Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Finds --5/29

I hope everyone is enjoying the last week of May. Can you believe it will be June 1st on Monday? Here are my finds for the week:

What a great title, huh? Here is the Barnes and Noble description:
Young scholar Sara Frost's unsuccessful search for the lost love letters of Charlotte Bronte hasn't won her any favors at her university, particularly now that the glamorous and self-promoting Princess Diana expert, Claire Vigee, has introduced her media-savvy exploits to the staid halls of academia. But it's not until Sara's fiance suddenly leaves her that she begins to question her life's vocation and is forced to reconcile the mythology of romance with the reality of modern love.

I also won a copy of Boneman's Daughter by Ted Dekker from Bookin' with Bingo. I just finished Thr3e by Ted Dekker this week (check back for the review), so I am looking forward to reading his newest. Thanks Karen!

Remember to check out this week's reviews: What Would Jane Austen Do? , The Spellman Files, and Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side.

Like what you see? Consider subscribing to my blog or becoming a follower!

Have a great weekend,

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Review -- What Would Jane Austen Do?

What Would Jane Austen Do?
by Laurie Brown
Published by Sourcebooks Incorporated, 2009
352 pages

Summary: Eleanor is transported back in time at the whim of two ghosts haunting the hotel she is staying at. The ghosts, Mina and Deidre, need her to change the past, so their brother Teddy will not die in a duel to protect the girls' honor.

Review: I enjoyed this book. It was a quick, light, and fun read on a rainy day. My favorite part was Eleanor and how she seamlessly fit into the past. There was no crazy cultural snafus or Jane Austen addicts who can't hold it together. The plot is crazy enough, so Eleanor being level headed gave the book great balance. My one compliant is there wasn't enough Jane Austen in the book. Eleanor meets her and has a conversation with her, but I expected Jane to be part of the time traveling action. Oh well, there is always the next book. Rating: *** out of 5.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Review -- The Spellman Files

The Spellman Files
by Lisa Lutz
Published by Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group, 2007
368 pages

Summary: Izzy Spellman has worked for her parent's detective agency since she was a young teenager. P.I. work seems to be in her blood -- at the expense of her personal life. When she starts secretly dating a dentist, her parents hire her teenage sister Rae to spy on her and all hell breaks loose.

Review: This has to be one of my favorite books of the year so far. The Spellman Files is funny, fast paced, and amazingly entertaining. Izzy is the perfect main character, part of a completely dysfunctional family yet a unique individual on her own. All of the Spellmans are intriguing characters whose antics will make you laugh out loud. A wonderfully comedic character piece filled with action, The Spellman Files is not to be missed. Rating: ***** out of 5.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Review -- Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side

Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side
by Beth Fantaskey
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009
368 pages

Summary: Jessica is your average teenage girl living in rural Pennsylvania. Until Lucien, a handsome foreign exchange student, tells her that she is a vampire princess from Romania who is betrothed to him. Slowly, Jessica becomes to realize that he is telling the truth and begins to fight for her destiny.

Review: I was very excited to read this and possibly expectations were too high. This novel is okay, the prose flows well, the plot is good, and the characters are not too annoying. Yet, there wasn't that spark between the two main characters that left me wanting more. The teenagers were too cliche: cruel, prejudicial, and brimming with teenage angst. Overall, a good debut that needed more character development. Rating: **1/2 out of 5

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Finds -- 5/22

Just a few this week.

I won a copy of Made In the USA by Billie Letts from Debbie over at Wrighty's Reads. I loved Where the Heart Is and am looking forward to reading this novel. Thanks Debbie!

Mary over at Bookfan-Mary is sending me a copy of Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg. Many bloggers recommend Elizabeth Berg books, so I am very excited to read her newest. Thanks Mary!

Lastly, Lisa from Books on the Brain is sending me a copy of Beach Trip by Cathy Holton as part of the Summer Reading Series. This looks like the perfect beach read. Thanks Lisa!

Check out my reviews from this week: Murder By Family by Kent Whitaker, Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris, and Vince and Joy by Lisa Jewell.

Have a great weekend,

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Booking Through Thursday -- 5/21

What book would you love to be able to read again for the first time?
(Interestingly, I thought that I had thought this one up myself, but when I started scrolling through the Suggestions, found that Rebecca had suggested almost exactly this question a couple months ago. So, we both get credit!)

I would like to read The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman again for the first time. I devoured the novel on the first read. I loved every page of the adventure that stretched out before me. Lucky, it was the first book of a series so when it ended I still had two more books to go. Still, I would love to read the whole series for the first time again and feel that sense of wonder.

How about you? (Want to play along? Go to Booking Through Thursday.)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Review -- Murder By Family

Murder By Family
by Kent Whitaker
Published by Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group, 2008
224 pages

I want to thank Paula from Author Marketing Experts, Inc. for sending my a copy of this book.

Summary: The real life story of the murder of Kent Whitaker's wife and youngest son. His oldest son, Bart, becomes a suspect in the killings and Kent relies on God and his faith to forgive his son and help him heal.

Review: I very rarely read non-fiction, but after reading Cindy's review of this book, I thought I would give it a try. It has been a few days since I finished the book and I am still going over passages in my head in hopes of putting my thoughts into words for this review. This was an incredible book about the personal strength and faith of one man. Murder By Family tells how Kent Whitaker's values and love for Bart allowed him to forgive his son for the greatest of sins. I would consider this a very religious book (another genre I rarely read), because Whitaker makes a case for seeing signs from God. It is through these signs that he is able to see a way of surviving the aftermath of the murders. Kent's other contention (which I am having a hard time agreeing with) is the premise that God allowed Bart to kill his mother and brother so he could be saved and find his way into heaven. With that said, I believe Kent Whitaker believes this, and I am amazed by his personal strength and conviction. The structure of the book gave me some pause. It was told in chronological order, but the story sometimes jumped around with memories of the past or foreshadowing the future. Overall, an intense read that makes you think even after the last page is read. Rating: ***1/2 out of 5

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Review -- Vince and Joy

Vince and Joy
by Lisa Jewell
Published by HarperCollins, 2006
512 pages

Summary: Vince and Joy meet as teenagers on holiday and fall in love, but a misunderstanding pulls them apart. Over the next 20 years, the novel follows their individual romantic lives and how destiny tries to bring them back together.

Review: A quick and light read that ponders how destiny can shape two peoples lives, Vince and Joy is a fun novel. I enjoyed both of the main characters, but was frustrated when each character made a bad choice and took an eternity to realize it. The plot stumbles a bit through these bad mistakes (trying to show character growth), but I found myself wanting the pace of the novel to pick up. The ending works for the book, but leaves the reader hanging and a bit disappointed. Rating: *** out of 5.

Monday, May 18, 2009

What are you reading on Mondays? -- 5/18

Books Finished Last Week: (click on the title to read the review):
Little Pink Slips
What the Dead Know
Salty Like Blood
Dead and Gone

Reading This Week:
Murder By Family by Kent Whitaker -- about 1/2 way through
Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell -- slowly working my way
Love and Biology in the Center of the Universe by Jennie Shortridge -- just started
Drood by Dan Simmons (on audio) -- Disc 3 of 9

What are you reading this week? (Want to play along? Go to J. Kaye's Book Blog!)

Review -- Dead and Gone

Dead and Gone
by Charlaine Harris
Penguin, 2009
320 pages

Summary: Sookie Stackhouse is back and this time the weres have decided to come out of the supernatural closet and tell the world that they exist. Everything is going well until a were Sookie knows is found dead behind Merlotte's. As she looks into the murder, her great-grandfather's enemies begin to drag her into a fight she wants nothing to do with. (Southern Vampire Series #9)

Review: This book flew by. I enjoy these characters so much that it was like hanging out with old friends again. Well -- friends with weird, supernatural problems. This was by far not my favorite of the series, but still a good addition. My one complaint? How many dead bodies do they need to find behind Merlotte's for business to slow down? Rating:*** out of 5

Want a second opinion? Check out Nely's review at All About N!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday Finds -- 5/15

It has been another great week for finds!

Dar over at Peeking Between the Pages (a fantastic blog that everyone should check out) is sending me a copy of Scattered Leaves by Richard E. Roach. It sounds like a great thriller and I am very excited to read it. Thanks Dar!

Jennifer over at Just Jennifer Reading (a really great blog -- check it out) is sending me a copy of Testimony by Anita Shrieve. I am very excited to read this because it was the subject of a lot of buzz at our book club meeting. Thanks Jennifer!

Lastly, the wonderful author, Jennie Shortridge sent me a copy of her latest -- Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe. I recently read Eating Heaven (check out the review) and absolutely loved it and am hoping to enjoy Love and Biology as well. Thanks Jennie!

Remember to check out my latest reviews: Austenland, Little Pink Slips, What the Dead Know and Salty Like Blood and if you enjoy my blog, please consider becoming a follower!

Want to play along? Check out Should Be Reading and post your Friday Finds.

Have a great weekend,

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Review -- Salty Like Blood

Salty Like Blood
by Harry Kraus
Published by Simon and Schuster, 2009
352 pages
Library Thing Early Reviewer Program

Summary: Dr. David Connors has a wonderful life with a beautiful wife and loving young daughter, Rachel. When Rachel disappears and the local authorities consider her to have drowned, David refuses to believe it. Instead, he holds onto the hope that she is alive and begins to search for his daughter.

Review: Salty Like Blood is a book primarily about forgiveness. Can we forgive others that have done terrible things to us and our loved ones, so that we can begin to forgive ourselves? The prose flows nicely and the main character of Dr. Connors is interesting and fully developed. The plot moves along, but I had trouble engaging in some of the secondary characters. David's wife, Joanne, was difficult to sympathize with and I kept questioning why they were married. There are Christian aspects throughout the book but they are not preachy and make sense in the scope of the novel. Overall, a quick read with some interesting thoughts on forgiveness in extreme situations. Rating: *** out of 5.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Review -- What the Dead Know

What the Dead Know
by Laura Lippman
HarperCollins, 2007
384 pages

Summary: After a terrible car accident, a mysterious woman tells the police that she is one of the long lost Bethany sisters. The Bethany sisters, Sunny and Heather, have been missing for almost 30 years. As the police question this woman's identity and her clues only lead them to dead ends, the police and the girls' mother make one last effort to find out the truth.

Review: This is the first book where I didn't like any of the characters but still enjoyed the book as a whole. I found it hard to empathize with any of the characters: the parents who demolish their lives after the girls are gone, the detective with only one thing on his mind, and the mysterious woman who manipulates everything she touches. The strength of this book is the plot, a twisty mystery that keeps the reader thinking and wondering what will happen next. Rating: *** out of 5

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Review -- Little Pink Slips

Little Pink Slips
by Sally Koslow
Published by Penguin, 2008
400 pages

Summary: Little Pink Slips is the story of Magnolia Gold, editor-in-chief of Lady magazine. When the company president decides to bring in Bebe Blake (a crass pseudo celebrity) to be the new face of the Magnolia's magazine, Mags must navigate the treacherous office politics while trying to keep her sanity.

Review: A fun and quick read, Little Pink Slips is filled with amusing characters and humorous situations. Magnolia is a great character, you can easily see how ambitious she is, but also down to earth and generous. I actually enjoyed the character of Bebe Blake as well. Most of the time, she is crude and awful to people, but she had moments of goodness as well. Author Sally Koslow keeps the prose action and comedy packed, making you want to keep reading about Magnolia's adventures. The ending was not my favorite (it was way too far fetched), but overall this was a fun read. Rating:*** out of 5

Monday, May 11, 2009

Review -- Austenland

by Shannon Hale
Published by
192 pages

Summary: Jane is so obsessed with Pride and Prejudice that when her great aunt leaves her a vacation to Austenland, a posh Jane Austen inspired vacation spot, she decides to go. Throughout her three weeks there, she throws herself into the role playing -- wearing the empire waist dresses, dancing at balls, and flirting with noblemen and gardeners alike.

Review: A short and light read, Austenland is the perfect pick me up for a Jane Austen fan. The main character is brave and funny as she tries to get over her Pride and Prejudice fantasies by literally living through them. I felt the end was a little too predictable but fit well with the scope of the story. Overall, there were some really humorous scenes and crazy characters that made me laugh out loud and not want to put the book down. Rating: *** out of 5

Friday, May 8, 2009

Friday Finds -- 5/8

I have had a fantastic week for finds! My first pick is Girls in Trucks by Katie Crouch. I won a copy of this from Kylee, please check out her great blog when you have a chance. I love the cover and the story has been getting some good reviews. Thanks Kylee!

My second pick is Murder By Family by Kent Whitaker. I usually don't read much non-fiction but when I read Cindy's review over at Cindy's Love of Books, I knew this would be an interesting read. Paula at Author Marketing Experts is sending me a copy, so thank you to Paula!

And last (but never least), please check out my reviews from the past 2 weeks:
Best Intentions by Emily Listfield (****)
Matrimony by Joshua Henkin (****)
Eating Heaven by Jennie Shortridge (****)
Turning Tables by Heather and Rose MacDowell (***)

And as always, if you like my blog, then become a follower or add me to your blog roll!!

Have a great weekend!!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Talking with Joshua Henkin

On Monday night, my book club had the honor of chatting with Joshua Henkin, author of Matrimony. If you missed it, click and read my review of Matrimony. The first surprising fact we learned was that it took ten years for Mr. Henkin to write Matrimony. It was in the last year that he felt the book really came together. He wrote the book in chronological order, without an outline, and let the story tell itself. Mr. Henkin told the group that he was just as surprised by the ending as we were.

Mr. Henkin talked about how the death of one character is the pivotal plot point and without it the story might not have found Julien and Mia getting married. When asked who his favorite character was he explained that he felt the author's job was not to favor one character over another. He is currently working on his next novel tentatively titled The World Without You, which tells the story of a family's struggle with grief after the death of a family member in Iraq. Thanks again to Joshua Henkin for taking the time to speak to our book club, we look forward to reading more of his work.

Review -- Best Intentions

Best Intentions
by Emily Listfield
Atria, 2009
338 pages

I want to thank Lauren from for sending me an advanced copy. Best Intentions became available on May 5th.

Summary: A wife and mother of two, Lisa navigates through a rocky career and an uncertain relationship with her husband. During a visit from and old college friend, Lisa begins to question the intentions of her husband and her best friend. When allegations of an affair surface, Lisa makes a desperate decision that ends in tragedy. Grieving and guilt ridden, Lisa must fight to discover the truth about the people she loves.

Review: Emily Listfield has written a compelling and engrossing novel that I had trouble putting down. She takes the reader into Lisa's mind, which is filled with the anxiety and insecurities of work, marriage, and family. The second part of Best Intentions has Lisa working through a mystery in which all the people in her life may not be what they seem. I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery, wanting to know more, looking carefully for clues. Overall, a fantastic read for anyone who enjoys character driven mysteries. Rating: **** out of 5

Want a second opinion? Check out Dot's review.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Review -- Matrimony

by Joshua Henkins
Pantheon Books, 2007
291 pages

Summary: Julien and Carter meet their freshman year of college and instantly become friends. They both have a growing attraction for Mia, a classmate from Montreal. Julien meets her first and begins a courtship that ends in marriage after a terrible death. As Julien and Mia continue through the day to day life of marriage and work, a secret is uncovered that threatens to tear them apart.

Review: A quiet novel that communicates the characters and their relationships through the little everyday things, Matrimony is a great read. The compelling plot steadily takes the reader through the struggles and triumphs of the lives of the characters. Joshua Henkin tells a gentle tale of love, marriage, sacrifice, loss and forgiveness that find the extraordinary in ordinary lives. Rating: **** out of 5.

Check out my book club wrap up post on Thursday, where I will recap our club's discussion with author Joshua Henkin!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Friday Finds -- 5/1

My Friday Find this week!

I got an email from author Sally Koslow yesterday telling me about her new book, The Late, Lamented Molly Marx which is available starting May 19th. Until that book comes out, I thought I would read Sally's first book, Little Pink Slips, which sounds great. Here is the Barnes and Noble description:

Inspired by real-life events, Little Pink Slips is about the fall, rise, and sweet revenge of a woman who witnesses corporate shenanigans at their most flagrant. Filled with gossipy revelations about celebrity obsession and behind-the-scenes details of the media business in all its malfeasant glory, this novel is delicious, can't-stop-reading fun.

What are your Friday Finds this week?