Thursday, July 28, 2011

review: creep by jennifer hillier

When Professor Sheila Tao got engaged and broke off the affair with her teaching assistant, her TA promptly started blackmailing her. Sheila doesn’t fully believe that Ethan really kept a video of their escapades, but she also doesn’t want to take the chance that her closely guarded secret will be revealed—she’s a sex addict who fell off the wagon when her father died. But there’s far more at stake than Sheila’s career and future marriage—someone wants Sheila dead.

Jennifer Hillier’s debut is wonderfully suspenseful. The tightly woven plot keeps everything tied together without a bit of extraneous information—every piece is important. Each page kept me on edge even as I started to figure out who the mastermind behind it all was. Creep defines “unputdownable.”
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Gallery Books.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

review: night road by kristin hannah

Slow to start, Night Road is excellent though I recommend having a box of Kleenex handy as the story becomes heart-wrenching about halfway through. Things start off quaintly enough: a girl who bounced around foster homes finally gets some stability when her aunt takes her in at the same time that a “helicopter mom” (who I hated throughout the book—oh how she annoyed!!) tries to deal with her twins growing up. Lexi’s background in foster care keeps her from fitting in with the wealthy students at her new high school, but she soon bonds over books with another outcast, Mia. Mia’s twin is an über-popular football player who Lexi understands to be off-limits (thanks to annoying helicopter mom who overshares about Mia’s one other friend dumping her for Zach). But eventually Lexi and Zach admit their feelings for each other and become seriously involved, much to the chagrin of his parents who’d previously accepted Lexi as family when she was just Mia’s friend. It all changes one night when the trio get drunk at a senior year party and elect to drive home. The contrast Kristin Hannah creates between their mundane lives prior to the party and the grim aftermath made Night Road a powerful and touching story.
5/5
Review copy from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

Monday, July 25, 2011

giveaway winners: prophecy

Sharn3960 and Rebel are the winners of Prophecy. Congrats!

review: it's hard not to hate you

Valerie Frankel lets loose in her new memoir, It’s Hard Not to Hate You. Whether it be the kindergartner who convinced Frankel’s daughter her father wasn’t really dead or the best-selling debut novelist Frankel once gave advice to, Frankel announces to all that it’s hard not to hate you. Despite being all about hate (and some tragic health situations), Frankel keeps it funny. My favorite moments revolved around her magazine writing. One such scene involved an unnamed major magazine that strung her along for two years on an assignment that required numerous interviews and a lot of effort before finally asking her to have it ready for them in a few weeks. Frankel declared she’d never work for them again—not even on threat of death. Who doesn’t want to make such declarations when faced with ridiculous requests? I enjoyed Frankel’s venting.
4/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

review: never knowing by chevy stevens

I am stunned by this one. With Still Missing, Chevy Stevens crafted an incredible debut novel that made me beyond excited to see what she was able to come up with next. Never Knowing is every bit as amazing as Still Missing; both compelled me to keep reading despite the difficult subject matter. In Never Knowing, Sara’s quest to find her birth mother (sparked by her concerns about her family medical history) leads her to a horrifying discovery about her biological father—he is The Campsite Killer—and her biological mother is the only one of his victims to have escaped. If this news wasn’t shocking enough, someone close to her lets the information slip out and the media latches onto the story. And who keeps a close eye on any mentions of The Campsite Killer? Well, that would be The Campsite Killer himself, who soon tracks down Sara.

Every detail of Never Knowing is spot on—from the characterizations of each family member (the gruff father, the weak mother, the favored sisters) to the plot’s development and pacing. Never Knowing is done in a format similar to Still Missing with Sara relaying details to her therapist (an unspeaking character) at the beginning of each chapter before transitioning to the chapter’s current and immediate action. Those openings are a nice reassurance that Sara will make it through to tell her story.
5/5
ARC Review
Review copy provided by the publisher, St. Martin’s Press.

Friday, July 15, 2011

giveaway: how to seduce a scoundrel

Want to win a copy of How to Seduce a Scoundrel by Vicky Dreiling? Thanks to Hachette, two people will!

Here's my review; below is the publisher description:
"Miss Julianne Gatewick is in a pickle. It started when her brother's best friend-for whom she's long nursed a secret tendre-agreed to act as her guardian for the Season, only to seduce her with a risqué waltz. But when the music stopped and the expectant ton waited for Marc Darcett, Earl of Hawkfield, to claim her as his own, he made his disinterest clear. Rather than succumb to humiliation, Julianne does what any self-respecting, recently discarded young miss with a wicked sense of humor would do. She secretly pens a lady's guide to enticing unrepentant rakes . . . and it becomes the hottest scandal sheet in London.

Every honorable rake knows that friends' sisters are forbidden. But suddenly Julienne has a spark of mischief in her eyes that Hawk can't resist. Try as he might to push her away, he spends his days listening for her laughter and his nights dreaming of kissing her senseless. He's always avoided innocents and their marriage-minded mothers, but has the man least likely to wed finally met his match?"

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 6. 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: how to seduce a scoundrel by vicky dreiling

The first book (How to Marry a Duke) in this series from Vicky Dreiling was quite amusing in how it moved something as modern as The Bachelor into a historical romance; unfortunately How to Seduce a Scoundrel doesn’t come close to the well-done plot of its predecessor. With the second book, the focus has shifted to the sister of the duke from the title of the first book. Julianne isn’t nearly as interesting as her brother or her brother’s love interest. Julianne comes across as a child who prefers to gossip with her friends and toy with the hearts of the men who wish to court her. Although How to Seduce a Scoundrel makes clear that Julianne and her brother’s best friend are destined for each other, the two lack a certain chemistry. Dreiling attempts to create the same amusement found in How to Marry a Duke by having Julianne involved in writing a pamphlet to be titled The Secrets of Seduction, but that plot point fails to achieve much more than a way for the girls to gossip even more.
2/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Forever.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

review: the orphan sister by gwendolen gross

Clementine (who I immediately connected with) is the non-identical triplet to the matched pair of Odette and Olivia. It is not just in appearance that they are different. Clementine is single and applying to veterinary school while the two Os are married, pregnant, and have already followed in their father’s footsteps by becoming doctors. The family dynamic was already very intriguing with this, but then Dad disappeared telling only Olivia how to get in touch and specifying that it should only be for something big like the birth of a grandchild. While the focus is on Clementine and the divergent path she took, it was Dad’s secret that overshadowed everything. Dad’s secret turned out to be not the slightest bit surprising, but I was intrigued by it until the reveal. Overall, Gwendolen Gross created a beautifully described, seemingly realistic look at a family full of overachievers.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Gallery Books.

Friday, July 8, 2011

review: withering tights by louise rennison

Louise Rennison’s first Georgia book (Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging) knocked me out, but the subsequent books didn’t live up to the expectations I had after that first excellent book. I hoped that starting a new series with Georgia’s cousin would revitalize Rennison’s ideas, but Withering Tights was only mediocre. That’s not to say it wasn’t amusing at times or that I didn’t enjoy some of Tallulah’s crazy adventures during a summer at a performing arts school, but there wasn’t anything to the plot that made Withering Tights stand out against any number of Young Adult books. For those familiar with the Georgia books, this is the same old crazy language mixed with insecurities about appearance and mad crushes on boys.
3/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

review: save me by lisa scottoline

Save Me angered me in many different ways. First, I was angry simply because many of the minor characters had such a horrible reaction in the fire's aftermath. They were so hostile toward a woman who only did what she thought best that I was turned off and almost stopped reading the book. But I eventually did become interested in what legal ramifications would come out of the fire even if Rose’s so-called great husband did come across as callous when he informed her they’d likely be sued because a child was injured despite her best efforts as an untrained school volunteer. Then I was angry about the completely inaccurate portrayal of TV news (that in-depth package on Rose's past would've maybe made a :20 piece, not the minutes long package that Lisa Scottoline wrote). It is completely ridiculous to think a reporter would put in so much time chasing Rose; regardless of time of day, Tanya was there adding to Rose’s trouble. Finally, I was angry when the plot took a totally outrageous turn that made the school fire into a political murder conspiracy. Until that point the writing was quite good, which was what kept me reading, but Scottoline completely lost me with the out-of-nowhere plot twist.
3/5
Review copy from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.

Monday, July 4, 2011

review: ten things we did by sarah mlynowski

Sarah Mlynowski’s excellent Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn’t Have) brought back a lot of high school memories—not that I ever lied so I could live with a friend! But I’m fairly certain I could come up with at least ten things I probably shouldn’t have done. Here, the biggest one is the lie that gets it all started. When April’s dad and stepmom decide to move, April desperately wants to stay in her hometown and is willing to lie to make it happen. April and her best friend Vi concoct a plan that convinces April’s dad to let her move in with Vi; he believes Vi’s mom will be supervising, but Vi’s mom is actually on tour. Some suspension of disbelief is required here as the girls are only able to pull this off by convincing the two parents that the fake email accounts provided are the only way to contact each other. But other than that bit, this book is absolutely high school. There’s the parties, the outcast who threatens to get them all in trouble, and of course, the first loves (or at least, what they believe is love). Ten Things We Did is a hilarious and heart-breaking (oh, how I cried during the vet scenes) novel that I highly recommend.
5/5
ARC Review
Review copy provided by the publisher, HarperTeen.

giveaway: prophecy

Thanks to Doubleday two people will win Prophecy by S. J. Parris, the sequel to Heresy.

Here's the publisher description:
"It is the year of the Great Conjunction, when the two most powerful planets, Jupiter and Saturn, align—an astrologi­cal phenomenon that occurs once every thousand years and heralds the death of one age and the dawn of another. The streets of London are abuzz with predictions of horrific events to come, possibly even the death of Queen Elizabeth.

When several of the queen’s maids of honor are found dead, rumors of black magic abound. Elizabeth calls upon her personal astrologer, John Dee, and Giordano Bruno to solve the crimes. While Dee turns to a mysterious medium claiming knowledge of the murders, Bruno fears that some­thing far more sinister is at work. But even as the climate of fear at the palace intensifies, the queen refuses to believe that the killer could be someone within her own court.

Bruno must play a dangerous game: can he allow the plot to progress far enough to give the queen the proof she needs without putting her, England, or his own life in danger?

In this utterly gripping and gorgeously written novel, S. J. Parris has proven herself the new master of the historical thriller."

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 July 23. Winners will be selected at random. Since this is from Doubleday the winners must have a mailing addresses in the US ; no PO Boxes.

giveaway winners: beg for mercy and books for dad

Congratulations to the winners!

Beg for Mercy: winnie and chamblinh

Books for Dad: Sharn3960 and kilda

review: love always by harriet evans

As Love Always begins, Natasha’s life is a bit of a disaster. Her business is failing, the bank wants its money back, and her husband has moved out after cheating on her. And now with her grandma’s death, a family secret that will change much of what Natasha thought she knew is about to be revealed; no one ever talked about the circumstances surrounding the death of Natasha’s aunt Cecily at age fifteen, but now certain members of the family will have to face the truth.

Love Always, which is told primarily from Natasha’s perspective but also includes narrative from the summer Cecily died along with Cecily’s diary, is a weighty family drama. While I thoroughly enjoyed Cecily’s diary and how seamless the transitions were, some of Natasha’s sections dragged a bit. It wasn’t that her life was uninteresting; it was that sometimes it was just too much.
4/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Gallery Books.