Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Jenn's Review: Along Came a Spider

Blurb:  A missing little girl named Maggie Rose . . . a family of three brutally murdered in the projects of Washington, D.C. . . . the thrill-killing of a beautiful elementary school teacher . . . a psychopathic serial kidnapper/murderer who is so terrifying that the FBI, the Secret Service, and the police cannot outsmart him - even after he's been captured. 

Gary Soneji wants to commit the crime of the century. Alex Cross is the brilliant homicide detective pitted against him. Jezzie Flanagan is the first female supervisor of the Secret Service who completes one of the most unusual suspense triangles in any thriller you have ever read. 

Alex Cross and Jezzie Flanagan are about to have a forbidden love affair--at the worst possible time for both of them. Because Gary Soneji is playing at the top of his game. The latest of the unspeakable crimes happens in Alex Cross's precinct. It happens under the noses of Jezzie Flanagan's men. Now Alex Cross must face the ultimate test: How do you outmaneuver a brilliant psychopath?

Review:  I adore James Patterson's Women's Murder Club series, and I had heard so many good things about his Alex Cross series, that I've been looking forward to starting Along Came a Spider. Once I started it though, I had to push myself to read it.

This was a hard read for me for several reasons. I like crime and proceedurals, but for the most part I cannot handle ones with crimes against children. This has only gotten worse since I became a mother. So from the outset, this was an uphill battle.

What surprised me the most was the fact that I didn't like any of the characters. I didn't dislike Alex Cross, but I couldn't seem to connect to him either. I can't even tell you why. He's a good cop. He's a smart cop. Perhaps it's because he had two small children who seem to be nothing more than a plot device. Perhaps it's because the Women's Murder Club characters have so much depth and are so vibrant that Cross comes off as one dimensional in comparison. Perhaps it was because Cross seemed to wear too many hats. Perhaps it's because the case covers two years. Perhaps it's the flipping of the first person narrative from character to character.

Speaking of the narrative, it seemed clinically detached and a little choppy. The plot had plenty of twists but I knew where we were headed early on and there were no deviations. Still, the path to the finale is an interesting one. There were a few things that were too outrageous to believe (hypnotizing a defendant in the court room in the middle of the trial?!? No way.). Suspension of belief aside, the story was engaging enough to keep me reading, even with the tough subject matter.

I have to say, I'm glad this wasn't my first Patterson, because it might have been my only Patterson. It actually made me question if what I love about WMC isn't Maxine Paetro or one of the other collaborative authors. Will I try another Alex Cross novel? Probably, but it won't be on the top of my TBR pile anytime soon.

Final Take: 3/5



Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Julie's Review: Die Easy

Summary: In the sweltering heat of New Orleans, former Special Forces soldier-turned-bodyguard Charlie Fox faces her toughest challenge yet. Professionally, she’s at the top of her game, but her personal life is in ruins. Her lover, bodyguard Sean Meyer, has woken from a gunshot-induced coma with his memory in tatters. It seems that piercing back together the relationship they shared is proving harder for him than relearning the intricacies of the bodyguard business. Working with Sean again was never going to be easy for Charlie, but a celebrity fundraising event in aid of still-ravaged areas of New Orleans should have been the ideal opportunity for them both to take things nice and slow. Until, that is, they find themselves thrust into the middle of a war zone. When an ambitious robbery explodes into a deadly hostage situation, the motive may be far more complex than simple greed. Somebody has a major score to settle, and Sean is part of the reason. Only trouble is, he doesn’t remember why. And when Charlie finds herself facing a nightmare from her own past, she realizes she can’t rely on Sean to watch her back. This time, she’s got to fight it out on her own.One thing is for certain, though—no matter how overwhelming the odds stacked against her, or however hopeless the situation may appear—Charlie is never going to die easy.

Review: Charlie Fox is new to me, even though this is the 10th novel featuring her. She's an amazing, kick-ass female who is at the top of her game professionally but personally her life is in ruins. Sean Meyer and her were more than partners in the field, they were partners in the bedroom until a near death incident changed him. For Charlie, this is the hardest part because the connection that they shared is gone. Not only did this help them personally but often they were on the same wavelength professionally without saying a word.

Die Easy starts off with a bang and it never really gives up. Although, for me there was a part near then end where I wanted it to go ahead and wrap up. Ms. Sharp does an excellent job of throwing a bunch of suspects into the mix but in the end it was the one that I had picked out from the beginning. Not that there's anything wrong with that because she does throw enough red herrings to make you wonder. Plus in the end was I thrilled to see the perpetrator get their just desserts.

I enjoyed how Ms. Sharp brought New Orleans and their continued struggles from Katrina to the forefront again. I really don't think that some parts of that area will ever come back, unfortunately.

Charlie is a complicated character and more than just a kick ass female, she's 3 dimensional. I'm definitely interested in her back story and plan to go back to read some of the early novels featuring her. I also look forward to whatever Ms. Sharp does next, since she did leave us with quite a cliffhanger.

Final Take: 3.75/5

Thanks to Pegasus Crime for a finished copy of the novel.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Alice's Review: The Song Remains the Same

Summary: She’s a wife, a sister, a daughter…but she remembers nothing. Now she must ask herself who she is and choose which stories—and storytellers—to trust. One of only two survivors of a plane crash, Nell Slattery wakes up in the hospital with no memory of it, or who she is, or was. Now she must piece together both body and mind with the help of family and friends who have their own agendas. Although Nell can’t remember all that came before, something just doesn’t sit right with the versions of her history given by her mother, her sister, and her husband.  Desperate for a key to unlock her past, she filters through photos, art, music, and stories, hoping that something will jog her memory, and soon, in tiny bits and pieces, Nell starts remembering. . . .From the New York Times bestselling author of Time of My Life comes a novel that asks: Who are we without our memories? How much of our future is defined by our past?

Review:  When I began reading The Song Remains the Same, it reminded me of the movie The Vow.  Married woman gets amnesia, husband tries to woo her, she puts her life back together.  Similar right?  Actually no.  As Julie reminded me, the similarities end with amnesia.  In the beginning, I kept looking for those nonexistent similarities so much that it blurred my perceptive.  It didn’t help that I didn’t feel any love towards Peter (Nell’s husband), Nell’s mother and sister, or Anderson, the movie star and other plane crash survivor.  Nell, on the other hand, I adored.

With the help of a reporter and her therapist, and with no help from her family, Nell begins to piece her life back together one song at a time.  I love the playlist attached to this novel.  I love music and I thought it was great how Ms. Winn Scotch tied in song titles and lyrics with the each chapter.  It was clever and interesting. 

About halfway through the novel everything changed for me, the feeling of the novel changed.  The change was refreshing and unexpected.  I especially enjoyed the twist at the end.  It was surprising, again unexpected.  Perfect.  I really enjoyed this story.  I liked how during the process of getting her memory back, she learned that as much as she needed help from others, she really relied on herself to figure out who she was and who she could become. 

Unfortunately, there wasn’t any love gained with the supporting characters save for her mother.  Ms. Winn Scotch did her justice explaining why she did what she did.  Although I don’t agree with her actions, I understood the why.  Besides Nell, her mother was my favorite character. 

Something else I hadn’t expected was the emotional connection I felt towards The Song Remains the Same.  This novel was very introspective.  It snuck up on me and made me ask myself questions I’ve been avoiding.  More than once, I asked myself if I were to wake up to the life I was living now, what would I think of it?  What would I want to change?  What would I want to remain the same?  What would I want to remember?  What would I want to permanently forget?  Questions I’m sure I’ll ponder for some time to come.

Overall, this is an excellent novel.  Funny, endearing, startling.  I look forward to reading Allison Winn Scotch in the future.  She has made a fan out of me.

Final Take: 4/5

 Girls Just Reading: Julie's Review: The Song Remains the Same
 Girls Just Reading: Author Interview: Allison Winn Scotch


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Children's Corner: Pippi Longstocking

Review: Pippi Longstocking was one of my favorite characters when I was growing up. I devoured the books and loved the movies. So of course I bought the original book for my daughter when she started 2nd grade. I figured it would be a book that we could read together at night.

 It didn't take more than 3 chapters for me to realize that Pippi irritated me as an adult. I don't recall her being so sassy. I remember her being silly, fun and adventurous. I don't remember the disrespect to authority. Luckily, my daughter just picks up on the silly and fun part of Pippi. I like that Pippi has gotten Tommy and Annika out of their shells and shows them how to have some fun. You know Pippi is parent-less but as a mother I have to wonder why Tommy and Annika's parents aren't a little more present? Maybe the purpose is to show the kids having adventures without parental influence.

Sometimes you can't revisit the characters you loved as a child without viewing them as an adult. I love seeing Pippi through my daughter's eyes, but every time we read it I find it hard not to roll my eyes.

To say that I won't be buying the rest of the series is probably true. She can get them at our local library. 


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Julie's Reviews: The Hunger Games

Summary: Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used be the United States. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, "The Hunger Games." The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When Kat's sister is chosen by lottery, Kat steps up to go in her place.

Review: To be fair, I saw the movie before I even considered reading the books, so that being said it heavily influenced my enjoyment of the novel. Which is to say, that I did enjoy the novel but since I remembered most of the movie, I just wanted it to fill in the details that were missed.

I remember hearing a lot of rumbling that they didn't emphasize Katniss and Rue's bond but I felt it came across on film as one of the more powerful moments. Again if I had read the books first, I probably would have cried but I pretty much knew the writing was on the wall with that alliance.

I felt that Katniss' complex feelings for both Gale and Peeta. She doesn't understand where her longing for Gale is coming from when they've been nothing more than friends and partners. I can understand her complex feelings for Peeta because they are mixed in with the complexity of the games. They have to play a role, which is a role for her but a real thing for him. Did she exploit his feelings for her? Probably to some degree but Katniss is a survivor. It's all she knows. She doesn't understand emotion because she's doesn't have the luxury of thinking about other things other than basics.

Peeta still drives me nuts. I'm not sure what it is about him that bothers me but there is something. I don't think he's a wimp, I think he's a little wussy. Maybe I'll change my mind in future books or maybe my thoughts will be confirmed.

My favorite character besides Katniss is Cinna. Can I have my own Cinna, please?! He just seems real and true among all the fakes in the Capitol.

I will be reading Catching Fire and Mockingjay as a part of my YA Challenge. I'm actually looking forward to reading the books when I don't have a movie influencing me.

Final Take: 3.75/5

Alice and Jenn's Review


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Jenn's Review: Stolen Nights

Summary: A new year is beginning at Wickham Boarding School. A new chance at life, at reversing the evil in my past. But nothing is ever as simple it seems...

Last year, the love of my life died performing a ritual to fulfill my one wish and make me human. And now I’ve performed the same ritual for my friend Vicken – and survived. Why am I here, back safe on Wickham campus?

The strong magic I used in the ritual did more than just make Vicken human. It drew someone to Lover’s Bay who does not belong here. She wants the ritual. Then she wants me dead. And she will take down any and everyone in my life to get what she wants.

As if that weren’t enough, the ritual has also summoned the anger of the Aeris, the four elements and most fundamental powers on earth. They have a surprise and an unbearable punishment for me – like stepping into the sun for the first time, only to be put into a cage. And now I have to make an impossible choice – between love or life, yearning or having, present or past…~blurb 

Review: I have been waiting for Stolen Nights since I closed the cover on Infinite Days three years ago.  Infinite Days was the novel that made me fall in love with vampires again. Needless to say, Stolen Nights  had a lot to live up too. Did it meet my expectations? Not in the least. It exceeded my expectations and completely blew me away.

It is rare anymore that I read just for the love of reading... one of the downfalls of blogging about books is constantly analyzing as I go, but I was so enthralled with Rebecca Maizel's story that I lost myself in it. Her storytelling is masterful and I had no idea where she was taking me; any theories I may have had were blown out of the water in the first few chapters. There was foreshadowing I zeroed in on, then promptly forgot until it resurfaced later in the story.  That's not to say there weren't a couple rough patches and things I wanted explained in greater depth, but they were easily forgiven. I expect more will be revealed in the third and final novel.  Honestly, there were many things about Lenah's world I want to know more about just in exposition, purely for my own edification  (I want to know more about Aeris and the Hollow Ones.)  Ms. Maizel has created a world I can't help but want to know everything about.

It was very different meeting characters that the I had previously only known through Lenah's memories. Ms. Maizel's vampires aren't all sweet and sparkly; they're vicious.  However, their ruthlessness is not who they are it's a product of what they are so it was also incredible to see Vicken as a human.  It was amazing how quickly relationships changed and how easy it was to accept them.  I love the way Ms. Maizel weaves character exploration into her stories.  I love her concept of the Irish Anam Cara, soul mates, too; it was just breathtaking.

I really don't want to spoil the story by going much further, but things are actually wrapped up fairly neatly by the end of the novel ...until the last mind melting chapter.  So now, once again, I must patiently await the next book in the series.

Final Take:  5/5

Stolen Nights is due out  January 29, 2013.  Thank you to St. Martin's Press for my ARC of this novel.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Alice's Review: The Aviator's Wife

Summary:  For much of her life, Anne Morrow, the shy daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, has stood in the shadows of those around her, including her millionaire father and vibrant older sister, who often steals the spotlight. Then Anne, a college senior with hidden literary aspirations, travels to Mexico City to spend Christmas with her family. There she meets Colonel Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his celebrated 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic. Enthralled by Charles’s assurance and fame, Anne is certain the celebrated aviator has scarcely noticed her. But she is wrong.
Charles sees in Anne a kindred spirit, a fellow adventurer, and her world will be changed forever. The two marry in a headline-making wedding. Hounded by adoring crowds and hunted by an insatiable press, Charles shields himself and his new bride from prying eyes, leaving Anne to feel her life falling back into the shadows. In the years that follow, despite her own major achievements—she becomes the first licensed female glider pilot in the United States—Anne is viewed merely as the aviator’s wife. The fairy-tale life she once longed for will bring heartbreak and hardships, ultimately pushing her to reconcile her need for love and her desire for independence, and to embrace, at last, life’s infinite possibilities for change and happiness. Drawing on the rich history of the twentieth century—from the late twenties to the mid-sixties—and featuring cameos from such notable characters as Joseph Kennedy and Amelia Earhart, The Aviator’s Wife is a vividly imagined novel of a complicated marriage—revealing both its dizzying highs and its devastating lows. With stunning power and grace, Melanie Benjamin provides new insight into what made this remarkable relationship endure. ~

Review: Although we are only halfway through January, The Aviator's Wife is the first must read novel of the 2013. 

In this novel, Melanie Benjamin skillfully uses artistic license to tell the true story of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of the famous pilot Charles Lindbergh.  Ms. Benjamin introduces us to a young Anne Morrow of Englewood, NJ (shout out to Jersey!) – a shy, young,  starry-eyed girl of twenty about to embark on the adventure of her lifetime.   The Aviator’s Wife encompasses Anne’s life beginning the first time she meets Charles until shortly after his death in 1974. We all know the story of the Lindberghs.  From Charles’ world famous solo crossing of the Atlantic to the horrific kidnapping of their 18-month old son to their fall from grace during World War II, the Lindberghs captured a nation and created media frenzy wherever they went.  The Aviator’s Wife tells their story from Anne’s point of view. 

There are many wonderful things about this novel. It recounts Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s journey into womanhood.  This novel is a testament to her resilience.  I loved being besides her on this journey.  She begins as a shy, slightly insecure college student waiting for her life to begin, waiting for her hero.  She becomes this amazing woman, a fighter.  She finds her voice through her experiences, writing, and her children.  I loved how her mother told her she was not weak, she didn’t need a hero.  Heroes needed others around them to be weak, and Anne was far from weak.  She was a pioneer who lived her life quietly in her husband’s shadow. 

I think the magic in this novel is watching Anne evolve from this small person hidden behind her husband.  She was his “yes” woman, forever stuck as part of his crew until she learned to stretch her own wings.  She matured into a woman who although desired nothing more than her husband’s love and admiration, learned to live in a way that honored herself and the Morrow name.  I truly believe Ms. Benjamin masterfully embraces Anne’s character and persona.  I was moved to tears when Charles Lindbergh Jr., or Charlie as he was lovingly called, was stolen from the Lindbergh home.  That wasn’t the only time I cried.  At the end of the novel I cried whether it was from sadness this wonderful novel was over or because this incredible woman finally found her own wings.  And oh, how she soared.

Although I know I won’t pick up this novel again, it did inspire a curiosity in me about the real Anne Morrow Lindbergh.  I am thankful to Ms. Benjamin for including a listing of Anne’s written work in her references.

Final Take: 4/5


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Children's Corner: Lego Star Wars Books

We started the Lego franchise with Wii Lego Harry Potter and progressed to Wii Lego Star Wars, now we've moved on to Lego Indiana Jones and Lego Batman.  The games are well done and I like them because not only are the great problem solving, the story lines are preserved and told with humor.  So when I came across these books from Scholastic I was more than willing to give them a chance.

 The books are laid out in comic book, er, graphic novel format without being too busy or too difficult to follow.  The stories are G-rated retellings with lots of wit.  Having played the Lego game my daughter has now watched the entire Star Wars series so this makes it even more amusing, as she giggles, "That's not what happened!" especially when they attend Darth Maui's Party Town where there is limboing under the light sabres...or when Obi Wan gets lured to the dark side for the cookies...

We love these reads (another win from the Lego franchise!) and will certainly be looking into more of them.  In the mean time, come to the dark side, apparently they have great cookies...


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Movie Review: One Day

Summary: It’s 1988 and Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley have only just met. But after only one day together, they cannot stop thinking about one another. Over twenty years, snapshots of that relationship are revealed on the same day—July 15th—of each year. Dex and Em face squabbles and fights, hopes and missed opportunities, laughter and tears. And as the true meaning of this one crucial day is revealed, they must come to grips with the nature of love and life itself.

Review: One Day is a decent movie but I have lukewarm feelings for it, just like I did the book. The bright spot in this movie is that it does follow the book fairly closely and well it has Anne Hathaway in it. Did I mention she does a British accent?! She is the perfect Emma. She encompasses the girl who comes out of her shell, slowly and develops into a confident young woman.

Jim Sturgess is great as Dex. Dex is every bit as self-absorbed as he is in the book. He's a spoiled rich kid who never found his way in life. People just enabled him in his adult life. As we take this journey with Emma and Dex, one thing is still apparent, Emma is and always will be too good for Dex.

I have to say that I'm happy I didn't see this in the theatre and it's why it's probably sat on my DVR for months.

Book to Movie Final Take: 3/5


Friday, January 18, 2013

Julie's Review: Farewell to Freedom

Summary:  A journey to a new life or a prison of despair and death? A shocking murder on Copenhagen's idyllic streets and a foundling baby reveal a perverse criminal underworld that spans across Europe. A young woman’s body is found on the street in Copenhagen’s Vesterbro district, her throat slit, and the media is clamoring for the grisly details. Detective Louise Rick is investigating the gruesome murder when her friend, Camilla Lind, calls. Louise assumes it is because Camilla, a crime reporter on a morning paper, wants to be the first to hear of any juicy new developments.  Instead, her distraught friend reveals that her ten year-old son found an abandoned baby on his way to school. As Louise digs deeper into the murder and the mysterious foundling, every clue uncovered points to organized human trafficking from Eastern Europe, run by ruthless gangsters who despise women and won’t hesitate to kill anyone who gets in their way...

Review: Farewell to Freedom  is the fourth book featuring Detective Louise Rick and it is fantastic. Ms. Blaedel certainly knows how to weave a story and keep you guessing until the end. In this one, there is one main plot, the human trafficking story and then the secondary story about a baby who is abandoned in a local church. You know that these are going to be intertwined but it's not until the end does it all become clear to the reader.

In this third installation, Louise's best friend and reporter, Camilla Lind is directly involved in the crime/mystery of the abandoned baby and therefore she gets wrapped up into both cases. Unlike in Only One Life, there isn't a big focus on Louise's personal life it is alluded to, which definitely works.

As hideous and interesting of a subject matter that human trafficking is, I found myself more wrapped up in the case about the abandoned baby. For me, this story had more emotional punch to it. Perhaps it was because Camilla and her son, Marcus were directly involved or maybe just because it had to do with the innocent soul of a baby.

I thoroughly enjoyed the way that Ms. Blaedel pulled these stories together. About 3/4 of the way through I kind of figured a little bit of it out but saying that, it wasn't in the way I had imagined. My version was a bit more dark. The characters in Farewell to Freedom are well written and real. I thoroughly enjoy the squad that Louise is on and the dynamics between the team members.

One thing that I found extremely interesting is the fact that they truly do bike everywhere. I found it so interesting that I made that remark to my husband. There is one part where Camilla is on her bike and she puts something in her basket. I had to chuckle because I just picture my daughter's bicycle basket.

If you haven't read Sara Blaedel and you are crime/mystery/thriller enthusiast, than I think you should definitely start reading her. I have Call Me Princess in my very large TBR pile but I will definitely get to it this year.

I very much look forward to whatever Ms. Blaedel writes next.

Final Take:  4.75/5

Thank you to Erin Mitchell at Hew Communications and Pegasus Crime for an ARC of the novel.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Jenn's List: Criminal Plots Challenge 2013

I loved last year's Criminal Plots Challenge sponsored by Jen of Jen's Book Thoughts so I've signed up for this year's Criminal Plots Challenge.

Here are the 2013 guidelines: 

You'll be reading six books between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2013. One book (or in one case two short stories) should be read that fits into each of the following categories:

1. Novel with an animal in the title Along Came a Spider (Alex Cross #1) by James Patterson which has been in my TBR pile for a while.  -- Reviewed 1/30/13

2. Two short stories written by two different authors who are new to you - this will be a challenge for me because I don't read short stories.  I'm open to suggestions (PLEASE!)

3. Book written by more than one person.  The 9th Judgment (Women's Murder Club #9) by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

4. A YA crime novel. Uncommon Criminals (Heist Society #2) by Ally Carter -- Reviewed 5/27/13

5. A book from a series optioned for televsion.   This is an easy one for me.  I've been reading Kathy Reichs for years and have her latest on my TBR pile along with the first Rizzoli and Isles book (I've read a few out of order and want to start at the beginning).  That means it will either be Bones Are Forever (Temperance Brennan, #15) by Kathy Reichs or The Surgeon (R&I #1) by Tess Gerritsen.

6. A novel that's been nominated for an Edgar® in the last five years. (Edgar® databaseFaithful Place (Dublin Murder Squad #3) by Tana French -which means I have to get book 2, The Likeness , read also.

This year's challenge will definitely be a little harder than last year's, but I look forward to it.

By the way, you can still sign up for Jen's 2013  Criminal Plots Challenge.  Anyone want to join me?