Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Review: Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Pretty Girls
Karin Slaughter

Genre: ThrillerMystery
Hardback: 397 Pages
Publication: September 29, 2015
by William Morrow

Sisters. Strangers. Survivors.

More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia's teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that's cruelly ripped open when Claire's husband is killed.

The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it.

My Thoughts

Julia, Lydia and Claire’s oldest sister, has been disappeared without a trace for 24 years. The family is torn apart and doesn't feel complete. Their father Sam, a successful veterinarian, devotes his life to finding out what had really happened to his eldest daughter Julia. He loves his wife and daughters, and will do everything to keep his family together.

It is heart-breaking to read the determined father’s writing to Julia. Their mother Helen remarries since she can’t deal with Sam’s obsession. Lydia is no longer close to her family, and she has been struggle with her life since then. She also is a single mother of a teen daughter, Dee. Claire marries a successful rich architect Paul Scott and leads the perfect life until her husband is killed by a mugger in front of her eyes.

The death of Paul brings Lydia and Claire back together. When Claire is told that Paul embezzles millions of dollars from his company, she searches Paul’s computer files and finds files on women all across the country and the rape victims. She finds out her husband is not who she thought he was.

I love the characters grow through the book. Also, I enjoy how Claire and Lydia join forces to unravel what really happened to Julia. There are sadistic and dark aspects in the story, such as the power of money, corrupt law enforcement officers and greed. The plot twists are unexpected.

Pretty Girls is a thrilling, engaging, tension-filled read. I love the action and suspense of the story.

About the Author

Karin Slaughter is the #1 internationally bestselling author of more than a dozen novels, including the Will Trent and Grant County series and the instant New York Times bestseller Cop Town. There are more than 30 million copies of her books in print around the world.

Connect with Karin
Website | GoodreadsFacebook

This post was made as part of the TLC Book Tour for Pretty Girls
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Monday, September 14, 2015

Movie Monday: Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie
Genre: action spy thriller
Running time: 131 minutes
Released: 2015
Distributed by Paramount Pictures

With the IMF now disbanded and Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) out in the cold, a new threat -- called the Syndicate -- soon emerges. The Syndicate is a network of highly skilled operatives who are dedicated to establishing a new world order via an escalating series of terrorist attacks. Faced with what may be the most impossible mission yet, Ethan gathers his team and joins forces with Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), a disavowed British agent who may or may not be a member of this deadly rogue nation.


Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is a fun summer blockbuster. It manages to distinguish itself even among the new Bond films and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. As opposed to the more serious James Bond films, it takes a somewhat comedic and more action-intensive approach to the spy genre. For example, the film emphasizes huge fight scenes more heavily than spying, making for a fun and thrilling film.

In Rogue Nation, the IMF has been disbanded as it finally answers for all the collateral damage that Ethan Hunt has caused in the previous four films. This occurs just as Hunt finally discovers the Syndicate, a mysterious organization linked to multiple terrorist operations that nobody else seems to believe even exists. To complicate things further, the CIA has turned Hunt into a fugitive and wants him to answer for all the damage he has caused, leaving Hunt and his team to combat the Syndicate alone while evading the government.

Part of what makes Rogue Nation a fun film is that it does not shy away from poking fun at Cruise. There is a scene where he faces an agent of the Syndicate who turns out to be practically twice his height, which makes fun of Cruise’s actual height. In addition, the film lets him take a beating before he fights back, showing that he is no superhuman. I also enjoyed the focus on Hunt’s team and its dynamic instead of trying to portray him as some sexy, infallible, “I work alone” type of guy.

Despite all of this, the main appeal of the Mission: Impossible series is still Cruise and his penchant for action films, and Rogue Nation delivers plenty of these. The film opens with a thrilling scene in which Hunt clings to the side of an airplane while it takes off. Further in, the action continues with an interesting opera assassination that incorporates the music of the opera with the fight scene pretty well. There is also an intense extended car chase that switches to a motorcycle chase that will really get the adrenaline pumping.

Rogue Nation is another great entry into the Mission: Impossible franchise. It delivers what the viewers want: great action and thrills. I would definitely recommend this film for anyone looking for some mindless fun.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Review: A Sense of the Infinite by Hilary T. Smith

A Sense of the Infinite
Hilary T. Smith

Genre: YA Contemporary
Hardback: 400 Pages
Publication: May 19, 2015
by Katherine Tegen Books

It's senior year of high school, and Annabeth is ready—ready for everything she and her best friend, Noe, have been planning and dreaming. But there are some things Annabeth isn't prepared for, like the constant presence of Noe's new boyfriend. Like how her relationship with her mom is wearing and fraying. And like the way the secret she's been keeping hidden deep inside her for years has started clawing at her insides, making it hard to eat or even breathe.

But most especially, she isn't prepared to lose Noe.

For years, Noe has anchored Annabeth and set their joint path. Now Noe is drifting in another direction, making new plans and dreams that don't involve Annabeth. Without Noe's constant companionship, Annabeth's world begins to crumble. But as a chain of events pulls Annabeth further and further away from Noe, she finds herself closer and closer to discovering who she's really meant to be—with her best friend or without.


Full disclosure - I saved this book for one of the last of the recent review batch because I normally prefer sci-fi/fantasy and upon reading the inside dust jacket it seemed like just another YA novel about best frannnds! that are getting ready for college.

If this is you, if you read that summary and gave it a pass ("the secret she's been keeping hidden deep inside her for years has started clawing at her insides"??), maybe go back and give it a chance instead. It's a sometimes-painfully realistic look at real friendship, drifting away from each other and finding new connections with different people. It's about growing pains, growing up, and growing apart. The characters are not perfect - they make mistakes and hard decisions, they get angry and sad and gossip and joke around in class, they tell secrets and keep them at all the wrong times. And that lets it transcend the high school setting to lead you to realizations that we all still need sometimes.

My quick plot synopsis - two best friends, one of whom has been "set[ting] their joint path." They start growing apart, life happens, and in the end the main character begins to find herself "not herself+friend."

The central friendship is that of Annabeth and Noe, who start the novel as BFFs. Noe has a new boyfriend, Steven. Steven befriends Annabeth, and they give each other the support that they used to give (and get) only from Noe. This was one of the most beautiful parts of the story for me, seeing Annabeth's friendship with Steven blossom as Annabeth and Noe's withered. I was really glad that the author didn't take the obvious route of having them only linked through/competing over Noe.

The story shows splinter friendships as well, which makes the characters more multi-dimensional (who really is friends with just one person?). Old friends who like you more than you like them, new friends you make at a party and then never see again, friends of your cousin who share cookies with you during a college visit... they all weave a rich tapestry of human relations and connections.

I loved that the 'lessons' of this story are delicately but thoroughly addressed - anorexia and bulimia are woven into the story so subtly you share in the characters' realizations of their dangers only chapters later, when all the warning signs have piled up. This is infinitely preferable to the usual dramatic irony approach of "I decide to go throw up in the toilet because I think I'm overweight" where the characters are clueless but the readers are clubbed over the head.

My only criticism would be that Annabeth's deep, dark, secret doesn't seem quite so deep and dark when it's finally revealed. It's one of those moments where you're practically yelling at a character to just talk about it already so the misunderstandings can be cleared away. I can see how it shaped the plot as the driving agent behind Annabeth's clinging friendship with Noe, but I can't help feeling that it was mildly contrived, and the climax of that secret felt out of character (fight rather than flight).

Overall, this was actually one of my favorites from the batch I reviewed. Give it a shot, then go hug your friends.

"I remembered who I had been when I needed Noe the most, and who she had been when she needed me. Maybe none of us can tell what we're becoming until we become it, like seedlings instinctively groping for certain nutrients without knowing why."

A copy was provided by Harper Collins for review

Rating: 4.5 stars

  1. N/A

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  • eating disorders
  • references to pre-marital sex, abortion
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  • reference to nonconsensual sex

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Review: The Third Woman by Jonathan Freedland

The Third Woman
Jonathan Freedland

Genre: Thriller
Hardback: 480 Pages
Publication: August 4, 2015
by Harper

The United States have yielded to the People’s Republic of China – Beijing has written off trillions of dollars of US debt in return for a permanent military presence on US soil. America is now a former global superpower, dependent on and junior to China. And the evidence – cultural and political – is everywhere.

Madison Webb is a work-obsessed journalist who will do anything to get to the heart of a story; to expose lies and corruption. When her sister is brutally murdered, the police seem too eager to write it up as an isolated incident. Madison starts digging and uncovers a series of similar rape-murder cases.

As her investigation beings to attract the media spotlight, Madison draws the attention of some powerful people. And when she reveals the link between the victims, Madison will find out that the Chinese military makes for a terrifying enemy…

My Thoughts

Madison Webb is a LA Times investigative journalist. Her sister Abigail has been found dead with doctor announcing that Abigail died by a massive drug overdose of heroin. Madison does not accept it, so she is determined to find out what really happened.

The story sets in a time when the United States has defaulted on its national debt and has been usurped as a super power by China. Not only does China control the western ports and smog fills the air, the United States dependent on Chinese finances. Corruption is rife in this world.

I love how the story shows journalism’s impact on society, American election campaigning, and the political correctness. I also enjoy that there's an awareness in society that the press can interfere with the course of the law, but it also can expose things that the public have a right to.

The author creates tension and mystery and keeps the reader constantly guessing on what will happen next. With solid writing and interesting characters, it is a thriller to pick up this fall. Overall, I enjoyed the story and would recommend it.

About the Author

Jonathan Freedland is an award-winning journalist, a number one bestselling author, and a broadcaster. He is the Guardian's executive editor for Opinion and also writes a weekly column. He is a regular contributor to the New York Times and the New York Review of Books, and presents BBC Radio 4's contemporary history series The Long View. In 2014 he won the Orwell special prize for journalism.

Connect with Jonathan
Website | GoodreadsFacebook | Twitter

This post was made as part of the TLC Book Tour for The Third Woman
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Monday, August 17, 2015

Movie Monday: Ant-Man


Directed by: Peyton Reed
Genre: superhero
Running time: 117 minutes
Released: 2015
Produced by Marvel Studios

Forced out of his own company by former protégé Darren Cross, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) recruits the talents of Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a master thief just released from prison. Lang becomes Ant-Man, trained by Pym and armed with a suit that allows him to shrink in size, possess superhuman strength and control an army of ants. The miniature hero must use his new skills to prevent Cross, also known as Yellowjacket, from perfecting the same technology and using it as a weapon for evil.


Marvel Studios has done it again with Ant-Man, a super hero film that most expected to bomb, proving that Ant-Man isn’t too small for the box office. Ant-Man was a fun movie, playing off its own small size at times to keep itself light and enjoyable. By doing so, it provides a nice contrast to the larger than life Avengers: Age of Ultron, which came out recently.

Scott Lang, a former thief, has just been released from prison and is struggling to rebuild his life without turning back to crime, as no one is willing to hire an ex-convict. Additionally, his ex-wife is unwilling to let him back into his daughter’s life until he can prove he has changed. He is forced to accept an offer from Dr. Hank Pym, who wants him to take up the mantle of Ant-Man and break into his former headquarters to steal the Pym Particle, a shrinking serum that could be used to create super soldiers.

Part of what makes Ant-Man a good film is that it is self-aware. It doesn’t try to make itself out as a giant film. While there are heavy stakes if Lang fails, the world is not going to end. The film even pokes fun at itself with an action scene that takes place on toy trains in a child’s bedroom.

Paul Rudd’s performance as Scott Lang contributed nicely to the light mood of the film. He plays off the ridiculousness of an ex-convict becoming a superhero and provides subtle humor that does not come off too strongly. I strongly recommend this film to any comic book fans or just anyone looking for a fun action movie.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Review: All Fall Down by Ally Carter

All Fall Down
Ally Carter

Series: Embassy Row #1
Genre: YA Mystery Thriller
Hardback: 320 Pages
Publication: January 20, 2015
by Scholastic Press

Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:

1. She is not crazy.
2. Her mother was murdered.
3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay.

As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her -- so there's no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door, who is keeping his eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands.

Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can't control Grace -- no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do. Her past has come back to hunt her . . . and if she doesn't stop it, Grace isn't the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.


Nobody believes Grace about the cause of her mother’s death. Documentation officially claims that her mother's death is an accident. However, Grace's memories of the night of the fire include a man with a scar . . . murdering her mother.

The storyline is set the American Embassy in Adria, a nonexistent country in European. It is a place that is glamorous and dangerous at the same time. One wrong move can cause an international crisis. I enjoyed getting to know Embassy Row and the other countries.

I also love Grace. She is brave, stubborn, and determined to find the truth of her mother’s death. Her character is complicated. Though she doesn't trust people easily, she is desperate for someone to trust her. I feel for Grace; she has gone through a lot and continues to grow over the course of the novel.

Grace has a new group of friends waiting for her when she gets to Embassy Row. I like the friendship between Grace and Noah as well as the friendship that she develops with Megan and Rosie, who are always willing to risk everything to help her. We also meet Alexei, Grace’s older brother’s best friend and the son of the Russian Ambassador. I know that they all really care about Grace. Nevertheless, I would have love to learn more about all of them. They could have been developed more.

I enjoyed the mystery element of the story and the originality of the book's setting. I also really like how the emphasis is on the political tensions between the embassies. I am looking forward to see more information unravel and to find out what happens next for Grace in the next book.

An ARC was provided by Scholastic for review

Rating: 4 stars

  1. All Fall Down
  2. See How They Run

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