Archive for June, 2008

American Fringe by Valerie Frankel

June 16, 2008

Adora Benet has landed the job as the writer for a teen advice column. She’s thrilled as the column becomes popular and sought after. After responding to an anonymous question in her column, she unwittingly inspires a senator to run for president. The senator’s son provides Adora with some complications just when things are going so well with her boyfriend, Nate.

I thought this was a good book, that was well written, if somewhat average feeling. The characters were fairly engaging and I felt the struggle Dora went through with the pressure from her parents while she was still feeling so rudderless. Then the success of her column gave her some always needed esteem. Yet I didn’t feel engaged with her. I didn’t feel invested in any of the characters.

What concerns me the most in Young Adult fiction these days is use of profanity and the casualness of the sexual relationships. Young Adult fiction is geared towards 12 year olds and up. It’s sad that they are further inundated with the “f” word and teenagers having sex where it’s treated as just a matter of course, and not an important decision. I think it’s an unnecessary element to the story doing nothing to further the characters or plot.

This is the third in the “Fringe” series and I don’t think you need to read the others in order to understand the plot. They seem to stand alone quite well.

While this wasn’t a bad book, and the writing was good, I was left feeling a big flat at the end. The sex and profanity lead me to give it a 2-1/2 Klover rating, as you may want to think about it before your young adult reads it.


Escape by Carolyn Jessop

June 16, 2008

In this amazing true story, Carolyn Jessop shares her life growing up in Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or FLDS. Detailing how she was handed off to marry a strange man who was thirty two years older than she was at eighteen and how she and her eight children endured psychological hardships the rest of us can only imagine. A remarkable inside look into the radical religion and its horrible affects on all who are touched by it.

I’m so glad this book was written. I think it’s especially important with the current events regarding the FLDS church today, but it’s such an inspiring story in general.

Carolyn’s amazing courage saw her though a painful childhood, a marriage nothing short of a horror story, and constant competition with other wives in her household just so she could survive with her children. And then her remarkable courage saw her way out of her situation at long last.

I appreciated the detailed accounts that Carolyn shared that helped me appreciate how dire the situation is in these compounds that are virtual prison camps to women and children. How young men are cast out because they are more desirable husbands then the old men marrying young women for power. Children abused by other wives in a plural marriage to make way for their own children to be favored. Husband’s controlling every minute detail of the wives lives allowing them little of their own.

It still amazes me that this all happened and is still happening in modern day America. And yet thanks to this book, I can understand how difficult it would be to break away from a situation similar to Carolyn’s on some small level. The power that the FLDS wield is mighty, and those uninformed can’t understand the levels they will go to as they fight to keep control of their cult with seemingly endless resources.

As honest and open as this book was, I almost feel ashamed to say I wished for just a bit more. I craved to learn more about Carolyn’s life after her ESCAPE. I found myself hoping she found a faith of her own, and not one that she’d been born and then manipulated into. I hope her children have found peace and happiness and that Carolyn will continue to enjoy the love she’s found at last.


Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella

June 16, 2008

What if you woke up in the hospital to a movie-star handsome husband, a Louis Vuitton bag with Platinum credit cards inside, perfect teeth, hair and body? Now, what if you didn’t remember how you acquired those things? What if you didn’t remember the last 3 years of your life? Lexi Smart wakes up to discover she’s a brand new person and struggles to live up to who she’s become and discover how she got that way!

I’ve loved Sophie Kinsella’s books since first discovering her Shopaholic series. This time, the author really shows off her writing chops by taking on the old plot device, amnesia. Instead of being tired and same old same old, Kinsella manages to keep the idea fresh and makes it uniquely her own.

Lexi was immediately someone to like and enjoy spending time with. I wanted her to succeed. I wanted her to be happy. Her struggles beside the amnesia were familiar ones, easily relatable. The rest of the characters were enjoyable as well, even as I learned to dislike one or two of them. I really appreciated how all the characters seemed to unfold like a flower.

It was a remarkable journey to go back with Lexi and see the turning point in her life that made such an impression. The bizarreness of having to learn everything about your own life was written with the clever charm Kinsella has become known for. With a few brushes with hilarity thrown in for good measure!

REMEMBER ME? is the perfect summer read. I’ll never look at a sunflower the same way again!


Virgin River by Robyn Carr

June 16, 2008

Melinda Monroe applied for the job of midwife in a very small remote town to try and heal after the senseless death of her husband. Upon discovering it was a lot more rustic than the pictures she was shown, she almost turns tail and goes back to more familiar surroundings. Until someone leaves a baby on the clinic doorstep. Mel discovers she’s needed in Virgin River. She’s also surprised to discover love was waiting for her.

This is my first time reading Robyn Carr, and it certainly won’t be the last! A friend was so enthusiastic about this trilogy that she offered to send them to me. Now I owe her big time. I’ve become an instant fan of Carr as a result

As I mentioned, this is the first in a trilogy. I highly suggest you get SHELTER MOUNTAIN and WHISPERING ROCK at the same time. They are all part of the same story and you’ll want to find out more about VIRGIN RIVER and revisit its characters.

I was immediately struck by the wonderful surroundings. The setting was as much a character in the book as the people. It made me long to visit such a place, if only it existed!

The characters are what really kept me turning pages into the night. As Mel and Jack began their friendship that eventually turned the corner into love, I was riveted. I have to admit to falling a bit in love with Jack myself. He was the epitome of everything desirable in a man. The supporting characters were all written so vividly, that I can’t wait to meet up with them all again.

Most of all, I appreciated the respect Ms. Carr wrote with as she created characters who were veterans in the Iraq war. No politics were involved, but she wrote with such honor at the sacrifices these men made and their lifelong bond. It brought tears to my eyes.

I highly recommend this deeply touching series by Robyn Carr.


Small Favor by Jim Butcher

June 16, 2008

Harry Dresden, wizard detective doesn’t look for trouble, but it sure finds him. Mab, Queen of the Winter Faery Court, is calling in one of the Favor’s Harry owes her. Find Gentleman Johnnie Marcone. Chicago’s criminal kingpin has been acquiring power in Sidhe Courts and now he’s missing. Honoring Mab’s debt could complicate things even more in the ongoing war between the Winter and Summer Seelie Courts, not honoring it could kill Harry once and for all.

SMALL FAVOR is the tenth installment of the Harry Dresden series, and it just keeps getting better and better. This novel continues to live up to the high expectations fans have become so easily accustomed to.

The plot, as with previous endeavors, is intricate, but not difficult to follow, and yet it’s nearly impossible to guess what Harry will do next. Butcher walks the fine line between caustic wit and delicious tension like a circus tightrope walker. The humor is perfectly timed and the pop culture references will bring a smile to any Geek Girl’s (or Guy’s) face. It’s not all fun and games though. There are some dark moments that Butcher uses his skill to make us cringe just as adeptly. Harry’s character is also an expert tightrope walker as his loyalties and sense of right and wrong is constantly put to the test.

The dialog is just what fans of Buffy and Firefly have been craving. Harry Dresden is king of the witty repartee!

All my favorite characters were brought back in this book. Michael wielding Amoracchius is always fantastic. I love the dynamic that Michael brings as Harry deals with his questions of faith. Thomas, Harry’s half brother, has become an indispensible character in the Dresden universe. Murphy always brings out the rogue in Harry as their relationship grows and changes. Butcher has a wonderful way of juggling a lot of well loved, bigger than life characters in such a way that it’s not overwhelming.

It was a wonderful ride, as always. I like seeing Harry’s life come together and having things go his way once in a while. Heck, even the Captain of The Warden’s is being nice. Real nice…. I think he’s more than earned it!


Remains of the Dead by Wendy Roberts

June 16, 2008

Sadie Novak’s company does the job no one wants. After cleaning up after her brother’s suicide, she decided that no family member should have to endure what she did and starts the company. Scene-2-Clean takes care of what crime scenes leave behind when the police are through.

Sadie is hired to clean up for a murder/suicide where her unusual ability to talk to the dead comes into play. A pesky ghost needs Sadie’s help to discover her real murderer, putting Sadie in more danger than she’s ever had to face before!

Remains of the Dead is the first in a fantastic new series by Wendy Roberts. I learned more about the biohazards of cleaning up various body fluids and by products than I ever imagined I’d want to, but it added invaluable realism to this unique mystery novel. And a new appreciation of those in that line of work!

Roberts’ sense of humor is a necessary element the keeps the pace light when it needs to be to even out the dark, gritty aspects. The plot is sharp and woven together so as to give the reader’s ego a bit of a stroke by thinking they have it all figured out, only to discover there were many more surprises in store. The ‘Whodunnit’ part was rather predictable, but there were many other aspects to the story that make up for it.

The characters were engaging and genuine. Even though this was the first in the series, the characters were well established and I look forward to meeting up with them again in Devil May Ride coming out in December of 2008.


Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

June 16, 2008

What do you get when you combine a cranky cook book author/food critic, a dog- napper, a sexy hitman, a Southern mobster wedding, noisy flamingos, a flying frying pan and 5 million dollars? A delicious crime novel and romance all rolled up together like a brandy soaked trifle with cream filling!

Agnes finds herself (and her dog) the unlikely target of dog-nappers. To her rescue comes Shane, a hitman with a long history and an empty stomach. Keeping an eye on Agnes becomes a full time job, but Shane has troubles of his own when his hits fail and his targets continue breathing. As Agnes is determined to put on the perfect wedding, or lose her house, she’s face with philandering fiancé’s, Mafioso’s threatening florists and cake designers, and with in-laws and outlaws. But having Shane on her side means she could discover her happy ending.

This was my first time reading a Crusie-Mayer collaboration. I heard various things about the writing team, not many of them good. To them, I say, “phooey”. I found the relationship aspects inductive of dreamy sighs and the action aspects worthy of cheers for their sheer cleverness. Cruise and Mayer are a fantastic combination, not unlike strawberries and cream.

The characters created were interesting and fun. I was immediately invested in them and could see Agnes flipping her pecan pancakes and Shane grinding coffee beans as vividly as if I were standing there. In fact, this book made my stomach yearn for a midnight snack as I read into the wee hours. It was a shame that some recipes weren’t featured. There were a lot of different people we got to know in this book, and yet it wasn’t at all difficult to keep up with them all and enjoy their unique qualities.

The story could be a tad far-fetched at times. One and one sometimes added up to three, but that was part of the entertainment. I can’t find too much fault with it because some of the preposterousness was what made it so much tremendous fun. It wasn’t a complicated story, yet it had a lot going on. If it hadn’t been so enjoyable, Agnes’ To Do List alone would have exhausted me!

My favorite aspects were the extremely well written and detailed fight and action scenes. Shane’s bomb defusing, bullet dodging, and use of military firearms were nearly as exhilarating as Agnes and her cast iron skillet! Just kidding. Don’t hurt me, Bob.

I really enjoyed the romance between Shane and Agnes. He had me the moment he brought her home an air conditioner. Sure, roses are nice, but nothing says “potential boyfriend” like cold air on a blistering hot day. Agnes could depend on Shane, and I found that very sexy.

After endless giggle-fits in bed reading until 2AM, my husband had banned me from reading any more Crusie-Mayer books when he has to get up early for work the next day. I suggest for the sake of your marriage, read this book on the weekend, or in the daytime. You’ll thank me later.