Monday, July 13, 2009

The Ladies Auxiliary, Tova Mirvis: 4 Stars

So, I loved the writing style of this book. It really was quite refreshing, and the story itself was interesting. I grew slightly tired of the food descriptions, but I also understand that much of the Orthodox Jewish religion deals with restrictions on foods and appropriate eating. Many of the insights into this community were very beautifully described and made me feel a bond with this community in how their religion helps to define them. It gave me a renewed feeling of calm and peace about my own beliefs in that we're all just trying to be better people in our own way.

Sometimes my views about things make me feel like I might not be living my religion in the "right" way, but it's all I know how to do or be. I like the invigorated rejuvenation that the book brings to light and think it's nice to have this type of injection into our system every couple of years. I like how religion isn't portrayed as stale and constrictive, and I am constantly amazed at how, living in such a free land, we can sometimes be made to feel silly for the things that help shape who we are.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Harlequin Tea Set and Other Stories, Agatha Christie: 4 Stars

As charming as ever, Ms Christie gives us some quick refreshing stories that really make us reevaluate how astute we might really be. I love her quick twists and her seemingly dodgy way of providing details. All the short stories in this book contain interesting outlooks on people and motives. I'm always surprised by what motivates people. I am so naive sometimes still, and I love being that way :)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Hang In There (i.e. The Upcoming Reading List)

OK ... I know I haven't been reading stellar literature lately (or even great paperbacks) so just to show you I sometimes read good things, I thought I'd give you a quick taste for some of the upcoming books:

The Path to Power -- Margaret Thatcher
The Blind Assassin -- Margaret Atwood
The Writer's Diary -- Virginia Woolf
An Interview with a Vampire -- Anne Rice
Walden and other Writings -- Thoreau
Honeymoon with My Brother -- Franz Someone I Just Heard About
How the World Makes Love -- Franz Again
House Thinking ....

I'm hoping this gets you back in the mode to check it out every once in awhile.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Murder on the Gravy Train, Phyllis Richman: 1 Star

I know, I know. I suffered through another one of her dull books. You knew the outcome from page 12 if not before. Same as before - enough about food that my appetite was sufficiently killed for the next week, and I have in no way been tempted by any of the descriptions within the pages. I already had it checked out of the library, and I feel bad for bringing back books that I never read because I wasted my time and possibly someone else's by even checking it out in the first place. I boared my way through it, but it was not pleasurable. Sometimes, reading can be so demanding on me. *Sigh* Please don't bother suffering through book 2.

I heard there was a book 3 ... not even going there.

The Butler Did It, Phyllis Richman: 1 Star

Good grief. Maybe it takes a special person to suffer through loads and loads of descriptions of food, and I just might not be that person, but I probably should have skipped through half the book instead of suffering though (and I'm a fast reader). You get bogged down in tedious self-indulging chapters where nothing is progressing except food induced comas (and i wasn't even eating at the time). I was just so bored by the effort spent on some of the restaurant "knowitall" non-advice that I almost couldn't finish the book.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Since You're Leaving Anyway, Take Out the Trash, Dixie Cash: 1 Star

Cute book. I actually laughed out loud at one part, but this is no Stephanie Plum. Mystery, Romance, and Hair Styling. This seems to be the backbone of almost every chick lit book I've read this summer. Seriously! Is that all we seem to like? Where's the grit, truth, and reality -- it's hard shizput being a girl, not this fruify stuff they seem to make it. I'm sure we all seem like we're these strong, tough women. It's the false image most men seem to get stuck in their heads. I was a strong woman - a woman that shows weakness is out. Good Grief!! We all have weaknesses -- just love us for those and love us for our strengths.

____________End of Rant______________________

Monday, June 22, 2009

Key Trilogy, Nora Roberts: 2 Stars

This is a trilogy that I would have loved to get into -- Three "chosen" humans on a quest to find the three keys and release the god-king's daughters from a prison. Nice thought, but even after three books, I have to say that the characters weren't well developed, the dialogue was not engaging, and the storyline was too blase. The premise itself would make a great movie, and if she would have put more stock into it, she might have made a decent fantasy series out of it all.

Book 1: Key of Light
Book 2: Key of Knowledge
Book 3: Key of Valor.

First off, for dedicating a book to each of the leading ladies, only the middle character (Dana) kept her flow throughout the series. Malory (from Book One)just got cheesier and cheesier and lost a lot of her identity as the books went on. She had to give up the idea of being a painter at the end of the book in order to receive her key, and by so doing seemed to give up her personality and herself.

Zoe (Book Three) started off as a witty, charismatic woman who lost all of that with the exception of one or two lines from her own novel. She seemed like a completely different person from Books 1 & 2 than she did in Book 3.

If you like your stories neat and tidy and hopelessly happy, these three books are great for you (although honestly, the dialogue needs help -- big time!!). Now, time for some M&Ms.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Barefoot, Elin Hildebrand: 1 Star

Neat little package wrap up. Honestly, it wasn't even that great for chick lit. It was just a practical book about things that happen in life -- one thing being cancer -- that were all wrapped up fairly nicely by the end of the book. Characters weren't that engaging; plot lines were basically boring. Overall, not really an enthralling piece of fiction.

Cancer patient becomes a "survivor". Yeah, my dad had lung cancer too lady - it's the hardest one to survive so I'm a little skeptical.

Cheating husband is taken back after wife gets a backbone. Hmm, that happens often, but not because the wife gets a backbone.

Professor fired from university for affair with a "student" who is older than she is. The way she became a professor is even slightly sketchy. I'm not buying it.

All over the beach. Can I just call someone to solve my problems like this and hand deliver them wrapped up in a little bow at the end?

Thanks, but no thanks.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell: 4 Stars

Great book.

That being said, the writing styles of the separate sections get in the way of the overall flow of the story. Each story line is told in a different style of voice, and some of the styles are slightly distracting as you need to get into the rhetoric patterns to understand (similar to reading a foreign language).

The cross history plots are quite interesting to tie together. By the 5th section though, it's quite frustrating as you try to piece the history together to see how it all binds.

I'm always surprised at how cold and calculating futuristic time is portrayed. I think we would just be as much if not more emotionally nutso without as many physical activities to do as more things are done through the use of computers, electronics and robots. I wish we would become more caring as a society as we move into the future. Looking back on the rise and fall of different nations, the final storyline adds a great flair to the overall book and the narratives begin to shape up.

Definitely worth a read. Check it out.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Net Force: Point of Impact, Steve Perry: 3 Stars

Disclaimer: I like the Net Force Series for the most part. I just wanted to get that out there because sometimes I'll read a book that probably isn't that great, but I'm already enamoured of the characters or series (aka Wheel of Time Series -- although there are some horrible books in this series that you have to keep plodding through). The Net Force Series are take 'em or leave 'em books. You don't have to read them all to read one so ...

Point of Impact was a good page turner. The Net Force Series always provides decent action and a fast read, and Point of Impact delivered both. Once again, if you read enough light fiction to get irritated by predictability, this one does a fairly decent job of keeping your interest.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ella Minnow Pea, David Mitchell: 4 Stars

Great book. Shortest book I've read in awhile if you're looking for something quick...

Those two points aside, my favorite parts about the book were the fact that the plot centered around letters to and from the characters AND how signs can be interpreted so very right, wrong, or sometimes just really don't matter. I think we've lost a lot in the art of writing letters with email being so quick and easy. We don't put as much thought into what we're saying as it can be delivered within moments. Our phrasing and study of the English language is a bit tarnished and broken in this matter. I think it's a slightly sad commentary on language in today's society.

Highly amusing is the way in which evolution is grasped and becomes the downfall of the society. I appreciate how the book made me think about relations in society. How as society evolves, we have tendencies to look down at things that seem "old fashioned". It makes a nice bundled package to see new things as advancements or signs of the future when sometimes the past is perfectly acceptable - and quite lovely.

This applies to everything with the exception of some fashion. We seriously DO NOT need to relive the nasty 80s people. Just let it go!!

Pick it up - recommended book.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Hot Stuff, Janet Evanovich & Leanna Banks: 3 Stars

The characters are heart-warmingly fun. The situations are hilarious and catastrophic. There is nothing believable about it, but the story pulls you in. Disclaimer: Janet Evanovich cracks me up so I may be a little biased here. This is not as good as one of the Stephanie Plum novels so it only rates 3 Stars, but it's a fun, energetic read nonetheless.

There's a good balance between strong, tough chick and girliness that gives the main character a nice charm so as not to turn everyone off by the "I'm so independent" front. I like that in a female lead. There is such a thing as too aggressive. Most of us women just aren't like that to date - although there's definitely a handful leading that pack. We like to think of ourselves as still a little soft around the edges.

The unusual circumstances that always pop up in an Evanovich novel as just as fun and endearing as ever. It's nice and refreshing to read something that draws you in enough so even though you know what's going to happen, you don't find yourself saying "Get me there already because I'm bored". I like all the little side shows.

Keep it up ladies! (and Janet - thanks for the new Plum novel coming out next month)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Lucy Gets Her Life Back, Stef Ann Holm: 1 Star

Disappointing chick lit. Usually, most of the stories are fairly hum-drum, cutesy stories that you can get through. This one didn't even have a good cat fight in it -- even on the inside!! Even as a single mom and divorcee, I couldn't get into that side of things. Instead, I thought the author probably hasn't really experienced much of what she's talking about since it feels like she's writing this from the sidelines.

Yes, I understand that fiction is not real for the most part, even the "inspired by a true story" versions. But I do need something that my brain can wrap itself around and identify. I love finding a book where I click with the characters. Then, I don't care how unrealistic the story gets, I'm right there with it, cheering along.This one was hard to even keep turning the pages. I fell asleep once while holding it, I believe.

It was a fast read - two plane rides from Salt Lake to San Fran and from San Fran back to Salt Lake. No movies were offered.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Faithful Spy, Alex Berenson: 2 Stars

Kicking it off with a little Alex Berenson.

This was a fairly fast read, which can be a blessing sometimes. I am not good at putting something down once I've started it because I have an insatiable need to find out what happened. If you read a lot or even moderately, be wary of predictability. I really get irritated when you can tell the author thinks he's in the middle of snagging you into his plot (NOTE: I use "his" in a non-gender descript type of way here). I think the author identified with his leading "bad guy", Khadri. The bad guy who thinks he's 5 steps ahead of everyone else. Berenson, you came across as having that same sort of attitude ... a little trying for my soul. Next time, give the readership some street cred, please.

MILD SPOILER ALERT (which for this kind of book, you really shouldn't care much about):
No one good dies. Come on!! A spy novel where no one that the author makes you care about except the bad guys die? How am I supposed to really get sucked in? Relying solely on Patriotism inspired by 9/11 just doesn't seem to do it for me. Not that I feel any less about that date as I lived through it, but the causes for targeting certain ethnicity has been tainted by ongoing politics. I'm not getting on a political soap box here because I've always thought people should be judged on their own merits and not stereotyped (otherwise, despite my brown hair, I believe I would be known as a "blond").

Kill someone that means something to me IN THE BOOK. I was almost happy thinking about the main character dying, but I knew you wouldn't do it. There was no motivation in anything else so whenever he was in danger, it just didn't seem real or believable. It wasn't really page turning. I think maybe he should have had a stronger name than plain John. I know lots of Johns in my time, some even have great meaning in my life, but as the lead character in a novel like this, it just makes it seem like Berensen was trying desperately hard to use that so every man in America reading the book would say 'John Doe could be me'. Unfortunately, it wasn't very inspiring (albeit this might be due to my gender as I'm fairly certain this type of novel is written toward men).

This other mild irritant in the book may also be because of my gender, but seriously she told the story about losing her virginity when he wanted to hear a story about her? Really? Really? Not only was the topic not believable, but the story itself was L.A.M.E. It's a story that a woman tells herself to make the truth feel more like the person she is, not what really happened. It doesn't do a lot to forward her character building. Lame. I'm not saying lame because it was about sex (virgin or otherwise) or because it had anything to do with sex at all, I'm just saying that story she told was lame and absolutely unbelievable from a woman's perspective. I can't even say any man that I know would fall for that crap either. Give us something real. If you need more ideas on making it real, please interview more people for their experiences before trying to piece together these types of things.

One perk: the writing didn't drive me nuts so it wasn't painful to read or finish. The plot made it a little tedious and made me glad it was a fast read, but the overall writing didn't get in the way.

Not everyone's cup of tea. If you have a flight from San Fran to NY, it'd be great and probably better than any of the movies offered up (it was better than any of the movies offered up on my ride for sure).

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Fine Art of Reading

I've been challenged. I stated (at some crazy point in my life or another) that I read an average of 3 books a week, and I've had several people question the volume. So, in an effort to track the number of books I consume over the next year, I thought I'd start posting reviews.

Now keep in mind that this is not me declaring to the world the only thing I read are those with grand literary effort. You'll definitely be able to note the wide variety within the first 10 reviews. Please make sure to wary them all otherwise you might be under the distinct impression that I only read chick lit or military novels. My last few books were read during transcontinental flights, which lends itself quite nicely to those genres as they can be complete by the time the plane touches down on the other side of the country or the world. Occasionally, I will read back to back books by the same author if I happen to like the first one.

Of second note and my only disclaimer: I haven't written an official "reviews" since my university days so I may be rusty at the start. I would love to have discussion back and forth in the comments and welcome any critique you might have. I'm posting without affiliation to anyone but myself. You can take my opinions or leave them right on the pages of these blogs.

Hopefully, maybe you'll discover a book or two that you might actually want to read along the way and that might influence your life for the better - as that's what reading seems to be all about for me.

Your Number One Page Turner.