April 30, 2012

Review: The Columbus Affair by Steve Berry

Product Description:
Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative journalist Tom Sagan has written hard-hitting articles from hot spots around the world. But when a controversial report from a war-torn region is exposed as a fraud, his professional reputation crashes and burns. Now he lives in virtual exile—haunted by bad decisions and the shocking truth he can never prove: that his downfall was a deliberate act of sabotage by an unknown enemy. But before Sagan can end his torment with the squeeze of a trigger, fate intervenes in the form of an enigmatic stranger with a request that cannot be ignored.

Zachariah Simon has the look of a scholar, the soul of a scoundrel, and the zeal of a fanatic. He also has Tom Sagan’s estranged daughter at his mercy. Simon desperately wants something only Sagan can supply: the key to a 500-year-old mystery, a treasure with explosive political significance in the modern world. For both Simon and Sagan the stakes are high, the goal intensely personal, the consequences of opposing either man potentially catastrophic. On a perilous quest from Florida to Vienna to Prague and finally to the mountains of Jamaica, the two men square off in a dangerous game. Along the way, both of their lives will be altered—and everything we know about Christopher Columbus will change.

My Review: 
I have read and loved every single one of Steve Berry's books but I have to say that I was very disappointed in The Columbus Affair. The action was working along two different story lines that eventually merged into one but everything felt disjointed. I didn't connect with any of the characters. Tom wasn't the typical hero, his daughter Alle was spoiled and delusional and I totally disliked her character. One of the two bad guys became the character I liked the most, Bene Rowe, but I still didn't think the flow was right on his part of the story line. I think Mr. Berry just needs to stick to his Cotton Malone series and not try to offer up stand alone novels with new characters. 

One thing I do have to acknowledge about the book that was outstanding was the historical detail and research that went into the story. You can tell that Berry tried to keep the details as close to history as possible and that lent the whole book a feel of realism that I enjoyed. I recommend this one as a library read for die hard fans of Steve Berry otherwise I'd say try one of this other books before reading this one.

April 25, 2012

Review: Dead Running by Cami Checketts

When Cassidy Christensen’s sister-in-law convinced her to run in a 5K Cassidy just barely got through the finish line. Once the race was over the coordinators of the race had a few giveaways and lo and behold Cassidy won an entry in to an upcoming marathon. Committed to completing the marathon Cassidy dives into training but when it’s clear she’s being targeted Cassidy doesn’t know just who to trust. Will she make it to the finish line or will this be her last mile?

Dead Running is my first book by Cami Checketts and I absolutely loved it. Cassidy is funny, brave and quirky and I loved her philosophy on relationships. She’s attracted to two very different guys in the book. One seemingly likes her back and the other doesn’t want anything to do with her but can’t stop showing up just at the right moment when she’s in danger. Then you throw in a very snarky “Hot Red-Head” as competition and hilarity ensues.

The only reason I didn’t give this one 5 stars is that the storyline is a little too over the top and didn’t feel real but the characters redeem the book. I highly recommend this one for anyone who loves light and fluffy suspense thrillers if that isn’t too much of a contradiction.

April 19, 2012

Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Samantha Kingston is the high school girl that everyone loves to hate. She's pretty, she's popular and she has a good-looking boyfriend. Her life seems perfect but on a seemingly normal day all that comes to an end. Friday February 12th Samantha's life ends but immediately after the accident that takes her life, Sam wakes up and it's Friday February 12th again.

Sam doesn't understand what's happening as she re-lives that fateful day but she tries to change what happened. Once again she dies and wakes up reliving the day all over again. Each time it happens she realizes what other changes she needs to make and she relives that day five more times. Throughout each day she comes to the realization that she's not a good person and begins trying to make amends hoping to change the deadly outcome.

I absolutely hate it when authors fill YA books with sex, drugs and drinking. Sam and her friends act way to adult for my tastes. That being said I do have to say that the story line is amazing. I love that Sam got to re-live each day trying to change the things all while learning just how her actions made people feel. I can't share too much more about my likes and dislikes about the book because that will reveal spoilers but even though I gave this one just two stars I do recommend it for anyone who loves YA. It was a great read I just can't give it a higher rating because of the actions of Sam and her friends throughout the book. If the characters were college students I would rate the book 4 stars.

April 18, 2012

Review: The Prisoner of Snowflake Falls by John Lekich

Henry Holloway's mother passed away when he was nine and Henry's uncle Andy became his guardian. For the past six years Andy and his buddies have been giving Henry a crash course in burglary and other nefarious deeds. When the law finally caught up with Andy, Henry was left living with Andy's girlfriend Cindy. But soon enough Cindy runs off to Vegas and Henry makes his home an abandoned tree house sneaking food and essentials from homes of his "customers".

Things are tough when you're a burglar who feels guilty about stealing from the houses you break into and Henry makes up for some of his bad deeds by cleaning up the mess he makes and then some. After almost being caught by someone being home unexpectedly, Henry makes a narrow escape and breaks into yet another house to clean and patch himself up. But this time he dozes off and is actually caught. Now he's been sent to live with the Wingates in Snowflake Falls and he just might be worse off, not rehabilitated.

The Prisoner of Snowflake Falls was more of a children's book than a YA read but it was a super cute story that had Henry redeeming himself in the end. I enjoyed his antics in the beginning of the story and thought the relationship with his uncle Andy was truly well done. I recommend this one for kids 11-15.

April 16, 2012

Guest Post: Q&A with Laura Griffin

I'm super excited to welcome back Laura Griffin, bestselling author of the Tracers series.

New York Times bestselling author Laura Griffin started her career in journalism before venturing into the world of romantic suspense. She is the author of ten novels and has won numerous awards, including a RITA Award for Whisper of Warning. Laura lives in Austin, where she is working on the next book in her popular Tracers series.

Laura welcome to Reading with Monie. It’s great to have you back.

1. Please tell us a little more about your latest book Twisted (read my review).

It’s great to be back, Monie!

TWISTED is about rookie detective Allison Doyle, who is working her first big murder case when she meets FBI profiler Mark Wolfe. Although Allison’s police department thinks they’ve got their murder case figured out, Mark convinces Allison that they’re looking at the wrong guy. Mark believes the real murderer is a serial killer he’s been hunting for years.

2. Do you have more books in the Tracer series planned?

I’ve been so thrilled with the response to the series, and my publisher has asked me to do at least three more books. After TWISTED, next up is SCORCHED, which comes out in the fall.

3. How much research do you normally do for your novels?

I love the research because I get to meet interesting people in the fields of law enforcement and forensic science. For TWISTED, I interviewed police officers and did a ride-along so I could get a sense of the day-to-day nature of the job. Touring the FBI Academy and talking to special agents helped me better understand the character of Mark Wolfe.

4. How did you come to be involved in the anthologies you’re featured in and is writing for an anthology very different from writing a full novel?

Writing short is so different from writing a full-length book. You really have to get straight to the point and start the action without delay. My publisher recently released the Tracers novella UNSTOPPABLE as an ebook, and that’s been fun. Also, my short story “Nightfall” was in the GUNS AND ROSES anthology. This summer I have a short story starring a Navy SEAL that will be featured in the LOVE IS MURDER anthology, put together by the authors of International Thriller Writers.

I like short stories and novellas because they give me a chance to reach readers who may be looking to sample a new author.

5. Do you have any plans to add books to your Glass Sister or Borderline series?

A lot of readers have asked about Kate Kepler from ONE WRONG STEP. I would love to write her story sometime down the road, but right now I have my hands full with the Tracers series. The Glass Sisters series sort of segued into the Tracers series because my first Tracers book, UNTRACEABLE, features a character from WHISPER OF WARNING. My stories have a tendency to overlap!

6. Do you have a favorite read from 2011?

Hmm… that’s a tough one. I really enjoyed RED MIST by Patricia Cornwell. And my daughter got me to read THE HUNGER GAMES, which was very entertaining. We saw the movie together, and it was fun to see it translated to the big screen.

7. Where can readers find you online?

I love to talk to readers! Find me here:

Twittter: @Laura_Griff



April 15, 2012

Review: Twisted by Laura Griffin

The latest murder in the small Texas town of San Marcos is has thinking that they got the killer locked up tight. But when one of the few female detectives on the force, rookie Allison Doyle starts to question their prime suspect no one wants to hear it. Late one night Allison walks into a convenience store robbery and because she has so much on her mind the robber gets the jump on her and she’s almost taken out. Luckily FBI profiler Mark Wolfe just happens to be inside the store also and jumps to her rescue.

Mark has arrived in town because he suspects that the latest murder is part of a series of murders that he’s been tracking down for years. Together Allison and Mark turn to the Delphi Center’s experts for help convincing the powers that be that they’ve got the wrong man and to pick up the trail of the real killer.

Man I just love reading Laura’s books. They are like reading a CSI episode with but more action and believability when it comes to the investigation. I’m always amazed by Laura’s attention to detail in the crime investigation. If I didn’t know better I would say that she’s probably a forensic investigator herself. The romance part of the book is also realistic. It’s not just a convenient plot line that throws the main characters into a relationship. It comes naturally which makes it all the more believable. There’s also a serious creep factor in this one that kept me guessing until the very end. I highly recommend this one for anyone who loves romantic suspense.

April 10, 2012

Review: Matched by Ally Condie

In seventeen year old Cassia’s world there are not very many choices to make. This like music, art and poems are limited to the top 100 that Society chose for them, the Society decides who you’re going to be matched with and what job you will have. This system of matching usually works well for everyone and when one of her best friends, Xander, is selected as her match, Cassie is ecstatic. But the next morning Cassia checks her microcard to see Xander’s picture again and something very unexpected happens. It’s not Xander she sees. It’s Ky Markham, a neighbor with a mysterious past. Pretty soon after that Cassia receives a visit from an official that explains the mistake. She states that Ky is an Aberration and will never have a match. But the seed is planted and now Cassia begins to have doubts about Xander and some of the Society’s other rules.

I’m a little late jumping on the Matched bandwagon since I just found out about this trilogy a couple of weeks ago but apparently it’s a very popular series that has been compared to The Hunger Games. The one thing I always ponder in dystopian books is how life as we know it today allows changes like the Society to happen but then I think a) it’s fiction and b) I bet that people in our past might wonder how we allowed ourselves to get to where we are today but with Matched Condie threw in Aberrations and Anomalies who are people who don’t conform to society and that made this one a little more realistic for me.

I really enjoyed the awakening experience that Cassia goes through in the book. It was well done, subtle and not too over the top. I also liked Cassia’s Dad. You can see where Cassia gets her fight from and I hope that he has plays a part in the next book Crossed which is already out and Reached which will be out later this year. I highly recommend this one for anyone who loves dystopian YA.

April 9, 2012

Review: The Future of Us by Jay Ahser and Carolyn Mackler

Sophomore Josh and junior Emma have been neighbors and best friends their whole lives. That is until last November when things got a little awkward between them. Now they don’t really hang out much other than at school with other friends. When Emma receives a computer from her father as a guilt gift (he divorced her mom, moved away and started a new family) Josh’s mom sends Josh over to Emma’s with a free AOL CD that she received in the mail. After installing the CD Emma logs in and is taken to her Facebook page. There’s just one problem. It’s 1996 and Facebook hasn’t even been invented yet. Is someone playing a cruel joke or can Josh and Emma really see what their lives are like fifteen years in the future each time they log on?

After reading a couple of reviews about The Future of Us I promptly put this book on my wish list. The idea seemed like a lot of fun and the book totally lived up to my expectations. It was funny to read about all the old technology like dial up modems and those darn AOL CD that were always being sent out.

After seeing what their futures were like Emma tried her hardest to change hers and Josh tried his hardest to make his future start happening now. It was a unique story that I thoroughly enjoyed. The only reason why I didn’t give this one five stars was the fact that the glitch that allowed them to see their future selves on Facebook was never explained. I would have like to see something about that to give a little closure to the story. I recommend this one for anyone who loves quick YA reads.

April 4, 2012

The White Lilac by Christina J. Adams

Life on Beta Earth in 2734 is certainly very different than life on Earth now but one issue looms large. There is a deadly sickness that affects the population and special genetically altered humans are trained from birth to harvest the cure from the deadly waters of Beta Earth. After a competition against others raised to harvest the cure, fifteen year old Caryn Tobin becomes the next one chosen to save Beta Earth.

Sheltered in The Compound where she was trained Caryn has never visited the city of Highton City. But since gathering the cure is fatal, the mayor of Highton has given Caryn three days to visit her city and experience life as a normal girl for the first time ever. The Compound reluctantly agrees as long as Caryn is escorted while in the city. Caryn chooses Kai Garrett, an orphaned boy that’s been living on the streets narrowly escaping a life of crime by seeking shelter in the water whenever he’s threatened.

Together Caryn and Kai experience life’s little pleasures while they accidentally uncover the truth behind the sickness, the cure and The Compound.

The White Lilac immediately drew me into the world of Beta Earth and Caryn just like if I was there. It was a fast paced read that kept me glued to the pages. The story is told in first person form from Caryn’s point of view and third person form from Kai’s point of view. It was a unique way to relate the story but I think it shed a little more light on the story than it would have any other way. I enjoyed the political and scientific aspects in the story but found the ending just a little too predictable. Overall it was a great read that I highly recommend to all sci-fi readers.

April 3, 2012

Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

When Clay Jensen gets home from school there is a package address to him waiting on his porch. When he opens the package he finds seven cassette tapes labeled with a number and A or B. When he finally tracks down a tape player he learns that the tapes were recorded by Hannah Baker who committed suicide just two weeks earlier.

As he listens on Hannah explains that on these tapes are 13 reasons why she committed suicide and that if you are listening to the tape you’re one of the reasons. Clay is devastated. He liked Hannah and never thought that he would be one of her reasons. As Clay listens to the tapes he gets pulled deeper into Hannah’s world but there is nothing he can do to change what happened.

I was immediately sucked into Thirteen Reasons Why. The thought that Hannah would leave this terrible legacy to the thirteen people on the tapes was just a little bothersome. If she chose to take her own life because of other people’s actions that was her choice. It made me a little upset to think that she left the tapes behind but nonetheless I had to know just what those reasons were. I’m sure a teen reading this book could relate a little better than I could but I still thought the book itself was very well done. The story is told in two voices, Clay’s and Hannah’s which made a huge difference in the reading. Even though the end result cannot be changed I liked the way Clay was able to get a lot out of the tapes themselves. This is a very compelling read that I recommend for anyone who loves YA books with a serious tilt.

April 1, 2012

Review: Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

If you've ever wondered what helped shape popular blogger, Jenny Lawson, into the woman she is today, wonder no more. The genius behind The Bloggess (like Mother Teresa only better) shares some her most memorable and pretty terrifying adventures as a shy awkward girl growing up in rural West Texas all the way through fifteen years being married to her unbelievably patient husband Victor.

Prior to reading Let’s Pretend This Never Happened I wasn't a follower of Jenny's blog but the cover of this book just said something to me. A mouse dressed as Hamlet complete with a miniature skull? Who could resist that. Every now and then I reflect back on growing up and wonder just how I came to be the woman I am today and now that I have a little insight into Jenny's upbringing this book makes perfect sense.

Jenny had to endure a father who ran taxidermy business (think Chuck Testa) who always felt the need to share his love of dead animals with his small girls. But not just the dead ones. I'm totally jealous that Jenny had a pet raccoon named Rambo that she got to dress in Jams, the popular 80's clothes.

From West Texas, to Houston to the Texas Hill country Jenny struggles through one crazy adventure after another. She shares story after story that would be hard to believe without the proof in the pictures sprinkled throughout the book. Now before I hunt down my own 5 foot tall rusted metal rooster I'm going to highly recommend this book for anyone who thinks they grew up with strange parents or anyone who loves a memoir full of laughs that will have you giggling, "oh no she didn't!"