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Gail Cooke (TX, USA)
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The One & Only
The One & Only

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars PERFECT PAIRING OF READER AND STORY, 5 Aug. 2014
This review is from: The One & Only (Audio CD)
Perfect pairing of reader and story for this tale of a young woman who was born and raised in a small Texas town. Narrator Sofia Willingham is from Austin, Texas, and there is just enough of a Southwestern lilt in her voice to give Giffin’s book in audio form a stamp of authenticity. Willingham reads as if she’s telling, as if she actually knew protagonist Shea Rigsby. A pleasure to listen!

With The One & Only Emily Giffin again proves herself a master story teller as she creates imperfect, sometimes funny but always likable characters. She puts them in situations to which we can easily relate and understand. In this case, 33-year-old Shea has spent all of her life in Walker, Texas, a small college town like many others in the Lone Star State - totally devoted to football. Shea shares that enthusiasm as well as a close friendship with Lucy, the daughter of Walker’s head coach, Clive Carr.

Shea has worked happily for the past ten years at the college’s athletic department, but when unexpected tragedy strikes she wonders whether or not she has chosen the right life path after all. When the opportunity arises for her to make a major change she goes for it - she moves to Dallas to be a sports writer and before long finds romance with a former Walker super star who is now playing in the NFL. This would seem to be a dream come true.

But does this new life bring her happiness?

- Gail Cooke


A New Friend for Marmalade
A New Friend for Marmalade
by Alison Reynolds
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.18

4.0 out of 5 stars A HAPPY LESSON IN ACCEPTANCE, 5 Aug. 2014
Everyone needs and wants a friend. However, sometimes it's hard to become friends when best friendships have already been established. In this case, Ella, Maddy and Marmalade (a small red kitty) are the closest of friends who enjoy doing things together.

On one day they decided to build a playhouse, on another day a sand castle city, and so it went. However, each time they started a project Toby, the boy who lived across the road, zoomed by on his scooter wearing a red cape. And, when he zoomed by he ruined whatever they were doing. The girls wanted to have nothing to do with him.

However, Marmalade felt differently and purred happily when Toby stroked him even though the girls said he was stroking Marmalade's fur the wrong way. It seems
there was no chance that Toby would be accepted by the girls.

But then one day Marmalade climbed up a tree and crawled out onto a small branch - what happens next is a surprise for all.

With A New Friend For Marmalade young ones will learn a lesson in accepting people even though they are a bit different.

- Gail Cooke


Don't Try to Find Me
Don't Try to Find Me
by Holly Brown
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.48

5.0 out of 5 stars A FAMILY IN CRISIS, 26 July 2014
This review is from: Don't Try to Find Me (Hardcover)
A marriage and family therapist Holly Brown undoubtedly well knows the dynamics involved in a family in crisis. And what is more critical for parents than to find a message on their kitchen whiteboard written by their daughter beginning "Don't try to find me."?

Newcomers to a farm in a rural part of California Rachel, Paul and their 14-year-old daughter, Marley, left San Francisco for what they hoped would be a better life for all. Now, Marley is gone; she did not attend school at all that day. Initially Rachel believes her daughter has been abducted; it is unthinkable to her that Marley could have run away. Paul, on the other hand, believes she just took off. Upon discovering the rather limited means of the police to look for Marley he launches a full-scale campaign to find her. With the aid of a publicist he does everything in his power to keep her disappearance in the public eye - social media, flyers, public appearances.

Rachel becomes more and more withdrawn, struggling with a secret she feels she must keep. Eventually, the tide of public opinion turns against her. There are whispers, folks wondering if she had anything to do with Marley's disappearance. Could she have hurt her own daughter? Truly, Rachel is quite self-centered and slightly paranoid - she's a difficult person to like.

As the story is related by the voices of Marley and Rachel readers learn the reasons for the girl leaving, and are privy to Rachel's confused thoughts and actions. A dysfunctional family? Yes, indeed, but an intriguing mystery.

- Gail Cooke


For All Time (Nantucket Brides Trilogy)
For All Time (Nantucket Brides Trilogy)
by Jude Deveraux
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £36.12

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars PERFECT SUMMER LISTENING, 23 July 2014
After the release of the first Nantucket Brides novel, True Love, a veritable legion of happy readers/listeners were left wanting more, and here `tis. With her second in the series Jude Deveraux kindly continues exactly where the first ended so fans don't feel they've missed anything going on between the intriguing characters on the beautiful island of Nantucket.

For All Time opens with bridesmaid Toby Wyndam happily seeing to details in preparation for her friend Lexie's absolutely wonderful wedding. Also on the scene is the groom's cousin, Prince Graydon Montgomery, who is heir to the throne of the fictional Lanconia. Much as she'd like to Toby has no time to fixate on Graydon at the moment, however, she is the one person who can tell Graydon from Rory, his identical twin. And, according to family legend that is the one way to recognize your true love.

All is surprising and well at this point, but Graydon has an arranged political marriage waiting for him at home. Nonetheless, with the niggling feeling that he may have found his soul mate Graydon decides to linger on Nantucket and get to know Toby better. Knowing that Graydon is promised to another Toby tries to remain neutral but that is no longer possible when both of them realize that their souls may not only be linked now but also in generations past. (Nothing like a bit of the paranormal to make things spicier!)

Frosting on the cake is the outstanding reading by gifted voice performer Kirsten Potter. She has numerous film and television credits as well as experience voicing roles for animation and video games. However, her talent really comes to the fore with her highly listenable narration of For All Time.

Enjoy!

- Gail Cooke


Eyes on You: A Novel of Suspense
Eyes on You: A Novel of Suspense
Price: £3.99

5.0 out of 5 stars BUILDING SUSPENSE, SHOCKING CONCLUSION, 23 July 2014
With a setting as up to date as now, snappy dialogue and sustained suspense Eye On You keeps you turning pages until the final sentence. A former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan Magazine Kate White well knows her way around today's media world and she limns it well - living breathing characters, cutthroat competition, and stressful deadlines.

Heroine Robin Trainer has pulled herself up by her boot straps after serious career problems and a divorce. Now she's on the upside of both career and life again. She's co-anchor of a popular new TV show, The Pulse, a round table format nightly entertainment show. Luckily her co-anchor is handsome Carter Brooks. They've developed a chemistry between them that appeals to viewers so the ratings are going up every day. As if that weren't enough Robin wrote a book, The 7 Secrets Women Keep, which seems headed for the bestseller lists.

Life for her is good until the night of a party being given in her honor. When she reaches into her purse for her note card to help her say thank you she is shocked to find a threat written across the card in thick black pencil. She recovers her composure and gets through her gratitude speech only slightly unsettled. But that threat is followed by other incidents, such has covers of her book slashed, a Barbie doll made to look like Robin but disfigured, and more. Robin begins to fear she is coming unraveled.

The threats have to have been made by one of her co-workers, but who would want to hurt her and why?

With its contemporary state-of-the-art setting readers easily feel the story is happening right now and they are a part of it. White describes the glitzy New York media world and office politics to a T. Eyes On You is stellar suspense building to a shocking conclusion.

- Gail Cooke


The Last Taxi Ride (Ranjit Singh)
The Last Taxi Ride (Ranjit Singh)
by A. X. Ahmad
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.79

5.0 out of 5 stars A POWERHOUSE THRILLER, 5 July 2014
While this may have been the last taxi ride for someone it is certainly a fast, exciting ride for readers. Ahmad well knows how to tell a story, revealing just enough with each page to keep us burning the midnight oil. For many, as it was for me, it is a totally new adventure as we're introduced to Indian cab drivers, the South Asian expatriate community, Bollywood, and the Mafia. How's that for a cast of characters?

As the story opens New York City cabbie Ranjit Singh is surprised and delighted to see that his fare is famous Bollywood actress, Shabana Shah,"....her glossy black hair cascades to her shoulders, She piles three crisp white Prada shopping bags on the seat next to her." He drives her to the Dakota, and she gives him a generous tip. How could Ranjit be so lucky? Well, not really as the next day Shabana Shah is found murdered, her gorgeous face gone. Ranjit's fingerprints are all over the crime scene and on the murder weapon, a large marble elephant statue.

Yesterday when Ranjit had arrived at the Dakota he found the doorman was Mohan Kumar, a friend from Ranjit's army days in India. That evening the two of them met again at the Dakota where they drank and remembered old times. A security camera catches Ranjit leaving the Dakota alone. Now, the police come to Ranjit's cab company saying fingerprint evidence places him at the scene of Shabana's murder. No problem, Mohan can vouch for him but Mohan has vanished.

Ranjit is accused of being an accessory to murder and will face a Grand Jury arraignment in 10 days. Eleven days shy of when his daughter, Shanti, will arrive from India to make a home with him in the City. Ranjit has much to do to clear his name in a small amount of time - can he do it?

The Last Taxi Ride is a powerhouse thriller - enjoy!

- Gail Cooke


The Arsonist
The Arsonist
by Sue Miller
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £33.79

5.0 out of 5 stars ABSORBING STORY OF FAMILY AND COMMUNITY, 5 July 2014
This review is from: The Arsonist (Audio CD)
For this listener hearing an author read his or her work is a very special treat. After all, who knows the material better, where emphases should be placed, and what tempos to be followed? With her reading of The Arsonist I've learned that Sue Miller is not only an exemplary writer but a gifted narrator as well.

Once again we're reminded of Miller's gift for creating nuanced yet fully fleshed characters when we meet Frankie Rowley, a woman in her 40s who has grown weary of working in East Africa. She returns home to stay with her parents, Sylvia and Alfie, in a farmhouse in Pomeroy, a small New Hampshire village where her family has summered for years.

As it happens Frankie's arrival coincides with Pomeroy's first house fire, which all believe to have been an accident. But perhaps not as a second fire occurs and then another - six all in all, each a summer resident's home. Pomeroy has always been a quiet peaceful town but now neighbors are regarding one another with suspicion.

In the midst of this Frankie met Bud, the editor of the local paper. And, to the surprise of both they begin to fall in love. Close to home another drama is unfolding as Sylvia who has always prided herself on her competence and efficiency finds herself having to care for Alfie who is in the throes of early Alzheimer's.

The Arsonist is an absorbing, honest story of family, love and community by one of our best novelists.

- Gail Cooke


Hell to Pay
Hell to Pay
by Garry Disher
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.56

5.0 out of 5 stars YOU'LL STAY UP ALL NIGHT WITH THIS ONE!, 29 Jun. 2014
This review is from: Hell to Pay (Hardcover)
One of Australia's best known novelists with more than 40 books under his belt Garry Disher is a writer who wastes not a word, and vividly, relentlessly paints pictures of his native Australia. In this case the scene is Tiverton, a hardscrabble bush town in South Australia suffering from a teetering economy, isolation, police corruption. The one-road town struggles to survive as do its inhabitants. It is here that a recently demoted detective, Paul Hirschhausen known as Hirsch is sent from Adelaide. This is punishment or penance with the latter winning out.

Hirsch is a disgraced cop and no one is about to let him forget it, least of all his bullying boss, Sergeant Kropp. The Sergeant is a man surrounded by mates who never do anything wrong because Kropp easily turns a blind eye to their follies, and perhaps even participates in crimes with them. Alone and friendless Hirsch is by turns bitter, paranoid and determined. The internal investigations bureau is breathing down his neck, eager to convict him of something by any means. And, as if it wasn't already clear that he wasn't welcome in Tiverton a pistol cartridge is left in his mailbox.

When the body of a sixteen-year-old local girl is found by the highway Kropp is quick to label it a hit and run and quickly move on. Hirsch doesn't believe that is the case but just let him try to gain access to forensics or interview subjects.

Hell To Pay has been called Australian crime fiction at its best - I'd simply call it crime fiction at its best. Disher's plotting is deft, his words economical but completely telling as he carefully builds to a smash finish. Wouldn't have missed this one!


The Hotel on Place Vendome: Life, Death, and Betrayal at the Hotel Ritz in Paris
The Hotel on Place Vendome: Life, Death, and Betrayal at the Hotel Ritz in Paris
by Tilar J. Mazzeo
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars RICH IN HISTORY AND INTRIGUE, 21 Jun. 2014
It all seems too impossible, too cloak-and-dagger to be true, but apparently it is. As the idea for this book was forming in Mazzeo's mind she was able to speak to the widow of a man who had been in the Resistance, the underground movement that fought the Nazis in occupied France. The old woman warned her not to write about the Hotel Ritz and the story of the occupation saying the questions Mazzeo was asking were too treacherous and further many of those who claim to have been in the Resistance are "simply liars."

Obviously, Mazzeo did not listen to that advice for here it is - dare you to put down this fascinating tale of "Life, Death and Betrayal at the Hotel Ritz in Paris." There was also quite a bit of subterfuge, love and illicit liaisons. And what a cast of characters! When France fell to the Germans the Ritz became headquarters for the high ranking German officers such has Reichsmarschall Hermann Goring who occupied the most luxurious suite and had an outsized tub built to his specifications. It was also home from time to time to very rich patrons, war correspondents and the glitterati.

Paris is occupied but picture, if you will, Coco Chanel's table in the dining room where you might find playwrights, screen writers, ballet stars, even Jean Cocteau and his good looking boyfriend. More often Chanel could be seen about town with her handsome lover, a ranking German soldier. Hemingway hung out at the bar as did photographer Robert Capa (Ingrid Bergman's lover for a time). Picasso and Proust were often seen there as was Marlene Dietrich. Add to this mix the staff who pretended to be serving Hitler's officers while actually supporting the Resistance. Particularly outstanding was a Jewish bartender who passed coded messages.

It was at the Ritz that the stories of the war were told (such as Wehrmacht officers planning to assassinate Hitler), as well as personal stories dramatically unfolding. The Hotel On Place Vendome is rich in history, awash in intrigue, glamour and treachery.

- Gail Cooke


Elizabeth is Missing
Elizabeth is Missing
by Emma Healey
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A BRILLIANT DEBUT, 16 Jun. 2014
This review is from: Elizabeth is Missing (Hardcover)
With her debut novel Healey has given us a unique, compelling protagonist in Maud, an octogenarian who is suffering from dementia. In an attempt to capture what her mind can no longer grasp Maud leaves copious notes not only with what she wishes to remember, but instructions from her grown daughter, Helen, and care givers plus comments on the way she is treated. Healey describes Maud's condition with heartbreaking accuracy and bits of black wit. Thus, we are able to take Maud's journey with her, ache for her, and be reminded of how condescension may hurt. Elizabeth Is Missing is a brilliant story, part mystery, part psychological drama, always absorbing.

Maud has become obsessed with finding her best friend, Elizabeth, as she puts it the only friend she has left. She has gone to Elizabeth's house, knocked on the door and no one answers. She has gone to the police several times to report Elizabeth's absence but they patronize her by saying something like "Of course, the entire force is out looking for her." Helen tells her Elizabeth is fine as does Elizabeth's son, but Maud cannot believe either of them.

Maud remembers the good times she and Elizabeth once had and searches her mind (and her notes)for clues as to where Elizabeth might be. In doing this Maud is reminded of another disappearance, that of her older sister, Sukey, who vanished in 1948. She sees again the rupture this caused in her family as her mother and father searched for Sukey. The police eventually conclude that Sukey has simply run away but Maud cannot believe that her dear sister would ever do that.

This story of friendship, love and loss is not to be forgotten, and Maud is to be remembered. Emma Healey is an amazing talent and I eagerly await her next book.

- Gail Cooke


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