Mission to Paris by Alan Furst

    The mid-summer blitz book for today is: 

By Alan Furst

Random House, $27.00

What the publisher tells us:

It is the late summer of 1938, Europe is about to explode, the Hollywood film star Fredric Stahl is on his way to Paris to make a movie for Paramount France. The Nazis know he’s coming—a secret bureau within the Reich Foreign Ministry has for years been waging political warfare against France, using bribery, intimidation, and corrupt newspapers to weaken French morale and degrade France’s will to defend herself. For their purposes, Fredric Stahl is a perfect agent of influence, and they attack him. What they don’t know is that Stahl, horrified by the Nazi war on Jews and intellectuals, has become part of an informal spy service being run out of the American embassy in Paris. From Alan Furst, the bestselling author, often praised as the best spy novelist ever, comes a novel that’s truly hard to put down. Mission to Paris includes beautifully drawn scenes of romance and intimacy, and the novel is alive with extraordinary characters: the German Baroness von Reschke, a famous hostess deeply involved in Nazi clandestine operations; the assassins Herbert and Lothar; the Russian film actress and spy Olga Orlova; the Hungarian diplomat and spy, Count Janos Polanyi; along with the French cast of Stahl’s movie, German film producers, and the magnetic women in Stahl’s life, the socialite Kiki de Saint-Ange and the émigré Renate Steiner. But always at the center of the novel is the city of Paris, the heart and soul of Europe—its alleys and bistros, hotels grand and anonymous, and the Parisians, living every night as though it was their last. As always, Alan Furst brings to life both a dark time in history and the passion of the human hearts that fought to survive it.

This book was provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley

2012 Man Booker Prize Longlist Announced

Here's the longlist for the 2012 Man Booker Prize:

Nicola Barker, The Yips (Fourth Estate)

Ned Beauman, The Teleportation Accident (Sceptre)

André Brink, Philida (Harvill Secker)

Tan Twan Eng, The Garden of Evening Mists (Myrmidon Books)

Michael Frayn, Skios (Faber & Faber)

Rachel Joyce, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (Doubleday)

Deborah Levy, Swimming Home (And Other Stories)

Hilary Mantel, Bring up the Bodies (Fourth Estate)

Alison Moore, The Lighthouse (Salt)

Will Self, Umbrella (Bloomsbury)

Jeet Thayil, Narcopolis (Faber & Faber)

Sam Thompson, Communion Town (Fourth Estate)

We can look for the short list to be announced September 11, 2012.

For more information please watch the official site: http://www.themanbookerprize.com/news/2012-longlist-announced


On The Island by Tracey Garvis Graves

                  The mid-summer blitz book for today is:

By Tracey Garvis Graves

Plume, $15.00

What the publisher tells us:

When thirty-year-old English teacher Anna Emerson is offered a job tutoring T.J. Callahan at his family's summer rental in the Maldives, she accepts without hesitation; a working vacation on a tropical island trumps the library any day. T.J. Callahan has no desire to leave town, not that anyone asked him. He's almost seventeen and if having cancer wasn't bad enough, now he has to spend his first summer in remission with his family - and a stack of overdue assignments - instead of his friends.

Anna and T.J. are en route to join T.J.'s family in the Maldives when the pilot of their seaplane suffers a fatal heart attack and crash-lands in the Indian Ocean. Adrift in shark-infested waters, their life jackets keep them afloat until they make it to the shore of an uninhabited island.

Now Anna and T.J. just want to survive and they must work together to obtain water, food, fire, and shelter. Their basic needs might be met but as the days turn to weeks, and then months, the castaways encounter plenty of other obstacles, including violent tropical storms, the many dangers lurking in the sea, and the possibility that T.J.'s cancer could return. As T.J. celebrates yet another birthday on the island, Anna begins to wonder if the biggest challenge of all might be living with a boy who is gradually becoming a man.

This book was provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley

Between You and Me by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

The mid-summer blitz book for today is:

Between You and Me

by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

Atria Books, $25.00

What the publisher wants you to know about it:

From the authors of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Nanny Diaries comes a new novel that takes readers behind the scenes of stratospheric celebrity—what it means to be worshipped by millions and still feel loved by none.

Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus have proven again and again that they are masters at exploring the nuances of family relationships—as they intersect with the current trends in the culture at large.

In Between You and Me, twenty-seven-year-old Logan Wade has built a life for herself in New York City, far from her unhappy childhood in Oklahoma. But when she gets the call that her famous cousin needs a new assistant, it’s an offer she can’t refuse. Logan hasn’t seen Kelsey since they were separated as kids; in the meantime, Kelsey Wade has become one of Fortune Magazine’s most powerful celebrities and carrion for the paparazzi. But the joy at their reunion is overshadowed by the toxic dynamic between Kelsey and her controlling parents. As Kelsey grasps desperately at a “real” life, Logan risks everything to try and give her cousin the one thing she has never known—happiness. As Kelsey unravels in the most horribly public way Logan finds that she will ultimately have to choose between saving her cousin and saving herself.

This book was provided to me by the publisher.

The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel

The mid-summer blitz book for today is:

The Lola Quartet

By Emily St. John Mandel

Unbridled Publishers, $24.95

 What the publisher says about it:
Gavin Sasaki is a promising young journalist in New York City, until he's fired in disgrace following a series of unforgivable lapses in his work. It's early 2009, and the world has gone dark very quickly; the economic collapse has turned an era that magazine headlines once heralded as the second gilded age into something that more closely resembles the Great Depression. The last thing Gavin wants is to return to his hometown of Sebastian, Florida, but he's drifting toward bankruptcy and is in no position to refuse when he's offered a job by his sister, Eilo, a real estate broker who deals in foreclosed homes.

Eilo recently paid a visit to a home that had a ten-year-old child in it, a girl who bears a strong resemblence to Gavin and who has the same last name as Gavin's high school girlfriend Anna, whom Gavin last saw a decade ago. Gavin -- a former jazz musician, a reluctant broker of foreclosed homes, obsessed with film noir and private detectives -- begins his own private investigation in an effort to track down Anna and their apparent daughter. The Lola Quartet, a work of literary noir, is concerned with jazz, Django Reinhardt, economic collapse, friendship and love, Florida's exotic wildlife problem, fedoras, and the unreliability of memory.

My thoughts:

The Lola Quartet was a solid read.  I expected more of a mystery,  this wasn't what I consider to be a "noir" - however I was fascinated enough by the four high school friends and what has happened to them in a ten year span.  I think the way author Mandel structured the flash backs really give you a feeling for the characters, especially Gavin.  To me The Lola Quartet was more of a character analysis than a mystery.  But that's not necessarily a bad thing!  

The Lola Quartet is engaging and has Mandel has planted enough plot twists and turns that you do keep turning the pages. I do recommend this one, and hope you enjoy a nicely told examination of people's expectations... of where their lives take them.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars...

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

Istanbul Passage by Joseph Kanon

The mid-summer blitz book for today is:

Istanbul Passage

By Joseph Kanon

Atria Books,  $26.00 hardback, also available for e-readers

What it's about:

A neutral capital straddling Europe and Asia, Istanbul has spent the war as a magnet for refugees and spies. Even American businessman Leon Bauer has been drawn into this shadow world, doing undercover odd jobs and courier runs for the Allied war effort. Now, as the espionage community begins to pack up and an apprehensive city prepares for the grim realities of post-war life, he is given one more assignment, a routine job that goes fatally wrong, plunging him into a tangle of intrigue and moral confusion.
Leon's attempt to save one life leads to a desperate manhunt and a maze of shifting loyalties that threatens his own. Istanbul Passage is the story of a man swept up in the aftermath of war, an unexpected love affair, and a city as deceptive as the calm surface waters of the Bosphorus that divides it.

What I want you to know:

Author Joseph Kanon has done his homework as a storyteller with Istanbul Passage!  This book won't disappoint, it moves quickly as you are sucked in from the first page. It's set in post war Istanbul in 1945 and while it's technically a thriller, I think it's just as much a moral examination of the choices that we all make in tough situations.  

In this spotlight review, I want you to know that it touches on the many things that makes a  great spy thriller; it's set in a frenetic time frame for the world,  it's a fabulous read, it's got a well drawn romance, along with a ton of spies, chases, red herrings,  and some nicely drawn, detailed character development and it leaves you wanting more.  

What more can I say?   Read it. 

4 out of 5 stars!

** This book was provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley and in no way affected my thoughts about this book.

Mid-summer reading blitz

Starting today, for a fortnight, that's 14 days everyone, I'll be spotlighting books that I've read and enjoyed and want you to know about.  We are halfway through the summer  YIKES! and we're all looking for something to read, so find a shady spot, a hammock somewhere or a spot on the beach, somewhere comfortable and read a book!

The Guest Book by Marybeth Whalen

The Guest Book
by Marybeth Whalen

Zondervan,  $14.99

Publisher's synopsis: 

When Macy Dillon was five years old her father encouraged her to draw a picture in the guestbook of a Carolina beach house. The next year, Macy returned to discover a drawing by an unidentified little boy on the facing page. Over the next eleven years the children continue to exchange drawings … until tragedy ends visits to the beach house altogether. During her final trip to Sunset, Macy asks her anonymous friend to draw her one last picture and tells him where to hide the guest book in hopes that one day she will return to find it—and him. Twenty-five years after that first picture, Macy is back at Sunset Beach—this time toting a broken family and a hurting heart. One night, alone by the ocean, Macy asks God to help her find the boy she never forgot, the one whose beautiful pictures touched something deep inside of her. Will she ever find him? And if she does, will the guestbook unite them or merely be the relic of a lost childhood?

My thoughts:  

The Guest Book by Marybeth Whalen is a great "kick off" for my Summer Reads Selections, it does, after all, take place at the shore!  

Single mom Macy, and her daughter Emma are great, well drawn characters, they are kind that you think you know, they remind you people in your own world and that makes them immediately comfortable to you.  You can't help but feel for the family who has lost their husband, father and grandfather. We've all been there or know people who have.  So when they go back to the house by shore, the old ghosts come out to haunt them.  Sometimes the "ghosts" are internal ones, other times they are found in the memories of years ago.  

I really enjoyed the low key, but steady nod to faith and returning to prayer and God's plan for us all. One scene has Emma telling her Mom that they need to go to church more. It was a natural easy scene, one that you can beleive would take place between a mom and a daughter. While the message was there,  author Whalen wisely didn't bop anyone over the head about it. She wrote the characters and their path back to a faith based world as easily as she wrote about Macy's memories of the drawings in the guest book. Whalen's writing style was strong, steady, and enjoyable with just the right amount of mystery and discovery thrown in.  I easily flipped the page turner on my e-reader, I wanted to know who "the artist" was!  But I enjoyed the path to discovery so much that I didn't really want it to end. I really liked those characters and was so happy that Macy's brother Max turned out the way he did! 

At the end of the book, there is a bit about the real sculpture that plays a huge part in the book, it's a character in the story too!  Anyway, I did a search on the "interwebs" and found a photo. It's posted below.

I'll be waiting to see what Marybeth Whalen gives us next!

I give The Guest Book 4 out of 5 stars, that's a really good rating from me!  I loved it so much that I'll buy it.  

Author Marybeth Whalen's website.

The "sculpture" that's in the book is by Thom Seaman, I found the photo here and is often called "girl feeding seagulls." 

Here's a link to Mr. Seaman's site.

**This e-galley was provided to me at my request by the publisher Zondervan through Edelweiss and did not affect my ability to write an honest review.. 

THE LAUNDRY MAN by Kenneth Rijock


The Laundry Man, out now and looking to be a fascinating read!

Synopsis from Penquin: 

Kenneth Rijock: Decorated Vietnam veteran, successful lawyer, family man - and for ten years one of the world's most successful money launderers.
In 1980s Florida - true Miami Vice territory - Rijock was the middleman between the Columbian drug smugglers and the domestic distributors who were flooding America's streets with cocaine and marijuana. His operation was responsible for 'cleaning' over $200 million of dirty cash. Every Friday, carrying hundreds of thousands of dollars in a tattered suitcase, he would fly by private jet to a tax haven in the Caribbean, deposit the cash, and be back by Monday. He carried on even when he fell in love with a police officer, who never suspected his double life.
The operation finally came crashing down when one of his clients testified against him; Rijock then cut short his own prison sentence by assisting with the first ever American/Swiss money laundering investigation. He's now the only money launderer who consults with police and financial institutions. Since reforming he has posed for undercover operations to snare active launderers.
Like Frank Abagnale's Catch Me If You Can, Nicholas Pileggi's Wiseguy and Casino, The Laundry Man is the remarkable story of an ordinary man caught up in an extraordinary life. Fast-paced, gripping, and packed with amazing episodes, it reads like a non-fiction version of John Grisham's The Firm.
It's the first time the subject of money laundering, which funds the drug industry and causes as much heartache and misery as the drugs themselves, has been told first hand by a man on the inside.

Images provided by Kenneth Rijock.

"No Rest For The Dead" now in paperback

Look what's now out in paperback!!  I really liked No Rest for the Dead and think you will too!

No Rest for the Dead

By Sandra Brown, R.L. Stine, Lisa Scottoline and Jeffery Deaver, et al

Introduction  by David Balducci

Simon and Schuster, $12.99

No Rest for the Dead
By: Sandra Brown, R.L. Stine, Lisa Scottoline and Jeffery Deaver. 

With contributions by: Jeff Abbott, Lori Armstrong, Sandra Brown,Thomas Cook, Jeffery Deaver, Diana Gabaldon, Tess Gerritsen, Andrew F. Gulli, Peter James, J.A. Jance, Faye Kellerman, Raymond Khoury, John Lescroart, Jeff Lindsay, Gayle Lynds, Philip Margolin,
Alexander McCall Smith, Michael Palmer, T. Jefferson Parker, Matthew Pearl, Kathy Reichs, Marcus Sakey,  Jonathan Santlofer, Lisa Scottoline, R.L. Stine, Marcia Talle

The publisher's synopsis: 
More than twenty New York Times bestselling authors team up to create a first-rate serial novel -- a collaboration that combines the skills of America's greatest storytellers to produce a gripping, spellbinding mystery. 

When Christopher Thomas, a ruthless curator at San Francisco's McFall Art Museum, is murdered and his decaying body is found in an iron maiden in a Berlin museum, his wife, Rosemary, is the primary suspect, and she is tried, convicted and executed. Ten years later, Jon Nunn, the detective who cracked the case, is convinced that the wrong person was put to death. In the years since the case was closed, he's discovered a web of deceit and betrayal surrounding the Thomases that could implicate any number of people in the crime. With the help of the dead woman's friend, he plans to gather everyone who was there the night Christopher died and finally uncover the truth, suspect by suspect. Solving this case may be Nunn's last chance for redemption … but the shadowy forces behind Christopher's death will stop at nothing to silence the past forever. 

In this innovative storytelling approach, each of these twenty-five bestselling writers brings their distinctive voice to a chapter of the narrative, building the tension to a shocking, explosive finale. No Rest for the Dead is a thrilling, page-turning accomplishment that only America's very best authors could achieve. 

My thoughts:  

Twenty six authors writing in collaboration to tell the story of an innocent woman wrongly executed for her husband's murder. Huh? Twenty six authors? One book? When I read the synopsis of No Rest for the Dead  and then looked at the list of contributing authors I knew that I just had to read this book. Could this work?  WOULD this work?  Yes it works just fine, thank you!   Each author writes one chapter, or story, labeled with their name so you do know who wrote what. But the "who wrote what" dynamic quickly gets back burnered.  Some of the writers aren't normally  favorites but in No Rest for the Dead, it didn't matter to me. Every chapter and every story was seamless, every word was brilliant.  What matters is that No Rest for the Dead is a great read and a great who-done-it.

As requested by the deceased  innocent Rosemary Thomas in her will, ten years after her execution, all who were present on the night of her her husband's murder are to be brought together again in a sort of memorial. A letter is to be read by Rosemary's best friend. I immediately expected a "Nick Charles" type of scene when I read that all of the suspects would be together in one room. Nope...didn't happen. And that's OK.  There's another, more interesting way that the facts are exposed and the mystery is solved.

No Rest for the Dead is a well told, well laid out and plotted mystery, I couldn't stop reading it. It's rather like a well designed quilt, all of the separate pieces are finally stitched together to make a solid piece. It's the fine stitching and the weaving of the threads that bind the pieces that make the finished quilt strong and sturdy. That's what you have in No Rest for the Dead. A strong and well crafted story.

Hands down, this is one of the best books I've read this year!  The solution took me by surprise and no,  I didn't see it coming.  And I can usually figure these things out. 

Buy it, read it, share it.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

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

According to the book's official website:A brother-and-sister editing team, Andrew and Lamia Gulli have arranged to donate all proceeds from No Rest for the Dead (excluding contributor expenses) to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Honoring our American heros

On this 4th of July, we celebrate the freedom that so many died to provide for us. Let us remember what true freedom is, and what so many have endured and lost for us to be free. Let us never throw these God given gifts away.  God Bless America.

The best seller, UNBROKEN, by Laura Hillenbrand, is the true account of a man who would not be broken. Louis Zamperini is 95 and living in the Los Angeles area.

Here is my review of Laura Hillenbrand's book detailing the remarkable life story of Christian role model and United States honored Veteran, Louis Zamperini.  It''s located here on Novel Chatter

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.

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

We have cover art!  YAY!!

Little, Brown and Company made our day!  We have the cover art for The Casual Vacancy, her first novel for adults!!  

Info:  512 pages
Hardcover $35.  
eBook $19.99  
Release date: September 27, 2012

The publisher's synopsis:
  “When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen.” 

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