A chance encounter with an old flame in Giffin's bittersweet, sometimes mawkish fourth novel causes Ellen Dempsey to consider anew what could have been. Shortly after marrying Andy, Ellen runs into Leo, her intense first love. Leo, a moody writer, has secretly preoccupied Ellen ever since he broke her heart, so after seeing him again, Ellen wonders if her perfect life is truly what she wants or simply what she was expected to want. This scenario is complicated by Ellen's past: the early death of her mother and subsequent disintegration of her family have left Ellen insecure and saddled with unresolved feelings of guilt. These feelings intensify when Andy's career takes the newlyweds from Ellen's beloved New York City to suburban Atlanta. As Ellen's feelings of inadequacy and resentment grow, her marriage begins to crumble. The novel is sometimes bogged down by characters so rooted in type that they, and the story line, can only move in the most obvious trajectory. However, Giffin's self-aware narrator and focus on troubled relationships will satisfy those looking for a light women's lit fix.~amazon.com
Review: In the age of Google, Reunion, Facebook, My Space what woman hasn't casually looked for an ex-boyfriend? I say woman because I think it's more of a girl thing than a guy thing. Guys aren't as curious about exes as girls are, at least in my experience. There's a fine line between being curious about what they are doing and finding out on a personal level. Ellen Dempsey (which just makes me think of Patrick Dempsey YUM) bumps into the one guy who broke her heart years ago on a NYC street and that leads to the downward spiral in Ellen's life. See Ellen hasn't even been married to Andy for a year yet and while their life seems perfect, bumping into Leo has sent Ellen on the "what if" path for the whole book! I didn't love or hate Ellen, I just couldn't relate. I've run into ex-boyfriends and while it's nice to catch up, it's also nice knowing that you are where you are supposed to be in life. Ellen's problem is that she doesn't think she got to make that choice, that somehow choices were taken away from her.
I can see why Ellen is charmed by Leo but for me I could see through his crap. He's one of those "wants what he can't have" guys and Ellen telling him she's married just upped the game big time. I honestly believe if she had said she was single his flirting with her would have ended or at least he wouldn't have been as persistent.
I liked her sister Suzanne the best out of all the characters. I found her to be the most realistic of all of them. Granted we didn't know much about her and only from Ellen's point of view, but she did seem to be objective in her descriptions of the people around her.
I enjoyed the ending of the book and the epilogue. I was happy with the outcome of the book if I did feel it was a little too much "neat bow" syndrome.
While I enjoyed Love the One You're With I would recommend Something Borrowed, Something Blue or Baby Proof before it. Even though it wasn't my favorite book, I do like the way Emily Giffin writes and will probably buy her next book when it comes out.
Final Take: 3.75/5
Related: Lisa's Review: Love the One You're With
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Summary: As youngest daughter to the Spanish monarchs and crusaders King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, Catalina, princess of Wales and of Spain, was promised to the English Prince Arthur when she was three. She leaves Spain at 15 to fulfill her destiny as queen of England, where she finds true love with Arthur (after some initial sourness) as they plot the future of their kingdom together. Arthur dies young, however, leaving Catalina a widow and ineligible for the throne. Before his death, he extracts a promise from his wife to marry his younger brother Henry in order to become queen anyway, have children and rule as they had planned, a situation that can only be if Catalina denies that Arthur was ever her lover. Gregory's latest (after Earthly Joys) compellingly dramatizes how Catalina uses her faith, her cunning and her utter belief in destiny to reclaim her rightful title. By alternating tight third-person narration with Catalina's unguarded thoughts and gripping dialogue, the author presents a thorough, sympathetic portrait of her heroine and her transformation into Queen Katherine. Gregory's skill for creating suspense pulls the reader along despite the historical novel's foregone conclusion. ~amazon.com
Review: Most of us are more familiar with Anne Boleyn and her fate in the Tudor Kingdom but how much is really known about Queen Katherine of England, King Henry VIII's first wife? The Constant Princess (Boleyn) answers the mysterious background of Princess (Infanta) Catalina of Spain into one of the most regal Queen's of history. After reading The Other Boleyn Girl I wanted to know more about the Queen that Anne Boleyn destroyed. Her history is very interesting and she was quite the lady. She was the youngest (Infanta) daughter of Queen Isabelle and King Ferdinand of Spain and was born to be the Queen of England. She was married to King Henry VII's eldest son Arthur when she was 16 and after an awkward beginning they fell deeply, madly in love which for an arranged marriage that was purely political was quite rare. Arthur died within 6 months of their marriage and made her swear on her death bed to say that their marriage was never consummated so that she might marry his brother Harry and become the Queen of England as she was meant.
Of course the best laid plans never go as planned and she has to wait 7 long years before she can marry Harry, partly because of his age and partly because of political doing. Thankfully, Ms. Gregory doesn't take us through all of the years that Catalina is in desolation in England but skips ahead to the early years of her and King Henry's marriage. During the early years she taught King Henry much about the world and also gained much insight into his demeanor and how he was pretty much a spoiled brat who wasn't prepped to take the thrown. We see how Princess Catalina develops into Queen Katherine and is still revered as one of the greatest queens in history. She learns to master the politics of England and grows into a woman that shines outside her parent's shadow. She definitely earned the title of "The Constant Princess" by never faltering in her beliefs and in her promise to Arthur as he died.
While I found the book interesting and a really good, solid read, if you are expecting the same kind of book as The Other Boleyn Girl you will be disappointed. If you want a solid read on the history of a wonderful and strong woman then The Constant Princess (Boleyn) will not disappoint.
Final Take: 4.0/5
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Summary: In bestseller Reichs's entertaining 10th Temperance Brennan forensic thriller (after Break No Bones), Brennan, her relationship with Det. Andrew Ryan on the rocks, welcomes the distraction of an unidentified New Brunswick skeleton from Québec's cold case unit. But when the bones are determined to be that of an adolescent girl, Brennan is convinced they belong to her childhood friend, Évangéline Landry, who disappeared at age 15. Now Brennan must come to terms with Évangéline's possible death, while trying to ignore her feelings for Ryan as they investigate a series of teenage abduction murders that could be tied to the mysterious bones. With her usual blend of cutting-edge forensic science, nail-biting suspense and characters that pop off the page, Reichs, who's vice president of the American Academy of Forensic Scientists and the producer of Fox's Bones, has produced another winner in one of the genre's most satisfying series.~amazon.com/Publisher's Weekly
Review: What I liked most about this book was that more was revealed about Tempe's childhood than we've known before and especially how one friendship has affected her throughout her life. What somewhat irked me was how fast Tempe concluded that the bones found in Tracadie were those of her long missing friend. Tempe is a scientist and typically methodical and logical and that it was I found out of character..the jump to conclusion so quickly before she had evidence. I also didn't like the "resolution" on the personal life front either. Poor Tempe got a double whammy regarding Pete and Ryan. I also liked that her sister Harry was in the novel and was key in the investigation.
The secondary characters and the history of the Acadian people was interesting and very thought provoking. I always learn something from one of Ms. Reichs' books. While the case over all was interesting, I pretty much guessed part of the outcome.
I'm anxious to see how Reich's continues on with the Tempe/Ryan relationship and if how she proceeds with it will be satisfying or if I will want to throw the book at the wall.
I didn't think this book was the strongest in the series but I did find it enjoyable even if parts of it ticked me off. Oh and I still have problems with knowing where everything is located. Maybe one of these days I should pull out a map. :)
Final Take: 4.25/5
Related: Jenn's Review: Bones to Ashes
Monday, August 18, 2008
Knuffle Bunny: Trixie steps lively as she goes on an errand with her daddy, down the block, through the park, past the school, to the Laundromat. For the toddler, loading and putting money into the machine invoke wide-eyed pleasure. But, on the return home, she realizes something. Readers will know immediately that her stuffed bunny has been left behind but try as she might, (in hilarious gibberish), she cannot get her father to understand her problem. Despite his plea of "please don't get fussy," she gives it her all, bawling and going "boneless." They both arrive home unhappy. Mom immediately sees that "Knuffle Bunny" is missing and so it's back to the Laundromat they go. After several tries, dad finds the toy among the wet laundry and reclaims hero status. Yet, this is not simply a lost-and-found tale. The toddler exuberantly exclaims, "Knuffle Bunny!!!" "And those were the first words Trixie ever said." The concise, deftly told narrative becomes the perfect springboard for the pictures. They, in turn, augment the story's emotional acuity. Printed on olive-green backdrops, the illustrations are a combination of muted, sepia-toned photographs upon which bright cartoon drawings of people have been superimposed. Personalities are artfully created so that both parents and children will recognize themselves within these pages. A seamless and supremely satisfying presentation of art and text.
Knuffle Bunny Too: Trixie can't wait to bring her one-of-a-kind Knuffle Bunny to school and show him off to everyone. But when she gets there, she sees something awful: Sonja has the same bunny. Suddenly, Knuffle Bunny doesn't seem so one-of-a-kind anymore. Chaos ensues until the bunnies are taken away by Ms. Greengrove. After school, Trixie finally gets her beloved bunny back. But in the middle of the night, Trixie realizes something. She has the wrong bunny! Daddy comes to the rescue again as a midnight swap is arranged with the other bunny, the other little girl, and the other daddy. Needless to say, the daddies are not very happy. By the end of the story Trixie has her beloved bunny back, but she has also gained something new: her very first best friend. In the tradition of the Caldecott Honor-winner Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale , this is another heartfelt, hilarious picture book that children (and their parents) will love.
Review: I try not to review children's books here because well it's not really "our" thing but I couldn't resist writing a blurb here about these wonderful and delightful books. Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale (Bccb Blue Ribbon Picture Book Awards (Awards)) and the sequel Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity are a great combination of cartoon characters over photos of New York City.
My 3 year old daughter love these "girl" books and we are currently on a Knuffle Bunny Too kick. I heard about these books from a co-worker who thought they were hilarious and recommended them to me. They are a hoot. For anyone who has a toddler they will identify with the tantrums and "going boneless" of Trixie. We started reading these books to her shortly after she turned 2 and as the year has gone by she's definitely gotten more "into" the story. She liked the books so much that she got a stuffed Knuffle Bunny of her own for Christmas.
She now is getting to the point where she can fill in parts of the story and after I'm done reading it to her, it's her turn to "read". I'm thrilled that at this age she loves to read already and I only hope it will continue throughout her life. I will only encourage it as I will with my son (because boys typically don't read as much as girl).
Final Take: Knuffle Bunny - 5/5 Knuffle Bunny Too - 4.5/5
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Personal vendettas, hidden treasure, and a monkey named Carl will send bounty hunter Stephanie Plum on her most explosive adventure yet.
The Crime: Armed robbery to the tune of nine million dollars ~ Dom Rizzi robbed a bank, stashed the money and did the time. His family couldn't be more proud. He always was the smart one.
The Cousin: Joe Morelli ~ Joe Morelli, Dom Rizzi and Dom's sister Loretta are cousins. Morelli is a cop, Rizzi robs banks, and Loretta is a single mother waiting tables at the firehouse. The all American family.
Murder, kidnapping, destruction of personal property, and acid reflux ~ Less than a week after Dom's release from prison, Joe Morelli has shadowy figures breaking into his house and dying in his basement. He's getting threatening messages, Loretta is kidnapped, and Dom is missing.
The Catastrophe: Moonman ~ Morelli hires Walter "Mooner" Dunphy, stoner and "inventor" turned crime-fighter to protect his house. Morelli can't afford a lot on a cop's salary, and Mooner will work for potatoes.
The Cupcake: Stephanie Plum ~ Stephanie and Morelli have a long-standing relationship that involves sex, affection and driving each other nuts. She's a bond enforcement agent with more luck than talent, and she's involved in this bank-robbery-gone-bad disaster from day one.
The Crisis: A favor for Ranger ~ Security expert Carlos Manoso, street name Ranger, has a job for Stephanie that will involve night-work. Morelli has his own ideas regarding Stephanie's evening activities.
The Conclusion: Only the fearless should read fourteen ~ Thrills, chills and possible incontinence may result.
Review: Yes, I admit it, I was truly ready to throw in the towel on Stephanie Plum but I'm happy to say that my faith has been restored in this series that I have enjoyed incredibly over the last few years. This a much needed improvement over Lean Mean Thirteen. I even think that Stephanie is growing up a bit! I really enjoyed the cast of characters here. I thought that Brenda, just Brenda, was a hoot. I kind of pictured a slightly more worn Cher for some reason. I grew fond of Zook and felt sorry for him. It seemed to me like he used the video games to escape his life. I also liked how Stephanie treated Zook intelligently and not like a little kid. I'd like to see him back in another book in the future. Mooner and Gary also added some comic relief to the book. Grandma Mazur was interesting and hilarious as usual but her subplots always are a bit on the outrageous side. I don't know any Grandma's like her and I think that's why I find her pretty freaking hilarious.
I'm not quite sure what to think of the subplot involving Lula and Tank. While it is funny it is also something that should be wrapped up soon, in my opinion.
I liked the crime this time and how Stephanie wasn't a total idiot when it came to figuring the case out. She actually used her brain instead of dumb luck this time. I know some people will scream about the lack of Ranger in the book; while I can appreciate his hotness, I much prefer Morelli for stability and hotness (I now picture Jeffrey Donovan(Burn Notice)as Morelli) and long-term commitment. I understand while Ms. Evanovich drags it out but honestly the "pancaking" of Stephanie's feelings for each of them drives me a little batty.
All in all, this book brought me back into the fold for Stephanie Plum and gang. It's a good thing because I was ready to stop reading. Now, I'm looking forward to book 15.
Final Take: 4.5/5
Related: Jenn's Review: Fearless Fourteen
Friday, August 15, 2008
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Summary: As a little girl, Jane has no one. Her mother, the powerful head of a Broadway theater company, has no time for her. She does have one friend-a handsome, comforting, funny man named Michael-but only she can see him. Years later, Jane is in her thirties and just as alone as ever. Then she meets Michael again-as handsome, smart and perfect as she remembers him to be. But not even Michael knows the reason they've really been reunited. SUNDAYS AT TIFFANY'S is a love story with an irresistible twist, a novel about the child inside all of us-and the boundary-crossing power of love.~amazon.com
Review: I've been waiting for this kind of James Patterson book again and yes, I had high hopes for Sundays at Tiffany's,but I was a bit disappointed but not as much as I might have been. Enter 8 year old Jane with her imaginary friend Michael and how he's with her all the time to help her through a difficult time in her life. But there are rules and Michael can't explain them to Jane but he knows she'll forget him because that's what kids always do, they forget their imaginary friends. Flash-forward 20+ years and Jane hasn't forgotten Michael and well Michael hasn't forgotten Jane. He's thought about her often in the years they've been apart. He happens to be in NYC between "jobs" when he and Jane have a chance meeting. Which is supposed to make you think, "Is anything really chance?"
Jane hasn't really been happy in the last 20 years, in fact the last time she can remember being happy is when she was 8 years. She has a successful career but is still tied to her mom, the famous Vivienne Margaux. She's never felt good enough to be her mom's daughter and always felt Vivienne felt the same way.
The twist isn't really a twist if you read close enough and at least to me, it was very anti-climatic. It's also not described or explained to my satisfaction, in fact I found that it made no sense at all.
I think the premise is very interesting and it does leave some of the details on certain plot points for you to fill in yourself but it wasn't fully developed to my taste. I'm not sure I "bought" the romance part of the story. There were other aspects that I would have liked to see developed. And while the title of the novel relates to the book I do think it would be better named "Astor Court" or something to that effect.
If you haven't read James Patterson's foray into the romance side of the aisle I would suggest picking up Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas which brought me to tears many times or Sam's Letters to Jennifer which was almost as good at Suzanne's Diary. Both of those novels are far superior to Sunday at Tiffany's.
Final Take: 3/5
Friday, August 8, 2008
Summary: Based on the best-selling novel The Other Boleyn Girl is a captivating tale of intrigue romance and betrayal starring Natalie Portman Scarlett Johansson and Eric Bana. Two sisters Anne (Portman) and Mary (Johansson) are driven by their ambitious family to seduce the king of England (Bana) in order to advance their position in court. What starts as an opportunity for the girls to increase the family fortune becomes a deadly rivalry to capture the heart of a king and stay alive.
Review: I knew not to expect much from the movie since the book is one of my favorites for 2008, but I really couldn't believe they said it was even based on the book. If that's what based on means, well then I guess they just liked Ms. Gregory's idea. The Other Boleyn Girl is slow in the first half of the movie and finally picks up speed, only to have it end. At one point I even asked my sister if we should bother finishing it!
They missed key points of the book that I felt were essential to the storyline and the definitely down played the politics which were vital to King Henry's reign as King. I thought the casting was decent; Eric Bana as King Henry was delicious to look at and even Scarlet Johannsen was believable as Mary Boleyn. The only miscast I would say was Natalie Portman as Anne Boleyn. Natalie is an extremely talented actress but this role was not right for her, in my humble opinion. Anne is vindicitive, coniviving, schemeing and an outright witch with a "b" and that just didn't come through for me with Natalie.
It was a decent interpretation of the book but had some gaping plot holes where the book was nice and tidy. I mean the book was about Mary, Anne was secondary and I felt that the movie made it the opposite.
You are better off reading the book or if that's not your thing, then watch The Tudors - The Complete First Season because while it's not based on the book, it's closer than the movie that was. Plus, Jonathan Rhys Meyers is easy on the eyes.
Book to Movie Final Take: 3/5
Lisa's Movie Review: The Other Boleyn Girl
Julie's Book Review: The Other Boleyn Girl
Thursday, August 7, 2008
The premise is a simple one - after a nasty divorce, a despairing Liz (I feel I can be informal) embarks on a yearlong journey, literal and figurative to find herself. She divides up her year by visiting Italy to experience pleasure, in the form of eating pasta until she is 25 pounds heavier. In India, she spends another four months at an ashram, seeking the divine through meditation. Finally, she tries to find a balance between earthly pleasures and spiritual clarity by visiting Indonesia. I am not sure if she found balance, but she found something over there in Bali.
When I was done, I too wanted to take a year off to eat my weight in pasta in Italy and relax on the beaches of Bali, (sorry Ms. Gilbert, but I have no desire to emotionally exhaust myself by singing a prayer for hours on end). The writing is witty and clever and I saw her evolve from a broken individual to someone more whole.
I've read a few reviews where people hated this book, by stating it was too self centered. It's a memoir, so that didn't bother me. In the end this is all about Ms. Gilbert's experiences and how she found her peace. It's not a manual on how one another should live their life. I liked it because it was clear to me that she felt that it is important to be brave, when making life choices, difficult as they may be - a concept, I wholeheartedly agree with.
Final Take - 3.75/5
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Review: I am rather disappointed with this book (which is evident in the amount of time it has taken me to get around to writing a review). Billed as the first book in a mystery series I found very little that was mysterious about it. The story was cutesy, the romance was far fetched, and the ending predictable. I found the haunting of the ghost totally unnecessary to the plot. The heroine's "lawyer friend Bill" seemed creepy and although Atherton attempted to explain some of that away in the denouement, he was disconcerting for far too long to be a suddenly likable character.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Summary: Orphaned at 15 and raised by her Uncle Phillip, the adult Megan Blair is an Atlanta pediatrician who hears terrified voices. Revelation comes when childhood friend Neal Grady, who is now a shadowy government agent, arrives to apprise Megan of her psychic powers. And to warn her: Molino-the relentless villain who killed Megan's mother, believing her touch killed his son-is targeting Megan next. Molino thinks Megan was born to an ancient Sephardic family of psychics, and plans to force her to reveal the location of the Ledger, a book that contains the family's secrets and finances. He then plans to kill her, if Megan, Neal and Neal's sidekick, Jed Hartley, don't find him first. Johansen increases the tension by alternating point of view, but two-dimensional characters, repetitious explanations and stilted dialogue make staying tuned difficult. ~amazon.com/publisher's weekly
Review: Pandora's Daughter definitely isn't Ms. Johansen's best novel to date. It's a little slow and while I found all the characters interesting, I actually found that the sex in the book detracted from the other plots. I'm not saying she didn't write the sex scenes well, I'm just saying you pretty much knew they were coming and who it was going to happen between. Not necessarily bad, but predictable. Megan Blair is a 20 something, bleeding heart doctor who it seems has psychic abilities that she does not know about. Neal Grady is a man who was with her when her mother was murdered and also has psychic abilities and for the past 10 years he's been controlling her mind so that she doesn't hear the voices in her head and remember what happened to her mom. Well conveniently Grady needs Megan for something so he lifts his control on her brain to flood her with said voices.
I found the premise of the book, psychic abilities, to be interesting and thought they could have done a lot more with it than she did but this is probably an introduction to a series where Grady and Megan will be showcased. I'd probably read another book with them as the protagonists but the plot would need to be tighter. I would enjoy getting to know more about the history of the Devanez family in future books.
Final Take: 3/5
Monday, August 4, 2008
Mattie happens to be working at the hotel when Grace Brown, a real person whose story is told in An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser, disappears during a boat ride. Shortly, before her disappearance, Grace handed Mattie some letters. This re-writing of history and mixing of fact with fiction is quite clever and it allows Grace's senseless death to serve a higher purpose in Mattie's journey.
Mattie has some decisions to make. She is struggling with a promise she made to her dying mother to look after her father and her siblings. Does she, a self proclaimed plain girl, marry Royal, the handsome and ambitious second son of neighboring farmer, who doesn't understand or care for her love of words, reading books and writing stories? Or does she selfishly focus on that love, the one which got her accepted to Barnard College, miles away in New York City.
I liked that Donnelly conspicuously incorporated vocabulary words into the novel, which we learned the meanings to via Mattie's word of the day games. I'm all for learning while we read. That simple device proves quite enjoyable.
Though, I prefer the more 'adult' books that Donnelly has written, this is a stunning coming of age novel that examines the themes of poverty, racism and feminism in a real and powerful way.
Final Take: 4.25/5
The Tea Rose - Lisa
The Winter Rose - Julie Lisa
Sunday, August 3, 2008
I will admit that it is quite unfair to judge a movie sight unseen, however history has taught me not to expect too much when I learn a book, especially a favorite, has been adapted. I have always firmly believed that there is no real way to adapt 400-odd pages of plot development, emotion and character development into 2 hour movie, a picture being worth 1000 words or no.
Jodi Picoult always packs her novels with twists, fills her characters with depth and emotion, giving us insight to their motivations, while leaving us with some questions. I read The Tenth Circle, when it was first released and haven't again since then, so I didn't remember much. Once the movie started, I was able to recall the larger plot points, which the movie seemed to follow, until three quarters of the way through, where the plot diverges. The juxtaposition of Daniel's comic and Dante's Divine comedy, central to the novel, is merely mentioned in the movie thereby stripped of it's importance.
Far more important than plot, is the emotions a book makes you feel, which is lost in the movie. You don't feel any of the confusion, desperation and despair, even though Kelly Preston and her co-stars do an adequate acting job.
This movie will be repeated continually giving you ample opportunities to view it, but I suggest you pick the book up and spend the two hours getting engrossed in Picoult's writing.
Final Take: 2/5