Friday, November 29, 2013

Book to Movie: Catching Fire

 photo CatchingFire_zpsf11be866.jpg Movie Review: Let me be clear that I saw the first Hunger Games movie before reading the book. I am happy to say that I read Catching Fire before seeing the movie this time. Let me say this there was not nearly enough Cinna in this movie. Cinna was instrumental in keeping Katniss grounded throughout the first part of the novel. Plus, let's be honest any minute Lenny Kravitz is on the screen is a heavenly one.

Katinss is in a tough spot and she's vulnerable and yes love torn. She is so young that she doesn't know how to handle have feelings for two young men at a time. Both Gale and Peeta are good for Katniss but in very different ways. She knows that Peeta is the "better" of the two of them and makes a pact with Haymitch to save Peeta no matter what. Of course, what do you think Peeta did?

I will admit that Peeta didn't drive me as bonkers in Catching Fire as he did in The Hunger Games. He's less whiny and less "whatever you say, Katniss". He's grown some backbone here. It's good because if Katniss is going to have a partner to get her through the Quell and beyond, she needs someone to challenge her. That is something that Gale excels at with her.

I love the costumes and set designs in this movie. After reading the series, I do say that they have captured Panem and the districts perfectly.  I loved the wedding dress that sprouted wings and turned Katniss into the true Mockingjay. Although it isn't until the next book/movie that she embodies being the Mockingjay.

I can't wait to see the movie again but it probably won't be until it's out on DVD. A movie can never fully capture every thing that is in the book but this one came close.

Book to Movie: 4.75/5


Monday, November 25, 2013

Julie's Review: Morning Glory

Summary: New York Times bestselling author Sarah Jio imagines life on Boat Street, a floating community on Seattle's Lake Union — home to people of artistic spirit who for decades protect the dark secret of one startling night in 1959. Fleeing an East Coast life marred by tragedy, Ada Santorini takes up residence on houseboat number seven on Boat Street. She discovers a trunk left behind by Penny Wentworth, a young newlywed who lived on the boat half a century earlier. Ada longs to know her predecessor's fate, but little suspects that Penny's mysterious past and her own clouded future are destined to converge.

 Review: Morning Glory is a wonderful story about how lives intersect and how hard it is to move on from a tragedy. The story alternates between Penny's story in 1959 and Ada's story in the present day. Both are connected by their time on the houseboat on Boat Street in Seattle. Penny is trying to begin a life with a moody but successful artist, Dexter Wentworth, who swept her off her feet.

Ada is running from a tragedy that took her husband and daughter away from her. In order to escape from her past, she runs to the furthest point from NYC, renting a houseboat. It is the houseboat and the mystery of Penny that helps heal her. It is also learning that she can love again and forgive herself that helps her move on as well.

Penny's story is one of finding what it means to be truly happy and to try to realize it before it's too late. It's not that Dex didn't love her, it's just that he though of her as another beautiful item he could own. It was too late when he did realize that perhaps he did truly love her.

What captured my heart was the description of the boathouse and the community. It is definitely some place that I would like to visit in the future. It seems to have a magic all it's own. All of the characters are interesting and are essential to both Penny and Ada's stories.

Ms. Jio has created something special with Morning Glory and to go into the details of the plot and characters would be to ruin it for you who haven't read it.

Final Take: 4.5/5

Morning Glory will be released on 11/26/2013


Friday, November 22, 2013

Julie's Review: The Pieces We Keep

Summary: In this richly emotional novel, Kristina McMorris evokes the depth of a mother's bond with her child, and the power of personal histories to echo through generations... Two years have done little to ease veterinarian Audra Hughes's grief over her husband's untimely death. Eager for a fresh start, Audra plans to leave Portland for a new job in Philadelphia. Her seven-year-old son, Jack, seems apprehensive about flying — but it's just the beginning of an anxiety that grows to consume him. As Jack's fears continue to surface in recurring and violent nightmares, Audra hardly recognizes the introverted boy he has become. Desperate, she traces snippets of information unearthed in Jack's dreams, leading her to Sean Malloy, a struggling US Army veteran wounded in Afghanistan. Together they unravel a mystery dating back to World War II, and uncover old family secrets that still have the strength to wound — and perhaps, at last, to heal. Intricate and beautifully written, The Pieces We Keep illuminates those moments when life asks us to reach beyond what we know and embrace what was once unthinkable. Deftly weaving together past and present, herein lies a story that is at once poignant and thought-provoking, and as unpredictable as the human heart.

Review:  The Pieces We Keep is a powerful emotional story about how far a mother will go for her son. Audra and her son, Jack are still grieving the loss of their husband/father when Jack starts to have violent night terrors. In addition to the terrors, he's also changed into a introvert boy who doesn't smile much these days. If it wasn't for his journal, night terrors and a sudden interest in World War II, Audra might just think he's grieving for his dad.

We also learn the story of Vivian who is in London as war is declared and in love with a man she hardly knows. I imagine that Vivian was like most young women during WWII, where their current relationship takes on an immediacy and intimacy that it might not have if not for the imminence of war.  It is the actions of Vivian that have a lasting effect on those in this story.

How these stories are connected is brilliantly woven by Ms. McMorris. I swear I had it all figured out and then she gently drops a sentence that changes the whole course of the mystery. Each of these characters is easy to become attached to throughout the novel. That isn't to say that you don't want to shake them at times, but you feel their pain through the words.

As a mother, I can only imagine what Audra was going through and then to have something else tragic happen while she and Jack are trying to heal is devastating.  You want Audra to find the strength and faith she needs to help Jack sort out his pain as well as hers.

The Pieces We Keep is ultimately about family bonds, love, loss, forgiveness and healing. If you are a fan of World War II novels, this is one you won't want to miss. If you just like well-written novels, then you will want to pick this one up.

Final Take: 4.75/5

The Pieces We Keep will be released on 11/26/2013

Thanks to Kristina McMorris for my copy of the novel!


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Jenn's Review: Deadly Heat

 Blurb:  Picking up where Frozen Heat left off, top NYPD Homicide Detective Nikki Heat pursues the elusive former CIA station chief who ordered the execution of her mother over a decade ago. For the hunt, Nikki teams once again with her romantic partner, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Jameson Rook, and their quest for the old spy and the motive behind the past murder unearths an alarming terror plot-which is anything but ancient history. It is lethal. It is now. And it has already entered its countdown phase.

Complicating Heat's mission to bring the rogue spy to justice and thwart the looming terror event, a serial killer begins menacing the Twentieth Precinct and her homicide squad is under pressure to stop him, and soon. The frightening murderer, known for his chilling stealth, not only has singled out Nikki as the exclusive recipient of his taunting messages, he then boldly names his next victim: Detective Heat.

Review:  As a Castle fanatic, this is a must read for me.  I have said it before and I'll write it again, this is an awesome franchise idea -television author, real books.  Although the story within a story thing continues to blow my mind.

I love the fictionalized versions of the fictional characters and I must say, the 12th precinct feels a little more real in the novels than it does on screen.  Although I can't help wonder whether the last novel was my favorite because the Rook and Heat romance was where the Castle and Beckett one had yet to venture.  Now with Castle and Beckett being together it kind of outshines Rook and Heat.

While I enjoy the novels in their own right, the last one, Frozen Heat, felt a little more independent of the television series than this one.  Not that I didn't enjoy it on it's own merit, but I knew where the plot twists were headed with very few surprises.  Still, it kept me turning pages.

Next up in my Castle-mania will be the recent Derrick Storm novel.  Yes, I love me some Castle!

Final Take:  4/5


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Alice's Review: The Other Typist

Summary:  One of the most fascinating, unreliable narrators you’ll read this year, for fans of The Talented Mr. Ripley and Rules of Civility. It is 1923. Rose Baker is a typist in the New York City Police Department on the lower east side. Confessions are her job. The criminals admit to their crimes, and like a high priestess, Rose records their every word. Often she is the only woman present. And while she may hear about shootings, knifings, and crimes of passion, as soon as she leaves that room she is once again the weaker sex, best suited for making coffee. It is a new era for women, and New York City is a confusing time for Rose. Gone are the Victorian standards of what is acceptable. Now women bob their hair short like men, they smoke, they go to speakeasies. But prudish Rose is stuck in the fading light of yesteryear, searching for the nurturing companionship that eluded her childhood and clinging to the Victorian ideal of sisterhood. But when glamorous Odalie, a new girl, joins the typing pool, despite her best intentions Rose falls under Odalie’s spell. As the two women navigate between the sparkling underworld of speakeasies by night, and their work at the station by day, Rose is drawn fully into Odalie’s high stakes world and her fascination with Odalie turns into an obsession from which she may never recover.

Review: There are times you pick up a novel and it hooks you in from the very first line. It isn’t always clear what gets you right away, all you know is that you must read it, usually as quickly as possible, because there is no rest until you find out the who, why, what, and how. The Other Typist is that for me.

From the moment I read the description of the novel, I knew it was something I wanted to devour. I am so glad I read The Other Typist. I loved it and everything about it: The characters, the setting, the glamour, the mystery cloaking Odalie, but mostly I loved trying to figure out what makes our narrator Rose tick.

Rose has to be my favorite character in a long, long time. She is an awkward, meticulous woman who works as a typist for a New York City Police Precinct in 1924. (Oh what a glorious time it was! Confession time, I am a fan of the TV show Boardwalk Empire. I kept expecting see Nucky Thompson make an appearance in this novel. I digress.) She’s very proper and regimented. She likes things a certain way and has no time for fun or humor. Rose’s world gets a major shift when the precinct hires the very glamorous and mysterious Odalie. The women form an unlikely bond and so the whirlwind begins. Be prepared to be dazzled and knocked off your rocker, because it is quite a ride.

The Other Typist is written beautifully. It sparks the imagination. The mystery involving the two leading women is the real star of this novel. The pleasure came in trying to figure out what is real and what isn’t. There is one thing I am left wondering. Ms. Rindell went through the trouble to write a novel that was so vivid, with so much detail, yet at the very end we are left hanging with a dozen questions and no way to answer them. I’m not upset about this, but a solid conclusion would have propelled this novel from a 4 star review into a 5 star review. Even so, this was a fantastic novel. One I am so glad I read and one I will definitely recommend. This novel is perfect for a book clubs because you need to talk about it. The Other Typist gets inside your head and stays there, making you nuts with theories.

And if you don’t believe me, read Julie’s review here.

 Final Take: 4/5

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Julie's Review: The Whole Golden World

Summary: Kristina Riggle, the acclaimed author of Real Life & Liars, returns with a thought-provoking novel inspired by real-life events. Seventeen-year-old Morgan Monetti shocks her parents and her community with one simple act: She chooses to stand by the man everyone else believes has exploited her, popular high school teacher TJ Hill. Quietly walking across a crowded courtroom to sit behind TJ, and not beside her parents, she announces herself as the adult she believes herself to be. But her mother, Dinah, wants justice. Dinah is a fighter, and she believes with all her heart and soul that TJ is a man who took advantage of her daughter. He is a criminal who should be brought to justice, no matter what the cost to his family. Rain, TJ's wife, is shocked that her handsome, loving, respected husband has been accused of a terrible crime. But has her desperation to start a family closed her eyes to the fault lines in her marriage? And can she face the painful truths about herself and her husband? Told from the perspectives of these three remarkable women, The Whole Golden World navigates the precarious territory between childhood and adulthood, raising questions about love and manipulation, marriage and motherhood, consent and responsibility. It's a novel both shocking and unforgettable in its power.

Review: My favorite part of The Whole Golden World was the end. Not because I was happy to see it end because it was horrible, it wasn't, I was happy to see two of the main characters grow backbones and do the right thing for themselves. Ms. Riggle has a keen sense of human nature because this book shows both the good and the bad of it. It shows how we are willing to believe something to protect ourselves even when the truth is staring us straight in the face.

We are introduced to three very different women and yet they are similar in strength in the end. Dinah, Morgan's mom and ultimate helicopter mom. She will do anything for her kids, even if it means they never take responsibility for their actions. Rain, the accused teacher's wife, who is so blinded by her need to get pregnant she doesn't spot the real trouble in the room. Morgan, 17 year old student who thinks she's older and wiser than her years, who quickly learns that she's not.

We also have TJ Hill, the male teacher that Morgan gets involved with. Do I think he was a predator? No, I don't. I think he is a man who was extremely insecure in who he was and needed validation outside of his marriage. Was he absolutely wrong to get involved with Morgan? Yes. Should he have known better no matter what Morgan said? Yes. Was he the adult? I don't know. Just because someone is of age, doesn't mean they are the adult in the situation. Some people never grown up. They always want to be the center of attention. This was TJ. He never felt he lived up to the potential in his mind. In some ways I felt sorry for him because he was never going to feel he was good enough for anyone or anything. That doesn't excuse his behavior but it helps understand his motivation. I didn't think he was as horrible as Celeste in Tampa. She was a true predator.

Your feelings towards these women is constantly changing as you get deeper into the novel. One minute you are feeling for them and the next you want to wring their necks. This is a true testament to Ms. Riggle's writing skills. She writes the novel by starting out with the trial and then flashing back to the events that led to the trial. It works effectively in a few ways because you are always wondering what happened to get to this point, what will happen to all the people involved, will they recover from the incident? These are always flowing through your mind as you tear through the novel.

If you like character driven novels then, The Whole Golden World is for you. I have a few Kristina Riggle novels in my large TBR pile and I hope to get to them soon.

Final Take: 4.75/5

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for having me on this tour!

TLC Book Tour Schedule:
Tuesday, November 5th: Booksie’s Blog
Thursday, November 7th: Kritters Ramblings
Monday, November 11th: she treads softly
Tuesday, November 12th: A Bookish Way of Life
Wednesday, November 13th: A Novel Review
Thursday, November 14th: Lectus
Monday, November 18th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Tuesday, November 19th: Girls Just Reading
Wednesday, November 20th: The Well-Read Redhead
Monday, November 25th: A Chick Who Reads
Tuesday, November 26th: BoundbyWords
Wednesday, November 27th: Book-alicious Mama
Thursday, November 28th: Time 2 Read
Monday, December 2nd: Read Lately
Tuesday, December 3rd: Books in the Burbs
Wednesday, December 4th: Tina’s Book Reviews
Thursday, December 5th: The Little Reader Library
Monday, December 9th: Sweet Southern Home


Monday, November 18, 2013

Alice's Review: Aloha Rose

Summary:  When Laney Carrigan sets out to find her birth family, her only clue is the Hawaiian quilt—a red rose snowflake appliqu├ęd on a white background—in which she was found wrapped as an infant. Centering her search on the Big Island and battling fears of rejection, Laney begins a painstaking journey toward her true heritage. Kai Barnes, however, is determined to protect the people he’s come to regard as family. He thinks Laney is nothing more than a gold digger and blocks every move she makes toward her Hawaiian family. As their conflict escalates, it puts at risk the one thing that Kai and Laney both want most—a family. ~blurb

Review:  I picked this novel from NetGalley because I have a fascination (bordering on obsession) with Hawaii.  It is a place I have never visited yet know that in my heart of hearts I will one day live.  Everything I have seen or read about it cements that resolve.  It is paradise, and yes I know it is very expensive.  Aloha Rose is my first venture into Hawaiian fiction. I was looking forward to seeing if the sense of family or ohana translated on the pages.  One thing I did not anticipate was the darkness.  Aloha Rose touched on a lot of subjects that went beyond the typical boy meets girl romance novel fodder.  It deals with adoption, the death of a parent, Post Traumatic Stress Disorders, and Alzheimer’s disease.  This is definitely not a light-hearted, feel-good story.

We spend a lot of time with Laney, who traveled to Hawaii in search of her birth mother to fulfill the dying wish of her adoptive mother.  This journey is one Laney does not want to take.  As someone accustomed to running and avoiding, she’s ill-equipped to handling this. 

I liked Laney.  At times she was stubborn to the point of frustration.  Kai was no prize either.  Would it have killed the man to be open about his feeling just once?  Sheesh.  I didn’t particularly feel a great love between them, but the lack of actual romance was okay with me because it was the depth of the subplots that really carried this story. 

Aloha Rose is Christian Fiction.  I have a confession.  If I had known that before hand, I know I would not have read it.  Ms. Carter did a wonderful job of encompassing faith into the novel without having Christianity being the first thing that jumps out at you.  There were parts in Aloha Rose that were a little bit hard from me to read, but that is strictly because of my (lack of) faith lately.  Her words struck a chord, my eyes welled with tears and I felt that burning in my chest.   It was a reminder of what I have been missing. 

Overall, I enjoyed this novel.  It teaches us that ohana, ho’oponopono (forgiveness) and love are everything.  Mahalo.

Final Take:  3/5

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Author Interview: Allison Winn Scotch

Photobucket Tuesday was the release of Allison Winn Scotch's 5th novel, The Theory of Opposites and today she willingly answers our questions.

GJR: You are a well-established author, why the change to self-publishing? What kind of leverage do you think it gives you as an author?

AWS:  I’d felt demoralized over how many things were out of my control at the big publishers once I filed my manuscript. And I’d seen too many wonderful writers get pushed aside because their books hadn’t done well, when all they’d done was write a brilliant book. If an author writes a brilliant book, and it doesn’t sell, I’m not quite sure why he or she is blamed. But anyway. I’d grown disenchanted with the machine, and I have an entrepreneurial spirit, so it was kind of the perfect mix and the perfect time for me. As far as leverage? Well, I mean, anything and anyone can fail. I could have failed miserably at this. I think the only leverage it gives me is the control that I get back – from pricing (the book is just $2.99) to the cover to the marketing. But that’s BIG leverage and peace of mind for me, and that’s what I wanted.

For more on this you can see her article on Writer Unboxed 

GJR: How much research went into deciding to move to self-published? Will you do it again?

AWS: A ton and yes. I would never have jumped if I hadn’t armed myself with all of the research about how to do it well and how to do it right. Self-publishing has earned a reputation as amateurish because people scribble their manuscripts and call them books. That’s not how it works if you really want to be a pro. The process is and should be just as rigorous as anything you’d go through at a publishing house.

GJR: Between Richard Chandler and Vanessa, there’s a lot of philosophy going on in the novel. How much did you have to crack open those college philosophy books for research?

AWS: Ha! Funny enough, Philosophy was one of my favorite classes as a senior in high school. To be honest, the tough part wasn’t mulling over the philosophy behind the characters, it was keeping track of who thought what and being sure that the lines didn’t get too blurry between them all. It took a few drafts to really be clear on who had which stakes in which camp.

GJR: Which camp of thinking, Richard’s or Vanessa’s, do you think you fall into? Or do you think life is a blend of both, applicable in different situations?

AWS: I definitely do not adhere to Richard’s thinking – that everything happens for a reason or that free will doesn’t exist – but certainly, there are wonderful or terrible things that just happen in life with no rhyme or reason. But I’m a person who likes to be in control of her life, so I’d have a hard time embracing the idea that life happens to us rather than the idea that we chart our own lives. So in that way, I think I’m Team Vanessa.

GJR: You recently had a huge life change, moving from NYC to LA. How much of that experience and taking that risk went into The Theory of Opposites?

AWS:  Interestingly enough, a lot. The move has been really wonderful for us, and I think has fostered a real sense of contentment in our house. I couldn’t have written this book without that sense of contentment…I think my joy spills over to the pages. Also, last year was a year of change for us, and as someone who thrives on change (I’m a Gemini!), I just thought, “Hey, go for it, why not?” The worst thing that could happen would be that I’d fall on my face, and if that happened too, then I’d just stand up all over again.

GJR: Last time we talked when The Song Remains the Same was released, you were taking a break from writing novels and working on another project. What became of that project?

AWS: I wrote a screenplay – I think that’s what we were talking about! – for a production company out here, and Hollywood takes forever, so I’m still waiting. But it was a super-fun experience, and I’m glad to have dipped my toe into those waters.

GJR:  What inspired you to come back and write The Theory of Opposites?

AWS: Honestly, the joy of these characters. I had sort of given up on novels, but I had started this book a year or so ago and abandoned it. I happened to open it up one day, and all it did was make me smile, so I wanted to keep going, keep hanging out, passing the time with this ridiculous family. I really came to love them more than almost any of my previous characters, other than maybe Jillian from Time of My Life. They hold a pretty special place in my heart, not just because they’re awesome, but because they brought me back to writing fiction again.

GJR: You made a pretty big announcement before the release date of the novel in which Jennifer Garner and her production company picked up the option to develop The Theory of Opposites. How excited and stunned are you? I know it’s early, but do you know how involved you will be?

AWS:  I’m so elated. I’ve known for a while that it was in the works, but to share it with the world was just so amazing. Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve been a big fan of Jen’s for a while. I sent her the manuscript shortly after I finished it – she was probably one of my first ten readers – and she and her producing partner read it quickly and immediately expressed their enthusiasm. Honestly, at that point, I was just so stunned that anyone outside my immediate circle loved the book that that was the biggest focus. But now they’re getting started on it, and I know they’re going to do great things with it. As far as my involvement? They are being super-kind and keeping me in the loop, which normally doesn’t happen, but I trust them and am letting them do their thing.

GJR: What’s the biggest difference (besides weather) that you’ve noted between NYC and LA?

Oh, I was going to say the weather. That’s not fair! Okay, people in LA are much more laid-back than in NYC. Not that there’s anything wrong with the NYC ‘tude, but at this point in my life, I’m enjoying the sunglasses/yoga pants/cheery attitude that abounds in my area.

GJR: How does your writing space in LA differ from the one in NY?

AWS:  Home office in both places! I’m a lucky girl.

As always, much thanks to Allison for taking the time out her schedule for our questions!


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Julie's Review: Someone Else's Love Story

Summary: I fell in love with William Ashe at gunpoint, in a Circle K. For single mom Shandi Pierce, life is a juggling act. She's finishing college; raising her delightful three-year-old genius son, Nathan, aka Natty Bumppo; and keeping the peace between her eternally warring, long-divorced Christian mother and Jewish father. She's got enough to deal with before she gets caught in the middle of a stickup in a gas station mini-mart and falls in love with a great wall of a man named William Ashe, who steps between the armed robber and her son to shield the child from danger. Shandi doesn't know that her blond god has his own baggage. When he looked down the barrel of the gun in the gas station he believed it was destiny: it's been exactly one year since a tragic act of physics shattered his universe. But William doesn't define destiny the way other people do. A brilliant geneticist who believes in science and numbers, destiny to him is about choice. Now, William and Shandi are about to meet their so-called destinies head-on, making choices that will reveal unexpected truths about love, life, and the world they think they know. Someone Else's Love Story is Joshilyn Jackson's funny, charming, and poignant novel about science and miracles, secrets and truths, faith and forgiveness; about falling in love and learning that things aren't always what they seem;or what we hope they will be. It's a story about discovering what we want and ultimately finding what we need.

Review: What I loved about Someone Else's Love Story was the ending. Not necessarily the very last line but how Ms. Jackson tied it all together. How all the pieces of the puzzle came together. Each character is unique in their outlook in life. Shandi, William and Paula are all very different when it comes to dealing with the world. Paula is a ball buster; William likes to use science to figure things out and Shandi is just starting to come into her own. A twist of fate brings them all together in a Circle K hold up.

While I enjoyed reading the story, I didn't truly connect to any of the characters. It didn't hamper my enjoyment of the novel but it didn't enhance it either. The character that sparked the most emotion from me was Paula. I just didn't like her. I didn't get her M.O. She confused me. Was she protecting William? Did she want William for herself? Even at the end of the novel, I'm still confused about what her angle was. Why couldn't she have just been honest?

I didn't find this one as engaging of a read as A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty. I felt that it dragged in the middle. I wanted to get to the resolution. Is Shandi truly in love with William? Was Natty a "miracle" child? I think at the end of the book that we can all agree his is but not in the way the book originally states.

Ms. Jackson knows how to weave a story together and make it absolutely believable. This is what saved the novel for me: the fact that I didn't see several things coming. I feel that she wrote the right amount of red herrings to throw you off. The opening line takes the cake though.

I will be finding time to read the rest of her back-list at some point. She's an author I will enjoy for a long time.

Final Take: 4/5

This is both the Hashtag Book Group's pick for November and Thanks to William Morrow for a copy of the novel.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Julie's Review: The Theory of Opposites

Summary:  What happens when you think you have it all, and then suddenly it’s taken away? Willa Chandler-Golden's father changed the world with his self-help bestseller, Is It Really Your Choice? Why Your Entire Life May Be Out of Your Control. Millions of devoted fans now find solace in his notion that everything happens for a reason. Though Willa isn’t entirely convinced of her father’s theories, she readily admits that the universe has delivered her a solid life: a reliable husband, a fast-paced career. Sure there are hiccups – negative pregnancy tests, embattled siblings - but this is what the universe has brought, and life, if she doesn’t think about it too much, is wonderful. Then her (evidently not-so-reliable) husband proposes this: A two-month break. Two months to see if they can't live their lives without each other. And before Willa can sort out destiny and fate and what it all means, she’s axed from her job, her 12 year-old nephew Nicky moves in, her ex-boyfriend finds her on Facebook, and her best friend Vanessa lands a gig writing for Dare You!, the hottest new reality TV show. And then Vanessa lures Willa into dares of her own - dares that run counter to her father’s theories of fate, dares that might change everything…but only if Willa is brave enough to stop listening to the universe and instead aim for the stars.

Review: The Theory of Opposites is a fantastic book about finding out who it is you want to become. Do you want to be a bystander in your own life or do you want to get out there and live it? What does it take for Willa (a.k.a William) to get off the "couch" of her life? Basically her life gets flipped upside down or is it right side up on her. Her husband, Shawn and her do everything together. I mean heck they even have an app that they share coordinating all of their to dos. 

Willa is surrounded by quite the cast of characters but her family is the hilarious. I adored Raina, Ollie and Minnie, her mom. Her dad was an interesting character but I can't say that I found him funny or even liked him. He was a bit full of himself and has missed out on life by prescribing to his theory that there is no free will. Your life path is already charted and you are only a pawn in it. Willa's best friend, Vanessa, sets out to prove that you have control of your life of your destiny, using Willa as her guinea pig. Vanessa has the best intentions when it comes to Willa. She wants Willa to quit being a bystander in her life.

Willa is a great heroine because she is extremely relatable. Who hasn't had a minor or major setback in life and wondered what next? Where do I go from here? The transformation that she goes through its significant and transforming.

Ms. Scotch keeps you guessing until the end which path Willa will chose to go down. Will she even take an active role in her life? Will the "Dare You" truly make Willa test herself?

The real lesson in the book is that we all have a choice or choice and we need to own them. We have control of our lives. We have free will.

If you are looking for a novel that touches your soul and might cause you to think about your life path differently, then pick up The Theory of Opposites.

Final Take: 4.5/5 

Note: Stayed tuned later this week for a Q&A with Allison!


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Julie's Review: Cartwheel

Summary: Written with the riveting storytelling of authors like Emma Donoghue, Adam Johnson, Ann Patchett, and Curtis Sittenfeld, Cartwheel is a suspenseful and haunting novel of an American foreign exchange student arrested for murder, and a father trying to hold his family together. When Lily Hayes arrives in Buenos Aires for her semester abroad, she is enchanted by everything she encounters: the colorful buildings, the street food, the handsome, elusive man next door. Her studious roommate Katy is a bit of a bore, but Lily didn’t come to Argentina to hang out with other Americans. Five weeks later, Katy is found brutally murdered in their shared home, and Lily is the prime suspect. But who is Lily Hayes? It depends on who’s asking. As the case takes shape—revealing deceptions, secrets, and suspicious DNA—Lily appears alternately sinister and guileless through the eyes of those around her: the media, her family, the man who loves her and the man who seeks her conviction. With mordant wit and keen emotional insight, Cartwheel offers a prismatic investigation of the ways we decide what to see—and to believe—in one another and ourselves. In Cartwheel, duBois delivers a novel of propulsive psychological suspense and rare moral nuance. No two readers will agree who Lily is and what happened to her roommate. Cartwheel will keep you guessing until the final page, and its questions about how well we really know ourselves will linger well beyond.

Review: After Cartwheel was getting a lot of buzz on a bunch of websites and blogs, I thought it was right up my alley. I happen to love crime stories and find them even more fascinating when they are based on a real story. I knew a little about the Amanda Knox trial but wasn't absorbed by it. Cartwheel would have been a fantastic novel if there was one ounce of emotion in it. I don't have to like the characters but I have to feel something towards them. I didn't. I still don't. I actually don't care if Lily killed Katy or not. It all seemed very clinical. I felt like I was reading a case study or depositions of a case.

I'm disappointed in this novel because I expected more. I wanted to delve in and really understand what made these characters tick and I didn't get that. Maybe that's some of the point though, do we really ever know the people we are closest to? Do we know what makes them tick? Do we know how they would be perceived as by others? Because that is the point. In today's society people are put on trial through social media before they even see a courtroom. Does someone really have a chance of proving themselves innocent when they've already been convicted by society?

Final Take: 2/5


Monday, November 4, 2013

Julie's Review: Sea Creatures

Summary: In Sea Creatures, a riveting domestic drama by Susanna Daniel, a mother must make the unthinkable choice between her husband and her son. When Georgia Qullian returns to her hometown of Miami, her toddler and husband in tow, she is hoping for a fresh start. They have left Illinois trailing scandal and disappointment in their wake, fallout from her husband's severe sleep disorder. For months, their three-year-old son has refused to speak a word. On a whim, Georgia takes a job as an errand runner for a reclusive artist and is surprised at how her life changes dramatically. But soon the family's challenges return, more complicated than before. Late that summer, as a hurricane bears down on South Florida, Georgia must face the fact that her decisions have put her only child in grave danger. Sea Creatures is a mesmerizing exploration of the high stakes of marriage and parenthood.

Review: Sea Creatures has a definite sense of foreboding in it from the minute you start the novel. It is atmospheric in the description of both Stiltsville and of life in Miami. You can feel the heat and humidity radiating through the novel as you read. It is not a novel that lends itself to being devoured in a sitting but rather something you want to keep coming back to because of the characters.

Since Georgia tells this story in retrospect I wonder how much of it has been colored with hindsight? It does seem to me that Georgia is honest in her retelling of that time in her family's life. I liked Georgia, I felt for Georgia. Marriage and parenting isn't easy, it's damn hard work and I felt that her story reflected that. The decisions we make as a parent/mother will always have some kind of affect on our child(ren). One doesn't know if a different decision would have changed the course of her life, Frankie's life and ultimately Graham's.

I'm usually not thrilled with ambiguity especially when it comes to certain things that I want definite knowledge about but it works within this novel. It works because you know that in the end Georgia does her best to protect Frankie.  Does she always succeed? No, but there are some things that you can't always protect your children from.

I like how for a time, Georgia and Frankie pull Charlie out of his shell. How they do save his life in many different ways. He also in many ways saves both of them. It is through Frankie's relationship with Charlie that he learns to trust and grow. Charlie instilled a love of art in Frankie and we see that as he gets older.

For those readers who like a realistic view of marriage and of parenthood, then Sea Creatures is one to check out. For those of you who like bows and ribbons on your stories, this may not be for you.
Final Take: 4.25/5


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Children's Corner: Press Here

 This week my daughter brought this home from the school library.  This is a highly imaginative book with a lot of possible interaction.  I was intrigued but a little skeptical...  I thought it was brilliant but would she?

Obviously, the reader is instructed to "press here", and once they do they begin to follow a simple chain of directions that seemingly change the quantity, appearance, and placement of the dot on the pages that follow.  Without the interaction, this book could fall flat.  However I watched in amazement as my almost six-year-old daughter read and followed the instructions and smiled with delight as the illustrations changed with each page turn.  Does she know that she's not really changing the pictures?  Yes ("Mommy, the illustrator did that!") but she still finds it whimsical and fun... and I do too.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Julie's Review: We Are Water

Summary: In middle age, Annie Oh—wife, mother, and outsider artist—has shaken her family to its core. After twenty-seven years of marriage and three children, Annie has fallen in love with Viveca, the wealthy, cultured, confident Manhattan art dealer who orchestrated her professional success. Annie and Viveca plan to wed in the Oh family's hometown of Three Rivers, Connecticut, where gay marriage has recently been legalized. But the impending wedding provokes some very mixed reactions and opens a Pandora's box of toxic secrets—dark and painful truths that have festered below the surface of the Ohs' lives. We Are Water is an intricate and layered portrait of marriage, family, and the inexorable need for understanding and connection, told in the alternating voices of the Ohs—nonconformist Annie; her ex-husband, Orion, a psychologist; Ariane, the do-gooder daughter, and her twin, Andrew, the rebellious only son; and free-spirited Marissa, the youngest Oh. Set in New England and New York during the first years of the Obama presidency, it is also a portrait of modern America, exploring issues of class, changing social mores, the legacy of racial violence, and the nature of creativity and art. With humor and breathtaking compassion, Wally Lamb brilliantly captures the essence of human experience in vivid and unforgettable characters struggling to find hope and redemption in the aftermath of trauma and loss. We Are Water is vintage Wally Lamb—a compulsively readable, generous, and uplifting masterpiece that digs deep into the complexities of the human heart to explore the ways in which we search for love and meaning in our lives.

Review: We Are Water is quintessential Wally Lamb. Ever since reading She's Come Undone, he's been a favorite author of mine and I jump for joy when his books are released. This new novel is a humbling look at marriage and family in the most recent decade. It is about the secrets we keep from those we love the most and perhaps what we hide from ourselves.

Mr. Lamb has always been good and exposing the inter workings of families. Whether it be the relationship between a mother/daughter, siblings or husband/wife, he finds the pulse of those relationships and the nerves. We get to view the Oh family from all sides. We get to know Annie and Orion the best through their chapters but I did enjoy getting to know their children through their own eyes as well. I wouldn't say that any of the characters are particularly likable but there is something redeeming in all of them.

This, at times, is not an easy read. There are parts where I wanted to throw up. Things that made me feel so ill that I had to put the novel down. Yet, it is real. These things happen. You pray to god they don't happen to you or your loved ones.

Mr. Lamb never writes a fast-paced novel. Instead, you are pulled in and moved along at a methodical pace. You get enveloped in the story and invested in the characters. You want to know that they'll be OK. That all the heartache, tragedy and pain is worth it for the happiness or fulfillment they will receive. Mr. Lamb understands life. He understands that it's not always sunny and fun filled. We all have tragedy, strife, loss but we also have hope and happiness.

While She's Come Undone is still my favorite novel of his to date, We Are Water comes in a close second. I definitely recommend picking it up, especially if you are a fan of Contemporary Fiction.

Final Take: 5/5

Thanks to TLC tours for having me on this tour!

 photo tlctourhost_zps53348708.pngTour Schedule:
Tuesday, October 15th: Love at First Book
Wednesday, October 16th: Alison’s Book Marks
Thursday, October 17th: Read Lately
Friday, October 18th: The Little Reader Library
Monday, October 21st: A Bookish Way of Life
Wednesday, October 23rd: The Well-Read Redhead
Thursday, October 24th: West Metro Mommy
Friday, October 25th: Drey’s Library
Monday, October 28th: Kritters Ramblings
Tuesday, October 29th: Bibliophiliac
Wednesday, October 30th: Booksie’s Blog
Thursday, October 31st: Lit and Life
Friday, November 1st: Girls Just Reading
Monday, November 4th: Book-alicious Mama
Tuesday, November 5th: BoundbyWords
Wednesday, November 6th: Books Speak Volumes
Thursday, November 7th: Book Hooked Blog
Friday, November 8th: Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, November 12th: Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Wednesday, November 13th: Turn the Page
Thursday, November 14th: Dolce Bellezza