Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Group Review: China Lake

Summary: Santa Barbara attorney Evan Delaney is gutsy and tough, but she has a tender side, too. She dotes on her nephew, Luke, who’s staying with her while his fighter-pilot father, Brian, is deployed overseas. (Brian, who’s stationed at the Mojave Desert naval weapons-testing center, China Lake, has been divorced from Luke’s mother, Tabitha, for years.) Evan’s peaceful cohabitation with Luke is thrown into chaos when Tabitha returns to town under the spell of the Remnant, a fundamentalist sect arming itself for the apocalypse with artillery and biological weapons. Tabitha wants Luke back—no questions asked. Brian comes home, and when the sect’s eerie leader is found dead in Brian’s backyard, the career military man is thrown in jail with little hope of release. Evan and her boyfriend, Jesse, come to Brian’s defense, prompting a flood of memories for Evan, who grew up in China Lake. ~amazon.com

Jenn's Review: This is the first book in the Evan Dealney series by Meg Gardiner and it's the one that got me hooked. I am excited to hear what everyone else thinks. As I said before, and I think it bears repeating:

Gardiner's writing is... intense, there's just no other word for it. Gardiner is a brilliant linguist. There's no sentence, no word, that's extraneous. (If you're a skim-reader —you know who you are, skimming over paragraphs when things get a little dull— then this author is not for you.) Everything is very tightly packaged, wound with action and suspense. I've never read another author like her.
China Lake strikes a chord on many fronts, be it religious fanaticism, biological warfare, patriotism, conspiracy, or just protecting the welfare of a child with nothing but sheer nerve to back you up. There are those who say Gardiner's too wordy, too unrealistic, or that her heroine is too rash. Obviously I disagree. I think this plot is all too plausible; perhaps frighteningly so... and as for too rash, there is no such thing when you're protecting a child.

Jenn's Final Take: 5.0/5.0

Julie's Review: I've been wanting to read Meg Gardiner since Steven King pimped her in EW and I'm not a Steven King fan! I will say that I wasn't disappointed. I really liked Evan Delaney. I thought she was smart, sassy and had a lot of gumption. That being said, she's a writer and attorney and I'm wondering how she gets mixed up in this stuff. Granted this is the first book in the series and it's a minor complaint. The story line freaked me out a bit and gave me nightmares the final night of reading. Doomsday groups always scare me and this was no different. Religious fanaticism is something I don't comprehend. The Remnant is a bunch of power hungry fanatics who use the Bible to cover up what they really are... home grown terrorists. Biological warfare is another scary issue covered in China Lake and is far more real than Nuclear warfare. Seriously any Joe Blow can get his hands on the chemicals to hurt thousands in a certain area. That being said, the book isn't all doom and gloom, there are some light moments.

I can't say I "liked" all the characters in the book but they were interesting. I loved how Ms. Gardiner weaved Brian and Evan's past into the current and the one twist in the book that I really wasn't expecting. I also felt for Tabitha. What a lost soul she was and she was that way before meeting Brian.

I'm still out on my opinion of Jesse. I didn't like him but I didn't dislike him. Maybe more indifferent. I'm also trying to figure out why Evan is with him. More for attitude than anything else.

I'll definitely stick with the Evan Delaney series and look forward to reading the next one....Mission Canyon.

Julie's Final Take: 4/5

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Book to Movie: My Sister's Keeper

I'm going to start out by saying My Sister's Keeper is one of my all time favorite books. I bawled like a baby. So if you've read this blog with any regularity, you'd know that Lisa and I weren't very excited that Cameron Diaz was picked to play the matriarch, Sara. I will admit I was impressed with her performance. She actually made me feel more sympathetic towards Sara than I did while reading the book. I couldn't stand her in the book. I have to say all the performances were excellent. It was cast perfectly. Now, onto the book vs. movie.

I do think it's rare when the movie outshines the book and My Sister's Keeper was no different. Granted it's been about 2 years since I've read the book but it sticks with you. They definitely change it to suit the movie, but it's not all bad. They add a love interest for Kate which to me made her character more true to a teenager. Where the book was heavily centered on Anna, it wasn't in the movie and I do feel that some of the power of the book was lost because of that change. They also left out a couple of plot points that I thought were pertinent to the storyline, eg. Jesse's issues with drugs/alcohol. They also moved the setting of the book from New Hampshire to LA. Not that it's a big deal but I did spend sometime wondering how they afforded their house when Brian was a Firefighter. That's just me being nit picky.

Of course the ending was changed. Now it's not a bad ending, it's just not the ending of the book which I loved/hated. They did keep one major plot point consistent with the book which was appropriate.

I do have to say I loved Alec Baldwin as Campbell Alexander. He was perfect even if his role was diminished from the book to the movie. To me, they should have used him more.

All in all, it's entertaining, heart wrenching, family drama that's worth the price of a movie, even if it isn't the book. Now, I understand why Jodi was a bit disappointed with it.

Book to Movie: 3.75/5

Friday, June 19, 2009

Lisa's Review: The Help

Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women--mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends--view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.

Well before I got one third of the way through this book, I knew that it would get a rating of 5 from me, unless of course the second half of the book just went horribly wrong. Somehow I just didn't see that happening.

I was skeptical that a white author would truly be able to write in the voice of a black woman in 1960s Mississippi, but write she did and not just one woman but two. Aibileen and Minny are distinctly different women, both funny, smart, sad and ultimately brave. Skeeter was just also a joy to get to know. She's a modern woman torn between expectations and hoping for change until the opportunity presents itself. She teams up with the Aibileen and Minny to work on a project that is dangerous for the three of them. Segregation is still rampant and Mississippi is fighting the inevitable changes.

Race relations takes center stage in the novel. Ms. Stockett did an excellent job of treating the subject with careful respect by combining fact with fiction, pointing out injustices and the irony of it all without condemning either race. Really well done. My only disappointment - the Terrible Awful just wasn't enough of a price for Hilly to pay, evil woman. I shudder to think that people like her existed and likely still do.

Read this book...You will love it.

Final Take: 5/5

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Time Traveler's Wife

Jenn posted the trailer for Harry Potter and now it's my turn. The Time Traveler's Wife starting Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams hits theatres on August 14th. This is one FANTASTIC book if you haven't read it. I'm anxious to see how it plays out on film. I think it was brilliantly cast.

A little shout to Stephanie at The Written Word for putting it up there.
What are your thoughts? Excited? Dismayed? Apprehensive?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Half Blood Prince

The official WB website is up with the longest trailer I've seen yet! It's awesome.

Check it out here: http://www.harrypotter.com/

I am so excited!!!
Time for me to re-read, anyone want to join me?

And The Winner Is....

Congratulations to Staci for winning a copy of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe!!

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.

Please email me (Julie) so I can get it in the mail to you.

Author Interview: Norm Applegate

I want to thank Norm Applegate for taking time out of his schedule to answer a few questions for Girls Just Reading. Please enjoy the interview.

When and why did you begin writing?

Started writing in the 90’s while traveling to share my experiences with my wife. But began my first novel, Into the Basement in the mid 90’s. It took me a couple of years to get into the daily habit of writing, and reading everything I could about developing a story, it took a while to find the zone
Always wanted to write a book, didn’t know how, thought it was beyond my capabilities, but while working in New Zealand it began. The hypnosis career changed my life, and realizing nothing is impossible, began writing short notes, tales, and just life experiences to my wife back in the States.

How did you come up with the title?

Blood Bar, A Vampire Tale...what the hell is a blood bar? Sounds creepy, but intriguing. The premise for Blood Bar, was what would happen if you found out you were turning into a vampire. Where else to be initiated but a bar. So I built the plot around my murder mystery sleuth and heroine Kim Bennett, she’s in my first two novels, murder at a bar for vamps, gothic dressed men and woman, and your basic role playing vampires, however it’s fertile ground for picking up fresh meat...if you like that sort of thing. Are you going ask if blood bars exists, I can’t disclose that here for fear of being arrested...blushing sinfully.

Do you have a specific writing style?

Yes, I have found my voice. I weave factual information into the plot. For instance, in Blood Bar, a vampire tale, the references, and murder descriptions to Jack the Ripper are all real, as are the facts about the Brooklyn Bridge, did you know John Roebling the builder, died before the bridge was complete, tetanus, cut on something they believe, I think he was bit by a vampire. Here's an example of factual information built into a story.

Excerpt from Blood Bar:

The Grand Central book store of Manhattan was a seven day a week operation with study rooms along the outer wall for scholars and students researching the one of a kind gems that couldnʼt be found anywhere else in the city.

It was eleven-fifteen in the morning as Kim followed the owner to the back of the building, and with Cheyenne staring at volumes of documents, sensed he was way out of his league in this world of academia.

“You should have called before showing up here,” Professor Albert T. Mortimer told Cheyenne.

They walked down a narrow hallway out of sight from everyone and Kim felt her strength coming back.

Mortimer opened a door for Kim. “You look like youʼve been through hell. You might have considered dressing a little more appropriate, we take this place very serious.”

Not as serious as what Iʼve been through,” Kim said and realized she did look like shit, bloody clothes, drained face, and barely smiling itʼs not surprising she was getting the look from everyone.

Cheyenne immediately laid the document out on the table, switched on the overhead lamp, and turned to Mortimer. The large rectangular desk in the middle of the room now held something that few people had seen before.

Albert T. Mortimer eyed both of them and then backed away. “This is real or you both wouldnʼt be here I take it.”

Kim nodded, he had her full attention.

Leaning over the Testament, Mortimer adjusted his glasses, securing their fit against his nose and raised his chin. “Have you seen the news in the past half hour?” Mortimer asked.

“Are we mentioned?” Kim said.

“You tell me, an Indian and a brunette are wanted for questioning about leaving the scene of an accident.”

“It was no accident. Are you going to help us or not?” Kim said.

Mortimer had read more about the vampire community than any other mortal before him. He had interviewed hundreds of people in search for the truth behind the folklore. Politicians, religious leaders, law enforcement and historians, if any one knew about the Black Testament it was Mortimer. As Professor of Chemistry at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, Mortimer had spent the last 18 years researching ancient alchemy, related physics and their relationship to life after death, which explained his interest in vampires.

“Whatʼs this seal at the top?” Kim pointed to a round imprint in the document.

Picking up a large jewelerʼs loupe, Mortimer adjusted it to his right eye.

“Itʼs the Roman Emperor Domitian.”

“So, does it mean anything?” Kim asked.

“He is mentioned in the Apocalypse and is called The Beast.”

Kim studied the letters, and with her penchant for numbers and memorization, realized in the Greek Gematria A.KAI.DOMET.SEB.GE totals 666.

“You said the beast?”

Mortimer peered over his glasses, looked at Kim, nodded, and wasnʼt quite sure where she was going with the question.

“Domitian was an interesting leader, infamous in his sexual exploits and he had a wife that participated.”

Kim smiled, “The Roman orgy, what year was that?”

Mortimer paused, “He ruled the Roman Empire between 69 and 96 AD,” and thought Kim was very quick to pick up on the sexual thing.

“Itʼs speculated that the Book of Revelation was written during his reign before he was murdered in a conspiracy. Interestingly, he believed in an astrological prediction that he would die around noon, and was always restless when the sun was at its fullest.

“The vampire fear of the sun,” Kim whispered. “Doesnʼt the Book of Revelation suggest that 666 is the number of the beast?”

“And the Devil,” Mortimer said.

Kim couldnʼt help herself, “Itʼs the sum of the squares of the fi rst seven prime numbers, 22 + 32 +52 +72 + 112 +132 +172 = 666.”

Mortimer shot a glance at Cheyenne, she was right, “Itʼs also a palindromic number.”

“True, pure symmetry the number remains the same when you reverse it.” Kim said.

Mortimer was having a newfound respect for Kim. “Youʼre a lot smarter than you appear,” he said “Oh really, did you know if you sum all the numbers on a roulette wheel it totals 666, how about the first Apple computer sold was priced at $666.66?” Kimʼs voice had a bite to it and Mortimer understood the shot she took at him was well deserved.

Cheyenne was silent. This number game was beyond his capabilities and he was surprised with Kimʼs knowledge.

“Are we finished playing games?” Kim said.

Feeling somewhat embarrassed, Mortimer went back to studying the document. “Itʼs real, the Black Testament. I never thought I would see it.”

“What can you tell us, any idea where the rest of it would be?” Kim asked.

Mortimer was doing something obvious to Kim, he was hesitating. He had seen a clue and wasnʼt sure if it had meaning or not.

“What is it?” Kim pushed.

“Look here,” Mortimer pointed to the last date where the Testament was ripped. “Maybe itʼs just a coincidence but there was a time capsule put in a supply chamber in the Brooklyn Bridge on that date.

“The Brooklyn Bridge?”

“Yes, inside the bridge are cathedral-like chambers. You could call them a vault or catacombs.

The bridge engineer...”

“John Roebling,” Kim interrupted.

Again, Mortimer was taken by her knowledge. “Yes, he designed the space to be used as a vault for the national treasure.”

“Like London Bridge,” Kim said.

“Exactly, and today you can tour the towers.”

“How do we get there?” Kim turned to Cheyenne. “Subway or car?”

“Car, we drive over the Brooklyn Bridge, take the first exit which is Cadman Plaza West, and the entrance is under the overpass.

Mortimer looked at Kim, “I wish I could join you.”

“Sorry, this is serious work and youʼre not dressed appropriately.”

What have you learned about the writing process?

Some of what I've learned is from making mistakes, a lot from my mentor David Hagberg, and others from studying how writers put it together. For example, let's call this the "golden rule," pick an author you admire, a best seller, and type out a few chapters, this will show how the pro's do it.

A common mistake young authors make is to repeat words, here is a very simple example: he pulled the gun from behind his back, fired one shot from the gun, and casually tossed the gun into the bushes. As you can see the word gun is repeated, a better choice would be, he pulled the gun from behind his back, fired one shot from the pistol, and casually tossed the weapon into the bushes.The point is don't repeat but use different words.

The first paragraph of each chapter should set up the scene, place, time, action, people, and events.

The main character should be likable, but flawed, honest with no bullshit, and to help us identify with them we need sympathy.

Editing: people read at 250 words per minute, we write at 10, therefore the rule is read your work at speed, but edit slowly and re-write until it works. Read the sentence, take a word out----- does the sentence still work? Continue with a paragraph then the chapter, and if it needs more use layering. This will make it longer, slows it down, but the added descriptions make it interesting with, place, people, setting, weather, and time.

Refer back to your characters POV every three or four paragraphs. I would say these are my top rules when writing.

How do you make space for your thoughts in this busy world?

Don't let a day go by without writing.
Think about your writing in the shower or driving your car.
Become a good day dreamer, and learn to compartmentalize your brain.

What are your current projects?

Just finished re-editing Into the Basement, was never happy with what my previous publisher did to it. Next is the screenplay to Basement, written by Nicholas Grabowsky and myself, we have a producer/distributer interested, and the movie is cast with Courtney Gains, then my next novel in the Kim Bennett series that I’m tentatively calling Black Sun Rising, is another vampire tale. You can go to http://www.intothebasementthemovie.com/ to read more about the cast, director J.L. Botelho, and see his trailer for Into the Basement...it’s wicked, prepare yourself, you don’t want little kids watching this, seriously don’t let your kids see this.

Blood Bar on Amazon.com

Blood Bar is Norm Applegate’s third book; his website, http://www.normanapplegate.com/, is stuffed full of links to horror sites, authors, actors, and other interesting stuff.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Lisa's Review: The Forgotten Garden

A tiny girl is abandoned on a ship headed for Australia in 1913. She arrives completely alone with nothing but a small suitcase containing a few clothes and a single book -- a beautiful volume of fairy tales. She is taken in by the dockmaster and his wife and raised as their own. On her twenty-first birthday they tell her the truth, and with her sense of self shattered and with very little to go on, "Nell" sets out on a journey to England to try to trace her story, to find her real identity. Her quest leads her to Blackhurst Manor on the Cornish coast and the secrets of the doomed Mountrachet family. But it is not until her granddaughter, Cassandra, takes up the search after Nell's death that all the pieces of the puzzle are assembled. At Cliff Cottage, on the grounds of Blackhurst Manor, Cassandra discovers the forgotten garden of the book's title and is able to unlock the secrets of the beautiful book of fairy tales. ~http://books.simonandschuster.com/Forgotten-Garden/Kate-Morton/9781416550549

When we meet Nell, an abandoned four-year old stowed away on an ocean liner who wouldn't even speak her name, she is adopted by a generous dock worker and his wife. Devastated to learn years later that she isn't who she thought she was, she becomes withdrawn and changes her life around. With nothing more than an old suitcase and book of fairy tales she sets off to learn the truth about who she is. The knowledge doesn't come easily though and her search is derailed when Cassandra, her granddaughter, abandoned by her mother (Nell's daughter) comes to live with her. Nell dies without ever knowing the truth of who she is, but her grandaughter, continues the search.

The early chapters change time periods consistently which is confusing and frustrating for the reader, but this doesn't go on for very long and the story unfolds in a comfortable rhythm. Though a little in long in places, the story unfolds in a combination of present day and flashbacks and interspersed with fairy tales, which is a unique storytelling style that I particularly enjoyed. The fairy tales added an extra allegorical layer to the storytelling and offers the reader clues to the mystery.

A savvy reader will have guessed the truth of the what happened to Nell, long before the end of the book, however Kate Morton does a great job keeping your interest throughout. It was a pleasure getting to know the characters particularly the primary female characters who are fleshed out and well formed. Their male counterparts are not as fortunate, but there are far less of them around so it doesn't matter much.

Part fairy tale itself, The Forgotten Garden features some minor fantastical elements, even a wicked witch, but it's certainly not overdone in anyway. I can't help but compare this to The House at Riverton which packed such a powerful punch at the end that it keeps me from giving this a higher score. Don't get me wrong though, with strong themes, of love and betrayal, The Forgotten Garden is certainly a worthy follow up and great read.

Final Take: 4/5

Monday, June 15, 2009

Jenn's Review: Blood Bar

Summary: Vampires don't exist... yet, on the brownstone back alley side streets of New York, a vampire dies. Desperate, his lover turns to Kim Bennett, author Norm Applegate's (Into the Basement) quintessential heroine whose passion for S&M led to celebrity status as a hell-and-back murder mystery sleuth who's been there, done that, and then some. This time, Kim finds herself caught between a secret vampire society's attempts to locate The Black Testament (a sacred document written by Jack the Ripper), the modern-day vampire hunters bent on their destruction, and a white-knuckled journey of self-discovery that catapults her into the bowels of hell and the arms of the ultimate vampire... ...courtesy of The Haven, New York's ultimate BLOOD BAR...

Review: It's been a long time since I've read a book like this. How best to describe it to you? Think Anne Rice meets Thomas Harris and Stanley Kubrick in a dark alley. This is a gripping tale of blood lust, sex, and violence that combines two of my fascinations: vampires and Jack the Ripper. Any regular to our blog knows that I'm no fan of starting in the middle of a series, but that was not a problem here at all. Norm Applegate puts in just enough plot exposition from his prior books to help bring the new reader up to speed. And speed we did. This fast paced and complicated adventure reads like a script that twists and turns through to the very end. The death toll is high and the trysts plentiful. Though the prose aren't polished and the loopholes in the plot are several, it is easy to gloss over the details because Applegate is a master at weaving a dark tale. Besides, if you're reading Dark Fantasy Horror, it's for the thrill anyway, right?

My one disappointment with this book is poor editing. There are several open ended sets of quotation marks and, in some places, quotation marks in other fonts. While this shouldn't reflect on the novel, it detracted from my reading experience because I couldn't help but notice.

His first two books in the series (Into the Basement and Into the Spell), while not about vampires, do sound interesting and the first one is already being made into a movie. This is definitely an author on the forefront. While I don't recommend this book for the faint of heart, I do think if you're looking for something incredibly dark and forbidden, that you should put this on your nightstand... just don't expect a lot of sleep.

Final Take 4/5.0

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Julie's Review: The 8th Confession

Summary: As San Francisco's most glamorous millionaires mingle at the party of the year, someone is watching--waiting for a chance to take vengeance on Isa and Ethan Bailey, the city's most celebrated couple. Finally, the killer pinpoints the ideal moment, and it's the perfect murder. Not a trace of evidence is left behind in their glamorous home. As Detective Lindsay Boxer investigates the high-profile murder, someone else is found brutally executed--a preacher with a message of hope for the homeless. His death nearly falls through the cracks, but when reporter Cindy Thomas hears about it, she knows the story could be huge. Probing deeper into the victim's history, she discovers he may not have been quite as saintly as everyone thought. As the hunt for two criminals tests the limits of the Women's Murder Club, Lindsay sees sparks fly between Cindy and her partner, Detective Rich Conklin. The Women's Murder Club now faces its toughest challenge: will love destroy all that four friends have built? The exhilarating new chapter in the Women's Murder Club series, The 8th Confession serves up a double dose of speed-charged twists and shocking revelations as only James Patterson can. And remember, this is the only Murder Club episode of the year. ~amazon.com

Review: I never miss an episode of Women's Murder Club books and I didn't miss an episode of the tv show either. Let me just go on a mini rant and say that I REALLY miss that show. I thought it was solid. Oh well, it's just like I miss ALIAS a heck of a lot too and that's not coming back. At least I can get my fill with the books of Women's Murder Club. The 8th Confession is definitely better than 7th Heaven. I've complained in the past about having 2 separate cases in the book that aren't related but what I've finally realized is that in order to make use of all the women in the club they have to write it like that. This time, it works well. I especially liked the social murders. I thought it was interesting and definitely had some twists to the storyline. The other story of the murdered homeless person was interesting and took some good twists of its own and really brought Cindy into her own. It also proves that you should do more research before you print an article.

I really think that they need to focus on Yuki again. She was involved in this storyline but hasn't been the focus since the one where her mom died. Lindsey continues to be my favorite character. I think she's torn, honest and an excellent detective. The ending of this book will give long time readers a very good reason to smile.

These books aren't complex or earth shattering but they are good reads. I am disappointed that it's the only WMC of the year but I will look forward to the 9th installment in 2010!

Final Take: 4/5

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Julie's Review: Shoot Him If He Runs

Summary: Stone Barrington and Holly Barker team up once again in Woods' newest offering, this time to hunt ex-CIA-agent-turned-assassin Teddy Fay at the behest of the director of the CIA, Kate Rule Lee, who also happens to be the wife of President William Lee. Stone and Holly, along with Dino Bacchetti, are dispatched to luxurious St. Marks island, where they spend as much time frolicking in the ocean as they do tracking Teddy. Stone and Holly manage to strike up an acquaintance with Irene Foster, a former CIA employee who was reputed to have had a relationship with Teddy, and her current lover, Harry Pitts. But Stone and Holly soon find themselves caught up in the corrupt local politics, which stand in stark contrast to the balmy paradise the island appears to be. After the chief of police on the island is gunned down, Stone and Holly realize Teddy might be back in business, and the hunt to find him becomes even more urgent. Perennial favorite Woods certainly knows how to keep the pages turning. ~amazon.com

Review: Well, I was in the mood for more Stone Barrington, so I moved onto Shoot Him If He Runs where he teams back up with Holly Barker. Sometimes I'm not sure of crossing 2 different series main characters but Stuart Woods does it well. Not only are we joined by Holly Barker but he also incorporates another character, President Will Lee. Now I haven't read any of the books with Will Lee as the main character but I might have to start reading them.
I'm sure that's the point of bringing in Will Lee but heck my dad buys the books so it's not like it's money out of my pocket.

This isn't anything different than the other Stone Barrington novels, except this time instead of Woodman & Weld, he's working for the CIA as he's done in some of the novels in the past. This also makes for a bit more excitement since it's an exotic locale. They are to go to St. Marks to see if Teddy Fay, an ex-CIA employee, is still alive and to keep it quiet if he is. You see Teddy Fay killed a Senator and a Supreme Court Justice and everyone thinks he's dead but the President has reason to believe he's not. Of course we are met with all kinds of interesting characters who make the book a bit more enjoyable.

There are a couple twists and turns during the book but nothing that I was completely shocked by or was unexpected.

As far as Stone Barrington novels go, this was fine but not as good as others. I have 2 more books to go and I'll be caught up with Stone's adventures. Be on the look out for reviews on Hot Mahogany and Loitering with Intent. There is also a new Holly Barker novel being released on 9/22/09, which I will probably read at some point Hothouse Orchid (Holly Barker).

Final Take: 3.5/5

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Giveaway: Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

To celebrate the debut today of the The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, we have 1 copy to giveaway!! This book is gorgeous! The cover is exquisite and it's even got an "old" feel to the pages. I loved this book and am pleased to be doing this! Please leave a comment here by midnight EST time June 16th, 2009 to be entered. See my review of it here.

The winner will be announced on June 17th, 2009.

Good Luck!

Thanks to Allison at Voice for giving us the hardcover to giveaway!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Julie's Review: Fresh Disasters

Summary: Smooth-talking New York lawyer Stone Barrington, along with his sidekick, NYPD detective Dino Bacchetti, get dragged into an impossible case in Stone's entertaining 13th outing (after Dark Harbor). Stone's bosses at the high-class law firm of Woodman and Weld want him to sue major league Mafia don Carmine Dattila for beating up a character from earlier Stone adventures, the hapless Herbie Fisher. It's all pretty much good fun—the snappy repartee, hot sex, dinner at Elaine's, comedic Mafia hoodlums with names like Sammy Tools, Johnny Pop and Dattila the Hun—until the tale turns darker with the introduction of a psychotic sculptor, Devlin Daltry, who's the ex-boyfriend of Stone's current flame, Celia Cox, a tall, fabulously beautiful masseuse. Woods delivers few surprises, but there are plenty of laughs as the pages speed by. Series regulars and newcomers alike will be perfectly satisfied. ~amazon.com

Review: I really can't believe it's been 2 years since I've visited Stone Barrington. I mean I've bought all the books but somehow they just get put to the bottom of the pile. Shame on me. I always find these books quick, easy and entertaining reads. Fresh Disasters is no different. I'm always amazed at how many women Stone "has". Seriously, if he were a woman, he'd be labled all kinds of derogatory names but he's not so we get to join in his adventures. We are joined by all the usual characters: Dino, Elaine, Joan and Bob Cantor. This time Bob's nephew, Herbie Fisher joins us for the adventure. Actually, he is the adventure. He's into Mob Boss Carmine Dattila for $24K in gambling debts and gets roughed up at Elaine's while Dino and Stone are there, along with Bill Eggers. Needless to say Bill sees $$ in suing Carmine "Dattila the Hun" and weasels his way into having Stone represent Herbie in the civil lawsuits.

Not only do we have that storyline, but we also have one of the beautiful masseuse, Celia, which isn't only giving massages to Stone, but she's also being stalked and harassed by her ex-boyfriend, Devlin Dalty. So Stone gets wrapped up in that as well. There are quite a few things going on in this book, but like a Stone Barrington novels, I didn't feel it was overwhelming. I felt that all three cases were similar in nature that they fit well together. I found parts of the book funny, as Dino has his typical one-liners and there were some unexpected twists.

Overall a solid entry in the Stone Barrington series. Mr. Woods never lets me down.

Final Take: 3.5/5

Friday, June 5, 2009

Julie's Review: The Late, Lamented Molly Marx

Summary: Molly Divine Marx is dead. No one is quite sure how—murder, suicide, tragic accident?—and even Molly's own recollection doesn't explain much. Narrating this charming novel from an afterlife limbo known as the Duration, Molly follows the investigation of her death while keeping tabs on the living she left behind. Nearly everyone is a suspect: Barry, Molly's philandering plastic surgeon husband; Kitty, her controlling mother-in-law; Luke, Molly's lover; and the cabal of wifely hopefuls who line up for a shot at Barry before Molly's casket is safely in the ground. Longtime magazine editor Koslow (Little Pink Slips) knows her way around expertly tuned phrasing, and Molly is a delightful gem of a heroine. Equal parts self-deprecating, wry and sassy, Molly is honest about her faults and easily forgiving of the others' as she reviews her life with a hearty dose of honesty and humor. Though the anticipated delicious revelation doesn't quite live up to expectations, the narrative's heavy dose of hilarity and heartbreak will win readers over. -amazon.com

Review: I received this book from LibraryThing's Early Reviewers but it is something I probably would have picked up off the bookshelf and bought. The book was good not great but still entertaining. I liked Molly. In fact most of the characters in the book are likeable, even her smuck of a husband Barry. The problem with Molly is that she's dead and no one knows how or perhaps why. The Late, Lamented Molly Marx: A Novel is a chick lit book tied into a mystery and it works well. It actually comes off better than Jennifer Weiner's Goodnight Nobody: A Novel. We see Molly's loved ones and not so loved ones after her death as does Molly because she's in the Duration and can flit about in their lives and even hear their thoughts.

I think I identified with Molly for a few reasons 1) We are about the same age 2) Our daughters are the same age and 3) she hails from Chicago! I loved that part of the book and it's probably why it got bummed up in my rating. She's in a suburb that I used to work in and mentions a place that is so locally famous that I was shocked it was in the book. I wonder if Ms. Koslow is from this area?

There is no real resolution to what happened to Molly and I was disappointed in that part of the book. I felt that I took all this time to get to know her and was left with nothing but more questions. As for Molly, she seemed ok with this ending to her saga and maybe the point is that some things in life and in death are just not worth fretting about. The ending of the book did choke me up but didn't cause me to cry many tears.

Other than Molly, I adored Brie and I'm glad she really was a true-blue friend to Molly. You never know where authors are going to take you in books like these, like if she was a "wolf in sheeps clothing" or really a true friend. I also liked Detective Hicks. He seemed like a good person and a solid cop.

All in all, it's a good summer read. Something you can enjoy and then put away.

Final Take: 3.75/5

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

June Book Club Pick

June is here and the Girls Just Reading Book Club plans on having China Lake finished by the end of the month. If you'd like to read it with us, there's still plenty of time!

Read more about the book here: China Lake by Meg Gardiner