The Best of 2011, in my opinion

My Top 10 Favorites of 2011....

... in no particular order here are the books that captured and held my attention of all that I've read this year. 
These are the books that I'd never be afraid to recommend to a friend. 
There's a mix of fiction and non-fiction with a graphic novel thrown in because it's fresh, exciting and makes you think outside of its pages. And when all is said and done, isn't that what every story told should do?

I hope you enjoy one or ALL of these as much as I did!

HAPPY 2012!

Merry Christmas!


And best wishes to all celebrating 
the season of lights!

Rain Falls Like Mercy by Jack Todd


By Jack Todd
Touchstone,  $25.00

Description from Touchstone:

Set against the sweeping backdrop of World War II, Rain Falls Like Mercy is a gripping depiction of a family and a country touched by the grand violence of war, the senseless violence of crime, and the intimate violence of the heart.

IN THE TRADITION OF TRUE CRIME narratives such as In Cold Blood, acclaimed author Jack Todd’s new novel grips the reader from the first page; and as it spans continents and generations of one family, its taut and shocking undercurrent of violence builds to a stunning crescendo. Todd’s first novel, Sun Going Down, which introduced the Paint family, won praise from reviewers and major authors such as Michael Korda and Michael Blake. His second novel, Come Again No More, recounted the Paints’ saga of triumph and tragedy through the Great Depression, inspiring the Ottawa Citizen to label Todd “a first-rate novelist with a tender heart.”
Rain Falls Like Mercy opens with the murder investigation of a young girl in Wyoming in mid- 1941. Tom Call, the young sheriff running the investigation, falls in love with Juanita, the wife of Eli Paint, whose son Leo and grandson Bobby Watson are on duty with the U.S. Navy. Almost overnight, the case is derailed by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, disrupting the lives of all involved. Bobby mans an antiaircraft gun during the attack. Tom joins the U.S. Air Force and is deployed to England to fly bombers, still trying to pursue his murder investigation. His suspicion falls on Pardo Bury, the psychotic son of a wealthy rancher in Wyoming.
As Pardo and Tom make their ways to their inevitable and shattering confrontation, Rain Falls Like Mercy displays Todd’s uncanny ability to zero in on his characters’ emotional lives while simultaneously painting a sweeping picture of the historical events that shape their destinies. 

My thoughts about Rain Falls Like Mercy:

First off, I really like the title!  It's descriptive and clever.  This is the third book in Jack Todd's series about the Paint family and I don't think it's necessary that you have read the first two in the series.  I enjoyed this read, I thought the characters were well written and the story line well plotted.  But I think the publisher's comparison to "narratives such as In Cold Blood" is a bit of a stretch.  I don't want to over-sell this book, but I don't want to under rate it either.

Set in 1941, before the attack on Pearl Harbor and spanning the time after, author Jack Todd does a great job of placing you in that small community in Wyoming. So many historical fiction stories that take place in this time frame are set in larger communities and big cities. By placing the story in a smaller community the reader is given a true slice of small town life, and the opportunity to see how all of the character fit together.

Todd deftly plots the murders and their surrounding clues with a fine hand, keeping the reader flipping pages and wondering where you'll be taken next, all of the things that make for a great mystery.

I do want to offer a warning, Rain Falls Like Mercy contains strong language and violence that could be unsettling.

All in all, I enjoyed the book and look forward to reading more from Jack Todd.

I give this book, 4 out of 5 stars.

**This e-galley was sent to me by the publisher, Touchstone, and that in no way affected my review.

The Time In Between by Maria Duenas

The Time In Between
By Maria Duenas

Atria, $26.00

Introduction from the Publisher:  The Time in Between by Maria Duenas is an international bestseller that spans the Spanish Civil War to World War II. This beautifully spun novel tells the story of a seamstress who rises to become the most sought-after couturier and an undercover spy who passes information about the Nazi regime to the British Secret Service through a secret code stitched into the hems of her dresses. The Shadow of the Wind meets Casablanca in this sweeping and artfully crafted debut. 

My thoughts about The Time In Between: WOW!  The Time In Between is an amazing saga of a young woman caught in the turmoil of the Spanish civil war, it's as much a story of a woman's survival during wartime as was Scarlett O'Hara's saga in Gone With The Wind.  Author Maria Duenas has created a new literary heroine in Sira Quiroga. 

The reader watches Sira's growth and struggle to not only survive, but to come out ahead of those around her. This is a fantastic example of historical fiction at its best!  I didn't know much about the Spanish civil war, and this was an incredible learning experience disguised as a great read!  Ms. Duenas brings the sights, smells and textures of the 1930s Madrid and Morocco to live. her descriptive phrases are so multi-layered that as a reader, I could "see" the cities as if I were there.

I do have a couple of issues with this book, even as much as I loved it, it was just about thirty percent too long. I loved the descriptions and the background given each situation, character and locale, but there was more than enough and I found myself skimming over bits that brought nothing to the story. In all honesty, the descriptive verbiage took away from the story. You really don't get to the meat of the book until about half way into the story. I don't know if the flowery prose was a product of translation from the original Spanish to English, but for me,  it didn't add to the plot. It detracted from it.

I will say that once we got to the part where Sira is approached by her friend to work with the British counterintelligence (about half way through) the story seemed to just race through the last half.  Maria Duenas' ability to build supporting characters as real and multi-layered people is just brilliant!  If The Time In Between is ever made into a film, the supporting actors could steal the story!  In fact, in some places in this book, they did just that!  

All that being said, I LOVE this book!!  It's one that I'll give to friends as gifts. 

I give it a big 5 out of 5 stars!  Buy them in quantities to give to everyone on your gift list! You won't be sorry and they will love you for it!

**This e-galley was provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley, and that in no way affected my ability to write an honest review of this book. 

I really enjoyed the book's website and thought you might like it too

Wish Upon A Star by Sarah Morgan

By Sarah Morgan

Publisher's synopsis:     Love is in the air this Christmas! 
Christy was hoping to skip Christmas this year. Her kids have other ideas - they've put their dad's name at number one on their Christmas list. So it looks as if Christy will be hightailing it up to the Lake District to play happy families with her ex! 
Snow-capped mountains and roaring log fires - Alessandro's home is like walking into a Christmas card. Is it really safe for her to spend Christmas with her dreamy, funny - no! - entirely infuriating ex-hubby? 
Miranda has completely the opposite problem. Being single and pregnant at Christmas was certainly not her wish come true. She doesn't believe in miracles, but then resident hunk Jake sweeps her off her snow-covered shoes. Come Boxing Day dare she dream that Mr Sex-on-Legs might be for more than just Christmas? 

My thoughts about Wish Upon a Star, Sarah Morgan's latest publication is actually two novellas, each having been published in the UK prior to their combining for this book.

I had a really hard time with both of these stories, I found them just too predictable and the plots too weak. So, since Wish Upon A Star just wasn't for me, I googled around and found a nice and fair review by someone who did enjoy the two stories. Please go here to read a great review for Sarah Morton's stories.

This e-galley was provided to me by the publisher and in no way affected my honest and fair review. 

1225 Christmas Tree Lane

1225 Christmas Tree Lane
By Debbie Macomber
Mira Publishing, $16.95

The people of Cedar Cove know how to celebrate Christmas. Like Grace and Olivia and everyone else, Beth Morehouse expects this Christmas to be one of her best. Her small Christmas tree farm is prospering, her daughters and her dogs are happy and well, and her new relationship with local vet Ted Reynolds is showing plenty of romantic promise.
But…someone recently left a basket filled with puppies on her doorstep, puppies she’s determined to place in good homes. That’s complication #1. And #2 is that her daughters Bailey and Sophie have invited their dad, Beth’s long-divorced husband, Kent, to Cedar Cove for Christmas. The girls have visions of a mom-and-dad reunion dancing in their heads.
As always in life-and in Cedar Cove-there are surprises, too. More than one family’s going to have a puppy under the tree. More than one scheme will go awry. And more than one romance will have a happy ending!

My thoughts about the twelfth and last of Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove series: I really enjoyed 1225 Christmas Tree Lane, I thought that Macomber did a very nice job of tying up the loose strings of the previous eleven books as the author cleverly created a simple, but cute plot device by using the puppy adoption to tie the characters from the eleven books together as she weaves the story of Beth Morehouse and her Christmas tree farm into this last book.

The nit-picking part of this review is that Macomber's overall character development wasn't as strong as she normally writes, however I have to imagine that was sacrificed to make sure the series' previous stories were all tied up, rather like a Christmas package.

If you're a long time fan of the Cedar Cove series and all of its residents then I highly recommend this one to you, if you've not read any of the series, I think you might be lost and a bit unhappy at the true lack of new plot development and the sometimes rushed and awkward appearances of the other residents, that a new reader wouldn't be able to reference.

All that being said,  I'm giving 1225 Christmas Tree Lane a 4 star rating for those who already know and love Cedar Cove. To those who don't know this community...go back and start at the first book, 16 Lighhouse Road and read the beloved series in order, it's a treat!

 4 out of 5 stars.

This e-galley was offered through NetGalley by the publisher and in no way affected my fair and honest review.

The Thorn and The Blossom

Not sure what this book' story will be like, but the concept is pretty quirky. Watch the video, see what you think. The Thorn and The Blossom, by Theodora Goss, is out in January, 2012, and I hope it's not all "quirk."

The Thorn and The Blossom website


A Clockwork Christmas
By JK Coi, PG Forte, Stacy Gail, Jenny Schwartz

Carina Press, $9.99

Publisher's synopsis:  Changed forever after tragedy, a woman must draw strength from her husband's love. A man learns that love isn't always what you expect. A thief steals the heart of a vengeful professor. And an American inventor finds love Down Under. Enjoy Victorian Christmas with a clockwork twist in these four steampunk novellas.

Anthology includes:
Crime Wave in a Corset by Stacy Gail
          This Winter Heart by PG Forte
Wanted: One Scoundrel by Jenny Schwartz
Far From Broken by JK Coi

I'll confess. I love "steampunk" and Christmas themed romances. So you'd think I'd be predisposed to love these four stories. But instead I tend to hold the genres I like to a higher standard. And this one passed the test!!!  yippee  

All of these novellas are stand alone stories and each one kept me engaged through the read. Riveted is a better word. 

I think, of the four, Crime Wave in a Corset by Stacy Gail, is my very favorite! A couple of my favorite elements are there, airship travel and a bit of suspense coming from  mysterious woman thief who nabs a Faberge egg.  Perfect reading!

I enjoyed  This Winter Heart by PG Forte, Wanted: One Scoundrel by Jenny Schwartz and Far From Broken by JK Coi as well. 

They are all well written, seamlessly plotted and have really fun characters!!  Romance, mysterious goings on and far away places. Gotta love them all!

I give the anthology a big fat 4 out of 5 stars! 

Best of the Bunch - November - 2011

Best of the Bunch:  November, 2011

Each month I'm excited to participate in Lyrical Review's "Best of the Bunch" recommendation. We all choose a book that we think is the "best of the bunch" for that month. What a fabulous idea!   This month, here on Novel Chatter the best of the November bunch is - - - - -


Katherine Webb's "The Legacy" is just wonderful!  Here's my review of THE LEGACY here on NovelChatter.

Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day

Today is Take Your Child to a Book Store Day. Pretty simple stuff, get out there and show kids what fun reading a book can be! Wander through the aisles, look on the shelves, find a new treasure that you wouldn't have found any other way.

Curl up in a chair and imagine...

Where the inspiration came from:

The Marriage Carol by Chris Fabry, Gary Chapman

By Chris Fabry, Gary Chapman

Moody Publishers, $14.99

The publisher tells us this:  
 On Christmas Eve twenty years earlier, Marlee and Jacob were married in a snowstorm.   This Christmas Eve, they are ready to quit, divorce is imminent. Their relationship is as icy as the road they’re traveling and as blocked with troubles as the piling snow. They take a shortcut to get to the lawyer’s office, on a slippery, no-fault path. She thinks they need to stay on the main road. He disagrees. They fight. Story of their lives and they slam into a bank of snow , spinning, drifting, falling, out of control. Just like their lives. Reluctantly, freezing cold, hungry, scared, she trudges up the hill. Paul is nowhere to be found. Her ears frozen, fingers and hands red, she comes to a house on the hillside, built like a Bed and Breakfast, a green wreath on the red door and the door-knocker is in the shape of a wedding ring.
The red door opens and the first thing she notices is the fire in the room, blazing hot, a warm, inviting, friendly place and the voice of an old man welcomes her in. There are three golden pots on the hearth, shining, glimmering things. The old man claims that they are used to restore marriages. She laughs—and begins a journey through her past, present, and future that will test how she views her lifelong love. There are two futures available. Which will she choose?

Marlee and Jacob Ebenezer.  I love it already! Marlee and Jacob are on their way on their twentieth wedding anniversary to sign the papers that will end their marriage when a car "accident"  sends them careening off the road. And where oh where do they end up?  When Marlee comes to, Jacob is no where to be seen. She starts off on a journey to find Jacob and comes across a cabin where she meets Jay and his wife. Now, this is no ordinary couple. You saw that coming, right?!

It seems Jay is the "ghost" that will take Marlee on her visits to the past, the present and the future by using a great plot device...magic snowfall!! And like the Dickens' inspiration, this snowfall allows Marlee to see things in a different light, how our decisions in life affect our present and our future.  In some ways, I also was reminded of the spirit of "It's A Wonderful Life" in that we can make or break our own world and the world of the others around us.

Authors Chris Fabry and Gary Chapman have woven a magical tale in A Marriage Carol, one that shows us that we can do great harm in our relationships with others and that we do have a "cause and effect" system in our lives, both for the good and the not-so-good.   It shows us that in this cynical world, where we throw relationships away when they get difficult, that marriages are for ever, for better and for worse, and that God brings life into the marriage.

Brilliantly written, this little book (under 130 pages) has more warmth and heart than others twice is length. I just can't tell you how much I enjoyed this magical story.

A copy of A Marriage Carol will find its way under the Christmas trees and into the stockings of a lot of my friends this Christmas, and I think it will become my new favorite gift for friends about to be married.

 God bless us, everyone!

5 out of 5 stars!

This e-galley was provided to me at my request, by the publishers through NetGalley.

Say You'll Be Mine by Julia Amante

Say You'll Be Mine
By Julia Amante

Grand Central Publishing, $13.99

What the publisher wants us to know:

Isabel Gallegos, owner and CEO of Gallegos Wines is tired of always being responsible. Tending to everyone else's needs before her own has left her divorced, unhappy, and unfulfilled. The winery had been her parents dream, but never hers, though she devoted herself to making it a success. After much thought, Isabel decides to sell the winery, move to the beach, and finally take back her life.
But just as these changes are about to take place, Isabel's cousin and her husband are killed and she becomes the legal guardian to their three young children. Convinced this must be a mistake, Isabel returns to Argentina, intent on finding a more suitable home—and parent—for the kids. But as she spends time getting reacquainted with her family and her past, the decision to return to her own life grows complicated. Should she bring the children home with her, or find a way for them to stay in Argentina? Should she stay with them? Can she really give up her own dream, just as she's about to realize it?

What I want to share about this book:

I was really psyched about Say You'll Be Mine.  A  woman at a turning point in her harried and frustrated life has an opportunity to begin again, with a new life in Argentina by  leaving the vineyards in California behind and becoming a surrogate parent to her late cousin's children.  Sounds like a great plot and a fabulous opportunity to show growth and the discovery of love in Isabel's life, heart and soul.

I struggled to stay with Say You'll be Mine. I did read it and finish it, but it took several tries, as it just didn't hold my attention. I just didn't care. I thought Isabel should have grown up, developed a heart and moved in a more positive direction, especially with the children and.  In some strange way, Isabel reminded me in a way of a modern female Scrooge. Cold, driven, selfish and heartless. The way the character "cared for" and treated the kids just made me want to throw my e-reader across the room. OH... I wish I had been sent a printed galley as I would have tossed it.

I thought the premise was SO full of great story possibilities...and yet we got too much repetitive information. Reading over and over about the issues Isabel's ex has with her when she doesn't have the kids just got old for me.  This could have been great! I mean, come on, the cover art was FAB-U-LOUS! The story? Not so much.

I am giving this 3 out of 5 stars, some parts are OK and I am sure others loved it.  Maybe I just expected too much.

I was provided this e-galley from the publishers through NetGalley, and that in no way affected my review.


Look at what's popped up on TV while we were off carving turkey and shopping last week!

The great people over at Sony Pictures have released 3 new TV spots for Columbia Pictures film  THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO!! YEA!!!!!!

Of course we know the film is based on Stieg Larsson's literary blockbuster The Millennium Trilogy.

Look for the movie in theaters on December 21.  

Here they are:




Video source:


I'd like to take a few minutes to say thank you to all who visit Novel Chatter. 

The site has grown so fast over the last year, 
thanks to you all.

Let's all remember be thankful for the many blessings that we have

 and take a moment...

to say "thanks" for all that we have.

HUGO opens Wednesday, Nov. 23

This is one of the NOT TO BE MISSED movies of the year!  Magically beautiful!  It's for adults and kids of all ages.  I was in love with this book when it came out, written by Brian Selznick, and originally titled THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET and shortened to HUGO for the movie.

Get the book, it's amazing and is pretty much a large graphic  novel with some words to move the wonderous story forward. It's unlike anything I had ever seen before. 

It started with a book:   

And now there's a movie directed by Martin Scorsese, starring Jude Law, Christopher Lee, Sacha Baron Cohen and Ben Kingsley.  

Hugo movie site

Cover image - Scholastic, Inc.

The Legacy by Katherine Webb

The Legacy
By Katherine Webb

$14.99, William Morrow Paperbacks

What the publisher wants us to know:
When they were children, Erica Calcott and her sister, Beth, spent their summer holidays at Storton Manor. Now, following the death of their grandmother, they have returned to the grand, imposing house in Wiltshire, England. Unable to stem the tide of childhood memories that arise as she sorts through her grandmother’s belongings, Erica thinks back to the summer her cousin Henry vanished mysteriously from the estate, an event that tore their family to pieces. It is time, she believes, to lay the past to rest, bring her sister some peace, and finally solve the mystery of her cousin’s disappearance.
But sifting through remnants of a bygone time is bringing a secret family history to light—one that stretches back over a century, to a beautiful society heiress in Oklahoma, a haunting, savage land across the ocean. And as past and present converge, Erica and Beth must come to terms with two shocking acts of betrayal . . . and the heartbreaking legacy they left behind.

What I want to tell you about this book:

The Legacy by Katherine Webb is my kind of book!   Anyone who's read this blog for any time now, knows that I love dual time period stories, so dang, this one had me when I read the first page when we learn that in 1905, Caroline Calcott  flees Storton Manor with a pillowcase over her shoulder.  Caroline turns out to be Erica and Beth's Great-grandmother, a Great-grandmother with a secret.

Author Katherine Webb then fast forwards the reader to the present time, when Erica and Beth return to their Grandmother Meredith's home after her death to sort through the house and its contents.

As Webb takes us back and forth in time and the sisters make the decision to live in their "legacy" home, old secrets and webs of betrayal are uncovered. Webb deftly moves us from story line to story line, past to present and back again as slowly but surely the well plotted mysteries are revealed. The elements of a good and engaging story are all here in The Legacy, envy, betrayal, secrets and deceptions.  All there, just waiting to be pieced together.

I've said that I enjoyed this book, but I want to really stress that The Legacy is one of the best, and most engaging book I've read all year!

5 out of 5 stars!

I received this e-galley from the publisher through NetGalley at my request, and that in no way affected my review.

Zero Day By David Baldacci

Zero Day
By David Baldacci

$27.99 Grand Central Publishing

The publisher tells us:  John Puller is a combat veteran and the best military investigator in the U.S. Army's Criminal Investigative Division. His father was an Army fighting legend, and his brother is serving a life sentence for treason in a federal military prison. Puller has an indomitable spirit and an unstoppable drive to find the truth. 

Now, Puller is called out on a case in a remote, rural area in West Virginia coal country far from any military outpost. Someone has stumbled onto a brutal crime scene, a family slaughtered. The local homicide detective, a headstrong woman with personal demons of her own, joins forces with Puller in the investigation. As Puller digs through deception after deception, he realizes that absolutely nothing he's seen in this small town, and no one in it, are what they seem. Facing a potential conspiracy that reaches far beyond the hills of West Virginia, he is one man on the hunt for justice against an overwhelming force. 

Look out world, John Puller's in town!

What I like the most about David Baldacci's writing is that he always starts his stories out with engaging and engrossing action!  And in his latest Zero Day, he doesn't let us down. John Puller is as strong and solid a character as Baldacci's written in a long time. I've been a Baldacci fan since I first read Absolute Power.  I like Baldacci's writing style. I like the way he puts words together without a lot of fluff.  It's at the beginning of the second chapter when he gives us what we need to know about lead character John Puller. 
"National Security.
That was why John Puller was here."

Not long after Puller arrives in the coal mining community,  there's a couple of murders and  Puller wonders why he's alone in this. Or is he?  Government secrets, betrayals, and a tightly woven plot all go to make this another winner for Baldacci.  I thought the addition of Sam (Samantha) Cole, who he partners with on a local level, is a great addition to the story, Sam's well developed and smartly written, the character works well within the story arc. 

I've read the comparison's to Lee Child's Jack Reacher character and I don't see too many similarities. And I'm a fan of Reacher's too. Yes, he's a lone ranger, ex military investigator. But to me, that's where the comparisons end. 

I say: read it and enjoy it for what it is, a tightly drawn suspense novel.  

I give it 3 1/2 stars out of 5.

This ARE was provided to me by the publisher, and that in no way affected my review. 

39 Clues "Rapid Fire"

How brilliant is this?  I wish there was something like this when I was kid!!  

Source -

Scholastic to Launch "The 39 Clues: Rapid Fire" Daily eBook Short Stories for the Holidays 

Seven Original eBook Short Stories to be Released on Seven Consecutive Days: December 25th- December 31st, 2011
           NEW YORK,   Nov. 11, 2011 /PRNewswire/ --

 This holiday season, Scholastic breaks new ground by expanding upon the global success of the bestselling multi-media adventure series The 39 Clues with the launch of "The 39 Clues: Rapid Fire," a series of seven original eBook short stories released on seven consecutive days. Beginning December 25th, a new top secret "The 39 Clues: Rapid Fire" eBook short story will be released each day leading up to an explosive final story on December 31st.  This marks the first time that Scholastic is launching original eBook short stories in the phenomenally popular franchise. "The 39 Clues: Rapid Fire" stand-alone adventure stories will be available for sale at online retailers for $0.99 each. 

The 39 Clues, the groundbreaking multi-platform adventure series written by a dream team of authors, was the first series of its kind in the publishing industry. Film rights for The 39 Clues have been optioned by DreamWorks with the script being penned by Jeff Nathanson whose credits include Catch Me if You Can and Rush Hour 2. The 39 Clues Madrigal Maze App for the Apple iPhone™ and iPod Touch® has been ranked among the top "Paid Kids Games" in Apple's App Store since release. Foreign publishing rights for The 39 Clues have been sold into 25 countries to date. 

 "We are thrilled about the enormous popularity and global reach of The 39 Clues series," said Ellie Berger, President, Scholastic Trade. "We love hearing feedback from readers around the world through online platforms like The 39 Clues Message Board and the message from fans is clear: they are excited and want more content and cannot wait for the next installment in The 39 Clues series. With the launch of 'Rapid Fire' during the holiday break, we're offering kids and The 39 Clues fans everywhere the instant gift of reading every day." 

The 39 Clues® series launched on September 9, 2008, with Book 1: The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan, which debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. On December 2, 2008, Book 2: One False Note by Gordon Korman was released and also debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. Since then, the series, including Book 3: The Sword Thief by Peter Lerangis (March 3, 2009), Book 4: Beyond the Grave by Jude Watson (June 2, 2009), Book 5: The Black Circle by Patrick Carman (August 11, 2009), Book 6: In Too Deep by Jude Watson (November 3, 2009), Book 7: The Viper's Nest by Peter Lerangis (February 2, 2010), Book 8: The Emperor's Code by Gordon Korman (April 6, 2010), Book 9: Storm Warning by Linda Sue Park (May 25, 2010), and Book 10: Into the Gauntlet by Margaret Peterson Haddix (August 31, 2010), have appeared on theNew York TimesUSA TodayPublishers Weekly, and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists.

 In addition to all-new information about the powerful Cahill family, "The 39 Clues: Rapid Fire" eBook short stories will each contain pieces of a code that when combined will unlock an exclusive virtual card and online content on The 39 Clues game site ( There are currently more than 11 million copies in print worldwide for the interactive adventure series, which combines books, collectible cards, and an online game where kids age 8-12 become a part of the story. The 39 Clues online game also continues to attract readers in all 50 states and 191 countries with more than 1.7 million registered users to date.

Photo and logo images: 

Veteran's Day 2011

Thank you Veterans everywhere for keeping us safe and free!

I'd like to spotlight a book, about a WWII veteran, Louis Zamperini. I wrote about this book by Laura Hillenbrand last year here on NovelChatter and in honor of all Veterans, I'll post my review again today.

By Laura Hillenbrand

Hardcover: 496 pages, $27.00
Random House (November 16, 2010)
ISBN-10: 1400064163
ISBN-13: 978-1400064168

On June 23, 1943 three American soldiers had been drifting in the Pacific Ocean for twenty seven days. The rafts were deteriorating, their bodies were covered in salt sores, and they didn’t know it at the time, but there would be another twenty days of drifting ahead for them. Only two of the three would survive.  One of them was former Olympic runner Louis Zamperini whose life would never be the same. 

Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken is an amazing study in resilience, defiance and strength that takes you on the journey of one man’s lifetime. Zamperini was an incorrigible child, a natural runner, and a man who would not be broken. He survived unspeakable torture and deprivation at the hands of his Japanese captors only to find himself being tortured by his memories after returning home at the end of the war.

Being over taken with the reoccurring tortures that resided in his mind, Zamperini turned to alcohol. He reclaimed his life after hearing an inspiring speaker in a tent on a street corner in Los Angeles. That speaker was Billy Graham.  Graham taught him about total forgiveness. It was then and there that Louie was able to release the hatred and take hold of his own life and destiny.

Laura Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit, brought the story of depression era wonder horse to us all. Now she brings us the story of Louis Zamperini, who as of this writing is ninety-three years old and residing in Los Angeles.  Hillenbrand said that she came across an article about Louis Zamperini while doing research for Seabiscuit and set it aside.  I’m glad she went back to Zamperini’s story. In one of her countless interviews with Mr. Zamperini spanning seven years, he assured Hillenbrand that “I’ll be an easier subject than Seabiscuit, because I can talk.”   Although Unbroken is over 450 pages in length, but there’s never a dull or lagging moment, just the opposite. The story flows quickly and the suspense keeps you turning the pages. 

Zamperini’s struggle to reclaim his life is beautifully told by Hillenbrand. In Unbroken, Hillenbrand captures the spark of a man determined to survive what he had to and to come out the winner he’d always been.

If I gave stars, I'd give this one a big 5 out of 5. I received this book as an advance readers copy upon  my request to the publisher. I like it so much, I'll be at the brick and mortar book store Tuesday to buy a copy to add to my own library.

Laura Hillenbrand is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Seabiscuit: An American Legend, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, won the Book Sense Nonfiction Book of the Year award and the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award, and inspired the film Seabiscuit, which was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture.  Hillenbrand’s NEW YORKER article, “A Sudden Illness,” won the 2004 National Magazine Award.  She and actor Gary Sinise are the co-founders of Operation International Children (, a charity that provides school supplies to children through American troops.  She lives in Washington, D.C.

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
By Arthur Conan Doyle

Penguin Classics
Pricing varies depending on the form of publication.

What the publisher says about this collection of classic Sherlock Holmes short stories:

Sherlock Holmes’ fame has also brought him notoriety and there are those in the criminal underworld who must move against him or find their schemes in ruins...

While Holmes and Dr Watson solve what will become some of their most famous cases – Silver Blaze, The Greek Interpreter and The Musgrave Ritual among them – the forces of international crime plot their revenge against the detective.
And it is in The Final Problem that Dr Watson has the sad task of telling the grisly, fatal and shocking tale that saw Holmes finally meet his match – in the guise of the diabolical Professor Moriarty and a terrible struggle at the Reichenbach Falls...

What I have to say about The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes is that  it's fabulous!  But also know that these are "classic" stories and the eleven that appear in this collection have also appeared in other publications. That being said, if you haven't had a chance to read many of Doyle's short stories, this is a treat! Who am I to criticize the master of detectives? I'm a reader, and since I am writing about this collection of short stories, I thought the idea of having Watson narrate was "elementary"!

The stories are brilliant and Arthur Conan Doyle never disappoints me.  Need I say more?

I hope he never disappoints you.

4 1/2 put of 5 stars.

This e-galley was provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley and in no way affected my review. 

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