Thursday, August 30, 2012

Julie's Review: Hemingway's Girl

Summary: “She remembered when Hemingway had planted a banyan tree at his house and told her its parasitic roots were like human desire. At the time she’d thought it romantic. She hadn’t understood his warning.” In Depression-era Key West, Mariella Bennet, the daughter of an American fisherman and a Cuban woman, knows hunger. Her struggle to support her family following her father’s death leads her to a bar and bordello, where she bets on a risky boxing match...and attracts the interest of two men: world-famous writer, Ernest Hemingway, and Gavin Murray, one of the WWI veterans who are laboring to build the Overseas Highway.  When Mariella is hired as a maid by Hemingway’s second wife, Pauline, she enters a rarified world of lavish, celebrity-filled dinner parties and elaborate off-island excursions. As she becomes caught up in the tensions and excesses of the Hemingway household, the attentions of the larger-than-life writer become a dangerous temptation...even as straightforward Gavin Murray draws her back to what matters most.  Will she cross an invisible line with the volatile Hemingway, or find a way to claim her own dreams?  As a massive hurricane bears down on Key West, Mariella faces some harsh truths...and the possibility of losing everything she loves.

Review: I admit it, I've never read an Ernest Hemingway novel or short stories. Does that mean I don't know anything about him, not really. I only know the stuff that's been told in the media and by his family, and his family doesn't really say much. After watching HBO's Hemingway & Gellhorn, my interest in the man was piqued. Although I have to say my interest in Gellhorn was piqued a bit more.
So, going into Hemingway's Girl by Erika Robuck I had glimpses of him as a man but now I think I have a better idea of a who he might have been, even if it's told in a fictional novel. Hemingway, aka Papa, isn't the central character in the book, Mariella is and deservedly so. She's a force to be reckoned with by anyone in her path. Mariella's family recently lost her father to a heart attack and while her mother, Eva, is grieving it is up to Mariella to take care of the household. This means working to earn them money and making sure her younger sisters are cared for. She is wise beyond her 19 years. Her luck begins to change when she is hired on as a housekeeper for the Hemingway family.

Mariella quickly finds herself drawn to Papa. She finds herself fantasizing about him, even if he's a married man. Honestly, Ms. Robuck does an excellent job of toeing the line here because I swear there were times when I thought she'd give in and I'd have to chuck the book across the room. I believe it is her attraction to Gavin that truly stops her, even though she says he's a married man and she'd never cross that line. There's a point when her mother tells her that desire leads people to do wrong things. Desire can make forbidden things seems attainable.

What I loved about the novel is that we see Mariella grow. She was a young girl, who was in many ways lost and the job at the Hemingway's helped her to gain the self-respect she needed to follow her dreams. It gave her access to a world she wouldn't have known otherwise. I believe that her meeting Hemingway and for a while following him around like a puppy, led her to Gavin. It led her to the path she needed to find.

Mariella and Gavin brought out the best in each other. They complimented each other in ways that most people look for their whole life. It is Gavin's love for Mariella that makes her whole.
Ms. Robuck writes every character superbly. They radiate off the pages. It is easy to picture, Ada, the nanny drinking from her flask after dealing from a long day with the two children. You can picture, Pauline, even though a beauty, making herself ugly because of paranoia and jealousy. You can feel her pain when Papa is cruel and unjust towards her. That being said, there were a couple times that Pauline got what she deserved.

It is obvious that Ms. Robuck has a great love for Hemingway and for the things that he loved. It is obvious she took great care in researching Key West, the 1930s, the affects of war on the WWI soldiers and of course, Hemingway himself.

I loved the way the book ended with the letters that Mariella had kept all these years and with her up in his writing cottage having them read by her son.

If you are looking for an excellent, historical fiction novel that brings you to 1930s Key West, then pick up Hemingway's Girl.

Final Take: 5/5

Hemingway's Girl will be out in the world on September 4th, 2012.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Jenn's Review: A Bloody Storm

Summary:  Derrick Storm is back--this time with a crack team of ghost CIA operatives. These former agents have all faked their own deaths and now work for the CIA on a strictly secret basis, taking on dangerous and illegal jobs the agency may not officially carry out. They're headed to the Molguzar Mountains to look for sixty billion dollars' worth of gold hidden by the KGB before the collapse of the Soviet Union, and taking a perilous detour to rescue FBI agent April Showers from a sociopathic torturer. But Storm's loyalties are put to the test as the mission begins to unravel into a bloody mountaintop showdown, and he and Showers must find out the hard way that their assignment may not be what they thought it was... ~blurb

Review:  This is the third and last installment of short story for the Derrick Storm releases.  I enjoyed it just about as much as the first two, but I will say it was a little obvious why Storm was sent on the mission, and who was behind everything, still there were a few small surprises.  (I loved the chase scene and Showers' final weapon, even though the easy banter during it seemed completely unrealistic -and very Castle.)  Did I think Jones went to far?  Yes, but I understand why he made the call that he did.

This fall we will be awarded 'Richard Castle's' second Storm book in graphic novel form, Storm Season.  I don't know how much further ABC plans to take Derrick Storm, but I'm enjoying what they are giving.  I will be reading the full length, Nikki Heat novel, Heat Rises, soon because I miss Castle.  (I know Frozen Heat will be out in September, but I always save the books for the summer when the show's hiatus is difficult for this die-hard fangirl.)  I don't often praise ABC, but I love what they're doing with this franchise.

Final Take:  4/5

And the winner is.....

Congratulations Stephanie!  You have won a copy of Size 12 and Ready to Rock by Meg Cabot.  You have an email waiting for your with further instructions.

For this giveaway, GJR used Rafflecopter to generate the winner.

Thanks to all for entering!


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Children's Corner: Velma Gratch and the Way Cool Butterfly

 Velma is the youngest of three sisters and when starting first grade she wants to stand out and be remembered for something other than being the youngest Gratch girl.  She tries all the wrong things and get's herself noticed by the principal.  When she discovers what it is that she's good at, she finds her own niche without even realizing it and she discovers that sometimes getting noticed, even for the right reasons can be a challenge.

It's a sweet book about being yourself with a little lepidopterology thrown in ~Velma learns all about butterfly wings, migration, and metamorphosis.  It certainly is not a short picture book by any means, but it is very good.  Kevin Hawkes illustrations are lovely, alternating between full double-page and small scenes. Plus it encourages girls in science and self esteem and we could all use a little of that.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Group Review: Only One Life

Summary:  Jealousy, obsession, and family honor have fatal consequences for an immigrant community on the fringes of seemingly idyllic Copenhagen society. It was clearly no ordinary drowning. Inspector Louise Rick is immediately called out to Holbraek Fjord when a young immigrant girl is found in the watery depths, a piece of concrete tied around her waist and two mysterious circular patches on the back of her neck.

Her name was Samra, and Louise soon learns that her short life was a sad story. Her father had already been charged once with assaulting her and her mother, Sada, who makes it clear that her husband would indeed be capable of killing Samra if she brought dishonor to the family. But she maintains that Samra hadn't done anything dishonorable. Then why was she supposed to be sent back to Jordan?

Samra’s best friend Dicta thinks it was an honor killing. A few days later Dicta is discovered, bludgeoned to death, and Samra's younger sister has gone missing. Navigating the complex web of family and community ties in Copenhagen’s tightly knit ethnic communities, Louise must find this remorseless predator, or predators, before it is too late. ~blurb

Julie's Review: Here's the thing, after finishing Sara Blaedel's most recent Louise Rick novel, Only One Life, I went and put Call Me Princess on my wish list. You see, there's a background to Louise and her other cases that I want to know. It's not necessary to know them for this novel, but I'm intrigued by Louise. I want to know her more and how else do we get to know Detectives but by the crimes they solve.

I was immediately drawn into the case and immediately drawn to Detective Rick. The case seemed so open and shut at first because of preconcieved notions that Ms. Blaedel is very good at making you buy into them. It's here that Ms. Blaedel excels. She hooks you so well with one single idea, that you can't possibly look outside that possiblity until it's upon you. I love it when authors do that. I mean I had my suspicions but she keeps the reader steered towards the premise.

Louise is, in my opinion, an excellent detective. She clearly observes those around her and the crime scene looking for evidence that will point her in the direction of solving the case. She's very observant, meticulous, efficient and concientious, which helps her in her cases. She also appears to be easy to talk to which will have its advantages when talking to a suspect or trying to get witnesses to give them details of what they know or what they saw.

I also want to get to know Camilla Lind more. There is something that obviously happened to her in a previous case, that has changed her. I want to know what it was and how she was involved. I am also intrigued how her and Louise keep their boundaries with her working for a paper. I mean Louise can only be a confidential source so many times, right?

The case is heartbreaking. Samra had such a full life ahead of her and she was a good girl. She was trying to do right by her family only to have her one life taken from her. As humans, we need to do a better job of understanding cultures and religions that are different from our own and not just buy into the media's interpretation of these differences.

Ms. Blaedel does an excellent job of holding the readers attention. There was a point where I wasn't sure if all the storylines were going to be solved but they were without feeling rushed.

I'm so happy to have discovered Ms. Blaedel and Louise Rick. I will definitely be looking for more of her novels in the future.

Final Take: 4.5/5

Jenn's Review:    Though I had a rough idea of what this novel was about after the publicist brought it to our attention, I'm glad I didn't read the blurb.  It says way too much; I'd rather let the story unfold than know in advance what is going to happen.    

I am not as smitten with this book as Julie is and I think that is partially the writing style and partially the cultural barriers.  Having read the description, one might think I was referring to Muslim cultural barriers, but it was actually the Danish ones with which I had issues.  Everyone in the novel, from the police to the press to the neighbors kept calling the family immigrants and while that is technically the correct term for them, it was the connotation that I found irksome.  Perhaps because the United States is a country made up of immigrants, it is not generally a term we use to define someone, which is not the case in other countries where there is a predominantly homogeneous population and stricter immigration laws.  I felt like some of the stereotypical racial profiling problems that the police were trying to avoid were much their own doing.  Because of this, I never really connected with any of the characters.    

The other thing I found slightly jarring while reading was the way Ms. Blaedel switched back and forth from dialogue to descriptions of dialogue.  It was confusing and gave everything a further disjointed feel for me.  Unfortunately, I picked the culprit a third of the way through the novel and, though there was one twist that made my convictions waiver momentarily, I was just waiting for the investigation to catch-up.  The personal stories seemed to be sidebars, but that may be because this is the second book in the series or because I wasn't interested in any of the character's personal lives.

I don't think I will continue this series; for me it just doesn't translate well.  

Final Take:  3/5

Thanks so much to Erin Mitchell at Hew Communications for reaching out to us to review this book!


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Author Interview: Betsy Woodman

A couple weeks ago, Julie reviewed Jana Bibi's Excellent Fortunes and we are so happy that the author, Betsy Woodman, took some time to answer our questions.

GJR: Is there any part of the main character, Jana which is autobiographical? If yes, what do you two share in common? If no, is she an accumulation of people you’ve known?

Betsy Woodman (BW): Jana is neither autobiographical, nor a composite of real people. She popped into my head one day fully formed, parrot and all.

She comes from a different generation, closer to my grandmother's than mine, and so has lived through different events in history, including two world wars and the coming of Indian independence. She experiences India as a bride and young mother and as a middle-aged woman, which I didn’t do.

Oh, we share a few things. We both struggle with our wardrobes and neither does well in the kitchen. Also, a few of my own childhood memories crept into hers, such as soaping up the bathroom floor and sliding back and forth on it. (Our first bathroom in India had no fixtures, just a plain cement floor with a drain.)

GJR: Besides Jana, who is your favorite character and why?

BW: Feroze Ali Khan, the proprietor of Royal Tailors. I love his ability to see two sides of a coin, his gentle toleration of his customers who are culturally different from him, the fact that he loves his wife so much, his eventual willingness to change even when it's difficult for him. I also love the pride he takes in his craft, and his aesthetic sense that dates back to the time of the Moghul emperors.  He is devout without being fanatic, and he knows that sometimes the loving thing is to let go rather than to hold on tight. Side note: Julie's favorite was Feroze as well.

GJR: You lived many years in India, what inspired you to write a novel about this expansive country and its people rather than a memoir or non-fiction book?

BW: A novel allowed me to incorporate humor, exaggeration, improbable happenings, and just plain fun. I also wanted a more shaped narrative then I would have had in a memoir–problems to be solved, interconnecting subplots, resolutions. Fiction also let me drawn on a much greater range of materials, including books, movies, artworks, and other people's experiences.

GJR: Obviously where we are raised has a tremendous influence on who we become, how do you feel that India shaped Jana?

BW: Jana's is totally formed by India. She has grown up hearing the tinkle of temple bells, the calls of street vendors, the prayers from the mosque, the creak of bullock carts passing. She's accustomed to the smells of jasmine, sandalwood, burning cow dung, and pigeon droppings on sandstone. Street traffic to her means cows, rickshaws, horse-drawn tongas, and only the occasional automobile. Most important, in India, she has been surrounded by people of different races, colors, religions, and ways of life. She loves that variety, and needs it to feel at home.

GJR: How did your childhood of growing up in India and then studying abroad shape you?

BW: It left me with a passion for history, traditional cultures, and languages. I love dictionaries and atlases.

Woodstock School and its spectacular Himalayan environment gave me an excellent education and a love of mountain views.

Lastly, living in both wealthy and poor countries made me aware of the huge global disparities in people’s life chances. I grieve that the world is still split up into friends and enemies. Spaceship Earth is small, and we’re all on it together.

GJR: What are some of your favorite books that are set in India? Or books that are about India?

BW: Hard question, since there are so many! Here are a few off the top of my head.
Big, powerful novels: Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance and Amitav Ghosh's The Hungry Tide
Brilliant intimate novel: Anita Desai's Clear Light of Day; Classic memoir of English children growing up in India in the early twentieth century: Jon and Rumer Godden’s Two Under the Indian Sun; Moving account of a whole Bengali village taking a rail trip around India: Heather Wood Ion's Third Class Ticket. There are some more suggestions in the “etc.” section of Jana Bibi’s Excellent Fortunes, and I also sometimes talk about books on my own blog,

GJR: Have you thought about doing a children’s book series with Mr. Ganguly as the main character? If not, I think it’s a great idea! J I think it would be a great way to introduce children to the Indian culture and how multi-religious it is.

BW: That hadn't occurred to me. With tons of pictures! What a great idea. I’ll ask Mr. G what he thinks.

GJR: I know that there is another book planned in this series, can you give us a little morsel of what the 2nd book is about?

BW: Book two is called Love Potion Number 10. In it, a lot of people are thinking about love, wondering if it’s too late to find it, or worried they will lose it. I’ll let you guess whether Jana is one of them. However, I will tell you that she’s taken up Freudian dream analysis—with her own personal twist. Also, editor Rambir’s orderly life falls apart when he becomes a temporary bachelor, a reporter with ulterior motives interviews Jana, and Mr. Ganguly falls into dire peril.

GJR: You’re having an author get-together (aka dinner party): Who’s on the guest list, which recipe would you grab, and why?

BW: I’m a pathetic cook. Can I order out for Indian food? As long as the samosas are fresh and crispy, the naan puffy, and the palak paneer creamy, everything will be all right. I love the kind of party where you laugh until your sides ache, so I want humorists as the guests. We may have to resurrect some of them from the grave, including Mark Twain, Ogden Nash, Dorothy Parker, and Erma Bombeck. Among the living, my pals novelist Elizabeth Berg and columnist Terry Marotta are both very witty people and I think they would enjoy the evening and give the ghosts a run for their money.

I want to thank Betsy Woodman for taking time out of her schedule to answer the questions. For more on Betsy please check out her website and you can also follow her on twitter @BetsyWoodman.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Jenn's Review: Shadow of Night

Summary:  A Discovery of Witches introduced Diana Bishop, Oxford scholar and reluctant witch, and the handsome geneticist and vampire Matthew Clairmont; together they found themselves at the center of a supernatural battle over an enchanted manuscript known as Ashmole 782. Drawn to one another despite longstanding taboos, and in pursuit of Diana’s spellbound powers, the two embark upon a time-walking journey.  Book Two of the All Souls Trilogy plunges Diana and Matthew into  Elizabethan London, a world of spies and subterfuge, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the mysterious School of Night.  The mission is to locate a witch to tutor  Diana and to find traces of Ashmole 782, but as the net of Matthew’s past tightens around them they embark on a very different journey, one that takes them into heart of the 1,500 year old vampire’s shadowed history and secrets. For Matthew Clairmont, time travel is no simple matter; nor is Diana’s search for the key to understanding her legacy. Shadow of Night brings us a rich and splendid tapestry of alchemy, magic, and history, taking us through the loop of time to deliver a deepening love story, a tale of blood, passion, and the knotted strands of the past. ~blurb

Review:  While my love of the All Souls Trilogy hasn't abated, I will say that Shadow of Night was much slower going than I expected.  Because the character's have traveled back in time, I am suddenly reading historical fiction, which means I'm a little out of my element.  I don't usually enjoy historical fiction unless it's a topic I am well versed in so that I can sort the fact from the fiction.  Luckily, Deborah Harkness is an erudite historian which is valuable to the authenticity of the plot, however it also bogged things down considerably.

Although it isn't necessary to have a rudimentary knowledge of the politics and culture of  Elizabethan England, it certainly helps.  At times I found the need to go and look up bits of European 16th century history just to make sure I was getting all the references.  While I enjoyed getting to know the School of Night, I had trouble keeping all of them straight, and I missed all of the characters that were left behind in the present.  There were several chapters that flashed back to the present, but I craved more.  The one character I loved meeting was Matthew's father.  Philippe sheds a brilliant and entirely new light on Matthew and the de Clermonts.  I loved every moment of this part of the story.  (There is also another surprise character that I was glad to get to know.)  Watching Diana and Matthew learn to function as a couple was wonderful, and their moments together made the entire novel.

For the most part, though, I felt that Diana and Matthew lost focus of their mission and many times I found myself chiding the characters to get a move on.  So many months are spent educating Diana to keep her from seeming out of place that I was relieved when she finally found a teacher for witchcraft.  Unfortunately, Ms. Harkness spends very little time on Diana's lessons so, sadly, much of the magic goes by the wayside.  I also got a little lost in Diana's alchemical studies which were interesting, but perhaps too detailed and too much plot exposition.

When the return to the present arrives, it is a year after they left, and I'm not sure I understand why they didn't return to the moment they left, save for plot advancement.  If this was meant to be the climax of the novel, it rather missed the mark.  Much has happened in their absence, but very little is explained.  I would have preferred a shorter visit to the past and a longer reunion at home.  I know there is another novel yet to come that will encompass this but I felt a little cheated.  (For example, I really wanted to see Gallowglass' reunion with the de Clermont's in the present.)  Another factor that contributes to this, I think, is that the novel ends with a chapter in the Old World two years after the de Clermont's departure.  While this gives us perspective on historical characters and the title of the book, it seemed like a bit of a let down after all that occurs.

It is a testament to how much I truly adored A Discovery of Witches, that Deborah Harkness could get me to read an historical fiction novel.  While Shadow of Night had it's faults, it is a huge building block in the All Souls Trilogy and I can't wait to see the repercussions from the time walking and will be happy to be back in the present in the third book.

Final Take:  4.0/5


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Julie's Review: Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures

Summary: The enchanting story of a Midwestern girl who escapes a family tragedy and is remade as a movie star during Hollywood’s golden age. In 1920, Elsa Emerson, the youngest and blondest of three sisters, is born in idyllic Door County, Wisconsin. Her family owns the Cherry County Playhouse, and more than anything, Elsa relishes appearing onstage, where she soaks up the approval of her father and the embrace of the audience. But when tragedy strikes her family, her acting becomes more than a child's game of pretend. While still in her teens, Elsa marries and flees to Los Angeles. There she is discovered by Irving Green, one of the most powerful executives in Hollywood, who refashions her as a serious, exotic brunette and renames her Laura Lamont. Irving becomes Laura’s great love; she becomes an Academy Award­-winning actress—and a genuine movie star. Laura experiences all the glamour and extravagance of the heady pinnacle of stardom in the studio-system era, but ultimately her story is a timeless one of a woman trying to balance career, family, and personal happiness, all while remaining true to herself. Ambitious and richly imagined, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures is as intimate—and as bigger-than-life—as the great films of the golden age of Hollywood. Written with warmth and verve, it confirms Emma Straub’s reputation as one of the most exciting new talents in fiction.  

Review: Once upon a time I wanted to be a movie actress but life has a way of intervening and well obviously down another path I went. That being said, I still love things that deal with the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. Ms. Straub definitely delivers those in Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures. I wouldn't say I loved Laura/Elsa but I definitely liked her and felt for her. Hollywood in the 20s wasn't quite as invasive as it is today. Movie stars weren't anything else but just movie stars. Sure there was a form of paparazzi, but not near the levels of them today.

Laura become enamored with the Hollywood lifestyle and the power of being a star. I will say that I thought that she only did one movie that garnered any attention. I thought she'd have more of a long-standing career. What I did like though was that Ms. Straub didn't make her a huge star because it is more realistic to see her slowly fall out of favor.

I almost wish that Laura had moved back to Door County and run her parents theater at one point in the novel. I realize that her life was made in Hollywood but it might have centered her again to continue on with her life. It also seemed like Laura lost who she was when she gave up Elsa. She became this whole new person, when Irving invented Laura Lamont.  I think that Laura has an identity crisis after Irving is gone. She doesn't know how to be Laura without him.

I loved how Laura and Ginger developed a strong female friendship, even after Ginger's career soared over Laura's. I believe in the end that Laura realized it was the stage acting she loved and not the film acting. I also think she realized that her family meant more to her than any career. She was an excellent mother and wife.

I did feel the ending was a bit rushed but I liked the place that Laura ended up. I felt it was fitting for a woman her age. My only real issue was that at times I found it annoying when Laura would refer to herself as Elsa, after she had take on the Laura Lamont persona. Maybe it was to show that she was torn between keeping herself as Elsa and turning into Laura, the movie siren.  

If you like all things old Hollywood, then I definitely think that Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures should find a spot on your TBR pile.

 Final Take: 4/5


Monday, August 20, 2012

Group Review: Let the Devil Sleep

Summary:  The most decorated homicide detective in NYPD history, Dave Gurney is still trying to adjust to his life of quasi-retirement in upstate New York when a young woman who is producing a documentary on a notorious murder spree seeks his counsel. Soon after, Gurney begins feeling threatened: a razor-sharp hunting arrow lands in his yard, and he narrowly escapes serious injury in a booby-trapped basement. As things grow more bizarre, he finds himself reexamining the case of The Good Shepherd, which ten years before involved a series of roadside shootings and a rage-against-the-rich manifesto. The killings ceased, and a cult of analysis grew up around the case with a consensus opinion that no one would dream of challenging -- no one, that is, but Dave Gurney.

Mocked even by some who’d been his supporters in previous investigations, Dave realizes that the killer is too clever to ever be found. The only gambit that may make sense is also the most dangerous – to make himself a target and get the killer to come to him.

To survive, Gurney must rely on three allies: his beloved wife Madeleine, impressively intuitive and a beacon of light in the gathering darkness; his de-facto investigative “partner” Jack Hardwick, always ready to spit in authority’s face but wily when it counts; and his son Kyle, who has come back into Gurney’s life with surprising force, love and loyalty. ~blurb

Jenn's Review:  John Verdon continues to amaze me.  Let the Devil Sleep is the third book in the Dave Gurney series, and it is just as spellbinding as the first two.

Dave Gurney is a little out of control, which is something we've never really seen before.  He's angry and he has a new appreciation for for the fragility of life, which you might think would be hard to come by for a retired homicide detective.  Thankfully, fate steps in in the form of an old friend who brings him a case to consult ~actually, it isn't even a case, it's an expose on children and family members of the victims of a serial killer.

Of course, Dave can't help but look into the case and when the inconsistencies start to pile up, he starts swinging tree limbs at the hornet nest of the FBI lead investigator.  Dave even takes a chunk out of a former colleague with whom he used to get on well.  If anything, Detective Gurney's last case has made him edgier and a little reckless, and while I can understand that, it was also quite shocking because he is normally so even keel.

I was glad to see Madeline taking a more supportive role, but I think after all that's happened, she has finally learned that Dave Gurney is a detective who's mind needs a keen puzzle to focus on.  It was also nice to finally meet Gurney's son, Kyle.  I was a little amazed by how much he idolized his father, many kids with an absent father grow up resenting him, but not Kyle.  I'm not sure how I feel about Kim... her naivete was a little odd and she seems a little, somehow.  And here I am discussing fictional character's as real people again, a hallmark of being completely wrapped up in a book.

I had no doubt Dave would get to the bottom of this 10 year old cold case, but I had no idea who the culprit was... I fell for a red herring early on, and though my convictions were shaken a few times, I kept returning to my theory, which was, of course wrong.  There are some storylines with which I would have liked a little more closure, but overall it was fabulous.  I love that John Verdon can bury a case in so many layers that it makes your head spin.

This is one of those series where I will happily loose myself in each novel.  I think Mr. Verdon is a brilliant suspense novelist, and I look forward to Dave Gurney's next great adventure.

Final Take: 4.75/5

Julie's Review: I realize that you don't have to read these books in order because the thriller aspects aren't related but I do think to understand Dave you need to read them in order. I can say this because I still have to read Shut Your Eyes Tight. It didn't impact my enjoyment of Let the Devil Sleep but I kept wondering what happened to Dave during his last investigation.

Regardless, if you aren't reading John Verdon, you need to be. His writing is taut, detailed and enthralling. He never fails to amaze me with his ability to keep me guessing until the very end of the novel. I always have a theory and then I change it at least 5x during the course of the novel. I also try not to read his books right before bed because they do give me slight nightmares. When is the last time you can say that about a novel?

Retired Detective Dave Gurney is probably one of my favorite policeman characters along with Harry Bosch and Detective Carl Morck. He's extremely intelligent and being a detective suited him well. He is extremely good at figuring out puzzles and this is where he comes in to the The Good Shepherd case. Something doesn't sit right with him as he studies the case file from 10 years prior. He believes that the people in charge got it wrong from the beginning and this causes a storm for him. You really shouldn't question the FBI and their conclusions, it tends to piss them off.

I love his relationship with his wife Madeleine. In my eyes, she does put up with a lot but she did marry a detective and I'm assuming that never leaves you. She's very patient and she often has a different angle on things that helps Dave with cases. I also enjoyed getting to know his son, Kyle. Although, I will admit his sudden appearance made me suspect him but sometimes it's not related.

My only compliant is that at times I felt the booked moved slowly but perhaps it was my impatience of wanting the climax of the book though. It wasn't the pace because his books are well paced but more like there were things that could have been edited out to make the book a bit more smooth.

Mr. Verdon does an excellent job throwing a ton of red herrings your way in his novels. It's one of those things that makes him a superb author. I can't recommend his books highly enough. I'm thankful that Jenn introduced me to him because he will be an author I read for years to come. Believe me I will be reading Shut Your Eyes Tight very soon.

Final Take: 4.5/5

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Crown Publishing for both of our review copies.

John Verdon’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:
Tuesday, July 24th:  Wordsmithonia
Wednesday, July 25th:  Jenny Loves to Read
Thursday, July 26th:  Jen’s Book Thoughts
Monday, July 30th:  A Bookworm’s World
Tuesday, July 31st:  Sara’s Organized Chaos
Wednesday, August 1st:  Life in Review
Thursday, August 2nd:  Colloquium
Monday, August 6th:  Booklover Book Reviews
Tuesday, August 7th:  Stacy’s Books
Wednesday, August 8th:  Book Addict Katie
Thursday, August 9th:  House of Crime and Mystery
Monday, August 13th:  Crime Fiction Lover
Tuesday, August 14th:  A Novel Source
Wednesday, August 15th:  Book Reviews by Elizabeth A. White
Thursday, August 16th:  Bewitched Bookworms
Monday, August 20th:  Girls Just Reading
Wednesday, August 22nd:  Thoughts of Joy
Monday, August 27th:  Musings of a Bookish Kitty


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Children's Corner: You Think It's Easy Being the Tooth Fairy

Review: This was a spur of the moment purchase at a book fair at my daughter's school a few months back and I can't say that I regret the purchase. This is one great book about the Tooth Fairy. It's probably my favorite book about the tooth fairy that we've read. Too be honest, I don't remember there being a lot of books about her growing up, maybe she's a phenomenon these days.

She's a Tooth Fairy for the girls who maybe don't like to think that the tooth fairy is like a princess. She's strong, she's smart and she's got spunk. I actually find myself chuckling through the book. She also explains to the kids where they need to place their teeth when they lose them. My daughter proceeded to tell me that the next time she loses her tooth we need to follow these directions. I'm all for it, because it means she still believes and I know that since she's entering 2nd grade, those days are limited.

 The illustrations are cute, without seeming too young for my daughter. They definitely capture the essence of the story and make the tooth fairy seem real.

I definitely recommend You Think It's Easy Being the Tooth Fairy? for kids who are just starting to lose their teeth or perhaps they've lost a few already. I can guarantee your kids will get something out of it.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

And the Winner Is...

Congratulations to Andrea for winning our copy of Rachel Caine's Black Dawn. You have an email waiting for you with further instructions.

 As always GJR used to generate the winner.

 Thanks to all for entering!


Friday, August 17, 2012

Alice's Review: Sweet Talk

Summary:   When FBI agent Grayson Kincaid first encounters Olivia MacKenzie, she makes quite an impression.  The beautiful, tough, young attorney has stumbled into the middle of an FBI sting operation and has reduced it to chaos. Months of surveillance and careful planning down the drain, Kincaid’s partner is furious and lets Olivia know that she’s ticked off the wrong guy. After all, he’s FBI.  Olivia isn’t intimidated by his partner’s bullying because she’s something even scarier . . . she’s IRS. And working for the IRS isn’t for the faint of heart. She’s on the trail of an elaborate Ponzi scheme, one that threatens to ruin the lives of naive and unsuspecting victims, and one she has personal reasons to be angry about. But after she asks questions of the wrong people, her life is suddenly endangered. She’s accustomed to fighting for the underdog but being vulnerable herself is a very different story. Smart enough to know when to call for reinforcements, she contacts Grayson Kincaid. Together they make an excellent team to fight corruption but Olivia is also fighting the immediate and intense attraction she feels for Agent Kincaid, and that may be a battle she is bound to lose.

Review:  I have been a fan of Julie Garwood since my late teens when I was completely addicted to historical romance novels.  One thing Ms. Garwood does extremely well is historical romance.  Pick up any one of her novels and you will see what I am talking about.  I especially love For the Roses and Saving Grace.  In 2000, she decided to cut her teeth at contemporary romance.  She introduced us to the Buchanan family with Heartbreaker and hasn’t looked back since.

Her newest installment in this FBI heavy series is Sweet Talk about a gusty IRS attorney Olivia MacKenzie and Grayson Kincaid, one of the FBI’s finest.  They meet under the usual way:  smart beautiful sexy woman gets in trouble and smart, fearless, sexy man saves her.  And of course he can’t take his eyes off her because she’s perfect and she can’t take her eyes off him because she never seen a male specimen that fine.  And so begins their whirlwind romance.

If you are looking for a break from the mold, sadly you won’t get it.  I don’t necessarily blame Ms. Garwood.  I think it could be more a genre issue than a writer’s issue.  Then again, my opinion is biased, as you will find out below.  She is far from “calling it in,” but this is lackluster compared to her earlier works.  I believe the major flaw in Ms. Garwood work is that she creates characters that are too perfect.  Even their minuscule flaws are endearing.  I found Olivia to be reckless and Grayson too domineering.  Overall the story moves quickly, it is action packed.  But is it missing something, something critical to make this a success.

The thing is I am willing to overlook these flaws because of one thing, and one thing only…I love Julie Garwood.  I love her writing style.  I love how she sucks me in.  In spite of knowing how it will end, I keep on reading.  In spite of how annoyingly perfect  the characters can be, I keep reading.  Part of me feels she can do no wrong.  What contradicts those thoughts is I have read her early contemporary romance novels and I can read the difference.  I know how fantastic Heartbreaker and my absolute favorite Mercy are.  I makes me a little sad that she can’t quite muster that magic again.  I just hope it is not lost forever.

Final Take: 3/5


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Giveaway: Size 12 and Ready to Rock

Up for grabs we have one copy of Meg Cabot's newest Heather Wells Mystery, Size 12 and Ready to Rock. Read Alice's review here.

We are trying a Raffle Copter Givewaway this week instead of our usual Form. If you have a minute, please let us know which style of giveaway you prefer in the comments.

Thanks and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Alice's Review: Size 12 and Ready to Rock

Summary: Summer break . . . and the livin' ain't easy! Just because the students at New York College have flown the coop doesn't mean assistant residence hall director Heather Wells can relax. Fischer Hall is busier than ever, filled with squealing thirteen- and fourteen-year-old girls attending the first ever Tania Trace Teen Rock Camp, hosted by pop sensation Tania Trace herself—who just happens to be newly married to Heather's ex-boyfriend, heartthrob Jordan Cartwright. But the real headache begins when the producer of a reality TV show starring Tania winds up dead . . . and it's clear that the star was the intended victim. Grant Cartwright, head of Cartwright Records, wants to keep his daughter-in-law (and his highest-earning performer) alive. So he hires his oldest son, black sheep of the family and private investigator Cooper Cartwright—who just happens to be Heather's new fiancÉ. Heather should leave the detecting to Cooper. But with a dorm full of hysterical mini-divas-in-training, she can't help but get involved. And after Tania shares a really shocking secret with her, this reality suddenly becomes more dangerously real than anyone ever anticipated.

Review:  It has been almost five years since we last saw Heather Wells.  Not much has changed since then.  She is happily and secretly engaged to sexy private eye Cooper, she’s still the Assistant Director of the “Death” Dorm, err I mean Residence Hall at fictional New York College, and she’s still funny.

I really enjoy this series.  Heather’s shenanigans are what keep me coming back.  In this adventure, Jordan (International Pop star, Coopers’s brother, and Heather’s ex-boyfriend) is back with his now wife Tania Trance (the very one who stole Jordan from Heather).  Tania is pregnant and someone is out to get her.  For reasons Heather can’t explain, Tania feels safe with her and knows she’ll help her.  Let the drama ensue.

Meg Cabot doesn’t waste any time throwing us into Heather’s newest adventure.  Although this is the fourth book in the Heather Wells Mysteries series, Ms. Cabot gives her readers enough background to follow along without feeling lost or confused.  Keeping with the theme of the other books, each chapter starts with song lyrics written by the characters.  Some of the songs are heartfelt and warm, others are laced with humor.  I like to figure out how they are linked to the chapters.

Although I enjoyed this novel, there was one thing that disappointed me.  I thought the novel was very short. I realize it’s supposed to be a quick, fun read but it was too short.  It’s the kind of book you take with you for a long weekend to read while you are lounging at the beach or pool.  The substance however, is funny and well written.  On one hand, I’m glad it wasn’t a drawn out mystery but on the other, it would have been nice to spend a little more time with Heather, Cooper and the NYC gang.

Final Take: 4/5


Monday, August 13, 2012

Giveaway: Black Dawn

Here's your chance to win Rachel Caine's latest book, Black Dawn (Morganville Vampires #12).

We are trying a Raffle Copter Givewaway this week instead of our usual Form. If you have a minute, please let us know which style of giveaway you prefer in the comments. 

Thanks & good luck!
 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Jenn's Review: Glass Houses

Summary:  College freshman Claire Danvers has had enough of her nightmarish dorm situation. When Claire heads off-campus, the imposing old house where she finds a room may not be much better. Her new roommates don't show many signs of life, but they'll have Claire's back when the town's deepest secrets come crawling out, hungry for fresh blood. ~blurb

Review:  The Morganville Vampire series has been on my TBR list for a while.  I'd heard lots of good things about it and have been looking forward to starting Glass Houses. I was sorely disappointed.

The premise has promise, but I felt like it was never fully fleshed out and I just couldn't buy into it.  It all seemed superficial and underdeveloped. The characters were two dimensional as well and I just couldn't connect with them.  Claire was a stereotypical smart girl with no common sense. Michael's secret was not hard to discover.  Shane seems to be two different characters. And Eve?  Her character could have been fascinating, but never seemed to go anywhere.  I was hoping to get something interesting from the vampires, but they were just spooky monsters in the night.  No situation seemed fought with peril, they were all easily escaped and everything resolved without much effort.  Even the romantic attachments seemed forced.  I kept pushing forward in hopes that things would get interesting, but they never did. The final few pages were just bizarre and left things on a huge clifff hanger. Usually, that would fill me with angst, but I'm not even interested enough to seek out the resolution.  

Obviously, there is some merit or there wouldn't be 12 books in the internationally best selling series.  I'm just not seeing what the attraction is.  I really wanted to love it, but I just couldn't seem to get attached.  If, I'm wrong, let me know (nicely!) because I'd like to understand what I'm missing.  I can honestly say, I don't think I will be reading Rachael Caine again. 

Final Take:  2.75/5


And the Winner Is...

Congratulations to Paula for winning our copy of Elly Griffiths' The Crossing Places.  Your prize will be in the mail this week.

As always GJR used to generate the winner.

Thanks to all for entering!