Monday, March 30, 2009

Jenn's Review: Nothing But Trouble

Summary: PJ Sugar knows three things for sure:

After traveling the country for ten years hoping to shake free from the trail of disaster that’s become her life, she needs a fresh start.

The last person she wants to see when she heads home for her sister’s wedding is Boone—her former flame and the reason she left town.

Her best friend’s husband absolutely did not commit the first murder Kellogg, Minnesota, has seen in more than a decade.

What PJ doesn’t know is that when she starts digging for evidence, she’ll uncover much more than she bargained for—a deadly conspiracy, a knack for investigation, and maybe, just maybe, that fresh start she’s been longing for.

Review: I received this as a LibraryThing Early Review. In all fairness to all parties, and as you can plainly see above, there is no reference to the fact that Susan May Warren is a Christian Lit author in the LibraryThing blurb. If there had been, I never would have requested to review the book. Not that I have anything against Christianity or any other religion, for that matter, (I just don't like points of view, religious or political, being forced on me) and I'm certainly not here to spark a religious debate. However a review is only as strong as the reviewer's point of view, so here goes.

The phrase "That was before I was Christian," is tossed around in this novel by several characters in an attempt to excuse everything from Grand Larceny to refusing to date someone. This type of blanket moral escapism infuriates me. Being Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, etc. makes you who you are, but it doesn't automatically make you a better person. It doesn't excuse past wrongs and it doesn't preclude a person from making mistakes in the future. There is no celestial delete key. PJ also credits surrendering to Jesus with her dumb-luck in solving the case and nearly getting herself, her nephew, and her friends killed in the process. Actually the only times that PJ turns to prayer in the book are in passing and it seems purely self-serving. I could have looked beyond all of it if it didn't seem so forced into the story. It almost feels like the author went back and added it as an afterthought.

Religion aside, neither the plot nor the characters have much depth. I had a hard time finding likable character. PJ's mother is supposed to be a hard woman with soft heart but she's so flat as a character that it just comes off as inconsistent writing. Her sister is too busy creating her own perfect career and marriage to pay any heed to her attention starved toddler; she just uses PJ. Boone, her high school sweetheart, wants her back but won't trust her and completely dismisses her opinions. PJ herself seems to be a 10¢ knock off of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum, with none of the humor or charm. She has a bad-girl reputation she didn't earn and is really just a drifter who ran from her problems and never grew up.

The plot is far fetched, at best. (Who goes to a shooting range on a date?!? Oh, wait, it was just a rather obvious plot device.) In the end, PJ is hired by a detective agency, but for the life of me, I don't know why. (At least with Stephanie Plum, the fact that she still has a job makes sense; Vinnie is (blackmailed) family and Ranger finds her amusing.) And PJ's country club privileges are restored... because that's what's important, right?

If you're looking for a Christian Stephanie Plum with no personality, this is the book for you.

Final Take: 1/5

Friday, March 27, 2009

Jenn's Review Part Deux: The Host

In skimming other reviews of The Host over the past week, I've come across criticism suggesting that the female characters are weak. This bothered me enough to want to refute it in a post of my own. I will try to do this while being as "unspoilery" as possible.

While I think it is a somewhat valid assessment of Bella in the Twilight series, weakly written females are hardly the case here. Melanie is so strong, she can't let go of a body she no longer fully possesses. Wanda cannot tolerate violence of any kind, but that doesn't make her weak. She makes the decision to live in a way that is completely inconceivable to others of her kind. And what about The Seeker? These are not weak women.

Jeb created his own society (in a space he practically carved out himself), and he gets to make the rules. That's not chauvinistic to me, that's a benevolent dictatorship. (And as for a body belonging to it's family members, I completely understand that too.) True mostly guys go on the raids, and the women stay home and care take, but this is a time of war, and in our society, it's mostly the men who go off to fight.

As for Petal, she was chosen by Jamie, someone who knew the host best, and saw her for who she was... not to mention the choice also made sense from a tactical stand point. No matter the body, the spirit is still strong.

I can see, to an extent, that the non-central female characters come off as pale in comparison to Melanie and Wanda, but that's a literary device. Where I can concede that there was weakness in Bella (though I think she overcame it by the fourth book), I feel that those who find it here are seeing what they want to see.

Am I off base? I'd love to know what you think, so please leave a comment!

My Full Review of The Host

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Julie's Reviews: Skylight Confessions

Summary: In Hoffman's 19th novel, a young woman becomes the victim of the destiny she's created, leaving behind a splintered family. On the day of her father's funeral, 17-year-old Arlyn Singer decides the first man who walks down the street will be her one love. That night, Yale senior John Moody stops to ask directions, and Arlyn and John take the first passionate steps toward what will become a marriage of heartache and mutual betrayal. After John's architect father dies, the couple moves into his Connecticut home, a glass house called the Glass Slipper, and Arlyn has an affair with a local laborer. She dies while her second child is still young, and the story forks to follow the divergent paths taken by the Moody children. Sam, the self-destructive first-born, spray paints his angst all over lower Manhattan and has a son before disappearing. Blanca, Sam's sister and the only family member he loves, moves to London and opens a bookstore. John remarries, to Cynthia, and has another daughter, but carries a family secret with him to his grave. Ghostly apparitions lend an air of dark enchantment, though the numerous dream sequences feel heavy-handed.

Review: This is the 3rd Alice Hoffman book I've read and it was a disappointment for me. Skylight Confessions is a dreamy, dark book and not what I was expecting at all. The book starts off with Arlyn (Arlie) losing her dad and wishing that the next person who comes to the house will be the man that she marries. Enter John Moody. These two characters couldn't be any different than day and night. Frankly I didn't like either of these 2 people. Arlie was a dreamer whom I believe damaged her son emotionally. The book is broken up in 3 parts and the last 2 are the better of the 3. In part 2 we get to know Meredith Weiss, Sam and Blanca more. Meredith and Blanca are the only 2 redeeming characters in this book. Meredith is a lost soul who comes to the Moody's by a chance meeting. It ends up changing her life. She fights for Sam who feels like he was left behind by his mother. Sam and his dad have never seen eye to eye and it continues to deteriorate throughout the book.

In Part III we are introduced to Will, Sam's son. Will seems like a good kid and he's the only character that I feel we should have gotten to know better. In that respect the book ended too quickly.

All in all I didn't feel any connection to any of the characters. Ms. Hoffman's books typically have such strong characters and strong female characters that I felt this book was against type for her.

If you are an Alice Hoffman fan then I think this book is a disappointment; if you've never read her than I definitely don't think this is the book should be your first.

Final Take: 3.5/5

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Book News: Emily Giffin's New Book

If you read this blog with any consistency you know that Lisa and I have both read Emily Giffin's Books and have enjoyed them. I'm excited to let you guys know that she has a new book coming out in Spring 2010...Heart of the Matter.

The following link will take you to a sign up page so that you can get a adobe file via your personal email to a sneak peak.

Sneak Peek: Heart of the Matter

I just signed up to get mine and I know I'll be anxiously waiting for the book.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Julie's Review: The Tea Rose

Summary: In 1888, Fiona Finnegan and Joe Bristow hoard shillings and pennies so that they can marry and open a shop. But Jack the Ripper stalks the streets of London's East End, and poverty threatens from the shadows. Setting the story in motion is the murder of Fiona's father, a dock worker whose union activities angered his tea-company boss. Fiona and her younger brother must flee to New York City to avoid their own murders. Through hard work and luck, Fiona and her beloved Joe prosper on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Misunderstandings and mistakes keep them apart as they build separate lives and incredible fortunes. Children's book writer Donnelly effortlessly takes her narrative through slums and high society while intertwining a number of subplots without tangling them. Both major and minor characters capture and hold interest and sympathy. Although the number of Fiona and Joe's near encounters stretches the imagination, readers will forgive the tease once the lovers' reunion and Fiona's revenge for her father's death converge in an action-packed ending.

Review: God, why did I wait so long to read this book??!! Was I afraid it wouldn't be as good as The Winter Rose?! The Tea Rose: A Novel is every bit is as wonderful if not more wonderful than it's sequel. Yes, I read them out of order. In The Tea Rose: A Novel we learn of the background of Ms. Fiona Finnegan and how she came to be the woman she is in The Winter Rose.

I LOVED learning about her background. I loved the background of her and Joe's life. Most of all I loved that she was a girl beyond the time period she lived in. I do think there were more woman like this than we will ever here of in history books. Not all woman wanted to cook, clean and have babies. Not that there is anything wrong with that but women today wouldn't be where we are without woman like Fiona Finnegan. She grew up poor, had tragedy after tragedy in her young life and yet escaped and made something of herself in the land of opportunity...America. Do I think Fiona was lucky and maybe parts of the book were unrealistic, probably, but that didn't change my mind about the book. The secondary characters in the book were wonderful, colorful and absolutely necessary to her story and this was Fiona's story. Joe is an integral part of it but it's a woman's story, not a man's.

I loved the romance in the book. Most of all I loved the vivid details of London and NYC during the late 1800s. What a time period to write about, so much rich history and such different history to draw upon. Ms. Donnelly does such an excellent job of describing both Whitechapel and NYC that you feel like you are there. I especially liked the descriptions of the fashion.

I also liked the idea that family is what you make it, because for some people family isn't necessarily blood, it's the relationships you cultivate.

I strongly encourage you to pick up both The Tea Rose and The Winter Rose for your reading pleasure. With the anticipation that the 3rd book in the series The Wild Rose is due out in 2010!! I will more than likely read The Winter Rose before the
last in the trilogy comes out. This is my 3rd Jennifer Donnelly book and I can say she has made it to my favorite author list.

Final Take: 5/5

Lisa's Review: The Tea Rose

Winter Rose Reviews: Lisa's Review: The Winter Rose & Julie's Review: The Winter Rose

Friday, March 20, 2009

And The Winners Are...

Congratulations to Serena & Sheri S. for winning a copy of Delicate Edible Birds

Thank you all for participating in our giveaway! Surely there'll be more books to giveaway, so please keep your eyes peeled to this blog. Keep your eyes peeled for a giveaway of Mighty Queens of Freeville, The: A Mother, a Daughter, and the Town That Raised Them

Ladies, look for an email from me so that I can get your addresses.

Jenn's Review: The Host

Summary: The author of the Twilightseries of #1 bestsellers delivers her brilliant first novel for adults: a gripping story of love and betrayal in a future with the fate of humanity at stake. Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of their human hosts while leaving their bodies intact, and most of humanity has succumbed.

Wanderer, the invading "soul" who has been given Melanie's body, knew about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the too vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn't expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind. Melanie fills Wanderer's thoughts with visions of the man Melanie loves-Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body's desires, Wanderer yearns for a man she's never met. As outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off to search for the man they both love.

Featuring what may be the first love triangle involving only two bodies, The Host is a riveting and unforgettable novel that will bring a vast new readership to one of the most compelling writers of our time.

Review: While I enjoy fantasy, I've never been a huge fan of science fiction (save The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy). Actually, I had no intention of reading this book until I passed it by on a sale table... and when I went back to get it, it was gone and I had to confess myself disappointed. I was hearing good things about it. My curiosity about it was apparently getting the better of me, so I finally broke down and bought it. Good decision.

This is an absolutely beautiful story from start to finish. Well, okay, it took me fifty-ish pages to get into it, but after that I was so drawn in that I couldn't put it down. It was a surprising refreshing read. The reader empathizes with the Wanderer and with Melanie. Though the Wanderer is thousands of years old, in some ways she is still a child, and though Melanie is 20, she is wise for her years due to living on the run. They have much to learn from each other and in their coexistence, they learn tolerance and empathy. But this makes them a danger to both of their kind, and a misfit everywhere. Their species are still at war. If they find Melanie's family and Jared, how will they convince them that they mean no harm? And more importantly, how will they convince them that both Melanie and Wanderer dwelling in the same body.

Meyer has woven a beautiful love story into a genre I would otherwise ignore. As a writer, she has matured into a master of emotions and hopeless (hopeful?) love stories. She left this book lightly open ended (no cliff hangers) and I truly hope she picks up this thread again. I would certainly read the next installment.

Rating 5.0/5.0 <-- and those don't come readily for me

The Host Review Part Deux

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Girls Just Reading Book Club Expands

Four years ago, the girls of Girls Just Reading and our friend started a virtual book club (see our explanation here).

When Girls Just Reading came into being we tried to bring our virtual book club to you by doing group reviews of our Book Club Picks. Now we're taking it to another level.

Along with our "Currently Reading" selections you will also find our next Book Club Pick and our due date so you can read what we're reading and be ready to post your comments! Our next pick is Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos and we plan to be ready to discuss it around the first week of April. We look forward to your point of view!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Giveaway: Delicate Edible Birds

We have two copies of Delicate Edible Birds to give away. Please leave a comment here by midnight EST time March 22, 2009 to be automaticaly entered. See my review of the short story collection. I enjoyed it.

For an even better chance to win, post about this contest on your own blog (linking back to this post) and your name will be entered twice! The winner will be announced on March 23, 2009.

Good Luck!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Jenn's Review: 7th Heaven

Summary: A terrible fire in a wealthy suburban home leaves a married couple dead and Detective Lindsay Boxer and her partner Rich Conklin searching for clues. And after California's golden boy, Michael Campion has been missing for a month, there finally seems to be a lead in his case--a very devastating lead.

As fire after fire consume couples in wealthy, comfortable homes, Lindsay and the Murder Club must race to find the arsonists responsible and get to the bottom of Michael Campion's disappearance. But suddenly the fires are raging too close to home.

Frightened for her life and torn between two men, Lindsay must find a way to solve the most daunting dilemmas she's ever faced--at work and at home.

Review: This is one of the better books in the series. I thought the juggling of multiple cases in this installment was handled well, especially because one of them was at trial with Yuki. Patterson introduces the arson perpetrators in the forward, so this time, I wasn't ID-ing anyone early... and as for the disappearance there was an un-obvious twist in that case too, albeit cliché. From a prental point of vewI found both cases disturbing. And, for once, the little personal side stories seemed well balanced instead of detracting.

The only downside was Lindsay's inability to make a decision in her love life. I think this thing with her partner came out of left field (which can happen in real life) but there is so little in the books to substantiate it that it just comes off as a not so clever plot device for keeping Lindsay off-balance.


Julie's Review

Friday, March 13, 2009

Jenn's Review: Conan Doyle's Wallet: The Secrets Within

Summary: The inspiration for this book came to the author after he purchased Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's wallet, untouched since the day he died in 1930, at a Christie's auction in London. This true story is based upon the unique contents, which led the author to begin spiritually communicating with Doyle. Sir Arthur's wish was to enlighten those who have lost their loved ones or feel they are lacking direction in their lives. Through Patrick McNamara, Doyle explains that how we live our lives here on earth affects how we live in the afterlife. Sir Arthur was a great proponent of spiritualism and his consistent goal was to find 'evidence' of the afterlife, which could alleviate anxiety of people as they journeyed through life on earth to the afterlife. By communicating with the author, Conan Doyle provides his knowledge of the afterlife and the new world in which he lives. This is a fascinating and comforting insight for all readers that provides a spiritual philosophy for living.

Review: I don't know what I was expecting from this book, but it certainly wasn't this. If you can get past the glaring typos in the first few chapters, it is easy to become immersed in the subject. However, it's more like two separate works that have been forced together. One deals with spiritualism in it's practice and is more of a "how to"/life guide, the other deals with Conan Doyle's research into the subject and his constant professional disagreement with Harry Houdini (think of him as Patrick Jayne from Mentalist) who did everything possible in his lifetime to prove all mediums frauds. Although Houdini and Conan Doyle disagreed over the subject they kept an open discourse and were often on the same side in exposing fraud, as Conan Doyle felt that frauds were hurting real mediums. According to sources, it is not until after his death that Houdini became a true believer and recanted.

Whether you believe in spiritualism or not, this book provides an interesting study into the subject matter. All in all, a fascinating read, I just wish that it was more cohesive and better proofread.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Julie's Review: Quicksand

Summary: The action-packed 12th installment in bestseller Johansen's saga featuring forensic sculptor Eve Duncan (after Stalemate) is also a sequel of sorts to Pandora's Daughter, which chronicled the life of Megan Blair, an Atlanta physician with burgeoning psychic abilities. Intertwining the two disparate story lines intensifies both, as Johansen pits her two courageous female protagonists against a vicious serial killer who claims to have murdered Eve's seven-year-old daughter, Bonnie, years earlier. When Eve's love interest, Atlanta police lieutenant Joe Quinn, tracks down elusive child predator Henry Kistle to a small town in Illinois, Quinn alerts the local authorities and sets off a series of bloody events that lead Eve and Megan Blair to a remote area in the Okefenokee swamp where they'll either discover the whereabouts of Bonnie's body—or come face-to-face with a psychopath bent on killing and burying them all in unmarked graves. The adrenaline-fueled narrative will keep Johansen fans eagerly turning the pages.

Review: I truly enjoy the Eve Duncan series and Quicksand (Eve Duncan Forensics Thrillers) is definitely not a let down. It starts off quick and never stops. In Quicksand, we are again on the hunt for the killer of Eve's daughter, Bonnie. This time it leads us to Henry Kistle and Eve playing a dangerous cat and mouse game. I had a VERY hard time reading this book at first because of the subject matter...a serial killer who "specializes" in children. I couldn't read it before bed because it gave me nightmares. I made my way through it because I knew that justice would be served in the end.

Quicksand brings back some of my more recent favorite characters from Ms. Johansen's books Stalemate and Pandora's Daughter Megan and Philip Blair, Montalvo and Miguel. I love how she weaved all these characters into one book. Of course Joe and Jane were still in the story. For Eve and Joe, their relationship is at a crossroads. You can tell that decisions will need to be made but those are for another book.

Eve made me mad at times during the book because I think when it comes to the search for Bonnie's remains she can be a bit obsessive but as a mother I empathized with her as well. I can also see where Jane and Joe come from regarding their feelings about the continuous search. I do like the books a bit more when they deal with cases other than trying to find Bonnie because at some point they are going to have to find resolve that plot line and move forward.

There is pretty good twist at the end of the book that I sensed was going to happen but was happy it did. I think it sets up a new direction for the series.

If you like fast paced, intense thrillers than Quicksand is for you. I do think you would have a better understanding of the characters if you read Stalemate and Pandora's Daughter first but it's not completely necessary.

Final Take: 4/5

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lisa's Review: Delicate Edible Birds

I can't think of many people I know who seek out short stories or short story collections as consistent reading material. I can count on three fingers the number of short stories, I've sought out in the past few years, maybe even my post-college/adult life. Brokeback Mountain and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Lame. I know and as much as I would like to prove that I'm not that lame, I can't remember the name of the 3rd story.*

Suffice it to say I came to Delicate Edible Birds a little unsure what to expect, so this was an interesting read. As I read, I noticed a theme emerging tying the stories together. None of the stories are similar to another, even the tone of the opening paragraph of each story is very different. Each story revolved one main female character, each from a different walk of life, living in a different time period and their story told from a different point of view. These are some of the attributes that made me love the entire collection, with Lucky Chow Fun, L. DeBard & Aliette, and Blythe standing out as favorites.

And though each story on it's own isn't a winner, it's clear that Lauren Groff is exceptionally talented writer and this collection of short stories is all the evidence needed.

Final Take: 3.75/5

* Remember that 3rd short story I mentioned further up? In short, it's about a guy who is on some sort of journey and somehow comes to the realization he's dead. I'll give you a $20 gift certificate to Amazon if you can tell me the name of it.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Books, Books, More Books ...& a Contest

I've never done it before, taken a picture of my TBR pile that's on top of my nightstand. Well on Sunday I did it and WOW!! There are 2 really thick books in that pile.

Then I was possessed to take another picture of the books that are in my nightstand just waiting to be put on top of my nightstand...

Quite a lot of books, eh? So in order to make this more than just a random musing, I thought it would be fun if I made a contest out of it. So, whomever picks the closest or the correct date for me to finish all these books will get a prize. What is the prize you asked? Well what do book lovers love....yup a gift card to either Barnes and Noble or Borders for $20.

I thought I would help you out though by giving you some hints on my life and my reading habits:

  • Married with 2 children under 4 and work a full time job

  • I try to read at lunch, when my job allows

  • I am leaving for vacation in 10 days; vacation will include a 3.5 hour flight both ways, but with a 3.5 year old, and will last 6 days

  • I'm currently reading my 9th book of 2009

  • I read 55 books in 2008

So leave your guess/estimate for my completion date of the 17 books pictured. Guesstimates need to be posted by Monday March 16th to be eligible.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Julie's Review: Sag Harbor

Summary: The year is 1985. Benji Cooper is one of the only black students at an elite prep school in Manhattan. He spends his falls and winters going to roller-disco bar mitzvahs, playing too much Dungeons and Dragons, and trying to catch glimpses of nudity on late-night cable TV. After a tragic mishap on his first day of high school—when Benji reveals his deep enthusiasm for the horror movie magazine Fangoria—his social doom is sealed for the next four years. But every summer, Benji escapes to the Hamptons, to Sag Harbor, where a small community of African American professionals have built a world of their own. Because their parents come out only on weekends, he and his friends are left to their own devices for three glorious months. And although he’s just as confused about this all-black refuge as he is about the white world he negotiates the rest of the year, he thinks that maybe this summer things will be different. If all goes according to plan, that is. There will be trials and tribulations, of course. There will be complicated new handshakes to fumble through, and state-of-the-art profanity to master. He will be tested by contests big and small, by his misshapen haircut (which seems to have a will of its own), by the New Coke Tragedy of ’85, and by his secret Lite FM addiction. But maybe, with a little luck, things will turn out differently this summer. In this deeply affectionate and fiercely funny coming-of-age novel, Whitehead—using the perpetual mortification of teenage existence and the desperate quest for reinvention—lithely probes the elusive nature of identity, both personal and communal.

Review:Sag Harbor: A Novel is a delightful and heartfelt coming of age story from a unique point of view that we don't normally see in this genre, a young black male or at least I haven't seen much of it. If you've read this blog with any regularity you will know that I'm not a big coming of age or memior type book person but I thought that this book sound interesting. The premise intrigued me, a young black male experiencing his adolescence on the "shore".

I would say that I'm in heavy like with this book. It's a great piece of nostalgia for those of us who experienced our adolescence in the 80s but I'm not sure I loved it. I routed for Benji but at the same time I thought that Benji's voice was confusing at times. Was he writing this in retrospect as an adult or were we supposed to believe that Benji was that intuitive at 15? For most of the book I was say it's the former. It feels that at times the book is written in a journal like fashion. What I mean by this is that it seems as if the author found a journal from that time period in his life and began to write chapters about his experience. It's an interesting way to write but at times it left me scratching my head.

Benji's life is not without problems. Throughout the book it is hinted at that there are problems in his parents marriage and we never get to truly meet his sister, although the absence of her is explained in the later part of the book. There are some disturbing situations that the young boys get themselves into but nothing that I thought was out of the ordinary. I figured it was what happened when kids were left alone and pretty much had to fend for themselves.

Colson Whitehead is a gifted writer; there is no doubt about that but at times he was a bit wordy. I felt myself skipping over paragraphs at a time to move the story along in a speedier fashion. Mr. Whitehead is the featured author this month at Barnes and Nobles First Look club and is happily fielding questions from us readers. One of the question was "Why did you write this book as an autobiographical novel instead of a memoir?" His answer, so he could make the characters do what he thought they should do and so he could take liberties with the truth. Frankly, since I'm not a big memoir fan I found this statement delightful. Reading some of Mr. Whitehead's responses I find him to be quite humorous and witty.

What makes Sag Harbor: A Novel distinguishable in this genre is that it is about affluent black people who create their own community and how it shapes one young man's life.

Final Take: 3.75/5

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Jenn's Review: Sophomore Undercover

Summary: For fifteen-year-old, adopted Vietnamese orphan Dixie Nguyen, high school is one long string of hard-to-swallow humiliations. He shares a locker with a nudist linebacker, his teachers are incompetent, and he's stuck doing fluff pieces for the school newspaper. But Dixie's luck takes a turn when he stumbles across one of the jocks using drugs in the locker room; not only does he finally have something newsworthy to write, but the chance to strike a blow against his tormentors at the school as well.

However, when his editor insists he drop the story and cover homecoming events instead, Dixie sets off on his own unconventional--and often misguided--investigation. He soon discovers that the scandal extends beyond the football team to something far bigger and more sinister than he ever thought possible. Once he follows the guidelines of his hero, Mel Nichols (journalism professor at Fresno State University and author of the textbook Elementary Journalism) this high school reporter just might save the world. That is, of course, if Dixie can stay out of juvenile hall, the hospital, and new age therapy long enough to piece it all together.

Part social satire, part teen-mystery parody, and wholly hilarious, Sophomore Undercover is a dazzling debut that will make headlines with teens everywhere.

Review: If you don't have anything nice to say... perhaps you shouldn't blog. I have very little 'nice' to say about this book. It's character's are utterly unsympathetic due to severe underdevelopment. There isn't a single responsible adult to be found, including the sheriff, Dixie's adoptive father. The plot is ludicrous. The characters never grow and certainly seem to learn nothing from their escapades. The antics are out of a Three Stooges act gone horribly wrong (and that's not a slap at Misters Howard, Howard, and Fine; I LOVE those guys!). I was almost routing for the protagonist to loose. The humor was sophomoric at best, no pun intended.

Obviously, I'm not the target audience for this book; this may thoroughly appeal to a nebbish adolescent male somewhere...


Monday, March 2, 2009

My NEW Rating System

Looking back over the history of our blog, I find that I'm a little soft when it comes to ratings. As I was having a dilema rating our next group book, I came to the decision that my ratings system needs further definition:
  1. 1 - I intensely disliked the book

  2. 2 - I disliked the book, and I won't read the author again

  3. 3 - It was ok. I didn't like it, but I didn't hate it. I might give the author another chance.

  4. 4 - I liked it.

  5. 5 - LOVED it!!!

This gives me better structure for rating and still gives me wiggle room... in decimals.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Movie Review: P.S. I Love You

Photobucket Summary: Cecelia Ahern's debut novel, PS, I Love You, follows the engaging, witty, and occasionally sappy reawakening of Holly, a young Irish widow who must put her life back together after she loses her husband Gerry to a brain tumor. Ahern, the twentysomething daughter of Ireland's prime minister, has discovered a clever and original twist to the Moving On After Death concept made famous by novelists and screenwriters alike--Gerry has left Holly a series of letters designed to help her face the year ahead and carry on with her life. As the novel takes readers through the seasons (and through Gerry's monthly directives), we watch as Holly finds a new job, takes a holiday to Spain with her girlfriends, and sorts through her beloved husband's belongings. Accompanying Holly throughout the healing process is a cast of friends and family members who add as much to the novel's success as Holly's own tale of survival. In fact, it is these supporting character's mini-dramas that make PS, I Love You more than just another superficial tearjerker with the obligatory episode at a karaoke bar. Ahern shows real talent for capturing the essence of an interaction between friends and foes alike; even if Holly's circle of friends does resemble the gang from Bridget Jones a bit too neatly to ignore (her best friend is even called Sharon).

Movie Review: I haven't read the book PS, I LOVE YOU MOVIE TIE-IN EDITION but I've had the movie on DVR for quite a while and I finally got around to watching it. I liked it but I didn't love it. Let's just say I'm glad I recorded it and didn't see it in the theatre but I don't feel like it was a waste of 2 hours.

We meet Holly and Gerry as they are having a horrible fight about how he told her mom that she wasn't ready to have kids. We'll we know that's a bad move and they fight and make up. Flash forward and Gerry's dead. Not a shock we know that's the premise. Obviously Holly is devastated as any wife would be if her husband passed to early in life. But the story is more about Gerry's goal after his life it over to get Holly to live hers and live it without him. He leaves her these letters that give her specific instructions on what to do. See Gerry is one of those fictional male characters who thinks and plans ahead and that us women swoon over.

I have to say the person who redeemed this movie for me was Harry Connick Jr. Not only am I a fan of his music but he had me in the acting arena years ago when he was in Hope Floats. He was hilarious as Daniel, the guy vying for Holly's attention. He had me cracking up during the movie when the movie needed a good joke or a funny moment. Another one who is just great in this movie is Lisa Kudrow. Let me tell you that woman has great comedic timing. She's perfect in her role as one of Holly's best friends.

Now I generally think Hilary Swank is a great actress but I just don't think that Romantic Comedies are her thing. Put her in a serious drama and she rocks it but this I just didn't "feel" her as Holly. I get that Holly was supposed to be a stick in the mud but I didn't empathize with her and I feel that I should have. Now a girlfriend and I think Jennifer Garner would have been perfect in this movie as Holly bringing her a bit of warmth that I feel was lacking. That being said I didn't find it completely hard to believe that her and Gerard Butler were madly in love. They had decent chemistry together and it was fun to see their relationship in flashbacks.

Overall, if you want a good cry this if your movie but you won't be blown away.

Movie Review: 3.5/5

P.S. - They go to Ireland in the movie not Spain.