Thursday, January 28, 2010

Julie's Review: Standing Still

Summary: Starred Review. What mother wouldn't sacrifice herself for her child? In Simmons's electrifying debut, the answer is delivered through the harrowing ordeal of a mother held for ransom by an anonymous kidnapper. A former globetrotting journalist now working for a Midwest TV station, Claire has a comfortable life with her husband, Sam, a successful co-owner of a PR/marketing firm, and their three young daughters, but she's unhappy with Sam and struggles with a secret past. On one of the frequent nights Sam isn't home, an intruder crashes through the skylight of the couple's newly renovated house. The man planned to kidnap their oldest girl, but Claire persuades him to take her instead. An intense bond develops between Claire and her abductor, a widower mourning the loss of his wife, during the eerie seven-day odyssey that follows. As Claire waits for the ransom to be paid, she faces some hard truths about the choices everyone makes that sometimes require lies to endure. The perfect read for a stormy night, Simmons's suspenseful tale contains nary a wasted

Review: Claire is a runner and I don't mean the exercise type. Frankly, I'm amazed that she's been married to Sam for 10 years. She doesn't stay in any relationship very long and doesn't regret it. Maybe she's amazed she's been with Sam for that amount of time as well. I truly liked Claire. I "got" her, well not the anxiety disorder, but the rest of her I understood. The reflection on her life before kids and before Sam. Don't we all do that? Don't we all wonder? Standing Still isn't like any other novel I've read. Sure it's a thriller, but it's more than that; it's a journey into a women's soul as she tries to find out who she is and what it is that she wants.

The book starts off with someone breaking into Sam and Claire's newly renovated house and it never lets up. Immediately you know that Claire has secrets and some pretty dark ones. The robber is really a kidnapper coming for their oldest daughter, instead Claire insists that he takes her. He does and that's where the majority of the story comes from.

I don't want to get into details about the book because it will give away key plot points but the story is immaculately told. I couldn't wait to see what happened and unfolded. The biggest question throughout the book was "Who is David?" That resolution wasn't too surprising but it did keep me on pins and needles waiting to find out. You kind of piece it together by they way Ms. Simmons writes the novel. It's not so much who David is, as it is what he wants with Claire. It's more about Claire and what she could have done to have this man David after her. To have her so scared that she has an anxiety disorder.

We learn a lot about Claire during the time she's in the hotel with her capture. What I found is that some of her thoughts are probably something all of us women think on a daily/weekly/monthly basis, especially if you are married with kids.

I have to comment on one thing that dawned on me about 1/2 way through the novel. When referring to the kidnapper, it was always expressed as "He", with the H always capitalized. I don't know about the rest of you but to me that was always reserved for Jesus Christ. Here's my thinking, Claire thinks of the kidnapper as her savior and perhaps he was in way or another.

The book deals with some pretty interesting psychological issues: anxiety disorders and Stockholm Syndrome. Both are what really sets the book apart from other's in the genre. I mean, if you were in a hotel room with a kidnapper and the worst thing they did to you was tie you up, wouldn't you want to make the best of it and maybe align yourself with them? You would, if it meant survival.

The ending isn't a neat bow but you do close the book and know that in the end Claire will be ok and she will come out stronger.

Final Take: 4.5/5

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Book News: Jennifer Weiner

Photobucket Well it's more than book news, it's TV news as well. One of my favorite authors, Jennifer Weiner, is trying to get her pilot on ABC. Below is the email I received from her.

"Greetings readers!

We interrupt this between-book hiatus with a special announcement.

Over the past year, I’ve been working on (drumroll please!) a TV show. It’s called “Jane and Dick,” and it’s about a funny, smart, sensitive, slightly insecure lady lawyer, the all-female law firm she’s created, and what happens when her teenage crush and her big sister’s ex-boyfriend comes to work in her feminist Utopia. It takes elements of all the shows I loved (Ally McBeal! Moonlighting! Sex and the City!) and gives them all of the wit and heart, and the kind of well-rounded, realistic heroine that my readers have come to enjoy.

ABC is in the process of picking up shows for next fall, and “Jane and Dick” is still in the running. If you’d like to see it on the air, you can sign a petition at petition spot.

Or you can write to the network and say, “I want more Weiner on TV” at (Seriously, you don’t have to write that, but I do love the idea of executives being flooded with email about more Weiner on TV.)

Please note: even if the TV show happens, I will not stop writing novels. My newest book, FLY AWAY HOME, tells the story of a politician's wife and his two adult daughters rebuilding their lives in the wake of the kind of scandal that's become all too familiar these days, and it hits shelves this July.

Thanks in advance for your support and, as always, thank you for reading my books."

I'm so excited her new book is coming out this summer. (Running to pre-order on Amazon). I'm also excited about the prospect that her wit and verve will be on primetime.

If you want more Weiner on tv, please sign her petition.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Julie's Review: When She Flew

In this good-hearted novel, a father and his daughter—a damaged but loving Iraq War vet named Ray and a budding 12-year-old naturalist named Lindy—live happily off the grid in an Oregon forest until the day Lindy is spotted by a bird-watcher. Notified of a young girl wandering alone deep in the woods, the police assign dedicated officer Jessica Villareal to the case. Recently rejected by her own daughter and still smarting, Jessica sets out with the best of intentions for helping Lindy, but risks destroying the life Lindy and her father have built for themselves. Examining people willing to sidestep the rules in pursuit of a greater good, Shortridge's fourth novel (after Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe) recalls Barbara Kingsolver's Pigs in Heaven; Shortridge even manages to finesse authentic performances from her population of familiar types: a pitiable war veteran, a conflicted cop and a poor but precocious youngster.

Review: I'm always into reading family drama's/saga's, so When She Flew seemed that it would fall into that category but with a slightly different perspective. It's not that I didn't like some aspects of the book; it's just that it fell flat to me. I didn't fall in love or even heavy like with any of the characters. When that doesn't happen, a book usually falls flat for me. We are introduce to Lindy, a tween who is living in the forest with her dad. You see he's an Iraqi war vet who got hurt in combat and no one will hire him because they are afraid of eventually worker's comp claims. Down on their luck and not wanting to raise Lindy on the street, he builds them a tree house in Columbia, Oregon. This works great for them for a while until Lindy chases a Blue Heron and happens upon tourists who call the cops.

Enter Jessica "Jess" Villareal, veteran of the Columbia Police Force. She's part of the search and rescue team that is called in to find Lindy and rescue her from the cult she has been held captive by. Of course, what they learn is very different from what they thought. We've learned throughout the book that Jess is a very "follow the rules" kind of gal so you know it's foreshadowing to her not following the rules in this instance.

I won't give too much away in case you want to pick it up and read it for yourself. Unfortunately there is much more about this book that I didn't like than did. There are too many loose ends and I didn't really like the ending. I don't have to have ending tied up in a neat bow BUT I do like to know in general the characters are going to be ok and the ending left that up in the air.

What I really did like was the writing style of Ms. Shortridge. She has talent for writing about nature that makes me want to go camping. (yeah I don't do it). Her description of the blue heron and the peacocks in the book was so vivid, that I felt I could reach out and touch them.

I've read great things about Ms. Shortridge's other book Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe so I might have to give that a try.

Final Take: 3.25/5

Saturday, January 23, 2010

And The Winner Is....

Congratulations to Call Me Kayla, Julie P, Llehn, Deb K, All4Me2Read, our winners of The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw. Please email me (Julie) your mailing address so we can get it to you as soon as possible.

As always, I used to produce the winners.

Thanks to Jason @ Henry Holt for providing the books for the contest.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Book & Movie: Bridget Jones The Edge of Reason

I have always thought this movie falls a little short in comparison to it's prequel, but I now have a whole new appreciation for it! Julie was absolutely right, this book is fantastic. The episode in Bangkok (featured in the film) is just a sliver of the mess Bridget has gotten into this time. While I do appreciate the added drama of Daniel vs Mark in the movie (who doesn't appreciate a little extra Colin Firth and Hugh Grant, eh?), the book has a more realistic scenario with one of Bridget's 'frenemies' making a play for an oblivious Mark. Bridget's mother continues to get into trouble too, keeping everyone on their toes. The only part of the book that was really odd for me was when Bridget is interviewing Colin Firth, as I always picture him as Mark Darcy, it was a bit jarring on the imagination to say the least.

Whereas it didn't seem to make much of a difference whether you read before you watched with the first movie, I think it makes a world of difference with the second one! This book truly made me appreciate the movie on an entirely new level. Time for a Bridget Jones Marathon! (The rumored third movie has a date of 2011 on; I'll have to keep an eye on it...)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Giveaway: The Girl with Glass Feet

We are so excited to sponsor a giveway of The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw. Henry Holt is lovely enough to offer us 5 copies to giveaway.

Please leave a comment here by midnight EST on January 22nd to be eligible to win a copy.

Good luck!!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Julie's Review: The Girl with Glass Feet

Summary: The cold northern islands of St. Hauda's Land are home to strange creatures and intertwining human secrets in Shaw's earnest, magic-tinged debut. Ida Maclaird returns to the archipelago to find a cure for the condition her last visit brought her—she is slowly turning into glass. The landscape is at once beautiful and ominous, and its residents mistrustful, but she grows close to Midas Crook, a young man who, despite his intention to spend his life alone, falls in love with Ida and becomes desperate to save her. Their quest leads them to Henry Fuwa, a hermit biologist devoted to preserving the moth-winged bull, a species of insect-sized winged bovines; to Carl Mausen, a friend of Ida's family whose devotion to her mother makes him both ally and enemy; and finally to Emiliana Stallows, who claims to have once cured a girl with Ida's affliction. Each of these characters' histories intertwine, though their motivations surrounding Ida are muddled by their loyalties. Both love story and dirge, Shaw's novel flows gracefully and is wonderfully dreamlike, with the danger of the islands matched by the characters' dark pasts.

Review: I don't read fantasy books or sci-fi but what caught my interest about The Girl with Glass Feet was the comparison to Alice Hoffman and I do enjoy the mysticism in her books. This is also a debut novel and I always love to read new writers. The book is more fable than fantasy but you do have to suspend belief at times. St. Hauda's Land doesn't actually exist. I know because I googled it. To me a place like this might exist off the coast of Finland. I'm not sure why I think that but Finland seems about as good a place as any.

We meet Ida Maclaird because she's suffering from a strange illness and has come back to the island to find a cure. She thinks a man she happened upon a year ago when she first came to the island can help her. Almost from the beginning of the book you feel for Ida. As we begin to discover her, we find out that before she was afflicted with being overcome with glass, she was quite an adventurer. She lived life how she wanted to and did a great many.

Before we meed Ida, we meet Midas. Midas is a lonely person and quite miserable. The only thing he loves is his camera and his photographs. He views life through his camera lens. He doesn't experience it. He's caught up in becoming his father, whom he despised.

We also meet Henry Fuwa, who is the man that Ida thinks can help heal her affliction. He's a strange man who is consumed with raising moth-winged cattle/bulls. He's completely closed himself off from the world and human contact.

While the stories do intersect, the end of the book leaves you hanging on the purpose of why they had to intersect. This is book is very interconnected so I can't go into many details surrounding the stories but the ending of the book has an excellent resolution on a few different levels.

Even though I'm not a fantasy lover, this book can resonate with anyone who just wants a good story. The way Mr.Shaw rights puts you right in St. Hauda's Land. I can honestly say I've never read a book with such different landscape. This landscape is just as much a character in the story as any of the people. It definitely sets the tone for the book. You know it's going to be a deep and dark book.

While I liked reading about the characters, I didn't really connect with any of them. I found them interesting and intriguing but not able to identify with them. The most complex character was Midas. Although to me he was one of those characters that you wanted to shake tell him to quite living in the past and just live. Quit worrying about your father and the shadow you think he's holding over you.

What I like to see is growth from characters and you get that with the novel. If a character(s) don't have an epiphany then the writer has not done their job. Mr. Shaw does this eloquently.

Mr. Shaw is a gifted storyteller and I look forward to reading any future novels from him. Not only is a gifted writer but apparently quite the artist as well. If you click here to see his drawings of the creatures of St. Hauda's Land.

I want to thank Jason at Henry Holt for sending me this book.

Final Take: 3.75/5

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Julie's Review: Trust No One

Summary: Hurwitz (Last Shot) blasts new life into a well-worn theme—the prominent politician trying to hide a dark incident from his past—in this intelligent thriller. Late one night, the Secret Service snatches 36-year-old Nick Horrigan, who's led a quiet life since making a fatal mistake in his teens, and whisks him to the San Onofre, Calif., nuclear plant. There a terrorist threatens to set off a bomb unless he can talk to Nick, who hasn't got the slightest idea why he's been summoned. After the terrorist gets his head blown off, Nick realizes this and subsequent events are connected to the death years earlier of his Secret Service agent stepfather. Working with his homeless pal, Homer, and his computer whiz ex-girlfriend, Induma, Nick pieces together a string of clues that point to a paternity case against either the U.S. president, Andrew Bilton, or Sen. Jasper Caruthers, Bilton's opponent in an upcoming election. While more astute readers may intuit the bad guy, Nick's ethical dilemmas, girlfriend dramas and sleuthing provide plenty of excitement.

Review: This book has been sitting on my nightstand for a few months. It's not that I didn't want to read it, but I had other things I wanted to read first. Trust No One is a fast-paced political thriller without making it about politics. I've read some reviews where they compare Caruthers to Obama but I don't see it. Sometimes characters are just characters. Nick Horrigan has been carrying some massive guilt. He feels responsible for his step-dad's death 17 years prior and has been on the run since. He was forced to leave his grieving mom so that she wouldn't be hurt in this massive plot to blame Nick in his step-father's death.

So 17 years later Nick gets pulled into a situation where he's called in to deal with a terrorist because the terrorist asked for him. This starts his on a search for why he was wanted at the nuclear plant and how this all link's back to his step-dad's murder.

I really can't say much else without giving away the plot but it's really an excellent plot. Nick Horrigan is someone you cheer for right from the start. You feel that he's been dealt a wrong hand for the last 17 years and is about to make it right. There is a whole cast of characters where you don't know who to trust. Mr. Hurwitz does a very good job of making you guess the ending up until the end.

I would put Mr. Hurwitz in company with Michael Connelly and David Baldacci regarding style and ability to keep you guessing.

If you are looking for a good thriller that calls into question our need for political heroes, then pick up Trust No One.

Final Take: 4/5

Friday, January 1, 2010

Books, Books, More Books...& a Contest II UPDATE

Ok, so yeah I haven't read as much as I hoped or wanted to this fall. Work was busier than expected which cut into my reading time at lunch and at night.

Here is the link to the original post and below are the updates on what I have read or books I read instead. Books that I completed are in red, books that I completed and changed are in blue.

* The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
* Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
* The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly
* Fade Away by Harlan Coben
* Loitering with Intent by Stuart Woods
* Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran

* Mission Canyon by Meg Gardiner
* The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

* Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
* Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
* The Maze by Catherine Coulter

* Trust No One by Gregg Hurwitz

Without Hesitation: Rasner Effect II by Mark Rosendorf
* The Help by Kathryn Stockett

* Stone Cold by David Baldacci
* Symmetry by Joyce Scarbrough
* Knit the Season by Kate Jacobs

* Standing Still by Kelly Simmons

So I read 10 out of my original 18. EEK!! Looks like I need to get cracking. So here is what I have left to read and I'm switching out 4 original books for 4 I promised to read in January/February.

* Trust No One by Greg Hurwitz
* When She Flew by Jennifer Shortridge
* The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw
* Standing Still by Kelly Simmons

* A Black Tie Affair by Sherril Bodine
* Reasons by Tracy Fabre
* Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
* Without Hesitation: Rasner Effect II by Mark Rosendorf

* Mission Canyon by Meg Gardiner
* The Help by Kathryn Stockett
* The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
* Stone Cold by David Baldacci

If you guessed on the original post you can edit your guess here, if not feel free to join. You have until January 12th, to submit your guess.