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The Secret Diary of Alice In Wonderland Age 42 and three-quarters by Barbara Silkstone

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Poor Alice.  As a Miami real estate agent, her boss Leslie, could be part of a show called Worst Bosses. He is cruel, inappropriate, and will not release her from her contract of working for him.  She is pretty sure if given the chance, he would behead someone…. “Off with their head!”

In her dreams, Alice feels that if she could just escape Leslie’s grip she could start a new life… meet a man… move on… and not always feel like she fell down a rabbit hole. 

When Alice does meet someone on-line, an Englishman she starts to chat with through emails and on the phone, Alice falls for his accented voice that almost seems to put her in a trance.  With visions of John Cleese in her head, she flies to England to meet Nigel Channing… even his name could melt a hardened heart.

While Nigel isn’t everything she pictured, she finds herself falling for him anyway.  Yet back in Miami things are becoming increasingly strange as her boss takes her court for false accusations involving selling a property and pocketing the down payment… all of which is untrue and Alice swears she can feel herself shrinking away.  Suddenly nothing in her life seems real, Nigel comes with a lot of baggage… A LOT.  And as old enemies try to befriend her, Alice really doesn’t know who she can trust…

Is there such a  thing as Alice in Wonderland syndrome?

 

 

I chose The Secret Diary Of Alice In Wonderland because it had a cute title and eye-catching cover. Perhaps a break down a rabbit hole could be a fun experience…

I however struggled with the strange connections, and found it hard to believe that someone as pretty as Alice would fall for someone the likes of Nigel Channing.  ( I think that love of strong independent women characters kicked in here and I did not like Alice’s inability to find someone right for her) Once author Barbara Silkstone started describing Nigel and all of his quirks and so on and so on, yet Alice stayed interested in him, I lost my belief in the storyline.

I hung in there until the end though as I was curious as to what would happen with Alice and the false accusations of her boss and the shady people who surrounded her…. all in all, the book for me felt way to out there.

Know that I seem to be in the minority on this one.  Reviews on Amazon rate this one high.  If you do like this, Barbara Silkstone has many books with a similar fun theme:

Wendy Darlin – Tomb Raider

Miami Mummies

Wendy And The Lost Boys

Zo White and The Seven Morphs

Just to name a few…

 

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Alice worked in Miami Florida, giving me Florida for this challenge.

Thank you to Author Barbara Silkstone and to Audio Jukebox for allowing me a chance to listen to and review this audio book.

A Million Ways To Die In The West by Seth MacFarlane

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Albert Stark has had it with the unpredictable and often hard life that comes with living in the 1880′s in the wild western frontier.  He can’t really shoot a gun, he is not what you would call a fabulous sheep herder, and he just lost his best girl to a sniveling gunslinger who makes Albert’s meager attempts look like he is shooting with his feet.

And…

there are too many ways to die in this type of living.  Duels at high noon, snakes the size of trees, bad water, bar fights, illness, messing with wrong dude… and oh yeah, befriending the wrong dudes wife…

for goodness sakes… it’s the 80′s!  Why cant we all just get along?

 

 

In my defense…

(Is that a good way to start out a review?)

I love the sound of this read… fun, light funny, and my book club gals would o wild with laughter to know that I actually cracked into a story that has to do with cowboys as I am very anti cowboy, western, cowboy boots, and honestly… I dont like the hats either.  It’s just a personal preference, if a western comes into our groups reading choices, it will not get my vote.  :razz:

I can tell you I too was surprised when I said yes to reviewing this book, A Million Ways To Die In The West.  The draw was honestly (and this is where my defense comes in) it sounded funny.

It was.  Albert’s character is a hoot.  And while I am not a big fan of Seth MacFarlane’s work, he can be funny.  Fair warning:  there are parts of this read that are extremely crude.  SO crude in fact that I felt I had made a big mistake and almost stopped listening to this audio.  Almost.  What held me was that if you could put up with some over the top grossness, there is a funny storyline – and it does eek out as the story moves on and that beginning over the top crud subsides, not completely, but to a tolerable level.  Faint of heart, easily offended – this book is not for you.

This 4 CD, 5 hour-ish read was fun and different from anything I had read recently.  I liked the craziness of it and had a few moments of laughing out loud.

 

Anna:  While we are here at the fair I would love to get one of the picture things taken!

Albert:  Really?

Anna:  Oh yes!  I have never had one taken before!

Albert:  That’s horse s***!

Anna:  No really, I haven’t…

Albert:  Uh, no, I mean that’s horse s***, right there, don’t step in it.

And the couple stepped around the steaming pile.

 

 Funny… lite….

LOve Life by Rob Lowe

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I LOVE LOVE LOVED Rob Lowe’s book Things I Only Tell My Friends when I listened to it on audio in 2011.  His narration is superb and if you are an audio person and seriously even if you are not….) you are in for a super treat by listening to either of his books.

In Love Life, Rob (oh may I call him Rob?  ;)  ) not only covers his loves through his life of family, relationships, and his sons; but also his love of acting.  Just listening to him share some of his moments from Behind The Candelabra, Killing Kennedy, The Stand, and Untouchable, just to name a few, caused me to go out and rent some of these movies.  Just a couple of days ago I watched Behind The Candelabra, and tonight I hope to see Untouchable; two of the movies Rob discusses as taking great liberties with his character and finding it to pay off. 

 

“Adventure is important in life. Making memories matters. It doesn’t have to be a secret seaplane and a historic sports moment, but to have a great life you need great memories. Grab any intriguing offer. Say yes to a challenge and to the unknown. Be creative in adding drama and scope to your lfe. Work at it like a job. Money from effort comes and goes, but effort from imagination and following adventure creates stories that you keep forever. And anyone can do it.”
Rob Lowe, Love Life

 

What is enjoyable about this audio for someone like me who grew up on his movies is not only the memories; but also to listen to his humor as he describes totally blowing lines during a live show where he actually gave away part of the plot that should not have been released yet; but in a panic recovered nicely.

It’s also refreshing to listen to someone who truly loves his wife and his family; and instead of the so often “its all about me you can hear in memoirs”, you can tell that Rob truly loves his wife as much as he did when he married her and adores his two sons who he has made a n effort as they have grown, to be a part of their every day lives, separating the husband and dad from the actor.

Finely written and utterly engaging, if you have any interest at all in the man, his career in front of the screen and behind the scenes), or the movies he partakes in the ones he wanted to be, and the ones he should have been in…. absolutely do not hesitate to read on listen to this book.

I eagerly await what he will write about next.

 

The Taker by Alma Katsu

1bbHistorical beauty meets fantasy paranormal in a way that rocked my world… ~ Sheila

 

When Lanore Mcllyrae is brought into the hospital in hand cuffs, Dr. Luke Findley can not help but be drawn to her.  Lanore is a rare kind of beauty, one that seems to outstretch time, and before Luke even knows what he is doing – he is helping this woman escape…

Lanore’s life story goes beyond one life span… beyond mortality as Lanore tells her tale of a love so pure she found she would do anything to preserve it, but the cost was higher than she ever could have dreamed. 

 

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Which cover do you like best? Why?

The Taker is one of those books that I have wanted to read for the past few years and never seemed to get to it.  Now that I have (in audio format) I am kicking myself for waiting so long.  Where was I when everyone else was gushing about it? 

However, one of the beauties of chatting up this book now… is that the two follow-up books, The Reckoning and The Descent are both readily available so if you become engrossed in this amazing story you do not have to stop but can continue right on through the three books to what I can only imagine, is a pretty engrossing tale.

You…

are welcome. :)

The Taker, narrated beautifully by Laura Lefkow, takes you from the turn of the 19th century where a poor young girl named Lanore, finds herself completely smitten with a  young man named Johnathon, even though their families are not friendly to one another, even though Johnathon is a few years older than she, and even though Johnathon has captured the eye of many of the young ladies of the area and he knows all to well his power over their hearts.

And then –

through a powerful tale you are taken through some incredible happenings that takes Lanore out of the comfort of everything she holds near and dear to a world she is unfamiliar with, of men and women alike who will serve a powerful man in any way he chooses to be served – to a man who will be the death of the old Lanore, but bring forth a woman she barely recognizes….

A powerful read that should not be missed.  Author Alma Katsu comes out of the gate as a debut author who smokes past the competition.  Read it.  Listen to.  You would never guess that this is a debut novel.

The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger

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Sophie Diehl is very happy at her pace in a New England Law Firm as a Criminal Law Associate.  And… if she does say so herself, she is a pretty darn good one too.  One weekend when everyone is out of the office either on other business or on vacation, Sophie is tasked with doing an intake interview for divorce proceedings for a daughter of a high-profile client. 

It is just the intake interview, Sophie is assured, but Mia Meiklejohn Durkheim likes Sophie’s “take no prisoner” attitude and decides that Sophie is who she wants to represent her.  So much in fact, that she is willing to pay double to secure her services.  While Sophie does everything she can to politely pass, the partners of the firm assure her that is she is who Mia wants…. then she is who Mia will get.

*gulp*

With the help of a couple of the divorce lawyers in the firm, and facing the wrath of the female partner who is actually a divorce lawyer who would have received this case had she not been on vacation, Fiona McGregor, Sophie struggles through using her skills as a criminal lawyer to create an interesting divorce case.

 

 

 

I have this in book format and I downloaded it on Audible as well.  I went audio due to wanting to get to the book, but not having the time to sit and read. 

At first as I started listening to this audio, I was surprised to pick up on the fact that this book was going to be told in correspondence… IE. emails, letters, post it notes….  (In hindsight I really do not know why I was surprised… after all it is called DIVORCE PAPERS).  :oops:  I was really hoping that there would be more of the story told out of the context of written communications…

Then…

I got into the rhythm of the book, finding myself looking forward to correspondence with certain people, such as Sophie’s communications with David, her boss who was working on the case as support to her lack of divorce law knowledge. I enjoyed his voice and when I would hear his narration start I would get excited to hear what he had to say.

Yes there is a lot of law speak.  It did become a bit tedious that almost all of  the correspondence started with a date, an address, who the correspondence was too, who it was copied too, and what attachments there were to go along with said correspondence.  For this, I think the audio served me well as I imagine that with all this information I would skim if I had read the book.  For that matter, correspondence that did not interest me I probably would have skimmed as well, and again the audio does not allow for that so I probably did the book more justice by listening to it.

I enjoyed The Divorce Papers.  I actually learned a few things that take place in such proceedings, and the knowledge seeker in me enjoyed that.  To me, the story was a bit over the top with both parties of the divorce either having money at the ready, or high dollar property in their name as well as collections such as paintings…  this however did not dampen my enjoyment of the read. 

 

 

 

Bookies Review: A Constellation Of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

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A Constellation of Vital Phenomena was our book clubs April 2014 read.  Amazon describes this book as:

In a small rural village in Chechnya, eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as Russian soldiers abduct her father in the middle of the night and then set fire to her home. When their lifelong neighbor Akhmed finds Havaa hiding in the forest with a strange blue suitcase, he makes a decision that will forever change their lives. He will seek refuge at the abandoned hospital where the sole remaining doctor, Sonja Rabina, treats the wounded.

For Sonja, the arrival of Akhmed and Havaa is an unwelcome surprise. Weary and overburdened, she has no desire to take on additional risk and responsibility. But over the course of five extraordinary days, Sonja’s world will shift on its axis and reveal the intricate pattern of connections that weaves together the pasts of these three unlikely companions and unexpectedly decides their fate. A story of the transcendent power of love in wartime, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a work of sweeping breadth, profound compassion, and lasting significance.

This book was a bit heavier than anything we have read recently.  Some of us stumbled through a deeper read with names (like Ahkmed, Khassan Akim, Maali,) and words that caused your mind pause as you sorted through the sound and meaning.  Admittedly, several Bookies were lost along the way and stopped early on in the read not finding their way around the words or the drawn out nature of the authors way of writing. 

On the flip of that – a few Bookies loved the challenge of the language and wholeheartedly embraced this fictional and historical read based around the Chechnya war.

“At the kitchen table she examined the glass of ice. Each cube was rounded by room temperature, dissolving in its own remains, and belatedly she understood that this was how a loved one disappeared. Despite the shock wave of walking into an empty flat, the absence isn’t immediate, more a fade from the present tense you shared, a melting into the mast, not an erasure but a conversion in form, from presence to memory, from solid to liquid, and the person you once touched runs over your skin, now in sheets down your back, and you may bathe, may sink, may drown in the memory, but your fingers cannot hold it.”
Anthony Marra, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

Whatever side of the book you fell on, yay or nay – we all had to admit it made for an interesting and engaging discussion.  Usually when I bring up a discussion question during the group’s time together one or two of us will respond with our thoughts and we move on, but this time,this book, brought out more discussion, some heated, some pained, much filled with facts,mixed with the facts of this war and the historic beauty as well.  I found myself as the “note taker” of the group, just sitting back and listening to the conversations of what each person found within this books pages.  Their discussion and enthusiasm made me want to dig in more.

We were, for the most part, touched that the books events actually happened in our lifetime… and in the end we were able to pull out themes in the books such as connectedness and the importance of it, humor within a dark world, author Anthony Marra pulls a deep passionate look at a war-torn country in this debut novel.

Of course we had food…

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The pudding, while quite to the point of the book – was pretty impressive.  I made the upper right hand corner Chechnya spicy chicken from the culture and the 4th picture down of the wheat pasta to tone done the strong taste of the chicken.  Lemon rice (2nd picture down) was mentioned in the book, the Gnocchi Salad (3rd picture down) was culturally correct, and the yummy desert on the bottom… well… yummy. :)

What will book clubs like about this book?

A Constellation Of Vital Phenomena will bring up some all so real discussion of what this was war must have been like to live through.  Discussion can lead to just what a fragile society we are, by removing resources we could just as easily experience something like this.  This is a book that caused conversation and emotion to flow freely -for our group, I barely needed to ask questions to stimulate conversation, we were talking about the book from the moment we walked in the door. 

While not a light fun read or discussion, it is one that will cause your group feel that they just read something very important and most likely come out the other side knowing a little more about our world. 

Personal note:  as of this writing, I sadly admit I have not thoroughly read this book myself.  In a busy month and finding the book more work to get into than some, I skimmed the pages getting the feel for the discussion.  I would also like to note after listening to my group share their thoughts on this book, I know I will be going back and reading it properly because hard read or not… I think this one is important for me to get a strong feel for this book…. something tells me, this one may move on  to something more and I do love being ahead of the media. :)  ~Sheila

Missing You by Harlan Coben

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2nd generation Detective Kat Donovan knows what it is like to be on the losing end.  Eighteen years earlier her father was gunned down and his killer now sits at the end of his life sentence.  Shortly after, Kat’s fiance Jeff breaks their engagement with little explanation.  From that point on Kat buried herself in her work leaving little time for anything else.

When a friend signs Kat up for online dating service, Kat is skeptical, but one night starts looking through the men that the site has lined up for her as possible “connections”.  Kat freezes when she finds herself staring at the man who broke her heart all those years ago; apparently using a false name.  When she tries to message him he replies with a flat response giving no acknowledgement of their past at all… and as Kat digs deeper… what she discovers is enough to bring chills up her spine…

If Jeff caught up in a scam of luring women and men with money into false hopes of a relationship? 

With her personal life and her career all colliding at once, Kat starts investigating where it is clear that people on both sides of the law do not want her looking in to deeply.

 

 

Harlan Coben NEVER disappoints.  Every book that man writes is worth the wait.  I loved this book!  Kat was a great protagonist, she was strong and independent, but had a softer side as well. 

As you dig into what is really happening in this book it is enough to give you chills as it is such a real feeling scenario you can easily imagine reading about something like this in a newspaper. 

There is so much awesomeness in this book yet I do not want to give even a sample away as this is a book served better with you diving in and putting your seat belt on – you are in for a thrilling adventure!

DO not hesitate to pick this book up – I mark my reputation as a book reviewer that this is Harlan at his finest.  Awesome. Awesome. Awesome.

The Troop by Nick Cutter

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Goosebumpy good!  ~ Sheila

 

Scoutmaster Tim Riggs is once again taking his troop of boys into the Canadian wilderness for their annual trip.  The boys are a great group that are a joy to hang out with.

Then their first night there while the boys are sleeping, Tim hears noises around the camp.  Going out to explore, he comes across a man who is clearly extremely sick and so bone thin Tim can not even believe that he standing on his own.  The man is hungry and Tim brings him back to the camp ground trying to do “what a good scout” should do to give him some of their food.

Things only turn worse as the man cries out in pain and thrashes around deliriously, and Tim starts to rethink his decision of bringing this man into a camp with the young boys who have awaken and are curious as to what is going on.

What starts out as simple weekend adventure, quickly turns into a nightmarish weekend of survival as Tim and the boys realize they have exposed themselves to something they could have never imagined and what happens next is not written in any scout book….

 

 

 

Goosebumpy good!  I have always been a fan of good old-fashioned scares…. the books and movies I grew up on that were scary, but not over the top gruesome and so far-fetched you wondered about the mind who wrote them.  When I heard that The Troop was a good scare… I was in. 

Is The Troop a good scare?  You bet!  As I listened to this one on audio, I found at times I was thinking “oh no, oh no….”  Nick Cutter’s debut novel does not leave you feeling like you were short-changed in the scare department for sure!  This read is totally camp fire worthy!  The book flashes backward and forward occasionally as pieces of what is happening is revealed brilliantly through snippets of information of both before the trip and after.  These flashes were well positioned and I never felt lost in what was happening only more involved.

The book is not perfect.  I was left with a couple of questions I felt should have been addressed, but still I would recommend this book to good old-fashioned thriller lovers…

Did it scare me?  You bet.  :)

Panic by Lauren Oliver

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Heather’s life is certainly not what you would call “cozy.”  With an absent dad and a mom who lives inside a bottle, Heather does what she can for her sister and herself.

She never thought she would complete in Panic.

Panic was a game for students who were newly graduated from their senior year.  It happened during the summer and while the game itself was dangerous and frowned upon by adults and authority figures alike, the stakes were high with a high payoff.  The games were dangerous and you could be killed, but if you chicken out you are out of the game… for some of the students, it is do or die… either way.

When home circumstances hit an all time low, Heather knows it is up to her to figure out a way to care for her sister and provide something better for themselves.

And this years Panic is paying out at an all time high.

Dodge does not fear Panic.  He is sure that he can win and what he is hiding will be his motivation.

But Panic is filled with those with secrets….

For Heather and Dodge… there really is no choice.  And along the way you never know what sort of alliances you can build, knowledge you can gain, and relationships that can make a world of difference.

 

 

I chose to listen to Panic because I have adored Loren Oliver’s past reads…  Before I Fall, Delirium, Pandemonium, and Requiem.  She writes YA stories with great twists and turns which are a delight to read.

 Panic was a great next step for her.  With the excitement of Hunger Games (without that level of “you all must die!”) I found Panic to be an interesting look at what could go on underneath the proverbial watchful eye…

There are some interesting twists and turns in Panic, and while I can not say that it is a favorite of the Oliver books for me, it holds great potential.  Rumor has it that is has already been snatched up by Paramount Pictures to be a movie.  One that I would definitely go see.

The Weight Of Blood by Laura McHugh

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Lucy Dane’s life has been a smattering of secrets, mysteries and lies – starting from when she was just a child when her mother one day up and disappeared to, years later, when Lucy’s friend Cheri also disappears; only to be found later, murdered and displayed.

Shaken by this second loss of someone close to her, Lucy decided to dig in and see if she can learn more about what happened to Cheri, and if in any way that will lead her to clues about her own mother.  What she uncovers are secrets that are too dark to fathom, and a little to close to home.

 

 

 

Weight of Blood came to me through no other source than my own.  Usually I find books through other readers recommendations or authors I adore… but this one I stumbled across on Audible.com and it sounded as though it had potential.

And it did.

When I think about this book I come up with words like engaging.  Powerful.  Mysterious.  McHugh’s words pour like water from a fountain, smooth and clear.  I enjoyed the story line and immersed myself fully into learning the secrets of the Dane family and those close to them. 

3 narrators take us through the audio version of this book and the transactions are so smooth between them that when I looked it up right now, I was surprised to see there were three. 

While the book deals with some topics that are frightening – they are also not far fetched, and in the end what is put into print here is a truly believable (and based somewhat off a true story) and easily imagined in a small town hidden amongst the Ozark Mountains.  

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