Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Review: Certain Girls: A Novel is the sequel to Good in Bed but you don't have to have read Good in Bed to love Certain Girls. Jennifer does a good job of explaining the back story without it taking over the new story and it is weaved well throughout the book. I love how it jumped forward 13 years in Cannie's life and where she's at, how she's changed. We meet Joy her 12 going on 13 year old daughter Joy who is the center of Cannie's world which isn't very good for their relationship. Joy struggles with the typical teenage issues of fitting in but because of her issues of being premature it's a little bit more of a struggle for her. Sure, I was vested in Cannie before this book but I found Joy to be true to a teenage girl and her struggles. Again, if you hadn't read Good in Bed no big deal because this story and these continuing characters stand on their on.
Being a mom of a 2 1/2 year old I fast forward my life and see these issues occurring in about 10 years and as a daughter I reflect back to my relationship with my mom regarding the crap I put her through. I think that most women will identify with books on different levels: mother, daughter, sister, wife, friend and woman.
There are a few twists and turns in the book that I didn't see coming and made the book that much better. The only thing that annoyed me a bit was that the younger sister Elle/Lucy was a bit like Maggie in In Her Shoes : A Novel. I know that older sisters tend to be type A(I'm an older sister so I speak from personal knowledge) but I don't think all younger sisters are screw ups, mine isn't. Maybe next time JW will write the younger sister an equal to the older one.
If you like good solid "chick lit" this book is for you. If you are a fan of books that deal with motherhood and those issues, you must read Little Earthquakes : A Novel (Washington Square Press).
I was sorry to see it end especially since I know it'll be another year or two for a new JW book.
Final Take: 5/5
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Review: I've lost track of the number of Iris Johansen books I've read let alone the Eve Duncan series. I do know that I haven't read all of them and will probably go back to the beginning at some point. Stalemate is another excellent installment in the Eve Duncan series and it doesn't disappoint. Montalvo is an intriguing character not only for Eve but for us readers. I liked the idea of Eve going out on her own, against Joe in this book. She's relied on Joe for a long time and to see her trust in herself was nice. There are a whole host of interesting characters in the story from the CIA agent to the Colombian rebels. The descriptions of the Colombian jungle are vivid and brought it to life for me. Since on of the major themes in this book wasn't resolved I have a feeling we will be seeing most of these characters again. The only character that I missed was Jane McGuire since the last 2 Iris Johansen books I read were centered around her (Blind Alley and Countdown).
You don't have to have read any of the other books in the series to follow this one, so if the summary intrigues you, give it ago, you won't be disappointed.
Final Take: 3.75/5
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Review: Secrets of the Hollywood Girls Club is a good, curl up and get an inside peak at the inner workings of Hollywood book. I've been a bit obsessed with Hollywood since my early teen years and it has waned since having 2 kids under 3 but I'm still fascinated with it and Secrets doesn't disappoint. To me it was fun to wonder who in Hollywood these characters were based on and who Maggie Marr is, my guess, a combination of Lydia and Mary Anne. I'm guess that Holden could be based on George Clooney, well at least that's the picture that was in my head while reading.
There are two main mysteries in the book and one had me guessing until the reveal towards the end of the book. The other mystery was good and resolved in such a way that was nice and yet predictable. I was so far off on my thinking which is what made it that much more enjoyable. There are a few good twists and turns in the book which kept my interest. I found all of the main female characters likable and endearing. They were all smart and successful and tried to resolve things on their own. Another thing I liked is that none of the characters were too cartoonish which I think can happen when someone writes a book about Hollywood. I also don't think you need to read the first book to be able to follow this one. There are a few references to what happened in the previous installment but nothing that muddled this one. In fact I'd probably go and get the first one to see what the back story on some of these characters.
Of course, some of it is predictable but nothing that I rolled my eyes about. In fact, if Ms. Marr does another book in the series I would pick it up for a good "chick-lit" read.
Final Take: 3.75/5
Monday, April 21, 2008
So needless to say I was very much looking forward to the movie when it was released. I expected even more when I heard that Marc Forster the director of Finding Neverland (Widescreen Edition) was attached to the movie. But alas, it didn't live up to the hype or the book. My sister and I made it 1/2 way through the movie before we decided to turn it off before it ruined the book. It wasn't the subtitles because I've watched plenty of great movies that way and it wasn't the use of Afghani actors because I thought that was brilliant and true to the story. It was the fact that I don't think a movie can do justice to a book that truly moved me. The book was a one of a kind experience for me (A Thousand Splendid Suns was very close) and the movie couldn't capture that.
If you've read the book don't bother seeing the movie and if you haven't either read the book or seen the movie, pass on the movie and run out and read the book...now.
Book to Movie Final Take: 0/5
Friday, April 18, 2008
Review: When I first read a brief summary of this book on Jodi's website about a year ago I wasn't sure what to think since a novel about the death penalty didn't seem too appealing but I will pretty much always read Jodi's books and I'm glad I didn't doubt this one. Jodi has a way of writing a book that in most cases you sympathize with the villain in the story. I have always enjoyed the way she writes the story from various points of view and I feel that in the case of her novels it always works well.
Change of Heart: A Novel is a novel about Shay Bourne and his quest for redemption and salvation by donating his heart. He believes that this is the only way that he will atone for his unforgivable crime(s). Strange occurrences start to happen to the people around Shay and to say he becomes a media frenzy would be to put it lightly. There are a whole cast of characters in this book that are all very pertinent to how the story is told and executed. My favorite character was either Maggie or Father Michael. They both seemed so real to me and went through a good amount of change during the story. Now I must say there are a few things I did see coming but I don't feel that they took away from the story, in fact I think they added to it. There are a couple of good twists that move the story in a different direction.
I grew up in a Christian home and have always found religion very interesting. This book talks about the Gnostic Gospels and how they were left out of the Bible because the Catholic Church felt they didn't follow the doctrine the church was preaching. The Gnostic Gospels seem to be more along the line of doing good things will make you more like Jesus. Now I think that obviously this was and is still controversial and I love that Jodi worked it into her book and it became very relevant. Now if you are looking for a profound take on the death penalty and religion this isn't the book for you but if you want to read a novel that will make you think about things in a new way Change of Heart: A Novel is a must read.
Final Take: 4.5/5
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Of course the ending was changed to be a bit happier but I have to say that I prefer the ending to the book while it might be depressing I found it to be more realistic. I can't stand it when they change the ending of the book because they think that everyone wants a happy ending, not every story has a happy ending or should have a happy ending.
That all being said, I enjoyed the movie and thought it was a better than average book to movie adaptation. If you catch it on Lifetime you'll find an intriguing story and solid performances. If you haven't read the book, I would highly recommend it, but go in knowing that it's not a light and happy story.
Final Take Book to Movie: 3.75/5
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
The summary for The Little Lady Agency and the Prince spoils things from the prior two and since this is best enjoyed as a series, I'm opting out of the summary this time.
Have you met Melissa Romney-Jones? What about Honey Blennerhesket? No? Then you should. Melissa and Honey share the task of being the heroine of Browne Little Lady trilogy and The Little Lady Agency and the Prince wraps up the Little Lady trilogy beautifully.
Let's step back for a bit though, we first meet Melissa in The Little Lady Agency, where she's just lost her job as a result of lay-off. After some rather horrifying (to Melissa, hilarious to me) twists, Melissa finds herself attending to the social needs of men. Plagued with inexplicably low self-esteem, she finds that she needs some help - the kind of help which comes in the form of a beautiful blond wig. On it goes and tada - Honey Blennerhesket! Sassy and feisty, one-whip-and-a-pair-of-patent-leather-boots-shy-of-a-dominatrix, Honey. And so it begins...
Back to Prince, this one finds Melissa coming to terms with who she is, the fact that her family won't change and wrapping up the romance aspect and doing so quite nicely.
This is standard chick-lit fare, but by far one of the more original plots, I've read in a while. It's well-written and the dialogue is snappy and funny. In my mind, there truly is no comparison, but if you enjoyed the series by a certain other british author, you'll love these books.
Final Take: 4.25/5
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Answer one of three questions in 100 words or less:
- What songs do wizards use to celebrate birthdays?
- What sports do wizards play besides Quidditch?
- What have you learned from the Harry Potter series that you use in everyday life?
To read more about the rules and to make submissions click here.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
I know Julie is getting a little frustrated with Stephanie. She's ready for her to grow up and move on with her life... I'm not sure I'm ready for that though. Although, I am waiting for one of the men in her life to grow up.
What are your thoughts? Oh, and be sure to mention whether you are you a Babe or a Cupcake...
Monday, April 7, 2008
Review: The House at Riverton: A Novel is a wonderful book about the past, regrets and secrets. Grace Bradley is a 98 year old woman who's lead a wonderful and adventurous life but it's a life where she's carried a burden of a secret for many of those years. A young filmmaker approaches her about the events of a party where a famous poet killed himself. This visit starts Grace on her journey into the past. It is the past that is most intriguing, not only because of what you know already happens but because of the period in time it takes place in. The 1920s was a period of great change for women and Ms. Morton does a wonderful job of weaving this into the plot.
Part One is a little slow going but not slow enough that you lose interest in where the story is going. It's a lot of background and detailed information but you do need to pay attention because it will be pertinent to the story in later pages. I liked Grace, both the young and older version. Her relationship with her daughter to me wasn't an important plot point if only to introduce her grandson Marcus, whom I wish we would have gotten to know better. I liked that we not only got to know about her past when she was employed by the Hartford's but also what she made of herself later in life.
Hannah is the most complex and interesting character in the book for me. I loved her spirit and her intellect. Hannah was about seizing opportunities that could get her where she wanted to be, but not in a vindictive way. Emmeline was a caricature of a woman during the 20s. For me she was stereotypical and not at all that interesting but she was necessary in many different ways to the plot. There is the one big mystery, what really happened to Robbie Hunter but there are other little mysteries which for me were even more intriguing. They are weaved into the major storyline and only add to it instead of detracting, which can sometimes happen.
I enjoyed how the novel was written, present and then flashback (similar to Water for Elephants). I read another review where they said it was similar to how the movie Titanic was told and I agree. The only problem with this way of writing a novel is that you only understand the story from one point of view and sometimes it might be more effective with a narrator. Although Grace was a great protagonist I would have liked to have heard it from Hannah's POV but seeing that Grace was a "lady's maid" she was privy to things that others would not have been.
I would highly recommend this book if you are a fan of historical fiction and if you like mysteries. This novel has both aspects and they are both done well. The book will be released on 4/22. I look forward to Kate Morton's next novel.
Final Take: 4.5/5
Related - Lisa's Review: The House at Riverton
Friday, April 4, 2008
Jenn's Review: If we hadn’t been reading this for our book club, I probably would have put it down a long time ago. The description would have grabbed me and I may have picked it up on my own to read, but I would never have stuck with it. I have issues. Most of them are best explained by one of my favorite quotes:
"At least two-thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity: idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religious or political ideas."~ Aldous Huxley
Being someone who has always been able to see both sides of any argument, I take real issue with fanaticism. I understand being passionate about one’s beliefs - and anyone who knows me will say I’m passionate about many things- but I don’t understand fanaticism. I can’t comprehend being so lost in one’s own beliefs that one is oblivious to the world around him/her.
So from the beginning, I must say I strongly disliked Spencer. His “proselytizing zeal” and self absorption made me want to put the book down. As a matter of fact I felt that way about all of the characters. There isn’t a single one of them that I liked or to whom I could relate. Actually, that’s not true; the one character I liked was Patrick, the baby. Everyone else was so wrapped up in their own lives and feelings that they thought of no one but themselves -especially the mothers. And while I realize that there are people like that out there, a whole family of them was too much for me. I try never to be around people like that and so reading about them was excruciating for me. Having never read Bohjalian before I cannot truly define his values by this single work, but it seemed to that he has a pretty poor view of humanity that he didn’t write one character that felt approachable ~ not one who could see beyond themselves. I also came away feeling that he has a poor view of today’s youth as all of them in the book were so seriously flawed.
It wasn’t until at least three-quarters of the way through the book that I started to feel the need to read through to its conclusion, and still I was disappointed. Yes, Spencer learned a lesson about fanaticism of sorts (I actually think that, in the end, he just turned his fanatical behavior towards a different object - his daughter & by way of Charlotte, his marriage), and the others learned a half-hearted lesson about paying more attention to their children, but they all brushed off the abuse of drugs and alcohol with the, “well we did it when we were kids” excuse; and that just doesn’t wash for me. That’s a petty defense many parents seem to use to absolve themselves and their children of any foul. As a former teacher, I just can’t accept this. This low level tolerance, is exactly how the children get themselves into trouble to begin with… this patting them on the head and sending them on their way shows a lack of boundaries. Boundaries mean rules and consequences and children need boundaries. I realize that the accident was a very serious consequence in and of itself for the children, but there was no closure on their mistake for me, there was no discussion, just Spencer’s new devil-may-care attitude. I don't understand the parental complacency on anyone's part. This disturbed me. It felt like the book took way too long to go somewhere and then when we finally arrived the denouement was crammed into a few chapters and not dealt with fully.
I realize that I tend to stick to children’s lit because there is always a clear moral, and maybe that’s my problem with this book. I don’t like the message it sends, but perhaps it isn’t meant to send a message. I’m not going to grade this book as harshly as I originally intended to after I finished reading. This book made me angry and it made me think, and after all, isn’t that what a book is supposed to do?
Jenn's Final Take: 3.9/5
Julie's Review: When I read the summary for the book after Lisa made it her pick for our group read, I wasn't sure what to think but I knew she loved the author so I was looking forward to trying him out. I do have to say, "Thanks Lisa!" This is another author I will be reading a lot over time.
All of the characters from Spencer to his boss Dominque were all very interesting and flawed. I think flawed characters are what makes great stories. The story starts off with a glimpse into the results of the accident that happens later in the book. I enjoyed how Mr. Bohjalian put together a good story before he got to the pivotal moment, which made that moment all that more meaningful. I loved Nan because while she's the matriarch of the family, at times it seemed like she was on the outside looking in. I adored Willow because she seemed wise beyond her years and yet innocent at the same time. Although at times I had to remind myself that she was just 10 going on 11 and not older. Charlotte was depicted perfectly for a 12 going on 13 tween girl, all that angst and hormones.
I also felt that the adult marriages were written realistically, although I'm not sure one of the reconciliations would have gone down that easily but it is fiction. I don't have very strong opinions one way or the other about animal rights and gun control but I did find them to be fascinating to have as plot points in the story. Do I think that we need stronger gun control laws? Probably. Do I think that the mistreatment of animals is horrific? Absolutely. Do I think that some hunting helps over population of some animals? Yes. Do I feel that there are extremists on both of these issues? Yes. And I do feel that both sides have valid points but when taken to an extreme level like FERAL does, I think it turns more people off than it attracts to their cause.
At times I felt that the story dragged in places and that it was maybe too "clean" of an ending but overall to me, this story was one of family, tragedy and finding your way and finding your way back.
Julie's Final Take: 4.5/5
Lisa's Review: Chris Bohjalian has the uncanny knack for moral dilemmas and Before You Know Kindness is no exception. A magnificent family drama, Bohjalian examines both sides of the animal rights debate. The thing I tend to enjoy most about Bohjalian's novels are his characters - always fully formed, always interesting - I often marvel at his ability to write from the point of view of women and children. I particularly enjoyed from the point of view of Willow, a ten-year old child endowed with the wisdom of someone multiple times here age, but still innocent and impressionable. Spencer, however, bugged me a little bit - are people truly that extreme? I suppose they must be and in the end did he really learn anything? Was it simply his fear that drove him to "change" or did he just begin overcompensating elsewhere?
I must admit that I was hoping to have a dose of Bohjalian's trademark(?) twist at the end, though we did get some information that allowed us to view all we'd read before from a sligtly different perspective.
Despite some slightly saggy bits of narrative and no true consequenses, except for guilt and the fear of loss, this novel shines, because it made me think, wonder and reflect.
Lisa's Final Take: 4.25/5
Thursday, April 3, 2008
After the movie has aired and I've watched it, I'll post my review here.
It airs on 4/12 at 9pm EST on Lifetime.