Saturday, January 31, 2009

Julie's Review: Lady Killer

Summary: Philadelphia attorney Mary DiNunzio, last seen in Killer Smile (2004), agrees to help her high school nemesis, Trish Gambone, at the start of this less than convincing thriller from bestseller Scottoline. Trish, whom Mary used to regard as the quintessential Mean Girl, has turned in desperation to the lawyer, the all-around Most Likely to Achieve Sainthood at St. Maria Goretti High School, because she wants to escape from her abusive, and possibly Mafia-connected boyfriend, Bobby Mancuso. Trish rejects Mary's practical suggestions for dealing with Bobby, but once Trish disappears, Mary finds herself under pressure from other high school classmates as well as people from her old neighborhood who blame her for not doing enough. Mary unwisely hides a connection with Bobby from the Feds, who then shut her out of the search for Trish when they learn of it. Scottoline fans will cheer Mary as she stumbles toward the solution, but others may have trouble suspending

Review: I can't remember when I started reading Lisa Scottoline but I do remember the first book of hers I read....The Vendetta Defense. Lady Killer brings us back to Mary DiNunzio and Rosato & Associates. Coming back to them is like putting on your favorite sweatpants after a long day or week, it just feels so good. Mary is someone that all of us can identify with, unless of course you were the "mean girl" in high school and identify with Trish. Trish comes to Mary for help because she's afraid her mob connected boyfriend is going to kill her. Mary tries to get her to go to the cops but that's not going to happen and then Trish goes missing. That's when the story starts. Mary becomes and investigator to try to find Trish because she feels guilty since Trish came to her and she didn't do anything.

We meet, Trish's gaggle of girlfriends, who are a bit much at first but then turn out to have their heart in the right place and give the book some comic relief. Since Mary grew up in South Philly it seems that word spreads that she let Trish down and her clients start to fire her. So much for the "Good girl made good" identity.

The plot goes along at a good clip and there are at least 2 twists that I didn't see coming and somehow feel like I should have seen one of them, but I thought it was going to take a different turn.

There was only a minor thing wrong with the novel, a subplot that I just didn't really care about. I understand why it was in the book, I just think we could have gotten Mary's emotional connection to Bobby without it. It got a bit maudlin for me at times. It seemed to shift the story in a direction that didn't need to be taken.

All in all another fine novel by Lisa Scottoline. It makes you wonder if you would help the person who made your life hell if their life was in danger. Are you a bigger person to let go of the painful past and do good? I like to think I could but then again it would depend on the type of trouble they were in. Yes, I harbor grudges.

Final Take: 4/5

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Review of Lauren Groff's new book:

Julie noticed a review of Lauren Groff's new book, Delicate Edible Birds, and we wanted to pass it along to everyone, so here's the link:

If you're reading this book, be sure to come back and tell us what you think too!

Julie's Review: Eclipse

Summary: This stellar legal thriller from bestseller Patterson (Exile) both informs and entertains. On the eve of getting a divorce, Damon Pierce, a 40-year-old partner in a huge San Francisco, Calif., law firm, who specializes in international litigation, e-mails Marissa Brand, a woman he was once in love with in college, to update her on his life. Marissa is married to Bobby Okari, a firebrand reformer whose Nigeria-like country, Luandia, is awash in oil. With these riches come the usual scenarios: ecological disasters, a brutal dictator with murderous henchmen, a rapacious foreign oil company and an oppressed populace. After everyone in Okari's village is slaughtered, Bobby is arrested for the lynching of three oil workers. Damon, because he's a good man and because he's still in love with Marissa, signs on to defend Bobby from the bogus charge. Patterson has exerted all his considerable skill in creating a nightmare atmosphere that will cling to readers long after the last page is turned.

Review: Dear God, I can't finish Eclipse. Let me start by saying that I don't mind politics as long as it's not in your face and this is in your face. Oil companies and American politics are bad. We are all money hungry fools who are blind to other areas of the world. First of all as an American I can say that I'm not a money hungry fool and while I wasn't happy with the last 8 years I didn't think it was the worst time in history either. That being said. Even putting the politics aside, I just didn't care about the characters. Bobby Okari is a flat, 2-dimensional character and I really didn't care about him and if he lived or died. I did find that the movement of the Akari people to be fascinating and I felt for their plight. His wife Marissa was a weak woman whose cause was her husband's and she was there to support him. Now I have no problem with that if that's the path you chose BUT don't make that the main female character in your book. Then there's (Damon) Pierce...he's in love with Marissa and agrees to defend her husband, since his speciality just happens to be International Law. I mean I didn't even finish the book and I could tell where this was going.

I was over 1/2 done when I decided that I couldn't take it anymore. I used to love Richard North Patterson but probably won't be reading him again unless he goes back to his non-political thrillers. If you want to read a really good book by him try Eyes of a Child.

If political thrillers are your thing and you don't mind the author's politics being shoved down your throat from page one....Eclipse is for you.

There are too many other good books waiting to be read.

No final take since I didn't finish it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Note From Lauren Groff:

Author of The Monsters of Templeton

Dear Friends,

I am delighted to announce that my second book, a collection of short stories called Delicate Edible Birds, is in stores today. I'm skipping around the house like a madwoman in glee. In one short year, I had two books and a baby. Frankly, I'm pooped.

The good news is that there will be a launch party tonight in Gainesville, FL at Wild Iris Books (6-7:30--everyone is welcome) and I am going on tour tomorrow. On this trip I'll visit Madison, Denver, Seattle, Portland, Bellingham, WA. and Oakland and Corte Madera in California. At the end of the month, I'll be in Cincinnati, Louisville and Nashville. If you'd like to attend an event, or keep up with Groffian news, please go to my website: for more information. I even have an RSS feed. Hello 21st century!

Thank you, and I hope you have a fantastic day.

With love and warm wishes,


Friday, January 23, 2009

The Girl Who Chased the Moon: Sarah Addison Allen's New Book

I can't wait for this to come out on May 12, 2009! It sounds magnificent!

Summary: In her latest enchanting novel, New York Times
bestelling author Sarah Addison Allen invites you to a quirky little Southern town with more magic than a full Carolina moon. Here two very different women discover how to find their place in the world…no matter how out of place they feel.

Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. For instance, why did Dulcie Shelby leave her hometown so suddenly? Why did she vow never to return? But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew—a reclusive, real-life gentle giant—she realizes that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life.

Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor bakes hope in the form of cakes.

Everyone in Mullaby adores Julia Winterson’s cakes. She offers them to satisfy the town’s sweet tooth and in the hope of bringing back the love she fears she’s lost forever. In Julia, Emily may have found a link to her mother’s past. But why is everyone trying to discourage Emily’s growing relationship with the handsome and mysterious son of Mullaby’s most prominent family? Emily came to Mullaby to get answers, but all she’s found so far are more questions.

Is there really a ghost dancing in her backyard? Can a cake really bring back a lost love? In this town of lovable misfits, maybe the right answer is the one that just feels…different.

Anyone else adding this to their wishlist???

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Jenn's Review: The Sugar Queen

Summary: 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. ~blurb

Review: Sarah Addison Allen's second novel is just as delectable as the first; it was like reading hot chocolate, warm, comforting and delicious. (Cliché, I know, but there it is.) It was yummy. I've actually been savoring it for days, not wanting to move on to a new book just yet.

Allen's character's are enchanting and she easily jumps back and forth telling the story from each character's point of view to round everything out nicely. It is hard to feel for Josey's mother, Margaret. She states early in the book that she had Josey out of desperation and spite and that, like her, Josey should have to "give up everything for this life, for this house, for this money." Margaret can't let go of the past and she has guilted Josey into living there too. But suddenly there is Della Lee, hiding out in the closet, who pushes Josey outside her comfort zone (and her stash of treats) into the world.

It's no surprise that, after years of observing life from a far, Josey is very astute at reading people. In meeting Chloe, who has problem's of her own, Josey develops her first real friendship and begins to interact with her secret crush, Adam. Against her better judgement, Josey even gets drawn into Jake and Chloe's passionate torrent. Chloe tells Adam that he is the object of Josey's affection (which surprised both Josey and me), figuring that Josey needs a little push. Between Della Lee, Chloe, and Adam, Josey learns about friendship, love, and forgiveness (most importantly, self-forgivness).

Like Julie, I didn't see the final twist(s) coming, which is a huge accomplishment for an author. Usually I pick things out a mile away, but I was so wrapped up in the characters that I missed all the signs. I was even empathetic towards Margaret by the end and saddened by her plight, her pride, and her stubbornness. As before (Garden Spells), Allen leaves us wanting more. I wanted to know more about the mysterious herbalist and Amelia, a forty year old woman with no dreams of her own. Allen even teases us with a little preview in the form of the candy names she gives each chapter.

The only slight let down, for me, was when Della Lee has Josey look into her father's philandering, intimating that there were illegitimate children around town, and Josey doesn't follow through with this investigation. I realize that originally she looked into it to prove her father's innocence and cling to living in the past, and, by the end with all she learns about life, Josey realizes that things are not always black and white and that the past is just the past, so it's no longer of dire importance... However, I would think she'd want to know, just for the sake of knowing, how many half-siblings are out there!

This was a fabulous read. I have come to love Sarah Addison Allen's work and I can't wait for the next addition!

Final: 5/5

Julie's Review: The Sugar Queen

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Julie's Review: Nefertiti

Summary: This fictionalized life of the notorious queen is told from the point of view of her younger sister, Mutnodjmet. In 1351 B.C., Prince Amunhotep secretly kills his older brother and becomes next in line to Egypt's throne: he's 17, and the 15-year-old Nefertiti soon becomes his chief wife. He already has a wife, but Kiya's blood is not as royal, nor is she as bewitching as Nefertiti. As Mutnodjmet, two years younger than her sister, looks on (and falls in love), Amunhotep and the equally ambitious Nefertiti worship a different main god, displace the priests who control Egypt's wealth and begin building a city that boasts the royal likenesses chiseled in stone. Things get tense when Kiya has sons and the popular Nefertiti has only daughters, and they come to a boil when the army is used to build temples to the pharaoh and his queen instead of protecting Egypt's borders.

Review: I don't know what else to say about Nefertiti: A Novel that you probably haven't already read in the blogging world, except that it is mesmerizing. I've never been one to be enamored with Ancient Egypt and my knowledge of Nefertiti was limited, to say the least, but I can now say that my historical fiction reads will more than likely include novels written about Nefertiti or Ancient Egypt. What I truly loved about this book was the point of view that it was written from, Nefertiti's younger sister Mutnodjmet, aka Mutny. Through her eyes we get to meet Nefertiti before she goes off to marry Amunhotep IV. Right off the bat you know that Nefertiti is destined to be great not only because of her beauty but because of her confidence in herself. Nefertiti was chosen to marry the young Prince to reign him in and she does exactly the opposite, she feeds into his need to be loved and to be different than his father. Along the way she begins to realize just how much power she has over him and wields it to her advantage. What I do know about Nefertiti was that she was beautiful and the book just reinforced that ideal.

While Nefertiti and Amunhotep were very interesting and powerful, it was truly Mutny's life that I became involved in. To me she was a real person and a real voice of the royal family. In the book you meet her as a young girl who has no idea what she is in for and is often used in her sister and father's politics; to a young woman who knows what she wants and it willing to sacrifice her family political games for her own happiness. She was the moral center to the novel. If one can fall in love with a character, then I definitely did with Mutny. She's strong, honest and loyal. After being banished from the palace she does return when her sister beckons her back where as most people might not have been so kind. I drank in the love story between her and General Nakhtmin; only to be left wanting more.

The novel ends in a way that wraps up the story but yet leaves you wanting more. It's a good thing that Ms. Moran has the sequel out, The Heretic Queen: A Novel, because this time period in history is just too juicy not to devour. It also states on her website (Michelle Moran)that she's writing a 3rd book, Cleopatra's Daughter, which looks just as fantastic as Nefertiti and The Heretic Queen.

I know I love a book when I dream about it. Sure I read before bed most nights, but not every book affects me this way and Nefertiti did. There were some nights that I would dream about the characters in the book and wake up a bit startled.

It's pretty obvious from my review that I would highly recommend this novel. In fact even if you are not a lover of Historical fiction, you can enjoy it for the relevance of politics and romance in the book. Somethings you never grow tired of reading about.

Final Take: 5/5

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Guest Blog: Maria Murnane

Hi Julie, thanks so much for inviting me to write a guest post for your blog. I appreciate it! Given that in your review you mentioned that you really liked Waverly’s “Honey notes,” I thought it would be fun to come up with a few new ones that tell your readers the story of how I came to write, publish and market Perfect on Paper all on my own (with the help of my highly unpaid assistant, aka my awesome dad). So here you go!

Front: So, you STILL hate your job?
Inside: Honey, stop whining, get off your BUTT, and quit.

Front: Nervous about traveling to South America by yourself?
Inside: Honey, consider it an adventure—and a chance to kiss a ton of hot boys without anyone at home finding out.

Front: Ever gone on vacation and realized you didn’t want to come back?
Inside: Honey, hello? That would be you and anyone who has ever gone on vacation.

Front: Ever thought about writing a funny book about your life as a single woman in San Francisco?
Inside: Honey, I hate to steal someone else’s line, but seriously, JUST DO IT. Real life can wait, and did I mention the guys in South America are hot?

Front: So you really just lived in Argentina for a year and wrote a book, then came home and signed with an agent who LOVES YOUR WRITING and thinks she can get you a two-book deal? Inside: Honey, did I mention how beautiful you look today? Oh by the way, can I be on Oprah with you?

Front: So all the publishers turned your book down, and then your agent really booted you?
Inside: Honey, I’m so sorry. Now take a deep breath, dry your tears, and have a margarita….or four.

Front: So you really published this book all on your own, and now it’s getting great reviews, just like you had always dreamed it would?
Inside: Honey, life is funny that way. Now maybe one day soon the publishers will start calling, maybe even Oprah. And when she does, did I mention how nice your hair looks?

Thanks again Julie! And to anyone out there who would like to learn more about Perfect on Paper , please visit my site at Maria

Bye! Maria Murnane

Monday, January 12, 2009

Julie's Review: Perfect on Paper - The (Mis)Adventures of Waverly Bryson

Summary: When her fiance calls off their wedding at the last minute, Waverly Bryson wonders if her life will ever turn out the way she thought it would...or should. Her high-powered job in sports PR? Not so perfect. Her relationship with her dad? Far from it. Her perfect marriage? Enough said.

Perfect...on Paper is a humorous tale of Waverly's efforts to cobble the pieces of a broken yesterday into a brand new tomorrow. What does the future have in store for her? Will she finally find what she's looking for?

* Her dates? Cringe-inducing at times, defintely entertaining
* Her friends? Often amused, definitely supportive
* Her new crush? Possibly intrigued, definitely a crush
* The results? Hardly perfect, definitely just right
~book jacket

Review: Perfect on Paper: The (Mis)adventures of Waverly Bryson is a perfect way to kick off the new year! I read it in 24 hours, which with 2 kids is pretty impossible these days, so that says a lot. This is a delightful book and I was rooting for Waverly from the first page. Her friends are awesome to get to know and, well, Jake...dreamy. I loved all the 80s and 90s references and when the love interest was named Jake, all that I could think of was Sixteen Candles, which Ms. Murnane does tie in very nicely at some point in the book.

Waverly is pretty but doesn't know it, doing a job she couldn't care less about and she's pretty damn witty. This book is smart, funny and intuitive. I love how each chapter starts with a "Honey" note that gives you a glimpse into what is going to happen in each chapter. She bumbles her way through bumping into her ex, going on really horrible bad dates and work party etiquette, among other things. You know, something we all can identify with.

In my opinion, Waverly Bryson is the American equivalent of Bridget Jones.

What I liked about the book was that the book wasn't just about getting the guy, it was about finding yourself and figuring out what you want in life. I'm a big believer in the idea that you can't love anyone fully until you love yourself. This book backs up that idea. I have a feeling that Waverly is a bit autobiographical for Maria.

I have to give mad props to Maria Murnane, she published this book on her own and is working with Pump Up Your Book Promotion to get the word out on her book. I can only imagine what kind of funds it takes to publish your own book. I wish her the best of luck in promoting this book and, heck, if she writes another book I'll be sure to put it on my wish list to pre-order it.

Final Take: 5/5

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Julie's Review: Rhett Butler's People

Summary: Margaret Mitchell's story of Scarlett O'Hara's and Rhett Butler's beguiling, twisted love for each other, set against the gruesome background of a nation torn apart by war, is by all accounts epic--so much so that it feels untouchable. Yet McCaig's take on what many would consider a sacred cow of 20th-century American literature is a worthy suitor for Mitchell's many ardent fans, for reasons that may not be altogether obvious. It would be easy to look at Gone With the Wind and Rhett Butler’s People side by side and catalog what is accurate and what isn't and tally up the score. In doing so, however, the fan is apt to miss out on the best part of this whole book: Rhett Butler himself. McCaig's Rhett is thoroughly modern, both a product of his Charleston plantation and an emphatic rejection of it. He is filled with romance and ingenuity, grit and wit, and a toughness matched only by a sense of humility that evokes so gracefully the hardship and heartbreak of a society falling apart. It's not hard to love Rhett in his weakness for Scarlett's love, but it is entirely amazing to love him as he rescues Belle Watling, mentors her bright young son Tazewell, adores his sister Rosemary, dotes on dear Bonnie Blue, and defends his best friend Tunis Bonneau to the very end. To pluck a character from a beloved book and recalibrate the story's point-of-view isn't an easy thing to do. Ultimately, the new must ring true with the old, and this is where Rhett Butler’s People succeeds beyond measure. In the spirit of Mitchell's masterpiece, McCaig never questions that love--of family, lover, land, or country--is the tie that binds these characters to life, for better or worse.

Review: I will admit I've never read the book Gone With the Wind but rather my sister and I do an annual Gone with the Wind (Two-Disc Edition) night, which we did over the holidays. I have to admit if it wasn't for watching the movie before I read the book I would have been lost with some of the characters.

I think in order to truly appreciate this book you need to be a huge fanatic of not only Gone With The Wind, but of the Civil War. Frankly, the majority of the book was too steeped in Civil War history for me to even enjoy. Besides the big battles that you learn about in history class, I was lost. I think if you are into that period in our history than you'd truly love this book. It shows how the South was too sure of themselves when going to fight the North and how things were after the war was over.

I will say it was interesting to learn about Rhett as a young boy and man before he met Scarlett. We learn of his true relationship with Belle Watling and how he came to Twelve Oaks where he met Scarlett O'Hara. Which, of course, it one of the best love stories of all time. We see their courtship and marriage through his eyes. At times I felt that Rhett was portrayed as being more obsessed with Scarlett than in love with her. Scarlett is portrayed in the same fashion that she is in the movie: headstrong, spoiled and high maintenance.

This book took me a long time to get through. There were too many characters to get to know and care about that I felt that a chart would have been helpful, but at some point I didn't care anymore. I did like getting to know Melly better and to find out that Rhett had a sister and what she was like was very faciniating. The book is divided into three parts, with the last part being called "Tara", which is really the part of the story that all GWTW fans want to know about, "what happened after Rhett left Scarlett and walked off into the sunset?" As a fan, I have to say I was happy with the resolution. It was very satisfying and yet wasn't completely wrapped up in a bow, which I don't feel would be of a service to these great literary characters.

My advice, get the book at the library, read Part III and skip the rest of the book.

Final Take: 3.5/5

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Book Alert: New Jodi Picoult Novel

I know it's not like she needs us to promote her book for her, but ever since I saw her speak last year I've become an even bigger fan of hers. When I saw her speak, she was telling us about this book that she had just finished and it was called Handle with Care: A Novel. From how she describes it, I think it's going to be on par with My Sister's Keeper: A Novel.

When Charlotte and Sean O’Keefe’s daughter, Willow, is born with severe osteogenesis imperfecta, they are devastated – she will suffer hundreds of broken bones as she grows, a lifetime of pain. As the family struggles to make ends meet to cover Willow’s medical expenses, Charlotte thinks she has found an answer. If she files a wrongful birth lawsuit against her ob/gyn for not telling her in advance that her child would be born severely disabled, the monetary payouts might ensure a lifetime of care for Willow. But it means that Charlotte has to get up in a court of law and say in public that she would have terminated the pregnancy if she’d known about the disability in advance – words that her husband can’t abide, that Willow will hear, and that Charlotte cannot reconcile. And the ob/gyn she’s suing isn’t just her physician – it’s her best friend.

Handle With Care explores the knotty tangle of medical ethics and personal morality. When faced with the reality of a fetus who will be disabled, at which point should an OB counsel termination? Should a parent have the right to make that choice? How disabled is TOO disabled? And as a parent, how far would you go to take care of someone you love? Would you alienate the rest of your family? Would you be willing to lie to your friends, to your spouse, to a court? And perhaps most difficult of all – would you admit to yourself that you might not actually be lying?

I'm very excited for this book to be released and will be going to a book store on March 3, 2009 to grab my copy of it.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year! My Reading Resolutions

2008 was a bad year for my reading. Not only was I short on time and didn't read as much as I would have liked, when I did, it seems I didn't enjoy the books much (giving the stink eye to David Wroblewski's The Story of Edgar Sawtelle).

There were some highlights, of course. Chief among them were:
  1. The Winter Rose
  2. The Tea Rose
  3. The House At Riverton
  4. The Kite Runner
  5. The Secret Life Bees

However, it's time to move on.

In 2009, I resolve to try to enjoy my favorite pastime a little better. This simply means, I'll need to pay better attention to my choices.

So that's it! Let us all see how well I do.

Happy New Year to you all! And here's to lots of wonderful reading!!