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Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Tenth Circle - Jodi Picoult



Released October 2006

www.jodipicoult.com

Once again, the key reason I picked up a copy of Jodi Picoult's The Tenth Circle is because an area high school banned the book from its English class. This time, parents claimed the book was violent, there was graphic rape and bullying. And again, I still feel parents are being overprotective because like it or not, rape does happen, bullying happens and kids see far more violence on the nightly news or in a newspaper than they'll "see" in this book.

In The Tenth Circle, Trixie Stone is heartbroken over the break up of her and her jock boyfriend, Jason. Jason is the classic all-American with a bright future. He's the town's hockey star and idol of many. One night, Trixie is at a friend's house where a plan is in store for Trixie to make Jason jealous and win him back. The night ends with Trixie saying she's been raped by Jason.

Trixie's dad, Daniel, will do anything to protect his only child. When she tells him Jason raped her, he feels the wind knocked out of him. He's never felt such intense hatred and rage for another. But Daniel knows that Trixie needs him now more than ever. Neither Trixie nor Daniel's wife Laura know of Daniel's past. They don't know why he fled Alaska and that weighs heavily on his mind now that he's facing another tragic event.

What follows is the story of the Stone's life after the rape. Trixie tries to return to school while the case builds, but the treatment from not only fellow students but also teachers makes it impossible for Trixie to go on with her life. Adding layers of complication is the prosecution's announcement that they don't have much of a case and Jason is likely to get away with it.

The Tenth Circle made me cry. I definitely needed Kleenex handy. It certainly didn't help that I have a 14-year-old daughter and kept imagining what I would do if she came to me stating her boyfriend had raped her. It would take every ounce of self-control to not castrate him. Therefore, I found it all to easy to related to Laura and Daniel as they tried to keep things as normal as possible for Trixie.

There are a few surprises thrown in. What is very interesting is the tie-in to the classic Dante's Inferno and snippets of a related graphic novel that Daniel is writing. The graphic novel adds essential breaks to the very gripping, very emotional story.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Nineteen Minutes - Jodi Picoult



Released February 2008

www.jodipicoult.com

I have this thing about book banning. After hearing on a local news station, that parents confronted an area high school and demanded that Nineteen Minutes be banned from the classroom, I decided I had to read it for myself.

I do agree that it's a parent's responsibility to monitor what their child reads, plays and watches. However, banning a book being taught in an English class because of the content seems a little absurd. Life, in general, is full of atrocities. Columbine happened and you can't make it go away. Even if parents think they can ban away fiction of this nature so that their teen doesn't know, you can guarantee that your teen is exposed to things ten times worse on a daily basis simply by watching the evening news.

If you were to ban every book that contained violent or graphic context, you'd have to remove To Kill a Mockingbird (rape and racism), Romeo and Juliet (suicide), Macbeth and Hamlet (murder), etc. The list goes on. I've read Nineteen Minutes and cried. Now it's in the hands of my 14-year-old who says the author's done a fantastic job capturing all aspects of bullying and the lack of response from teachers.

Nineteen Minutes takes place in small-town New Hampshire. Peter Houghton's been bullied since kindergarten by a variety of people, including his older brother. His first day of school started out with his lunch box being thrown out the window and nothing ever improved. He's now well into high school and the one person he could count on for protection has become one of the popular kids. Peter's reached his breaking point.

After one last targeted act of bullying pushes Peter over the edge, he goes to school with guns and targets those who made his life a living hell. The one person he counted on, the local judge's daughter, watches her friends die and blacks out the events. Whether or not Jodie will be a worthwhile witness is anyone's guess.

As a parent, I found myself torn. I felt horrible for everything Peter endured. I could sympathize with the actions that did push him over the edge. I was disheartened that the bullying was allowed to carry on for so long and teachers did little to stop it.

However, I also found myself feeling horrible for the victims. I can't imagine getting that call that my child's been killed by a peer that snapped. Jodi Picoult excels at creating a sympathetic situation where the reader clearly sympathizes with both sides of the picture.

Nineteen Minutes ends with a series of discussion questions. My teens and I have discussed the aspects of this book. One of the leading questions that we're still debating is how much responsibility should the bully take when his actions lead to causing another to snap and go on a rampage. It's an extremely interesting case and one that I feel is perfect for classrooms. It might help teens understand how their actions can impact the world around them--good or bad.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Holiday Triplets - Jacqueline Diamond




Released December 2010

www.eharlequin.com

www.jacquelinediamond.com

The latest entry into Jacqueline Diamond's Safe Harbor Medical romance series shares Sam Forrest's story. Sam's created a few ripples as head of pediatrics. Once again, she finds herself in a heated battle with the hospital administrator, Dr. Mark Rayburn, when she learns he wants her clinic space for a new fertility lab.

Things take a turn when one of the teen moms Sam's been counseling gives birth to triplets and decides they're too much. Sam's already fallen for the newborns and agrees to adopt them herself. Mark is shocked that workaholic Sam would agree to add more chaos to her life. However, the more time he spends with her, the more he's falling in love. The question remains--will she ever see him as more than an obstacle to her life goals?

Set in the midst of the holiday season, The Holiday Triplets is a sweet romance. Characters shine and adjust to new situations. I'll admit that I felt Mark, given his role as hospital administrator, was a little on the wimpy side and often did as he was told rather than what he felt was best for his hospital. It took me a bit to warm up to him for that reason.

Sam's been a favorite character. She's bold and definitely doesn't care if she's upset someone in the process of getting things done. She certainly has her flaws, but then no one is perfect. She's all about the greater good and not keeping everyone happy. Sometimes in life, you have to take the reins and get things done. I think that's what made me enjoy her so much. I saw a little of myself in her.

Jacqueline Diamond's The Holiday Triplets is an easy read. Perfect for filling time between cookie batches or holiday gift wrapping.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Duke's Night of Sin - Kathryn Caskie




Released December 2010

www.avonromance.com

www.kathryncaskie.com

Following the death of her fiance, Lady Siusan Sinclair has felt empty. A passionate encounter in a dark library invigorates her, but at the same time, she knows she's risked a lot by having sex with a complete stranger--unprotected sex at that. Her family's already been through numerous scandals, so she opts to run off and become a teacher at a school for young girls. If she is pregnant, her father will never know.

Sebastian Beaufort, Duke of Exeter, must find a bride. However, the only woman to appeal to him is a complete mystery. He never saw her face, only her dress as she ran from the dark library where they made love. He knows she is the woman he needs, yet he has no idea how to find her. When he heads to Bath to discuss Gemma, his niece's, education, he's surprised at how drawn he is to Gemma's teacher. Little does he know that his mysterious woman and Gemma's teacher are one and the same.

The Duke's Night of Sin is the third novel in the Sinclair's series. I missed the first two books and didn't feel I lost any backstory with the Sinclairs. I don't necessarily think you must read the books in order, though after reading Siusan's story, you may be intrigued enough to go back and catch up!

Full of passion and romance, I found Kathryn Caskie's novel to be mesmerizing. I read it in one sitting and would love to read more. I'm especially eager to see who the younger sister, Priscilla, is matched when her novel is written.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Zombie Survival Guide - Max Brooks



Released September 2003

www.crownpublishing.com

If zombies were real, how prepared are you for survival? Max Brooks bestselling The Zombie Survival Guide delves into the best way to prepare for a zombie apocalypse. From the best weapon to the best vehicle for travel, nothing is ignored in this guide.

Presented as a non-fiction "how-to," the son of famed Mel Brooks melds humor to every page. The book contains a thorough weapons guide, best hideouts, places to avoid and even covers the best terrain for traveling. He finishes the book with details on recorded zombie attacks and leaves you blank pages for noting additional zombie attacks, as well as a sample on how to fill out the pages.

If you're a fan of zombie flicks, particularly Zombieland or Shaun of the Dead, you're definitely the right person for Max Brooks' The Zombie Survival Guide. It's humorous and definitely needs to be studied by some movie makers who keep trying to come up with a zombie movie but missing by a mile.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cousin Myrtle - P.J. McCalla (General Fiction)




Released October 2010

www.theelevatorgroup.com

Seeing friends struggle to make ends meet and eventually divorce, twenty-four-year-old Jessie knows her ticket in life was to meet and marry a rich old man. When she meets seventy-four-year-old Sam Sharpe, owner of a number of gas stations and body shops, Jessie knows he is her ticket to her desired lifestyle. Jessie does what she pleases and Sam seems to dote on her every movie. She never expects him to open their new home to his elderly cousin Myrtle though. As time passes, Jessie's resentment towards being Myrtle's caregiver grows.

Meanwhile, Myrtle realizes that Jessie's simply after a sugar daddy and definitely not the right woman for her cousin. Myrtle's been evicted from her home and sees Sam as gullible enough to taking her in for good, especially if she acts bedridden. She begins to plot to get him to see the light and remove Jessie from his life before it's too late. Myrtle's running a con of her own and she doesn't want Jessie to get in the way of her goal.

From the get-go, Myrtle is a despicable character. There is nothing redeeming about this woman. Jessie's not much better, however. I honestly hoped Sam would smarten up and kick both women out and find a gentler, kinder soul for himself.

By chapter 14, Cousin Myrtle reaches its big moment. I thoroughly believe the story could have ended there. However, it doesn't. Cousin Myrtle then continues on and deviates into Jessie's conflict between finding friends and companionship with those closer to her own age. Eventually, she makes a decision that forces her to realize she must make a choice, if it's not too late.

Cousin Myrtle's not a bad story. It is a good study into the highs and lows of large age gaps between spouses. I'm still not sure it needed the second conflict added, but that's the path the author chose.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Fall - Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan (Horror)



Released October 2010

www.thestraintrilogy.com
www.harpercollins.com

Continuing where 2009's The Strain left off, The Fall continues the saga as man battles vampire to save the planet. I highly recommend reading The Strain first. It details a lot of backstory involving the characters and their plight.

 A few characters share center stage in the second of this trilogy. Ephraim Goodweather is doing all he can to keep his son, Zack, safe. Zack's mother has been turned and desperately seeks Zack so that she can obey her master's request that she spread the disease to her pre-teen son. While trying to remain a step ahead of his ex-wife, Ephraim is also trying to help learn how the vampiric disease came about and what they can do to stop it.

Abraham Stretrakian survived the Holocaust and is damned if he'll let vampires end his life. He knows more about the vampires than anyone and knows that everyone's future depends on his obtaining the rare book Occido Lumen.

Joining them in the quest to end the vampire race are Vasiliy Vet, an exterminator; CDC Dr. Nora Martinez and Gus Elizade, a teenager and seasoned criminal. No one truly understands the danger that awaits them as the Master and a horde of ancient vampires begin their own battle for control of humankind.

Guillermo del Toro wowed me years ago with his story Pan's Labyrinth. His vampire series is just as amazing. It's brutally graphic, yet there is incredible heart to each of the characters. I definitely found it easier to bond with the characters this time around.

With the exception of the vampires, it's hard to decide which character could be expendable if it comes to that point. The vampires grow more cunning and I thought there was a little more detail into the hideous creatures, particularly with the aspect of their "stinger" and the worms within them this time. The writing is incredibly vivid and it's easy to create mental images as the scenes play out. I can't wait to see how Eph and his team defeat the Master, the rest of the vampires and restore hope for humanity, if that's even possible...

Monday, November 8, 2010

No Place to Run - Maya Banks (Romantic Suspense)




Released December 2010

www.penguin.com

Five months after a passionate affair, Sam Kelly is shocked to find Sophie Lundgren floating half dead in the lake behind his home. He and his brothers, all part of the Kelly Group International, nurse the pregnant Sophie back to health. All are suspicious of her actions, but she's told them they're all in danger, so safeguarding all members of the family takes priority.

Soon, it's apparent just how much danger they all face. Keeping Sophie, her and Sam's unborn child and the rest of the family is going to require every ounce of skill the men and women of KGI possess.

The storyline in No Place to Run certainly takes an important place in this story. The reader knows Sophie's secret from the start, but the rest of the KGI has to learn what she's hiding. This heightens suspense as the reader waits to see if they'll be able to figure it before it's too late.

Sam and Sophie's relationship is very steamy. Romantic scenes heat up the room and definitely relate just how much these two characters need each other. Other characters are given a little room to grow and it's clear that Garrett's story is next. I can't wait to see Garrett fall head over heels! Readers are treated to a glimpse of Ethan and Rachel (The Darkest Hour) now that their story's been told. If you missed the first entry into this series, No Place to Run does stand alone, but, like me, you'll probably be intrigued with the family and want to read the first book.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Taste of Romance - Roni Denholtz (Contemporary Romance)



Released December 2010

www.avalonbooks.com

Meet Nicole Vitarelli, host of the new cable show A Taste of Romance. Nicole's show is doing well, but her executive producer wants to put a face to the boyfriend she's always mentioning on air. There's one big problem, Nicole's as single as they come!

Desperate to find a stand-in beau, Nicole asks her neighbor, Jeremy Perez, to play the part of her boyfriend. He agrees on one condition, Nicole must cook dinners for him from time to time.

Nicole loves to cook and she certainly doesn't mind being in Jeremy's company, so this arrangement can't be bad! There's just one little problem. The pair of them have relationship phobias that they must overcome if they can make a real go of their budding romance.

I fully enjoyed the relationship between Nicole and Jeremy. They clicked from the start and had a great thing going. Now, every romance story has to have that hurdle. I'm still waiting on that one romance that ignores that common plot device and goes for that dose of originality.

I know from experience that people can have a happily-ever-after romance without running into some disagreement or misunderstanding. I kind of hoped that A Taste of Romance would be that one to bypass the norm. It's not, but the story is still great. Avalon Books aren't long, so if you like series romance, you're bound to enjoy this one!

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Best American Comics 2010 - Edited by Neil Gaiman (Comics)




Released October 2010

www.bestamericancomics.com

Comics by nature are subjective. I never understood my brothers' fascination with superheroes any more than they understood my passion for Archie comics. The Best American Comics 2010 introduces segments of what the editors felt were some of today's best comics, many came from graphic novels.

Qualifications for those comics that made it into this book included:

  • Book had to have been published in North America
  • Publication date had to have been between September 1, 2008 and August 31, 2009


Among the comic snippets, I certainly had favorites. C'est ci n'est pas une comic (A George W. Bush Administration Retrospective) cracked me up. There's a lot of truth to that one.

The Lagoon was intriguing, somewhat creepy yet also slightly romantic. The comic series starting with Defining Beauty that chronicles a pregnancy certainly will hit many women as being very, very true. But hands down, it was The Alcoholic that made me cry. There's so much truth to that story and it will be hard for anyone to not be affected by it.

You'll find a wide range of comics, including a snippet from Scott Pilgrim, a take on Genesis and the extremely true The War on Fornication.

Comic aficionados will love the collection of comics found within. Maybe in future editions we'll find one of my favorite comics, Questionable Content, as it has finally been released in a book format.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dead Even - Brad Meltzer (Legal Fiction)




Released November 2010

www.bradmeltzer.com
www.harpercollins.com

Every now and then a book really catches my attention and Dead Even is one that hooked me from the start. The story is pretty involving. Sara and Jared Tate are happily married attorneys. Sara's finally landed a job after months of searching and she's working for the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. Jared is a defense attorney on the ladder for promotion to partner.

On Sara's first day as ADA, she takes a case meant for another lawyer but that seems so dull, she figures he'll never miss it. She finds out soon enough just how wrong she really is. The simply burglary case isn't quite what a seems. Suddenly, Jared's dragged into the case after the accused hires him as his defense attorney. Jared's been told that if he loses, Sara dies. Meanwhile, a mysterious stranger catches up with Sara and informs her that if she loses, Jared dies. If they tell anyone else, again their spouse dies.

Dead Even is gripping from the start. It's one of those rare books that hooks you in and keeps you up till the wee hours because you just have to know how this horrible predicament is going to be resolved. Author Brad Meltzer creates incredibly evil bad guys making it clear that they will do exactly what they've promised.

Originally published in 1998, Dead Even is definitely worth reading if you missed it the first time around. I found it hard not to try to cast the characters while reading because I see potential blockbuster smash with this chilling legal suspense!