Thursday, September 29, 2011

Book Review: Almost Home, Pam Jenoff

Jordan Weiss hasn’t been back to England since grad school over a decade ago. Her successful career as an intelligence officer for the U.S. State Department has allowed her to travel all over the world, but she’s vowed never to return to the place where her college boyfriend drowned in a tragic accident. Then she receives a letter from a terminally ill friend, and she has no choice but to go back. Her plans to focus on her assignment and her friend are quickly disrupted when a former classmate appears with a shocking revelation: Jared’s death was no accident. As the connections between Jared’s death and her official assignment mount, Jordan knows she has to uncover a deadly secret before she is silenced forever.

Almost Home has a lot of potential as a murder mystery. A few of the “coincidences” in the novel are a little far fetched to be realistic, but over all, it has a great plot. I did suspect it would end as it did, but that was only one of the possible scenarios I came up with. The way Jordan switches from American to English terminology, depending on her location does give the reader the sense that she is well travelled. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy the book at all. Pam Jenoff writes everything in the present tense, even when the main character is having a flashback. This made it hard for me to read in several areas, but to be fair, it is just a personal preference. My biggest complaint is that I did not find Jordan to be a believable main character. The whole premise of the book surrounds her grief over the loss of Jared, “the one man she ever loved.” But she seems to wind up in bed with almost every straight male character at some point; the whole time searching for the truth about her one true love. Readers should be aware that there is a lot of “adult content” in the book, but for those who don’t mind that, it has a great ending that leads into her Jenoff’s next book, Hidden Things.

Book provided by

Friday, September 23, 2011

So Not Fair

You know those people that you hate without ever meeting?  Rebecca Serle just topped my list. Okay, maybe hate is too strong of a word. But I am extremely jealous. I just ran across an article talking about her debut novel, When You Were Mine. Apparently, some sources are worried that the movie based on the book, starring Keira Knightly, will hit theaters before the book is actually released in May of 2012. REALLY!!?!?! How does that happen? 

In other news, I just saw the galley copy of my upcoming short story, “Family Ties.” It is awesome to see my name on a title page. No word yet on who will be playing the main character on any upcoming movie deals… J  

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Book Review: The False Princess, Eilis O'Neal

The oracle prophesied that the princess would be murdered before her sixteenth birthday. After sixteen years have passed, the King and Queen inform Sinda, the girl who has been living in the palace, that she is not the princess. They pay her for her service to the crown and send her off to live with an unknown relative while they bring their own daughter home. But Sinda has been raised as a princess and isn’t suited to country life. When she discovers that she has inherited magic from her birth mother, she goes back to the capital in hopes of starting a life as a magician’s apprentice.  Instead, she uncovers a deadly plot against the crown. One that started with her own birth. With Kiernan, her best friend and the only noble who never turned his back on her, Sinda dives into political intrigue in order to save the throne.

For some reason, this book didn’t grab me at first. I felt like there was too much description of things that didn’t matter. But after the first few chapters, I was hooked. Everyone loves the story of the poor orphan who discovers she is a princess, but the question of what happens to the girl who thought she was the princess is not one I’ve ever considered. The plot had (at least for me) a major twist that kept me turning the page. The love story is very sweet, and a bit more realistic than some I’ve read recently. Sinda’s struggle between her feelings of betrayal, duty, and impossible hope are perfectly described. I hurt for her, and would have understood her actions, regardless of the choice she made. As an added bonus, Eilis O’Neal is a first time author from Oklahoma, and I have a particular fondness for those.  J

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Book Review: Middleworld J&P Voelkel

Fourteen-year-old Max Murphy is looking forward to summer vacation in Italy. But at the last minute his parents, the famous archaeologists Frank and Carla Murphy, cancel the trip in favor of a Mayan dig in Central America. Max, furious at being left behind, resigns himself to a summer of video games and boredom. Then he gets a message from his parents and a plane ticket to come join them. He thinks things are looking up, until he actually lands in San Xavier and realizes that his parents are missing. Through Lola, a modern Mayan girl, Max learns that his parents have been sucked into the Mayan underworld. And to make matters even worse, a crazed madman is collecting the Jaguar Stones, extremely powerful Mayan relics, in an attempt to take over the world. Now max and Lola have less than a week to trek through the jungle, rescue Max’s parents, and save the world.

I really wish this series had been around when I was in middle school. It is fast-paced and fun. The black and white illustrations throughout the book are a nice touch, and the Mayan culture glossary in the back of the book was helpful. There are a few spots I felt were over-written and too moralizing, but as a younger reader I doubt I’d notice. The fictional country of San Xavier is realistically described and Max is a believable, if overly dramatic, adolescent boy. I loved Lola. The mystery surrounding her character is a great set-up for future books. I also liked the fact that the “bad guys” have a few redeeming qualities and, in one case, a change of heart. The plot is full of unexpected twists, including an ancient warrior-king returning as a howler monkey, that keep readers guessing. In a series, a cliff-hanger ending is a must, and this one did not disappoint. Middle-schoolers everywhere will be waiting for the next installment.

Book provided by BookDivas

Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me...

For all of you who didn't know, this was a very important weekend. College football is back (my team won), it's a national holiday (3 day weekend), and my Birthday. The best part? I got two matching bookcases. This more than doubles my book storing capacity, so OBVIOUSLY my husband wanted me to get more books. I mean, those half-filled shelves make me a little bit sad. Soooo I'm taking suggestions. What do you think I should add to my library?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Book Review: Haunting Violet, Alyxandra Harvey

The Plot: Seventeen-year-old Violet knows all the tricks. She has spent years as her mother’s assistant, rigging fake séances to insure that paying customers are able to contact their loved ones. Violet hates tricking people who are already wracked with grief, but in 19th century London, a single woman with a child had very few options. And her mother thinks all of their worries are over when they are invited to a summer party to do readings for the peerage and a wealthy merchant hints that he wants to marry Violet. But then Violet starts seeing ghosts. Real ones. Now she has to solve a murder before someone else gets hurt.

As much as I’m thankful I wasn’t born then, I love novels set in the Victorian era. “Shocking displays” like addressing someone by their first name, and crime-solvers in corsets are a lot of fun. As for the whodunit of this particular book, to me, it was fairly obvious.  But that didn’t really take away from the enjoyment. Violet is a very relatable character and her feelings are easy to understand. The main ghost in this ghost story us a little over the top. I never understood why the one ghost who she tries to help constantly terrifies her, while others simply hang around until she notices them. Of course, the heroine of any Victorian novel has to fall in love with a man in the wrong class. But, in this case, instead of the wealthy landowner who would rescue her from poverty, Violet falls for one of the few people who have a worse situation than hers. Haunting Violet won’t make you sleep with the lights on or confound your inner Sherlock Holmes, but if you’re looking for a clean, fun read, I recommend this book.