Friday, July 22, 2011

Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner

Jennifer Weiner's, Then Came You just found itself a permanent spot on my 'Favorite Books' bookcase.  I'm not referring to my 'Ordinary Books' bookcase that is in our guest bedroom- I am talking about my office bookcase that holds all of my favorite novels.  Not just any book can find its way onto these shelves, but as soon as I started reading Weiner's Then Came You I realized there was something special about it.

Then Came You takes place during current times.  Weiner tells her story from the point of view of 4 different women that at first glance have nothing in common.  Jules is a gorgeous blond, blue eyed Senior at Princeton.  On the outside it seems like she has the perfect life, however she is hiding a hurtful family secret.  Annie is a 24 year old wife and mother of two young boys.  As happy as she is with her life, she can't help but feel discontent with her current situation.  Running her household zaps her energy while the constant struggle for money makes her wish for things she and her family does not have.  Bettina is the daughter of a New York Billionaire.  She does not fit into the party scene, she would much rather spend her time at her job appraising art for an auction house.  She is fairly content in her life until her father shows up with his new bride, India.  India feels that she won the brass ring when she married her wealthy husband.  The struggles she went through as a child, teenager, and adult all seem worth it.  She has finally made it, what more could she want?  

Then Came You has all of the aspects I look for in a great work of fiction.  There are strong female characters that are well written and seem real to me.  I may not like a certain character but Weiner makes sure that I can sympathize with her.  The dialog is witty and there are twists that I did not see coming.  At one moment I found myself laughing while the next moment I was trying not to let the tears fall.  I was also able to escape reality while reading Then Came much as a mother of a two year old can escape reality (during some of my reading my daughter made it her mission to get my attention by splashing me from her baby pool that my feet just happened to be resting in.)

Then Came You tackles many important current issues, one of which is Egg donation and Surrogacy.  Weiner does a fantastic job opening up the door for discussion of this practice.  How does the egg donor feel about the situation?  Will she ever regret her decision or want to know about her biological baby in the future?  Can the Surrogate easily tell herself that the baby she is carrying is not really hers?  How will she feel once the baby is delivered and placed in its Mother's arms?  What about this new Mother, how does she react to the newness of it all?  Can she easily bond with the baby, or will she feel like a babysitter?  All of these crucial feelings and more are covered in Then Came You.

Jennifer Weiner's Then Came You is an excellent novel that I highly recommend.  If you are looking for a book with heart and humor, Then Came You should be your first choice!  This complimentary book was received for the purpose of review from Atria Books and


Monday, July 18, 2011

A Bullet for Two by Robert Strzalko

A Bullet for Two is Robert Strzalko's first novel.  Known better for his works of Poetry, Strzalko goes in a different direction in this thrilling story.  Taking place in the American West shortly after the conclusion of the Civil War, A Bullet for Two shows a gritty, dark, and realistic side of the West.

Real life is hard and unfair and there is not room for rose colored glasses in this novel.  A Bullet for Two starts as Jeb, a Civil War Hero looking for a fresh start in the West, stumbles upon the gruesome raping of a young half Indian girl.  The 3 corrupt men involved in the raping happen to be the town's Sheriff, Mayor, and local business tycoon.  Jeb does what he feels is right and rescues the 14 year old Sara while bestowing revenge.  Because of his actions, Jeb finds himself a Wanted Man with a bounty on his head.  A Bullet for Two unfolds as Jeb and Sara run from the law, bounty hunters, and a posse made up of town men obsessed with seeking revenge for the murders.

Strzalko does a terrific job in developing his characters.  Jeb feels a deep torment due to the part he played in the Civil War.  After losing those most important to him and witnessing an overload of death and destruction, Jeb views society as an unforgiving, dark place where people take amusement in public hangings and use 'justice' to justify killing others.  Sara, on the other hand, lost her parents at a young age and has been treated as a sexual slave and servant for too many of her 14 years.  However, she still believes in happy endings and views Jeb as her savior.  The loyalty she feels regarding Jeb is far beyond that of a teenager. 

Strzalko did a fantastic job in showcasing just how lawless the 'Wild West' was after the Civil War.  When the War ended many soldiers had nothing and no one to go back to.  After witnessing and causing brutal deaths, many men felt the only job that suited their new outlook was that of a bounty hunter...thus, the influx of bounty hunters in the West.  Many of the bounty hunters Strzalko wrote about lived outside the law.  When coming upon a 'Wanted' man they shot first and asked questions later.  Many times an innocent person was killed due to faulty identification.  However, as long as is wasn't a sheriff or politician that was killed the bounty hunter didn't care about the unnecessary loss of life.  They played the game and played it well.

Also brought to light in A Bullet for Two was the way the Native American population was viewed by the general public.  Strzalko makes the argument that the US Government viewed the Godless Savages as an annoying group that had something they wanted- land.  Instead of sending the Army in to get rid of the Indians and secure the land, the government saved money and sent homesteaders out to do the dirty work for them.  Their basic advertisement was 'Free land in the West, you just have to get rid of the current owners.'        

I highly recommend Robert Strzalko's A Bullet for Two.  You will find a suspenseful and faced paced story revolving around the dark side of human nature.  

This complimentary book was received for the purpose of review from

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Quotable Rogue by Matt Lewis

What does Sarah Palin think about Health Care?  Does she support Immigration Reform?  Matt Lewis' The Quotable Rogue: The Ideals of Sarah Palin in Her Own Words, is a book of well known and lesser known quotes made by Sarah Palin that shows readers exactly where Sarah Palin stands on issues.  These quotes comes from a variety of places, including magazine interviews, television interviews, newspaper interviews, speeches, and letters.

Lewis has put together a very interesting and informative book.  Many in the general public see Sarah Palin as a caricature the media has created.  When some people are asked what they think of Sarah Palin their response revolves around her one liners, glasses, and accent.  However, Matt Lewis opens the door to the real Sarah Palin by sharing her actual quotes. 

Before reading Lewis' The Quotable Rogue I could tell you about the Sarah Palin Saturday Night Live impersonations or late night tv jokes.  However, I couldn't tell you exactly what Sarah Palin stood for.  What are her views on Civil Rights, Iraq, the Economy, Education, Energy, or the Environment?  Matt Lewis sheds light on exactly what Sarah Palin thinks about each of those subjects and more.

In an ingenious way Lewis divides his book into section with direct quotes about 33 different issues.  Whether you like Sarah Palin or not, or agree with her politics or not you no longer have an excuse not to know what Sarah Palin stands for.  By reading the fast paced The Quotable Rogue you are able to find out just who Sarah Palin is.

I recommend Matt Lewis' The Quotable Rogue to every political minded AmericanLewis presents a great way to learn just what Sarah Palin stands for without the slanted view of the media.

This complimentary book was received for the purpose of review from BookSneeze and Tom Nelson Publishing.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Lagan Love, by Peter Murphy

Once the pages of Peter Murphy's novel, Lagan Love, was opened I was instantly swept into Dublin, Ireland.  Lagan Love centers around a group of people who are just beginning to find themselves.  Aidan charges (or more aptly drunkenly stumbles) into the novel as Dublin's fresh young poet, dubbed as the voice of Ireland's conscience.  Janice, a young women from Toronto, has moved to Dublin to study at the prestigious Trinity School.  As Janice immerses herself in the new culture she also finds herself on a journey of self-discovery.  After finding herself in a somewhat shaky relationship with Aidan, Janice decides to follow the path of becoming an artist.  Mix in Gwen, Aidan's mysterious and other worldly editor, and you find yourself in the middle of Murphy's intoxicating tale of love, heart ache, and the cost of making your dreams a reality.   

Murphy does a fine job in painting his 1980's Ireland as a place filled with class, socioeconomic, and religious strife.  It doesn't take long to see that many characters in Lagan Love are disenchanted with many of the European countries, England being at the top of the list.  Many of the characters are prejudice and have no problem throwing around racial remarks involving those in other social classes, of a different faith, or from a different country.  This all seemed very realistic to me.  However, Murphy also showed his Dubliners as a proud people, who didn't forget history and spoke of it frequently.

The characters in Lagan Love frequently spend their mornings, afternoons, and evenings in pubs drinking, smoking, gossiping, complaining, and speaking about about their times growing up.  Murphy makes the pub a familiar place where everybody knows everyone and their business.  The Cheers song, "Where everybody knows your name" comes to mind while following the characters from pub to pub. 

Religion also plays a role in Murphy's novel.  While reading I definitely felt the tension between the Protestants and Catholics.  Murphy does a great job in showing what turmoil in the Catholic church can do to men and women in their own homes.   

While I enjoyed Lagan Love, it took me a few chapters to get my footing.  At times I felt there was too much history and 'sightseeing' being written about, which took away from the characters and their journey.  It also took me a while to adjust to the Irish vernacular, however it did make the novel that much more realistic.

I enjoyed watching the character dynamics unfold between Janice and Aidan.  When Janice met Aidan she was a shy, self conscious girl.  Throughout the novel she evolved into a self confident, daring women.   However, Aidan stayed much the same.  The novel started showing him as an unhappy,  egocentric character and ended much the same.  Murphy makes the case that both Janice's evolution and Aidan's stalemate could be linked to Gwen.

I definitely recommend Lagan Love, Peter Murphy's first novel.  I look forward to reading more literary work from him.         

~Candace, Reviewer for

Friday, July 1, 2011

Covet by J.R. Ward

Covet, by J.R. Ward, is the first in her new series entitled The Fallen Angels.  Covet revolves around a number of people who on the outside have very little in common.  However, fate...or as is would seem someone 'up above,' has brought them together.

Covet taken place in Caldwell, NY which fans of Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series will instantly recognize.  The characters in Covet frequent many of the same places that the characters in the BDB go to.  The BDB fans will also get a little 'present' as one or two cameo's are made by characters from the BDB.  However, by no means do you have to read or be familiar with Ward's BDB series in order to read her new Fallen Angels series.  Aside from the same setting Covet is a book of it's own. 

Jim is a mysterious man of few words.  He is new to Caldwell and as fate would have it is chosen by both good and evil ... or angels and influence and save the souls of 7 different people who are caught up in the 7 deadly sins.  Each book in the Fallen Angels series will feature one of these people...hence the first novel's title, Covet.  In walks Vin, an extremely wealthy business owner with a multitude of secrets.  Jim sets out to help Vin see the errors of his ways and find true happiness that money can't buy.

Let me be clear that Covet is most definitely an ADULT novel.  Ward spins a world with romance, raw sex, violence, suspense, and adult language.  Ward does a great job in writing about social issues.  There were many times throughout the book the characters spoke about the importance of using condoms and even wearing motercylce helmets.

I feel that Ward does an excellent job in creating 3 dimensional characters that start evolving from the beginning of the story until the end. Covet was extremly entertaining, I literally could not put it down until I finished it.  I especially like how Ward writes from the male perspective, she seems to capture the ends and outs of male friendship and bonding.  Ward also does a stand out job in creating a world that readers can visualize in her Caldwell, NY.  As she describes the bars or homes I can picture exactly what each looks like in my mind. 

I highly recommend Covet to anyone who is looking for an escape from everyday life, it is a GREAT book.  Each chapter will leave you wanting more and be prepared to find many surprising twists and turns.  Kudos to Ward for creating another excellent series, I look forward to seeing the journey Jim will be take in the next The Fallen Angels book, Crave.