Monday, December 31, 2012

Alice's Review: Nefertiti

Summary: Nefertiti and her younger sister, Mutnodjmet, have been raised in a powerful family that has provided wives to the rulers of Egypt for centuries. Ambitious, charismatic, and beautiful, Nefertiti is destined to marry Amunhotep, an unstable young pharaoh. It is hoped that her strong personality will temper the young ruler’s heretical desire to forsake Egypt’s ancient gods. From the moment of her arrival in Thebes, Nefertiti is beloved by the people but fails to see that powerful priests are plotting against her husband’s rule. The only person brave enough to warn the queen is her younger sister, yet remaining loyal to Nefertiti will force Mutnodjmet into a dangerous political game; one that could cost her everything she holds dear.

Review: Michelle Moran is a masterful storyteller.  That is the first thing you should know.  The second thing is this novel is incredible.  Had it not been for the List Swap Challenge, I would not have picked up this novel on my own.  I would have passed this up when browsing through the bookstore.  I literally rolled my eyes heavenward when Julie suggested it convinced she was trying to torture me with this nonsense.  I was not looking forward to 400 pages of 1351 BCE.  In Egypt.  With odd names I can’t pronounce.

The magic of Ms. Moran is that within 10 pages I was hooked, totally and completely hooked.  Right away, I held onto Mutnodjmet, Nefertiti’s younger sister, and didn’t let go.  Nefertiti is about two sisters, so different in their wants and desires.  Bound together by love and blood, one sister had a sense of entitlement while the other a command to please at the risk of her own happiness.  Their relationship spanned though their joys and tribulations.  Nefertiti’s rule over Egypt is merely the setting while the sisters’ bond is really the star in this novel.

I really enjoyed how different the two sisters are.  I loved how headstrong and manipulative Nefertiti is.  She can fiercely rule a kingdom but her deepest desire is to be loved and exalted, especially by her younger sister.  Mutnodjmet wants her own happiness, her own life.  She knows the only way for that to happen is to break the selfish stronghold Nefertiti has on her.  To be happy, she must hurt Nefertiti.

I love when I start reading a novel, crossing my fingers that I can get through it, and end up gobbling up every single page, loving where the story is leading me.  I learned about a time I knew very little about.  In the end, I really enjoyed it.  Julie was right about Nefertiti.  (And she usually is.)  Give me a book about sisters, even set in Egypt, and I will love it.  And I did.  

Final Take:


Sunday, December 30, 2012

Jenn's Review: The 8th Confession

Summary: As San Francisco's most glamorous millionaires mingle at the party of the year, someone is watching--waiting for a chance to take vengeance on Isa and Ethan Bailey, the city's most celebrated couple. Finally, the killer pinpoints the ideal moment, and it's the perfect murder. Not a trace of evidence is left behind in their glamorous home.

 As Detective Lindsay Boxer investigates the high-profile murder, someone else is found brutally executed--a preacher with a message of hope for the homeless. His death nearly falls through the cracks, but when reporter Cindy Thomas hears about it, she knows the story could be huge. Probing deeper into the victim's history, she discovers he may not have been quite as saintly as everyone thought.

As the hunt for two criminals tests the limits of the Women's Murder Club, Lindsay sees sparks fly between Cindy and her partner, Detective Rich Conklin. The Women's Murder Club now faces its toughest challenge: will love destroy all that four friends have built?  ~blurb

Review:  It's a little crazy but I've been off the Women's Murder Club since Rizzoli & Isles aired. WMC's Lindsay has always been Angie Harmon to me, even before the short lived series and even though she doesn't fit the physical description in the book, she is Harmon's wit and sarcasm to a T.  Somehow the character of Jane Rizzoli is jarring to my vision of Lindsay Boxer.

What I had forgotten, however, is the wonderful balance of the stories around the WMC women. It was amazing how fast the characters came flooding back to me... and it was welcome.  Although we know the culprit for the main case, it is interesting to see the case unfold. I had no idea how or where the second case fit in, but I found that I loved its resolution.  Also melded seemlessly into the storlyline are the lives of the girls, complicated and intertwining.   I was glad that there was some resolution reached in Lindsay's life. It's been toyed with a little too much for me.

It was silly to have avoided my WMC for so long and it certainly won't be long before I revisit them.

Final Take:  4.75/5


2012 Criminal Plots Challenge: Jenn's Wrap Up

...and with The 8th Confession, I've also completed Jen of Jen's Book Thoughts 2012 Criminal Plots Challenge.  I read thrillers almost as much as YA, so this one wasn't a stretch for me.  Here's what I read:

  1. Novel with a weapon in the title:  A Hoe Lot of Trouble by Heather Webber  - Reviewed 7/23/12
  2. Book published at least 10 years ago:  The Black Echo by Michael Connelly - Reviewed 4/11/12
  3. Book written by an author from the state/province/etc. where you live:  Murder On The Mind by L.L. Bartlett.  - Reviewed 1/31/12
  4. Book written by an author using a pen name - Heat Rises by Richard Castle  -Reviewed 9/18/12
  5. Crime novel whose protagonist is the opposite gender of the author - The 8th Confession by James Patterson.  Reviewed 12/30/12
  6. A stand-alone novel written by an author who writes at least one series:  Ransom River  by Meg Gardiner - Reviewed 12/5/12

I don't know if she will be hosting another one, but I'll surely join in if she does!


Saturday, December 29, 2012

2013 TBR Challenge: Jenn's List

Just under the wire, it's time to put my 2013 TBR List together.  I'm so glad that Adam (Roof Beam Reader) is hosting this again, because it really is a fabulous chance to allow yourself to read some things to which you just haven't been able to get. I'm excited that all three of us are doing it this year.  It should be fun.

The goal is to read 12 books from my "to be read" pile that have been sitting there for over a year, within 12 months: The 2013 To Be Read (TBR) Challenge.

The details: Each of these 12 books must have been on your bookshelf or “To Be Read” list for AT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2012 or later (any book published in the year 2011 or earlier qualifies, as long as it has been on your TBR pile – I WILL be checking publication dates). Caveat: Two (2) alternates are allowed, just in case one or two of the books end up in the “can’t get through” pile.

So here goes...

Jenn's Twelve Selected Reads (Alphabetical by Author):
  1. Dark Secrets 1: Legacy of Lies and Don't Tell by Elizabeth Chandler  -- Reviewed 4/25/13
  2. Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz -- Reviewed 5/20/13 
  3. Hush, Hush by Becca Fiztpatrick
  4. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl -- Reviewed 2/8/13
  5. Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch by Richard Hine
  6. Summer of Shambles (Ondine) by Ebony McKenna
  7. Perfect on Paper: The (Mis)Adventures of Waverly Bryson  by Maria Murmane
  8. The Demon Trapper's Daughter by Jana Oliver
  9. Witch & Wizard by James Patterson
  10. Magyk by Angie Sage  -- Reviewed 7/9/13
  11. The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel  by Michael Scott -- Reviewed 3/19/13
  12. Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Two Alternate Reads
  1. Marked by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast
  2. My Blood Approves by Amanda Hocking

I'll update this post with my reviews as I go and add the challenge as a label to each post.

Here are links to Alice's & Julie's lists too.


2012 TBR Challenge: Jenn's Wrap Up

Woo-hoo!  I finished!  (Sorry, Julie, I'm not trying to rub it in.)  Some of you may remember I failed my 2011 TBR Challenge spectacularly, so it feels pretty good to complete it this year.

I wasn't over ambitious with the 2012 list; instead of trying to force myself to read things, I put things on there I really have been dying to read and for which I just haven't had time.

Here's what I read:

Jenn's Twelve Selected Reads (Alphabetical by Author) :
  1. Murder on the Mind by L.L. Bartlett  -  Reviewed 1/31/12
  2. Shadowspell by Jenna Black - Reviewed 10/1/12
  3. Shadowland by Meg Cabot -Reviewed 12/28/12
  4. Heist Society by Ally Carter  -Reviewed 7/19/12
  5. I'd Tell You I Love You, but Then I'd Have To Kill You by Ally Carter  -  Reviewed 3/13/12
  6. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare  - Reviewed 4/18/12
  7. The Black Echo by Michael Connelly - Reviewed 4/11/12
  8. Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr - Reviewed 9/7/12
  9. Evermore by Alyson Nole -Reviewed 12/13/12
  10. The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan  - Reviewed 5/24/12
  11. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick  -Reviewed 4/17/12
  12. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater - Reviewed 3/5/12
My absolute favorite read from the list was City of Bones by Cassandra Clare which launched me into ravenously reading both series in rapid succession ~ I even re-read them all!

The biggest disappointment was Shadowspell by Jenna Black. I am breaking up with Ms. Black; I am done with her novels.

And now without further ado, my 2013 TBR List...

Friday, December 28, 2012

Jenn's Review: Shadowland

Summary: Suze is a mediator -- a liaison between the living and the dead. In other words, she sees dead people. And they won't leave her alone until she helps them resolve their unfinished business with the living. But Jesse, the hot ghost haunting her bedroom, doesn't seem to need her help. Which is a relief, because Suze has just moved to sunny California and plans to start fresh, with trips to the mall instead of the cemetery, and surfing instead of spectral visitations.

But the very first day at her new school, Suze realizes it's not that easy. There's a ghost with revenge on her mind ... and Suze happens to be in the way.

Review:  This is my first Meg Cabot book and I wasn't really sure what to expect.  I know Princess Diaries, but only through the movies and I would no sooner judge an author by her movie adaptation than the book by the movie.  I thoroughly and pleasantly surprised.

I love Meg Cabot's voice and I love her characters. Suze reminds me of a cross between Veronica Mars and Buffy ~all the sass and snark plus a wise for her years streak of fatalism that commands  respect and how she can bring volatile situations to a quick close.  I love Suze's quirky sidekicks too.  Father Dominic was quite the surprise and I look forward to knowing more about him and seeing how his character develops as well as learning more about his past.

I thought the mediator concept was a new twist on the YA paranormal genre and it was refreshing.  Yes, it had undertones of some of my favorite television shows, but I think that made it all the more enjoyable.  If I was 20 years younger, I'd be inviting Jesse to stay...  and, come to think of it, I can't wait to see where that leads too.

This was a quick but highly enjoyable read. I will happily be making my way through the rest of the Mediator books.  As a matter of fact, I see them jumping near the top of my 2013 TBR pile.

 Final Take:  4.0/5


Thursday, December 27, 2012

2013 TBR Challenge: Alice's List

There are two things I am pretty horrible at.  The first is tackling my TBR pile, which is constantly overflowing.  The second is completing a reading challenge.  Hopefully this year will be the one I conquer these two things by participating in Adam's (Roof Beam Reader) challenge.  It's a pretty great challenge actually.  The goal is to read 12 books from my "to be read" pile, within 12 months:  The 2013 To Be Read (TBR) Challenge.

The details:  Each of these 12 books must have been on your bookshelf or “To Be Read” list for AT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2012 or later (any book published in the year 2011 or earlier qualifies, as long as it has been on your TBR pile – I WILL be checking publication dates). Caveat: Two (2) alternates are allowed, just in case one or two of the books end up in the “can’t get through” pile.

Alice's Twelve Selected Reads (in Random Order*) :

1.  All You Desire by Kristen Miller
2.  Eden Close by Anita Shreve
3.  Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
4.  In Search of Rose Notes by Emily Arsenault
5.  Seeing Me Naked by Liza Palmer
6.  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
7.  The Idiot Girl & the Flaming Tantrum of Death by Laurie Notaro
8.  The Secret Life of Sparrow Delaney by Suzanne harper
9.  Untouchable by Scott O'Conner
10.  The Secret Lives of Dresses by Erin McKean
11.  The Spinster Sisters by Stacey Ballis
12.  The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman

1.  The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton
2.  The Writing Circle by Corinne Demas

Cross your fingers and happy reading to those participating too!


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Julie's Review: Black Fridays

Summary: Sometimes a man can be redeemed. But not in the way he expects. Jason Stafford is a former Wall Street hotshot who made some bad moves, paid the price with two years in prison, and is now trying to put his life back together. He’s unemployable, until an investment firm asks him to look into possible problems left by a junior trader who died recently in an accident. What he discovers is big – there are problems, all right, the kind that get you killed. But it’s not his only concern. Stafford has another quest as well: to reclaim his five-year-old son, “the Kid,” from his unstable ex-wife, and then learn just what it means to make a life with him. The things Stafford discovers about himself in the process are every bit as gripping as his investigation, and when the two threads of his life come together – the results are unforgettable.

Review: Black Fridays is a crime thriller but it goes a little deeper than that as well. I can tell you that if it wasn't for The Kid humanizing Jason I probably wouldn't like him as much. He takes on responsibility for The Kid who is autistic and been locked up in a closet with his mother-in-law and ex-wife for two years.

As he tries to get The Kid into a routine and try to understand him, he gets hired by Weld to investigate some trades by a junior member of their staff. What looks like it will be a quick way to make some money ended up getting Jason entangled into quite the money trail. I will admit that at times the financial talk went over my head but I understand enough to catch the drift.

What kept me engaged was Jason's struggle to find the money trail and do the right thing and his need to be able to provide for his son. Do I necessarily agree with the road that Jason took? No, but I understand his motivation behind it.

Jason definitely grew throughout the book and it was encouraging to see that The Kid was making progress.I think that Jason has a realistic view of his son's struggles now and to come. I also loved to see him develop new relationships outside the financial markets and start to make his way away from Angie. She is nothing but trouble. I would love for Jason's dad to play a bigger role in their lives as well.

I love that the the title has duel meaning. It means something to Jason and The Kid and it means something to the financial markets.

I did feel that it dragged a bit towards the end but I did like the ending. Mr. Sears definitely has something special with these characters and I can't wait to see what Jason and The Kid do next.

Final Take: 4/5

Jenn's Review

Thanks to the publisher, Putnam,  for my ARC of the novel.