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The Light of Amsterdam: A Novel
The Light of Amsterdam: A Novel
Price: $8.79

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Introspective Novel Featuring Three Unhappy Characters, January 15, 2013
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If you're looking for action and saucy dialogue, this is not the book for you. If, on the other hand, you enjoy probing the psyche of the human soul and peeling back the layers of angst, guilt, and remorse found in every human, I think you will enjoy this tale of three unhappy people who find themselves in Amsterdam shortly before Christmas.

Alan teaches in an upscale school. His wife divorced him after he admitted to a one night stand with a student. Now, he is not only on thin ice with his department head due to failure to publish and produce, but also he is saddled with taking his teenage son on a trip to Amsterdam to see Bob Dylan perform in a concert Alan has long been looking forward to attending alone. His son Jack is bitter about the divorce and locked in his own world which can only be entered through his phone's earplugs. Their alienation is nearly total and this trip can sound the death knell.

Karen, a struggling single mom, has worked two jobs to give her daughter everything she can. Now, she has been invited to accompany Shannon and her girlfriends on a bachelorette weekend in Amsterdam. A secret is revealed that shakes Karen to her core and threatens her attendance at the wedding of the daughter she loves above all else.

Marion is a middle-aged woman whose husband Richard has given her a gym membership. This makes her feel dowdy and convinced he wants to leave her for their young and beautiful Polish employee. When he arranges this pre-Christmas trip for her, she responds by giving him an unthinkable present that both frightens and befuddles him.

The characters are not particularly likeable and they have much to dislike in their own lives. Will the beauty of Amsterdam light their souls and give new meaning to their lives? Or will they go on as before? From the introduction to these people to the book's abrupt and very jarring ending, you will be privy to much soul-searching and heartaches remembered.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 20, 2014 9:15 PM PDT


Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot
Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot
by Martin Dugard
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.01
537 used & new from $1.07

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Remembrances of Camelot, January 5, 2013
Having grown up in the Kennedy Era and having idolized both Jack and Jackie, I could not wait to read this book. For me, it was like a trip down memory lane, recalling all the glamour of that White House, the exuberant president and his breathtakingly beautiful wife. I enjoyed the writing style of the authors, the day-by-day countdown to that tragic day in Dallas. It was a nostalgic look back at America's high and low. I wouldn't say that I learned anything new, perhaps a few new names and a finger being pointed at the ineptitude of Parkland Hospital, but overall this is a recounting of the Kennedy presidency and the days leading up to his assassination. Definitely worth reading, but don't look for O'Reilly to give credence to any conspiracy theories still floating out there. Don't look for any startling new information that has not been previously published. Just enjoy this for what it is---a recounting of the devastating killing of President John F. Kennedy.


Christmas Magic
Christmas Magic
Offered by Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
Price: $5.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars No Magic; Not Much Christmas, December 28, 2012
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This review is from: Christmas Magic (Kindle Edition)
Being a fan of Cathy Kelly's novels as well as any story set at Christmas time, this seemed very enticing. Alas, it was not what I expected. Perhaps this is Cathy's gift to her readers, at a price of course. But the stories are very superficial and don't really offer any surprises or startling revelations. Most disappointing of all was that the stories were, for the most part, not even set at Christmas. It wasn't until the final two of the nineteen stories that I got what I consider a true seasonal tale. Misleading title and ho-hum stories will make me cautious about any more compilations from this author. Perhaps, the best part of this purchase is the sneak peek at her new novel coming in January, The House on Willow Street.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 31, 2012 3:38 AM PST


A Week in Winter
A Week in Winter

45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Binchy For Her Readers to Cherish One Last Time, December 15, 2012
This review is from: A Week in Winter (Kindle Edition)
When Maeve Binchy passed away on July 30, 2012, the reading world lost one of its brightest lights. As a fan who has read every one of her novels and short story collections, I was deeply saddened but happy to know she had left her readers one final gift. The novel she had just finished would be published as a final tribute to this amazing chronicler of Irish family life.

With her unparalleled way of writing heartwarming stories that explore the deepest emotions, Maeve Binchy enchants one final time with this story set at a bed and breakfast on the Irish coast. The innkeeper is Chicky, a woman who grew up in the small village of Stoneybridge but left years ago, against dire warnings from her family, in order to follow her American lover. When she finds herself jilted and alone in America, she weaves a fantasy to tell her family and keeps the fantasy going for years. Finally, she returns and purchases a once grand but now dilapidated estate called Stone House and dreams of turning it into a holiday home for travelers. The work is hard but made easier when a midnight call from Nuala, an old friend from school days who fled to Dublin to hide a pregnancy, puts Chicky in touch with Nuala's son Rigger, now a full-fledged juvenile delinquent wanted by the Dublin police.

Other characters who find their way to Stone House are: Orla, Chicky's niece who had had been seeking a career in London but returns; Winnie, a 34-year-old nurse who has found love at last but must convince an overbearing mother to let go of her son; Corry, the American movie star who must learn to embrace and share his fame; Henry and Nicola, married doctors who have lost their way in life and yearn for a child; Anders, a Swiss accountant who gives up his passion for music to please his father but loses his girlfriend in the bargain; Mr.and Mrs. Walls, a married couple who win a week at the inn in a competition and must learn to trade the romance and glamour of Paris for something deeper; Nell Howe, an embittered school principal who is the thorn in everyone's happiness; and Freda, the librarian who has always been ashamed of her psychic abilities.

Each character has his or her own chapter in which the reader learns the backstory that leads them to Stone House. Long-time fans of Mrs. Binchy will be pleased to know there are brief appearances or mentions from many characters from past novels, as well as two great new creations, Queenie and Gloria. When they all come together for one special week, a charming story of hope, courage,and new resolve blooms and gives the reader a heartwarming ending not only to a great story but to the writing career of a great author.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 31, 2012 3:40 AM PST


Where We Belong
Where We Belong
by Emily Giffin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.33
399 used & new from $0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartwarming Story of Love, Betrayal and Possible Redemption, December 15, 2012
This review is from: Where We Belong (Hardcover)
This was my first novel by Emily Giffin and I was totally impressed by her writing style, storytelling ability, and the great delineation of both major characters. By alternating chapters between Marian and Kirby and allowing each to have her own voice, often about the same event, the author gives the reader a full picture of what lies in the aftermath of adoption for both mother and child.

When quirky Kirby Rose turns eighteen, she exercises her right to find her birth mother, whom we learn in the opening chapter is Marian Caldwell. Marian appears to have it all---great career as a television producer, a gorgeous New York apartment, a handsome boyfriend. But when Marian opens the door to Kirby, the broken pieces of her life come to the forefront as never before. Marian is taken back to her own life at age 18 when she fell in love with Conrad Knight, a boy not exactly in her same social league but beguiling with his good looks and musical talent. Marian fell hard and had a passionate affair that ended in pregnancy.

Fast forward eighteen years as Marian deals with the way she handled the pregnancy, her affair with Conrad, and her parents. Kirby, who has always known she was adopted, has a lot to handle. Marian is much more glamorous than Kirby's adopted parents, definitely has more money and a more upscale way of living. On the other hand, her adopted parents did give her everything they could for eighteen years. And does Marian really want to make a life with Kirby? And what about the father? Does Kirby have any chance of ever meeting much less bonding with Conrad?

This story will keep you glued to the pages as events move forward, emotions peak and falter, bad feelings resurface along with the good ones, and everyone searches for that special place where they truly belong.


Mystery of Mercy Close
Mystery of Mercy Close
by Marian Keyes
Edition: Paperback
72 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Last of the Walsh Sisters Books Proves Disappointing, December 1, 2012
This review is from: Mystery of Mercy Close (Paperback)
Having read all of Marian Keyes' books and having been particularly interested in Helen for her funny, sharp-witted humor, I was highly anticipating this book. Unfortunately, the reality did not live up to my anticipation.

The book is fine but nothing special. Helen is not funny or particularly likeable in this. She is in full depression mode and lacks any of the funny, lovable attributes we have glimpsed of her in previous Walsh family books. Instead, she is quirky on the annoying side. Perhaps the author got caught up in writing about her own demons, but the monotony of it went on and on and on. This probably could have been cut by at least 100 pages.

Marian Keyes has always written about serious subjects but injected laugh out loud humor throughout. Even in Anna's book (Anybody Out There?) which dealt with one of the saddest of subjects, the reader was able to laugh throughout and alleviate the pain. Not so with the Helen book. It was actually tedious to read.

In addition, the mystery was not so much of a mystery and Helen is not so much of a private detective as she is a lucky guesser. Everything from her work life to her love life to her "fun" side was pretty grim. We do get a glimpse of happiness on the final page, but it was too little, too late for this reader.


The Secret Keeper: A Novel
The Secret Keeper: A Novel
by Kate Morton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.46
175 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly, the Most Gripping Novel of 2012, November 11, 2012
Kate Morton continues to amaze me as she only gets better and better with each successive novel. In this, THE SECRET KEEPER, she has created a captivating story that grabs readers from the first scene and doesn't let go until the shocking ending.

Told in three time frames, the action is never confusing but masterfully tantalizes the reader with a decades long mystery, revealing bit by bit the story which has smoldered for over fifty years. Most satisfying of all is that upon being shocked at the ending, I realized that all the clues were there if only I had been able to put them together. There is no secret person or event coming out of left field---the story is expertly planned and told.

We first meet Laurel Nicolson when she, as an impressionable teen, witnesses a horrifying murder committed by her mother, an event that seems strangely at odds with everything she knows about her loving, family-oriented mother. We are taken back to the 1940's and World War II England to meet this mother as a young woman and her story is the centerpiece of the book, recapturing in vivid detail what is was like to live through the Blitz, to find love, to do penance on a daily basis, and in the end to grasp for possible redemption.

We are also able to reconnect with Laurel in 2011 when her mother is dying and time is running out to uncover the mystery that has held both women hostage for a lifetime. Readers will not soon forget Laurel, Dolly, Vivien, or Jimmy. Their story is powerful, so interesting, and so revealing about why we cling to what we hold most dear.


Winter of the World: Book Two of the Century Trilogy
Winter of the World: Book Two of the Century Trilogy
Offered by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Price: $6.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Historical Epic Continues as WWII Wages, November 3, 2012
The brilliant trilogy begun with FALL OF GIANTS continues. A new generation, mainly the children of the first book, grows into adulthood and finds the world in an even more intense and brutal battle. Once again, five families are followed and their lives are changed, either destroyed or redeemed, by the harrowing events of the late 1930's through early 1950's.

A German family, a Welsh family, a British family, a Russian family, and an American family all live through these devastating times, connect and interact in often surprising ways, and in each case work diligently and whole-heartedly for a cause they believe to be right for the world. The social and economic upheaval is overwhelming, the spirit of the families who lived through it undaunted.

If you enjoyed FALL OF GIANTS, you will enjoy catching up with familiar and beloved characters, seeing history unfold in a very personal way, and be richly entertained by Ken Follett's brilliant research and well-crafted story telling.


The Casual Vacancy
The Casual Vacancy
Offered by Hachette Book Group
Price: $8.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars J.K. Rowling Isn't Just For Kids Anymore, October 12, 2012
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I've never read a Harry Potter book but, of course, knew of this author's extraordinary fame. Therefore, I was anxious to read her first book written specifically for adults. Also, I am a great fan of those who write of life in small English villages. But be forewarned: this is not the quaint and cozy village as found in works by Rosamunde Pilcher or Maeve Binchy. This is a dark and seamy tale that explores the worst of rural life, the not-so-neighborly residents who wouldn't lend a hand if their life depended on it.

That being said, this was enjoyable enough. There were many well-defined characters and the story moved along well because the author is very good at her craft. She knows how to tell a story, although I wish she could have done it with the omission of the profanity which was so heavily used it was distracting. Also repugnant was the way the adults, two characters in particular, treated their children. With parents like those in the village of Pagford, there is very little hope for the next generation.

The story centers on the death of the man everybody liked, Barry Fairbrother. When he dies in the opening pages, the rest of the village is left to carry on recalling his virtues, remembering his failings. There are numerous characters, and the sheer number of them is overwhelming at first. However, as the story moves along each does become well-defined in his or her own right, and by mid-novel the reader has a good picture of this village which will never make England's list of top ten places tourists should visit. Neighbors hate neighbors, children hate parents, spouses hate each other----it's a veritable hell on earth. Bookended by tragic deaths, the author explores those who think they are at the top of the social ladder and those who have no hope of pulling themselves out of the quagmire they were born into.


Christmas Crumble
Christmas Crumble
Offered by Macmillan
Price: $0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Agatha Raisin Delights in Her Inimitable Way, September 29, 2012
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This review is from: Christmas Crumble (Kindle Edition)
This is a clever little short story, a perfect taste of holiday merriment as only Agatha Raisin can provide. Tired of leaving her village at Christmas, Agatha decides to live the holiday spirit by providing a Christmas Day meal for the elderly and lonely in her town. With the help of her good friend Mrs. Bloxby, the vicar's wife, Agatha invites six people who spent last Christmas all alone: Matilda Glossop, a sweet seventy something whose children always manage to be traveling at the holidays; Harry Dunster, a widower who has outlived his only child; Jake Turnbull, a stocky eighty something man with a bad temper, no wife, and no friends; Freda Pinch, an eighty-two year old woman who intensely dislikes Agatha because the detective is known to have men spend the night; Simon Trent, handsome eighty year old whose wife has deserted him; and Len Leech, the vulgar octogenarian who meet his demise when Agatha drops the pudding on his head during dinner.

Light and lively, this is the perfect little gem to take us into the holidays. As always, Agatha provides much merriment as she struggles to gain acceptance and love, fails miserably, but always pulls herself back up.


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