Saturday, December 29, 2012

My Beautiful Failure by Janet Ruth Young

Billy is a sixteen year old high school sophomore.  The winter prior to the start of this book, his father was severely depressed.  He wasn't eating or sleeping and he eventually had to seek treatment.  This was a very stressful time for Billy and his family and it greatly influenced who Billy is today.   

Throughout the book, Billy maintains a watchful eye on his father and tries to make sure he does everything necessary to remain healthy.  He has even decided that he would like to become a psychologist because he wants to help others like his father.  His father decides to paint as a hobby and eventually wants to have an art show.  His stress level begins to increase and he is once again not sleeping or eating.  Billy begins to worry that things will spiral out of control again.

His father tells him to find a project or hobby of his own, so he decides to volunteer at Listeners, a suicide hot line.  He is remarkably good at listening and handles the calls perfectly when he first starts.  He begins to take a personal interest in one of the regular callers named Jenney.  

As Billy's concern for his father increases, so does his own need for emotional support.  He and Jenney begin to rely on each other and their relationship turns into more than that of a typical Listener and Incoming.

While Billy is not going to become my next fictional boyfriend, I can certainly appreciate what he was trying to accomplish.  He seemed to have only the best of intentions even if his actions were not always ideal.

I really enjoyed the format of the book.  When Billy wasn't talking to another character or caller, it felt like he was talking to the reader.  He would tell us about what happened when his father was ill and what he was observing now.  The chapters are very short and the conversational style kept the pages turning.

The one thing that did bother me is the fact that the author used an acronym twice in the book without defining it.  I spent a considerable amount of time researching it and even asked one of the doctors I work with to see if he knew what it meant, but I am still at a loss.  Based upon the context it was used in, I am guessing that Billy was referring to his father the way we would refer to a patient.  Kind of like he was the psychologist and his dad is his patient.  If a doctor and nurse can't figure out what the acronym means, it clearly should be defined when used in a teen novel.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

2nd Chance by James Patterson

At the beginning of 2nd Chance there is a shooting outside a church near the projects, which results in the death of a 10 year old girl.  Lieutenant Lindsay Boxer and her team thought it was a racially motivated hate crime.

Cindy, the reporter in the Women's Murder Club, clued Lindsay in on the possibility that this case may be linked to another murder that occurred a few days prior in another city.  Lindsay begins looking into that case and does find a link between the two, but why would someone shoot at a church and murder an elderly black woman?  When Claire, the medical examiner, completes the autopsy on the little girl she discovers that she was not hit by accident and that they were dealing with a very skilled marksman.

Two police officers are murdered and Lindsay still has next to nothing to go on, until they discover that the symbol found at two of the crime scenes is linked to a prison gang.  They also discover that all of the victims are related to city cops, but what is the motive?

As they uncover clues and get closer to solving this case the murderer selects victims that are increasingly closer to Lindsay.  I thought the mystery was very gripping and the interactions  between all of the members of the murder club were very realistic and entertaining.  We also get to see more of their personal lives in this book in addition to all of their professional interactions.

The one thing that did bother me about this book is the fact that Lindsay seems to take unnecessary risks in the line of duty.  I understand that she is trying to do her job and wants nothing more than to get this creep off the streets, but I don't think ANY cop would have put him/herself in some of the situations she did.  It seemed a bit unrealistic and extreme to me.

I was definitely surprised by who the murderer ended up being and how all of the cases were linked.  This is a very fast paced book and there are a lot of unexpected twists that I did not see coming.  If you enjoy murder mysteries, this is an excellent series.

Friday, December 21, 2012

I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella

I recently let a friend of mine borrow my copy of this book because I thought he could benefit from the message it contains.  I use the term borrow loosely because I actually gave it to him as a pre-Christmas gift with the following instructions.  "Please read this book and return it to me.  If you can tell me the take home message...I will give you your Christmas present."  I thought he would be ready to kill me for giving him such a feminine book to take with him on his family vacation, but surprisingly...he thought it was entertaining.  On top of that, he seems (at least for the time being) to have benefited from the message it contains.  We will see how long it takes him to revert back to his and Sam Roxton's old ways.

Poppy Wyatt is recently engaged, but it doesn't take her long to lose her engagement ring.  On top of that, someone swipes her cell phone.  Now she has no way of being reached if someone does find her ring.  Just when she thinks things can't get any worse, she finds a cell phone in the trash and the story takes off from there.

Poppy begins corresponding with the owner of the cell phone Sam Roxton, who is a marketing executive.  We quickly learn from their texting and e-mail styles that these two characters are polar opposites.  I found it very interesting how comfortable someone can be when carrying on a relationship via text, but when you put those same two people face to face...things quickly become very awkward.  It is so much easier to hit send than it is to talk about many of the same things in person.  Why is that?  

I know this book is supposed to be a stand alone, but I think there is potential for this to become a series.  The characters are very enjoyable and I would love to find out what happens next for not only the main characters, but for many of the supporting characters as well.  It was a very light, funny, fast paced book that I have recommend to most of my girl friends.

I haven't ready any of Sophie's other books, but I plan on starting the Shopaholic series in the near future.  If you have read and enjoyed any of her other books...I would love to hear some of your thoughts and any recommendations you may have.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

1st to Die by James Patterson

I started reading 2nd chance yesterday, the second book in the Women's Murder Club series.  It has been a while since I read the first book, so I decided I needed a little refresher of the characters.  For anyone else who may be interested in this series, here is a copy of my review of 1st to Die.

The Women's Murder Club is formed during 1st to Die in an effort to catch a brutal murderer preying on young newlyweds.  Each woman provides a different piece of the puzzle and is essential in solving the crimes.  Lindsay Boxer is the homicide detective working the investigation.  Her long time friend Claire Washburn is the Medical Examiner assigned to the cases.  Cindy Thomas is a reporter that stumbled upon the initial crime scene and develops a relationship with Lindsay.  When the investigation seems to have come to a halt, Lindsay decides to introduce Cindy to Claire.  The three women meet off the record to brainstorm over margaritas.  Once they have enough evidence for a search warrant and arrest, they seek the assistance of Jill Bernhardt the assistant district attorney.  When Lindsay decides that the case is not taking the direction she first thought it was, she invites Jill to their next club meeting...over more margaritas of course.  Their friendship, strong work ethic, and expertise in their fields enables them to crack a case that is far more than it initially appears to be.

Patterson had me on the edge of my seat from the initial crime to the final scene.  I was sure I knew who the murderer was with about 100 pages left in the book.  I sent fellow BookNerd, Mary, a message and she said to keep reading.  After another 50 pages...I was sure it was someone else.  She once again said to keep reading.  I was SHOCKED by who was eventually responsible for the crimes.  I didn't see it coming at all, but in retrospect it makes complete sense.  Patterson laid out an amazing murder mystery with brilliant characters.  I can't wait to read the rest of this series.  Hopefully I will be able to fit one in here and there between all of my favorite YA series and other BookNerd assignments.  

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to meet Stacey Kade at the RT convention in Chicago earlier this year.  She participated in a speed reading panel and read a short section from her latest book Body and Soul.  I was so intrigued, I added her entire Ghost and the Goth series to my to be read list on Goodreads as soon as she finished.

Later that evening, I received a copy of Body and Soul as part of the teen day gift bag we received at the reception.  I was SO excited, I had to track her down to get it autographed. 

The Ghost and the Goth is told from both Alona Dare and Will Killian's perspectives with alternating points of view each chapter.  At the beginning of the story we meet Alona, who was a senior in high school when she died in an unfortunate accident.  (She was literally hit by a bus.)  She was a cheerleader, three time homecoming queen, and a member of her school's elite.  Will is about as far down on the social ladder as one can get.  He is perceived to be schizophrenic and has a medical excuse to wear headphones during school.  The real reason for his "condition" is the fact that he can see ghosts.  The ghosts are constantly talking to him, so he needs the headphones to help tune them out.   

After Alona's death she comes back as a ghost and quickly discovers Will's ability.  Alona wants Will to help her "find the light" while he can benefit from her keeping the other ghosts away from him.  They establish a working relationship, which eventually develops into a friendship. 

The Ghost and the Goth was very light, humorous, and highly entertaining.  I loved the characters and look forward to seeing what is in store for them in Queen of the Dead, which is the second book in this series.   

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky

After I posted my review of Middle Ground, I had a few people ask me about Awaken...the first book in the series.  Here is a copy of the review I posted on Book Nerds Across America.

Awaken is set about 50 years into the future.  From the way technology is moving at the speed of light and people are embracing it without thought or question, I do not feel that Katie's predictions are unrealistic.

I found this book to be very thought provoking.  How many times have you been out with friends or family and spent more time with your head in your phone than interacting with the people you are with?  Are your virtual friends more important than your actual friends?  What do you REALLY know about your thousands of friends on twitter, blogs, and other social networking sites.  Is technology making face to face contact awkward and uncomfortable?  Is it time that we take a step back and actually become "unplugged?"

This is exactly what Justin and his friends are trying to do.  They are helping people who want to live the way things were in the early 2000s, which is considered to be a crime.  Life doesn't have to be ALL about speed and convenience.  We need to take the time to enjoy food, friends, family, and daily activities.  We need to take a step away from the digital world and actually LIVE our lives.  Yes...we can tour a location on a digital screen, but we are not engaging all of our senses and we are missing out on the true experience.  These are just a few of the lessons that I took away from this book and could really relate to while reading it.

The other main character in this book is Madeline.  Her father is the founder of Digital School, but she is a strong supporter of Justin's cause.  While Justin is helping others to live freely, he is all about work and has closed himself off on a personal level.  Madeline is the one person that confronted him about how he needs to take time for himself.  There needs to be a balance in life.  For the first time in his life, Justin spends more than a day in one place.  He begins to develop a relationship with Madeline, but he is still learning how to become unplugged emotionally.

Madeline and Justin's relationship is still evolving and there is a considerable amount of work that still needs to be done if the world is truly going to become unplugged.  Fortunately for us, Katie has a sequel to this book, Middle Ground, which is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2012.  I have already added it to my to be read list and will be anxiously awaiting its release.  I absolutely loved the characters and can't wait to see what is in store for them in the sequel.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Middle Ground by Katie Kacvinsky

Middle Ground is the second installment in the Awaken series by Katie Kacvinsky.  In the first book we met Maddie, who is the daughter of the founder of Digital School.  She is not happy living a digital life and has gotten into a lot of trouble over the years.  When she met Justin, the leader of a group of rebels fighting for a life that is "unplugged" or less digital, she finally found a place where she fit in. 

At the beginning of Middle Ground, Maddie is living in Los Angeles with her brother and some friends just tyring to complete her last year of digital school.  In typical Maddie fashion, it did not take her long to stir things up in LA.  She causes a disturbance at a "digital club", which ultimately ends up landing her in a detention center. 

During her six month sentence, she gathers evidence about the detention center to help bring down digital school once and for all.  The detention center was an awful place, but Maddie did what she felt was necessary for the benefit of the cause.  Fortunately, she did not have to work alone.  She becomes friends with Gabe, a staff member at the detention center.  He grew up in a community that was completely unplugged and can relate to Maddie.  He contacts Justin and helps coordinate weekly meetings between Justin, Maddie, Molly, Pat, and Claire. 

Justin and Maddie's relationship continues to grow throughout this book.  She comes to realize that she loves her family, but she belongs with her friends.  In the final book in this series we should find out if there is a way for her to have both, or if the differences between Maddie and her father will be too much to overcome.     

By now, you should all know that I am a HUGE fan of Katie's work.  I have read all four of her books and I have LOVED them all.  Once again she has some great quotes scattered throughout the story.  Here are a couple of my favorites.

"One in three people is crazy.  And the other two are liars." 

"Your only normal friends are the ones you don't know very well."

Middle Ground was actually better than Awaken and will leave the reader satisfied, but curious about what is yet to come.