Saturday, May 31, 2014

review: multiple exposure by ellen crosby

Multiple Exposure opens with photojournalist Sophie returning to her London home from an assignment in Iraq.  She is horrified to find blood and signs of a struggle.  Her husband, an operations officer with the CIA, is missing.  Sophie believes Nick was abducted, but others believe Nick’s on the lam after killing the boss of an oil company with interests in Russia.  Sophie doesn’t believe Nick’s a murderer, but eventually she leaves London for Washington, D.C. where she takes a job as a photographer with a private company that gets hired to work an event displaying Faberge eggs.  That’s where Sophie overhears an assassination plot.

The first book in Ellen Crosby’s new Sophie Medina series is full of intrigue, but the separate plots mean Sophie has a little too much going on given her amateur sleuth status.  Even so, Sophie was believable in her ability to piece so much together due to her tenacity and the skills she developed while working in warzones.  The pacing of the story was excellent until the end when everything wrapped up very quickly.  It was a less than satisfying ending to a story that had all the key elements of a great political suspense novel.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Scribner.

Friday, May 30, 2014

review: summer state of mind by jen calonita

Summer State of Mind is Jen Calonita’s second book to take place at Whispering Pines summer camp, but it works great as a standalone because the characters of the first book, Sleepaway Girls, have become minor characters as they are now the counselors and there’s a new group of campers.  This time around the focus is on Harper McAllister, a rich girl who gets deemed “Camping Barbie,” due to her numerous hair products and extensive designer wardrobe.  Harper gets sent to camp as punishment after racking up a huge credit card bill.  She had big plans to spend the summer with her snobby friends, but now she’s forced to spend a month without her phone.  Her twin brother and a boy from school are there too, but it’s her newfound friend Lina who makes camp tolerable when all the other girls in their cabin make fun of her.

Summer State of Mind was a super-fun read.  The camp really comes alive through Calonita’s great descriptions of the lake, cabins, and activities.  The characters were painted well too; I could really picture Harper, Lina, Ethan, and Kyle plus some of the minor characters.  The slow changes that Harper experiences through the novel were developed nicely with her making some missteps along the way rather than being immediately embraced.

About the audiobook:  Eileen Stevens sounded exactly like I thought Harper McAllister should!  Stevens read with the mixture of excitement and dread that seemed perfect for Harper’s character.  Jen Calonita’s Summer State of Mind was published in April 2014 by Blackstone Audio and runs 7 hours.
Review copy provided by Audiobook Jukebox.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

review: cure for the common breakup by beth kendrick

After an air disaster lands flight attendant Summer Benson in the hospital, her pilot boyfriend breaks up with her! She soon checks herself out of the hospital and heads to Black Dog Bay, DE which has been dubbed “the best place in America to bounce back from your breakup.” The entire town is into the theme with business names like Retail Therapy (clothing boutique), The Whinery (bar), and the Jilted Café. Summer is immediately welcomed by the residents with the exception of a notable few, such as the gorgeous, unattached mayor whose roses she mows down while swerving to avoid a turtle. That scene sets the stage for the hilarity that will surround Summer as she recovers in Black Dog Bay, a town that is so fun I hope it really exists somewhere.

All of the characters in Cure for the Common Breakup are outstanding, but I seriously want Summer to be my best friend. Especially after she told town curmudgeon Hattie and her estranged sister Pauline, “This is like the plot of a Sweet Valley High novel.” I was thinking the same thing. Summer has her flaws and sometimes overreacts (that’s how she ended up in Delaware in the first place), but she’s also got a fantastic mix of snark and spunk that makes her worthy of a book of her own (Summer was previously introduced in The Week Before the Wedding).
Review copy provided by BookSparksPR.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

review: one flight up by susan fales-hill

India, Esme, Abby, and Monique went to Silby together although Monique was not part of the group due to her hostility toward India, who is biracial. Race plays an important role in One Flight Up though the focus is on relationships and infidelity. Fittingly, India is a divorce lawyer and the only group member who isn’t married though she is in a serious relationship with a Frenchman. Or at least it was serious until Monique reintroduced India’s ex-fiancé to her life. India split from Keith when he cheated on her, but now that he’s marrying someone else she can’t help but remember what a great lover he was. This is where One Flight Up derailed. It was easy to understand the motives behind everyone else’s infidelity, but the intelligent and rational India wound up falling for Keith’s lies even though he proved himself to be a jerk many times over.
3/5 Review copy provided by the publisher, Washington Square Press.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

review: s.e.c.r.e.t. by l. marie adeline

Even before her alcoholic husband died, Cassie knew it was time to move on with her life. Despite finding a new place to live and getting a waitress job, Cassie was stuck romantically. Feeling she wasn’t ready, she turned down her attractive boss, who took up with another one of the waitresses. Now 35, Cassie hasn’t had sex in five years and it’s time she does something about that. When one of her regular customers accidentally leaves behind a diary, Cassie discovers an organization called S.E.C.R.E.T. which helps women like her fulfill their fantasies. From there, L. Marie Adeline takes the reader into an erotic world as Cassie gains some much needed self-esteem.

Although Cassie’s sexual adventures are a big part of the novel, the story is more about her awakening and self-discovery. With S.E.C.R.E.T. forcing her to spell out her fantasies, Cassie actually has to start making decisions instead of just allowing her life to go along passively. It’s a coming-of-age tale that nicely incorporates steamy sex into a well-written plot with great characters.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Broadway.

Friday, May 23, 2014

review: the here and now by ann brashares

After a plague devastates her time, Prenna, her mother, and a number of others time travel back to 2010. Now in 2014, Prenna is a high school student who likes to push the rules set by the community of time travelers. For reasons that aren’t initially explained, Prenna’s father didn’t come with the group and that makes her a bit of an outcast. The community leaders come down on her, which only causes her to question their motives even more, especially after an encounter with a homeless man who seems to know a lot about her circumstances. The man insists she must stop a murder that occurs in a few days. Of course, Prenna needs help to do that and that’s where Ethan comes in. Ethan also knows more about Prenna than he should and soon the two are working together to stop the foretold murder and change the course of history. The Here and Now is a quick, engaging read with a thought-provoking plot though the ending is predictable.
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

review: love and other foreign words by erin mccahan

Love and Other Foreign Words follows uber-smart high school student Josie who is so smart she’s enrolled in college classes as a sophomore. Josie is well-versed in translating language, not just the Spanish and French that she studies in school, but other “languages” like teenage girl; love, though, is not one of those languages. When Josie’s older sister introduces her fiancé, Josie cannot understand the attraction and immediately sets about splitting up the pair. Meanwhile, Josie is working on her own first love story.

Josie is definitely the sort I would’ve wanted to hang out with back in high school. She gets things wrong, but her heart is in the right place. The friendships and family dynamics are great with a diverse group of personalities. It was also fantastic to see a young adult novel with parents who guide Josie without being overbearing. And because of that, the message of Love and Other Foreign Words comes through beautifully.
Review copy provided by BookSparks PR.

Friday, May 16, 2014

review: the one & only by emily giffin

At 33, Shea has never left her small Texas hometown. She’s also only ever worked at one place—the university from which she graduated. Walker University is the center of her life, but others in her life start pushing her toward something more after the death of Shea’s best friend’s mother who was also the wife of Walker’s football coach. Soon Shea has traded in her university job for one as a newspaper reporter covering the Walker beat and has ditched her Walker football alum boyfriend for a different Walker football alum albeit one now playing for the Dallas Cowboys. But Shea still isn’t happy. She ends up spending a lot of time with Walker’s football coach, you know, the father of best friend. Shea has a bit of a crush and the feeling is mutual. That in itself was a huge turn-off, but The One & Only had a lot of other ickiness going on too. While not going into spoilery details, it’s horrible to think that anyone would be so wrapped up in protecting the game of football that crimes are hushed up. It probably does happen, but it was disturbing that all of the characters were pretty ok with it. With Shea being a milquetoast character and there being nothing in the plot to explain why Shea and Coach Carr fall for each other, The One & Only was dissatisfactory.
Review copy provided by BookSparks PR.

review: petals on the wind by v.c. andrews

With Lifetime following up their excellent rendition of Flowers in the Attic with Petals on the Wind, it was time for me to revisit that book as well. Although no one gets locked in any attics, Petals on the Wind is definitely another twisted book in the Dollanganger series. It seems Cathy has not only inherited her mother’s looks, but also her moral compass. She is out for revenge, but first Cathy has to pursue her ballet career while trying to forget her feelings for her brother by sleeping with a bunch of other men. I remembered much of the plot, but had forgotten some of the finer details like how Cathy was positioned as the seductress of all these men even though they raped her. Reading as an adult, I can’t help but think V.C. Andrews had some major issues with men given the repeated themes of rape and men being attracted to girls. Early on, Chris says in reference to Paul, “’I really don’t like the way he keeps looking at you, Cathy. His eyes follow you about all the time. Here you are, so available, and men his age find girls your age irresistible.” Such sentiments continue with Cathy noting her husband Julian’s affairs with young girls. While shifting from the horrors a mother can inflict to those of men, Andrews also seems to have found an editor for Petals on the Wind. Cathy uses “golly-lolly” just once and pokes fun at herself for doing so. And while the descriptions continue to be far more “tell” than “show,” the prose is not nearly as overwrought as it was in Flowers in the Attic.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Pocket Books.

In promotion of the new Lifetime movie, Pocket Books has a Facebook contest starting on May 20. The prize is a DVD of Flowers in the Attic plus the two books.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

review: deadly promises by sherrilyn kenyon, et al

Deadly Promises contains three short stories: Just Bad Enough by Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dianna Love, Leave No Trace by Cindy Gerard, and Unstoppable by Laura Griffin. All three are part of a series by their respective authors, but they work well as standalones or introductions to the series (of the three, I had only previously read Laura Griffin’s Tracers). The stories followed the general romance formula with suspense added in for some extra excitement. I thoroughly enjoyed Just Bad Enough and Unstoppable as they featured strong women in plots that well-developed with multiple layers. Leave No Trace was also a good read, but the romance seemed incredibly forced with neither being very interested in the other.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Pocket Star Books.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

review: don't even think about it by sarah mlynowski

After their high school gives out flu shots, a group of sophomores find themselves with the power of telepathy in Don’t Even Think About It. With vaccines being a hot topic, Sarah Mlynowski could’ve taken this young adult novel in an interesting direction but it wound up being about the consequences of teenagers being able to read the thoughts of others. Some found out things they didn’t want to know while others used it to cheat on tests. It was all fairly expected without any commentary on the repercussions or how this botched batch of vaccines got released.
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Friday, May 9, 2014

review: the $11 billion year by anne thompson

In the $11 Billion Year, Anne Thompson goes in depth into the movies made in 2012. As she states in the introduction, that $11 billion sounds good, but the movie business is actually on the decline with more people watching at home rather than the theatre. Thompson addresses changes like 3D movies and the switch to digital (which has caused some small theatres to struggle) and video on demand. She also delves into some of the popular festivals like Sundance and SXSW. Those topics were fascinating, but my interest waned when Thompson detailed some of 2012’s popular movies—it seemed unnecessary to describe movies like Life of Pi and Django Unchained. Another detriment to the book was Thompson’s use of false present tense. Instead of making the writing active, the use of present tense for events that happened in 2012 was awkward and distracting.
Review copy provided by the publisher, It Books.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

review: desert heat by elizabeth reyes

Their first meeting at speed dating doesn't go well, but Damian is drawn to Bethany once he sees her onstage a few nights later. From that point on, they're almost inseparable despite Damian's job as a detective and the three jobs Bethany works to support herself and two younger siblings back home. Desert Heat starts off slow with loads of evasive back story setup, but really picks up after Damian drives Bethany home from work. The start of the romance was sweet, but Damian soon proved himself to be jealous and possessive. If Bethany (who also had a jealous streak) talked to a male coworker or didn't disclose all the details of a phone conversation, Damian got all sorts of pissed off. Yes, Bethany was keeping a secret, but his reaction to her desire for some privacy was ridiculous. As for Bethany's secret, the pay off simply wasn't there. Despite Desert Heat being written in third person that goes into the head's of both main characters, her secret isn't revealed until it's revealed to Damian. That was frustrating in itself, but then the secret turned out to be something that was pretty easily explained and only became a big deal because she kept it secret.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Atria.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

review: beyond belief by helen smith

Beyond Belief continues the story of amateur sleuth Emily Castles though the novel works fairly well as a standalone. This time around Emily is enlisted to solve a crime before the crime even happens. You see, a physic convention is being held in Torquay and there's a prediction that someone will drown. A number of people are warned to stay away from the water, but of course, few heed the warning.

As with Invitation to Die, there are a large number of characters who get introduced in rapid succession. Some do little more than add a bit of humor while others play a pivotal role in the murder mystery. Unlike with Invitation to Die, it takes a long time for anyone to actually die causing the first half of Beyond Belief to drag. Once the story actually gets going, Beyond Belief becomes quite interesting with Emily herself becoming a target for the killer.
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

review: president me by adam carolla

In President Me, comedian Adam Carolla takes on America. Prompted by fans saying he should run for president, Carolla has laid out his campaign platform in this book. Carolla seems to have given a lot of thought to his presidency (perhaps more than some who run for office) and addresses many hot topics with his brand of hilarity. Carolla gives his opinions on airport security (which he deals with more than most people), the department of education, and the minimum wage among others. My favorite part has to his new terror chart for Homeland Security. No more confusing colors; we’ll now use the Baldwin brothers with Daniel meaning a threat is imminent and William meaning nothing noteworthy. Even though his opinions cause uproar, Carolla doesn’t back down in President Me. He advocates for showing identification to vote and making buffets illegal for anyone weighing over 200lbs who also makes less than $35,000/year. You may not agree with Carolla on all (or any) of his ideas, but President Me is a quick, entertaining read that should at least get you laughing when he shares personal anecdotes like his wife not fixing her car paint scratch until Nils Lofgren was going to see it.
Review copy provided by the publisher, It Books.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

review: the other story by tatiana de rosnay

The Other Story follows a stunningly successful first-time novelist who was inspired to write after learning about his father’s secret identity. I expected a life-altering bombshell, but it was pretty mundane as far as family secrets go. Without a big reveal, it was absolutely unbearable to spend so much time with the atrocious main character. It often left that Tatiana de Rosnay was trying very hard to write a literary novel with a despicable lead in the vein of some of the great authors of centuries past; she failed. Nicolas is simply the worst sort of human. He uses his newfound fame to cheat on his girlfriend (who is also unlikable, so you don’t feel bad for her) with fans. Nicolas narrates in great detail why a cheater should use a BlackBerry instead of an iPhone and shows no shame as he exchanges explicit text messages with a married woman. As a result, I felt no sympathy regarding his struggle to write a second novel. When the attempt at redemption came at the end of The Other Story, it was far too late.

Click here to check out an audio sample of The Other Story from Macmillan Audio.
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Friday, May 2, 2014

review: moving target by j.a. jance

The ninth book in J.A. Jance’s Ali Reynolds series finds Ali and Leland traveling to England to meet some of his family while B. Simpson and the rest of High Noon look into the case of a teenage boy they helped put away for hacking his school’s computer network. In England, Ali uncovers that Leland’s estranged father was actually murdered. As she tries to sort out the details there, Ali and Leland are called back early as the case involving the teenage hacker escalates dramatically.

While I understand that series readers often want to delve into the lives of supporting characters, the subplot involving Leland seemed wholly unnecessary and disrupted the main plot too much. I would’ve rather stayed with the conspiracy surrounding hacker Lance’s GHOST program. Other detractions had to do with the writing. The characterization of Ali felt off as sometimes she seemed decades younger than she actually is and there were many repetitive phrases (if one more person took the “proffered handshake,” I might have screamed).

About the audiobook: Moving Target by J.A. Jance is narrated by Karen Ziemba. Ziemba’s narration enlivens the story through her use of tone and inflection though it would’ve been helpful for a little more distinction in character voices. The audiobook was published February 2014 by Simon & Schuster Audio and runs 10.5 hours.
Review copy provided by Audiobook Jukebox.