Tag Archives: romance

Cloak and Dagger

Dark Deceptions by Dee Davis (Forever Romance)

This book is an attention-grabber with cloak and dagger action!   The general tone, energy and tension between the main characters are very much reminiscent of the television show Remington Steele from the 1980s.   Added to this basic concept is a bit of the spy and good-guys type of team play currently popular on shows like Criminal Minds and the CSI franchise (Las Vegas, Miami and New York).

The premise is a compelling mix of personal betrayal, motherly love and loyalty to the team.   The main characters, Annie and Nash, are thrown together after years of painful silence between them.   What had been a well-tuned action duo suited for espionage of the highest caliber devolved into the worst sort of estrangement.   Annie and Nash each felt that the other had deserted the love and loyalty they shared.

Enter the villains who scoop up Annie’s son from his snug bedroom and whisk him away.   Annie is the target of a kidnapping/murder/extortion plot with a twist.   She has to muster her best spy skills that are somewhat rusty after years away from the espionage game in order to comply with the kidnappers’ demands – kill their target or suffer the loss of her precious son at the hands of the kidnappers who are also terrorists.

There’s nothing like a common goal to create cooperation that supersedes personal loathing.   Annie and Nash are once again on the same team, sort of that is.   As each of them works toward their goal, the action shifts from ultra high-tech surveillance and miniaturized equipment to a softly whistled signal whistled to a former partner from the old days when things were good between them.

The themes explored in this well-written, though graphically specific novel are family, loyalty, head versus heart, and love in many forms that makes the world a better place for everyone.   This book is a summer reading winner.

Recommended.

This review was written by Ruta Arellano.   A review copy was provided by Hachette Book Group USA.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Win Dark Deceptions

Thanks to Anna at Hachette Books, we have 5 (five) copies of Dark Deceptions by Dee Davis to give away.   This is a Forever novel, just released on April 1, 2010, and rated as a 4-star book at Amazon.   Here is a quick synopsis:

Covert operations expert Nash Brennon has spent the last eight years trying to forget Annie Gallagher, his former field partner and the only woman he has ever loved.   Annie betrayed him when he needed her the most, then vanished without a trace.   Now suddenly she’s back in the game – as a suspected traitor and threat to the national security.

Annie’s son has been kidnapped by political terrorists.   The price for his life?   The assassination of a U.N. ambassador.

This is a unique suspense romance thriller.   “…(a) page turning, white knuckle, romantic thriller.”   ReadertoReader.com  

Dark Deceptions was delightful!” wrote a reader at the Barnes and Noble website.

“Don’t miss any book by Dee Davis.”   Christina Skye

“Dee Davis is at the top of her game.”   Mariah Stewart

In order to enter this book giveaway, just post a comment here or send an e-mail with the heading Dark Deceptions to Josephsreviews@gmail.com.   Make sure to include an e-mail address where you can be reached in case you are one of the 5 winners of Dark Deceptions.   This will count as one entry.

In order to enter a second time, please tell us what you think about digital “e-books”.   Would you read a book on a Kindle (Amazon) or a Nook (Barnes and Noble) or a Sony Reader?   On an Apple iPad?   As a download onto your PC?   Why or why not?   Your answer will count as a second entry.

You must live in the United States or Canada to enter and have a valid residential address.   Books cannot be mailed to a P.O. box.   The deadline for entries is 12:00 midnight PST on Wednesday, May 26, 2010.   If your name is drawn by Munchy the cat as a winner, you will be sent an e-mail message and you will need to respond with your residential address within 72 hours.  

This is it for the contest rules.   Good luck and good reading!

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Real life, just beginning…

bird in hand 4

Real life, she knew, was just beginning.

One of the ironies of reading Bird in Hand by Christina Baker Kline is that its fictional account of the disintegration of a marriage feels far more true to life than two contemporary non-fiction accounts:  How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed by Theo Pauline Nestor and Happens Every Day by Isabel Gillies.   Of the two, I much preferred Nestor’s account but neither narrator seemed as true to me as the character Alison in Kline’s novel.

It may be because Kline gives us not just a story, but the motivations that spur on the individuals.   With Alison, it’s disillusionment.   “Nothing about her life at the moment was what she’d envisioned for herself when she got married.”   Alison’s husband Charlie is moved by the feeling that he’s made the wrong choices for himself.   “He was doing this because he could not keep skimming along the surface of his life without one day crashing into something hard and unpleasant…  he was convinced he would get only one chance to feel this kind of passion, to express it, to live.”

And then Kline reveals to us that motivation, intent, means little or nothing because all humans on this planet act with incomplete – and flawed – knowledge (quoting Alice McDermott):   “As if…  what was actual, as opposed to what was imagined, as opposed to what was believed, made, when you got right down to it, any difference at all.”   So, ultimately, this is an impressive work about real, flawed individuals doing the best they can at a certain point in their existence, making mistakes but ultimately moving forward.   “It was real life, the way things should be, and even as it was happening it felt to Alison like a distant memory, the moment already slipping into the past.”

A great deal of praise should be bestowed on author Kline for creating characters that adult readers can relate to.   At one point in Bird in Hand, Kline writes of Alison’s experiences as a young woman, “It was a strange and magical feeling.”   Kline has delivered a strange, unique, magical and borderline brilliant story.

Highly recommended!

Thank you to William Morrow for the review copy.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A bird in hand…

Bird in Hand by Christina Baker Kline (William Morrow)

Full and proper character development appears to be becoming a lost art in fiction, but author Christina Baker Kline does her bit to revive the art in the intriguing novel Bird in Hand.   This is a fine story, extremely well told, of four people, partners in two marriages and very good friends.   We get to know all four characters and hear their stories – from their own perspectives – in this well-constructed tale.

The narrative begins with Alison whose life seems to be virtually perfect until two things happen.   First, she becomes involved in a deadly accident while driving under the influence and the ramifications of this threaten to tear her world apart.   Second is something that she’s completely unaware of, which is that her husband is having an affair with someone she considered a friend.   Thus, her world changes overnight:   “For Alison, now, the world was a different place, and yet it was strangely the same.   She was present and not present in her own life.”

Kline writes with the same cool, suburban angst filled tone as Richard Ford (Independence Day, The Sportswriter).   There’s a question that is asked in Ford’s writing and in a Talking Heads song:  How did I get here?   “She walked around the silent house and looked at the framed photographs that lined the mantelpiece and cluttered the bookshelves, wondering, Is this really my life?   This collage of frozen moments, frozen in time.”bird in hand 5

In Bird in Hand, we also meet Charlie, Alison’s steady if unfaithful husband; Claire, the newly published author and friend of Alison’s; and Ben, Claire’s successful if somewhat dull and introverted husband.   It’s rare to find a work in which all four characters are so well fleshed out and, yes, real.   Here’s an example, in how Alison describes Charlie:   “…as they started talking she realized that there was…  something in his character that she couldn’t pin down.   He wasn’t cocky, and his humor was gentle.   He had a mild confidence, a lack of self-consciousness, an ironic take on the world that wasn’t caustic or bitter.   Despite his social ease, he had a solitary air.”

At one point, Charlie describes Claire in words that could apply to the author’s style in writing this novel.   “She could be formal one moment and irreverent, even crude, the next.”

To be continued… (the first of two parts)

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Best Friends Forever: A Novel

Best Friends Forever 4 (audio)Jennifer Weiner is not your typical writer of popular fiction.   Her slow and dry style causes one to under-estimate her before she starts effortlessly shifting through the gears like an F1 (Formula One) driver.   The more you read, the more fun and humor she adds to the telling, making the second half of Best Friends Forever seem much shorter than the first half.

The reader also has fun because we realize that we know these people in real life…   The fun-loving and popular Val, the down-on-herself Addie (whom others trust and believe in more than she believes in herself), the punkish and mean Dan Swansea, responsible Jordan Novick…   All are as real as the people we went to high school or college with.

I didn’t think I’d say about this about 100 pages into Best Friends Forever, but I can say it now.   Count me in as a member of Jennifer Weiner’s fan club!

Thanks to Atria Books for the review copy.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Best Friends Forever

This one was quite a surprise…   It started off painfully and ended up as a joy ride!

As the story starts a young woman, Valerie, attends her class of ’92 high school re-union and seeks revenge for something that happened to her in the Fall of 1991.   She gets her revenge – in a violent and disturbing way – then heads out to find her former (much less popular in high school) friend Addie Downs.

For the first quarter of this 359-page story I did not think that I’d be able to finish it.   The content was a bit disturbing and the characters were not likeable.   Then, at some point, we began to focus on the uniquely wacky My Fox Chicago News Team weather girl Valerie Adler.   That’s when the real fun begins.   We also get to know and identify with the true main character Addie Downs, a woman who at one time was easily two or three times her current weight.Best Friends Forever 5

The two friends, knowing that Val is a likely crime suspect, take off together from the small town of Pleasant Ridge, Illinois south toward Key Largo, Florida.   At some point, it dawns on the reader that they’re on a journey for the things they need in life.   Val needs respect (“You know what the average age of a My Fox viewer is?   Dead.”) and Addie needs the male life-partner that she’s never found.

Add to the mix a young and broken-hearted police chief (Jordan Novick) who sets out to find the women on their run from the law, and several former misfits from the old high school – some of whom may be seeking forgiveness and redemption.   It all adds up to a recipe for a rollicking good ride down the highway of life.

To be continued… (part one of two parts)

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

In Your Eyes

Although glamour and high visibility go along with being a prime time TV show host, behind the scenes Tiana Tomlinson must come to terms with how the industry treats aging women versus their maturing male counterparts.   Author Jane Porter goes to great lengths to portray the depth of despair, frustration and stagnation associated with her heroine’s circumstances.

We go with Tiana all the way to Africa and back to Los Angeles on a quest for the authentic approach to her TV show’s content.   Moral dilemmas and making choices are pivotal in this book.   The price of walking in her shoes is well worth the payoffs celebrated once the reader gets into the heart of the tale.easy on the eyes 4Make no mistake, this is a story of romance, but not a romance novel.   A significant part of the romance that blossoms in Tiana’s heart comes from falling in love with her true self.   There are plenty of obstacles along the journey and the reader is eventually well rewarded for embracing this character.

Well worth the time and effort!

5-Spot, $13.99, 335 pages

Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

I’ve Had the Time of My Life

Time of My Life: A Novel by Allison Winn Scotch (Broadway, $14.00, 304 pages)

A young woman isn’t sure she’s made the best choices in her life and wishes she could return to a certain point in her life;  if only she had a second chance at her past.   Does this sound like the premise of Peggy Sue Got Married?   Yes, and it is also the premise for this story of a 34-year-old woman – married with husband Henry and a toddler – who gets to return to the age of 27.   Can Jillian Westfield make better use of these 7 years with the so-called benefit of 20-20 hindsight?Time of My Life

One of Jillian’s key conflicts consists of having to choose between her former Orlando Bloomish boyfriend Jack (romantic and impulsive but a frustrated writer with virtually no ambition) or the once-chosen-to-be-her-husband Henry.   Henry is calm, steady, mathematical, logical and doggedly ambitious.   Knowing what she’s learned the first time around will Jillian choose instant gratification or long term reward?   Sparks or a steady flame?

This is another book that is not the “hilarious read” promised on the back book cover.   But Allison Winn Scotch is indeed a fluent writer:   “…as the lights of the city glow in the window behind us, we all look much the same:  mothers who sit in wonder and wait for the children who will inevitably change their lives.”   Scotch also has the ability to remind us of things that should be obvious, such as the fact that in romantic relationships, “One person is always changing too much and the other not enough.”

The joys and tribulations of motherhood are another key theme of Time of My Life.   Children inevitably change the lives of parents and family members in ways both foreseen and those that are completely unexpected.

The author’s greatest gift is in teaching the reader how to accept, enjoy and celebrate life without needing to blow things out of proportion.   Marriages, births, deaths:  “…it was just life, nothing glorious, nothing shabby…”.

A glorious read, nothing shabby about it.   Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

This book was purchased by the reviewer.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Coming Up Next…

2nd dateA review of The Second Date: Love Italian-American Style by Mary Lydon Simonsen.   (Image:  Amazon; the “click to look inside” feature is disabled here.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized