Hope everyone has a wonderful new year!!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Review: Confessions of an Angry Girl

Title: Confessions of an Angry Girl
Author: Louise Rozett
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication date: Aug 28, 2012

Summary: Freshman Rose Zarelli has rage issues. First of all, her father lost his job, took work as a contractor in Iraq...and never came home. Second, she likes the wrong guy and his super-intense, scary cheerleader girlfriend is now her nemesis. Third, her fashionista best friend, Tracy, is suddenly infinitely cooler than she is--and talking about losing her virginity. (What?!)Rose is ahead when it comes to studying for the PSAT, but she's so far behind socially that she might as well be moving backward. She needs Tracy's help choosing the right clothes, she likes all the wrong extracurricular activities, and she can't even make a decision about which photo of her father to put on the memorial website she's making (and hiding from her adolescent-shrink mother). With her brother away at college and her mother always locked in her office with her messed-up teen patients, Rose struggles to get through each day without inflicting bodily harm on anyone.

Review: I really wanted to read Confessions of an Almost Angry Girl. I love the character, they remind me of my friends, family so much, and even a bit of myself. Jamie reminds me of my boyfriend Aaron. He's got that air of mystery, a bit of a bad boy vibe. People view it as dangerous but he in the end shows that he has a really sweet side that is rarely shown. So much pain hidden inside him. Rose kind of reminds me of... well me, she's introverted, cautious, over analyzes and over plans, but she stands up for her friends when she thinks they are being mistreated, no matter the circumstance. The book is filled with many twists and turns it is shocking, sad, scary and just a little bit dangourus. You must read the Confessions of an Angry Girl by Louise Rozett

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Review: A Kiss Before the Apocalypse

Title: A Kiss Before the Apocalypse
Author:  Thomas Sniegoski
Publisher: Roc Trade
Publication Date: May 6, 2008
Reviewer: Elisa

Summary: Boston PI Remy Chandler is no ordinary man. He’s an angel who chose to renounce heaven and live on earth. So he’s perfect for the job of finding the Angel of Death, who has gone missing. But what at first seems to be about tracing a missing person turns out to involve much more—a conspiracy that has as its goal the destruction of the human race. And only Remy Chandler can stop it...(summary from amazon)

Review: This was a gritty adventure and the apocalypse is just around the corner.  Remy has a dog, who he can converse with (angelic superpowers and all), which is a very sweet relationship.  The conversations were well done.  Also, as an angel Remy is immortal but his human wife is nearing the end of her life.  It is interesting that this first book in the series is about both the end of the world and the end of his married life.  But I think it opens the field to Remy taking on dangerous jobs in future novels.  Most of the other characters Remy deals with are immortals of some type, usually angelic or fallen.
The story is full of action, but it really made me think about love.  If you lose someone you love, how do you cope?  What would it be like to be immortal and how they may eventually desire for life to end.  Sniegoski plays with the concept of angels, their motivations and their desires.  What event may have turned an angel to live amongst the humans instead of the heavenly host?  The book is bittersweet…there is another book in the series, so I am sure you can guess whether the apocalypse happens, but his wife is dying and there is no stopping death once he is doing his job.
I cried a couple of tears at the end and look forward to picking up the next in the series.  I give it 3.5 stars.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Review: The 500

Title: The 500
Author: Matthew Quirk
Publisher:  Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: 
 June 5, 2012
Reviewer: Ethan

Summary: Mike Ford is a former con artist who's been plucked from his Harvard Law School classroom to be an associate at The Davies Group, Washington's most high-powered and well-respected strategic consulting firm. Their specialty: pulling strings and peddling influence for the five hundred most powerful people inside the Beltway, the men and women who really run Washington -- and by extension the country, and the world.

The namesake of the firm, Henry Davies, knows everyone who matters; more importantly, he knows their secrets. Davies' experience goes back 40 years -- he worked for Lyndon Johnson, jumped shipped to Nixon, then put out his own shingle as the Hill's most cut-throat and expensive fixer. Now he's looking for a protégé to tackle his most high-stakes deal yet, and Mike fits the bill.

Quickly pulled into a seductive, dangerous web of power and corruption, Mike struggles to find his way out. But how do you save your soul when you've made a deal with the devil?

Review: "Every man has a price". That seems to be the motivating factor in the debut novel, "The 500", by Matthew Quirk. In the book, Quirk depicts the inner workings of Washington D.C.'s five-hundred most influential people, through an imaginative and engaging thriller.

Mike Ford is an outsider. As a student at the prestigious Harvard Law, Mike works hard to live up to the societal standards of his affluent classmates. Unlike his peers, Mike, the son of a convicted felon, has grown up in a world of crime. After his disease stricken mother passed away, he was left with a jailed father, his mother's medical bills, and the choice to either make a better life for himself or meet the same fate as his father.

A standout at Harvard, Mike is given the opportunity to be an associate at The Davies Group, a powerful consulting firm in Washington. The group is paid by individuals, corporations, and special interest groups to influence the movers and shakers of Washington, the 500. Henry Davis, who formed the company, sees a spark of himself in Mike and quickly appoints him to a high profile deal that could lead to his partnership.

Essentially, The Davies Group uses the knowledge that "every man has a price" to find ways to "influence" the heavy players in the D.C. scene. Mikes street knowledge helps him to climb the ladder, providing more fortune, connections, and prestige than he could ever have dreamed of. When Davies pulls Mike off of his major deal, Mike immediately suspects foul play. He enters a conspiracy that threatens everything he has worked for and even his life.

Matthew Quirk has been compared to veteran legal thriller author John Grisham. While I definitely see similarities between Quirk's fast pace, legal jargon, and characters with those in Grisham's earlier novels, Quirk writes with an urgency and contemporary structure that is uniquely his own. The novel begins with a tease from the climatic ending and then goes back the the chronological beginning, grabbing the reader from the start and providing immediate anticipation. I was reminded of the 2007 film "Michael Clayton" in which a corporate "fixer" gets involved in a similar web of corrupt power. Overall, "The 500" is a fast and contemporary legal thriller that is a fantastic debut.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Review: My Soul to Lose

Title: My Soul to Lose (Soul Screamers #0.5)
Author:  Rachel Vincent
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: July 1, 2009
Reviewer: Elisa

Summary: It was supposed to be a fun day, shopping at the mall with her best friend. Then the panic attack started and Kaylee Cavanaugh finds herself screaming, unable to stop. Her secret fears are exposed and it's the worst day of her life.
Until she wakes up in the psychiatric unit.
She tries to convince everyone she's fine--despite the shadows she sees forming around another patient and the urge to scream which comes burbling up again and again. Everyone thinks she's crazy. Everyone except Lydia, that is. Another patient with some special abilities... (review from amazon)

Review:  This is a prequel novella to the Soul Screamer's series.  Kaylee has her first screaming episode in the mall, she thinks she has extreme panic attacks, and is taken to a psychiatric hospital because she won't stop screaming and thrashing - even while under heavy sedation.
Wow - I don't really understand what is happening to Kaylee or why, but waking up and being stuck in a psych ward is so well done I started to imagine myself stuck in one.  It was not a pretty scene and I fully empathized with her.  This story is only 50-60 pages and you are left wondering what happened to her parents.  She lives with her aunt, uncle and cousin and they don't seem very close.  It made me curious about whether one of her parents had this ability as well and how difficult this will be without them.  Are her guardians muggle-types that have no clue how to help her?
I will say that I am intrigued and excited to read the first book, My Soul to Take.  This novella really generated more questions than answers and a lot of interest on my part.  I am now ready for some answers dang it!!  My only worry about this series is that she seems a little young, so I am wondering what the teen angsty issues will be and hoping they don't dominate.  But, those weren't really an issue in this novella, so I don't know what I am talking about yet.  3.5 stars.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Review: Amped

Title: Amped
Author: Daniel H. Willson
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication Date: 
 June 5, 2012
Reviewer: Ethan

Summary Technology makes them superhuman. But mere mortals want them kept in their place. Enter a stunning world where technology and humanity clash in terrifying and surprising ways.

Some people are implanted with upgrades that make them capable of superhuman feats. The powerful technology has profound consequences for society, and soon a set of laws is passed that restricts the abilities—and rights—of “amplified” humans.

On the day that the Supreme Court passes the first of these laws, 29-year-old Owen Gray discovers that his seizure-suppressing medical implant is actually a powerful upgrade. Owen joins the ranks of a new persecuted underclass known as “amps” and is forced to go on the run, desperate to reach an outpost in Oklahoma where, it is rumoured, a group of the most enhanced amps are about to change the world—or destroy it.

Review: Daniel H. Wilson arrived to the novel scene with last year's inventive tale, "Robopocalypse". Combining a well thought out story with factual information (Wilson has a PhD in robotics), Wilson debuted a highly entertaining novel that earned critical and financial success. The film rights to the novel were even obtained by director Steven Spielberg. With fond memories of my time spent with his previous novel, I began reading "Amped" with high expectations.

In this sophomore novel, Wilson imagines a future in which humans have used technology to enhance their physical and mental abilities, creating a multitude of amplified humans (amps). Owen Gray, a high school teacher, is a medical amp. He was implanted with a device at a young age to help control his seizures. While Owen is a pretty straightforward amp, other humans have been amped to such a high level that normal humans fear them. Fueled by the zealous persuasion of Senator Joseph Vaughn, the Supreme Court passes laws that differentiate the rights of Amps from those of regular people (Reggies).

We abruptly learn that Owen's father, who was a lead scientist in the development of Amps, added another element to Owen's implant, one that gives him superhuman characteristics of the highest degree. Set on learning more about himself and on helping gain equal rights for all humans, Owen heads to an Amp refuge in Oklahoma, where he is forced to decide which side of the battle to fight on, and to dig deep inside of himself for the sake of humanity.

I was extremely disappointed by this novel. At only 288 pages, the whole narrative felt extremely rushed, and the characters were not given enough time for development. I was reminded of a similar novel, "Toys" by James Patterson, in which a man finds out that he is not what he thinks and is thrust into a battle between enhanced and regular humans. I can't believe that I actually enjoyed the Patterson novel more that this one. Overall, "Amped" lacks the technical reality, emotionally drawn characters, and unique concept that made "Robopocalypse" a success. Without these components, we are left with a subpar story that moves to an inevitable ending.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Review: Delirium

Title: Delirium
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: February 7, 2012
Reviewer: Annie

Summary:  (From Amazon) They say that the cure for Love will make me happy and safe forever. And I’ve always believed them. Until now. Now everything has changed. Now, I’d rather be infected with love for the tiniest sliver of a second than live a hundred years smothered by a lie.

Review: This book takes place in a future where they have found the “cure” for love.  It was determined that all problems in their society could all be traced back to love and so by eliminating it they are a much more orderly and safe society.  The story follows a teenager who is set to accept the cure.  All her life she has awaited this and known the reasons for it, but (of course) she meets someone who turns her whole world upside down.

I’m a sucker for these books so I read it quickly and couldn’t wait find out what happened next.  But since I have read a lot of very similar books in this genre they all seem to meld together and have a very similar feeling.  This one felt very similar to Matched, and I feel like they could all be derived from The Giver.  Even though I eat these books up, I really want to find something new and good in them.  This one didn’t seem to offer that, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it!

If you read and liked Matched or any other YA dystopia with an emphasis on relationships you will like this book.  It does feel very young adult, and I know that turns some people off, so avoid it if you don't usually like YA books because they feel juvenile.  This one with the lack of love and then suddenly finding it can feel at times very much like a teenage romance (and I guess that is what it could be). One thing that everyone can enjoy is the writing, even though the story might feel young it is written beautifully and you really won't be able to put it down once you start!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Review: Divergent

Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: May 3, 2011
Reviewer: Annie

Summary:  (From Amazon) In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Review: In a world where most chose to stay within the faction they were raised, Beatrice surprises everyone and chooses a different faction.  This starts her on a competitive initiation process and she starts to learn disturbing things about her new and old factions and the world they live in.

I really enjoyed this book; it was definitely a page turner that kept me very interested.  I love that a lot of these new young adult books have strong female characters (some adult books should take note) and Tris is a very easy character to relate to.  I do have one complaint about it though and I’ll try to keep it as un-spoilery as possible.  Towards the end of the book things take a big turn and this happened suddenly in a frustrating way.  I wish there had been a bit more buildup to it or maybe just have the events take more time, it was like suddenly everyone was an enemy and I really didn’t enjoy that.  I guess the ending as a whole left me a bit disappointed. 

If you liked the Hunger Games this would be another good young adult book to read.  It’s not quite as well written as the Hunger Games (or even Delirium), the writing is more straight forward and a bit younger feeling.  But the story is great; the world that Roth created is intriguing and makes me want to know what else she has in store for us in the next 2 books!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Interview: Charles A Cornell

Welcome to Jagged Edge!
Would you like to tell us a little about yourself?
I emigrated from England to Canada when I was six years old and grew up in Southern Ontario. I returned to England to earn a degree in Metallurgy at the University of Sheffield then came back to Canada and joined the automotive industry.

In 1992, I was transferred to the Detroit, Michigan area. Now I’m nearing the end of my 35 year career in the automotive business. I’ve been very fortunate to have been able to travel extensively in Europe - where I lived on assignment for four years - as well as to Mexico, Japan and Australia. My career has given me many insights and helps me bring diverse perspectives to my writing.

I first started writing novels ten years ago. But during that span of time, I had a three year hiatus when I didn’t write at all. During two of those years, I managed a rock band in my spare time. Boy, was that fun! When the band broke up, I started writing again.

I hope, in the not too distant future, to become a full time author. My debut novel, the mystery thriller, ‘Tiger Paw’ has been seven years in the making, including the time it lay dormant in my ‘bottom drawer’ during that three year dry spell. I want to write the sequel, ‘Lucifer’s Key’ in less than a year. I’ve started, but have some serious work ahead of me to pick up the pace from my first book!

What inspired you to write? 
Later in my career, I earned my MBA part-time. After being out of school for over 20 years, it was a bit of a shock to return to writing essays and doing a thesis!  It was a bit frightening. But through this experience, I rediscovered a love for creative writing that was my passion when I was much younger, in middle school. But as I went from high school to university, I left the arts behind to focus on science and engineering. As my career progressed, I found I became less and less interested in the technical side of my work and drawn more closely to the people side.

During my mid-career MBA studies, I found I really liked the process of researching facts (using my scientific skills) and then expanding them with ideas and imagination into ‘stories’ (using my artistic side).  I think my writing process will always draw from my curiosity in learning new things in many different fields. It takes a lot longer to finish a novel that way, but I’m finding that when I stumble over some unique tidbit of research, I can turn that kernel of information into an interesting plot line or character. Tiger Paw required me to become immersed in many new subjects for me like Hinduism, mystic cults and the psychology of serial killers.

What authors influenced you as a writer?
When I was young I read a lot of classic science fiction. I read all of the Edgar Rice Burroughs ‘John Carter of Mars’ series, John Wyndham, Isaac Asimov, Jules Verne, HG Wells and others. But George Orwell’s ‘1984’ stood out for me. It was really a psychological thriller. Orwell’s nightmarish vision was set apart from the classic sc-fi I was reading because his dystopian world had profound political and societal forces acting on his characters not just technological change. I think he set a very high standard for writers in regards to communicating these kinds of ‘big picture’ ideas through the feelings of his characters and the story of their journey. I’ve tried to do some of that in ‘Tiger Paw’, although it’s up to my readers to judge how successful I have been.

What is your favorite quote?
“You see things; and you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say, "Why not?" - George Bernard Shaw

If you could jump into a book, and live in that world, which would it be? 
I’m torn between jumping into the adventure and glamour of an Ian Fleming ‘James Bond’ novel or the silliness and unpredictability of Doug Adams’ ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’. They are both outrageous romps, in their own different ways. So that has me thinking, how about writing an intergalactic spy novel? Hmmm?

What is at least one thing that every writer needs to have or do? 
Perserverance. I think the word ‘perserverance’ sums up all the aspects of patience, dedication, passion and continuous learning that are required to survive and prosper as a writer.

Are your books different than your personal favorite books by other authors? 
Yes, they are. I read mainly for facts and information rather than entertainment. So I read books that are primarily non-fiction such as biographies, history, politics, business, current affairs, etc. I also read reference works that are research for my novels. Right now I’ve read two sociology books on Caribbean voodoo by authors who were eye witnesses to that culture. It’s truly fascinating. But I also like satire and I’m a big fan of Bill Bryson. But again, his books are non-fiction.

When I write, I’m trying to capture the essence of an escape from reality – a world removed from what I know, from everything comfortable and safe. I think that’s what draws readers to thrillers. I want to create a world that is realistic but dangerous, with characters that are dark and mysterious. Before writing in this genre, I did read thrillers. But today I rarely read one all the way through to the end because I don’t want to influence my own plot lines and characterizations by unconsciously mimicking the work of others. Most of the time, I read the first chapters of a thriller and then leave the rest unread. I just want to get a sense of what other authors’ have done in terms of style and pace. I particularly like Ted Bell and Greg Isles for that reason.

What led you to writing in this genre? 
A lot of my inspiration comes from movies. Tiger Paw was a continuously playing ‘movie in my head’. I just had to find the time to write it down. The sequel is now emerging that way too. For inspiration, I find there is nothing like a strong character driven movie. I prefer those with action and suspense but I enjoy all manner of movie genres from period dramas to sci-fi. The Robert Redford / Brad Pitt movie ‘Spy Game’ inspired me to write my first book, an espionage novel. It was my first attempt at a full length thriller and after many rejections, it’s still unpublished. But writing it helped me learn the ‘craft’ of writing in so many ways. It wasn’t bad as a first start but still needs work to make it commercial. But I decided, instead of rewriting it, I would start over with ‘Tiger Paw’ because it was the movie that was ‘playing’ so vividly in my mind at the time.

I have a little bit of ‘Edgar Allan Poe’ in me, another of my favorite authors. I like the macabre, supernatural and the unusual. But for some reason I’m not drawn to writing gothic horror, paranormal fantasy or sci-fi. I want to write about things that are an escape but are possible. Something grounded in reality but not too far removed from it. And I want to leverage my insights into the business world.

Every story begins with a ‘what if?’ For Tiger Paw, the ‘what if’ question was, ‘What if Wall Street defrauded the wrong investors… people who could really fight back?’ In the end, Tiger Paw is a classic tale of good triumphing over evil. But for much of the book, it’s also a story of evil people taking revenge on other evil people. And that concept really interests me!

In my research on the psychology of serial killers, I discovered that sociopathic personalities can be very successful in business! From that point, it was a lock. The ‘script’ of my movie was woven around the sociopathic nature of Wall Street and what would happen when competing evil forces did battle with one another. The Hindu mysticism in Tiger Paw was the final element to help create the idea and symbolism of a mystic ‘Revenge Incarnate’.

What is your favorite part of the writing process?
There is nothing better than having a vivid scene playing in your head of two of your characters locked in verbal combat - and then being thrust along with them as you write it down. The scene usually involves tension and conflict and the prose comes from deep inside as you experience your characters’ emotions as they spill out onto the page. There is some ‘improv’ involved and to see it unfold as you write is a thrill. I usually write dialogue without tag lines first, and then fill them in later so I don’t interrupt the flow of ideas. It helps to have a glass of wine on hand to nurture the process along.

Least favorite part of the writing process? 
I think many people would suggest it is revision and editing but I don’t mind that at all. It gives you a chance to fill in those important little details and agonize over word choices, and this is integral to getting a quality result.

What I enjoy least is writing about getting from one physical place to another. That is, how people cross a room, get from point A to point B in a city, etc. It’s a real challenge to make it dynamic and interesting. It’s probably where I get stuck the most and scrap what I’ve first written and start over.

What are you currently working on? 
Tiger Paw will have a sequel and also a third book in what I’m tentatively calling ‘The Temple Trilogy’. I have the entire storyline developed for the second book called ‘Lucifer’s Key’. I’m past the research stage and well into the writing of it. In ‘Lucifer’s Key’, FBI agent Scott Forrester is kidnapped by a voodoo cult on the Caribbean island of Trinidad while investigating the murder of an American virus researcher. He’s in a race against time to prevent a terrorist attack as well as rescue his love interest from the clutches of the evil Temple who, once again, are masterminding the mayhem. Like Tiger Paw, it has a surprise ending. It’s related to the prophecy of a voodoo sorceress, Tantie Neptune and I promise it’s a real shocker! It will set up the third book, which is in the research and concept stages now, and will be called ‘Black Venom’.

I’m also developing my ideas and doing reading for a mystery series set in Czarist Russia about a very unusual aristocratic detective that must solve crimes while the Communist Revolution unfolds around him. Again, I received my inspiration from film. It came to me after I thoroughly enjoyed watching ‘Downton Abbey’ and was struck by how much change there was in the structure of society in the period before and after World War I, and how rapidly the divide began to close between the aristocracy and ordinary people.

Where can readers find you? 
My website is www.CharlesACornell.com 
It has links to my blog which you can reach at: http://charlesacornell.wordpress.com/
I’m also on Facebook and GoodReads. Search and friend me!… Charles A Cornell.
I love interacting with readers. So please contact me!

Was there a question you wish I would have asked but didn't? 

If you were an animal, what animal would you be?
A bulldog. They are tenacious but lovable, like me. They are thoughtful looking, in a wrinkly kind of way, again very much like me. They usually have a smile on their faces which is a combination of curiosity and congeniality. And that’s definitely me!

Thank you so much for inviting me to the Jagged Edge!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Review: Tiger Paw by Charles A Cornell

Title: Tiger Paw
Author: Charles A Cornell
Publication Date: Febuary 24, 2012
Reviewer: Kati

Summary: In Tiger Paw, FBI profiler Scott Forrester hunts an assassin belonging to a demonic East Indian cult that is wreaking havoc on Wall Street, murdering corrupt CEO's at the center of a billionaire's stock scam. Firmly in the assassin's crosshairs, Scott Forrester is forced underground to stop the killing spree. But will he survive the deal he must make with the Devil to thwart the cult's plans? Tiger Paw is a thriller cloaked in mystery, psychological suspense and international intrigue. A story of people who have sold their souls in exchange for wealth and power. A story of greed, deception, and revenge. And a story of one man's struggle to triumph against the greatest evil he has ever faced.

Review: I am very happy that I agreed to review this book. The beginning started out kind of slow. But there were so many twists and turn towards the end. You were left guessing, held in suspence. You must pick this book up and read it!

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