Thursday, November 30, 2017

Julie's Review: Camino Island

Author: John Grisham
Series: None
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Publisher: Doubleday
Pages: 304
Obtained: Local Library
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Mystery
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: An ode to book lovers with some mystery
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: A gang of thieves stage a daring heist from a secure vault deep below Princeton University’s Firestone Library. Their loot is priceless, but Princeton has insured it for twenty-five million dollars. Bruce Cable owns a popular bookstore in the sleepy resort town of Santa Rosa on Camino Island in Florida. He makes his real money, though, as a prominent dealer in rare books. Very few people know that he occasionally dabbles in the black market of stolen books and manuscripts. Mercer Mann is a young novelist with a severe case of writer’s block who has recently been laid off from her teaching position. She is approached by an elegant, mysterious woman working for an even more mysterious company. A generous offer of money convinces Mercer to go undercover and infiltrate Bruce Cable’s circle of literary friends, ideally getting close enough to him to learn his secrets. But eventually Mercer learns far too much, and there’s trouble in paradise as only John Grisham can deliver it.  

Review: Camino Island is a great novel for those of us who love books and a shout out to independent book stores. If you are expecting a fast-paced, thriller for this Grisham novel, you won't get it. Now, that doesn't mean there isn't action, there is, but it's more of a slow burn and a mystery more than a thriller. It's a case of "is he guilty, or is he not".  At times, I also wasn't sure who was fully trustworthy.

Mercer is young, out of work and in extreme debt due to her college tuition. She's got no prospective employers and is at the end of her time on campus with no next move. So when she gets a mysterious call with a very unique proposition, she really has no choice but to take the opportunity. Plus it takes her back to the place where the her fondest memories are of her childhood.

It doesn't take long for Mercer to endear herself to the locals since she's pretty much a local herself having spent most of her summers there as a kid. She starts to learn the personalities of the local writers and even gets advice even if it isn't necessarily requested. As she starts to get invited to book signings and dinners, things start to heat up for her. It's the fact that she's genuine that doesn't truly make anyone suspicious but it's not like she's really good at the spy trade. She's also a bit naive as to whom to trust and who to fall in bed with. I mean Elaine even clues her in about Bruce and she still falls for the charm. So whom is using whom?

I haven't read a Grisham book in a while but I was happy to get back to him with Camino Island. It was like putting on a pair of your most comfy pants and settling in for what you know will be a satisfying evening. While this isn't his typical legal thriller it is definitely still engaging and intriguing. I'm happy to know that I can return to his books and know I'm getting a great read.
 Plus he really does give props to the independent and rare book stores out there. So a little bit of an insiders look into the business side of books.

If you haven't read Grisham in a while,  Camino Island is a great way to spend some hours with one of our iconic authors.


Friday, November 24, 2017

Julie's Review: UnSub

Author: Meg Gardiner
Series: UnSub #1
Publication Date: June 27, 2017
Publisher: Dutton
Pages: 368
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4.75/5
Bottom Line: Not for the faint of heart
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab
Summary: Caitlin Hendrix has been a Narcotics detective for six months when the killer at the heart of all her childhood nightmares reemerges: the Prophet. An UNSUB—what the FBI calls an unknown subject—the Prophet terrorized the Bay Area in the 1990s and nearly destroyed her father, the lead investigator on the case. The Prophet’s cryptic messages and mind games drove Detective Mack Hendrix to the brink of madness, and Mack’s failure to solve the series of ritualized murders—eleven seemingly unconnected victims left with the ancient sign for Mercury etched into their flesh—was the final nail in the coffin for a once promising career. Twenty years later, two bodies are found bearing the haunting signature of the Prophet. Caitlin Hendrix has never escaped the shadow of her father’s failure to protect their city. But now the ruthless madman is killing again and has set his sights on her, threatening to undermine the fragile barrier she rigidly maintains for her own protection, between relentless pursuit and dangerous obsession. Determined to decipher his twisted messages and stop the carnage, Caitlin ignores her father’s warnings as she draws closer to the killer with each new gruesome murder. Is it a copycat, or can this really be the same Prophet who haunted her childhood? Will Caitlin avoid repeating her father’s mistakes and redeem her family name, or will chasing the Prophet drag her and everyone she loves into the depths of the abyss?  

Review: Meg Gardiner, is one of my favorite thriller writers and she doesn't disappoint with her latest, Unsub. Meg writes the most kick-ass, strong female leads that you'll read and yet they are so relatable.

It is no different with Caitlin, Cat. She's a fantastic Narcotics cop but she's always been haunted by the case that destroyed her father, the murders by a serial killer called the Prophet. Now, he's back and his murders are getting more frequent and more violent. Since her father was the lead detective 20 years ago, the current team is hoping that she'll be the conduit to getting him to open up about the case.

Caitlin allows herself to be consumed by the case and is close to losing herself. As she starts to piece together the previous murders, she begins to see a pattern but will she crack the code in time? Why has the Prophet zoned in on her? Why have the murders escalated and how they stop him?

This is a book that is fast-paced but it has a depth to it as well. If you are uncomfortable with getting into the mind of a killer, then you will want to stay away. I loved how Caitlin started coming into her own and then came out of her father's shadow. How she put all the pieces of the puzzle together to stop the killer. I'm very excited to see how Caitlin develops in the next book which is out in January!

I can't recommend Unsub enough. I can't do a detailed review because that would ruin the book. 😊😊😊


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Julie's Review: Seven Days of Us

Author: Francesca Hornak
Series: None
Publication Date: October 17, 2017
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 368
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 3.75/5
Bottom Line: A family drama that lacks real drama
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: It’s Christmas, and for the first time in years the entire Birch family will be under one roof. Even Emma and Andrew’s elder daughter—who is usually off saving the world—will be joining them at Weyfield Hall, their aging country estate. But Olivia, a doctor, is only coming home because she has to. Having just returned from treating an epidemic abroad, she’s been told she must stay in quarantine for a week…and so too should her family. For the next seven days, the Birches are locked down, cut off from the rest of humanity—and even decent Wi-Fi—and forced into each other’s orbits. Younger, unabashedly frivolous daughter Phoebe is fixated on her upcoming wedding, while Olivia deals with the culture shock of being immersed in first-world problems. As Andrew sequesters himself in his study writing scathing restaurant reviews and remembering his glory days as a war correspondent, Emma hides a secret that will turn the whole family upside down. In close proximity, not much can stay hidden for long, and as revelations and long-held tensions come to light, nothing is more shocking than the unexpected guest who’s about to arrive.

Review: Seven Days of Us is a novel that most will find comfort in reading because it hits all the right buttons especially coming up on the holidays. I found that I expected much more than what I got but I still enjoyed it. I was looking for something a little more than typical family strife. The Birch family is an interesting clan and they all have their little quirks.

Emma, the matriarch, is hiding something from her family that will impact them all and it only adds to her typical frenetic personality. Andrew, the patriarch, has been living with secret for years and now he's going to have to own up to it in a big way. Olivia, the eldest, is the person to cause this quarantine because of her work in Liberia treating people with a deadly disease. Then there's Phoebe, she's the youngest and none to pleased about this quarantine. She just got engaged and she has a wedding to plan.

Each of them are self-absorbed in their own way and can't really see other's points of view. At times it's infuriating how disconnected all of them are to each other but then I'm sure that's how some families are with grown children.

For a family drama novel, I didn't feel that there was real drama. There were opportunities for there to be more of it but I felt it was all brushed under the rug or resolved too quickly. There weren't any real twists or turns and while yes it's not a suspense or thriller, sometimes you want something out of left field to happen in a family drama that isn't so cookie cutter.

I had high expectations for this one going in and while overall I did enjoy it, I felt there could have been a bit more depth to it. If you are in the mood for novels about family this season, then Seven Days of Us will fill that need.


Monday, November 13, 2017

Julie's Review: The Bear and The Nightingale

Author: Katherine Arden
Series: Winternight Trilogy
Publication Date: January 10, 2017
Publisher: Del Rey
Pages: 336
Obtained: friend
Genre:  Fairy Tale, Fantasy
Rating: 3.75/5
Bottom Line: A gorgeously written novel that evokes a world of Russian Fairy Tales
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: Winter lasts most of the year at the edge of the Russian wilderness, and in the long nights, Vasilisa and her siblings love to gather by the fire to listen to their nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, Vasya loves the story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon. Wise Russians fear him, for he claims unwary souls, and they honor the spirits that protect their homes from evil. Then Vasya’s widowed father brings home a new wife from Moscow. Fiercely devout, Vasya’s stepmother forbids her family from honoring their household spirits, but Vasya fears what this may bring. And indeed, misfortune begins to stalk the village. But Vasya’s stepmother only grows harsher, determined to remake the village to her liking and to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for marriage or a convent. As the village’s defenses weaken and evil from the forest creeps nearer, Vasilisa must call upon dangerous gifts she has long concealed—to protect her family from a threat sprung to life from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

Review: The Bear and the Nightingale isn't really my usual book because it really does fall into the fantasy category even though in essence it's a Russian Fairy Tale. Having said that I'm glad my friend recommended it and sent it to me.

It is the story of family, love, history and of finding your own way. Vasya has been different from her siblings since day one but her mother told her father she would. Unfortunately, her mother isn't around to teach Vasya the ways of her ancestors. So, Vasya through her younger years and as she becomes older has to rely on herself.  Obviously because of this factor she has limited understanding and doesn't understand her place in the current struggle between the old ways and the church. It doesn't help that her step-mother has forbidden practicing the old ways which honored the spirits and protected the village.

Vasya needs to learn to trust herself and her instincts very early. She needs to learn that she is different and that she needs to be the one to protect her family. She will need to rebel against her father, step-father and the local priest. Vasya is a strong, independent heroine that will need to learn how to harness her powers because not everyone will understand.

Ms. Arden has done a fantastic job of creating a unique world that enraptures you from the very beginning. It is one that gets your imagination going and you can vividly see the forest that they live in.

While I did feel that some of the middle of the novel could have been edited down, I loved the climax and very much look forward to the next book, The Girl in the Tower, which is released in December.
If you are a fan of Harry Potter and/or The Lord of the Rings trilogy, you will want to check out this series.


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Poll Results: Next Read

Thanks to those who voted last Friday!  The result is:

I've been looking forward to this one! Stay tuned for a review and the next poll!


Monday, November 6, 2017

Julie's Review: Love and Other Consolation Prizes

Author: Jamie Ford
Series: None
Publication Date: September 12, 2016
Publisher: Ballatine
Pages: 320
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Another winner from Mr. Ford about finding your place in the world no matter your start
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab or Library
Summary: For twelve-year-old Ernest Young, a charity student at a boarding school, the chance to go to the World’s Fair feels like a gift. But only once he’s there, amid the exotic exhibits, fireworks, and Ferris wheels, does he discover that he is the one who is actually the prize. The half-Chinese orphan is astounded to learn he will be raffled off—a healthy boy “to a good home.” The winning ticket belongs to the flamboyant madam of a high-class brothel, famous for educating her girls. There, Ernest becomes the new houseboy and befriends Maisie, the madam’s precocious daughter, and a bold scullery maid named Fahn. Their friendship and affection form the first real family Ernest has ever known—and against all odds, this new sporting life gives him the sense of home he’s always desired. But as the grande dame succumbs to an occupational hazard and their world of finery begins to crumble, all three must grapple with hope, ambition, and first love. Fifty years later, in the shadow of Seattle’s second World’s Fair, Ernest struggles to help his ailing wife reconcile who she once was with who she wanted to be, while trying to keep family secrets hidden from their grown-up daughters. Against a rich backdrop of post-Victorian vice, suffrage, and celebration, Love and Other Consolations is an enchanting tale about innocence and devotion—in a world where everything, and everyone, is for sale.

 Review: Love & Other Consolation Prizes  covered a part of history that I wasn't aware of and I love when books do that. It is amazing that even in the early 1900s people were sold to be servants but I guess I shouldn't be so shocked. Ernest was an orphan after coming over from China and ends up in a home for boys with a benefactor who decides to auction him off  to the highest bidder during the 1909 AYP World's Fair. While the benefactor might not have been enthusiastic about the fact that the highest bidder was a Madam, it turned out to be the best thing for Ernest. It seems his destiny was set in motion on that boat from China.

As Ernest gets settled at Madam Flora's he learns where he's living and how they make their living. It is also where he falls in love with two very different girls but yet very similar. Both of them also love Ernest is a very true and pure sense. Both girls are destined to be strong women who succeed in what they do but one needs Ernest more than the other. I enjoyed that Ernest told his story to his daughter, JuJu, because she was researching the previous world's fair and found out that he had been the young man that was auctioned off. He was hesitant to tell his story because of the way it intertwined with their mother, Gracious. Gracious is in failing health and her memories come and go, she doesn't always remember Ernest but ever since JuJu mentioned the world's fair, she's been talking more about the past.

While most of the story was a bit predictable there were a couple twists and turns that I didn't see coming. I enjoyed the symbiotic relationship between Fahn, Maisie and Ernest. I'm fairly certain both girls knew the other one was in love with Ernest but they didn't fight over him and they didn't let it get in the way of their friendship.

I appreciate the amount of detail that Mr. Ford goes into for both time periods. Especially in earlier parts of the novel it felt that you were really there. I could hear the sounds and could picture the brothel. I could see the spectacles that Madam Flora put on for her clientele. Any author who can transport you to another time period, is well worth reading. Love & Other Consolation Prizes is well worth the read.


Friday, November 3, 2017

Friday Fun

It's that time again, help Julie chose her read for the next week. You have until Sunday at Noon to cast your vote!! *You will need to view the Full Website in order to vote if viewing from mobile*

What Book is Julie's Next Read?

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Julie's Review: The Rules of Magic

Author: Alice Hoffman
Series: Practical Magic #0
Publication Date: October 10, 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 384
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Historical Fiction, Magical Realism
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: It's like meeting up with old friends
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab
Summary: For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man. Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk. From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse. The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy. Thrilling and exquisite, real and fantastical, The Rules of Magic is a story about the power of love reminding us that the only remedy for being human is to be true to yourself.  

Review: Before you dive into The Rules of Magic, you might as well carve out a few hours because you won't want to put it down. Also,  you don't have to have previous experience with the Owens' to thoroughly enjoy this novel. I loved how each of the Owens' siblings grew and changed but they always, always had each other and supported each other.

You have Franny who is the eldest, the most realistic and the most stern. You know she has a good heart but she's far too fearful of her family's legacy. As she begins to experience life it makes her harder and she puts her walls up to protect herself and those she loves. She's definitely the leader of the 3 of them and the one who might sacrifice the most for her siblings.

Jet is the one that everyone gravitates towards because she wears her emotions on her sleeve. She's the sensitive one. She's the one most likely to fall in love and not care what the family "curse" is. She wants to love and be loved. Jet is also the one, whom perhaps loses the most as well. She never seems to get over the loss of her love but maybe that was her destiny.

Vincent is the sibling that is most in-tune with their family legacy and gifts. He never denied who he was and he accepted it early on. While he appears to be aloof, he's sensitive like Jet but pragmatic like Franny. 

Usually when there's a cast of characters, I end up liking one over the others but in this case, I loved them all because they each had unique voices. I loved how they were always there for each other and while they might not have always agreed with each others choices, they were supportive.

What it really boils down to is that no matter what path you follow in life, always be true to who you are and what you are. Learning to accept yourself is the key to a life without remorse. I loved how Ms. Hoffman brought us to the Owens' we love so much from Practical Magic. It definitely makes me want to curl up with them again, plus have a new appreciation for Jet and Franny.

This is the perfect blend of magic, family, love and acceptance. If you are a fan of Alice Hoffman, then you won't want to miss this novel. If you've never read her, what are you waiting for?