Sunday, July 28, 2013

review: big girl panties by stephanie evanovich

Holly was never thin, but her weight increased significantly after her husband died. Logan is a health-conscious personal trainer to top-notch athletes. So neither was thrilled to find they’d not only been bumped from first class, but were sitting next to each other on the plane. But of course, this is their meet cute—Logan offers training to Holly and she actually takes him up on it.

For a book billed as a romantic comedy, Big Girl Panties had some incredibly sad moments as Holly opened up to Logan about her personal life. While Holly had some faults, Logan was entirely lacking as both hero and romantic interest. He was very attractive, but definitely not a nice guy—he only became interested in Holly when she started talking to other men and lost enough weight for him to deem her acceptable.

The book was also a bit uneven because of the insertion of Logan’s best friend Chase (an MLB player) and Chase’s wife Amanda, who befriends Holly and tries to make a love match for her to spark Logan’s jealousy. If that had been the sole purpose of Chase and Amanda, it would’ve worked; however, Stephanie Evanovich includes a number of scenes centered around the love life of Chase and Amanda. This semi-plotline seems an afterthought meant to appeal to the Fifty Shades crowd (Chase is into spanking his partners).
3/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, William Morrow.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

review: changing lanes by kathleen long

Bad news is said to come in threes and that proves true for Abby Halladay. As she arrives in her hometown, she finds out her editor is canceling her newspaper column, her newly purchased house has termites, and her fiancĂ© has left the country because he’s “bored.” As Abby spends the next month living with her parents and younger siblings while trying to straighten out her life, she comes to realize through viewing old photographs that it’s “the heart of the shot” that matters most.

Changing Lanes is a cute story that relies on a few romance novel tropes (the troubled boy next door/high school crush plays heavily here) which causes it to be a bit predictable although still enjoyable. The town residents weren’t well-developed (I never could figure out what Mona’s deal was supposed to be), but the family dynamic, which was more important, was. And while there are sad moments, Changing Lanes is ultimately uplifting.
4/5
Review copy provided by the author’s publicist.

Monday, July 22, 2013

review: the time of my life by cecelia ahren

The Time of My Life is another brilliant work of magical realism by Cecelia Ahren. In this novel, Lucy’s been struggling for three years—her live-in boyfriend broke up with her (though she claimed it was the other way around) so she had to move to a tiny apartment where her cat isn’t allowed and she was fired for being drunk on the job (she again lied to family and friends about the circumstances). Lucy is a liar, but I love her for it. Lucy actually follows through with my plan of telling coworkers I’m a smoker in order to get more work breaks! Although Lucy is fairly content with her life, her family wants more for her so they sign her up for an appointment with her Life. And soon he’s forcing her to reveal all the lies she’s told. The Time of My Life is both funny and heart-breaking as Lucy bears all.
5/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Friday, July 19, 2013

review: always watching by chevy stevens

Psychiatrist Nadine Lavoie from Chevy Stevens’s previous novels gets to tell her own story in the poignant Always Watching. (It’s not necessary to read the other books, but you should just because they’re amazing!) As it turns out, Nadine has quite the history of her own which she’s forced to explore when a suicidal patient who’s a former cult member is admitted to the hospital. Nadine’s impulse is to transfer Heather to a different doctor when she finds out Heather’s cult is the same one Nadine’s mom joined with Nadine and her brother, but she sticks with Heather. That decision leads to Nadine uncovering terrifying memories from her own childhood cult experience.

Nadine is a well-developed character. Although estranged from her family, they are present in the book and help the reader understand who Nadine is. And when a romantic relationship develops for Nadine, it is done in keeping with her character.

Emotions are strong in Always Watching and the unfolding of events is highly suspenseful. Stevens drops hints that allow the reader to guess at what will happen next while also holding back just enough to keep the reveals coming.
5/5
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

review: all my restless life to live by dee detarsio

Elle is a writer/producer for a low-budget soap opera, so she needs a computer for her job. When hers dies, she asks to borrow her deceased dad’s laptop, but her mom bizarrely refuses saying that it’s part of a shrine to him. Elle takes it anyway and then starts believing her dad is trying to communicate through it. This leads to Elle fainting and going to the hospital where she meets an attractive doctor.

Although the setup was good, the characters, including Elle, weren’t fully developed which made it difficult to become invested. Elle’s relationship with Quez (the doctor) was so instantaneous that it didn’t quite make sense when they felt compelled to really work through their issues. And while I could see that Dee DeTarsio was trying to create parallels between Elle’s life and the soap opera scenes she wrote, the connections weren’t clear enough to actually work. And those soap opera scenes went on for way too long, especially considering how little they ended up having to do with All My Restless Life to Live.
3/5
Review copy provided by BookSparks PR.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

review: prisoner 88 by leah pileggi

After hearing the story of a 10 year old boy who was incarcerated in Idaho in 1885, Leah Pileggi was inspired to write Prisoner 88. The novel is not a true story, but Pileggi based her story on the research she did regarding what the Old Idaho Penitentiary was like then. In Prisoner 88, Jake is sentenced to five years for the crime of manslaughter. As horrible as it sounds to be a child in prison, Jake’s in a better situation than when he lived with his father—he is fed regularly and another inmate begins teaching him to read. The book is filled with joy and sadness as Jake navigates his new life.

Pileggi relies upon one of my pet peeves—writing entirely in the poor English of the characters. It’s distracting and comes across as an easy way out when trying to set the book in a time and place. And while it’s fascinating to have the story come solely from Jake’s perspective, it creates some nagging questions about the situation that either don’t get answered or are answered very late in the novel. However, the subject itself is captivating.
3/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Charlesbridge.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

review: daddy's gone a hunting by mary higgins clark

Lottie Schmidt has a bad feeling about her husband’s early morning meeting with the daughter of his former boss and she’s right—an explosion kills her husband and gravely injures Kate. With the pair unable to tell their story, they are quickly suspected as having caused the explosion themselves. As Hannah worries about her comatose sister, she also tries to figure out who really caused the explosion while the police investigation leads to revelations about additional murders related to the family antique-reproduction business.

As is typical of Mary Higgins Clark’s books, there are few extraneous characters in Daddy’s Gone a Hunting—everyone eventually comes together although some of the subplots seem unrelated early on. Clark expertly sets it up so that pertinent facts are revealed in such a way that they don’t necessarily seem important—the reader must pay attention in order to put the pieces together, but it is not impossible to figure it out. The suspenseful pacing is excellent with enough twists to keep the reader guessing.

About the audiobook: Jan Maxwell was an excellent narrator. Her inflections were spot-on and the characters were distinguishable. Daddy’s Gone a Hunting runs 9 hours and was released in 2013 by Simon & Schuster Audio.
4/5
Review copy provided by Audiobook Jukebox.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

review: fox forever by mary e. pearson

If you haven’t read The Adoration of Jenna Fox (the first book in Mary E. Pearson’s The Jenna Fox Chronicles trilogy), you really should; however, you can probably pass on the following two books which hardly feature Jenna at all. Note that this review of Fox Forever contains some spoilers for the previous books.

After the car crash that took his life 260 years ago, Jenna’s friend Locke has a new body thanks to BioPerfect. Due to events in The Fox Inheritance, Locke is working with a group called the Network to take down the government. Because Locke still looks like a teenager, he’s supposed to gain the trust of the teenage daughter of a government official. It’s no surprise when Locke and Raine fall for each other, but then Locke learns Raine’s true identity.

Although I found Jenna’s story gripping in the first book, I wasn’t interested in that of her friends in the second or third—Locke just isn’t that interesting. The end of Fox Forever did pick up after a very slow start, but it was too late for me.
2/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Henry Holt and Company.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

review: the viagra diaries by barbara rose brooker

Anny Applebaum writes a senior lifestyle column for the San Francisco Times, but the paper isn’t making as much money as it once did which means Anny’s column is in jeopardy. Additionally, Anny’s daughter has been after her to start dating again after Anny’s husband left her for the housekeeper. After her first date, inspiration for a new column strikes—she’ll write about dating after 60. The column is a smashing success, but Anny’s dating life isn’t as she discovers the men (one in particular) she meets are just like her ex-husband.

The Viagra Diaries started off amusingly, but quickly took a turn toward bitter. When one of Anny’s dates says, “You seem angry with men,” I couldn’t help but agree. Anny drove me crazy by constantly lamenting that Marv hadn’t called her when she never called him. Never. She didn’t pick up the phone even once. And her friends just egged her on by reinforcing the idea that men only see women as sex objects. After numerous chapters of such sentiment, I grew frustrated with all of the characters.
2/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Gallery Books.