Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Jenn's Review: Thirteen

Summary:  Desperate Housewives meets The Witches of Eastwick in this novel about a woman who returns with her teenage daughter to her childhood home, not knowing that she's stepped back into a community run by a group of witches.
Haven Woods is suburban heaven, a great place to raise a family. It's close to the city, quiet, with terrific schools and its own hospital right up the road. Property values are climbing. The crime rate is practically non-existent, unless you count the odd human sacrifice, dismemberment, and/or blood atonement. When Paula Wittmore goes home to Haven Woods to care for her suddenly ailing mother, she brings her daughter and a pile of emotional baggage. She also brings the last chance for twelve of her mother's closest frenemies. A circle of friends will support you through bad times. A circle of witches can drag you through hell.

Review:  They had me at 'Desperate Housewives meets The Witches of Eastwick'.  They lost me at animal sacrifices.  I persevered because this was a promised review, but this book is just not for me.

For me, there wasn't a single likable character in this book... except the dogs, and perhaps Sanderson. I cannot understand why any of those mothers would do the things they did.  I can understand wanting more out of life and wanting to help your child, but there are just some boundaries you don't cross.  Plus there were a whole slew of things that were never explained and barely made sense.

Though Susie Moloney does not go into the sacrifices in detail, there was certainly more than enough for the reader to get the gist of it.  Between that and the Satanic rituals, which do receive more detailed attention, I was plenty disenchanted.  I actually started to skim-read over them just to push ahead. 

I did not find the story remotely suspenseful, but perhaps that's because I was disengaged from the it. I can't even tell you who the target audience for this might be.  All I know is this is an author I will not be reading again.

Final Take:  2/5


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Guest Blog: M. J. Rose

Today, a guest post by M. J. Rose as part of The Book of Lost Fragrances blog tour:  

M.J. RoseI've been fascinated with lost fragrances since long before I started writing The Book of Lost Fragrances... since I found a bottle of perfume on my great grandmother's dresser that had belonged to her mother in Russia. Here is one of those lost fragrances that stirs the senses and the imagination... (researched and described  with the help of the perfume writer Dimitrios Dimitriadis)


"Golliwoggs" were popularised in the late 19th and early 20th century by the illustrated books of British writer Florence Kate Upton. Though perhaps not her intention, her books contributed to the widespread use of the racial slur 'wog' - a word applied to dark-skinned people the world over. In the 1920's the Golliwogg character was reprised again by French perfumers Vigny, who created Le Golliwogg, a figural flacon with sealskin hair used to decorate the stopper.

Once regarded as a charming and humorous perfume presentation, the nature of the juice itself (a brisk floral with ambery, mossy nuances) is almost lost to what we nowadays recognise as it's rather indelicate packaging. Nevertheless, Le Golliwogg is highly sought after as a perfume presentation that speaks of an era typifying modes of thought that many once considered de rigeur.

This perfume is long out of production, leaving one to ponder if perhaps it is for the best.


Our thanks to M.J. Rose for this insight into the research surrounding her novel.  Jenn reviewed The Book of Lost Fragrances last week, and you can find her review here.  


Monday, March 26, 2012

Jenn's Review: Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy

Summary:  After the excitement of the fall, all Cammie Morgan wants is peaceful semester at school. But that’s easier said than done when you’re a CIA legacy and go to the premier school in the world...for spies.

Despite Cammie's best intentions, trouble crops up quickly.  Cammie, Bex, and Liz learn that the Gallagher Academy is hosting guests from another spy school -- a school that is known to the world as the Ethan Frome Academy--a secret spy school for boys.    After her fiasco with Josh last fall, Cammie isn't sure she's ready for daily encounters with boy spies – especially after she meets Zach -- an incorrigibe cutie who everyone thinks is just perfect.

Cammie is right to be worried about their new guests.  Soon after the boys’ arrival, she's blamed for a series of security breaches that leave the school's top-secret status at risk.  And the perfectly crushable Zach is her prime suspect.

The Gallagher Girls will need to use all their skills to investigate the Frome Boys. Even though they're confident about their guy-spying (as if they haven't done it before!), the playing field is level this time, and the stakes for Cammie’s heart—and her beloved school— are higher than ever.  

Review:  I truly love the Gallagher Girls series, and I'm sorry I waited so long to read it.  I have a few more promised reviews before March goes out like a lamb, but after my last book I needed something light and fun ~Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy fit the bill.

Cammie is done with boys.  And breaking the rules.  And spying on her friends.  That is until she discovers her mother is hiding things from her... and an entire contingent of boys is arriving at their exclusive all girls spy school.  Suddenly everything is more complicated... including getting glammed up for class in the morning.

I love that both Ally Carter and Cammie put the spying for the purpose of a boyfriend behind them.  While it was cute, and necessary foundation for the sophomores, the intrigue of real secrets is far more captivating.  I really wish I had attended the Gallagher Academy... it makes their adventures all the more exciting.  I love the classes they attend!  And the addition of the boys has definitely made things more interesting, are they duplicitous?  Sure, but all boys are.  Is it more important to know whose side are they on or is it more important to be able to take the leap of faith and trust them?

This is a great series, especially for a reluctant reader.  I know I will be revisiting the Gallagher Academy again soon.  I need my dose of spy life...

Final Take: 4.0/5


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Giveaway: Losing Clementine

We are excited to share with you the incredible book Losing Clementine by Ashley Ream by offering a giveaway copy of the novel.

Please fill out the form below to enter.

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


Children's Corner: Here Comes the Big, Mean Dust Bunny

Every time we go too the library my daughter requests a 'spooky book.'  This is harder than it sounds, because, unless it's a Halloween book, there aren't a ton of macabre children's picture books. (My child ended up with my husband's and my dark sense of humor.  Go figure.)  So in my search for 'scary' last time, I came up with this, Here Comes the Big, Mean Dust Bunny.

It's funny, full of rhyming dust bunnies, and deals with bullying on a basic level.  What could be better?  It gives us a good case of the giggles every time we read it, and of course the big mean dust bunny learns his lesson in the end when the rhyming dust bunnies come to his rescue.  The illustrations are simple and colorful.  It's cute, it's short, and it fits the bill for my daughter's sense of humor.  We will be checking out the other Dust Bunny Books when we return to the library.

In the mean time, anyone have any suggestions for 'spooky' picture books???


Alice's Review: Losing Clementine

Summary:  In thirty days Clementine Pritchard will be finished with her last painting and her life. World-renowned artist and sharp-tongued wit Clementine Pritchard has decided that she's done. After flushing away a medicine cabinet full of prescriptions, she gives herself thirty days to tie up loose ends—finish one last painting, make nice with her ex-husband, and find a home for her cat. Clementine plans to spend the month she has left in a swirl of art-world parties, manic work sessions, and outrageous acts—but what she doesn't expect is to uncover secrets surrounding the tragedy that befell her mother and sister. In an ending no one sees coming, will we lose Clementine or will we find her?

Review:  What happens when you decided that 30 days from now you would end your life?  Do you avoid all responsibility, have fun, and go wild?  Or do you put all your ducks in a row, buy your burial plot, and find a new owner for your beloved cat?  The latter is exactly what Clementine Pritchard did.

This review is difficult to write for two reasons.  The first being I still haven’t mastered the art of reviewing without giving anything away.  And the second is that I am not articulate enough to give Losing Clementine the review it deserves.  Nothing I write can convey how powerful this novel is. 

I treasured every single second I spent with Clementine.  She was funny, raw and candid in a way only someone preparing for her suicide can be.  I’m thankful the novel was written in first person.  I enjoyed being inside her head, enduring what she did, feeling what she felt. 

Ashley Ream’s idea to countdown the days until Clementine ended her life was brilliant.  I liked how Clementine worked to resolve unfinished business with father, she knew that in order to rest in peace she needed resolution.  The more I discovered about her, the more I understood her.  The more I learned, the more my heart broke. 

Losing Clementine would not have worked as well as it did if not for Ms. Ream sensitivity and understanding of conveying and relating Clementine’s battle with manic depression.  She has a remarkable capacity to communicate Clementine’s emotions that as the reader I felt them too.  As a debut novel, this is nothing less than stellar.  It was the perfect combination of heartbreaking, moving, humorous, shocking, raw and sincere.  It reads like a memoir.  Clementine jumped out of the page, became real and told me her story. 

In Losing Clementine, I found a wonderful novel that was twisted, dark, sad but redeeming, powerful and honest.  

Final Take: 5/5


Friday, March 23, 2012

Group Review: The Legacy

 Summary: When they were children, Erica Calcott and her sister, Beth, spent their summer holidays at Storton Manor. Now, following the death of their grandmother, they have returned to the grand, imposing house in Wiltshire, England. Unable to stem the tide of childhood memories that arise as she sorts through her grandmother’s belongings, Erica thinks back to the summer her cousin Henry vanished mysteriously from the estate, an event that tore their family to pieces. It is time, she believes, to lay the past to rest, bring her sister some peace, and finally solve the mystery of her cousin’s disappearance. But sifting through remnants of a bygone time is bringing a secret family history to light—one that stretches back over a century, to a beautiful society heiress in Oklahoma, a haunting, savage land across the ocean. And as past and present converge, Erica and Beth must come to terms with two shocking acts of betrayal . . . and the heartbreaking legacy they left behind. ~

Alice's Review:  The first thing that struck me about The Legacy is how vividly the author describes Storton Manor.  I could see its looming grey fa├žade, the dew pond, the trees and clearing where the Dinsdales lived.  I wanted to go there.  I wanted to search each and every room, much like Erica did, looking for secrets. 

As I continued to read, my love for the house grew, as did my curiosity around the two stories.  There were times where I enjoyed one story over the other and was so tempted to skip ahead to continue reading.  This holds especially true with the romance between Caroline and Corin Massey.  I was completely entranced with how they met, the sacrifice she made to go to Oklahoma.  I understood her trepidation, her anticipation of seeing him.  I was so wrapped in the hope of their success that I forgot about Storton Manor and the mystery surrounding Henry’s disappearance.

The Legacy made me sad, so very sad.  I hated the way Caroline treated Meredith, how the black hole that should have held a heart had no love at all for a precious child.  I clearly understood why and how Meredith became the insensitive woman she was.  Then again, I understood what hardened Caroline to become the kind of woman with no love in her heart.  I wish she had done things differently, found peace in what happened to her and moved on with her life, not run from it.  I do disagree with her about something:  you can always go back.  You can right your wrongs the best you can and then let them go.  It is harboring them in the dark shadows of your being that causes bitterness.  She could have found happiness if only she had learned to accept and let go.

Once I was done reading, I yelled to myself, “That’s not good enough!” I want more.  I want a clear resolution, which it surprising to me because I usually enjoy a fade out ending.  I think my disdain came from the pathetic way Erica pinned for Dinny.  I fear that she is doomed to repeat the mistakes of her great-grandmother Caroline.  Never letting go of the past, forever longing something that once was.  It also came from knowing the there was no justice served for those left behind in Oklahoma.  It breaks my heart, it really does.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel very much.  I’m glad this is one that Julie and I read together for our challenge.  We’ll have a lot to talk about. 

On a side note, I’m not sure what it was about this novel, but it felt good in my hands.  Maybe it was the picture of the girls on the cover that reminded me of my sister and I.  Maybe it was how strong but pliable the pages were.  Whatever it was, I wish all books were made like this.

Final Take: 4/5

Julie's Review: If you can make it through the first half of The Legacy then keep going. The first part of the novel was painfully slow. I just wanted Ms. Webb to get the point, to get the story instead of setting everything up. My favorite parts of the book was Caroline's story. I agree with Alice about the romance between Corin and Caroline. I also felt extremely sad for her because she never felt that she belonged at the ranch, in New York and eventually in England. Ms. Webb made Caroline a likable character from the beginning so while you might not like who she became by the end of the novel you at least understood why she turned into a mean, spiteful old lady.

This novel is a hard one for me to review for some reason. There were things I loved about it and then things that just didn't sit well for me. I think what struck me as odd was the relationship between Erica and Dinny. It just didn't ring true to me. Sure, she carried a long time torch for him but I never got the feeling that it was the same with him for her. I always figured that he was in love with Beth and part of me wonders if he was substituing Erica for her.

I didn't see the twists that came in this novel. I feel that I should have, but I didn't. I wonder if it was because I was so caught up in Caroline's story that I didn't really examine the present story of Erica, Beth, Dinny & Henry.

I liked Erica's tenacity in figuring out what happened to her cousin Henry at the Manor back when they were kids. She wanted to do it to save her sister and to also release herself from those thoughts that she knew something happened but couldn't quite recall them. For a while I thought that Erica was the one who knew what happened but as I read along it was revealed that it was Beth who knew what happened and was awashed with guilt. Guilt for what though? Was she even guilty of anything?

Memories are a tricky thing and Ms. Webb explores this throughout the novel. Caroline gets lost in hers, Erica can't remember hers and Beth can't escape hers.

I definitely look forward to Ms. Webb's 2nd novel, The Unseen, due out this summer.

On a side note, for the entire novel I visioned the house from the movie Forrest Gump as the manor but with an English flair instead of southern.

Final Take: 4/5


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Group Review: Sisterhood Everlasting

Summary: Return to the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants . . . ten years later.
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Ann Brashares comes the welcome return of the characters whose friendship became a touchstone for a generation. Now Tibby, Lena, Carmen, and Bridget have grown up, starting their lives on their own. And though the jeans they shared are long gone, the sisterhood is everlasting.

Despite having jobs and men that they love, each knows that something is missing: the closeness that once sustained them. Carmen is a successful actress in New York, engaged to be married, but misses her friends. Lena finds solace in her art, teaching in Rhode Island, but still thinks of Kostos and the road she didn’t take. Bridget lives with her longtime boyfriend, Eric, in San Francisco, and though a part of her wants to settle down, a bigger part can’t seem to shed her old restlessness.

Then Tibby reaches out to bridge the distance, sending the others plane tickets for a reunion that they all breathlessly await. And indeed, it will change their lives forever—but in ways that none of them could ever have expected.

As moving and life-changing as an encounter with long-lost best friends, Sisterhood Everlasting is a powerful story about growing up, losing your way, and finding the courage to create a new one.

Alice's Review: I purchased the hard cover of Sisterhood Everlasting almost immediately after it was released. I put off reading it because I couldn’t find a place for it on my reading list. Now I wish I had postponed it even longer. Not because it was terrible, but because I loved it. I, hand to heaven, loved it so much and am so sad to see the series end. Ann Brashares definitely ends this one with a bang and it’s the best one in the series.

There is so much I want to write, tell you about this novel but I fear anything I say will succeed only in spoiling it for you. There is a twist in the beginning of the novel that I didn’t see coming. I couldn’t imagine it ever happening. It was a huge risk that took a lot of courage to write. I read a few reviews before I penned my own and other readers either loved it or hated it. Personally, I think it needed to be done. It was a realistic way to achieve drama. It was heartbreaking, confusing and left me as stunned as the Septembers. I believe that each one of them handled this situation in a true and honest manner. Ms. Brashares did an excellent job of making sure the characters stayed true to themselves.

There are many driving forces in this novel. The plot is major but it’s the character’s that move it along. To steal from Julie, I believe this novel is more character driven than plot driven. Since Tibby sets the story in motion, I will start with her.

Tibby: Since the beginning, I loved Tibby’s quirkiness. I like how she walks to her own beat, and doesn’t follow what should be done. In this novel, Tibby in many ways is still the ringleader, the one who holds the girls together.

Carmen: I always had a special place in my heart for Carmen. Probably because of all the Septembers, hers is the personality I relate to the most. We’re both hot headed. We react first, ask questions later people. We’re emotional, hate change and are fiercely loyal to those we love. I was glad that Carmen was finally a success, living the life and dream she always imagined.

Bridget: Of all the Septembers, I feel Bridget is the one who grew up the most. When the novel begins, she’s her usually vivacious wild child self. The one who began the novel and the one who ended it are two different women. I really enjoyed her journey and can only imagine the great things that are still in store for her.

Lena: Ahh Lena. The shy hopeless romantic, oh how I love you. I’m glad she hadn’t given up on Kostos. I’m glad he didn’t give up on her. She was the one that made me cry the most, the one I wanted to hug and comfort even though I know she would refuse it.

My favorite Lena part was this: Lena wished that love were something you could flip on and off. You could turn it on when you felt good about yourself and worthy of it and generous enough to return it. You could flip it off when you needed to hide or self-destruct and had nothing at all to give. 

This novel isn’t perfect by any means. There are times when the reader has to suspend logic and let the novel carry us forward. The great triumph is that never did I feel Ms. Brashares dropped the ball on this. She didn’t phone this one in. It was well thought, well written, and absolutely true. This novel is a reminder of what Ann Brashares does best. This novel is the reason why I will keep reading her work.

Overall, this novel was everything I hoped it would be and more. My throat hurt from holding back the tears, and man they came at unexpected times. This is my favorite kind of novel, the kind that makes me want to read it again as soon as I turn over the last page.

Final Take: 5/5

Jenn's Review:  Had I known what this book was going to be about at the outset, I wouldn't have read it. That's not to say it wasn't a wonderful, well written book, just that there is a reason I don't read books like this.  I read to recharge my emotional battery not drain it.  I'm not sure if it's a testament to how fabulous Ann Brashares is as a writer, or whether I just have an excess of empathy, but I was up half the night sobbing and occasionally raging; it's probably a little of both.

After getting over the shock of the initial plot twist, I saw the next few twists coming.  And I think that made me angrier with the characters, if possible. I was frustrated with the lack of progress Lena and Bee had made with their lives.  All this time, and Bee is still running around without roots.  Lena is shut away in her studio.  They never grew up, they just stood still, while this changes over the course of the book I truly wanted to shake them for wasting so much time.  Carmen and Tibby at least moved on.  Carmen's path needs readjustment, but at least she chose one.  Tibby moves to Australia to start life anew and honestly, I was angry with her too for the way she shut her 'sisters' out.  But as Alice says, they are all 'true to character'.  There were a couple of plot points that tugged at my realism meter, but they are hardly worth mentioning.

I will not spoil this book for anyone who has yet to read it, but you're going to need several boxes of tissues.  I wasn't weeping.  I was bawling at least 60 percent of the time.  I was inconsolable.  I was furious. I was relieved.  I was hopeful.  Did I love the novel?  Yes, it was beautiful.  It has forever changed the way I see The Sisterhood.  Ann Brashares is brilliant.  It will stay with me always.  However, while I will re-read the first four, I'm pretty sure I'll never open the cover of this one again.

Final Take: 4.75/5


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Jenn's Review: The Book of Lost Fragrances

Summary:  A sweeping and suspenseful tale of secrets, intrigue, and lovers separated by time, all connected through the mystical qualities of a perfume created in the days of Cleopatra--and lost for 2,000 years. Jac L'Etoile has always been haunted by the past, her memories infused with the exotic scents that she grew up surrounded by as the heir to a storied French perfume company. In order to flee the pain of those remembrances--and of her mother's suicide--she moved to America. Now, fourteen years later she and her brother have inherited the company along with it's financial problems. But when Robbie hints at an earth-shattering discovery in the family archives and then suddenly goes missing--leaving a dead body in his wake--Jac is plunged into a world she thought she'd left behind.  Back in Paris to investigate her brother's disappearance, Jac becomes haunted by the legend the House of L'Etoile has been espousing since 1799. Is there a scent that can unlock the mystery of reincarnation - or is it just another dream infused perfume?
The Book of Lost Fragrances fuses history, passion, and suspense, moving from Cleopatra's Egypt and the terrors of revolutionary France to Tibet's battle with China and the glamour of modern-day Paris. Jac's quest for the ancient perfume someone is willing to kill for becomes the key to understanding her own troubled past.

Review:  I was really excited when the publicist offered M.J. Rose's The Book of Lost Fragrances because I loved her last book, The Hypnotist (my review).  The Book of Lost Fragrances is the fourth book in her Reincarntionist series and it's a rare series where you don't have to read the other books to enjoy the one you have in hand.

This is one of those books where, even though I didn't like the protagonist, I still loved the book.  I wanted to shake Jac, quite frankly.  When you keep having visions there is usually two ways to deal, either accept them or go mad, but Jac has found a third way, explaining them away with Jungian archetypes.  I understand why she is so reluctant to accept her visions, they've terrorized her since she was a child, but her long winded explanations have got to sound far fetched even to her.  Yet, once you have a coping mechanism, it's hard to let it go.  Still, her hard-headed realism make it difficult to like her.

Although it seemed slightly incredulous that all these stories tied together, I must say that I loved the Chinese-Tibetan story line.  There is a good dose of frightening reality (there is so much to which we turn a blind eye in that region) that makes this such a heartbreaking story.  I liked that this ending had more promise of hope that in the real world.  I loved the concept of scent memories being an access point for past lives.  I have a very sensitive nose and great scent memory so the thought of a certain scent being able to regress one beyond this lifetime is intriguing.  I thought Jac's lesson from her past life was interesting, and I honestly would have liked to see a little more closure with this storyline, but I understand why Ms. Rose left it this way.

I don't want to spoil the mystery by saying too much more, but this is a fantastic suspense novel, filled with past, present, and a glimmer of hope for the future.  I still have yet to read the first two books in the series, but I'm definitely going to because I adore M.J. Rose's ability to spin a story.

Final Take:  4.5/5

Check out other stops on the Lost Fragrances Virtual Book Tour

And the Winner Is...

Congratulations to Veronica for winning a copy of Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter.

An email should be waiting for you, please respond with your mailing address so we can send the book to you as soon as possible!

Thanks to everyone who entered. As usual GJR used to generate the winner.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

And the Winner Is...

Congratulations to DarcyO for winning a copy of Next to Love by Ellen Feldman.

An email should be waiting for you, please respond with your mailing address so we can send the book to you as soon as possible!

Thanks to everyone who entered. As usual GJR used to generate the winner.


Children's Corner: Baseball A-Z

Review: In honor of the start of spring training and one of my favorite sports, I checked Baseball from A to Z out of the library for my son. It is a clever book and it definitely teaches kids the basics of the game while also going over some terms that younger kids might not have heard yet; Ace and No-Hitter are the first ones that come to mind.

The illustrations are fun and not at all "babyish". A few of them crack me up when I see them. The facial expressions on some of the players are hilarious. In fact, this is perfectly aimed at my 4 year old son who will be starting t-ball in the spring. The book definitely holds his interest and sparks more questions about the game from him. It's also a good way of reinforcing the ABC's using a different subject matter that causes the child to think a bit.

My only complaints are small ones. The type set could be bigger making it easier to read on the pages that are darker. Also, the color of the type could change depending on the illustrations, again making it easier to read.

If you've got a child, like mine, who is into every single sport he or she tries and baseball is on their radar, then this is a great introductory book.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Julie's Review: Another Piece of My Heart

Summary: Andi has spent much of her adult life looking for the perfect man, and at thirty-seven, she's finally found him.  Ethan--divorced with two daughters, Emily and Sophia--is a devoted father and even better husband.  Always hoping one day she would be a mother, Andi embraces the girls like they were her own. But in Emily’s eyes, Andi is an obstacle to her father’s love, and Emily will do whatever it takes to break her down. When the dynamics between the two escalate, they threaten everything Andi believes about love, family, and motherhood—leaving both women standing at a crossroad in their lives…and in their hearts. ANOTHER PIECE OF MY HEART is a novel that illuminates the nuances and truths about relationships and is Jane Green at her absolute best.

Review: I am so excited that Jane Green has another book out! I've read her for a long time and while the last couple haven't been excellent, I still always enjoy her novels. I knew that Another Piece of My Heart sounded a bit different from her other books but still dealing with family issues. Like Promises to Keep this deals with some pretty tough subject matters.

Being in a blended family myself, it's never easy but my dad got remarried when I was in my 20s, so my step-mom didn't have to deal with the teenager angst from either of us. These situations are becoming more the norm than the exception, so I think Ms. Green is extremely timely with her novel. I also know that she and her husband combined families so perhaps part of this subject is very familiar to her but maybe without the drama.
I liked Andi overall. She's by no means perfect but she tries. She tries her hardest with her step-daughter Emily who is so full of rage and hatred towards her. Emily views Andi as competition instead of an ally. She thinks that Andi took her father away from her and that he loves her less. Never mind that Emily doesn't get any love from her drunk mother. Maybe part of Emily's anger should have been directed towards Janice instead of Andi but I never got the sense that she hated her mom.

I don't think Andi ever hated Emily but I think she was extremely hurt by her anger. She didn't know when she would be nice and when she was going to be evil. Trust me, Emily was all kinds of evil. I understood why Andi was fed up. She was fed up because she never felt that Ethan stuck up for her or that he disciplined his daughter. Ethan was too worried about making Emily happy than giving her boundaries.

While I enjoyed the chapters written from Emily's point of view, I still wasn't convinced that she changed. Sure three years seems like a long time to be away but when you are as immature as Emily was, it's not that long. She never really dealt with her feelings for Andi and her resentment towards her father. Frankly, I believe she should have had therapy. Emily might have gotten some parts of her life on track but she was still emotionally unstable. It's not until 3 years after she returns home and leaves again that I finally felt she was grown up, that she had resolved her issues with her family.

I really enjoyed the part of the novel where Janice helps Emily come to an emotional breakthrough regarding her situation. It was refreshing to see Janice step up and be a mother especially when it counted. When Emily needed some one to say some hard things to her but yet could do so in a caring manner.

I enjoyed how Ms. Green jumped ahead in her novel by a few years at a couple points in the novel. It made me feel that the characters were stuck in time and in circumstances they couldn't over come. Now, while I enjoyed the ending of the novel, I did feel that it was a little too neatly tied up. Maybe time and love really does heal all wounds. Maybe I'm just cynical.

For those of you who have read Jane Green previously but have stepped away from her Another Piece of My Heart is the novel to get reacquainted with her.

Final Take: 4.25/5


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Julie's Review: The Scent of Rain and Lightning

Summary: One beautiful summer afternoon, Jody Linder receives shocking news: The man convicted of murdering her father is being released from prison and returning to the small town of Rose, Kansas. It has been twenty-three years since that stormy night when her father was shot and killed and her mother disappeared, presumed dead. Neither the protective embrace of Jody’s three uncles nor the safe haven of her grandparents’ ranch could erase the pain caused by Billy Crosby on that catastrophic night. Now Billy Crosby is free, thanks to the efforts of his son, Collin, a lawyer who has spent most of his life trying to prove his father’s innocence. Despite their long history of carefully avoiding each other in such an insular community, Jody and Collin find that they share an exclusive sense of loss. As Jody revisits old wounds, startling truths emerge about her family’s tragic past. But even through struggle and hardship, she still dares to hope for a better future—and maybe even love.

Review: The Scent of Rain and Lightning sat in the TBR pile since August 2010! Just goes to show that I have too many books that are waiting for my eyes to feast upon them. Nancy Pickard wrote a wonderful book about murder in a small town and how it affects not only those directly involved but the residents of the town as well. We are introduced to Jody Linder as she sees her three uncles pull up to her house and she knows it's not good news because all three of them are dressed in their best. What she doesn't expect is for them to tell her that the man who murdered her parents has had his sentence commuted and he's coming back to Rose.

The novel then takes us back to 23 years prior and the events that set up the murder. Ms. Pickard spends most of the novel setting the stage for the event by letting us get to know each of the players in the story. What Ms. Pickard does well for the reader is to have you fully believe whatever the characters tell you. If Hugh Linder tells you that Billy Crosby killed his son than you believe it beyond a shadow of a doubt. As the novel goes on, things are slowly revealed and you begin to doubt what you've believed the entire time. Imagine being Jody and all she's known is to hate Billy Crosby her entire life. He took away a life she could have lived with her mom and dad.

I can't share much more of what happens without giving away the twists that the novel makes towards the very end. I will say I was totally shocked and didn't see it coming. I'm not even sure if there were clues that I should have picked up on.

I really enjoyed the setting of the novel and all of the characters. From the Linder family to the residents of Rose, they all are an integral part of the story.

I will most definitely be checking out Ms. Pickard's The Virgin of Small Plains.

Final Take: 4.75/5