Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Paris Wife [McLain]

Book: The Paris Wife
Author: Paula McLain

Review: Many people know Ernest Hemingway as a famous author who married several times, enjoyed Key West and tragically took his own life. Few know the love story of Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson. In this fiction novel, McLain tells the story of Hadley, who married Hemingway at age 28 (he was in his early 20's) after a quick romance and their move to Paris in the 20's. Their marriage survives financial woes, an unwanted pregnancy and work stress (at one point Hadley lost all of Ernest's collective works) but cannot survive a mistress (and future wife #2). 

I am not sure if this book is supposed to be a love story. If so, McLain failed. I never believed Hadley and Ernest to be in love. He seemed to marry her on the rebound (she reminded him of a nurse he was in love with during the war who rejected him) and she was a quiet, depressed woman who needed to escape her living situation. Their entire relationship seemed unhealthy and unbalanced. Upon their move to Paris, Ernest traveled out of town for a job. Hadley became so depressed she couldn't get out of bed. I am not sure why she never got a job or did volunteer work. She lived to serve Ernest and it was disturbing to read. When she accidentally became pregnant (perhaps one of the most disturbing parts is when we find out Ernest tracks her monthly cycles in a journal to ensure they don't get pregnant)  she is thrilled that she finally has a purpose in life. That is fine in itself, but it seemed that once she had the baby, the nanny pretty much took care of the kid all the time. They also had a lot of financial troubles but the baby was always looked after. I guess child-care was more affordable in the 20s. 

I don't know much about Ernest Hemingway's personal life (other than he was married several times), but my interpretation of him from this novel is that he was a manic depressive with narcissistic tendencies as well as an alcoholic. Hadley, as the main character, was written very flat and boring. When her husband moved his mistress essentially in with their family and she didn't leave him immediately, I lost the little respect for her that I had. However, even though I didn't care for Hadley and didn't believe in the 'love' between the two, this book was still overall enjoyable. There are enough side characters (F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Ezra Pound) to keep the story moving. 

Grade: B

Burnt Offerings [Hamilton]

Book: Burnt Offerings [Anita Blake book# 7]
Author: Laurell K. Hamilton

Review:  Anita is very busy. She's searching for a missing werewolf, trying to track down a psychic firestarter and helping Jean-Claude with the visiting vampire delegation. She also needs to define her feelings for ex-boyfriend Richard and takes a leadership role with the were-panthers. 

I was excited to read this book because as readers of this blog know, I am not a Richard fan. I was hoping we were done with him after the last book but it's apparent that Hamilton is going to keep Richard, and Jean-Claude, in Anita's life for the duration of the series. Luckily, Anita's romantic ventures are not the main point of the books (although still big plot points!) the mystery takes precedence. Unfortunately, while action packed, this book was extremely boring. Readers can usually count on Anita for witty comments but not this time around. All of the characters seemed disconnected and I could not get into the story lines. 

Grade: C

The Killing Dance [Hamilton]

Book: The Killing Dance [Anita Blake #6]
Author: Laurell K. Hamilton

Review: Life is complicated for St. Louis' favorite vampire hunter/necromancer, Anita Blake. Someone has taken out a huge contract on her life and she is still dealing with feelings for both her werewolf boyfriend, Richard, and master vampire of the city, Jean-Claude. Anita, aided by her "friend" (and hitman) Edward, tries to figure out who is trying to kill her while navigating nefarious people at every direction, both human and supernatural.

Although the mystery plot was easy to figure out, this book was by far the best of the series. Hamilton balanced out humor, romance, action and mystery perfectly. A fun, sassy read that fans of the series will enjoy.

Grade: B+

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Clash of Kings [Martin]

Book: A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 2)
Author: George R.R. Martin

Review: (this review contains major plot spoilers) The Seven Kingdoms are in turmoil. After King Robert dies, his young, sadistic son Joffrey Baratheon ascends the throne. Meanwhile, Robert's brother (Renly and Stannis) also claim the throne while Robb Stark is now King of the North. Meanwhile, Jamie Lannister is still a prisoner, Arya has escaped King's Landing and is en route to the wall disguised as a boy, Sansa is being held and abused as a hostage at King's Landing, crippled Brandon is discovering he has some special abilities and Jon Snow searches for answers beyond the wall. Dany continues to nurture her dragons..that no one in King's Landing knows about yet. I cannot wait to see how that will unfold! 

I really enjoyed this book and finished it in a few days. My older brother played Risk when I was young and I felt like I was reading about a game unfolding on the pages. I could not wait to find out how the war unraveled. 

My favorite character thus far is Tyrion, who (in this book) acts as the Hand of the King (for Joffrey). His wit and intellect make him such a dynamic character. I will say I am not a fan of Catelyn Stark and her sections are the toughest to get through. I heard a major character dies in the next book and I'm really hoping it is her. Brandon Stark's sections were also a tad drawn out but I feel like he'll be a major player as the series continues. 

Overall-loved it!!!

Grade: A-/B+

Through My Eyes [Tebow & Whitaker]

Book: Through My Eyes
Author: Tim Tebow with Nathan Whitaker

Review: 'Through My Eyes' is a memoir of sorts written in the first person by former Florida quarterback (and current 3rd string quarterback for the Broncos), Tim Tebow. While I lived in Gainesville for several years, I never attended a game and don't follow SEC football. That being said, as a former college athlete myself, I appreciate hard work and a competitive spirit.

I am skeptical when someone Tebow's age (early 20's) writes a memoir-how much can one person really experience in such a short time that warrants a book? Other than sports accomplishments...not too much. Anyway-My husband told me "everyone" told this kid he wouldn't be successful and he proved everyone wrong by accomplishing all these things. Well-after reading the book, I disagree with that sentiment. Tebow and his siblings were all home-schooled but very active in sports. When he was in high school, the coach did not want to play him as a quarterback so his parents shopped schools until they found one that agreed to play him (they moved into an apartment so he lived in the district). In summary-he was a competitive kid, successful basketball, baseball and football high school athlete, excelled at the University of Florida where he won the Heisman and lead the team to 2 National Championships. While he describes off-season workouts that I really enjoyed learning about, several pages (seemed like almost half the book) were dedicated to extreme detail about college football games (maybe someone more into football would appreciate those sections). He is extremely religious and while he comments multiple times that he is flawed, he shares very few personal stories. There are a few exceptions-notably a section about his family dog that I found endearing.  

If you are an Evangelical Christian (Tebow is very resonant in his faith) and football-you'll probably love this book. I found certain aspects entertaining (I keep telling my husband about the workouts, they sound so brutal yet intriguing) and I appreciate Tebow's competitive spirit and work ethic. He seems like a generally nice person and I wish him the best. It wasn't the most engaging read, but not the worst. 

Grade: C+

Succubus Revealed [Mead]

Book: Succubus Revealed [Georgina Kincaid book#6]
Author: Richelle Mead

Review:  (this review contains plot spoilers) Seattle succubus Georgina is finally in a relationship with author Seth. When she unexpectedly gets a job transfer to Vegas, can their relationship survive the long distance? Or is the transfer Hell's way of trying to get Georgina out of Seattle for another reason? With the help of Roman and Hugh, Georgina finally figures out what is really happening. 

I've been excited about this book for awhile now and read it in one sitting. While I loved the final interaction with Georgina and Carter, the rest of the book was predictable and just 'okay.' I'm sure most fans of the series guess the big twist several books ago so there was no big reveal. I was hoping Georgina herself would be the one to figure it out, but alas, she didn't. Overall, I was disappointed but I like that Mead left the door open for a spin-off series with several of the secondary characters. I would love a series about Carter!

Grade: B-

Bloody Bones [Hamilton]

Book: Bloody Bones [Anita Blake #5]
Author: Laurell K. Hamilton

Review: When Anita and Larry travel out of town to raise a 300 year old zombie to settle a land dispute, their job quickly becomes complicated. Some type of supernatural being is killing locals and they must work with vampires, werewolves and fae to figure out the truth.

This book strongly featured Jean-Claude who is my favorite Anita 'suitor' thus far.  I'm not a Richard fan-I just don't find him attractive in physical description or feel they click together. Anyway-I loved the inclusion of Larry, the overall strong and interesting story line, as well as the character progression we see with Anita. In the previous books she sees human and vampires very black and white-in this book, she starts to question her previous mindset and evolve. Great read!

Grade: B+

The Lunatic Cafe [Hamilton]

Book: The Lunatic Cafe [Anita Blake #4]
Author: Laurell K. Hamilton

Review: When several lycanthropes go missing, the leader of the werewolf pack wants Anita to investigate what is happening. Unfortunately, Anita's boyfriend Richard is in a power struggle with said leader which complicates matters. Throw in a jealous Jean-Claude and Anita's bounty hunter friend who she must keep from killing Richard and Jean-Claude, and we have a delightful read that once again builds from the previous book. My only complaint with this installment was the relationship of Anita and Richard from the previous book to this one. They seemed to go from a few dates to an exclusive, serious relationship. It didn't feel authentic and I don't understand the attraction as they have very little in common. Otherwise, fun read.

Grade: B

Circus of the Damned [Hamilton]

Book: Circus of the Damned [Anita Blake #3]
Author: Laurell K. Hamilton

Review:  In book 3 of Hamilton's popular vampire hunter series, our favorite necromancer, Anita Blake, must work with Master Vampire Jean-Claude to resist another vampire who wants her as his human servant.  She also meets an attractive teacher Richard (who also happens to be a werewolf) and we meet Larry, a fellow college student/necromancer who Anita is training/mentoring.

This was a fun, light, easy read. Amazingly, each book so far has been slighly better than the previous installment. I like a series that builds! 

Grade: B

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Laughing Corpse [Hamilton]

Book: The Laughing Corpse [Anita Blake book #2]
Author: Laurel K. Hamilton

Review: When an old man offers Anita a million dollars to raise an old corpse, she turns down the job knowing it would require human sacrifice. But when a series of brutal murders start happening, she realizes someone else has already attempted (and botched) the job. Anita hunts down the murderer (who is a zombie on the loose) while battling a powerful voodoo priestess.

This was a quick, enjoyable read. Once again, the mystery was easy to figure out but the humor and fast action still made this book fun. The more I read about Anita, the more I like her. Hey, who doesn't like someone who secretly collects penguins? (I'm a fellow penguin lover, so Anita and I are kindred spirits! :) )

Grade: B

Guilty Pleasures [Hamilton]

Book: Guilty Pleasures [Anita Blake book #1]
Author: Laurel K. Hamilton

Review: In a world where vampires are mainstream, necromancer Anita Blake is known as the 'Executioner'. She's tiny, tough and works as a consultant to the local St. Louis police department on supernatural crimes. When someone starts executing seemingly innocent vampires, Anita is 'convinced' to work the case. Can she figure out who the killer is before it's too late?

Not only is Anita a necromancer and vampire hunter, but she is known for her bad fashion sense, her penchant for stuffed penguins and her affinity for carrying a lot of weapons at all times. She is a feisty heroine with a lot of literary potential. Although the killer was easy to figure out, I enjoyed the introduction to Anita, the vampires in her life as well as her work associates. I know a few people who have read (or are reading) the series and I'm excited to keep reading. I understand the books are impossible to put down around book 5 or 6.

If you like Harris' Southern Vampire/Sookie Stackhouse series, you will probably enjoy this. In fact, these book were written years before Sookie and I suspect they were an inspiration for Harris.

Grade: B

A Game of Thrones [Martin]

Book: A Game of Thrones [A Song of Ice and Fire, book 1]
Author: George R.R. Martin

Review: Plot summary courtesy of

Martin's Seven Kingdoms resemble England during the Wars of the Roses, with the Stark and Lannister families standing in for the Yorks and Lancasters. The story of these two families and their struggle to control the Iron Throne dominates the foreground; in the background is a huge, ancient wall marking the northern border, beyond which barbarians, ice vampires, and direwolves menace the south as years-long winter advances. Abroad, a dragon princess lives among horse nomads and dreams of fiery reconquest.

This book is extremely long (over 16k kindle pages) and I struggled with a quick summary, so hopefully you won't mind that I used Amazon's! I watched GOT season 1 on HBO this past year and loved the show, so I decided to give the book a try. To the producers and writers credit, the show is almost an exact replica of the book. Unfortunately, that made reading the book rather tedious as I knew what was going to happen. There was additional detail and background information on characters that the show didn't delve into, but the show and book pretty much mirror each other.

Overall-I love that GOT is a fantasy world but still has a strong old world England feel to it. Martin writes each chapter from a different characters perspective which is a narrative I personally enjoy. I am 60% through the second book and LOVE it (because the plot is a mystery to me, I enjoy the events unfolding and trying to guess what is going to happen).

If you are a fan of the show, you may want to skip book 1 and start with the second book. If you are someone that enjoys fantasy (realize this reads more like old England with a hint of magical type elements) you will probably enjoy this.

Grade: B+

Friday, July 29, 2011

Olive Kitteridge [Strout]

Book: Olive Kitteridge
Author: Elizabeth Strout

Review: 'Olive Kitteridge' is a series of short stories about people living in a small town in Maine. Olive Kitteridge is a retired school teacher and is the focus of a few stories, while making appearances in the others. She is many things to different people-beloved teacher, obnoxious mother-in-law, annoying wife, caring and supportive neighbor. Strout nails human emotion in this beautifully written novel yet depressing novel.

I am generally not a fan of short stories but this is so well written and the stories so engaging that I had a hard time putting it down. It was simply excellent. I felt a kindred spirit to the town in general as well as Olive. It may be because I'm from a small town in the northeast (originally from Maine but grew up in upstate NY) that Strout really captured the spirit of the people. Olive also reminded me a lot of a person close to me. For the most part she has good intentions, but very little self awareness.

Grade: A

Broken [Hart]

Book: Broken
Author: Megan Hart

Review: College sweethearts Sadie and Adam were happily married for years when a skiing accident rendered Adam a quadriplegic. Sadie's life now revolves around taking care of Adam and her therapy practice. Once a month, Sadie meets Joe for lunch, and he tells her about his latest sexual adventure. Although still in love with her husband, Sadie imagines herself in the role of the women Joe tells her about. Sadie navigates her feelings for Joe while trying to repair her relationship with her husband.

This book reads like a well-written fiction novel with racy chapters intermixed. This is a harrowing love story between Sadie and Adam and how their relationship and marriage is impacted by tragedy. Heart wrenching, I found myself almost in tears at certain times. One of my favorite books is 'The Dive Off Clausen's Pier' and I found this book a grown up, sexier version. Speaking of sexier, Hart's inclusion of Joe's tales was well-done. My only complaint with this book was that there was little development of Joe as a character and there is a scene at the end of the book (spoiler alert: when he goes to Sadie's house, how did he know where she lived?) that was far fetched.

Overall, I loved this book. This is the best, most well-written erotica I've read to date. However-if you are looking for a traditional, uplifting, "I feel happy" romance novel, this is not for you. This book deals with a serious topic (marriage impacted by a horrible accident).

Grade: A- (please note this book is 'erotica' and not for all readers!)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Dead Reckoning [Harris]

Book: Dead Reckoning [Sookie Stackhouse Book# 11]
Author: Charlaine Harris

Review: Fans of Sookie and Eric will be disappointed with the latest installment of the southern vampire series. Witty banter between the two is completely gone. I vaguely remember the days when I read books 4 and 5 and laughed out loud routing for them to be together. In fact, normal communication of any sorts must occur off the pages because they do not communicate well nor have any fun in this book. Most fans have been waiting a long time for these two to be together so it's disappointing that now they are a couple, it isn't translating well. It seems clear that Harris is breaking them up and Sam will be the last man standing. I have nothing against Sam, but I've always been an Eric fan and was hoping they would end up together.

However, back to the plot of the book...similar to the last book, there were a few story lines, none of which that were that interesting. Merlotte's is firebombed (this could have been interesting but it felt recycled from a previous book) while Pam and Eric are having trouble with the king regent, Victor. Speaking of Pam-she has a serious love interest for the first time in the series and the entire relationship happens off the page. Even more annoying (SPOILER ALERT) her love interest is killed off with very little fanfare. There was a fae subplot with Claude and Dermot that was never fully fleshed out (I'm guessing this will be the main story arc in the last two books).

This whole book just felt a little "off" with many characters acting out of character. SPOILER ALERT: There was a random Alcide appearance (Alcide was waiting for Sookie in her bed..really?). Amelia reappears and then is kicked out of Sookie's house when Sookie overreacts to a certain situation. Southern gentleman Bill makes a vulgar comment to Sookie at one point (I will admit it's the only time I laughed though reading the book). Prim and proper Pam also says things out of character, while Eric is just a shell of his previously hot, quick witted self.

I am beginning to question the editing of these books as things were presented or "revealed" that don't fit with the timeline of previous books.It doesn't seem like Harris is having fun writing this series anymore (I used to laugh all the time reading them) and is trying to stretch out a few ideas to complete her book deal. Or..maybe I enjoy the HBO show more and I''m holding the book to a higher standard? I welcome comments from other fans of both series.

Grade: C

The Count of Monte Cristo [Dumas]

Book: The Count of Monte Cristo
Author: Alexandre Dumas

Review: When Edmond Dantes is falsely imprisoned for political treason, he plots revenge against the three men who put him there. He escapes the prison after fourteen years, acquires a large fortune, reinvents himself and slowly enacts his revenge.

The first 2/3 of the book are extremely slow. Dumas writes with excruciating detail and introduces characters that don't appear to have an integral role in the story. I attempted to read every night around 10pm and it was a struggle most nights. It is over 26k kindle pages and I thought about stopping multiple times. I complained so much to my husband ("everyone tells me they love this book but it is a snoozefest" I would say) that he finally told me to stop reading and move on. But I pushed through and I'm glad I did. Dumas lays an intricate groundwork necessary for the conclusion of the story which was very satisfying, although somewhat obvious (events were heavily foreshadowed although I did not foresee his handling of Danglar).

Overall, I ended up really enjoying this book. All of the characters Dumas introduced play a role in the story (even though it may take another 15 hours of reading to find out why). A few things bothered me about the book (not sure if 'bothered' is the correct term') which as a reader, you have to go with (**spoilers below**):
*Dantes meets the Abbe Faria in prison. The Abbe is a walking encyclopedia and knows almost every language, imparting his knowledge (and apparently perfect accents) to Edmond. He seemed too good to be true.
*Dumas comments multiple times that the Count is very pale and unable to gain any color due to his time in prison. I'm pretty sure anyone who hasn't seen the sun for 14 years would burn just the same as the rest of us.
*No one recognized the Edmond as the count. I will say that while reading I had a hard time believing this but after seeing facebook photos of guys I haven't seen since high school, I wouldn't recognize half of them.
*I was weirded out with how the Count's love life was resolved at the end (SPOILER). He ends up with someone that he thought of as his adoptive daughter for the majority of the book. Gross.

**For fans of the movie starring Guy Pierce and Jim Caviezel: the movie is a VERY loose adaptation. "Kings to You" does not appear in the pages. Edmond and Fernand were not childhood friends (in fact, they were not friends at all). Edmond had no idea why he was in prison until the Faria helped him figure it out. There were few chase/fight scenes. The movie count was flashy while the book count was very subtle. Several key characters were missing. Albert is not Edmond's son. And last but not least-Edmond and Mercedes do not end up together. I happened to watch the movie the night after I finished reading this and it was all I could do to not shout "that didn't happen!" repeatedly. Enjoyable movie..just VERY different.

Grade: B+

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

BossyPants [Fey]

Book: BossyPants
Author: Tina Fey

Review: Readers expecting a memoir of Tina Fey's life will be disappointed with 'BossyPants.' While thoroughly sarcastic, it reads more like a collection of essays. Fey recounts memories from her life but reveals very little personal information about herself. I believe she has an older sibling who is maybe mentioned once. The best chapter is a section on her father (Don Fey), but her mother is barely mentioned at all. While we hear a funny story about her honeymoon, readers have no idea how she met her husband or fell in love. If you are a fan of 30 Rock, Tina Fey is Liz Lemon (with a husband and baby). She did provide some details behind the scenes in the television industry which were interesting.

Overall, it was an okay read. I never laughed out loud nor feel like I learned too much about Tina Fey. I would be interested in reading a book about her father, he seems like one cool cat. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone (however, I recommend 'Sh*t My Dad Says' to almost everyone I know), but if you want to read it, borrow it from the library or a friend. It's not worth the hardcover price.

Grade: B-

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Choice [Fisher]

Book: The Choice [Lancaster County Secrets, Book 1]
Author: Suzanne Woods Fisher

Review: Carrie is planning to run away with her Amish boyfriend when her father suddenly dies. Unwilling to leave her younger brother with her dour step-mother, Carrie decides to stay in Lancaster. Her boyfriend leaves the community to pursue his dream of playing professional baseball while Carrie marries another man out of spite.

'The Choice' was a free kindle download. My husband said "You are reading an Amish romance-really? Sounds terrible." That pretty much sums up my mindset going into it. I was pleasantly surprised that this wasn't as horrible as I thought it would be. It was chaste (only a few kisses!) and very religious/preachy at times (Amish are a religious people and Carrie's main love interest liked to talk about the bible...a lot) but otherwise, it was okay. It wasn't completely predictable (at one point I wasn't sure where the plot was headed after a main character died) and learning more about Amish culture was interesting. For example, I thought all Amish who chose to live in the English world are shunned. However, you are only shunned if you are baptized and then leave. If you leave before baptism, you can still come back.

If you are a religious person who wants an extremely mild romance story, you will probably enjoy this. It is a quick read and free from amazon's website.

Grade: C+

Salting Roses [Marinello]

Book: Salting Roses
Author: Lorelle Marinello

Review: Abandoned on a porch as an infant in small town Alabama, 25 year old Gracie Lynne Calloway discovers she was kidnapped from a wealthy family and is now heir to a $600m fortune. Protective of her family and small town southern roots, Gracie Lynne rejects her northern biological family and wants nothing to do with the money.

Like most people, I've fantasized about winning the lottery. I have different scenarios depending on how much the jackpot is (I don't actually buy lotto tickets, but it's fun to daydream). So, the fact that Gracie Lynn essentially hit the jackpot and did not want the money is something I can't relate to. My immediately thought was that she help out the people who raised her and give the rest to charity.

Anyway-this book had a good premise. Small town girl finds out she was kidnapped and is heir to a vast fortune. She is someone who rejects change-how will she handle everything? Unfortunately, the execution was not good. The characters were stereotypical (especially concerning north vs. south) and many parts were flat out unbelievable. The love story (between Gracie Lynne and Sam, a private investigator who explained everything to her) was contrived and rushed. Additionally-we are told that Gracie Lynne's father (who knew about her existence for years and never disclosed his true identity) decided to leave her his fortune because she could manage it properly. I have no idea how he came to this conclusion-she's a small town girl who works in the back room of a grocery store (I think as a bookkeeper) and didn't even want to venture out for college. I have nothing against small town people (I'm one of them) but I don't believe she ever traveled or showed interest in much of anything except softball. The kicker is that she was raised by a couple who lived in different houses. It is later revealed that these characters have been divorced for years and didn't want to tell her because she doesn't take change well. Okay-this is a town of just over 2k people. Everyone knows everyone. How she didn't know they were divorced and her mother (or sorts) was dating someone else shows how unobservant she was. She isn't the sharpest tool in the shed. Come on! She's not someone who screams "I have a good head on my shoulders and can manage hundreds of millions of dollars."

Bottom line-I am shocked this book has such a high amazon review. It was terrible.

Grade: D

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sh*t My Dad Says [Halpern]

Book: Sh*t My Dad Says
Author: Justin Halpern

Review: When 28-year old writer Justin Halpern moved back home with his parents, he started a twitter page with funny things his dad spewed. Before long, he had over a million followers and a book deal. In this hilarious memoir, Halpern recounts stories about growing up in San Diego with his physician father, attorney mother, older brothers and the family dog. Laugh out loud funny, this is a quick read that I absolutely loved.

Grade: A

In The Woods [French]

Book: In the Woods
Author: Tana French

Review: In 1984, 3 young children went into the woods near their homes in Ireland. One was found the next day, standing in blood soaked socks with no recollection of what happened. His friends were never found again and presumed murdered. 'In the Woods' starts 20 years later, when a young girl is found murdered in the same woods. The boy who survived years earlier is now a murder detective on the case. Cassie, his partner and best friend, is the only person who knows about his (possible) connection. Along with their fellow detective Sam, they investigate the murder.

This book was set up well: two crimes, twenty years apart. Are they related? Did Detective Rob Ryan murder his friends when they were kids? Is the new crime related? I eagerly read as the two plots unfolded and the first third of the book flew by.

The second third of this book detailed Rob, Cassie and Sam's (the murder detectives) police work. It was not thrilling and fast paced like a Law & Order episode. In fact, it is probably a more accurate reflection of what detectives do and it was very slow paced and boring. I almost gave up on the book but forced myself to push through.

The last third of the book wrapped up the murder mystery. By this point, I think most readers could figure out who the mastermind behind the present-day killing was. Our narrator, Rob Ryan, transformed from a seemingly competent detective at the beginning of the novel to an irritating, emotionally stunted man who complained (a lot) by the end. If I was his commanding officer, I would have fired him a long time ago. His investigating skills were greatly lacking and I doubt he could have found a McDonalds in downtown Dublin with a map. However, most importantly, the twenty year old crime was not solved! I wanted to throw the book against the wall. I could not believe I wasted my time reading this.

However...this book has stayed with me. I started dreaming about and rethinking the plot. I like how the relationship of Rob, Cassie and Sam mirrored that of his friends when he was 12 years old. I was annoyed by his emotional immaturity reading the book but realize if anyone went through a major trauma as a child, this is probably a common side effect. I also really thought about the 20 year old mystery-was Rob involved? My conclusion is that he wasn't.

Overall-this was a long read, very boring at times, but it made me think. I like any book that makes me think. I definitely won't reread this book but there are more in the series I may check out.

Grade: B

Jane Eyre [Bronte]

Book: Jane Eyre
Author: Charlotte Bronte

Review: 'Jane Eyre' is required reading for most high school English classes. I remember reading it as a teen and loving it. When I saw it was a free Kindle download, I decided to reread it. Rereading any book can be challenging when you know the plot and ending. I've reread many books in throughout the years but this was tough to get through. I suppose that as a teenager I related to Jane in many ways but as an adult, I found her whiny and unlikeable. For those unfamiliar with the plot (**spoiler alert**) Jane is an orphan who seeks love. She has a rough childhood (uncaring aunt, sadistic cousin), difficult time at boarding school and then becomes a governess for an older man. She falls in love with him, ends up forgiving him for misrepresenting his marital situation and they end of together.

While 'Jane Eyre' is well written and the overall plot has some interesting points, this novel was extremely dry and boring.

I plan to reread it again in 15 years to see how/if my opinion changes.

Grade: B

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

No One You Know [Richmond]

Book: No One You Know
Author: Michelle Richmond

Review: After Ellie's older sister is murdered, her friend/college English professor betrays her friendship by writing a best selling true crime book about the crime. He boldly claims her sister's married lover was the killer, although no charges were ever filed.

Twenty years later, Ellie (who travels the world as a coffee buyer) finds herself face to face with the supposed killer. He acknowledges that he was cheating on his wife with her sister (a relationship that quickly dissolved after he was publicly branded a murderer), but they were in love. He proclaims his innocence and questions a few details in the book. Realizing she has blindly believed the book's version of events for years, she realizes her quiet, shy sister may not have been killed by this man. Ellie embarks on a journey to find her old professor, understand his motivation for the book and locate her sister's killer.

Although the title character in this novel is impacted by her sister's murder and searches for her killer, I wouldn't classify this book as a murder mystery. In fact-Ellie is able to solve the case relatively quickly (20 years after the fact) once she decides to find the truth. I won't spoil the ending here, but obviously there wasn't a big criminal mastermind at work. This book is fascinating because it explores the relationship between sisters, how a family is impacted by tragedy and most importantly, how perceived truths impact each of us.

Overall, this was a very interesting read. There was a strong math theme to this book and I foresee some people skimming those sections (Ellie's sister was a math prodigy and graduate student at Stanford working on a difficult math proof) as well as some interesting details about the business of buying coffee beans. As a non-coffee drinker myself (someone Ellie wouldn't be able to relate to!) I found the process fascinating. The pacing of the novel was slow at times.

Grade: B+

Love at First Flight [Force]

Book: Love at First Flight
Author: Marie Force

Review: Michael is engaged to a high maintenance rich girl he's been dating for years while 28 year old hairstylist Juliana is patiently waiting for a ring from her high school boyfriend. They meet on a flight to Florida to visit their respective significant others and quickly connect. After they experience disastrous weekends (Michael calls off his engagement while Juliana and her boyfriend decide to take a break for a few months) they end up on the same flight back. The book completely jumped the shark at this point when she moves in with Michael (after only meeting him days earlier!). Force attempts to add some "tension" to the book with a subplot involving a court case Michael is prosecuting and some waffling on Juliana's part as to which man is the right one for her, but it is obvious how this book will end. I love a good romance novel like many women but this book was not good. It was a free download for kindle and I got what I paid for. Don't waste your time on this one.

Grade: D

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Shadowfever [Moning]

Book: Shadowfever [Fever Series Book #5]
Author: Karen Marie Moning

Review: ***This review contains spoilers*** After reading the first four books in this series last year, I became obsessed with trying to figure out what would happen in this book. I combed every blog and fan site I could find to read what others were saying. I was extra pumped going into this after rereading book 4 and dived into this full speed ahead. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. When Mac discovered she stabbed Barrons and finally admitted her feelings for him, I think I did a fist pump and shouted "finally!". Discovering Alina's killer was a nice surprise and I liked V'Lane's duplicity. I also didn't foresee the identify of the dreamy eyed boy. However-there were a few things I wasn't thrilled with. First and foremost, Moning spent 4 books building up the Lord Master and he is killed off in a very muted manner. That was disappointing. Next, while the Keltar's were an interesting addition in previous books, the inclusion of their families, as well as Mac's, were cartoonish and unnecessary. I'm not sure if Moning was trying to add an element of comic relief but it didn't fit with tone of the rest of the series. My biggest complaint with this book was that we still don't know what exactly Barrons is!! Yes, we know he turns into a beast sometimes and he's immortal, but I wasn't satisfied with that explanation. I realize Mac was fine without more information (and a few people I know who read the book said 'that was the point') but I still craved more! One more thing on Barrons...we don't see him eat for 4 books and we find out he likes Mac's mother's pie (??!!??). And the last scene in the book is Barrons grilling steaks..very random and not a satisfying conclusion.

Even with the parts I didn't enjoy or thought were missing, I still really enjoyed this book.

Grade: B+

Monday, January 31, 2011

Dreamfever [Moning]

Book: Dreamfever [Fever Series Book 4]
Author: Karen Marie Moning

Review: In anticipation of Shadowfever (the final book in Moning's popular Fever series) I decided to reread book 4 to psyche myself up. I devoured this book like a piece of pumpkin pie. For those of you who don't know me, that means I read it quickly and enjoyed every ounce of it. Even though there was limited development in the relationship between Mac and Barrons, I loved how he "rehabilitated her" in the beginning of novel. The cliffhanger at the end was just as exciting this time around, and I was beyond thrilled that I could immediately start the final book to find out **spoiler alert** who Mac stabbed in the mirrors.

Grade: A-

Last Sacrifice [Mead]

Book: Last Sacrifice [Vampire Academy Book 6]
Author: Richelle Mead

In the final book of the Vampire Academy series, Rose Hathaway finds herself awaiting trial for murdering the queen. Determined to clear her name, her friends break her out of prison and exile her to a small town so they can solve the murder and keep Rose safe. However, anyone who knows Rose knows she won't be able to sit back and wait. Traveling with alchemist Sydney and her ex Dimitri, they embark on a mission to find Lissa's illegitimate sibling and solve the murder mystery.

I enjoyed this book (the murderer was someone I didn't suspect), but this series changed from 'wow I love it!' to 'I really like it' after the previous book. When I finished the previous book I was surprised that one of my favorite heroines, who had been strong and confident was reduced to a selfish, whiny, annoying main character who I wanted to slap in the face. Rose was written better in this book but she was still so selfish it surprised me anyone was her friend and that she had 2 guys vying for her affection. Speaking of men, there was a love triangle that was resolved. I freely admit I've never been a Dimitri fan-I never felt a spark between them nor particularly cared for him but it was obvious they would end up together. They traveled together for most of the book and he is just a BORING character. I thought Rose was overly harsh during the breakup scene with Adrian considering she cheated on him. Hey-I realize she wasn't in love and essentially used him their entire relationship but he was a good guy and her selfishness and immaturity just irked me.

Overall-I still really enjoyed this book-I love Sydney and look forward to reading the spin off series she will be part of. I thought the sections with Lissa were also very entertaining. Rose, although selfish and immature was still funny at times. It was a good conclusion to the series and a quick, fun, read.


Mockingjay [Collins]

Book: Mockingjay [The Hunger Games Book 3]
Author: Suzanne Collins

Review: **This review contains spoilers.**

She defied the Capital in 'The Hunger Games' by saving Peeta in the arena. In 'Catching Fire' she inadvertently incited a revolution instead of stopping it. After breaking out of the arena during the 75th anniversary of 'The Hunger Games', Katniss and a few other competitors are rescued and become part of the rebellion. With the third and final installment, Katniss must decide if she will become the face or 'Mockingjay' of the revolt, while she struggles with the knowledge that Peeta has been kidnapped by the Capital and she is being used as a pawn by many powerful parties. Will she be manipulated? Will she see her potential and rise to the occasion?

While still an engaging heroine, Katniss did not mature as much as I hoped in this book. I kept hoping she would realize her power and rise up-and while she did (kind of..) I was hoping for more. Many chapters are devoted to a mission against the evil President but she never ends up killing him. Collins also introduced many new characters that seemed interchangeable and were killed off anyway. I surprisingly found myself skimming some sections (I did not skim at all in the first 2 books). Overall, I enjoyed this book although I'm conflicted about the ending. There is a love triangle of sorts throughout the series (it is very obvious who Katniss will end up with)-this was resolved to my satisfaction. However, she ends up almost banished to District 12 and seems content with this. Unless she is suffering from PTSD, it didn't seem that realistic.

Overall-I highly recommend this series.

Grade: B+

Catching Fire [Collins]

Book: Catching Fire [Hunger Games Book 2]
Author: Suzanne Collins

Review: **Although I'll try to be general, this review contains spoilers. If you haven't read 'The Hunger Games' and plan to, DO NOT READ any further. It is impossible to discuss this book at all without giving away the ending of book 1.**

Still reading? Okay, here it goes.

After Katniss outsmarts the Head Gamemaster in 'The Hunger Games', she and Peeta return home to District 12. But life for Katniss is not sunshine and roses. The President of Panem holds Katniss responsible for the political unrest throughout the districts and threatens her loved ones unless she can subdue the uprisings during her 'victory tour.' Things only go further downhill when the 75th anniversary "celebration" of the Hunger Games is revealed and Katniss finds her life, as well as Peeta's in jeopardy once again.

Like book 1, 'Catching Fire' is fast paced and emotionally sucks the reader in. Collins successfully introduced new characters and created a finale I did not see coming. An excellent followup and my favorite book of the series.

Grade: A-

The Hunger Games [Collins]

Book: The Hunger Games [The Hunger Games Trilogy Book 1]
Author: Suzanne Collins

Review: It's the future. North America is now Panem, which is comprised of a capital city and 12 outlying districts. The wealthy Capital controls the districts through isolation, propaganda and poverty. Each year, the districts "nominate" a male and female between the ages of 12 and 18 to participate in the 'The Hunger Games.' While the contestants are treated like stars (they each have stylists and coaches) they are fighting for their lives. For the 'Hunger Games' are a televised fight to the death. The "winner" becomes a celebrity of sorts throughout Panem and their district receives extra food and money for a year.

When 16-year old Katniss Everdeen hears her little sister's name called to be a contestant in the Games, she steps up and takes her place. Peeta, a classmate who once saved her life by giving her food when her family was starving, is also called into the games. What follows is a captivating book that made me laugh, cry and hunger for the next two books.

*Note: this is not a "happy" uplifting type of book and therefore is not for everyone. This is marketed as a young adult book in the US so although there is violence, it is not overly graphic. There is no bad language.

Review: Grade: A-

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo [Larsson]

Book: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Author: Stieg Larsson

Review: "Christine. You are going to LOVE this book. It is so good. I can't put it down!" I can't tell you how many people have told me that over the last year. So imagine my surprise when I started this book and it was all I could do not to fall asleep reading it. "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" (or 'Men Who Hate Women' in its native tongue) has two primary story lines, both involving a financial journalist, Mikael. It starts with Mikael being sued for libel against a billionaire and being sentenced to a few months in prison as well as a hefty fine. He is then offered a job by an old man to research a cold case. The man's grand-niece has been missing for 40 years and he believes someone in his family killed her. He entices Mikael to move to his small town for a year and research the case. Mikael cannot refuse when the man, Henrik, offers him a lot of money. The title references a researcher, Lisbeth, who eventually joins Mikael in his research.

This book had a lot of promise. From what I've read, the author planned a series of 10 books but died after delivering 3 manuscripts to his publisher. It is very obvious this book was not edited. Multiple pages are spent introducing characters that aren't necessary to the story (there are only a few members of Henrik's family integral to the story yet closer to 15 are introduced). My biggest complaints are that the book moved so slow, was extremely repetitive and details were included that had little to zero impact on the overall story. Case in point, we were told every time Mikael ate a sandwich. I cannot tell you how many sandwiches he ate...but you could start a drinking game with all the references. Larrson described every room down to the foot and he seemed very interested describing computers in extreme detail. The book did finally pick up about 3/4 in. However, when the cold case is solved, another 100+ pages devoted to the billionaire that sued Mikael. It should have ended when the cold case was solved.

Overall-I didn't hate this book or love it. Like I said above, with editing it could have been really good. I'm not invested enough in Mikael (I didn't mention he is a ladies man who sleeps with almost every female character in the story) or Lisbeth (a punk hacker who is a ward of the state, which is not explained but I"m guessing is addressed in the next books) to read the next 2 books which are published, although I'm told book 2 is much better. We'll see-maybe I'll read it eventually.

Grade: C+