Hope everyone has a wonderful new year!!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Review: This Bright River

Title: This Bright River
Author: Patrick Somerville
Publisher:  Reagan Arthur Books
Publication Date: 
 June 26, 2012
Reviewer: Ethan

Summary: Critics hailed Patrick Somerville's first novel, The Cradle, as a "magical debut" (Chicago Sun-Times), one that "calmly, relentless pulls at the Gothic skein of family tragedies" (Washington Post), "a deeply gratifying modern fable" (The New York Times). With his new novel, Somerville more than makes good on that early promise, telling a powerful story about a young man trying to atone for past mistakes, and a young woman trying not to repeat her own.

Review: Ben Hanson is no stranger to mistakes. Recently released from prison, he understands that he made errors in both his personal and professional life. Now, free from confinement and with new sobriety, Ben wanders though life, searching for some kind of meaning. When his uncle Denny passes away, Ben's father, Jack, invites him to move back to his hometown to help settle his late uncle's estate.

Upon his arrival, Ben is flooded with memories of his past. He recalls the tragic death of his older cousin, Wayne, a tragedy that still haunts his family. As he begins to delve into his uncle's estate, fragments of the past come to light, all adding to the mystery of Wayne's demise.

In the same town, Lauren Sheehan is also trying to rebuild her life. Escaping from a violent ex-husband and abandoning her medical career, Lauren has returned to her hometown in search of a fresh start. In the small town, it is now surprise that the paths of Ben and Lauren intersect. Having no true past relationship, the two slowly become interested in each other. As time passes, their troubled lives become intertwined, creating a connection that they could have never imagined. Together, they kindle a romance and attempt to move on with their lives before their negative past catches up with them.

Going into this novel, I was unsure of what to expect. Normally, I try to steer clear of any "romance" novels, but this story offered much more. By slowly presents fragments of the two characters lives, mostly through flashback from each character's recollections, Somerville provides just enough information to keep the reader wanting more. Intricately imagined, the characters seem like genuine people who have had a rough go at life. Drawn with a sense of reality and empathy, it is easy to get behind Ben and Lauren and to truly care about them. While the writing is really great, I will admit that there were times when the change in time and narrator got a bit confusing. In certain moments Somerville slowed the pace of the plot, focussing more on character development that advancing the narrative. Fortunately, this attention to character made it impossible to stop reading. At times, this novel can be hard to digest. The themes of family drama, second chances, and suspenseful drama permeate this fascinating novel making it a completely engaging read.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Review: The Renegades

Title: The Renegades
Author: Tom Young
Publisher:  Putnam Adult
Publication Date: 
 July 19, 2012
Reviewer: Ethan

Summary: A catastrophic earthquake ravages Afghanistan, and American troops rush to deliver aid, among them Afghan Air Force adviser Lieutenant Colonel Michael Parson, and his interpreter, Sergeant Major Sophia Gold. The devastation facing them is like nothing they’ve ever seen, however—and it’s about to get worse.

A Taliban splinter group, Black Crescent, is conducting its own campaign—shooting medical workers, downing helicopters, slaughtering anyone who dares to accept aid. With the U.S. drawing down and coalition forces spread thin, it is up to Parson, Gold, and Parson’s Afghan aircrews to try to figure out how to strike back. But they’re short of supplies, men, experience, and information—and meanwhile the terrorists seem to be nowhere . . . and everywhere.

Review: As we have seen, especially in recent years, when nature decides to throw a natural disaster our way, there is nothing for us to do but watch it happen and work quickly to recover. In his latest novel, "The Renegades", Tom Young presents a natural disaster, complicated by the human disaster of war.

The horrors of the war in Afghanistan are elevated when a large earthquake strikes the area. In the immediate aftermath, US Lt. Col. Michael Parson is called in to assist with the recovery efforts. Assisted by a cast of interesting characters, especially translator Sophia Gold, the team attempts to save the lives of innocent locals, caught in the crossfire of war and natural disaster.

Young presents the people of Afghanistan as torn between being thankful or completely against American assistance. Some locals, like pilot Rashid, even join forces with the US military. Unfortunately, the Taliban witnesses the American's response to the earthquake and, in turn, enter the village, killing many and kidnapping the young boys to train as future soldiers.

The bare, mostly quick prose used by Young helps to portray the intensity of the war. The book never lags, always driving forward with suspense and action. Either because of the military jargon or the sheer number of people contributing to a conversation, there were some moments when the dialogue became a bit confusing. I imagine, however, that this confusion may be another form of accurately depicting the intense situations of war. In the end, this novel had no major revelations, but was an entertaining look into the horrors of war and mother nature.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Review: Fire Season

Title: Fire Season
Author: Jon Loomis
Series: Frank Coffin Mysteries (#3)
Publisher:  Minotaur Books
Publication Date: 
 July 17, 2012
Reviewer: Ethan

Summary: Beleaguered Police Detective Frank Coffin is on the trail of a firebug in Fire Season, the third in this sharply witty mystery series set in Provincetown, Massachusetts

Until a replacement can be found, Frank Coffin is pulling double duty as a detective and interim police chief for the Provincetown, Mass. Police. The off-season has just started for this tourist town and the streets should be quiet. But they’re not.

When three fires are sparked in quick succession, it looks like there’s a firebug on the loose. A firebug who doesn't care who he hurts. With a deputy terrified of UFOs, a severed head in a lobster tank, and the fact that Frank's mother is setting some fires of her own, it’s another busy season in P’town in Fire Season, an excellent addition to Jon Loomis’ acclaimed series.

Review: Frank Coffin, police detective and interim chief of Provincetown, Massachusetts, is undergoing a lifestyle change. As a typical middle-aged man who's mind tells him he's invincible while his body reminds him of his mortality, Coffin is attempting to eat better, exercise more, and quit smoking. He's been recognized for his dedication to his job, is surrounded by supportive friends, and his girlfriend has just revealed that she is pregnant with his child. As the tourist season draws to a close, life is good for Frank Coffin. With all this considered, he has decided he would like to live a little bit longer to enjoy it.

Of course, the quiet off-season is soon interrupted. It all begins when an arsonist sets fire to a dumpster. As more fires begin to pot up around the city, Coffin attempts to catch the arsonist before he escalates to burning down the small town and killing anyone who stands in his way.

Even more troubling is the mental state of Coffins cousin Tom, who is also one of his police officers. For years, Provincetown has fostered rumblings of UFO's in the surrounding area. Locals remain divided on the issue, but Frank becomes directly involved in the matter as Tom begins to speak of his own sightings. As he rambles about being abducted by the invaders, Frank must find a way to ease his cousin's fears and stop the arsonist before the entire town goes mad.

I was very impressed with this novel. While it is certainly not the biggest or most ambitious mystery that I've read, I really appreciated Loomis's subtle way of crafting this delightful story. Frank Coffin immediately comes off as a kind of every man who is easy to root for. Provincetown has the perfect combination of small town setting and quirky characters, allowing a sense of reality to permeate the story. Loomis writes with a refreshingly frank style that makes this novel a quick, suspense driven read.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Review: I, Michael Bennett

Title: I, Michael Bennett
Author: James Patterson (with Michael Ledwidge)
Series: Michael Bennett (#5)
Publisher:  Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: 
 July 9, 2012
Reviewer: Ethan

Summary: Police officers shot Detective Michael Bennett arrests an infamous Mexican crime lord in a deadly chase that leaves Bennett's lifelong friend Hughie McDonough dead. From jail, the prisoner vows to rain epic violence down upon New York City-and to get revenge on Michael Bennett. Judges murdered To escape the chaos, Bennett takes his ten kids and their beautiful nanny, Mary Catherine, on a much-needed vacation to his family's cabin near Newburgh, New York. But instead of the calm and happy town he remembers from growing up, they step into a nightmare worse than they could have ever imagined. Newburgh is an inferno of warring gangs, and there's little the police-or Bennett-can do to keep the children safe. Target: Michael Bennett As violence overwhelms the state, Bennett is torn between protecting his hometown and saving New York City. A partner in his investigations, federal prosecutor Tara McLellan, brings him new weapons for the battle-and an attraction that endangers his relationship with Mary Catherine. A no-holds-barred, pedal-to-the-floor, action-packed novel, I, Michael Bennett is James Patterson at his most personal and most thrilling best.

Review: As critics and readers have slammed most of James Patterson's recent novels, his Michael Bennett series, co-written with Michael Ledwidge, has maintained a level of quality and entertainment that reminds us why he is one of the bestselling authors of all time.

Michael Bennett, a single father of 10, is used to being busy. Ever since he lost his wife to cancer, he has struggled to maintain both his family life and his job of solving high profile crimes for the New York City Police Department. Thankfully, Bennett has the faithful assistance of his priest grandfather, Seamus, and irish nanny, Mary Catherine.

As the Bennett clan prepares for a lengthy summer vacation, Michael is called in to assist his friend in taking down a Mexican drug runner who has entered NYC. The bust has mixed results. While Bennett manages to capture the leader, two officers, including his friend, are killed in the process. Even worse, the drug leader continues to wreak havoc from inside the jail. During an interrogation, Bennett refuses to assist the drug leader, despite a proposed $2.5 million bribe. The leader takes this personally and vows to do everything in his power to destroy Bennett and those close to him.

This novel left me with mixed feelings, mainly due to the complete lack of resolution. Patterson makes no attempt at bringing the story to a close, causing the novel to feel very unfinished. I'm sure the next novel in the series will pick up where this one leaves off, but the lack of even the smallest amount of closure leaves the entire novel completely disjointed. Michael Bennett is easy to care for and is arguably Patterson's strongest character to date. This story focusses less on character development than the previous installments, but having read all of the other novels, I already understood the emotions stakes that the situations held. As far as action is concerned, Patterson expertly walks the line between reality and unbelievable, providing genuine suspense. Overall, I would recommend reading some of the others in this series before picking up this one. Fans of the early Alex Cross novels and vintage Patterson thrillers should enjoy this one as well.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Review: Calico Joe by John Grisham

Title: Calico Joe
Author: John Grisham
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: 
 April 10, 2012
Reviewer: Ethan

Summary In John Grisham’s new novel the baseball is thrilling, but it’s what happens off the field that makes CALICO JOE a classic.

Review: Americans have a longstanding love affair with baseball. There is something about attending a ballpark, watching a game amongst friends and family, and even tossing a ball in the backyard that is uniquely American. Author John Grisham, known mostly for his taut legal thrillers, takes a welcome departure in his latest novel, "Calico Joe". 

For a short time in the summer of 1973, Paul Tracey was obsessed with baseball. In part, he wanted to relate to his father Warren, a pitcher for the Mets who was more interested in playing ball and partying than spending time with his family. Beyond even the family issues, Paul, and the rest of America, was drawn to the sport by the Cub's phenomenal rookie, Joe Castle. 

Joe Castle arrived to the majors after the Cubs lost both of their first base men to injuries. A 21-year-old rookie from the small town of Calico Rock, Arkansas, Joe entered the major league scene with a bang. The rookie hit the most home runs for any first time player, shattering records becoming baseball's overnight sensation, and earning the nickname Calico Joe. 

Young Paul Tracey was excited when the Cubs and his idol, Calico Joe, finally came to town to play his father's Mets. Seemingly the perfect baseball game, Paul enthusiastically rooted for his two favorite players, Joe and his father. That day was suddenly changed forever as Joe came to bat and Warren Tracey threw a pitch that would change the lives of everyone involved. 

Taking a break from his usual legal fare, John Grisham brings his accessible storytelling to the world of baseball. The combination works perfectly. Grisham's love for the game shines through with accurate descriptions that both pay homage to the history of the sport while advancing the narrative. As he does so well in his best novels, Grisham fills his world with genuine characters that readers will have no trouble relating to. At less than 200 pages, this novel is paced with the perfect amount of suspense, never feeling rushed of unfinished. By combining a nostalgic look back at America's favorite pastime with riveting characters, John Grisham has knocked this one out of the park. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Review: A Discovery of Witches

Title: A Discovery of Witches (Audio)
Author: Deborah Harkness
Publisher: Viking Adult
Publication Date: February 8th, 2011
Reviewer: Annie

Summary (from Amazon): A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together.

Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism.
I really liked the way this book started.  It all seemed very real with a vampire or witch thrown in there, but it was still in a believable world.  I felt like I was reading a good piece of literature with a lot of different adventures that could stem off from it.  Then suddenly I was thrown into a love story, which wouldn’t be bad if it wasn’t so unbelievable.  Diana falls in love with this vampire in a matter of days.  I now felt like I was reading any other vampire young adult novel.  What happened to this strong female character?  She was gone.  I was quite a bit less interested in the rest of the story, but it held my attention well enough to finish.  It does leave with a big cliffhanger and I’m not totally committed to being interested in where the second novel will take us.  The one thing that may keep me around is that her writing style makes for great reading, and I do like to see how things resolve.  If you like love stories especially ones involving witches and vampires you will like this book, if not you should probably avoid it.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Author: Katie McGarry
Publisher: Harlequin teen
Publication date: July 31, 2012

Summary: No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal.
But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible. Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.
Review: This book was amazing. My boyfriend stopped my speed reading. But I still finished the book! The characters were amazing and diverse. As always I pick the book that reminds me of Aaron and I. The book about the bad guy and the good girl just trying to figure her life out. As the story progresses you find out the guys not so bad and they fall in love. This story does have a quiet touching story line though. Which makes it aan even better read so I guess instead of me going on and on about how amazing this book is and how much it reflects on my boyfriend and I. I will just say that you should pick this book up and read it. You won't regret it.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Review: Saving June

Title: Saving June
Author: Hannah harrington
Publisher: Harlequin teen
Publication date: November 22, 2011

Everyone's sorry. But no one can explain why.
Harper Scott's older sister, June, took her own life a week before high school graduation, leaving Harper devastated. So when her divorcing parents decide to split up June's ashes, Harper steals the urn and takes off cross-country with her best friend, Laney, to the one place June always dreamed of going—California. Enter Jake Tolan, a boy with a bad attitude, a classic-rock obsession…and an unknown connection to June. When he insists on joining them, Harper's just desperate enough to let him. With his alternately charming and infuriating demeanor and his belief that music can see you through anything, he might be exactly what Harper needs. Except…Jake's keeping a secret that has the power to turn her life upside down—again.
Review: I got saving june first from netgalley but for some reason I couldn't stand to read the digital version so I just skipped it. But recently I won it in a giveaway. I was obviously very excited to have a second chance to read the book in a different format. I jumped right into it. I absolutley adored the book. I opened the package and just sat in my car and read the book I couldn't stop reading it! Now if you were in Wisconsin when we were having that crazy humid weather you know exactly how big of a deal it is for me to sit in a black car and read a book for a few hours. The book is dramatic and shocking. I lover Harpers outgoing nature, Jake's intense love of music and Laney's love of old actresses. They all have crazy yet loveable characteristics. Just when you think you have the ending figured out you will be proven very wrong. Amazing book, Quick read, Worth it!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Review: Web of Lies

Title: Web of Lies
Author: Sarah Tate
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: December 27, 2010
Reviewer: Annie

Summary (from Amazon): Web of Lies takes you on an emotional roller-coaster, experienced through the eyes of Sarah Tate, an intelligent, young newcomer to Switzerland who is swept off her feet by an older, more experienced company manager. Within weeks of their meeting, Bill impresses her with a courtship vastly unusual in modern times. He lures Sarah with his intellect along with numerous gifts, expensive restaurants, and trips to luxury hotels. Sarah, who is searching for not only love but security, quickly finds herself falling for the worldly but sensitive and caring man Bill represents himself to be. In Web of Lies, she describes the highs and the lows of what it is like to be involved with a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, how to come to terms with the abuse, and most importantly, how to escape.
Review:  This book chronicles the true story of Sarah Tate, whom has fallen for a seemingly wealthy and successful older man who is not all he appears to be.  I’ll be honest; I wasn’t a huge fan of this book.  The story is somewhat interesting but I’m not sure if it was quite compelling enough to write a book about it.  I would possibly be more interested in a fictional book based on some true things that happened.  The writing was just ok, but whenever there was dialogue there were way too many exclamation points, and it almost made the characters seem unreal.  One thing I did enjoy was that it opened up my eyes to Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which is something I didn’t really know about.  Suddenly I was seeing narcissistic tendencies in many people I knew, even in myself.

I’d recommend this to someone who is a fan of non-fiction and doesn’t necessarily need a well rounded story with plot twist and turns.  If just the thought that this really happened to someone is enough to keep you interested and reading you’d probably enjoy this book.  Also if you’re interested in mental disorders, particularly ones that might not be obvious at first like NPD, I’d recommend this book.

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