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:
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