Friday, August 31, 2012

review: imperfect bliss by susan fales-hill

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A reality show called The Virgin upheavals the Harcourt family in Imperfect Bliss.  Family relations are already pretty strained when third child Diana announces that she will star as The Virgin and filming is to start immediately.  The varied reactions illustrate how the family dynamic has always been.  The father has little to say and retreats to his academic world while the mother is beyond thrilled for she has grand marriage plans for all four of her daughters.  The eldest, Victoria, is fairly disinterested like her father while Charlotte, the youngest, is concerned with grabbing some of the attention for herself.  Bliss, who is the novel’s protagonist, is absolutely appalled at the notion of finding a mate through a reality show.  Of course, she has relationship issues of her own having been forced to take her young daughter and move back in with her parents after catching her husband in an affair.  

Although the parallels to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice are clear, Imperfect Bliss is enjoyable in its own right.  Susan Fales-Hill could’ve done a bit more with it though.  It was clear from the beginning that race (the Harcourt girls are half-British and half-Jamaican) would be a major factor, but then there were only passing references until the end.  Much of what’s important in this blend of comedy and drama doesn’t happen until the last half which left little room for it to push beyond the superficial.
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

review: going to the bad by nora mcfarland

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With Going to the Bad, Nora McFarland once again places TV news photographer Lilly Hawkins right in the middle of a major news story.  In the first chapter Lilly experiences one of my big work fears (I work in TV news as well)—she hears her own address over the scanners.  Knowing that her boyfriend is likely home, Lilly races to the scene where she discovers her boyfriend is safe, but her uncle has been shot.  Just as she’s done in the previous books of the series, Lilly uses her work resources to find out exactly why someone shot her uncle.  

The fact that Lilly works at a TV station is not just an incidental plot element; it plays a major role, which means it’s imperative that the details are right.  McFarland shows that although she no longer works in TV news herself, she has kept up with the industry changes which she seamlessly works into the book, such as when Lilly explains why she’s the chief photographer without any photogs.  Furthermore, the mystery element is excellent.  Going to the Bad has plenty of twists with loads of drama and comedy.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Touchstone.

giveaway winner: creep and freak

Carol M is the winner of Creep and Freak by Jennifer Hillier.  Congratulations!

Friday, August 24, 2012

review: more than you know by penny vincenzi

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More Than You Know is about Eliza, Eliza’s brother Charles, Charles’s acquaintance from National Service Matt, and Matt’s sister Scarlett along with all their various family, friends, lovers, and coworkers.  Yes, there really are that many characters (the hardcover version has a cast of characters of nearly three pages at the front of the book) in a novel primarily about Eliza.  Much of the 585 pages could have been cut if the focus had stayed on Eliza who was my only real interest anyway.  Her story of going against familial and societal expectations by embarking on a career and marrying a man not of her social class was far more interesting than the many tangents about the lives of Charles and Scarlett.  Those subplots had no bearing on the main plot.  Due to all these expendable characters and Penny Vincenzi’s frequent use of pronouns, the story could sometimes be hard to follow, especially since I was listening to the audio version.

About the narrator:  The fact that Rosalyn Landor is British (like most of the characters) really set the scene.  She also made it easy to tell if the speaker was male or female, but it was difficult to tell which male and which female at times.
Review copy provided by AudioGO.

Friday, August 17, 2012

author guest post: kristen wolf

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The author of The Way, Kristen Wolf, shares some thoughts about the book below.  She's planning a trilogy!

I’ve always envisioned THE WAY as taking place in multiple time periods. In fact, when I first started writing the book, I alternated the story of Anna/Jesus in ancient Palestine with a modern-day story involving a female archeologist.

By the time I was about halfway through, both stories began to take on such lives of their own that each really demanded their own time—their own book. So, rather than conjoining the stories, I divided them, with the intention of writing the more modern-day story as the second book in the trilogy. In that book, we would learn a lot more about the history and life-cycle of The Way and its supporters.

In the third book, I intend to bring the practice of The Way from the modern day and into the future. By doing so, I hope to offer an alternative vision not only of spirituality, but also of the future shape and nature of our world. 

Really, the ideas behind the practice of The Way are eternal, in a sense, given that they reflect life itself. So to me it seems very natural, and exciting! to contemplate exploring how these philosophies might impact our world throughout time.

review: the way by kristen wolf

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Kristen Wolf’s The Way is an intriguing take on the well-known biblical story of Jesus.   In Palestine in the year 7 A.D., young Anna is frustrated by the value placed on sons.  When her brother dies at birth, her father is devastated and cruelly acts out.  Because Anna is often mistaken for a boy, Yosef determines he can get away with selling his daughter to a group of shepherds.  Although they initially doubt the wisdom in bringing along Anna, who calls herself Jesus after her dead brother, the shepherds soon realize that her skills regarding cooking and animals are beneficial.  But she is eventually separated from the shepherds and ends up with a separatist society of women who practice “The Way.”  From there, many rumors circulate about the mysterious person called Jesus.  With knowledge of the New Testament framing the story, The Way is a captivating tale; however, some of the characters are a little one-dimensional.  Given his large role, Peter should have been developed a bit more.
Review copy provided by Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

review: i've got your number by sophie kinsella

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Poppy Wyatt is in a bit of a pickle.  Her friends had been trying on her family heirloom engagement ring when the fire alarm sounded.  When they were finally allowed to re-enter the hotel, the ring was missing.  To top off her bad day, her phone is stolen right out of her hand.  In a bit of luck, she finds a different phone in the garbage and declares it her own.  In typical Sophie Kinsella fashion, hilarity ensues as Poppy not only tries to hide that she’s lost the ring (she bandages her “burned” hand) but deals with the man whose assistant abruptly quit and tossed the phone that Poppy found.

Poppy is the perfect heroine:  flawed, but trying; wonderful, but insecure.  She holds nothing back in her narration, even filling in more of the story through the use of footnotes (which she uses because she was impressed by them in her fiancé’s book).  Poppy cracked me up repeatedly as she tried to sort out her own mess while also attempting to help the man who had been just a stranger on the phone before he became so much more. 
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

giveaway: creep and freak

I loved both Creep and Freak by Jennifer Hillier.  Thanks to Simon & Schuster, you could be the lucky winner who gets to enjoy them both.

Publishers Weekly had the following to say about the books:
"In Hillier's agreeably frightening debut, a psychological thriller, beautiful Sheila Tao, a highly regarded professor of social psychology at Seattle's Puget Sound University, has been having an affair with her volatile teaching assistant, Ethan Wolfe. Sheila, who's spent three years in Sex Addicts Anonymous, a fact known only to her trusted therapist, wishes to end the affair since she's about to marry Morris Gardener, a successful Texas financier who's deeply jealous. Ethan, however, has his own plans for Sheila and uses his considerable talents, which include raising the art of disguise to new levels, to carry them out. When Sheila suddenly disappears, Morris, rebuffed by the skeptical police, hires an equally skeptical PI to hunt her down. While unlikely coincidences abound (a stolen cuff link conveniently turns up) and the characters distinctly lack any redeeming spark, the book holds its secrets well and packs a concluding wallop."

"Readers are advised to read Hillier’s frightening 2011 debut, Creep, before this so-so sequel, which features many of the same characters. In the previous book, Abby Maddox, the girlfriend of serial killer Ethan Wolfe, went to prison for nearly cutting the throat of PI Jerry Isaac, a former Seattle policeman. In the year since that assault, the authorities have been trying to link Maddox to Wolfe’s murders. With both the mental and physical scars still all too fresh, Isaac is horrified to learn of a new horror from his former Seattle PD colleagues. After strangling a young woman with a zip tie, someone carved “Free Abby Maddox” into her torso. The search for the killer inevitably connects to the previous crimes. Efforts at humor (“There was one simple reason Jerry didn’t like cemeteries. They were full of dead people”) do little to enhance a familiar serial killer story line."

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 25. Winner will be selected at random. Since this is from Simon & Schuster the winner must have a US mailing address; no PO Boxes.

review: freak by jennifer hillier

The story of a serial killer who kidnapped his sex addict lover that started in Jennifer Hillier’s Creep continues in Freak, but with a different perspective that keeps the story fresh.  Having nearly been killed by the serial killer’s girlfriend, Abby Maddox, in Creep, Jerry Isaac is now retired from the Seattle Police Department; however, his former partner calls him in when bodies with the words “Free Abby Maddox” are found.  Despite not wanting to be involved, Jerry soon finds he’s once again in the middle of the hunt for a serial killer.

Freak is filled with plenty of twists.  As Jerry points out when the murders are first considered solved, “It was all just…way too easy.”  And sure enough, there’s plenty more to be revealed before the killings stop.  The thrills and the danger just keep coming.  What Hillier really nails is the little details (although I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that Corvettes do not have backseats) like the description of Highway 99 (also known as Aurora Ave) in one of the seedier parts of Seattle.  Those seemingly insignificant things are what push a novel from great to excellent.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Gallery Books.

Friday, August 3, 2012

review: the next best thing by jennifer weiner

A protagonist doesn’t have to be likable (see How Perfect Is That by Sarah Bird), but then she needs to be someone you love to hate.  Ruth was simply annoying with her lifelong insecurities stemming from a car accident that killed her parents and scarred her face.  I couldn’t help but feel that Ruth saw slights even when there were none simply because of her lack of self-confidence.  Ruth became even more exasperating when the show she’d based on her life with her grandmother got greenlit and then she acted completely naïve to the entire process even though she’d worked on other TV shows.  Although Ruth was clearly supposed to be sympathetic, she and her grandmother lost my respect entirely when they were rude to a store clerk. 

There were many inaccuracies and inconsistencies throughout The Next Best Thing.  These didn’t do much damage to the plot, but were incredibly distracting.  It shouldn’t be too hard to remember the ages of characters, what they’re wearing, or what their housing situation was from just a few pages ago.  Also, with The Golden Girls being so pivotal in the shaping of Ruth, a little research on the show (although The Golden Girls was never much for consistency in storylines itself) would be recommended.  The Next Best Thing is entertaining despite the editing issues and annoying characters, but it does come across as Jennifer Weiner’s revenge for her failed show, State of Georgia (Cady’s weight loss in the book and Raven-Symoné’s real life weight loss are a little too similar to be coincidence).   
Review copy provided by the publisher, Atria.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

review: kill me if you can by james patterson & marshall karp

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Kill Me If You Can begins with the murder of a man who stole some diamonds.  From there, the diamonds are stolen again and the chase is on.  As I read Kill Me If You Can, I couldn’t figure out who I was supposed to root for since every character was morally bankrupt.  Michael seemed the intended hero, but it was hard to get behind a diamond thief who was sleeping with his professor.  As is typical of Patterson novels (this one is written with Marshall Karp), the plot moves quickly which is what kept me reading even as I was disgusted by characters like the father and daughter who are romantically involved.  The incest scenes have no real point other than titillation thus making them completely unnecessary and thoroughly sickening. Kill Me If You Can finally caught my interest with the revelation of The Ghost’s identity.  That twisted things enough to make it more than just bad guys chasing a slightly less bad guy.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Little, Brown and Company.