Saturday, July 31, 2010

Jenn's Review: Inside Out

Summary: Torture. Ghost detainees. And a massive cover-up that continues even today. This is the propulsive thriller that only former CIA operative turned bestselling novelist Barry Eisler could write.

Marooned in a Manila jail after a bar fight fatality, black ops soldier Ben Treven gets a visit from his former commander, Colonel Scott Horton, who explains the price of Ben’s release: Find and eliminate Daniel Larison, a rogue operator from Ben’s unit who has stolen ninety-two torture tapes from the CIA and is using them to blackmail the U.S. government.

But other players are after the tapes, too, and to find Larison, Ben will have to survive CIA hit teams, Blackwater mercenaries, and the long reach of the White House. He’ll also have to find a way to handle Paula Lanier, a smart, sexy FBI agent who has her own reasons for wanting the tapes and is determined to get them before Ben does. With the stakes this high, everyone has an angle—everyone but Ben, who will have to find the right alliance if he wants to stay alive.

Review: Both Julie and I loved Fault Line so I was thrilled to find out Barry Eisler's new novel was a sequel, though quite able to function as a stand alone. It starts out with a brawl and snowballs into a full scale conspiracy.

This one is a little heavier than Fault Line, probably due to the fact that Ben's brother Alex has been taken out of the mix. This was a little more along the same vein as the John Rain series which I've started, but not finished. It was the family connection that originally drew me into Fault Line more so than his John Rain series, but I think I'm more attached to the character of Ben because Eisler set up roots for the character so well in the first book.

The plot is terrifyingly realistic, ripping it's facts from the headlines and creating it's own account of the details surrounding it. One of the quotes Eisler uses was quite definitive for Ben:

‘There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people. There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn’t work.’ ~ Irving Kristol

Ben has become increasingly disenfranchised through his recent experiences (In a way, he kind of reminds me a little of Seeley Booth) and he's starting to become more aware that everyone has an agenda and their own version of the truth to back them up. This is something that Ben will continue to struggle with, as there is no easy resolution for him. It's messy, but I imagine the real world of spies and assassins is messy.

There is a little more 'alphabet soup' with all of the government agencies being involved in this one and sometimes it took a minute for me to juggle the acronyms and remember who's who. The action, however is phenomenal and well worth any minor acronym confusion on my part. It took twists and turns I didn't foresee and was wrapped up without being too neat and tidy, leaving plenty of room for continuing the story throughout the series.

I've read some flack in other reviews for this novel regarding one-sided political agenda, and here are my thoughts on the matter: if you don't like Barry Eisler's politics, you probably aren't going to like his books, but that goes without saying for any author and their views, be they political, worldly, or other-worldly. And at no time did I feel that Eisler was pushing an agenda ~and I can't say that for just any other author. It certainly gave the reader a lot to think about and consider.

Eisler even worked the character of John Rain into this series via name dropping by other characters. I think it will be fascinating to see how he incorporates Rain into this series further down the road... it will also motivate me to move the rest of the John Rain series closer to the top of my ToBeRead pile.

Final Take 4.0/5
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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Julie's Review: In The Name of Honor

Summary: When Lt. Brian McCarran shoots and kills his superior officer, Capt. Joe D'Abruzzo, at Fort Bolton in northern Virginia soon after they return from a tour in Iraq, 31-year-old Capt. Paul Terry, of the army's JAG Corps, defends the lieutenant. That the accused is the son of legendary Gen. Anthony McCarran, the current army chief of staff, makes it an especially sensitive court-martial. To complicate matters, Joe was married to Kate Gallagher, the general's goddaughter and lifelong friend of Brian and the McCarran family. Sparks fly after Brian's gorgeous older attorney sister, Meg, insists on working with Paul. As always, Patterson chooses to deal with difficult themes, this time PTSD and the war in Iraq. This is superior genre fiction from a writer at the top of his game. ~amazon.com

Review: As with most of Richard North Patterson's books he takes a timely issue and weaves it into his novel. The current issue here is Post-traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD) and the effect is has on soldiers when they return from war. In the Name of Honor makes this important issue front and center but it is weaved in such a way that it becomes an integral part of the family and where they end up.

I found this book to be extremely engrossing, disturbing and compelling. Mr. Patterson has such a gift for storytelling that it's hard not to come to like the characters. Lieutenant McCarran is the center of the story here but for me the main character is Captain Paul Terry who is picked to defend the honorable soldier in a murder trial. The story is told through Paul's eyes and unlike some protagonists, I felt like I could totally believe his viewpoint. He was intelligent, driven and about to leave the army in a month to go on to a big job at a Wall Street firm. Meg McCarran serves as co-counsel and also as Paul's lover. You can pretty much guess that it's not going to end well for Paul or Meg. Meg, like Paul, is closed off from her feelings, except for when it comes to her family.

Patterson is always at his best when the book involves a courtroom trial and In the Name of Honor is no different. This is where the books picks up it's pace and secrets start revealing themselves. You see, Paul thinks that there is something that Brian and Meg aren't telling him about the case, something that could change the outcome as well as if Paul continues to defend Brian. He has a nagging feeling but can't pin point it. In the final pages, this comes to a head and takes a twist/turn that was astonishing and left me a bit squeamish.

The book never truly wraps up the initial question of self-defense or premeditated murder but I don't think it is supposed to. From all the evidence and testimony we are supposed to deduct that for ourselves. Sure the jury comes to a decision but as we know, juries don't always know the full story or are always correct.

I don't know if I particularly liked Brian McCarran but I didn't dislike him either. I don't want to say I pitied him but I sure as heck felt for the trauma he had experienced in Iraq and the after effects of the war.

I would love if Mr. Patterson wrote another book with Captain Paul Terry as the main defense lawyer. He was honest, trustworthy and skilled which you can't say about most defense lawyers. ;)

Mr. Patterson is at his best when he's not preaching political issues and while PTSD is certainly controversial for usage as a defense it's not political. I hope that the US Armed Forces start to recognize PTSD and start to make a concerned effort to help our soldiers.

Final Take: 4.5/5



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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Movie News: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Photobucket According to MSN.com, Daniel Craig, better known as the most recent James Bond, has been cast to play Mikael Bloomkvist in the US Adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

I'm on board with this casting decision. It sure is better than Brad Pitt.
I know who I want to play Lisbeth but I won't tell here until the final decision is made. I hope that's soon.

Anyone else have thoughts??

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Want to Laugh? See Jennifer Weiner and Jen Lancaster in person

Jennifer Weiner is on her book tour for Fly Away Home (debuted at #2 on the NYT Bestseller list) and the theme is "Cupcakes Across the Country". So, being that I will try to see her every time she show up in my neck of the woods; my sister and I went. I don't think I have ever laughed so hard at an author event before. You see, her opening act was Jen Lancaster of "Bitter is the New Black" fame. She was the "opening band" for Jennifer Weiner and it was the perfect pairing, similar to that of wine and cheese.

Jen Lancaster read a chapter from her 2nd book Bright Lights, Big Ass: A Self-Indulgent, Surly, Ex-Sorority Girl's Guide to Why it Often Sucks in the City, or Who are These Idiots and Why Do They All Live Next Door to Me? and well I don't think I've laughed as much with an author in a long time. Can't wait to read the book. In fact, my sister and I liked her so much we each bought 2 of her books. Plus I like her because she lives in Chicago and I know the area she's talking about.

Jen Weiner came to the stage and was just as funny, charming and engaging as last year. Her stories about her mom, her nana and life in general are just hilarious. Their family events must be non-stop laughs. One person asked her if she could teach her kids one thing what would it be? She answered with "a sense of humor". I liked that answer because sometimes life is rough and you have to find something to laugh about. She's just extremely genuine. It's always nice to meet someone and know that they are exactly how you made them in your mind.

So my sister and I wait around for a while to get our books signed and pictures. You have to know that my "newer" camera broke and I'm back to using my 8 yr old camera for the last few weeks. So my sis took a picture of me and Jennifer Weiner...that I love and we move to get her picture take. Nope, camera is frozen. My sis, who had a hair coloring incident on Sunday isn't too upset that she can't get it done. We move on to Jen Lancaster. Camera works for my picture, which is great of Jen L and HORRIBLE of me (what happened to my hair in the 2 minutes between authors?!!), so we move on to my sister. Can you guess what happened? Yup, camera conked out again. My poor sis.

We both agreed that we would see Jen and Jen together or separate again. So Jen and Jen be on the look out for your next tour together. We'll be there; with a working camera.

Here are the pictures I took of the event. Please pardon my hair.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Giveaway: Heart of the Matter

Julie some how got her hands on an extra copy of Emily Giffin's newest book Heart of the Matter and guess what: GJR is going to give it away!! You can check out the review here.

In order to qualify for the giveaway, you must:

  1. In the comments section, tell us how you follow our blog (Google Friend, Twitter and/or our Facebook page).

  2. Tell us what excites you about this book and why you want it

  3. Enter the contest by August 6th, 2010 at Midnight EST.
Good luck!!


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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Julie's Review: First Family

Summary: Plenty of intense action drives bestseller Baldacci's stellar fourth novel to feature former Secret Service agents Michelle Maxwell and Sean King (after Simple Genius). Maxwell and King, D.C. PIs, step on the toes of everyone, including the FBI and the Secret Service. They even manage to bruise the ego of First Lady Jane Cox, who hires them after her 12-year-old niece is kidnapped following a birthday party at Camp David. Baldacci excels at making the improbable believable as one obsessed man, 62-year-old Sam Quarry, takes on the best security the U.S. can muster from his Alabama redoubt. Even more impressive than Quarry's determined campaign is the ingeniousness with which Baldacci manages to disguise both Quarry's precise motivation and aims. Meanwhile, Maxwell has to deal with her mother's death and a host of other personal issues. Baldacci's careful plotting and confidant depictions of national security procedures make this a thinking man's thriller. ~amazon.com

Review: I don't think I've ever read a bad David Baldacci book, seriously. As usual, I am behind on his books seeing that my dad gave me this book last summer but First Family is probably one of his best. The book stars Sean King and Michelle Maxwell again. Two former Secret Service agents who are now Private Investigators. At first, Jane Cox the current First Lady, seems on the up and up but as the novel goes on her motives are called into question; not only by the reader but by Sean King, the very man she hired to help find her niece. You pretty much know close to the beginning of the story that she's hiding something, you just aren't sure what. .

We are introduced to Sam Quarry, an aging man who is looking to exact revenge on the First Family but in true Baldacci style, we don't know why..yet. Baldacci is always excellent at the slow reveal and letting you think of several different scenarios and wondering if you have even come close. It's always fun guessing even if you are wrong, which I was this time. He is the character that is supposed to be the villain but he's the one that I ended up wanting to know the most about and hoping that things would work out for him. I also felt horrible for Willa. Here is a girl who is entering the hardest time of her life and she gets kidnapped, held for reasons unknown to her and will soon find out her mom is dead. Through it all she seems like she keeps her wits and her courage.

There is a subplot to the novel as well. This concerned the death of Michelle's mother Sally. Turns out she didn't die of natural causes but rather a severe blow to the head. This is a nice seg-way into figuring out a bit of Michelle's past and the demons that have come to haunt her. I thought it was a nice diversion that was wrapped up quickly to return to the main plot of the kidnapping.

The novel never lets up on the wit, action and drama. There are a few twists that truly keep you guessing up until the end and wondering who will come out on top. The ending is superb and satisfying all around.

First Family isn't an overly political book other than using the Presidential seal on the cover and creating a fictional first family. In fact, President Dan Cox could be anyone with enough charm and zeal to carry himself all the way to the top. The more interesting of the two characters in the White House is without a doubt Jane Cox.

I'm hoping that we'll see Sean and Michelle back very soon. I'd like to see what they are up to and what kind of case they get next.

If you like your thrillers where the author keeps you guessing and you keep trying to figure it out; then First Family is for you.

Final Take: 4.75/5


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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Book to Movie: Eclipse

I saw Eclipse the week it came out, but I haven't been able to get to writing the review until this week. It's not a reflection of the quality of the movie, but a crazy summer busy, tons of company, my entire household has been sick for a week and a half thing. I don't know if I can quite do it justice from this distance, but I couldn't let the occasion go by without marking it on the blog.

I thought this was absolutely the best of the three movies. This is the first time I've gone to see a book-to-movie without re-reading the book beforehand, so that may have influenced my opinion somewhat. The action sequences are amazing. The rest of the cast, underused especially in the first movie, really gets a chance to shine (and all that screen time for everyone else means less for Kristen Stewart, which makes me happy). Although Eseme/Elizabeth Reaser was barely present in the film, Eclipse is not about her, Breaking Dawn* will give her more screen time. Billy Burke is warm and funny throughout, showing why he was perfect for the part of Chief Swan. Even the change in actresses for Victoria from Rachelle Lefevre to Bryce Dallas Howard seemed smooth.

The parts that dragged in the book, such as Jasper's back story, though still a little slow onscreen, were easier to accept on the big screen. For me, all the important scenes and dialogue were there. Some of the competitive games Edward and Jacob play throughout the book had to be skipped for time sake ~but they kept so much in, especially the all important cave conversation between Jacob and Edward. The only conflict that I missed was when Edward doesn't react and Jacob knows it's only because Edward is playing it cool for Bella's sake, so Jake loses again.

The scriptwriter even added some dialogue to a serious conversation that I thought was crucial. I remember when reading this book that I was seriously concerned that Bella wanted to throw her mortal life away for Edward. In the book the conversation is all about assuaging Edward's fear that Bella's choice is about immortality, not him. She assures him, it's all about him. The movie clarifies this a little. It's also about never fitting into her world, but actually fitting into his. I know that's how Meyer intended it, but the extra dialogue here made it so much clearer.

I wish I could revisit this in the theatre, but I probably won't get a chance to watch it again until the DVDs come out. If you are a fan of the books and were turned off by the first movie, give them another shot; they keep getting better.

*Breaking Dawn will be separated into two films.


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Monday, July 19, 2010

Books to TV: Rizzoli and Isles

Jenn's Thoughts: It was everything I expected it to be and more. Tess Gerritsen is a master of suspense and I think that really came through on the screen. I look forward to seeing how the writers maintain that and keep the camaraderie. Although with all the serial killer tension last week, I'm not sure viewer's who haven't read at least some of the series really got to know the character's very well. It will be interesting to watch them balance the suspense and the character development. And I loved that Jane saved herself from the situation last week.

I loved the cast ~it was great to see Angie Harmon on TV. I really think this is perfect for her. Sasha Alexandra is a great Isles, and I'm looking forward to seeing more from her character. It was nice to see Billy Burke too ~in the series Jane marries an FBI agent, and I'm wondering if that was the set up for that... I hope so because it would be nice to keep him around.

The network has to be pleased, too. The show set a series-launch record with 7.6 million viewers. Let's hope they keep pulling them in!

On another note, I was a little disappointed with the criticism floating around the Twitterverse that Rizzoli & Isles is a cheap knock off of Bones. The characters Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles have been around longer than Seeley Booth & Temperance Brennan (from Bones on television). Now if you want talk Andrew Ryan and Temperance Brennan (frow Reichs's written work), that's a different story. However, it's certainly not a fair comparison. Book-to-television-wise, Rizzoli & Isles is truer to the written word than Bones. And that's not a criticism, for as anyone who reads our blog regularly knows, I'm a huge fan of both Rizzoli & Isles and Bones as well as Tess Gerritsen's & Kathy Reichs's books. Appreciate it for what it is, people!

There is actually a comment on Twitter from a viewer that said she hated it but then again she hates both actresses... now every one's entitled to their own opinions, but I was sorely tempted to respond with a line from Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, "Well then it's a good thing you're going to a chocolate factory, you ungrateful little..." But I digress. What I'm trying to say is, if you are a fan of crime shows, keep watching. I'm expecting great things from this series.

What was the other thing wanted to say? Oh, yeah, and I'm glad it's Monday because I'll be tuning in again tonight!


Julie's Thoughts: Have I ever mentioned that I love Angie Harmon? Well when Jenn told me about Rizzoli & Isles being on TNT and she was a lead; I knew I would at least check it out. I have read a couple of Tess Gerritsen novels but it's been a few years. Apparently the first episode is based on the books I did read only because I remember the titles not the plot. I know that's pretty awful but pretty common among avid book readers.

I think the casting is superb on the show. Angie plays a great cop, as most of her fans know. I know that Sasha Alexandra looks familiar but I can't place it. She's a great Maura Isles. The supporting cast looks to be solid as well. I hope that Bruce McGill is on the show more than once. And well what else can you say about Lorraine Braco but what a catch for the show.

I know that some people have a problem when Hollywood gets a hold of characters from books but I don't. Maybe it will make people who love the show go pick up the books and get more background more detail.

Maybe Jenn and I will share Tess Gerritsen books. :)

If you love police shows then you should most definitely check out Rizzoli & Isles on Monday nights on TNT at 9pm CST. It is perfectly paired with The Closer.




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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Book Lists: NPR's Killer Thrillers

If you read our blog with any regularity you know that I love thrillers! So when Jenn put this on our Facebook page I had to read it to see if some of my favorites were listed. They are but not nearly as many as I thought. I re-read the article and realized that this list was submitted by fans so that may explain a bit.

Here is the link to the article. Read it and come back here and tell us who you think is missing.


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Friday, July 16, 2010

Jenn's Review: Virals

Summary: Tory Brennan, niece of acclaimed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan (of the Bones novels and hit TV show), is the leader of a ragtag band of teenage "sci-philes" who live on a secluded island off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina. When the group rescues a dog caged for medical testing on a nearby island, they are exposed to an experimental strain of canine parvovirus that changes their lives forever.

As Tory and her friends discover their heightened senses and animal-quick reflexes, they must combine their scientific curiosity with their newfound physical gifts to solve a cold-case murder that has suddenly become very hot –if they can stay alive long enough to catch the killer's scent.

Fortunately, they are now more than friends: they're a pack. They are Virals.

Review: I was thoroughly jealous when I saw that Alison at Alison's Book Marks was reading an ARC of the new Kathy Reichs YA book due out in November. And I was positively thrilled when she said she had an extra copy that she was willing to send to me. I know some eyebrows went up among my reading friends when it was announced that Kathy Reichs was writing a YA novel –especially those who didn't make it through the dense writing of Déja Dead. But Reich's writing style has evolved over the past ten years into something that is highly accessible. I had no doubt this would be the start of a fantastic YA series – and it is.

Tory Brennan is actually Tempe's great-niece. Remember Kit her screwball nephew from Deadly Decisions? Well, he's all grown up. Kit's a marine biologist who works for the University of Charleston, and he's just discovered he has a daughter. Tory is smart but naive and not only does she takes after Tempe, she idolizes her – which is how the trouble starts.

Hanging around on the monkey habitat/research island where their parents work (similar to the one mentioned in Death Du Jours, but this island carries a different name), the teens get bombarded by an angry monkey. Tory realizes that the object the monkey has hurled at her are heavily crusted dog tags and she starts wondering who they belong to and how the tags ended up there. She convinces the gang to break into one of the research labs so that she can clean the tags with a sonicator so they are legible... perhaps they can return them to their owner. This one decision starts a cataclysm of events.

Though it took some time for Reichs to set the exposition, it was worth it – and she gives young readers a prologue straight from one of the action sequences to hook them. While the reader is aware that the teens have become infected, Tory and her friends have to discover it on their own. This revelation culminates with some extraordinary sensory perception and physical capabilities, if only the Virals could control when and where it happens – as it is they're already outsiders at the prep school they attend due to their academic prowess and more modest means.

Once the action starts, Reichs doesn't let up. The teens try to go to the authorities but the local cops opinion is that "academics and their kids are prone to exaggeration". With the adults being uncooperative, the Virals decide to investigate for themselves, both the dog tags, and their mysterious illness with the crazy symptoms.

I think any analogy of Viralsas a modern day Nancy Drew story is a bit of an oversimplification. I grew up on Nancy Drew; this is so much better. The characters are more balanced, and far better developed. The plot is tight and the action intense and realistic. Though the story centers on Tory, she couldn't manage with out her friends, each of whom has expertise in different scientific areas. There's lots of action an plenty of mystery. As her friends are all guys, I think the story lends itself equally to teenagers of either sex.

This is classic spell-binding Reichs writing with a new sci-fi twist thrown in. She adapted her style and the science to be accessible to teens without reducing it to condescension. And while I referenced the ways in which this book ties into her adult series, none of that information is pertinent to the new reader (though it was amusing to me to see Kit attempt to be the authoritative parent after all the hell he raised as a teen). Virals is an excellent beginning to a series and I can't wait to see were it goes from here! I urge you to pick this up when it debuts in the fall* even if you don't normally read YA books.

Final Take: 4.5/5

* Viralswill be released November 2, 2010


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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Julie's Review: Faithful Place

Summary: French's emotionally searing third novel of the Dublin murder squad (after The Likeness) shows the Irish author getting better with each book. In 1985, 19-year old Frank Mackey and his girlfriend, Rosie Daly, made secret plans to elope to England and start a new life together far away from their families, particularly the hard-drinking Mackey's. But when Rosie doesn't meet Frank the night they're meant to leave and he finds a note, Frank assumes she's left him behind. For 22 years, Frank, who becomes an undercover cop, stays away from Faithful Place, his childhood Dublin neighborhood. When his younger sister, Jackie, calls to tell him that someone found Rosie's suitcase hidden in an abandoned house, Frank reluctantly returns. Now everything he thought he knew is turned upside down: did Rosie really leave that night, or did someone stop her before she could? French, who briefly introduced Mackey in The Likeness, is adept at seamlessly blending suspenseful whodunit elements with Frank's familial demons. ~amazon.com

Review: Faithful Place is Tana French's 3rd book to take place in Dublin. This time the case is even more personal for her main character, Francis, aka Frank, Mackey. I don't think it is ever Ms. French's intention to make the guilty party hard to spot but she wants us to witness the protagonist figure it out and come to terms with it. It is about their journey and us going along for the ride. I have to say that I immediately liked Frank. He was honest and real. He didn't dish out crap and he surely didn't take it. Sure, he had faults but his drive for the truth wasn't one of them. Even though this case was extremely personal to Frank; I do think he tried to stay objective and a little out of the way if not all the way out.

I can't say that I blame him for staying away for 22 years. His family is seriously messed up. It's a wonder any of them turned out alright. Scars of living in that kind of family never fade and he's been smart never to introduce his daughter to his side of the family.

The story is extremely well-written and Ms. French has honed her skills by being more succinct. More words don't tell a better story, in fact sometimes it detracts from the story. The whodunit is in there but I enjoyed the flashback to Frank and Rosie's story of first love and escape. I, like Frank, wonder if they really would have made it or if they would have eventually gone their separate ways. One can only imagine. I think telling a story in flashbacks gives you an idea of how they became the adult they are today. It's also a fantastic way to make the victim a person instead of just a name and a case number. Rosie was as real to me as she was to Frank.

There isn't too much that I can say about the book without giving the story away and you guys know I don't like to or want to do that. If you like a taut story that will have you unraveling the mystery along the way then pick up a copy of Faithful Place, you won't be disappointed. I really enjoyed In the Woods(review here) but Faithful Place blows it out of the water.

You also don't have to read them in order to appreciate them. Apparently Frank is briefly in The Likeness but that case doesn't even come up in the novel. They are all set in Dublin and deal with the Guards (aka Police) but that's all they seem to have in common. As much as I'd like to see Frank again, I'm ok if I don't. The ending of the book was open ended but in a way that I thought was perfect for the story.

Tana French is on my "Writer's to Buy Immediately" list now. I can't wait to dive into The Likeness and revisit Cassie Maddox.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of the book.

Final Take:
4.5/5

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Friday, July 9, 2010

Blog Redesign


This isn't quite book related but it's definitely blog related: April Showers Blog Design is having a big giveaway. It's a complete Blogger or Wordpress design (a $160-$300 value) ~who wouldn't like that?!? (It'd almost be as exciting as a kitchen makeover... almost...)

The contest ends Sunday July 11th, at 11:59pm and the winner will be announced Monday morning, so if you're going to check it out (CLICK HERE for the link), do it soon!

Good luck to all!

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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Group Review: This Must Be the Place

Summary: A sudden death, a never-mailed postcard, and a longburied secret set the stage for a luminous and heartbreakingly real novel about lost souls finding one another.

The Darby-Jones boardinghouse in Ruby Falls, New York, is home to Mona Jones and her daughter, Oneida, two loners and self-declared outcasts who have formed a perfectly insular family unit: the two of them and the three eclectic boarders living in their house. But their small, quiet life is upended when Arthur Rook shows up in the middle of a nervous breakdown, devastated by the death of his wife, carrying a pink shoe box containing all his wife's mementos and keepsakes, and holding a postcard from sixteen years ago, addressed to Mona but never sent. Slowly the contents of the box begin to fit together to tell a story—one of a powerful friendship, a lost love, and a secret that, if revealed, could change everything that Mona, Oneida, and Arthur know to be true. Or maybe the stories the box tells and the truths it brings to life will teach everyone about love—how deeply it runs, how strong it makes us, and how even when all seems lost, how tightly it brings us together. With emotional accuracy and great energy, This Must Be the Place introduces memorable, charming characters that refuse to be forgotten.

Jenn's Review: I was intrigued by the summary of this book when Julie told me she was getting an Advanced Reading Copy, and totally thrilled to find out Jason at Henry Holt sent me a copy too ~WOW am I glad he did!

This was a refreshing read that was hard to put down. There are several main characters in the book and all of them are accessible and fascinating in their own right (which is not an easy feat, mind you). Even though I didn't love all of the characters immediately, the more I read, the more endeared I became. Racculia jumps from character to character advancing the story from different points of view and each character's recollections, but not once did it feel disjointed or choppy. It left me craving more of each person's story and Racculia doesn't disappoint on that front either.

I loved the entire concept of the plot ~the rippling effect one unsent postcard could have on the lives of so many. So unfold the secrets of the past, and possibly the key to the future, with twists and turns I never imagined. By the end of the book the characters seemed like old friends with whom I didn't want to loose touch.

Racculia's writing style is smooth and unhindered. It seems so honest. I found it to be a stunning debut novel and I can't wait to see what else she has in store for us.

Jenn's Final Take: 5/5

Julie's Review: In case you didn't know, I love coming of age stories and I don't think they necessarily have to be traditional in the sense that the only time you come of age is during your teen years. For a debut novel, Ms. Racculia sure knows how to write. She tells the story from different points of view that flow easily and steadily. I never felt that I got lost by the different voices telling the story. Each one was distinct and unique. This Must Be the Place: A Novel is about the things in our past that come back to bite us in the butt. Not necessarily bad but they disturb the lives that the characters have built. Amy Henderson Rook is the catalyst in how the story explodes and how the lives of Mona, Oneida and Arthur intersect. In the book it all comes down to how Amy affected their lives. I didn't particularly like Amy. I thought she was selfish and irresponsible. She definitely wasn't a good friend but she was Mona's best friend.

Arthur comes to Ruby Falls, NY to discover who Amy was when she was younger. I don't really think he had any idea what he was in for. Nor did Mona and Oneida when he shows up at the Darby-Jones house. Chaos pretty much ensues once he arrives on a couple of different fronts for all of them.

All three characters are flushed out well and developed. I enjoyed all 3 for different reasons. I love that Mona was responsible even at 16 and I loved that her daughter Oneida was a bit more like Amy in the fact that she was a bit more irresponsible. I loved reading about Oneida and Wendy (Eugene). Those were the parts that I found the most endearing probably because we've all been teenagers and tried to find where we fit in.

Ms. Racculia had a wonderful way of wrapping up the story. She did it in such a way that we know everything would be ok without giving us that proverbial bow. She is an amazing storyteller. The way she described Ruby Falls and Darby-Jones house, makes me want to visit. I felt that I was an observer in their lives and became a friend. The book is warm, refreshing and original.

You know a book will stay with you when you finish it, go to bed and dream about the characters and there lives. If they ever make a movie out of this, Jason Ritter should play Arthur because he was him in my dream. Premonition, maybe?

If you want a great novel that develops the characters, the setting and a fantastic story, go and pick up This Must Be the Place: A Novel you won't regret it.

Like Jenn, I can't wait to see what this author comes up with next.

Julie's Final Take: 5/5

Thanks to Jason @Henry Holt for the ARCs!!


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