Saturday, December 31, 2011

Julie's List: 2011 Top 10 Books

2011 has probably been one of the best reading years for me, that I can recall. This of course makes it harder to pick 10 of my favorites. What's great is that since I rate my books, it does help me out a bit. I don't think I have had this many "5" ratings in one year!! 9 out of my 10 are "5"'s!!

If I listed all the books that were "4" and above this list would be 40+  books long!!
Without further ado, in the order in which they were read:

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen review
The Murderer's Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers review
The Wild Rose by Jennifer Donnelly review
Sister by Rosamund Lupton review
The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jusi Adler-Olsen review
Children of Paranoia by Trevor Shane review
Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman review
It's a Waverly Lifeby Maria Murnane review
The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson review

I am so looking forward to what I have in store for 2012 to read. Can it compete with 2011?! I guess we'll wait and see.

Did you have a really good reading year in 2011? What were your favorites?


Friday, December 30, 2011

Julie's Review: The Department of Lost and Found

Summary: It didn't start out as the worst day of Natalie Miller's life...As the top aide to New York's powerful woman senator, Natalie's moving rapidly up the political ladder. She works hard, stays late, and enjoys every bit of it. Then her neglected boyfriend announces he's leaving. But that's only the beginning. Her doctor tells her she has breast cancer—and raw ambition and ruthless determination alone are not going to cure it. Suddenly the life Natalie needs to change is her own. The time has come for her to take a tough look at the choices she's made. She'll start by tracking down the five loves of her life in order to assess what went wrong. And by revisiting her past, Natalie just might discover exciting new paths to unexplored places—and learn how to stop barreling through life long enough to really embrace it.  

Review: After reading Allison Winn Scotch's other two books (The One That I Want, & Time of My Life) I quickly ordered her first novel The Department of Lost & Found and just now got to reading it. I will say that I believe this was probably my favorite of her novels so far. I absolutely adored Natalie from the minute she introduces us to her diary and her life. Natalie is 30 and is battling breast cancer and is going through her first round of chemotherapy. Her boyfriend also dumped her the day she found out because he found love elsewhere. This causes Natalie to reflect on the fact that she never really knew why all her other relationships ended, which in turn becomes a quest for her.

I liked how Ms. Scotch handled this aspect of the novel because it could have very quickly become old and stale. She didn't let Natalie dwell on each relationship but instead she had her ask the questions she wanted the answers too and then move on. I loved that the guys were honest with her and were able to help her out. Don't we often wonder about why our relationship end? For the most part, I can tell you why mine ended but I do wonder about the guy's perspective.  What ends up happening is a journey of self-discovery and Natalie figuring out what she wants out of her life. 

There are parts in the book that made me laugh out loud and well anytime there's a mention of Michael Vartan I swoon. There were also times during the book that I found my eyes welling up with tears. I can't imagine going through all that Natalie does and for 90% of the time having a great outlook on it. 

I love Ms. Scotch's books. I love how she writes her female characters because there is something in all of them we can all connect to. I can't wait to read her newest one, The Song Remains the Same, when it is released on April 12, 2012. If you haven't read her, I highly recommend her.

Final Take: 4/5


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bottom of the Pile 2011

Every year there are a few books we weren't as fond of... and perhaps could have skipped over.  That's not to say they were bad books or that you won't find something redeeming in them -we all have different tastes.

Here's what Jenn could have done without:  
Here's what Julie could have done without:
* A book that made Julie's Top 10 list

Is there any book you could have done without?


Julie's Review: Alice I Have Been

Summary:   Benjamin draws on one of the most enduring relationships in children's literature in her excellent debut, spinning out the heartbreaking story of Alice from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Her research into the lives of Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) and the family of Alice Liddell is apparent as she takes circumstances shrouded in mystery and colors in the spaces to reveal a vibrant and passionate Alice. Born into a Victorian family of privilege, free-spirited Alice catches the attention of family friend Dodgson and serves as the muse for both his photography and writing. Their bond, however, is misunderstood by Alice's family, and though she is forced to sever their friendship, she is forever haunted by their connection as her life becomes something of a chain of heartbreaks. As an adult, Alice tries to escape her past, but it is only when she finally embraces it that she truly finds the happiness that eluded her. Focusing on three eras in Alice's life, Benjamin offers a finely wrought portrait of Alice that seamlessly blends fact with fiction. This is book club gold. 

Review: Alice I Have Been  is a riveting novel about the woman that the book Alice in Wonderland was based upon when she was a young girl in England. I will let you know that I'm not a fan of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the book and all the different movie versions but the story behind the famous novel is fascinating.

Alice is a wonderful person to read about as a child, young woman and older woman. She is a precocious 7 year old girl who loves to run around, get dirty and not be conventional. She is supposed to be prim and proper as are her sisters but she definitely is ahead of her time with her boldness. She loves to hear stories and Mr. Dodgson is her greatest source for delightful ones.  She loves spending time with him and for the majority of the time they are supervised. While at first I didn't think there was anything strange about their friendship, as I kept reading it started to give me goosebumps. More so because he was 20 years older than her and was seemingly obsessed with her. She was a child of 7 and then 10, who could not have known the implications of this relationship, even with as smart as she was at the time. Do I think anything questionable happened between them? No, I don't. I really believe that Mr. Dodgson thought of Alice as his muse and searched the rest of his life for another one, only to never find it.

Alice's life became all encompassed by the novel and the situation surrounding it. She could never really get over her past or come to terms with it until the end of her life. She always felt bound to Mr. Dodgson and the story and the toll it took on her reputation. What kind of reputation occurs at 10? It wasn't her reputation that was hit, it was the family and for that her mother could never forgive her.

I think Alice was starved for attention and love, that is why she clung to Mr. Dodgson during her formative years. Her mother was too wrapped up in the social aspect of being the Dean's wife or being pregnant to ever really take notice of her, except of course if she was doing something wrong.  Was her mother a product of the times? Of course, but I felt that she was down right cruel to Alice. It was obvious she had no clue what to do with a girl who didn't fit into the box.  I also felt that it was her mother that destroyed any happiness that Alice might have had with Prince Leopold. I think she sabotaged that relationship because Alice wasn't the daughter she had chosen for the Prince. This was the part of the novel that caused me to take refuge in my bathroom so my kids wouldn't see me crying and ask all kinds of questions.

I wouldn't say that Alice had an unhappy life, but I do think her life would have been much happier had she dealt with her childhood. It took tragedy in her adult life to make her take hold and reclaim her past, which gave her the calm she so desired.

If you are a fan of historical fiction books, than you should definitely not miss this tale of the real Alice in Wonderland.  Melanie Benjamin is an author that I will continue to read for years to come. In fact, her latest The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb is going on my wish list today.

Final Take: 4.25/5


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Jenn's Top Books of 2011

My goal for 2011 was to get back to reading about 60 books a year, the way I had before my daughter was born.  I accomplished 60 plus (still reading or I'd give you an exact count), partly thanks to owning an e-reader, I think.  I'm amazed by the number of really fantastic reads I've had this year.

I was going to do a top 10 list, but quite a few of these are series that deserve to be mentioned in their entirety.  So here goes, in no particular order:
  • The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen - she writes amazing books full of food and magical realism; if any of the above sounds good, and you haven't read any of her novels, put one on your 'To be read' list for this year.  You won't be disappointed.
  • The Trylle Trilogy by Amanda Hocking - if you're a fan of YA paranormal and you have yet to read anything by this self-publishing queen, check out this series.  Ms. Hocking recently signed with our friends at St. Martin's Press and these are all being re-released with new, gorgeous covers.   I might just have to re-purchase the set just for the fabulous cover art!
  • The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson - if you can get past the first 80 pages of plot exposition in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, you won't be able to put this Swedish Noir series down for long.
  • The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa - Now that I have the perspective of having finished the series, I will be re-reading these in their entirety the very first chance I get. Ms. Kagawa's fantasy world is fantastic and I will revisit it many times for years to come.
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - I don't usually like historical fiction but this book grabbed me and wouldn't let go.  It's a heart-breaking read that brings life in Nazi Germany to life for YA or adults.
  • Flash and Bones by Kathy Reichs - This is the 14th book in the Temperance Brennan series and I really felt that it was a return to everything I love about Ms. Reichs' work -even though there was barely a mention about Tempe's love life, which I am seriously invested in...
  • Lucy Valentine series by Heather Webber - so far there are three books in this series and I can't bring myself to read the last one because I don't want to come to the end of it. A little paranormal realism, a little romance, and a little mystery make these perfect warm, fuzzy reads.
  • Shadow Falls series by C.C. Hunter - I think this YA paranormal series doesn't get the recognition it deserves.  I rarely find a book where I want to know more about every single character, but such is the case with this series.  
  • The Love Goddess' Cooking School by Melissa Senate - one of those rare books where you can relate to every character.  I wanted to move into this marvelous food-lit book with it's touch of magical realism.
  • Kill Chain by Meg Gardiner - Seriously, you have to read her books!  There are two series, and they really do need to be read in order so either start with China Lake (Evan Delaney) or The Dirty Secrets Club (Jo Beckett) -but start somewhere!
I'm looking at my towering To Be Read pile and I see a few more books from the authors above along with many new ones.  I'm excited for a new year of reading - aren't you?


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Group Review: Kill Chain

When her father’s car is found wrecked at the bottom of a California ravine, Evan Delaney feels sure that he has been abducted or killed for reasons associated with his work for Naval Intelligence, but the FBI thinks Phil’s fled the country to avoid prosecution.

Then Evan receives a sinister phone call and her suspicions are confirmed: Phil Delaney has been kidnapped.  Evan has only 72 hours to find what they want – or she and her loved ones will find themselves at the end of the kill chain.
product description

Jenn's Review:  If you've been reading our blog long, you know that we are huge Meg Gardiner fans.  She is an expert at weaving a thrilling tale and this one is right up there with the rest.  I was devastated at the end of Crosscut, and while Kill Chain made me feel a little better, I'm still agonizing over the plight of Evan Delaney.  Honestly, I think that's the true test of a writer of any fictional genre... can you make the reader care so much about your character's so much that they think of them as real people?  With Meg Gardiner's stories, you can't help it.

I was getting a little frustrated with Evan for her inability to stay out of trouble, but lately trouble seems to find her.  The one thing I adore about Evan (here I go again, discussing her as though she were real) is the fact that she doesn't wait around for things to be taken care of, but jumps in with both feet whether she has all the facts or not.  She would do anything for those she loves, which is what makes this book particularly heart-wrenching.

The story is solid and while there is little room to catch your breath there is always Ms. Gardiner's droll sarcasm to help lighten the mood a little.  I was slightly dismayed at the fact that this book is left so open-ended, because I feared that it might be the last book in the series - this book was published in 2008 and since then Ms. Gardiner has turned her attention to another fantastic series, Jo Beckett.  However, Ms. Gardiner assured us that this is not the end of the road for the Delaney series, so I can breathe a little easier.  Evan actually makes an appearance in Gardiner's latest Jo Beckett book, The Nightmare Thief - I actually bought this book the day of it's release but held off on reading it, because I wanted to be up to date with Evan.

I don't want to say too much more about the book for fear of spoiling things, but I loved how we got some answers to questions that have been plaguing Evan for a while, even though they only brought more questions.  This is a fabulous series and Kill Chain is a spectacular addition to it.  I'd say it's my second favorite book in the series.  I can't get enough of her work, and if you love thrillers, with kick-butt women, Meg Gardiner's books are for you!

Jenn's Final Take:  4.75/5

Julie's Review: So, in my opinion this was the best Evan Delaney novel yet. Did it have a doozy of an ending and a heart-wrenching cliff-hanger? Yes, but that doesn't mean I can't love the book. Evan is a character that at times I want to shake her and other times I truly admire her moxie. This time, I admired her moxie.  Once she figures out that her dad is in trouble, she springs into action regardless of how much trouble she could end up in. For Evan, she was the only one who could get her dad back, so who cared about pesky laws that might inhibit her.

What is so great about Ms. Gardiner's writing is that she always keeps you on the edge of your seat and always keeps you guessing. This is a high-octane plot line that never slows down. I love anything that deals with spying, covert operations and the government, so this plot was right up my alley.

Phil Delaney was in the military or so Evan thought but little did they know he was in intelligence as well. We first get a good glimpse of Phil in Crosscut, when he reveals a government program gone wrong. This time, his past has caught up with him and put him in harms way. Kill Chain also brings back into the mix Jax Rivera and Tim North.

Just when I think I had the whole thing figured out, Meg Gardiner pulls a fast one and throws another twist into it. I pretty much knew where the ending was headed and yet still it brought tears to my eyes. I can't say that I don't understand Evan's reaction, but I'm wondering if it's fair and just. I'm also wondering where Evan goes from here. What's next for her? I know she turns up in The Nightmare Thief with Jo Beckett but I've got to get up to speed on that series; pronto.

I highly recommend anything by Meg Gardiner but I do think it serves the series justice if you start at the beginning with Evan in China Lake. You will want to quickly read the others in the series.

Julie's Final Take: 4.75/5


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Children's Corner: A Smattering of Holiday Cheer

In our house we celebrate both Chanukah and Christmas, but neither with their religious connotations.  So here are a few holiday books we enjoy immensely that capture the spirit of the season without being too heavy.

When Santa Lost His Ho! Ho! Ho!  is a nightly read once the holiday season is upon us.  They try everything to help Santa get his laugh back and save Christmas, but in the end it takes a special little girl who understands Santa's predicament all too well. This one cracks me up every year, because I forget how it ends until I get there.  It's very cute but not cutesy and it's a huge favorite in our house.


How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is a generational favorite and I love the book and the cartoon (don't speak to me about the film version -UGH!!!).  This one doesn't get put away at the end of the season like the other holiday books because it's in an anthology of Dr. Seuss stories, but somehow neither my husband nor I mind reading this one year round.


A Wish to be a Christmas Tree is a wonderful holiday tale of friendship.  Year after year this tree grows at the tree farm and now it is too big for anyone to take home.  He is saddened that he will never get to be someone's Christmas tree.

The animals from the forest band together to show him how giving he is year round and decorate him to be their tree in thanks.

It is a sweet story and I always tear up reading it.


This is a nice 'beginners' Chanukah book.  My daughter has grown a little more interested in this holiday this year and I think it's a great book for starting discussions and introducing heritage.


The Night Before Christmas is another generational story and though I have to pick this one out for my daughter, she always enjoys it once we start.  I won this version last year and I adore it.  Though the illustrations are a little old fashioned (hence my daughter has to be encouraged to pick it), there is a wonderful sense of humor to them that adds to the story beautifully.

I highly recommend this version to anyone.


Where ever you are and however you celebrate whatever you celebrate, I wish you peace and love for the holiday season and beyond.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Julie's Review: The Violets of March

Summary: A heartbroken woman stumbled upon a diary and steps into the life of its anonymous author. In her twenties, Emily Wilson was on top of the world: she had a bestselling novel, a husband plucked from the pages of GQ, and a one-way ticket to happily ever after. Ten years later, the tide has turned on Emily's good fortune. So when her great-aunt Bee invites her to spend the month of March on Bainbridge Island in Washington State, Emily accepts, longing to be healed by the sea. Researching her next book, Emily discovers a red velvet diary, dated 1943, whose contents reveal startling connections to her own life. A mesmerizing debut with an idyllic setting and intriguing dual story line, The Violets of March announces Sarah Jio as a writer to watch.  

Review: It's hard to put The Violets of March into one single genre because it encompasses so many different ones. Ms. Jio is a superb storyteller. She knows her characters and makes you fall a little in love with them with each page you read. Emily, is definitely down but she's not out of the game of love. Her husband left her for another woman, which causes Emily to wonder who she is, how she got there and where she goes from there. This is where her Aunt Bee and Bainbridge Island enter the novel. This is the respite that Emily needs to heal herself. Little did she know it was going to send her on an sleuthing adventure into her family's history. Try as I might have to figure out the mystery behind Emily's family, I just couldn't do it. I had it all mapped out and figured out in my head, only to pretty much say "OOOH" that's what it is!! (Granted this was in my head as to not wake up my husband at midnight). The Violets of March is a love story with a mystery at it's core. It is everything I love in a book, which of course makes it a easy book to enjoy. Emily is a very likable character and the supporting characters are even better. There is no one-dimensional character in this book. I will admit at first I was rooting for Greg, purely because who doesn't like a old romance to bloom again? Quickly, though my alliances shifted to Jack. He just sounded dreamy, plus Aunt Bee wasn't a fan and really who doesn't like to go for the guy that your family is a little weary of?

The mystery in 1943 is really what sets this apart for me. Like Emily, I couldn't get enough of the red diary she found in Bee's house. I wouldn't have been able to shake it either and I would have had to have dug in deep as well. The twists and turns the story takes is amazing and well worth the ending that caught me off guard. If you haven't discovered Sarah Jio, then you must read her book. I swear you won't be disappointed. I'm thrilled that next month I get to read her newest book The Bungalow, which I'm sure is just as special as The Violets of March.  

Final Take: 4.75/5


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Author Interview: Taylor Stevens

Photobucket Earlier this year I read The Informationist and did a Q&A with Ms. Stevens. Well, she's back with another Munroe book, The Innocent, that I reviewed yesterday. We are lucky enough to have her back to do another Q&A with us.

GJR: In The Informationist, the idea spawned from wanting to highlight certain countries in Africa and The Innocent is somewhat based on personal experience. How were they different to write? Was one easier than the other?

Taylor Stevens (TS): One was definitely faster than the other, but I wouldn’t say that it was necessarily easier. THE INFORMATIONIST took about three years to write, and when it sold, it was as the first in a two-book contract. Problem was, I didn’t have a second book. I so desperately needed the money, and was so terrified that I wouldn’t be able to write a comparable sequel and might have to give money back, that spurred on by fear alone I basically finished THE INNOCENT in six months. The story is straight up fiction, but at the same time, it is as close to an autobiography as I will probably ever write. Hannah’s story and her experiences are emphatically not mine, but in order to write her, I had to return to situations and emotions from my childhood, and in the process had more than one meltdown moment digging up a lot of pain that I hadn’t touched for awhile. So faster, yes. Easier, not so much.

GJR: Were you as familiar with Argentina as you were with Africa? If not, how much research went into understanding Buenos Aries?

TS: I was familiar with Argentina in a sort of passing sense—a lot of my friends grew up there, but I’d never been to South America. I spent a lot of time reading about the country, looking at maps, and talking to people who’d lived there. Once I had the story finished, I made a trip down and basically followed Munroe’s path to be sure that I got things right. I’d nailed a lot of it through research, but I also got a lot wrong—things I just couldn’t know unless I’d been there in person to see it with my own eyes.

GJR: We see Munroe wrestle with her demons via her nightmares in The Innocent. Will she ever fully work through her past? If she gained peace in her life, would it change how she worked?

TS: One thing pointed out to me by readers is that Munroe seems to be, not so much defined by her past, but on a quest to defy it. I find that to be a very apt observation. I don’t know if she will ever truly find peace—not because of the violence that made her what she is, but because of the conscience she bears for the choices she has made since. If and when she does find peace, I expect she will lose a lot of the edge—that borderline insanity that drives her, and should some unfortunate soul push her into using her skill set, she will become even more brutal and calculatingly dangerous than she already is.

GJR: Munroe is just as lethal as ever but she’s able to rein it in when she needs to, do you think this makes her more lethal in some ways because she can control it?

TS: Munroe is definitely growing as a character—much in the same way we as real people grow and change in response to events in our lives. In THE INNOCENT we’re also seeing aspects of her personality that weren’t as clearly on display in THE INFORMATIONIST due to the circumstances she was in.

GJR: Will we see Hannah in a future Munroe novel? I’d like to see how she is dealing with the changes in her life.

TS: At this point, I’m not really sure. Real life has a tendency to be messy and leave a lot open ended, and I tend do that with the lives of the characters in my books, too—we see them as they pass through Munroe’s orbit, but don’t necessarily go home with them to find out how it all ends once her role is finished. But who knows? We’ll have to see how these stories play out down the road.

GJR: How do you feel Twitter has helped you as an author? What is your favorite aspect of being on Twitter? (@Taylor_Stevens)

TS: I use Twitter more on a personal level than in any successful social media marketing sense, so I’m not really sure if Twitter has helped me as an author. One thing for sure, it’s an awesome procrastination tool! I am a big fan of my fans, and Twitter has allowed me to connect and interact with a number of readers that I probably never would have otherwise, and for me that’s a very special thing.

GJR: Was writing The Innocent cathartic for you? Did it help or hinder you that this was as close to an autobiography that you will ever get?

TS: Because there is so much misinformation floating around about my own childhood, as well as The Children of God in general, it was extremely important to me on a personal level to bring this book into the world with all the truth I had to offer. But the problem with truth in fiction is that it can also be very limiting and can box the writer in—it’s far easier to create a high concept story when you can make everything up. This, combined with the very personal nature of the material, made writing THE INNOCENT quite difficult, but I am very happy with the end product. Now when people ask me what it was like growing up in The Children of God, I can simply point to this book and say, “this’ll get you started.”

GJR: I know that there is a third book with Ms. Munroe in it, tentatively titled The Doll. Can you give us a quick synopsis? Will this be the last one?

TS: I really hope THE DOLL is not the last in the Munroe series, but what happens next depends a lot on reader response to THE INNOCENT. Hint, hint. Here’s what I have on my website about THE DOLL: In Dallas, Texas, Vanessa Michael Munroe's close friend, Logan, is violently kidnapped. In broad daylight, Munroe is tranquilized and abducted while Miles Bradford, the man she loves, witnesses the incident and can do nothing to stop it. Tying these threads together is a mysterious figure with an ambiguous past, a man known only as The Doll Maker, who has come to collect on a debt that Munroe must repay. While Bradford races to find her, Munroe is thrust into a world of human trafficking and sexual slavery. To keep Logan alive, she must deliver a missing Hollywood starlet--merchandise and real life doll--but by succeeding she'll guarantee the young girl's demise. Munroe must choose who lives, who dies, or find a way to out-think and out-smart a man who holds all the cards, because otherwise, win or lose, she will pay her dues in the only currency she values: innocent life.

GJR: What is the hardest part of the writing process for you? Is it getting the initial draft done, editing, etc?

TS: Definitely the initial draft. I can’t even begin to describe how painful and difficult and time consuming it is for me to get that initial draft laid down.

GJR: It seems like authors are under an incredible amount of pressure to produce books quickly these days, have you found that to be true? Do you think it’s limited to those debut authors who need to prove themselves?

TS: I’ve never felt pressure from anyone on my publishing team to produce quickly. THE INNOCENT was completed way ahead of schedule, but that was due to my own fear and insecurity—I needed to get it done just to reassure myself that I actually could. If anything, I’ve been told to take my time, and that if I need more to just let them know. I heart my publisher.

Heartfelt thanks to Taylor for taking the time to answer the questions. Now, I just have to waiting patiently for The Doll. In the meantime, if you haven't read The Informationist go buy it and pre-order The Innocent which will be released by Crown Publishing on 12/27/2011.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Julie's Review: The Innocent

Summary: With The Innocent, Taylor Stevens, the bestselling author of The Informationist, returns with another blockbuster thriller featuring the fearless Vanessa Michael Munroe. Eight years ago, a man walked five-year-old Hannah out the front doors of her school and spirited her over the Mexican border, taking her into the world of a cult known as The Chosen. For eight years, followers of The Prophet have hidden the child, moving her from country to country, shielding the man who stole her. Now, those who’ve searched the longest know where to find her. They are childhood survivors of The Chosen, thirty-somethings born and raised inside the cult who’ve managed to make lives for themselves on the outside. They understand the mindset, the culture within that world, and turn to Vanessa Michael Munroe for help, knowing that the only possibility of stealing Hannah back and getting her safely out of Argentina is to trust someone who doesn’t trust them, and get Munroe on the inside. Tautly written, brilliantly paced, and with the same evocation of the exotic combined with chilling violence that made The Informationist such a success, The Innocent confirms Taylor Stevens’ reputation as a thriller writer of the first rank.

Review: The Informationist blew me out of the water when I read it earlier this year and when Ms. Stevens said there was another Munroe book coming; I immediately put it on my list of things to look forward to late in 2011. So, I was thrilled when I received an ARC of The Innocent. The plot was intriguing and while Munroe isn't a ticking time bomb, she definitely has a loose cannon feel to her.

The second novel is more personal than the first because the case is personal. While it might not be about Munroe directly, it does involve someone she cares deeply for perhaps making her take unnecessary risks. From my view point, The Innocent isn't as fast-paced as The Informationist but this isn't a bad thing. It's still action-packed but this time we get a bit deeper into her psyche than previously. Munroe has horrid nightmares. These are so bad for her that she medicates herself to pass out in the hopes that they won't come. The case involves taking a young girl out of a religious sect and bringing her back to her parents that she was stolen from at a young age. This involves a little bit of research and spy-maneuvering to gain access to a group that is typically paranoid. That is unless of course you come flashing some money.

What I love about Munroe is that she is who she is. Is she violent? Yes. Is she cold-hearted? No. Can she be ruthless? Sure, that was what she was trained for. While most of the people that are close to her accept her for what she does and who she is, she doesn't accept herself. She carries around a tremendous amount of guilt for her actions. We definitely learn more about Munroe in this novel but I don't even think we've fully tapped the well of her yet.

I know a lot of comparisons have been made between Munroe and Lisbeth Salander and while there are similarities, they are vastly different as well. I won't go into a dissertation here about it though. I will say that I do love the recent "kick-ass" women that are being written in fiction.

If you haven't discovered Munroe or Ms. Stevens, then I highly suggest for your New Year's Eve reading that you go and buy both The Informationist and The Innocent; they are better than some action movies out there now. I'm definitely looking forward to the next installment of Munroe!

The Innocent will be released on 12/27/2011 by Crown Publishing.

Final Take: 4.5/5