Friday, September 30, 2011

Julie's Review: The Hypnotist

Summary: Prepare for The Hypnotist to cast its spell. In the frigid clime of Tumba, Sweden, a gruesome triple homicide attracts the interest of Detective Inspector Joona Linna, who demands to investigate the murders. The killer is still at large, and there’s only one surviving witness—the boy whose family was killed before his eyes. Whoever committed the crimes wanted this boy to die: he’s suffered more than one hundred knife wounds and lapsed into a state of shock. Desperate for information, Linna sees only one option: hypnotism. He enlists Dr. Erik Maria Bark to mesmerize the boy, hoping to discover the killer through his eyes. It’s the sort of work that Bark has sworn he would never do again—ethically dubious and psychically scarring. When he breaks his promise and hypnotizes the victim, a long and terrifying chain of events begins to unfurl. An international sensation, The Hypnotist is set to appear in thirty-seven countries, and it has landed at the top of bestseller lists wherever it’s been published—in France, Holland, Germany, Spain, Italy, Denmark. Now it’s America’s turn. Combining the addictive power of the Stieg Larsson trilogy with the storytelling drive of The Silence of the Lambs, this adrenaline-drenched thriller is spellbinding from its very first page.

Review: Deeply disturbing, depressing, gory, graphic and upsetting; The Hypnotist wasn't really what I expected. I barely saw any rays of hope until the end of the novel. I like to think that life isn't that bleak, but perhaps it is in Sweden.

What I thought was going to be a book about a boy and finding the murder of his family turned out very differently. In fact, halfway through the book it shifted to a completely different plot. While it was related to one of the main characters, Erik Maria Bark, it never translated to the original plot. Essentially, these could have been two different books and for me they should have been.

While the 2nd case was wrapped up and the motives were made clear, the first case was wrapped up but I never got a sufficient answer to the motivation behind the crime. Was it really just that the murderer's mother didn't hug him enough? Did bond with him? I know that does have a psychological effect on people but this seemed extreme.

I certainly didn't feel much sympathy toward Dr. Bark and his wife Simone. They were pretty self-centered and shallow, which made them hard to connect with while reading the book. In the end you wonder if their marriage will survive the lies they've told each other and the lies they are telling themselves.

The most interesting character for me was Detective Joona Linna. He is a bulldog when it comes to solving his cases and he's almost never wrong with his hunches. In fact, because of this he's become somewhat of a legend. He follows his instincts and yet he does it within the law. The author alludes to something in Joona's background that makes him driven but we never find out more. That was a disappointment for me as a reader. I wanted to know what made him so determined.

While I thought the author did a good job of setting the scene and the desperation in both cases, it was too over the top for me with the gore. I think the plot could have been advanced without such descriptions. Leave somethings to the reader's imagination.

I would be interested in another Joona Linna novel if that's where the author wants to go in the future. He's an intriguing character with a background you want to know more about and want to unravel it slowly.

Frankly, I'm getting very tired of every Scandinavian crime writer being compared to Stieg Larsson. Those books are unique as are the books that these other authors write and perhaps each should be judged on their own merit.

If you are looking for another Scandinavian thriller I highly recommend The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen. If you are still intrigued by The Hypnotist, pick it up and read it. I'd like to know your thoughts.

Final Take: 3/5


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Julie's Review: The Reversal

Summary: Longtime defense attorney Mickey Haller is recruited to change sides and prosecute the high-profile retrial of a brutal child murder. After 24 years in prison, convicted killer Jason Jessup has been exonerated by new DNA evidence. Haller is convinced Jessup is guilty, and he takes the case on the condition that he gets to choose his investigator, LAPD Detective Harry Bosch.  Together, Bosch and Haller set off on a case fraught with political and personal danger. Opposing them is Jessup, now out on bail, a defense attorney who excels at manipulating the media, and a runaway eyewitness reluctant to testify after so many years. With the odds and the evidence against them, Bosch and Haller must nail a sadistic killer once and for all. If Bosch is sure of anything, it is that Jason Jessup plans to kill again.

Review: Another great novel by Michael Connelly. This time Mickey Haller is on the opposite side of the courtroom...Prosecutor. Mickey is asked to be a special Prosecutor in the re-trial of a child murderer Jason Jessup. Among many one of his appeals they found DNA evidence that would supposedly exonerate him.

This book brought Mickey together to with his ex-wife Maggie to prosecute Mr. Jessup. Since he's independent from the D.A.'s office, he gets to pick his team. This means he brings in Harry Bosch as the investigator. Harry is the best at finding witnesses and digging up dirt on the defendant.

What I found interesting about this book was the fact that in a re-trial, the new jury can't not know that the defendant was tried before. They can present testimony from the first trial but it has to be done in such a way that it is not evident. This makes for an interesting burden of proof for the prosecution.

I will say that Mickey Haller is growing on me. He seems to be maturing and isn't as careless as I remember him being from The Lincoln Lawyer. Harry Bosch is still one of my favorite detectives. I love reading about him trying to figure out how to live with his daughter. The relationship between him and Mickey is also starting to slowly unfold as they work together and get to know each other better.

The Reversal (Harry Bosch) is definitely fast-paced crime novel that will keep you turning the pages until the end. For a Michael Connelly novel the ending it left somewhat open for the reader to draw conclusions or maybe to be brought up in another book.

It will be a little while longer until I can get to The Fifth Witness. Plus his newest Harry Bosch novel, The Drop, will be released on November 28, 2011.

Final Take: 4.25/5


And The Winner Is....

Congratulations goes out to Brenda for winning a copy of Diana Palmer's novel Merciless.

As always, Girls Just Reading uses to choose our winner.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Giveaway: Ember

EmberOmnific Publishing has generously offered an e-book copy of Ember by Carol Oates (my review) for us to give away!

All you have to do to enter is fill out the form below by midnight EST on October 5th.  This giveaway is open internationally.

As always, Girls Just Reading Blogspot uses to select our winners.  Good luck!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Jenn's Review: Ember

EmberSummary:  When Candra Ember wakes up in hospital after a dangerous encounter with a red-haired woman, she is shocked to discover that seeing a winged boy wasn’t her imagination. Candra is exposed to a world of rivalry and sacrifice she never knew existed, and the aftermath of a war to save humanity thousands of years ago. Soon she finds herself relentlessly stalked by Sebastian, a beautiful and arrogant Watcher Angel and romantically pursued by his darkly seductive rival, Draven. Ultimately, dubious about her own goodness, Candra’s very existence compromises a tentative peace in the city of Acheron. ~Omnific Publishing

Review: I loved Carol Oates' last novel Shades of Atlantis (my review), so I was thrilled to find out she was publishing a new book. I immediately assumed it was the promised sequel for Shades of Atlantis, and was surprised to find out that this is not. That made me no less excited; I purchased Ember on publishing day.  If you've visited our blog before you know I don't judge a book by it's cover, but that doesn't mean I won't comment on one when I think it's fabulous.  Not only do I love the cover, but I love the concept behind it, which Carol Oates explains here at A Tale of Many Reviews.

I had a hard time getting into this one because the reader is kept in the dark, along with Candra, about what's going on until several chapters in... and even then it's a little confusing. Perhaps if I knew more about Angels in general I wouldn't have been so lost, but I honestly didn't grasp the gravity of the plot.  This is the one thing I criticised with in Shades of Atlantis, and I find myself about to say the same thing once again, but I wish she'd taken more time to explore the back story.  It's not that I felt like I'd been dropped into the middle of something, just that I felt ignorant about the plot exposition.  Luckily, Candra seems to grasp the situation quickly -now all she has to do is figure out which side is telling the truth and what sacrifices she's willing to make.

Ms. Oates is masterful at writing relationships and it was the relationships in this story that kept me going.  The character's were intriguing and, though their plight is nothing new, Ms. Oates kept things exciting.  Unlike some brooding heroes, who shall remain nameless, Sebastian definitely has cause to brood.  And as a heroine, Candra is neither whiny nor petulant.  The best part was, that right up until the end, the reader really wasn't sure which characters were protagonists and which were antagonists, aside from Candra.  In all honesty, I'm still not sure that I know.

There is some resolution to the plot, but once again, lots of room left for a sequel.  Aside from a few glaring typos in the book, this was a fun read.  Although I'm not sure I would have been as accepting of the plot ambiguities had this been any other writer, it kept me interested enough to want to read the next book in the series.  Carol Oates is definitely an author to read ...but I'd start with Shades of Atlantis.

Final Take:  3.5/5


Monday, September 26, 2011

What's in a Name Challenge 4 : Julie's Wrap Up Post

I am happy to say that I have completed my first ever Challenge! YAY me!! This was a ton of fun and it took me a bit longer in the year to finish that I had thought initially.  Most of the books were already from my ever large TBR pile. I only had to find one book and that was the jewelry or gem in the title category. Thanks to Alice, I didn't even have to buy one!
I will most definitely be doing this challenge again in 2012. I found that it's a great way to clear some books off the TBR pile and perhaps explore a book you might not have read.

Thanks to Beth Fish Reads for hosting this challenge!

Here are the books I finished and the reviews for them:

A book with jewelry or gem in the title: Forever Amber by Kathleen Windsor Reviewed on 9/23/2011
A book with a number in the title: Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly Reviewed on 7/1/2011
A book with size in the title: Long Lost by Harlan Coben - Reviewed on 6/13/11
A book with travel or movement in the title: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein -Reviewed 2/1/11
A book with Evil in the title: The Devil in the White City by Eric Larson Reviewed on 9/17/2011
A book with a Life Stage in the title: American Wife by Curtis Sittenfield - Reviewed on 2/16/2011

I hope that some of you will join this challenge in 2012!!


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Children's Corner: Perfect Square

This was a whim pick of mine at the library last week, and I love it.  It starts with a simple square of paper... which is perfectly happy. When it gets cut to pieces it can't help but wonder, now what's it's function? Suddenly it discovers it can take other forms. Throughout the book as it gets altered it transforms in creative ways to become new things until it is a square again. However, it's journey has taught it that it wants to be more than just a square and once again, it finds a way.

I love this book for it's creativity, it's colors, and it's art. There are so many ways to interpret this story and everyone will take something different from it. Whether it's the immediate 'many things you can do with a square of paper', or more broadly 'not everything is as it appears at first glance', or more globally 'everything is connected', this book is teeming with depth and beauty. It's a fascinating find and a new favorite read in our house.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Julie's Review: Forever Amber

Forever Amber Summary: Abandoned pregnant and penniless on the teeming streets of London, 16-year-old Amber St. Clare manages, by using her wits, beauty, and courage, to climb to the highest position a woman could achieve in Restoration England—that of favorite mistress of the Merry Monarch, Charles II. From whores and highwaymen to courtiers and noblemen, from events such as the Great Plague and the Fire of London to the intimate passions of ordinary—and extraordinary—men and women, Amber experiences it all. But throughout her trials and escapades, she remains, in her heart, true to the one man she really loves, the one man she can never have. Frequently compared to Gone with the Wind, Forever Amber is the other great historical romance, outselling every other American novel of the 1940s—despite being banned in Boston for its sheer sexiness. A book to read and reread, this edition brings back to print an unforgettable romance and a timeless masterpiece.

Review: I have to admit if it wasn't for What's in a Name Challenge 4 and Alice I wouldn't have picked up this book, which would have been a great loss for me. Sure Forever Amberis almost 1,000 pages but it's a wonderful novel. Amber is certainly a character I will never forget. I loved her gumption and yet at times I wanted to shake her and yes, even slap her.

Amber is a young woman with great ambition. From the day she convinces Lord Carlton to take her to London from Marygreen to the last page of the novel, she never stops plotting and conniving. She will go to any lengths to attain wealth and status and boy does she ever.

At almost 1,000 pages long, we get a great amount of detail for 10 years of Amber's life. We see her through various lovers, 4 husbands and of course her tumultuous relationship with Lord Carlton. From the beginning you want to tell Amber that Lord Carlton is trouble and will never love her the way she will love him. Like all teenagers, she wouldn't have listened. Their relationship is toxic and you just know it won't end well.

This book was definitely Amber's story but within are multiple stories that are just as fascinating. King Charles II is an enigmatic character and the way he is described, I can see why women would swoon and throw themselves at him. It's not only his looks but his relaxed personality. He had quite a lot of mistresses but only one wife. The politics of the court are weaved into the story and make for an interesting sub-plot. Especially, given the fantastic ending of the book.

During the course of the book you will love and hate Amber. She reminds me a lot of Scarlett from Gone with the Wind, 75th Anniversary Edition. For most of the novel you do understand her and what drives her make her decisions. At times you feel for the men who are in her path and at other times you feel like they knew what they were in for.

Two of my favorite characters were Nan and Almsbury. They were always loyal and Almsbury never failed to try to wake Amber up when it came to Lord Carlton.

As always with historical fiction, I am fascinated by the fashions of the time period. I can't imagine wearing a corset and having to walk in those heavy dress. Yet, these ladies did it without much of a quiver.

I did have some issues with it: 1) It really was a bit long. I feel that it could have been cut by 100 pages or so and still told the same story. 2) I didn't feel that the rivalry between Lady Castlemaine and Amber came to a satisfactory conclusion.

Compared to Rebecca, I found that this novel wasn't dated. As far as historical fiction goes, it's a winner.

If you haven't thought about reading Forever Amber, I encourage you to read it. If you are put off by the mammoth size of it, don't be. I finished it in less than a week. I definitely think that it's a novel that shouldn't be missed by historical fiction fans.

Final Take: 4.75/5


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Book News: Madame Tussaud

I am so thrilled to tell you guys that Michelle Moran's most recent novel, Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution has been optioned for a mini-series! This is exciting news for any writer, even if they have to hand over the creative licenses to someone else.

I couldn't be happier for her! I have enjoyed all 3 of her novels (Nefertiti, The Heretic Queen, and Cleopatra's Daughter) in addition to Madame Tussaud and highly recommend them, especially if you are a huge historical fiction reader.

For more details on the deal click here.

As more details on casting, director and air dates come to light I will definitely keep you informed!

Congratulations to Michelle!


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Movie News: One for the Money

Photobucket Ta-da! The new movie poster of Katherine Heigel as Stephanie Plum is out for the movie adaptation of Janet Evanovich's One for the Money. I always thought Stephanie to not be so svelte but of course this is Hollywood and why stick to the book?!

Now, if you follow our blog you know that we aren't too excited for Katherine Heigel to play Stephanie Plum. And I, Julie, typically like her but she's not whom I pictured. I am intrigued by the rest of the cast though. I can't believe that Debbie Reynolds is playing Grandma Mazur!

According to it is set to be released on January 27, 2012.

I barely have time to see movies in theaters these days, so more than likely I'll wait until it's on pay-per-view.

What do you guys think? Yay, nay, or waiting to see?


Monday, September 19, 2011

Movie Review: The American

The AmericanSummary: Academy Award® winner George Clooney is The American in this sexy suspense thriller from director Anton Corbijn. After a job ends more violently than expected, Jack (Clooney) retreats to the Italian countryside and accepts one last assignment to construct a deadly weapon for a mysterious contact. But when he pursues a relationship with a beautiful local woman, he may be tempting fate by stepping out of the shadows. Jack soon finds himself in an escalating battle to escape from his secretive past, in the film critics are calling “4 Stars! Riveting and irresistible!”

Review: I knew that The American was based on a book before we even watched it but I wasn't sure what book until the end credits rolled. It wouldn't have mattered because well George Clooney was in it. I'll pretty much watch anything he's in. Heck he could do a You Tube video of nothing and I'd probably watch. The other part that interested me was that it was a spy movie. Although I knew going in, that it wasn't going to be like my favorite spy movies, Bourne Trilogy, I don't think anything tops those in our house.

Was The American an action packed movie? No, but was it suspenseful and thrilling? Yes. Was it fast-paced? No, but it held my attention for the whole 109 minutes. I wanted to know what would happen to Jack. Would he get to finish the job? Would this be his last job? What mistakes is he making? What, in the end will be his undoing?

I also loved figure it out along the way. My husband thought I was nuts but turns out I was spot on. I think we were supposed to figure it out as viewers but then wonder how long it would take Jack.

Let's talk about George for a minute. He's a fine actor and I don't think he gets enough credit. He proved it to me in Up in the Air and even more now in The American. He gives a fantastic, nuanced performance as Jack. You never pity him but you are always rooting for him, even if he was an assassin. The cast of surrounding characters is great as well. I loved how they made you see things through Jack's eyes and yet at times, I felt I could see more than him.

Am I sorry I didn't see this in the theater, nope but I am glad that I saw it. After having a couple of days to reflect back and I'm still thinking about the plot and the story, then it was a solid movie. Will you come away thinking it was an adrenaline rush, probably not but I think you will be satisfied.

Final Take: 3.50/5

The novel the movie is based on A Very Private Gentleman: A Novel by Martin Booth. Will I read it? Probably not but I haven't read the Bourne books either.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Children's Corner: Ladybug Girl

Ladybug GirlReview: We received Ladybug Girl