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The Other Side by J.D. Robb et al.

The Other Side is a collection novellas by J.D. Robb, Mary Blayney, Patricia Gaffney, Ruth Ryan Langan, and Mary Kay McComas. The stories all have some supernatural element to them. I had not read any of the authors, other than J.D. Robb, before this book. I am happy to report that I enjoyed all the stories except for one, and that I look forward to reading more from these authors.

Possession In Death by J.D. Robb

The book starts off with a bang with a novella by J.D. Robb from her Eve and Roarke series. The story takes place after the case from Indulgence In Death wrapped up. J.D. Robb does a nice job – all our favorite characters make an appearance in a BBQ hosted by Eve and Roarke. When Eve takes Father Lopez home from the BBQ, she sees a stabbed woman dying on the street. Turns out the woman is a gypsy and Eve accidentally received the gift of seeing the dead from her when she promised to find her missing granddaughter. The suspense was well written. The story and characters well developed. The novella was a satisfying read, leaving me wanting more of Eve and Roarke.

The Other Side of the Coin by Mary Blayney

This was the only story I was meh about. The story is set in 19th century London. Harry and Bettina, lord and countess something, accidentally make wishes on a magical coin. Bettina wishes Harry would know how it feels to be in her shoes and Harry wishes his suspicious wife would trust him to be faithful. So the coin switches their bodies a la Freaky Friday.

First of all, it was weird reading it from Harry and Bettina’s POV with the role reversal. Second, the stuff Harry and Bettina go through seem very stereotypical. For example, Harry experiences menstrual cramps. OoooO, yes, this is what being a woman is all about! What Harry does come to realize, is that being a mother is a lot harder than what he thought. This, as a new mom, I could appreciate, and wishes my husband could appreciate as well. Bettina, on the other hand, gets to drink, smoke, watch his friends pee outdoors, because that’s what being a man is all about! Finally, it was weird reading the sex scenes with the role reversal. The whole concept was a bit icky to me. Like I said, this was my least favorite novella.

The Dancing Ghost by Patricia Gaffney

This one, I wasn’t so much into the story, but I thought the characters were well written and likable. Angiolina Darlington hires spirit investigator Henry Cleland to determine if her house is haunted. Turns out Angie knows there is no such thing as ghosts but wants a finding that the house is haunted to drive away potential buyers while she gathers funds to pay off the house before her cousin sells it. I liked that she is onto Henry’s BS and they end up partners in crime. Henry, in the meantime, is hiding from his past in his new ghost hunting profession. The ending seemed a bit abrupt but overall a good story. I particularly liked Astra, the ghost hunting dog. Heh.

Almost Heaven by Ruth Ryan Langan

This was another enjoyable read. Ted and Vanessa Crenshaw died in a car accident. Before they cross over to the other side, they stay to make sure their kids are okay. Turns out, the guy their daughter Christina is about to marry may not be the man they thought he was, and that their accident may not have been so accidental. The ghosts work to expose the evil fiancé and to play matchmaker to their daughter with a new guy. All turned out well in the end. The story was simple but sweet.

Never Too Late to Love by Mary Kay McComas

This was probably my second favorite story of the bunch. M.J. Biderman wants to tear down the old family house she inherited but the house won’t be torn down because her dead mother and her two dead aunts are still around. They can leave until they each find what they lost. Turns out, what they lost were hope, faith, and love. Her aunt Odelia loved to cook and wanted to publish a cookbook but she lost all hope of ever doing so before she died. Her aunt Imogene lost her young son, and with him, all faith in the ever after. Her mom, Adeline, lost her connection with her daughter, M.J. It was a good read as M.J. figures out what each lost and finds it for them again. The story was sweet and hopeful. Very enjoyable to read.

Phew! Writing a review of a collection of novellas is exhausting! Ok, I’m off to sleep a bit before my kid wakes me up at 3 am.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

My first book in 2012!

I put The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants on my ebooks library wait list as a whim. I had enjoyed the movies. Yes, I’ve seen both the movies. I love Alexis Bledel and thinks she is really pretty. And this was before Ugly Betty and Gossip Girl made America Ferrera and Blake Lively famous. In any case, when I saw this book while browsing, I decided to check it out.

My review is going to have a lot of references and comparisons to the movie. Can’t help having some preconceived notions when I have seen the movie before reading the book. I actually really liked the book. I wasn’t expecting to, I guess. But the book draws you into the lives of these girls. Each of them so different and so needy in their own ways.

My favorite is Lena, the shy beauty who is spending the summer in Greece with her grandparents. It doesn’t hurt that she was played by Alexis Bledel, who I think was perfect for the role. Lena has always been praised as beautiful. I liked that instead of having that go to her head, she is instead, introverted and unromantic when it comes to boys and love. But Lena is thrown for a loop when she falls in love for the first time. I also liked her relationship with her sister Effie. Effie was portrayed as more of a pest in the movie. But in the books, the sisters are very supportive. Of each other.

Then there is Tibby, stuck home to work at a Walgreens type store. I don’t remember this in the movie at all, but in that summer, Tibby meets Bailey, a wise 12 year old fighting leukemia. Suffice it to say, Tibby grew up a lot that summer and I went through quite a few kleenexes.

Then there is our narrator Carmen, who was supposed to spend the summer bonding with her dad. Instead, she finds him engaged with two future step kids. Carmen struggles with fitting into this new family, particularly because they are white suburbia all the way and she is part Puerto Rican. Some of her angst is self made, but she does deal with the issues a lt of children of divorced parents deal with.

Finally, there is Bridget, the sporty beauty at a soccer camp in Baja Mexico. Bee is exuberant and full of life, until she runs out of steam. In a way, she is the most fragile of the four, having lost her mother at a young age.

The book was a fast and enjoyable read. I think Ann Brashares painted a very three dimensional set of relatable characters. I’m going to see if the sequel is available too. B+
Ina way,

The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen

I am not a faithful reader of the Rizzoli and Isles series, but the couple of book I have read in the series have been good and entertaining. I always thought it was interesting that the author, Tess Gerritsen, is Chinese but you wouldn’t have guess it just by reading her books. Her characters, settings, and plots are all pretty mainstream.

The Silent Girl, the latest Rizzoli and Isles adventure, is bit of a departure in that it is set against the backdrop of Boston’s Chinatown. The plot revolves around a massacre at a Chinese restaurant 19 years ago. At the time, it thought to be an open and shut murder-suicide by the cook who had gone postal, killing 3 patrons of the restaurant and the waiter. But a series of events, beginning with another murder in Chinatown, made Rizzoli and Frost realize what happened 19 years ago may be the key to figuring out what is happening today.

Overall it was an entertaining read. The plot kept you guessing until the end. There were a few good twists and turns. And as usual, Ms. Gerritsen writes with her usual attention to detail. I may have had some preconceptions from watching the TV show. For example, I totally thought Detective Frost was a young black man as portrayed in the show, not a middle-aged white man as described in the books. Detective Korsak is also slightly different in the books than how he is portrayed on TV. These differences are not good or bad, just different. But, there is one difference between the TV show and the books that i wish weren’t different. The best thing I like about the TV show is the interaction and friendship between Detective Jane Rizzoli and ME Dr. Maura Isles. In this book, at least, Maura barely makes an appearance and the interaction between Jane and Maura was quite limited. Plus, by this book, Jane is married with a young child. It just feels like the entire dynamics between Rizzoli and Isles is different. I wish the book gave more attention to “Rizzoli and Isles.”.

But, like I said, the book is still entertaining and an enjoyable read. B+

Black Hills by Nora Roberts

First, hello blog world! Just downloaded the WordPress app for the iPad. Will I write more reviews this way? I am certainly reading more on my Kindle app, especially with library lending of Kindle books.

One Kindle book I got from the library is Nora Robert’s Black Hills. (Sorry – no links because I haven’t figured out an easy way to do it from the app.) The book’s premise was not my cup of tea at all. I am not at all about the wilderness or country life, and this book is set in the middle of nowhere, South Dakota. But I actually enjoyed the book a lot, certainly more than I expected.

Cooper, a child sadly neglected by his divorcing parents, was sent to live with his grandparents in South Dakota for a summer. There, he finds unconditional love from his grandparents, learns all about fishing, riding and not chewing tobacco. And he finds his best friend in a girl, Lillian. Coop returns to Black Hills time and again throughout the years. Eventually, he and Lil move from friends to lovers, until Coop breaks it off to make his own way. Years later, Coop moves back and settles in South Dakota, and goes about getting Lil back. In the meantime, Lil has made a name and life for herself. But the animal sanctuary that she has built has attracted a serial killer targeting her. Can Coop protect Lil and win her back? (That’s a rhetorical question. Duh!)

I liked Coop and Lil. Nora Roberts paints a vivid picture of their blossoming childhood friendship, which grows and changes with time. I was rooting for Coop, who is “mad and sad” from having selfish parents who could care less about their child as they go about their lives. I liked the supporting characters, the grandparents, Lil’s parents, the friends, interns and townspeople. The mystery/serial killer plot was just enough to move the story along without losing the romance aspect of the book. It was a nice balance.

A ll in all, an enjoyable read! B+!

An Unforgettable Lady by Jessica Bird (a.k.a. J.R. Ward)

Another post in less than a month!  Thanks to the complete lack of summer television choices, here I am with another review.

I picked up Jessica Bird (a.k.a. J.R. Ward)’s book, An Unforgettable Lady, at a used bookstore.  Good thing I only paid $3.99 for it and not the full price of $7.99.  As the author herself noted, this book was one of four contemporary books she wrote at the beginning of her career.  You can tell Ward is still getting into the groove of things.  Her distinct voice has not fully developed and we encounter some of the typical romance/suspense tropes in this book.  While this book was a decent read, it is not on the same level as the Black Dagger Brotherhood series.  So, I suppose part of my disappointment is due to my high expectations.

Grace Hall is an influential figure in Manhattan’s society.  She comes from a wealthy Manhattan family, is a countess by marriage, and now is the head of the Hall Foundation, an organization founded by her father.  Grace was one of six women featured in an article that ended up as a serial killer’s hit list.  Grace turns to John Smith, a securities expert with a murky past, to protect her.

The book is short, a little over 300 pages.  Perhaps partly due to its length, I felt the characters were not fully fleshed out and developed.  Grace seems like a pale predecessor to Marissa from Lover Revealed.  I liked Grace, mostly.  Her biggest problem is standing up to other people, including her late father, her soon-to-be ex-husband, her mother, all of whom tend to run roughshod over her.  But she’s trying.  She’s trying to run her father’s foundation.  She’s trying to stand up to her mother.  She’s trying to stand up to John.  While Grace does some stupid things, in general, she was pretty likeable, maybe just a tiny bit boring.

I actually didn’t like John very much.  John seems like a pale predecessor to any of the BDB alpha heroes.  My biggest issue with John was I felt he was not very nice to Grace.  John has a somewhat mysterious background.  It has been mentioned that he does not have a social security number and obviously the name John Smith is an alias.  I know what you’re thinking – Nooooo!  Really?!  John Smith is an alias??  Indeed it is!  There are implications that his background may have been concealed due to his previous work for the government but nothing is very clear.  Basically, John feels like he can’t get close to anyone due to the enemies he has made in his previous line of work.  So he pushes Grace away despite his attraction to her.  But he seems to go to the extremes.  At one point (pretty late in the story), he thought Grace made out with him and then turned around and slept with someone else so he basically called her a slut.  It seemed pretty unbelievable that at such a late stage in their relationship, he can contemplate that she would do such a thing.  He apologizes later, but it seems pretty lame to me.  That level of mistrust is not something that can be overcome by a simple apology.

I guess I didn’t really buy into the love story between John and Grace.  The ending seemed a bit unrealistic too.  Essentially, all of a sudden, once John realized he loves Grace, all the obstacles seemed to magically disappear, including his lack of a real identity, his supposed enemies etc.   The suspense portion of the story was not too bad.  Ward also introduces some secondary characters who are in other books.  I might go pick those up at the library or something so I can see what happened to them.

Overall: I gave it 2.5 stars.  It was okay.  But definitely check out the BDB series by J.R. Ward.  It doesn’t compare.

Finally, one more random comment.  What’s up with Ward’s choice of a pen name?  Jessica Bird?  I don’t know why, but I am not into this name at all.  Couldn’t she have picked a better pen name?  Bird sounds so … unromantic and non-authoritative.  Ok, yes, I realize this is quite random.

After a long absence …

Hello blog world!  You thought I had forgotten all about you, huh?  Nope!  But perhaps you have forgotten all about me?  *cries*!!!  Well, I admit I have been quite distracted.  A lot of traveling and personal stuff going on.  But I came across something that I just have to share.

Now, normally, I’m the most oblivious of creatures.  Things just pass me right on by.  But even I could not ignore what appears to be a blatant PhotoShop problem on the cover of Nora Robert’s Bride Quartet finale, Happily Ever After.

Happily Ever After by Nora Roberts

 

Now, take a look at the bride’s hand.  The one holding the flower.   The way that pinky is bent is just NOT okay. Plus, the bride appears to have no wrist.   Her arm goes straight to her hand.  Where is her wrist?  Yes, I know it should be hidden behind the bouquet.  But there is no way she actually has a wrist in this picture.  The arm looks stumpy.   So weird!  And why is the man’s ring on his right hand?  Yes, it is a wedding photo, but the way he’s holding her, we would not expect to see his ring.  Did they flip the image and then had to manipulate her hand so that it’s not covering his ring?  Um.  I would rather have her hand look normal than deformed.

If the image is not big enough on my blog post to see, click on the image.  It will take you over to Amazon.com.   You will see the disturbing digit on the larger image there.  Thanks to @janicu, I got a larger image.  Now you can see the stumpy deformity in its full glory!  Yikes!!!  After I noticed it, I could not stand to look at the cover.  So disturbing!

Since I’ve gone to the trouble of actually posting after so long, I suppose I should say something about the book itself.  I enjoyed it as a typical Nora Roberts book.  I confess, I got these books from the library and have yet to get my hands on the first of the brides quarter book – the one on Emma.  But, suffice it to say, you won’t miss much by reading these out of order.  As per usual Nora Robert’s fashion, each of the brides are different, yet Exactly. The. Same.  They are all strong women, who have a perfect sense of who they are, with strong friendships with the other women, who end up with the perfect men, who are all friends.  I don’t need to say much about the plot.  Rich girl meets poor boy who made good.  Girl and boy get together.  Boy has issues opening up.  They work it out.  Bam!  Happily ever after!

It was overall an enjoyable read.  The one thing that sometimes gets to me is the dialogues both the men and the women have, both internal and external.  No one thinks, or talks, like that!  Not men, not women.  No one!  But, it’s one of those things that’s typical Nora Roberts.  Most of the time it doesn’t bother me.  It’s just that sometimes, it gets to be too much.

Overall, a light fare perfect for a Sunday afternoon sitting by the pool.  I don’t have a pool, but if you had one, take this book out there and happy reading!

Import Success!

Well, I finally managed to import my blog entries from TypePad into WordPress.  It’s only been less than a month since I signed up for WordPress.  Not bad … for me.  I’m a bit surprised that after 3 years of blogging, I only have 40 entries??  Can this be true?!  Oh dear.   Hopefully none were lost in the forced migration from Vox to Typepad, though I am suspicious some were.  *ponders*  Oh well.  Too late to do anything about that now.  The export/import process from Typepad to WordPress was quite smooth.

40 entries in 3 years? … This is a statistic that really hits home what an inconsistent blogger I am.  But, as I say in my About Page, while I always have the best intentions, I probably will never be as diligent about blogging as I wish I could be.  That acknowledgment is actually a bit of a relief.  I used to endeavor to review every book I read.  But while I manage to read a lot despite my job, trying to review every book I read is actually a lot of pressure.

Anyway, this post is not about anything in particular.  I will just ramble a bit … Right now, I am almost finished with Susanne Collin’s The Hunger Games series.  I recently went on a brief vacation, which gave me a chance to speed through The Hunger Games and Catching Fire.  Now I am about 2/3 of the way finished with Mockingjay.  I will probably have a review of this series when I am done.  But so far, so good!  I definitely see what the fuss was about.

Back to reading now!

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The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

The Lost Symbol
Dan Brown
I was really looking forward to Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol.  Both husband and I put this book on hold at the library and we were number 100 something.  So I resigned myself to wait and wait and wait.  But behold!  At the 7-day checkout shelf, I saw a copy.  So I immediately lunged for it.  Surely I can finish this book in 7 days.  Plus, you can renew it once.  Surely 14 days is more than enough time to finish it, right? 

I did manage.  But it was not a fast-paced, speedy, one-setting read as I was expecting.  For those of you who follow my twitter (@bookfiend), you know I was complaining about the pace of this book.  I guess I was expecting something like National Treasure, but in book form – fast, action-packed, non-stop intrigue.  While The Lost Symbol ultimately proved enjoyable, it took a while for the ride to build up.

In The Lost Symbol, Professor Robert Langdon makes his third appearance.  I must confess, I don’t remember all the details of the previous books.  I do know that I really liked The Da Vinci Code and was not at all impressed with Angels and Demons.  Unfortunately, in this installment, the book fell closer on the scale toward Angels and Demons.

The action starts with Robert’s receiving a phone call from an old friend, Peter Solomon, who asks Robert to come to D.C. to give a lecture.  When Robert gets there, however, he finds a disturbing object in the Capitol Building, along with the news that his friend has been kidnapped.  The madman challenges Robert to decipher a Masonic secret in order to get his friend back.  Robert, along with Peter’s sister, Katherine, race against the clock and the CIA to solve the mystery.

I didn’t enjoy the pacing of the book.  It felt like the action didn’t get started until mid-way through the book, which at 500 pages, was a bit too long of a wait.  The problem is because of the sheer amount of symbolism and history and myths, it all takes a while to explain.  The way it’s done is through flashback.  Every few pages, Robert would think about some event in the past that explains something.  It really slowed down the pace.  Also, there is a tendancy for Robert to lecture on something.  It kind of felt like I was getting a history lesson or something at some points in the book.  I mean, I appreciate the difficulty in imparting this type of information to the reader.  But I don’t know, something about the way it’s done slowed down the book a lot and made the action flow much more slowly.

As for the plot, while enjoyable, I’m not sure it is all that intricate.  I kinda figured out who the bad guy is long before the end of the book.  The plot seems more philosophical than anything else.  I don’t want to say any more to spoil anyone.  But suffice it to say, from the author who penned both Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci code, I should have expected this level of religious undertone to the book.

Overall, while the action finally picked up and the overall story was enjoyable, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.  I would definitely recommend reading it, but perhaps not worth buying the hardback version.  B-.

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