“With Malice” Eileen Cook

Rated 4 stars **** ARC. Ebook. To be published June 7, 2016. HMH Books for Young Readers.

WithMaliceJill and Simone have been best friends since fourth grade even though they’re complete opposites. Simone is a cheerleader, likes to flirt with boys, drink and party while Jill enjoys blogging about world events, studying, and making sure her GPA stays at 4.0. With graduation approaching, Jill has already been accepted to Yale while Simone doesn’t yet have plans for her future.

When both girls go on a school trip to Italy, Simone is killed in a car accident and Jill is accused of her murder. Airlifted back to the United States with amnesia, broken bones and extended rehab, Jill struggles to regain her memory. She is desperate to find out what really happened before she gets sent back to Italy to face murder charges. When readers finally find out what happened that fateful day, they will be shocked. I know I was, and actually gasped out loud. Kudos to Cook for that!

Cook does a great job stringing readers along, slowly providing the back-story of Simone and Jill’s lives through teacher, family and friend interviews provided to U.S. and Italian detectives. Despite the interesting storyline, I only gave this book 4 stars instead of 5 because I had a problem with the descriptions of Italian cities and places to visit, taken from travel guidebooks. I didn’t think they were necessary to Simone and Jill’s lives, and the story Cook was unraveling about them.

Recommended for readers ages 14 and older.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


“Playing with Fire” Tess Gerritsen

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. To be published October 27, 2015. Ballantine (Random). Includes Historical Notes.

PlayingWithFireNetgalley provided me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Told in two points of view, readers are first introduced to Julia Andsdell, a violin player married to Rob, and mother to 3-year-old Lily. Her life was perfectly ordinary until she brought home a book of music from an antiques dealer in Venice containing a complicated piece of music titled “Incendio.” One day while caught up playing it she was shocked to discover her daughter had killed their cat. Julia soon realizes every time she plays “Incendio” Lily has another violent episode. It seems as if Lily wants her dead, but why? No one believes her, but Julia is sure the answer lies in “Incendio’s” origin. As she begins to ask questions about its composer, death and destruction arrive at her doorstep.

Interspersed in Julia’s story is that of Lorenzo Todesco, a violin prodigy growing up in 1938 Italy. Hitler had not yet advanced on the country but, within a short while, Lorenzo’s musical prospects had come to a halt. Separated forever from his family and the love of his life, Lorenzo has only his violin and music to keep him sane. However, they may not be enough.

I absolutely LOVED this book! It made me cry, but good books are meant to draw in the reader and make them experience the lives of its characters. Gerritsen succeeded on both counts. Her Historical Notes did much to set the book in its time and place.

Highly recommended for Adults.

“Bourne & Tributary” Lisa T. Bergren

Rated 2 stars ** River of Time #3.1 and 3.2. ebook. 2012. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. Includes photographs.

Bourne&TributaryThese two novellas, told in alternate voices, continue the Betarrini sisters’ life in medieval times.

In “Bourne,” an elusive band of assassins from Firenze are roaming the countryside seeking the death of the brothers-in-arms that had come to Marcello’s aid in the recent battle. With Luca as one of their targets Lia jumps into She-Wolf mode, with the same devil-may-care attitude for adventure displayed in earlier books by Gabriella.

In “Tributary,” readers are introduced to young and beautiful Alessandra Donatelli, a Fiorentini peasant girl. While out hunting, she is injured and taken to the Castello for healing. Marcello has been charged by her suspicious father to keep her safe until his return in 5 days. Unbeknownst to him, Alessandra is planning on doing some spying while a secret plan is afoot to use her to destroy the Sienese forever. It’s only a matter of time until Gabriella and Lia find themselves in another battle for their lives.

Despite not wanting to read any more of the series, I will have to find out what happens to the sisters in the SUPPOSEDLY final book “Deluge,” due out in late Spring. Hopefully Bergren will fix the grammatical errors encountered in this self-published book, as well as make sure not to mix up her characters as she did with Lord Barbato and Lord Foraboschi in a couple of places.

The adventure for the Betarrini sisters is nonstop in these two novellas, probably thrilling Bergren’s 12-17 year old fans but growing tiresome for me.



“Torrent” Lisa T. Bergren

Rated 4 stars **** River of Time, book #3. 2011. David C. Cook. ebook. Includes Discussion Questions,  Historical Notes and After Words.

TorrentIn the midst of the battle, the Betarrini women escape to the Etruscan tombs. They plan to negotiate the time warp to allow them to return to the future to save their father from the accident that killed him. Once they’ve managed to convince him they are not crazy, he enters the tomb with them and they are transported back to medieval times.

In the year they’d been gone (despite it only being an hour and a half real time), both Castello Forelli and Paratore have fallen to Firenze. The group ultimately finds Marcello settled in the former Rossi palace in Siena, but Fortino has been imprisoned. The only trade to be considered is Gabriella herself, which Marcello flatly refuses to accept.

True to style, Gabriella convinces him she can be used as bait, and that they could get Fortino released as she will manage to escape. Instead she winds up captured, taken far away, and promised in marriage to Lord Greco. It will be up to Marcello and her family to try to rescue her once again. So begins a series of adventure after adventure that will leave everyone reading the book scratching their heads in bewilderment as to how one character could manage to survive so much.

I was not as happy with “Torrent” as with the other books in the series because Gabriella’s continued devil-may-care “I’m gonna go ahead and rescue everybody cos I’m the only one that can do it” attitude really stared to get on my nerves. She seriously could not seem to get how much danger she was putting herself and others in, as she continually threw herself into harm’s way. It seemed like Bergren went a little overboard in having her get captured more times in this one book than in the other two put together.

Her 12-17 year old fans will probably forgive her, especially with a couple of novellas to continue this SUPPOSEDLY last book in the series. I really, really dislike when authors don’t keep their word and END a series as they’d promised. I liked it since it, supposedly, tied everything up in a final knot but will leave it up to you to decide if You Want to Read it or Not.

“Cascade” Lisa T. Bergren

Rated 5 stars ***** River of Time, book #2. 2011. David C. Cook. ebook. Includes A Chat with Lisa Bergren, Discussion Questions,  Historical and Factual Notes and Acknowledgments.

CascadeThis amazing series, set in Italy in 1342, continues where book #1 stopped. At the end of “Waterfall,” when we last saw Gabriella and Lia, they had been forced to return to modern times due to Gabriella’s poisoning.

“Cascade” opens with the sisters trying to convince their mother of what had happened, while the now healed Gabriella urges her to return with them to the past as she wants to be with Marcello. Mrs. Betarrini decides to trust their judgement and returns to medieval times with them. Once there, the girls are reunited with the very handsome Marcello and Luca.

However things are not well with Marcello and his men. Their Fiorentini enemies are determined to retake Castello Paratore while also overtaking Castello Forelli and overthrowing Siena. Capturing the She-Wolves of Siena (Gabriella and Lia) are also part of their plan, and it is only a matter of time before Gabriella, her mother and Lia will be in the fight of their lives.

“Cascade” is a great, action filled read which will delight Bergren’s 12-17 year old fans, while also bringing in new ones. I look forward to the next book “Torrent,” to find out if Marcello, Gabriella, Luca and Lia get to live happily ever after.

“Waterfall” Lisa T. Bergren

Rated 5 stars ***** River of Time, book #1. 2011. David C. Cook. ebook. Includes Discussion Questions, an Interview with the Author, Acknowledgements, Historical Notes and a Bibliography.

WaterfallFifteen-year-old Lia and seventeen-year-old Gabriella’s mother is an archaeologist of Etruscan tombs in Italy. They’ve been warned to never go into any of her tombs or touch anything but, bored with the lack of interesting things for teenagers to do in the small village, they disobey and sneak into a tomb. While exploring they find a set of mysterious hand prints that, when touched, managed to suddenly transport them back to medieval times.

Rescued from a battle as she emerged from the tomb by the very handsome Lord Marcello, Gabriella seeks refuge in his castle. She doesn’t expect to fall in love with him, as he’s betrothed to another, but fate has a way of stepping in where we least expect it to be.

As Gabriella seeks to find Lia, who had become separated from her on their time travel journey, readers are soon awash in humorous and historical accounts of the lives of lords and ladies along with their knights (and everything associated with the 1300’s) as seen through Gabriella’s modern eyes.

Gabriella discovers many differences between her former life and her current one, managing to overcome difficulty after difficulty in her quest to continue with her charade as the Lady Gabriella Betarrini of Normandy, while seeking Lia and a way back to her own time. Adventures and battles line her path, along with jealousy, fear and love. “Waterfall” is very well researched, quite exciting, and a very interesting read for ages 12-17. I look forward to reading book #2 “Cascade.”

“Inferno” Dan Brown

2013. Doubleday. 463 pp.

DanBrownDan Brown begins his latest epic adventure with our favorite symbologist Robert Langdon awakening in a Venice hospital. Disoriented and bleeding from a gunshot wound, he soon finds himself on the run from a gun toting woman intent on finishing the job. Aided by Sienna Brooks, a doctor he met in the hospital, Robert strains to recover his memory while unraveling a mysterious clue found hidden in his famous Harris tweed jacket.

The object eventually leads him to Bertrand Zobrist, a crazed scientist upset with the overpopulation of the world. Using Dante Alighieri’s ancient poem the “Divine Comedy” as inspiration, Zobrist created something that would result in a mass extinction of humanity, similar to what occurred during The Black Death in the middle ages. Langdon and others are soon battling time as they desperately seek Zobrist’s time bomb.

Brown leads adult readers on a chase throughout Venice and its history as they learn more about Dante and the artists he inspired. Along the way, readers are confronted with questions of humanity that will leave them pondering Zobrist’s methods in a new light.