Thursday, May 31, 2012

My take on: I Hunt Killers

Sometimes I just don't get why some books are part of a series. Can't everything be said in one book? Do you really need to stretch the idea more? But after reading I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga I am glad this story isn't done. As I got closer to the idea I thought this story can't be finished. I want more. I want to know more. Why do I have to wait until the next book to get the rest of the story?!?!?! Who knew a book about a teen hunting a serial killer could have such a hold on my attention?

More than anything Jasper "Jazz" Dent wants to be a normal teenager. But there was nothing normal about his childhood. While other fathers were helping their kids with homework or teaching them how to play sports, Jazz was learning the "art" of the kill from his father Billy Dent. Billy is a notorious serial killer. Billy wanted his son to embrace his heritage and join the family business. He found joy in torturing people. Jazz doesn't want to embrace that side of himself. He just wants to be a good friend to Howie and a good boyfriend to Connie.

Now that his dad is in prison, Jazz is just searching for some normalcy. That all changes when a copycat tries to pick up where Billy Dent left off. Jazz makes it his mission to hunt down the killer, who calls himself The Impressionist. The local sheriff, G. William, and his friends plead with Jazz to step aside. But he can't. Why? Jazz seemed so desperate to prove that he isn't his father's son. Make a show to the town about how diligent he is to stop the murders, and maybe they won't look at Jazz as a suspect. Jazz also wants to prove to himself that he is a good person.

"What matters is, he fits in. Doesn't stand out. That's our biggest and best skill, Jasper. People think it's knowing how to cut up a body or seducing a pretty little thing into your car. Nah. That's bull. That's stuff you can learn on the Internet. Our real skill is blending in. That's what we're good at." (Pg. 319)

Maybe all this time Jazz has just been trying to blend in. Despite his past, Jazz looks normal on the outside. But on the inside, his mind is anything but normal. Jazz thinks and dreams about killing. How easy it would be to cut human flesh. What would it feel like to see the blood dripping? But they are just thoughts. He's afraid to go off the deep end. Jazz loves Connie, but is constantly afraid he will hurt her physically. She doesn't see it that way. He needs to deal with his past before he can think about a successful future.

What is Jazz's future? Who knows. Jazz isn't sure what kind of person he is. Is he a killer in waiting or just a normal 17-year-old? He could go either way. I want to know. I wish I could know now. The ending just leaves you wanting more. Jazz's story is just beginning.

I'm 29, and some passages in this book scared me. Jazz isn't afraid of what lurks behind a dark corner or a dark basement. But I was for him. The Impressionist knows Jazz is on his trail, he even makes subtle contact with Jazz. That subtle contact freaked me out a little. The Impressionist could be anywhere. He could look like anyone. He blends in. You're not sure when he is going to strike. The pursuit of The Impressionist is a suspenseful one. There were moments when I was scared for Jazz. Then there were moments when I was just plain scared. It was a mistake to read this book late at night. I highly recommend this book, just make sure you read it during the day!!

Rating: O.M.G. !!

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Little, Brown and Company) in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, May 28, 2012

My take on: Dead Beautiful

I don't know much about Greek mythology, but when the opportunity came to learn more I couldn't resist. Dead Beautiful by Melanie Dugan is a retelling of the Greek myth of Persephone. I have never heard of the story. All I know about Greek mythology is that Zeus was the top God and he was married to Hera. In a nutshell, Persephone is the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, who was the goddess of agriculture and fertility. Persephone is later abducted by Hades, god of the underworld. So many ways to go with this story.

Dead Beautiful aims to humanize this story and make it more relatable to a modern audience. Take away the Greek elements and this was your typical family drama. The book takes a good look at the close bond between mothers and daughters.

Persephone wants to create her own path, but her mother has other ideas. Demeter wants Persephone to marry Darryl, the god of home repairs. Then and now, Darryl is a "good catch." Darryl is the type of man you can bring home to mom and dad, even if they happen to be powerful Gods. Demeter wants to be involved in every aspect of Persephone's life, while Zeus is more concerned with his marriage to Hera and someone named Jesus trying to steal his thunder. Persephone's needs and wants are Demeter's problem not Zeus. Living on Mount Olympus, he is far removed from Demeter and Persephone's problems on earth.

Persephone feels no attraction to Darryl. Hades has piqued her interest. Being the god of the underworld, Hades has developed a bad reputation. But is it all true? Does anyone really want to know Hades? Persephone does, she sees beyond all the gossip. She is attracted to Hades, but Persephone has to want to go with him. Hades won't force Persephone against her will. When Persephone chooses Hades, no one wants to believe that. Why would she abandon her family? What can Hades offer Persephone that Darryl can't? Love.

Reading this book, I saw it as a mother who couldn't let go. Persephone is no longer a child but a young woman, something her parents, especially Demeter, refuse to see. She has opinions independent of her mother and father. She won't hate Hades simply because they do. Demeter just isn't ready to let go, like most parents. Give this one a try, I'm sure you'll see your family members in a lot of these characters.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy of the book from the author as part of a tour with TLC Book Tours.

It's Monday, it's time for a giveaway!!!

Isn't that a pretty cover? I noticed the explosion of colors before anything else. Dead Beautiful by Melanie Dugan is retelling of the Greek myth of Persephone. The young lady on the cover seems like she's trying to tempt someone. Why? What is in that apple? Mythology is a little out of my realm, but I thought I would give it a try. A review will be posted later today. And I have an extra copy for a giveaway. I'm sure someone out there wants a free book!! Just leave a comment on this post, a winner will be picked at random by the end of the week. Good luck!!

Where is the little girl on that cover going? Is it a safe place? She looks like she is headed out to sea. Who will stop her? Perfect chaos by Linea Johnson and Cinda Johnson is about Linea's struggle with mental  illness. Her mother Cinda is constantly searching for the right way to treat her daughter. Is there a right way? I can't wait to find out.

The title of this next one sounded so fun, I had to read it. Dancing Naked in Dixie by Lauren Clark has to have a funny story behind it. Travel writer Julia Sullivan is on the verge of losing her job. How will she save it? Given the pair of bare legs on the cover, there have to be some funny misadventures along the way. Stay tuned.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

My take on: Gone to Ground

I have to admit, the cover of Gone to Ground by Brandilyn Collins drew me in instantly. There is blood dripping from that flower. Totally CREEPY!! I thought there has to be a story here. I didn't even know what the book was about, but I knew I wanted to read it. There is something sinister behind that flower. It's an Amaryllis flower. It's a poisonous flower, that doesn't bode well for the characters in this book.

In the small town of Amaryllis, Mississippi everybody knows each other. Gossip, good and bad, spreads quickly in Amaryllis. But there is something deeply wrong in Amaryllis. Five unsolved murders in the last three years. The victims were of various races and ages. They were all killed with a precise cut to the neck, left to bleed to death in their closets, leading police to dub the murderer "The Closet Killer." Who is doing it? Why? What is there to gain? Three local women think they know the answers.

Cherrie Mae has worked her whole life. She worked hard raising her children. After working long hours cleaning houses, Cherrie Mae finds joy sitting in her favorite chair curled up with a book. Books are her refuge. Everyday she's quick to dispense quotes of wisdom from her favorite books. If she could, Cherrie Mae would spend her days reading. I found it refreshing. I don't come across many books with characters who embrace books. Her wealth of knowledge seemed to make Cherrie Mae more aware of her surroundings and people. She picks up on little things that others might miss. She is full of curiosity. That curiosity could be her downfall. While cleaning Mayor B's house, Cherrie Mae comes across some rather incriminating evidence, a file full of pictures of the murder victims. At first that's not so strange, he is the mayor. Shouldn't he want to keep up on the case? Except he has a ring that belongs to Erika Hollinger, the sixth and latest victim. What would he need the ring for? Maybe Cherrie Mae is on to something. But it can't be that easy.

Tully is certain her husband Michael is the culprit. He had an affair with Erika, he is extremely violent with Tully despite her pregnancy, and he threatened to kill Erika. He even acted rather suspicious after Erika's death. Maybe he did it. As the book progressed it seemed like Michael had more of a motive than Mayor B. I wanted it to be him because he seemed like such a jerk. Tully is so afraid to step away from Michael. She doesn't want to be a burden on her family. She has to figure this out. She can't raise her baby with a murderer.

Then there is Deena, one of the town's hairstylist's. She's privy to all the town gossip, courtesy of her chatty customers. Everyone has their own opinion on the murders, including Deena. She's certain her brother Stevie is the killer. On the night of Erika's murderer Deena saw him covered in blood. Did he do it? Why? What does Stevie have to gain? He's never been popular in town. His mind works differently from everyone in town. He's often the scapegoat or the butt of jokes. But that doesn't make him a murderer. To me, Stevie didn't seem to have the makeup of a killer. When he's pressed or confused, Stevie shuts people out, including Deena. All of that put together might not make him a killer, but Deena can't be sure.

The story is very engaging. After about 100 pages, I was really into the book. Towards the end I was speedreading because I wanted to know who did it. The book is very suspenseful. You wonder if these women will make it to the end of the book. You feel their fear right along with them, especially Tully. With every chapter, Michael seemed like he was on the verge of snapping. If Tully said the wrong thing, she could have been killed.

Throughout the book, I went back and forth on who the killer was. We're given three suspects, but that seemed a little too neat. Too obvious. Maybe I watch too much Law & Order and CSI, but usually the most obvious choice isn't the killer. Then I thought, did all three of them do it? Given their personalities and status in town, it seemed unlikely Mayor B, Michael, and Stevie were partners. Not that I know any, but don't most serial killers work alone? When I finally learned who the killer was, it made sense. The clues were there, I loved that about the book. I hate it when a book or even a movie makes a totally random character the culprit. You feel like you've been had when that happens. I'm glad that wasn't the case here and I would gladly read another book by Brandilyn Collins.

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from PR by the Book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, May 21, 2012

My take on: I Couldn't Love You More

Some books just leave me awestruck. Why? Either because they are poorly written or they're just freaking AMAZING. I Couldn't Love You More by Jillian Medoff is freaking AMAZING!! I have to admit that the first 100 pages left me wondering, "Where is this going? What's the hook?" Once it got going, I was hooked. I read the last 250+ pages in two hours. I liken the last half of the book to potato chips, you just can't stop at a page or two. I had to keep going. I was not going to bed until I finished the book.

In a split second anything can happen. In an instant you can make a mistake that can alter your life forever. Does it make you a bad person? Or does it just make you human? It seems like some of the characters in this book are afraid to be human. They're afraid to show their weaknesses. They have to be strong for everyone.

Eliot Gordon is trying to be supermom with a full-time job to boot. She and her partner/boyfriend/faux husband, Grant Delaney, are living the American Dream. They're not married but they sure act like it. Their blended family of his two daughters, Charlotte and Gail, and Grant and Eliot's daughter Hailey is a work in progress. Hailey adores her parents and sisters. She doesn't know any other way. But Charlotte and Gail are different. Grant took custody after his divorce, leaving the girls caught between two worlds.

Charlotte and Gail are Eliot's stepdaughters, but she doesn't see it that way. She loves them unconditionally. She takes them to school, makes their dinner, looks out for their well-being, and gives advice even when they don't want it. At 7 years old, it's easy for Gail to connect with Eliot, but 14-year-old Charlotte is the typical moody teenager. Their mother, Beth, isn't dead but she is flaky when it comes to parenting. She would rather put more energy into her fledgling career as an artist. It doesn't matter how many times Eliot has come through for them and their mother hasn't, they will always love and support Beth. Charlotte is only too happy to remind Eliot who her mother is.

When Eliot isn't busy trying to be supermom she is trying to figure out her relationships with her mother and sisters, Sylvia and Maggie. Sylvia is a wisecracking, hypochondriac. I could read a book just based on her character alone. She does her best to make every situation about her. And just when you've become so annoyed with her character that you want to slap her, Sylvia does something amazing and selfless.

Eliot and Grant have a deep passion for each other. They can argue over having to support Beth financially one minute and then be in a deep embrace the next. They don't ever seem angry at each other. They're always supportive of each other. What is stopping them from taking the plunge into marriage? Eliot doesn't want to admit it but an unfinished relationship with Finn Montgomery haunts her constantly. When the chance arises to resolve it, Eliot is conflicted. They're just talking. It's just coffee at a local cafe. It's just a few long stares. It's all very innocent. Is it? But can't an emotional affair be just as dangerous as an a physical one. The consequences can be the same. Eliot gets so distracted by Finn, she becomes a distracted parent. She forgets her responsibilities.

The consequences for Eliot are dire. I don't want to give away too much, but Eliot does have to make a tough choice. A choice that forces her to choose between her girls. Who can choose when you love them all. Will people understand? Will Grant understand? Will Grant hate her? Is she a bad mother for choosing one child over the other? If you've seen the movie Sophie's Choice, you will understand what I'm hinting at!!!

I couldn't love this book more. Everyone can see some part of their own family in these characters. Like most people they are flawed, intelligent, funny, and emotional.

Rating: O.M.G. !!!

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Grand Central Publishing) at the request of KMSPR

Saturday, May 19, 2012

This bears repeating, OK, this bears repeating!!

After much internal debate, I will be attending the BEA Bloggers Conference and BookExpo America. The cost has gone up, but I figured the networking possibilities can't be tossed aside. Baring a last-minute disaster I will be getting a workout at the Javits Convention Center for four fun-filled days. I'm attending grad school in the fall, with a goal towards a Masters in publishing. So this year, my third attending both conferences, I have to take it with a different approach. Maybe I can get some advice on my professional pursuits.

This year I will be attending another cocktail party, this time with Other Press instead of HarperCollins. I will also be attending a breakfast at Random House. That last one I'm really excited about. I heard about other bloggers doing that in the past and wondered how they got so lucky!!! Now I get to take part.

Now all of that is not the point of this post. The point of this post is to pass along a few tips for first-time attendees. I thought about coming up with a new list of tips, but last year's list was pretty good. So I decided to post that same list again, with a few minor tweaks. 

1. PLAN AHEAD!!! Go to the BEA web site and plot out the booths you want to visit. It can be a bit of sensory overload if you don't plan ahead. Write out what and whom you want to see. The stuff on the BEA web site isn't the easiest to figure out. Last year, I mapped out which publishers I wanted to visit. I went to those booths first and then went elsewhere.

2. Bring a small rolling suitcase with you. This little tidbit would have saved my shoulders. I carried around three big bags of books ALL DAY. There is an area set aside for the suitcases. For three bucks (assuming the price hasn't changed) you can leave your bag there and put your books in it throughout the day. Although, keep the highly-coveted books with you. Some people have sticky fingers, and they take the popular books. Also, I think they help you ship your books home if you need it. I saw the spot last year and wondered what it was for. Imagine my surprise when I found out at the END of the day. That walk from the Javits Center to Penn Station is very short, but not when you're loaded down with books.

3. Bring snacks and drinks with you. Take it from a New Yorker, the food in that place is expensive!! Also, if you can bring an ice pack. The convention center is air-conditioned, but imagine how hot a space can get with thousands of people in it.

4. Avoid taxis, if you can, and buy a metrocard. Buses, trains, and your own two feet are the best modes of transportation. I can't really speak about hotels and airfares because I live within commuting distance. All I can tell you is to book early and shop around for the best deal. If you have family in New York, ask them to take pity on you. If you know any other bloggers attending, perhaps you can share a hotel room. There are shuttle buses, so do take advantage. It was great to hop on the bus to Penn Station rather than having to walk with all of those books.

5. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. You will be doing a lot of walking, so comfort is important.

6. Have a business card. This event is all about making connections. You will be meeting so many people, it helps to have a business card. You will want to develop a list of contacts, and publishers want to do the same thing. And be sure to follow up when you get home.

7. Make sure your blog is in tip-top shape. A review policy and contact information are musts. My own blog will be under construction next month. I want to streamline a few things.

8. Take pictures. How many opportunities will you get to experience an event like this? You will want to remember it. I'm planning on buying a camera. My cellphone camera wasn't up to snuff last year.

9. Attend a panel. There will be panels discussing books and book-related content throughout the day. The list isn't up yet on the BEA web site, but it should be soon.

10. One to a customer. Don't be greedy. Last year when the exhibit hall opened, people ran to the bookstacks. You would think they hadn't seen a book in years. 
11. NO SKIPPING!!! I understand if you're holding the spot for a friend or two. But just a friend or two. I wanted to scream when I learned someone was holding a spot for not one but SEVEN PEOPLE ON A VERY LONG LINE last year. It's just plain rude to do that. Some publishers run out of books and how fair is it if SEVEN PEOPLE skipped ahead of the others waiting on line.

12. Make friends. You will be on long lines for most of the convention, so strike up a conversation with the person next to you. While waiting for on line for Maureen Johnson's autograph I met the young lady behind  The Norwegian Book Girl. We had a lovely conversation and it helped pass the time.

13. If you didn't get it before, please PLAN AHEAD!!!

14. Have fun!! Of course be professional, but don't forget to have fun.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Book Blogger Hop!!

It's been a long time since I've done one of these. But this week's question was intriguing. Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books hosts the Book Blogger Hop every Friday, giving following bloggers a chance to interact. This week's question is: How many books do you own? This can include books in your TBR pile and books you have already read that are on your keeper shelf?

Wow!! That is a great question because I have no idea the exact number. I did take stock of what is in my room and it gave me some pause. I have one small bookcase, and it is overflowing top to bottom. I also have books in several storage bins. My closet is full of books from the last two years of BEA. My dresser's are piled high with books. And the futon in my room has about 25-30 books stacked on one side. If I had to put a number on it I would say approximately 600-800 books and counting. And that is just physical books, I almost forgot about my Kindle. But my e-book total (60) pales in comparison to the amount of physical books I have. When the time comes for me to move, I don't see myself parting with a lot of them. I know my fellow book lovers will understand on this one!! Years from now, it will take a special guy to put up with my book habit.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My take on: The Reeducation of Cherry Truong

Are we a reflection of our parents? Are we destined to be like them? What does our future hold? Tough questions for anyone, but those are the questions I came away with after reading The Reeducation of Cherry Truong by Aimee Phan. Two immigrant families, spanning from California to Vietnam to Paris struggle to make their path in life.

Cherry Truong has always followed the right path, obeying her parents and getting good grades. Being born in America, Cherry was raised to believe in the American Dream. Her parents constantly drove home the point that education is the only way to success. When we first meet Cherry she is a woman in transition. She has delayed going to medical school, choosing instead to visit her exiled older brother Lum, who is living in Vietnam. Lum followed his own path. What led him to return to his birth place? It takes a while before we get there. But in a nutshell Lum was an embarrassment to his family. It reached a level to where Cherry was seriously injured.

Lum was supposed to return to California after six months, but chose to find his own life instead. A life where is father, Sanh, mother, Tuyet, and Grandmother Vo aren't constantly reminding him what a disappointment he was. He seemed to be the only character who fought for some individuality, albeit he did it in a bad way. Instead of getting into a top college Lum went to a community college. Instead of getting a good job, he was in a dead-end position at a flower shop. He gets sucked into gambling. He loses more than he wins. But I wondered if he were a "successful" gambler (if there is such a term), would his family be so disapproving? Before coming to America, Grandma Vo became wealthy by selling opium. She was essentially a small-time drug dealer, but because she was more discreet in her practices everyone else turns a blind eye. She provided for her daughters after her husband's death, so it's ok. Shhhhh!!! The family matriarch was a drug dealer, but it's ok because you have to respect your elders. When Lum calls her out, Grandma Vo is determined to bring down her grandson.

There is so much good stuff with Cherry's side of the family alone, it was a little hard to get into some of the other subplots. We go back and forth between the present day in California and Paris, and post-war Vietnam. Points of view constantly shift between the past and the present. I don't normally have a problem with that but this book has so many characters. It's hard to connect with some characters when you're trying to remember what happened with the others.

I was intrigued the most by Cherry, Grandma Vo and Sanh's mother, Hoa. Cherry is caught between worlds. She loves her brother and she loves her parents, but she is constantly caught between them. She tries to understand her parents by delving into their past. Maybe if she understand what led them to America, maybe Cherry can truly understand herself. But by the end, which felt a little abrupt, you wonder if Cherry will truly get any satisfaction. In my opinion, Grandma Vo was nothing more than a hypocrite. I had to laugh every time she is asserting her moral authority over everyone, when all she really needed to do was look in the mirror. Hoa just wanted to keep her family together, but her rather surly husband, Hung, did every thing he could to suppress her voice. Whenever she wanted to express her opinion, Hung reminds her that wives are supposed to be seen and not heard. But no matter what he said, it seemed like she still loved him.

Aside from my issues with the book, I did like it. It's a different take on the immigrant experience and what it takes to find your path in life.

Rating: Superb

Note: I received an e-galley of the book from Wunderkind PR.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

How many books?? How fast?? Not fast enough??

Fellow bloggers and fellow readers do you ever get the feeling that....

 (yes that is my own crude little drawing!!)

there are too many books, so little time? Just about every pitch I get, I want to say yes. But realistically I can't. I want to read to everything, but I can't.

When I started blogging, I read about two or three books at a time. At the time, that seemed like a lot. Now it doesn't seem like a lot. Why? Sometimes you're really into one book, and then you're not. I put one book aside for a day or two and start another. Then the cycle starts again. Anyone else get that feeling? Right now, I'm currently engrossed into six books. But trust me I have been able to keep each plot straight.

Now, what about my reading pace?

Sometimes I can read a book at the pace of...

Speedy Gonzales. But other times I read at the pace of his cousin...

Slowpoke Rodriguez. Don't worry authors and publicists, if I gave you a specific date I will honor it. I just think sometimes as a blogger/reader you can hit a bit of a wall. I'm coming out of that wall. It just feels that sometimes I'm not doing enough on my blog. Fellow readers/bloggers ever get that feeling?

Monday, May 7, 2012

My take on: The Land of Decoration

After reading The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen, I'm not sure what to think. Was the main character crazy? Delusional? Or was it all real? A 10-year-old believes she can make miracles. Are miracles even real? A lot of things can be chalked up to a coincidence, but a precocious little girl believes otherwise.

There is a lot going on in the head of 10-year-old Judith McPherson. She wants her father to love her. She wants a better relationship with him. Her father is very religious. He believes Armageddon is coming. They have to preach to the world. They have to get the message out. When she tries to bond with her father over religion, Judith is constantly rebuffed. Her mother is dead, and Judith needs a deeper connection with her father. Judith is even questioning her faith. What is the solution? If she can perform a miracle, will her father notice her?

Judith creates a miniature world, called The Land of Decoration. She uses this world to perform her miracles. She pours fake snow on The Land of Decoration, the next day it snows. Her neighbor's cat disappears, days later it reappears. A boy at school constantly torments Judith, and eventually he gets what he deserves. Neil Lewis gets joy out of tormenting Judith at school, but when that option is taken away, he resorts to tormenting her father. God even talks to Judith. They have actual conversations. He's telling her what to do and what not to. I thought Judith might be schizophrenic. Lots of people say they talk to God, in real life and in fiction, I take it with a grain of salt. To hear such things coming from a 10-year-old it is very hard to believe. But maybe that's the point the author is trying to make. What sounds so unbelievable might actually be true.

Judith wants her relationship with God out in the open, but will everyone understand? Her father refuses to believe Judith. He wants to hear nothing of it. Everything is going wrong in their lives while Judith is performing these miracles. Neil and his gang of friends constantly vandalize Judith's home. Her father is having problems at work. All of that is making him question his faith. Is Judith really the cause for all of that? In Judith's mind she is the cause. So much pressure on such a young mind. To me, it seemed like she didn't have anyone she could be completely honest with. Being honest results in weird looks and disbelief. The Land of Decoration is all she has to hang on to.

The book will definitely make you question your belief in miracles. Overall, I'm on the fence with this book. It's hard to believe in Judith. Either her imagination was in overdrive or she was suffering from some type of mental illness. I know it's bad to think that way. Whenever these type of religious ideals and thoughts come into question, often people will think there is some type of mental illness at play. But a child will always see the world differently than an adult, which is why I wish her father also narrated the book. We only get Judith's take on the world.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received an ARC from the publisher (Henry Holt and Company) in exchange for an honest review.

It's Monday, what's on the cover?

It's Monday, what's on the cover? It's a day at the beach on the cover of I Couldn't Love You More by Jillian Medoff. Maybe this is a day to ignore all the stress of life. The plot doesn't seem very easygoing. Eliot Gordon has a very comfortable family life with her partner Grant and their children. Her first love reappears, causing problems for Eliot. I wonder what the problem or secret is? Stay tuned a review will be posted on May 21.

The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley takes us on a journey through the present day and World War II England. The orchids on the cover are beautiful. A young woman is taking a walk into a beautiful garden. What is in the garden? I'm not that far in, but so far so good.

Bloom by Kelle Hampton is a departure for me. Bloom is Kelle Hampton's journey after discovering her second child was born with Down Syndrome. The cover photograph is very beautiful. That could be any child, any mother. All her hopes and expectations for her child are thrown for a loop upon her daughter's birth. Check out the trailer...

Saturday, May 5, 2012

My take on: Barefoot Girls

After reading Barefoot Girls by Tara McTiernan I could only think of one book to compare it to: Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. In this book, a group of four friends comes of age together on a island off the coast of Long Island. When they are together nothing else matters. They will do anything for each other. Sometimes I found that endearing, but towards the end I found it to be a little strange.

Hannah O'Brien is at a crossroads in her life. She is engaged to a man who would do anything for her. Her first novel has just come out. To an outsider, everything is falling into place. But a bad review in her hometown newspaper threatens to destroy the relationship she cherishes the most. Hannah claims her novel, which details a destructive relationship between a mother and daughter, is fiction, but a reviewer has a different take. It's too realistic for the novel not to have to some truth to it. Her mother, Keeley O'Brien Cohen, believes her reputation has been tarnished. Keeley's circle of friends, nicknamed the Barefooters, takes her side. But is there some truth to the novel?

Before the author delves deeply into Hannah's history, you feel like there is some truth to the novel. Despite being engaged, Hannah seems emotionally distant to her fiance. There are too many unspoken words between them. She doesn't always know how to respond to shows of affection. Why? What happened to her in the past? There has to be something. Most people would love to be in her position. She's practically allergic to wearing his engagement ring. It's hard to find love, so I found it odd that she took every opportunity to push her fiance, Daniel, away.

Is her mother so offended because there is some truth to it? Keeley constantly drowns herself in alcohol whenever things get tough. She did have a tough childhood. She had a mother who blamed Keeley for living. Keeley's brother died when she was a child, and her mother always blamed Keeley for being alive instead of her son. She tried to hide the bruises but her fellow Barefooters, Pam, Amy and Zo, knew the truth. I get that she didn't want to hurt Hannah like her mother hurt her, but it happened anyway. She doesn't give Hannah a chance to understand. She just shuts Hannah out. Is that really better? You have a daughter who believes you want nothing to do with her, shouldn't you do everything possible to make her feel better? At times, Keeley just seemed very self-absorbed.

There are several storylines going on in this book, but I connected the most to Hannah and Keeley. By the end, Zo's (a.k.a Zooey) storyline I found to be a little odd. There are lots of things people will do for friends, but Zo did something that, in my opinion, went beyond friendship. Zo betrayed Keeley in the worst way, but her way of showing forgiveness just didn't make sense to me. I can't give it away because that would ruin the book for future readers. All of the characters, including Pam, Amy, and Daniel, get their chance to shine in the book.  Sometimes I thought that worked and sometimes I didn't. It works when we see how each character came of age. Some of them had very good childhoods and some didn't. They didn't allow their upbringing to define them. What didn't always work for me was the narration. The narration switches many times amongst all the main characters, including Daniel. There are also several time shifts within the same chapter, occasionally I had a hard time following the timeline.

Overall, it is a very good read. It will make you examine your own relationships, ultimately asking yourself how far you would go for a friend?

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received an e-galley from the author Tara McTiernan in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

My thoughts on: The House of the Wind

It doesn't happen often, but I couldn't finish a book. There are a lot of good elements in The House of the Wind by Titania Hardie, but after 246 pages I just wasn't feeling it. I usually give up on a book after about 70-80 pages. I go into every book believing I'm going to love, but sometimes that just isn't the case. I started The House of the Wind last month. There were some parts I found interesting, and others I didn't. I put it down and started other books, believing once I come back to it I would be interested again. It just wasn't the case.

I was intrigued by the plot. San Francisco attorney Madeline "Maddie" Moretti is in mourning following the death of her fiance. Working offers a distraction, but Maddie still seems adrift. Her firm is working on a big case, but sometimes it seems Maddie isn't totally focused on it. There are moments when Maddie is even socializing with the opposition. One person happens to be a family friend. I don't know much about the corporate legal world, but isn't it a conflict of interest to be schmoozing with the person you're suing? Maddie's grandmother notices the change and sends her granddaughter to Tuscany. Hopefully, the trip gives Maddie a chance to recover. Maybe she can back to her old self. Time away from the corporate shenanigans is just what the doctor ordered. While there she delves into the history of ruined villa. The history is what ties Maddie to the secondary storyline.

Maddie's plot, which takes place in 2007, alternates with Maria "Mia" Maddalena of 1347 Tuscany. Ordinarily I don't have a problem with books that alternate between centuries and points of view. I've read several books like that, and loved them (I'm reading one now: The Orchid House). This was just one of those cases where it didn't work for me.

Mia is also grieving following the death of her mother. She is so overwhelmed by grief that Mia doesn't speak. Mia lives out her days with her aunt. She uses gestures to communicate. She doesn't have the strength to speak until a mysterious young woman brings Mia out of her shell. Another stranger also helps Mia unravel her past. At the same time a deadly disease is sweeping across the area. It was rather interesting and stomach turning to read how diseases were treated.

What didn't work for me is the long descriptive passages. I have no problem with long books, but perhaps if this book were 100 pages less my opinion would be different. By the time you get back to one character, you forget where you left off with the other. It was hard to connect with the characters. Either plot would have made a good book on it's hard. But together it just was my cup of tea. It doesn't mean the rest of you won't like it.

Notes: I purchased a copy from an online bookseller.