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    GUEST REVIEW: At First Sight

    At First Sight by Nicholas Sparks – reviewed by Nic

    At First Sight by Nicholas Sparks was first published in October 2005. It is currently available in hardcover, paperback, audio and eBook formats from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

    The reprinted mass market paperback edition, published by Grand Central Publishing on September 1, 2007, is 332 pages.

    Goodreads description:


    Science columnist Jeremy Marsh and gentle town librarian Lexie Darnell continue down the romantic path first laid down in Nicholas Sparks’ True Believer. The couple, now engaged and expecting, encounter complications on every front: pre-wedding tensions; Jeremy’s writing block; dwindling savings. But as readers of Sparks novels know so well, love does find a way.

    Nic’s review:

    I’ve read a few books by the king of romance and although I enjoyed this one – it didn’t pull at my heartstrings like some of his others – The Notebook, The Wedding, and Dear John. I was hoping for a cryfest and that didn’t happen. But this was sweet and touching and Sparks says it’s his most tragic book.

    Jeremy is a writer in New York and on a business trip to Boone Creek, North Carolina, he meets Lexie. Within six weeks, they fall in love, she gets pregnant and they’re engaged. It throws his family for a loop, but her friends and family are super supportive.

    When Jeremy starts seeing things and learning more about his fiancée – he starts to wonder if he made a bad decision because he, in fact, does not know Lexie at all. Do you need trust? Is love really enough?

    We see them fight and make up. We feel their pain and their joys. Jeremy and Lexie are truly in love and we feel that too. But isn’t there always trouble in paradise?

    Comment from Fiktshun009:

    I always like reading the reviews from Nic. Especially because she reads books that I haven’t and so it gives me a chance to see some books that I might not otherwise have seen.

    I know that Nicholas Sparks has written a ton of super popular novels. I’ve even seen a couple of the movies made from his books, which I’m sure don’t do them justice. I am not one who typically jumps on a bandwagon just because the author has some popularity – I choose books based on content and subject matter and once I find I like an author will read anything and everything they have to offer. I will also occasionally pick up a book based on a trusted reviewers opinion.

    So, I think I will have to take the plunge soon with this author and at least try reading one of his books. They don’t seem like long reads and if he’s written so many successful novels that have been turned into film (and many that have been optioned) then there must be something that has attracted such a large following.

    Thanks again Nic for your review, although I probably won’t choose this book as my Nicholas Sparks first read since it’s not the first book about this character.

     

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    GUEST REVIEW: Alphabet Weekends

    Alphabet Weekends by Elizabeth Noble – reviewed by Nic

    Alphabet Weekends by Elizabeth Noble was released in the U.S. on January 23, 2007. It is currently available online in paperback and eBook formats at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

    Published by Harper Paperbacks, the print edition is 425 pages.

    Goodreads description:

    Natalie and Tom have been best friends forever, but Tom wants them to be much more. When Natalie’s longtime boyfriend walks out on her just when she thinks he’s going to propose, Tom offers her a different and wildly romantic proposition. He suggests that they spend twenty-six weekends together, indulging in twenty-six different activities from A to Z, and at the end of that time Tom’s convinced they’ll be madly in love. Natalie, however, is not so sure.

    As Natalie’s touring the alphabet with Tom, her mother’s going through her own romantic crisis—while Tom’s unhappily married sister-in-law, Lucy, struggles with temptation. And over the course of six amazing months, three generations of passionate dreamers are going to discover that, no matter how clever they are, love—and life—is never as easy as A, B, C . . .

    Nic’s review:

    This is the second novel I read by Elizabeth Noble and the second one I adored.

    Anna and Nicholas, Lucy and Patrick, and Natalie and Tom – they each have different problems and joys of their own, and their relationships are all at different phases in their lives. Alphabet Weekends follows the stories of each of these three couples.

    The main couple is Natalie and Tom. Natalie was dumped by Simon, and her lifelong friend, Tom, sees it as his duty to help her pick up the pieces and finally make her see the light that he’s the one for her. He proposes that they spend the next twenty-six weekends together going through the alphabet experiencing something fun and different. Will his romantic plan work or will seeing him in this new light backfire?

    Noble gives you butterflies, makes you smile, yet also brings you to tears and crushes your heart. You’re happy. You’re sad. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions. With the assortment of moods, feelings and characters, you’re bound to relate to one or more of the characters and/or situations. It’s a quick, fun read and you will be very pleased.

    Comment from Fiktshun009:

    I read this book a few years ago, just after release, at the tail end of my Chick-Lit phase. It was actually Nic that said I should check out Elizabeth Noble, which I did. And as is the norm with me, I decided I would read every single book she had written. I managed to read three of her books before I got into my young adult craze and so haven’t read her two more recent books.

    Although I don’t remember the specifics, I see that I did give it five stars on Goodreads. (As this was well before I was reviewing, my ratings were a bit more up and down depending upon my whim.) However, I do recall that I very much enjoyed the writing style of author Elizabeth Noble and that of the three books of hers I did read, that this was my favorite.

     

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    GUEST REVIEW: Sam’s Letters to Jennifer

    Sam’s Letters to Jennifer by James Patterson – reviewed by Nic

    Sam’s Letters to Jennifer by James Patterson was published in 2004 in the U.S.. It is currently available in paperback, audio and eBook formats online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

    Published by Grand Central Publishing, the paperback edition is 272 pages.

    Goodreads description:

    Laced with mystery, Sam’s Letters To Jennifer combines two unforgettable love stories in a novel that’s absolutely impossible to put down.

    Jennifer returns to the resort village where she grew up to help a beloved relative–and ends up experiencing not one but two of the most amazing love stories she’s ever known.

    The first is completely unexpected. In a series of letters that Jennifer finds, her relative reveals that she has concealed a huge secret for decades: Her great love is not the man she was married to for all those years. As Jennifer reads about this passionate partnership, she learns more about love’s imperatives and secrets than she ever dreamed possible.

    And then comes the biggest surprise of all. At a time when she thought she could never love again, Jennifer lets her guard down for a moment–and is suddenly caught up in the greatest flight of exhilaration she’s ever known. But, just as suddenly, she learns that this new love comes with an unbearable cost. Jennifer doesn’t think she can survive the pain–but the letters she’s been reading make her think that love may help her find a way.

    I’ve never read James Patterson, but I know of his Alex Cross thriller books and didn’t know how he’d transition into romance. (Nicholas Sparks is the king of this genre.) But it felt like it might be a tearjerker, so I picked this one out of my bookcase. Based on the name I thought this would be romantic letters from some guy named Sam to some girl named Jennifer. I was half right.

    Sam is Jennifer’s grandmother and best friend. Jennifer comes up to stay in Sam’s lakefront house because Sam is in a bad state in the hospital. As she goes to her room (the room she’s stayed in since childhood), she finds it occupied with tons of letters, all addressed to her. It’s in these letters that Sam tells Jennifer about her life, and some of her deepest secrets.

    While staying in her house, she gets re-acquainted with Brendan, and as their stories unfold, so do those of Grandma Sam.

    It’s a beautiful, touching story addressing life and how we should and do choose to live it.

    “Live every day from the crack of dawn until I can’t keep my eyes open a second longer.”

    Whether you choose to live by this mantra or not – you should choose to read this book.

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    GUEST REVIEW: Shanghai Girls

    Shanghai Girls by Lisa See – reviewed by Nic

    Shanghai Girls by Lisa See was released on May 26, 2009. It is currently available in hardcover, paperback, audio and eBook formats. The hardcover first edition is 336 pages and is published by Random House.

    It is available in all formats from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

    Goodreads description (partial):

    In 1937, Shanghai is the Paris of Asia, a city of great wealth and glamour, the home of millionaires and beggars, gangsters and gamblers, patriots and revolutionaries, artists and warlords. Thanks to the financial security and material comforts provided by their father’s prosperous rickshaw business, twenty-one-year-old Pearl Chin and her younger sister, May, are having the time of their lives. Though both sisters wave off authority and tradition, they couldn’t be more different: Pearl is a Dragon sign, strong and stubborn, while May is a true Sheep, adorable and placid. Both are beautiful, modern, and carefree . . . until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away their wealth and that in order to repay his debts he must sell the girls as wives to suitors who have traveled from California to find Chinese brides.

    At its heart, Shanghai Girls is a story of sisters: Pearl and May are inseparable best friends who share hopes, dreams, and a deep connection, but like sisters everywhere they also harbor petty jealousies and rivalries. They love each other, but each knows exactly where to drive the knife to hurt the other the most. Along the way they face terrible sacrifices, make impossible choices, and confront a devastating, life-changing secret, but through it all the two heroines of this astounding new novel hold fast to who they are–Shanghai girls.

    Lisa See writes beautifully, and immediately you’re drawn into 1930s Shanghai.

    Pearl and May are “beautiful girls” and they live the good life. They don’t relate to the working class. They don’t see what’s around them every day until they face a major change in their lives.

    We see what occurs during the war and we’re faced with difficult situations right along with them. Lisa See helps us see through Pearl’s eyes, and it’s exciting and fun…then heartbreaking and cruel.

    Loved the book from page one until I read the last word – at which point I became greatly disappointed with it… I’m hoping there will be a sequel because you’re left wondering and with unanswered questions. We need more, Lisa See!!!

    To read a sample chapter from the author’s website, click here.

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    GUEST REVIEW: House Rules

    House Rules by Jodi Picoult – reviewed by Nic

    House Rules by Jodi Picoult was released on March 2, 2010 in the U.S. It is available as a hardcover, paperback, eBook or audio book. The hardcover edition, published by Atria is 532 pages. All formats are available for purchase from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

    Synopsis from the author’s website:

    HOUSE RULES is about Jacob Hunt, a teenage boy with Asperger’s Syndrome. He’s hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, and like many kids with AS, Jacob has a special focus on one subject – in his case, forensic analysis. He’s always showing up at crime scenes, thanks to the police scanner he keeps in his room, and telling the cops what they need to do…and he’s usually right.

    But then one day his tutor is found dead, and the police come to question him. All of the hallmark behaviors of Asperger’s – not looking someone in the eye, stimulatory tics and twitches, inappropriate affect – can look a heck of a lot like guilt to law enforcement personnel — and suddenly, Jacob finds himself accused of murder.

    HOUSE RULES looks at what it means to be different in our society, how autism affects a family, and how our legal system works well for people who communicate a certain way – but lousy for those who don’t.

    As a special education teacher, a Jodi Picoult fan and an avid reader – I thought this book sounded like a great read. I was right – I couldn’t put this book down! Picoult always researches her subjects/topics to such great lengths to be able to provide the readers with detail and insight into her stories, and she did the same this time.

    This book is about a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome (a type of high functioning autism). He has an interest (some might say: obsession) in crime and crime scenes. He memorizes his daily crime shows and documents them in notebooks. He even likes to reenact them at home with his mom. But with his autistic tendencies and his interest being what it is, when his social skills tutor is found dead, he becomes the prime suspect. Did he do it? Will he be found guilty? You’ll have to read to find out!

    To read an excerpt from the author’s website, click here.

    UK Book trailer for House Rules:

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    An Oldie but Goodie: Replay

    Replay by Ken Grimwood is a definite oldie but goodie. (The cover art above, which is a bit eerie, is from the 1998 version.)

    Goodreads description:

    In 1988 43-year-old Jeff Winston died of a heart attack. But then he awoke, and it was 1963; Jeff was 18 all over again, his memory of the next two decades intact.

    This time around Jeff would gain all the power and wealth he never had before. This time around he’d know how to do it right . . . until next time.

    Imagine having the chance to live your life over again. Going back in time to when you were young and getting the opportunity to set things right. To change the path of your life so that you wouldn’t end up middle-aged in a marriage holding on by a thread. One that ends with you dying of a heart attack at your office while listening to your wife droning on.

    Imagine having the chance to earn more money than you ever could have dreamed about. But also imagine all the good that you could do if you just had the chance to replay it.

    ***

    Replay by Ken Grimwood is one of those books that you will want to read a few times. It was originally released in 1988 but was reprinted in 1998 and has in the past year been made available as an eBook.

    It is the story of a man who has lived a life that would be considered pretty standard by most folks: job, wife, dreams unfulfilled. But when he dies of a heart attack and wakes up a young man in college, he is given the opportunity to change that dreary future and realize the dreams he never did the first time around.

    Replay is not just a reverse Big or 13 Going on 30. And Jeff Winston doesn’t just go back once. No matter what course he sets for himself, when he turns 43, in any lifetime, it’s over for him. No matter where he is, no matter what he’s doing, and no matter how healthy, that’s it. He dies.

    And comes back. Again. And again. But each time is just a little bit shorter. And after a few lifetimes, things start to get a bit hopeless. How many loves can he lose, how many lifetimes of living become too much?

    But when during one of his many replay’s Star Wars is not released, Jeff knows there is another out there like him who may have the answers on why this is happening and how to stop it.

    Replay is not a young adult story, and it is not a current one, but with the elements of time travel, love and loss, it is a story that can still entertain people of many ages. Even if some of the references are out-of-date as the story takes place between 1963 and 1988, the ideas are still timely.

    Who hasn’t thought of going back in time? Being able to earn your fortune because you know what will happen in the stock market or the results of major sporting events. Imagine being able to take the road not taken the first time around.

    This story is happy, sad, fascinating, magical and everything in between. I read the book so many times that the pages started to fall out – and I never bend back covers on a paperback, so am glad this is finally an eBook which can withstand a multitude of re-reads.

    Sad note: Author Ken Grimwood was writing a sequel to Replay in 2003, which has not been released, when he unfortunately passed away. But maybe, just maybe, he is living his own replay.

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    Book Watch: Bloody Valentine (a Blue Bloods Book)

    Bloody Valentine by Melissa de la Cruz will be released in just over a month on December 28, 2010. According to the author’s website, the book will contain three love stories “including Schuyler and Jack.” The novel will be a nice accompaniment to the series and will be out in plenty of time for Valentine’s Day.

    Description from Goodreads:

    Vampires have powers beyond human comprehension: strength that defies logic, speed that cannot be captured on film, the ability to shapeshift and more. But in matters of the heart, no one, not even the strikingly beautiful and outrageously wealthy Blue Bloods, has total control.

    In Bloody Valentine, bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz offers readers a new story about the love lives of their favorite vamps – the passion and heartache, the hope and devastation, the lust and longing. Combined with all the glitz, glamour, and mystery fans have come to expect, this is sure to be another huge hit in the Blue Bloods series.

    And in case you missed it, here’s the trailer from Misguided Angel:

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