Book Review: War Hawk by James Rollins and Grant Blackwood—and a Giveaway!

war-hawkWar Hawk
A Tucker Wayne Novel #2
James Rollins and Grant Blackwood
William Morrow, December 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-213529-2
Mass Market Paperback

From the publisher—

Tucker Wayne’s past and present collide when a former army colleague comes to him for help. She’s on the run from brutal assassins hunting her and her son. To keep them safe, Tucker must discover who killed a brilliant young idealist-a crime that leads back to the most powerful figures in the U.S. government.

From the haunted swamplands of the deep South to the beachheads of a savage civil war in Trinidad, Tucker and his beloved war dog, Kane, must work together to discover the truth behind a mystery that dates back to World War II, involving the genius of a young code-breaker, Alan Turing…

They will be forced to break the law, expose national secrets, and risk everything to stop a madman determined to control the future of modern warfare for his own diabolical ends. But can Tucker and Kane withstand a force so indomitable that it threatens our future?

I’ve loved practically everything I’ve read by James Rollins because he makes it all such an adventure but I have to admit that I don’t read all his books. Why? Because they’re massive and my zeal for really long books has diminished over the years. The other thing that makes me hesitate is that he sometimes collaborates with other writers, much like James Patterson does, and that can be dicey. On the other hand, I read a lot of reviews of the first book in this series and saw very little to alarm me so I decided to take the plunge with War Hawk, all 544 pages of it (which is a mere 372 pages in the epub edition, another reason I love ebooks).

Besides…there’s a cool dog 😉

It’s hard to think of a braver, more self-disciplined pair than a former Army Ranger and a war dog but Tucker’s goal at the beginning of this novel is to simply enjoy life on the road with Kane at his side. He still has money in the bank from a job he recently did so employment is not an issue but their trip to Yellowstone is aborted when a woman from their past shows up looking for help. A colleague is missing and others have died, leading her to flee with her young son. Jane Sabatello was important to Tucker in their Army days so he doesn’t hesitate but they certainly don’t anticipate the coming confrontation with a man determined to essentially control the world with secrets from World War II and the brilliant mind of cryptanalyst Alan Turing.

And thus begins a wild, tension-filled adventure that takes us into the world of drones and the wondrous albeit frightening things they can do. I imagine some of this is in Mr. Rollins’ and Mr. Grantwood’s imaginations but much has already come to pass in real life, giving this thriller a validity that’s more than a little unnerving. A bit of imagination (I think) comes into play with Kane’s abilities but I didn’t care about that because Kane is such an appealing dog and a great companion for Tucker. The two of them make a fine team and I think I might have to go back and read the first book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2017.

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About the Authors

james-rollinsJAMES ROLLINS is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of international thrillers, translated into more than forty languages. His Sigma series has been lauded as one of the “top crowd pleasers” (New York Times) and one of the “hottest summer reads” (People magazine). In each novel, acclaimed for its originality, Rollins unveils unseen worlds, scientific breakthroughs, and historical secrets–and he does it all at breakneck speed and with stunning insight.

Catch Up with James Rollins on his Website , Twitter , & Facebook 

grant-blackwoodIn addition to his New York Times bestselling collaborations with Clive Cussler and Tom Clancy, GRANT BLACKWOOD is the author of three novels featuring Briggs Tanner: The End of Enemies, The Wall of Night, and An Echo of War. A U. S. Navy veteran, Grant spent three years as an Operations Specialist and a Pilot Rescue Swimmer. He lives in Colorado.

Catch Up with Grant Blackwood on his Website , Twitter , & Facebook

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Follow the tour:

2/13 showcase @ The Way I See It
2/13 Review @ Buried Under Books
2/14 Showcase @ Mommabears Book Blog
2/14 Review @ Jaquo Lifestyle Magazine
2/15 Review @ Mrs Mommy Booknerds Book Reviews
2/15 Review @ Book Reviews From an Avid Reader
2/16 Showcase @ b00k r3vi3ws
2/16 Showcase @ Celticladys Reviews
2/17 Showcase @ Books Direct
2/17 Review @ fundinmental
2/18 Showcase @ Mythical Books
2/20 Review @ just reviews
2/21 showcase @ A Dream Within A Dream
2/23 Review @ Lazy Day Books
2/24 fuonlyknew
2/25 Review @ I am not a bookworm!
2/26 Review @ JBronder Book Reviews
2/27 Review @ Luxury Reading

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To enter the drawing for a print
copy of War Hawk, leave a comment
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be drawn
Thursday evening, February 16th.

Open to residents of the US.

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Book Review: House of Nails by Lenny Dykstra

house-of-nailsHouse of Nails
Lenny Dykstra
William Morrow, July 2016
ISBN 978-0-0624-0736-8
Hardcover

In a very interesting autobiography, subtitled both “The Construction, The Demolition, The Resurrection” and “A Memoir of Life on the Edge,” this wonderful professional baseball player lays it all out on the line:  His almost obsessive determination to play professional ball from his youngest days, through his accomplishing that and much more, setting all kinds of offensive records in the greatest game in sports (OK, I am not the most objective person in that regard), through his losing almost everything when incarcerated, and then recovering his life when released and finding great success in the business world.

In what the author describes as “the greatest World Series in baseball history,” in “the best sports city in the world, New York,” at age 23, he played in an historic manner, helping the New York Mets win it all.  (On a personal note, that end to the 1986 baseball season is what made this reviewer become a full-season Mets ticketholder, and I have attended nearly every ensuing game for the past 30 years.)  I clearly remember Lenny Dykstra as an incredible player, giving it everything he had, and throwing himself up against the center field wall when a ball came his way, with no thought to the cost to his body.  He is gracious in recounting the end of that game and noting that Bill Buckner’s error which cost his team the game, and the Series, was only one of the factors leading to that outcome.

Lenny Dykstra’s career highlights included a walkoff homerun in the NLCS in 1986, and a World Series homerun in both 1986 and 1993.  The author had great talent as a ballplayer, and, in what I’m guessing is almost a necessity when achieving what he did, also seems to this reader to have an enormous ego.  He says what is undeniably true:  “. . . ask anyone to dispute the fact that not too many players have played at the level that I rose to, or accomplished the things I did in the postseason over my career.”  But as this book nears its end, he admits “I know I have many flaws and have made many mistakes over the years.  I know, too, that I will make more mistakes as I continue to work on regaining a life built with happiness and contentment; a life that I can be proud of.”  Dykstra was not happy during the years he played for the Mets, chafing over being platooned at center field with the great Mookie Wilson [one of my favorite all-time Mets players].  Not long after, he left to join the Philadelphia Phillies.  Of that time, he says “other than a little drinking here and there, I didn’t even know what drugs looked like then.  Steroids were not on the radar yet.  I know it’s hard to believe, but I would then make up for my innocence when I played for the Phillies.”  He describes himself in 1993 at age 30 as being “put together like a Greek statue.”

Dykstra has strong opinions about most of those alongside whom he worked and played ball, e.g., he calls Davey Johnson, the Mets manager in the ‘80’s, an “overrated and underachieving manager,” although he credits many of his colleagues with being great ballplayers.  He does not make excuses for his own forays into heavy drinking and use of steroids, cocaine and amphetamines, and credits that use with his becoming an All-Star in 1990.  He at one point owned his own private jet, which he used to fly, among other places, to Paris, where he purchased a bottle of a 1936 wine for $3,000, and Germany, where he paid $75,000 cash for a “genuine German shepherd.”  He proudly writes of his “good friends” Donald Trump and Charlie Sheen, among others. He made enormous amounts of money, both in baseball and in his off-the-field business [known at one point as the Car Wash King] and real-estate investments.  Some of those moves, however, landed him in prison in 2011, ending his life as he then knew it.

This is a fascinating book [albeit, be warned, laced with profanity], for one who is a dedicated baseball fan, and a very fast read, and it is recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, September 2016.

Book Review: The Ultimatum by Dick Wolf

the-ultimatumThe Ultimatum
A Jeremy Fisk Novel #3
Dick Wolf
William Morrow, January 2016
ISBN 978-0-0622-8686-4
Mass Market Paperback

Merritt Verlyn, loosely patterned on WikiLeak personage Julian Assange, is arrested and held in jail pending trial.  Then a series of sniper attacks begins, with the continued threat of one person being killed each day until Verlyn is released from prison.  Detective Jeremy Fisk takes the lead in an effort to stop the killer who has brought the City of New York to a standstill.  Meanwhile a Mexican cartel has placed a contract on the NYPD intelligence detective, adding to his woes.

Thus begins an exciting chase with plenty of action.  Originally, Verlyn, who possessed thousands of classified and sensitive documents, released a few to Chay Maryland, an investigative reporter for the New York Times, including Fisk’s unlisted home address, exposing him and others to vast dangers, setting up a conflict for the need of secrecy vs. Second Amendment rights.  The question of how this will be resolved is another interesting development.

The conclusion is far-out, more suited to a technocratic motion picture, perhaps, but makes for more and more thrilling descriptions, a specialty of the author, the writer, producer and creator of the TV series “Law & Order”.  Part of a series, the novel is a page-turning stunner, and is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, June 2016.

Book Review: The Boy Is Back by Meg Cabot—and a Giveaway!

the-boy-is-backThe Boy Is Back
The Boy Series #4
Meg Cabot
William Morrow, October 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-249077-3
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Reed Stewart thought he’d left all his small town troubles—including a broken heart—behind when he ditched tiny Bloomville, Indiana, ten years ago to become rich and famous on the professional golf circuit.  Then one tiny post on the Internet causes all of those troubles to return . . . with a vengeance.

Becky Flowers has worked hard to build her successful senior relocation business, but she’s worked even harder to forget Reed Stewart ever existed. She has absolutely no intention of seeing him when he returns—until his family hires her to save his parents.

Now Reed and Becky can’t avoid one another—or the memories of that one fateful night.  And soon everything they thought they knew about themselves (and each other) has been turned upside down, and they—and the entire town of Bloomville—might never be the same, all because The Boy Is Back.

Meg Cabot is probably the best-known and most prolific young adult and tween author around and she has truly earned her popularity with such books as The Princess Diaries. In fact, anyone who hasn’t at least heard of that book or the movie adaptation has most likely been living under a rock. Ms. Cabot has also written a number of adult books, mostly romances, and The Boy series falls into that category. Technically, those four books aren’t really a series since each one has different characters but the overall theme ties them together.

The Boy Is Back is the first one I’ve tried—I don’t read much romance but I’ve always liked Ms. Cabot’s other work—and I certainly didn’t feel any lack because I hadn’t read the first three. Reed and Becky are quite normal people coping with real-life issues the best they can while trying to ignore the connection they had in the past. This, of course, is a common trope in romances with contemporary settings and I felt that what elevated this particular one a bit above the pack is the style in which it’s written, presenting the tale through texts, emails, journal entries, etc. For me, this gave it a fresh, light feeling and made everything move quickly which I appreciated.

On the whole, I’m still not a convert to the romance side  😉 but Ms. Cabot gave me a few hours of chick-lit pleasure. I don’t know that I’ll go back to read the earlier Boy books but I definitely have a fondness for this author and will continue to follow her.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2016.

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Purchase Links:

HarperCollins // Barnes & Noble // iBooks

Amazon // Indiebound   

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About the Author

Meg Cabot was born in Bloomington, Indiana. In addition to her award-winning adult contemporary fiction, she is the author of bestselling young adult fiction, including The Princess Diaries and the Mediator series. More than twenty-five million copies of her novels for children and adults have sold worldwide. Meg lives in Key West, Florida, with her husband.

Find out more about Meg at her website, follow her blog, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Follow the tour:

Tuesday, October 18th: A Bookish Way of Life

Wednesday, October 19th: Buried Under Books

Thursday, October 20th: Books and Bindings

Friday, October 21st: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, October 24th: Read-Love-Blog

Tuesday, October 25th: Comfy Reading

Wednesday, October 26th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Thursday, October 27th: Laura’s Reviews

Friday, October 28th: Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile

Monday, October 31st: A Reader of Fictions

Tuesday, November 1st: Wall-to-Wall Books

Wednesday, November 2nd: Reading is My Super Power

Thursday, November 3rd: Literary Quicksand

Friday, November 4th: Art @ Home

Monday, November 7th: BookNAround

Tuesday, November 8th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Wednesday, November 9th: Tina Says…

Friday, November 11th: A Bookworm’s World

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To enter the drawing for a paperback
copy of The Boy Is Back, leave a
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Open to residents of the US and Canada.

Book Review: Just Fine with Caroline by Annie England Noblin—and a Giveaway!

just-fine-with-carolineJust Fine with Caroline
A Cold River Novel
Annie England Noblin
William Morrow, October 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-246562-7
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Caroline O’Connor never dreamed she’d be back home in Cold River, Missouri, the Ozark Mountain town where everyone is ‘up your business.’…they mean well as they drive you crazy. She thought she’d left town for good, but now she’s back, helping to care for her New York born mother—struck with Alzheimer’s, and prone to saying and doing anything—and her father, the beloved local doctor frustrated he can’t cure his own wife.

As for Caroline, she’s doing ‘just fine’ coping with her parents, her brazen cousin Ava Dawn’s marital disasters, her mostly-deaf dog…and with Noah Cranwell, far-flung relative of a local family mostly infamous for running moonshine, an ex-veteran who’s come to Cold River with troubles of his own.

Caroline believes she knows everything about Cold River and the people who live in its hills and hollers … but sometimes life’s greatest surprises happen closest to home.

The choices we make can have effects long after the fact and Caroline was well aware that her life would be taking a turn when she chose to leave college to help look after her mother, in the grip of Alzheimer’s. Four years later, she’s accustomed to being back home in the small town of Cold River, finding relaxation and comfort in a bit of fishing on most days, but things are still pretty boring.

Then Caroline meets a young man named Noah, a New Jersey member of the reclusive local Cranwell family. He, too, seems to have made a choice to come to Cold River, taking possession of the abandoned family store, Cranwell Station. New Jersey is a long way from Missouri but Caroline can’t help seeing the charm in this guy.

A real friendship begins to grow between these two but, when Caroline and Noah begin to move even closer together, choices that were made years earlier come into play, changing their lives and raising serious questions about their present as well as future. Whether they can fully cope with the devastating truth and help heal their families and the town is at the core of Just Fine with Caroline; in some ways, they’ll need to make an emotional journey home.

There’s nothing earth-shattering in this story, no thrills and chills, no deep questions to be answered but it’s a story of family and love and how secrets can fester over the years until new choices must be made. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting this little town and meeting the people who are its heart.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2016.

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Goodreads

Purchase Links:

HarperCollins // Barnes & Noble // Kobo

Amazon // Indiebound

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About the Author

annie-england-noblinAnnie England Noblin lives with her son, husband, and three dogs in the Missouri Ozarks. She graduated with an M.A. in creative writing from Missouri State University and currently teaches English and communications for Arkansas State University in Mountain Home, Arkansas. She spends her free time playing make-believe, feeding stray cats, and working with animal shelters across the country to save homeless dogs.

Connect with Annie on Facebook and Twitter.

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Follow the tour:

Tuesday, October 11th: Books and Bindings

Wednesday, October 12th: Buried Under Books

Thursday, October 13th: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, October 17th: A Bookworm’s World

Tuesday, October 18th: Reading is My Super Power

Wednesday, October 19th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Thursday, October 20th: Tina Says…

Monday, October 24th: BookNAround

Tuesday, October 25th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Tuesday, October 25th: Kritters Ramblings

Thursday, October 27th: View from the Birdhouse

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TLC Book Tours Button************

I’d love to send somebody my very
gently used print advance reading
copy of Just Fine with Caroline.
Leave a comment below and I’ll draw
the winning name on Friday evening,
October 14th. This drawing is open
to residents of the US & Canada.

Book Review: The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan—and a Giveaway!

the-bookshop-on-the-cornerThe Bookshop on the Corner
Jenny Colgan
William Morrow, September 2016
ISBN 978-0-06-246725-6
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Nina Redmond is a literary matchmaker. Pairing a reader with that perfect book is her passion… and also her job. Or at least it was. Until yesterday, she was a librarian in the hectic city. But now the job she loved is no more.

Determined to make a new life for herself, Nina moves to a sleepy village many miles away. There she buys a van and transforms it into a bookmobile—a mobile bookshop that she drives from neighborhood to neighborhood, changing one life after another with the power of storytelling.

From helping her grumpy landlord deliver a lamb, to sharing picnics with a charming train conductor who serenades her with poetry, Nina discovers there’s plenty of adventure, magic, and soul in a place that’s beginning to feel like home… a place where she just might be able to write her own happy ending.

Sometimes a book just reaches out to you because it triggers things within, you know? No one who knows anything about me will be surprised that I wanted this one, considering my past as a bookshop owner, but there was another enticement pulling me in….one of my all-time favorite countries I’ve had the pleasure of visiting is Scotland. So, I ask you, did I have any hope of resisting? In fact, as the Borg would say, “resistance is futile” 😉

Just a side note before I forget: this book is also available in hardcover but, if you think the synopsis sounds a little familiar, it came out back in February in the UK under a different title, The Little Shop of Happy Ever After.

Ahh, Nina, what a lovely protagonist. She is by turns overly shy, brave, vulnerable, adventurous, a little sad with life and especially with the closing of the library, and full of quixotic hope for her future. Nina overcomes her reluctance to stand out in the world and throws caution to the wind, reinventing herself while she brings treasure to a small corner of Scotland. She personifies librarians and booksellers everywhere with her passion to share the right book with the right reader.

So, Nina sets out to Scotland to the little village of Kirrinfief, a place where people are mostly content but don’t know what they’ve been missing until Nina brings books back to the community. Slowly but surely, Nina finds her new home and heart and is surrounded by folks who take in this newcomer and perhaps give back as much as they’re getting.

Another side note: Ms. Colgan includes a Message to Readers that’s an absolute must-read. Trust me, don’t skip over this even if you’re so inclined—you will be rewarded 😉

I’m adding this to my favorite books read in 2016 list and it may just be #1 because it gave me pleasure in so many ways including charming characters and a setting…and dream…that took me back in time in my own life. The Bookshop on the Corner is my introduction to Jenny Colgan but it certainly won’t be the last book I read by her. She has an extensive backlist and I intend to get started on it ASAP.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2016.

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Goodreads

Purchase Links:

  Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Amazon

HarperCollins | Indiebound

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About the Author

jenny-colganJenny Colgan is the New York Times bestselling author of numerous novels, including Little Beach Street Bakery, Christmas at Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop, and Christmas at the Cupcake Café, all international bestsellers. Jenny is married with three children and lives in London and Scotland.

Find out more about Jenny at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Follow the tour:

Tuesday, September 20th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Wednesday, September 21st: I Wish I Lived in a Library

Thursday, September 22nd: Lesa’s Book Critiques

Friday, September 23rd: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Monday, September 26th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Tuesday, September 27th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, September 28th: Wall-to-Wall Books

Thursday, September 29th: Buried Under Books

Monday, October 3rd: Books and Bindings

Tuesday, October 4th: BookNAround

Wednesday, October 5th: Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile

Thursday, October 6th: Melissa Lee’s Many Reads

Friday, October 7th: A Bookish Affair

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I’d love to send somebody my very
gently used print advance reading
copy of The Bookshop on the Corner.
Leave a comment below and I’ll draw
the winning name on Sunday evening,
October 2nd. This drawing is open
to residents of the US & Canada.

Book Review: Blue Moon by Wendy Corsi Staub

Blue MoonBlue Moon
Mundy’s Landing Book 2
Wendy Corsi Staub
William Morrow, August 2016
ISBN 978-0-06234975-0
Mass Market Paperback

Mundy’s Landing is famous for the murders that occurred years ago.  Three girls were found dead in three different houses and the murderer was never found.  The houses came to be known as the Murder Houses.

Even though they had second thoughts about purchasing a “Murder House”  they went ahead and bought the house.   Annabelle Bingham and her husband Trib were thrilled with all the room the house provided for the couple and their son Oliver.  The couple felt they could put the bad memories of the house behind them.

That is hard to do in Mundy’s Landing particularly at the time of Mundy’s Landing Sestercentennial Vault to be opened in 2016.  People are gathering to see the town and stare at the Murder Houses which isn’t making Annabelle Bingham very comfortable but living where she does she is bound to have tourists coming around.

But girls are disappearing again in Mundy’s Landing.  No way could the killer of years ago return but it seems there is a pattern being followed and there will be murder before the festivities are over.

I am anxiously awaiting Book 3 Bone White.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, July 2016.