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Monthly Archives: June 2013

Review – Exposed – Laura Griffin

exposedExposed
Author: Laura Griffin
Series: #7 in the Tracers series

Review Copy Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss

Description:
With the click of her camera, Maddie Callahan inadvertently added herself to the hit list of a criminal mastermind the FBI’s been investigating for months. Agent Brian Beckmann is determined to protect the sexy photographer, but she may be his only lead.

As a forensic photographer, Maddie is used to seeing violence up close, but she’s never before been a target. When a freelance photo shoot goes awry, she realizes she may have seen, and perhaps photographed, the kidnapping of a key witness in a federal probe. And although her camera was stolen, Maddie has something that could be even more valuable to investigators. With the help of her colleagues at the Tracers crime lab, Maddie uncovers DNA evidence that provides a desperately needed break in the case.

Although Brian is reluctant to involve Maddie, she’s determined to help with the investigation and the two set out to track a vicious criminal known as The Doctor, whose far-reaching violence has led to multiple deaths. But as the task force gets closer to catching the deadly Doctor, Maddie is in more danger than ever…

Review:
Going into this, I wasn’t so sure what I was going to think because unlike the previous books in the series, I didn’t really know these characters, they hadn’t really been mentioned before. Or rather, I think Brian had a cameo in a previous book, but he wasn’t that well characterized and I had never met Maddie. Thankfully, I ended up enjoying the book and finishing the series up to date. In fact, I read not only the complete Tracer series, but the 2 kinda linked series books that came first in the space of about a month and a half (but its not like I have any obsessive traits, right?) – lol.

I liked the idea of having a non hard science (for lack of a better word) main character. Since the vast majority of the other main characters have been someway involved in a science like DNA analysis, or forensic anthropology (which apparently I have issues spelling…). Plus the whole crime scene photography thing has always been of interest to me – I love seeing that part of crime dramas on TV – how various angles and shots can help with solving the crime. (yes, I’m a geek, what more can I say).

I think my main gripe was that I was more interested in the crime than the romance between Maddie and Brian. It wasn’t that their relationship wasn’t good, it just wasn’t as interesting…lol. But it wasn’t like it was bad (yes, I know I’m wavering…). I think if I knew more about both of them, that connection might have been there a bit more and made it more enjoyable. But I’ll be interested to see where the series goes in the future and if they make another appearance. Overall, I gave Exposed, 3.5 stars, but rounded up to 4 stars.

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – Crank – Ellen Hopkins

crankCrank
Author: Ellen Hopkins
Series: #1 in the Crank Trilogy

Description:
This is a story about a monster. Not a dragon or a mythological beast, but a very real, very destructive monster–crystal meth–that takes hold of seventeen-year-old Kristina Snow and transforms her into her reckless alter-ego Bree. Based on her own daughter’s addiction to crystal meth, Ellen Hopkins’ novel-in-verse is a vivid, transfixing look into teenage drug use. Told in Kristina’s voice, it provides a realistic portrayal of the tortured logic of an addict.

Review:
Have you ever picked up a book by an author who has a fairly decent backlist for the first time, and after finishing it, you are like, how the heck have I never read (insert name here) before? That was me and crank/me and Ellen Hopkins. I had routinely seen her books at the library in the YA section, but for some reason, I had never picked them up – maybe it was the idea of poetry, since I am normally not a huge fan…it wasn’t until I managed to need 2 poetry books for a reading challenge, and having Ellen Hopkins recommended to me by a good friend (I now blame her for my addiction), that I picked up Crank…or more specifically, I downloaded the audiobook of Crank to listen to. I was sucked it…

This isn’t the typical poetry that so many of us were “tortured” with in school (and trust me, I think a lot of my distaste comes from those experiences). I was sucked in by the free verse, it was almost at times, like reading a story – the story of Kristina and her addiction to crank (crystal meth)…the transition from her being the good girl to the drug addicted bad girl and the emergence of her alter-ego Bre…there was just something about it – I couldn’t stop listening…

the audiobook itself wasn’t all that long – i think just shy of 4 hours, but considering that it was 4 hours of poetry and I actually listened attentively to the whole thing…lol! I’m pretty sure that I have never listened to anything done by this narrator before – Laura Flanagan – she had the teenage lilt just right…I felt like I was in Kristina/Bre’s shoes…felt her falling into the void created by the crystal meth…it was kind of freaky in a few places…

Personally, I want to say everyone should read this book, but at the same time, i also realize that caution should be given to reading this book. I would advise parents to be prepared to discuss topics with your teen during reading and after, because I’m sure that they will have a lot of questions. But at the same time, I think its something that needs to be read/discussed – because in essence, it isn’t just about drug abuse, its about peer pressure that our teenagers face as they grow up – they wanting to be cool, even for just one minute, even the “cool” kids…I’m interested to see what the other 2 books in the trilogy bring. This is a hard book to rate, but I would probably give it a solid 4 stars, if not 4.5.

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2013 in Audiobook Review

 

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Review – Out of Focus – Nancy Naigel

out of focusOut of Focus
Author: Nancy Naigel
Series: #2 in the Adams Grove series

Review Copy Provided by Author

Description:
Kasey Phillips thought her biggest problem was deciding whether to photograph Cody Tuggle’s honky-tonkin’ tour, until an accident on Route 58 claims the life of her husband. Hurricane Ernesto threatens the region. In a desperate race against time they search for Kasey’s three-year-old son who is missing from the wreckage. The community and friends rally to help, but someone knows more than they are telling.

Review:
I have to admit that I wasn’t sure going into reading this book what i was going to think. I was rather ambivalent after reading the first book because while it was decently written, I wasn’t blown away by it. But I had the second book on the pile and decided to give it a shot. I’m glad to say that it was an improvement on the first book, but there were still some bits and pieces that irked me.

I found that I had to suspend reality even more so in this one than in the previous one, but I found the mystery to be stronger. One of my biggest gripes I think was that I felt kind of mis-lead by the description on the book jacket – when it mentioned Hurricane Ernesto – I was kind of expecting more from it – that Kasey was going to be battling the wind and rain to find her son and that just didn’t happen.

I also didn’t necessarily find her actions to be consistent with a woman who has had her son kidnapped – but since i’m not an expert in the field, maybe I’m wrong. It just didn’t feel right…I also had an inkling of the who done it early on – although, I do think that this one was slightly less obvious than the one in book 1, in that, at one stage, I think I had identified 2-3 people who were possibles, but the revelation wasn’t all that surprising…

I gave Out of Focus 3 stars, but it is on the lower end of that range.

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Audiobook Review – The Privilege of the Sword – Ellen Kushner

privilege of the swordThe Privilege of the Sword
Author: Ellen Kushner
Series: #2 in the Riverside series

Run Time: 15 hours and 40 minutes
Narrators: Ellen Kushner, Barbara Rosenblat, Felicia Day, Joe Hurley, Katherine Kellgren, Nick Sullivan, Neil Gaiman
Producer: Neil Gaiman Presents

Description:
Welcome to Riverside, where the aristocratic and the ambitious battle for power in the city’s ballroom, brothels and boudoirs. Into this alluring world walks Katherine, a well-bred country girl versed in the rules of conventional society. Her mistake is thinking that they apply. For Katherine’s host and uncle, Alec Campion, aka the Mad Duke Tremontaine, is in charge here—and to him, rules are made to be broken. When Alec decides it would be more amusing for his niece to learn swordplay than to follow the usual path to marriage, her world changes forever. Blade in hand, it’s up to Katherine to navigate a maze of secrets and scoundrels and to gain the self-discovery that comes to those who master: the privilege of the sword.

Review:
And once again, listening to a category for the Audies made me find a book that I would never have picked up and read if it hadn’t been nominated. It wasn’t like this was a new release – in fact, the book was released in 2006. But with the advent of Audibles ACX program, older books that were never released in audiobook format are slowly appearing on the market. And I have to say that I love Neil Gaiman for producing this audiobook (as well as having a cameo in it!).

Anyways, at first I thought this was a neat twist on historical fiction with a female in a typically male role. But rather, when I looked at the random shelving on Goodreads, it fell more into the fantasy genre. Although it was written in such a way that the fantasy aspect was rather down-played. However, I did manage to find a new sub-genre that I’d never before heard of, Mannerpunk – or a satirical take on the uptight societal manners that you would expect to see in historical fiction. Kind of like the steampunk genre – stuff set in Victorian time period with the use of mechanical equipment…but back to Katherine.

I love kick-ass heroines and Katherine was definitely that. I mean, a female trained in sword-fighting. But its a bit hard to go into various facets of the story without providing spoilers for other parts – but needless to say, it was full of swordplay (both real and training), theatre, drama and romance and various combos of all four. Kushner was able to develop such a detailed world – I felt like I was there with them.

I will admit that having not read either of the books in the series published previously, so I did feel like I was missing some of the backstory. But never fear – I have book 1 (Swordspoint) on Mt. TBR and plan on getting to it probably in the next week or so. This review is very scatter-brained apparently and i kind of struggled with it – which is weird, because I don’t normally have those issues…but anyways, I highly recommend this book and possibly the other ones in the series (although I can’t say for sure, since I haven’t read them…).

The narration was almost as entertaining as the story itself. I have to admit that I was rather taken-aback when I started it and Neil Gaiman was the first person I heard at 6am on the way to work, as he did provided the introduction to the book. The main narration was done by the author and Barbara Rosenblat. I will admit that I am normally not a fan of author narrating their own books, but for some reason, this seemed to work. Ellen was the voice of Katherine and then Barbara the voice of Artemeisia. The rest of the cast, including (once again) the fantabulous Neil Gaiman appeared as various other characters in the book. Overall, I would give both the book and the narration a solid 4 stars and I’m looking forward to listening to more books produced by Neil Gaiman’s production company.

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2013 in Audiobook Review

 

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Review – Drawing Free – Elena Aitken

drawing freeDrawing Free
Author: Elena Aitken

Review Copy Provided by the Author

Description:
“What would happen if I just kept driving?”

Moms aren’t supposed to have a life of their own, at least that’s what Becca Thompson believes. Between dealing with her youngest’s never ending tantrums, her teenager’s attitude and her ailing father’s rapidly failing memory, Becca doesn’t have time to worry about who she used to be.

Deep down, Becca knows she wants more than the daily chaos and the quick fixes her self-help books have to offer, but when her husband starts demanding more, the pressure proves to be too much. On the way to pick up her daughter, she makes the split second decision to take a different exit off the freeway and drives towards the mountains leaving her crumbling life in the rear-view mirror.

Fleeing to a remote mountain town, Becca knows she must rediscover her spirit, even if reconnecting with herself comes at the expense of everything she left behind.

Review:
“I was so stuck on being what I thought I should be, that I couldn’t be who I needed to be. ~ Becca

This quote that appeared at the end of one of the final chapters really sums up what I thought about the book. At first, I wasn’t sure what I was going to think about it, because in all honestly, I didn’t have a lot in common with Becca, I don’t have kids, I’m not married, I’m relatively secure in where I am in my life (or at least I think I am). But it really made me think. Not just about her situation, but about life in general. How often do we make choices/decisions based on what we think we should, because of how society dictates we act, vice, how we want to act/want to do. And then there is the abundance of so-called “self-help” books that give you advice on how to make these decisions. But as it was explored in Drawing Free, sometimes they provide conflicting information, they often don’t take into account specific circumstances, and as with many things, one size (piece of advice) does not suit all.

There were a lot of life lessons that could be described as being in the story, primarily the reminder to live every day as if it were your last (or in the infamous words of Tim McGraw, live like you were dying). But also to remember that there is nothing wrong with trying to reach for your dreams, don’t fore-go them – but keep trying. I will say however, that I HATED the kids in the book – they drove me mental. I can safely say, that if I had ever behaved that way in public, or talked to my parents that way that I would have had my mouth washed out with soap and likely would have had my butt wholloped…but then, I grew up in the 1980’s when it was still kosher for kids to be spanked at times (but that is a story for another day).

However, Drawing Free did have a hot button topic for me which I kind of wish had been disclosed somewhere in the description – because there are people who find certain topics are no go’s – in this case it was cheating. I HATED what Becca did, in fact, up to that point, I liked her journey and the cheating just ruined her character for me…I didn’t feel like she regretted her actions, or even took responsibility for them. It also seemed like there was no resolution between Becca and her husband about what happened…the ending in general, sucked!! I was disappointed with how it all turned out…

It was primarily the ending that made me give it 3 stars. It there had been more of a resolution, it probably would have gotten 4 stars from me. But that being said, I hope that EA writes more books in the future – because I am curious to see what else she comes up with.

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Classics Review – Dracula – Bram Stoker

draculaDracula
Author:
Bram Stoker

Narrators: Alan Cumming, Tim Curry, Simon Vance, Katherine Kellgren, Susan Duerden, John Lee, Graeme Malcolm, Steven Crossley
Run Time: 15 hrs and 28 minutes
Producer: Audible, Inc

Description:
The first and most terrifying of all vampire stories.

Jonathan Harker has a job to do. The young lawyer must go to the mysterious country of Transylvania to work for a man he knows as “the Count.” At first, Jonathan is excited by the chance to travel and meet new people. But after his arrival in Transylvania, he begins to wonder what’s going on. People act strangely upon hearing he is going to visit the Count. When Jonathan arrives at the Count’s dark, deserted castle, he too begins to feel afraid. Soon after meeting his host, Jonathan begins to feel trapped in a horrifying nightmare. Only this nightmare is real and he can’t wake up.

Why Dracula?
Nowadays you can’t enter a bookstore without running into a vampire novel of some shape/size/description. From books like The Historian (literary fiction), to the Paranormal Romances of Christine Feehan, Kresley Cole and Kerrelyn Sparks. Each author brings their unique perspective to answer the question what is a vampire. So it seemed like a good idea to go back to the beginning (or at least almost the beginning). And so, here I am…lol!

Review:
So I went into Dracula pretty much blind – I knew the basic premise (I mean who doesn’t) and the fact that it was told in an epistolary type format (which, BTW, i love that word!) Other than a vague recollection of character names, I didn’t know anything else. I will admit that I was expecting more of a horror novel than what I got. It turned out to be rather…academic (for lack of a better word) in the telling of the story. There was some emotion at times, but ultimately, it was very stark. But that isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it…in fact there was something almost addicting about the story – whether it was the writing or the narration of the audiobook, i’m not quite sure. I do know that friends of mine have had issues getting going with it – but I was pretty much sucked in from the beginning.

I can also see why Dracula won the best audiobook category for Multi-Voiced Performance this year. While it wasn’t the one in the category that I picked, it was in my top 3. i really like the cast of narrations – with some of my favorites like Simon Vance who was the voice of Jonathan Harker and Katherine Kellgren, to more well-known movie stars, like Tim Curry. Each voice was unique (because they were pretty much done all by different people). the quality of the audiobook was great – I know that I will be checking out more books produced by Audible in the future. Overall, 3.5 stars, but rounding up to 4.

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2013 in Book Review, classics challenge

 

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Review – Dirty Little Secret – Jennifer Echols

dirty little secretDirty Little Secret
Author: Jennifer Echols

Review Copy Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss

Description:
I was being given the chance to do the one thing I wanted most in the world. The chance was presented to me by a guy so gorgeous, he turned my skin to fire when he touched me. And joining a band was the one thing I was most forbidden to do, the thing that would ruin my future forever.

There are too many secrets in eighteen-year-old Bailey’s life. Not just the obvious one: that she told her grandfather she was going on a date, and instead is playing fiddle in a Nashville bar. There’s all the stuff that makes it worse. Like how her younger sister, Julie, was offered a recording contract, and her family is terrified that Bailey is going to mess the deal up. Like the way that Bailey has been acting out. Like the way they’re all mad at her, even Julie.

Bailey’s parents don’t want her playing any gigs at all, but when they leave her with her grandfather in Nashville for the summer so they can tour with Julie, he lands her a music job that’s beneath the radar, playing old country songs in cheesy costumes at a local mall. That’s where she meets Sam. . . .

Review:
I have to admit that I primarily requested/downloaded this book because I fell in love with the cover. It just was to me, eye-catching. You could tell by looking at it, that the story behind it was going to be interesting – so many different elements – the violin, the picture of two people kissing…I wondered how it was all going to play out. And I’m pleased that say that it was well-worth it. In this case, the picture on the cover lived up to the story in the book (it is always disappointing when it doesn’t…).

It was also nice to see a young adult/new adult romance (since it kind of falls into both worlds), where there wasn’t a root story that involved rape (attempted or occurred); molestation; kidnapping etc. But rather, an almost normally, albeit slightly screwed up family. Sure Bailey probably got the wrong end of the stick and I felt back for her – but it was nice to see some semblance of normalcy.

I will have to admit though, that the blurb available on the authors website (as well as Amazon and other book-related ones), basically gives away the entire story. For what its worth, I edited out what you see here so it was shorter. Which is kind of disappointing…there wasn’t really that much mystery into how everything was going to play out…I wish that cover designers would go back to a more limited description, so that there is some surprise to the story…but back to the story.

The romance that developed between Bailey and Sam was sweet (there isn’t really any other way to describe it). It is definitely a book that I would recommend for older teens, because there are scenes that involve sex that would make it inappropriate for the younger people in the age group. But there was also some teenage angst (I mean, what would a YA romance novel be without the angst 😉 ). But it wasn’t overdone, it felt more believeable than some of the scenarios that I have read about in different books.

This was my first book by Ms Echols, and it definitely won’t be my last. I think I have two more by her waiting on the pile at home. I gave Dirty Little Secret a solid 4 stars.

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2013 in Book Review

 

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