Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Julie's Reviews: The Travelers

Author: Chris Pavone
Series: None
Publication Date: March 8, 2016
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Pages: 448
Obtained: Amazon Vine
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Fast paced, spy thriller
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Summary: It’s 3:00am. Do you know where your husband is? Meet Will Rhodes: travel writer, recently married, barely solvent, his idealism rapidly giving way to disillusionment and the worry that he’s living the wrong life. Then one night, on assignment for the award-winning Travelers magazine in the wine region of Argentina, a beautiful woman makes him an offer he can’t refuse. Soon Will’s bad choices—and dark secrets—take him across Europe, from a chateau in Bordeaux to a midnight raid on a Paris mansion, from a dive bar in Dublin to a mega-yacht in the Mediterranean and an isolated cabin perched on the rugged cliffs of Iceland. As he’s drawn further into a tangled web of international intrigue, it becomes clear that nothing about Will Rhodes was ever ordinary, that the network of deception ensnaring him is part of an immense and deadly conspiracy with terrifying global implications—and that the people closest to him may pose the greatest threat of all. It’s 3:00am. Your husband has just become a spy. ~amazon.com  

Review: Let's get this out of the way immediately, there is not one truly likable character in Chris Pavone's The Travelers but this reader was perfectly fine with that because well it's a spy novel. Will is a travel writer for the magazine, The Travelers, which means he gets to spend a ton of time overseas in wonderful locations. He also has shoe boxes in his closet full of different currency, which I found ingenious. He's also a bit of a cad. He likes to think he's a good guy but a good, married guy doesn't give in to flirting. Of course if he doesn't, then there is no novel.

Chloe isn't exactly wife of the year but it's not to hard to figure out who she is and what she does.  Malcolm is obviously shady but how shady is he? Who exactly is he and whom does he work for? How far does it reach?

I loved trying to figure out how this was going to play out. Which side were the characters on? In the spy game is there really good vs. evil or many varieties of gray. At times the plot can get a bit convoluted but I tend to forgive that in these types of books. I enjoyed getting to know the characters and what made them tick, even if I didn't particularly like them, by the end I knew why they acted the way they did. It's not like spies are the most honest people; they lie for a living.

If you are looking for a novel that is an escape in some great world locations, then The Travelers is for you.  This would definitely make an excellent, fast-paced movie and I look forward to it being in the theaters at some point.


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Julie's Review: Written in Fire

Author: Marcus Sakey
Series: The Brilliance Trilogy #3
Publication Date: January 12, 2016
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Pages: 345
Obtained: Amazon Vine
Genre:  Science Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Epic Ending
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Summary: For thirty years humanity struggled to cope with the brilliants, the one percent of people born with remarkable gifts. For thirty years we tried to avoid a devastating civil war. We failed. The White House is a smoking ruin. Madison Square Garden is an internment camp. In Wyoming, an armed militia of thousands marches toward a final, apocalyptic battle. Nick Cooper has spent his life fighting for his children and his country. Now, as the world staggers on the edge of ruin, he must risk everything he loves to face his oldest enemy—a brilliant terrorist so driven by his ideals that he will sacrifice humanity’s future to achieve them ~amazon.com  

Review: Written in Fire is the conclusion to Marcus Sakey's wonderful, thought-provoking The Brilliance Trilogy. Not only is it the titular battle between good and evil it will also decide how the future will look. We come back to the point in the story where events have happened that caused an even greater divide between the abnorms and the norms. We are very close to having a civil war with no turning back. This is where Nick Cooper comes in. For years he was a DAR agent until he decided that he needed to work on his own. This battle is personal for him as he and his daughter Kate are both abnorms.

Nick is still on his quest to defeat John Smith who is bent on destroying how the world works and not for the better. He has his own agenda and doesn't give a damn who gets hurt while standing in his way. Nick feels that there's a better, more meaningful way to accomplish change than to destroy everything.

There are twists and turns throughout the book but never once did I think that Nick wouldn't be successful in his defeat of John Smith. Obviously, nothing is as easy as it would seem and there are hiccups along that way that couldn't or maybe should have been foreseen.

What this series has highlighted for me is that as humans we will always, unfortunately, find people to be prejudice against. We always have to find a group of people to try to rally against. The Brilliance Trilogy has made me stop and think about how we treat each other and how we can control events that go on around us. We do have control of our future and we should use that for good, for change.

This series was definitely out of my usual genre and while I would consider it dystopian, it is much more hopeful than others in that subgenre. I am happy that I got out of my comfort zone to read this series and I encourage you to do the same.

Previous Book Review:
A Better World


Friday, February 12, 2016

Julie's Review: In Another Life

Author: Julie Christine Johnson
Series: None
Publication Date: February 2, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Pages: 368
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Historical Fiction, Paranormal
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Captivating
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Summary: Historian Lia Carrer has finally returned to southern France, determined to rebuild her life after the death of her husband. But instead of finding solace in the region's quiet hills and medieval ruins, she falls in love with Raoul, a man whose very existence challenges everything she knows about life--and about her husband's death. As Raoul reveals the story of his past to Lia, she becomes entangled in the echoes of an ancient murder, resulting in a haunting and suspenseful journey that reminds Lia that the dead may not be as far from us as we think. Steeped in the rich history and romantic landscape of the Languedoc region, In Another Life is a story of love that conquers time and the lost loves that haunt us all. ~amazon.com  

Review: In Another Life is an amazing book. It is flawless in how the story comes together. It has history, romance and mystery woven into the story line. Lia is lost since the unexpected death of her husband 18 months earlier. She finds herself fading away into nothing by staying in Seattle. She decides to return to the countryside of France to see if she can make a life on her own. She is a true historian in the way that she lives and breathes her subject matter, which is the Cather religion.

Lia is an interesting character. She comes back to Languedoc because it is where she feels the most at home. It is where her part of her family's roots are and it where her research has taken her. It is also the last place where her and Gabriel were happy.  As Lia experiences her sudden flashes or transport, as a reader you are just as jarred as she is and don't quite know what to make of it either. It is her journey into the past that helps her figure out the present and maybe lead her to her future.

Journeying into the past while living in the present isn't an easy thing to accomplish but Ms. Johnson does it extremely well. She blends these two together seamlessly that you find yourself wanting to move between the two worlds as well as Lia. How she meshes the past and the present caught me off guard a few times but it the best way. I wasn't entirely sure how it was going to come together and when I thought I picked up on the clues, she's switch it up.

The setting is absolutely stunning and Ms. Johnson does a fantastic job of describing the landscape of both the past and the present. It definitely made this reader want to journey to this region in France for a trip. Plus it seems like they have fantastic wineries in the area and one can't miss out on that.

My only hang up is that I wasn't completely sold on the "head over heels" love between Raoul and Lia. I am all for Lia moving on and letting go of Gabriel but I just thought it was out of character for her to fall for Raoul so quickly.

I'm not doing this novel enough justice because I really don't want to give anything away in the plot. Plus it's really one of those novels that you will want to experience for yourself.

If you loved either Outlander or Time Traveler's Wife, then you will want to get your hands on In Another Life.

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Monday, February 8, 2016

Julie's Review: No Ordinary Life

Author: Suzanne Redfearn
Series: None
Publication Date: February 2, 2016
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Pages: 455
Obtained: Publicist
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Behind the scenes look at behind the camera of Hollywood and the perils of it
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: Suzanne Redfearn delivers another gripping page-turner in her latest novel, a story about a young mother's fight to protect her children from the dangerous world of Hollywood. Faye Martin never expected her husband to abandon her and their three children . . . or that she'd have to struggle every day to make ends meet. So when her four-year-old daughter is discovered through a YouTube video and offered a starring role on a television series, it seems like her prayers have been answered. But when the reality of their new life settles in, Faye realizes that fame and fortune don't come without a price. In a world where everyone is an actor and every move is scrutinized by millions, it's impossible to know whom to trust, and Faye finds herself utterly alone in her struggle to save her family. Emotionally riveting and insightful, NO ORDINARY LIFE is an unforgettable novel about the preciousness of childhood and the difficult choices a mother needs to make in order to protect this fragile time in her children's lives. ~amazon.com

Review: No Ordinary Life is a peek behind the curtain into how Hollywood works behind the scenes. Even more so about the perils on child actors. Not only for themselves but for their families. It doesn't always end horribly but it doesn't always end well either. Faye is pretty much at the end of her rope. Her no good husband left for a job and hasn't returned in 5 months. She's got 3 kids to support and is finding it difficult. She leaves the only life her kids have known and moves to LA to live with her mom in a condo. It isn't long before her youngest daughter is discovered because of a YouTube video. At first it all seems spectacular and the answer to a lot of their problems but what Faye finds out is "more money, more problems". The long hours on set, even with the breaks, makes it hard on the other 2 kids, especially the oldest, Emily. Molly is adorable and precocious. She's not sure what to think when she lands the part on a hit tv show, The Foster Band, but she does what is asked for the most part. She's 4, some days are better than others. At first Faye is a bit wide-eyed when it comes to the glamours of being on a tv set but when she realizes that things aren't always what they seem, she begins to doubt her decision to have Molly in the business. Since Faye's never done this, she doesn't know how to assert her authority.

Frankly, Faye is a bit of a pushover. She's let her husband, Sean push her around for years and is letting the Producer/Director of the show doe the same since he's making googly eyes at her. He's a pretty good catch but she hasn't quite learned that someone always wants something from you in this business. I can understand why it would be hard to separate real-life from the fiction they create on a show but Faye has to buck up pretty quick in order to protect Molly. Molly is adorable and while she might be the catalyst for the novel, I wouldn't say she's the focus.

The story is mainly Faye's but it really does effect everyone in the family. Especially when her loose cannon husband decides to show back up. Her mom, whom I loved and saw as the voice of reason most of the time, warned her that he was only back for one thing. Fortunately, Faye learns this very quickly and tries to protect the kids as much as possible. Sean being back in the picture allows Emily, who at 12 is already wise to game playing, pit her parents against each other. Emily can't see that her dad really doesn't have her best interest at heart because she idolizes him and she's pissed off at her mom. If she was honest with herself with the self-realization a 12 year old doesn't have, she'd realize it's because she's not the center of the world anymore, Molly is at the moment.

Ms. Redfearn does a great job of showing what it's like to work on a successful TV show and the demands not only on the actor or actress in the show but the entire family. The stress of being famous isn't easy either, especially in this day and age of paparazzi. She makes Faye sympathetic and aggravating at the same time because let's be honest, you can see a little of yourself in her.

If you've ever been interested in Hollywood and enjoy a good family drama, then you will want to pick up No Ordinary Life.


Monday, February 1, 2016

Julie's Review: The Swans of Fifth Avenue

Author: Melanie Benjamin
Series: None
Publication Date: January 26,2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Pages: 368
Obtained: friend
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 3.75/5
Bottom Line: Illuminating look at New York society from the 1960s
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary:  The New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator’s Wife returns with a triumphant new novel about New York’s “Swans” of the 1950s—and the scandalous, headline-making, and enthralling friendship between literary legend Truman Capote and peerless socialite Babe Paley. Of all the glamorous stars of New York high society, none blazes brighter than Babe Paley. Her flawless face regularly graces the pages of Vogue, and she is celebrated and adored for her ineffable style and exquisite taste, especially among her friends—the alluring socialite Swans Slim Keith, C. Z. Guest, Gloria Guinness, and Pamela Churchill. By all appearances, Babe has it all: money, beauty, glamour, jewels, influential friends, a prestigious husband, and gorgeous homes. But beneath this elegantly composed exterior dwells a passionate woman—a woman desperately longing for true love and connection. Enter Truman Capote. This diminutive golden-haired genius with a larger-than-life personality explodes onto the scene, setting Babe and her circle of Swans aflutter. Through Babe, Truman gains an unlikely entrĂ©e into the enviable lives of Manhattan’s elite, along with unparalleled access to the scandal and gossip of Babe’s powerful circle. Sure of the loyalty of the man she calls “True Heart,” Babe never imagines the destruction Truman will leave in his wake. But once a storyteller, always a storyteller—even when the stories aren’t his to tell. Truman’s fame is at its peak when such notable celebrities as Frank and Mia Sinatra, Lauren Bacall, and Rose Kennedy converge on his glittering Black and White Ball. But all too soon, he’ll ignite a literary scandal whose repercussions echo through the years. The Swans of Fifth Avenue will seduce and startle readers as it opens the door onto one of America’s most sumptuous eras. ~amazon.com

Review: The Swans of Fifth Avenue is a story about the infamous rich of the New York society scene in the 60's and 70's. It is a peek into the world that few of us know and understand. Frankly, for this reader, hope to never understand. There was no depth to these women and they were so desperate for any real connection they never once thought that Truman would use them.

Truman himself is pretty despicable, even if his writing is genius. He's dark inside and it's only a matter of time before it seeps out to his exterior. His is so focused on fame and appearances that he loses sight of what might matter most in the end. He wants fame at any cost and in the end it cost him everything.

Babe Paley and the rest of the "Swans" are beautiful and skilled at being just that, beautiful. They are searching for something outside of the protective bubble, they don't see the wolf in sheep's clothing coming after them.  Babe, the most revered of the "swans" is perhaps the loneliest. Her marriage is strictly for the newspapers. She has no connection to her children, because they were all apart of the show as well. Her husband, is a cad. He can't keep it in his pants and really doesn't care how it affects his wife. Babe buries her self in the proverbial sand. Even if one of his affairs is with someone you would consider her closest friend.

While I loved how Melanie Benjamin told the story, the story itself didn't woo me. Maybe it was the fact that it was rich people problems or the fact that these women just didn't seem real to me. Their problems were worrying about what to wear to the next gala and where to lunch to be seen.  It is obvious that this is a passion project for her and the amount of research that went into the background of her story.

I have a friend who will be getting this book because she loves this time period in New York society. I can't wait to get her opinion on it.