical. A large part of the book deals with spiritual and religious issues. What if Jesus had traveled to India and other parts East before his public ministry? Those who have rigid views about the major religions of the world may object to the searching/questioning detailed here, as well as some negative views of Christian fundamentalists. Neither of these bothered me, so I enjoyed the characters, settings, and plot. I look forward to the next novel from this author.

Thank you to Lorien Forrest for her review.

Kisses from Katie

by Katie J. Davis   |   Reviewed by Lorien Forrest (September 29, 2011)

This nonfiction book is the story of an 18 year old girl from Tennessee who visits Uganda on a mission trip and falls in love with the country and its people. She is determined to return and stay for good, which entails various obstacles to be overcome. Through a series of journal entries and vignettes, the picture of a fervent, loving young woman emerges. The story is personal, intimate, feeling as though one sits in a room with the author; while at the same time you see the whole world of need and love in her writing. The telling is honest and genuine. Although the society is a sometimes grim one, Ms. Davis handles the darker aspects with empathy. There is nothing here to prevent young people from reading the book. However, some readers may find the constant references to Jesus distracting.

This is a book with the potential to change the world for the better. I'm certainly glad I read it.

Thank you to Lorien Forrest for her review.

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick

by Joe Schreiber   |   Reviewed by Lorien Forrest (September 17, 2011)

Our protagonist in the young adult novel is Perry Stormaire, a teenage boy like many others: stressed by school, his social life and his family. He tries very hard to earn his father's approval, and this is a thread that runs throughout the book. We meet Gobi, an exchange student living with Perry's family, early on. She is not all she seems, and the unraveling of her identity is also central to the story. Perry and Gobi are both likeable, intelligent and spunky young adults. Accompanying them on their wild ride was quite entertaining, and the end of the story left me smiling. Fun read with a nice treatment of serious issues.

Thank you to Lorien Forrest for her review.

A Bitter Truth

by Charles Todd   |   Reviewed by Lorien Forrest (September 6, 2011)

This is the third in a series with Bess Crawford, WWI nurse, as the protagonist. She returns to her London flat on leave over the Christmas holidays, only to discover a woman in her doorway. The rest of the story deals with Bess helping the woman and her family. There is a murder close to the beginning of the story (which was irritating, as I found the man one of the few interesting characters) and a convoluted story involving family tragedy and scandal. I didn't really enjoy the book much. The writing seems quite uneven: there are times when the prose flows nicely and you can follow along easily. Other times, I would read a sentence and think "huh?" because it didn't make sense, or could have easily been edited to something better. The story seems contrived and is frankly not that intriguing. It seems as though parts of the plot are just shuffled in there to try and make the story more complex. The characters are fairly well-developed but not enough to keep me interested in the tepid plot. I was frankly shocked that this is an experienced, multiply-published author. A disappointment.

Thank you to Lorien Forrest for her review.

Eyes Wide Open

by Andrew Gross   |   Reviewed by Melvin Steely (September 6, 2011)

Another story of mis-spent youth and the continuing results. Eyes Wide Open by Andrew Gross reads like one of the PBS Mysteries on Sunday night. It is the story of a successful doctor living on the east coast hearing of the death of his nephew and flying to Los Angeles to be with his brother. When he arrives he finds that what was quickly determined suicide by a troubles youth was anything but that. Piece by piece the doctor and a local detective begin to unravel what now appears to be a murder. All sorts of clues emerge, including the involvement of a Manson-type hippy murder "family." As the plot moves along attempts are made on the doctor's life and that of the detective, as well as the grieving brother who turns out to be implicated in the situation. A good whodonit without the loud music usually accompanying the PBS series.

Thank you to Melvin Steely for his review.

What It Is Like To Go To War

by Karl Marlantes   |   Reviewed by Melvin Steely (September 6, 2011)

Karl Marlantes latest book, What It Is Like To Go To War, is far from his bestseller, Matterhorn. Lt. Karl Marlantes was a young Marine officer in the jungles of Vietnam. There he was awarded the Navy Cross, Purple Heart, Bronze Star and a host of other decorations. He notes early in the book that the Marine Corps prepares men for war and to become killers and does a good job of it. What it does not do is to prepare them for the psychological, ethical and emotional toll the experience will take on them while in combat as well as when they return home. He "takes a deeply personal and candid look at what it is like to experience the ordeal of combat, critically examining how we might better prepare our warriors for combat. Ritual, religion. literature should be used he suggest. This is a good book for any young person going into the military. Many veterans might also find it instructive in working out the problems created by their own experience. Marlantes gives riveting accounts of his own experiences in Vietnam and how he dealt with them at the time and years later.This is not a superficial war novel but does hold your attention and is worth the read even for non-military types, especially for counselors, pastors, etc.

Thank you to Melvin Steely for his review.

Saint's Gate

by Carla Neggers   |   Reviewed by Lorien Forrest (September 5, 2011)

A former nun turned FBI agent, Emma Sharpe returns to her convent at the request of another sister. The mysterious circumstances of Sister Joan's call become even more so after Emma finds her murdered. The story after this is a somewhat meandering and drawn-out process of solving this crime and others. A romance becomes central to the plot, and although somewhat predictable, still holds the attention. The two main characters are almost too good to be true, but not quite. Despite the shortfalls of the novel, it was interesting enough that I would like to read others by this author.

Thank you to Lorien Forrest for her review.

Turnipseed's Bookstore

by Jerre B. Shoemake   |   Reviewed by Lorien Forrest (September 5, 2011)

This is a book set locally, in the (I believe) fictional town of Portal, GA. The main protagonist is Ophelia "Fe" Redwine, a middle-aged bookstore owner with multiple interesting eccentricities. This is essentially a mystery story. Fe is seeing a ghost and having dreams, and these are intimately connected with a dead body which is nowhere near fresh. Although there is a good bit of supernatural matter in the novel, the realistic characters and their all-too-human behavior keep it grounded. The writing is overall quite good. I will admit a few times at the beginning I was concerned that the prose didn't seem to flow perfectly. However, the story soon became absorbing, and I didn't notice minor flaws anymore. Quite entertaining. I would gladly read another by this author, and look forward to further volumes in Fe's exploits.

Thank you to Lorien Forrest for her review.

By His Majesty's Grace

by Jennifer Blake   |   Reviewed by Lorien Forrest (July 25, 2011)

I had heard of Jennifer Blake before. While I don't usually pick up books in this genre, I thought I would check it out. I was pleasantly surprised. The writing is decent, and the historical setting (late 1400s) interesting. At the start of the book we are introduced to Lady Isabel, a young woman who has no reason to like the idea of marriage - especially when she is ordered willynilly to travel to her husband's home and wed him at not much notice. As the book goes on, we are introduced to her two younger sisters, and other interesting characters. I enjoyed seeing the other side of things as well- Lady Isabel's spouse to be, Randall Braesford tells his perspective too. Although some of the story is predictable, it is pleasantly so, and there are some twists and turns in the plot. Overall, not bad at all. Perfect light entertainment to while away an afternoon.

Thank you to Lorien Forrest for her review.

Final Storm

by Jeff Shaara   |   Reviewed by Melvin Steely (July 15, 2011)

Jeff Shaara has done it again. The Final Storm is his fourth war novel on World War II and focuses on the Pacific War. He writes mostly about the battle of Okinawa and the dropping of the atomic bomb. He tells his story through the eyes of the participants and does it well. It is a quick read that makes the reader experience the horrors of war. His first three WWII books were on N. Africa, D-Day and the push to the end of the war and focused on the Army. This book focuses on the Marines and the Navy as they worked their way up the chain of islands toward Japan. Shaara's father wrote the classic war novel, The Killer Angels, and Jeff follows in his steps with books on the Civil War, World War I and his four books on WWII. I highly recommend it to those interested in historical fiction, war and adventure.

Thank you to Melvin Steely for his review.

Sidekicks

by Jack D. Ferraiolo   |   Reviewed by Daniel Gilley (July 15, 2011)

Sidekicks was a great book filled with just about everything. It has action, romance, comedy, and a surprising plot twist that will keep you guessing. This is a great book for both adults and kids of all ages.

Thank you to Daniel Gilley for his review.

The Help

by Kathryn Stockett   |   Reviewed by Melvin Steely (July 1, 2011)

I just finished reading Kathryn Stockett's, The Help (Berkley, 2009). It was given to me by my daughter who remembered Mable Nolen, the maid who worked for my family for over three decades. This first novel looks at the relationship between black maids and white employer families during the 1960's in Mississippi. From the maid's point of view. Things that white families hardly ever thought about were taken for granted. We hardly noticed a problem with the rules and regulations governing the black/white relationship. Those who lived through this period will find the story brings back a lot of memories. Some make you smile but some are painful to remember. Those who grew up in the post-60's period will get a good look at period of time that has passed and find themselves shaking their heads and wondering why either side put up with it. The book is well written and moves quickly. It has been made into a major motion picture due out in August.

Thank you to Melvin Steely for his review.

Witches of the East End

by Mellissa de la Cruz   |   Reviewed by Carrie Fitts (July 1, 2011)

So Melissa de la Cruz has done it again! From the author of The Blue Bloods series comes Witches of East End. Not for the faint (or chaste) of heart, Cruz's foray into adult fiction is a supernatural thrill ride. She provides the reader with enough unexpected twists and turns to keep the story engaging while pulling from the rich tapestry of Norse mythology. A few visits from a Blue Blood or two and an epilogue that promises another installment in the future makes Witches of East End a must-read for those looking to add a little magic to their summer.

Thank you to Carrie Fitts for her review.

American Heiress

by Daisy Goodwin   |   Reviewed by Lorien Forrest (June 21, 2011)

This is the first novel by a British journalist. She uses fictional characters to explore a real setting, that of pre-1900s high society in England and New England. The main character, Cora Cash, has an infinite supply of money - but her mother yearns for her to achieve a titled marriage. We see some of the story through Cora's eyes, with very different perspectives from her lady's maid and her husband, as well as a few other key characters. Ms. Goodwin is a talented writer, and obviously researched her subject well. She doesn't sugar coat, presenting people as real and flawed. I liked her close perspective examining the choices people make and how they impact one's own life and those of others. A fun read, I certainly look forward to her next offering.

Thank you to Lorien Forrest for her review.

Sixkill

by Robert Parker   |   Reviewed by Lorien Forrest (May 21, 2011)

This was actually the first Spenser novel I have read, and the first I have read by Parker. It is quickly easy to understand how Parker helped define the modern detective novel. I enjoyed the story, and the characters, although it was a bit disconcerting to have no physical description of most of them. The prose is tight and dialogue driven, and scenes well set. I like a protagonist who can laugh at himself. The relationship between Sixkill and Spenser lent a nice three-dimensionality to the story, and left me wanting to see their future together. The characters are real, even if they aren't always nice. I didn't like the the foul language, or the casual indifference to violence. For fans of Spenser, however, I'm sure it won't disappoint.

Thank you to Lorien Forrest for her review.

Lion of Liberty

by Harlow G. Unger   |   Reviewed by Melvin Steely (May 21, 2011)

Harlow G. Unger's new book, Lion of Liberty: Patrick Henry and the Call to a New Nation, De Capo 2010, is a very readable biography of one of our founding fathers. It covers his early life in frontier Virginia and gives amusing accounts of his very successful law career wherein he proved himself actor, showman and orator. Once in politics he all but owned the Virginia legislature that most often did his bidding. It was here that he gave his famous 'Liberty or Death' speech (included in an appendix). He opposed slavery from the start as both non-economical and anti-moral, though he later owned slaves. He was a fanatic about individual liberties and a great friend of the Baptist who suffered under the church tax for the Church of England. He resented taxes but thought they were sometimes necessary but had to be levied only with the consent of the taxed. He was a major factor in the start and conduct of the Revolutionary War which is described in interesting detail. At the end of the war he was suspicious of a strong federal type government and fought for states rights even to the point of opposing the 1787 Constitutional Convention which drew up the sacred document. His opposition is described as forcing James Madison to introduce the Bill of Rights. While for states rights, he was no friend of nullification by the states of federal (Congressional) laws and supported his close friend George Washington as President. Some wags note that he was the real 'father of his country' because every time he returned home from an extended trip he and his wife would create a new Henry. He had ten surviving sons and almost as many daughters, eighteen children altogether. Together they provided him with seventy-seven grandchildren so more Americans are today descended from Patrick Henry than any other 'founding father.' Were he alive today he would probably be a leader of the 'Tea Party' organization and undoubtedly THE leader, with his emphasis on liberty and his suspicion of strong government. Well worth the read for anyone interested in American history.

Thank you to Melvin Steely for his review.

Scorpions

by Noah Feldman   |   Reviewed by Melvin Steely (May 4, 2011)

Noah Feldman's Scorpions is the rare book that appeals to both those interested in legal history (Supreme Court) and History (New Deal years). Feldman looks at what he calls the FDR Court, built around Justices Felix Frankfurter, Robert Jackson, William Douglas and Hugo Black. Each was viewed as a liberal during the 1930's but followed different paths to support that view. Frankfurter, a judicial restraint advocate ends up being viewed as a conservative. Black is an originalist but is viewed as a judicial activist, along with Douglas who advocated a 'living constitution.' Jackson, a pragmatist, along with Douglas, focused not only on the law but on the outcome. Feldman's title aludes to the falling out these FDR men had with each other not only from legal differences but also their own political aspirations. The book is filled with interesting personal observations. One justice dies in his lover's apartment (not Douglas), another fights to overcome the stigma of having belonged to the KKK and one noted to a law clerk after getting off the train as he returned for the funeral of a Chief Justice, 'I've finally found proof of a merciful God,' refering to the death of the Chief Justice. No time would be better spent by a lawyer then devoting a couple of hours to this very interesting book detailing the rise of the liberal court (It ends with the aftermath of the Brown vs Board of Education case) and a study of each Justices' role in that rise. Those interested in American history will also find it intersting and absorbing.

Thank you to Melvin Steely for his review.

Three Seconds

by Anders Roslund & Borge Hellstrom   |   Reviewed by Melvin Steely (May 4, 2011)

Three Seconds by the Swedish writers Roslund and Hellstrom, (Silver Oak, 2011) is the winner of the 'Best Swedish Crime Novel' award and now comes to the U.S. in English translation. It is the story of how the police use confidential informants (criminals) in their attempts to snare other criminals in the net. A thief and sometimes drug dealer is recruited by the Swedish police to infiltrate an international crime gang to stop its attempt to take over the movement of drugs in Swedish prisons. The story centers on two people, the CI Hoffman, who has infiltrated the Polish mafia and the local police detective, Grens, who is on his trail as a witness to a murder. The problem centers around the attempts by higher authorities to deflect Grens before he finds Hoffman and ruins their plan to stop the mafia. Plot twists abound in this unrelievedly dark and stark novel and although it moves at a plodding pace. it is well worth the read for those who enjoy police and crime novels.

Thank you to Melvin Steely for his review.

Land of Painted Caves

by Jean M. Auel   |   Reviewed by Lorien Forrest (May 4, 2011)

This is the most recent installment of the well known Clan of the Cave Bears series. I have listened to most of them on CD in my car. They are all quite lengthy works, and this new one is no exception. Ayla, Jondalar, and their child Jonayla and the animals are living with the Zelandonii, and Ayla is an acolyte to the First Zelandoni. Her training and the ramifications for their family are a focus of much of the book, which I found fascinating. The style of writing here is the same as the previous novels. I enjoyed seeing things from Jondalar's perspective occasionally, although Ayla is the primary focus. I liked the background and information about the people and environment of the time, but felt that it was sometimes a bit lengthy (as in the innumerable descriptions of caves). The book works okay as a stand-alone novel, but if you have no knowledge of characters and connections from the previous novels, you might be confused at times. Overall, the book was an interesting read. If you have a problem with graphic sex scenes, you need to watch out. There are only a few though. I find Auel's writing to be curiously suited to the prehistoric nature of her subject, with an almost halting speech style and naive feel to it. I enjoyed reading the book but was a little relieved to be finished with a nice resolution to many plot lines, simply because of the length of the novel. Those who liked her earlier works, even if disappointed in the last few, will probably greatly enjoy this one.

Thank you to Lorien Forrest for her review.

In the Garden of the Beast

by Erik Larson   |   Reviewed by Melvin Steely (May 4, 2011)

Erik Larson's, In the Garden of the Beast (Crown Pub., 2011) is a somewhat interesting story of the US Ambassador William Dodd family while they served in Hitler's Germany in the first years of the Nazi dictatorship. Dodd, an history professor at the University of Chicago, was appointed by FDR as fifth choice and was not entirely suited for this posting. His daughter, Martha, who went along for the adventure and to get away from a husband, provides romantic interest via her liaisons with American literary figures, the head of the Gestapo and a Soviet spy who serves as a scout to bring her into the Soviet spy network. The book gives interesting observations of the times and people involved, the workings of the US State Department, and is written in the narrative nonfictional style which nevertheless offers copious footnotes from documents of the period.

Thank you to Melvin Steely for his review.

Beyonders #1: World Without Heroes

by Brandon Mull   |   Reviewed by Daniel Gilley (March 29, 2011)

Beyonders is a book full of action and adventure. From the moment Jason was swallowed by a hippo, I couldn't put the book down. I read it all night and day trying to figure out what would happen next, and who was the real good guys in the book. Although the book was kind of slow at first, it picked up really fast. What really got me into the book was definitely the quest for the powerful "Word" that would supposedly destroy the evil emperor, who ruled the land of Lyrian. All and all this book was great, filled with funny moments, and plenty of unique descriptions and dialogue that separate this book for others I have read. The end of the book left me longing for the next book in the series.

Thank you to Daniel Gilley for his review.

Emperor's Tomb

by Steve Berry   |   Reviewed by Daniel Gilley (March 29, 2011)

This is another of Berry's detective/adventure stories introducing the reader to interesting places and people. The tomb in the title is that of China's first emperor, Qin shi, located close by that of the famous army of terracotta soldiers. Americans Cotton Malone and Cassiopeia Vitt stumble into a struggle for China's future featuring eunuchs, a stolen little boy, oil, and Chinese politicians along with a few Russians thrown in for good measure. Berry offers a quick read with historical and geographical insights.

Thank you to Daniel Gilley for his review.

Across the Universe

by Beth Revis   |   Reviewed by Lorien Forrest (March 7, 2011)

The back of the book says: Amy and her parents are cryogenically frozen passengers aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed. They have been led to believe they will wake upon on a new planet, 300 years in the future. But fifty years before Godspeed's scheduled landing, Amy is mysteriously unplugged from her cryo chamber, the near-victim of an attempted murder. Amy discovers an enclosed world where nothing makes sense, where Godspeed's passengers have forfeited all control to Eldest, a tyrannical and frightening leader, and Elder, his rebellious and brilliant teenage heir. Amy and Elder are instantly bonded. But can they trust each other? All Amy and Elder know is that they must discover Godspeed's hidden secrets before whoever woke Amy tries to kill again.

I enjoyed this book thoroughly. As someone who is intrigued by fantasy and sci-fi, but turned off by authors who get lost in the technical issues of their created worlds, this was right up my alley. There is enough background to help you see the setting, the people, and the story. The characters are well-drawn, and the dialogue smooth. Some elements might be a little predictable, but not unpleasantly so. There are surprises, and they make sense, as does the ending. Hopefully, Ms. Revis will gift us sooner rather than later with her next offering.

Thank you to Lorien Forrest for her review.

Complete Without Kids

by Ellen Walker   |   Reviewed by Lorien Forrest (March 7, 2011)

The back says: 'In Complete Without Kids, licensed clinical psychologist Ellen L. Walker examines the often-ignored question of what it means to be childfree, by choice or by circumstance, in a family focused society...As a woman who is childfree by choice, Walker draws upon her personal experience while also offering the reader numerous interviews with other childfree adults, revealing behind-the-scenes factors that influenced their personal journeys...'

I was intrigued by the book based upon my experience as someone who had their family early and, by mutual decision with my spouse, stopped childbearing. As we got older, I neared the end of the age of usual fertility, and we decided to try and add to our family. This didn't happen. So, we became pseudo-childfree (our children are teens nearing independence), but not by choice. I expected a balanced treatment of the subject. It seemed to start that way, but then gradually became biased toward the childfree by choice point of view. I realize that some of the viewpoints expressed by the interviewees may not be those of the writer, but as the book progressed, it became increasingly smug and gave a distinct feeling of 'aren't we smart for not adding to the burden of people on the world, so now we can be utterly selfish and do whatever we want with our time'.

I could only recommend this book for the person who has already decided to be childfree by choice. And that sort of eliminates the point in reading it, don't you think?

Thank you to Lorien Forrest for her review.

Red Wolf

by Liza Marklund   |   Reviewed by Lorien Forrest (February 28, 2011)

This is a novel by the preeminent Swedish female crime author. The protagonist is named Annika Bengtzon, a journalist with intelligence, courage and fierce love for her children. I found her likable and human. Her husband on the other hand, I did not like. But maybe that was part of the point. This is one in a series about Annika and her exploits, and I could see how the themes of her life: work, home, children, marriage, friendship would all weave in and out of multiple books.

The writing is nice and tight, concise prose. It flows well, and you can definitely see the scenes and people she paints. The characters are believable in all their shades of imperfection. If you aren't familiar with Sweden, and Swedish politics, you might struggle a little with understanding the context. That wasn't too much of a problem though. I enjoyed the book and found it a pleasant interlude. It compares favorably with the other Scandinavian crime novels recently introduced into the US market. I actually think that Marklund has a smoother and more elegant style than those of Roslund & Hellstrom, or Larsson.

Thank you to Lorien Forrest for her review.

Attached

by Amir Levine & Rachel Heller   |   Reviewed by Lorien Forrest (February 18, 2011)

Subtitled, 'The new science of adult attachment and how it can help you find - and keep - love.' The book is appropriate for those who are looking for a happy/healthy relationship, as well as those already in a relationship. The categorization of everyone into avoidant, anxious, or secure attachment styles seems overly simplistic at first, but makes sense as you read. In fact, the entire book is uncomplicated - but not dumbed down. The authors explain how the different styles lead us to behave in various ways in romantic relationships. There are many examples and questions to illustrate the concepts. I have read many, many books on marriage and personality style, and this is probably the most helpful one of all. Even if you don't have problems in your current relationship, the guidelines and ideas will help you understand and improve how you communicate with others. Highly recommended.

Thank you to Lorien Forrest for her review.

The Mistress of Nothing

by Kate Pullinger   |   Reviewed by Lorien Forrest (February 18, 2011)

Set in the 1860s, this is a novel based partially upon the story of Lady Duff Gordon and her lady's maid, Sally Naldrett. The Lady is a lively woman who delights in entertaining and debating with educated men of her time. The tale follows the two women as they journey to Egypt and live there for several years. Along the way, the pair becomes a trio. The addition of a Egyptian guide/cook/butler leads to huge changes and events in the lives of all three. Although I found the story entertaining throughout, particularly the interweaving of British and Egyptian customs of the time, at times it seemed I would drown along with the characters in the maelstrom of their lives. Well-written but somewhat dark.

Thank you to Lorien Forrest for her review.

Discovery of Witches

by Deborah Harkness   |   Reviewed by Lorien Forrest (February 14, 2011)

This is the story of a witch who is trying to ignore her powers and be a scholar instead, and the consequences of that choice. Along the way we meet vampires and other interesting magical creatures. The story is a long one - 579 pages - and starts a bit slowly and with convolutions. I enjoyed the many revelations and eurekas throughout, although there was a bit more esoteric information about alchemy than it seemed necessary. If one can tolerate the academic feeling at the first, the story itself is entertaining, and the characters delightfully three-dimensional and endearing. Overall a nice blend of suspense, romance and fantasy.

Thank you to Lorien Forrest for her review.

The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels

by Ree Drummond   |   Reviewed by Lorien Forrest (February 14, 2011)

This is the nonfiction account of a city girl (yes, complete with the impractical clothes and silver spoon) falling in love with and marrying 'Marlboro Man', a rancher who is as grounded as the dirt. Many know Ree Drummond from her blog of the same name (The Pioneer Woman). The story is written in the same humorous tone as her blog and tweets. I couldn't put it down, even though I already knew the ending! Very sweet story, and clean enough for your kids. If you love romances minus the sex, you will want to grab this before it flies off the shelf! Now, she cautions the reader that most of the book is on her blog. But there is something new here (the after-wedding part). Plus, the book is a visual pleasure, with lovely flowers on every page. Bonus recipes at the back.

Thank you to Lorien Forrest for her review.

Subway Girl

by P.J. Converse   |   Reviewed by Lorien Forrest (January 8, 2011)

This is a relatively short, 'coming of age' novel for young adults. I am the mother of young adults, and enjoyed the book for its own sake. Amy is a Chinese girl who was raised in America, and knows little Chinese; Simon is a Chinese boy who needs to know English for his graduation exams. Then he really needs to learn it so he can talk to Amy. I enjoyed the contrast of the cultural values and morays of America and Hong Kong. It was fun to learn about Chinese adolescents. In the end, aren't we all the same? The ending was right too, not a pat happy ending but a real and fulfilling finish to a book that I couldn't put down. Highly recommended for kids from high school to age ninety nine.

Thank you to Lorien Forrest for her review.

God's Guest List

by Debbi Macomber   |   Reviewed by Lorien Forrest (January 8, 2011)

Debbie Macomber is a well-known author, and I have read several of her fiction books before. She has branched out into nonfiction, and I thought it would be nice to read something personal by her and about her. This book is meant to lead you through a written process of recognizing the precious people God has placed in one's life. Of course Mrs. Macomber is a gifted writer. The book flows well, and has some wonderful stories. The book is essentially a Christian witness, bits of the author's spiritual journey. It becomes obvious early on in the book that she is a former Roman Catholic Christian. Near the very end, Mrs. Macomber shares some of her perspective of coming to know Christ. As a practicing Catholic, it saddened me to see how how legalistic her view of the Church was. What concerned me is that anyone who reads this book may believe that her point of view about the Roman Catholic church is an accurate presentation of the Church's official view of Christ and redemption, which it is not. Otherwise, I thought it was a fine book which will be beneficial to many women in their faith lives.

Thank you to Lorien Forrest for her review.