Chasing The Cyclone

February 26, 2012

Chasing The Cyclone
By: Peter Thomas Senese.

Summary (provided by the publisher):
Paul Francesco is an independent, successful single man in his late thirties who has everything in the world going for him: financial stability with the real possibility of obtaining significant wealth, a dedicated and loyal group of family and friends, and a challenging, exciting, and rewarding career. Except Paul has one problem: he lives with a deep, dark secret that torments him: he is a ghost living in purgatory despite his relative success.

Unknown to Paul, there is an evil plan to extort his hard-earned assets from him and in the process deny him the one thing that is more important to him than anything else in the world: to be an active part of his son Alex's life. Unfortunately, his innocent and trusting seven-year old son is at the center of this vicious and diabolical plot directed at him.

When things go from bad to worse to unbelievably insane - when judges choose not to uphold the laws of their nations, when law enforcement turns a blind eye, and when one government after another's hands are tied due to bureaucratic issues of jurisdiction or non-participation of the international treaty on child abduction, the only thing that could prevent Alex from becoming another sad and sorry statistic on a report that nobody wants to read or think about is his father's vow to never abandon him no matter what. As a result, Paul is forced to become a hunter, chasing the predators who have taken his son to the other side of the world. With the situation becoming more and more desperate, he is forced to find other resources to help him.

As the hunt moves across international borders, taking Francesco to the other side of the world, he gathers together an extraordinary group of individuals, each with their own powerful stories, to help him. The story moves from The United States and Canada, to the island nations of Oceania, and culminates in the horrifying black-markets of Asia.

In this well written suspense novel, Senese leads the reader on an all-out emotional roller coaster. Senese uses his first-hand experience to weave a fantastic tale of international child abduction by an ex-spouse. Throughout the novel Senese uses his platform to spread real information about what a Chasing Parent goes through and what types of resources are available.

The story revolves around the main character, Paul Francesco, and his loving relationship with his son, Alex. The outrageous predicaments that the ex-wife forces upon Paul creates a patchwork of suspense that encircles half the globe. The story is laid out well, and the main and many of the secondary characters are well described and fleshed out. The fact that this story is based on true events make it easy for the reader to empathize with the main character and what every loving parent would attempt to do to retrieve an abducted child.

This thrill ride will have you run the gamut of emotions. Prepare to be taken from outright rage when certain court rulings and actions by the ex-wife are described, to elation when even the little battles are won, and misery and despair at the thought of never seeing your child again. Despite all of the emotions that will be present, this book focuses mostly on the idea of hope. For without the hope of the father and son, both lives would be ruined forever.
Rating: Buy It!!

The Detour

February 25, 2012

The Detour
By: Andromeda Romano-Lax
304 Pages

Ernst Vogler is twenty-six years old in 1938 when he is sent to Rome by his employer—the Third Reich's Sonderprojekte, which is collecting the great art of Europe and bringing it to Germany for the F├╝hrer. Vogler is to collect a famous Classical Roman marble statue, The Discus Thrower, and get it to the German border, where it will be turned over to Gestapo custody. It is a simple, three-day job.
Things start to go wrong almost immediately. The Italian twin brothers who have been hired to escort Vogler to the border seem to have priorities besides the task at hand—wild romances, perhaps even criminal jobs on the side—and Vogler quickly loses control of the assignment. The twins set off on a dangerous detour and Vogler realizes he will be lucky to escape this venture with his life, let alone his job. With nothing left to lose, the young German gives himself up to the Italian adventure, to the surprising love and inevitable losses along the way.

I had such high hopes for this book upon starting it. The time period, the subject matter, how could it not be a page-turner?! Well, I was sadly mistaken. So mistaken, in fact, that I couldn't finish the book. I got half way through and could go no further.

To me, the plot was too slow-moving and uneventful. I was not able to get interested in Ernst Vogler's strained relationship with his father. The journey that is the subject of the book wasn't able to suck me in, either. What I read of it was dull and uneventful.

I am always saddened when I don't like a book. Not being able to finish a book is worse for me because I run the risk of missing out on the good stuff. However, if you aren't able to grab me and keep me within the first half of the book, I no longer care how it all ends.

The Darlings

February 20, 2012

The Darlings
By: Cristina Alger
338 Pages

Now that he's married to Merrill Darling, daughter of billionaire financier Carter Darling, attorney Paul Ross has grown accustomed to New York society and all of its luxuries: a Park Avenue apartment, weekends in the Hamptons, bespoke suits. When Paul loses his job, Carter offers him the chance to head the legal team at his hedge fund. Thrilled with his good fortune in the midst of the worst financial downturn since the Great Depression, Paul accepts the position.
But Paul's luck is about to shift: a tragic event catapults the Darling family into the media spotlight, a regulatory investigation, and a red-hot scandal with enormous implications for everyone involved. Suddenly, Paul must decide where his loyalties lie-will he save himself while betraying his wife and in-laws or protect the family business at all costs? --

I had a hard time getting into this book. I'm not one who understands the stock market or the financial circuit, so I'm not surprised that I struggled. The story breaks down the days and hours in the aftermath of Morty Reis's suicide. It comes as a shock to everyone who knew him.

I was really hoping to get The Darlings. However, I just wasn't able to do it. The whole financial plot was just not one that sucked me in.
I hope you have better luck than I did. This is definitely a book I'll be routing for, despite my not being able to finish it. I know there are tons of people who love these books, and I think those are the readers who will be able to appreciate The Darlings. 

The Garden Intrigue

February 16, 2012

The Garden Intrigue
By: Lauren Willig
378 pages

Napoleon is planning to invade England. When the "OK" is given sooner than expected, The Pink Carantion's team sets out to foil the plot. Augustus, who poses as a poetically challenged poet, must secure an invitation to Malmaison. Enter in Emma. A widow who has close ties with Napoleon's wife and daughter. What is supposed to be a simple mission becomes more than either Augustus or Emma expected.

I've been a fan of The Pink Carnation series from the first book. I've always loved how Lauren Willig weaves history, romance, spies, and great characters together. Between the historical plot and the modern day plot, you are always in for a good read. I'm happy to say The Garden Intrigue is no different.

Emma is the girl who ran off with a man at 15 years old. Not quite prepared for real life after the fun of wooing, Emma runs away. While she eventually comes to her senses and returns to her husband and new life, she doesn't know that time is running out for them. Her husband dies shortly after their reunion. Since becoming a widow, Emma had a brief and regretful affair. An affair she was happy to see end, but Georges was not. Now she is at a crossroads. Not wanting to return home to the United States, but knowing the life she has built in France is changing, she doesn't know what to do. Enter Augustus.

Augustus is a man of poetry. Rather bad poetry, but it has served him well so far. His poetry is really the cover and code for his being a spy. He works with The Pink Carnation and is given a mission: Get the plans of the device Napoleon intends to test at a party held at Malmaison. Upon his arrival he is exposed to a critical Emma. As if that isn't frustrating enough, she is his ticket to gaining access to Malmaison. She has been asked to write a Masque that will be performed at the party. He offers his assistance, and she eventually takes him up on it.

The predictable plot of the book is that they fall in love and survive a few road blocks. Predictable, yes, but enjoyable, too. I love the banter these two had. They played very well off each other throughout the entire book.

The less predictable storyline is the modern day one between Eloise and Colin. Colin's family is related to The Pink Carnation and has all the research she needs for her dissertation. But while she was researching the famous spy, she was also falling in love with Colin. Now a wrench threatens to cause big problems for their future. She's been offered a head teaching job in her hometown of Cambridge, MA. That means moving back to US. Will she take it? Or will she risk it all for the sake of love?

I enjoyed the latest installment in this series. It was a great way to spend my weekend. Lauren Willig's books are ones I look forward to and count down the days for when the release is on the horizon. She does a phenomenal job of taking history and turning it into a story that you can't walk away from.

Rating: Borrow From Library

The Orchid House

February 14, 2012

The Orchid House
By: Lucinda Riley
464 Pages

As a child, concert pianist Julia Forrester spent many idyllic hours in the hothouse of Wharton Park, the grand estate where her grandfather tended exotic orchids. Years later, while struggling with overwhelming grief over the death of her husband and young child, she returns to this tranquil place. There she reunites with Kit Crawford, heir to the estate and her possible salvation.
When they discover an old diary, Julia seeks out her grandmother to learn the truth behind a love affair that almost destroyed the estate. Their search takes them back to the 1940s when Harry, a former heir to Wharton Park, married his young society bride, Olivia, on the eve of World War II. When the two lovers are cruelly separated, the impact will be felt for generations to come. --

Reading this book was truly like traveling all over the emotional map. From the highs and lows to the good and bad, I was hooked. I don't think a book has had such a grip on me since I read Gone With The Wind. I  had to put the book down at times just to catch my breath from the latest surprise twist. Lucinda is an unbelievably talented and gifted writer who penned such a stunning book. Riley's writing style is poetic and visual. The plot she wove and all the twists and surprises she throws at you will keep you turning the pages. From start to finish, the surprises never ceased. Just when you think you know what's going to happen, you find out you may not have been correct. Not a page was wasted and every word was fully dedicated to the plot.

Julia is reeling from the devastating loss of not only her husband, but her beloved son, as well. Finally, after the better part of a year, she is beginning to feel human again. A trip to Wharton Park, a house she visited numerous times in her childhood, holds surprises: finding artwork she later learns were done by her mother; running into Kit (current Wharton Park co-owner - whom she met on a visit to the house. Several days after their meeting, Kit shows up at Julia's house with a discovery he's made. The house he's renovating was once home to her Grandparents, so he assumes a journal he found underneath old floorboards belongs to Julia's Grandfather. When Julia visits with her Grandmother she not only learns the journal wasn't her Grandfather's, but she also learns the story written within it's pages.

Journey back in time to WWII. Harry Crawford is next in line to run Wharton Place. Harry falls prey to the power of innocent suggestion and proposes to Olivia when his mother tells him what a wonderful match it could be. The marriage is anything but ideal. Everything is threatened when Olivia sees her husband kissing someone else. Months of tense estrangement lie ahead before Harry is able to talk to Olivia about it. A spur of the moment trip to the beach becomes the setting for the pair to reconnect and try again. However, their reunion is brief. War is declared, Harry is sent overseas, and Olivia is left behind to help run Wharton Park while pregnant.

Harry becomes a POW and imprisoned for 3 years. He wakes up in a Thailand hospital having almost died from dengue fever. Once healthy enough, Harry is taken to a hotel in Bangkok to recover before going back home to England. It is at this hotel Harry meets Lidia, a maid. They fall in love and Harry decides to forsake his inheritance and divorce Olivia so he and Lidia can spend the rest of their lives together. 

Wharton Park has survived the war, but is in desperate need of repair. Harry returns home to discover his father is dying and reality awaits him: Harry can't leave. The house and everyone who works on the estate is counting on him for their lively hood. A heartbroken Harry gets desperate when letters from Lidia suddenly stop coming. Is something wrong? Is she OK? In desperate need for answers, Harry sends his faithful servant, Bill, to find her. No one is prepared for the devastation this journey brings. Life will never be the same for anyone at Wharton Park.

As this story is unveiled, Julia falls in love with Kit. He selflessly cares for her when she falls seriously ill. The two begin a life together. However, all that is threatened when she decides to sell the house she shared with her husband and son. Will Julia be able to find the happiness she deserves?

Once you start The Orchid House,  you are in for the read of a lifetime. You will not want to put it down. This book will stay with you long after you read the last page. I urge you to read this book and step in to the world of Wharton Park. I have no doubt you will fall in love with it, just as I have.

Rating: BUY IT!!!!

Happy Birthday Charles Dickens!!

February 7, 2012

Today is the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens. An author who has brought us some of the most memorable books in history. Mr. Dickens has the honor of being among those who are known by name- regardless if you've ever read any of his books.

So this has me wondering. I have only read one of his books, A Christmas Carol, but millions of readers have read all of his work. I want to know: What is your favorite Charles Dickens book? Tell me what it is and what made it stand out with you. Feel free to give me a recommendation on which book you think I should read of his next.

Midnight In Austenland

February 6, 2012

Midnight In Austenland
By: Shannon Hale
272 Pages

When Charlotte Kinder treats herself to a two-week vacation at Austenland, she happily leaves behind her ex-husband and his delightful new wife, her ever-grateful children, and all the rest of her real life in America. She dons a bonnet and stays at a country manor house that provides an immersive Austen experience, complete with gentleman actors who cater to the guests' Austen fantasies.

Everyone at Pembrook Park is playing a role, but increasingly, Charlotte isn't sure where roles end and reality begins. And as the parlor games turn a little bit menacing, she finds she needs more than a good corset to keep herself safe. Is the brooding Mr. Mallery as sinister as he seems? What is Miss Gardenside's mysterious ailment? Was that an actual dead body in the secret attic room? And-perhaps of the most lasting importance-could the stirrings in Charlotte's heart be a sign of real-life love? ---

I am saddened to say this, but I wasn't able to get into this book. Being a fan of Jane Austen, I thought I would devour this book and enjoy every minute. Sadly, I was wrong. I have no idea if it's because this book is a sequel to Austenland, which I haven't read. I don't know why I wasn't able to finish this book, but I wasn't.

Jane Austen has a large and dedicated following. I am hoping they are able to love this book and enjoy every minute of it. 

Tales Of A Grumpy Reader...

February 4, 2012

Under normal circumstances, I am a slow reader. It isn't uncommon for me to take awhile to get through a 400+ page book. Under normal circumstances, I get restless when I've been reading the same book for a week when I could've had it done by then. Regardless how good the book is, I do reach a point when I'm ready to tackle the piles of other books waiting to be read. 

My past week has had me reading under anything but normal circumstances. In fact, it has turned me into a Grumpy Reader!! I hate being a grumpy reader. I'm reading such a good book and I'm loving every minute of it. However, I feel like my reading time is constantly diminished or interrupted by life. Whether it's been my temperamental car having a few issues, or life dipping into my few stolen moments of reading time, I have been reading the same book for too long! I want nothing more than to curl up and ravish the story that awaits me. Instead, I'm defusing interruption after another. MAKE IT STOP!!! THIS GIRL WANTS TO FINISH A BOOK!

Granted, I'd rather be a Grumpy Reader with a good book, than a bad one. Still, I miss getting quality chunks of time to devour this wonderful book.

Paris, My Sweet

February 1, 2012

Paris, My Sweet
By: Amy Thomas
304 Pages

Part love letter to New York, part love letter to Paris, and total devotion to all things sweet. Hello, My Sweets is a personal and moveable feast that's a treasure map for anyone who loves fresh cupcakes and fine chocolate, New York and Paris, and life in general.

Amy Thomas loves chocolate and sweets. So much so that she centered a vacation to Paris around them. (Now that is my kind of vacation!)  She is a literal directory of all the best places to go to in New York and Paris for various desserts and chocolates. When she's transferred to Paris for work, she gets to spend even more time exploring the different places to fuel her love of chocolate and sweets.

Paris, My Sweet documents her life once she makes the move to Paris. From the difficulties with the language and making friends to finding excellent places to eat her sorrows away. She takes you along for her ride- all the good and bad of it. And she doesn't just stop with Paris. She tells you where to go when it comes to New York, as well. For both Paris and New York she gives you the history for several of the more successful shops and their owners. 
By the time I finished this book I was craving chocolate cake and wanting to travel to New York to check out the places she mentions. I loved reading how some of the shops came to be in both locations.

Rating: Borrow From Library/Buy It

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