A Lonely Death by Charles Todd

A Lonely Death
By Charles Todd
352 pages, $24.99
William Morrow, January 4, 2011

















WWI is over and what’s left of the troops has returned home. In small British country towns as well as big cities the men still haunted by the scars of the “Great War” are expected to fill the footprints of their former selves. In Charles Todd’s newest, A Lonely Death, it’s 1920 and gruesome garrotings have killed three war veterans. Legendary inspector Ian Rutledge is dispatched from Scotland Yard to help solve the mysteries behind three seemingly random attacks.

This time, the Inspector himself is still reeling from the suicide of his dear friend Maxwell Hume. Before Rutledge can sort though Max’s death, on top of the three murders, another body is found, seemingly thrown from a cliff. Why were all of the victims found with an identification disk belonging to another soldier in their mouths? What’s the common thread? Is Rutledge’s own grief keeping him from sorting though the clues and putting things together?

A Lonely Death is the thirteenth in this Scotland Yard series with Inspector Ian Rutledge heading up the charge.  I must admit that I am new to this series, but won’t be a “newbie” for long. Often when reading a new addition to a well established series, a new reader can struggle for character depth and development, and find themselves lost without character history and plot backstory. Not so in this series written by a mother and son team using the pen name Charles Todd. With A Lonely Death, they have told a “stand alone” story that just happens to be a part of a well loved series.

A Lonely Death is full of history, suspense, puzzling subplots and a clear flow-through main storyline. It’s certainly a book that you’d want on a dark and stormy night!  Oh heck, on any night. I’m so enthralled with this series, I plan to go back and start with the very beginning. I can’t wait to turn the first page.



If I gave a star rating, I'd give this book 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

This book was provided to me by the publisher at my request and in no way affected by review. 

Anatomy of Ghosts by Andrew Taylor


The Anatomy of Ghosts
By Andrew Taylor
$24.99, 432 pages
Hyperion, January 25, 2011



















The description from the publisher of Andrew Taylor's The Anatomy of Ghosts says:

1786, Jerusalem College, Cambridge
The ghost of Sylvia Whichcote is rumored to be haunting Jerusalem ever since student Frank Oldershaw claimed to have seen the dead woman prowling the grounds and was locked up because of his violent reaction to these disturbed visions.
Desperate to salvage her son’s reputation, Lady Anne Oldershaw employs John Holdsworth, author of The Anatomy of Ghosts—a stinging account of why ghosts are mere delusion—to investigate. But his arrival in Cambridge disrupts an uneasy status quo as he glimpses a world of privilege and abuse, where the sinister Holy Ghost Club governs life at Jerusalem more effectively than the Master, Dr. Carbury, ever could. And when Holdsworth finds himself haunted—not only by the ghost of his dead wife, Maria, but also by Elinor, the very-much-alive Master’s wife—his fate is sealed. He must find Sylvia’s murderer, or else the hauntings will continue. And not one of this troubled group will leave the claustrophobic confines of Jerusalem unchanged.


This sounded like a book right up my alley, chock full of ghosts in an old English setting. Imagine my disappointment when I just couldn't stick with the book. So I put it down, I walked away. Tried again, walked away. I pretty much abandoned this book. I hate it when that happens and I don't know why as it is a well written book with an interesting sounding subject. I gave it several tries, but couldn't get past the first chapter.


This book was provided to me by the publisher at my request and in no way affected by review. 


American Rose by Karen Abbott

American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee 

By Karen Abbott
448 pages, $26.00
Random House. December 28, 2010















Gypsy Rose Lee’s talk show was a part of my growing up. I would race home from school to watch her show and the cult vampire series Dark Shadows. My mom was concerned about what the content of her show would be and I think she was very surprised at the “tame” and funny woman who sat on the chair knitting, with reading glasses balanced precariously on the end of her nose. Gypsy had a way of looking over the glasses and into the camera lens and winking at her unseen audience.   I adored her. She was glamorous, witty and naughty.  At least that was the persona she projected.

I was thrilled when I received a review copy of Karen Abbott’s biography of Gypsy Rose Lee, American Rose. What an awakening for me and my illusion of the woman who became the legendary Gypsy Rose Lee.   

Abbott has written a fascinating and fact filled biography of a woman who created her own mystique, changing it apparently whenever the whim struck or the necessity arose.  American Rose is meticulously researched and archived book, no detail of Gypsy Rose Lee’s horrendous and monstrous childhood was overlooked. Lee’s mother and the world she created for her daughters is far removed from the Hollywood and Broadway fluffy version. Abbott doesn’t shy away from the dark side of Lee’s life and was given two rare interviews by Lee’s sister, actress June Havoc, when Havoc was in her 90s. The details, such as these are what sets this biography apart from others.

American Rose is full of the famous people from all walks of life who inhabited Gypsy’s circle.  It’s a gritty and often dark world that Abbott keeps flowing with ease and wit. It’s smart and clearly written. More importantly, it’s a great read and one that I highly recommend. 


If I gave a star rating, I'd give this a whopping 4 out of 5 stars.

Source: This book was provided to me by the publisher at my request and in no way affected by review. 


A slight delay in my next few reviews

Last week, my hard drive crashed due to a virus...yes I had virus protection, but this was a "stealth" virus. And yes I had backed up my hard drive, but not recently.  I know.  I know.  So sadly my notes for the following books are gone. Please give me a couple of days to reconstruct my notes and get my reviews posted.  Thanks and a word of advice -  BACK UP EVERYTHING immediately after saving it.

The Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire Slayer
American Rose
A Lonely Death

The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer

The Inner Circle
By Brad Meltzer
464 pages, $26.99
Grand Central Publishing, January 11, 2011

















Let me be clear, Brad Meltzer had me hooked on page one. I couldn't put The Inner Circle down. It went everywhere with me.

The Inner Circle is part political thriller, part romance, part historical fiction and part good old fashioned mystery.   Our hero, Beecher, loves being an archivist at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.   Beecher's quiet world is turned upside down one day when out of his past Clemmi, his first crush, just shows up asking for Beecher's help in finding the dad she's never met. 

Beecher, wanting to show off a little, takes Clemmi into a high security, no access room. That's where a spilled cup of coffee causes one man to be killed and puts Clemmi and Beecher on the run.

Why does finding a hidden dictionary, believed to have belonged to George Washington, make them targets? Who can they trust? What's the secret behind the Culper Ring, and who's a member of that mysterious two hundred year group of patriots? To what extent is the President involved?

Brad Meltzer, a master storyteller,  has created a secret world with more than one series of twists and turns. Just when you think you've figured out who the bad guys are,  Meltzer proves your theory wrong.  Again and again.  Buy The Inner Circle.  Beyond the intrigue and mystery, it reminds us that you have to trust someone. Sometime. Trust your gut feeling... or maybe not.

This is my first Meltzer book, but it sure won't be my last. And for some reason, I don't think this is the last we'll be seeing of these characters. At least I hope it isn't.

If I gave a star rating, this would get a whopping 4 out of 5 stars!

Source: This book was provided to me by the publisher at my request and in no way affected by review. 




Author info source: http://www.bradmeltzer.com/

Brad Meltzer is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Fate, as well as the bestsellers The Tenth Justice,Dead Even, The First Counsel, The Millionaires, The Zero Game and The Book of Lies.
He is also one of the co-creators of the TV show, Jack & Bobby—and is the Eisner Award-winning author of the critically acclaimed comic book, Justice League of America.
His first non-fiction book, Heroes For My Son, is a collection of heroes – from Jim Henson to Rosa Parks -- that he’s been working on since the day his son was born and is on sale now.  He is the host of Brad Meltzer's Decoded on the History Channel.

A Voice from Old New York: A Memoir of My Youth 

By Louis Auchincloss

224 pages, $25.00 

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, December 2, 2010

 

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Prior to his death last year, Louis Auchincloss penned roughly sixty some books, non-fiction and fiction alike. I've honestly read none before this, so I had no preconceived notion of what to expect.  The holidays overwhelmed me and my e-galley expired before I could finish this entertaining memoir, so I went to the brick and mortar store and put out hard earned cash so I could finish it. That should tell you how much I enjoyed Mr. Auchincloss' book!

For me, I knew of Mr. Auchincloss because of his cousin, the late Jacqueline Kennedy. Through this book I learned he was so much more than the cousin of a former first lady. He was an author, a father, and a well known lawyer.  Who'd have thought a person could be designated a “Living Landmark” but he was designated just that by the New York Landmarks Conservancy! Most of all I think Auchincloss a wonderful observer of people. He writes beautifully, using words and phrases that help the reader "see" the privileged world in which he lived.

A Voice from Old New York, well and brilliantly told, left me wanting to know more. Auchincloss does write about his boarding school days, the unmarried aunt, his mother, the war and the people who make up his "society" world. I just wish he'd done more than scratch the surface.



This left me wanting to know so much more, so  I'll be reading more of his work, looking to flesh out the spaces.



If I gave a star rating, I'd give this 3 1/2 stars out of 5.



From the Publisher: At the time of his death, Louis Auchincloss—enemy of bores, self-pity, and gossip less than fresh—had just finished taking on a subject he had long avoided: himself. His memoir confirms that, despite the spark of his fiction, Auchincloss himself was the most entertaining character he has created.


Source: I was provided an e-galley of this book by the publisher and also purchased a copy in order to complete the reading of this book as the e-galley expired.






The Radleys by Matt Haig

The Radleys

By Matt Haig

384 pages, $25.00

Free Press, December 28, 2010






There’s a bloody little secret at 17 Orchard Lane…

The Radleys are abstaining vampires.

Then one night, when forced to protect herself, Clara commits a shocking and disturbingly satisfying act of violence…

I admit it, I was hooked on the very first page. The great thing about authors who write “alternate reality” or “fantasy” books is that they can make up the rules as they go along. Forget what you’ve read or seen about vampires before now. No glittering or lack of images in mirrors. The Radleys are a new and current family of vampires. Peter and Helen chose to try to protect their children and ignore their heredity until that night when Clara loses control and the truth comes out. Oh boy does it. So much for the cover story that they are sun sensitive, and protect their skin with lots of heavy sun block.

Once Peter’s brother, the NOT abstaining Will, flies in to help with Clara and the family emergency the game changes, and none of the Radleys are ever the same again. Peter and Helen just wanted their kids to have a more normal life. And Will just wants to be appreciated. All families have their little secrets and the Radleys are no different. They go to any length to protect their family and to keep the family unit in tact. Just like we all do. And just like the rest of us, once a family relationship becomes volatile, all the nasty little secrets rise to the surface. Will they stay secrets? Or will they have to be dealt openly?

I loved the alternate reality that author Matt Haig created for the abstaining Radleys. It was believable within the vampire realm he created as Haig stayed consistent within the reality of his story. The Radleys is a well paced and brilliantly plotted mystery, with more than one twist.

Hurry up and buy The Radleys, I think you’ll love every bite.

If I gave a star rating, this would get 4 out of 5 stars!


Source: This book was provided to me by the publisher at my request and in no way affected by review.

The publisher says: “The Radleys is a radiant domestic novel that explores with daring the lengths a parent will go to protect a child, the cost of denying one’s identity, the undeniable appeal of sin, and the everlasting iridescent bonds of family love. The Radleys are a typical family living in a staid English village. Peter is an overworked doctor, whose wife, Helen, has become increasingly remote. Rowan, their teenage son, is being bullied at school, and their anemic daughter Clara, has become a vegan.”


The Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger

The Mistress of Nothing
By Kate Pullinger
Hardcover, 256 pages
Simon & Schuster, $24.00




Victorian romance... titled English women... Egypt. Just the kind of book I usually love.


I found The Mistress of Nothing to be an enjoyable "beach" kind of read and I find myself scratching my head wondering why it was chosen to receive Canada's Governor's General Literary Award for 2009. I was sadly disappointed with the book, as I had been very excited to get this e-galley to read.


The story of Lucie (the Lady Duff Gordon) and her maid, Sally, is certainly told in a believable and entertaining manner, but I felt the basic descriptions were lacking in solid details and then failed to add the depth and lushness that this book could have provided. Having previously read and enjoyed several historical novels within this same time period, I sadly found myself remembering the lush and vivid descriptions of the Nile and its surrounds that others had placed in my mind. I struggled to "see" Sally and Lucie within the confines of the descriptions provided.

The story itself was interesting, but on reflection, I got the feeling that this was "much ado" about "nothing."


The publisher's synopsis: The Mistress of Nothing is The American debut of an award-winning novel about a lady's maid's awakening as she journeys from the confines of Victorian England to the uncharted far reaches of Egypt's Nile Valley. When Lady Duff Gordon, paragon of London society, departs for the hot, dry climate of Egypt to seek relief from her debilitating tuberculosis, her lady's maid, Sally, doesn't hesitate to leave the only world she has known in order to remain at her mistress's side. As Sally gets farther and farther from home, she experiences freedoms she has never known—forgoing corsets and wearing native dress, learning Arabic, and having her first taste of romance.

If I gave a star rating, this would get 2 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Source: This book was provided to me by the publisher at my request and in no way affected by review.

365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life by John Kralik

365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life
By John Kralik 

240 pages, $22.99
 Hyperion, December 28, 2010










365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life  is a beautiful little book. It was December 22, 2007 and Kralik, an attorney in a troubled law firm realized he was focusing on the negative things that made up his life.

He had struggled through another divorce, his girlfriend just dumped him, he often slept on the floor of his stuffy little apartment. Kralik was estranged from his two adult sons and was afraid of losing his daughter. Just to make things more negative, Kralik was miserably overweight and suffering from health problems. The list goes on and on.

By New Year’s Day Kralik decided it was time to change, to do something more meaningful with his life. And he did. He’d heard an inner voice telling him that until he learned to be grateful for what he did have, he could not receive the things he wanted. A true “light bulb” moment if ever there was one. Kralik decided to find one person each day to be grateful for, to say thank you to, and so the “thank you note” writing began and lasted for a year.

This is a remarkable book. John Kralik chronicles a year in his life through his thank you notes. 365 Thank Yous is an easy to read, but intensely inspiring book. The motivation for the book and the thoughts expressed are deep and well thought out. I read this book over a couple of difficult days in my life, Kralik reminded me that I have a truly blessed life and many people and things to be thankful for. He also reminded me that we don’t say the words “thank you” enough.

I’ll be giving copies of this book as gifts at birthdays this year, as we all need to be reminded of the magic that two simple words bring to us all. Thank YOU Mr. Kralik for writing this gem of a book.

If I gave a star rating, this would get 4 out of 5 stars. 

John Kralik was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and attended the University of Michigan for college and law school. He practiced law for thirty years, and was a partner in the law firms of Hughes Hubbard & Reed, Miller Tokuyama Kralik & Sur, and Kralik & Jacobs. In 2009, he was appointed a judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court. He lives in the Los Angeles area.




Source: This book was provided to me by the publisher at my request and in no way affected by review. 

Universal buys "Unbroken"

An exclusive on Deadline.com  SOURCE

Universal Buys Laura Hillenbrand WWII Bestseller 'Unbroken' For Francis Lawrence

By MIKE FLEMING | Tuesday January 4, 2011 @ 12:27pm EST


EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has acquired screen rights to Laura Hillenbrand's bestselling new book Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. The studio is in talks with Francis Lawrence to direct, and wants Crazy Heart helmer Scott Cooper to write the script. Lawrence, best known for helming I Am Legend, just completed Water for Elephants for Fox 2000, with Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson and Christoph Waltz starring.
The studio that rode Hillenbrand’s book Seabiscuit into the winner's circle as a film now hopes she'll work the same magic on the story of the unbreakable spirit of Louis Zamperini, a former Olympic track prodigy who endured unimaginable hardship as a WWII POW. The deal, worth 7-figures if the movie gets made, gives an important second wind to a project that Universal has been trying to make for more than 50 years. Matthew Baer and Erwin Stoff will produce. Filmmaker (and Zamperini's son-in-law) Mick Garris is exec producer.
Hillenbrand's Random House book, currently number 2 on The New York Times bestseller list, fleshes out Zamperini's survival story in remarkable detail. As a youth, Zamperini transformed from a Depression Era troublemaker into the “Torrance tornado,” a world class runner who became the youngest American to compete on the U.S. team. He ran in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games and though he didn’t medal, Zamperini ran a final lap so fast that Adolph Hitler asked to meet him. Expected to mature into gold medal form--and a threat to break the 4-minute mile--by the 1940 games set for Tokyo, Zamperini 's dreams were dashed by WWII. By the time he crossed the Pacific en route to Japan, Zamperini was an Air Force bombardier. After emerging unscathed after several dangerous bombing runs, Zamperini crashed in the Pacific while on a rescue mission. Most of their crew-mates dead, Zamperini and two others floated in a raft for 47 days. After surviving hunger, thirst and incessant shark attacks in a raft that drifted 2000 miles, Zamperini was caught by the Japanese Navy and then the hardship really began. First dispatched to a hellhole called Execution Island (named because Japanese guards routinely beheaded prisoners), Zamperini's Olympic feats got him transferred to another POW camp where he could have lived in relative comfort. But when he refused to read anti-American propaganda statements over the radio, Zamperini was sent to serve hard time. Starved, subjected to medical experiments, slave labor, and brutal beatings by guards, Zamperini was specifically targeted by a sadistic overseer named Mutsuhiro Watanabe.  Called “The Bird" by the POWs, Watanabe made it his mission to break Zamperini’s spirit with brutal beatings and mental and physical torture. Zamperini would not break, but the guard kept trying right up until the war ended and the war criminal slipped away and eluded manhunts. The Bird lived on in Zamperini’s nightmares, though. After once waking to discover he was choking his terrified wife, Zamperini was convinced his freedom depended on returning to Japan to kill his tormenter. On the verge of divorce, alcoholism and a total breakdown, Zamperini discovered another way. Dragged by his wife to a tent where Billy Graham preached, Zamperini embraced his message and decided to forgive all of his captors. The nightmares ceased. Zamperini even traveled to Japan and met most of the guards  to forgive them in person. When The Bird finally resurfaced, Zamperini returned to Japan and prepared to meet and forgive him, too. Watanabe refused, but Zamperini outlived The Bird, who died in 2003.
Universal bought Zamperini’s life rights way back in 1957 along with his memoir, Devil at My Heels. Tony Curtis wanted to play him, expecting a script to be ready after he returned from shooting Spartacus for director Stanley Kubrick. The project stalled, though, and remained dormant until 1998. After CBS broadcast a moving segment during its broadcast of the Nagano Olympics where Zamperini carried the Olympic torch, Nicolas Cage wanted to play Zamperini. His Brillstein-Grey managers got the project going with Antoine Fuqua, and a Robert Schenkkan script rewritten by Neil Tolkin. Titled Iron Man and later Zamperini, the drama once again languished.
Hillenbrand has done far more than bring a great title to the table. I read her book over the holiday. Exhaustively researched and written over seven years, it’s as engrossing as Seabiscuit. Her book and research will become the cornerstone for the film.
Baer, the producer who has been pushing the project since he was a film exec at Brillstein-Grey in 1998, said he was hopeful that the acclaim for the book--and the elements attracted by it--will finally get Zamperini’s story told. The new momentum comes at a time , he said, when there is a bumper crop of age appropriate twenty-something actors who could play Zamperini as he went through his wartime ordeal.
“Lou’s journey is so incredible, I’ve always felt it would attract the right people at the right time,” Baer told me. “Fortunately, Laura’s book is the most persuasive creative argument a producer could ever have. The nicest part is that Lou, at 93, is still alive to see all this attention paid to him and his remarkable life.”
CAA brokered the book deal for Janklow & Nesbit, and CAA reps Lawrence, Zamperini and Garris. ICM reps Cooper.

Happy 2011!

WOW!  Seems like it was just the first of December, and now it's the first of January!!  I've got so much to share and hope to get caught up this week!  So many GOOD books, so little time.

Over the next few days, I'll be reviewing 365 Thank Yous by John Kralik,  American Rose by Karen Abbott, The Radleys by Matt Haig,  The Mistress Of Nothing by Kate Pullinger  and The Secret Life of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire Slayer as told by Lucy Weston.   Lots of really different stories and lots of fun reading to kick off 2011!


Happy 2011 everyone and make this a year of exciting authors and fabulous books
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