Saturday, April 30, 2011
Friday, April 29, 2011
Summary: Stevens's blazingly brilliant debut introduces a great new action heroine, Vanessa Michael Munroe, who doesn't have to kick over a hornet's nest to get attention, though her feral, take-no-prisoners attitude reflects the fire of Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander. Nine years have passed since Munroe, the daughter of American missionaries, escaped Cameroon at age 15 after a violent incident. She's forged a new life in Texas as an "informationist," a person who specializes in gathering information about developing countries for corporations. Munroe's best friend, marketing consultant Kate Breeden, refers her to Miles Bradford, a high-stakes security pro, who believes she's the perfect choice to help Houston oilman Richard Burbank find his adopted daughter, Emily, who vanished four years earlier at age 18 while vacationing in west central Africa. Munroe returns to Africa, where she reconnects with her ex-boyfriend, Francisco Beyard, a sexy drug- and gun-running businessman, who assists in the dangerous search for Emily. Thriller fans will eagerly await the sequel to this high-octane page-turner. ~amazon.com
Review: The Informationist is a high octane thriller that dives into the jungle of Africa. We are quickly introduced to Vanessa "Michael" Munroe who is gutsy, courageous and deadly. I found her utterly fascinating. She is complex and yet there is something under her surface that screams vulnerability to me. She hasn't had an easy life but it's the life she's chosen.
Vanessa is the best at what she does and she knows it. She demands a high price for her job - information gathering. She can get information that others can not about remote parts of the world. She is hired through her intermediary, Kate Breeden, to look for oil magnate Richard Burbank's missing daughter. She disappeared 4 years prior in the remote areas of Africa, without further contact. Vanessa takes the job knowing that is will bring back haunting memories of her youth in Africa. Even perhaps, that she won't come back at all.
I loved this book! I loved how Ms. Stevens peeled back the layers of Vanessa like an onion; slowly revealing what was at her her core. She was ruthless, angry and a vigilante. She has shut her self down to all emotion to be the best at her job. Emotions only cloud the job that is to be done and she can't afford any mistakes.
I loved the setting of the novel. Now Africa settings are not anything new in books, but Ms. Stevens takes us to countries that we have heard of but don't know much about. These countries have politics that would put the U.S. to shame. Coups happen at the drop of a hat and you never know who to trust.
The novel takes us on quite the roller coaster ride and it's one I didn't want to get off. By the end of the novel you completely understand who Vanessa and the things that motivate her to survive. As a reader, you might not always agree with her decisions but you always understand the survivalist in her.
Ms. Stevens wrote Africa's jungles and politics with such ease that I understood them very quickly. It's obvious that she has first hand knowledge/experience in these remote areas of this expansive country.
It's obvious by the ending that we will be seeing Vanessa again and I can't wait! It will definitely be a pre-order for me.
Run out and read this. You won't regret it!
Final Take: 4.75/5
Note: I could definitely see this as a movie but all I am asking is that Angelina Jolie isn't casted as Vanessa.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Summary: Dear Anna,
What I have to tell you is difficult to write, but I know it will be far more difficult for you to hear, and I'm so sorry. . .
The unfinished letter is the only clue Tara and Emerson have to the reason behind their close friend Noelle's suicide. Everything they knew about Noelle-her calling as a midwife, her passion for causes, her love for her friends and family-described a woman who embraced life.
Yet there was so much they didn't know. With the discovery of the letter and its heartbreaking secret, Noelle's friends begin to uncover the truth about this complex woman who touched each of their lives--and the life of a desperate stranger--with love and betrayal, compassion and deceit. Told with sensitivity and insight, The Midwife's Confession will have you turning pages late into the night.
Review: The novel starts with the mysterious suicide of Tara and Emerson’s closest friend, Noelle. And everything, I mean everything is shroud in mystery. It had so many twists and turns, I had no idea what would come next. The Midwife’s Confession is told mostly in the present with four of the major characters narrating. Although each chapter is told in someone else’s point of view, the story moves along smoothly.
Two things really stand out in this novel for me, the first being Noelle. I enjoyed the Noelle chapters, they added insight from her past that helped me understand her better. Truth be told, I still don’t understand her fully. After reading the novel, I realize that above all, she was a woman who was too afraid to tell the truth. Who, in love, did something that was so unimaginable that her guilt consumed her. What upset me the most is that she took a cowards way out instead of admitting the truth to her two close friends. Even so, like Tara and Emerson, I can’t be mad at her. She was beautifully flawed.
The second was Ms. Chamberlain’s ability to write about relationships among women, specifically those with the mothers and daughters. I especially loved the relationship between Tara and her daughter Grace. I loved how they found their way back to each other after the death of Sam. He was the thread that tied them together. I was both surprised and moved how they reconciled. I thought above all, their struggles were the most honest account of a mother/daughter relationship.
This novel was perfect in about every way. There were some flaws. Noelle was far from perfect and there are a few holes in her history, things I thought should have been revealed to make the story more cohesive. Overall, The Midwife’s Confession is excellent: mysterious, sad, a page turner from the word She and a must read.
Final Take: 4/5
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Summary: Evan Delaney knew China Lake was a tough place to grow up. But she never knew how tough until now—she returns to the desert military base for her high school reunion, and learns that a number of her classmates have died young. Then, on the first night of the reunion, another one dies— this one savagely butchered. And she’s just the first. Someone has an axe to grind—and Evan’s graduating class has something to fear.
Review: I have never flipped to the end of a book to read the last page just to make sure everything turns out ok... Until now. Meg Gardiner is a master of suspense, and no one keeps me on the edge of my seat like she does.
This is the fourth book in the Evan Delaney series and it's a nail biter. (And by the way, flipping to the end and reading the last page made me no less anxious.) Evan and Jessie are finally back on solid ground, but the ground is being pulled out from underneath them. Evan has been in some sticky situations before, but this, for me, was the most frightening. I hate seeing calm, collected Evan in so much turmoil. She's been through so much already. (Yes, I realize she's fictional, but I've grown attached to her!)
Meg Gardiner has no qualms about killing off characters, after six books, you'd think I'd know that, but it takes me by surprise every time. And her plot twists are killer. I'm always blown away when the climax arrives. I always have a hard time reviewing Meg Gardiner's books, because I don't want to give anything away, so I won't say much more.
If you love suspense and thrillers, Meg Gardiner is an author you must read. I love both her Evan Delaney and her Jo Beckett series. Read them all! It's imperative!
Final Take: 4.5/5
Monday, April 25, 2011
Summary: I am a beast. A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog, but a horrible new creature who walks upright – a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster.
You think I’m talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It’s no deformity, no disease. And I’ll stay this way forever – ruined – unless I can break the spell.
Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and a perfect life. And then, I’ll tell you how I became perfectly beastly. http://www.alexflinn.com/
Review: The hopeless romantic in me loves the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast. Take a deformed man, made as ugly on the outside and he is on the inside, add a beautiful, brave woman to the mix and in the end you have romance made in heaven.
Ms. Flinn did deliver. I enjoyed this modern take on a classic fairy tale. It was well written, well thought out. She has a gift for keeping fairy tales alive and current. Sure, Beastly was a bit unrealistic at times but then again, it is a fairy tale. I liked reading Kyle's transformation. I thought he showed maturity and acceptance. I can appreciate that he was the product of his environment, a spoiled rich kid neglected by an unloving father and nonexistent mother. I enjoyed his friendship with Will, his tutor. I liked Kendra, the goth enchantress. I thought Lindy, Ms. Flinn's Beauty, was a bit mousy but still brave and like her beauty grew on Kyle, her character grew on me too.
I'm not sure I will read any more of Ms. Flinn's novels. I'll admit, I picked up this book after seeing a preview for the movie. I thought it was interesting how instead of a fur covered Beast, Kyle was bald and scarred, completely different from the beasts of the past. As I started reading Kyle's transformation, I was surprised to see he grew fur and claws. I kept reading because I was sure that his rich daddy would find a treatment that would leave him hexed but scarred, tattooed, and hairless. Well, that didn't happen, he remained the hairy monster through out. I'm not mad about it, but that's what I get for reading a book based on a movie preview.
I'm pretty sure that unlike Beauty and the Beast by Marie Le Prince de Beaumont, I won't be reading this book again. But I will pass it onto my niece. I think she'll enjoy it.
And yes, I still want to see the movie.
Final Take: 3/5
Sunday, April 24, 2011
Summary: Rabbit lives alone. He cooks for himself, cleans up for himself, and at the end of the day, reads himself a story. It's a simple life, and he likes it. But one evening, Froggie shows up at his door. He wants to listen to Rabbit's story, too. While eating a snack-or three. While lounging on a pillow-or ten. And bringing over his family-dozens and dozens of frogs! Rabbit has finally had enough; Froggie will have to go! But when he sits down alone to read himself a story, Rabbit realizes something is missing: someone to listen; someone to share a wonderful story.
Keith Graves' boisterous, humor-filled artwork lends just the right touch to this multilayered tale that celebrates the joy of reading aloud. ~product description
Review: This one is fun. Froggie invites himself in and makes himself comfortable. Poor Rabbit loves his routine and finds the disruption to be jarring, but he handles it... to a point. I think there is something in this story for every child, from the child that clings to routine to the child that can't stick to one. My daughter is not overly attached to her schedule, but she does tend to insist that things be done her way so I like that this book opens a discussion about Rabbit's lesson, sometimes change can be good. Her stubbornness in this matter can also be related to Froggie's lesson, that you shouldn't just barge in and take over. I also like that this book teaches communication -if something's bothering you, speak up!
I find that this is a great book for reading with 'voices', not that it has to be read that way, obviously, but it lends itself to it well. I love the drawings and the attention to detail in them too. The bulgy-eyed frogs are some of my favorite frog drawings, by far. Most of the drawings are double-paged illustrations and there is only one instance in which I wish there had been a separate illustration for the text on both pages.
We checked this one out from the library, but Kidlet loves it so much, I think this may have to be a purchase. So snuggle up and read - you may even want to get a snack-or three...
Final Take: 4/5
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Congratulations to Mai for winning a copy of Francine Pascal's Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later.
Please email Alice your mailing address so we could mail the novel to you.
As always, Girls Just Reading uses Random.org to generate our winners.
Friday, April 22, 2011
Earlier today I reviewed Already Home by Susan Mallery. We have one copy of the novel up for grabs.
Please fill out the form below by midnight EST on April 30th to enter.
Open to US/Canada only.
Girls Just Reading uses Random.org to select winners.
I was pretty much set not to like Jenna. By all accounts, she was just about perfect. I hate that in a character. Yet Ms. Mallery did something I didn’t expect, she gave her a touch of insecurity and self-doubt that endeared me to her. She wasn’t whiny, but real. She took what was meant to be defeating and turned it into triumph. She faced trials but never took on a defeated attitude. I couldn’t help but hope that things turned out for the best. I especially enjoyed her growing friendship with Violet.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
- My gently read ARC of Born at Midnight
- Two Born at Midnight bookmarks
- Two Born at Midnight pens
- Two Born at Midnight notebooks
- One compact/travel brush (that is really awesome, if I do say so myself!)
As always, Girls Just Reading uses Random.org to pick winners.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Summary: One night Kylie Galen finds herself at the wrong party, with the wrong people, and it changes her life forever. Her mother ships her off to Shadow Falls—a camp for troubled teens, and within hours of arriving, it becomes painfully clear that her fellow campers aren’t just “troubled.” Here at Shadow Falls, vampires, werewolves, shapshifters, witches and fairies train side by side—learning to harness their powers, control their magic and live in the normal world.
Kylie’s never felt normal, but surely she doesn’t belong here with a bunch of paranormal freaks either. Or does she? They insist Kylie is one of them, and that she was brought here for a reason. As if life wasn’t complicated enough, enter Derek and Lucas. Derek’s a half-fae who’s determined to be her boyfriend, and Lucas is a smokin’ hot werewolf with whom Kylie shares a secret past. Both Derek and Lucas couldn’t be more different, but they both have a powerful hold on her heart.
Even though Kylie feels deeply uncertain about everything, one thing is becoming painfully clear—Shadow Falls is exactly where she belongs… ~product description
Review: You know a book is good when it ingrains itself in your thoughts for days afterwards, making you want to go back and re-read the good bits to savor them a little longer. Born at Midnight is one of those books -an amazing read- and probably one I wouldn't have picked up on my own, so a huge thank you to Brittney at St. Martin's Press for forwarding this one to me!
Often times when the teen protagonist is dealing with divorced parents in a book, the teen is so consumed by it that s/he loose sight of her/his own life, but such is not the case here. Kylie is concerned about her parent's divorce, but before she has time to dwell on it she is swept off to a camp for troubled teens where they keep telling her she's not human. Now she's on a quest to discover who she really is and what she wants out of life.
Kylie is an incredibly likable heroine. She accepts her situation and tries to deal with it as best as she can, though she is not sure she believes any of it. Actually, she thinks she'd rather have a brain tumor than be only part human. And while it becomes more and more obvious that she's in denial, you do want to shake her just a little, but you can at least understand her fear of the unknown. She starts to realize that maybe she's made assumptions about her family, friends, and even herself and, above all, Shadow Falls Camp will challenge them.
Kylie's love life is a mess, and in true teen fashion she is attracted to more than one guy, but she knows herself well enough to know that she's confused and not ready for a relationship, let alone a serious one. I love that she's not full of angst and completely self-absorbed about it, it's just another dimension of complication in the story.
C.C. Hunter's writing is approachable and unassuming -and her take on the supernatural is Medium with a whole lot of Buffy humor and sarcasm thrown in. I love reading YA's that are original and not full of obsessive angst, and The Shadow Falls series is the perfect example of that. I love all of the characters and I am anxious to find out more about each of them as they grow into themselves as supernaturals, and as adults. There are many stories still to be told about these teens, and I anticipate this being a fabulous series.
C.C. Hunter has created a refreshing and fascinating series. The second book in the series, Awake at Dawn, will hit stores October 11, 2011 and I'm headed to pre-order it right now. If you love YA paranormal in the vein of Amanda Hocking, you're going to love this series.
Edited to add: The criticism I've seen for this book is that the story is "all over the place", the protagonist is whiney, or that the mystery is resolved rather quickly at the end, and I feel like I should address these things. The story is about Kylie finding herself and her way, so yes, it meanders around, but since when is discovering yourself a straight path?!? I really didn't find Kylie to be whiney. I'm always straightforward if I find a protagonist unlikeable, but she wasn't. She wasn't self-absorbed, but she did have a lot on her plate ...and she dealt with it. As for the mystery at the camp, it was a sub-plot and not the focus of the story.
Want more to persuade you? Check out the Shadow Falls free prequel short story, Turned at Dark.
Final Take: 5/5
Monday, April 18, 2011
Summary: Clayton, author of The Wednesday Sisters (2009), has created another tale about a group of female friends that tells the stories of many women. Mia, Lainey, Betts, and Ginger become best friends at law school in 1979, at the cusp of the feminist movement. Now Betts is navigating a Senate hearing to confirm her Supreme Court appointment, and she and her friends have reunited. When a long-buried, dark story from their shared history is dug up, the four escape the media at Ginger's family's home on a remote island, which is also the scene of the controversial event. There the women reflect on their past, their relationships with each other and their mothers, and how societal norms led them to hide shocking sexual abuse. Clayton unfolds the story through flashbacks and present-day narration in each woman's voice. ~amazon.com
Review: I had high hopes for The Four Ms. Bradwells. I adore books about female friendships and this one focused on 4 friends who had been friends for over 40 years and are in their mid 50s dealing with different crises.
We are introduced to Mia, Betts, Ginger and Laney by alternating voices. At first I had a hard time "listening" to their voices, I didn't think they were that distinct. As I got more into the novel though I could start to tell a difference even without reading their names at the top of each chapter. Maybe that was the point at first that you as a reader couldn't tell them apart to get the full understanding of what happened to them.
The book is pretty heavy handed with the feminist movement throughout the last 40 years. It deals with some pretty tough issues in the book and how certain circumstances can change your path in life. How we let our experiences shape us; the good and the bad. How choices are sometimes given and taken from us.
There is a bit of a mystery surrounding what exactly happened 40 years ago and who it happened to but that is revealed slowly through the book.
What I never got it why they never really talked about the incident among themselves. They could have been each others biggest support system and yet they skated around the issue for the entire length of their friendship. How do you remain friends with people who you never revealed your entire self to?
I guess this is the part that I struggled with throughout the book; how were these women still friends after all these years? They only thing they seemed to have in common was this incident and their years together at law school. Was it just this incident that kept them tied? If so, what will keep them together after it's revealed? Will they be free to let each other go or will it be the thing that keeps them together still?
In the end, I probably didn't love the book as much as I thought I would but I would definitely still read Meg Waite Clayton. She is a powerful storyteller.
Final Take: 3.5/5