Crooked River by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Crooked River by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing, New York
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

A startling crime with dozens of victims. Appearing out of nowhere to horrify the quiet resort town of Sanibel Island, Florida, dozens of identical, ordinary-looking shoes float in on the tide and are washed up on the tropical beach—each one with a crudely severed human foot inside.

A ghastly enigma with no apparent solution. Called away from vacation elsewhere in the state, Agent Pendergast reluctantly agrees to visit the crime scene—and, despite himself, is quickly drawn in by the incomprehensible puzzle. An early pathology report only adds to the mystery. With an ocean of possibilities confronting the investigation, no one is sure what happened, why, or from where the feet originated. And they desperately need to know: are the victims still alive?

A worthy challenge for a brilliant mind. In short order, Pendergast finds himself facing the most complex and inexplicable challenge of his career: a tangled thread of evidence that spans seas and traverses continents, connected to one of the most baffling mysteries in modern medical science. Through shocking twists and turns, all trails lead back to a powerful adversary with a sadistic agenda and who—in a cruel irony—ultimately sees in Pendergast the ideal subject for their malevolent research.

Special Agent Pendergast is taking a well earned rest down in Florida after closing an unusually nasty case. But when over a hundred severed feet wash up on shore in equally baffling green shoes Pendergast finds himself drawn to the case despite his best intentions. With the Coast Guard blustering around and a whole bunch of other authorities trying to stick their oar in can Pendergast uncover what is really going on?

I have been a big fan of this series for ages so I was really pleased with this latest addition. With a complicated and well woven plot there were a number of angles to this case and it wasn’t until well over the half way mark of the full length novel that I began to unwind which pieces were red herrings and which were related to the main case surrounding the feet. There were a number of strong secondary characters who I felt really added to the tension and plotlines – but Pendergast really was front and center doing exactly what he always does and I loved this.

I was particularly pleased to see Agent Coldmoon return – albeit recovering and not the pushover he was in the previous book. I am really growing to love this character and I sincerely hope he makes more appearances in future books. Roger Smithback also makes a strong appearance in this book. While he will never take over my love of William Smithback I have to admit Roger made a solid contribution to both the tension and moving forward of the plotlines. He really was a positive addition – I just sadly feel he can never come out from under his brother’s shadow in my personal perspective.

Readers who enjoy a solidly plotted and well woven mystery with a few unusual twists and turns (usually very faint paranormal or “other” illusions to the plot) and characters that are definitely outside the usual box should find this entire series an absolute hit. This book can certainly be read very easily on it’s own. There are a few subtle hints that the characters have had previous adventures together but the entirety of this book and particularly the plot stands utterly on it’s own merits in this book and readers can be comfortable picking this up having never read a Pendergast book previously.

A smashing adventure and one I really loved.

Beyond the Wand: The Magic and Mayhem of Growing Up a Wizard by Tom Felton

Beyond the Wand: The Magic and Mayhem of Growing Up a Wizard by Tom Felton
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

From the magical moments on set as Draco Malfoy to the challenges of growing up in the spotlight, get a backstage pass into Tom Felton’s life on and off the big screen.

Tom Felton’s adolescence was anything but ordinary. His early rise to fame in beloved films like The Borrowers catapulted him into the limelight, but nothing could prepare him for what was to come after he landed the iconic role of the Draco Malfoy, the bleached blonde villain of the Harry Potter movies. For the next ten years, he was at the center of a huge pop culture phenomenon and yet, in between filming, he would go back to being a normal teenager trying to fit into a normal school.

Speaking with great candor and his signature humor, Tom shares his experience growing up as part of the wizarding world while also trying to navigate the muggle world. He tells stories from his early days in the business like his first acting gig where he was mistaken for fellow blonde child actor Macaulay Culkin and his Harry Potter audition where, in a very Draco-like move, he fudged how well he knew the books the series was based on (not at all). He reflects on his experiences working with cinematic greats such as Alan Rickman, Sir Michael Gambon, Dame Maggie Smith, and Ralph Fiennes (including that awkward Voldemort hug). And, perhaps most poignantly, he discusses the lasting relationships he made over that decade of filming, including with Emma Watson, who started out as a pesky nine-year-old whom he mocked for not knowing what a boom mic was but who soon grew into one of his dearest friends. Then, of course, there are the highs and lows of fame and navigating life after such a momentous and life-changing experience.

Tom Felton’s Beyond the Wand is an entertaining, funny, and poignant must-read for any Harry Potter fan. Prepare to meet a real-life wizard.

He’s a wizard, maybe, but he’s a lot more and fascinating, too.

I will admit here and now that I’m not a Potter-head. I read every one of the Harry Potter books, but I didn’t get into the movies as much as others. I waited until they were on TV or didn’t watch them. I had other things to do. But I did like the books and I read them because I was told they were good books.

I came across the actor Tom Felton through the TV show “The Flash”. The family watched it, so I did, too. That’s when I noticed him. He plays a good bad guy. I know that sounds odd. He’s good at being the heavy. So, when I saw this book recommended at my local library, I had to check it out. I’m glad I did.

This book talks about his Harry Potter days. I mean, it should. He spent a lot of his life doing it. But there’s so much more. It’s about him as a person. His struggles, his depression, his bouts in rehab. It’s not flowery or fancy. It’s a guy who happens to be famous writing about his life and struggles. It’s like talking to a friend through a book. That’s how it reads–very relatable.

If you’re looking for insight into Harry Potter or want inside scoops on the filming, you might not get what you’re looking for. If you are wanting a book about an actor who could take or leave acting, who has had ups and downs and is still standing, then this might be the book for you. I recommend it highly.

Forever Young by Hayley Mills

Forever Young by Hayley Mills
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Historical, Non-Fiction, Memoir, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Iconic actress Hayley Mills shares personal memories from her storied childhood, growing up in a famous acting family and becoming a Disney child star, trying to grow up in a world that wanted her to stay forever young.

The daughter of acclaimed British actor Sir John Mills was still a preteen when she began her acting career and was quickly thrust into the spotlight. Under the wing of Walt Disney himself, Hayley Mills was transformed into one of the biggest child starlets of the 1960s through her iconic roles in Pollyanna, The Parent Trap, and many more. She became one of only twelve actors in history to be bestowed with the Academy Juvenile Award, presented at the Oscars by its first recipient, Shirley Temple, and went on to win a number of awards including a Golden Globe, multiple BAFTAs, and a Disney Legacy Award.

Now, in her charming and forthright memoir, she provides a unique window into when Hollywood was still ‘Tinseltown’ and the great Walt Disney was at his zenith, ruling over what was (at least in his own head) still a family business. This behind-the-scenes look at the drama of having a sky-rocketing career as a young teen in an esteemed acting family will offer both her childhood impressions of the wild and glamorous world she was swept into, and the wisdom and broader knowledge that time has given her. Hayley will delve intimately into her relationship with Walt Disney, as well as the emotional challenges of being bound to a wholesome, youthful public image as she grew into her later teen years, and how that impacted her and her choices–including marrying a producer over 30 years her senior when she was 20! With her regrets, her joys, her difficulties, and her triumphs, this is a compelling read for any fan of classic Disney films and an inside look at a piece of real Hollywood history.

You may not have heard the name Hayley Mills in a while, but you certainly will know her name after reading this.

I grew up with the films of Hayley Mills. I’d seen The Parent Trap what seems like a few hundred times and knew the songs by heart. I’d seen That Darn Cat a zillion times, too. But I never knew the person who played those iconic roles. Now I do.

Hayley Mills is somewhat stereotypical in that she got roles, got guidance from an older man and had an eating disorder. I can’t imagine being in Hollywood and being told at size 2 you’re still too fat. She also managed to balance the dating/marrying a much older man thing for quite a while, too. I had no idea she was even married, so this was news to me. I had no idea her mother wrote a movie or that her father was an actor. Honestly, I just knew her as the girl in That Darn Cat!

Yes, this book provides a peek behind the curtain. It also lets the reader see what Hayley Mills was thinking when she took on those roles. I liked her stories and bit of name dropping, too. She worked in the film industry and met famous people! Crazy.

If you want to know more about this actress and want an easy read–the writing flows quite well and is like reading a conversation between friends–then this might be the book for you. It was for me.

Dream Spinner by Kristen Ashley

Dream Spinner by Kristen Ashley
Publisher: Forever (Grand Central Publishing)
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

Hattie Yates has finally met the man of her dreams. Yet years of abuse from her demanding father have left her petrified of disappointment. She’s already failed to reach her goal of becoming a professional ballerina—she can’t handle the terrible consequences of another dream becoming a nightmare. But when a stalker sets their sights on Hattie, there’s only one man she dares to hope can help . . .

Axl Pantera knows Hattie is the only woman for him. Yet despite the attraction burning between them, Hattie refuses to let him in. The former soldier is determined to woo her into letting down her walls. And when danger comes calling, he’s up against more than her wary and bruised heart. Axl will do anything to prove to Hattie that they’re meant to be, but first, he’ll need to keep her safe.

Kristen Ashley is one of my favorite authors, so I was really excited to read her newest book, Dream Spinner. This is the third book in The Dream Team series and this one is about Axl and Hattie. It is an enchanting, fast paced story with some suspense added to the mix. As always, KA includes a cast of colorful secondary characters, which is what makes this story and everything she writes so much fun and interesting.
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This is an upbeat and intoxicating story about Axl and Hattie and it is wonderful to have a ringside seat as they fall in love. Axl and Hattie are perfect for each other; they have explosive chemistry and a passionate relationship as they help each other deal with their troublesome fathers, Hattie’s stalker and some dirty cops.

Hattie is a dancer at Smithies. She is shy and caring, but has very little confidence because her father is always putting her down. When Axl asks Hattie for a date, she turns him down, even though she likes him, because she is afraid to say yes.

Axl is a commando who works for Hawke. Anyone who works for Hawke is tough and willing to do all the things the police can’t or won’t do. The commandos aren’t afraid to cross any boundaries, they get the job done, whatever it takes, legally or illegally. Axl is protective by nature and when he finds out Hattie is receiving threats, he wants to be the one keeping her safe. He cares about Hattie, but she is vulnerable and stubborn and afraid to open her heart.

I enjoyed all the encounters between Axl and Hattie and I also enjoyed all of Hattie’s amusing girlfriends. When they get together they are a hoot. They are a tight knit group and just what Hattie needs in her life.

This is a delightful story filled with romance, intrigue and a whole cast of entertaining characters. Although, I have to admit, I was a little disappointed there wasn’t an epilogue because KA’s epilogues are epic and my favorite part of the book. That said, I still loved this exhilarating, rollicking story and I’m sure you will too.

The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel

The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Historical, Non-Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

As America’s Mercury Seven astronauts were launched on death-defying missions, television cameras focused on the brave smiles of their young wives. Overnight, these women were transformed from military spouses into American royalty. They had tea with Jackie Kennedy, appeared on the cover of Life magazine, and quickly grew into fashion icons.

Annie Glenn, with her picture-perfect marriage, was the envy of the other wives; JFK made it clear that platinum-blonde Rene Carpenter was his favorite; and licensed pilot Trudy Cooper arrived with a secret that needed to stay hidden from NASA. Together with the other wives they formed the Astronaut Wives Club, providing one another with support and friendship, coffee and cocktails.
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As their celebrity rose-and as divorce and tragedy began to touch their lives-the wives continued to rally together, forming bonds that would withstand the test of time, and they have stayed friends for over half a century. THE ASTRONAUT WIVES CLUB tells the story of the women who stood beside some of the biggest heroes in American history.

You’ve heard about the astronauts, but have you heard about the wives?

For these women, being a wife wasn’t the half of it. It wasn’t the hardest part, either. I’ve read the books about the astronauts. There’s an immeasurable amount of testosterone going on there. What else would one expect? They’re test pilots. But the wives. Now there’s something interesting that I hadn’t learned. The writing is crisp, but can be choppy at times, but the story is good.

Each woman is different and had her own set of challenges. If you don’t know the women, this is a great way to get to know them. I knew almost nothing about Michael Collins’ wife, nearly nothing about Louise Sheppard, Joan Aldrin…The only reason I remember Annie Glenn having a stutter was that John Glenn was our state senator forever and I remember seeing her on television. I respected each of the wives more and liked how they banded together. Marge Slayton become the mother of the group. Everyone rallied around the See, Basset, Chaffee, White and Grissom families. It’s touching, heartbreaking and interesting.

If you want a book about the unsung heroes behind the astronauts, then this is the one for you to check out. Read it.

The Fact of the Matter by Madeleine L’Engle

The Fact of the Matter by Madeleine L’Engle
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-fi/Fantasy, Horror
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

It was a frigid winter day when Old Mrs. Campbell stormed into the Franklins’ general store, decrying the devilish nature of her daughter-in-law-a sentiment that deeply disturbed Mrs. Franklin, considering the woman in question, Alicia, was oft described as “saintly” by everyone around her.

When she leaves the store in a huff, Mrs. Franklin thinks she’s done with Mrs. Campbell’s ravings for the day-until the woman calls her late in the night, urgently demanding to see her.
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Blending elements of fantasy and horror, what transpires between the two women over the course of the evening will test the boundaries of reason, faith, and family-and prove that, in times of great danger, even strangers can come together to help one another in need.

This short story stirs the imagination when it blends elements of the real with otherworldly possibilities. An older woman, Mrs. Campbell, rushes into Mrs. Franklin’s store making some wild claims about her daughter-in-law. Mrs. Franklin has her doubts, knowing the woman in question, who has a good reputation. She thinks she’s in the clear when Mrs. Campbell leaves.

But no…

Mrs. Campbell surprises Mrs. Franklin with a desperate call to meet her alone at night. Mrs. Franklin is hesitant to go to this stranger, and yet, something compels her to go. A series of strange occurrences takes place, making Mrs. Franklin rethink things.

Mystery weaves itself through this quick-paced story with twists. It’s a quick read and unpredictable. It could have readers thinking about themes of helping others and the true meaning of reason.

The Trouble with Dukes by Grace Burrowes

The Trouble with Dukes by Grace Burrowes
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (368 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

The gossips whisper that the new Duke of Murdoch is a brute, a murderer, and even worse–a Scot. They say he should never be trusted alone with a woman. But Megan Windham sees in Hamish something different, someone different.

This makes male organ inefficient in getting order viagra levitra erection while sexual intercourse. It offers effective treatment for renal side effects from cialis and urinary problems. In canadian pharmacy for cialis addition, these adjustments have been verified to offer therapeutic assistance for those who are suffering from nervous system and musculo-skeletal difficulties. Too much of smoking, alcohol intake, diabetes, etc. form some of the initial reasons for the loss viagra price uk that they suffer during the acts of intimacy. No one was fiercer at war than Hamish MacHugh, though now the soldier faces a whole new battlefield: a London Season. To make his sisters happy, he’ll take on any challenge–even letting their friend Miss Windham teach him to waltz. Megan isn’t the least bit intimidated by his dark reputation, but Hamish senses that she’s fighting battles of her own. For her, he’ll become the warrior once more, and for her, he might just lose his heart.

The Trouble with Dukes is like reading a verbal dance. The dialogue is oh, so proper while at the same time conveying all manner of nefarious or sensual intents. Even the villain attacks using proper peerage etiquette. Ms. Burrowes has a deft hand when it comes to writing in this period.

The story is mainly told through three points of view: Hamish, the hero, Megan, the heroine, and Sir Fletcher, the villain. Hamish may not be eloquent in his speech when conversing, but his dialogue in his head flows smoothly. Megan turns out to be a woman who knows her own mind and goes after her prey with single-minded purpose – the hero never stands a chance. As for Fletcher – he has the potential to be redeemed based upon his little sister, but alas, there are circumstances that dictate his course of action. Once I found out the actual facts of the matter, his comeuppance is a foregone conclusion but the way it is delivered is grin-worthy. It inspires a mental ‘fist bump’ of ‘high-five’ and it’s worth reading.

Megan’s family are prominent secondary characters that play significant roles in helping to unraveling the plot and pave the way towards the great conclusion. Their personalities are large and entertaining but Ms. Burrowes kept them in line so Hamish and Megan’s romance remains the focal point.

An interesting twist is who seduces whom. The ensuing sensual hijinks are a delight to read. It also inspires a few chuckles and snickers.

The novel is very well written and entertaining but it may give some readers a feeling of cotton-head in the beginning. What I mean is, the ‘proper’ method of speech between Megan’s cousins sounds contrary to the subject matter yet they have no problems deciphering the issues and making plans to route the villain. I had a very hard time processing the dialogue in the first half of the book as I’m used to very plain speech. Once my brain “re-wired”, I found my reading rhythm and quite enjoyed the story from then on. It won’t surprise me if the book gets higher ratings from other readers, especially if they are accustomed to the Regency style of speech that is employed in this novel. Ms. Burrowes has a solid and well-earned reputation as a storyteller and it’s evident in The Trouble with Dukes.

On the whole, I’m glad I read this novel. I was entertained and charmed by the romance between Hamish and Megan. The final wrap-up leading to their happily ever after is hilarious while at the same time, serious. Want to know the best part about the ending? It’s romantic. Very romantic. It’s exactly what this romance reader seeks and I couldn’t be happier.

Copycat by Kimberla Lawson Roby

Copycat by Kimberla Lawson Roby
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (172 pgs)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Befriending Traci Calloway Cole is the best thing Simone Phillips has ever done. Traci is the kind of woman Simone wants to be-in every way possible. She begins copying her role model. Not because she wants to be Traci. She just wants to be exactly like Traci.

Traci doesn’t worry, though. She knows Simone doesn’t mean any harm and that her mimicry is only sincere admiration. Until she discovers how far Simone’s obsession has gone. It is then that Simone’s entire world begins unraveling, and dreadful secrets from her past are exposed with no warning. Secrets that she’ll do almost anything to protect.

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This isn’t Traci’s first time having a woman to copy her style. Which is what left me puzzled as to why Traci was being so naive to Simone’s behavior. Traci has been through this, and even wrote a book about a lady being a copycat and still didn’t have a clue or insight to see what Simone was doing. Her husband warned her and even her sister who met Simone only once but she was able to see Simone’s fascination with Traci was questionable.

This is a quick read that for a short read had some parts that were too detailed in things that didn’t necessarily contribute to the plot. The dialogue was slow but the plot made it interesting. I was curious how long Simone was going to let this behavior continue before it all crumbled. I love reading about couples and their happiness but the relationship between Traci and her husband Timothy just seemed unrealistic and too perfect.

The author delivered an interesting plot without the use of profanity or erotic behavior. References to church, scriptural quotes are mentioned but weren’t overly preachy. Whether low self esteem and lack of self love or maybe Simone had mental issues… I am not sure which but the subject of losing oneself and thinking if they look like or act like someone else that this would bring about happiness is real. In her past, Simone filed for bankruptcy and lately was been responsible with her credit but then with her obsession with Traci she lost her self identity, her morals and ended up with unnecessary material possessions and building up debt that would take years to get out of. She did all this while losing herself and her fiance.

I enjoyed the pre-marriage counseling session between Simone and her fiancé, Chris. I questioned why Chris was even interested in Simone. Simone has a past that she isn’t proud of. Simone’s past gave some interest to the story because I definitely was wondering what she was ashamed of. Simone has some deep rooted issues and her story and her point of view was sad, but it’s even more sad that she didn’t realize how deep and bizarre her behavior was as she was so rapidly transforming herself into Traci.

Both bizarre and humorous, I’d recommend this story to readers who like stories a little outside the norm.

Man on the Run by Carl Weber

Man on the Run by Carl Weber
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (320 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

It was the night before his wedding, fifteen years ago, that the nightmare began for Jay Crawford–locked up for a crime he never committed. Now, he’s escaped prison and wants nothing more than to clear his name and protect his family. To get justice, he’ll need the help of the three best friends who have always had his back–Wil, Kyle and Allan. But a man on the run requires absolute trust…and Jay may just be setting himself up for the ultimate betrayal.

Jay Crawford has been locked up for ten years for a crime he didn’t commit. He’s recently escaped prison. Will he be able to clear his name as well as prevent the threat bring carried out of something bad happening to one of his children?

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There is suspense, sex and plenty of drama that made this a page-turner for me.

Of course it seems a little unrealistic, a man breaking out of prison and on the run needing his friends to help him for such a long period of time. What I found strange was the author didn’t give any details of how he broke out of prison. Jay Crawford broke out of prison to save his son who he thought was being threaten, but also to clear his name of being convicted of rape. Because of the title, I thought the majority of the plot would be Jay working to prove his innocence but the book consisted of each of the character’s home and work life in addition to their relationship with Jay.

As with the prior novels by the author, it is written in a good writing style, with an entertaining plot. And even though the plot itself was serious, it included humor. I enjoyed the connection between the guys. It went way beyond friendship and more along the lines of a deep brotherhood. The men exemplified true friendship by standing up, believing in and in this case risking their freedom to associate with a friend on the run from the U.S. Marshals. The bond between these four men seems to test the strength of their marriage vows. All that seems good and sturdy turns out to collapse under pressure.

The book has a surprise ending so I can’t really say there is closure. The book is open ended in leaving the story open for continuation. I would definitely make the next book a priority to read, if it is in fact a continuation.

I would recommend to readers that enjoy a fast pace read that has twists and a unpredictable ending.

Nights in Rodanthe by Nicholas Sparks

Nights in Rodanthe by Nicholas Sparks
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (212 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

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I don’t think I’ve read a Nicholas Sparks novel that’s not packed with emotion and this one was no exception.

This story focuses on two middle aged people whose once perfect lives have seemed to unravel. They’re both divorced and meet by chance at an inn in the seaside town of Rodanthe in North Carolina. There’s a storm brewing and Paul who is a surgeon is there to meet with the husband of a patient who died and who’s holding Paul responsible. Adrienne is just looking after the inn while her friend’s away and soon Paul checks in. What starts out as a casual get to you know you encounter turns into a passionate relationship. But then, Paul’s off to Ecuador to be with his estranged son and Adrienne goes home to her three children and ailing father.

I always say be prepared with a box of tissues when you read one of the author’s works because you’re going to shed a tear at some point in the story. I won’t give away the plot and ruin this story but while you do feel some sadness, I felt the story’s main focus was about taking chances and living for the moment, and holding onto those memories.

If you like a romance with a slightly older than normal couple and a book with a good emotional pull, I’d say definitely don’t miss this one.