NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Today's review

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a new twist on werewolf lore, August 30, 2009

I confess, I read the reviews on this book before I started reading it so I was perhaps expecting it to be a bit "more" of everything because of the high ratings it was given. My analysis after finishing: the story was a predictable and contrived, somewhat interesting but finally merely banal. I thought it was a little better than OK and I would recommend it to any teen girl who likes reading werewolf stories or sweet, paranormal romance. The tale involves a girl named Grace who falls in love with a werewolf named Sam. They can't be together while he is animal, but for a time they share human love during the waning days of summer and throughout some of autumn in Minnesota. Supposedly it is cold weather and climate changes that make the wolves turn from animal to human and vice versa.

That said, my main problem with the plot is that so many questions are left unanswered and left dangling at the end of the book. We are also given a trite explanation for Grace's continued human existence despite the fact that she was bitten by a wolf. The characters -- mostly wolves -- are stereotypical good guys and bad guys. Not much depth of character development there. Except of course for Sam who is the lovesick wolf, the "best" of the pack.

Now I must say that the part that bugged me most about the book, however, was the complete absence of adults in the lives of almost all of the teens in this novel. I realize that there are parents who are self absorbed, but I think the author of this tale got a little carried away and made them completely worthy of a visit by the local child protective services. Not only were they physically not present in their homes much, but they didn't interact with their children nor were they consulted when events transpired that might have necessitated a legal guardian being available. It just didn't ring true but then again, this wasn't probably meant to be realistic fiction -- more like fantasy!

Although not my cup of tea, I think the intended audience -- teen-aged girls -- will probably like this book a lot. The chasteness of the relationship between Grace and Sam, the longing and angst over their too short period of togetherness, will appeal to those who like that tension and who hope for a happy ending with true love conquering all.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Today's review


Karin Slaughter has redeemed herself and is back on my TO READ list...
OK - I'll go ahead and admit I said it. Along with a million other fans, I said I would NEVER read another Slaughter novel (especially not the Grant County series) after what I still consider the horrible ending of Beyond Reach: A Novel of Suspense (Grant County) back in 2007. And I meant it. I wrote the author, bashed the book on and even sent a nasty note to her publisher. Meanwhile, I cheated- but only because I once had loved her books so much, by reading about Agent Will Trent of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Det. Faith Mitchell in Triptych and Fractured. I grew to love those characters with all their foibles and flaws so imagine my surprise when I opened Undone to find them meeting the character of Sara Linton, now at Grady Memorial's ER in Atlanta! "Wow," I said to myself. "This should really be interesting." And it was! I really enjoyed this book -- it was very fast paced from start to finish with a believable ending that was satisfying this time. I won't rehash the plot but will summarize by saying that the serial killer in this story is obsessed with anorexic, independent, and bitchy single women. The women are kidnapped and held for days in basements or caves and tortured. The fact that they aren't very likeable does hinder the investigation a bit. Who is snatching these women and why? I will say that in order to fully appreciate all the nuances and depth in this suspense thriller, you really should go back and read all the Grant County books in order and also the two titles featuring Will and Faith. Lucky you! Previously an author whose books I immediately bought on release day, I had abandoned Karin Slaughter, but I'm putting her back on my "must read" list again now that she has redeemed herself and written this one. Highly recommended.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Today's review...

4.0 out of 5 stars Solid, fast-paced legal thriller

A very good book! I've read both of Hoffman's previous novels and this third one is another excellent legal thriller that intrigues the reader with an interesting perspective and a unique twist.

The young prosecuting attorney, Julia Vacanti, is a bit flawed and vulnerable with demons of her own to contend with as she prepares for the "trial of the century" and her first big case. She is second chair to an ambitious lawyer who is bound for government office and who needs to win a guilty verdict against David Marquette -- a physician who was found alive, but injured, in his own home though the rest of his family -- wife, two daughters and a son, were murdered. Reminiscent and similar in some ways to recent true crimes, the novel examines the mental disorder of schizophrenia and the defense plea of insanity. The research done by the author is obviously thorough and meticulous and is explained very well through testimony given by the psychiatrists sent to examine Dr. Marquette.

Was this successful Miami surgeon, reportedly a devoted family man, truly suffering from a devastating mental illness, or was he a cunning psychopath? Did he suffer paranoid delusions and did voices instruct him to kill his family or did he study psychiatric texts so that he could accurately mimic someone who was schizophrenic? The defense files a plea of Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity and the case is finally brought to trial.

In addition to the main plot of the book involving the trial of Dr. Marquette, Julia discovers something about her own family, a secret is unearthed, and she is drawn into confronting long-buried memories from her past.

This is a solid legal thriller that will keep you reading long past your bedtime. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Today's review...

The Reader
by Bernhard Schlink and Carol Brown Janeway

The editorial reviews about this book do a great disservice to the novel. (Sometimes I wonder if the reviewers actually read the book.
I don't consider this in any way a YA novel -- the themes are way too adult and the introspection and examination of conscience of the adult writer aren't reflective of that young adult point of view.)

That said, this is a fantastic novel. I was glued to the pages, examining my own reactions to what was happening and trying to summon the outrage one should feel when a 15 year old boy is having a sexual affair with a 30 something woman. He should be viewed as a victim. I couldn't summon that assessment.

This is a beautiful and haunting story of a 15 year old boy named Michael, whom she called "Kid", who has an intense love affair with a 30 something woman named Hanna -- a streetcar conductor. He knows nothing of her past, and their relationship is mostly physical. She disappears suddenly once day and Michael next sees her when he's a law student in 1965 Germany as the war trials of the Nazi criminals are getting underway.

He is both stunned and repulsed when seeing his former paramour as an SS guard criminal. He can't reconcile his love of her to what she had done during the war. Michael is in a state of suspended ambiguity. Should he feel guilty for having loved her -- a reviled and heinous war criminal with the worst of reputations? A quote at the end of Chapter one in Part 2 sums up how Michael faces the truth of his lover and how he responds to it: "I adopted a posture of arrogant superiority...this juxtaposition of callousness and extreme sensitivity seemed suspicious even to me."

The book is divided into 3 parts and deals mostly with Micheal's feelings about his relationship with Hanna, his reaction to her trial, and the final chapter as he comes to terms with all that has happened.
This is a novel that is not to be missed. One that can be discussed at length in book groups everywhere or just between friends. I can't get it out of my mind.

The reason for the title becomes clear midway through the novel.

Highly recommended.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Today's review

Look Again by Lisa Scottline

3.0 out of 5 stars Quick read but very unfulfilling, August 16, 2009

This could have been a great novel or at least a chance for Lisa Scottoline to use her courtroom expertise and experience as a lawyer. The premise was intriguing -- single mother discovers by happenstance that the son she has adopted may have been a kidnapped baby. The investigation was sound, if a bit unbelievable at times. The moment of truth arrives but instead of the author plunging us into the adoptive mother's despair and giving us a riveting emotional treatise on the legal aspect of this actually happening, Scottoline cops out. The chance to really explore this moral dilemma and to be compassionate about the incredible pain experienced by both sides in the battle is sidestepped by banality and the completely unbelievable ending.

This book started out well, but was a very big disappointment. Pass.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Today's review

3.0 out of 5 stars Overrated and sort of boring,August 13, 2009

Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron

WAIT -- before you start making negative responses to this review, stop now and know -- I am a cat lover! But this book really didn't click with me. I thought the book would be more about a library cat but it was about the author and her troubled and difficult life; it was about how to run a library and the people who worked there; it was about people who visited the library and who apparently went crazy about this one cat, Dewey, who was so special that people came from around the world to see him, touch him and film him. OK. Fine.

It was an interesting enough story, but I got bored by all the details about library operation, budgets, meetings and minutiae. The long descriptions about the history of Spencer, Iowa and the people who lived and farmed there was only marginally appealing. The description of Dewey's days and life were fine, but what was all that continued discussion of his dietary habits and bowel movements?

I must admit that although I have been a cat owner for many years, I have a little difficulty when people say they can tell what their pet is thinking and when they give them other human attributes, sensitivities, and feelings. I have never been a fan of too much anthropomorphizing because I can't buy into it.

I know this opinion and review will not set well with all of those hundreds who rave about this story, but it was too much of the author's autobiography and about Spencer, Iowa, than it was anything else. At the end of the day, no one knows for sure if animals LOVE people or what animals are capable of feeling or thinking. To me, assigning thoughts and feelings to animals from the human perspective is taking liberties more closely associated with FICTION and fantasy novels than it is nonfiction.

I wanted to like this book but frankly, I was just glad to skim the last third of it and close the book.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Today's review...

3.0 out of 5 stars Ho hum...skip it, you've already read one just like it.

This is formulaic fiction at best and convoluted storytelling at worst. The best way to sum up The Eleventh Victim by Nancy Grace is to say that there is nothing new and fresh here -- everything in the book has been written and read by anyone who likes thrillers. I found myself just plodding along, eager to be finished so I could move on to something more interesting.

The plot is typical -- a former beautiful and athletic female prosecutor of serial killers is burnt out and has fled Georgia for NY and instead of being a lawyer, she's now a psychologist. Then the conflict: uh oh, a former conviction she obtained has been overturned and now the bad guy is out. And guess who he wants to kill next? The ex attorney Hailey Dean, however, through some unbelievable inability to stay informed, doesn't realize that he has been released from death row due to a shift in votes on the appellate level. We are then treated to a tabloid-like look into the sleazy politics involving that judge's ambitions to be Georgia's governor. This leads to yet another side story that did nothing but annoy me. The whole digression into the plight of construction of tourist high rise condominiums on St. Simons Island in Georgia was completely unnecessary to the main narrative and I found it distracting and uninteresting. The author skips all around in the book from one little subplot to the next and back again. Most of it irrelevant to the main story line.

The climax of the book is totally predictable and you will find yourself skimming the last several chapters just to finally reach an unsatisfying conclusion.

My recommendation -- Skip it. As I said, you've already read this story.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Now reading...

I'll be starting reviews from this date on.

Just finished: Day after Night by Anita Diamant 5/5 stars

Current reading: The Eleventh Victim by Nancy Grace (a thriller)

Up next...don't know yet.

The Book Nurse

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