Monday, August 24, 2009

Review: Undone by Karin Slaughter

Book Info:
Undone by Karin Slaughter
Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Press (July 14, 2009)
ISBN-13: 9780385341967
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Rating: 4.25/5

Three years ago former Grant County medical examiner Sara Linton moved to Atlanta hoping to leave her tragic past behind her. Now working as a doctor in Atlanta's Grady Hospital she is starting to piece her life together. But when a severely wounded young woman is brought in to the emergency room, she finds herself drawn back into a world of violence and terror. The woman has been hit by a car but, naked and brutalized, it's clear that she has been the prey of a twisted mind.

When Special Agent Will Trent of the Criminal Investigation Team returns to the scene of the accident, he stumbles on a torture chamber buried deep beneath the earth. And this hidden house of horror reveals a ghastly truth - Sara's patient is just the first victim of a sick, sadistic killer. Wrestling the case away from the local police chief, Will and his partner Faith Mitchell find themselves at the center of a grisly murder hunt. And Sara, Will and Faith - each with their own wounds and their own secrets - are the only thing that stands between a madman and his next crime...

I've been mulling this book over for the last few days...and on one hand I really liked it, but on the other, I was disappointed. I stumbled on The Grant County series when it first came out and it instantly became a favorite. I loved the how gritty and dark the series was, but Slaughter's writing always included a bit of humor or sarcasm to lighten the mood.

The writing in Undone is perfect as always. The story is dark and the plot keeps you guessing right up until the end. The bad guys are creepy and the story had plenty of twists and turns. There were even a few times I had to laugh, and I love that about Slaughter's writing. She goes from dark to funny so easily.

My biggest problem with this book, as a long-time fan of the series, is that this isn't a Grant County book. No Jeffery, no Lena and very little Sara. I really enjoyed Fractured (the second Will Trent book) and was glad to see him and Faith Mitchell again, but Undone should have been billed as their third book, not Grant County's seventh book.

I don't think Sara is a strong enough character to carry this series on her own and I'm curious to see if the two series will become one. Either way, as long as Slaughter keeps me guessing I will keep reading. 4.25 stars

Friday, August 21, 2009

Thank you!

As most bloggers know by now, BBAW is fast approaching (Sept 14-18), and the nominations are now out. Thank you so much for nominating Shhh I'm Reading in 2 categories. I am working on getting my posts chosen and submitted today.

Congratulations to all the nominees and don't forget to check back at BBAW when the voting on the short list opens Sept 7. A special thank you to My Friend Amy and her team for all their hard work!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Booking Through Thursday...Recent Best

What’s the best book you’ve read recently?
(Tell me you didn’t see this one coming?)

A couple of "best" books came to mind as soon as I read this question. The first one is What I Thought I Knew by Alice Eve Cohen (review). I rarely give 5's, but this nonfiction book had me hooked from the first page. The story was amazing, well written and pulled at your heart. Even if you don't usually read nonfiction, this is one book to check out.

Another recent favorite is The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams (review). This young adult book about a polygamist group and a young girl who is trying to break free is engrossing. Don't let the young adult age group mislead you either. The Chosen One appeals to many adults too.

As a final recent best I'd have to mention The White Queen by Philippa Gregory (review). This historical novel set during the War of the Roses is a great start to a new series, and one I will continue to follow.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Giveaway: The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

Just in time for the release date of The White Queen I am thrilled to host a giveaway for one copy of this wonderful book. The White Queen is the beginning of a new series set during The War of the Roses. A special thank you to Kelly at Simon and Schuster for sponsoring this giveaway.

The book will be mailed from the publisher, so US and Canada addresses only.

Now onto the rules:
--Leave a comment here for one entry
--Blog about the giveaway and link back here for a second entry
--Follow me or add me to your Google Reader for a third entry. Current subscribers are eligible for this too.

**Please leave a separate comment for each entry as I will be using the numbered comments to pick my winner. If you leave more than one entry in a comment, it won't be counted.

Please make sure you have a email address listed in your comment or on your profile. If I can't reach you, your entry won't count.

This contest will run until midnight August 31 and the winner will be chosen by random and posted on September 1.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Review: The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

Book Info:
The White Queen by Philippa Gregory
Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Touchstone (August 18, 2009)
ISBN-13: 9781416563686
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5

Elizabeth Woodville, of the House of Lancaster, is widowed when her husband is killed in battle. Aided and abetted by the raw ambition and witchcraft skills of her mother Jacquetta, Elizabeth seduces and marries, in secret, reigning king Edward IV, of the family of the white rose, the House of York. As long as there are other claimants to Edward’s throne, the profound rivalries between the two families will never be laid to rest. Violent conflict, shocking betrayal and murder dominate Elizabeth’s life as Queen of England, passionate wife of Edward and devoted mother of their children.

I have to admit, The White Queen is my first Philippa Gregory book. Fans seems to love her for her wonderful storytelling, while critics discuss historical inaccuracies in her books. When I started reading The White Queen, I didn't know quite what to expect, but I was immediately pulled in by the story.

Elizabeth is an interesting character. She is ambitious, fiercely protective of her children, and at the end of the book, quite a schemer as well. After the death of Edward IV her position became much more precarious, and I could easily understand her plotting, but she wasn't nearly as likeable as she was earlier.

The White Queen also contains some witchcraft and magic. I found the inclusion of this very interesting. It added another layer to the story without being overpowering.

I honestly don't know much about The War of The Roses. I remember hearing about the mystery of the Princes in the Tower, but can't speak to how historically accurate The White Queen is. Whether historically accurate or not, Gregory tells a wonderful story. I can see why fans rave about her books, and this will be one series that I will continue to follow. 4.5 stars

**Check back tomorrow for my giveaway of a copy of The White Queen**

The White Queen: A Conversation with Philippa Gregory

Friday, August 14, 2009

Review: The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

Book Info:
The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (May 12, 2009)
ISBN-13: 9780312555115
Genre: Young Adult
Rating: 4.5/5

Thirteen-year-old Kyra has grown up in an isolated polygamous community without questioning her father's three wives and her twenty brothers and sisters. Or at least without questioning them much -- if you don't count her secret visits to the Mobile Library on Wheels to read forbidden books, or her meetings with the boy she hopes to choose for herself instead of having a man chosen for her. But when the Prophet decrees that Kyra must marry her 60-year-old uncle -- who already has six wives -- Kyra must make a desperate choice in the face of violence and her own fears of losing her family.

The Chosen One has been all over lots of blogs lately and almost every one has posted posted a positive review. Not to be repetitive, my I am going to add my voice to the (seemingly) tons of bloggers who love this book.

The Chosen One is one of those books where I often found myself clenching my teeth and squeezing my hands into fists. I wanted to hug Kyra and make things better for her, while at the same time I wanted to slap most of the adults. I love it when I have such an emotional response to books. It really means that I've connected to the characters.

I found a few of the scenarios in the book a little extreme, far fetched even. It's not that I can't picture crazy things happening, but some of it seemed a little over the top. And while this was a little distracting, it didn't take away from my overall enjoyment of this book. 4.5 stars

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Booking Through Thursday...Recent Worst

What’s the worst book you’ve read recently?
(I figure it’s easier than asking your all-time worst, because, well, it’s recent!)

If I dislike a book that much, I quit reading! There are too many books I want to get read to waste my time on a bad book.

I haven't read any true stinkers lately. There have been a few books that have been slower reads and I found myself setting them aside for a while, but they were books I still wanted to finish.

Now that I think more about this question, I recently listened to a mystery on audio (review still to come) that fell firmly in the "just ok" category. The narrator was decent, but I found a few of his voices terribly annoying. There was also some small bits of dialogue that were terribly predictable. But, for me, that about as bad as I'll let it get before I set a book aside.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Review: The End of the Alphabet by CS Richardson

Book Info:
The End of the Alphabet by CS Richardson
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Broadway (September 2, 2008)
ISBN-13: 9780767927635
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Novella
Rating: 4/5

Ambrose Zephyr is a contented man. He shares a book-laden Victorian house with his loving wife, Zipper. He owns two suits, one of which he was married in. He is a courageous eater, save brussels sprouts. His knowledge of wine is vague and best defined as Napa, good; Australian, better; French, better still. Kir royale is his drink of occasion. For an Englishman he makes a poor cup of tea. He believes women are quantifiably wiser than men, and would never give Zipper the slightest reason to mistrust him or question his love. Zipper simply describes Ambrose as the only man she has ever loved. Without adjustment.

Then, just as he is turning fifty, Ambrose is told by his doctor that he has one month to live. Reeling from the news, he and Zipper embark on a whirlwind expedition to the places he has most loved or has always longed to visit, from A to Z, Amsterdam to Zanzibar. As they travel to Italian piazzas, Turkish baths, and other romantic destinations, all beautifully evoked by the author, Zipper struggles to deal with the grand unfairness of their circumstances as she buoys Ambrose with her gentle affection and humor. Meanwhile, Ambrose reflects on his life, one well lived, and comes to understand that death, like life, will be made bearable by the strength and grace of their devotion.

I picked up The End of the Alphabet because I needed a quick read. I have a couple of books that I've been reading and reading, and needed just finish a book so I felt like I accomplished something.

Even though I picked it up just because it looked quick, it ended up being a fairly satisfying read. I never felt like I really knew Ambrose and Zipper all that well, it was more like I knew them in passing. But what I did learn about them, I ended up really liking. I would have liked a little more depth to the characters, but the format of the story worked really well. The story was a little sparse in detail, but not incomplete.

I don't usually read novellas, but I found myself enjoying this one. If you are looking for a quick read that makes you think, give this one a try. 4 stars

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Review: Notes From the Underbelly by Risa Green

Book Info:
Notes From The Underbelly by Risa Green
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: NAL Trade (April 5, 2005)
ISBN-13: 9780451214164
Genre: Chick Lit
Rating: 4/5

As a guidance counselor at an elite, Bel Air high school, Lara Stone is definitely not ready to have any spoiled, bratty kids of her own. At least not now, when she has finally managed to Tae-Bo and low-carb herself down to a perfect size four. But her husband has different ideas, and they include fatherhood. Now.

Suddenly, Lara finds herself deep within the underbelly of pregnancy, as a cranky, non-glowing mother-to-be dealing with uncontrollable crying jags, inexplicable weight gain, and scary hemorrhoids. And her mood doesn't improve when she's given the task of getting one of her students-the punk, outcast daughter of a famous movie director-into a highly competitive college.

Expecting is nothing like Lara ever expected.

Hubby and I recently found out we are expecting our first baby (!!!) and to celebrate I wanted something pregnancy related, but still light and fun. I wasn't ready to get into the What To Expect type books already. Notes From the Underbelly was a perfect choice.

Lara is a spoiled, pampered and whiny character, but really funny at the same time! She tells things like they are and isn't bashful about complaining about the not-so-fun parts of being pregnant. She doesn't sugarcoat her feelings and I loved that.

Even though I am having a wonderful pregnancy I enjoyed this hilarious look at the uncomfortable parts of pregnancy. If you enjoy Jen Lancaster, this light chick lit book should be right up your alley as well. 4 stars

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Non-Fiction Five Challenge - Completed

I read a lot of non-fiction so this challenge was fairly easy and very enjoyable.

Here are the challenge rules again with the books I read and links to my reviews.

Trish of Trish's Reading Nook is hosting the Non-Fiction Five Challenge. My non-fiction category in my 999 Challenge is over half completed, so I decided to sign up for this one as well!

The Rules:
1. Read 5 non-fiction books during the months of May - September, 2009 (please link your reviews on Mister Linky each month; Mister Linky can be found each month on this blog)
2. Read at least one non-fiction book that is different from your other choices (i.e.: 4 memoirs and 1 self-help)

My Choices:
1. A Final Arc of Sky: A Memoir of Critical Care by Jennifer Culkin (review)
2. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell (review), audio
3. Outcasts United: A Refugee Team, an American Town by Warren St. John (review)
4. Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal by Julie Metz (review coming soon)
5. Lost Boy by Brent Jeffs (review)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Review: Picking Cotton by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton

by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, Ronald Cotton, and Erin Torneo
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (March 3, 2009)
ISBN-13: 9780312376536
Genre: Non-Fiction
Rating: 4/5

Jennifer Thompson was raped at knifepoint by a man who broke into her apartment while she slept. She was able to escape, and eventually positively identified Ronald Cotton as her attacker. Ronald insisted that she was mistaken-- but Jennifer's positive identification was the compelling evidence that put him behind bars. After eleven years, Ronald was allowed to take a DNA test that proved his innocence. He was released, after serving more than a decade in prison for a crime he never committed. Two years later, Jennifer and Ronald met face to face-- and forged an unlikely friendship that changed both of their lives.

In their own words, Jennifer and Ronald unfold the harrowing details of their tragedy, and challenge our ideas of memory and judgment while demonstrating the profound nature of human grace and the healing power of forgiveness.

I think most people have faith in our justice system. It's stories like Picking Cotton that make me wonder how many innocent people really are behind bars. With the increased use of DNA testing it's probably much less than in the past, but it still makes you think...

I love how Picking Cotton allows Jennifer and Ronald to tell their stories. This isn't a story that would do well with just one narrator, and the change in narrator from Jennifer to Ronald, and then a combined section really brings another layer to the book. It gives a voice to everyone involved and creates a fair telling of the story.

Picking Cotton is very well-written. The story is engrossing and flows very well. My one complaint is that it came across as a little unemotional at times for such an emotional story. Even with this, it's still a very compelling story and I would recommend it to memoir lovers and those interested in our justice system. 4 stars