Friday, May 31, 2013

review: the last camellia by sarah jio

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At the center of the magnificently written The Last Camellia is the exquisite Middlebury Pink, which was the target of flower thieves in 1940. The ringleader of the flower thieves essentially blackmails a young American into taking a nanny job at the estate where the flower is thought to be. Flora comes to love the children, which means her decision to leave the manor comes too late.

In the alternating storyline (taking place in 2000), Addison is keeping a big secret from her husband, whose parents have purchased Livingston Manor in England. To escape the past that recently caught up with her, Addison and her husband fly to England where Addison discovers the old estate holds many secrets.

Sarah Jio’s books (her debut in particular) are masterful. I loved how she wove the two stories together so the alternating chapters often had parallel events. Normally a character like Addison would drive me crazy with her secret-keeping and assumption-making, but Jio wrote it so that I was so enamored I didn’t even notice Addison’s defects. The characters made me care so much that even when I knew I should stop reading, I kept going to find out what Flora and Addison would experience next.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Plume.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

review: everything is perfect when you're a liar by kelly oxford

When a memoir is titled Everything Is Perfect When You’re a Liar, I’m not sure how much of it to believe. Some of Kelly Oxford’s stories seemed just a little too out there. Did the mother she’d previously portrayed as overprotective really let her 17-year-old daughter fly to Los Angeles with a friend and just $200 and cookies as Oxford writes in “Finding Leo?” Furthermore, the adventures in that particular chapter (getting pot from Andy Dick, being maybe almost set up for rape by a guy claiming to be Jackie Chan’s interpreter, and taking off for Las Vegas with some random guys) just didn’t ring true; maybe one of those things happened, but all of them? It seems likely there was quite a bit of embellishment and maybe that was supposed to be the point, but the stories weren’t funny except the first few from Oxford’s childhood. The grandiose tales of Oxford’s narcissistic greatness did amuse when coming from a 12-year-old, but were sad coming from an adult who married well very young and has never had to support herself.
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

giveaway winner: down and out in beverly heels

Congratulations to the winner of Down and Out in Beverly Heels by Kathryn Leigh Scott: Ms Mac! I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did.

Friday, May 24, 2013

review: don't go by lisa scottoline

While he serves as an Army doctor in Afghanistan, Mike’s wife Chloe dies leaving behind their infant daughter Emily. Fortunately, Mike doesn’t have much time left in Afghanistan and his in-laws agree to take custody of Emily during that time. But then tragedy strikes Mike’s unit and he’s guilt-tripped into staying another year. Mikes loses so much during his deployment: friends die, he’s wounded, and Emily starts calling her aunt and uncle “mommy and daddy;” he also discovers through Chloe’s autopsy that she had an affair which sends him into even more of a downward spiral.

Lisa Scottoline really piles it on throughout Don’t Go. Just when you think things can’t get worse for Mike, Scottoline has him make outrageously stupid decisions causing even more problems. Fictional characters have never inspired so much rage in me before now; I hated all of the main characters who seemed to have no impulse control and were only looking out for themselves. Much is made at the end about Emily’s best interests, but the adults involved all behaved selfishly despite Scottoline’s attempt to wrap everything up neatly at the end. The twists at the end were pretty ridiculous, especially the extra dig regarding the partner in Mike’s medical practice. And everything related to Chole’s affair and the conspiracy to cover it up was beyond belief.

About the audiobook: Jeremy Davidson (Army Wives) does a good job with the male voices, but his attempt at Danielle’s (Chloe’s sister) French accent was awful. I don’t think I would’ve hated her as much if the accent wasn’t so annoyingly pretentious. The audiobook was published by Macmillan Audio in 2013 and runs 11 hours.
Review copy provided by Audiobook Jukebox.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

review: the s-word by chelsea pitcher

After Angie caught her boyfriend and her best friend together on prom night the entire school began calling Lizzie, the pastor’s daughter, “slut.” They wrote it on her locker and scratched it into her car. Not long after that Lizzie killed herself. Then the words “suicide slut” appear around the school in Lizzie’s handwriting along with some of her diary entries that point to some of her tormentors. Although Angie had stopped speaking to Lizzie, she decides to look into Lizzie’s suicide. Her journey is heart-wrenching as Angie discovers how much Lizzie never told her. And it’s not just about Drake on prom night; there’s another bombshell that Angie almost can’t believe, but handles fairly well. The S-Word tackles a few difficult subjects, but doesn’t get preachy. The high school characters seem real and react in understandable, if not always likable, ways. It’s a powerful story that kept me riveted as the secrets were revealed.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Gallery Books.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

review: the best of us by sarah pekkanen

After attending the University of Virginia where he met Tina (and her now husband), Allie (and her now husband), and Savannah, Dwight made a bunch of money when he smartly cashed out before the dot com crash. For his 35th birthday, Dwight’s wife Pauline (an outsider to the group) decides to use some of that money to take his college friends and their spouses on an all-expenses paid trip to Jamaica. It was supposed to be all couples, but Savannah and her cheating husband (another outsider) have recently split unbeknownst to the group. Having a newly single woman with the group immediately throws things off-balance with both Pauline and Tina showing their insecurities. Tensions run high as they spend time together for the first time since college and matters get worse when first Pauline must briefly leave to deal with a crisis back home and then Hurricane Betty hits right after Savannah’s estranged husband arrives.

The Best of Us was unfortunately not Sarah Pekkanen’s best. I struggled to find a likable character in the group. The women were pretty wretched and the men weren’t much better. The only character I could muster any sympathy for was Allie’s milquetoast husband Ryan. There’s also not much going on plot-wise which was ok since the insights into these relationships seemed enough until Pekkanen tried to force some high drama by introducing a hurricane.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Washington Square Press.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

giveaway: down and out in beverly heels

I loved Kathryn Leigh Scott's novel Down and Out in Beverly Heels, so I'm thrilled to announce that Scott's publicist has offered a copy for a giveaway! If the winner is in the US or Canada, he or she may choose either a paperback copy or an eBook. If the winner lives in another country, he or she will receive an eBook copy.

About the novel:
"From brunch in Bel Air to homeless in Hollywood…

Former actress Meg Barnes used to have it all: tony Beverly Hills address, Amex Black card, Manolos for every day of the month. Not to mention a career as a popular TV detective that made her glittering life possible. But her lifestyle of the rich and famous has turned into a reality show for d-listed starlets. Lost in her Louboutins, she has one man to thank: her con man of a husband.

Handsome FBI agent Jack Mitchell knows a suspect when he sees one—even if she’s as beautiful and gutsy as Meg. Meg’s ex “made off” with half of Hollywood’s wealth in an epic real estate scam. And Jack thinks Meg may have been involved.

Determined to prove her innocence Meg teams up with her quirky, movie-mad best friend to track down her fugitive husband and exact justice. But getting her life, and her career, back on track is harder than auditioning for Spielberg. Especially when her life is threatened. Meg has to trust Jack, the man who may want her behind bars…or as his leading lady for life."

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 May 25. Winner will be selected at random.  Open internationally for an eBook; if a resident of the US or Canada, the winner may choose either an eBook or a paperback copy.

review: the tao of martha by jen lancaster

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When I read Jen Lancaster’s first memoir, I laughed heartily throughout. The same was true for her second memoir. I also enjoyed her foray into fiction. I went to her book signings and discovered Lancaster was just as funny in person. So when she shared some great stories from her forthcoming memoir on trying to live like Martha Stewart during her tour for Jeneration X, I knew it was one I was going to have to read. Despite the hilarity of the Martha debacles Lancaster shared in person, The Tao of Martha just wasn’t that funny. Lancaster admits early on in the book that in trying to act more like an adult, she’d forgotten how to have fun; furthermore, one of her beloved dogs was gravely ill which creates a sad undertone for the year she documents. While The Tao of Martha still has the easy narrative flow typical of a Lancaster memoir, it lacks that extra something special that causes the reader to bond with the author.
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

review: down and out in beverly heels by kathryn leigh scott

After falling prey to a scam, Meg Barnes is hard up but still prideful. Although her remaining friends (many of her associates dumped her since they believe she’s in on her husband’s scam) would surely help, Meg sleeps in her car instead of accepting their charity. Just as things are starting to look up when the out-of-work actress lands a pilot, Meg starts getting harassing notes and suspects someone’s following her. Despite the FBI’s continued investigation into Paul’s disappearance, Meg decides to hunt down her husband and finally prove her innocence.

The pacing of this comedic mystery is fantastic. Kathryn Leigh Scott of Dark Shadows fame beautifully incorporates elements of Meg’s acting life with her daily struggles of maintaining the fa├žade that she’s not homeless. Down and Out in Beverly Heels has perfectly timed twists and reveals to keep the excitement going throughout the novel.
Review copy from Amazon Vine.