Friday, December 31, 2010

Cutting for Stone [Verghese]

Book: Cutting for Stone
Author: Abraham Verghese

Review: "Cutting For Stone" is an award winning novel by Dr. Abraham Verghese. When an Indian nun in Ethiopia dies in childbirth (producing twin sons), the presumed father, a British surgeon, leaves the country. The children are brought up by doctors at the hospital. Told from the perspective of one of the twins, we learn about his biological parents, the parents that raised him as well as his journey from birth to his mid-20s.

This book is on many top lists so I had high hopes. At it's core-it's a beautifully written soap opera with a lush Ethiopian backdrop, political undercurrents with medicine weaved in its pages. Where it falters are the overly detailed scenes (I enjoyed learning more about medicine but devoting multiple pages on medical procedures was overkill) and my inability to care about the main characters. While many characters were developed, I felt I was always on the periphery of "really" understanding them. When the only likable character dies of leukemia, I thought to myself "oh, that's sad" but it didn't evoke any real emotion. The story also moves extremely slowly, and if I was not reading this book for book club, it probably would have taken me awhile to get through it.

While I wouldn't personally recommend this book to anyone, I am still giving it a B+ as it is beautifully written.

Grade: B+

Love The One You're With [Giffin]

Book: Love The One You're With
Author: Emily Giffin

An unlikeable woman tries to justify an emotional affair with an ex-boyfriend. Uncomfortable to read at times, I was hoping for her husband to kick her to the curb at the end of this book, but alas, as the title suggests, he forgives her bad behavior and they stay together.  I found the ending of the book unrealistic-if a chance encounter with an ex causes one to question their marriage and husband, they shouldn't be married in the first place.

Grade: 3/5

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Undomestic Goddess [Kinsella]

Book: The Undomestic Goddess
Author: Sophie Kinsella

Review: After making a multi-million dollar error at her firm, young workaholic attorney Samantha Sweeting has a breakdown and ends up accepting a job as a housekeeper in the country. The catch? Samantha can barely make toast, much less iron, do laundry or cook gourmet meals. As Samantha settles into her new position (complete with weekends off), an opportunity arises which forces Samantha to choose between her new stress free life and the law career she spent years building.

Like Kinsella's other books, this is quick, light and funny. I was concerned that Samantha would be written just like Becky Brandon (heroine from the 'Shopaholic' series) but Kinsella did a good job shaping her as a different person. I was disappointed by the ending of the book and found it completely unrealistic. Otherwise, a fun read.

Grade: B-

Mini Shopaholic [Kinsella]

Book: Mini Shopaholic
Author: Sophie Kinsella

Review: In the latest installment of Kinsella's popular 'Shopaholic' series, Rebecca Brandon tries to manage her 'spirited' two year old daughter Minnie while trying to plan a surprise birthday party for her husband, Luke. The catch: Becky is on a budget. Light and easy, fans of Becky will enjoy her latest antics, which include a secret personal shopping service and convincing her husband to put their daughter on a weekly allowance (which she overdraws on). If you are hoping to see Becky mature after the birth of her daughter, you are out of luck. She continues to lie to the people around her (albeit with good intentions), spend too much and justify her behavior but it is still a fun ride.

Grade: B-

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

She's Gone Country [Porter]

Book: She's Gone Country
Author: Jane Porter

Review: After her husband of 16 years leaves her for a man, 39 year old former model Shey moves her 3 sons (ages 12, 14 and 15) from their comfortable NYC life to her childhood home in a small Texas town (population less than a 100 people). Shey struggles to understand the demise of her marriage and feelings for an old high school crush while mothering her children who are having trouble adjusting to the many changes in their lives.

A quick, easy read, this book was okay. Shey's modeling background was incredibly unrealistic (she was discovered after college when she was 22 and started having kids at age 24...and within those 2 years she became the Sports Illustrated cover model twice and traveled around the world...doubt that would actually happen). Her financial situation wasn't exactly clear either-she and her estranged husband were paying $90k a year in private school tuition for their children and lived in Manhattan. Shey was working on an Oxygen show about modeling, wrote a book, and had a number of projects in the works. I guess she quit "everything" to move back home and had zero income coming in? Seems unrealistic. She also claims the public school in her hometown with a population of less than a 100 people was 'pretty good' which seems doubtful. I felt her decision to move her home, while good for her, was a selfish move on her kids behalf. NYC is a big place and she could have moved to a different area of the city, kept the kids near their father (whom she admits throughout the book was a great, hands on dad) and kept them in a top notch school.

Overall-even with the unrealistic scenarios mentioned above, I still enjoyed this.

Grade: B-

Open: An Autobiography [Agassi]

Book: Open: An Autobiography
Author: Andre Agassi

Review: Tennis and non-tennis fans alike will enjoy this autobiography by Andre Agassi. He candidly speaks about his entire life: childhood, parental pressures, education, friendships, romances, drug use and of course-tennis. While certain sections were very heavy on tennis details (I've never played competitive tennis so detailed sections about point, match point, etc. were a little repetitive but easy to skim) this is still a great, fascinating read of one of America's greatest athletes.

Grade: B+

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Help [Stockett]

Book: The Help
Author: Kathryn Stockett

Review: Racial tensions are running high in Jackson, MS in 1960. When a recent college graduate decides to write a book about blacks working for whites, her life and the life of the women she interviews are put into danger yet changed forever.

Written from the perspective of 3 different women, I found myself engrossed in each of their stories. Skeeter-a single white woman who finished college and wants more out of life than a husband and kids; Minny, the best cook in town whose smart mouth continues to get her in trouble and Aibileen, Minny's best friend who takes care of white babies. I could not put this novel down-it was well written, engaging, well-paced and overall an excellent read. I highly recommend this.

Grade: A-

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt [Hoffman]

Book: Saving CeeCee Honeycutt
Author: Beth Hoffman

Review: When her mentally ill mother dies, 12-year old Cecilia (CeeCee) moves to Savannah to live with an elderly aunt. She learns about love, forgiveness and friendship in this sweet, simple, yet extremely slow moving novel. This is a nice, slow, read with little action and very few plot points. I kept waiting for "something" to happen...and nothing did. Hoffman created colorful characters and is a skilled writer however it took me over a month to read it.

Grade: C+

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Wanted [Shepard]

Book: Wanted [Pretty Little Liars book #8]
Author: Sara Shepard

Review: The mystery is wrapped up in the final installment of the series. While I admit I did not expect everything that happened and the final plot twists were slightly ridiculous, for a young adult series, it was a satisfying ending (although I was hoping for Emily to such luck). There was character growth for most of the girls and overall, this was a fun, campy series that is perfect for summer reading.

Grade: B

Heartless [Shepard]

Book: Heartless [Pretty Little Liars book# 7]
Author: Sara Shepard

Review: After a fire threatens the girls, my least favorite character of the series (Emily) tells the police she saw Ali.  While the other girls saw her as well, they believe she was a figment of their imagination from smoke inhalation. Emily's declaration puts the foursome under media scrutiny and they are dubbed 'Pretty Little Liars.' Meanwhile, "A" sends each girl messages that implicates someone they know while the girls end up revealing secrets with damaging results.

I enjoyed this character ends up in rehab, another reveals her father's infidelity to her unsuspecting mother and another begins a somewhat normal high school relationship. 

Grade: B

Killer [Shepard]

Book: Killer [Pretty Little Liars book #6]
Author: Sara Shepard

Review: Spencer, Aria, Emily and Hanna discover the person on trial for Ali's murder has been framed. Meanwhile, they try to decipher "A"'s messages-is "A" trying to help them figure out the mystery or sending them on a wild goose chase? As usual, the mystery surrounding "A" and Ali's murder is intertwined with drama in each girls life (step siblings, possible adoption, new boyfriends, etc.).

I enjoyed this book more than book #5 although anyone reading the series should not read them straight through. Like any series over a few books, it is easy to get sick of the main characters. Take a break and read something else in between! It is important to realize all 8 of the Pretty Little Liar books take place over the girls' junior year of high school. It is sometimes hard to remember that maturity level of 16/17 year old's. I enjoyed Spencer and Hanna's storylines, while I could have done without Emily.

Grade: B

Wicked [Shepard]

Book: Wicked [Pretty Little Liars book #5]
Author: Sara Shepard

Review: After "A" is revealed in the previous book, the girls are ready to face the trial of Ali's accused murderer. Soon, a new "A" emerges and the girls begin to doubt the accused party's guilt.

This book was okay. I enjoyed Hanna's sections as well as Aria, but the continued poor decision making of Spencer was extremely frustrating and this book marked the beginning of my disdain for Emily. She was never my favorite character, but she seemed to become more annoying as this book went on (and even more so in the final 3 books).

Grade: B-

Monday, August 23, 2010

Unbelievable [Shepard]

Book: Unbelievable [Pretty Little Liars book #4]
Author: Sara Shepard

Review: 'Unbelievable' follows our Rosewood quartet right where book 3 ended. Hanna survives the attack but head trauma leaves her with gaps in her memory..including remembering who "A" is. Meanwhile, Emily struggles to find acceptance within her family, Spencer suspects her sister is involved with Ali's murder and Aria's living situation becomes complicated.

Fast paced similar to book 3, I enjoyed this installment because the identity of "A" is finally revealed. Shepard did a good job introducing enough characters to keep readers guessing throughout the first four books. Although I found myself strongly disliking a few of the main characters during this book, I realize I'm reading about 16 yr old high school girls whose priorities are not the same as a 32 yr old mother.

Grade: B+

Perfect [Shepard]

Book: Perfect [Pretty Little Liars book #3]
Author: Sara Shepard

Review: 'Perfect' follows the girls through trying times. Spencer remembers something that happened three years ago and worries she may be responsible for Ali's death, Hanna finds herself losing her social status at school resulting in an eating disorder, Aria struggles to keep parental secrets while Emily has a secret girlfriend. When the girls decide to ignore "A" warnings and their secrets are made public, they have a lot to deal with. When one of the girls figures out who "A" is, she is unable to reveal "A"'s identity due to an attack.

Written with the same quick, light dialogue of its predecessors, I enjoyed 'Perfect' more due to the faster pace and action. Once again, a fun read.

Grade: B+

Flawless [Shepard]

Book: Flawless [Pretty Little Liars book #2]
Author: Sara Shepard

Review: Once again, Shepard succeeds in writing a light, fun, read that is easy to devour in one sitting. 'Flawless' picks up immediately where 'Pretty Little Liars' ends with Spencer, Hanna, Emily and Aria trying to find out who "A" is. While "A" taunts them with knowledge about a tragic event of their past (referred to as 'The Jenna Thing'), readers find out what really happened while "A" continues to threaten the girls with current exposing their current escapades.

Review: B

Pretty Little Liars [Shepard]

Book: Pretty Little Liars [Pretty Little Liars book #1]
Author: Sara Shepard

Review: When popular, manipulative and sometimes charming Alison DiLaurentis disappears from a sleepover in Rosewood, PA after 7th grade, her clique of friends lose touch with each other. Now, three years later, they start receiving mysterious text messages from someone called "A" who knows their past and present secrets. Readers are introduced to Spencer, an overachiever interested in her sister's boyfriend who was the only girl to ever stand up to Ali; Hanna, a previously fat girl who bent easily to Ali's will who has transformed herself into the most popular girl at school; Emily, a swimmer who was fiercely protective of Ali and has feelings for a new neighbor that her conservative family won't approve of; and Aria, an eccentric girl who just moved back to Rosewood after a few years in Iceland who begins an affair with a young teacher.

I decided to read this series after catching a few episodes of the new t.v. show on ABC Family. Although there are distinct differences between the books and show, the show encompassed the first few books in a handful of episodes so a lot of the book was somewhat repetitive. That being said, it was still a fun, easy, read that I devoured in a few hours. Each chapter is written from a different characters perspective and watching them struggle with high school, relationships, secrets and family are a nice reminder that I never have to go back to high school again!

A fun, summer series for anyone looking for something "light."

Grade: B

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mennonite In a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home [Janzen]

Book: Mennonite In a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home
Author: Rhoda Janzen
Genre: Nonfiction

Review: After her husband leaves her for a man he met on, Rhoda is in a bad car accident and finds herself living in a house she cannot afford. Moving back home to recoup, she pens a funny, heartwarming memoir about her life growing up in a Mennonite family as well as the history of her marriage.

I fell in love with Rhoda's family, especially her mother in this memoir. As the book unfolds, we learn Rhoda is not quite as innocent in the breakdown of her marriage as first assumed, which makes for an interesting read. Overall, funny and engaging.

Book Junkie's Grade: B+

Dune Road [Green]

Book: Dune Road
Author: Jane Green
Genre: Chick-Lit

Review: Kit, a recently divorced mom of 2, moves from her palatial mansion in a wealthy suburb of CT to a smaller home in the same area. She has a great relationship with her ex-husband, a Wall Street banker (she didn't want to become the trophy wife she felt he wanted) and a great group of girlfriends. She starts working as an assistant to a reclusive writer and begins dating a new man. Meanwhile, one of her friends starts dating her boss yet is being secret about it, and another is facing financial problems in the wake of the current economic environment. Kit's life is further interrupted when a woman arrives claiming to be her sister.

I'm a huge fan of Jane Green and this book was 'off.' First of all, Green's 'American' English could use some help. Where was the editor? Certain words should have been changed as this book is about Americans. The reasons why Kit and her husband got divorced were very thin and I'm sure most readers were routing for them to get back together from practically page 1. The subplot involving her friend Tracy was completely ridiculous and *spoiler alert* I find it hard to believe that anyone would automatically forgive someone for purposely setting them up with a physically abusive conman. Furthermore, Green became lazy at the end and spent a lot of time recapping certain aspects of the characters that they reader already knew from the previous 200 or so pages.

'Jemima J' this book is NOT!

Book Junkie's Grade: C-

Best Friends Forever [Weiner]

Book: Best Friends Forever
Author: Jennifer Weiner
Genre: Chick-Lit

Review: Estranged for years, former best friends Addie and Valerie are reunited when Valerie shows up at Addie's house in the middle of the night needing her help. Told in past and present, we learn about the girls friendship (beautiful Valerie with an unstable home life, and overweight Addie, whose loving family is impacted when her beloved brother suffers brain damage in a terrible car accident). At present, now in their 30s, the girls are on the run after Valerie's actions may or may not have killed a fellow high school classmate.

I enjoyed learning about the girls when they were younger and seeing their friendship develop. However, their present selves were so cliche they seemed like cartoons. Valerie, in particular, was so over the top stupid/ridiculous it was too much even for a light chick-lit book. Furthermore, the ending, which some may find touching, was too over the top to ever happen in real life.

Book Junkie's Grade: C+

Twelve [McDonell]

Book: Twelve
Author: Nick McDonell
Genre: Fiction

Review: After his mother dies of breast cancer, clean cut Mike (who doesn't drink or smoke) defers college for a year to become White Mike, the drug dealer of choice for boarding school teens with too much time and money on their hands. 'Twelve' follows White Mike as he searches for his missing cousin as well as upper east side teens who prepare for a big New Years Eve party that has tragic consequences.

An interesting narrative almost makes up for the thin plot and complete lack of character development. However, if you are looking for something quick to read on an airplane and need a break from chick-lit, this is an easy read.

Book Junkie's Grade: B-

The 8th Confession [Patterson, Paetro]

Book: The 8th Confession [Women's Murder Club]
Authors: James Patterson, Maxine Paetro
Genre: Thriller

Review: San Fransisco detective Lindsay Boxer is working a puzzling case where high society people are being murdered but there are no marks on the bodies. She soon discovers her case is similar to killings in the early 80's where a rare snake was used to poison victims. She works to find the killer while balancing time with her friends and boyfriend.

It's been awhile since I read a Patterson book and I forgot how fun they are-a quick, suspenseful read! I will definitely be reading more books in the Women's Murder Club series.

Book Junkie's Grade: B+

Look Again [Scottoline]

Book: Look Again
Author: Lisa Scottoline
Genre: Fiction

Review: Ellen is about to throw out her mail when she notices a child on the missing persons flier looks like her 3-year old adopted son. Unsure what to do, she begins researching his birth parents (she knows her adoption was legal) and the couple whose child was stolen. She soon finds herself tangled up in a tangled legal web where she may end up losing the one thing she loves more than anything, her son.

While an interesting concept, this book jumped the shark by the main character's actions (she tracks down the people whose son was stolen and gets their DNA...why wouldn't she just hire a private investigator?). There was also an action sequence that came out of left field toward the end of the book and I eventually just didn't care what happened to her.

Book Junkie's Grade: C

The Castaways [Hilderbrand]

Book: The Castaways
Author: Elin Hilderbrand
Genre: Fiction

Review: When a young couple battling infidelity rumors is killed in a boating accident, their best friends must deal with the aftermath. Each section is told from a different friend's perspective while we learn about past secrets and shocking truths.

A delicious read, I enjoyed every second of this book, even though certain sections were predictable and a few key characters were incredibly annoying. A perfect beach read!

Book Junkie's Grade: B+

Commencement [Sullivan]

Book: Commencement
Author: J. Courtney Sullivan
Genre: Chick-Lit

Review: Bree, April, Celia and Sally meet freshman year at Smith College and development a close friendship. 'Commencement' follows the group post-graduation as they struggle with the trials and tribulations of work, love and family dynamics.

This is a fun, light read that is perfect for the beach. (as a side note, this book made me very happy that I didn't go to an all girls college!)

Book Junkie's Grade: B

Blame [Huneven]

Book: Blame
Author: Michelle Huneven
Genre: Fiction

Review: Twenty-eight year old college professor Patsy is an alcoholic. When she runs over a mother and daughter in her driveway during a drunken blackout episode, she is sentenced to a few years in prison. Faced with the knowledge that she killed two innocent people, Patsy gets sober, becomes an active member of AA and eventually marries a much older man. As Patsy rebuilds her life and career, she is forced to analyze her past behavior and actions, as well as those of others. Ultimately, this book challenges the reader to define important questions about 'blame' and 'responsibility' for ones actions.

This book was not an engrossing "I can't put it down" read but it was engaging, interesting and well written. The subject matter was also different from anything I've read before. I've thought about the novel since completing it and it has inspired discussions with a few friends about the concepts of 'blame' and 'responsibility' so Huneven did a good job getting under my skin!

Book Junkie's Grade: B+

The Magicians [Grossman]

Book: The Magicians
Author: Lev Grossman
Genre: Fiction

Review: Tagged as the 'adult Harry Potter', '..Magicians' follows Quentin as he enrolls in a secret magic school, learns his craft and discovers that a world from his favorite childhood series is real.

While this was well written, Grossman shamelessly "borrowed" plots from Harry Potter and Narnia which made this novel far from original. The main character was not likable and did not grow/mature throughout the novel, while the secondary characters were never fully fleshed out and it was difficult to connect with anyone.

[Note: Although this book has science fiction elements, it read more like a traditional fiction novel, which is how I'm classifying it.]

Book Junkie's Grade: C+

The Golden Compass [Pullman]

Book: The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, Book 1)
Author: Philip Pullman
Genre: YA: Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Review: Orphaned at a young age, Lyra lives amongst scholars at a prestigious university. When her uncle arrives to give a presentation on a mysterious substance called "dust"-Lyra becomes intrigued. Soon, children start disappearing including Lyra's best friend. She embarks on an adventure to figure out what "dust" is, rescue her friend and in the process discovers a world she didn't know existed as well as secrets about her past.

'The Golden Compass' was a 2007 movie that was widely criticized by (book) fans due to plot changes/missing scenes. I saw the movie and thus expected the book to depart from the movie. While there were a few differing scenes, overall, they were close (the movie did end a scene before the book). The book was well-written but anti-climatic because I knew what was going to happen. I liked it but do not plan to read the rest of the series.

Book Junkie's Grade: B

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Smoke Jumper [Evans]

Book: The Smoke Jumper
Author: Nicholas Evans
Genre: Fiction

Review: Best friends Ed (a musician with high aspirations) and Connor (a rancher and photographer) are smoke jumpers (firefighters that skydive into national forest fires) during the summers in Montana. When Ed's girlfriend Julia joins them one summer, a close bond grows between the three friends. That bond is impacted for life when a terrible forest fire has devastating repercussions for them all.

Beautifully written, this book evoked tears, laughter, overwhelming sadness and eventual satisfaction. Although slow at times and long winded (a good portion of the book follows Connor as he photographs war tragedies in Afghanistan and Africa, which were interesting but tedious) this was an engaging read that I recommend.

Book Junkie's Grade: B+

Monday, June 7, 2010

Spirit Bound [Mead]

Book: Spirit Bound [Vampire Academy #5]
Author: Richelle Mead
Genre: YA: Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Review: After graduating from high school, Rose and Lissa head to court where Lissa prepares for college and Rose awaits her guardian assignment. Meanwhile, Rose commences her plan to 'rescue' Dimitri from his Strigoi state with her friends assistance.

I have mixed feelings about this book. Our heroine Rose has always been feisty, funny and selfless, but her portrayal in this book seemed inconsistent with previous installments. She risked the lives of Lissa and another friend to break a criminal out of prison (I'll just ignore the ridiculousness of 3 teens, just out of high school breaking into a high security prison with minimal effort) with the prospect that Victor (the criminal) may help "save" her true love Dimitri. Meanwhile, when she gets the chance to kill Dimitri, she freezes and cannot do it. This results in multiple deaths that Rose doesn't seem to harbor much guilt for.

Meanwhile, Lissa is able to successfully charm a stake (once again, let's ignore that she could barely charm a piece of jewelry with weeks of practice but managed this super complicated charm in a few days..) and somehow staked Dimitri (hmm....Lissa, who we know is physically weak stabs him not once but 3 times on her own while Dimitri can't fight her off...granted he was burning but it doesn't seem feasible the strongest guardian of all time would just stand there). That being said, I enjoyed Lissa's storyline in this book, especially the rekindling of her relationship with Christian and her emerging strength as a character. Christian has always been one of my favorites and I enjoyed all of his scenes.

After Dimitri is 'saved' from his Strigio state, he doesn't want to see Rose. I found this portrayal very honest-he killed many people, tried to kill her and he is embarrassed by his actions. He needs time. Rose is offended and insensitive to his feelings, reducing her to a crying, selfish ex-girlfriend who I just wanted to throttle with her constant self-obsessed complaining. Meanwhile, she has a boyfriend (Adrian) who she does not love (she is aware the relationship isn't right, says so many times yet keeps him hanging) and it is very sad to read.

Finally, after the Moroi pass a controversial new law, Rose mouths off to the queen but her language and behavior is so over the top (even for Rose) that I question how the maturity of her character (who made great strides in the previous book) could fall so fast. A predictable ending was not too much of a cliffhanger, but the appearance of Rose's eccentric father Abe shows promise for the final installment coming in December.

While there were many issues with the book (Rose went from one of my favorite heroines to someone I wanted to repeated slap across the face), I read this book in one sitting and thoroughly enjoyed it. Mead knows how to write an interesting book!

Book Junkie's Grade: B

Guilty Pleasure [Leigh]

Book: Guilty Pleasure
Author: Lora Leigh
Genre: Romance - Erotica

Review: FBI agent Marty Matthews has been following terror suspect Khalid for years but her assignment has been called off when it is clear he is innocent. Marty has been interested in Khalid for years, and now she is free to seduce him. Unfortunately-as they embark on a sensual journey they must battle Khalid's family who is bent on revenge.

This book started off okay but quickly went downhill. Leigh should stick with what she does best-love scenes. The love scenes in this book were lacking and she instead focused on a terror plot. Let's be clear here-no one reading an erotic book is looking for a book focused more on the mystery/terror surrounding the characters than the romance, but if it is well written, we'll deal with it. This book was not well written. It was horrible-stay away!

Book Junkie's Grade: D

Switch [Hart]

Book: Switch
Author: Megan Hart
Genre: Romance - Erotica

Review: A divorcee in her mid-20's, Paige struggles with her feelings for her ex-husband Austin and her growing attraction to a young doctor in her apartment building. While she struggles not to make the same mistakes as her mother, she embarks on a journey of self discovery.

Hart is the great writer and while I enjoyed this book, I felt emotionally disconnected from Paige. Overall-a good read.

Book Junkie's Grade: B-

Dead in the Family [Harris]

Book: Dead in the Family [Sookie Stackhouse #10]
Author: Charlaine Harris
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Review: Sookie Stackhouse has been through a lot in her lifetime, but after surviving the fae war and horrible torture, she is (reasonably in my opinion) working through a form of depression in this book and trying to stay positive. This book read like 3 short stories woven together: Sookie and Eric are dating but the relationship is strained when Eric's maker comes to town with his unstable 'son.' Sookie is called on by Alcide to help with a were situation. And finally-her cousin Claude moves in with her and she tries to figure out a fae mystery. While each story was good and they are loosely tied together in the end, none of them 'gripped' me. I was disappointed in Eric's portrayal (it was nice to see his sensitive side but he was borderline weak) and I really enjoyed the fae aspects of the book as I had previously read somewhere that the fae storylines were over so it was a nice surprise. I'm looking forward to what Harris does next.

Book Junkie's Grade: B-

Lover Mine [Ward]

Book: Lover Mine [Black Dagger Brotherhood #8]
Author: J.R. Ward
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Review: After Xhex is kidnapped and tortured by Lash, she escapes and seeks revenge along with John Matthew. As they join forces, they seek to heal their own wounds while exploring their feelings for each other.

Let me start off by saying that while I've enjoyed this series, I have never been a fan of John Matthew. I realize he is supposed to be the incarnation of Darius-but I've found him whiny, self-absorbed and annoying in every book. This book was no exception. While he has had a troubled childhood and a traumatic experience, compared to the 100s of years of history the other brothers have experienced..he just doesn't compare. Here are my main concerns with this book:

*Slang: Ward has always been a fan of slang and I felt it was used just enough in previous books but it was so over the top in this installment I kept shaking my head thinking-no one talks like this. When every character is speaking in slang it just loses its authenticity.

*Recycled Plots: John Matthew thinks Xhex is dead and vows to avenge her, but tries to hide his true feelings for her from the brothers.....same plot in the beginning of Z's book when Bella has been kidnapped. Also-the entire Blay/Quinn storyline was like a watered down version of V/Butch. Unfortunately for Blay and Quinn, because they are so young, it read more like 2 fraternity guys with feelings for each other but I still felt their storyline (which ended abruptly and without a satisfying conclusion) was the best of the book.

*Sign Language: this is probably nitpicking (okay-it is, I admit it!) but to say that John Matthew was signing sentences letter by letter to communicate is just ridiculous. ASL takes years to learn (while many of the characters seemed to pick it up in no time at all) but the amount of time it would take to sign words in the manner in which he was supposedly doing is completely unrealistic.

*Lash: Ward has done a great job building up Lash in previous installments and he quickly became my favorite villain of the series. His downfall in this book seemed rushed and anti-climatic. I can only hope he is brought back in future installments.

*Romance: There was no romance between Xhex and John Matthew!

*Beth: John Matthew has a sister, and while we hear him complain time and time again about how lonely he is, etc etc he never seeks her out (or vice versa). Ward had a great opportunity here to develop a relationship between them.

*Darius/Torh Flashback: Every few chapters there was a flashback with Darius and Torh that should have been condensed to a few pages and used as an intro to the book. The sections were too long, too boring, and the 'old language' too ridiculous.

*The Brotherhood: Where were the brothers in this book? They were barely mentioned. Their interactions are my favorite part of the series. And speaking of the brothers-when are John Matthew, Blay and Quinn going to be inducted into the Brotherhood?

Overall-a very disappointing read, but like I said-I was never a fan of John Matthew. I'll still read the next installment and hope for more 'Brotherhood' interaction.

Book Junkie's Grade: D

The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance 2 [various authors]

Book: The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance 2
Author: multiple
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Review: 'The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance 2' contains 25 unrelated short stories that are generally well written. While each story contained an element of romance and hint of happy ever after, it was hard for me to get emotionally involved in 30 or so pages. Although I breezed through the almost 600 page book quickly, I wouldn't recommend it unless you enjoy short stories.

Book Junkie's Grade: C

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Loose Girl [Cohen]

Book: Loose Girl
Author: Kerry Cohen
Genre: Nonfiction

Review: 'Loose Girl' is a memoir that follows Cohen from age 11 until her mid-20s. A product of divorced parents, Cohen and her older sister move in with their father when their mother leaves the US to go to medical school overseas. Living with a father whose only concern is good grades, Cohen quickly starts partying in the city and engaging in sexual relationships with random men. A destructive pattern quickly starts that finds Cohen looking for love and acceptance in the wrong places that follows her through high school, college and beyond.

Many books have been written about drug addiction, alcoholism and eating disorders, but sexual addiction (or promiscuous behavior) is something that is rarely discussed. It was interesting to hear Cohen's story, although the memoir abruptly ended with Cohen meeting her husband-I was hoping for another few chapters with her analyzing her "loose" behavior. Overall-still an engaging read.

Book Junkie's Grade: B

Dead End Dating: A Novel of Vampire Love [Raye]

Book: Dead End Dating: A Novel of Vampire Love [Dead End Dating Book 1]
Author: Kimberly Raye
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Review: Lil Marchette isn't like most vampires-she prefers spray tans, gold highlights, designer clothes and the color pink. After opening her own matchmaking agency (Dead End Dating), Lil tries to find her clients true love while hunting a serial killer and avoiding a hot bounty hunter.

Overly light and fluffy, this book was amusing but lacked enough substance to hold my interest.

Book Junkie's Grade: C+

The Taste of Innocence [Laurens]

Book: The Taste of Innocence [Cynster #14]
Author: Stephanie Laurens
Genre: Romance - Historical

Review: Charlie, Earl of Meredith, decides it is time to marry and offers his hand to his neighbor, Sarah Conningham. She requires a 2-week period to 'get to know each other' before accepting, and Charlie quickly commences a seduction strategy. The couple is soon wed but the gentle, loving man Sarah thought she was marrying turns into a cold, impersonal husband during daylight hours. As Sarah struggles with her marriage, Charlie has to comes to grips with the fact that he loves his wife while they both try to solve a local mystery involving an orphanage.

Most Cynster books have a set formula: they start with a titled man who "has" to find a wife and an independent woman who is willing to engage in an affair but needs to be convinced to be married. The woman quickly realizes she loves the man but the man's realization comes at the end. What made this book refreshing was that the title characters got married almost immediately-breaking the formula, yeah! I enjoyed the changed of pace and the actions of Charlie, the male lead who turns quickly from loving fiance to cold husband. The "mystery" surrounding the lead characters was laughable and Lauren's wrapped up a villain (who makes appearances in previous Cynster novels) was too sappy to be believable.

Book Junkie's Grade: C+

Friday, April 9, 2010

Temptation and Surrender [Laurens]

Book: Temptation and Surrender (Cynster)
Author: Stephanie Laurens
Genre: Romance - Historical

Review: Jonas Tallent is in desperate need of someone to manage his inn in his small town when he meets Emily. She has arrived in town with her 4 siblings and while it is obvious she is gentry fallen on hard times, she and her family are secretly looking for a family treasure. Hindered by boring lead characters, a ridiculous plot (banking your family's future on a rhyme about a treasure..really??), an extremely obvious villain and gratuitous sex scenes, this book was terrible.

Book Junkie's Grade: D

Monday, April 5, 2010

Succubus Shadows [Mead]

Book: Succubus Shadows [Georgina Kincaid #5]
Author: Richelle Mead
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Review: Georgina's life is a mess. Her ex-boyfriend (Seth) is engaged to her best friend and she's somehow in the wedding party and tasked with helping the bride find a wedding dress. Meanwhile, there is a new succubus in town who is trying to corrupt Seth and some sort of dark force calling to her in her dreams and her roommate Roman, may or may not want to kill her. When she becomes trapped in a new world, Georgina is forced to face her worst nightmares and past transgressions. Can her friends save her? Read to find out!

LOVED it! Mead's writing is witty and funny. While lingering questions weren't answered (in fact, a few more things were posed to readers) I can't wait to find out what happens in the 6th and final installment (hopefully coming out soon, but I'm sure I'll have to wait a year).

Book Junkie's Grade: B+

What Price Love? [Laurens]

Book: What Price Love? [Cynster #13]
Author: Stephanie Laurens
Genre: Romance - Historical

Review: After her twin brother accepts an assist horse training position and goes missing, Lady Priscilla Dalloway heads to the races to find him. She immediately meets Dillon Caxton, Keeper of the Register, and needs his help. Afraid that her brother is caught up in something illicit and dangerous, she gives Dillon a false name and tries to woo information from him with her feminine wiles. Unfortunately for her, Dillon is as physically beautiful and intelligent as she, and knows she is up to something.

One of my favorites of the Cynster books, I love how Dillon had a scandalous past. Most of the males in these stories are beyond reproach, so "perfect" (their only flaw being their possessiveness) that it was a nice change to see a character who was multidimensional. Pris was also a spitfire and Laurens did a great job of creating feisty interactions between the two. The "mystery" surrounding an illicit gaming ring was interesting, if overly detailed, but overall, fun book.

Book Junkie's Grade: B+

The Ideal Bride [Laurens]

Book: The Ideal Bride [Cynster #11]
Author: Stephanie Laurens
Genre: Romance - Historical

Review: Politician Michael Anstruther-Wetherby is in need of a wife. Thinking he's met the perfect woman, he sets off to learn more about her and surprisingly finds himself drawn to her widowed aunt, Caroline Sutcliffe. As Michael redirects his energies to Caro, Caro finds herself drawn to Michael but doesn't want to be trapped in another political marriage. As they navigate their relationship, like most romance novels, they have to solve a mystery that ultimately brings them closer together.

Laurens did a great job creating strong, likable, well-matched lead characters. A fun, romantic, sexy read.

Book Junkie's Grade: B

The Perfect Lover [Laurens]

Book: The Perfect Lover [Cynster #10]
Author: Stephanie Laurens
Genre: Romance - Historical

Review: With a history of antagonizing each other over the years, old friends Simon Cynster and Portia Ashford find themselves at the same house party deep in the English country. Unbeknown to the other, they each have a plan to find a suitable spouse. As Simon and Portia's relationship develops into something they never thought possible, the house party is rocked by a gruesome murder. Simon and Portia try to solve the murder while exploring the feelings being awakened.

Like all the Cynster book, this was a fun, easy, romantic read. Simon was a strong lead character and Portia was okay as his leading lady. Fans of the series will enjoy the many scenes with Lady O, who is a guest at the house party and is instrumental in bringing Simon and Portia together.

Book Junkie's Grade: B-

(side note-I've checked out a bunch of Stephanie Laurens books from the library. If you are interested in the Cynster series, you do not have to read them in order)

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Lover [Schone]

Book: The Lover
Author: Robin Schone
Genre: Romance - Erotica

Review: Annie, a spinster with nothing to offer a man other than her money, hires male prostitute Michel for one month to teach her about passion. Clinical, boring sex scenes coupled with flat main characters and a disturbing conclusion were further hampered by poor writing. Additionally, readers hoping for romance will be sorely disappointed-there wasn't any! Skip this book.

Book Junkie's Grade: D

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Untamed Bride [Laurens]

Book: The Untamed Bride [Black Dagger Quartet #1]
Author: Stephanie Laurens
Genre: Romance - Historical

Review: After the disappointing 'Mastered by Love' in January, I took a 2 month break from Lauren's tales of romance and spies. After reading the first of her Black Dagger Quartet series, I'm happy I gave Lauren's another try. Like all of Lauren's books-the hero is a strong male (military man Del) and the heroine a tall, sensuous woman with a strong personality (Deliah). Del is on a secret mission bringing him from India to England, while Deliah is traveling from Jamaica to England. When she becomes entwined in the mission, they embark on a love affair while trying to fight danger at every turn.

After the heavy 'Rhett Butler's People' this was a fun, easy, enjoyable read.

Book Junkie's Grade: B

Rhett Butler's People [McCraig]

Book: Rhett Butler's People
Author: Daniel McCraig
Genre: Fiction

Review: As a lifelong fan of GWTW-I was disappointed with 'Scarlett' and had high hopes for this novel. Marketed as GWTW told from Rhett Butler's perspective, I dove in headfirst. The book started off well with tales of Rhett's childhood. The book quickly veered off course. I'm not even sure where to start. First and foremost-although 'Scarlett' was not a great book, it was a sanctioned sequel and it would have been nice if McCraig had kept the same names (for example-Rhett's mother and brother had different names in both books-it was confusing since I just finished the other book). Next-Rhett is portrayed as a manic depressive, Scarlett is not spunky and Melanie (who all devoted fans know, was a kind person who loved Scarlett unconditionally), was just massacred in this book. McCraig's Melanie was aware of Ashley and Scarlett the whole time-hated Scarlett and was a vindictive woman. McCraig rewrote certain scenes from Rhett's perspective, which had the potential to be interesting, but in many cases he changed the dialogue! He also avoided scenes like the bizarre where Rhett bids on her, and basically skips over Rhett and Scarlett's marriage as well as Bonnie's death.

If anyone is considering reading this novel-just skip it. To pick up where GWTW ends-Scarlett loses all her money in the stock market, moves back to Tara to work the fields, is good enough friends with Belle Watling that Belle and her family are invited over for a bbq (that never would have happened!). Scarlett telegrams Rhett, who comes back, and for the icing on the cake-Tara BURNS DOWN. Sacrilegious! 'Scarlett' was great compared to this book. I will give props to McCraig that his war descriptions were spot on.

Book Junkie's Grade: D

The Broken H [Langley]

Book: The Broken H
Author: J.L. Langley
Genre: Romance - GL

Review: Sheriff Grayson Hunter and rancher Shane Cortez find love in their small Texas town while battling local prejudices. Sexy yet often repetitive, this was an okay read. The main characters were one dimensional and it was hard to relate to them.

Book Junkie's Grade: C-

Monday, March 22, 2010

Dreamfever [Moning]

Book: Dreamfever [Fever #4]
Author: Karen Marie Moning
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Review: After a traumatic encounter with the Unseelie Fae princes, Mac is rescued by Barrons who nurses her back to health. Losing her innocence and still unsure of who to trust, Mac embraces her darker side to fight the fae and rally her fellow sidhe-seers. When her parents in Georgia become involved, Mac must fight to keep them alive.

As the 4th book in a series of 5, I was hoping for some answers in this installment. Who is Mac's biological father? Who/what is Barrons? Instead-we were given more questions and a cliffhanger ending that has me scouring message boards for fans predictions. When I am reading message boards and dreaming about the characters and what might/might not be happening-that is how I know I am reading a great series! While I am not pleased with the lack of relationship development between Mac and Barrons, the cliffhanger was strong enough to override that disappointment. I am anxiously awaiting the final book-Dec 2010!!

Book Junkie's Grade: A-

Faefever [Moning]

Book: Faefever [Fever #3]
Author: Karen Marie Moning
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Review: Mac now knows who killed her sister, but she is no closer to the vengeance she desires. Still wary of others motives, Mac continues to search for the book and hones her sidhe-seer skills. Meanwhile, she must balance relationships with Barrons, V'Lane and the leader of the sidhe-seers, Rowena.

Fast paced and action packed with a cliffhanger ending-this was a great read.

Book Junkie's Grade: A-

Bloodfever [Moning]

Book: Bloodfever [Fever #2]
Author: Karen Marie Moning
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Review: Picking up where Darkfever ended, 'Bloodfever' follows Mac as she continues to search for the Sinsar Dubh, a book of black magic, while she tries to rid the human world of faes. Still working with enigmatic Jericho Barrons, Mac doesn't trust him or his motives, but she can't deny the growing attraction between the two or that he does come to her rescue quite often. Meanwhile, Mac is being pursued by V'Lane, a death by sex fae (who she is trying to resist) and begins to learn about her Irish heritage.

More fast paced than book 1, this was a thoroughly enjoyable read!

Book Junkie's Grade: B+

Darkfever [Moning]

Book: Darkfever [Fever #1]
Author: Karen Marie Moning
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Review: When her older sister is brutally murdered in Dublin, 22-year old Georgia native MacKayla (Mac) Lane travels to Ireland to solve the crime. Armed with a cryptic voicemail message from her sister just hours before she died, Mac begins searching for an ancient book and meets mysterious bookstore owner, Jericho Barrons. Barrons, recognizing Mac as a sidhe-seer, a human who can see fae, agrees to help her hone her skills while they work together to find the book.

Funny and filled with just enough sexual tension to keep readers on their toes-this is a good read. The pacing is a little slow but as the first book in a series of 5, Moning is laying a lot of groundwork. If you are looking for a new sci-fi series with a hint of romance-this is a good bet.

Book Junkie's Grade: B+

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Tin Star [Langley]

Book: The Tin Star
Author: T.J. Langley
Genre: Romance - GL

Review: After coming out to his family, 21-year old Jamie is disowned by his father and kicked off his family's ranch. His brother's best friend Ethan takes him in and offers him a job on his own ranch. As a relationship develops, they must fight prejudice and hate in their small Texas town.

An educational, sexy read, Langley crafts a fun tale but sloppy editing hurts the overall effect of the book.

Book Junkie's Grade: C+

Smooth Talking Stranger [Kleypas]

Book: Smooth Talking Stranger [Travis Family #3]
Author: Lisa Kleypas
Genre: Romance

Review: When her sister abandons her 1-week old son, Ella takes the infant and tries to find the father. Her search leads her to wealthy playboy Jack Travis. He denies being the father but agrees to a paternity test. As Ella and Jack become closer, Ella must reconcile the fact that the baby she loves is not hers. Jack also challenges her liberal relationship beliefs.

Addictive and a quick read like Kleypas' previous books, this is the most fun, sexy and overall exciting.

Book Junkie's Grade: B+

Blue Eyed Devil [Kleypas]

Book: Blue Eyed Devil [Travis Family #2]
Author: Lisa Kleypas
Genre: Romance

Review: Two years after defying her family and marrying her college sweetheart, Haven Travis realizes the error of her ways. Returning back to Houston, she accepts a job working for her brother and tries to rebuild her life. She quickly develops a relationship with Hardy Cates: a self-made millionaire who also happens to be an enemy of the family. Haven embarks on a journey to heal herself and her heart.

Author Kleypas' favorite book to date, it well written and a fast, fun, if not predictable read.

Book Junkie's Grade: B

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sugar Daddy [Kleypas]

Book: Sugar Daddy [Travis Family Book 1]
Author: Lisa Kleypas
Genre: Romance

Review: Moving to a trailer park in Welcome, TX with her widowed mother, Liberty Jones meets neighbor Hardy Cates. Their friendship turns into a deep bond, but Hardy decides to leave Welcome to make something of himself in the world. As Liberty struggles with lost love, personal tragedy and building a career for herself, she eventually develops a relationship with a local, wealthy millionaire that has life changing repercussions. When Hardy reenters her life-Liberty must choose between her first love and new found love.

A quick read-Liberty is an engaging heroine and someone you can root for. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which is the first out of a series of 3 (so far, #4 may be in the works) and I'm looking forward to the next one!

Book Junkie's Grade: B+

When Will There Be Good News? [Atkinson]

Book: When Will There Be Good News?
Author: Kate Atkinson
Genre: Fiction

Review: 'When Will There Be Good News?' has a few story lines that intersect as the book develops. The book opens with a gruesome murder: on a country road in England, 6-year old Joanna's family is butchered in front of her eyes. Thirty years later, the killer is released from prison. Boarding the wrong train, private investigate Jackson Brodie is involved in a train crash. He is saved from the crash by Reggie Chase, who works as a nanny for a local doctor. Convinced the doctor has been kidnapped, she enlists Brodie's help. Meanwhile-an old love interest from Brodie's past, police detective Louise Monroe, is searching for released killer.

Atkinson does a great job weaving the stories together into a believable tale. This is a dark, depressing book with ominous tones. It took me awhile to read it-not because it wasn't good (it is exceptionally well written) but because it was such a downer.

Book Junkie's Grade: B+

Scarlett [Ripley]

Book: Scarlett
Author: Alexandra Ripley
Genre: Fiction

Review: Devoted GWTW fans will be disappointed in Ripley's sequel. Of course, since this was written by a different author the overall tone and language of the characters was not in line with the original. But my biggest complaint was Scarlett's portrayal. She underwent an entire personality change from GWTW and became weak and dependent throughout many parts of the novel. Half of the book takes place in Ireland, and while detailed, the sections were extremely boring and tedious.

I'm interested to see what Margaret Mitchell's estate (who gave their permission for this to be considered an official sequel) think of it. They must not be pleased.

Book Junkie's Grade: C-

Monday, February 22, 2010

Gone With the Wind [Mitchell]

Book: Gone With the Wind
Author: Margaret Mitchell
Genre: Fiction

Review: What can I possibly say about one of the best books every written? Rereading it after approx. 15 years, I soaked up details like old memories. The characters are developed, the scenery is vivid and the details are thought provoking. This is one of the best books I've ever read!

Book Junkie's Grade: A+

The Donovan Legacy: Charmed

Book: The Donovan Legacy: Charmed [book 3]
Author: Nora Robers
Genre: Romance

Review: Anastasia Donovan (cousin to Morgana and Sebastian) has the power of healing. When new neighbors move in next door, she quickly falls in love with Jessie, the young daughter of widower, Boone. Eventually, Ana and Boone engage in a romantic relationship but Anastasia's inability to be completely honest with Boone has consequences.

Overall-not as fun and engaging as Sebastian's book, but slightly better than Morgana's. Anastasia was a tad too weak for a female lead character and Boone did not have many redeeming characteristics.

Book Junkie's Grade: C

The Donovan Legacy: Entranced

Book: The Donovan Legacy: Entranced [book 2]
Author: Nora Roberts
Genre: Romance

Review: Sebastian Donovan (cousin to Morgana) is a heredity witch with the power of sight. He works as a psychic for the police and FBI helping to track down killers. When a distraught mother asks for his help to find her missing child, he finds himself teaming up with Mel, a private detective who usually works alone.

Without question-this is the best of the Donovan series so far (granted, I've only read 3). Sebastian and Mel make a great team and this story was heartwarming and funny. Overall-a fun read.

Book Junkie's Grade: B-

The Donovan Legacy: Captivated

Book: The Donovan Legacy: Captivated [Book 1]
Author: Nora Roberts
Genre: Romance

Review: Nash Bridges is a screenwriter researching his next project, a horror film about witchcraft, when he decides to interview Morgana Donovan. Morgana is a hereditary witch who owns and operates a Wicca store in Monterrey, CA. While it is clear that Nash does not believe in witchcraft, Morgana tries to educate him in the ways of witches while they navigate their love for each other.

While Nash was engaging, Morgana was pretentious and annoying. Overall-a boring read.

Book Junkie's Grade: C-

Mastered by Love [Laurens]

Book: Mastered by Love [Bastion Club Book 7]
Author: Stephanie Laurens
Genre: Romance - Historical

The final installment in the Bastion club series follows Royce (previously known as Dalziel, the mastermind behind the British spy operations during the war). Now a duke, Royce returns to his family estate where he is pressured by the grand madam's of the ton to find a wife. He engages in an affair with Minerva, chatelaine of the castle and tries to convince her to marry him.

This book was a huge disappointment. While the main characters were interesting and made an engaging couple, there was little strife or side story to go along with the romance. In the previous Bastion Books, Royce is searching for a traitor and his story was finally resolved in this book-but it was almost an afterthought for Lauren's.

Book Junkie's Grade: C-