Monday, April 29, 2013

Julie's Review: Tapestry of Fortunes

Summary: In this superb new novel by the beloved author of Open House, Home Safe, and The Last Time I Saw You, four women venture into their pasts in order to shape their futures, fates, and fortunes. Cecilia Ross is a motivational speaker who encourages others to change their lives for the better. Why can’t she take her own advice? Still reeling from the death of her best friend, and freshly aware of the need to live more fully now, Cece realizes that she has to make a move—all the portentous signs seem to point in that direction. She downsizes her life, sells her suburban Minnesota home and lets go of many of her possessions. She moves into a beautiful old house in Saint Paul, complete with a garden, chef’s kitchen, and three housemates: Lise, the home’s owner and a divorced mother at odds with her twenty-year-old daughter; Joni, a top-notch sous chef at a first-rate restaurant with a grade A jerk of a boss; and Renie, the youngest and most mercurial of the group, who is trying to rectify a teenage mistake. These women embark on a journey together in an attempt to connect with parts of themselves long denied. For Cece, that means finding Dennis Halsinger. Despite being “the one who got away,” Dennis has never been far from Cece’s thoughts.

Review: I am happy that Alice led me to Ms. Berg's novels. Tapestry of Fortunes is my 2nd novel of hers that I've read and I enjoyed it. I closed the novel with a warmed heart and a need to go on a road trip with my girlfriends.

We are introduced to Cecelia (CeCe) after the death of her best friend, Penny. She is lost and rearranges her life to find herself again. She finds herself living with a group of women who have their own issues to resolve and reconcile. It is through each other that they face their fears and begin to move on.

Tapestry of Fortunes is a novel about letting go and just being. It is about reconciling your past and moving towards your future. Is your future in your past? Or had that road been closed?

It is a short and quick read but one that does have important messages. If you are a fan of Elizabeth Berg's novels, then you won't want to miss this one.

Final Take: 3.75/5

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Children's Corner: The Way of the Ninja

Review: My nephew introduced my son to Ninjago a while ago and well when we saw this at the book fair, he couldn't really resist. He likes it because he already knows the characters and can read the majority of the words. It's also a good offshoot of the cartoon that he loves to watch.

I like Lego Ninjago Reader #1: Way of the Ninja (Lego Ninjago) because he can read the majority of it to himself and it has two stories in one. This is the book that in the beginning of the week he takes to school so he can read it if he doesn't want to nap. It's also the book where his classmates took his stickers out of it. He learned an important lesson on that one.

 If you child is a fan of the tv cartoon, then this book is a good addition to that.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Alice's Review: Dear Lucy

Summary:  Lucy is a young woman with an uncommon voice and unusual way of looking at the world. She would tell you that she is “missing too many words,” but despite her limitations she has a boundless zest for discovery and a deep desire to connect with those around her.  Deserted by her vivacious, social-climbing mother, Lucy has been taken in by an older couple, known only as Mister and Missus, to work on their farm. There, she befriends a pregnant teenager named Samantha who tells conflicting stories about her past, but who finds an unlikely rapport with Lucy. Samantha wants to say something so I can understand it. Not just shake her head like flies are trying to land on her and say, I just don’t know about you Lucy. That is all some other people do when I say things. When Samantha gives birth and the baby disappears, Lucy arms herself with Samantha’s diary and a talking chicken named Jennifer;and embarks on a journey to reunite mother and child. A luminous, heartbreaking story of love, family, and loyalty, Dear Lucy is fresh, exciting storytelling at its finest.

Review: This is probably one of the strangest reviews I have ever written.    I thought Dear Lucy was brilliant.  The concept was remarkable.  It was creative, well written and unlike anything I have ever read, expect for maybe Room by Emma Donoghue (read our review here).  It was haunting and beautiful.  I fully understand why this novel will get the critical acclaim it deserves.  That being said, I did not like it at all.  Shocking, right?  I’m not mad I read it, in fact I highly recommend it.

I know it’s strange to voice all these accolades while holding steadfast to my dislike.  I think my major disconnect was with the characters.  I didn’t like Lucy or her mother or Mister or Missus or Samantha.  I was shocked people like this exist, even in fiction, especially Missus.  My favorite character was Jennifer the talking chicken.  I tried to pinpoint what bothered me so much them, but in doing that I was losing sight of what good Dear Lucy has.   It is wonderful.  I was riveted from beginning to end.  Some of the subject matter was upsetting but necessary.  I did guess at one major plot point fairly early on in the novel but was still shocked to see it come to fruition in print. 

I do recommend you read Dear Lucy and remember the name Julie Sarkissian.  This is the first novel in what I’m sure will be a very successful career for her.  I will definitely read her again.

Final Take: 4/5


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Jenn's Review: Dark Secrets 1

 Blurb:  "Two girls haunted by the past...and destined to relive it " In "Legacy of Lies," Megan has to stay with the uptight grandmother she wants nothing to do with. She's determined to get through the visit without any drama, but when she falls into a twisted love triangle with potentially fatal consequences, Megan may be caught up in her family's legacy in more ways than she realizes.

In "Don't Tell," Lauren knows that by returning to the town where her mother drowned seven years ago, she'll be reliving one of her most haunting memories. When she arrives, she is propelled into a series of mysterious events that mimic the days leading up to her mother's death. Maybe her mother's drowning wasn't an accident after all...and maybe Lauren is next.

  Review:  I'll admit what first caught my attention about Elizabeth Chandler's Dark Secrets 1 is the cover.  I thought it was stunning.  I still do.  (Even my five year old daughter comes into my office and picks it out of the hundreds no matter where it is.)

What I loved about Elizabeth Chandler's writing is that it reminded me of the YA I used to read when I was growing up.  It's captivating and thrilling without being too heavy.  Ms. Chandler definitely has the ability to propel you through a story.  It was refreshing to read.

On closer inspection though, some of the relationships are a little twisted, especially in "Legacy of Lies".  In "Don't Tell" I felt like some of the explanation of events was sacrificed in order to keep things moving and that some of the reactions of the characters were... odd to say the least.  Of the two, I'd say "Legacy of Lies" was my favorite; I liked the concept of "Don't Tell", but didn't find the plot to be worked out as well.

I will definitely read another Elizabeth Chandler book - I think I'd like to try her other series, Kissed by an Angel.  As for the next Dark Secrets, I know I will be picking it up soon for a light read.  They are wonderful spooky stories.

Final Take:  3.5/5


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Julie's Review: Fly Away

Summary: Once, a long time ago, I walked down a night-darkened road called Firefly Lane, all alone, on the worst night of my life, and I found a kindred spirit. That was our beginning. More than thirty years ago. TullyandKate. You and me against the world. Best friends forever. But stories end, don't they? You lose the people you love and you have to find a way to go on. . . .   Tully Hart has always been larger than life, a woman fueled by big dreams and driven by memories of a painful past. She thinks she can overcome anything until her best friend, Kate Ryan, dies. Tully tries to fulfill her deathbed promise to Kate---to be there for Kate's children---but Tully knows nothing about family or motherhood or taking care of people. Sixteen-year-old Marah Ryan is devastated by her mothers death. Her father, Johnny, strives to hold the family together, but even with his best efforts, Marah becomes unreachable in her grief. Nothing and no one seems to matter to her . . . until she falls in love with a young man who makes her smile again and leads her into his dangerous, shadowy world. Dorothy Hart---the woman who once called herself Cloud---is at the center of Tully's tragic past. She repeatedly abandoned her daughter, Tully, as a child, but now she comes back, drawn to her daughters side at a time when Tully is most alone. At long last, Dorothy must face her darkest fear: Only by revealing the ugly secrets of her past can she hope to become the mother her daughter needs. A single, tragic choice and a middle-of-the-night phone call will bring these women together and set them on a poignant, powerful journey of redemption. Each has lost her way, and they will need each one another---and maybe a miracle---to transform their lives. An emotionally complex, heart-wrenching novel about love, motherhood, loss, and new beginnings, Fly Away reminds us that where there is life, there is hope, and where there is love, there is forgiveness. Told with her trademark powerful storytelling and illuminating prose, Kristin Hannah reveals why she is one of the most beloved writers of our day.

Review: When I heard that Ms. Hannah was going to write a sequel to Firefly Lane, I was extremely curious. I mean given the ending of that novel, where was there to go?  In Fly Away she fast-forwards 4 years in the future after the events of the first novel. Not only that but she gives us a glimpse into those 4 years in flashbacks.We are told the story through different points of view: Tully, Marah, Dorothy and Johnny. All of them have been to hell and back. It's taken some of them longer to climb out of the dark than others, but they all eventually find their way.

As with Firefly Lane,  I found Tully utterly self-absorbed. I mean I get it, but it's time to get over yourself. She is supposed to be helping Johnny with the kids but instead she gets caught up in herself with disastrous results. Marah is lost in the depth of what was said and not said. She runs away and lives a dismal life with her boyfriend in Seattle. It isn't until she is called home for Tully that she begins to come back to her old self.

The story I enjoyed the most was Dorothy, Tully's mom. It was an insight that we had not been privy to in the previous novel.  She is trying to do right by her daughter and while it won't make up for the years of being gone, it is a start.

What Ms. Hannah does extraordinarily well is paint a realistic view of grief, depression and family. She never fails to amaze me with the detail and emotion that go into her books. Now, this might not be my favorite of her books, but I'm glad that I revisited these characters. For those who have read Firefly Lane, then you will definitely want to pick up Fly Away to revisit the characters.

I also love how this cover ties into the one from Firefly Lane. I know authors don't have much say in the cover but I love it when it's connected to the first novel.

Fly Away is on sale on 4/23/13.

Final Take: 3.75/5

Thanks to St. Martin's Press for an ARC of the novel. 

Click here for my Firefly Lane review. 


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Children's Corner: Back to Front and Upside Down!

 I asked Kidlet to pick her favorite book from her library books this month and she chose Claire Alexander's Back to Front and Upside Down!

Stan's having trouble writing his letters and is afraid to ask for help.  It's really upsetting to him and it affects his whole day.  Stan finally admits it to his friend, Jack who encourages Stan to ask the teacher for help.  When Stan plucks up the courage to ask for help, he finds he was not the only one having trouble.  Though it takes hard work to correct the situation, Stan is the proudest of all when he is finished.

I was pleasantly surprised that my daughter chose this book.  It's one of those books parent's like for the content, but I'm always unsure how children feel them.  It's a good reminder that no matter what our age, sometimes we need to ask for help.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Alice's Review: The House at the End of Hope Street

Summary: Distraught that her academic career has stalled, Alba is walking through her hometown of Cambridge, England, when she finds herself in front of a house she’s never seen before, 11 Hope Street. A beautiful older woman named Peggy greets her and invites her to stay, on the house’s usual conditions: she has ninety-nine nights to turn her life around. With nothing left to lose, Alba takes a chance and moves in. She soon discovers that this is no ordinary house. Past residents have included Virginia Woolf and Dorothy Parker, who, after receiving the assistance they needed, hung around to help newcomers—literally, in talking portraits on the wall. As she escapes into this new world, Alba begins a journey that will heal her wounds—and maybe even save her life. Filled with a colorful and unforgettable cast of literary figures, The House at the End of Hope Street is a charming, whimsical novel of hope and feminine wisdom that is sure to appeal to fans of Jasper Fforde and especially Sarah Addison Allen. ~

Review: This is the kind of review that makes me wish I were more articulate and soulful.  I believe I do not currently possess the vocabulary necessary to describe how simply wonderful The House at the End of Hope Street is.  Magic is the base of this novel with the star being the house at 11 Hope Street.  It’s a home for women to go who need to escape, recover, heal, and move on from what life throws at them.  And many a great woman has crossed its threshold.  From famous writers, to doctors and suffragists each woman this novel is a who’s who of greatness that reminds us that at one time, they were just like us with their own struggles to go along with their triumphs.

This novel has so many facets.  It’s well written and flows nicely. Ms. van Praag gave us such wonderful characters.  And the house….the house is as much a character as Alba, Peggy, Greer, and Carmen.  I enjoyed how each woman is so diverse yet brings a unique aspect to the story.  It’s so well rounded. 

I liked that there was surprise around every turn.  Things happened that I didn’t expect.  I experienced some full on gasping moments.  It tugged at my heartstrings and made me laugh.  I loved that this is my favorite kind of novel, one that is read by the heart for the heart. 

There were a couple morsels of goodness I just loved.

About moving forward….“There is no going back in life.  No return.  No second chance.  When you waste your days, they are wasted forever.  So be honest about the things you really want, and do them, no matter how fearful you might be.”  Daphne du Maurier

Regarding the house and happiness… “It shows people the way, it gives them a little nudge now and then, but the house can’t do everything. And some people don’t have what it takes to be happy.  It’s not an easy thing, you know.  It takes great courage and determination, to keep looking for the light in all the darkness of life.” Stella

Even as I write this, I want to go back and read it again because I know this is the kind of novel that will give me something every time I pick it up.  It’s different, unique and I really enjoyed it. 

Thank you, Leyane Jerejian, for sending me this ARC.  I truly loved it.

Final Take: 5/5


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Jenn's Review: The Magician

 Blurb:  After fleeing Ojai, Nicholas, Sophie, Josh, and Scatty emerge in Paris, the City of Lights. Homefor Nicholas Flamel. Only this homecoming is anything but sweet. Perenelle is still locked up back in Alcatraz and Paris is teeming with enemies. Niccolo Machiavelli, immortal author and celebrated art collector, is working for Dee. He’s after them, and time is running out for Nicholas and Perenelle. For every day spent without the Book of Abraham the Mage, they age one year-their magic becoming weaker and their bodies more frail. For Flamel, the Prophecy is becoming more and more clear.

It’s time for Sophie to learn the second elemental magic: Fire Magic. And there’s only one man who can teach it to her: Flamel’s old student, the Comte de Saint-Germain-alchemist, magician, and rock star. Josh and Sophie Newman are the world’s only hope-if they don’t turn on each other first.
Review:  Michael Scott makes his series very hard to put down.  Once again I got to the last page and found myself hollering, "NO!"  Honestly, I'm glad I didn't get into his books when they first came out because his cliff hangers are killer.  Not that they aren't pausing places in the story, they are, but not places where you want to pause for an extended period.  Really, this seems more like an epic than a series.

I found myself becoming more and more frustrated with Josh.  I understand his concern for himself and his sister but he continues to miss the big picture... or maybe he just doesn't want to see it.  He continues to look for someone to blame instead of looking for a solution.  I know siblings can be different, but these twins are as different as they come.  Josh has an underlying thirst for power and recognition that is more than a little disturbing.  For someone who is so concerned with self preservation he willingly makes an open ended bargain with a god...  

Sophie I understand much better but even she is beginning to be affected by Josh's rampant distrust.  Part of growing up is realizing that choosing sides isn't always black and white, no one is 100% right.  Though it's a hard lesson for Sophie, it's one she is willing to assimilate.

These novels are heavy with mythology and I almost wish their was a glossary.  Whereas I felt like I was on familiar ground with the Percy Jackson novels, this feels more like uncharted territory.  I am familiar with many of the names of the gods but their stories elude me.  While Rick Riordan builds plot exposition into explaining to Percy's ignorance, Michael Scott rushes through it a little more and I can't help but feel like I'm missing out on some deeper level of understanding.  Even still, the read is enthralling.

I will be reading The Sorceress soon, because I must find out the resolution to this saga... although with four books left I'm pretty sure that won't be coming anytime soon.

Final Take:  4/5


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Julie's Review: The Interestings

Summary: The summer that Nixon resigns, six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts become inseparable. Decades later the bond remains powerful, but so much else has changed. In The Interestings, Wolitzer follows these characters from the height of youth through middle age, as their talents, fortunes, and degrees of satisfaction diverge. The kind of creativity that is rewarded at age fifteen is not always enough to propel someone through life at age thirty; not everyone can sustain, in adulthood, what seemed so special in adolescence. Jules Jacobson, an aspiring comic actress, eventually resigns herself to a more practical occupation and lifestyle. Her friend Jonah, a gifted musician, stops playing the guitar and becomes an engineer. But Ethan and Ash, Jules’s now-married best friends, become shockingly successful—true to their initial artistic dreams, with the wealth and access that allow those dreams to keep expanding. The friendships endure and even prosper, but also underscore the differences in their fates, in what their talents have become and the shapes their lives have taken. Wide in scope, ambitious, and populated by complex characters who come together and apart in a changing New York City, The Interestings explores the meaning of talent; the nature of envy; the roles of class, art, money, and power; and how all of it can shift and tilt precipitously over the course of a friendship and a life.

Review: The Interestings has been much anticipated and it's been discussed via social media but I have to say that overall The Interestings just weren't that. Overall, they were a bit insipid. I understand what Meg Wolitzer is trying to do with this book and while it might have fallen short for me, I know that it'll strike a chord with many readers out there. Isn't that the beauty of books? I think so.

We meet a group of friends that join together at an artistic camp in the 70s. We go along their journey throughout the decades never really being invited in to that circle. We are looking through a foggy window, wiping it off to get a glimpse. The character that rang the most honest to me was Jules, but she wasn't true to herself. She never was her truest self around her friends, even though that's why they liked her. She always felt that she had to fit a mold.

The chapters go back and forth between past and present. Sometimes it's confusing and other times it seems to flow. I do like that we at least get one chapter with each character's point of view, because it gives you a glimpse into their psyches.

There is a lot to discuss in this novel and perhaps that's also a bit much. I don't necessarily feel that a book should touch on every single social issue that's occurred while the characters are alive. Ms. Wolitzer loves her words and you should love words as well if you are going to settle into this one. I also feel that she settles into stereotypes with the women in the book. Ash is beautiful and talented; Jules is funny and homely.

I will say that I really enjoyed Ms. Wolitzer's The Uncoupling and would recommend that one. I found the premise to be far more engaging that this one.

The Interestings will be a favorite among many people but it just, perhaps, wasn't the book for me.

Final Take: 3/5

Thanks to Riverhead Publishing for my ARC. You can also check out the Twitter Read Along discussion by searching #TheInterestings


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Jenn's Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Witchy

 Blurb:  Darcy Merriweather is Enchanted Village’s newest resident Wishcrafter—a witch who can grant wishes for others. But as Darcy prepares a celebration for a magical florist, she discovers that every rose has its thorns…

When magical florist Harriette Harkette decides to throw a lavish eightieth birthday party for herself, she hires Darcy’s Aunt Ve’s personal concierge service, As You Wish, to plan the soiree. But turning eighty isn’t all Harriette is celebrating—the Floracrafter has recently created the midnight black Witching Hour rose, the first all-natural rose of that color.

Darcy works hard on planning an extravagant celebration that will make Harriette feel like the belle of the ball. But when cake delivery boy Michael Healey—a former employee at Harriette’s greenhouse—is found dead, the celebration takes a turn. Now Michael’s ghost has imprinted on Darcy, meaning that they’re bonded until she can untangle the thicket surrounding his murder—and what exactly it has to do with the Witching Hour rose…  

Review:  Oh, how I love the Wishcraft series!  You will hear me say that about Heather Blake's alter ego Heather Webber's Lucy Valentine series too.  Last year I also tried one of her Nina Quinn mysteries and loved it as well, so I guess it has become abundantly clear that I will have to shorten this by saying, I love her writing, no matter whom she is writing as.

Heather Blake/Webber books are usually labeled cozy and are the pinnacle of what a cozy mystery should be.  For me, cozy mysteries are often predictable and overly quaint; neither of these are words I would use to describe Heather Blake's books.  Whenever I pick up one of her books I find it hard to put down.  I love her characters, I love her mysteries, and I love that she can write about magic without making it the focal point of the story.  (In fact, I'm betting that even non-fantasy readers will love her work -so much so that I've sent Julie the first book in the series!)

Things are finally starting to return to normal for Darcy when she stumbles across another body.  Although the chief of the village police is her boyfriend, the Crafters to turn to Darcy to find resolution, the Elder has even tasked her with it.  This would cause a normal amount of friction if it weren't for the fact that the woman trying to steal her man is on the force with him just waiting to make her life difficult for interfering with the investigation.  While there were a few things I guessed, I did not solve the mystery and that is always a plus in my book.

I cannot recommend the Wish Crafter series enough... or the Lucy Valentine series... and Heather Blake has a new Magic Potion series coming out in November and I'm sure I'll love it too.  In the mean time, I will have to catch up with Nina Quinn...

Final Take:  5/5


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Alice's Review: And Then I Found You

Summary:  Katie Vaughan is no stranger to tough choices.  Shes made them before. Now its time to do it again. Kate has a secret, something tucked away in her past. And shes getting on with her life. Her business is thriving. She has a strong relationship with her family, and a devoted boyfriend whom she wants to love with all her heart. If Kate had ever made a list, Rowan would fill the imagined boxes of a perfect mate. She wants the facts to move from her head toward her heart and settle in with deep love, something past admiration and comfort. But when Kate discovers the small velvet box hidden in Rowans drawer, she panics. It always happens this way. Just when Kate thinks she can love, just when she believes she can conquer the fear, shes filled with dread. And she wants more than anything to make this feeling go away. But how? When the mistakes have been made and the running is over, its time to face the truth. Kate knows this. She understands that a woman can never undo what can never be undone. Yet, for the first time in her life she also knows that she wont fully love until she confronts those from her past. Its time to act. Can she do it? Can she travel to the place where it all began, to the one who shares her secret? Can the lost ever become found? And Then I Found You gives new life to the phrase “inspired by a true story.” By travelling back to a painful time in her own familys history, the author explores the limits of courage, and the price of a selfless act. ~

Review: And Then I Found You is a deeply moving novel by Patti Callahan Henry.  This is the first time I am reading a novel by this author and I enjoyed it.  Overall, the novel is quite wonderful.  It is deeply moving with memorable characters.  It tugged at my heart.  It is well written and beautifully told.  Invest in some tissues, you will need them.

I do have one little quirk I can’t quite get over.  It’s that I never warmed up to woman formerly known as Katie.  I know everyone’s reasons for placing a child up for adoption are personal and won’t always make sense to others.  However when the main character in a novel is the one facing this life altering decision, I think it’s fair to expect those reasons be understood by the reader.  I still don’t get it.  I truly believe it takes a tremendous amount of courage and selflessness to do what she did, yet I never felt it was a great sacrifice on her part.  It seemed more like an excuse not to move on with her life and pine for her first love Jack.  She was 21 years old when she made the decision.  She was old enough to think it through and be selfless and courageous in other ways, like letting go of a failed relationship with a high school sweetheart.  Now that would have made sense.

I realize I am being overly judgmental of Kate.  What really surprised me is that in spite of my dislike for her, I really enjoyed this novel.  I openly cried more than once.  It is very heartwarming and touching.  I really warmed up to the supporting characters and loved the southern feel of And Then I Found You. I also like Jack a lot.  Although his story is secondary, I understood him. 

Ms. Callahan Henry wrote this novel in a way that I see a road trip in my future to the South.  And while I’m there, I’m going to look for Mimsy’s and LUNA and hope to see Jack or Nicole at the corner coffee shop.  That’s how real this novel feels and that’s how good this novel is.

Final Take: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher and for a copy of the book.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Julie's Review: Don't Go

Summary: Bestselling author Lisa Scottoline has thrilled millions with her emotionally-charged novels that feature strong women exploring the boundaries of family, justice, and love.   In Dont Go, she breaks new ground and delivers the story of a soldier who discovers what it means to be a man, a father, and ultimately, a hero. When Dr. Mike Scanlon is called to serve as an army doctor in Afghanistan, hes acutely aware of the dangers hell face and the hardships it will cause his wife Chloe and newborn baby.  And deep inside, he doesnt think of himself as a warrior, but a healer. However, in an ironic turn of events, as Mike operates on a wounded soldier in a war-torn country, Chloe dies at home in the suburbs, in an apparent household accident.  Devastated, he returns home to bury her, only to discover that the life he left behind has fallen apart.  His medical practice is in jeopardy, and he is a complete stranger to the only family he has left - his precious baby girl.  Worse, he learns a shocking secret that sends him into a downward spiral. Ultimately, Mike realizes that the most important battle of his life faces him on the home front and hell have to put it all on the line to save whats dearest to him - his family. Gripping, thrilling, and profoundly emotional, Don't Go is Lisa Scottoline at her finest.

Review: Lisa Scottoline is an author that my dad turned me onto years ago and she's still one of my go to authors. Her recent books have dealt with legal issues but that is more in the background than the foreground of her previous novels. While Don't Go wasn't what I expected, it was not a disappointment.

What I really liked about the novel was that we truly got a sense of Mike and the effects that war has on our soldiers, even if they aren't physically hurt. There are some very intense moments during the book especially when Mike is over in Afghanistan. I found myself holding my breath at times. Not only is there the emotional toil of re-entry for Mike when he comes home but he's still dealing with the death of his wife Chloe.

Since we are viewing all of this from Mike's point of view, it is very easy to empathize with him. He's a broken man who is trying to fix himself. He's not sure how to connect to his young daughter since he's been away for the majority of her short life. He's not sure how to move on from the death of his wife and the subsequent secrets he's learned about her.

This story is about family, love, loss and healing. Ms. Scottoline did an excellent job on telling the story of Mike. Of course there were times where I wanted to smack him but you could feel his pain through the pages.

If you are a fan of Ms. Scottoline, then this isn't one to miss. If you've never read her, then Don't Go is a good one to begin with too.

Final Take: 4/5

Thanks to St. Martin's Press for an ARC of the novel.


Monday, April 8, 2013

Julie's Review: Seduction

Summary: From the author of The Book of Lost Fragrances comes a haunting novel about a grieving woman who discovers the lost journal of novelist Victor Hugo, awakening a mystery that spans centuries.  In 1843, novelist Victor Hugo’s beloved nineteen-year-old daughter drowned. Ten years later, Hugo began participating in hundreds of séances to reestablish contact with her. In the process, he claimed to have communed with the likes of Plato, Galileo, Shakespeare, Dante, Jesus—and even the Devil himself. Hugo’s transcriptions of these conversations have all been published. Or so it was believed. Recovering from her own losses, mythologist Jac L’Etoile arrives on the Isle of Jersey—where Hugo conducted the séances—hoping to uncover a secret about the island’s Celtic roots. But the man who’s invited her there, a troubled soul named Theo Gaspard, has hopes she’ll help him discover something quite different—Hugo’s lost conversations with someone called the Shadow of the Sepulcher. What follows is an intricately plotted and atmospheric tale of suspense with a spellbinding ghost story at its heart, by one of America’s most gifted and imaginative novelists.

Review: Seduction sucked me in by saying it was a historical fiction and it is but it's also a bit more than that too. It's about the seduction of temptation. It is about being pulled into something that is over your head and finding your way out of it.  It's about past lives intermingling with present ones. It's about reconciling with your past and moving forward.

It is a very nuanced novel and you need to pay attention to the details that Ms. Rose is including. They all end up being tied together in the end. About 1/2 way through I thought I had figured it out but Ms. Rose did an excellent job of throwing in a twist that made sense and worked better in the novel. (Hence why she is the writer and I am the reader)

Other than being a huge Les Miserables fan (musical and movie), I don't really know a lot about the man behind the story, Victor Hugo. I had no idea that he wrote much more than that novel and that he was exiled due to his political views. He was a man who was indeed brilliant but was also haunted with a profound sadness when his daughter died. In the beginning stages of his grief he wanted to connect with her so badly that he began to have seances as his home. Not only did he not speak to his daughter via these, he seemed to have opened a portal to Satan himself. It is his journals that lead Jac and Theo on a discovery that will impact their lives and those around them.

Seduction isn't a fast paced novel. Ms. Rose weaves an intricate story around 3 different time periods on Isle of Jersey. The characters in the novel are all engaging and intriguing to keep you pulled in. I would love for Ms. Rose to write a novel surrounding Theo's Great-Aunts, Minerva and Eva. I found them most fascination.

Reincarnation isn't something that fascinates me and I found myself more intrigued by Jac and her family's history, than I did in the weaving of the past lives. I am also curious to see how Jac moves on with her particular gift and if this will finally release her of some of her sadness.

I will definitely find my way to The Book of Lost Fragrances since that focuses on Jac and her family more. As for the other books in the Reincarnationists series, I will have to see.

Final Take: 4/5

Thanks to Amy Bruno at Historical Fiction Virtual Blog Tours for including me in this one!

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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Children's Corner: Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs

Review:  Frankly, you can never go wrong with a Mo Willems book. Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs is my daughter's recent find at her school library. I admit it, I was so excited when she brought this home. Of course we read it together the first night and I'm pretty sure she's read it every other night since.

I love that Mr. Willems has taken a well told tale and put a new spin on it. It is wacky and hilarious, just what I've come to expect from him. Goldilocks will look a bit familiar to those of you who have read his Knuffle Bunny series.

My daughter and I laugh throughout the book, albeit at different places and more than likely for different reasons but we still laugh. I love that he gives a separate moral for Goldilocks and then one for the dinosaur family. I think some of his wit might be lost on younger kids but my daughter seems to be catching onto most of it.

This one will probably be making its self at home on our bookshelf fairly soon. I can't resist a Mo Willems book.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Jenn's Review: Clockwork Princess

Blurb: A net of shadows begins to tighten around the Shadowhunters of the London Institute. Mortmain plans to use his Infernal Devices, an army of pitiless automatons, to destroy the Shadowhunters. He needs only one last item to complete his plan: he needs Tessa Gray.

 Charlotte Branwell, head of the London Institute, is desperate to find Mortmain before he strikes. But when Mortmain abducts Tessa, the boys who lay equal claim to her heart, Jem and Will, will do anything to save her. For though Tessa and Jem are now engaged, Will is as much in love with her as ever.

 As those who love Tessa rally to rescue her from Mortmain’s clutches, Tessa realizes that the only person who can save her is herself. But can a single girl, even one who can command the power of angels, face down an entire army?

Danger and betrayal, secrets and enchantment, and the tangled threads of love and loss intertwine as the Shadowhunters are pushed to the very brink of destruction in the breathtaking conclusion to the Infernal Devices trilogy.

Review:  Clockwork Princess is the last of the Infernal Devices so I expected a lot from it... it delivered and went way beyond my wildest dreams.  It changed my perspective on the Mortal Instruments series so much so that I immediately plunged back into the first three books.  (I was tempted to start City of Fallen Angels, but with book six of the Mortal Instruments series not publishing until next year, I am trying to hold off until I can read the last 3 all the way through.)  I just can't get enough of Shadowhunters.

There were so many details I wanted resolved and Cassandra Clare touched on them all, including some things I never thought of... I laughed, I cried, I sobbed, I gasped.  The one thing I was beyond thrilled about was the family tree that is included in this book; I am still pouring over it with fascination.  It was interesting to see the effect this generation of Shadowhunters has on generations to come... and how wrong things can go. It would be interesting to gain the perspective of the Infernal Devices generation on all that has come to pass...

I fell in love with these characters along the way and it was hard to let them go.  The epilogue took me a while to digest.  For a while I thought that I'd rather she hadn't written it at all, but then I realized I would have missed the closure it provided, even if it was hard to see things come full circle.  Honestly, I can't imagine a better ending.

Cassandra Clare's Shadowhunter books have made my list of all time favorites.  I will be sad to see the end of it next year, but at the same time I can't wait to find out how everything works out.

Final Take:  5/5