Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Jenn's Review: Clockwork Angel

Summary:  Magic is dangerous—but love is more dangerous still.

When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What's more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by—and torn between—two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length...everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world...and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all. ~blurb

Review:  I have purposely stayed away from Cassandra Clare's Clockwork Angel, because once I start reading her books I just can't put them down and I feel the need to plow recklessly through the rest of the books in the series. Honestly, I didn't mean to pick it up, but once I had I was riveted.

Having read the first three books in The Mortal Instruments series, I decided to start The Infernal Devices series instead of continuing on with The Mortal Instruments, because that is the order in which Ms. Clare wrote them, and as I mentioned The Infernal Devices is just as addictive. The formula is similar, two male Shadowhunters, a female Shadowhunter, and an outsider: Will is just as difficult and moody as Jace (which is understandable), Jem is more quiet and reserved like Alec, Jessamine is as fashion conscious as Isabella but far more reluctant to accept her role as a Shadowhunter, and then there's Tessa who, like Clary, has just discovered her abilities.

With such a similar structure, one might think that it couldn't possibly seem fresh and new, but Ms. Clare makes it seem utterly so. She has tweaked the personalities, thrown them into a different era in new situations, and turned the love interests around. I really enjoyed Tessa, who is a strong minded female of the 19th century, and her ability is fascinating. I also like that there is no easy solution for Tessa and where her abilities come from, though I have an inkling. Charlotte and Henry were endearing and it was interesting to see how the chauvinism of the age casts a murky hue even on the Nephilim. Charlotte's constantly battling for equal ground even though she is clearly as capable as her peers. And as much as I would like to resent Jessamine for her vane attempts to abandon her heritage, I do understand her. Will and Jem are a complimentary team reminiscent of Alec and Jace, though their relationship is very different. Both Will and Jace are quintessential tomented heroes; Will has a sharp tounge that covers a faux bad boy image whereas Jace is a reckless bad boy.  And I loved seeing a different side to Magnus.

It's fascinating to see the Clave from a different point of view.  The Institute in London has a similar dynamic to that in New York, and yet so very different in practice. Ms. Clare has taken an entire back story from another series and made it come alive in an entirely new light.  The plot twist completely blew me away. I didn't even have a sneaking suspicion of where things were headed, though in hindsight, I probably should have. I read fast and furiously to the end and now all I want to do is pick up Clockwork Prince. There are many questions left unaswered, though the main plot was aptly resolved. I need answers, so I will be continuing with The Infernal Devices soon because I can't stay away from Cassandra Clare for too long.

Final Take:  5/5

Monday, July 30, 2012

Jenn's Review: Between the Lines

Summary: What happens when happily ever after... isn’t?

Delilah is a bit of a loner who prefers spending her time in the school library with her head in a book—one book in particular. Between the Lines may be a fairy tale, but it feels real. Prince Oliver is brave, adventurous, and loving. He really speaks to Delilah.

And then one day Oliver actually speaks to her. Turns out, Oliver is more than a one-dimensional storybook prince. He’s a restless teen who feels trapped by his literary existence and hates that his entire life is predetermined. He’s sure there’s more for him out there in the real world, and Delilah might just be his key to freedom.

Delilah and Oliver work together to attempt to get Oliver out of his book, a challenging task that forces them to examine their perceptions of fate, the world, and their places in it. And as their attraction to each other grows along the way, a romance blossoms that is anything but a fairy tale.

Review:  I must confess, this is my first Jodi Picoult book, and it will probably be my last. That is, unless she plans to do more collaborations with her daughter because this is so ingenious! No knock on Ms. Picoult, it's just that her books are usually a little too serious for me, so I was surprised at how light this novel is.

Who hasn't imagined a happily ever after with a fictional character or imagined themself as the hero/heroine of the story? Here, the cloncept is explored in full. The novel is written in three voices, the children's book in which the characters live, Oliver, and Delilah. Though it has great potential to be confusing, it is cleverly set in three different fonts in three different colors interspersed with gorgeous illustrations and little cameo silhouettes which make things brilliantly clear. The story itself is nothing like I've read before. I loved the way the reader gets insight into both characters as the novel goes along. Delilah discovers that who she sees on the page is not exactly who each character is when the book is closed and that though she sometimes thinks she'd rather be anywhere than where she is, that's not really true. Oliver discovers that life outside the pages is more complex than he imagines, especially when you have to start considering others.

While I found the twist of the ending fun, I also thought it was rather abrupt. There was no real denoument to speak of and there were loose ends that could have been tied. I was left wondering about what was going to happen with several characters. Also, I felt a bit like some of the other characters, such as Delilah's best friend Jules, were filler, but I think that is more to do with the fact that the style in which it was written limits the amount of story you can tell.

All in all, Between the Lines is a brilliant concept and I sincerely hope that mother and daughter attempt to write together again. It's a creative, fun read and I highly recommend it.

Final Take:  4/5

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Children's Corner: Princess Matilda

This is a fantastic sale table discovery.  I love it because it's more than just princess-y.  It's for the daydreamer.  Matilda loves to pretend and imagine, and when things aren't going her way, she imagines a new scenario.  She uses her imagination to deal with her feelings.  She's a princess, a wicked witch, a clown,  a butterfly, and a jungle woman, but in the end, she's still her parent's little girl.  I love that Eva Montari introduces that concept for young children, for we are all many people during our day, during our lifetime, but in the end, we are still us.

The illustrations are whimsical and beautifully done by the author.  I love the way she morphs the reality into what Matilda sees in her mind's eye.  This is definitely a keeper.  (I'm so glad I found it!)  We will be seeking out more of Eva Montanari's books.  Princess Matilda is perfect for the princess-doctor-sword-fighter in your life!


Friday, July 27, 2012

Jenn's Review: Seizure

 Summary:  Ever since Tory Brennan and her friends rescued Cooper, a kidnapped wolf pup with a rare strain of canine parvovirus, they've turned from regular kids into a crime-solving pack. But now the very place that brought them together - the Loggerhead Island Research Institute - is out of funding and will have to shut down. That is, unless the Virals can figure out a way to save it.

So when Tory learns of an old Charleston legend about a famous she-pirate, Anne Bonney, whose fortune was never found, she can't believe her luck - buried treasure is exactly what she needs to save the Institute on Loggerhead! Trouble is, she and her friends aren't the only ones looking for it. And this time, the Virals' special powers may not be enough to dig them out of trouble . . .  ~blurb

Review:  I love Kathy Reichs novels and I love paranormal YA, so the two things together?  Total no brainer.  Seizure is the second book in Reichs' new Virals series, and while the first one is my favorite, I also enjoyed Seizure.

Many of the reviews for Virals compared it to a modern day Nancy Drew (even I made the comparison (my review)), I think the similarities are far more prevalent here, from the cover to the topic to the plot formula. Not that that is a bad thing, (think of how many lives that series touched!) but it's a good starting point of comparison. Really, it's Goonies meets Nancy Drew with a sci-if twist. It definitely had an old school feel to it with good dose of Kathy Reichs typical quick wit. There are no huge plot twists in this one and even though searching for pirate treasure sounds a little hokey, it was still an entertaining, fast-paced read. At times I was frustrated when pockets of plot exposition slowed things down a little, but the Virals are so smart it's easy to forget they're kids in their early teens... and so is the target audience. With that in mind however, as a Mom I was concerned because Tory was far more reckless in this book. I understand her desperation, but she took some crazy risks, completely disobeyed her father, and broke several laws. While Shelton came off as whiney kill-joy at times, he really was the voice of reason that all the Virals ignored. At the same time I appreciate the fact that without Tory's aggressive impulsiveness, there would have been no story. Were they able to solve things a little too easily and was the tale a little tall? Sure, but it was done beautifully. I also appreciated the brief but relevant Temperance Brennan cameo.

As I mentioned when reviewing Virals, I think this story works for male or female readers (a theory I intend to test on Kids Just Reading soon) even though it's told from Tory's point of view. It helps too that there is no heavy romance foisted on these early teens. I love the concept of this series and I can't wait to see where Reichs and her son Brendan take this. They've made sure to start Tory off young so the series can age with her, which is good. Their isn't anything else out quite like Virals and I can't wait to read the next book in the series.

Final Take:  4/5


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Alice's Review: The Distant Hours

Summary: It starts with a letter, lost for half a century and unexpectedly delivered to Edie’s mother on a Sunday afternoon. The letter leads Edie to Milderhurst Castle, where the eccentric Blythe spinsters live and where, she discovers, her mother was billeted during World War II. The elder Blythe sisters are twins and have spent most of their lives caring for their younger sister, Juniper, who hasn’t been the same since her fiancĂ© jilted her in 1941. Inside the decaying castle, Edie searches for her mother’s past but soon learns there are other secrets hidden in its walls. The truth of what happened in “the distant hours” has been waiting a long time for someone to find it. In this enthralling romantic thriller, Morton pays homage to the classics of gothic fiction, spinning a rich and intricate web of mystery, suspense, and lost love. ~ amazon.com

Review:  It’s no secret that I have been reading The Distant Hours for a month.   The slowness was definitely contributed to the novel been nearly 600 pages, or a brick as I liked to refer to it.  It was formidable, intimidating.  I would read and not feel like I was putting a dent in it.  It was discouraging.  I think I would have given up on it weeks ago had it not been for the List Swap Challenge Julie and I are participating in.  I’m glad I didn’t give up on it because this has been one of the best reads of the year for me.

This novel incorporates many of my favorite reading loves.  I love novels about sisters, I love romance, I love heartbreak, I love novels set in the 40s.  I love reading about women and how they interact with each other.  I love the secrets, the vulnerability in revealing truths.  The Distant Hours is all those things and more.

Ms. Morton’s writing style is poetry.  The mere size of the novel is testament that she did not leave any stones unturned.  This novel was well researched, thought-out.   She bounced back and forth between 1941 and 1992 with ease.  I was never confused or confounded. 

She writes such strong, beautiful women.  Each of the sisters, as well as Edie, Meredith, Lucy, and Rita, were multidimensional characters.  I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know each one.  One of the stunning truths of this novel is that although each woman had strength of her own, they were more or less control by one man and his secrets, Raymond Blythe.  He was the catalyst in The Distant Hours.

Shroud in mystery, Ms. Morton’s gift is revealing these in an unexpected way.  Just like Edie, I would begin to think one thing, convinced I had it figured out and then Wham! – Here comes the truth and it would leave my head spinning and feeling awed, impressed how easily I was fooled and how the truth was there all along.

This novel was such a pleasure to read.  It reminds me of the kind of novel you curl up to on a cold, rainy or snowy night.  It’s comfortable, it makes you think, it keeps you guessing.  Maybe it’s the castle setting, maybe it’s the relationship between the women.  Maybe it’s the women individually.  There is just something so wonderful about this novel that each minute spend reading it is like getting to know a new friend.

And just how it was highly recommended to me, I highly recommend The Distant Hours to you.

Final Take: 5/5


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Julie's Review: The Lost Hours

Summary: When Piper Mills was twelve, she helped her grandfather bury a box that belonged to her grandmother in the backyard. For twelve years, it remained untouched. Now a near fatal riding accident has shattered Piper’s dreams of Olympic glory. After her grandfather’s death, she inherits the house and all its secrets, including a key to a room that doesn’t exist—or does it? And after her grandmother is sent away to a nursing home, she remembers the box buried in the backyard. In it are torn pages from a scrapbook, a charm necklace—and a newspaper article from 1939 about the body of an infant found floating in the Savannah River. The necklace’s charms tell the story of three friends during the 1930s— each charm added during the three months each friend had the necklace and recorded her life in the scrapbook. Piper always dismissed her grandmother as not having had a story to tell. And now, too late, Piper finds she might have been wrong. ~amazon.com

Review: The Lost Hours is an intense, taut, heartbreaking novel that touches on subject matters that are uncomfortable.  The past is a tricky thing. It pulls us in with the need to know what happened and by the time you figure out that maybe things are left better hidden, you are too deep. This is what happens to Piper. She wants to know what made her grandmother the quiet, sad person she was during her lifetime. Was she always like this or was there a significant event in her life that altered who she was?

A letter written by her grandmother, Annabelle, to a Lillian sets Piper on the quest for unearthing the past of her grandmother. They mystery surrounding these two women is slowly revealed through the pages of a journal, newspaper clippings and through the eyes of Lillian. We experience the story from Piper, Lillian and Helen's point of views.

All of these women have had to endure disappointments and tragedies, this is what bonds them in the end. It is their resilience in life that makes them strong. They all make extremely interesting narrators. You get to know them from the others perspectives and their own inner thoughts. It brings a depth to the novel that wouldn't have been achieved through a single narrator.

I read this book so fast because I wanted to find out what happened. Just as I thought the mystery was resolved and could read the rest of the book in peace, Ms. White threw another curve ball at me. It literally took my breath away. It also caused me to sob during the last 20 pages.

It's taken me all day to write this review because it's not an easy novel to review. I'm also trying my damnedest not to judge Lillian and Annabelle. Things were different in the 1930s for women. There were some things that were just expected and to try to wrap our current mindset around that is hard. I can't imagine the decisions and consequences the women of that generation lived with. Yet, these were some of the strongest women I've read about. They paved the way for us to be able to have the things we did. They thought outside of what society expected and broke down barriers.

The past always affects the present but not always in extremes. I think it helped Piper figure out who she was and who she didn't want to be by figuring out who her grandmother was during her youth. It also gave Piper the "family" she had always wanted.

My only disappointment is that we didn't find out more about Piper's grandfather during this process. Throughout the book he was portrayed as a man who was deeply disappointed in his granddaughter. She didn't live up to his hopes and dreams, so he wrote her off. I wanted to know more about him and why his expectations were so high for her. What drove him to drive her?

Karen White is now an author who I will want to seek out in the future. I'm only sorry that I waited so long to read this novel.

Final Take: 4.75/5

Lisa also reviewed it.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Julie's Review: The Homecoming of Samuel Lake

Summary: Every first Sunday in June, members of the Moses clan gather for an annual reunion at a sprawling hundred-acre farm in Arkansas. And every year, Samuel Lake, a vibrant and committed young preacher, brings his beloved wife, Willadee Moses, and their three children back for the festivities. In the midst of it all, Samuel and Willadee’s outspoken eleven-year-old daughter, Swan, is a bright light. Her high spirits and fearlessness have alternately seduced and bedeviled three generations of the family. But just as the reunion is getting under way, tragedy strikes, jolting the family to their core and setting the stage for a summer of crisis and profound change.  With the clear-eyed wisdom that illuminates the most tragic—and triumphant—aspects of human nature, Jenny Wingfield has created an enduring work of fiction. ~amazon.com

Review: Every once in a while there are characters that you aren't going to be able to let go of and this is the case with The Homecoming of Samuel Lake. Even though the book is named after him, for me, Samuel Lake was a secondary character. It was more of what happened to him that spawned what happened to the rest of the family. Although it is typically not just one event that changes the course of lives but multiple events that happen concurrently. You see Samuel is a Preacher and he gets assigned a new church every year because he ruffles too many feathers during that year. But this year, Samuel isn't assigned a church and this throws him for a loop. At the same time, the Moses family, of which Samuel's wife Willadee comes from, experiences their own life changing event; the death of patriarch John Moses. The two events seemingly independent end up throwing the family on a path that would have previously not be taken.

The bones of this book is about family. It's about having faith in the others and finding faith in yourself even when it doesn't seem possible. It is most definitely a coming of age story for the young Lake children. It is about realizing there is evil in the world and to learn how to live life around it.

My favorite characters were the children, Swan, Noble, Bienville and Blade. Coming in a close second was their Uncle Toy. Toy was a man who had never known much happiness until the kids came into his life. This is how he found out what it was like to have unconditional love and to give unconditional love. He ultimately sacrifices himself for the good of the family. This is the part of the book that had my heart in my throat. It is the pivotal moment in the book. It is his decision that will change the Lake family's future.

Kids are resilient, wise and observant. They often see things that adults don't and come to terms with situations much sooner than most adults.

I can't wait to read Ms. Wingfield's next book. She definitely has a gift for creating characters and story telling. If you are looking for a book with some heart and soul to round out your summer, then look no further than The Homecoming of Samuel Lake.

Final Take: 4.75/5

Thanks to Random House for the copy via Early Bird Reads.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Jenn's Review: A Hoe Lot of Trouble

Summary:  Nina Collette Ceceri Quinn’s business, Taken By Surprise--a landscaping firm specializing in surprise garden makeovers--is the only thing in her life that seems to be thriving. Her marriage to adulterous police detective Kevin Quinn has wilted. Her anti-social stepson Riley is spreading trouble around like pungent manure. Even her gardening tools are disappearing, including a rather valuable set of hoes. Worst of all, the delightful old man who first introduced her to the joys of horticulture is dead--and not by natural causes. Something evil has taken root in Nina’s Ohio small town, and the local police--including dearly unbeloved Kev--are baffled. But it’s amazing what a resourceful gardener can dig up when she puts her mind to it--though, by sticking her hands too deeply into this fetid, fertile soil, Nina might well end up planted beneath her own petunias.  ~goodreads.com

Review:  I love Heather Webber's Lucy Valentine series and her new Wishcraft series published under the name Heather Blake, so I thought it might be fun to read some of her earlier works like A Hoe Lot of Trouble. Here you can see vestiges of the Heather Webber I've come to love

I don't read many cozy mysteries, because I find them rather predictable. I have to say even though it isn't a heavy read, Heather Webber had me completely fooled. Apparently, plot twists are something she has always done well. I'm still a little flummoxed about why Nina stuck her nose so far into an investigation in the first place, but, such is the nature of a cozy mystery. And while I found some of it a little frivolous, it held my attention straight through.

I also enjoyed her characters; it's hard not to like Nina. She's strong and spirited and a lot less vulnerable than many of Ms. Webber's other female leads. Nina is going to take the bull by the horns, even of it is in the middle of a china shop. I always find myself thinking her characters would make great friends and Nina is no different. I also found it refreshing that there was no formulaic love interest such as you find in so many cozies. Not to say that Nina isn't on the rebound and looking, but she's okay with that.

A Hoe Lot of Trouble is the beginning of a series of Nina Quinn garden mysteries, and I'm pretty sure I will be reading them all. This is a perfect beach read. I will enjoy seeing how the series progresses and what other kinds of trouble Nina can get herself into.

Final Take:  3.75/5


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Children's Corner: How Does a Dinosaur Say Good Night?

Summary: I didn't have a brother growing up and I wasn't really into dinosaurs, so reading books that feature them is definitely new to me. We picked How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? from the library and have been reading it pretty much every night since.

It's a cute book for our little guy who doesn't exactly flop into bed excitedly waiting to go to sleep.

It features 10 different kinds of dragons who each have their own kind of fit about going to bed. Eventually they each learn that bedtime is inevitable and give kisses and hugs to their parents. This would be a great book if your little one isn't exactly cooperative at bedtime.

It might help them see how silly they are acting when dinosaurs act the same way.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Julie's Review: Comfort Food

Summary: In this smart, delicious novel by the bestselling author of The Friday Night Knitting Club, a celebrity chef shows her friends and family the joy of fulfillment— and manages to spice up her own life at the same time. Shortly before turning the big 5-0, boisterous party planner and Cooking with Gusto! personality Augusta “Gus” Simpson finds herself planning a birthday party she’d rather not—her own. She’s getting tired of being the hostess, the mother hen, the woman who has to plan her own birthday party. What she needs is time on her own with enough distance to give her loved ones the ingredients to put together successful lives without her. Assisted by a handsome up-and-coming chef, Oliver, Gus invites a select group to take an on-air cooking class. But instead of just preaching to the foodie masses, she will teach regular people how to make rich, sensuous meals—real people making real food. Gus decides to bring a vibrant cast of friends and family on the program: Sabrina, her fickle daughter; Troy, Sabrina’s ex-husband; Anna, Gus’s timid neighbor; and Carmen, Gus’s pompous and beautiful competitor at the Cooking Channel. And when she begins to have more than collegial feelings for her sous-chef, Gus realizes that she might be able to rejuvenate not just her professional life, but her personal life as well. ~amazon.com

Review: I've enjoyed Ms. Jacob's Friday Night Knitting Club Novels, so I figured that I would enjoy Comfort Food as well and I did  but I definitely prefer the ladies of the knitting club to the characters in this one. It's not that I didn't like the women and men in the book but in the end I just didn't connect with any of them on a real level. I liked Gus and her family. I couldn't stand Carmen, even in the end. I don't think she really learned much from her experience. She also ended up getting what she wanted even if she didn't really deserve it in the end. I was actually hoping she would have returned home to Spain.

I loved Gus' extended family. Her daughters Aimee and Sabrina were still looking to find their niche in the world. Her best friend Hannah has her own secret and has been hiding from the world for 15 years. Then there is Troy, Sabrina's ex-boyfriend, who still very much wants to be her boyfriend. He's also an entrepreneur of which Gus has invested in his company.

As much at the book is about food, food isn't a major character in the book. Don't get me wrong, some of the recipes sound divine but it's stuff that I would never try to make myself. Gus' life revolves around food. She's always loved to cook but she never planned on it being her career.

This was a good book for reading quickly and to just enjoy for fun. There are some themes throughout the book which isn't surprising with a novel that focuses on family.

If you haven't read Kate Jacobs before, then I recommend the Friday Night Knitting Club Novels over Comfort Food.

Final Take: 3.5/5

Also, check out Jenn's review.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Jenn's Review: Heist Society

Summary:  When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her on a trip to the Louvre…to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria…to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own—scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving “the life” for a normal life proves harder than she’d expected.

Soon, Kat's friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring Kat back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has a good reason: a powerful mobster has been robbed of his priceless art collection and wants to retrieve it. Only a master thief could have pulled this job, and Kat's father isn't just on the suspect list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat’s dad needs her help.

For Kat, there is only one solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it's a spectacularly impossible job? She's got two weeks, a teenage crew, and hopefully just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family's history--and, with any luck, steal her life back along the way.  ~goodreads.com

Review:  I really enjoy Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls , but I adore Heist Society, probably because the only thing I love more than spies are cons.   I love the cleverness and outwitting. Actually, between the cover and the theme, I was reminded of one of my favorite Audrey Hepburn movies, How to Steal a Million and another favorite film, The Thomas Crown Affair.

It took me a few chapters to get back into Ally Carter's style of writing, but after that it as clear sailing. It was easy to like Kat, perhaps a little easier for me to like her than Cammie from Gallagher Girls. Kat is making her own way in the world when she gets unapologetically hauled back into a life she tried to leave behind.

Kat knows all the cons and all the criminals, but she's never been up against anyone quite so formidable before ...especially not all by herself. Kat's strong and capable of taking care of herself. She's also smart enough to know she can't do it herself. Well, at least she has Hale, even if she's not ready to let him in. I craved more about all of her characters, not because they seem underdeveloped, but because I was fascinated by them.

Another reason this series resonates with me more than Gallagher Girls is that it just seems more plausible. Don't get me wrong, the Girls are lots of fun, but Heist Society seems a little less... frivolous.  I want to know where Kat goes from here, so I will be picking up Uncommon Criminals soon. I will continue with both series, but Heist Society will be the more urgent read on my TBR pile. It will be the one I'll have trouble putting down.

Final Take:  4/5

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Jenn's Review: A Discovery of Witches

Summary:  Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism. ~Goodreads.com

Review: There was a lot of hype surrounding A Discovery of Witches, but we all know that's no guarantee of a fantastic book. Such is the case here. It's not fantastic; it's fabulous.

It is one of the few reads where I wasn't analyzing as I go, I was just enjoying the story. As a matter of fact, the only time I was aware of the fact that it was a story at all was when I was bothered by that troublesome need to flip the page. It's so rare that I loose myself in a novel like that. I didn't identify bits of foreshadowing or archetypes, I just read and enjoyed the journey. And if anything, it is a journey. On the surface, it may seem like not much is happening, but things are constantly evolving. If you aren't smitten with Deborah Harkness' style of writing, I perhaps could see not enjoying the novel. Ms. Harkness delights in the details and glories in thoroughness, but that's what made me love it. She doesn't gloss over the science or the history of it, but she doesn't get so bogged down in semantics that she looses the reader. Deborah Harkness knows her stuff.

Honestly I am having trouble writing my review because I don't want to deconstruct it and examine the parts that made it work so beautifully as a whole. In a way it reminds me of Rebecca Maizel's Infinite Days (the YA book that made me fall back in love with vampire stories) in that it's a refreshing twist on the paranormal genre. Sometimes I feel like paranormal books are paranormal for the sake of being showy paranormal. But there is no splashiness here just an ever evolving story with enigmatic characters that just happen to be paranormal. And that is what I love most of all. The romance of it all and the blossoming of the story are beautiful. A Discovery of Witches is not pretentious; it just is.

And while Deborah Harkness leaves us on the cusp of another huge adventure, she doesn't end the novel too soon.  There were plenty of places she could have stopped where things were far more precarious, but she sees the plot through to it's natural pausing place. Am I still itching to continue the All Souls Trilogy?  Absolutely!  It will not be long before I pick up Shadow of Night, but I don't need to jump right into it. I'm still too busy savoring A Discovery of Witches and rereading my favorite little bits of it.  It's one of those novels that stays with you long after you put it down.  It's one of those books I will re-visit for years to come. I can't wait to see where the rest if the journey will take me.

Final Take:  5/5


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Julie's Review: Bond Girl

Summary: While other little girls were fantasizing about becoming doctors or lawyers, Alex Garrett dreamed of conquering the high-powered world of Wall Street. Now she's grown and determined to make it big in bond sales at Cromwell Pierce, one of the Street's most esteemed brokerage firms. Though she's prepared to fight her way into an elitist boys' club, she starts out small, relegated to a kiddie-size folding chair with her new moniker, "Girlie," inscribed in Wite-Out across the back. Always keeping her eyes on the prize (and ignoring her friends' pleas for her to quit), Alex quickly learns how to roll with the punches, rising from lowly analyst to slightly-less-lowly associate in no time. Suddenly she's being addressed by her real name, and the boys' club has transformed into forty older brothers . . . and one possible boyfriend. But then the apocalypse hits, and Alex is faced with the most difficult choice of her life: to stick with Cromwell Pierce as it teeters on the brink of disaster . . . or to kick off her Jimmy Choos and go running for higher ground. ~amazon.com

Review: The title is a bit deceiving isn't it? Bet you thought this was about a James Bond girl didn't you? Nope, it's about Wall Street and working on a bond desk at an investment firm. Instantly I liked Alex and felt for her. Who hasn't woken up and thought "You can get through this" for a day at the office? Working on Wall Street was a life long goal of hers and nothing was going to deter her.

Bond Girl was a great education of what really happens in a Wall Street firm. How tough it really is for women and probably minorities? You have to have a thick skin to work here. I couldn't survive it. Just the number crunching would numb my brain and then trying to deal with the testosterone daily, would be a bit much. Alex handled it a lot longer than I would have and for that she had my admiration. She was tough and yet everyone has their breaking point. Alex reaches her at the end of the book.

There are a lot of wonderful secondary characters in the book. Some are nice and some aren't. Some will fit your thinking of the stereotypical finance guy on the street but then again stereotypes exist for a certain reason right? What Ms. Duffy does, is go beyond the stereotypes and humanizes them so we end up caring for them. They become Alex' friends and therefore they become ours. I think my favorite of these was Chick, her boss. He was a hard ass but you knew he had a heart. He pushed Alex to be her best and she was better for it.

As Alex moves along in her career and the financial collapse of 2008 happens, she ends up re-evaluating her life. While Wall Street has provided her with money and some success, it has also provided her with anxiety, a stalker and no time for any thing else in life. This isn't what she remembered her dad's job being when she was a kid.

I enjoyed then ending of the novel but I will comment that it felt a bit rushed. Perhaps it is because the climax and resolution were so closely tied together. Was some of the novel, predictable? Yes, but obviously that didn't take away from my enjoyment.

I know that Ms. Duffy was an analyst on Wall Street for 10 years so I'm sure some of this was based on real experiences but then fictionalized. I think that was also why I enjoyed this book so much was because I knew some of it had to have occurred in real life. Makes it that much more fascinating. I also wonder about the people who were fictionalized in this novel, what their reactions were to being immortalized.

Ms. Duffy has a wonderful career in writing if it's what she chooses to keep doing. I will be looking forward to her novels in the future.

For more information on Ms. Duffy you can find her on Facebook.

Final Take: 4/5

Thanks to TLC Tours & William Morrow for my review copy.

TLC Tour Information for Bond Girl:
Tuesday, July 17th: Girls Just Reading
Wednesday, July 18th: Life In Review
Thursday, July 19th: Seaside Book Nook
Monday, July 23rd: The Book Garden
Tuesday, July 24th: Twisting the Lens
Thursday, July 26th: Life in the Thumb
Monday, July 30th: Kritters Ramblings
Tuesday, July 31st: A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, August 1st: Stephany Writes
Thursday, August 2nd: Walking With Nora
Wednesday, August 8th: Reflections of a Bookaholic


Monday, July 16, 2012

Presenting Kids Just Reading

We are truly excited to share our new affiliate blog, Kids Just Reading, a place for teens and tweens to review books. Julie and I were thinking about making reviews from teens a feature here on Girls Just Reading, but decided that they deserve their own space. Any chance to foster a love of reading seems like a good idea to us!

This collaboration has been a few months in the making and I hope you will take a moment to check in at Kids Just Reading and see what is happening. Feel free to pass us along to your internet savvy youth as well! We currently have two bloggers, Gates and Jordan whom you can learn more about here. The boys will be giving their perspective on their current reads and perhaps telling us about any other book related events that grab their attention.

Kids Just Reading is new and interested in expanding, so if you or anyone you know would be interested in trying book blogging, please email us. (Posts can be emailed to Julie or I or done by the individual depending comfort levels of individuals and parents.)

We can't wait to see what Kids Just Reading has in store for us!


Giveaway: The Sandcastle Girls

We are so excited to be able to offer a copy of Chris Bohjalian's newest novel, The Sandcastle Girls courtesy of his publisher, Doubleday.

Please just fill out the form below by July 20th. This giveaway is eligible to US and Canada residents only.

Good luck!