Monday, August 31, 2009

Julie's Review: Little Women

Summary: In picturesque nineteenth-century New England, tomboyish Jo, beautiful Meg, fragile Beth, and romantic Amy come of age while their father is off to war. It's about family, love, dedication and following your heart.

NOTE: This was to be a group review but Jenn is in the middle of a torturous move and Lisa's job keeps her swamped, so you get me!

Julie's Review: Is it wrong to say that I love the movie but like the book? Is that heresy? It's not that the book wasn't wonderful, it was, but in really did drag in parts. Maybe it's a book to be read when you are a young adult or at least the ages of the girls in the book (12-16), I'm not sure. Jo is still my favorite character in the book and I still can't stand Amy. Actually, I think the book cemented the fact that I really can't stand her.

What I did appreciate most about the book was the descriptions of that era and the fact that the book is semi-autobiographical. I can't imagine sending my husband off to war and to essentially be destitute without his income. Which begs me to wonder why Hannah is still with them?

I still don't like that Jo ends up with her Professor and that Amy ends up with Laurie, but at least I knew that going in.

I will read this to my daughter when she is of the right age because I think it has its merits. Especially on helping others and being a good, kind person.

Julie's Final Take: 4.5/5

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Julie's Review: The Heretic Queen

Summary: The intricacies of the ancient Egyptian court are brought to life in Moran's fascinating tale of a princess's rise to power. Nefertari, niece of the famed heretic queen Nefertiti, becomes part of the court of Pharaoh Seti I after her family is deposed, and she befriends Ramesses II, the young crown prince. When Ramesses is made co-monarch, he weds Iset, the granddaughter of a harem girl backed by Seti's conniving sister, Henuttawy, the priestess of Isis. As Nefertari's position in the court becomes tenuous, she realizes that she, too, wants to marry Ramesses and enlists the help of Seti's other sister, Woserit. But when Nefertari succeeds in wedding Ramesses, power struggles and court intrigues threaten her security, and it is questionable whether the Egyptian people will accept a heretic descendant as their ruler or if civil war will erupt. Moran (Nefertiti) brings her characters to life, especially Nefertari, who helped Ramesses II become one of the most famous of Egyptian pharaohs. Nefertari's struggles to be accepted as a ruler loved as a leader and to secure her family's position throughout eternity are sure to appeal to fans of historical fiction.

Review: HOLY CRAP! I didn't think that Michelle could out do herself because Nefertiti was so wonderful but The Heretic Queen outshines it. As much as I loved Mutny in Nefertiti, I love her daughter Nefertari even more.

If we think modern day politics are interesting, they don't hold a candle to ancient Egypt. Everyone has an ulterior motive for either helping Nefertari to gain the crown or to lose the crown and it's all very interesting. What interests me the most though is how the ancient Egyptians married so young and had so many kids. I understand that their life expectancy wasn't that long and they had a lot of kids because of the fact that many of them died at young ages.

While the love story enraptured me, it was Nefertari's climb from being an outsider to one of the most powerful Queen's in history that is the real story here. How she fought her way, with some help, to rule at Ramesses side.

I would have liked to have read more about Asha, who I found just as interesting as Ramesses himself. I wonder how long he fought next to Ramesses, or if he was a fictional character?

There were just enough tie-ins to Nefertiti that you said "ah-ha" at certain points, but not enough that you have to read it before The Heretic Queen. Although I do highly recommend, Nefertiti anyway. You can read my review Here.

On September 15th, Michelle Moran's 3rd novel, Cleopatra's Daughter will be released. I am so excited to read it.

I really don't know what else to say without giving the plot away, except read it. Ms. Moran is one talented writer.

Final Take: 5/5

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Book News: Perfect on Paper

I received great news from Maria Murnane, author of "Perfect on Paper": It has been picked up by a publishing house. Amazon is branching out into publishing and have chosen Perfect on Paper to be one of their books. The book will be revamped and re-released in early 2010.

Based on my review, I highly recommend that you don't wait until amazon releases this funny novel in 2010, go to amazon and buy one now! Once you've read it and love it, contact Maria so she can put you on her email list.

Congratulations to Maria on her hardwork to get this book published in mass quantities!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Was I Rude?

I was just in a local Barnes and Noble, where I noticed another patron browsing and looking at a book that I gave a 2.5 rating to and chimed in with "Ooh, don't buy that. It wasn't very good." I then said sorry for intruding realizing I was probably being rude and why would a stranger want my opinion.

She did ask me what I've read that I loved. I recommended She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb (it was on the sale table) and she walked out with it. God, I hope she likes it.

Has this happened to anyone? Was I rude? Should I just keep my trap shut next time?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Book to Movie: The Time Traveler's Wife

Photobucket Summary: This clever and inventive tale works on three levels: as an intriguing science fiction concept, a realistic character study and a touching love story. Henry De Tamble is a Chicago librarian with "Chrono Displacement" disorder; at random times, he suddenly disappears without warning and finds himself in the past or future, usually at a time or place of importance in his life. This leads to some wonderful paradoxes. From his point of view, he first met his wife, Clare, when he was 28 and she was 20. She ran up to him exclaiming that she'd known him all her life. He, however, had never seen her before. But when he reaches his 40s, already married to Clare, he suddenly finds himself time travelling to Clare's childhood and meeting her as a 6-year-old. The book alternates between Henry and Clare's points of view, and so does the narration. Reed ably expresses the longing of the one always left behind, the frustrations of their unusual lifestyle, and above all, her overriding love for Henry. Likewise, Burns evokes the fear of a man who never knows where or when he'll turn up, and his gratitude at having Clare, whose love is his anchor.

Review: So it's been 2.5 years since I've read The Time Traveler's Wife,but I remember the essential story. They really did capture the essence of the story, while making Clare a bit more bitter, which was a good thing. I had no doubts that Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana could capture Clare and Henry. It wasn't that I visioned Rachel as Clare and Eric as Henry when I read the book but the casting was perfect.

I also loved that it was filmed in Chicago. I was worried that they'd change the location of the movie to fit Hollywood and they didn't. I think that Chicago is as much a part of the story as any other character.

Sure they had to leave a couple subplots out, it's to be expected when the book is 560 pages and the movie was 108 minutes. Nonetheless, the romance of the story was very much there and that's what I wanted to see. The special effects of making Henry disappear and reappear were wonderful. It looked like they just erased him from the screen when he would time travel.

My complaint about the book was that I didn't always follow the time travelling and would find it confusing at times. The movie made it easy to follow and understand.

I will admit that I cried a couple of different times, especially when Alba was introduced. I think the parts with Alba and Henry affected me more now that I'm a mom and I see the relationship between my husband and daughter.

I often describe The Time Traveler's Wife to people as a cross between The Notebookand Ghost but I don't even think that does it justice.

Did you see it? Did you like it/hate it? How do you describe it to those who haven't read it?

Book to Movie Final Take: 4/5

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Julie's Review: Real Home-Based Business

Photobucket Summary: If you’re looking for yet another useless, “fluff-filled” book on home based businesses, then this book isn’t for you. Instead, this book is for real people who want to run a real business. Whether you want to work at home on your computer, open a daycare, start a local service (like a plumber, computer consultant, pet sitter, etc), or anything else, then Start and Run a Real Home Based Business is what you’ve been waiting for.

Julie's Review: This yet again another good reference book from Sarah at Self-counsel Press. This is the book you need to read before you even have an idea in mind. While working from home sounds lovely to most of us, it takes a disciplined person to do it on a regular basis. This book lays out all the things you need to do or consider before even opening for business.

It definitely brought up things I would not have thought of: thinking of a name, marketing, will you take credit cards, legal needs, etc.

What I thought it would have were ideas for home-based businesses and it didn't. That was the only disappointment about this book.

I want to note that their website has a ton of reference books on specific businesses if you already have one in mind.

All in all a good tool if you are truly serious about doing a home-based business and have found a great niche.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Julie's Review: Writing for the Web

Photobucket Summary: This book will help you write prose that’s as good as your code. It includes a convenient, easy-to-use Webwriter’s style guide to step you through the rules governing abbreviations, biased terms, capitalization, compound words, and clich├ęs. Exercises will help you practice your new Webwriting techniques, and critiques of real Websites will give you practical advice. Whether you are creating a personal Website, developing your company’s Website, or publishing an e-zine, Writing for the Web offers sound advice on writing within the framework of three principles: 1. orient readers to your site 2. inform readers effectively 3. prompt readers to take action so that you get the results you want.

Review: Sarah at Self-Counsel Press was kind enough to send me a copy of Writing for the Web to read and review. Most of the information in the book was very useful especially if you are designing a web page for a business. How to hook readers initially and to keep them coming back, how to make sure your content is intelligent and simple enough for everyone to understand and how write for the web instead of traditional print.

While I found that some of the tips are very useful for bloggers, I felt it was geared towards small to medium sized businesses who are looking to either create or update their website. If you are creating your blog from scratch (aka not using a template) there are great tips for how to design and explain your blog.

If you are new to using the web as a tool for gaining customers, than Writing for the Web would be a useful tool. If you are in need of gaining some ideas for updating your website or blog, it is also a good tool.

Self-Counsel Press has a lot of great business related books on their website. Feel free to check them out at

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Julie's Review: The Last Bridge

Summary: For ten years, Alexandra “Cat” Rucker has been on the run from her past. With an endless supply of bourbon and a series of meaningless jobs, Cat is struggling to forget her Ohio hometown and the rural farmhouse she once called home. But a sudden call from an old neighbor forces Cat to return to the home and family she never intended to see again. It seems that Cat’s mother is dead. What Cat finds at the old farmhouse is disturbing and confusing: a suicide note, written on lilac stationery and neatly sealed in a ziplock bag, that reads: Cat, He isn’t who you think he is. Mom xxxooo One note, ten words--one for every year she has been gone--completely turns Cat’s world upside down. Seeking to unravel the mystery of her mother’s death, Cat must confront her past to discover who “he” might be: her tyrannical, abusive father, now in a coma after suffering a stroke? Her brother, Jared, named after her mother’s true love (who is also her father’s best friend)? The town coroner, Andrew Reilly, who seems to have known Cat’s mother long before she landed on a slab in his morgue? Or Addison Watkins, Cat’s first and only love? The closer Cat gets to the truth, the harder it is for her to repress the memory and the impact of the events that sent her away so many years ago. Taut, gripping, and edgy, The Last Bridge is an intense novel of family secrets, darkest impulses, and deep-seated love. Teri Coyne has created a stunning tapestry of pain and passion where past and present are seamlessly interwoven to tell a story that sears and warms in equal measure.

There is so much to say about The Last Bridge that I'm having a hard time thinking of how to put it in words. I would have finished it in one sitting, except motherhood called me out of my revelry. So, I finished it in 2 sittings. I have read reviews where the reader didn't like the main character, Cat, but I did. She was hugely flawed and yes some of it she could have put a stop to, but she was a product of her environment to a large extent. I am all for adults to quit blaming their parents for what's wrong with them and to take ownership for their lives, but in some circumstances it takes a bit longer. Cat is a drunk. She's a hard living drunk who travels from town to town doing jobs that give her enough cash for a hotel and booze. With one phone call she has to return to the house she left 10 years before without looking back. Her mom killed herself and her dad is in a coma. She comes back to the family farm to be confronted with the events that caused her to leave all those years ago.

There are some twists and turns in the book that I didn't see coming. There was one that I did see coming but I think most readers would as well. I think she alludes to it during most of the book. I had no respect for Cat's mom at all. Cat's sister Wendy hides behind a facade of being happy and her brother Jared is torn with guilt that he can't get over. So essentially they are one messed up family.

The note that is described is essential to the book but not in the way I thought it was be. "He" refers to many different men in Cat's life but for me it didn't stick to one more clearly than the other. What I think might have been more poignant is if the note said, "Cat - You aren't who you think you are." Either way it did lead Cat down the road to self-discovery.

I've never been abused and I can not imagine what it is like to be in a relationship like that. I do know from other reading and studying it in school, that when it's good it's so good and when it's bad, it's terrifying. Cat's dad was definitely a monster and I'm glad he finally got what he deserved. Karma has a way of being very vengeful.

I wouldn't change a thing about this book except the cover. I don't think it does the book justice. I would have liked to have seen a picture of the ravine with the rickety old bridge that is the center to this novel. Or even the tree stump that is also essential to Cat's story.

This novel is dark, daring, brooding, honest and hopeful. During parts of the book I cried and recovered. At the end though I continuously cried. The journey that Ms. Coyne takes us on in this book is one that I will never forget. It will resonate with me for a very long time.

Final Take: 5/5

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Jenn's Review: The Memory Collector

Summary: Forensic psychiatrist Jo Beckett’s specialty is the psychological autopsy— an investigation into a person’s life to determine whether a death was natural, accidental, suicide, or homicide. She calls herself a deadshrinker instead of a head-shrinker: The silence of her “patients” is a key part of the job’s attraction. When Jo is asked to do a psychological autopsy on a living person—one with a suspect memory who can’t be trusted to participate in his own medical care—she knows all her skills will be put to the test.

Jo is called to the scene of an aircraft inbound from London to help deal with a passenger who is behaving erratically. She figures out that he’s got anterograde amnesia, and can’t form new memories. Jo finds herself racing to save a patient who can walk and talk and yet can’t help Jo figure out just what happened to him. For every cryptic clue he is able to drag up from his memory, Jo has to sift through a dozen nonsensical statements. Suddenly a string of clues arises, something to do with a superdeadly biological agent code-named “Slick,” a missing wife and son, and a secret partnership gone horribly wrong. Jo realizes her patient’s addled mind may hold the key to preventing something terrible from happening in her beloved San Francisco. In order to prevent it, she will have to get deeper into the life of a patient than she ever has before, hoping the truth emerges from the fog of his mind in time to save her city—and herself.

Review: I hardly think the summary of this book does it justice. This is the second installment of the Jo Beckett series and I throughly enjoyed it. Typical Gardiner, there was lots of action (an incredible fight scene with two women and a hot iron) and even a little romance thrown in. But it was also a fascinating psychological thriller. I cannot imagine living constantly in the present... while there is something too be said for the technology around "slick" being a little fuzzy, I found it easily forgivable. The only part I had trouble with is a cop with back up going missing and the rest of the team being clueless... outside of that, I think Gardiner has solidly established Jo as a character. The Jo Beckett series has really come into it's own.

Final take: 4/5

Monday, August 3, 2009

Julie's Review: Hot Mahogany

Summary: Stone Barrington returns to take on an underworld of crime that gives a new meaning to “old money.” In Stuart Woods’s engaging new thriller, Stone Barrington is lured from Elaine’s to New England, and the genteel but cutthroat world of priceless antiques, historic homes, and lavish country estates. In a place dominated by bluebloods and their inherited wealth, along with the nouveau riche, there are surprisingly few rules of engagement, and Stone finds himself navigating a dangerous course, - one where even the most expensive and sought-after status symbols are sometimes stolen and sometimes clever fakes, though no less priceless. With the swift action, bold characters and wit as dry as the best martini, Hot Mahogany is another must-read from the pen of a master entertainer.

Review: You guys already know that I love the Stone Barrington novels and Hot Mahogany (Stone Barrington) is really no different, except that at times I felt lost. I'm in no way shape or form into antiques. I understand there's a real market for these items and some people will do anything to get their hands on a specific item. This particular entry in the Stone "adventures" focuses on that. In this book we meet Lance Cabot's older and mysterious brother Barton. It seems that Barton's been drugged and beat up, but for what we don't know. That is until Lance asks Stone to help out and solve this mystery for him.

I enjoyed how they solved the case of the stolen Secretary (which is a piece of furniture not a lady who sits behind a desk taking dictation in the 1960s). I really enjoyed the character of Barton and hope to see him again. What would be nice is to see Stone settle down for a while with one lady. I mean it doesn't have to mean marriage but a committed relationship would be a nice change. We haven't had that in this series since Arrington. In this book he beds 3 different women, although one is a regular appearance. I'm hoping the last one might be more serious. You know, last a couple of books. I'm starting to think that Stone Barrington is Mr. Woods alter ego. I also keep wondering how Stone is almost always at the brink of being a bit broke and then he lands these huge cases. Oh well, it's fiction right? :)

Another thing that struck me was at the end of the book, the ladies retired to a different room while the men conducted business. I mean, who does that these days? I guess maybe people with a lot of money? I just thought it was interesting. There is a note at the end of the book that explains that a Secretary of this era did exist and how he came upon the story. I really liked knowing that it was a real piece of furniture.

I now have Loitering with Intent to read and then I'll officially be caught up on Stone's adventures.

Final Take: 3.75/5