Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In Her Sights

In Her Sights, by Robin Perini.

The trigger felt right.

The sight was zeroed in, the balance perfect. The Remington 700/40 fit her body and her mind like an old friend she could trust, and Jasmine "Jazz" Parker didn't trust easily. But she and the rifle were connected in a way a lover, friend or family could never be. The Remington would never let her down.

The only hitch - she didn't have an ideal shot at the kidnapper. Not yet, anyway.

Jasmine (Jazz) Parker has a lot of skeletons in her closet, but in the present day she is the Lead Sniper for her local police department; that is, until she misses a shot, and one of her teammates gets knifed. It soon becomes apparently that someone tampered with her rifle, and she seeks answers. Unfortunately, the one person who may be able to help her is Luke, her ex-boyfriend whom she still cares about. She soon realizes that someone is out to get her, too, and frame her for some crimes, so she doubly needs Luke's help in exonerating herself.

I love reading books that have romantic parts but I am not a big fan of "romance books." You know the type - scintillating sex scenes that leave nothing to the imagination. This novel had a few of those in there, but the best parts of it were actually the mystery/cop/sniper parts. This is the first novel for the author, Robin Perini, who works at a technology company for her "day job," so she was not devoid of expertise regarding the way police departments and snipers work (as you can see from the first paragraph listed above - she goes into details about the Remington rifle Jazz uses), so that was a plus for the book.

I wish the book didn't go into the sex scenes as much, but since it's a romance novel, I guess that's kind of in the novel description.

2.5 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received an Advance Reader's Copy of this book to review. The book will arrive in bookstores on November 29th, 2011.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Return of Jonah Gray

The Return of Jonah Gray, by Heather Cochran.

So people sometimes tried to avoid me. Sure, I might have wished it was different, but I was an excellent auditor. Not everyone could do my job. Not everyone could build lives atop quantitative foundations or look beyond numbers to the events and decisions that put them there. The best auditors love to unravel the story that lurks in the data, to see hidden meanings and solve the puzzle. They have an eye for detail and great powers of concentration.

At least, they should, and I always had. Only, sometime earlier this month, I had started to drift.

This is Heather Cochran's second book, of two total, and the first was Mean Season, which I read a few weeks ago and liked as well. In this novel, Sasha Gardner works for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which most Americans love to hate. Because of this, it's sometimes hard for her to find guys to date, once they find out her occupation. When she gets to do a random audit of someone named Jonah Gray, though, she soon finds herself receiving complaining calls, from Jonah's friends and neighbors and website readers, who ask her why she is doing that to him, when he is such a good person. Her curiosity about Jonah leads her to delve deeper into his life, and she likes what she sees on paper; but what about in real life?

Sasha is a compelling character, and the banter in the first chapter is excellent. I could definitely see this book made into a movie. My only complaint is - POSSIBLE SPOILER - that Jonah himself does not pop up until the very end; I wouldn't mind a sequel being made that details the exploits of Sasha and Jonah, but at the same time Sasha's story has pretty much been told by the end of Jonah Gray.

I am hoping that Ms. Cochran writes more novels in the future, as well; on her website, I don't see anything listed as "in the works." Check out both Jonah Gray and Mean Season while we wait for more, however, as both are fun, great reads.

4 stars out of 5.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Bumped, by Megan McCafferty.

I check once more for anyone I know, then blind my MiNet with a blink-left-right-left-wink-double-blink. The song is wrapping up - You're the most important person on the plaaaanet ... Babiez R U!" when I'm startled out of my reverie by the sound of my own voice.


I jump.

I've been so focused on my expectant spectacle, I forgot that I'm not alone in the dressing room. Standing directly behind me is Harmony. Until a few weeks ago, we had never spoken. And until a few hours ago, we had never met in person.

She's my identical twin.

This book is a dystopian novel, but unlike any other I have read before. It's not all doom and gloom; it's actually fairly normal, for the most part. Melody is 16 and attends a prep high school, and is hoping to get into Global U, one of the most prestigious colleges around. She lives with her parents, and was adopted when she was a baby. She has a best friend, Zen, with whom she shares a mutual attraction. At school, she has other friends whom she hangs out with as well.

The difference: about 50% of the girls at her school are pregnant, and the rest are hoping to get pregnant.

The reason? A virus has made people 18 and over, for the most part, unfertile, so wannabe parents pay these girls to get pregnant. Melody signed a contract two years ago that includes full college tuition, a car, and other goodies, but she hasn't been matched yet with a suitable boy, or "bumped," as they call it. (I'm thinking this came from the phrase "bumping uglies," a euphemism for sex, but I'm not entirely sure)

One of her best friends, Shoko, is almost ready to pop, and Shoko is an "amateur" that turned "pro" - now, she gets paid to get pregnant BEFORE she actually GETS pregnant, while the "amateurs" copulate first and then hope to find a suitable family.

Melody has been groomed her entire life for this, and is more than ready to get bumped ... until she meets her twin sister, Harmony, who has lived in Goodside her entire life (similar to an Amish community - they don't use electricity, they get up early to do household chores, and they dress very modestly). At Goodside, they can be paired with a husband as early as age 13, and Harmony has just married Ram, but hasn't yet "consummated" the marriage with him.

Melody is finally matched with the famous 17-year-old Jondoe, one of the most popular sperm donors around, but it's Harmony who actually meets him when he comes to visit and leaves the house with him, and she doesn't tell Melody that she has been matched. Melody finally figures it out later when her MiNet is blowing up with comments about her and Jondoe, and how they were sighted out at all the popular spots.

The novel really jumps into Melody's world without really explaining anything, but you will soon pick up the lingo used. "MiNet" is like Facebook, but with a GPS tracking system too, and if you want to "go blind" so that people can't tell where you are, you have that option. Goodside is basically like an Amish community, in that they aren't allowed to leave it (bad Harmony!) and there are many things that are expected of them there. The novel is set in the 2030s, I believe, because it was around the year 2020 that the virus struck (all of the girls in the novel have the virus, but onset is not until they are 18, it seems), and the drink of choice is "Coke '99," which I am guessing is similar to the Coke we drink today. They stopped making condoms around the year 2025, so now when people have sex they do it solely to procreate, for the most part.

Melody would secretly like to "bump" with her boy best friend, Zen, but he is "vertically challenged" - only 5'7", her height. Future parents only hire "the best of the best" genetically to bump, for the most part, and although Zen would definitely fulfill the intelligence requirements, he does not fulfill the physical requirements, such as height. Parents also try to pick donors who look like themselves, so that their baby will bear a resemblance to them.

The lingo and the beginning of the book is a bit overwhelming, but once you get into the book you won't want to put it down - I read it in 1 day.

McCafferty is currently at work on a sequel, called Thumped, which will be out in April 2012. I am looking forward to that because she definitely left the end of Bumped "up in the air," so to speak.

4.5 stars out of 5.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Island

The Island, by Elin Hilderbrand.

After college, Chess moved to New York City. She got a job in the advertising department at Glamourous Home; then she was promoted to editorial, where they could make better use of her talents. She indulged her lifelong love of cooking by attending the French Culinary Institute on the weekends and learning the proper way to dice an onion and how to measure in metric. She discovered Zabar's and Fairway and the greenmarket in Union Square. She threw dinner parties in her apartment, inviting people she barely knew and making difficult dishes that impressed them. She went to work early and stayed late. She smiled at everyone, she knew all her doormen by name, and she joined the Episcopal church on East Seventy-first Street and worked in the soup kitchen. She got promoted again. She was, at age twenty-nine, the youngest editor in the Diamond Publishing Group. Chess's life had been silk ribbon unspooling exactly the way it was supposed to - and then it was as if she'd looked down and the ribbon was a rat's nest, tangled and knotted. And so Chess threw the ribbon - spool and all - away.

I've read a few of Elin Hilderbrand's books, but this, from 2010, was by far the best I've read.

Chess is engaged to marry Michael, who is perfect on paper for her, but she pines for his brother, Nick, the fledgling rock star. Her sister, Tate, does very well for herself and owns her own business, but has never had a long-term relationship with anyone. When Chess abruptly breaks off her engagement to Michael, Birdie, their mother, invites her and Tate to spend a month with her on Tuckernuck Island, near Nantucket, and they cajole Birdie's sister India to go as well. While on the island, they must all face the problems they have been having, and they have a month to overcome them, as well as work through new ones.

The writing in this novel was fantastic, and the island is apparently real, as Hilderbrand refers to in the Acknowledgments section at the end of the book. Hilderbrand is a Nantucket resident, as well, which means she has a wealth of knowledge about it and its surrounding areas. Chess, India, Birdie, and Tate all are very different people, yet all fully brought to life in this novel, and it will engage its readers throughout its 403 pages.

4 stars out of 5.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Twenty Boy Summer

Twenty Boy Summer, by Sarah Ockler.

When someone you love dies, people ask you how you're doing, but they don't really want to know. They seek affirmation that you're okay, that you appreciate their concern, that life goes on and so can they. Secretly they wonder when the statute of limitations on asking expires (it's three months, by the way. Written or unwritten, that's about all the time it takes for people to forget the one thing that you never will).

They don't want to know that you'll never again eat birthday cake because you don't want to erase the magical taste of the frosting on his lips. That you wake up every day wondering why you got to live and he didn't. That on the first afternoon of your first real vacation, you sit in front of the ocean, face hot under the giant sun, willing him to give you a sign that he's okay.

I recently read Sarah Ocker's second novel, Fixing Delilah, so I wanted to go back and read this book, her debut novel. Great book with compelling characters, focusing on Anna and her best friend Frankie, who are still grieving the loss of Frankie's brother, Matt, in a car crash about a year before. Anna had loved Matt her whole life, but it was in the few months before he died that they had started secretly seeing each other. He had asked Anna not to tell Frankie about it - that he would, on their family trip to California - and she honored that promise; unfortunately, that ended up being one of the last times they had together. Anna and Frankie survived the car crash, but Matt did not - he died of a heart defect, which caused him to crash the car.

Now, Frankie has invited Anna along on her annual family trip to California, and their goal is to make it a "twenty boy summer" - they will each find twenty boys (their trip is about 2-3 weeks long) that they like on the trip, and perhaps Anna will even lose her virginity, as Frankie lost hers with a German exchange student a few months earlier.

I love good YA (Young Adult) novels, and this one definitely qualifies. As the reader, we can see why Anna is hesitant to date/find new boys, as she still isn't over losing Matt the way she did, but in time, she comes to realize that she can honor his memory but still find happiness in her own life.

4 stars out of 5.

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