Sunday, February 26, 2012

Guest Review: Helpless by Daniel Palmer

Format: Review Copy
Source: Author
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Purchase: Indie Bound

Michelle's Two Cents:
Last year I had my good friend, Cheryl, review on my site a few times. Much like with Sean (my husband), I enjoy sharing my opportunities with those that I care about, especially if they are huge book nerds like me. Cheryl is indeed that.

She reviewed Daniel Palmer's first novel last year and was thrilled to be able to read and review his follow up. Thank you Cheryl for taking the time to do this. She also had the wonderful opportunity to see Daniel at a book signing event in Atlanta along with his father, author Michael Palmer.

Cheryl's review:

Last year I reviewed Delirious by Daniel Palmer ( and I was excited to get the opportunity to review his new book, Helpless.

From the author's website:

Nine years after he left Shilo, New Hampshire, former Navy Seal Tom Hawkins has returned to raise his teenage daughter, Jill, following the murder of his ex-wife, Kelly. Despite Tom’s efforts to stay close to Jill by coaching her high school soccer team, Kelly’s bitterness fractured their relationship. But life in Shilo is gradually shaping up into something approaching normal. Normal doesn’t last long. Shilo’s police sergeant makes it clear that Tom is his chief suspect in Kelly’s death. Then an anonymous blog post alleges that Coach Hawkins is sleeping with one of his players. Internet rumors escalate, and incriminating evidence surfaces on Tom’s own computer and cell phone. To prove his innocence, Tom must unravel a tangle of lies about his past. For deep amid the secrets he’s been keeping—from a troubled tour of duty to the reason for his ex-wife’s death—is the truth that someone will gladly kill to protect.

My review:

The book opens with Tom Hawkins on the field coaching the high school girls soccer team, where he sees the police approaching him and he thinks, “They know what I did. They’re coming for me. The secret is out.” I’m a sucker for a story that starts with a secret. And I have to keep reading until I know what that secret is. And all the characters in Helpless are hiding something. As the book develops, you discover the secrets bit by bit. But one of the great things about this book is that as you discover the secrets, you still do not know how they all intersect until the very end.

Palmer’s theme of utilizing technology as a basis for his thriller works very well. While I’ve always been a fan of the Mission Impossible/James Bond type of technology and gadgets that are unbelievably (and unrealistically) fantastic, I like that Palmer instead uses everyday technology that we’re all familiar with, therefore easy to understand and relate to. That simplicity is what makes the story so scary. Seemingly innocent and private interactions can quickly spiral out of control, causing irreparable damage to people’s lives. Bad people with too much knowledge can manipulate technology in ways to benefit them. And you always think it won’t happen to you.

As with Delirious, I read this book in only a few days. Everytime I thought I was close to figuring it out, something happened to keep me guessing. Like Michelle, I want and expect twists and turns in my thrillers and this one delivered. Up until the very end, there were unexpected events that I did not see coming.

In Helpless, I see a tremendous amount of growth in Palmer’s writing since his first book last year. The story is more detailed and more suspenseful. The characters are likeable and relatable. As part of this thriller, Palmer explores the depths and bonds of multiple relationships – parent-child, adult friendship, teen friendship, colleague, adult-teenager, with a little romance thrown in. Palmer’s only written two novels but he has me hooked. I read a lot of suspense and mysteries and, but only have a few authors where I anxiously await the next book. Palmer is definitely one of those authors for me.

Author Website:

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Make it Happen March

Location: My head
Voice: Me
Time: Earlier today


Books, Books, and still, more books.

Do I love it? Yes
Can I read them all? Hell, no.
Why am I keeping them? I have a problem
A problem? Yes, an addiction.
An addiction? Yes, an addiction to collecting books.
Perhaps you need to see someone? Perhaps you are right."

This is the conversation I have in my head on an almost daily basis. As I get older and more aware of the space issues I have in my house, I realize that there is no way I can house this many books any longer. My house is tiny. My family is busy.
We fill up every inch. I need to down size.

But how? How do you ask an addicted book lover like me to part with so many books that I have not read?

Logic. That's my answer.
Let's break it down. I have, probably 400 books in my possession. Let me clarify.
400 books that I HAVE NOT READ. Yes.
So, if I only read what I own and average 1 book per week, I'm looking at roughly the next 8 1/2 years of my life dedicated to only the books I have right now. That's 8 years of books I am going to overlook outside my house. Holy crap, I am now having an anxiety attack over this.

Can't be done. Won't be done. See I'm not just the average little ol' lover. No.
Number 1:
I am a library employee. That means I see a ton of books cross my path that I have access to for FREE. I can't possibly be expected to resist this temptation!
Number 2:
I am also a bookstore employee. Same thing. I see a ton of ARCs come in. I hear so and so co-worker recommend a great book. A customer comes in looking for a good read. I open up new product. The stimulation goes on and on and my powers in resisting new books fail me.
Number 3:
Oh yeah, did I mention that I'm a book blogger? Hello? The worst temptation there is! Email after email asking "Do you want to review this book? It's great! It's free! I'll send it to you!"


So, I am admitting defeat. There is no possible way I can read all the books I own. And conisdering I have had some of these books on my shelf for OVER A DECADE, I think it's fair to say, they've had their time. Time to go to another home where they MAY get read.

My mission is for March to become Make it Happen March. I am going to give away a large chunk of my books. I am going to donate them to my library. I am going to sell some of them to my bookstore. I am going to give away many of my old ARCs to my family, friends and my book club ladies. Take them. I don't want them back. Be gone.

I will keep atleast 20 books that I know I really want to read. For example, A Game of Thrones by George R. R Martin, Kite Runner, The Shadow of the Wind and Ahab's Wife.

Will I cry during this purge? Probably.
But it needs to happen. The opportunity to get more and more books is there and probably will be for a long time to come. ( knocking on lots of wood)

So, any words of support, encouragement or wisdom would be greatly appreciated. Maybe a rollicking version of "We are the Champions". Whatever. I'm game.

Happy Reading to you all, and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Audio Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

Format: Audio Book
Purchase: Indie Bound

This is a book I tried to read after BEA 2 years ago because of all the buzz. I couldn't do it.
It is in the voice of a 5 year old boy and it was difficult for me to wrap my head around his simple verbage or lack thereof.

So, I turned to the audio. Though jarring at first to hear the tale being told by a animated, mostly cheerful child, it turned out to be utterly, wholly absorbing. I was fascinated, riveted by the awesomeness of his perception of things. Room to him was his world. He knew no other. The rituals, the structure in which his mother created for him, safe, sound, secure, everything he needed.

The voice of his mother, naturally, was the opposite. Lovable, nuturing, yet tense. Calm yet ready to break at any time. Encouraging yet bored with the pace of their existence.

The story alone is one that will make you shudder. A woman kidnapped, forced in captivity, assaulted repeatedly, made to give birth alone and raise that child in one room with no questions asked and no hope of escaping. It made my blood boil at times.

I was so moved to rage and sadness while listening to this story. I loved the little boy Jack, wanted to rescue the mother, kill the abductor and shake the media. Then I would flip flop and get irritated at the boy, curse the mom and the whole situation.

You as a reader, understand Jack's inability to care about the outside world because he doesn't know anything else but you also feel the frustration of the mother who so badly wants to get back to it.

Rating: Recommend
Overall, the listening experience proved to be much better than the reading for me. The voice of Jack was riveting to listen to and I yearned for freedom and happiness for them both. I won't spoil anything for anyone who hasn't read it or listened to it.
I'm on a listening roll. This one did not disappoint.

Happy reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Guest Review: Ready, Player One by Ernest Cline

Genre: Fiction
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Random House)
Purchase: Indie Bound

Michelle's Two Cents:
This book came my way from the lovely Tom at Random House. I knew it would be on my list at some point to read but I really thought my husband would like it even more. I've heard rave reviews and even convinced a library co-worker to read it without having read it myself.We are children of the 80s so the subject matter is nostalgic for us.
Here is a description from Goodreads and Sean's review.

At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, READY PLAYER ONE is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life—and love—in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?

Sean's Review:
Many dystopian novels share predictable plot devices, and though this one did share a few; I felt the counterpoint of the past and current computer, video, and RPG gaming references set this book apart. This debut novel is a great read, and I think illustrates how the global network, while bringing us closer together, can in fact isolate us from each other in a uniquely 21st century way. I found the characters relatable and endearing, and the banter realistic. A few plot devices seemed unlikely, but the story revolves around a virtual world occupied by normal humans, seeking to live out extraordinary lives. One aspect of the book I enjoyed was how possible this grim future is, and how many of the references are drawn from actual history.
A fun read, I would refer any gamers past or present, computer programmers, or lovers of the '80's in general.

Author Website:

Thanks Sean for taking the time to read and review this!

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Review: Immortal Bird by Doron Weber

Genre: Memoir
Format: Review Copy
Source: Publisher (Simon and Schuster)
Purchase: Indie Bound

I don't even know where to start in reviewing this. Will anything I write truly convey the power of this story? Could my opinion matter so much that it would trickle out into every corner of the blogosphere and convince every reader to read this book?

No. And I sure as hell hope so.

When "reviewing" any memoir, I become my inner youngest child. I look at it as a story that needs to be told and I listen with wide open ears.
I perch closer to the edge of my seat, enraptured.
I don't judge. I don't critique.
I just listen.

Some people's stories piss me off.
Some make me incredibly happy.
Some make me insanely mad.
Above it all, I learn.

Goodreads description:

A stirring, gorgeously written memoir of a father's struggle to protect his son - a model student and gifted actor - from a rare heart condition that threatens his life.

Damon Weber is a brilliant kid - a skilled actor and a natural leader at school. Born with a congenital heart defect that required surgery when he was a baby, Damon’s spirit and independence have always been a source of pride to his parents, who vigilantly look for any signs of danger.

Unbowed by frequent medical checkups, Damon proves to be a talent on stage, appears in David Milch's HBO series Deadwood, and maintains an active social life, whenever he has the energy. But running through Damon's coming-of-age in the shadow of affliction is another story: Doron's relentless search for answers about his son’s condition in a race against time.

Immortal Bird is a searing account of a father's struggle to save his remarkable son: a moving story of a young boy's passion for life, a family's love, the perils of modern medicine, and the redemptive power of art in the face of the unthinkable.
At the "heart" of Doron Weber's story is well, a real heart; his sons (Damon). A heart that, unfortunately, did not beat long enough.
Immortal Bird tells us not only the very bumpy medical journey that Damon went through with his heart condition but it also tells us of the incredibly strong love and bond between father and son. Doron's voice throughout is one of supreme advocacy and utterly powerful love and admiration for his first born son.
As a mother of a young boy who has a heart defect, my eyes had a gloss to them the entire time I read this. They finally burst towards the end of Damon's story.

What amazed me was not only Doron's love for his son but his admirable tenacity in finding the medical answer to his son's health questions. No stone was left unturned. No article unread. No opinion left unsolicited. Doron's connections in the world of science and health allowed him to beat down doors that may not be open to many of us and demand the best care for Damon.

On top of it all, Doron also strived incredibly hard to give Damon a normal active life. Through it all, they hardly stopped taking trips, going to the theater, out to dinner, visiting relatives, hanging out with friends, camping, etc. With the amount of ups and downs they had through Damon's life, the family along with mother, Shealagh and younger siblings, Miranda and Sam, they plugged on in their active lives.

I was so touched and honored to read about this family. That's what it boils down to for me. What an amazing father for sharing his family's story with us. There was so much emotion throughout that I can not imagine the amount of bravery Mr. Weber had to face to chronicle it all again. What an amazing young man Damon was as well. With every step of the way, his spirit and drive and smarts and humor and compassion came through. I am happy that his life and journey can be shared so eloquently and powerful as it was in Immortal Bird.

Review: Recommend
I can not stress enough how much I highly recommend this book. There is so much here that I think all parents should read. Not only the powerful bond between a father and son but also the reality of the medical community and the flaws that can surface.
As parents we are the voice of our children and we never stop fighting for the rights, safety, happiness and health of the ones we love.
Doron Weber did it all for his son and I am honored to have been able to read his journey.

Author Info:

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Review: Catch Me by Lisa Gardner

Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Format: Review Copy
Source: Publisher (Dutton)
Purchase: Indie Bound

Dear Lisa Gardner,

Never stop writing.

Red Headed Book Child

Folks, I'm going to put it bluntly-Lisa Gardner rocks my mystery/thriller loving socks. As a bookseller of many years, she has been an author that has sold like hot cakes and I, smile and nod, but never picked one up. Then last year rolls around and my very own mystery challenge kicked me into high gear and I read Live to Tell. That was considered book 4 in her Detective D.D Warren series and Catch Me, is considered book 6.

I could not put Live to Tell down. I was hooked! So I did a little begging and maybe a little pleading to get my hands on Catch Me and poof! it arrived at my door step. Hot sauce!

For those of you new to Lisa Gardner, here's the low down on this series.
Alone, Hide, The Neighbor, Live to Tell, Love you More and Catch Me
D.D Warren is a tough Boston detective and damn good at her job. Up until this book, she has led a pretty solitary life with very little baggage. Now, however, she is in a relationship and new mom to baby Jack. She is finding it a bit difficult to live and breathe her job, as she once did, when all she can see is the 5:00 quitting-home to baby Jack-time.

Unfortunately crime does not stop for this new mom.

Description from Goodreads:

"In four days, someone is going to kill me . . . "

Detective D. D. Warren is hard to surprise. But a lone woman outside D.D.'s latest crime scene shocks her with a remarkable proposition: Charlene Rosalind Carter Grant believes she will be murdered in four days. And she wants Boston's top detective to handle the death investigation.

"It will be up close and personal. No evidence of forced entry, no sign of struggle."
Charlie tells a chilling story: Each year at 8:00 p.m. on January 21st, a woman has died. The victims have been childhood best friends from a small town in New Hampshire; the motive remains unknown. Now only one friend, Charlie, remains to count down her final hours.

But as D.D. quickly learns, Charlie Grant doesn't plan on going down without a fight. By her own admission, the girl can outshoot, outfight, and outrun anyone in Boston. Which begs the question, is Charlie the next victim, or the perfect perpetrator? As D.D. tracks a vigilante gunman who is killing pedophiles in Boston, she must also delve into the murders of Charlie's friends, racing to find answers before the next gruesome January 21 anniversary. Is Charlie truly in danger, or is she hiding a secret that may turn out to be the biggest threat of all?

"In four days, someone is going to kill me. But the son of a bitch has gotta catch me first. "

Oh. My. Goodness.

Right? Are you terrified?

I've read a lot of mysteries in my time and one of the things I seem to consistently enjoy is the element of surprise. I like twists. I don't want to know until the end. I want the ending to smack me in the face. Lisa Gardner's books do just that! Not only that, she has a talent for creating characters that are psychologically messed up but still likable. That's hard to do. There are certainly bad guys and you don't like them but then there are characters like Charlie. She has done bad things but you still root for her because you get it. Gardner has a precise way she builds up a character and generates that empathy in the reader. It's very human. It's very real. You can picture yourself in the moment and feeling the same emotions.
Charlie's character was abused as a child and she is now closed off as an adult. She was another hard as nails woman that Gardner created.

She kicked ass and I'm still rooting for her.

Rating: Recommend
I am definitely going to continue to read Lisa Gardner's books. She is a masterful creator of mysterious puzzles, laying down each piece at the right time and then having it all click together at the end. Impressive. There's a steady beat to her writing within the dialogue between the characters and the bread crumb approach to the back story, little bits here and there. Within the mystery genre, there are so many similar story lines that as a reader, the make or break moment is the writing and how the story is delivered. If the author can create a unique lead character or keep you guessing until the end with well plotted writing, than they stand apart. Lisa Gardner definitely stands apart.

Author Website:

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Guest Review: And So it Goes, Kurt Vonnegut: A Life by Charles J. Shields

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Format: Review Copy
Purchase: Indie Bound

Michelle's Notes:
My husband was kind enough to offer to read and review this one. It sounded interesting to me but honestly I could not see myself reading an entire bio of Kurt V. Not one of my favorite authors. I always like sharing my reading adventures with those that I love and this one suited my guy. Here are his thoughts on this book. Thanks for sharing!

Sean's review:
I remember first finding Kurt Vonnegut in middle school, and being somewhat confused, as he was touted as being a male-centric writer who championed the anti-establishment. After reading his stuff, I never did get the impression that he was some lefty, hippy, feel good guy;in fact, he seemed a tortured soul. His verbose and casual writing style was laced with acerbic wit and often uncomfortable lead characters, leading me to wonder "What kind of guy would write this craziness?" Well, this book sets out to answer that exact question.

I found the research end of it to be thorough, and the author stayed rather impartial; always nice in a memoir. This book laid to rest many of the misconceptions about Kurt, and provided a detailed history behind the man and his family. It puts a frame of reference around his books and even provides perspective into the heavily flawed characters he was so fond of using.

I would recommend this book for anyone curious about Kurt Vonnegut and his past, and how a person can become the unwilling face of a generation. Much like Jack Kerouac with the "Beat generation", Kurt was assimilated into the "Hippy" movement even though neither wanted their respective label. A very good read, if a little dry at parts.

Author Website:

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Year of Mysterious Giveaways: February 2012

I am extremely excited to be able to give a copy of this new thriller away to one of you. I had the pleasure of meeting the author last fall at MIBA (Midwest Booksellers Association show). He was one of the authors who came to sign his book. I flapped books while he signed them to get them ready to give away at the event. He was a really nice man, very happy to be there and seemed excited about his newest work. I told him mystery/thrillers was one of my favorite genres and that I looked forward to reading it. I was able to get an extra copy so I can now put it in the hand of a lucky reader!

Check out the description from Goodreads and
be sure to check out his website below as well.

Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney in his suburban Massachusetts county for more than twenty years. He is respected in his community, tenacious in the courtroom, and happy at home with his wife, Laurie, and son, Jacob. But when a shocking crime shatters their New England town, Andy is blindsided by what happens next: His fourteen-year-old son is charged with the murder of a fellow student.Every parental instinct Andy has rallies to protect his boy. Jacob insists that he is innocent, and Andy believes him. Andy must. He’s his father. But as damning facts and shocking revelations surface, as a marriage threatens to crumble and the trial intensifies, as the crisis reveals how little a father knows about his son, Andy will face a trial of his own—between loyalty and justice, between truth and allegation, between a past he’s tried to bury and a future he cannot conceive.Award-winning author William Landay has written the consummate novel of an embattled family in crisis—a suspenseful, character-driven mystery that is also a spellbinding tale of guilt, betrayal, and the terrifying speed at which our lives can spin out of control.

Author Website:

Contest Rules:
* Runs from February 3- February 29
* Please leave an email address
* Please reside in the United States
* Please be a follower of my blog

Thank you!

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child

The Year of Mysterious Giveaways: January winner!

Always a few days late, I am....

Thanks to all who entered my January Mysterious Giveaway!

The winner is...


Ann said...

Thanks for the giveaway!


Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Audio Review: Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

Format: Unabridged Audio
Genre: Fiction
Purchase: Indie Bound

I won this book some time ago from Jenny at Take me Away. I knew it would be a book I would love, having been a fan of novels about Chinese American culture. My change, however, is that I ended up listening to it on audio instead. This year is proving to me The Year of the Audio for me. I am now on my fifth audio book and am really loving it! I am starting to discover the nuances of audio books; what makes them great and what can make them suck. For me, the big screw up factor is if the narrator stinks or is not believable in some way. I tried listening to The Ice Princess by Camille Lackberg, a swedish mystery and the narrator was awful! First it was a male narrator for a female protagonist (duh) and he talked in a really high squeaky voice during her dialogue parts. ugh.

Anyway, I digress.

Grayce Way, the narrator for Girl in Translation was absolutely amazing. Riveting. Talented. Just plain wow. She had the subtle differences within each character down pat. The story is about a Chinese American family, mostly a mother and daughter. The mother knows very little english and the daughter, having arrived from Hong Kong at the age of 8, learns quickly how to speak English and translate for her mother. The narrator really could portray those differences in language and really gave each character such a unique voice.

The story is about Kimberly Chang, a young girl who moves from Hong Kong with her mother to work in her aunt's clothing factory in Brooklyn. Having accrued quite a bit of debt from the trip over and some medical issues of her mother, Kimberly is indebted to her aunt and forced to work at the factory after school. They live in a cold, dank, run down apartment close to the factory arranged for them by the aunt.

Things are grim but the one thing Kimberly has going for her is her school smarts. Exceptionally brilliant and hard working, she knows the way out for her and her mother, lies in her doing well in school, getting into a great college and having a promising career.
What she struggles with through it all is her language barrier, discrimination that prevents her from being taken seriously, and her secret life of working in the factory and
living in filth.

Kimberly is tough, though, you come to find out. Not just smart but strong inside. She fights the bullies, she finds a friend, she continues to work hard and get good grades. Soon enough, the right people notice and give her the opportunity to go to a good private high school.

The whole experience of listening to this book was wonderful. Kimberly's story goes from her awkward childhood to a more confident adult. You experience her struggles with remaining loyal to her family and to the young man she meets at the factory, Matt while also pursing her dreams and living in a much different, affluent white world.

Rating: Recommend
I highly recommend this. I'm sure I would have enjoyed reading the book as well but listening to it brought so much passion, emotion, and life to it all. I felt for Kimberly the whole time and just wanted her to succeed. She was such a lovely character to follow and listen to.
If you are a fan of Chinese American culture or mother/daughter stories, this is for you. It was simply a joy to listen to and I look forward to another novel by Jean Kwok.

Author Website:

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child