Thursday, May 28, 2009

review: the post-war dream by mitch cullin

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Hollis and Debra married not long after Hollis returned from the Korean War. Now they’re living out their retirement years in Arizona where it has unexpectedly snowed. That’s when another unexpected thing happens: a regular doctor’s checkup reveals that Debra has cancer. Hollis always thought he’d go first since his mother is a widow twice-over, but now he must face losing his life’s love. As the two struggle through Debra’s treatment, Debra encourages Hollis to reflect on his life both through writing his autobiography and asking to again be told the story of how they met.

The Post-War Dream goes back and forth between present-day and the past as Hollis remembers his time in Korea. The flashbacks are seamlessly woven into the present-day happenings which makes the transition for the reader very smooth. Cullin does an excellent job telling this heart-breaking story. The characters are very real and the settings are beautifully described.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Doubleday.

giveaway: the night gardener

My very first giveaway! The lovely people at Hachette are letting me giveaway five copies of The Night Gardener by George Pelecanos. This sounds like a really great book; I'll be reviewing just as soon as I get through the other books I have to review!

Publishers Weekly says this about The Night Gardener:
"Starred Review. Pelecanos (Drama City) delivers a dignified, character-driven epic that succeeds as both literary novel and page-turner. In 1985, the body of a 14-year-old girl turns up in a Washington, D.C., park, the latest in a series of murders by a killer the media dub "The Night Gardener." T.C. Cook, the aging detective on the case, works with a quiet, almost monomaniacal, focus. Also involved are two young uniformed cops, Gus Ramone, who's diligent, conscientious and unimpressed by heroics, and Dan "Doc" Holiday, an adrenaline junkie who's decidedly less straight. Fast forward 20 years. Detective Ramone, now married with kids of his own, investigates the murder of one of his teenage son's friends. The homicide closely resembles the earlier unsolved Night Gardener murders. Holiday, now an alcoholic chauffeur and bodyguard, follows the case on his own and tracks down Cook, long retired but still obsessed with the original murders. While the three work together toward a suspenseful ending, Pelecanos emphasizes the fallacy of "solving" a murder and explores the ripple effects of violent crime on society."

Now for the rules. Enter by leaving a comment to this post with your email (if I can't contact you, you can't win). You can gain additional entries by leaving separate comments letting me know that you're a follower or have posted a link to the giveaway on your site. The deadline to enter is 11:59pm Pacific on June 20. Winners will be selected at random. Since this is from Hachette the winners must have mailing addresses in the US or Canada; no PO Boxes.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

review: privilege by kate brian

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Privilege gives us the story of Ariana, a character from Kate Brian’s other series, Private. Ariana’s no longer at Easton with the other Billings girls; she’s been convicted of murder, but her family’s money has made it possible for her to stay out of prison and instead be locked up in some sort of mental institution for female criminals. That’s where she meets Kaitlynn, who tells her all about the rich girl who got Kaitlynn locked up. Ariana decides to escape and seek revenge for Kaitlynn on that girl, a Texan named Briana Leigh. She poses as Emma, who was friends with someone Briana Leigh went to camp with. Kaitlynn knew enough details for Ariana to be able to convince Briana Leigh she’s Emma.

There were so many twists in this story. Just when I thought I had it all figured out another twist came about. I usually don’t find spin-offs as good as the originals, but in this case I actually like the spin-off better. Some may doubt that Ariana’s plan would’ve gone as smoothly as it did, but I believe someone that manipulative could hatch the perfect plan. The one part I did have trouble with was the clothes shoplifting. I just don’t see how cutting out the security tag would work. It seems like a large hole would be left. I would’ve preferred Ariana somehow snatching the device used to remove the tags.
library book

Saturday, May 23, 2009

review: guyaholic by carolyn mackler

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Wow. That was my first reaction to this book. I didn’t realize that today’s YA involves such powerful storylines that are this masterfully done. (Guess I’ve been reading too much Gossip Girl, Private, and the like—while enjoyable, they’re nothing like this!) Throughout Guyaholic, I felt I was right there with V to experience all her ups and downs.

V was born to a teenager who moved them from place to place and, of course, boyfriend to boyfriend before leaving V with her parents so she could pursue yet another man. Even though V’s had stability for a while with her grandparents, she still experiences many letdowns at the hands of her mother. Promises are made and quickly broken, which causes V’s grandparents to become concerned enough to suggest therapy. V’s unhappy relationship with her mother is likely why she sets about sabotaging her relationship with Sam, the one guy who made it past her two week limit, before he “abandons” her when it comes time for both of them to leave for college.

I quite enjoyed the ending. It actually came as a surprise to me. Somehow I just expected a different outcome to her road trip; although part of the ending is sad, V does get the chance for a happy ending.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Candlewick.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

review: misery loves cabernet by kim gruenenfelder

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I've been waiting for this book ever since I stumbled across A Total Waste of Makeup in the library. Thankfully, it did not disappoint.

Misery Loves Cabernet still has Charlie writing advice for her great-granddaughter and working for Drew, but some of the other things have changed. She’s in a relationship (with Jordan from the last book), but he’s in Paris for a movie and the actual status of the relationship is a little vague. Enter Liam, a friend of her sister’s and an old crush. Charlie convinces Drew to take a part in Liam’s movie because it will eventually shoot in Paris. But will working with Liam lead to more than just a crush?

I completely loved the pieces of advice Charlie writes to her future great-granddaughter as well as Jamie’s (her brother) articles on men. My favorite piece of advice is:
“You are beautiful.
Okay, so in your head, you just said to yourself, ‘No. I’m not.’ Didn’t you?
You are beautiful.
Wait, no, shut up….You are beautiful.
Now, how would your life be different if you actually believed me?”
I purchased this book.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

review: gray apocalypse by james murdoch

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Here we find aliens plotting to destroy Earth with an asteroid. The aliens have been at work for decades on this plan and have even recruited humans to assist them. Fortunately for mankind, a few people start to figure out what's happening while others betray the aliens.

Gray Apocalypse was another one I had trouble getting into initially, but I'm I glad I stuck with it. My bias for a good love story definitely shows here; my interest picked up once the two potential couples started interacting. The way all the plot pieces intertwine to create the resolution made this book well worth my time.
Review copy provided by the author.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

review: regina's closet by diana m. raab

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This memoir/biography is done in an interesting format: there are reflections from the author as well as pieces from the journal the author's grandma started before committing suicide. Raab does an excellent job interweaving her grandma's story with her own.

Regina's story is fascinating. She could've excelled at so many things, but the world wars tore apart her family and derailed her plans. Regina planned to be a doctor and was well on her way to meeting that goal despite being essentially orphaned. Her reflections reveal her to be a very determined young woman who didn't let the hardships she faced get her down. So what circumstances caused her to take her own life after all those years of survival? While Regina's Closet doesn't provide that answer, it does give many insights into Regina's life.
Review copy provided by the publicist, FSB Associates.

Monday, May 11, 2009

review: private by kate brian

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The tale told in Private is a familiar one: a girl gets to go to an exclusive private school on scholarship and has trouble fitting in. In this case, Reed actually had trouble fitting in at her previous school due to her embarrassment about her mother’s pill addiction. At least at her old school, Reed excelled academically; here, she’s behind in the curriculum. So Reed decides to become friends with the older, popular girls of Billings House. As always seems to be the case with this type of story, the popular girls have fun hazing Reed. By the end of the book, however, Reed appears to be well on her way to being accepted.

Although it’s been done many times with slightly different angles, this series looks like it’ll have some interesting twists. While I do wish this first book had developed the four characters (Reed, Noelle, Ariana, and Thomas) I believe will have the biggest parts, the characterizations that are there rang true for me. I appreciated that although many of the books packaged by Alloy Entertainment excessively name-drop designer labels, this book, which is told from Reed’s perspective, did not. It would’ve been inappropriate since Reed shouldn’t be able to recognize them. The scene with Reed trying on clothes with the Billings Girls was well done in this regard. There were enough pluses with this book to make me want to know more, which is important for a successful series. I look forward to finding out if the Billings Girls are scamming Reed or have accepted her.
library book

Thursday, May 7, 2009

review: the monsters of templeton by lauren groff

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If today’s soap opera scribes were crafting tales like this, the shows might not have cancellation possibilities looming. This is soapy goodness.

I found it a little hard to get into this book initially--there’s a lot of jumping to different storylines and I didn’t yet have a connection with any of the characters. I’m glad I stuck with it because I did become invested in the plot as I kept reading. I really do think writers for soap operas could learn from this book because it’s a paternity mystery done right. Although I had my suspicions about who Willie’s father was (and I was proven correct at the end), there was none of the infuriating “just reveal the father already” that soap viewers frequently experience. There’s a nice build to the discovery of which ancestor had the affair that makes Willie a Templeton three times over.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Hyperion.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

review: beyond my control by stuart r. mccallum

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In his autobiographical book, McCallum candidly shares his struggles with a teenage eating disorder and the epilepsy that developed around the same time. Just to get the proper diagnosis was an ordeal in itself. This is an interesting story though I wish McCallum had told a little bit more about how the experiences his family, employees, and customers had in regards to his epilepsy; I think they would have interesting stories to tell as well.
Review copy provided by the author.