Stephanie’s #Review: Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

Stephanie’s #Review: Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

Title: Firefly Lane
Author: Kristin Hannah
Series: n/a
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Date: February 5th 2008
Pages: 479
ISBN: 9780312364083
Source: Publisher
Purchase: Amazon

From the New York Times bestselling author of On Mystic Lake comes a powerful novel of love, loss, and the magic of friendship… In the turbulent summer of 1974, Kate Mularkey has accepted her place at the bottom of the eighth-grade social food chain. Then, to her amazement, the “coolest girl in the world” moves in across the street and wants to be her friend. Tully Hart seems to have it all—beauty, brains, ambition. On the surface they are as opposite as two people can be: Kate, doomed to be forever uncool, with a loving family who mortifies her at every turn. Tully, steeped in glamour and mystery, but with a secret that is destroying her. They make a pact to be best friends forever; by summer’s end they’ve become TullyandKate. Inseparable. So begins Kristin Hannah’s magnificent new novel. Spanning more than three decades and playing out across the ever-changing face of the Pacific Northwest, Firefly Lane is the poignant, powerful story of two women and the friendship that becomes the bulkhead of their lives. From the beginning, Tully is desperate to prove her worth to the world. Abandoned by her mother at an early age, she longs to be loved unconditionally. In the glittering, big-hair era of the eighties, she looks to men to fill the void in her soul. But in the buttoned-down nineties, it is television news that captivates her. She will follow her own blind ambition to New York and around the globe, finding fame and success… and loneliness. Kate knows early on that her life will be nothing special. Throughout college, she pretends to be driven by a need for success, but all she really wants is to fall in love and have children and live an ordinary life. In her own quiet way, Kate is as driven as Tully. What she doesn’t know is how being a wife and mother will change her… how she’ll lose sight of who she once was, and what she once wanted. And how much she’ll envy her famous best friend… For thirty years, Tully and Kate buoy each other through life, weathering the storms of friendship—jealousy, anger, hurt, resentment. They think they’ve survived it all until a single act of betrayal tears them apart… and puts their courage and friendship to the ultimate test. Firefly Lane is for anyone who ever drank Boone’s Farm apple wine while listening to Abba or Fleetwood Mac. More than a coming-of-age novel, it’s the story of a generation of women who were both blessed and cursed by choices. It’s about promises and secrets and betrayals. And ultimately, about the one person who really, truly knows you—and knows what has the power to hurt you… and heal you. Firefly Lane is a story you’ll never forget… one you’ll want to pass on to your best friend

Rating: 4 My Review:

I am simply astounded by the depth and glittering passion with which Kristin Hannah writes. This novel follows the lives of two young girls who each grow up to be strong women—strong, in their own individual ways. The friendship between Tully and Kate is the kind you can only find if you’re very lucky, or if you’re a character in a novel, so reading about their ups and downs was both exhilarating, and a comforting escape. Heavy on characters, Firefly Lane excellently demonstrates a realistic and oftentimes painful growing-up process—in two different ways. The settings are perfectly written as well; I love how it captures the youth, freedom, and exhilaration of 70s- and 80s-era America, as well as the terrifying excitement brought onto the world—and the media—at the turn of the 21st century. The style is definitely Firefly Lane‘s biggest strength. Hannah’s mastery of the written word, and her obvious talent of conveying every emotion on the spectrum, shine through with every sentence she pens. The story itself isn’t completely thrilling. For the most part, reading this book was like reading the biographies of your two best friends, rather than an actual novel with a centralized plot, which is why I’m not giving this one a full five stars. However, this doesn’t mean there’s no action or nothing powerful through the course of the book; Firefly Lane is in every which way compelling, emotionally resonant, and substantial. This is the kind of book you won’t forget—won’t want to forget—because it possesses magical anecdotes on friendship, family, love, and life. Keep tissues nearby and be prepared to grow immensely attached to the vibrant, unforgettable characters, because you’re in for a real treat!

They Never Die Quietly by D.M. Annechino~Review

Title: They Never Die Quietly
Author: D.M. Annechino
Series: Sami Rizzo (#1)
Publisher: AmazonEncore
Date: February 16th 2010
Pages: 279
ISBN: 9780982555033
Source: Print ARC from publisher
Purchase: They Never Die Quietly

They Never Die Quietly tells the story of homicide Detective Sami Rizzo, who is assigned to head a task force investigating serial killings in San Diego.

Simon, the highly intelligent, cunning, and deceptively charming villain, redefines the depths of human evil. He believes God has given him absolute authority to purify his unholy victims through a ritual that ends in a grisly crucifixion. Driven by warped religious beliefs and guided by his dead mother, very much alive in his subconscious, Simon abducts “chosen ones” and holds them captive in a Room of Redemption. There, the victims helplessly await their crucifixion.

Detective Rizzo urgently yearns to solve the case and gain the respect of her male colleagues, but her obsession to apprehend the killer on her own clouds her thinking. When Simon outsmarts Rizzo and captures her, determined to make her his next victim, she must employ all her resources—both physical and intellectual—to outwit the villain at his own game.

My Thoughts:

With plenty of gore and the inside perspective of a serial killer’s mind, this crime thriller is all of disturbing, shockingly gruesome, and edgy; I was quite pleased. Sami Rizzo of the major offense squad in homicide has worked herself to the bone to get where she is today. As a single-parent of a cherished two-year-old and the dependent of her mother’s daycare services, she’s got a lot to work for, and even more expectations to live up to. She’s damn good at her job, and she’s never questioned it, until one case—surrounding a monster brutally crucifying mothers in front of their young children, although the children are returned unharmed and unable to remember anything—begins involving her emotionally. She knows she can’t get personally involved with crime cases, but she can’t help it. These victims could be her, these innocent children, her own daughter. It isn’t until her clever, sly, and charming suitor, Simon, reveals himself to her fully, that she realizes this nightmare could actually become reality.

Don’t worry, that wasn’t a spoiler. The identity of the murderer is meant to be known from the beginning, although Sami doesn’t know it until the end. This sense of dramatic irony propels readers to keep reading in order to find out what Simon will do next… and what Sami will do, or won’t do, to stop him.

They Never Die Quietly is definitely not for the faint of heart—even the title and cover show how grisly the villainy is. Simon is a wicked, incredibly well-developed serial killer. I got chills reading from his third-person perspective, just because of how wrongful, but so realistic—so normal—he sounds.

The book itself was a quick read, but the story has me ailing: it’s way too idealized. I feel like Sami was led straight to Simon with no false leads, no red herrings, no real barriers along the way. This would never happen in a real crime investigation. The storyline cuts to the chase way too quickly. For example: Sami notices a cross pendant around Simon’s neck; he must be the religious fanatic in the news. Sami sees his car; that’s the car the serial killer allegedly drives. Simon’s sensitive about rape; he must have been abused or must like abusing. I kept thinking, “How the heck is she so precise??” Either she’s a telepath or Annechino skimped on the mystery factor big time. There essentially is no room for speculation; it’s like Sami already has all the answers—no suspense in that department. I know this may have been a ploy to express Sami’s paranoia (and maybe even her intrinsic shrewdness), but for me it made the plot foreseen and unreasonably clean.

Sami’s mother and partner in crime, Al, are likable secondary characters. Her daughter, Angelina, is adorable, but highly uncharacteristic, speaking and behaving like a five-year-old, when she’s only two. There was also a starry romance weaved into the book. While I appreciate how Sami’s personal life was highlighted, it unnecessary and unwelcome. Why, oh WHY do suspense/thriller protagonists feel the need to have love interests?? Sami is independent and perfect on her own! However, I was amused by the occasional witty banter that came from the flirting, so I guess I won’t complain too much.

Aside from Annechino’s affinity for terrible clichés, the writing style is lively, descriptive, and connected. It’s easy to follow the mystery, and questions are answered as they arise.

Now, let’s talk the ending. After such a twisted, disturbing story set, I expected some brilliant solution to the problem, an unthinkable act of courage from Sami and her crew to outwit the monster that’s holding her captive. Nope. It’s disappointing as hell and, frankly, just crap. The loose ends are, again, tied way too cleanly, and Sami also just happens to gain fruitfully once she’s rescued. Hello? Is this a fairytale? I must say I was annoyed by the ending, and it’s the main reason this book wasn’t rated higher.

As a whole, though, the imaginative premise, the thrilling plot, and the realistic characters make this one pretty enjoyable. I’ll never forget its plot, that’s for sure.

My Rating:

Foldin’ Money~ The Best Holiday Gift

Sometimes I find that trying to hunt down the perfect gift for a family member is hard to do. My kids are easy, and so is most of my immediate family, the ones I have problems with are the out of town cousins, Aunt’s and niece’s and nephew’s. Enter Foldin’ Money to the rescue!
Foldin' Money Red pack
[Read more...]

#Review: Web of Secrets by Ernesto Patino

#Review: Web of Secrets by Ernesto Patino

Title: Web of Secrets
Author: Ernesto Patino
Series: none
Publisher: L&L Dreamspell
Date: 8/5/2012
Pages: 195
ISBN: 1603181245
Source:  publisher
Purchase: Amazon

Goodreads Summary:

Some family history is too dangerous to be revealed. Sarah Baker’s search for the truth about her adoption uncovered a tangled web of deadly secrets…

A phone call from a blackmailer turned Sarah’s life upside down. The man claimed to know the circumstances of her illegal adoption thirty years ago. He also revealed some shocking facts about her real parents.

Rather than have the blackmailer go public with the information and risk her husband’s career, she agreed to a one-time payoff. Their situation was far from resolved, and doubts about her heritage put a strain on their once ideal marriage.

Sarah still didn’t have verification of the truth. She needed more details. Were there any brothers or sisters, or other family members nearby? Had the same blackmailer approached them too?

Hiring a Private Investigator seemed the only option, but it meant opening a Pandora’s box. Sarah needed confirmation and closure, and was willing to take the risk. Ex FBI investigator turned P. I. Joe Coopersmith was up to the task, but working on a thirty-year-old mystery wouldn’t be easy. Joe didn’t realize it might also turn deadly…

My Thoughts:

Ernesto Patino weaves a highly suspenseful mystery in Web of Secrets that tangles a corrupt doctor’s hideous crime with the late-20th century’s social defiances.

I think this was a very well-organized mystery novel. There’s a riveting blackmailer with unethical logic and an even more immoral story behind it, and there are also numerous victims who, somehow, are related. The secret that this blackmailer is attempting to reveal is that each of these clueless people, including Sarah, who are being called, have been conceived illegitimately and adopted illegally; something that may not seem like a big deal now, but potentially could have ruined their reputations, back in the 90′s.

This to me, was a bit puzzling. So what if it turns out they have a colored parent? I’m not sure why this would be a ‘deadly’ secret. It might give them trouble due to the prevalent racism in America, but I don’t know why it’s something that you would risk your life to keep under the covers.

Patino’s voice isn’t anything to rave about. It’s strict and to the point, oftentimes even lacking in fluidity and clarity. However, his story does have a sharp, intelligent drive to it, so overall, it was enjoyable. His expertise as a private investigator and ex-FBI agent are demonstrated clearly through his descriptions and explanations.

Aside from the fact that the basis of the book’s deadly secret is not-so-deadly, this was a pretty good read. It was kind of slow for me, but it’s not that long in page length, so thankfully it didn’t draw out too much. While not lethal, the secrets revealed are pretty shocking. Patino does a great job keeping the reader on their toes.

Verdict: Should you read this? Sure, you should give it a try. But I think there are mystery stories out there that have done much better.

Rating:

Review: April & Oliver by Tess Callahan

Title: April & Oliver
Author: Tess Callahan
Series: none
Publisher: Hachette Book Group (Grand Central)
Date: 7/20/2012
Pages: 326
ISBN: 9780446540605
Source: Complimentary copy from publisher in exchange for an honest review
Purchase: Amazon

Goodreads Summary:

Best friends since childhood, the sexual tension between April and Oliver has always been palpable. Years after being completely inseparable, they become strangers, but the wildly different paths of their lives cross once again with the sudden death of April’s brother. Oliver, the responsible, newly engaged law student finds himself drawn more than ever to the reckless, mystifying April — and cracks begin to appear in his carefully constructed life. Even as Oliver attempts to “save” his childhood friend from her grief, her menacing boyfriend and herself, it soon becomes apparent that Oliver has some secrets of his own — secrets he hasn’t shared with anyone, even his fiancee.

But April knows, and her reappearance in his life derails him. Is it really April’s life that is unraveling, or is it his own? The answer awaits at the end of a downward spiral…towards a surprising revelation.

My Thoughts:

There’s something so tragic, so unsettling, about books like April & Oliver because they’re full of speculation, full of disquieting what ifs; I know this quality is something lots of people are not fond of. But personally, books like these are my favorite type of book to read.

Why? Because they’re honest. Because they’re real. April & Oliver contains unrepairable fragments and loose strings that the characters themselves both fail and refuse to resolve, and these aspects are what make it so beautiful and so honest-to-life. The novel begins in tragedy and ends in tragedy, though from a different perspective, you could say it begins and ends with hope. This blurry, undefined line between demise and promise encompasses the entire novel.

I think it’s pretty predictable how the passing seasons following Oliver and April’s reunion will turn out. A year together of ‘sexual tension’, as the book describes, is bound to lead somewhere. But that journey, the intimately and intricately carved journey is what makes the ending worthwhile. Even though I knew what was coming, I wasn’t at all disappointed. And even the end isn’t really an end, if that makes sense. Callahan cleverly weaves the perfect conclusion, that still allows the characters to live on in the readers’ minds.

All the characters, especially but not only April and Oliver, are extremely flawed, extremely screwed up in their own ways, but these blemishes and bruises are what make them so exquisite. I love each and every one of them, even the antagonist, April’s traumatizing and traumatized boyfriend, TJ. I ached when their hearts broke and laughed when they triumphed. Callahan does a great job at delving into the characters deeply, confidentially. What I didn’t like is how there isn’t really enough backdrop for Oliver nor April. We slowly learn of their circumstances as the book progress via sporadic memories and grievances, but the book begins by going straight to their secrets and shortcomings, so it was a little too much and confusing at first.

A a whole, though, April & Oliver has got to be one of my new favorites. Callahan’s writing style is incisive and marvelously clever — descriptive and compelling throughout. The characters’ pasts are chilling, shocking, and grimy, but in this imperfection, there is nothing but beauty. This sordid, bold story that isn’t at all about romance, but about family, identity, and inevitable other halves, will leave readers breathless and invigorated. For me, what’s so revering is that, even after years apart and after what they’ve convinced themselves of otherwise, April will always be Oliver’s favorite what if, and he will always be her chosen always. In Callahan’s beautifully disturbing, stormy, and everlasting chronicle, they are brought to life; in print, they live on forever.

Rating:

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