What’s That Book? A Prisoner of Birth by Jeffrey Archer

TitleA Prisoner of Birth

Author:  Jeffrey Archer

Genre:  Fiction, it’s categorized as a legal thriller but this is definitely NOT like John Grisham.

Rating:

What’s it about?  A young man and his fiancée and her brother are out to dinner one night when a group of upper class guys start harassing the fiancée. The couple and the brother try to leave bu tend up cornered by the group of guys in a back alley. Despite all attempts to avoid a fight, the brother ends up murdered. The young man is convicted of the crime and the upper class guys go free (despite a clear cover up involving many people). The novel follows the young man into prison where he makes important connections and the efforts of his (very beginner) lawyer to clear his name.

How did you hear about it?  Having been a fan of Archer’s work in the past, I was thrilled to snag this as a used hardback copy at the local library’s annual book sale.

Closing comments:  Wow! Just wow. This is an amazing and clever reimagining of The Count of Monte Cristo. Unlike the original, this book (despite its length) never has a dull moment. Although you can kind of guess what might be coming next (especially if you’ve read The Count of Monte Cristo), Archer’s storytelling skills add an unexpected twist. Above all, you can’t help but cheer on the protagonist.

Contributor:  Tammie Painter – I turn wickedly strong tea into imaginative fiction – You can read about my adventures over at TammiePainter.com/blog


Have you read something good?  Want to talk about it?
Consider being a contributor to What’s That Book.

Email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for information.

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Happy New Year!

Hi Everyone and Happy New Year!

I’ve had fun seeing what all the book bloggers read in 2019 and now it’s time to begin again! I’m not doing any reading challenges this year, but I always like to have a short-term plan for what I’m going to read.

So here’s what’s in store for January:

I just started A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. It’s on loan from the library on my Kindle and due soon, so that’s first. OMG I am tearing through it. I’m already sure I will give it a good review!


Next up is The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. I’m reading it for my mystery book club at work. We decided to return to one of the first of the genre and this one goes way back. The Moonstone was first published in 1868!


I got two books for Christmas and I can’t wait to start them. I’ve been talking about reading a Howard Hughes biography and this one is Howard Hughes – the Untold Story by Petter Harry Brown and Pat H. Broeske.


I also got You by Caroline Kepnes. If you don’t know about this book, it’s also a series on Netflix and Season 2 just started. I’m going to read this first, watch Season 1, then move on to either the sequel called Hidden Bodies or watch Season 2 first. Can’t decide!


I hope you have some fun things and some good books lined up for 2020. What’s the first book you will read?

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Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing
by
Delia Owens

Rating:

Kya Clark is six years old when her mother walks out of the shack they call home. The falling-down structure is hidden in the marshes of North Carolina, outside the fictional coastal town of Barkley Cove, a place where racial tension and small-town prejudices are firmly in place. The shack is the only place the Clark family knows, where her father’s abusive rages have terrified Kya, her mother and her siblings. Soon her older siblings run, leaving only Kya and her father, who provides her with nothing but fear. And then one day it’s just Kya, known in town and shunned as the wild Marsh Girl.

The story begins in 1952 and jumps to 1969, when a young man named Chase Andrews has died. In alternating chapters, readers learn Kya’s story of survival and how she becomes part of the investigation into Chase’s death.

Kya may be a “marsh girl,” but she has extraordinary talents that enable her to devise ways to survive and battle her loneliness, trying to understand why everyone has left her. Fearful of other people, she learns how to live as one of nature’s creatures, reaching out to just a few trusted souls who help her.

Then one day, she meets a boy, Tate Walker, who shyly leaves her presents, and a tentative friendship begins. “She’d never had a friend, but she could feel the use of it, the pull.” Their relationship grows and changes with them, opening her eyes to a larger world. But time and outside pressure soon bring disappointment and loss, leaving Kya alone once again.

I don’t want to give away too much, because the joy of this fantastic story is in reading it first-hand. I have always loved books that include nature as a character, with themes of its strong influence on human behavior. Delia Owens, with her unique background as an award-winning wildlife scientist, has created a beautiful coming-of-age story in which nature’s beauty and harsh instincts play a major role. I read this book non-stop over the course of three days, not because I wanted to get through it, but because I was so invested in Kya’s world.

If you’re looking for a high-quality read to fit it before the end of the year, I highly recommend Where the Crawdads Sing. It measures up to all the hype and the hundreds of thousands of positive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

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Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben

Fool Me Once
by
Harlan Coben

Rating:

Here’s a fast and easy-to-read mystery/thriller about a tough-acting female veteran who is battling Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from tours in the Middle East and is caught in a twisted story of power, corruption and murder.

As an army helicopter pilot in Iraq, Maya Stern Burkett always made smart, calculated decisions, until one went horribly bad. Now she’s back in New York, trying to keep it together, but she has a lot of problems. Her sister, Claire is dead and she’s just buried her husband, Joe, the victim of a Central Park shooting. On top of that, debilitating nightmares about her final mission wreak havoc on her mental state. Maya’s only comfort is her two-year-old daughter, Lily.

As Joe’s widow in the ultra-wealthy and powerful Burkett family, Maya’s position has changed. She hadn’t questioned their involvement in Burkett family controlling decisions, including hiring Isabella as a nanny. But her suspicions rise when a disturbing image appears on the nanny cam.

Police are also investigating the murders and wonder if they are connected, while Maya digs in rogue style, always packing a concealed weapon. This mystery is full of slowly revealed secrets, some from happenings at Joe’s elite Main Line prep school outside of Philadelphia. It’s not sorted out until a showdown in the final pages, keeping true to the genre.

While Fool Me Once is not a heavy read, Coben explores serious issues, including the jarring difference between serving in the military and returning home to a normal life. He raises questions about how best to treat PTSD and other mental illnesses, noting that these are not things a person can just “shake off.” In addition, through Maya’s character, a serious gun-lover, he explores the hotly-debated subject of Second Amendment rights.

Coben introduces many suspicious side characters to the story, making it hard to guess where the plot will go. I like this technique because it gives the reader a lot to think about. Coben’s books are normally set in the New York and New Jersey and, having grown up in that area, I enjoy the references to towns and places I know. He also throws little nuggets of local knowledge into his stories, like where the good malls are, and I like this humor.

I thought Fool Me Once was entertaining, but in the end, just okay, due to many unbelievable plot developments. The movie is also in the works, starring Julia Roberts. I would recommend it as a good book to read on an airplane or on vacation or as a light read when you’re curled up on a couch. This is my fourth standalone Coben book. He also writes the Myron and Mickey Bolitar series, which I have not read. I still enjoy Coben as an author and will likely read more.

Have you read any books by Harlan Coben? Have you read his series? Leave a comment and check out these Harlan Coben reviews:

Caught
Run Away
Tell No One

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Who’s That Indie Author? Wendy L. Koenig

Author name:  Wendy L. Koenig

Genre:  Science Fiction, Young Adult Children’s, Fantasy Romance, Mystery

Books:  Sentient, Insurrection, One to Lose, The Last Griffin, Birthright, Boo and Oscar in the Fantastic Fudge Fiasco, Boo and Oscar in the Terrible Trouble on the Tobique, Frozen Fire, Under Twin Suns

What’s your story and how did you become a writer?  I was born in Colorado, but raised on a small homestead in Illinois. I served in the USAF right out of high school. After my stint in the military was finished, I returned home and had a horse stable. My first piece to be printed was a short children’s fiction, “Jet’s Stormy Adventure,” serialized in The Illinois Horse Network. It was a natural fit, given my business. Later, I attended University of Iowa’s famed workshops and writing programs. Since that time, I have authored and co-authored numerous books. Several of my novels and short stories have won international awards and have appeared in multiple venues. I write because I want to read the story.

How do you balance your work with other demands?  I’m stubborn.

Name one of the happiest moments in your life:  Seeing a fan show his friends my signature on his book

What’s your approach to writing? Are you a “pantser” or a planner?  Pantser until the main skeleton is written, then a planner for the subplots.

Could you write in a café with people around?  Often do.

Have you ever written dialogue in a second language? If so, how did you do it?  I don’t. My husband is French Canadian. He translated my two French children’s books.

What’s your favorite book and what are you reading now?  Favorite book of all time is Dreamsnake by Vonda McIntyre. Reading a Jack Reacher now.

What’s your favorite way to read a book: hardcover, paperback, eReader?  Hardcover

Do you think print books will always be around?  Absolutely. It’s a comfort thing. You just don’t get that from an eBook.

Would you ever read a book on your phone?  I have.

What’s your go-to device? iPhone, Android or something else?  Android

How long could you go without checking your phone?  I actually don’t text much, so probably a while.

Do you listen to audiobooks? If you do, what do you do while you’re listening?  I listen while I drive.

Do you like using social media to promote yourself and your book? If so, what’s your favorite platform?  Facebook and Instagram.

Website and social media links:
Website:  wendylkoenig.com
Facebook:  @WendyLKoenig
Twitter:  @wlkoenig
Pinterest: pinterest.ca/wlkoenig

Awards/special recognition: Under Twin Suns – 2nd place Novel Abilene Writer’s guild International Competition 2005, 2nd Honorable Mention Novel Chapter CNW/FFWA International Writing Competition 2005

Searching for Sardan – 1st place Short fiction Abilene writers’ guild International Competition 2005

Sentient (Spinning the Tides) – 2nd Honorable Mention Sci-Fi/Horror Frontiers in Writing International Competition 2007

“I Will Remember You” (poem) – America’s Best Emerging Poets 2018


Are you an indie author?  Do you want to build your indie author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details.

Who’s That Indie Author? Jennifer S. Alderson

Author name:  Jennifer S. Alderson

Genres:  Mystery / Thriller / Historical Fiction / Travel

Books:  Marked for Revenge, Rituals of the Dead, The Lover’s Portrait, Down and Out in Kathmandu, Holiday Gone Wrong, and Notes of a Naive Traveler

What’s your story and how did you become a writer?  Thanks for inviting me to your blog, Book Club Mom!

I am an American currently residing in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. My passion for travel, history, and art inspires my novels. I have been writing for as long as I can remember, but until my late twenties, it was all non-fiction for newspapers and magazines. After an incredible trip to Nepal, I wrote a fictionalized version of my adventures but didn’t know what to do with it. The sudden death of a close relative was the catalyst to get it published.

How do you balance your work with other demands?  Balancing my roles as writer, business owner, wife, and mother is an enormous challenge! My focus shifts weekly, depending on the current needs of my family and business. However, my writing time is well-guarded!

Name one of the happiest moments in your life:  Aside from meeting my husband or the birth of my child, I think it was receiving my Dutch passport. It has been a long and sometimes difficult transition into expat life, but I am so glad to be in the Netherlands. It feels like I’ve come home.

What’s your approach to writing? Are you a “pantser” or a planner?  Planner all the way. Without a concise outline, I am completely lost! However, once I start writing, I allow myself to listen to the story and follow the path it takes me on, even if that means deviating from the outline.

Could you write in a café with people around?  I love writing in busy cafes! Silence reminds me too much of my former corporate life. I write faster and better when surrounded by fairly loud music that turns surrounding conversations into white noise. Otherwise, I would be eavesdropping instead of writing. J

Have you ever written dialogue in a second language? If so, how did you do it?  I have included Dutch, German, and Italian phrases in my novels. Honestly, I am quite nervous about getting it wrong every time I do. One great advantage of living in such an international city is that I know native speakers who I could double check my translations with.

What’s your favorite book and what are you reading now?  There are so many great books to choose from! I am a huge fan of Donna Leon and just finished rereading By Its Cover. I admire her ability to bring Venice to life in each and every novel.

What’s your favorite way to read a book: hardcover, paperback, eReader?  I used to read exclusively paperbacks but in the last few years I have transitioned to eBooks. I read so many, it makes it a whole lot cheaper to stock up and take them with me!

Do you think print books will always be around?  I hope so. There is nothing more wonderful than holding a paperback in your hand. I do still buy paperbacks of my favorite reads, as well as give them as gifts.

Would you ever read a book on your phone?  I have not. I am not a fan of smart phones and try to use mine as little as possible.

What’s your go-to device? iPhone, android or something else?  I do read eBooks on my iPad and have reading apps installed for iBooks, Kindle, Bol, Kobo, and my local library.

How long could you go without checking your phone?  Days, possibly weeks! I am not good about checking messages or calling people back straight away. Since becoming an author, I check my email and social media much more often than I used to, but it is still a challenge to stay on top of all of the messages I receive!

Do you listen to audiobooks? If you do, what do you do while you’re listening?  I have recently discovered audiobooks and enjoy listening to them when working on marketing and social media.

Do you like using social media to promote yourself and your book? If so, what’s your favorite platform?  Connecting with readers is one of the most enjoyable things about this job! When you write a book, you have no idea if anyone will be able to relate to the characters, setting, or plot. Publishing a book really is a leap of faith. Chatting with readers who enjoy my work or share the same interests I do, really makes it fun. Facebook is my favorite platform, though I am also often on Twitter and Instagram.

Website and social media links:
Website:  jennifersalderson.com
Twitter: @JSAauthor
Facebook: @JenniferSAldersonauthor
Goodreads Author Page: Jennifer S. Alderson
Amazon Author Page: Jennifer S. Alderson

Awards/special recognition:  My novels have won several readers awards, including 5 star medals from Readers’ Favorite, Chill with a Book, and indieBRAG. They have also been included on several Recommended Reads lists on websites such as The Displaced Nation, TripFiction, and Women Writers, Women’s Books.

About the Author:  Jennifer S. Alderson was born in San Francisco, raised in Seattle, and currently lives in Amsterdam. After traveling extensively around Asia, Oceania, and Central America, she moved to Darwin, Australia, before finally settling in the Netherlands. Jennifer’s love of travel, art, and culture inspires her award-winning, internationally oriented mystery series—the Zelda Richardson Mystery Series—and standalone stories. Her background in journalism, multimedia development, and art history enriches her novels. When not writing, she can be found in a museum, biking around Amsterdam, or enjoying a coffee along the canal while planning her next research trip.


Are you an indie author?  Do you want to build your indie author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details.

Run Away by Harlan Coben

Run Away
by
Harlan Coben

Rating:

Simon Greene is desperate to find his daughter Paige, who has dropped out of college, is addicted to drugs, and on the run with her user boyfriend, Aaron. Acting on a tip, Simon sees her in Central Park and is sure he can save her. But Paige runs and Simon may never catch up.

Harlan Coben’s latest action thriller looks at a seemingly normal family with highly successful parents and smart children as they struggle with one daughter’s addiction. How right it had all seemed when Paige went off to college! Now the future is anything but bright.

Before long, Simon and his wife, Ingrid are deep into trouble and surrounded by highly dangerous people. Murder, conspiracies, family secrets, paid assassins and a cult cloud and threaten their search for Paige and before long, Simon is packing a weapon.

I enjoyed this fast-paced story, with a plot that’s hard to explain without spoilers. Coben gives the reader a view of a happy marriage that comes close to crumbling and a family that, like many families, isn’t what it seems. As in the two other Coben books I’ve read, I like the author’s references to New Jersey and New York, an area where I grew up.

Run Away is entertaining, but the reader will need to accept several far-fetched plot developments. I was okay with them, but did not feel the story was as good as the other Coben books I’ve read (see below). Despite this comment, I would recommend Run Away to readers looking for a fast-paced, not-too-deep summer read and, since summer has just begun, the timing is right!

Looking for other Harlan Coben books? Try Caught and Tell No One

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What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman

What the Dead Know
by
Laura Lippman

Rating:

It’s 1975 when Sunny and Heather Bethany disappear from a busy mall outside Baltimore, Maryland. Under eye-rolling protest to her parents, Sunny had agreed to let her younger sister tag along and eleven-year-old Heather was thrilled to go. Maybe she’d spend her birthday money and they’d definitely get a Karmelkorn. But at fifteen, Sunny had her own plans and the two had separated when they arrived. ”I don’t want to do anything with you. I don’t care where you go. Just do your own thing and come back here at five-twenty,” she’d told her sister.

At 5:30, Dave Bethany waited and waited to pick up his daughters, but they never showed. What happened that day and when do you stop looking? Despite an intensive investigation, the case goes cold, and their exhausted parents’ lives are shattered.

Thirty years later, a mysterious woman returns to Baltimore and claims to be Heather. She knows a great deal about that day in 1975, the Bethany family, and the old neighborhood, but her wily personality is making the detectives suspicious.

In this character-driven mystery, the key players lead the reader through the day the girls disappear and the details of the case. Heading the investigation are Detective Kevin Infante, a twice-divorced ladies’ man and retired detective Chet Willoughby, who was so invested in the case he took the file home with him when he left the force.

The story is written in past and present and from various points of view and readers get a look at the Bethany family before and after the girls’ disappearance, including the parents’ imperfect marriage. I thought it was particularly interesting to see how Dave and Miriam Bethany cope and what they do as the years pass. They have both faced the same tragedy, but adapt in very different ways.

Heather or no, whoever this woman is, she has a painful past and has learned how to survive under the radar, mostly by using her quick mind and manipulative personality.

Lippman reveals key details as the story develops. Some are false leads, others suggest the truth. All is revealed in the final pages with a satisfying conclusion. I enjoyed reading this mystery, published in 2007. Laura Lippman is a New York Times best-selling author of nineteen novels, both stand-alones and the Tess Monaghan series. Her newest standalone, Sunburn, looks like a good summer read!

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Who’s That Indie Author? Lucia N. Davis

Author name:  Lucia N. Davis

Mini bio: I live in Michigan with my husband and our three children. I love to travel and explore the world, whether it is hiking in desolate places with beautiful nature, or sniffing up culture in old (and newer) cities. Having young children makes all of this a bit harder to accomplish, but it’s never too early to expose them.

Genre:  Mystery/Suspense

Books: The Dunnhill Mysteries: The Baby on the Back Porch (#1), The Charm of Lost Chances (#2) and The Secrets of Sinclair Lodge (#3). The main character, Sara Eriksson, moves from San Francisco to a small mountain town in the Northern Cascades, to find some peace and quiet. The old village has been a silent witness to mysterious events long forgotten. But sometimes the past has a way of resurfacing…

Each book can be read as a stand-alone mystery, but some character threads run throughout the series. All books have a paranormal component and a hint of romance.

When did you begin your writing career?  I was always making up stories, and at some point I started writing them down. I published my first story in 2016.

What’s your approach to writing? Are you a “pantser” or a planner?  A bit of both, more like a plantser. I usually start with an outline, just so I have something to focus on when I write, but many things just happen as I go. I like having the freedom of exploring random ideas as they pop up.

What’s your working style – morning or late-night writer?  I write whenever I have a chunk of time available. I have three young children, so free time is not something I have an abundance of. I prefer mornings, since my brain is just more awake, but I’ll write in the evenings as well if I need to.

Do you work at a computer or write long-hand?  Laptop. Writing would give me serious hand cramps!

What gets those words flowing, coffee or tea?  Coffee. No competition.

Favorite book:  Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen was so talented in describing her contemporaries. It’s surprising how many of her observations would still work today.

Favorite movie: That’s a hard one. I don’t have one I’m afraid. There are so many excellent movies to choose from. I don’t get to go to the movies very often, so I always run behind. Nowadays, most of what I watch has to qualify for a kids’ movie night. I just watched the first Harry Potter with my eldest, which was great. And the other day I watched Coco with my seven-year old, and towards the end we were both crying. Also a very good one!

Favorite musician: I don’t have one of those either! It depends on what I do and how I feel. I love so many different kinds of music, ranging from Mozart to Imagine Dragons. I have playlists for different moods, or activities like driving my car and working out.

Links: Website: luciadavis.com
Facebook: @LuciaN.DavisAuthor
Twitter: @LNDavisAuthor
Goodreads: LuciaNDavis


Are you an indie author?  Do you want to build your indie author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

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The Glass Room by Ann Cleeves

The Glass Room
by
Ann Cleeves

Rating:

Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope has another crime to solve when her neighbor, Joanna Tobin, goes missing and an influential professor is murdered. Could Joanna, who is off her meds, be responsible for the professor’s death?

In the fifth of the Vera Stanhope series, which is also a popular show on Netflix, the stocky, gruff and brilliant detective investigates Tony Ferdinand’s murder. With Sergeant Joe Ashworth at her side and Detective Constable Holly Clarke close behind, Vera steps into the unfamiliar realm of writers and publishers, all trying to either get in the game, or stay in it, at Miranda Barton’s Writers’ House.

Ferdinand has been found stabbed and crouching on the balcony off the glass room and Vera is first to question the set-up. “Did he sit on the balcony and wait to be stabbed to death? Or was he moved afterwards? I mean, this all seems madness to me.”

As Vera digs, it seems everyone has something to hide, including Joanna, who is at the house on scholarship. Is what she has written the source of the crime? Why is Miranda’s son Alex defensive about his knives? And what is tutor Nina Backworth’s alibi? She hated Ferdinand and so did Miranda! Others at the weeklong course include a successful crime novelist, a former truck driver with a fresh new voice, and a former police inspector.

True to Vera’s character, the sharp-eyed detective has equally acerbic communications skills, pitting Joe against Holly and irritating many. She may be an imperfect and lonely human being, but no one can match her intuition.

Set in fictional Northumberland, England, I thoroughly enjoyed the coastline setting and clever story, in which the author offers clues, but saves the crucial details for the finish. Vera may be gruff, but Cleeves shows the detective’s soft sides as well. This is the second Stanhope mystery I’ve read. (Check out my review of The Moth Catcher here.) and, while Vera and her crew are regulars, readers will have no problem jumping in wherever they please. I see this as a great way for readers to enjoy books from a series without having to commit to reading a long line of books and I recommend The Glass Room to readers who enjoy entertaining and intelligent mysteries.

Have you read any of the Vera Stanhope books? Have you watched the show? I checked out the first DVD at the library and will be watching it soon!

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