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Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune - Paul Clark Newell Jr., Bill Dedman There is so much info in this book that it is hard to know where to start.At this very moment in time there are two groups of people fighting over Huguette's money. One side is made up of living relatives (a lot of them) and the other side consists of her lawyers, caregivers and charities. The relatives haven't seen the heiress for decades, some of them literally haven't laid eyes on her in half a century. Not one of them checked to see if she was alright or even alive. That might sound strange but being the recluse she was it would have been an easy feat to keep a premature death hidden. All contact to family members was directed via her lawyer and there was no way to contact her directly. Just before she entered the hospital, which was twenty years prior to her death, she was extremely ill and parts of her face were cancer ridden. I will spare you the gory details. Needless to say this was an old woman in her eighties who should have been in care or being cared for. Not one family member bothered to check on her.Huguette enters the hospital and is then subjected to what I can only call financial blackmail, thievery and completely unethical behaviour at the hands of her carers, the hospital and board of directors of the hospital. When a nurse or caregiver is receiving money and gifts to the tune of 20 million dollars then that person is morally and ethically corrupt. There are many examples in the book most of which just had me shaking my head and I have to ask why there was no person there looking out for her best interests? She spent her entire lifetime writing giving away money to anyone and everyone. That generousity was abused by many people. Her property was stolen, her art was stolen by reputable museums, two of her bank safety deposit boxes complete with family jewels were sold off illegally/stolen by her bank. On and on the list goes. Her lawyers were too busy making millions off her back and her family had forgotten she existed.This was an educated woman with amazing connections and a massive fortune, and yet she died as neglected as most of the elderly do in our society. Old and forgotten.The story is filled to the brim with names, places, facts and figures and it does weigh it down. I think the author wanted to make sure he didn't miss any detail, which then meant there was no more room left for any moments of literary prowess.Dedman paid explicit attention to the excessive spending. I have to say I was shocked at the way the relatives dismantled the properties after Huguette's father died. Dumping priceless items in landfills and the sea. Disgusting.I also enjoyed the pictures included in the book. After reading the descriptions it gave faces to names and images to objects, especially to that spectacular mansion.Towards the end I think there was change in tone when the author spoke about the relatives. It seemed as if he had started to feel something akin to anger on her behalf. I tend to agree. I can understand the family for not wanting the people who used Huguette to get any more money and at the same time the family doesn't deserve to have it either. Somebody in that huge wealthy and privileged family should have been watching out for her even if she was difficult.I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.
Heart of Venom - Jennifer Estep After the lukewarm performance of the previous book in this series I am happy to say that both Gin and Estep have got their groove back.After the unfortunate demise of Mab, Gin has been in dire need of a worthy opponent. The psycho sibling villain combo in this book fit the bill quite nicely.Gin has to settle an old debt from the Fletcher's past. She gets all gung-ho and forest ninja to try and save an old friend.I liked the fact that the author took Gin back to her feisty murderous self in this story. She doesn't spend an entire book wondering about Owen or beating herself up about killing Salina. Gin goes back to her old mantra of some people just deserve to die and she is the one that should help them on their way.After all the hardcore Spider action I wasn't overly keen on the way the book ended, but who cares Gin got her groove back.It is a Gin with a huge slice of humanity bouncing round inside her though and I wonder whether that will have some impact on her insect antics further on down the line.A cracking read.I received a copy of this book via Edelweiss courtesy of the publisher.
Hanns and Rudolf: The German Jew and the Hunt for the Kommandant of Auschwitz - Thomas Harding The author has gone back into the early childhood and adult years to give a little insight into the character of Höss. Most of the men in powerful positions during the Nazi era were the same age and I wonder if there is any correlation between their possible involvement in live warfare during WW1 and their propensity to commit acts of savagery without any sense of wrongdoing. That isn't an excuse of course, but we are talking about normal men from everyday walks of life, who ordered and committed atrocious acts of cruelty upon their fellow human beings.Although Höss was given the assessment/title of psychopath (in this book) by a medical professional I would argue that the person diagnosing him was probably not impartial enough for that title to be definitive without further assessment by other professionals.Deeming him a person with psychopathic tendencies makes it easier for the lay person to accept that someone, or any person, would help create and perfect a killing system of such proficiency the likes of which has never been seen before and I hope never is again. Instead of accepting the reality that the majority of the people in charge were just Tom, Dick and Harry's and nice girls from next door.What I admired most about the way the author described Hanns Alexander was the way he didn't hide the anger. He didn't try to be diplomatic or hide what he really felt. Hanns wore his anger on his sleeve.These criminals took his home, his city and some of his family. Why wasn't anyone looking for justice for the victims? Forgotten during the war, despite reports of mass murder, and forgotten after the war, because punishing the criminals didn't take precedence over post-war power struggles. So Hanns ended up acting like a vigilante to get the information he wanted and he let his anger control his actions.None of us can say how we would react to seeing the horrors and live evidence of the suffering in the aftermath of the liberation.The writing suffered now and again from the literal translation, which was evident in the sentence structure.Aside from that this book is a powerful reminder that some of the perpetrators were actually hunted down and punished. Unfortunately the reality is that only a few received their dues and the majority of the murderers were allowed to live a full life, unlike their many victims.Historical accounts like this should serve as a reminder never to forget.I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.
Twilight Hunter - Kait Ballenger There is an overuse of the word estrus in this book.Apparently it wasn't memorable enough the first two, three or four times so it needed to be bandied around a bit more.I think the author needs take a closer look at shifter and pack law. Yes, it is fiction and there are always ways and means of bending the rules, but if half the story hangs on the rules within the pack then they need to be adhered to a tad more.Frankie is one weak derriere of an Alpha. She is not only led by her auspicious estrus, which she also uses as an excuse at every turn, she also acts like a lone wolf and not a leader of a pack.Packmasters don't just up and leave their pack at a whim and they should also command respect from their pack. Then again Frankie was way too busy either being naked, crying in the corner or banging strange half-breeds to master any pack.Jace also needs to work on his too hot to handle pick up lines when he is overcome by the infamous estrus of said naked wolf. Downright insulting, but then again perhaps he was just overcome by the size of his own gigantic manhood. Blood, brain and gravity.Overall it was an ok read that could be a good one if more attention is paid to supernatural etiquette.I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.
The Watchers - Jon Steele This was a difficult one to review.The opening scene was superb.The first half was disjointed and confusing at times. Switching from one character to the next with no apparent connection to any of their stories. Wandering from the present day Rochat to the past and back again.Based on the opening scene I thought the plot was about some audacious supernatural race saving or fetching souls of the dead, so I was slightly confused when it turned into a modern version of Quasimodo and Esmeralda.At the halfway mark the reader finally gets some indication of what it is all about and how the three main characters are connected. So after slothing along for half a book things then speed up. Quasimodo, sorry Rochat the bellwhisperer, is suddenly confronted with the Nephilim. So the story morphs into a nefarious plot executed by fallen angels, who happen to act like the notorious Illuminati.Sometimes authors try to outsmart both themselves and their readers. They try to create and introduce pseudo literary works of art instead of just telling a good story.In this case I was disappointed because the writing is good. The descriptive scenes of Rochat and the bells are so intensely real you can almost hear him speaking to them.Overall I would suggest less procrastination and more clarity.I received a copy of this book via Netgalley.
The Angel Stone (Fairwick Chronicles, #3) - Juliet Dark,  Carol Goodman This is the third in the Fairwick series. It can be read as a stand-alone novel but I would recommend reading the first two to get more insight into the story.[b:The Demon Lover|11436723|The Demon Lover (Fairwick Chronicles, #1)|Juliet Dark|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1336505484s/11436723.jpg|16370337].This book takes us back to the origins of the man who becomes the demon lover. Without revealing any spoilers it turns out he gets around a lot and that aspect of the storyline got a tad confusing and perhaps borderline incestuous. Then again maybe I got lost in the family connections, fae time travel and the overall rules of reincarnation. What can I say it happens to me all the time.The author always showers her plots with a huge amount of sub-plots. Lost doors that aren't really doors because they are gates but are actually not real gates cos the door isn't really a door. Get that?The school has been taken over by the Nephilim and various related branches of supernatural species. Unfortunately one of the fraternity houses is being run by a bunch of mysogynistic soul-sucking girl abusing scumbags and their methods of persuasion are disgusting even for mythological creatures.The main character seems to have a tiny problem when it comes to attractive males. She feels an instant attraction to anyone who winks, smiles or growls in her general direction. A little self-control wouldn't go amiss seeing as how this is why she always ends up in so much trouble.Overall it was a bouncy creative read that could do with a little more structure.I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.
Hearts in Darkness - Keri Arthur An early series by Arthur and most certainly not her strongest. It also isn't indictive of her talent. The Riley Jenson Guardian books are much better [b:Full Moon Rising|172764|Full Moon Rising (Riley Jenson Guardian, #1)|Keri Arthur|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1320534317s/172764.jpg|907142].This is the second in the Nikki and Michael series. It still suffers from a dilly dallying heroine, who acts like an awkward heroine in a black and white silent movie.Throughout the book there seems to be a cycle of events.Nikki seeks out the villain, Nikki suffers from some sort of fainting energy sucking weakness, Michael swoops in and then storms off and Nikki disappears and is suddenly back again from wherever she went. Repeat cycle. Add the odd 'why we should be together but aren't together dialogue' and wait for the next cycle.It is amateur, vague, lacks character depth and a decent plot. All of that can be forgiven knowing that Arthur is actually capable of writing really good para-sup. stories, so I just chalk this down to the fact it is her early work.I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.
Clean Burn - Karen Sandler This author is usually known for her romance novels and often when authors hop-skip genres they can't separate them.I am very pleased to say that Sandler has hop-skipped with great skill and precision into the crime/thriller genre without skewing the lines.This story is dark, compelling and gritty. It is realistic and disturbing.It broaches upon many painful topics like child abduction, child abuse and paedophilia. The subject matter has obviously been well researched and gives a disturbing insight into some of the aspects of organised child abduction rings.It also sheds light on the so-called low level risk children that disappear each year but because they are low level nobody realises they are missing. That dark and unknown number of children is never counted with the already horrifically high numbers of children who go missing. The author has managed to deliver the message without the use of gratuitous violence or scenes.The main character is flawed aka human. She isn't a machete swinging ninja expert with the body of a goddess and the looks of an angel.She is a walking billboard for the fractured and abused. Unfortunately she also has a penchant for fire. It just happens to be her addiction, her obsession and her sick safety blanket.This was a gripping and enjoyable read and I look forward to reading the next in the series.I received a copy of this book via Netgalley.
Derek's in Trouble - Mac Black I would suggest reading [b:Please... Call Me Derek|14571718|Please... Call Me Derek|Mac Black|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1348296119s/14571718.jpg|20214456] to get a better feel of the writing style and Derek's story.Actually based on the first chapter it might just be a good idea because of the completely bizarre situation the main character is in the middle of. You have to know Derek to understand why eccentric is the norm for him.Black has a very distinctive style. The humour is quirky and often whimsical with an underlying wit.Think on the lines of one man telling the story of his life in a low key satirical way.The first book covers his childhood. This one is about his adult life and the beginning of his marriage.The author has been honing his craft because this second book has more focus, better structure and the character have more depth.It might not be every readers cup of tea, as I mentioned before the author has a very distinctive style. Black humour, taking the proverbial urine out of his character and the situations.I received a copy of this book courtesy of the author.
Unleash the Curse - Alexa Egan As a species the Imnada seem like a potentially interesting shape-shifter.At the moment I am at a loss to say what exactly they are. Hairy, big and beastlike is the best I can come up with. At the moment the series is a combination of romance meets paranormal with the romance side getting more of a legs up. If the author wants to stay more grounded in the para genre then the shifter/creature/fey storyline needs to be developed a wee bit more. Give those monstrous soul-feeders a chance to shine.This is short prequel to the second novel, which will hopefully be a better indicator of where the author is headed with this idea.I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.
Elysian Fields - Suzanne  Johnson Have you ever seen one of those Guinness World Record things where the goal is to try and fit as many people into a phone as physically possible?This book was exactly like that when it came to characters.Having a merry amount of complex characters with yen amount of history and titles can work if the plot is solid enough that the crowd of extras doesn't interfere with it. Unfortunately the main plot in this book was a little like a gopher in a hole. Sometimes peeking its head out, but more often than not it wasn't.The second half of the book was more on target and it finally felt as if the story about the infamous axe wielding murderer was coming along until it was interrupted by the other main storyline, which wasn't one when the book started by the way.Now, whilst that might sound a tad on a negative side I have to say that the author has an abundance of creativity and ideas. They just don't all have to take place in the same book at the same time.So in the second half DJ not only finds out what or who Rand is, she also makes a decision that will influence her work and love life.I think this series could be a lot stronger if the author has wee bit more focus and is able to channel all those great ideas in a more decisive way.I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.
Enemies: The Girl in the Box, Book Seven - Robert J. Crane This is book 7 in one of my favourite series. Sienna Nealon the meta-hybrid with a fistful of attitude and the strength of multiple hulks is back.For new readers I would suggest Alone: The Girl in the Box, Book 1 so you can get a better idea of how, why, when and who.I can remember saying something along the lines of this is the quiet before the storm about book six, well this book is the storm. It is the tornado called Sienna Nealon and she is crying out for vengeance and weeping tears of blood.Just not her blood.Does that sound too excited? Mayhap, but the main character shows a side to herself that even she didn't know existed. Since book one we have watched her fight internal conflicts with her humanity and now that side of her seems to be losing the battle.Wolfe still seems to be the unknown variable in the equation. He is often X or Y and sometimes both at the same time. Is he the driving force or is this ipso facto a part of her character or genetics that the Old Ones (you know them Gods and such like)know exist inside her and yet she is completely unaware of it all?Sienna ends up in merry old England and meets a quirky irish chap with a penchant for luck and witty quips. Despite her personal grievance she is forced to deal with the ultimate threat. A threat that may force a coalition of enemies.People and popular characters drop like flies being executed by a huge meta flyswat.So now let's get down to the real nitty gritty.There is a secret.Ok to be fair the fact that Old Man Winter has been keeping info to himself has been evident for a long time. That secret has something to do with who or what Sienna really is.My inner Sherlock thought I had solved it there for a moment, but then I realised that Crane was smarter.No worries, I shall figure it out, just you wait.Overall it was a cracking read and one of those books you just can't put down until you have eagerly gobbled up the last page and clicked/swiped/looked for just one page more.I received a copy of this book courtesy of the author.
Blood and Bone - Don Hoesel Third installment of an adventure series a la National Treasure.I thought there was enough info given about the previous books to warrant this being a stand-alone novel.Although the whole plot is centred around the two young sons of the main characters being kidnapped, they seemed to forget it a lot. The parents would be so engrossed in their treasure hunt that the two boys became an afterthought. That aspect of the storyline felt insincere. Then again perhaps I just felt that there was a complete lack of concern missing on the parents part.Every tight situation had a covenient solution and the ending was a little picture perfect. It was an ok read.Plenty of potential and with a little more depth it could be a cracking one. I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley.
The Death of Lucy Kyte  - Nicola Upson Kudos to the author for bringing attention to Josephine Tey aka Elizabeth MacKintosh, scottish writer of murder mysteries and a successful playwright.Upson has created a main fictional character based on the image, I presume, that Upson has of Tey. That in itself would have been a challenge, as Tey was multifaceted and also elusive as a person. Tey actively avoided the pres and public attention.The story suffered on occasion from drawn out descriptions and purple prose, which made it slightly long-winded at times.At the same time it was the intricate detailed descriptions of the gardens, buildings and the cottage that gave the book a comfortable feeling of deja-vu. Even the plants, windows and furniture had a part to play in the overall scheme of the storyline.Upson has used a notorious nineteenth century true crime as the basis for this story. She has given a previously unheard voice to the murder victim and to a young girl who worked for the murderer. Obviously these voices are completely fictitous and yet simultaneously plausible. I think that is what made the story so intriguing. It wasn't outlandish or unbelievable.The author has also highlighted the role of the single female in that era. The strong independent type that tends to end up caring for the elderly parents or siblings, as opposed to the married or male siblings who are eager to pass on the responsibility. These selfless acts are rarely acknowledged, even now in our day and age.I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley.
Throne of Glass II - Sarah J. Maas After a bit of a slow start I had this pegged as the usual YA pseudo fantasy.I didn't really notice how it was reeling me in bit by bit until I realised there was some element about it that had peaked my interest.I ended up really enjoying it.Celaena has her own agenda, despite the fact she believes she is acting on behalf of an ancient queen, she is driven by her secrets and painful past.Chaol needs to rethink his occupation or take some IQ tablets. Talk about ignoring the obvious and thereby inadvertently betraying the person he supposedly loves the most.Dorian needs to grow a pair of brass ones, stand up to the tyrant and pull out the tongue of his derriere kissing cousin.Simple.Then Celaena wouldn't have to go all ninja assassin nuclear balastic on everyone all the time. That's when she isn't busy being a bookworm that is. Got to love how the author slipped that in there.It seems as if Maas is just finding her literary comfort zone with this series and I hope the next book will be indicative of that zone.I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley.
Water - Natasha Hardy This has the potential to be a lot more.There is so much going on that sometimes less is more and it doesn't all have to be packed into one book.Kudos to the author for slipping in the ecological and environmental agenda and making it part and parcel of the fantastical scenario. This way it is calling attention to an almost hidden toxic problem, which is being ignored on a global level, whilst entertaining the reader with stories of merpeople.The various tribes of merpeople are quite vast and complex. A prologue or glossary might be a good idea.Personally I thought the Brent storyline lacked a concise explanation. Why wasn't he in a genetic and/or physical position to react the way his sister did?Overall I think this story could have stronger character development and do with more focus on the main plot instead of wandering off on ten different tangents. The typical YA feel is there, but suffers a little by being a bit drab and teenagey.Hardy needs to own her merpeople and that complex history she has created. Show the reader that creativity with a more determined stance, rather than letting us fill in the blanks.I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley.