Thursday, August 30, 2012

(121)Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

by Suzanne Collins 

Publication Date: August 24, 2010
Pages: 390

Reading the final book in a trilogy is always a bit risky.  I mean that the anticipation for the conclusion of the story has built up over two previous books and expectations are high.   My expectations for Mockingjay was admittedly, sky high and it took me over half the book to really feel my expectations were being met.

Mockingjay picks up with Katniss adjusting to a rigid life in District 13 being the face of the Revolution and Peeta a prisoner of the Capitol and brainwashed to believe that Katniss is his enemy.   Katniss and Gale, along with some other familiar faces, as they work to further the Revolution and bring down President Snow.  Will Peeta's brainwashing ever be reversed?  Will they be able to bring down President Snow and all that he stands for in the Capitol?  And of course, the most pressing question is who will Katniss end up with?  Peeta or Gale?

Like I mentioned earlier, I really had a hard time getting lost in Mockingjay.  The other two books I finished in a matter of hours, but this last book took me three days.  I did enjoy getting to see more of Katniss's mom and sister.  You could almost say that we got to watch Prim grow up over the course of the series.  And like any big sister who had a hand in raising her younger siblings, it was a bit of a shock for Katniss to realize that her little sister was growing up.  I also must say that I was satisfied with the ending and who ended up winning Katniss's heart.  I won't give it away for anyone, but truly, I was happy with the ending.

Bottom line, while it seemed to take a while to get going, it was a satisfactory conclusion to one of the most popular trilogies in literature history.  In a way I am a bit sad to know that we will never again get to "see" our old friends such as Katniss, Peeta, Gale, and Haymitch, but I am glad to have read the book and get some closure on The Hunger Games.    Have you read Mockingjay? What did you think of the final book?  Were you satisfied with the way it ended?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Monday, August 27, 2012

(120)Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire 

Publication Date: September 1, 2009
Pages: 400

The other day when I was at Walmart, I stopped by the Redbox on my way out - I was hoping that I would find The Hunger Games. It was there & yesterday we watched the movie with my family.  It was everything I had expected (variations from the book and all) and as the credits were rolling, I pulled up Catching Fire on my nook.  I finished it this morning and immediately started Mockingjay!

As most of you know, Catching Fire picks up six months after Peeta and Katniss have won the Hunger Games. They are both adjusting to life back in District 12. They are both adjusting to living in the Victors Village where they have plenty of food, hot water whenever they want it, and a telephone! Katniss is shocked to return home one day, on the verge of their Victory Tour,  to discover that President Snow is waiting for her.  In his not so subtle way he lets Katniss know that the antics that won her the 74th Annual Hunger Games has jeopardized the lives of those she loves.  Shortly after that she discovers that  her and Peeta will be going back to The Hunger Games, for the Quarter Quell, a special event that happens every 25 years.  Is there anyway that Katniss and Peeta can survive a second trip into the arena?

Holy Smokes, talk about adrenaline rush!  I now understand why everyone is so eager to get their hands on Mockingjay the minute they finish Catching Fire. The cliffhanger is almost criminal!   I really liked how Suzanne Collins further developed the relationship between Peeta and Katniss and it makes it really hard to decide if I am on Team Peeta or Team Gale.  I also really enjoyed meeting some of the past victors, especially Finnick.   It has me so excited for the second movie to be released.  I am dying to see who they cast as Finnick. Who do you picture as Finnick?

Bottom line, if you have read The Hunger Games, then odds are you have already read Catching Fire. It is such a heart pounding thrill ride that just grabs hold and doesn't let go.  There is just something about Katniss and the people of District 12 that captures your heart and that makes the ride that much more thrilling.   So what do you guys think - Team Peeta or Team Gale?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

(119)Little Night by Luanne Rice

Little Night 

Pages: 336
Publication Date: June 5, 2012

While growing up sisters Anne and Clare were close as close could be.  They escaped their less than happy childhood by exploring their historical home and sharing their hopes and dreams for the future.  Flash forward to their early twenties.  Anne has married a man, a cruel man,  from Denmark.  When Clare witnesses Frederick's cruelty first hand she violently rushes to defend and protect her sister.  Clare is arrested for her actions and because her sister lies to protect her husband, Clare goes to prison.

Fast forward twenty years.  Clare and Anne have no relationship at all.  Clare has no relationship with her niece and nephew and she feels the hole in her heart that is reserved for them.  Until one day Clare's twenty-one year old niece, Grit, shows up on her doorstep.  Clare welcomes her niece with open arms and is crushed to learn that her sister's life has never improved from that fateful night that tore them apart. Will Clare and Anne ever reunite as sisters or is there family forever torn apart?

Little Night was a good read, but reading about Anne's behavior towards not only Clare, but Grit as well, just had my blood boiling. I understand being loyal to your husband, but at the cost of your children is just NOT acceptable to me.  I really enjoyed watching the relationship between Grit and Clare blossom.  The unconditional love that Clare gives Grit made my eyes leak, especially knowing how badly Grit needed that kind of love.

Bottom line, Little Night , is a touching novel about family bonds and the sacrifices some people are willing to make for their families. No matter what the cost.  If you are looking for a good "drama" type novel, then you won't be disappointed in Little Night.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

(118)A Stranger in the Room by Amanda Kyle Williams

Stranger in the Room 

Publication Date: August 21, 2012
Pages: 320

Private Investigator, Keye Street, is back in Amanda Kyle Williams new novel, Stranger in the Room. The Fourth of July weekend is closing in fast and Keye is looking forward to the quiet long weekend that she has planned with her boyfriend,  Rauser.  Micki is keeping busy doing the usual bail skippers when her cousin Miki comes to her for help.  Someone has broken into her home and she needs Keye to help her figure out who it was and why they were there.  But given Miki's troubled past she is hard pressed to find anyone who believes her.  Keye steps in to appease her, but can't help but wonder if her cousin isn't maybe making things up, or at the very least embellishing.  But when a dead body is found in Miki's home Keye realizes that the threat is really very serious.

 Stranger in the Room has more than just one mystery within it's pages.  For that brief moment in time when Keye was unaware of the seriousness of Miki's situation, she agreed to take on a case in rural Georgia.  A shocking case that will turn your stomach and question humanity.   And as things explode in both cases and while under crushing pressure to solve both cases, Keye's overwhelming need for a drink nearly destroys the sobriety that she has worked so hard to obtain.  Will she be able to keep Miki safe and help Rauser solve the murders?

I absolutely loved Stranger In The Room.  Keye Street is the kind of character that readers love, this reader included.  She is so deeply flawed, yet so very very likable.  Her reaction to what she discovers in rural Georgia is so real that it made me like her (and the author) even more.  So many authors write their characters to be "above" normal, human reactions to situations that would bring a normal person to their knees.  Not Amanda Kyle Williams.  She knows how to keep it real.

Bottom line,  Stranger in the Room is everything a mystery novel is supposed to be.  Dark, gritty, and peppered with dry humor.  And there is even the "bonus" mystery that Amanda Kyle Williams throws in the mix.  If you are looking for a good mystery to sink your teeth into, you must pick up Stranger in the Room!

Monday, August 20, 2012

(117)This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers

This Is Not A Test

Publication Date: June 19, 2012
Pages: 336

It is hard for me to write a review about a book full of zombies.  Last night (yes, this is a post dated review) as I was in bed, reading this book a lunatic was one state over shooting nearly seventy people and shattering the security of our entire nation.  It just doesn't seem right to me for some reason.  So -  I am going to set the "publish date" post for sometime in the future and I will come back and finish this post when the horror story of last night is not quite so fresh

So here we are a month after the horrific shootings in Colorado.  As unbelievable as it seems, there was another deadly shooting that rocked the nation, this time in Wisconsin.  The images and stories are still fresh, but life must go on.

This Is Not A Test is set in the not too distant future. Television and radio station programming has been replaced by the Emergency Broadcast System broadcasting dire warnings prefaced with "This Is Not A Test" - Sloane and a few other teenagers are on their way to the community shelter when they are over run by Zombies and take shelter in their recently abandoned high school. Sloane has always been a bit of an outcast and she still is after "the shit hits the fan" - the thought of being trapped in the high school with kids who are not her friends is almost as painful as being abandoned by her best friend, and sister.  Will she be able to get past those feelings in order to survive?  Or is she just going to give up and let the zombies end her pain?

I have seen some critics compare This Is Not A Test to The Breakfast Club. And they aren't too far off the mark.  But I would say it is more like The Breakfast Club meets The Walking Dead. The body count is high, but I would expect nothing less from a zombie story.

Bottom line, reading is all about escaping reality. Nothing could be further from reality than a tale about zombies.  After what has been happening in our country recently, the high body count makes it a bit of a tough read, but for some people that is exactly the kind of escapism they seek.  Give it a read and let me know what you think!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

(116)Criminal by Karin Slaughter


Publication Date: July 3, 2012
Pages: 448

Loyal fans of Karin Slaughter's know Will Trent.  They know he grew up in basically an orphanage & his childhood was one that nightmares are made of.  In her new book, Criminal, Karin Slaughter dives into Will's past when his father is released from prison and women start turning up dead. 

Told in a series of flashbacks mixed in with what is going on in present day, we get a better understanding for Will's heritage and how Evelyn Mitchell and Amanda Wagner got to be such good friends.  We also get a better understanding of the relationship between Will and Amanda.   So much was explained in Criminal, that I found myself saying "ahhhh, now it makes sense".    It was also really fascinating to see what Evelyn and Amanda had to go through as women in the early days of equal rights.  Their generation paved the way for me and me.  I am eternally grateful for what they had to put up with in order for me to work in a male dominated world. 

Bottom line, loyal readers of Karin Slaughter will be interested in Criminal.  The back story of will Trent alone makes it a fascinating read.  It may be a little hard for non Will Trent fans to pick this one up and not be lost.  If you have read her other books, you will not be lost and you will be appreciate the history given.  And of course, as always,  there is a great mystery in between all of the history.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

(115)Sweet Talk by Julie Garwood

Sweet Talk 

Publication Date: August 7, 2012
Pages: 365

Olivia McKenzie thinks that she is going to a job interview, but little does she know that she is stumbling into the middle of an FBI sting. After being manhandled by the sleaze that is supposed to be interviewing her, she is rescued by the very handsome FBI Agent, Grayson Kincaid.  After the world's worst job interview, Olivia decides that it might be best for her to stick with her current job as a lawyer with the IRS, for it might be the only way to bring down her slime ball of a Father.   As her investigation into her father continues, the extremely handsome Grayson keeps crossing her path.  Will he be able to keep her safe and help her bring down her father?

I  read Sweet Talk in bed the other morning (instead of cleaning house) and it was a really fast read.  I really enjoyed reading about Olivia and her "family" - especially getting their history together as children with cancer.  She is such a focused, determined, and very strong female character.  Just knowing what she went through after virtually being abandoned by her family, well, it really tugged at the heart strings. And it made me cheer her on even more as she tries to bring down her father. 

Bottom line, Sweet Talk *is* a romance novel, not erotica like the book I posted about yesterday - (the difference is the number of sex scenes) and sometimes when you read a romance novel you have to compromise plot for steamy sex scenes.  That is not the case with this novel, I think that Sweet Talk has one of the better plots, for a romance novel, that I have read lately.  If you are looking for plot AND steamy sex scenes, give this one a chance. You won't be disappointed!

Monday, August 13, 2012

(114) Bared to You by Sylvia Day

Bared to You 

Publication Date: June 12, 2012
Pages: 352

It has been about four months since I read Fifty Shades of Grey, the "mommy porn" book that has swept the nation.  And it occurs to me that I really am not invested enough in Ana or Christian to pick up the next two books in the series.   Now, Bared to You, on the other hand....

Bared to You  is the story of Gideon and Eva.  Eva's life has been improving recently. She moved into an amazing apartment with her best friend, Cary and she recently started a new job as a personal assistant at an advertising agency.  Just as she is starting her new job Eva meets Gideon Cross, the owner of the building where she works. What starts out as just running into each other, literally, quickly turns into a fiery passion that just can not be extinguished.  But they both have a dark past that is causing problems in their young relationship.  Will they be able to exorcise the ghosts of the past and go onto have a healthy, stable relationship?  Or will they destroy each other in their quest for love.

A lot of people out there have been comparing Sylvia Day to E.L. James.  And I guess that I can understand why the comparisons are being made, they are both female authors who wrote steamy trilogies.  Both of the leading male characters are forceful, successful businessmen.  The difference between the two books, in my opinion, is with the heroine.  Ana is a young, naive student.  And Eva is a strong, determined survivor.   I will say that Eva's incessant need to run away when things don't go as she thinks they should go is beyond irritating, but she is called on that behavior and concedes to her flaw.  Rare to find in any character, to be honest.

Bottom line,  Bared to You, is another book that could be called "mommy porn" because it seems like every other page is laced with a very steamy sex scene.  The story is different than others out on the market right now, in my opinion, because I actually started to care about Gideon and Eva.  I want to find out more about Gideon's past and I want to see where their story goes, unfortunately I have to wait until October to find out, but it is a sequel that I am anxious to read.  Have you read Bared to You yet?  What did you think?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

(113)Dare Me by Megan Abbott

Dare Me

Pages: 304
Publication Date: July 31, 2012

There is NOT enough money in this world to make me want to be in High School again. No thank you.  Megan Abbott explores the world of high school cheerleaders in her new, scary, novel, Dare Me

Addy Hanlon has always been second in command to Beth Cassidy. In Cheerleading and in all social settings.  Their new cheerleading coach, Colette French, sees Beth for the scheming, controlling "Mean Girl" that she is and refuses to let her be the one in control.  Beth is furious when her former minions slowly turn their hero worship to the Coach.  Soon the line between adult and students becomes very blurred, the girls are hanging out at her house, drinking wine and discussing school, life, boys and of course cheerleading. For some reason Coach has chosen Addy to be her prodigy and friend.  She pulls Addy into an adult world with adult circumstances and adult situations.   It is not long before Addy is in way over her head and as the truth starts to come out, she realizes that Coach has not been the only one manipulating her and the rest of the girls.  Will the truth fully come out and with what consequence?

I think that it has been a long time since I read a novel with a bitch as big as Beth.  She is a "Mean Girl" in every sense of the world and the way she treats the girls that he considers friends is so despicable that more than once I wanted to reach through the pages and slap her silly.  But, for as big a bitch as Beth, I think the worst character of the story goes to Coach.  This woman doesn't just cross boundaries, she shatters them in unspeakable ways.  She is in a position of authority, a role model for these girls to look up to, and she abused her power in such grotesque ways.  Sigh.  Kinda gets me fired up thinking about it, weird, huh?

Bottom line, Dare Me, at the core is a mystery novel.  Beyond that it is a dark novel that almost reminds me of the old movie Heathers starring Winona Ryder & Christian Slater.  The teen angst is out of control, yet it sucks you in such a way that you will not be able to put this book down.  If you have a teen daughter on the Cheer squad you may (or may not) want to read about how far the influence of the Coach could possibly go.  Yeah.  Good luck with that.    

P.S. - Tell me what you think!

Monday, August 6, 2012

(112)12.21 by Dustin Thomason

by Dustin Thomason

Publication Date: August 7, 2012
Pages: 336

The Mayan Prophecy -- it is the once in a lifetime event that authors, movie directors, and fear mongers are milking it for every last dime they can get.   The latest author to take advantage of the Mayan Prophecy is Dustin Thomason. 

Set in California in December 2012, 12.21 starts out two weeks prior to the "big" date.  Dr. Gabriel Stanton is working at his lab trying to study incurable diseases for the CDC, like any other day, when he is called to the hospital where a patient who works for the Getty Museum and recently returned from Guatemala is ill with a disease that baffles the leading expert on infectious diseases.  It is not long before the disease spreads and entire sections of Los Angeles is put under quarantine. Dr. Stanton teams up with an expert in Mayan studies to track the movements of the ill patient and it leads them to the jungles of Guatemala.  Time is running out, will they be able to find a cure and save humanity before the Prophecy is fulfilled?

12.21 is a very fast paced doomsday type of novel. And you know how I love my Doomsday novels.   I typically like my Doomsday novels to have a little more "survival" and a lot less medical jargon, but the novel flew by so fast I hardly noticed. Dr. Stanton is a character that is easy to relate to, even if he is way smarter than I could ever hope to be.

Bottom line, if you are looking for a thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat, this is one you need to check out.

Friday, August 3, 2012

(111)Lake Country by Sean Doolittle

Lake Country

Publication Date: July 31, 2012
Pages: 336

It is the fifth anniversary of a tragic car accident caused by a drowsy driver and killing an innocent young woman.  The accident set off a catastrophic chain of events for the victim's family.  Close family friend, Darryl Potter doesn't believe that the drowsy architect got an appropriate punishment for his deed and decides to exact a punishment that he deems fit.

Mike Barlowe served in Afghanistan with Darryl (and the brother of the accident victim) and is probably the only friend that Darryl has left on the planet.  He knows that Darryl's bad idea is coming from a place of pain and loyalty, so he sets off to Minnesota's Lake Country find him(and the young woman he kidnapped) before the police find him.  What he did not expect was that he would also be racing a tenacious reporter, a reality television host thirsty for fame and a ruthless thug/bookie going after the money Darryl took.  Who will find Darryl first and will the innocent young woman he kidnapped make it home safe and sound.?

Just look at the cover of Lake Country - that cover had me hooked from the very beginning.  It just looks spooky.  Like you should look over your shoulder this very moment. The story is very fast paced and Mike Barlowe is a very likable character. I really enjoyed watching his interactions with Juliet.  He showed a tenderness and kindness that almost surprised me, given what I knew about him up to that point.  The story is very fast paced, and when everybody is heading to the Lake Country, it was almost comical.  It was something that I could see easily translate to the big screen.

Bottom line -- Lake Country by Sean Doolittle is a wonderful crime novel that could easily hold it's own with books by big name authors like Dennis Lehane or Craig Johnson. The characters are realistic and the story is engaging.  What more could you want? Wait, I know!  When I went to check out the author's website, I was thrilled to see that he is also from Southwest Iowa!  When you are from such a small corner of the world, it is exciting to find someone who has walked the same roads you have.  So, go (!) read his book - you won't be disappointed!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

(110)A Different Kind of Normal by Cathy Lamb

A Different Kind of Normal

Publication Date: July 31, 2012
Pages: 480

Sigh.....  Another author whose book I devour almost immediately.  Which leaves me waiting a long, drawn out year  for her next book to be released.  Don't you wish all your favorite authors would write faster?

Jaden knows the definition of pain.  She witnesses both physical and emotional pain on a daily basis as a hospice nurse.  But there is nothing worse than watching your child hurt.  Her son, well technically nephew, but she has raised Tate since birth, is hurting something fierce because he wants to play basketball more than anything in this world.   But Tate was born to an addicted mother and he was born with a physical deformity that left him with an abnormally large head.  In order to make sure that all of the parts work correctly, Tate has a shunt, that if jostled or damaged it could potentially be fatal.  Jaden wants to give him the world, but she wants him to remain safe.  With the persuasion of Tate's hot doctor and his coach, Jaden gives in and during a moment of weakness, she agrees to let him play.  Will Tate prove his mother wrong or did she just make the worst decision of her life?

A Different Kind of Normal is so much more than just a mother/son story.  Although it is pretty important to the story. The whole family dynamic of the Bruxelle's play an integral part of the story.  It is a most interesting family, Jaden's mother is a Soap Star and her brother is a retired professional wrestler who is parenting his three children alone.  Their unique situation and unending loyalty to each other is really quite touching.  It really added something special to the story.

Bottom line, Kathy Lamb has a special way of touching my heart with her stories.  She knows how to tug on the heart strings in a way that few authors can accomplish. The story of Jaden and Tate is a special one and everything else is just a bonus. If you are looking for a tender story to touch the heart, you must read A Different Kind of Normal.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

(109)Grammar Girl's 101 Troublesome Words You'll Master In No Time by Mignon Fogarty

Grammar Girl's 101 Troublesome Words You'll Master In No Time 

Publication Date: July 3, 2012
Pages: 144

Raise your hand if you remember all of the grammar rules that you learned in school!  Please note that my hand is not currently raised. I have, admittedly, gotten very lazy with the use of proper grammar in both speech and on my blog.  I have been making an effort in the last year (have you notieced?)  or so to be better about my grammar, but I know that I probably still make some of you cringe.

I was given the opportunity to read Grammar Girl's 101 Troublesome Words You'll Master In No Time by the Grammar Girl herself, Mignon Fogarty.  The book is a very fast read and each chapter focuses on a different word or phrase.  Like e-mail.  Should it be e-mail or email. And "couldn't care less" vs. "could care less".  And what I enjoyed most is that the author gives examples from pop culture for each word.  From movies, television, and literature.  Some examples are of the correct usage and other examples features embarrassing grammatical errors.

Bottom line, Grammar Girl's 101 Troublesome Words You'll Master In No Time is not only an educational read, but it is a fun read.  The examples given from some of my favorite books, movies and television shows really accentuated the lessons that she was trying to teach.  If you are in need of a refresher course in some of the tough words, give this one a shot.  You will be all caught up in no time!

Why I Read...

I remember the carefree summer days when I used to ride my bike to the public library to pick out new books. I would go almost daily to find books to read. I read to learn. I read to explore the world. I read to escape. I read because not reading is not an option.

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