Friday, November 30, 2012

2012 GJR Challenge Round-Up

For the 2012 GJR Challenge, each of us picked 3 books that all of us had to read and then we reviewed together. Based on our reviews, we can say that The Night Circus was the top read for 2012 out of these 9 books.

Alice's Thoughts:  It was very interesting to see what each of us chose to read.  I wasn’t expecting Jenn’s list to be so Chick-Lit heavy, Julie’s list consisted of mostly Classic Literature and mine didn’t even include one single Memoir.  Even in choosing books for each other, we stepped out of our usually genre comfort zones.  I’m a little sad we won’t be doing this again but I can totally understand Jenn’s point below.  With such great things we actually want to read and our TBR piles growing every day, it makes sense to forgo this challenge in the future.

Overall, I really enjoyed this challenge.  I like to occasionally step out of my reading comfort zone. I’m really glad I participated in this challenge because if I hadn’t I wouldn’t have discovered the literary classic To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee which I had never read; Ruth Galloway (and her sexy cop friend Harry Nelson) in The Crossing Places; The Night Circus which was one of my favorite books this year; and lastly, the fabulous PK in The Power of One.  I’m not quite finished with The Power of One yet.  Because of Hurricane Sandy, I am no longer able to read during my commute to work.  I am listening to PK’s adventures instead.  It is quite interesting hearing instead of reading a novel.   

Jenn's Thoughts:  This has been a difficult challenge for me because I don't read the same genres as my co-bloggers. That's not to say that there aren't books outside my reading comfort zone that I find enjoyable -I loved The Night Circus and might never have read it without this challenge- but it started me thinking about how there is a reason that we are attracted to certain genres. I love the puzzle of a crime novel and being swept up in the details. I love paranormal reads because it's feels good to add a little magic to life. 

While I don't mind expanding my tastes, pushing boundaries, and discovering new authors, I did not find that I accomplished that with this challenge.  I have books piled up all over the house (my poor family will attest to that) and hundreds more on my e-reader that I don't have time to read. I have a hard time justifying reading something I'm not enjoying with all those other titles calling my name.  I don't have enough reading time to include books of which I'm not fond... plus I find myself dragging my way through them, so they take even more time to read. So I'm afraid it's my fault that Girls Just Reading will not be doing our challenge again next year. There is so much to read and so little time.

Julie's Thoughts:  I thoroughly enjoyed this challenge. It made me think about the books that I wanted to read and how the other girls would react to them. I also liked the way it pulled me out of my comfort zone on a couple. The one that really comes to mind is Graveminder by Melissa Marr. I would have never picked up a paranormal book on my own. While every book wasn't a home run, I can't say that I'm upset that I read any of them. Of course, some I liked more than others but that's normal.

I like how I did read some that were out of my genre but for the most part they were in genres I normally read. I did have to buy most of the books in the challenge so my only change would be that we pick books out of our TBR pile or maybe use the library.

My favorite books that I read were The Night Circus, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Power of One.

Here are the books we read and reviewed during the year:

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides review
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern review
Joy for Beginners by Erica Baumeister review
The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott review
The Secret of Joy by Melissa Senate review
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee review
The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths review
Graveminder by Melissa Marr review
The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay (Jenn did not read this one) Julie's review
& Alice's Review (Coming Soon)

We hope you've enjoyed our group reviews and the book we chose.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Alice's Reviews: Mockingjay

Summary: Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she's made it out of the bloody arena alive, she's still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what's worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss's family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins's groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year.

Review: I can’t find the words to express how sad I am this series has come to an end. Yes, I loved it. Yes, I believe Mockingjay was best in the series. Yes, Suzanne Collins wrote a brilliant trilogy. And Mockingjay is the very best kind of novel.

There are many things I can gush about. I loved Katniss in this installment. Although she remained true to character, in Mockingjay Katniss blossomed into a wonderfully complex woman. Suzanne Collins did a brilliant job of showing her vulnerability, which is such a stark contrast to the strong fearless leader we have seen in the Hunger Games stadium.

I love Peeta’s dark side. I love how steadfast and faithful Haymitch remains to Katniss. I love that we finally spent some time getting to know Primrose. I’m happy Ms. Collins developed her as a real character. I felt that in the past she existed only for Katniss and not for the rest of us. I loved Prim. I loved that like Prim, we got to know Gale more. I have a new appreciation for him that I didn’t have before. In the first two novels, I couldn’t separate him from his desire for Katniss. Mockingjay was the first time I saw him as a man with his own plan.

Ms. Collins throws plot twists in with such ease, I never saw them coming. And the ending! Oh, I thoroughly enjoy how believable and realistic it was. I think that is what impressed me the most. For a dystopian society, I could see it happening exactly as written.

There isn’t much else I can say without ruining the entire novel. If you have read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, Mockingjay is a must. And yes, you should read all three.

Final Take: 5/5


Monday, November 26, 2012

Julie's Review: The Secret Keeper

Summary: During a summer party at the family farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is happily dreaming of the future. She spies a stranger coming up the long road to the farm and watches as her mother speaks to him. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime. A crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother, Dorothy—her vivacious, loving, nearly perfect mother.
Now, fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress living in London. The family is gathering at Greenacres farm for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday. Realizing that this may be her last chance, Laurel searches for answers to the questions that still haunt her from that long-ago day, answers that can only be found in Dorothy’s past. Dorothy’s story takes the reader from pre–WWII England through the blitz, to the ’60s and beyond. It is the secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds—Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy—who meet by chance in wartime London and whose lives are forever entwined. The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams and the unexpected consequences they sometimes bring. It is an unforgettable story of lovers and friends, deception and passion that is told—in Morton’s signature style—against a backdrop of events that changed the world.

Review: The Secret Keeper is Kate Morton's 4th novel and while it is not my favorite, it is still a worthy read. What Ms. Morton always excels at is keeping you guessing until the very end. This time though I did figure it out a little bit but not until the near end.

We are introduced to the story through the eye of 16 year old Laurel, who becomes the narrator for most of the novel. As Laurel returns home to her family farm, she is flooded and then haunted about her memories from that day when she was trying to escape from her boisterous family for a few minutes. She wants to know what it is that would cause he mom to act in such a rash and threatened manner. The answer of course can only be answered by her mom, Dorothy. Unfortunately, Dorothy is in the late stages of her life and clarity comes and goes. Laurel wants to get the bottom of the mystery that has plagued her during her adult years.

As Laurel researches her mother's past by little things that she has gleamed from her mother, the narration shifts between Dolly, Vivian and Dorothy. It is through their eyes that we learn how the short period of time during the London Blitz shaped their futures.

As always, Ms. Morton's characters we well-written and flushed out. She always chooses her time period with care. I can only imagine the energy and emotions that were heightened during that time period and because of that the actions that took place that couldn't be changed.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I never connected with any of the characters. I felt for Laurel and her plight to find out her mother's dark secret. Is it a secret that should have gone to her mother's grave with her? Perhaps but maybe now Laurel and Gerry can have peace. I felt that Dolly and Vivien were self-involved. Maybe during that time it was self-preservation but for me Dolly was the least likable character.

I liked how Laurel, Dorothy and her maternal grandmother all seemed to have the same dramatic gene within them. Dolly definitely took the dramatic flair to a whole new level. The man caught in the middle was Jimmy Metcalfe, who was desperately in love with Dorothy but who also found himself enjoying the company of Vivien.

Ms. Morton always thoroughly researches her books and it always feel like you are in the middle of the action no matter the time period. While The Distant Hours is by far my favorite book by Ms. Morton, The Secret Keeper is not one to be missed. I will continue to read Kate Morton's books as long as she keeps writing them.

Final Take: 4.5/5


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Children's Corner: Hit The Ball Duck!

Review: A week or so ago was the annual fall Usborne book fair at my son's pre-school. They set it up so you have to pass it on your way in and on your way out. Not only that but they take the kids there to make their wish lists.

Like any great reader, it is impossible for me to resist when my kids request books, so I promptly complied with buying him 3 of them.

One of them that we picked up was Hit the Ball Duck by Jez Alborough. Since my son is sports obsessed it was no surprise that he picked this one up.  This book isn't so much about baseball as it is about learning how to play together.  It's an excellent book about how working as a team can help solve problems and come up with solutions. These are two skills that I think we can't stress enough to kids even with kids as young as 4.

I found myself cracking up at the ending and my son found it fun. The text has a nice cadence to it and typically rhymes so it makes it pretty easy for the kiddo to follow along.  The illustrations are bright and fun. This is a book that we will delight in for a few years to come.

We've also read Some Dogs Do by Mr. Alborough and enjoyed it. So we will definitely be looking out for more of his books. 


Thursday, November 22, 2012

We Just Wanted to Say...

From all of us to all of you, Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Alice's Review: Catching Fire

Summary: Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

Review:  I have had Catching Fire sitting in my TBR pile since I received it for Christmas nearly 2 years ago.  I read the The Hunger Games and loved it so much I couldn't wait to get to the next one.  Yet once I got it in my hands I just let it lay among its paper friends.  After watching the movie for the 3rd time, I couldn't wait anymore to find what happens next.  Man, this novel blew my mind.

I loved it, loved it.  I didn't know what to expect since I am pretty good at staying away from literary spoilers.  Every page was one shock after another.  I thought it was better than the first, full of unexpected twists and turns.  Ms. Collins took what made The Hunger Games a great success and didn't change it at all. Why fix what isn't broken?

There were so many great things about this novel.  I'm a Peeta fan, so I loved watching how Katniss and Peeta grow closer.  I really don't understand the Katniss/Gale thing.  It's pretty obvious to me they have more of a brother/sister thing.  This novel cements it even more for me.  I love how Katniss matures, how Peeta makes her more vulnerable.

My only complaint is that the ending felt a little rushed, almost as if Ms. Collins had the ending of the series in mind and glossed over the details in order to get onto the third and final novel.

This time no grass grew under my feet before I picking up Mockingjay , the final novel in the series.  I don't want to wait another 2 years before I learn what is the fate of Katniss and my beloved Peeta.

Final Take:  5/5


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Jenn's Review: A Temptation of Angels

Summary:  Even angels make mistakes in this page-turning epic romance

When her parents are murdered before her eyes, sixteen-year-old Helen Cartwright finds herself launched into an underground London where a mysterious organization called the Dictata controls the balance of good and evil. Helen learns that she is one of three remaining angelic descendants charged with protecting the world's past, present, and future. Unbeknownst to her, she has been trained her whole life to accept this responsibility. Now, as she finds herself torn between the angelic brothers protecting her and the devastatingly handsome childhood friend who wants to destroy her, she must prepare to be brave, to be hunted, and above all to be strong, because temptation will be hard to resist, even for an angel.

Review:  Temptation of Angels has been sitting on my shelf for a while.  I wanted to adore this book and though I liked it, I can't say that I was in love with it.

This book had tons of potential, but it feels like only the surface was scratched.  The story was fairly straight forward with few plot twists.  It was certainly engaging, I often had trouble putting it down, but I wanted more.  I often find angel books confusing in their lack of plot exposition, but such was not the case here.  Although I did think things could have been explored on a deeper level.  I'm actually not sure when this story takes place or if it's in our world.  For example, the clothing and decorum feel Victorian, yet the technology is not, and I'm not sure whether that's because Keepers have access to the past and the future or if it's another dimension.

The characters were fascinating but I wanted to know more about all of them. Helen is confused about her feelings for Griffin and Raum, and while I didn't want her indecision to waiver on indefinitely it all seems too easily resolved while things like climbing a fence seem to go on forever.  Helen also accepted her situation far more readily than I would have, but perhaps that's because she was groomed for it. I also think there is more to Darius and Anna then the perfunctory roles they are relegated to and I hope Michelle Zink explores them further in the next book.

This is a series I am interested in continuing because it has a solid concept and characters with which  I crave familiarity.  It was an easy but compelling read and I look forward to learning more of the Keepers.

Final Take:  3.75/5


Monday, November 19, 2012

Julie's Review: Somewhere Over the Sun

Summary: Alan, a spirited young writer with a wandering imagination has discovered that the stories he writes are suddenly coming to life. At the suggestion of his loving father, Alan embarks on a quixotic journey to visit friends and use his new found gift to write them all happier lives. There are a few limitations to his power; he can't cure diseases, he can't summon pots of gold, and headaches accompany each reality-infused story he lives out, but the appreciative and optimistic Alan is not deterred from creating fantastical characters and story lines to give his friends more literary lives.

Review: I can't say that I loved Somewhere Over the Sun as much as Alice did. I liked it but never was overwhelmed by the book. I thought that it was an intriguing and interesting way to write a  novel. It was like reading a book within a book. For a relatively short novel, I thought it was a bit too wordy.

I also never truly connected with Alan but I still appreciated what he was doing for his friends. At times I felt that he was living life through writing stories and yet he still managed to experience life as well. It is apparent that Alan had a gift for story telling from a very young age and his new gift just enhanced his writing.

I did like that some of the chapters were told from the view of the people he was visiting and how they viewed what was going on instead of just Alan's view point.I loved Alan's dad, Robert's, chapter. This is where I fell that Mr. Alsaid wrote his best chapters. I really admired Robert and how he handled being a single father. It was apparent that everything he did was to make a better life for himself and Alan.

Mr. Alsaid has a gift of storytelling and I will more than likely check out his other novels in the future, when he writes them.

Final Take: 3.5/5

Alice's Review
Alice's Q&A with Mr. Alsaid


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Children's Corner: Good Little Wolf

 This book is definitely not what I was expecting... and we love it!  Rolf is a good little wolf and comfortable with who he is.  But one day he runs into the Big Bad Wolf who mocks his lack of wolfishness.  Although he tries, he finds he just doesn't have what it takes to be a 'real wolf' ...until he has to be.

This is a wonderful, silly, macabre story that had me in stitches the first time I read it.  There are some fabulous life lessons hidden in here too.  ( I was reminded of my second grade teacher who told my mum I was "too polite." While my mum was slightly offended, as a mother myself, I now can see what the teacher was trying to say...)

This is Ms. Shireen's first picture book, and we will be searching the shelves for her name in the future.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Movie Review: One for the Money

Summary:  Katherine Heigl stars as Stephanie Plum in this broad comedy, based on the best-selling novel from Janet Evanovich. Stephanie Plum (Katherine Heigl) is a bright, attractive, confident woman whose entire life has just taken a sudden turn — in the wrong direction. Newly divorced and recently laid off, the only work she can scrape up is a dead-end job at her sleazy cousin's bail bond office. But when her first big assignment involves tracking down an on-the-lam ex-flame (Jason O'Mara), this tough-as-nails lady bounty hunter will be redefining the meaning of hot pursuit in this thrill-packed action comedy.

Review:  I was a huge fan of the Stephanie Plum series up until book 12, then I was done. I felt like it was just going in circles. So when we heard they were going to do a movie based on One for the Money , we here at GJR were skeptical. I mean for me it would be a better tv show. We were even more shocked when they cast Katherine Heigl as Stephanie. Definitely not our choice.

Now given that statement, Ms. Heigel didn't do a bad job as Stephanie. I would have been more happy if they would have made Steph just a bit more chunky. She always complaining about needing to lose the last 10-20 lbs. Jason O'Mara did a great job as Joe Morelli but I wasn't sold on Daniel Sunjata as Ranger. I still think that Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock, would have been perfect for this role. It's ok because given that Í'm a "cupcake" it's probably better that it wasn't Dwayne or I might be a "babe" convert.

Since I read the book many years ago, I think it is pretty close to the plot. I think that those in supporting roles were perfect, even Sherri Shepard as Lula was clever casting. Debbie Reynolds was a hoot as Grandma Mazar.

Overall it was an entertaining movie and if you haven't read the book you'd probably enjoy it slightly more than I did. I don't think it made enough money to do any of the other books, which again is why it would have been better to do on cable.

Final Take: 3.25/5


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Jenn's Review: The Informationist

Summary:  Fans of Lee Child's Jack Reacher will love Vanessa Munroe--a resourceful loner who grew up overseas and has combat training, a wry sense of humor, and plenty of sex appeal. Vanessa Munroe deals in information--expensive information--working for corporations, heads of state, private clients, and anyone else who can pay for her unique brand of expertise. A Texas oil billionaire hires her to find his daughter who vanished in Africa four years ago. Pulled into the mystery of the missing girl, Munroe finds herself back in the land of her childhood, betrayed, cut off from civilization, and left for dead. If she has any hope of escaping the jungle and the demons that drive her, she must come face-to-face with the past that made her who she is.

Review:  The Informationist is one of those novels that was nearly drowning in hype when it came out. Though I didn’t love it quite as much as Julie, (Julie’s review), I found it to be a compelling, hard-to-put down read.

This book draws heavily on the Taylor Stevens’s knowledge of Africa and her ability to make it come alive. Her unique perspective made it possible to create characters who belonged nowhere; both Munroe and Francisco were adrift because of their minority status in a continent that didn’t consider them native and a Western World where they just didn’t fit in. If anything, I craved more about her characters and less about Africa.

The narrative was fast-paced with lots of close calls and plenty of plot twist. Although I had solved some of the mystery, it was intriguing to watch the characters unravel it and gratifying to be right. By no means had I solved the whole thing though and there were still plenty of surprises to be had.

The biggest draw back for me was that I was unable to connect with Munroe. Her character is reminiscent of Lisbeth Salander in the Millennium Trilogy, but somehow I had a much easier time connecting with Lisbeth than Vanessa Michael Munroe. Both are a product of their horrible childhoods, but Munroe chose the criminal world and Lisbeth was forced into it by circumstances beyond her control. While I’m not saying Munroe deserved what happened to her because of her choices, I think it made it harder for me to understand her. For most of the book, I wouldn’t say I disliked her but I can’t say I enjoyed her character. It isn’t until ¾ of the way through the book when Munroe displays a glimmer of humanity, that I began to find myself drawn to her. I like the idea of her, and now that I’ve warmed up to her a little, I think the second book, The Innocent will be far more enjoyable for me.

Final Take:  4.0/5

Julie's interview with the author, Taylor Stevens


Monday, November 12, 2012

Julie's Review: The News Where You Are

Summary: From the bestselling author of What Was Lost comes a spirited literary mystery about a television anchorman's search for the truth about the disappearances that surround him. Frank Allcroft, a television news anchor in his hometown (where he reports on hard-hitting events, like the opening of canine gyms for overweight pets), is on the verge of a mid-life crisis. Beneath his famously corny on-screen persona, Frank is haunted by loss: the mysterious hit-and-run that killed his predecessor and friend, Phil, and the ongoing demolition of his architect father's monumental postwar buildings. And then there are the things he can't seem to lose, no matter how hard he tries: his home, for one, on the market for years; and the nagging sense that he will never quite be the son his mother—newly ensconced in an assisted-living center—wanted. As Frank uncovers the shocking truth behind Phil's death, and comes to terms with his domineering father's legacy, it is his beloved young daughter, Mo, who points him toward the future. Funny and touching, The News Where You Are is a moving exploration of what we do and don't leave behind, proving once more that Catherine O'Flynn's writing "shimmers with dark brilliance" (Chicago Tribune).  The News Where You Are is a 2011 Edgar Award Nominee for Best Paperback Original.

Review:  While The News Where You Are is definitely not a fast-paced book, it is an interesting character study. The novel centers around Frank, a local anchor on the news, who is trying to come to terms with a host of changes in his life. Not only is he trying to come to terms with his mentors sudden and mysterious death but also putting his mother in an assisted living home is hanging on his mind. '

There is much to understand about the people in this book. I never really thought that Frank was going through a mid-life crisis but more of a retrospect of his life. I felt like he was trying to figure out how he got to his lot in life by trying to figure out his relationship with his mom and the lack of relationship with his locally famous father. You see his dad was an architect who had a hand in redesigning the buildings/landscape that would shape the town for 30 years until they decide that it needs another makeover and demolish his buildings. I was pleased to read that Frank had a solid marriage to Andrea and had a good relationship with his daughter, Mo. It made the dynamic of the book seem more real and I felt better knowing that Ms. O'Flynn wasn't going to go down that road.

Phil was a guy who was about outward appearances. He could have cared less about his soul or being a good person. Although, he was a good person but he had no idea how to age. He felt he had to stay young to be relevant. He was beginning to feel his age and the pressure of not being able always remember what he was supposed to. Through Phil and Frank we meet, Michael. Phil and Michael grew up together and grew apart but then found each other again later in life. Frank stumbles upon Michael through his death and as he tries to piece his life together to find next of kin.

Maureen, Frank's mother, is an interesting person. You sense that she was never a happy person or if she was at some point there was something that triggered her to become depressed. Frank never seemed to be able to make her happy and it was worse when he tried. Not even his daughter could make her grandmother happy.

Along with Frank's journey there are intersecting mysteries that need to be solved: Phil's mysterious death and Michael's past. If you are looking for a solid novel with interesting characters, then The News Where You Are is for you.

 I have Ms. O'Flynn's first novel What Was Lost: A Novel in my TBR pile and I will be reading it in 2013. She is an author I will keep an eye out for.

Final Take: 3.75/5

Thank you to Henry Holt for my copy of the book.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Children's Corner: BOB Books

Review: Today I just want to highlight an amazing tool for kids who are learning their sight words and then moving on to reading: BOB Books by Scholastic. We discovered these when my daughter started pre-school and haven't looked by since. She will still bring them out on occasion just to practice, even though she's definitely past them in level.

Now my son has inherited them from his sister and seems to really enjoy them. It started off as me reading them to him but as of last week he is reading them to me. I know he doesn't have them memorized because he definitely takes his time looking at the words. His Pre-K teacher has informed me that he and a couple of the other kids are definitely on a faster track to reading than some others. Nothing could please me more since I'm (obviously) an avid reader and it's been a little bit of a struggle with my daughter over the last year and 1/2.

I definitely think that these great sets have a place on your bookshelf.


Friday, November 9, 2012

Alice's Review: Truly, Madly

Summary: Lucy Valentine is as smart as can be, as single as you can get, and so not qualified to run a matchmaking service. But when her parents temporarily step down from the family business, Valentine, Inc., it’s Lucy’s turn to step up and help out—in the name of love.  Plus, her rent is due.  Here’s the problem: Lucy doesn’t have the knack for matchmaking. According to family legend, every Valentine has been blessed by Cupid with the ability to read “auras” and pair up perfect couples. But not Lucy. Her skills were zapped away years ago in an electrical surge, and now all she can do is find lost objects. What good is that in the matchmaking world? You’d be surprised. In a city like Boston, everyone’s looking forsomething. So when Lucy locates a missing wedding ring—on a dead body—she asks the sexy private eye who lives upstairs to help her solve the perfect crime. And who knows? Maybe she’ll find the perfect love while she’s at it…

Review: When Julie suggested I read Truly, Madly by Heather Webber I was a bit skeptical. Even thought she raves about Heather Webber and the Lucy Valentine series, I was still unconvinced. From what I know about Julie, this is so not the kind of novel she reads. This novel is part romance, part chick lit, part paranormal. Lucy is a psychic for Pete’s sake. Now that I read the first book in the series, I totally get it. I’m sure I love Lucy and her cast of misfits nearly as much as Julie does.

Lucy Valentine has a gift very different from that of her aura-seeing matchmaking family. When she touches someone’s palm, she can see where he or she misplaced a lost item. This gift can make shaking hands with someone a nightmare. Lucy thinks this gift is not really a gift at all, it’s more of a curse.

I really loved this novel. It was funny, fast paced and kept me guessing all the way to the end. The premise was refreshing, unique and original. Heather Webber created some truly unique characters. They are all so likeable. I really enjoyed our protagonist Lucy. I took such pleasure watching her blossom before my eyes into a woman who finally comes to terms with what she considered a curse for so long.

I think what I enjoyed most in this novel is that there are so many adventures left for Lucy, not to mention the supporting characters. Will Detective Aiden and Emerson get together? What’s in store for Butch the butcher and vegetarian Marisol? Is love on the horizon for them as well?

I enjoyed this one so much, I will definitely continue reading the series. Heather Webber made a fan out me, in spite of her being a Red Sox fan.

Final Take: 4/5

Check out Jenn's Review: Truly, Madly
Check out  Julie's Review: Truly, Madly


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Julie's Review: The Power of One

Summary: In 1939, as Hitler casts his enormous, cruel shadow across the world, the seeds of apartheid take root in South Africa. There, a boy called Peekay is born. His childhood is marked by humiliation and abandonment, yet he vows to survive and conceives heroic dreams–which are nothing compared to what life actually has in store for him. He embarks on an epic journey through a land of tribal superstition and modern prejudice where he will learn the power of words, the power to transform lives, and the power of one.

Julie's Review: You know a great book is when it has so many passages that you want to quote. Frankly, The Power of Onecould be one big quote. I believe that this is the kind of book where each reader will take their own meaning away from it. For me, the book is about courage, pride, doing right when doing wrong is easier, believing in yourself and doing good even if it means possibly harming yourself.

One thing is for sure this isn't an easy book to read because of the subject matter but it is an important one. It is the kind of novel where you want to read every word and savor it. At 500+ pages, this isn't a read in a weekend type of novel.

I won't lie, there are some parts that dragged but there was never a point where I wanted to put it down.
I wanted to know how Peekay turned out. I wanted to know that after building up his camouflage he finally was able to let it fall aside. There is a wonderful cast of characters that assist Peekay on his journey. The two for me that were the most important were Geel Piet and Doc. He wouldn't be the young man he turned into if not for them.

The book has an underlying theme of the David vs. Goliath. Sometimes this is evident but it's really the undercurrent throughout the book. While the book shows you the injustice that is evident throughout South Africa towards the black Afrikaners, it also shows you the hope and the strength of this group.

Peekay is one interesting and complex narrator. You root for him and you hurt for him. You want him to become what he wants to become, not feel the need to live up to everyone elses' expectations for him. You want him to break free of the shackles that bind him.

This is just one quote of many:

"Racism does not diminish with brains. It's a disease, a sickness. It may incubate in ignorance, but it doesn't necessarily disappear with the gaining of wisdom!" -page 456
This is a book that needs to be experienced because it is so nuanced. I will now seek out the movie that stars both Stephen Dorff and Morgan Freeman.

I have to say thanks to a former co-worker, Kristin, who informed me the movie was based off of a book and I have to thank my father for having me watch this movie during my teen years.

Final Take: 5/5

Note: Per his Facebook page Mr. Courtenay wrote that his newest book Jack of Diamonds will be his last. He has been diagnosed with terminal gastric cancer. It is always sad to hear news like this. I am thrilled that his book is one we are ending with for this challenge. For more information on Mr. Courtenay and his books, please check out his website or his facebook page. We will him all the best!