Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Hunger Games Trilogy Boxset (The Hunger Games, #1-3)The Hunger Games Trilogy Boxset by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins, what can I say but WOW!

Since I believe THE HUNGER GAMES came out in 2008, and it is now 2012, you can see I didn’t rush right out to read it.  In fact, I refused to get caught up in the hype surrounding the trilogy and the movie release.  Many of my friends were surprised since I am a voracious reader, but I’ve had no interest in the latest book/movie phenomenons that have flooded the market.  I have NOT read or seen The Lord of the Rings series, The Narnia series, The Harry Potter series, or the Twilight series.  As a rule, I don’t like fantasy books, and I especially don’t like books with spells, potions, and what I feel are books with cultic overtones.  I know it is a matter of taste and at the root of all these books is the age old clash of good vs. evil, but I’ve had no interest in them, and it is along these lines that I had wrongly categorized THE HUNGER GAMES. 

When my co-workers set me straight, and explained the basis for the book, I decided to give it a go.  I was put on a timeline since my co-worker was moving, and I would be borrowing her set of books.  I had about a month to finish the set of three.  Well, once I got into it, book one was finished in just a few evenings, and book two and three were finished in a little over a twenty-four hour period.  I ABSOLUTELY LOVED THEM!

I think the thing I appreciated about the books the most was the clean language and the absence of sexual content.  Since I usually read Christian fiction, I appreciated a secular book/author that didn’t feel the need to throw around off-colored language or gratuitous sex in order to keep their audience entertained.  And, even though there was plenty of violence in these books, I didn’t feel that the author used every adjective possible in order to describe the gruesome scenes that played out in the story.  Of course, I realize this book was written for the youth market, but that wouldn’t have stopped some authors from feeling they needed to spice up or magnify the realism of today’s sex culture.

The love triangle Katniss finds herself in is unique.  And though I would’ve said I don’t believe someone can be in love with two people at the same time, you see how easy it can happen considering the circumstances Katniss found herself in.

The ending was bittersweet, and I would’ve liked a little more detail on what happened to each character, but the ending followed suit with the theme of –merely existing–Collins created. 

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Dawn Comes EarlyDawn Comes Early by Margaret Brownley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

DAWN COMES EARLY was entertaining, but did not capture my attention like some of Margaret Brownley’s previous novels.

Author Kate Tenney has left Boston with her tail between her legs.  When her current novel is banned, she decides to start fresh in the open Arizona territory.  As a dime novelist, she has long romanticized the rugged West.  Now, she is going to find out first hand that the untamed West is one part charm and three parts blood, sweat, and tears.  Trying to impress the salty female land owner she now works for, Kate finds out there is more to the great outdoors than beautiful sunsets and handsome heroes. 

Obstinate and feeling as if she has nowhere to go, Kate knows her future hinges on not only learning all there is about cattle ranching, but swearing off the romantic entanglements of a certain blacksmith.  But Luke Adams seems to show up at the most unexpected times and is slowly quelling the fears of abandonment that have scared Kate from a very young age.

The back cover of this book held all the promises of a good read.  But somehow, I feel it fell a little flat.  The interactions between Kate and Luke were few and far between, and the characters didn’t really show as much depth as they could have.  I did enjoy the secondary character of Ruckus, the tough-as-leather ranch foreman that soon develops a soft spot for Kate.  His fatherly ways were sweet and gave his character some depth that I thought was lacking in some of the other key players.

Overall, I enjoyed DAWN COMES EARLY.  I just wasn’t wowed by it.

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Two-Time RITA Award-Winning Author Completes Critically-Acclaimed Romantic Suspense Series 

Bestselling suspense author Irene Hannon completes the Guardians of Justice series with her much-anticipated novel Lethal Legacy, releasing in August 2012. Hannon’s signature high-intensity action and taut suspense combined with her talent for writing tender, heartwarming romance will have readers on the edge of their seats. A two-time RITA award winner, Hannon completes the critically acclaimed series with a story of old grudges and a budding romance.

Kelly Warren is on a mission to prove her father’s death wasn’t suicide, but Detective Cole Taylor doesn't put much credence in her claim. Nothing in his case review suggests foul play until Kelly ends up in the emergency room with a suspicious life-threatening medical condition. The incident strikes him as more than just coincidence. Digging deeper, he discovers she's linked to a long-ago crime. Is history repeating itself? And who wants Kelly silenced?

Hannon, a former communications executive for a Fortune 500 company, left the corporate world in 2003 to focus on her growing fiction brand. While continuing to write contemporary romance, she also delved into suspense. The result was her Heroes of Quantico series, which began in 2009 with Against All Odds. From the beginning, her suspense books have garnered rave reviews. Booklist named her last novel, Deadly Pursuit (Revell, 2011) one of the top ten inspirational fiction titles for 2011 saying Hannon crafted “compelling characters and an emotionally engaging plot powered by a surfeit of nail biting suspense.”

Each of her suspense titles, though part of a series, can be read as a stand-alone novel.

Irene Hannon is the author of more than 35 novels, including the bestselling Heroes of Quantico and Guardians of Justice series. Her books have been honored with two coveted RITA awards from Romance Writers of America, a Carol Award, a HOLT Medallion, a Daphne du Maurier Award and two Reviewers' Choice Awards from RT Book Reviews magazine. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri.
Lethal Legacy (Guardians of Justice #3)Lethal Legacy by Irene Hannon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

LETHAL LEGACY, the third installment in the Guardians of Justice series did not disappoint.

Kelly Warren is in search of the truth regarding the unexpected death of her father. Though his death was labeled a suicide, she knows her father would’ve never taken his own life. When Detective Cole Taylor gets involved in her case, he finds peculiarities and new evidence that might just point to murder. Kelly appreciates Cole’s tenacity, but also finds herself interested in Cole on a more personal level.

Detective Cole Taylor looks into the death of Kelly’s father merely as a formality to assist a grieving family member. But, he soon finds himself with evidence that not only proves Mr. Warren did not kill himself, but that his ties to a dangerous group of people might have something to do with the threats on Kelly’s life. Knowing Kelly’s life is in danger, Cole watches out for her safety, and realizes his need to protect her is not only on a professional level, but fueled by his growing feelings for her. Together, Cole and Kelly dig below the surface and find that not only was her father’s death murder, but that a cover-up is underway as well.

LETHAL LEGACY was a quick read because I found myself not wanting to put the book down. Irene Hannon’s knack for writing intriguing stories puts her on my list of favorite authors. Weaving suspense, romance, interesting characters and unique story lines, makes LETHAL LEGACY the perfect escape from the everyday grind. Though you know on the outset what the outcome will be for the hero and heroine, it does not diminish the impact of the journey.

“Available August 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

Book provided for review purposes.

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Coming Home: A Story of Undying HopeComing Home: A Story of Undying Hope by Karen Kingsbury
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

COMING HOME by Karen Kingsbury . . . why did I do this to myself? With each new spin-off series from the original Redemption Series, my review ratings have either gone down or stagnated. I constantly brought up the fact that so much back story was filtered into each of the subsequent books, that I felt I was only getting half a book each time I bought one. So, why did I think COMING HOME would be any different?

I cringed out loud as I read the first twelve chapters of the book. Not only was it a complete review of each family member and the lives we had already read about. But, each loving couple’s dialogue was so sickening sweet it felt so far removed from the normal. Now, that is not to say that I don’t still adore my husband after 32 years of marriage. But, I can guarantee each time we talk to each other, or brush up against each other while working in the kitchen, we don’t stop to say how much we love each other, how are lives were completely changed by each other, how we could never be who we are without each other. Now, we do feel that way, but to say it over and over again like the characters in this book, just made the first dozen chapters difficult to get through.

I also have read so many of Karen Kingsbury books, I have learned to read her “tell” the sign that something big is going to happen. Therefore I was not surprised with the tragedy that ensued. Now, to Ms. Kingsbury’s credit, I read the rest of the book in three hours because of being drawn into the drama and the action. It was heart wrenching. But, like many others of Karen Kingsbury followers, I think I will take a much need rest from her books. I have to decide if it is worth going back and reading UNLOCKED and the Above the Line series. Somehow I feel I already have the gist of it.

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Loving (Bailey Flanigan #4)Loving by Karen Kingsbury
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have just finished, LOVING, the final installment in the Bailey Flanigan series. I am glad I stuck it out (even though I skipped UNLOCKED, and the Above the Line series) just to say I completed the series. But, like many other reviewers, my thoughts are not completely positive.

My two biggest problems with this series are, One- the constant back story that I had to constantly skim through to get to the new story. And Two – Bailey & Brandon was just a rehashing of Katie & Dayne. I also began to lose a connection to Bailey because I could not relate to her near perfect life. This girl would be every parents dream, and maybe Kelsey Kingsbury really is this perfect, humble, always make the right decision, never makes a bad choice person, but I feel her faultlessness made it difficult for me to relate, as it would with most girls her age. I also had a hard time believing the flawlessness of Brandon. Now granted, I didn’t read UNLOCKED where Brandon & Bailey were introduced–and by hints of his history was far from a stand-up guy–but to say a young adult of his age and his background would think kissing was too big a step to take in the early stages of their relationship seems a bit antiquated to me. And again, maybe Kyle Kopecky was just that perfect. But, I think Ms. Kingsbury could have easily written a more realistic picture if she wasn’t so close to the perfection of her own family. Now, I am not saying I would’ve enjoyed the book more if she ended up with Cody, and I do like that Ms. Kingsbury gave some closure to his story, I just didn’t like having to read about all the trappings, struggles, and dilemmas of a Hollywood lifestyle when I already read about them in Katy & Dayne’s struggle.

I know this sounds like a lot of bashing, and maybe since I live in the real world I am just a little bit more realistic, but I definitely felt these were major flaws in the series. But, Karen Kingsbury is a best-selling author with an incredible following. And at one time, I would’ve put her at the top of my list of favorite authors. I even got a chance to meet her at a convention I attended. I just feel her earlier stand alone novels like WHEN JOY CAME TO STAY, A THOUSAND TOMORROWS, and A MOMENT OF WEAKNESS, held my interest more because they had more realistic storylines.

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Sunday, August 05, 2012

Longing (Bailey Flanigan #3)Longing by Karen Kingsbury
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

LONGING, book three in the Bailey Flannigan series from Karen Kingsbury had better pacing then the previous two.

I felt LONGING had a little more oomph to it. A little more tragic then the previous installments, I felt the triangle between Bailey, Brandon, and Cody eased some. But, as in all fiction romance, there is still a door cracked open to spin things a completely different way.

I would agree with several of the reviewers, that Bailey’s story could’ve easily been told in two books, but come on readers, publishing is a money making venture, and with loyal readers willing to buy four books why would they choose to produce less. But, like other readers, getting through the series is now a quest. I’m not sure if I want Bailey to end up with Brandon or Cody, I just know I will be glad to just have an answer.

I do feel Bailey has been colored with a bit too much perfection, as well as Brandon, while Cody has the highs and lows of a roller coaster. And, his continued pining over Bailey at times doesn’t fit Cody’s survivalist personality. I think the character Kingsbury created early on is stronger emotionally then she is giving him credit for.

So, off I go to read LOVING. I hope I will finally have a conclusion to Bailey’s story.

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Friday, August 03, 2012

Learning (Bailey Flanigan #2)Learning by Karen Kingsbury
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

LEARNING, the second installment in the Bailey Flannigan–aka Baxter family spin-off–was more entertaining than book one, but stemmed on the realm of unrealistic.

Bailey Flannigan is in New York trying to keep up with the rigors of a dancer on Broadway while Cody Coleman is thousands miles away coaching an underdog football team. Bailey is spending quality time with Brandon Paul, but thoughts of Cody are never very far. Brandon only has eyes for Bailey but senses there is still something between her and Cody, while Cody tries to define his relationship with Cheyenne, thus creating the perfect love triangle or rectangle in this case.

I feel LEARNING traveled at a quicker pace than LEAVING, but that might be because I now have a tendency to breeze over back-story I already know. But, Ms. Kingsbury has succeeded in making her readers–at least this one–struggle with who Bailey should spend the rest of her life with. There is a part of me that assumes Kingsbury will eventually free up Bailey and Cody from their current relationships, making it that Bailey and Cody will finally find each other and their happily ever after. But, Kingsbury has also painted Brandon as such a genuine character with his intentions to be nothing but admirable, that somehow I struggle with him getting hurt in the end if Bailey runs back to Cody. And then there is Cody and Cheyenne. Though the spark has never really ignited between the two of them, Cody’s sense of devotion to Cheyenne clouds his thinking.

I didn’t read UNLOCKED, the book where Bailey and Brandon first get to know each other, but I feel I have picked up enough back-story to realize Brandon has changed his out of control ways and it is because of Bailey that he now leads a Christian life. And though his intentions are clear, that he wants to wow Bailey and give her the moon–in this case the Empire State Building–he can do so because of his extravagant wealth. Which of course, would make any girl feel as if she has found her prince charming.

I’m looking forward to getting to the end of the series so I will finally have my answers. I just hope I don’t have to continue to breeze through a quagmire of redundancy that comes from too much back-story.

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