Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Review: The Legacy by Katherine Webb

The Legacy: A Novel
A fresh and exciting new voice in contemporary fiction, Katherine Webb debuts with a haunting novel about a secret family history. Already a sensation in the United Kingdom, Webb’s The Legacy is a treat for every fan of upmarket women’s fiction and literary suspense in the vein of bestselling authors Kate Morton, Sarah Waters, and Diane Setterfield. Taut, affecting, and surprising—a story that ranges from present-day England back to the American West in the early twentieth century—The Legacy embroils two sisters in an investigation into the strange, never solved disappearance of their cousin, a dark mystery that opened deep family wounds that never healed.- Synopsis from Goodreads

The Legacy centers on two sisters Beth and Erica who have jointly inherited their recently deceased grandmother's manor house. They return to the house to sort through the belongings and decide what they should do with the house. Sounds fantastic except that the home holds a rather unpleasant memory, one Beth has been trying to run away from and Erica has been trying to figure out.

While trying to sort out the demons in their own closet, Erica stumbles upon a mystery surrounding her great-grandmother Caroline who held onto a secret of her own. Chapters alternate between the sisters story in the present and Caroline's own story set in 1903. The language is beautiful. I found myself sucked right into the story, able to perfectly picture each and every setting.

I did connect more with Caroline's heart-wrenching story than I did with that of Beth and Erica. There was something in her that just made it a bit more compelling. Of course, both secrets come to the surface around the same time though I thought they would be more interconnected. Caroline's secret, while interesting for the sisters, held little to no real significance on their lives and had absolutely nothing to do with their own secret. It just made the stories a little disconnected for me. I would have liked to see them woven together a little more than just having Erica doing the detective work. Despite all that, it was still a good story and an entertaining read.A great representation of the way secrets and lies affect not just our lives but the lives of those around us.

*Disclaimer- I received a copy of the book from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Review: The Stranger You Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams

The Stranger You Seek: A NovelGoodreads Summary

The papers have called me a monster. You’ve either concluded that I am a braggart as well as a sadist or that I have a deep and driving need to be caught and punished.  

In the sweltering heat of an Atlanta summer, a killer is pushing the city to its breaking point, preying on the unsuspecting, writing taunting letters to the media, promising more death. Desperate to stop the Wishbone Killer before another victim meets a shattering end, A.P.D. lieutenant Aaron Rauser turns to the one person he knows can penetrate a deranged mind: ex–FBI profiler Keye Street.

And you must certainly be wondering if I am, in fact, the stranger you seek.

Keye was a rising young star at the Bureau until addiction derailed her career and her life. Now sober and fighting to stay so, Keye picks up jobs where she can get them: catching adulterers, serving subpoenas, chasing down bailjumpers, and dodging the occasional bullet. With multiple victims, little to go on, and an entire police force looking for direction, the last thing Keye wants is to be pulled into the firestorm of Atlanta’s worst nightmare.

Shall I convince you?

And then it suddenly becomes clear that the hunter has become the hunted—and the stranger she seeks is far closer than she ever dared imagine.An electrifying thriller debut, The Stranger You Seek introduces a brash, flawed, and unforgettable heroine in a complex, twisting novel that takes readers deep into a sultry Southern summer, a city in the grips of chaos, and a harrowing cat-and-mouse game no reader will ever forget.

My Thoughts 

As someone who never really thought they were into thriller type novels, I found I've been reading and enjoying quite a few lately. The Stranger You Seek is is no exception. With the debut of a new detective series, Amanda Kyle Williams brings us the delightfully flawed but lovable Keye Street. 

Keye is a recovering alcoholic whose been fired from the FBI and now makes her living nabbing bail jumpers and serving court documents to difficult people. I thought she was fabulous from the start. She's tiny but tough and mouthy. I totally wanted to just hang out with her. 

When Keye's best friend Rauser calls her in to help him and the Atlanta PD track down a new serial killer, the actions ramps up. I had a hard time putting the book down at night when I needed to sleep because something new would come up and of course, I had to see how it played out. Williams is good at diverting your attention and making you believe you know who the killer is, then just as you begin to doubt it she slams you with a total curveball. I never saw the true identity of the killer coming. It was a total surprise. 

There was one small part near involving the resolution and revelation of the killer's identity that I didn't feel was explained enough and left me a little confused. It wasn't enough to detract from my overall enjoyment of the book. It could possibly be that I simply misread something or accidentally skimmed an important paragraph in my hurry to read on and ensure that Keye was ok. 

Over all, I thought it was a fun and exciting ride. I'd recommend to anyone who enjoys a good thriller, even if you don't think you do. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Review: Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

Robopocalypse: A Novel

Daniel H. Wilson, the author of this book, has a doctorate in robotics from prestigious Carnegie Mellon and his writing credits include the nonfiction How to Survive A Robot Uprising and How to Build a Robot Army. That knowledge alone should activate your senses as you enter Robopocalypse, a realm where robots run free and humans flee skittering in many directions. Told with the unfolding menace of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, this novel will keep you up late and your computer unplugged.- Synopsis from Goodreads
Robopocalypse is like a big summer blockbuster movie, which coincidentally it's in the process of becoming and has been given the honor of Steven Spielberg directing. That says a lot. It's highly entertaining, keeps you on the edge of your seat and waiting for more. I practically needed a bucket of popcorn on my lap as I read.

When explaining it to my husband I described it as a cross between Skynet from Terminator and I, Robot. In the near future, the human population is surrounded by robots. They have cars that talk to each other in order to avoid accidents, domestic robots to help out at home, military robots, etc etc. Then, as it always goes, one robot gets a little too smart for it's own good and decides that the humans aren't really necessary anymore. At what they call 'Zero Hour' all the world's robots snap and begin to rise against the humans. This is where all hell breaks loose.

The story starts at the end of the war where a group of humans have located what they call the black box of the war. It replays stories from the war, focusing on the small group of humans whose actions were deemed heroic and essential to the human resistance. The rest of the story is those scenes. Events leading up to and foreshadowing the coming war, during 'Zero Hour' and up through the end of the war. It's a great collection of people and will no doubt make a compelling ensemble action movie.

The book read quickly as I found myself sucked into the story. It felt like it was written as a movie and I could see the entire thing play out in my head. It's not perfect but it sure was entertaining as hell and I'm eagerly awaiting casting news for the movie. With Spielberg at the helm, I have no doubt the movie will be just as entertaining.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Review: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language of Flowers: A Novel
The Victorian language of flowers was used to express emotions: honeysuckle for devotion, azaleas for passion, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it has been more useful in communicating feelings like grief, mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. Now eighteen, Victoria has nowhere to go, and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. When her talent is discovered by a local florist, she discovers her gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But it takes meeting a mysterious vendor at the flower market for her to realize what's been missing in her own life, and as she starts to fall for him, she's forced to confront a painful secret from her past, and decide whether it's worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness. "The Language of Flowers" is a heartbreaking and redemptive novel about the meaning of flowers, the meaning of family, and the meaning of love.-Synopsis from Goodreads

When I was in high school I worked at Target. I made friends with a male co-worker who was about ten years older than I was. He developed a bit of a crush on me and went so far as to send me a bouquet of flowers with a note that each flower held a special meaning. All I had to do was look them up. Of course I did (curiosity killed the cat you know). I was appropriately creeped out as I'd never thought of him in that way and he was far too old for my minor self. Needless to say, I found another male friend who was willing to pose as my boyfriend and let this guy know in no uncertain terms that I was off-limits. Just your average high school drama-rama. 

Other than giving me my first chance to fend off unwanted affection, this experience opened my eyes to the hidden meaning in each and every flower. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh is about one former foster child who feels most comfortable communicating though flowers. Victoria has been though a lot in her eighteen years and has trouble interacting with other people. After being emancipated out of the foster system, she finds herself homeless, living in a park and tending a small makeshift garden there until she meets a florist who gives her a job. Her services end up in high demand as she allows the message that each customer is trying to send dictate the flowers used in each arrangement with fantastic results. 

When she meets someone from her past in the flower market, it sends her on a journey of forgiveness and healing. Her story is difficult and heart-breaking but her love of flowers and her dedication to their meanings is what drives her and keeps her going when everything falls apart. The story is beautifully written and I flew right through it soaking up the meanings of all these beautiful flowers. Simply put, it was fabulous and I highly recommend this stunning story.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Review: The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle

The Beginning of After
Anyone who’s had something truly crappy happen to them will tell you: It’s all about Before and After. What I’m talking about here is the ka-pow, shake-you-to-your-core-and-turn-your-bones-to-plastic kind of crappy.

Sixteen-year-old Laurel’s world changes instantly when her parents and brother are killed in a terrible car accident. Behind the wheel is the father of her bad-boy neighbor, David Kaufman, whose mother is also killed. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Laurel navigates a new reality in which she and her best friend grow apart, boys may or may not be approaching her out of pity, overpowering memories lurk everywhere, and Mr. Kaufman is comatose but still very much alive. Through it all there is David, who swoops in and out of Laurel’s life and to whom she finds herself attracted against her better judgment. She will forever be connected to him by their mutual loss—a connection that will change them both in unexpected ways.

Jennifer Castle’s debut novel is a heart-wrenching, surprisingly witty testament to how drastically life can change in the span of a single moment.-Synopsis by Goodreads

I'm having a hard time writing this review as my thoughts about it are a bit of a jumbled mess. I apologize in advance.

Laurel has lost her entire family in a car accident and is trying to pick up the pieces of her life. I hate to say it but for a book about loss and dealing with grief, it didn't feel like there was enough grieving. Laurel seems to worry more about her friends, whether the cute guy is asking her out because he likes her or pities her and what her peers at thinking of her. Basically, she throws herself into normal teenage worries instead of dealing with the grief.

Laurel continues to be a good student, gets a job, and develops a blossoming romance in the aftermath of the accident. While, obviously people need to move on after a tragedy, I just felt she was juggling too much for someone in her state of mind. It felt unrealistic for her to even consider attending the prom just a few weeks after the accident. I guess I just wanted her to have a good cry, that emotional purge you need when you go through something awful, and I just felt like she didn't really get that. Sometimes you need to breakdown to get back up and Laurel didn't. There is one small moment where it appears that breakdown is coming and then, whoosh, we jump forward to her sitting in therapy. Like all the unpleasantness of grief was swept under the rug. If that's the intent, why write a book about grief?

It was a good book but it felt too contained. Laurel was too contained. I wanted her to cry, kick, scream, lash out and get angry. Not the little flutters of anger that we see in the book. No, I wanted her to get really, really angry. She deserved it. That girl deserved to have a few minutes of irrational anger at the entire situation and I felt she got cheated out of that to make room for a love triangle.

I don't know, maybe my experiences with grief are a little different and that explains why I didn't quite connect with this book.

*Disclaimer- I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Wither (The Chemical Garden Trilogy)What if you knew exactly when you would die?

Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb — males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape — to find her twin brother and go home.

But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.-Synopsis from Goodreads

I was drawn to this book mostly because that cover is just so damn gorgeous. I mean, look at it! So pretty I had to pick it up. Also, I've been on a big dystopian kick this year so I was plenty eager to give it a read. I was completely drawn into the story and finished the book in less than a day. I'll admit, there had to be a little suspension of disbelief when it comes to the world building. There were a few things regarding the virus and the way society worked in this world that didn't make sense or add up but I was able to push that aside. 

Wither read almost like a movie for me. I could see each and every scene play out in my head as I read just as if I were watching it on a movie screen. I love when that happens. I'll admit, I saw a youtube video someone made with their dream cast (which, of course, I've included below) and it totally influenced the way I saw the characters in my head but I couldn't help it, they fit so well. 

All in all I found it to be a good quick read and I'm eagerly anticipating the next book. I'm hoping it may clear up some of the lingering questions I have. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak

The Book Thief
It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Narrated by Death, Markus Zusak's groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young foster girl living outside of Munich in Nazi Germany. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she discovers something she can't resist- books. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever they are to be found.
With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, Liesel learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids, as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.
-Synopsis from Goodreads

My Thoughts

I adored this book. I don't know why it has taken me so long to pick it up. Narrated by Death, The Book Thief is told in a fresh, unique perspective and the writing is devastatingly beautiful and flowing. It mingles humor and lighthearted moments with ones of complete sorrow and pain and it does so effortlessly.

A word of caution, this book is not sunshine and roses in the end. If you're looking for a happily ever after, this is not going to be it. (Though what Holocaust/WWII themed book ever is?) However, it will cause you to fall in love with each and every character and then tug on your heart over and over again.  I probably should have waited a day or two to write this review because all I am capable of doing in this moment is gushing but what can I say? I'll probably be gushing for weeks. All I can say is, if you haven't picked it up yet, you should. End of story. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Review: Becoming Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey

Becoming Marie Antoinette: A Novel
This enthralling confection of a novel, the first in a new trilogy, follows the transformation of a coddled Austrian archduchess into the reckless, powerful, beautiful queen Marie Antoinette.

Why must it be me? I wondered. When I am so clearly inadequate to my destiny?

Raised alongside her numerous brothers and sisters by the formidable empress of Austria, ten-year-old Maria Antonia knew that her idyllic existence would one day be sacrificed to her mother’s political ambitions. What she never anticipated was that the day in question would come so soon.

Before she can journey from sunlit picnics with her sisters in Vienna to the glitter, glamour, and gossip of Versailles, Antonia must change everything about herself in order to be accepted as dauphine of France and the wife of the awkward teenage boy who will one day be Louis XVI. Yet nothing can prepare her for the ingenuity and influence it will take to become queen.
- Synopsis from Goodreads

I'm a bit of a sucker for history. I particularly love learning about the women of history. They fascinate me. These women are more than pawns to be married off or bear children. They are intelligent and witty and far more important than some people would like to portray them.

I tend to gravitate towards English history. I particularly enjoy Tudor history (because, who doesn't?!?). So, my knowledge of Marie Antoinette is sadly lacking. She's always just been a poor girl who likes cake and got her head chopped off. Ok, my knowledge isn't that limited but I've never studied her in depth.

I don't know why it's taken me so long. Becoming Marie Antoinette is the first of a trilogy about the life of the doomed queen and follows her childhood in Austria, her marriage to Louis Auguste and ends with the death of Louis XV and the beginning of her reign as queen of France. Firstly, I love that this story has been broken into several books so that each stage of her life can be told in great detail.

She begins as a rambunctious ten year old who soon learns of her planned marriage. I couldn't imagine being told at ten that I was basically engaged. For the next few years she begins a transformation, a physical and mental makeover that is supposed to lead to only one thing, giving birth to a son as soon as humanly possible. Again, it's a life I couldn't even begin to imagine.

The only downfall to historical fiction like this is knowing how it all turns out. I spent 400+ pages falling in love with this sweet, loving girl and yet, I know how things turn out for her and if you've ever taken a history class, you know it's not good. Despite knowing how the journey will end, it was still a fascinating ride and I'm looking forward to the next book.

*Disclaimer- I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and unbiased review

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Review: The Murderer's Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers

The Murderer's Daughters
Lulu and Merry’s childhood was never ideal, but on the day before Lulu’s tenth birthday their father drives them into a nightmare. He’s always hungered for the love of the girl’s self-obsessed mother; after she throws him out, their troubles turn deadly.

Lulu’s mother warned her to never let him in, but when he shows up, he’s impossible to ignore. He bullies his way past ten-year-old Lulu, who obeys her father’s instructions to open the door, then listens in horror as her parents struggle. She runs for help and discovers upon her return that he’s murdered her mother, stabbed her sister, and tried to kill himself.

For thirty years, the sisters try to make sense of what happened. Their imprisoned father is a specter in both their lives, shadowing every choice they make. Though one spends her life pretending he’s dead, while the other feels compelled to help him, both fear that someday their imprisoned father’s attempts to win parole may meet success.
-Synopsis from Goodreads

My Thoughts

I found this to be a very compelling story of the aftermath of domestic violence and the way it affects not just the two people involved but the children and surrounding family members. Lulu and Merry are quite small when their father kills their mother and yet it's an event that shapes their entire lives. 

Lulu tries in vain to escape the label of 'Murder Girl'  by reinventing her past and telling everyone that both of her parents had died in a car crash. She avoids visiting her father and even the mention of him at all costs and yet she is haunted by her guilt over that day. Merry clings to her father, claiming that he needs her, that she needs to be there for him. She visits him dutifully, clinging to the last scrap of family that they have. 

I found it interesting the way the two girls handle this tragedy translates into how there lives develop as adults. Even their career choices and relationship issues can be traced back to that one moment in their lives. With the two girls you get to see reactions to tragedy and betrayal from both sides of the spectrum. One keeping him away at all costs and the other keeping him close despite the pain it causes her. 

The Murderer's Daughters was a fascinating story of survival and healing, not from the physical pain but from the emotional scars which take much longer to heal and sometime never go fully away.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Good and Bad Trends

This week's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish asks which trends we'd like to see more or less of. Mine is a combination of the two.

1. More- Dystopian
I've just been really enjoying this particular trend so I'm not ready for it to go just yet.

2. Less- Vampires
I'm over you, big time. Unless, of course, you are the gorgeousness that is Eric Northman on True Blood. Then by all means, stick around as long as you like.

3. More Historical Fiction.
I love history. I love books. Historical fiction is just a pairing of my two great loves. Bring it on!

4. Less- Supernatural.
Are there any regular old humans around anymore? Is everyone a werewolf, witch, sifter, etc, etc, etc. It's just over saturated.

5. Less Trilogies and Series
This one irks me to no end. EVERYTHING is a trilogy now. Can I just read one damn book and get the entire story once in a while? I get really sick of waiting years for resolution and having to put up with the inevitable 'filler' of a second book.

6. Less  Crappy Parents
This is a big one in YA. Clearly only the kids with the neglectful or absent parents can have interesting lives or adventures worthy of a novel. As a parent, I'm a little unhappy with the way we're usually portrayed in YA lit. Sure there are shitty parents out there but most of us actually care about our kids and where they go and with whom.

7. Less Everlasting Love in High School.
Seriously! How many people do you know met their one and only true love in high school and stayed together forever? Especially nowadays. Sure, I thought I was irreparably and unconditionally in love with every boy I dated in high school. Then I grew up. Again, it does happen but for the most part, your HS love is not the one you end up with. High school dating is like a tasting menu where you find out what you do and do not want in a lifelong partner. It's not eternal, quit telling impressionable girls that it is. You're just building them up for a let down of epic proportions.

8. Less Love Triangles-
This is another big YA thing. I'm just sick of the mousy shy girl getting the two hottest guys in the entire town all in a tizzy over her. Nothing against the mousy girl, they deserve love too. However, it's just so cliche. One of the boys will be gorgeous, mysterious and brooding while the other is gorgeous, sweet and has been her best friend forever without her every even noticing that he's gorgeous. Will she pick the nice guy who she's known her whole life, makes her laugh and loves her deeply? Nope, she's going to pick the angsty, brooding mysterious guy who brings nothing but trouble (and hottness) to her life. Yawn.

9. More- International Settings
One of the reasons I love to read is  to explore places I may never get to see. I live in the US so I'd like to read more about those exotic locales that are a little more expensive or impossible to visit.

Wild10. It's a Toss Up- Cheesetastic Romance Covers
I don't read cheesy bodice rippers, it's just not my thing but the covers on some of these are so bad I can't help but groan. Really, some are truly awful. However, without them I would miss out on a little gem known as Supernatural Snark's Cover Critique where she takes these covers and gives her side-splittingly hilarious opinion of them. Seriously, go check it out! She makes me laugh so hard I cry. As long as she keeps doing it, then bring on the crappy covers.

Review: Releasing Gillian's Wolves by Tara Woolpy

Releasing Gillian's Wolves
Releasing Gillian's Wolves is the story of a political wife forced to finally do something about her faltering marriage. We frequently see women standing by their Senator/Congressman/Religious figure husbands at press conferences as these men admit to all sorts of bad behavior. Releasing Gillian's Wolves explores what holds one such woman in place and what happens when she finally decides to let go. -Synopsis from Goodreads

I'll admit, it took me a minute to get into this story. I had a hard time connecting to Gillian, the wife of a Congressman up for re-election.She just seemed to be a sweet middle-aged woman who cooks all the time and lets her philandering husband walk all over her. A few chapters in, when Gillian finds a hotel key and realizes that her husband has taken up with a woman several years younger than their daughter, is when she begins to take a stand. It's a small stand at first but it's that first glimmer of hope that there is a stronger woman hiding under supportive political wife facade.

I don't have much in common with Gillian. She's closer to my mother's age than my own and I've never been a rich, political wife but I've been in an unhappy marriage and so I related to her on that level. My own failed marriage wasn't an issue of adultery or anything of that sort but I understood Gillian's hesitance in ending her marriage. It slowly gets to where it's easier to be unhappy than deal with the drama of ending it all. Gillian is in that place in the beginning and the entire book is her journey to find the strength to get through the drama and move on with her life. I've been there, so despite our twenty year age difference, I was totally able to connect with Gillian.

It was refreshing to hear of an older woman, picking up the pieces of her life and moving forward, finding happiness and even romance again. Too many stories focus on twenty and thirty-somethings that you almost forget that it's possible to start over later in life. It's nice to be reminded that new beginnings do not belong solely to the young. I found it a lovely story about standing up for yourself, and demanding a better life for yourself. I'd recommend it for anyone needing a reminder that it's OK to start over. 

*Disclaimer- I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for a fair and unbiased review

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