Friday, August 27, 2010

review: still missing by chevy stevens

With her incredible debut, Chevy Stevens has created a haunting tale that sticks with you. Still Missing unfolds in an interesting way: Annie, a kidnap victim, visits a psychiatrist at the beginning of each chapter, but this psychiatrist never speaks. After the present-time introduction (which thankfully keeps reassuring you that Annie somehow escapes), the story jumps to the time when Annie was still held hostage by “The Freak,” a man who rapes her, impregnates her, and controls every aspect of her life (including when she can use the bathroom) during that horrific year. Despite the time jumps, the story is still told in a linear, cohesive manner.

Still Missing was one I could not put down. When I reached the part where Gary (the one working the case) asks Annie who would benefit from her kidnapping, I immediately knew who was behind it but Stevens brilliantly didn’t reveal the truth at that time. The plot advanced and kept me on edge as I hoped my suspicions would be wrong. The terrible truth behind the kidnapper's original motive is frightening; it is the worst thing imaginable. Still Missing is by far one of the best books I’ve ever read.
Review copy provided by the publisher, St. Martin’s Press.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

giveaway: she's gone country

In my review of Jane Porter's She's Gone Country, I said I found Shey selfish. For the chance to find out if you agree, enter the giveaway courtesy of Hachette! Three will win.

Here's what Publishers Weekly had to say:
"Porter (Easy on the Eyes) injects some western flavor in this story of starting over and romance in the over-30 set. After ex-supermodel Shey Darcy's husband leaves her for another man, she packs up her three teenage sons and moves from New York City to the Texas ranch where she grew up, and while Shey easily finds work as a catalogue model and reconnects with her two older brothers, the divorce weighs on her mind and two of her boys can't make the transition, particularly 14-year-old Bo, who suffers from depression. Naturally, Shey's return to her old stomping grounds prompts the inevitable reunion with an old flame, former pro bull rider Dane Kelly. Porter's depiction of small town Texas is convincing, but her protagonists are too flawless to be believable, and their happy ending comes after too little conflict. It's a nice diversion that could use a bit more complexity."

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 (one extra each for the blog and Twitter) or have posted a link to the giveaway on your site. The deadline to enter is 11:59pm Pacific on September 11. 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.

review: she's gone country by jane porter

When her husband proclaims he’s always been gay, but thought he could make it work with her (only now he can’t), Shey hightails it back home to Texas with their three sons. But is Texas really the best place for this New York family? Shey is a model and there aren’t many modeling jobs available in Texas. Her three city-raised, private-schooled boys also have to adjust to life on a ranch. The youngest embraces the new life, but the older boys struggle. One is the victim of bullying, which only makes his depression worse. Even so, Shey is determined to stay in Texas; and once she finds that her high school crush is in town and single, she’s even more motivated to make this new life work.

Shey struck me as incredibly selfish. To pull her sons from everything they know (including their father) because she’s having difficulty accepting that her going to be ex-husband now lives with a man reeks of selfishness. When her oldest gets the courage to say he wants to live in New York, Shey backs out of the discussion while her internal monologue is all about how she will miss him and how she can’t lose him. She also seems to give little thought to how the distance between the boys and their father exacerbates their already strained relationship. Furthermore, although Shey states she has no problem with gay men, it came across as protesting too much. It seemed that, despite her words, she really was more upset that the cheating was with a man than the cheating itself. It would’ve done much for Shey’s character had she done more than simply state that John wasn’t trying to hurt the boys when attempting to get them to accept their father’s relationship with Erik.

While I had little sympathy for Shey, I appreciated how she helped Delilah, a classmate of her son, Bo (the one with depression). I really liked Delilah and wish she’d been a bigger part of the story. At least her brief appearances inspired Shey to stop being so selfish! Not connecting with Shey didn’t really detract from my enjoyment of She’s Gone Country though because so many of the other characters were great. I really liked how individual each of the boys was. However, I found the ending to wrap things up far too neatly. While it’s nice to get a happy ending, I felt the book ended better without the one and a half page epilogue.
Review copy provided by BookSparksPR.
ARC Review

review: john belushi is dead by kathy charles

If all the celebrity gossip shows and magazines are any indication, many people are Hollywood-obsessed. High school student Hilda and her friend Benji are as well, but with a bit of a twist—they only care about the dead celebs. No one understands their obsession, so they hang out even though Hilda thinks Benji’s morbidity has started to go too far. She begins to pull away when she doesn’t like how Benji treats Hank, an old man who lives in the apartment where a silent film star committed suicide. Instead of seeking out old Hollywood haunts with Benji, Hilda tries to coax Hank into the world. She discovers somewhat of an ally in Hank’s neighbor, Jake, who just happens to be attractive and age-appropriate. But all three of these relationships put Hilda in a difficult place. With Benji, she has no idea how to help a boy whose death obsession is heading toward cruelty. That situation ramps up when Benji obtains a gun. Then there’s Hank, who Hilda may have pushed too far when she got him to attend a movie screening at a cemetery. He’s harboring a secret from World War II—a secret that Jake, a screenwriter, wants to know. Hilda fears Jake is only using them for his next screenplay, but he’s also her chance at romance.

Hilda is one amazing girl. Although she has a hard time connecting with anyone (she survived the car crash that killed her parents and should’ve definitely gone into therapy), she shows a huge amount of empathy for someone she met only briefly. When Hank reached out, she was there. Hilda was always my reason for reading; had John Belushi is Dead been about someone like Benji, the macabre nature of the book would’ve been nearly impossible to take. And yet, I felt Benji should’ve been developed more. The extreme he goes to at the end might have made more sense if there’d been more background. The quick succession of trauma at the end, though not unexpected, and yes, very emotional, simply jarred a bit too much.
Review copy provided by the publisher, MTV Books.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

giveaway: follow me

Thanks to Hachette one lucky person will win a copy of Follow Me by Joanna Scott!!

Check out the Reading Group Guide. Publishers Weekly had the following to say:
"A granddaughter sifts through her grandmother's rich and mysterious life in Pulitzer finalist Scott's latest. As a teenager in 1946, Sally Werner experiences something between rape and seduction at the hands of her cousin, resulting in a baby, family shame and her running away. Each time Sally feels her past catching up with her, she finds a new town and assumes a new identity, eventually graduating from taking the charity—and more—of others to supporting herself. A doomed love affair, a cat and mouse chase with the brutal father of a second child, and a longing for safety and freedom keep Sally moving until she settles down and her daughter, Penelope, inherits her restless energy. As the novel, and Sally's life, draws to a close, we get a final look at this remarkable woman through the eyes of her granddaughter, also named Sally, and through the younger Sally's once absent father, Abe. A retelling of the archetypal American journey from a female perspective, this rendering of the perils and triumphs facing women is imbued with a questing spirit."

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 (one extra each for the blog and Twitter) or have posted a link to the giveaway on your site. The deadline to enter is 11:59pm Pacific on September 4. 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.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

giveaway winners: deadly fear

Congratulations to clschaan, Cheryl F., Wise Owl, Benita, and holdenj, who are the winners of Deadly Fear!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

review: vintage veronica by erica s. perl

Veronica is a fat teenager (hey, she was blunt about it, so I can be too!) with a unique fashion sense inspired by vintage clothes. As Veronica puts it, she’s “the one who wears those ridiculous pouffy skirts from the fifties that look like she hacked off the top of an old prom dress (because actually, I did).” Veronica is also a bit insecure, which probably stems from her relationship with her parents, who are divorced. Veronica always felt closer to her dad, but he moved away after the divorce. Her mom is a fitness fanatic who encourages Veronica to lose weight, which makes Veronica all the more insecure about her appearance. So it’s not that surprising when Veronica trusts the wrong people at her summer job at a consignment shop. And yet, I completely understood why Veronica would easily trust at times while being cautious at others. Her character (and the others in Vintage Veronica) came across as very authentic. I quite enjoyed reading how she tested out her newly forming relationships and discovered that everyone has insecurities and secrets.
Review copy provided by BookDivas.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

giveaway: secrets to happiness

Thanks to Hachette you have the opportunity to win one of three copies of Sarah Dunn's Secrets to Happiness!!

Here's the link to the Reading Group Guide. The review from Publishers Weekly:
"Dunn charts several New Yorkers' lives in this snappy novel. The spotlight most often falls on Holly Frick, a 35-year-old divorcée whose egg walls are taking on the consistency of tissue paper as we speak. A writer whose cheeky first novel bombed, Holly now resides low enough on the TV totem pole to be cranking out after-school dreck with her gay pal Leonard. Meanwhile, her best friend, Amanda, is cheating on her husband, and Holly adopts Chester, a cute little dog with cancer whose hopeful approach to life mirrors Holly's. While Holly's love life follows a formula-familiar trajectory, Amanda's romantic flailing ensnares Holly, and Chester's destiny takes an unexpected turn that means big changes for both of them. Although clichés pop up (the supergay friend, a $1,200 purse splurge), the energetic and witty prose speeds along the narrative. It's smarter than the usual single-in-the-city fare, and funnier, too."

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 (one extra each for the blog and Twitter) or have posted a link to the giveaway on your site. The deadline to enter is 11:59pm Pacific on September 4. 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.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

review: the particular sadness of lemon cake by aimee bender

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is an odd one. Just before Rose’s ninth birthday, her mom does a “practice round” with the birthday cake. That’s when Rose discovers she can taste her mom’s unhappiness in the cake, which makes eating it unbearable. Unfortunately for Rose, the tasting of emotions doesn’t apply just to her mom’s cake; it’s every food and everyone. If it weren’t for highly processed packaged food, Rose would have difficulty keeping herself from starving. (There’s actually a funny scene where Rose has to give a presentation on something she values that her grandparents didn’t have and Rose picks Doritos.) She winds up in the hospital because of an over the top reaction to her mom’s food. As Rose gets older, she is better able to cope with her mysterious ability; she also discovers she’s not the only one in the family. From here, the book gets even stranger as her brother, Joseph, starts disappearing (like “poof” disappearing, not the typical teenage not saying where he’s going to be). While there wasn’t a satisfactory explanation for any of this, Aimee Bender is an excellent writer who crafted an intriguing plot. Aiding in my reading pleasure was that mixed in with the strangeness of the family was the simple tale of Rose growing up.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Doubleday.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

author guest post: holly christine

Author of the fabulous Tuesday Tells It Slant, Holly Christine was kind enough to address the issue of keeping a journal (something that Tuesday did, although she altered her past by creating new journal entries).

Keeping a journal at times seems unnecessary. We have cameras on our phones and text messages and Facebook to look back on, right?

My parents were preparing to sell their home a few years ago and I was faced with these old diaries (one had a lock on it and a unicorn on the cover). I started to read through them and became flooded with emotion. I could see the changes in my life in my own handwriting. It was powerful and entertaining all at the same time. I had forgotten what a gossip queen I was in fifth grade.

Back then, I wrote with the idea that recording my life in pen was important and timeless. For some reason, the emotional impact is much more extreme in pen. It’s quicker too. It’s a release, a physical release that stays on paper for as long as you like.

This moment of reading my old diary entries inspired the basis of Tuesday Tells it Slant. I kept thinking that it would be easy to erase these old memories that I had. Perhaps I wanted to forget that I fought with my younger brother. Couldn’t I just rip the page out? I had forgotten about that fight up until the moment I saw it in my diary.

Throughout the book, Tuesday changes her old diary entries, eliminating all painful memories. But in the process, she loses her self; her soul seems halfhearted and confused. Her diary, as it turns out, is like an extension of her existence.

But all entries aren’t necessarily painful memories. My mother kept a journal of her pregnancy with me and recently gave it to me. It is written in pen on regular notebook paper and it is a tradition that I plan to continue.

A diary is a gift to your future and your present soul. It can inspire the future while recording the present and is like an old photo of your emotions: timeless.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

giveaway winners: tempted by a warrior and sand in my eyes

Congratulations to the three winners for each title (six in all)! Enjoy your new book.

Tempted By a Warrior: holdenj, Cheryl F., and Melanie L.
Sand in My Eyes: ChristyJan, karenk, and Debs Desk

Friday, August 6, 2010

review: the days of our lives by ken corday

In The Days of our Lives, Ken Corday tells the touching story of how his father created the long-running daytime soap and how his mother took over the show when her husband succumbed to cancer. Although Betty Corday had her own radio experience, assuming the helm of Corday Productions was quite the feat, especially, at that time, for a woman. Impressively Betty convinced “NBC that running this show—keeping it on budget and growing more productive—was not much different from running a successful household, which she had done for the past twenty-five years.” The picture Corday paints of his parents shows them to be determined, intelligent, and basically people I would’ve liked to work for (I work in television).

After giving the history of his family and how Days of our Lives got its start, Corday discusses his own path to executive producer (a role he didn’t really want) and briefly touches on the tragic story of his brother, Chris. He reveals that Chris is the reason the show has not had a character commit suicide despite having many outrageous storylines.

There is one particular outrageous storyline that has left me as a viewer with questions and is addressed in the book. That one is the case of the Salem Stalker. Corday claims that then-head writer Jim Reilly knew all along that all the killed off characters would be alive on the island of “Melaswen” (that would be New Salem backwards), but I have doubts as I recall things like Jack’s organs being donated. If the plan was always to have everyone be alive, it seems the “deaths” would have been carried out in such a way as to leave open the possibility that everyone was alive. Furthermore, as Corday admits, the fired actors (with the exception of matriarch Frances Reid) were not told they would be rehired for the reveal which means there was no guarantee they would return. But as Corday is still executive producer and doesn’t want to burn any bridges with people he may work with again, I understand his going along with the official story.

The mix of family history, show history, and the happenings of the present-day ratings game and budget cuts is perfect. Even as a viewer of more than a decade, I learned quite a bit about Days of our Lives. I consider this a must read for fans of the genre and those interested in the history of television.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Sourcebooks.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

review: georgia's kitchen by jenny nelson

After a terrible review (as the result of her idiot boss seducing the reviewer’s barely legal daughter), head chef Georgia is out of a job and quickly finds herself without a fiancé as well. Seems the coke-addicted entertainment lawyer she intended to marry (even though she had a few doubts) feels their commitment drove him to drugs. Smartly, Georgia doesn’t buy it and encourages the split; it’s time to focus on her career and starting a restaurant of her own. It was incredibly refreshing to read a book with a female protagonist who didn’t fall apart and who didn’t do the happily ever after (yes, she does briefly flee to Italy for work, but her job options were minimal in New York); Georgia indulges romantically, but the restaurant becomes her focus as soon as the fiancé is out of the picture. One of my favorite moments is a conversation between Georgia and her soon-to-be business partner, Bernard. Here’s a portion of it:
She slid into the booth next to him. “So here’s the thing. In Tuscany, I learned, well, I learned a lot. But the most important thing I learned, other than it’s okay to be alone, I mean, alone as in no fiancé, no boyfriend, no lover—"

“I get it. Alone. Go on.”

“Is that it’s okay to ask for help. You know? I learned to rely on my coworkers, my colleagues, my boss, for help. Teamwork, Bernard. That’s what it’s all about, at least what it should be about. Are you with me?”
And as that passage illustrates, debut novelist Jenny Nelson does an excellent job creating dialogue that sounds just like I’d expect a 33 year old to talk to a former coworker she considers a friend. I also enjoyed the dynamic between Grammy (Dorothy’s deceased mom) and Dorothy (Georgia’s mom) and Georgia. Those relationships were very telling, authentic, and pertinent to the development of the characters.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Gallery Books.

giveaway: deadly fear

As part of the tour for Cynthia Eden's latest, Deadly Fear, Hachette is allowing me to giveaway five copies!

You can check out my review here. Below is the publisher description:
FBI Special Agent Monica Davenport has made a career out of profiling serial killers. But getting inside the twisted minds of the cruel and the sadistic has taken its toll: She's walled herself off from the world. Yet Monica can't ignore fellow agent Luke Dante, the only man who ever broke through her defenses.
Luke has the unique ability to put victims at ease . . . professionally, he and Monica made a perfect team. Now they're reunited to catch a murderer who uses his victims' deepest, darkest fears for sport - but their investigative skills aren't enough. Luke and Monica will have to face the secrets from their past, the ones that terrify them the most, if they are to have a future together.
But can they catch a killer whose weapon is . . .

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 (one extra each for the blog and Twitter) or have posted a link to the giveaway on your site. The deadline to enter is 11:59pm Pacific on August 21. 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.

review and tour: deadly fear by cynthia eden

Cynthia Eden’s new romantic suspense series begins with two sexually, but not really romantically, involved FBI agents trying to track down a serial killer in the normally quiet town of Jasper, TX. This killer is particularly cruel as he stalks his victims until discovering their biggest fear and then uses that information to torture and kill them.

Deadly Fear’s serial killer plot kept me on edge, but I did have a few grips with the story. I was willing to buy Monica as an agent as it made for good drama (her past makes it somewhat suspect), but there were various details the author should have been able to easily check for accuracy, such as having the Romeo Killer throw Mary Jane into the backseat of his Corvette. Such things are forgivable, but distracting. My biggest complaint was how long it took for me to really become invested in the book. For the first 100 or so pages, Agents Monica Davenport and Luke Dante spent far too much time pursuing sex with each other than doing what they were in town to do—finding the killer. I did, however, thoroughly enjoy the hunt for the killer who ends up being dubbed “The Watchman.” As his character became more fleshed out, I tried to connect him to someone who had already come on scene. Since the killer likes to play games, it was entertaining to play my own trying to guess who he was.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Forever.

There's a giveaway with this tour! Check out the following sites for more reviews, chances to win, and content from the author.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

review: tuesday tells it slant by holly christine

Tuesday Tells It Slant; the title is actually a sentence and pretty much sums up the story: Tuesday has lived a slanted reality ever since a traumatic event (to say what would be a spoiler). Doing so has prevented her from being close to the ones who truly care about her. Tuesday isolates herself while maintaining a false reality of reasons for not being in touch with her family and a long-time friend. These are the people who know the truth that Tuesday cannot face.

As the story unfolds through present day events (right off the bat Tuesday loses her job) and diary entries from the past, the traumatic event is slowly revealed. It is rare that I come across such excellent use of the unreliable narrator. One would think diary entries would be accurate and honest, but Tuesday has created an entirely new past for herself. Holly Christine did an excellent job with both this element and at piquing my interest as to what the truth was (one of my theories wasn’t too far off).

Only one thing drove me crazy while reading the book: Tuesday’s name. Her parents named their twin daughters Monday and Tuesday Morning. During a job interview early in the book, her soon to be boss questions her name. Tuesday says she was born on a Tuesday and her parents were stoners (a reasonable answer considering the boss doesn’t know about the twin), but the second part, at least, is a lie. So why did her parents name their daughters after two days of the week? Were the twins born near midnight so that one was born on Monday and the other on Tuesday and their parents thought it’d be cute considering their last name? No explanation is given and I desperately wanted one.
Review copy provided by BookSparks PR.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

review: unspeakable by laura griffin

This post contains affiliate links.

The second book in Laura Griffin’s Tracers series again features the true crime novelist Troy Stockton—a man with connections to the Delphi Center and a predilection for getting involved with women who have some connection to investigating crime. This time his affections fall to FBI agent Elaina McCord who has been stationed in small town Texas even though she requested to work in a big city, preferably on the east coast. But here she is trying to track down a serial murderer even though the locals don’t want her there or believe (at least at first) that there even is a serial murderer. Troy ends up forcing his way into the investigation; and although Elaina doesn’t exactly appreciate his help/interference, she does end up falling into bed with him.

The murder story is excellent and Griffin makes interesting use of the geocaching phenomenon, but the romance was a bit iffy. I just wasn’t quite sure that Elaina would get involved with Troy given that she wasn’t interested in a relationship with anyone in Texas and that she generally seemed annoyed by Troy though he proved helpful at times. Fortunately, the romance is a minor storyline while the murder investigation is at the forefront. The killer’s identity came as a shock; it was easy to figure out who he was married to, but his identity was quite the puzzler.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Pocket Books.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

giveaway winners: private [audio] and the particular sadness of lemon cake

Enjoy your new books!!

Private [audio]: Cheryl F. and Debs Desk
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: Beth(bookaholicmom) and Laura Hartness