Friday, September 26, 2014

Tara Road by Maeve Binchy

Romance

Ria is a doting, loving mother of two to Annie and Brian. Her husband, Danny, is charming and a powerful real estate agent. They live in their dream home on Tara Road in Dublin and have friends and family coming and going, constantly filling the home with love and noise. Ria loves her live until one day, everything comes crashing down around her. Her husband has been unfaithful and has gotten a younger girl pregnant and wants to make a life with her. Trying to escape her problems but still desperate for a reunion with her husband, Ria accepts a house exchange in the USA.

This is the first Maeve Binchy book that I've read and I'm surprised it made it to Oprah's Book List. The characters were interesting and the novel flows very well. I did have a few problems with this book though. I felt like the purpose of this book was to have Ria and Marilyn exchange homes to learn more about themselves. Marilyn isn't even introduced to the book until 1/2 way through. Less background on Ria and more on Marilyn would have made more sense.

The other major issue with this book is how the female characters let their male counterparts walk all over them. There's very little justice for most of them. I wanted to slap Ria a few times for how she felt and acted around Danny. This is part of what made me so surprised that this was an Oprah book club pick because she usually likes her women strong and to stand up when being treated like crap.

First Line: "Ria's mother had always been very fond of film stars."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Finger Lickin' Fifteen

Mystery/Chick Lit

Stephanie Plum is a horrible bounty hunter. When sexy and mysterious Ranger asks her to help him out with a problem he's having with break ins of customers for his security firm, Stephanie knows it's too good to pass up. Especially since her and Morelli have had a huge argument and are no longer seeing each other. Stephanie starts to spy on Ranger's employees, thinking that one of them may have something to do with this since the robber knows the codes. Stephanie can't give up her day job though, and still has to find her skips, including the ancient old man who likes to flash to elderly ladies.

The end of this book, at the BBQ competition, almost had me laughing on the train. I would have been nice to know what happened with Lula and Tank. In the last book they were together and in this book it was no more. What a shame!

A frequent complaint I have about these books is that the mysteries are solved and then the books instantly end. It would be nice if there was a bit more closure on the books before they wrapped up.

First Line: "When I was a kid, I was afraid of spiders and vegetables."

Rating:
(4/5)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott

Non-Fiction

Four ladies of the Civil War show their cunning nature and intelligence by spying and deceiving those against their cause. This book focuses on four ladies:

- Belle Boyd, a 17-year old charmer who shoots a Union soldier in her home then becomes a spy for the Confederate army. She gets her information by using her charm.
- Elizabeth Van Lew living in Richmond, Virginia, leading a spy ring. She had ciphers and codes for sending all of her messages, under the noses of prominent Confederates.
- Emma Edmonds, a Canadian, enlisting as "Frank Thompson" as a Union private, fighting, nursing, and spying for her cause.
- Rose Greenhow, using her daughter little Rose to provide important information to the Confederates.

Watch author Karen Abbott describe the four ladies in her book:


These women were incredibly brave and it's quite amazing that many years before women were even allowed to vote, these women were controlling so much information and changing the efforts of the war. I think it's natural to pull for some of these women more than others. Personally, I enjoyed Emma's story the best, and not only because she was Canadian but because she did so many things that one would never think at that time a woman could do! She was a soldier, she fought in the war, she nursed others back to health, she spied, she posed as a man who posed as a women, and she posed as a black man to gain information for her side.

I found that I had troubles keeping track of the four women in this book because of the way it was written. Abbott switched between the stories of the women multiple times within a chapter and I feel like it would have been easier and smoother had each chapter been dedicated to a single woman.

I also found that there were some pacing issues with this book. It was like a roller coaster ride where some parts were very interesting and others did nothing to move the story along.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a part of of this tour!

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich

Mystery

Stephanie Plum, bounty hunter from New Jersey, is back for the fourteenth installment of her series. This time she isn't doing as much bounty hunting as she is bodyguarding and babysitting. A famous singer is in town and Stephanie has been asked by Ranger to help with keeping her in line and on time. In her spare time she does look up one skip, Loretta, who asks Stephanie to take care of her teenage son while she's getting bonded out. This ends up lasting for much loner than expected and Stephanie has to live with a teenager in Morelli's house for quite a few days.

These books have become less about plot for me and more about how the characters interact with each other. These books still make me smile and are easy to plow through which I why I keep coming back to them. After I've read something heavy, these are a nice break.

First Line: "In my mind, my kitchen is filled with crackers and cheese, roast chicken leftovers, farm fresh eggs, and coffee beans ready to grind."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson

Women's Fiction

Shandi and her little boy Natty are moving to Atlanta, after her father offers up his condo so she can be closer to college. Her best friend Walcott is helping with the move and the three stop at a Circle K on the way. Shandi and Natty go inside to get some drinks where a cute man looks lost looking at laundry detergent. Coming up with a thousand ways to approach him, she doesn't really notice another man enter the shop with a gun. He charges the cash register and robs the store but before leaving, a police officer enters the store and the robber shoots her. Realizing he can't leave, the robber takes everyone in to the back and both Shandi and the cute man, William, relive past events in the fear of not having any future ones.

Shandi gave birth to Natty a virgin. She has chosen to forget the day Natty was conceived but in the back of the Circle K, she starts to remember being drugged that night. William lost both his wife and kid in a car crash exactly a year ago. He forbid anyone from mentioning his wife's name infront of him shortly thereafter but starts to relive courting her during high school and remembering how much love they had for each other.

Having read quite a few of Jackson's books in the past I was looking forward to this one. She does a fantastic job of writing imperfect southern women. Shandi isn't the best character Jackson has written but she is typical to Jackson's writing. She's southern, she makes the reader like her, and she has many flaws that she acknowledges and tries to sort out. I think this is part of the reason why I like Jackson's books so much. The characters know they aren't perfect and they usually try to sort things out.

Also typical to Jackson books, this one was very easy to get in to. I started reading and felt like I couldn't stop. I needed to find out what these characters were hiding from themselves and how they were going to get past their issues.

Despite all this, by the time I completed the book and put it down, I felt a little bit let down. There were two reasons for this. The first was that the ending was crammed with revelations. In about 20 pages, there were two plot twists which made me feel like there wasn't enough time to digest what was happening and get resolution out of it. The second was the story of rape that seemed to get played down as not being a big deal. It's not surprising that the rapist himself tried not to make a big deal out of the rape, but when other characters started going along with it, it bothered me. Rape is rape, regardless of the back story that goes along with it.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a part of this book tour.
Buy the book here.

First Line: "I fell in love with William Ashe at gunpoint, in a Circle K."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

On the Beach by Nevil Shute

Fiction

Everyone in the northern hemisphere is believed to be dead, following WWIII and the thousands of nuclear bombs dropped on the USA, China, Russia, and many other countries. The radioactive cloud is slowly making its way south, killing those in its path. An American Navy Captain is docking his submarine in Melbourne, Australia, one of the most southern major cities in the world. Captain Towers and his men were not able to return home after their last excursion and they believe that their families are now all dead. The Australians ask them to take one more trip up to Seattle where they are getting radio signals from. Australian Peter Holmes goes with the team and watches them pull close to the shore and call out for survivors, never seeing anyone.

Those in Melbourne must come to grips with their impending death. It is only a few months until the radioactive cloud is expected. Some do every day lasts like planting a garden, some take up car racing, some try to fall in love.

I picked up this book because I very much enjoyed Shute's A Town Like Alice. This one has the same gentle and fluid writing style though it's quite a different subject matter. The denial by characters and then their slow or fast acceptance was rather interesting. It makes you wonder how you would come to grips that your time on earth is ending soon. It also makes you question how you would spend your remaining time. It was surprising that so many people were working up to almost the end. Why bother? Wouldn't you want to make the most of your time left?

This book was utterly depressing and at times I felt let down because just when you think something is going to happen, nothing really does and it's steady as she goes for the entire novel.

First Line: "Lieutenant-Commander Peter Holmes of the Royal Australian Navy woke soon after dawn."

Rating:
(3.5/5)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

Science Fiction

In the previous novel, Ender's Game, the buggers are no longer threatening earth and Ender has become the Speaker for the dead for the buggers. As Ender and his sister Valerie travel the worlds, their names live on in infamy. Valerie continues to write, Ender continues to speak. When a speaker is requested on Lusitania when a xenologer is killed by a new race of species, the piggies, Ender knows he must travel to speak the death and find out what the piggies were malicious in their murder or whether it is a misunderstood custom. When Ender arrives, 22 years later, there has been an additional death and Ender knows he must save the piggies before yet another race is destroyed.

Where Ender's Game was about war, tactics, and gaming this book was about society, guilt, and races living together. Despite characters being the same through both books, it was a completely different dynamic. But it completely worked. This novel was eloquent (though a bit preachy at times) and captivating.

I would have liked for Card to explore some of the characters a bit further, such as Jane who is a computer persona, but I suspect we'll learn more about her in future books. I will definitely be continuing on to the third book in the series, though I've heard it isn't as good as the first two.

First Line: "In the year 1830, after the formation of Starways Congress, a robot scout ship sent a report by ansible: The planet it was investigating was well within the parameters for human life."

Rating:
(4.5/5)