Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Probability of Murder by Ada Madison

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The Probability of Murder
by Ada Madison

ISBN-13: 9780425246672
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Released: March 6, 2012

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Dr. Sophie Knowles is enjoying a math party with her students and looking forward to a special weekend with her boyfriend, medevac pilot Bruce Granville, when suddenly everyone's cell phones start ringing. Charlotte Crocker, the librarian and a good friend of Sophie, has been found murdered in the library!

Everyone is surprised when they learn that the beloved librarian was involved with gambling scams. Did someone she cheat come to get even? If so, who: a student or faculty member or did someone sneak onto campus? Sophie wants to know, especially when a little detective work will help distract her from the fact that her boyfriend may have been hurt in an avalanche while ice climbing.

My Review:
The Probability of Murder is a mix of cozy mystery and suspenseful general fiction. Sophie decides to solve a murder mystery (which takes only half of the pages) while worrying about her boyfriend who may have been hurt while engaged in a dangerous sport activity. This is the second novel in a series, but you don't need to read the previous book to understand this one and this novel didn't spoil the mystery in the first book.

I should warn you that Sophie does not use logic to solve this case. Granted, logical people don't always act logically, and it's realistic that she's very emotional in this situation. She even wonders where "the logical Sophie went."

The problem is that I picked up this book expecting her to use logic to solve the mystery. Instead we get scenes like the one where she sees where a series of facts is pointing but she likes the person it points to, so she decided that following where the facts lead "isn't logical." Or a scene were she's told a certain person is probably a dangerous killer and to stay away from them, and instead she confronts them with a "so you killed her..." and thinks that's rational behavior.

Due to a twist about the victim by the end, I also felt that some of the things we initially learned about the victim were left unexplained by this new slant about what she was doing. I didn't feel very satisfied by the mystery.

However, I did enjoy the loving and supportive relationship Sophie had with her boyfriend and how she had to deal with the risks he took in his job and his hobbies. The characters acted in realistic ways and dealt with realistic issues. The suspense was high due to the worry about the boyfriend's safety and the threat of a killer on campus.

There was no explicit bad language and no sex scenes. Overall, I'd recommend this mystery as long as you aren't expecting a Sherlock Holmes type logic to be used in solving the case.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
Another Friday, another party in the Benjamin Franklin Hall lounge, the most rocking place on the Henley College campus. Putting Henley, Massachusetts, on the map.

Pity the poor humanities majors, with no building to call their own, no colorful mathematicians and scientists to celebrate.

Today the honoree was mathematician August Ferdinand Mobius.

"The wicked superhero," cracked computer genius Daryl Farmer, a freshman all the way from California. "How old is the dude? Like, two hundred and seven?" Daryl stood with one hand in his jeans pocket, the other on his hip. Apparently the guy was unconcerned about aggravating his statistics professor, who could manipulate his grade. If I were so inclined.

"Two twenty-one," I said, amazed at how close he'd come.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Shifter by Janice Hardy

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The Shifter
by Janice Hardy

ISBN-13: 9780061747083
Trade Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Balzer & Bray/Harperteen
Released: August 31, 2010

Source: Bought through

Book Description from Back Cover:
Nya is an orphan struggling for survival in a city crippled by war. She is also a Taker—with her touch, she can heal injuries, pulling pain from another person into her own body. But unlike her sister, Tali, and the other Takers who become Healers' League apprentices, Nya's skill is flawed: She can't push that pain into pynvium, the enchanted metal used to store it. All she can do is shift it into another person, a dangerous skill that she must keep hidden from forces occupying her city. If discovered, she'd be used as a human weapon against her own people.

Rumors of another war make Nya's life harder, forcing her to take desperate risks just to find work and food. She pushes her luck too far and exposes her secret to a pain merchant eager to use her shifting ability for his own sinister purposes. At first Nya refuses, but when Tali and other League Healers mysteriously disappear, she's faced with some difficult choices. As her father used to say, principles are a bargain at any price; but how many will Nya have to sell to get Tali back alive?

My Review:
The Shifter is a young adult fantasy novel. It's the first book in a series, but it wrapped up nicely at the end while still leaving me interested in reading more. I found the characters engaging and interesting, and the world-building was excellent. A unique culture and setting were vividly described without being obvious about it or slowing the pacing.

The book was a quick read. The suspense was created by potential physical danger to the various characters and by the danger to Nya of being captured or forced to misuse her skill. Nya was presented with several ethical dilemmas, and she had to decide if she'd do things she didn't think were correct in the hopes she could later fix them in time, or if she should let people she cared about suffer. She cared about people, even if she didn't know them personally.

There was a very minor amount of explicit bad language, and a minor amount of "he swore" style bad language. There was no sex. Though Nya had to heal several bad injuries, there wasn't graphic gore. Overall, I'd recommend this book.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Matched by Ally Condie

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by Ally Condie

ISBN-13: 978-0-525-42364-5
Hardcover: 388 pages
Publisher: Dutton Books
Released: 2010

Source: Borrowed from the library.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
In the Society, Officials decide. Who you marry, where you work, when you die. It's based on the highest probabilities for a happy life.

And it is the perfect, fulfilling long as you don't question it. Cassia has always trusted their choices. It's a small price to pay for a long life, the perfect job, the ideal mate. So when her best friend is named her Match, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is the one...until she sees another face flash across the screen, also designated as her Match. The Officials tell her it's a mistake, but Cassia knows and cares about both boys.

Both would be good Matches, and she knows it. But she's not allowed a choice, and that makes her question how the Society is run. She must chose between the path the Society has laid out for her--despite it's flaws--or follow her own path, unwilling to abandon the 1% for the happiness of the 99%.

My Review:
Matched is a young adult speculative fiction book set in the future. It's written in first person, present tense, though it's written well enough I quickly stopped noticing this. (I normally never fully get into a book written this way.) It's the first book in the series. I appreciate that it didn't end on a cliff-hanger, though it does leave you wanting to continue the story.

I liked that the kids were not in physical danger. It's a story about relationships and decisions: which decision is right, what are you willing to risk for the people you care for, and is happiness and a long life the ultimate goal of life? The suspense came from watching Cassia realize the flaws in Society and question if purely going by the numbers was the best way to make decisions. It's a journey of discovery about what's below the surface of Society as well as a story of how friends, family, and Cassia's two love interests show love for her and each other. I really liked how the main characters were motivated out of love for each other rather than selfish desires.

The world-building was excellent, and I lost myself in the story. The characters were engaging, complex, and made realistic decisions. Simply put, I really enjoyed this story.

There were no sex scenes. There was no bad language. Overall, I'd highly recommend this well-written book.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Amazon's Look Inside.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell

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She Walks in Beauty
by Siri Mitchell

ISBN-13: 9780764204333
Trade Paperback: 398 pages
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Released: 2010

Source: Free Sony Store ebook.

Book Description from Publisher:
For a young society woman seeking a favorable marriage in the late 1890s, so much depends on her social season debut. Clara Carter has been given one goal: secure the affections of the city's most eligible bachelor. Debuting means plenty of work--there are corsets to be fitted, dances to master, manners to perfect.

Her training soon pays off, however, as celebrity's spotlight turns Clara into a society-page darling. Yet Clara wonders if this is the life she really wants, especially when she learns her best friend has also set her sights on Franklin De Vries. When a man appears who seems to love her simply for who she is, and gossip backlash turns ugly, Clara realizes it's not just her heart at stake--the future of her family depends on how she plays the game.

My Review:
She Walks in Beauty is a historical romance set in 1891 in New York City. The story was rich with historical detail, especially about the social season and fashions. The author focused on the extreme of tight-lacing corsets for waist-size reduction (and so readers might develop wrong ideas about their normal usage--corsets were the "bras" of the time).

The characters were engaging and acted realistically. I liked what Clara learned about romance. It wasn't a typical "oh, he makes my heart beat wildly! I must love him..." romance novel.

A point was made about Clara receiving an education in math and science instead of social graces and how she wanted to go college, so I was surprised that desire was never brought up again later. The suspense in the story was mainly seeing if Clara would make good choices despite the pressure she was under and if she'd end up with the man best suited to her.

After being convinced by her aunt that no one will like her unless she tortures herself to become the current notion of beautiful, Clara longs for someone to love her just as she is--too tall, big lips, and without a 18 inch waist. She remembers a hymn from church, "Just As I Am," and as the story progresses she comes to realize that God loves her just as she is.

There were no sex scenes. There was a very minor amount of "he cussed" style bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this interesting and engaging novel.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

And the winner is...

It's time to announce the winner of the Follower Love Giveaway. Including Twitter entries, we had 35 valid entries. Using a random number generator and numbering the entrants in the order I received them, the winner is:

who won To Have and To Kill

Congratulations! I'll be contacting you for your address.

For those who didn't win, you can always buy a copy of these books from your favorite bookstore or see if they have them at your local library.

Monday, February 13, 2012

When is Perfect Perfect Enough? by Nancy Rue

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When is Perfect Perfect Enough?
by Nancy Rue

ISBN-13: 9781578560882
Trade Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press
Released: June 15, 1999

Source: Bought from

Book Description from Back Cover:
Quiet, studious Shannon D'Angelo has never made trouble before--and she's not about to start now! People have started to figure out that she's got a problem with anorexia, but she's certain she can handle the situation on her own. There's no point in worrying her parents; they have enough problems dealing with Caitlin, Shannon's troubled younger sister, who's been getting involved with everything from car accidents to house fires. How can Shannon's struggles even compare?

But Shannon quickly learns that there are some things she can't control, including her illness and, well, life. That means if she's ever going to get well, she's going to have to let go of her need to be perfect and allow herself to be loved and healed by the ones--and the One--who love her most of all.

My Review:
When is Perfect Perfect Enough is a young adult Christian novel. This book is the sixth in a series. This story appears to have began in book five (which I haven't read), but the things that have come before this regarding Shannon's anorexia and her sister's misbehavior are summarized at the beginning of this book. Certain events from books four and five regarding Ira are mildly spoiled in this one.

Of the four books in this series that I've read, the other three seemed to push events to extremes to increase the suspense. This one felt more realistic to me in terms of it being a situation the readers are more likely to encounter (in person or in a friend) and in how the characters reacted to the events. All of the characters were more rounded out and complex in how they dealt with problems, and we got to know them on a deeper basis. I liked that. I also liked how her friends were involved and how they learned how to help her.

The Christian element was mainly some God-talk ("we'll pray" and "God loves you"), and God was credited for helping Shannon make progress. There was some "he cussed" style bad language. There was no sex. Overall, I would recommend this book.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
Before I go any further, I need to tell you about my sister. My younger sister Caitlin, not my older sister, Colleeen.

Colleen is three years older than I am, and about three light-years more mature. She always did everything way ahead of the age I did it--shaving her legs, wearing a bra, starting her period. Good grief, she even opened her own checking account at sixteen. She did that when she started to work in a music store so she could save up extra money for college. Turns out she received a partial scholarship to William and Mary, in Virgina. Colleen never did anything less than independently.

Now Caitlin, she never did anything less than infuriatingly. I mean it. From the time she could pull herself up to the coffee table, when I was three and she was a year old, she would look right at my mother and reach for the Lenox china candy dish. Mom or Dad would tell her no, but she would keep looking at them, keep reaching, and keep nodding her little dark curly head yes.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Do I Have To Paint You A Picture? by Nancy Rue

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Do I Have To Paint You A Picture?
by Nancy Rue

ISBN-13: 9781578560356
Trade Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press
Released: August 1, 1998

Source: Bought from

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Brianna and her mother moved from Oakland to Reno to escape racial tensions and to give Brianna a chance to concentrate on her art. But when Brianna's boyfriend Ira gets into a game of "chicken" with a group of white supremacists and is critically injured, Brianna is thrown back into the middle of the black/white violence.

This isn't Oakland, though. Now Brianna has the Flagpole Girls. With their help--and God's--will she be able to see her way through vandalism and death threats to find a more positive way of settling differences?

My Review:
Do I Have To Paint You A Picture? is a young adult Christian novel about a teenage black girl dealing with extreme racism. This book is the fourth in a series, but you don't need to read the previous books to understand this one, and this one doesn't spoil the previous books. I was a bit disappointed at how small a role the other flag pole girls had in this book, though.

I'm sure people with disagree with me, but I felt like this complex issue--racism--was dealt with in a way that almost promotes segregation...which is ironic considering what Brianna's big "a-hah!" moment was about. But Brianna was basically told that being black made her problems special and heritage powerful in a way that the white, Native American, and Hispanic girls would never be able to truly understand or connect with.

I was also confused by how the two main characters--Ira and Brianna--acted so out of character. We're told Ira would never do what he did, and initially no one believes he did it, and yet we're also not given a compelling reason why he acted so out of character without first trying to solve the problem with more "in-character" efforts. Brianna was very "I'll handle this myself!" at the beginning, but then she immediately runs to Ira--whose plan didn't work!--to tell her how to handle things.

I liked how Brianna was able to see certain of the "enemy" as people with hopes and hurts even if their attitudes were wrong. However, I didn't really like how the book ended with her still thinking of certain people using superiority-based negative descriptive words. She's got a lot of prejudice (not race based) of her own to work on.

The Christian element seemed to mainly be some God-talk ("we'll pray" and "God's timing"), and Brianna not asking God for help until the end when she makes a painting "into a prayer." There was some "he cussed" style bad language. There was no sex.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
It should have been one of the best days in my whole eighteen-year-old life. But the minute Ira and I walked into the Jack-in-the-Box for the celebration, Dillon Wassen came up behind me and said, "You better start watchin' your back, you..."

Then, of course, he added the usual expletive people like him have to throw in when they're talking to people like me. Black people. African-Americans. People they think ought to be wiped off the face of the earth, and the sooner the better.

I wanted to turn around and chew him up one side and down the other so bad. Three things stopped me. One, I was pretty much walking on air, and I wasn't ready to come down yet. Two, the Flagpole Girls were about to show up. And three, my man, my Ira Quao, was with me.

"Ignore him," Ira whispered to me.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Follower Love Giveaway Hop

Follower Love Giveaway Hop

As a part of the Follower Love Giveaway Hop, I'm holding a giveaway for your choice of one of the following books:

book coverTo Have and to Kill by Mary Jane Clark is a fast-paced cozy mystery. You can read my review here.

A struggling actress with no immediate prospects, Piper moves back home with her parents in New Jersey and steps tentatively into the family bakery business. Soon, she’s creating a wedding cake for a friend, the star of a daytime television drama. But the bride is getting cruel, anonymous notes warning her that her fiance is a rat. When the bride’s co-star is poisoned from a glass of water meant for her, everyone assumes the bride was the true target. But when others end up stabbed or strangled, no one's sure who might be next.

book coverMy Hands Came Away Red by Lisa McKay is a Christian suspense/general fiction novel. You can read my review here.

Cori signs up for a mission trip to Indonesia during the summer after her senior year of high school. Six weeks into the trip, a conflict that has been simmering for years flames to deadly life on the nearby island of Ambon. Cori and her teammates find themselves caught up in the destructive wave of violence washing over the Christian and Muslim villages in the area. Within days the church they helped build is a smoldering pile of ashes, its pastor and many of the villagers are dead, and the six teenagers are forced to flee into the hazardous refuge of the jungle with only the pastor's son to guide them.

This contest is for USA & Canada residents only.

To enter the giveaway:

1) you can twitter me saying "Hi @genrereviewer. Enter me in the giveaway for [give the book name and author's name]."


2) You can leave a comment to this post asking to be entered and naming which book you'd like to win. Please also leave some way for me to contact you--or follow this blog so you can see the winner announcement. I'd be fun if you also included why you're interested in reading this novel.

This giveaway ends on February 14, 2012 at midnight. The winner will be randomly selected. I'll announce the winner on February 15, 2012 on this blog.

If you entered using twitter, I'll send you a @ or DM telling you of your win and asking where to send the book. If you entered using the blog comments, you'll need to leave your e-mail address or check back to see if you won so you can e-mail me your mailing address. If the winner hasn't responded with a mailing address within four days, I reserve the right to pick a new winner.

I hope everyone has fun with this!

The blogs participating in the Follower Love Giveaway Hop:

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Slow Burn by Mary E. DeMuth

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A Slow Burn
by Mary E. DeMuth

ISBN-13: 9780310278375
Trade Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
Released: October 1, 2009

Source: Bought through

Book Description from
Burying her grief, Emory Chance is determined to find her daughter Daisy's murderer-a man she saw in a flicker of a vision. But when the investigation hits every dead end, her despair escalates. Not even the kindness of her persistent suitor Hixon can soften her heart towards the community of friends that long for her healing. And as the questions surrounding Daisy continue to mount, and Emory's safety is shattered by the tattooed man's dark pursuit, she can't shake the sickening fear that her own choices contributed to Daisy's disappearance. Will she ever experience the peace her heart longs for?

My Review:
A Slow Burn is a Christian historical novel set in 1977 in Texas. This is the second novel in the series. You can understand and enjoy the story even if you haven't read the first novel, but I got the feeling the story would have had even more depth (and there was plenty already) if I'd read the first book before this one.

This was one of those stories that drew me in and came vividly to life in my imagination, but I think it had more to do with a few, select setting details combined with vividly drawn characters. You truly got to know Emory and Hixon's deepest thoughts, hurts, and fears--nothing held back. The characters were realistic in their reactions to the events and in their coping mechanisms.

The low-level suspense came from the mysterious break-ins at Emory's house and people's worries that the murderer might strike again. When the story ends, we still don't know the name of whodunit, but Emory has finally admitted the truth about herself to herself and started down her road of healing. It's a long, hard, and painful road for her to get to that point, and I suspect it's not going to be an easy road for her from this point on, either.

There was a Christian element--God is clearly involved in these character's lives and is pursuing a closer relationship with them. It didn't come across as one character preaching to another, though--it's more people loving each other like Christ loves us. There was a minor amount of "he swore" style and fake bad language. Emory did use drugs. There were no sex scenes. Overall, I'd highly recommend this book.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Look of Love by Mary Jane Clark

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The Look of Love
by Mary Jane Clark

ISBN-13: 9780061995569
Hardcover: 340 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Released: January 17, 2012

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from the Cover:
Piper Donovan accepts when the owner of Elysium, an exclusive spa and plastic surgery center, offers her an all-expenses-paid trip to Los Angeles to create a dazzling and unique wedding cake.

The ultra-luxurious spa caters to the rich and famous in need of a little “refreshing”—a nip here, a tuck there, a little Botox, a little detox. Nestled in the Hollywood Hills, Elysium seems picture-perfect: the grounds, the staff, even the guests. But no sooner does Piper arrive than a guest is brutally murdered in one of the private bungalows. Someone, it seems, wants to make sure Elysium’s beautiful director, Jillian Abernathy, never gets to walk down the aisle. Piper soon discovers that beneath the glamorous surface of this idyllic oasis lies an ugly truth—and a cold-blooded plan for murder.

My Review:
The Look of Love is a very fast-paced mystery/suspense novel. This book is the second in the series. You don't need to read the first book to understand this one, and this one didn't spoil the whodunit of the first mystery. However, the under-developed romance of the first book was even sketchier in this novel. If the second novel was all you had to go on, then the guy didn't even come across as desirable.

Like the first novel, Piper is curious about who is murdering people, but she doesn't snoop around to find out who the murderer is. She is briefly involved in trying to expose a staff member who is molesting female guests, but she's mainly focused on making the cake and getting an acting job. Piper was one of a number of main characters, and the story frequently switched between the different point-of-view characters.

The author provided plenty of people with a motive and opportunity for the murder. You could guess from the clues, but I felt that whodunit's "normal" thoughts didn't fit with some of the "in the killer's head" thoughts we're given. The first novel proves that the author could have had the two "thought" sets line up and still not give away whodunit.

The details about cake decoration, the resort, the nunnery, and the acting business were interesting. The suspense was created by the physical danger to the characters.

I found Piper engaging and enjoyable to read about, but most of the characters came across rather simplistically: the angry father, the snoopy reporter, and so on, so some parts of the ending (where several characters suddenly change how they've been behaving) seemed abrupt.

One of the characters was a nun, so the Catholic faith is portrayed though I wouldn't call this a "religious" novel. However, the novel did tend to drop tidbits of advice about true beauty and being satisfied with how you look. There was a minor amount of explicit bad language. There was no sex. Overall, I enjoyed this novel (though I liked the first one better), and I'd recommend it.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read and excerpt using Google Preview.