Monday, July 26, 2010

Thedoore Boone: Kid Lawyer by John Grisham

Thirteen year old Theodore Boone is surrounded by lawyers. Both of his parents are lawyers. His Uncle Ike, is a former lawyer. He knows almost all the lawyers at the courthouse where he spends as much time as he can. It’s no wonder Theo considers himself a lawyer or at least a lawyer in training. Theo spends his days doing all his homework, visiting Uncle Ike once a week, getting dogs released from animal court and offer advice to both kids and adults. Soon Theo finds himself caught up in a high profile murder trial. Theo knows a secret, one that could impact the outcome of the trial. The only problem is that he’s sworn to secrecy. What’s a kid lawyer to do?

John Grisham is an excellent storyteller, but he misses the mark on this one. While Grisham does an excellent job of explaining the legal system in young adult terms, the story lacks the intense pace and excitement needed to engage teens. Theo is a character with a lot of potential but unfortunately comes across rather flat and at times seems too good to be true. Grisham seems out of touch with real kids. Hardly any of the teens have cell phones. Just take a walk down any real middle school hallway and you’ll see that’s not the case with real teens. Early in the book Theo states that he doesn’t know a "single thirteen-year-old boy who admitted to having a girlfriend. Just the opposite. They wanted nothing to do with them. And the girls felt the same way. Theo had been warned that things would change, and dramatically, but that seemed unlikely." (7). That does not mesh with what I have experienced as an elementary and teen services librarian. And finally, the ending was very disappointing. In fact it didn’t seem like an ending at all. I’ve read reviews that indicate this is the beginning of a series. Perhaps the ending was supposed to be a cliffhanger, but it fell short. Possibly all will be revealed in the next installment (provided there is one). Readers who picked up this book expecting Grisham’s usual stellar work will be disappointed. If it is a series, they may not return to see if it improves.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Lip Smacking New Mystery Series by Riley Adams

Delicious and Suspicious by Riley Adams

Aunt Pat’s is a family run BBQ restaurant in the heart of Memphis. The restaurant, known for its ribs and spicy cornbread catches the eye of The Cooking Channel Network, which sends Rebecca Adrian to scout it out for a possible segment on the show. Lulu, the family matriarch is all set to show the network that Aunt Pat’s has the best BBQ around. However, things take the wrong turn when Rebecca manages to insult nearly everyone she comes in contact with. It’s no surprise when Rebecca is found dead in her hotel room, a victim of poisoning, just after eating a big meal at Aunt Pat’s. Suspects abound. Lulu must solve the mystery to save not only her friends and family, but Aunt Pat’s reputation.

At first, I found this story to hard to get into. There was just so much going on in the beginning (perhaps I was distracted by my crazy life), but it wasn’t long before Adams has reached out grabbed me by the collar and pulled me into the story. I was hooked. Lulu is a wonderful amateur sleuth. She’s not overbearing, as can sometimes be the case in cozy mysteries. She’s a kind-hearted woman who cares about her friends and family and tries very hard to do the right thing. She draws information from suspects without them realizing they are being grilled.

Aunt Pat’s regulars add season to the story making the restaurant feel like a true down home place. I’m looking forward to learning more about The Graces (docents at Graceland), the Jazz Trio (three gentlemen somewhat past their prime, but still in the swing of things), and Lulu’s daughter in law, Sarah who happens to be an artist. After finishing this book, I have a craving for some good southern BBQ. This is not a book to read on an empty stomach. Be sure to check out the recipes included at the end.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Book Blogger Hop

Just found this on one of the blogs that I follow (Lori's Reading Corner)

Check it out. It's a great way to find new books/blogs. Click here

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Delicious New Series by Avery Aames

Charlotte and her cousin Matthew have taken over The Cheese Shop from their grandparents. They update the interior, add a wine shop and plan a spectacular grand reopening. Things are going great until Ed Woodhouse and his overbearing wife Kristine threaten to sell the building out from under them.

Juggling the demands of running the shop, helping Matthew raise his twin daughters and trying to catch the eye of handsome cheese supplier Jordan Pace are more than enough to keep Charlotte’s plate overflowing. Things get really complicated when dead body is the surprise guest at the grand reopening and Charlotte’s grandmother is the prime suspect. Can Charlotte keep The Cheese Shop going and solve the murder proving her grandmother innocent?

The Long Quiche Goodbye is a mouth-watering read. The characters are well developed. The reader will be intrigued by them and eager to learn more about them, even the less than loveable ones. Charlotte is a strong female character with a sharp mind and a kind heart. She’s definitely a character worth following. This new series has a lot to offer mystery and cheese lovers alike.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Gone by Michael Grant - Every Kid's Dream Or Is It a Nightmare?

Perdido Beach seems like hundreds of other small coastal towns. It does have a nuclear power plant and a private school (Coate’s Academy) for, well let’s call them challenging students. But everything is pretty normal until normal disappears.

It’s every kid’s dream. All the adults just disappear. Anyone over the age of 14 just “poofs” out. Kids rule. Yet, it turns out to be more of a nightmare than a dream come true. Order disappears along with the adults. Bullies reign. To make things even more unsettling, animals start mutating and some kids develop strange, often dangerous powers. And there’s no getting out. An impenetrable bubble has surrounded the town of Perdido Beach, cutting everyone off from the outside world. This story is an intense battle between good and evil. Some readers might find it reminiscent of Lord of the Flies.

The survivors have divided themselves into two groups. One is led by Sam, a teen from the local public school. Known as School bus Sam because he once took charge and saved the day when the bus driver had a heart attack while driving a busload of kids. The other group is lead by Caine, a student from Coate’s Academy. Sam is the reluctant hero, while Caine is a power grabbing bully. They share a hidden past they are both unaware of until one of Caine’s followers starts researching everyone’s backgrounds.

Young adults (and adults) who enjoy futuristic dystopian stories will enjoy this series. Gone is the first in a series. However, adults should be prepared to be shocked by some of the behavior. Kids can be scary. If you enjoyed Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games or James Dashner’s The Maze Runner, you should give this series a try.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Graceful New Series - Grace Under Pressure by Julie Hyzy

Grace Under Pressure by Julie Hyzy was an impulse buy for me. I had not read any of her other books, but liked the cover and thought I would give this one a try. It was money well spent.

Grace Wheaton has always loved Marshfield Manor, the 150-room mansion in her hometown of Emberstowne. After returning home to take care of her ill mother, she takes a job at the assistant curator at the Manor. The story opens with a wild man rampaging through the tearoom in search of a hamburger. Grace handles this situation with, well quiet grace, but she is soon rattled by the shooting death of the curator. Was the crazed hamburger man, just a coincidence or a distraction to give the murderer his opportunity to kill? With the curator gone and everything in an uproar, Grace steps up to the plate to keep everything running smoothly and help the authorities solve the case.

Grace must deal with a staff that is not sure they can trust her, including an assistant who is not only convinced she can do better than Grace, but is also a top busybody. There’s a crazy private investigator who keeps sneaking in and out of the manor and a hotel guest who is not only out to stick the manor for an expensive hotel stay, but is intent on scamming Grace’s two roommates who own the local wine shop.

There is a great deal going on in this book. Grace not only has to figure the secrets of Marshfield Manor but must solve some family secrets as well. Some reviewers have complained that the pacing in this book was too slow. I believe it is just right. It’s not an on the edge of your seat thriller, but it is a very nice cozy read. Things move along at just the right pace to keep the reader interested without moving so quickly that details get lost.

I’m looking forward to learning more about Grace, Bennett Marshfield – owner of Marshfield Manor and the other residents of Emberstowne.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Another Dark and Brooding Boarding School Tale

Immortal by Gillian Shields

A young girl sent off to a gothic boarding school where she falls in love with an inappropriate young man seems to be a popular theme these days (Fallen by Lauren Kate and A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray are just two that come to mind.) Gillian Shields’ Immortal is about Evie Johnson a teen who lives with her grandmother, Frankie, because Dad is a deployed soldier and mom died when Evie when was younger. All is well until Frankie falls ill and Evie has nowhere to go until Dad gets her a scholarship to Wyldcliffe Abbey, a boarding school for rich stuck-up girls.

Things go wrong from the beginning. Evie’s arrival at the school is delayed by an encounter with a dark and brooding young man. She engages the wrath of a fellow student simply by existing. And the head mistress seems to dislike her just on principal. Things seem hopeless until she meets once again the dark brooding young man that she encountered just before arriving at Wyldcliffe. Not surprisingly, Evie becomes obsessed with this young man, Sebastian. Also not surprisingly, Sebastian has deep dark secrets. However, he is not the only one with secrets. There are secrets in Evie’s family history and even the head mistress is keeping secrets. All these secrets are tied together and make for a brooding angst filled story. Though this story does not stand out from others like it, I did find it interesting. Shields hooked me on her story and I plan to read the next book, Betrayal, which is due out in August. Fans of Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series, Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty trilogy, and Lauren Kate’s Fallen will enjoy Immortal.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard

If you know me, then you know how I feel about movies made into books. To save time, I won’t bother stepping on that soapbox today. However, I have found that the small screen does a much better job of translating a book to the screen.

I just finished the last book in The Pretty Little Liars series which is now a summer series on ABC Family. I recently read an internet article that claims Pretty Little Liars was originally developed as television series by book packaging company Alloy Entertainment who gave it to Sara Shepard to develop into a book series. I’ve not found an authoritative source to corroborate this. The books were published before the pilot of the series aired. Truth be told, I don’t really care which came first. Both are excellent entertainment on their own.

Pretty Little Liars has been described as a cross between a teenage Desperate Housewives and I Know What You Did Last Summer. The last book, Wanted keeps the reader on the edge of their seat as it wraps up the story with some unexpected twists.

The series revolves around four privileged students at Rosewood Day. There used to be five of them, but one of them, Ali, disappeared mysteriously. After Ali’s disappearance, Spencer, Aria, Hanna and Emily drift apart. Just as they think they have all moved on, the discovery of Ali’s body in the first book, throws them all back together. Throughout the remainder of the books, the girls are tormented by the mysterious “A” who seems to know their deepest, darkest secrets. Various characters come under suspicion until finally in the last book Wanted, the girls themselves are suspected of killing Ali. There are more twists and turns in this series than a Missouri back road. Shepard has created a fast paced thriller that keeps the reader coming back for more. Shepard is also crafty enough to finally reveal the solution before the reader gets frustrated and gives up altogether (something that Lemony Snicket failed to do with A Series of Unfortunate Events.)

Though targeted to teens, this series will appeal to adults who enjoy a good thriller. Just remember that teen years do not always bring out the best in young adults.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Way of the Guilty by Jennifer Stanley

I recently received an advanced reviewer’s copy of The Way of The Guilty by Jennifer Stanley. Amazon shows a release day of August 31st. The Way of The Guilty is the third book in the Hope Street Church Mystery series. Though I have read and enjoyed several of Stanley’s other series, this was the first in this series that I had read. I had high expectations and I was not disappointed. I think the Richmond Times-Dispatch says it best - “Stanley never preaches to her readers, but lets deeds, not words, accomplish their goal.”

Cooper Lee is a small business machine repairman living in the apartment over her parents’ garage. She belongs to the Sunrise Bible Study Group. When her younger, somewhat materialistic sister discovers a dead body in the trunk of her car, Cooper and the Sunrise Bible Study Group feel called upon to help find the killer. Add a good dose of adversity (one member of the study group is fighting cancer), a love triangle (Cooper’s relationship with Nathan, a fellow study group member is hampered by her attraction a local bad boy) and some comic relief (Cooper’s Grammy keeps things from getting too serious) and you have an excellent read.

This is a must read for readers who enjoy cozy mysteries and also like a little spiritual fortification with their reading.

Once again, I now have a new series to add to my ever-growing favorite reads list.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Private by James Patterson/Maxine Paetro

When reading reviews, particularly on Amazon, I’ve noticed a lot of complaints about how the Patterson books are written. As a reader, what I care about is the end result. I want a good story. Sometimes, Patterson’s formula works and sometimes it doesn’t. I enjoy The Women’s Murder Club series and the Alex Cross series (though I must admit, I’m behind on both series.) So far I’ve enjoyed the books written with (or some might say by) Maxine Paetro.

I found Private to be a good story. At first I was a little distracted by the different mysteries going on at the same time. However, once it occurred to me that a detective agency the size of Private would be involved with multiple cases, I found that I rather liked the bouncing between the cases. Private is a quick read. I found it to be a good example of what I think goes on in a large detective agency. I could be wrong, but who cares. I enjoyed the book and there are really only two reasons for reading a book – entertainment and/or information. Will this book win any awards? Probably not. Do I feel as though I wasted my time reading it? No. If you want a quick read, this is the book for you. If you care more about how the book is written than the end result, then find another book and another author.