gimmethatbook

Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Month: June 2015

They Call Me Crazy by Kelly Stone Gamble

call me crazy

 

Cass Adams is crazy, and everyone in Deacon, Kansas, knows it. But when her good-for-nothing husband, Roland, goes missing, no one suspects that Cass buried him in their unfinished koi pond. Too bad he doesn’t stay there for long. Cass gets arrested on the banks of the Spring River for dumping his corpse after heavy rain partially unearths it.

The police chief wants a quick verdict—he’s running for sheriff and has no time for crazy talk. But like Roland’s corpse, secrets start to surface, and they bring more to light than anybody expected. Everyone in Cass’s life thinks they know her—her psychic grandmother, her promiscuous ex-best friend, her worm-farming brother-in-law, and maybe even her local ghost. But after years of separate silences, no one knows the whole truth. Except Roland. And he’s not talking.

 

 

 

 

Thanks to the author for gifting me this book in exchange for this review!

Sometimes I get review requests and I’m not sure I’ll like the book, but something tells me to take a chance anyway. THEY CALL ME CRAZY was one of those. I did some brief research and discovered that Goodreads had excellent reviews, so I took a gamble. I’m so glad I did! Well written and a shining example of the Southern Noir genre,  this was a fantastic ride.

The chapters are all told in the perspective of each of the characters, which makes everyone a pretty unreliable narrator. Cass herself is also unreliable, as she is determined to be the “crazy” one early on. She routinely denigrates her husband, while others who know him paint him as a wonderful man. Those characters who appear as shining paradigms may or may not turn out to be the bad guys—you just have to read it and see for yourself.

Cass is a pretty sympathetic character right off the bat, despite her townsfolk attesting to the contrary. She is just marching to the beat of her own drummer and is comfortable there. She is definitely one of the most colorful characters I’ve come across this year.

The author’s knowledge of country towns and their foibles make the tale sing—her descriptions of the houses, hobbies, weather, and people’s sartorial choices place the reader firmly in the middle of Anytown, Kansas. You get just a whiff of desperation in the background; those who have not managed to escape to A Big City are resigned to make life as interesting as they can, while tearing down poor old crazy Cass.  All through the book she maintains her guilt, telling anyone who is willing to listen that, of course, she DID kill her husband. How this story was going to be wrapped up was a big question in my mind as I read on. The author does not disappoint–the ending is just to the left of center and quite satisfying.

As the reader begins to understand the entire story (by piecing together everyone’s separate version of the truth), THEY CALL ME CRAZY turns into quite the delicious story; like one of those chocolate truffles that have many layers and then a sweet nougat at the center.  Completely satisfying, humorous, and suspenseful, this unassuming story will make you think twice about those people in your life that seem just a little odd.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

 

 

Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents by Lindsay Gibson, PsyD

 

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If you grew up with an emotionally immature, unavailable, or selfish parent, you may have lingering feelings of anger, loneliness, betrayal, or abandonment. You may recall your childhood as a time when your emotional needs were not met, when your feelings were dismissed, or when you took on adult levels of responsibility in an effort to compensate for your parent’s behavior. These wounds can be healed, and youcan move forward in your life.

In this breakthrough book, clinical psychologist Lindsay Gibson exposes the destructive nature of parents who are emotionally immature or unavailable. You will see how these parents create a sense of neglect, and discover ways to heal from the pain and confusion caused by your childhood. By freeing yourself from your parents’ emotional immaturity, you can recover your true nature, control how you react to them, and avoid disappointment. Finally, you’ll learn how to create positive, new relationships so you can build a better life.

Discover the four types of difficult parents:

The emotional parent instills feelings of instability and anxiety. The driven parent stays busy trying to perfect everything and everyone. The passive parent avoids dealing with anything upsetting. The rejecting parent is withdrawn, dismissive, and derogatory.

 

In Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents (Called ACoEIP hereafter), Lindsay Gibson, PsyD, has provided an exceptional resource for people who grew up lonely within the company of their families.

To preface my review of her book, I must mention that the issue coping with immature parents, resonates strongly with me. I was fortunate enough to know in advance of reading this book that I was a part of its target audience. However, Gibson wisely acknowledges that most of her target audience will believe that their childhood experiences are normal, and that whatever problems they might have had seeking attention growing up was, and still is, their own responsibility to bear.

I would have felt this way not too long ago, and you may feel the same. If a person’s upbringing is likely to seem normal to them even in the absence of a meaningful parent-child emotional connection, how would a potential reader know that a book like this would be for them?

Below is a selection of statements that Gibson includes early on in the book to determine if you are in her target audience. If you find yourself nodding your head while reading these, then ACoEIP may deserve a place on your reading list.

“I was trying harder to understand my parent than my parent was trying to understand me.”

“I always felt that my parent thought I was too emotional or sensitive.”

“My parent rarely apologized or tried to improve the situation when there was a problem between us.”

For most peoples’ childhoods, some of these statements were true some of the time. For some people, these kinds of statements describe the general tenor of life childhood life. That kind of childhood leaves a lot of emotional baggage.

For some, the fallout of such a childhood is that you internalize. Consider this example: You may get yourself into relationships with others where you forego your own wants and needs as the price of admission for respect from the other. You may find yourself filling the requests of others, never asking favors for yourself. Why? Well, if your parents generally reprised you when you expressed desires, then keeping your wants and needs to yourself would be an expected learned behavior. The danger here is that you’ll look at yourself one day, always giving of yourself to others and letting people walk all over you, and decide that you must be a fool, or that you’re just weak, or some other self-diminishing thing. You would be terribly wrong, and a book like this one finds its greatest value in showing its readers why.

The example above is just one of many. The pages of ACoEIP are stuffed to the margins with relatable stories that are never too long, nor too simplified. Gibson speaks with a knowledgeable tone, but without pretense. Her diverse personal background of reading, life experience, and administering therapy shows in her concise writing style. I would not fault her for including more examples that I might have expected from a book like this because none of the examples feel like padding. All of them add unique value to the segments in which they appear.

Even if you’re not sure that this book is for you, I recommend it. If, while reading it, you decide that it isn’t, you will still gain a window into the hearts of those in your life to whom this book does speak.

Want your own copy? Click here.

Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski

 

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 An essential exploration of why and how women’s sexuality works—based on groundbreaking research and brain science—that will radically transform your sex life into one filled with confidence and joy. Researchers have spent the last decade trying to develop a “pink pill” for women to function like Viagra does for men. So where is it? Well, for reasons this book makes crystal clear, that pill will never exist—but as a result of the research that’s gone into it, scientists in the last few year have learned more about how women’s sexuality works than we ever thought possible, and Come as You Are explains it all.

 

I won this book through a Goodreads giveaway! Thanks to Emily Nagoski and Simon & Schuster for contributing the book in exchange for an honest review.

There are many books out there claiming to be the best source of knowledge about the female body; but this one is pretty much on the money. Nagoski talks honestly about what women experience, and why. Her tenet is: we are all alike, but different,  we are all normal.

Women may get their knowledge  from social media,  and therefore have an unrealistic image to live up to. Women may feel “broken” because their bodies don’t react the way they think they should. This feeling is insidious and permeates the brain and hinders sexual pleasure.

Nagoski explains that women have a “brake” and an  “accelerator” and that they need to be aware of what hits them, in essence. She talks about “spectatoring” (thinking about yourself in a denigrating way during sex, effectively hitting your brake) and discusses how to love your body.

COME AS YOU ARE is an uplifting, celebrating, and positive book that all women should read.  The ideas she puts forth are simple, and she includes worksheets and questions in the book that the reader can use to help them along their journey to better self awareness.

The author includes a chapter on anatomy, which is very thorough and should educate even the most sexually aware person! She also debunks the myths that women’s pleasure is secondary to men’s, or that the purpose of a female is just to procreate. Her message gives women power on every page.

Intertwined with Nagoski’s wisdom are 4 fictional women, each experiencing a different problem. As the book progresses, each woman’s relationship progresses, concurrent with what the author is saying. This way the reader can see how the principles are applied in real life.

What makes this book different from other self help books is that the solutions are put forth for both the mind and the body. It won’t matter if your sex drive is low or high,  as the tenets will make many women feel better, both about themselves and about what they feel. Education goes a long way, and this is the author’s aim: to let women know they are normal, while teaching them why this is so. There can be no better message, especially in these times where the average female has a lot of negativity surrounding her. Every woman should read this book, then give it to their partner. There would be more happiness in the world if that occurred.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

Death and A Cup of Tea by Jess Faraday

 

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Elm Books is proud to present the fourth book in our mystery collection, with eight stories featuring a female sleuth and tea. Choose your brew carefully… some are comforting, others are deadly. But whether your style is English, Jasmine, Chai, Green, or Vanilla Cream there’s bound to be a cup for everyone! The fourth mystery collection from Elm Books features female sleuths and protagonists from Elm Books veterans along with a few exciting newcomers. In these eight stories you’ll find eight wide range of lovable characters. In “A Cup of Chai” Robert D. Hughes proves that detective work is more exciting than biology homework as a college student solves the mysterious murder of a local tea house owner. Professional sleuths in Lee Mullins’ “Edith Jones Just Got Game” and Lynn Finger’s “Fear on Eight Legs” solve crimes from Philadelphia to the far reaches of the galaxy. Tea is a civilizing influence and a key to answers both for the prim and proper Miss Wisner of Albert Tucher’s “Miss Wisner Will Pour” and for a team of psychological researchers investigating an escaped mouse in Sharon Nelson’s “Civility: Worth a Try When All Else Fails.” And justice is on the menu in Stephanie Rico’s “Extraordinary Happenstance”, Wendy Worthington’s “A Nice Cup of Homicide”, and Cheryl Korte’s “A Garden of Simples” as their heroines dish out boiling hot revenge with two lumps of sugar.

 

Thanks to Rachel at Elm Books for offering this advanced reader’s copy!

A writer’s call for a plot that included women and tea is the genesis of this collection of short stories. Each of them are written by different authors, thus different styles and genres. All the stories were written well, with only the plot leaving room for interpretation.

For me, knowing that the tea was the link sort of spoiled things for me a bit, as I was alert to the appearance of the beverage. Some inclusions were relevant to the plot, others a mere aside, that wouldn’t even have figured on a reader’s radar if not for the title.

“Civility” started out well, with humorous dialogue involving a laboratory mouse, but the ending was  rather abrupt, and not satisfying at all.

“Fear On Eight Legs” will give arachnid-fearing readers a chill and perhaps some nightmares, as a robot spider is sent to perform an errand.

“Miss Wisner Will Pour” was to me, the most erudite and well written story, with a plot that was completely plausible. The idea of proper librarians with dark secrets was delightful and refreshing, exactly like a well-brewed cup of, well, tea.

“A Cup Of Chai” seemed a bit implausible to me, and a bit too pat. Biology student turned sleuth was a good theory, but didn’t hold my interest.

“A Nice Cup Of Homicide” was a story about four women trying to rid themselves of an annoying hanger-on to their afternoon club. The character of Kyra was evil and manipulative, but the idea of these women deciding that murder was the solution was hard to believe. How could they be so impotent in the face of a single person?

“A Garden Of Simples” was my second favorite story, I think. The main character planned out her deed thoughtfully and naturally, and the fact that it was under everyone’s nose made it all the more pleasant to read.

Short stories hold so much promise, because if there is one that you don’t enjoy, there will be another on your plate in a few pages. My time spent reading DEATH AND A CUP OF TEA was enjoyable and relaxing, without having to puzzle too hard over the mysteries contained within. This is a perfect little read for an afternoon, much like the proverbial teatime within each of the stories.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here. This book will be published on August 1, 2015.

 

 

 

 

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

Unlikely Event

 

In 1987, Miri Ammerman returns to her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, to attend a commemoration of the worst year of her life.

Thirty-five years earlier, when Miri was fifteen, and in love for the first time, a succession of airplanes fell from the sky, leaving a community reeling. Against this backdrop of actual events that Blume experienced in the early 1950s, when airline travel was new and exciting and everyone dreamed of going somewhere, she paints a vivid portrait of a particular time and place—Nat King Cole singing “Unforgettable,” Elizabeth Taylor haircuts, young (and not-so-young) love, explosive friendships, A-bomb hysteria, rumors of Communist threat. And a young journalist who makes his name reporting tragedy. Through it all, one generation reminds another that life goes on.

In the Unlikely Event is vintage Judy Blume, with all the hallmarks of Judy Blume’s unparalleled storytelling, and full of memorable characters who cope with loss, remember the good times and, finally, wonder at the joy that keeps them going.

 

Thanks to Penguin Random House for the ARC!

Judy Blume is such a beloved author that I’m almost reluctant to write this review. Let me just get it over with: I didn’t like this book.

There, I said it.

It wasn’t the anticipation that made the book such a letdown–it was the style and way the plot unfolded. Many other reviews will note the large cast of characters and the fact that each chapter is written about one character at at a time. For me, this didn’t work. (I’ve recently read other books constructed that way and once I got into the flow, enjoyed everything just fine. None of these characters actually grabbed me.)

The writing style wasn’t as Blume-esque as I recall, and the plot seemed to zig and zag, even though it was fairly linear. I read on and on, hoping I would get to that sweet spot where everything clicks and it becomes unputdownable.

It just never happened for me, and I grew annoyed. Yes, the work is epic. Yes, she winds the characters’ lives around and eventually it all makes sense. Yes, the hopes and dreams of everyone looms large as the plot unwinds, and the maturation of the characters, especially Miri Ammerman, provides a backdrop to keep the average reader turning the pages. I could say it’s like going to Disney World in the rain; the idea of it should be magical, but the weather just doesn’t cooperate.

One thing that was agreeable: the exact perfection in which Blume describes the 50’s. Little details like products, clothing, attitudes, home decor—this is done wonderfully and provided the only bright spots for me. Sad when you spend time reading a book just to pick out the background details.

Ms Blume will sell a lot of copies of IN THE UNLIKELY EVENT based on her status as a literature goddess. I’m still going to worship at her altar, but this book won’t have a place there.

 

Scent of Triumph by Jan Moran

 

scent

 

Scent of Triumph is the story of Danielle Bretancourt, a talented young French perfumer with a flair for fashion and a natural olfactory gift. In the language of perfumery, she is a Nose, with the rare ability to recognize thousands of essences by memory. The story opens on the day England declares war on Germany, and Danielle and her family are caught in the midst of a raging disaster sweeping across Europe.

Her life takes a tragic turn when her husband and son are lost behind enemy lines. She spies for the French resistance, determined to find them, but is forced to flee Europe with fragments of her family. Destitute, she mines her talents to create a magnificent perfume that captures the hearts of Hollywood’s top stars, then gambles again to win wealth and success as a couturier. Her intelligence and flair attracts the adoration of Jonathan Newell-Grey, of England’s top shipping conglomerate, and Cameron Murphy, Hollywood’s most charismatic star.

Danielle charts her course through devastating wartime losses and revenge; lustful lovers and loveless marriages; and valiant struggles to reunite her family. Set between privileged lifestyles and gritty realities, here is one woman’s story of courage, spirit, and resilience.

 

Thanks to NetGalley for providing this advance reader’s copy  in exchange for a review!

I have read other novels by Jan Moran (see my reviews on Flawless and Beauty Mark), but this by far is her most enthralling and multi layered work. The character development is deeper, the settings lusher, and the sweeping triumphs and tragedies make this book almost larger than life. Moran’s talent as a writer shows on every page and in each subplot. Moreover, her love and knowledge of perfume and its creation shines throughout SCENT OF TRIUMPH.  Scenes are not only described, but experienced with olfactory details: we smell the scent of Jon’s cologne, we breathe in the odor of sweat and salt air as Danielle travels on a crowded ship, and we become aware of not only the squalid appearance of a tenement–we live it as the food odors permate our consciousness.

Another plus is that Moran, as always, gives us a strong female presence. Danielle is master of her own destiny, always pushing forward, seeking the best life for her family first. Her natural ability to manipulate scent and create perfume helps her in her personal and financial growth; and perfume vials serve as weapons, messengers, and signs of hope for Danielle and her relatives. Moran’s treatment of the injustices of WWII are descriptive and hit hard–keep tissues close at hand, for this is not a soporific romance with a little history thrown in. SCENT pulls no punches as the character of Danielle experiences hardship and struggle.

I found it easy to identify with Danielle’s drive; her ambition flows naturally and she is not overbearing. Rather, she is painted as a woman of class and character, determined to make her way in the world. As the plot shifts, there is suspense in the form of missed opportunities. The author knows her audience and creates roadblocks for her characters accordingly.

Finally, this novel is unique due to the author’s affinity for perfume. Each chapter begins with a quote from the fictional Danielle that resonates with the action to follow; and also gives the reader some insight on what goes into creating a lasting and pleasant scent. I love a book where I can learn tidbits about familiar things, and understanding more about perfumes and their creation was what made this book so wonderful on another level. Our sense of smell can evoke many memories and emotions. Moran utilizes this knowledge to create a perfect blend of word, image, and essence.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

 

BookCon: So much better this year!

We enjoyed our trip to BookCon at the Javits Center, NYC so much! There were authors to meet, books to discover, and $10 sandwiches to eat.

Here are some of the people we found interesting:

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Kyle is standing with author Daniel Melnick. His book is THE ASH TREE, the story of a family’s journey out of the Armenian genocide in 1915.  You can read more about his book at his website here.

 

 

 

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Mike is standing with author Connie Ruben, with her book THE STAGES OF GRACE, about Alzheimer’s and acceptance. Look for his review on the site soon!

 

 

 

 

 

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In this photo, Kyle is standing with author Martha Ritter. Look for a review of her book, THE NEARLY CALAMITOUS TAMING OF PZ, from us. Kyle is really excited to read this book about a shelter dog, an 11 year old girl, and trust.

 

 

 

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This is author AJ Walkley with her two books VUTO and QUEER GREER. Mike is going to read one (or both) and post a review.

 

 

 

 

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This is author Julia Chadwell, author of LITTLE TEXAS SWEETHEART, a memoir about domestic violence , and her travels  across America. Kyle will be reading and reviewing her book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mike chats with CEO David Dunham of BOOKGRABBR, a new social media platform that lets you download books and share what you are reading with your friends.

 

 

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David Baldacci was there, signing books for his loyal fans.  Some of the signing lines were snaked all around booths..but it was worth it!

 

 

 

 

 

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Here is beloved author Norton Juster, signing his book THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH. Kyle was ecstatic to share a few words with him–it was the high point of the day for her!

 

 

 

 

 

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Bestselling author Emma Donoghue is signing copies of her book, ROOM.

Kyle read her book SLAMMERKIN and enjoyed it.

 

 

 

 

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All around the Javits Center there were banners promoting new books. Lee Child’s new book should be awesome!

 

 

 

 

 

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Kyle tried to get her hands on an advanced reader’s copy of THE WITCHES by Stacy Schiff, but there were none available.

 

 

 

 

 

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This was the Hachette Group‘s book signing line up. Lines formed early for all of these star authors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The last advanced reader’s copy Kyle got was from author Clea Simon. It’s called DOGS DON’T LIE, and Kyle plans on reviewing it here! Simon calls the genre “pet noir”, and it’s first in a series.

 

 

 

 

 

All in all, this year was so much better because there were more authors, less crowds (the area was spread out so we weren’t all crammed in), The reading list is overflowing for gimmethatbook, and that’s always good.  Looks like we have to get reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Blue Journal by L.T. Graham

blue journal

When one of Randi Conway’s psychotherapy patients is found dead of a gunshot wound, the investigation is turned over to Lieutenant Anthony Walker.

Formerly a New York City cop, Walker now serves on the police force of an affluent community in Fairfield County, Connecticut.  He lives among the privileged gentry, where he understands that appearances are often far removed from reality.  This certainly proves to be true in the death of Elizabeth Knoebel, when Walker discovers that she had been keeping a private journal entitled “SEXUAL RITES”.

In her diary, Elizabeth was recording the explicit details of her sexual adventures with various men, many of whom were married to the women in her therapy group.  Elizabeth was a predator bent on seducing and, in some instances, humiliating these men, obsessed with a perverse mission that Walker believes led to her murder.

As Walker uncovers the secrets of Elizabeth’s memoir, he becomes convinced that her killer is another of Randi Conway’s patients.

But which one?

 

Thanks to the author for gifting me this book in exchange for an honest review.

This is the first book in a new series by LT Graham (pen name of an undisclosed successful suspense writer). The subtitle is “A Detective Anthony Walker novel”,  hinting that he will continue to be the main character around which the stories will be structured. Graham has done a good job with this one, and I’ll probably look for the second book once it comes out.
The plot is simple: a manipulative woman named Elizabeth Knoebel is murdered, and there is a large cast of characters who are suspects. Her husband is cold and hard to read; her therapist is legally obligated to not disclose anything she’s learned through therapy; and it comes out that Elizabeth was vilified by the other members of her therapy group.
There is some salacious content in the form of a journal that Elizabeth was writing, and the plot revolves around these questions: who are the men (and women) that she seduced, and who hated her enough to kill her?
THE BLUE JOURNAL is a basic police procedural, no fancy words, minimal blood and gore…but lots of suspense and red herrings. All the characters look guilty at one point or another in this book which means the solution is not obvious until the end. Walker is an amiable enough guy, and his background gradually becomes revealed to the reader, making him somewhat of a sympathetic character. There are a few other characters who are perhaps destined to be regulars in this burgeoning series as well, such as the police chief, at odds with Walker’s detective work; and Walker’s sidekick Kovie.
The beleaguered therapist, Randi Conway, seems to have no other patients except her marriage counseling group—they barge in and out of her office at will, and at times she feels that she’s lost control of the therapy. It got annoying to me that she was in such control of her emotions, or perhaps it just seemed that way, compared to Elizabeth’s lusty and conniving behavior.
Graham’s writing style is competent; there are a few loose ends that are not tied up at the end of the book, but that really doesn’t detract from the book as a whole. I would have liked to learn more about Elizabeth’s motivation, why she was writing that journal, why she was playing the games that she did. Her character is killed within the first few pages, and is only mentioned in recollection. The reader mainly gets to know her via her own words, as parts of her journal are included here and there. The x-rated content of the diary seems to be in harsh juxtaposition to the rest of the writing.  I know that the author framed the story this way to give us some insight into Elizabeth’s character, but after the first few times the action was broken up to switch to a journal entry, it just became repetitious. That’s really the only complaint I have about THE BLUE JOURNAL.
All and all, a solid first outing from this mystery writer. We shall see if Graham can keep the momentum going with the next book. Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

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