Monday, June 30, 2008

Jenn's Review: Fearless Fourteen

Summary:

Personal vendettas, hidden treasure, and a monkey named Carl will send bounty hunter Stephanie Plum on her most explosive adventure yet.

The Crime:
Armed robbery to the tune of nine million dollars ~ Dom Rizzi robbed a bank, stashed the money and did the time. His family couldn't be more proud. He always was the smart one.

The Cousin:
Joe Morelli ~ Joe Morelli, Dom Rizzi and Dom's sister Loretta are cousins. Morelli is a cop, Rizzi robs banks, and Loretta is a single mother waiting tables at the firehouse. The all American family.

The Complications:
Murder, kidnapping, destruction of personal property, and acid reflux ~ Less than a week after Dom's release from prison, Joe Morelli has shadowy figures breaking into his house and dying in his basement. He's getting threatening messages, Loretta is kidnapped, and Dom is missing.

The Catastrophe:
Moonman ~ Morelli hires Walter "Mooner" Dunphy, stoner and "inventor" turned crime-fighter to protect his house. Morelli can't afford a lot on a cop's salary, and Mooner will work for potatoes.

The Cupcake:
Stephanie Plum ~ Stephanie and Morelli have a long-standing relationship that involves sex, affection and driving each other nuts. She's a bond enforcement agent with more luck than talent, and she's involved in this bank-robbery-gone-bad disaster from day one.

The Crisis:
A favor for Ranger ~ Security expert Carlos Manoso, street name Ranger, has a job for Stephanie that will involve night-work. Morelli has his own ideas regarding Stephanie's evening activities.

The Conclusion:
Only the fearless should read fourteen ~ Thrills, chills and possible incontinence may result.

Review: I was ready to revisit Stephanie and so instead of buzzing through this book in a day, I took my time and savored it. After Lean Mean Thirteen, I was a little leery of the sillies that seemed to be attacking Stephanie. Not so with Fourteen. I really felt this was a more mature Stephanie. There was a great blend of Grandma and Mooner with just a splash of family dinner. There was Ranger and a whole lot of Morelli. I usually don't look at the reviews on Amazon before writing my own, but I skimmed them when I was looking over the summary and I was surprised to see so many mixed reviews. There are a lot of disappointed 'Babes' out there, apparently, but I am not one of them. It was nice to see both Joe and Stephanie have grown up a little... Steph's no longer running and he's no longer trying to control. In fact Joe actually seems to have accepted Stephanie as being a half-way decent investigator, because he's starting to give her assignments. Morelli worried about her without strong arming. How refreshing.

Yes, Grandma Mazur as a hardcore gamer was silly, but not so unusual for Grandma. It was a good dose of Grandma without being too much. For me, Evanovich struck a good balance with the silly and the serious. I really enjoyed this one and thank you to my fellow bloggers for turning me on to the series back when. I can say without trepidation, "You'll like this one better, Julie."

Continue reading the review...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Julie's Review: Body Surfing

Photobucket Summary: Set adrift at 29 by the sudden death of her second husband (her first divorced her), smart, underemployed Sydney (no last name) signs on for a quiet New England oceanfront summer of tutoring 18-year-old Julie, the intellectually slow but artistically talented and strikingly beautiful daughter of the fractious Edwards clan. The family includes Julie's brothers—35-year-old Boston corporate real estate man Ben and 31-year-old M.I.T. poli-sci professor Jeff—and the three children's parents. Sydney is half-Jewish, and Mrs. Edwards is anti-Semitic. Family tensions escalate when Julie disappears, then resurfaces in Montreal as the lesbian lover of 25-year-old Helene (a body surfer who frequented the beach near the Edwardses' home). Jeff and Sydney bond during their search for Julie, nights of passion leading to plans for a joyous wedding, which get very complicated when the couple returns to Edwards central. Shreve's devastating depiction of the family's dissolution—the culmination of sublimated jealousies suddenly exploding into the open—is wrenching. Shreve's omniscience is asserted with such ease that it often feels like she's toying with her characters, but her control is masterful, particularly in the sure-handed and compassionate aftermath. ~amazon.com

Review: I've been a huge fan of Anita Shreve ever since my mom gave me The Pilot's Wife (Oprah's Book Club) to read. I know I haven't read them all but pretty close to it. Body Surfing: A Novel isn't part of a series perse, but it feels like it because the beach house used in the book has been a part of several of her novels. It is to the point now where the house itself has become a main character. I love the house and it's history. It's as alive as any of the characters here.

In my opinion, this isn't Ms. Shreve's strongest novel. The characters are a little weak and while the prose is beautiful, the plot just didn't fully engage me. I figured out the plot fairly early on but I wanted to really find out what happened to a few of the characters. The main protagonist is Sydney and she's a bit lost after losing her 2nd husband to a sudden death. She's hired on as a tutor for the Edwards' daughter Julie, who Ms. Shreve tries to portray as "slow" but I don't think really succeeds. I like Sydney and felt she was give a raw deal in life but I didn't love her. I wanted her to become stronger and at the end I didn't feel like she had grown any. The only other 2 characters I really enjoyed were Julie and Mr. Edwards. There was something about Mr. Edwards that radiated warmth.

A few plot points never fully get resolved; instead you the reader are left to surmise what the cause and effects are based on what you know. It's an interesting way to write but I like an ending that is clear not blurry. It's an interesting book about the inner workings of a family and sibling rivarly but not Ms. Shreve's finest work. For her finest work (of course my opinion) you should read Fortune's Rocks: A Novel and Sea Glass: A Novel.

Final Take: 3.75/5

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Book to Movie: The Tenth Circle

If you read the blog with any regularity you know that I'm a huge Jodi Picoult fan. I'm sorry to say that The Tenth Circle: A Novel isn't one of them but I will probably read it in 2008.

Nonetheless, I'm excited that Lifetime has chosen to adapt another one of her novels to the small screen. When I saw Jodi speak in March, she was excited about the movie and how they handled the graphic comic that is key in the book. So, while it airs this weekend The Tenth Cirlce movie, I won't be viewing it. Instead, I'll record it and save it for viewing after I read the book.

It airs on 6/28 at 9pm EST on Lifetime.

Continue reading the review...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Stephenie Meyer & The Twilight Collection

Okay, so I sent the Stephenie Meyer Twilight series to my high school graduate niece for her birthday this winter and now she's more informed about what's going on with the series than I am!

I've been awaiting the release of the third (oops, FOURTH! Thanks, planetbooks, I've read all three but apparently I can't count either!!!) book, Breaking Dawn, on August 2 and I had heard rumblings about the first book becoming a movie but it's way farther along than I realized. The movie is set to be released December 12th and you can catch a trailer here if you haven't already seen it in a theatre: http://www.twilightthemovie.com/. Harry Potter fans will immediately recognize the actor who won the role of the heartbreaking Edward, Robert Pattinson (AKA Cedric). I am truly excited to see how this translates into film and will certainly review it for our site.

Apparently, Ms. Meyer is also rewriting Twilight from Edward's point of view in a novel called Midnight Sun to be completed after she has finished the series.

Many thanks to Crystal for bringing her Aunt up to date...

Continue reading the review...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Julie's Review: The Woods

Photobucket Summary: In this stand-alone legal thriller, Harlan Coben presents a riveting courtroom drama, creates riveting players, and delves into family secrets, love, loss, mistakes, and betrayal. A few critics noted that while The Woods falls into Coben's typical formula—a past crime affects innocent people in the present—it still comes off as fresh. The trial scenes, Cope's ruminations on what really happened that night, and the back-and-forth narration are particularly well done. Only the Washington Post faulted the novel's cheap thrills, improbable revelations, and awkward conclusion. Nevertheless, few readers will remain unaffected by its emotional heft. ~amazon.com

Review: Both my step-dad and dad read this and told me I would really like it and they were right. This book is an adventure in twists and turns. The main character, Paul Copeland is a good guy who made a mistake 20 years ago and that mistake haunts him to this day. 20 years ago there were 4 murders at a camp in "the woods" and Paul was there but it what capacity we aren't quite sure because teh story is told from his point of view. We have to take the story at face value and believe that he's telling us the truth. Of course Coben is really good at making us believe in Paul (or Cope as he's called throughout the novel) because he puts him in a position that typically earns respect...Prosecutor. There are several different story plots going on in The Woods. There's the current trial that Paul is prosecuting, the murders that happened years ago at the camp, his dad's history and what happened to Paul's mom. Early in the book and even towards the end I wondered how Mr. Coben was going to wrap it up in a nice bow, but he did so in a satisfying ending.

The characters are intriguing and very well rounded. You get a sense of who Paul and Lucy were 20 years ago and why they became who they are. I enjoyed how Paul's current trial wrapped into his past.

This is an very solid mystery thriller that keeps you guessing until the final pages and even keeps you guessing after you've finished it.

I will leave you with this last thought..."The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children." ~Merchant of Venice act III, sc. V, l. 1(Shakespeare)

Final Take: 4.0/5

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Jenn's Review: The 5th Horseman

Summary: The members of the Women's Murder Club face an unspeakable menace in the most suspenseful hospital drama since Coma. Lieutenant Lindsay Boxer is shopping with the newest member of the Women's Murder Club, lawyer Yuki Castellano, and Yuki's mother, Keiko, when suddenly Keiko collapses. She's rushed to San Francisco Medical Center where her condition stabilizes. Yet days later, the hospital calls Yuki with devastating news. Keiko was given the wrong medication and it brought on a fatal heart attack. Even more astonishing, this is not the first time SFMC has made this mistake. Just as patients are about to be released with a clean bill of health, their conditions take a mysterious turn for the worse. As the hospital comes under scrutiny, Lindsay and the Women's Murder Club investigate for themselves. Is there a maniac at work, playing God with peoples lives? And has Lindsay somehow made him -- or her -- even worse? ~Amazon.com



Review:
When solving a puzzle the simplest answer is usually the correct one, in this case there are two simple answers... making it... complicated. Too much was left to coincidence for my taste and neither story was fully worked out enough. There were too many holes and too many unfinished details. There was an all too brief appearance of Lindsay's boyfriend that felt like a consolation prize. This book seemed hurried and not up to the standards of the series in my opinion.

This was my least favorite of the Women's Murder Club so far (but oh boy did it make me think twice about taking my child to the hospital - ever!!!). I think the title is a little melodramatic and I'm not sure it really fits the bill. The murders actually disturbed me a little this time, although that may have had something to do with the age of the last victim. It was still a page turner though; I finished it in a day. It was a good Women's Murder Club fix especially since apparently we won't be seeing it's return to television in the fall. Too bad, I thought it was an excellent vehicle for Angie Harmon and I loved the chemistry of the cast.

Final Take: 4.0/5

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Group Review: Frankenstein

Summary: Frankenstein, loved by many decades of readers and praised by such eminent literary critics, seems hardly to need a recommendation. If you haven't read it recently, though, you may not remember the sweeping force of the prose, the grotesque, surreal imagery, and the multilayered doppelgänger themes of Mary Shelley's masterpiece.

Jenn's Review: Every once in a while I find that it's time to read through a classic... and it was time. This is an incredibly dark tale and I was a little surprised at just how dark. It's depressing (welcome to the Gothic novel). I could help but think that if it was written today it might be picked to pieces by critics, but for it's time, what a chiller!!! It's the classic argument of nature vs. science and actually could have some interesting modern interprtations of the like. I didn't realize prior to picking it up that it was conveyed in letters from a third party to a fourth. Looking back on it, I could have done without a little of the third party exposition, but the third party was necessary to finish the final account of the days.

I can't help but feel sorry for the creature, not to the point where I could empathize the murder of innocent bystanders, but I did sympathize with him. I got frustrated with Frankenstein though, as he continued to create more problems for himself than he solved, and effecting all he loved in the process. All in all, I'm glad I read it, but I think I'll stick to Romantic thrillers, such as Dracula, from here on out.

As for Frankenstein, I favor Mel Brook's interpretation. "Puttin' on da Riiiitz"

Jenn's Final Take: 4.0/5


Julie's Review: I didn't know what to expect when Jenn chose Frankenstein for our group book. I've never really watched Hollywood's version of this novel (ok I do kind of think of Mr. Munster) and I'm glad I did not have any preconceived ideas regarding the deamon/monster. See now I always thought that the title Frankenstein referred to the name of the monster, but alas I was incorrect, it is the surname of the deamon's creator, Victor Frankenstein.

I found the book to be a great read and sorry that I hadn't read it long ago. I'm amazed that Mary Shelley wrote this book at the age of 18 given the themes throughout. I was intrigued by Victor's need to create life from death and the reasons he went this direction. His rejection of his creation made me wonder what would have happened if God had rejected Adam after creating him? Since Adam was made in God's likeness, did Victor create the daemon in his likeness? If so, was that how he viewed himself? Also, what path would Victor and the daemon gone down if Victor had embraced him?

I think this also brings up interesting points on nature vs. nurture. Was the deamon destined to be a monster? Or would his demeanor been different if he had been embraced and loved? Even if Victor had created the Bride, was the deamon too far lost to turn his destiny around? Were the two of them destined to destroy each other? To be miserable? To be so set on revenge?

I believe the book also addresses societal views on attractiveness. If someone looks different than us, do we automatically judge them based on this? I think so, especially when it comes to physical deformities. Most of the time we don't know how to deal with the differences and therefore reject the person or persons. I think it was brilliant insight of Ms. Shelley to incorporate this into her book. It's a theme that resonates still today. (What does that say about how far the human race has come?)

I enjoyed how the story was written. I enjoyed that we heard the story from Victor's point of view through Captain Walton. I thought the ending was fitting to the book even though a part of me wanted a great big showdown. My only complaint was how quickly the deamon learned how to speak and feel. This takes human's years to learn, but because it was a horror novel I suspended reality.


If you haven't read it, I recommend it since it's a story that will resonate for decades/centuries to come.


Julie's Final Take: 4.25/5

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Julie's Review: The Queen's Fool

Photobucket Summary: It is winter, 1553. Pursued by the Inquisition, Hannah Green, a fourteen-year-old Jewish girl, is forced to flee Spain with her father. But Hannah is no ordinary refugee. Her gift of "Sight," the ability to foresee the future, is priceless in the troubled times of the Tudor court. Hannah is adopted by the glamorous Robert Dudley, the charismatic son of King Edward's protector, who brings her to court as a "holy fool" for Queen Mary and, ultimately, Queen Elizabeth. Hired as a fool but working as a spy; promised in wedlock but in love with her master; endangered by the laws against heresy, treason, and witchcraft, Hannah must choose between the safe life of a commoner and the dangerous intrigues of the royal family that are inextricably bound up in her own yearnings and desires. Teeming with vibrant period detail and peopled by characters seamlessly woven into the sweeping tapestry of history, The Queen's Fool is another rich and emotionally resonant gem from this wonderful storyteller. ~amazon.com

Review: I never like to read the same author back to back just because I don't want to compare one to the other. So it's been a few months between reading The Other Boleyn Girl and The Queen's Fool: A Novel, which is enough time to enjoy The Queen's Fool on it's own merits but know that it just didn't live up to The Other Boleyn Girl.

I enjoyed the story of Hannah and how the book was told from her point of view. I believe as a reader, you got a good portrayal of Queen Mary, Lord Robert and Princess Elizabeth through her eyes. She comes into the King's Court as an innocent, naive young boy/girl and leaves the Queen's court as a strong, confident young woman. She is a holy fool instead of a comical fool for the royal court and is often used for others biding. She falls in lust with Lord Robert and will do whatever he instructs her. She is placed in Princess Mary's house to spy on her for Lord Robert but ends up growing to love the Princess that becomes Queen. While serving Queen Mary, she is sent to spy on Princess Elizabeth for the Queen and gets captured into Princess Elizabeth's spell. Sound like a soap opera? It is but set in the 1500s.

I don't claim to know much about this period in history, but I do enjoy reading historical fiction about it. I will admit to googling Lord Robert Dudley to see he looked like in portraits. He was a handsome man for that period in time and it seems very charismatic. I loved learning about Queen Mary and Princess Elizabeth at that period in history.

I enjoyed coming to Hannah and seeing her transform from a young girl/boy to a confident young lady. She really came into her own. She learned that she could still be a strong woman and have a husband she did love.

In The Other Boleyn Girl the descriptions were so vivid you felt like you stepped back in time and were living there. I didn't get the quite the same feeling from The Queen's Fool. The descriptions were good and I could picture much of the scenery but I think that is because I was already acquainted with the time period.

If you enjoy historical fiction, then I highly suggest your pick up either of these books by Philippa Gregory. If you aren't into historical fiction, you will still find the story of Hannah intriguing and a satisfying read.

I'm lucky enough to have all of Philippa's books thanks to my aunt, so over the next several months I'm sure I'll eventually read most of them.

Final Take: 4.5/5

Related: Julie's Review: The Other Boleyn Girl

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Lisa's Review: Love The One You're With

Summary:
A chance encounter with an old flame in Giffin's bittersweet, sometimes mawkish fourth novel causes Ellen Dempsey to consider anew what could have been. Shortly after marrying Andy, Ellen runs into Leo, her intense first love. Leo, a moody writer, has secretly preoccupied Ellen ever since he broke her heart, so after seeing him again, Ellen wonders if her perfect life is truly what she wants or simply what she was expected to want. This scenario is complicated by Ellen's past: the early death of her mother and subsequent disintegration of her family have left Ellen insecure and saddled with unresolved feelings of guilt. These feelings intensify when Andy's career takes the newlyweds from Ellen's beloved New York City to suburban Atlanta. As Ellen's feelings of inadequacy and resentment grow, her marriage begins to crumble. The novel is sometimes bogged down by characters so rooted in type that they, and the story line, can only move in the most obvious trajectory. However, Giffin's self-aware narrator and focus on troubled relationships will satisfy those looking for a light women's lit fix. ~Publisher's Weekly

Review:
I went into this book, thinking "Oh I know exactly how this is going to end". Yeah, not quite. Though not entirely unpredictable, there was a time or two when I was surprised at the direction Ms. Giffin chose to take the story, particularly towards the end. How you walk away feeling in the end is a direct reflection on the things that are important to you in a relationship. I walked away thinking that Ellen may have rationalized a bit too much and I may have made a different decision.

Told solely from Ellen's point of view, we spend a lot of time inside her head as she sorts through, her thoughts and feelings. On the one hand, it's great because you walk away feeling like you know Ellen and why she makes the decisions she does. On the other hand, we don't learnquite as much about the other characters and there seems to be little depth to them and in some ways caused me to question Ellen's truth.

I've always enjoyed Giffin's ability to take a somewhat tricky situation and address it in such a way that neither makes light of the dilemma nor lessens the severity of it. She does an adequate job here, also.

Love The One You're With isn't my favorite of Emily Giffin's novel, but I found myself caught up wanting to get to the end. All in all, an enjoyable read.

Final Take: 3.5/5

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Julie's Review: The Sugar Queen

Summary: In this irresistible follow-up to her New York Times bestselling debut, Garden Spells, author Sarah Addison Allen tells the tale of a young woman whose family secrets—and secret passions—are about to change her life forever. Twenty-seven-year-old Josey Cirrini is sure of three things: winter in her North Carolina hometown is her favorite season, she’s a sorry excuse for a Southern belle, and sweets are best eaten in the privacy of her hidden closet. For while Josey has settled into an uneventful life in her mother’s house, her one consolation is the stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romances she escapes to each night…. Until she finds it harboring none other than local waitress Della Lee Baker, a tough-talking, tenderhearted woman who is one part nemesis—and two parts fairy godmother. Fleeing a life of bad luck and big mistakes, Della Lee has decided Josey’s clandestine closet is the safest place to crash. In return she’s going to change Josey’s life—because, clearly, it is not the closet of a happy woman. With Della Lee’s tough love, Josey is soon forgoing pecan rolls and caramels, tapping into her startlingly keen feminine instincts, and finding her narrow existence quickly expanding. Before long, Josey bonds with Chloe Finley, a young woman who makes the best sandwiches in town, is hounded by books that inexplicably appear whenever she needs them, and—most amazing of all—has a close connection to Josey’s longtime crush. As little by little Josey dares to step outside herself, she discovers a world where the color red has astonishing power, passion can make eggs fry in their cartons, and romance can blossom at any time—even for her. It seems that Della Lee’s work is done, and it’s time for her to move on. But the truth about where she’s going, why she showed up in the first place—and what Chloe has to do with it all—is about to add one more unexpected chapter to Josey’s fast-changing life.Brimming with warmth, wit, and a sprinkling of magic, here is a spellbinding tale of friendship, love—and the enchanting possibilities of every new day. ~amazon.com

Review: For me, it's rare that a sophomore book lives up the the first book, but The Sugar Queen is the exception. This book is so so very good. It is the kind of book that you want to curl up with and finish in a day. Ms. Allen has an enchanting way of developing her characters and writing her stories. Josey is endearing; Della Lee is magical; Chloe is adorable; Adam is delicious;Jake is enchanting; Julian is trouble and Margaret is miserable. Those are my one word descriptions of all the major characters in this wonderful book. Like Garden Spells (Bantam Discovery), this book is set in the south (North Carolina) and has some wonderful themes throughout. How does your past affect your present? Can we be forgiven for past wrongs? How long do we wait to be forgiven?

There are a couple of great twists in this books that I didn't see coming and was thankful for that. There were some definite laugh out loud moments and moments that made me put a huge grin on my face. I didn't like Margaret throughout the beginning of the book and was hoping for a change of my mind at the end, but that didn't come. She is one bitter and angry woman and who makes her daughter's life miserable. Josey is a prisoner in her own home and town. She'll never live up to her mother's expectations and longs for her own life.

There is a major plot point that isn't resolved at the end of the book and I very much hope that in a few years Ms. Allen revisits this cast of characters. I'd like to see where their adventures have taken them.

If you love Southern Fiction and well written books you'll love The Sugar Queen. I received this book from LibraryThing.com's Early Reviewers group but I would have bought it anyway.

Final Take: 4.75/5

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Friday, June 13, 2008

Julie's Review: Midwives

Photobucket Summary: In Midwives, Chris Bohjalian chronicles the events leading up to the trial of Sibyl Danforth, a respected midwife in the small Vermont town of Reddington, on charges of manslaughter. It quickly becomes evident, however, that Sibyl is not the only one on trial--the prosecuting attorney and the state's medical community are all anxious to use this tragedy as ammunition against midwifery in general; this particular midwife, after all, an ex-hippie who still evokes the best of the flower-power generation, is something of an anachronism in 1981. Through it all, Sibyl, her husband, Rand, and their teenage daughter, Connie, attempt to keep their family intact, but the stress of the trial--and Sibyl's growing closeness to her lawyer--puts pressure on both marriage and family. Bohjalian takes readers through the intricacies of childbirth and the law, and by the end of Sibyl Danforth's trial, it's difficult to decide which was more harrowing--the tragic delivery or its legal aftermath.
Narrated by a now adult Connie, Midwives moves back and forth in time, fitting vital pieces of information about what happened that night like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle into its complicated plot. As Connie looks back on her mother's trial, she is still trying to understand what happened--not on the night of the disaster--but in the months and years that followed. ~amazon.com

Review: This is my 2nd Chris Bohjalian book and I have to say I love his writing style. There is a certain cadence to his books without writing the stories in the same manner. Midwives (Oprah's Book Club) is an excellent, fast paced, well researched and thought provoking novel. Again, I have to say "Thank You" to Lisa for not only recommending the book but sending it to me to read.

The book isn't for the faint of heart, as Mr. Bohjalian gets quite graphic at certain times in the novel, but it's not gratuitous, it's necessary to the plot. Sibyl Danforth is a highly experienced midwife but even in all of her experience she could have never foreseen the complications of the labor of Charlotte Buford. What happens during this labor will have dire consequences for both women.

The story is told through the eyes of Connie, Sibyl's 14 year old daughter. I think it's interesting that he chose a child's voice instead of an adults to tell the story. Mr. Bohjalian writes children well and he nailed Connie's voice throughout the book. I also think that telling the story as a reflection instead of an "in the moment" makes it that much more powerful.

There are a few twists that I didn't see coming. My sister didn't care for the ending but I enjoyed it and thought it left me with a lot to think about and reflect on.

I appreciate all the research that Mr. Bohjalian did on midwifery. I didn't have much of an opinion on the subject before reading the book and I would say it didn't sway me either way. My thinking is..."to each their own".

I will be putting The Double Bind (Vintage Contemporaries) in the next short TBR pile that will occupy my nightstand.

Final Take: 4.75/5

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Julie's Review: Where Are You Now?

PhotobucketSummary:From America's Queen of Suspense comes a gripping tale of a young woman trying to unravel the mystery of a family tragedy -- a quest with terrifying repercussions.It has been ten years since twenty-one-year-old Charles MacKenzie Jr. ("Mack") went missing. A Columbia University senior, about to graduate and already accepted at Duke University Law School, he walked out of his apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side without a word to his college roommates and has never been seen again. However, he does make one ritual phone call to his mother every year: on Mother's Day. Each time, he assures her he is fine, refuses to answer her frantic questions, then hangs up. Even the death of his father, a corporate lawyer, in the tragedy of 9/11 does not bring him home or break the pattern of his calls.Mack's sister, Carolyn, is now twenty-six, a law school graduate, and has just finished her clerkship for a civil court judge in Manhattan. She has endured two family tragedies, yet she realizes that she will never be able to have closure and get on with her life until she finds her brother. She resolves to discover what happened to Mack and why he has found it necessary to hide from them. So this year when Mack makes his annual Mother's Day call, Carolyn interrupts to announce her intention to track him down, no matter what it takes. The next morning after Mass, her uncle, Monsignor Devon MacKenzie, receives a scrawled message left in the collection basket: "Uncle Devon, tell Carolyn she must not look for me."Mack's cryptic warning does nothing to deter his sister from taking up the search, despite the angry reaction of her mother, Olivia, and the polite disapproval of Elliott Wallace, Carolyn's honorary uncle, who is clearly in love with Olivia.Carolyn's pursuit of the truth about Mack's disappearance swiftly plunges her into a world of unexpected danger and unanswered questions. What is the secret that Gus and Lil Kramer, the superintendents of the building in which Mack was living, have to hide? What do Mack's old roommates, the charismatic club owner Nick DeMarco and the cold and wealthy real estate tycoon Bruce Galbraith, know about Mack's disappearance? Is Nick connected to the disappearance of Leesey Andrews, who had last been seen in his trendy club? Can the police possibly believe that Mack is not only alive, but a serial killer, a shadowy predator of young women? Was Mack also guilty of the brutal murder of his drama teacher and the theft of his taped sessions with her?Carolyn's passionate search for the truth about her brother -- and for her brother himself -- leads her into a deadly confrontation with someone close to her whose secret he cannot allow her to reveal.~amazon.com

Review: It's probably been about 15 years since I have last read a Mary Higgins Clark book and now I know why. I fell out of love with her storytelling. That being said since it's been forever and day since I've read her, I enjoyed Where Are You Now?: A Novel. It's not to say that some of it isn't predictable but it did keep me guessing till the end about certain plot points. I think what always bothers me about her books is that something bad always happens to "well to do" families and they always know the right people in the right positions. Nothing is different in this case. What I'd like to see her write about is a middle of the road family who has no connections. How are these cases handled then? The story is fast paced and intriguing and the result of the case is satisfying. The epilogue of the novel is a bit trite and predictable and I didn't really think it was necessary. The characters are a bit 2 dimensional and a bit stereotypical but interesting enough that you want to know what happens to them.

I was at home sick and read this in less than 8 hours so if you are looking for a quick, enjoyable, mystery/thriller than pick this up at your local bookstore. I had mine on loan from a co-worker or I probably wouldn't have read it.

Final Take: 3.75/5

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Monday, June 9, 2008

Julie's Review: The Winter Rose

Summary:

In late Victorian London, idealistic new medical school graduate India Selwyn Jones goes to work at a clinic in the city's poorest neighborhood, much to the dismay of her aristocratic mother and ambitious fiancé, political up-and-comer Freddie Lytton. The squalor is a bit much for India, but she manages to keep her emotions under control until she meets underworld crime boss Sid Malone. Sid begins as India's nemesis, becomes her patient and ends up something much more than that. What India doesn't know is that Sid is the brother of tea heiress Fiona Bristow, wife of self-made, highly principled businessman Joseph Bristow. What Sid doesn't know is that India's fiancé is as ruthless as Sid's most ruthless henchman, willing to commit theft, betrayal and even murder to launch his career, force India out of hers and bring down Sid in the process. In typical epic style, Donnelly (The Tea Rose) alternates India's story with Sid's, Freddie's, Joseph's and Fiona's, leading the reader through turn-of-the-century England from the Houses of Parliament to ale houses and whore houses, and from London to Africa and beyond. It's all familiar stuff, but Donnelly's passion and energy will keep readers turning the many pages, rooting for India and the gruff underworld boss she loves. ~amazon.com/Publisher's Weekly

Review: I knew it had to be a great book when Lisa rated it so highly and boy was she right!! I LOVED this book. At first I thought a 700+ page book might take me a while with everything else going on in my life but not this story. I think to be considered an epic it a story needs to span decades not just years but with the settings of this novel in London and Africa, I kind of thought of it as an epic. There really wasn't a character I didn't love or love to hate, they were all very well rounded and so well written. I loved how the main female lead, started out very focused and closed off and ended up opening herself up only to end up in the place she didn't want to. The whole cast of characters fulfilled their roles perfectly. I would like to know more about Fiona and Joe so I might be reading The Tea Rose: A Novel sooner than later.

The way Ms. Donnelly wrote the novel suggests to me that a lot of research went into the story. The way she wrote about the politics of the early 1900s in London and then the vividness she brought to the story when writing about Africa made you feel like you were there. I felt like I was transported back to a time when things were so god awful it makes you thankful for the fight that these people went through to make things better for us now. Can you imagine a place where we still work 16 hours a day for little or nothing? Now don't get me wrong I know there are still place like that but we've come a long way from the East End of London.

I don't want to give much away but towards the end of the book a character has a revelation and it seems a bit unlikely that this character would draw that conclusion. It seems like a good way of wrapping up a storyline but a bit unrealistic to me.

If you are looking for a great character driven novel, you will find it in The Winter Rose.

Final Take: 4.75/5


Related:

- Lisa's Review: The Winter Rose

Continue reading the review...

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Book, Books and even more Books

So my sister received a gift card for her birthday to a bookstore and she gave it to me to use since "I always buy the books and she reads them" so I bought 4 books with it. Now, did I need these books? No!! But I tell you when I get a bookstore gift card I have to use it immediately. It's a sickness. :)

So now I really have more than enough to read and my dad just sent me 5 books to add to my pile!!

As motivation I have put the next four books I'm going to read on my nightstand. Here they are in no particular order:

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
Midwives by Chris Bohjalian
The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory
Where Are You Now? by Mary Higgins Clark

I have a feeling I will sail through The Sugar Queen because I loved Garden Spells so much. I haven't read Mary Higgins Clark for over 15 years so I'm interested to see if it's any good.

What do you guys do to manage an extremely large TBR pile?

Continue reading the review...

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