3.5/5, AUTHOR, B, Book Review, Non-Fiction, Presidential Reading Challenge, RATING, Read in 2018

Review: Martha Washington: An American Life by Patricia Brady

Martha Washington: An American Life
by Patricia Brady

Copyright: 2005

Pages:236

Read: Nov. 2 – 13, 2018

Rating: 3/5

Source: Abebooks.com


BlurbMartha Dandridge Custis was a wealthy, good-looking widow and the mother of two young children when, in 1759, she started a new life as Martha Washington. Thus began an ardent love affair and one of our country’s most influential partnerships. George Washington’s career might have been very different without his marriage to his “dearest Patsy.” Her fortune ensured the success of his Mount Vernon, but much more important was the emotional support she brought to their marriage. Under his glacial exterior, George Washington was often insecure, indecisive, and prone to fits of temper. His wife was the person who truly knew and loved the complex man behind the noble mask. 

Martha Washington’s name is one of the most recognizable in American history and yet Martha herself is the invisible woman in American history. She burned her private correspondence after George’s death, but with painstaking research, Patricia Brady has finally recovered the real person. Never the kindly frump of popular mythology, she was an able landowner, an indomitable patriot, and her husband’s confidante in military, political, and personal matters for four decades. 

Martha’s world extended from the Virginia plantation aristocracy into which she was born to the rugged battlefields of the Revolution. For eight long years, her husband stayed in the field – the only way he could hold is army together, though he was homesick and desperately worried about Mount Vernon. And every year, she joined him at Valley Forge and other winter camps, providing the loving comfort that allowed him to keep going. In the new capitals of New York and Philadelphia, she used her charm and humor shrewdly to help George negotiate the churning political waters of the new country. She was at his side and on his side as political enemies like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison unleashed vicious tabloid newspaper attacks against Washington. 

This superb work vividly portrays her remarkable life, her unusual achievements, and her great contribution to America. Because she was the first, Martha Washington had no role model, no precedent, and she set a standard for every presidential couple for the next two and half centuries. 


Review: So as part of my personal Presidential Reading Challenge, I have decided that I would also try and read a single work on each First Lady as well. Having read six books on George Washington (I skipped the Ron Chernow book… I just couldn’t face another 900 pages of Mr. Washington at this time – however I am keeping it on my shelf for future reading), I was ready to move on to his First Lady. To be honest, I didn’t know a lot about Martha Washington, so I was eager to learn a little bit more about her. 

Overall, I found this book to be quite readable. The only struggle I had was the sheer number of people mentioned. Children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, in-laws, random friends .. near the end it was quite difficult to keep them all straight when they all seemed to share the same name. 

Martha Washington is somewhat of an enigma in our nation’s history. She destroyed most of her and her husband’s intimate correspondence after his death and so a lot of her has been lost to the ages. That’s really a shame for historians and history buffs alike. However I can respect and understand the want and need for that privacy after so much of their life was lived in public life. I feel like Ms. Brady did a remarkable job in piecing together Martha Washington, even without the help of the marital correspondence that would have made things infinitely more useful. 

While we all know what George Washington did for our country, we never really think much about the sacrifices that Martha Washington made as well. She basically gave up her private life with her husband so he could fulfill his sense of duty. He did quite a few things without her true blessing, but she was still very supportive and followed him nearly everywhere she could.

I was really intrigued by the descriptions of Martha Washington as a pretty independent woman who got what she wanted. She basically confronted her future father-in-law and demanded him bless the marriage of her and his son, her first husband. After the death of her first husband, instead of immediately bowing down to another man, she took matters in her own hands and took care of all her affairs until she decided on another husband. As a very wealthy widow, she had the cream of the crop coming to her for courtship, and yet she chose George Washington. I have to believe that she knew what (and who) she wanted and was determined to get it and not settle for less. That sort of independence goes against everything I “know” about women in her time period – I just loved that about her! 

I’m glad that I have decided to also learn more about the First Ladies during this journey. It will be interesting going forward to see how the subsequent First Ladies compare to Martha Washington. Being the first First Lady she had no idea what precedent she was setting for the “job.” I personally think she did a wonderful job and I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about her. 

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3.5/5, Alexander Hawke, AUTHOR, B, Book Review, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2018, SERIES

Review: Assassin by Ted Bell

Assassin
by Ted Bell

Assassin

 

Copyright: 2004

Pages: 590

Read: June 14-20, 2018

Rating: 3.5/5

Source: Bookmooch

 

Blurb: Alexander Hawke, a direct descendant of the legendary pirate Blackhawke, is an expert on espionage and terror. A shadowy terrorist kingpin has orchestrated the systematic slayings of American diplomats, and as the death toll mounts, Hawke is called upon to avert a cataclysmic attack – while avenging a senseless crime that has left him devastated.

 


Review: This is the second book in the Alexander Hawke series. I had read the first book, Hawke, way back in 2013, so my memory of that was not very good. Luckily it didn’t really matter because there was enough background included for me to be able to follow along easily.

At 590 pages this book is way longer than what I normally read. The beginning was a little slower than I would have liked. But once the book picked up it was quite enjoyable to read and the 590 pages didn’t feel too terribly long.

Overall a good book that I enjoyed. I am definitely looking forward to seeing what adventures lay ahead for Alex Hawke!

3/5, AUTHOR, B, Book Review, Fiction, MMD Book Club, RATING, Read in 2018

Review: What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

What I Saw and How I Lied
by Judy Blunder

What I Saw and How I Lied

Copyright: 2008

Pages: 281

Read: May 3-8, 2018

Rating: 3/5

Source: Library

 

 

Blurb: When Evie’s father returned home from World War II, the family fell back into its normal life pretty quickly. But Joe Spooner brought more back with him than just war stories. Movie-star handsome Peter Coleridge, a young ex-GI who served in Joe’s company, shows up, and Evie finds herself falling for him … until a tragedy occurs that shatters her family breaks her life in two.

As she begins to realize that almost everything she believed was really a lie, Evie must get to the heart of the deceptions and choose between loyalty to her parents and feelings for the man she loves. Someone will have to be betrayed. The question is … who?


Review: This is the May book selection for the MMD Book Club. I was excited to see it available at my library and immediately fell in love with that cover! I was really looking forward to it. Young Adult isn’t necessarily a genre I’m overly familiar with, and I had never heard of this book, but I was really looking forward to digging into it!

And … it fell a little flat for me. It was very readable but I had trouble reconciling the fact that this was a National Book Award winner. I think I expected a little bit more out of this book just because it had won that award. But my feelings overall are kind of …. scattered?

As I already stated, it was extremely readable. But I couldn’t exactly figure out what the author was wanting to do with the book. Young adult, historical fiction, romance … yes! All of the above. But then near the end Ms. Blundell added in a murder mystery and that’s the part that didn’t really fit the whole book. It also didn’t help that we had at least 3/4 of the book with all this build up and then BOOM here comes the mystery part and she wraps it up in a very short 1/4 of the book. It just felt almost as if she needed something to “happen” and that’s the direction she took? I don’t know. I just felt like that entire part of the book didn’t really fit in with the vibe of the rest of the book. At least that’s my opinion on it…

Maybe it’s just because being a 30+ year old woman, I’m not really the targeted audience for this book. Maybe it’s because coming-of-age stories are not my forte. I don’t know. It wasn’t bad. Not at all! It was a fun and easy read. Ms. Blundell made me feel like I was right in the 1940s with Evie and her parents. I really loved the post-war setting. My “problem” was really with the murder part of the book. It just didn’t work for me in this book.

3/5, AUTHOR, B, Book Review, E-Book, Fiction, NetGalley, RATING, Read in 2017, Review Book

Review: The Undertaker’s Daughter by Sara Blaedel

The Undertaker’s Daughter
by Sara Blaedel

The Undertaker's Daughter

Copyright: 2018

Pages: 320

Read: Nov. 26 –28, 2017

Rating: 3/5

Source: NetGalley

 

 

Blurb: Already widowed by the age of forty, Ilka Nichols Jensen, a school portrait photographer, leads a modest, regimented, and uneventful life in Copenhagen.  Until unexpected news rocks her quiet existence: her father–who walked out suddenly and inexplicably on Ilka and her mother more than three decades ago–has died.  And he’s left Ilka something in his will: his funeral home.  In Racine, Wisconsin.

Clinging to this last shred of communication from the father she hasn’t heard from since childhood, Ilka makes an uncharacteristically rash decision and jumps on a plane to Wisconsin.  Desperately hoping to gain some insight into her father’s life, she plans to visit the funeral home and go through her father’s things before preparing the business for a quick sale.

But shortly after her arrival, one of the bodies in the morgue is vandalized. The dead man, Mike, was suspected of killing his girlfriend in high school, but disappeared from Racine and was never seen again–until recently. Disturbed by the attack, Ilka resolves to find out what really happened all those years ago….


Review: I hadn’t signed on to my NetGalley account in probably more than a year … I’m not exactly sure what made me log in randomly one day last week, but I figured why not? I browsed around a little bit and checked out my auto-approved options … this book was one of those. So I figured I’d give it a shot – the blurb appealed to me almost immediately. Plus I have a friend who lives like 30 minutes from Racine, so I thought it would be interesting to read a book set there!

So what was my opinion? This book was extremely easy for me to read. I flew through it in 2 days flat. But …. it wasn’t necessarily compelling I suppose you could say. I think I was expecting this to be more mystery/thriller than this ended up being. I expected Ilka to follow through on the “find out what really happened” part mentioned in the blurb. That whole aspect of the book seemed to take more of a backseat. Yes, we did “find out what really happened” but it was not because Ilka solved the case – like I was sort of expecting.

I enjoyed Ilka’s character to a certain extent. I didn’t care for her very relaxed opinion towards sex at all. And I didn’t find it very believable that someone who had been a school photographer back home could suddenly start dealing with dead bodies (some in pretty nasty shape) with little to no problem. I did appreciate her drive and resolve to turn her father’s funeral home around. But honestly, she’s still sort of an enigma to me. The character development was a little bit all over the place. Every character had their quirks that were discussed at some point, but I never really felt like I got to know any of them. They were all still shrouded in mystery…. maybe that was supposed to be the draw of this series?

I’m not exactly sure what more to say. It really wasn’t a bad book … it just wasn’t what I expected it to be. I needed just a little bit more mystery in this book. And more character development. Plus … it ended in a cliffhanger – just, no! A huge pet peeve. I’m not sure I’ll read more in this series as it is released, but I do look forward to trying out Ms. Blaedel’s Louise Rick series in the future.

4/5, AUTHOR, B, Book Review, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2017

Review: Jury of One by Laura Bradford

Jury of One
by Laura Bradford

Jury of One

Copyright: 2005

Pages: 252

Read: June 9 – 10, 2017

Rating: 4/5

Source: Used Book Store

 

 

Blurb: Beaches, boardwalks and the promise of carefree summer days mark the start of tourist season in the small, scenic town of Ocean Point, New Jersey. But this scene is marred suddenly by the body of a young woman found bludgeoned to death. It’s the first in a string of seemingly random, senseless murders, the only connection being the odd positioning of he victims’ fingers.

It’s a crisis that puts local detective Mitch Burns on edge. Murder in a peaceful beach town is bad enough, but a serial killer at the height of tourist season is worse. Much worse. Newly hired local reporter Elise Jenkins cuts her journalistic teeth on this one – especially when her search for the truth leader her on a dangerous hunt for the killer with a face whose familiarity masks deadly intent.


Review: I picked this one up on a total whim the last time I was at my favorite used book store. I don’t usually read a lot of cozy mysteries, but this one really caught my eye.

I ended up enjoying this one quite a bit. I really liked the characters. At one time, I was a journalism major. Anyway, I really related to Elise’s character in a way. She’s the type of journalist I would have liked to have been – I really liked how she gave Mitch a lot of room in regards to the investigation. It was a sigh of relief to see the media portrayed as not overbearing and intrusive. I’m also intrigued by the attraction between Elise and Mitch … I’d be curious to see how that plays out in future books.

The who-dun-it part was not a complete surprise, as there were subtle hints dropped throughout the book. But it was still fun to see how things unfolded. It was an interesting storyline.

So overall it’s a cute book that I enjoyed. It was a fun and easy read. I’d definitely recommend it!

4/5, AUTHOR, B, Book Review, Cotton Malone, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2017, Review Book, SERIES

Review: The Lost Order by Steve Berry

The Lost Order
by Steve Berry

The Lost Order.jpg

Copyright: 2017

Pages: 487

Read: April 5-17, 2017

Rating: 4/5

Source: Publicist for Review

 
BlurbThe Knights of the Golden Circle was the largest and most dangerous clandestine organization in American history. It amassed billions in stolen gold and silver, all buried in hidden caches across the United States. Since 1865 treasure hunters have searched, but little of that immense wealth has ever been found.

Now, one hundred and sixty years later, two factions of what remains of the Knights of the Golden Circle want that lost treasure—one to spend it for their own ends, the other to preserve it.

Thrust into this battle is former Justice Department agent Cotton Malone, whose connection to the knights is far deeper than he ever imagined. Complicating matters further are the political ambitions of a reckless Speaker of the House and the bitter widow of a United States Senator, who together are planning radical changes to the country.

From the backrooms of the Smithsonian to the deepest woods in rural Arkansas, and finally up into the rugged mountains of northern New Mexico, The Lost Order is a perilous adventure into our country’s dark past, and a potentially even darker future.


Review: So I did something I never do. I read a book out of series order. It’s not something that I like to do …. ever. But something about this book immediately caught my eye when it was pitched to me. So I took the plunge, and said why not? I can say that while I did miss some things along the way (and don’t worry, I will backtrack and read the two books I skipped), it was nothing really earth-shattering that left me kicking myself for reading out of order. In fact this book could easily read as a standalone quite well. So don’t let the fact that it’s book #12 in the Cotton Malone series deter you from picking this one up.

For me this book had a somewhat slow start. It probably didn’t help that I was dealing with some medical things relating to my daughter when I first started this book. So while I *say* it had a slow start, it might just have been because of the way things were going in my personal life. The last 250 pages were a blur – I read them very quickly and couldn’t stand to put the book down. It got extremely good, extremely fast.

I like Cotton’s character. I always have. He’s just a really interesting character. I think he’s really the perfect blend of being a total badass while remaining believable. It also doesn’t hurt that I like all the supporting characters as well. So that probably makes Cotton more enjoyable to me. As always, Mr. Berry seamlessly blends fact vs. fiction. I always love the very ending of each book where he separates the facts from the fiction. Everything he writes always seems so plausible. That’s really what makes these books so appealing to me. It also doesn’t hurt that I have a fascination with the Civil War, so that was just another attention grabber this book had for me.

So while I did a bad thing (reading a series book out of order – ha!), I’m happy to say that it didn’t affect my feelings on the book at all. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. And I highly recommend it to everyone. Even if you’re not a series fan, or not caught up with this series, pick it up – it’s a really good read!!! I look forward to seeing what happens next with the characters – seeing what adventures await Cotton! This was just a good, solid read. It was a lot of fun and left me wanting more Cotton Malone!!

I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

4/5, AUTHOR, Author Debut, B, Book Review, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2017

Review: Absolute Power by David Baldacci

Absolute Power
by David Baldacci

760769

Copyright: 1996

Pages: 505

Read: March 6-15, 2017

Rating: 4/5

Source: Purchased used

 

Blurb: ABSOLUTE CORRUPTION…In a heavily guarded mansion in a posh Virginia suburb, a man and a woman start to make love, trapping a burglar behind a secret wall. Then the passion turns deadly, and the witness is running into the night. Because what he has just seen is a brutal slaying involving the President of the United States.

ABSOLUTE DANGER…Luther Whitney is the career break-in artist who’s in the wrong place at the wrong time. Alan Richmond is the charming U.S. President with the power to commit any crime. And Jack Graham is the young attorney, caught in a vortex between the absolute truth – and …

ABSOLUTE POWER…A tale of greed, sex, ambition, and murder, this is the novel everyone has been talking about … the shattering, relentlessly suspenseful thriller that will change the way you think about Washington – and power – forever.


Review: I’ve had this one on my shelf for a few years now. I always like David Baldacci’s books, and this one sounded really interesting. The premise sounds so exciting! And it was his debut novel, so I figured it was something I should probably eventually read. And this is a heck of a good book.

My one and only complaint is the length of this book. It was about 100-150 pages too long. However, I understand why Mr. Baldacci set things up so meticulously in the beginning. There were quite a few places where the story seemed to drag on, but the last 200 or so pages were fast paced and action packed!

This book is a prime example of how good people end up doing bad things. Whether it’s to save their job, their life, their family. People will go to extraordinary measures to protect themselves and those that they love. This book shows just how far people will go for those reasons.

3/5, AUTHOR, B, Book Review, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2016

Review: The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

The Postmistress
by Sarah Blake

The Postmistress

Copyright: 2010

Pages: 318

Read: Aug. 18-Aug. 21, 2016

Rating: 3/5

Source: Purchased at library book sale

 
Blurb: It is 1940. France has fallen. Bombs are dropping on London. And President Roosevelt is promising he won’t send our boys to fight in “foreign wars.”

But American radio gal Frankie Bard, the first woman to report from the Blitz in London, wants nothing more than to bring the war home. Frankie’s radio dispatches crackle across the Atlantic Ocean, imploring listeners to pay attention – as the Nazis bomb London nightly, and Jewish refugees stream across Europe. Frankie is convinced that if she can just get the right story, it will wake Americans to action and they will join the fight.

Meanwhile, in Franklin, Massachusetts, a small town on Cape Cod, Iris James hears Frankie’s broadcasts and knows that it is only a matter of time before the war arrives on Franklin’s shores. In charge of the town’s mail, Iris believes that her job is to deliver and keep people’s secrets, passing along the news that letters carry. And one secret she keeps are her feelings for Harry Vale, the town mechanic, who inspects the ocean daily, searching in vain for German U-boats he is certain will come. Two single people in midlife, Iris and Harry long ago gave up hope of ever being in love, yet they find themselves unexpectedly drawn toward each other.

Listening to Frankie as well are Will and Emma Fitch, the town’s doctor and his new wife, both trying to escape fragile childhoods and forge a brighter future. When Will follows Frankie’s siren call into the war, Emma’s worst fears are realized. Promising to return in six months, Will goes to London to offer his help, and the lives of the three women entwine.

 


Review:  I picked this one up at the library book sale about a month ago. It sounded intriguing to me. I don’t read much historical fiction, but something about it drew me in.

Overall I’m kind of stuck as to my opinion on it. It wasn’t bad, but it didn’t really draw me in like I had hoped for. I never took to any of the characters. I kept waiting and waiting for something, anything, exciting to happen … but nothing ever came. It just fell flat in the ending. I actually laid it down and thought to myself “that’s it?” It just didn’t work all that well for me.

4/5, AUTHOR, B, Book Review, Cotton Malone, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2016, SERIES

Review: The Jefferson Key by Steve Berry

The Jefferson Key
by Steve Berry

The Jefferson Key

Copyright: 2011

Pages: 513

Read: June 19-30, 2016

Rating: 4/5

Source: Grandmother

 

 

Blurb: Four presidents of the United States have been assassinated – in 1865, 1881, 1901, and 1963 – each murder seemingly unrelated. But what if those presidents were all killed for the same shocking reason: a clause contained in the United States Constitution? This is the question faced by former Justice Department operative Cotton Malone. When President Danny Daniels is nearly killed in the heart of Manhattan, Malone risks his life to foil the murder – only to find himself at odds with the Commonwealth, a secret society of pirates first assembled during the American Revolution. Racing across the nation and taking to the high seas, Malone and Cassiopeia Vitt must break a secret cipher originally possessed by Thomas Jefferson, unravel a mystery concocted by Andrew Jackson, and unearth a document forged by the Founding Fathers themselves – one powerful enough to make the Commonwealth unstoppable.


Review: The last Cotton Malone book in this series is actually one I ended up not finishing. It revolved around a Chinese storyline of some sort and I vaguely remember being heavily pregnant with Katelyn and just not interested. So I DNF’ed it. Seeing as how my daughter is over a year old now, it’s obviously been a while since I last met up with Cotton. I obviously missed something in the previous book (how Cotton and Cassiopeia ended up a couple), but overall that wasn’t really a big surprise.

So what did I think about this book? Well this is the first time Mr. Berry has set Cotton primarily in the United States. And I loved it. My one and only complaint is that it was over 500 pages – common for these books – but definitely tough on me personally as a reader these days. And while this is the 7th in the series, it stands well on its own, but I do highly recommend meeting Cotton from the beginning!

So overall … a good book, if rather long. Definitely recommended.

3/5, AUTHOR, B, Book Review, Fiction, RATING, Read in 2016

Review: Fool Moon by Jim Butcher

Fool Moon
by Jim Butcher

Fool Moon

Copyright: 2001

Pages: 401

Read: June 9-18, 2016

Rating: 3/5

Source: Paperbackswap

 

 

Blurb: Business has been slow. Okay, business has been dead. And not even of the undead variety. You would think Chicago would have a little more action for the only professional wizard in the phone book. But lately, Harry Dresden hasn’t been able to dredge up any kind of work – magical or mundane.

But just when it looks like he can’t afford his next meal, a murder comes along that requires his particular brand of supernatural expertise.

A brutally mutilated corpse. Strange-looking paw prints. A full moon. Take three guesses – and the first two don’t count…


Review: So I read the first book in the Harry Dresden series, Storm Front, a full two years ago. I knew going into this one I might have some problems remembering who was who and what was what. Honestly, I really didn’t have much trouble jumping back in with Harry and his friends.

Overall I suppose this is just an average book. It was just an okay book for me. I want to like paranormal books, but I still have a lot of trouble accepting these crazy happenings. I don’t know, it’s hard for me to explain. I suppose I just have trouble suspending my beliefs long enough and accepting that I’m reading about wizards and werewolves.

So while this book wasn’t bad, it probably won’t be very memorable down the road for me. However, I can say that I’m more than willing to give Harry another chance … maybe in a couple of years 😉