Summary: Your thoughts are not your own...
In the not too distant future, freedom is a just a word that you willingly trade for a dozen donuts, based on the dubious promise that you can eat what you want and never gain weight. You can also take drugs will no ill effects or call a friend while surfing the web without a phone or computer. All this and more will be yours following the simple installation of a P-Chip in your brain. After botching the arrest of the governor's son in Los Angeles, Commander Jake Travissi is banned from law enforcement. the workaholic homicide cop spirals into depression... until he is given a rare second chance. The price? Volunteer for chip implantation and join Homeland Security's experimental Enhanced Unit.
The grisly assassination of a prominent Nobel Laureate brings the newly formed Unit on the scene to investigate. But as the body count rises, Jake begins to realize that his actions, and even his thoughts, are not his own. Fighting to regain control of his own State of Mind, Jake finds himself embroiled in a global conspiracy to enslave the human race!~amazon.com
Review: Right off the bat I’m telling you that this novel is not my usual cup of tea. Yeah, I’ll watch the occasional futuristic cop action/drama movie, but read a novel about the same thing? Nah, I don’t think so. Yet here I am reviewing one.
The idea of the installation of a Personal Chip directly attached to the human brain was fascinating to me. Imagine the possibilities of having the world and all its knowledge within seconds of thinking it. Imagine how amazing life could be. The P-Chip could control my emotions, adjust my metabolism so I could eat what I want and never gain a pound. It could make me sleep less, do more. Then imagine having someone hack into my brain to make me do things like murder or arm wrestle giants without my knowledge. It gave me the creeps and totally made me want to read State of Mind.
There are some crazy twists and turns in this novel and the ending? One word…WOW. I totally blew me away. There are plenty of shocking, hanging on the edge of my seat moments. My favorite part of the novel came close to the end with the mother of all twists. I’m pretty sure I knew exactly how Jake felt, heck I didn’t see it coming either.
I really enjoyed the cast of characters. Most notable for me are Jake, the Jackhammer, our hero and overall bad ass; Parks, he idolizes Jake and whose humor is his greatest asset; Marta Padilla, the ice queen with a secret sweet spot for Jake; and Lakshmi, Jake’s faithful dog.
Overall, I really enjoyed State of Mind. Mr. Davison took the care to describe the future in a way that was very easy to visualize. I loved how some things never go out of style like a Camaro. I loved that you can’t really break the human spirit no matter how many God Heads you have controlling you. Jake was a fighter through and through. There is a lot more in store for him and frankly, I can’t wait to read it.
As someone who doesn’t normally read (or even like) this genre, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I liked the fast-paced action, the undertones of good vs. evil. I liked the conspiracy of it all, how the US is not the powerhouse of old. This is definitely the kind of story that made me think and keep thinking long after I put the book down.
Final Take: 4/5
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Summary: Your thoughts are not your own...
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
This was a big week for news from Amanda Hocking, a wildly successful, self-published YA author that I, and many other bloggers have been raving about. On Thursday the NY Times reported that she had signed a deal with St. Martin's Press for a new four-book series called Watersong. The first book, Wake, is planned to be released in the fall of 2012. I was thoroughly excited for Ms. Hocking (read her comments here) because I could only imagine that she was on the road to even bigger things.
Then yesterday, I read even more exciting news for Ms. Hocking and fans alike. The Hollwood Reporter reported Media Rights Capital has purchased the movie rights for the Trylle Trilogy! They intend to make two movies of the three books and I can't wait!!!
I promised myself I wouldn't think about casting, as long as they stay away from Kristen Stewart, but I can't help thinking Helena Bonham Carter would make a great Elora... and for Willa, I'm going out on a limb here, but what do you think about Molly Quinn? Feel free to jump in anytime, guys... I didn't promise myself that you couldn't think about casting. *wink*
Summary: The final chapter in the Trylle Trilogy... With a war looming on the horizon, Wendy’s fate seems sealed. But everything she sacrificed might be in vain if she can’t save the ones she loves. Her whole life has been leading up to this, and it’s all coming to an end.
Review: I had been trying to save this to read, but, once again, I could put it off no further... because I was dying to know the finale. Ascend is the perfect ending to the Trylle Trilogy. I'm sure there are more than a few people who wish Amanda Hocking had taken the obvious route with her plot, but I for one am so glad she didn't.
Wendy is trying to save her people but they continue to fight against her and amongst themselves making her task seem insurmountable. She has put the needs of her kingdom ahead of her own, but no matter what she tries, everything seems to be falling apart. I love that Wendy fights for what she believes in, whether it is popular or not. She stands her ground and will not be swayed.
The resolution of this novel is straightforward, but not as simple as it seems from the outset, and certainly not what I was expecting. It's marvelous that after getting to know Hocking's style she can continue to surprise and delight me with the artistry of her story telling. The relationships between her characters, from the major ones to the minor ones, are wonderful. I keep going back to them again and again because they are honest and true.
This is a brilliant series and I look forward to starting the My Blood Approves series from her as well as any and all of her future endeavors. I'm thrilled about Amanda Hocking's recent successes and I wish her many more.
Final Take: 5/5
Monday, March 28, 2011
Madeleine L'Engle introduced me to fantasy, but it was Diana Wynne Jones that hooked my on YA Fantasy for life. She wrote characters that I related to as a child, and still do as an adult. Of how many writer's can you say that? She wrote for a range of age groups (I remember being frustrated as a child when I accidentally picked up a Middle Grade read when I was looking for a Young Adult), including novels for adults.
To this day, one of my favorite books is her Fire and Hemlock. It was the first book I ever read that dealt with parental mental health issues from a child's point of view. It wasn't overly serious, but it was another complication with which the heroine had to deal. The book has a "believe in yourself" type of message, but doesn't clobber you over the head with it. Once a year or so I re-read this book to remind myself to never let anyone control me through my own embarrassment.
Her books ranged from magical worlds to worlds with a little magic and I love them all ...and still have more works of hers yet to read. I am saddened, however, that her creative genius has left us, for no one had a voice quite like hers.
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Summary: Follow a sniffly girl on a hands-on trip to the zoo, and you’ll find one miserable menagerie — and a comical ode to the virtue of tissues.
ALL OF THE ANIMALS DOWN AT THE ZOO ARE SNUFFLING AND SNORTING AND SNEEZING ACHOO.
Why are the hyenas crying boo-hoo? And what gave the rhino a sickly green hue? It starts when Felicity Floo wipes her red, runny nose and transfers the goo. . . . Kids will be happily grossed out to follow the icky trail as she pets one hapless, bleary-eyed creature after another. With whimsical, stylized illustrations showing Felicity’s handprints on every spread, this cautionary tale will have readers roaring out loud — and racing off to wash their hands!
Review: I love this book and so does my daughter. Beautifully illustrated by the author, it's a little slice of Edward Gorey for children. It's done in sepia tones with the gooey handprints in gloss so that there is a subtle but noticeable difference.
We have fun going through all the animals in the zoo with Felicity as she spreads her goo, and even learned a few new ones too. It's allegorical so there is fun learning. It teaches children about runny nose etiquette without being preachy. It also teaches that every action has consequences, even if they are not immediately visible, and I like that.
About the Author, Illustrator
E. S. Redmond was inspired to write this, her first book, after a trip with her children to a petting zoo. She says, "I remember watching all these smiling, wobbling toddlers surrounding the animals. Every little nose was running, and the sheep resembled very large mounds of tissue. It struck me as altogether funny and ironic that the hand soap was mounted on the fence at the exit. Nice for us, not so great for the sheep." E. S. Redmond lives in Massachusetts.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Congratulations to our 3 winners of Rae Meadow's Mothers and Daughters. Tiffany Drew, Susan B and Booking Mama!
Please email Julie to give her your mailing address.
As usual, GJR uses Random.org to generate winners!
Friday, March 25, 2011
Summary: The New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Chased the Moon welcomes you to her newest locale: Walls of Water, North Carolina, where the secrets are thicker than the fog from the town’s famous waterfalls, and the stuff of superstition is just as real as you want it to be. It’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam—built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather during Walls of Water’s heyday, and once the town’s grandest home—has stood for years as a lonely monument to misfortune and scandal. And Willa herself has long strived to build a life beyond the brooding Jackson family shadow. No easy task in a town shaped by years of tradition and the well-marked boundaries of the haves and have-nots. But Willa has lately learned that an old classmate—socialite do-gooder Paxton Osgood—of the very prominent Osgood family, has restored the Blue Ridge Madam to her former glory, with plans to open a top-flight inn. Maybe, at last, the troubled past can be laid to rest while something new and wonderful rises from its ashes. But what rises instead is a skeleton, found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, and certain to drag up dire consequences along with it. For the bones—those of charismatic traveling salesman Tucker Devlin, who worked his dark charms on Walls of Water seventy-five years ago—are not all that lay hidden out of sight and mind. Long-kept secrets surrounding the troubling remains have also come to light, seemingly heralded by a spate of sudden strange occurrences throughout the town. Now, thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery, Willa and Paxton must confront the dangerous passions and tragic betrayals that once bound their families—and uncover truths of the long-dead that have transcended time and defied the grave to touch the hearts and souls of the living. Resonant with insight into the deep and lasting power of friendship, love, and tradition, The Peach Keeper is a portrait of the unshakable bonds that—in good times and bad, from one generation to the next—endure forever. ~amazon.com
Jenn's Review: It's magnificent. It's perfect. Her best yet. Need I go on? No, but I gladly will.
Sarah Addison Allen is one of those authors whose works I must own in hard cover on publication day ...and I want a digital edition too, just so I can always have it with me. She makes me want to sink into a comfy chair and never put her book down. It's like a steaming mug of hot chocolate on a snowy day. Her writing is delicious.
"Every life needs a little space. It leaves room for good things to enter." ~pg 70 I love that all the characters in Allen's books are struggling to find their way, not because they're overly flawed or damaged beyond repair, but because life is a journey full of crossroads. The characters are all likable in their own way, even if they have lessons to learn, and each has a little piece with which the reader can identify.
"Happiness is a risk. If you're not a little scared, then you're not doing it right." ~pg 238 This is a theme in many of Allen's books, but it's a good one that bears repeating. I love the friendships in her books, the ones formed, and even the ones left behind. To move on in life, one has to grow, and in Ms Allen's books, the journey is sprinkled with a little magic along the way. Her writing is the perfect mix of whimsy and reality.
Out of all of her books, this one was the least food-centric, but, surprisingly, I didn't miss it all that much. Yes, Rachel is working on her coffeeology, which I loved, but food and cooking do not play a predominant role here. Although speaking of food, I was delighted by the brief cameo of the Waverly's from Garden Spells, Allen's first book.
This is my favorite Sarah Addison Allen book so far, though I feel like I'm choosing a favorite child by stating that... I still keep going back and reading little snippets to myself just to enjoy the last little morsels. I'm so enamored, I may even go back and re-read all of her books this summer. She is my comfort read and I urge you to try her books, so that she may become yours too.
Final Take: 5/5
Julie's Review: You know how when a favorite author releases a book that you've been so hungry for that you devour it? Then you instantly regret it, not because the book was bad, but because you know it's at least another year before their next book? That's me with Sarah Addison Allen's The Peach Keeper. I started it the night I received it via UPS. I love getting lost in Ms. Allen's world. It's ripe with love, mystery and magic. Can you think of a better place to get lost?
The Peach Keeper is her best novel yet. It takes a lot for me to say that because Garden Spells definitely worked it's magic on me when it came out. We are introduced to Willa Jackson and Paxton Osgood, who are seemingly different but in the end are very similar. Willa was the misunderstood girl, while Paxton was the popular princess. Now in their early 30s they are struggling to figure out just who they want to be and not what other people want them to be. Both are closed off but in different ways. Willa is trying to live the life her father would have wanted for her and Paxton is trying to live up to the family name. Paxton is in love, the head over heels kind, with Sebastian Rogers, the former high school misfit, who moved back to town a year prior. Willa is so closed off that she doesn't even want to think about the idea of falling in love, especially with Colin Osgood.
What Ms. Allen does so well is the magic and the setting. In each and every one of her books I feel like I'm there. This was no exception. I could picture the Grand Blue Madam and the tree that sat alone on the property. I got chills reading this book when the characters were experiencing the same thing. Coincidence? I think not! She tells these stories in a way that is every bit relatable and wonderful. I loved the background story of Georgie, Agatha and their friendship.
The Peach Keeper is about family, friendship and finding your way. Embracing that part of you that you tried to bury and forget.
I truly can't find one thing that I didn't like about this book. The cover is beautiful and the words on the pages are engulfing.
Final Take: 5/5
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Review: I liked this book and didn't like this book all at the same time. How is that possible? There is a wonderful story here, but it is buried and in need of pruning.
The novel begins with backstory, Danann's fall from grace, which is imperative to the narrative, but it means so much more once it is given the context of the main story, her struggle to regain her Light. Without that context and conflict, it comes off flat. Therefore, it is over eighty pages before I really connected with the character of Danann. Her backstory is so much more interesting once you gain perspective on it. It would have been even more interesting if it had been revealed a little at a time, trimmed down and told as flashbacks and dreams. Don't get me wrong, the story needs an introduction, but if it were me, I would have started with Uriel casting Danann out and with Seth's dismissal of her, then skipped to present day from there.
Also, because the backstory is so neatly laid out at the beginning of the book, there are no surprises. Everything is revealed. The reader knows what happened between the characters, is aware that it is all a big misunderstanding, and then spends the rest of the book waiting for the characters to figure that out too, which can be frustrating.
I do, however love Danann and Seth -and Asher and Mia too. Joanne Valiukas created something special. The characters are wonderfully rich and I would rather have spent more time with these four than all the minor characters, interesting though they may have been. I did get a little frustrated with Danann's and Seth's trust issues. They went back and forth a few too many times for my tastes... Although if I hadn't known the entire backstory, those too would have been more interesting. There is also no denouement, so the ending, after such a big build-up, is rather abrupt. I understand leaving things open-ended, but I wanted just a little more closure.
I would definitely give this author another chance. Joanne Valiukas has a fascinating concept that is fully conceptualized; I think, if taken out of linear chronology, the story would not only be more cohesive, it would be a blockbuster. I look forward to reading more from Joanne Valiukas. I expect great things from her.
Final Take: 3.0/5
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Summary: In the beginning in Guatemala and working north. Though the duo weren't able to play an active role until they reached violent El Salvador, where they cared for children literally caught in the middle of a civil war, took part in protests, and interviewed priests about assassinations, the couple also wrestled with an inner revolution—their relationship. Bonded by frequent interrogations from soldiers, ever-present illnesses, heat, and gigantic, "evil" spiders, the two grew close, only to find their bond dissolve as time wore on and they made their way home. Though her journey was certainly dramatic, Unferth avoids melodrama and doesn't dwell on particularly nasty aspects; her focus is on the story, and in that arena, she excels with a wry, self-deprecating voice that propels the tale forward. Though her emotional economy (she never fully explores her complicated relationship with her family) gives the book an unfinished quality that can be frustrating, Unferth's prose is a pleasure to read. ~amazon.com
Review: I've read a few memoirs in my life and they aren't really my cup of tea. I thought that I might like Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War more because it seemed like it was more about the journey of self discovery than placing blame on others. For me, that wasn't the case. I always hope that when I read a memoir that the author learned something. While I think that maybe Ms. Unferth learned not to travel with George again, I'm not sure what else she learned. Maybe it was just her take on an adventurous part of her life and nothing else. Maybe I expect too much out of memoirs. Maybe I expect them to be reflective when really they are just a statement of a moment in that person's life.
Now, I do think that Ms. Unferth has a unique voice and she was quite funny in her deliverance of the story. She also painted a fantastic although dingy view of Nicaragua and El Salvador during their revolutions. I also think she went along with George because she was lost as most 18 year old when they are trying to figure out themselves. I couldn't have and wouldn't have lasted as long on this adventure as she did, especially with being sick all the time. That would have told me to get the heck out of dodge.
The part of the book that freaked me out was when they stayed in a hostel that had hundreds/thousand of big, hairy spiders in the hallways and rooms. I can't stand spiders and I'm pretty sure I probably would have passed out at the sight. One think I know for sure, I would have been sleeping on the street instead of there. She showed tremendous gumption for a lot of what she dealt with on this quest to be involved in a "revolution."
What I wanted more of and didn't get was about her family. Why wasn't she close or estranged? What happened there? While I get that this book wasn't about that part of her life, we were dropped enough hints that I wanted to know more. Perhaps those should have been edited out.
At times I felt that the writing was choppy and I couldn't follow it. It seemed like I was in her head and she had all these thoughts going at once and couldn't focus on what story she wanted to tell.
I also can't figure out what kept drawing her back to Central America and in some ways back to George. Was it that it was so tragic that she felt the need to hold onto it for some reason? It seems that she doesn't want to let go of this time in her life. Maybe she's still on the quest for something that she thinks she can find there.
In the end, I really don't think memoirs are for me, unless they are satirical like Jennifer Lancaster. If you like memoirs, this would be a one that isn't so depressing and actually funny in part.
I am also in the minority with my reaction to this book, since there have been great reviews in the blogosphere.
Final Take: 3/5
Monday, March 21, 2011
Summary: Husbands frequently tune out their spouses, but Frank Griffin makes valiant attempts to ignore Ellen, his wife of 10 years, when she announces she has a lover and wants a divorce in this endearing, undemanding novel by Berg (True to Form, etc.). Griffin (he goes by his last name) struggles to hold on to his normal life-namely his house and his eight-year-old daughter, Zoe-while repairing his relationship with Ellen. Refreshingly, Berg tells the story from Griffin's point of view: he refuses to leave home, insisting that he and Ellen live as roommates, and tries to wear her down with small acts of kindness. A decent man and a good provider, Griffin is also-he comes to realize-a less-than-exciting partner at times, dismissive of his wife's attempts to get him to read poetry and see art movies, or try anything new at all. Eccentric, shy Ellen, an isolated, stay-at-home mother whose only friend is the waitress at her regular diner, has her own flaws. In trying to live out her adolescence 20-plus years too late, she flaunts her new romance in ways that evoke either disdain or pity for her naïveté. Some readers may feel she gives up her quest for more freedom too quickly; others will appreciate the way she explores her complicated feelings about her marriage. Griffin, meanwhile, makes changes, too, trying a stint as a shopping mall Santa and winning a few dates. Berg has a talent for dialogue, and her skillfully crafted interactions between characters-scenes with tomboy Zoe are always a bright spot-are homey and convincing. These days, separation and divorce are commonplace, but a book that treats those subjects with Berg's tenderness and understanding is not. Publishers Weekly
Review: Every once in a while I need to read a novel that speaks to my soul. Sometimes one comes about happenstance (personally, I love those books); other times I know exactly where to find them. Elizabeth Berg is that kind of storyteller.
A surprise visit to the library last Saturday brought me face to face with a section of Elizabeth Berg novels. After perusing the titles I picked one, open it and read the inner sleeve. I didn’t even get through the first paragraph before promptly closing the book and headed to the check out.
I know I’m not alone when I say that I crave conflict in a story. I crave hurt, I crave grief and turmoil. As a reader, I think we all do. Elizabeth Berg’s strength is her ability to describe human emotions in such a way that I can’t help but feel them too.
Say When is the first time I read a novel that dealt with adultery but from a man’s point of view. Griffin was a regular guy, in love with his complicated wife, living the dream until the day the rug was pulled out from under him. I enjoyed reading this story. I liked Frank, I liked getting to know Ellen from his point of view, I liked his relationship with his daughter. Most importantly, I liked the way Ms. Berg developed Frank’s character by taking away the most important thing to him. I enjoyed how Ms. Berg kept Ellen’s motives a secret, that the novel was really about Griffith. I started the novel feeling sympathy towards him. By then end, I felt like a close companion and that whatever happened, he was a much stronger man, a more loving father because of it.
This isn’t one of Ms. Berg’s strongest novels, the ending predictable. As always, the writing and emotional delivery was spot on but I think it lacked the soul of Open House or Dream When You Are Feeling Blue. It’s not a must read, but I did enjoy taking this emotional ride with Griffith. I don’t regret reading it, but it’s not one I’ll read again.
My favorite part of the novel came during a conversation Griffin had with his coworker Donna. About compatibility, Donna says, “God above could come down and tell some people they were wildly incompatible with their spouses, and they’d still want to be with them. It’s like artist sacrificing so much for their art. For some people, their relationship is their art, they’ll give up everything for it.”
I love that and that alone was worth reading the novel.
Final Take: 3/5
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Summary: Director Peter Jackson takes a personal, risky leap in his direction of the film version of Alice Sebold's bestselling novel The Lovely Bones. Yet the leap pays off, in emotional depth and riveting visuals that transport the viewer to other worlds--even ones the viewer may not want to visit. The Lovely Bones is lofted by its star-making performance by the young Saoirse Ronan (Atonement), who plays Susie Salmon, the 14-year-old girl who is murdered early in the film, and who narrates the action from her "in-between place" after dying but before going to heaven. Ronan makes Susie as earthy and awkward as any young teen, yet her presence, and her gorgeous pale eyes, remind viewers that she's otherworldly too. The Lovely Bones takes some big departures from the book, as many critics have pointed out, but it works well on its own merits. The drama involves how (even whether) Susie's family will recover after her ghastly murder, and what happens to her killer and the futile-seeming search for justice and closure. The entire cast is stellar, including Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz as Susie's nearly destroyed parents; the composed young New Zealand actress Rose McIver, who plays Susie's younger sister, whom Susie watches grow up to be the young woman that Susie will never get to be; and Susan Sarandon, the boozy, wisecracking grandmother who may or may not be able to help keep the family from splintering into a million pieces. The other true standout is Stanley Tucci, almost unrecognizable as the quiet, creepy neighbor who kills Susie, obsessing over every detail and perhaps having left a whole trail of gruesome murders in his shambling wake. Jackson's deft direction keeps the mourning humans moving along believably, numbly, and gives breathtaking life to the afterlife, in scenes of fantasy and dread that recall his Heavenly Creatures. The film is rated PG-13 but is not recommended for younger teenagers because of its intense subject matter, though handled delicately. ~amazon.com
Review: It's been several years since I've read the book, The Lovely Bones, because I read it when it first came out. To this day it remains on my all time favorite lists of books. It's not an easy subject matter, the murder of a 14 year old girl, but I was thankful that the movie did not feel the need to show the act on screen, the book is quite clear on what happened to Susie.
Of course with it being so long in between me reading the book and watching the movie, that I don't remember details of the book. I do remember being absolutely enamored with Susie's after world and how vividly it was described in the book. Peter Jackson does an excellent job of showing us this world. I can't imagine that trying to capture Susie's world would be an easy task for any film maker/director but he does it well. The one thing that kept the book from being incredibly depressing was that it was told from Susie's point of view and she was seeing death and life through the eyes of a 14 year old.
I remember, incorrectly or correctly, that she and Ruth Connors were close friends and not just acquaintances. I also thought that she and Ray dated and weren't just going to start going out. Perhaps my memory is foggy on that.
The cast is superb and everyone it in gives a stunning performance. I especially liked Susan Sarandon as the drunk, chain smoking grandma who comes to save the parents from themselves. I will have to go watch Julie & Julia, The Devil Wears Prada or Easy A with Stanley Tucci just so I can get this character out of my head.
How you view justice will influence how you feel about the ending. Does he get justice in the end? I like to think so, even if it's not how most of us would define it.
Is the movie the best book adaptation I've seen? No. Is it good enough for DVR or rental? Sure. I don't know too many movies that ever do the book justice and The Lovely Bones is no different.
Final Take: 3.50/5