Tuesday, June 29, 2010

uncharted terriTORI, Tori Spelling


Welcome to Los Angeles, birthplace and residence of Tori Spelling.

It’s not every Hollywood starlet whose name greets you on a Virgin Airways flight into la-la land. But Tori Spelling has come to accept that her life is a spectacle. Her name is her brand, and business is booming. Too bad when your job is to be yourself, you can’t exactly take a break.

Having it all isn’t always easy—especially when you’re a perfectionist—but with the help of her unconventional family and friends, an underwear-clad spiritual cleansing or two, and faith in herself, she’s learning to find her happy ending. Because when you’re Tori Spelling, every day brings uncharted terriTORI.***


Sara's Review:

I enjoyed Tori's first two books, sTORI telling and Mommywood, so I was excited for this one to come out a few weeks ago. I was sixth on the waiting list at the library, so I was surprised to find out that it was already available just last week. I thought, "Those other ladies must have read it fast!". Um, now I know why. It's super short and if you've seen her show on Oxygen, then you've already seen about 75% of the book material. I found myself skimming large sections of it because I already knew what happened - I saw it months ago.

Overall, a disappointing read. I'd rather watch the show.

Grade: C

Sunday, June 27, 2010

What To Do When Someone Dies - Nicci French


'This is not my world. Something is wrong, askew. It is a Monday evening in October. I am Ellie Falkner, 34 years old and married to Greg Manning. Although two police officers have just come to my door and told me he is dead . . . '

It's devastating to hear that your husband has died in a horrific car accident. But to learn that he died with a mystery woman as his passenger is torment. Was Greg having an affair?

Drowning in grief, Ellie clings to Greg's innocence, and her determination to prove it to the world at large means she must find out who Milena Livingstone was and what she was doing in Greg's car. But in the process those around her begin to question her sanity ... and her motive. And the louder she shouts that Greg might have been murdered, the more suspicion falls on Ellie herself. Sometimes it's safer to keep silent when someone dies ...

Cole's Review:

I haven't read a Nicci French book in a while, but recall shear artistry in word choice and delightful mystery.  This book?  Well...it disappoints.  Don't get me wrong, it's a good book.  Just not nearly as good as a Nicci French book should be.

The story is great.  Ellie's husband dies - with another woman in his car.  Was Greg cheating?  If so, when?  How do you prove his innocence or guilty when everyone presumes that he was cheating?  How far will Ellie go to find out about Milena - the other woman?  However, I got caught up a lot in the details.  So many of them didn't add up.  Ellie runs out of food and money...but still can go out drinking with all her friends.  There is reference to Ellie's family being nearby...but there is virtually no support or even reference to them again.  Milena's family shows no interest in finding out about her death.

I'd only recommend this book as an easy read at the beach or to keep you entertained if you get sick.

Grade: D

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Heart of the Matter, Emily Giffin


Tessa Russo is the mother of two young children and the wife of a renowned pediatric surgeon. Despite her mother’s warnings, Tessa has recently given up her career to focus on her family and the pursuit of domestic happiness. From the outside, she seems destined to live a charmed life.

Valerie Anderson is an attorney and single mother to six-year-old Charlie---a boy who has never known his father. After too many disappointments, she has given up on romance---and even, to some degree, friendships---believing that it is always safer not to expect too much.

Although both women live in the same Boston suburb, the two have relatively little in common aside from a fierce love for their children. But one night, a tragic accident causes their lives to converge in ways no one could have imagined.

In alternating, pitch-perfect points of view, Emily Giffin creates a moving, luminous story of good people caught in untenable circumstances. Each being tested in ways they never thought possible. Each questioning everything they once believed. And each ultimately discovering what truly matters most.


Sara's Review:

This book is not at all what I expected it to be - it's better. I loved Emily Giffin's Baby Proof and Something Borrowed, but was less a fan of the two follow up books - Something Blue and Love the One You're With. Nevertheless, I was eager to get my hands on this one and was stoked to be the sixth person in the library queue!

I completely loved this book. I know a lot of people don't agree. This particular subject (I don't want to spoil it, so you'll just have to read!) is tricky and touchy and uncomfortable. A lot of people have complained that there's no big action or drama to the plot line. For me, I think that's why the book worked - it is delicate and nuanced and so unlike most of the in-your-face drama we are so used to seeing on reality TV. This is how life really happens.

I found myself unable to put the book down. I simply had to know what happened next.

Grade: A

Saturday, June 19, 2010

My Enemy's Cradle - Sara Young


Cyrla's neighbors have begun to whisper. Her cousin, Anneke, is pregnant and has passed the rigorous exams for admission to the Lebensborn, a maternity home for girls carrying German babies. But Anneke's soldier has disappeared, and Lebensborn babies are only ever released to their father's custody -- or taken away.

A note is left under the mat. Someone knows that Cyrla, sent from Poland years before for safekeeping with her Dutch relatives, is Jewish. The Nazis are imposing more and more restrictions; she won't be safe there for long.

And then in the space of an afternoon, life falls apart. Cyrla must choose between certain discovery in her cousin's home and taking Anneke's place in the Lebensborn -- Cyrla and Anneke are nearly identical. If she takes refuge in the enemy's lair, can Cyrla fool the doctors, nurses, guards, and other mothers-to-be? Can she escape before they discover she is not who she claims?

Mining a lost piece of history, Sara Young takes us deep into the lives of women living in the worst of times. Part love story and part elegy for the terrible choices we must often make to survive, My Enemy's Cradle keens for what we lose in war and sings for the hope we sometimes find.


Cole's Review:

My mom handed me this book this morning, saying that I had to read it.  A book about Nazis in WWII Germany and Holland?!?!  Uh, no thanks mom.  But, I trust her and gave the book a shot. I really glad I did.  While this is a fiction, the issues covered in the book are very real.

Cyrla is a young woman who has lacked stability in life.  She was sent from her home in Poland to life with her aunt, uncle and cousin - Anneke in Holland when the Nazi regime starts encroaching.  Soon, Anneke announces her pregnancy with a Nazi soldier and her shamed father gets her into a German maternity home.  All hell breaks loose when a note announces that someone knows Cyrla is Jewish, Anneke dies unexpectedly, and the man Cyrla loves pushes her to flee.

Cyrla isn't pregnant.  Can she feasibly take the place of Anneke in the maternity home?  Will she ever see her family again?  Can she trust anyone with her secrets?  

I really enjoyed this book (obviously...I read it in under a day!) and think that anyone interested in historical fiction would too.

Grade: B 

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Opposite of Me - Sarah Pekkanen


Twenty-nine-year-old Lindsey Rose has, for as long as she can remember, lived in the shadow of her ravishingly beautiful fraternal twin sister, Alex. Determined to get noticed, Lindsey is finally on the cusp of being named VP creative director of an elite New York advertising agency, after years of eighty-plus-hour weeks, migraines, and profound loneliness. But during the course of one devastating night, Lindsey’s carefully constructed life implodes. Humiliated, she flees the glitter of Manhattan and retreats to the time warp of her parents’ Maryland home. As her sister plans her lavish wedding to her Prince Charming, Lindsey struggles to maintain her identity as the smart, responsible twin while she furtively tries to piece her career back together. But things get more complicated when a long-held family secret is unleashed that forces both sisters to reconsider who they are and who they are meant to be.


Cole's Review:

I picked up this book and couldn't put it down.  This is the tale of Lindsey - a woman on the cusp of having everything she wanted...until office politics, a little bit of alcohol and some bad timing come into play.  Lindsey is her family's "smart one", while her twin sister Alex is the "pretty one" and she's very hesitant to let her family know she failed.  What to do?  LIE!!

And in the course of these lies - Lindsey encounters people that change her perspective on life, what she thinks she knows about being the "smart one", and finds a life she never knew she always wanted.

This book is funny, a bit bittersweet and I think everyone with a sibling should read it. (And then go hug said sibling!)

Grade: A

Worst Case, James Patterson


Best case: Survival
The son of one of New York's wealthiest families is snatched off the street and held hostage. His parents can't save him, because this kidnapper isn't demanding money. Instead, he quizzes his prisoner on the price others pay for his life of luxury. In this exam, wrong answers are fatal.

Worst case: Death
Detective Michael Bennett leads the investigation. With ten kids of his own, he can't begin to understand what could lead someone to target anyone's children. As another student disappears, another powerful family uses their leverage and connections to turn up the heat on the mayor, the press—anyone who will listen—to stop this killer. Their reach extends all the way to the FBI, which sends its top Abduction Specialist, Agent Emily Parker. Bennett's life—and love life—suddenly get even more complicated.

This case: Detective Michael Bennett is on it
Before Bennett has a chance to protest the FBI's intrusion on his case, the mastermind changes his routine. His plan leads up to the most devastating demonstration yet—one that could bring cataclysmic ruin to every inch of New York City.

Sara's Review:

I listened to this book on CD during my commute to work. I do this a lot because it makes the time pass very quickly. I've listened to probably 50 books on CD over the last few years and this is the first one I've ever run into that had sound effects - fake laughs, even more fake crying, and other random, generally ridiculous low-rent sound effects. I found it incredibly distracting. Ugh.

That said, the book itself was decent. Not one of James Patterson's best, but certainly entertaining enough. The story is suspenseful if a tad bit unbelievable. He throws in a curve ball at the end that is pointless (at best) but otherwise the plot line is interesting and the characters witty.

Overall, I can think of half a dozen Patterson books I'd prefer to read, but if you're like me and you've already read through half his library, this one isn't a bad one to add to the list.

Grade: C

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Perfect Family - Pam Lewis


From the acclaimed author of Speak Softly, She Can Hear, a literary page-turner about a proper New England family and the dark secrets that undo them.

Pony Carteret -- the lovely headstrong youngest member of the Carteret family -- has always been a strong swimmer. So when she is discovered drowned at the family's summer home on Lake Aral, Vermont, her red hair tangled in an anchor chain and her baby abandoned on shore, her family is stunned by disbelief.

As the police conduct their investigation, Jasper Carteret, the patriarch, calls an urgent family meeting. Had any of her siblings known that Pony would be at the house that day? Was she having personal problems, was she depressed? Had she ever revealed the true identity of her baby's father? Neither sister -- Tinker, the family caretaker, nor Mira, the moody, thoughtful one -- has any information, and ultimately the police rule the drowning an accident.

But William Carteret, Pony's older brother, can't accept the explanation that his favorite sister's death was an accident. Determined to uncover the truth, he eventually learns the disturbing fact that a stranger had been present at the house the evening Pony died. Who was this man, what was he doing at the house, and why hasn't he stepped forward? As William digs deeper, his investigations quickly lead him to a new and more daunting series of questions, not only about the mysteries in Pony's life but also about the shadowy details of his deceased mother's past and even his own. Before long, he has opened a Pandora's box of family secrets, including one dangerous fact his mother has kept hidden for a generation.

Pam Lewis's Perfect Family is a masterful, atmospheric tale about the ways in which family secrets, no matter how long they're buried, can wield their tremendous power.


Cole's Review:

This book draws you in quickly, reading more like a family saga than a murder mystery at times.  The tension between various family members is palpable - a power struggle between father, Jasper and son, William; the overt sexuality of Pony and converse repression of Tinker.

Pony, the youngest daughter of the Carteret clan dies under odd circumstances, leaving her father and siblings to unravel her past and their own - discovering exactly how many secrets they were keeping from each other.  Truthfully, some of these secrets are believable...but a few were just a stretch instead of the author's intent of being jaw-dropping.

This is a quick and enjoyable read for those that can get past the goofy nicknames given to the girls in the family (Pony, Tinker and Mira).

Grade: C

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

61 Hours, Lee Child


savage snowstorm and a tour bus crash land Reacher in the middle of South Dakota—unprepared. For the snow, that is. But he’s ready, as only he can be, to risk his life to protect a courageous witness. If she’s going to live long enough to testify, she needs his help. There's a killer headed straight for her and he'll be in town soon...or maybe he’s already there...

Sara's Review:

For anyone who is looking for a series of books to read, you can't go wrong with Lee Child's Jack Reacher series. I've been reading them for several years and got my famously anti-reading husband hooked on them as well. 61 Hours is the 14th book in this series of stand-alone stories about an ex-military wanderer named Jack Reacher, who's a cross between James Bond and Jack Ryan.

The latest book came out the Tuesday before our vacation and we fought over who would get to read it first. As soon as my father-in-law realized we had it, he was bugging us to both to read faster so he could have his turn too!

The story is a bit slow, as the whole thing unfolds over a short 61 hour time period (shocker, right? HA!). My husband complained that there were too many descriptions of the snow, but for someone who loves to read, I found Child's many descriptions of the South Dakota winter beautifully written.

This one is hard to review without giving away too much of the plot, so I'll just say this: there was something I loved, something I totally hated, a baddie that I didn't see coming until just a few pages before and an ending that leaves you holding your breath.

Bet you want to borrow it from me now too, don'tcha?

Grade: A

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Caught, Harlan Coben


17-year-old Haley McWaid is a good girl, the pride of her suburban New Jersey family, captain of the lacrosse team, headed off to college next year with all the hopes and dreams her doting parents can pin on her. Which is why, when her mother wakes one morning to find that Haley never came home the night before, and three months quickly pass without word from the girl, the community assumes the worst.

Wendy Tynes is a reporter on a mission, to identify and bring down sexual predators via elaborate—and nationally televised—sting operations. Working with local police on her news program Caught in the Act, Wendy and her team have publicly shamed dozens of men by the time she encounters her latest target. Dan Mercer is a social worker known as a friend to troubled teens, but his story soon becomes more complicated than Wendy could have imagined.

In a novel that challenges as much as it thrills, filled with the astonishing tension and unseen suburban machinations that have become Coben’s trademark, Caught tells the story of a missing girl, the community stunned by her loss, the predator who may have taken her, and the reporter who suddenly realizes she can’t trust her own instincts about this story—or the motives of the people around her.

Sara's Review:

I'd had this book on my e-Reader for awhile and finally got around to reading it while we were on vacation last week. I think the official synopsis of the book is a bit misleading, as the book is hardly about Hailey McWaid's disappearance at all - it's more about the man who allegedly took her.

Misdirections aside, I thought the book was pretty good. Harlan Coben is one of my favorite authors and he did not disappoint this time. The story is face-paced and twisting, with a twist that I didn't see coming at all. That is the hallmark of a good mystery novel in my opinion!

Grade: A