Tag Archives: book review

Book Review: “One for the Money”

Well, it has been a very busy week. I am approaching the end of two college courses (finals next week!), and just began two more (my last two). In my hectic school schedule, I forgot to post what book we were reading this week, but hopefully you’re keeping up by checking out the “The Month’s Books” page, where I list what the readings for the month are.

This week, in keeping with the “Month of Women” theme (books for women, by women, about women), we tackled Janet Evanovich’s One for the Money.

Image

One for the Money is the first in Evanovich’s “Stephanie Plum” series, and was quite an introduction to a really entertaining leading lady! The novel follows broke-as-dirt Stephanie Plum, a 30-year-old single woman in New Jersey, as she tries her hand at gaining some fast cash through bounty hunting. Yes… bounty hunting. She sets quite a slow learning curve as she seeks out to capture the grand prize bounty, Joe Morelli – a man she has a romantic (or at least lusty) past with. Her adventures are exciting, her near-misses frightening, and her story is all over very entertaining.

I have to admit, I came into this novel with a bit of a wall up, thinking I wouldn’t like it. First off, it is apparently a very popular series, and (just being honest – hate me if you will) I have noticed that very popular series that are followed predominantly by women tend to be REALLY hit or miss (think Outlander vs. Twilight). Secondly, my last experience with a female bounty hunter novel ended in grave (pun intended) disappointment (see: Book Review: “Guilty Pleasures”). I have to apologize to Stephanie Plum for my judgements – and eat my words for sure.

Evanovich’s novel is downright funny. Her character – Stephanie Plum – is so honest that it’s impossible not to love her. Unlike many female leads, she doesn’t come by her craft gracefully or easily… she struggles, makes mistakes, and gets herself into some really hairy situations. She even finds herself rescued by quite a few male characters – something that is rarely found in “chick lit” (books for women), where women are usually tough-as-nails and can handle things themselves. It’s refreshing to see such a genuine portrayal of a woman in a novel, especially in a modern woman (well, “90’s modern”) with a job like bounty hunting. I feel like every single woman I know could, at some point in her life, relate to Stephanie. Evancovich infuses so much tongue-in-cheek humor into her characters. From Stephanie on down to the lowliest of supporting characters, each one seems real, New Jersey sarcastic (all that offensive New Jersey language), and contributes to the story.

There’s even an element of mystery in the story, as Stephanie seeks to get her man, and help him prove his innocence. Evanovich kept me captive the entire time, and I found myself up into the late hours of the night with this one. Listen – it’s nothing profound. This novel isn’t going to knock your socks off… but it will entertain you. It was a great relief from all of my school work, and a fun way to spend my evening. I would happily read another Stephanie Plum novel, and gladly pass this one on to any of my friends.

So what about you? Are you a Stephanie Plum fan? Does this novel even sound interesting to you? If you’ve read it before, what did you like (or not like) about it?

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Week 23 Reading: “I Love You, Ronnie”

Well folks, we are entering February, and starting off our “Month of Romance” theme for our book club-like reading atmosphere. For those of you who have joined us recently, the idea behind this blog is to pick a theme for each month, and for each week within that month, a different book associated with that theme. I try to mix it up by picking different genres, to keep everyone interested, and to expose myself (and you!) to books we wouldn’t normally pick up. Within any month, we can read a biography, a sci-fi, a trashy romance, and a historical fiction… or anything else on the broad spectrum of literary themes!

Check out This Month’s Books, pick one (or more), and read along! At the end of each week, I post my review, and ask you to join in with your own review/commentary/questions. I enjoy having opposing opinions, learning something about the book I missed, or just discussing a novel with friends!

I’m very excited to pick up this week’s book, I Love You, Ronnie by Nancy Reagan.

Image

This book came as a very enthusiastic recommendation from my friend Haley (hey Haley, and Thing 1 and Thing 2!!). The book is a collection of letters from the late Ronald Reagan to his wife, Nancy Reagan. The letters encompass the bulk of their relationship, from the acting days, to the White House, and beyond. These love letters were lovingly assembled, and explained, by Nancy Reagan. When recommending this book, my friend Haley said that Ronald Reagan is possibly “the most romantic man ever.”

This should be an interesting selection. It is a collection of letters, and falls under the title “biographical literature,” which isn’t usually my genre of choice. But again – expanding my literary horizons and embracing something I usually wouldn’t pick up on my own. With a recommendation like “most romantic man ever” from Haley (who I trust with book recommendations), this should be a great one to start off our “Month of Romance,” and get us into the mood for love.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Book Review: “Celtic Moon”

Rounding out our “New” theme for January reading, we tackled a book I found in the “New Sci-Fi” section of the book store – Celtic Moon by Jan DeLima. Not only is the book “new” (with an October 2013 publication date), it is DeLima’s first publication, making her a “new author,” and is also the first in a projected series (no other publications so far), the Celtic Wolves series.

Image

Okay, I’ve got a mixed review going on here. This book had a lot of really good things going for it… but it also had a lot of things that made me roll my eyes in frustration and exasperation.

Celtic Moon is a story about a woman in her 30s (yay! No teenage angst!) who’s 15 year old son is experiencing…. supernatural… problems (okay, minimal teenage angst). Sophie has spent the last 15 years in hiding from her husband, the father of his baby, after a shocking experience watching him change into a wolf! Desperate to keep her child away from that world, a pregnant Sophie leaves, but when her son Joshua starts showing some family traits, Sophie makes the hard decision to return to Dylan, her husband. On his territory, Dylan is the alpha wolf and leader of an ancient group of wolves. Sophie’s reappearance causes Dylan to experience everything from overwhelming joy to deadly fear, as his tribe is on the brink of a long-anticipated war with other ancient shape shifters.

Are you following?

Okay. Good points first. Celtic Moon was a very exciting book. There is non-stop action that would appeal to audiences of all ages and sexes. I could absolutely see a teenage girl, her grandmother, and her preteen brother, enjoying the action in this book. There’s a little bit of something for everyone – enough “teenage problems” for the teenagers, enough fantasy for the fantasy fans, and a good chunk of romance thrown in. DeLima has a wonderful voice, and her characters truly speak for themselves. Each character is well developed, and you feel like you know these people instantly, despite learning their internal struggles throughout the book. They continue to grow as the story develops, making you sympathize with their actions, and want to know more about them. DeLima has a wonderful way with setting the scene – I really felt like I could see and hear everything the characters were seeing and hearing. She also had a lot of history and Celtic mythology in her novel, which was exceptionally interesting! In short, this book was fun, exciting, and descriptive.

Now the bad points. Maybe I should have done my research before hand, but I was NOT expecting all the SEX. I had assumed (by the cover… yes, literally “judging a book by its cover” over here) that it was bordering on Young Adult classification, but if this is young adult, my kids are reading children’s books until they are 20. Yes, yes – I said this book could be enjoyed by audiences of all ages – but I meant the action sequences… not the action sequences. There was a surprisingly heavy romance story, and it was fueled by a lot of sex scenes which were more graphic than that trashy romance novel I read in December (‘Twas the Night After Christmas). I’m no prude, I enjoy a good sex scene… but they were kind of out of place in this novel. Perhaps I desperately wanted it to be a fun action story rather than a sappy romance, and maybe my anticipation for a good fantasy got in the way, but the sex scenes just kind of… irked me. I feel like DeLima is limiting readership by throwing that in. This was a book I would have gladly passed on to my teenage cousins, and instead I feel a little ashamed for recommending it to my mother.

Sex scenes aside, there were a few minor things that got under my skin while reading this book. Joshua, the transforming teenager, seems to accept his fate without question or surprise. As if a 15 year old who realizes they are shockingly different than their peers would just accept it as totally normal… let alone them having to accept they are a WOLF. I also had a hard time separating this book from the dreaded Twilight in my head. While this book was MUCH better written, and the characters were MUCH less abusive, I couldn’t help but see the parallels between the loves stories (they are truly star crossed lovers, and the fact that she now will age just as slowly as him seems a little… sappy), and the underlying plot (a sect of evil shapeshifters are out to stop the rebels… hello, Volturi vs. Cullens). It just felt a little unoriginal at points, and almost like it was sapping off the glory that was Twilight. That being said, this book was MUCH better than Twilight and deserves the cult following much more than that series.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’d give this book a solid 3. The flaws I saw in it were minor, and were really based off of my personal preferences. Anyone who is a fan of the contemporary fantasy genre will LOVE this book. I will most certainly be picking up the second book in the series when it is published, and that alone speaks of its success.

How about you? Have you read Celtic Moon? If you have, what did you think? If you haven’t, are you interested in picking it up?

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Book Review: “The White Queen”

Well, normally I take the whole week to read a book, but this week I had a few things working in my favor. Firstly, I’m still on school break (until Monday, when “The Aurthurian Legend” class begins); secondly, my husband is finally back at work – meaning I’m back into a daily routine of housework, schoolwork (with the pre-K munchkins), and downtime (from having no homework to do). Add that to a book I had a hard time putting down, and the book got finished very quickly.

This week’s reading was the first of our “New” reading of January (note: this book is “new to me”), The White Queen by Philippa Gregory.

Image

What a great book! I have never read a book by Gregory, and I am so pleased I picked this one up – and am fully inspired to pick up another of her novels. The White Queen follows one of England’s most fascinating monarchs – Elizabeth Woodville – in one of England’s most trying times – The Cousin’s War of the late 15th Century. Elizabeth, a commoner who captures the heart of a usurper king on his ascent to power, helps shape a country in trouble, and forever changes the face of the Royal Family.

I loved this read! I had a really hard time putting it down (just as my husband, who had to suffer through the light being on in our bedroom until midnight). Gregory has a very strong voice, and tells a fascinating story through the eyes of Elizabeth, a passionate lover, powerful queen, desperate mother, and “daughter” of a legendary water goddess. Readers follow Elizabeth through her secret marriage, the ebb and flow of her rule, and her many heartaches over the 20+ years this story covers.

Gregory certainly did her historical research when preparing for this book! Her “Author’s Notes” are just as interesting as the story, and outline her research process and how she pieced her story together. She throws in a delicate balance of fact, fiction, mystery, and magic – a cocktail for a successful, intriguing, and inspiring story. While reading the book, I found myself putting it down, opening up my laptop, and researching the Cousin’s War, and Elizabeth’s family. I realized I had no idea how little I knew about the monarchs of Renaissance England. Elizabeth was grandmother to the infamous Henry VIII, great-grandmother to the “Virgin Queen,” Queen Elizabeth I, and grandmother to the scandalous “9 Day Queen,” Lady Jane Grey (her grandmother through her son, Thomas Grey, from her first marriage).

Gregory helped me pinpoint exactly what it is I love about historical fiction – the opportunity to learn the facts and legends surrounding people and times I know very little about. Historical fiction inspires me to learn more about history, and allows me to do that in a way that is more exciting and interesting than simply reading a text book. To feel a connection with the characters, and to history, is, in my opinion, the sign of a well written piece of literature.

The book started a little slowly, and seemed to be more of a glorified romance novel, following the standard structure of the genre (which you know I’m not a huge fan of)- unhappy, desperate widow meets a rising king with a reputation for enjoying the ladies… she tries to resist him, but she can’t… and he can’t resist loving her, despite her being stations below him… blah, blah, blah. I couldn’t help rolling my eyes and thinking “this is just a 408 page romance.” I’m glad I kept reading, because the story became much more interesting once Elizabeth becomes the “White Queen,” and raises herself, and her family, to power. I wish the beginning of the book didn’t seem like the stereotypical romance novel, but I can easily forgive Gregory when the rest of her novel turns out to be exceptionally interesting.

The White Queen is a great piece of historical fiction, and contains a little something for everyone – a glimpse at the monarchs of the Renaissance for the historian, a beautiful love story for the romantic, terrifying battles for the warrior, magic for the fantasy fans, and a great female lead who will open your heart to her family and her country. I can’t wait to pass this beautiful book on to a friend or loved one, who can enjoy it as much as I have.

Your turn. Did you enjoy The White Queen? Have you read any of Gregory’s books (and if you did, do you have any recommendations for me)? What did you think about Elizabeth Woodville (York), the White Queen? Was she brave in the face of adversity, or was she power hungry?!

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Book Review: “‘Twas the Night After Christmas”

This week we finished our second book of December’s “Month of Holiday” themed books, with Sabrina Jeffries’s paperback romance novel, ‘Twas the Night After Christmas.

Image

Okay, as I’ve said before, I am NOT a fan of romance novels. I find them tedious, ridiculous, and poorly written. I think trashy romance novels are a waste of reading time – why would I read a book with a cast of poorly-developed characters, who have a lot of sexual tension that boils over into a very brief, very disappointing sex scene? Why? For that very brief, very disappointing sex scene, I guess.

‘Twas the Night After Christmas was a story about a British earl during the last 18th Century who has been estranged – by suspicious circumstances – from his mother. He receives a letter that his mother is gravely ill, and decided to visit her before her death. When he arrives, he realizes it was just a clever rouse from his mother’s companion, the stereotypical “lonely widow with a child, who doesn’t understand how beautiful she is, and has, despite her previous marriage, never gotten in touch with her passionate, sexual side.” The two have an instant sexual attraction, despite the fact that they hate each other (… who possibly would have guessed?). They both need to overcome their fatal flaws – the Earl, his pride, the widow, her lack of self esteem – to realize that their attraction goes beyond the sexual. Blah, blah, blah.

I don’t know if you can tell, but I really wasn’t too impressed by this book. The characters are generic – attractive sex-god with a chip on his shoulder, virginal woman who doesn’t know her self worth, meddling old woman who wants to see everyone happy – and the “romance” is pretty basic. I did enjoy a few of the little twists Jeffries included in the plot, and I liked her few references to historical moments that were taking place at the time of this book (the publication of Twas the Night Before Christmas, for example).

Maybe I’m being too harsh on paperback romances. I tend to stay away from them because I feel like I’m looking for MORE out of my reading time than a generic plot, and two disappointing sex scenes. As pointed out by my lovely friend Alyssa (who is a big romance novel fan), that’s kind of the point of these books. They are light, they are easy to read, they have enough romance to live vicariously through without overwhelming our lives…

If you’re a fan of romance novels, you’ll like this book. Jeffries is a pretty decent writer (as if I could judge… I’m a reader, not a writer), and she has a way of making you stay involved in the story, even if you’re not too fond of it. If you’re looking for something “hot and steamy” this holiday season, I would recommend this book. The story is predictable, but Jeffries throws in enough “supporting” plot twists to keep you interested. This one was not for me, and this book will be making its way into a package to my friend Alyssa (meaning: I’m not keeping it on my shelf, or reading it again).

What do you think? Am I being too harsh on the genre as a whole? Have you read this book, and think you can defend its honor?

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Book Review: Darkly Dreaming Dexter

Congratulations, readers – we just finished our fourth book (in as many weeks) and our last book for the month of September (forgetting, of course, our September/October crossover book, Frankenstein). What a way to finish September’s theme of books that have been made into Movies/TV shows! Of course, this week brought around the finale of one of my favorite shows, “Dexter.” I haven’t watched the big finale yet – I think I’m feeling a sense of sorrow over it ending, and am a little fearful of the outcome, but I digress…. Little known too most (well, those who don’t pay attention to the show’s intro), the infamous series was inspired by the Dexter book series by Jeff Lindsay. This week, we read Lindsay’s first installment, Darkly Dreaming Dexter.

Image

What a thriller this novel was! Lindsay introduces us to a character who is charming, attractive, likeable and – well – a serial killer. Dexter, the novel’s protagonist, is forgiven by a few redeeming qualities: his protection of his sister, his practice of only killing “people who deserve it” (child rapists, murderers, the scum of society), and his complete lack of human emotion. This last quality translates into a good bit of dry (and exceptionally dark) humor, bringing light into Lindsay’s novel – a much welcome break from the tension Lindsay creates.

Dexter is a blood spatter analyst for the Miami Metro Police Department’s homicide unit – a wonderful and ironic profession for a sociopathic killer. The homicide unit begins investigating a string of particularly gruesome murders – murders that pique Dexter’s interest and tickle a repressed memory he cannot put his finger on. In trying to solve the murder (and figure out why he feels a kinship with the killer), Dexter begins to suspect that maybe he is the murder, and his “Dark Passenger” is taking over while Dexter is darkly dreaming. Dexter is torn between wanting to find the killer, and trying to convince himself that his innate ability to understand the murders and the motives behind them is not because he is committing murder in his sleep.

Dexter’s internal monologue – both with himself and his “Dark Passenger” – drive the story, allowing us to not only understand, but sympathize with Lindsay’s main man. This is one thing the novel does better than the show ever did – and one of the biggest differences between Dexter-the-show, and Dexter-the-book. Dexter is not, as seen in the show, a man with the innate desire to kill. He is, in fact, a man who has a force inside of him that cannot be controlled, despite his best efforts – something that is entirely separate from Dexter-the-man. This “Dark Passenger” (or “lizard brain”) is as old as mankind, and Dexter sees it in different people – people who are hiding in plain sight. Perhaps this “lizard brain” is in all of us – shoved in some dark corner of our brain. If we’re all being honest with ourselves, aren’t we all prone to irrational bursts of anger and terrible thoughts? It is our ability to control these things, and completely dismiss them as the terrible thoughts they are, which separates us from the Dexters of the world.

 I felt like Dexter spent an exceptional amount of time trying to convince us – and himself – that he was different from the rest of us. His thoughts are spent referring to “humans” as if they were separate from him, yet he experiences completely human feelings like love (for his sister), fear and anger. At the end of the story, with a great climax, Dexter reveals his true humanity – although he cannot accept it himself.

The high tension and mystery in Darkly Dreaming Dexter made it a captivating read! Lindsay hooks you on many levels – first through your desire to better understand the character, then through your wish to find the killer, and next in sharing Dexter’s need to know why the murders are so familiar to him.

If you’re a fan of the show, the first season is inspired directly by this novel, but the book offers enough differences to keep you on the edge of your seat. Try not to spend time comparing the two – many changes were made to expand a 223-page book into a season with 10 hour-long episodes. Crime fiction isn’t really my “genre of choice,” but I’m so happy I finally picked up a Dexter book, and am looking forward to reading the rest of the series. The “alternate universe” of the books (vs. the show) allows the world of Dexter to continue in my mind!

So what do you think? Did you like Darkly Dreaming Dexter? Are you a fan of the show? Did the differences (and similarities) throw you off at all? How do you feel about Dexter’s “lizard brain?” Do you hate yourself for loving a serial killer?! If you’ve seen the end of the show – please don’t leave any SPOILERS! I haven’t gotten there yet, and I might tap into my lizard brain if someone ruins it for me (just kidding)!!!

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Book Review: The Great Gatsby

Well, I have to be honest – I’m glad I happened to pick this short book for this exceptionally busy week! I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed with the prospect of selling my house, moving across the country, my college courses, and my leadership society induction process that I didn’t make a whole lot of time for reading. That being said, here is this week’s review! Three books down, 49 to go!

 Image

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel The Great Gatsby is a tale of romance, power, corruption and the destructive force of jealousy. The novel is short, but it is packed with strong characters who drive the plot along, and contribute in abundance to the overwhelmingly flighty setting of the Roaring 20s. Nick Carraway, Fitzgerald’s narrator, settles in for a quiet summer in an affluent area of Long Island, but his quiet summer is interrupted by a cast of characters who’s personal dramas set things into disarray. Romantic affairs, abusive relationships, a mysterious neighbor and (dun, dun, DUN) murder fill the East and West Eggs of Long Island.

The most attractive part of Fitzgerald’s novel is not the plot (although that is exciting at times, and frustrating at others) – it is the characterization of every member of the novel’s cast. Carraway seems to be the only “normal” person in the novel, and yet we are exposed to his failings in his romantic entanglements and his judgmental character in the beginning of the novel. Daisy Buchannan is flighty, attractive, and easily controlled, while her counterpart in the “female lead” department, Jordan Baker, is strong, smart and independent. Tom Buchannan is an aging “man’s man,” who tries to use his money and his physical stature to intimidate both men and women to do his bidding. Even secondary characters like the Wilsons are strong in their characterization, both as the blind husband and the proud mistress. The utter silliness of the supporting characters helps set the setting of Gatsby’s parties, and support the underlying theme that money cannot buy happiness.

The most interesting character, of course, is Jay Gatsby. His image is built around his mystery, and it isn’t until halfway through the novel that we even start to understand some truths about this attractive and enigmatic man. Gatsby stands for everything that is “wrong” with the Roaring 20s (at least through the eyes of “civilized people” like the Buchannans – parties, bootlegging, new money and a mysterious persona. His love for Daisy is the reason for everything in the man’s past and present. His desire to impress her is what has brought him to his current station in life (the new millionaire), to the West Egg, and ultimately to his destruction – it is all for and because of Daisy.

Fitzgerald’s novel is chock full of symbolism. From the eyes on the billboard watching, like the eyes of some god, the destructive behavior of the mortals below, to Gatsby’s shirts, which represent his new-found money and obtain Daisy’s approval. While The Great Gatsby may be short, a reader can take a lot away from it if you give it the opportunity.

Now folks, this isn’t my first reading of The Great Gatsby. Much like Gone With the Wind, Fitzgerald’s novel is one I pick up periodically because it is a novel I have always enjoyed. Each reading I find something new to appreciate, some new symbol or social commentary or insight into a character. Most of you probably read this book in high school as required reading, most likely for an American Literature class. I encourage you to pick it up again, as an adult, and see what you missed looking at the novel with the eyes and experience of a 15 year old. I promise you, you’ll understand it a lot more, and appreciate it a lot better, as a more “worldly” adult.

I picked a book I had already read simply because I wanted a good thorough re-read before I watched the movie. My goal for this weekend is to get my hands on the new movie (I’ve already seen – and love – the Robert Redford version).

So – what is your opinion of The Great Gatsby? Do you only have frustrated memories of a forced high school reading? Have you re-read the novel in your adult life? Do you think the story is a love story?

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized