The Hidden Man

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Hidden Man by David Ellis opens in 1980 when 2-year-old Audrey Cutler is kidnapped from her bedroom while her mother and 7-year-old brother, Sammy, sleep in their rooms. Audrey is never seen again. A local sexual offender, Griffin Perlini, is arrested but there isn't enough evidence to convict him of anything.

Twenty-seven years later, Sammy is arrested on charges of murdering Griffin Perlini. He and his childhood best friend, Jason Kolarich, have since lost touch with each other. While Sammy spent his childhood in and out of juvie, Jason became a popular athlete who earned a football scholarship to college.

Now, Jason Kolarich is a bitter attorney having just recently returned to work after his wife and baby daughter were killed in a car accident. Used to working in a large firm on big cases, Jason has gone to private practice to do small time law. Then one day, a strange man, identifying himself only as "Smith" arrives in his office offering a large amount of money for Jason to defend Sammy against the murder charges. The trial is in 4 weeks. Jason agrees to defend Sammy and starts to do some investigating on his own to determine how he can win Sammie's case. Meanwhile, he starts to realize that "Smith" has his own reasons for wanting Sammy acquitted -- reasons that that lead Smith to start threatening Jason's life as well as that of his brother and only remaining family member, Pete.

What ensues is a fast paced thriller in which the attorney, Jason Kolarich, races to solve multiple mysteries in order to be prepared for trial in 4 weeks AND save his and his brother's life -- who killed Audrey? Who killed Perlini? Who is Smith and why is he going to such outrageous extremes to help Sammy and hurt Jason? David Ellis does a wonderful job engaging the reader from the first page and keeping the reader hooked. Kolarich may not be the most believable attorney as he also excels in investigative skills and can physically defend himself against some of the most dangerous men... but this is all explained by his background as an athlete with a rough past and abusive father. It can happen. And regardless, the book was entertaining and the reader will start cheering for Kolarich as well as hope he can overcome the grief that has been dragging him down until now. The Hidden Man is the first in a new series, so we will be seeing Jason Kolarich again and I look forward to it. I also plan on reading Ellis's other books too!

Release date September 3, 2009

giveaway: Swimsuit by James Patterson

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Go check out out Jennifer's blog at Crazy for Books ( for your chance to win an advanced copy of Swimsuit by James Patterson!


Crank by Ellen Hopkins is the first in a trilogy about a teenager's addiction to Crystal Meth, or Crank. The entire book is written in verse form, each page a different format of verse. This ironically addictive format gives the writer a limited amount of words to convey the storyline as well as the emotions associated within it, which makes it all the more poignant. Kristina was a blond, straight-laced, high school student who spent part of a summer visiting her father. During that visit she learns her father is not the prince she always thought he was, and she forays into a world of drugs and falls in love. It is during that visit that her alternate personality, Bree, is born.

Upon returning to Reno, where she lives with her mom, stepdad, brother, and sister, she finds she is addicted to "the monster" and will go to surprising depths to get her fix. The rest of the book chronicles her descent and the consequences that occur.

This book was so interesting and I'm surprised that I'm only recently hearing about the series, as this book was published 5 years ago. As I mentioned above, the story and format made it addictive to me, as a reader. Many books have been written about addictions and drug use to the point that a large majority are unoriginal or repetetive in their tellings. This unique book made the often-told story interesting as well as the emotions experienced by the main character. I look forward to reading the next in the series!

Catching Genius

Saturday, June 27, 2009

In Catching Genius by Kristy Kiernan, two sisters have to learn how to overcome their past in order to be a family again. As young girls, Connie and Estella lived a privileged life and always got along. This ends one day when Estella is tested and the family learns she is a genius with an IQ of 140. Estella always had a fascination with numbers and is labeled a math genius. From that point on, all the family attention, mainly that of the father's, is focused on Estelle, who goes off to college at the age of 12. Connie begins harboring a bitter resentment that lasts throughout her adult years.

By their early 40's, the sisters have not spoken to each other in 8 years. Their mother then calls each of them to let them know she will be selling the beach house. (Their father is long deceased). Connie and Estella reluctantly agree to help pack up the house. Meanwhile, Connie deals with the falling apart of her marriage, the difficulty of raising two boys, and another event that brings back the emotions and resentments she has always felt towards Estella. And Estella has things she needs to let Connie know about her past and things that affect her now. The sisters have to learn to become family again while at the beach house, as well as learn more about their mother and the reality of their pasts.

This book was Kiernan's first, but was the second one I read. I'm glad I read them in that order because I have more faith in this author, as I loved her second book. This average novel had the potential to be an intense portrait of family, misunderstandings, and an interesting look into math and musical genius. Unfortunately, while it touched on a variety of topics, there was a lack of depth in each making the book seem too full of insignificant happenings. The main character, Connie, came off as whiny and the whole book was melodramatic. It wasn't very clear, or at least very realistic, for the sisters to have an 8 year gap in communication or for Connie to feel as resentful as she did. There were also many chapters that dragged on without moving forward in the plot. This book would have been better if it were maybe 100 pages shorter and focused more on a couple topics rather than throwing in so many various sub plots. However, don't let this deter you... I have read her second book, Matters of Faith, which was WONDERFUL and am looking forward to her new book in 2010.

The Space Between Before and After

Sunday, June 21, 2009

In The Space Between Before and After, Jean Reynolds Page again tells a beautiful story about the intricacies of family and all the secrets and misunderstandings that go along with it. Holli Templeton, divorced and in her 40's, is living a simple life when she receives news that her 20-year-old son has dropped out of college with his girlfriend. The son, Connor, has chosen to move to Texas where he and his girlfriend, Killian, stay in a trailer behind his great-grandmother's home. Holli experiences mixed feelings as she wishes for Connor to return to school in Rhode Island, but feels comfort in knowing that he will help care for his great-grandmother, Raine. Then almost simultaneously, Holli starts to realize that Raine's health may have declined more than she realized, and a crisis involving Connor's girlfriend occurs. Holli is then drawn to Texas to care for both her son and her grandmother.

Throughout this journey of caring for both the generations before and after her own, Holli reflects on her childhood and how it came to be. Holli was raised from the age of 10 and on by her grandmother, Raine, due to the falling apart of her family after the death of her mother. Jean Reynolds Page alternates chapters between Holli's adult point of view and that of her childhood self, Holly Anne, to help unravel the complicated situation that led to the anger and resentment Holli has grown up with. It isn't until Holli spends time with her grandmother, trying to accept Raine's new found friendship with Holli's stepmother, Georgia, that Holli learns not everything was as it seemed to be when she grew up. Holli then has to decide if she'll allow herself to let go of past resentments or if it really doesn't make a difference.

At the same time as Holli is dealing with her past and caring for her grandmother, she ends up having to care for her son. Killian is a difficult "daughter-in-law" and Holli fears the effect Killian has on her son. Killian is a free spirit with an attitude. She has had to learn to look out for herself since both her parents died. Holli tries to overcome her dislike for Killian while still supporting Connor and his relationship. Strangely enough, Holli also feels the slight pull to be a mother to Killian as well, as they both share the commonality of losing their mothers when they were young.

This book was so superbly written. The characters were very well developed. (The author's notes in the back confirm that she knew much more about the characters than was even revealed in the book, and this just adds to their depth). The writing flowed so easily I swept past pages and pages, but I found myself wanting to slow down and savor the often profound character thoughts. This book was one of those wonderful finds that is both plot and character driven and one that can be reflected on in many ways. Highly recommended!

Hail to the Chef

Saturday, June 6, 2009

This is the 2nd book in the White House Chef series by Julie Hyzy.

White House executive chef Ollie Paras has to put her own interests on the back burner when a kindly electrician is electrocuted to death, and the First Lady's nephew dies in an apparent suicide less than 24 hours after cleaning shrimp with Ollie. Ollie suspects something fishy is going on. She'll have to watch her back—and find a killer unlikely to be pardoned.

Ollie Paras has a great way of becoming involved with other happenings in the white house which makes this series so good. It's not all about the kitchen, but that's how the involvement starts. The characters were again fun. I like how Ollie is the type of character that doesn't have to rely on a man (as her boyfriend doesn't make that many appearances in this one). I definitely hope to read more in this series.

Book Meme

Friday, June 5, 2009

“This can be a quick one. Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.”

1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
2. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
3. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
4. I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb
5. A Blessed Event by Jean Reynolds Page
6. Family Tree by Barbara Delinsky
7. Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah

That's all I could think of for now. I'm sure there are some I'm forgetting, and I KNOW there are many more that will stick with me that I just haven't gotten around to reading yet. The last 3 on this list are some of my favorite contemporary authors. Delinksy and Hannah are very prolific and I like all their books, but those are the ones of each that have really stuck with me. The first 2 are what I consider my favorite books when asked, but it's really hard for me to stick to having just 1 or 2 favorites anyway!