Posts Tagged With: Review

5 Books to Read AND Watch

Movies don’t always (rarely, even?) get the book right.  Here are what I feel are notable exceptions.  Read the book and watch the movie and you’ll love them both!

train

The Girl on the Train is the most timely of this collection.  Do you ever read a book and think, “oooh yeah, this will be a movie.”?  That was this story for me.  I could just tell it was going to work on screen. It was fast paced and gripping on paper but on the big screen the intrigue was that much better.  The things that needed to be laid out in the book were able to be short quips and scenes in the movie. This is one I actually would consider watching the movie first – suspense is great that way.

cuckoo

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is an oldie but a goodie.  Seriously, Kesey’s story of the mental institution is incredible and then Nicholson’s portrayal in the movie?  Gold.  I’ll admit I like the nuances of the characters in the book better – they do change a few things in the movie that to me make certain scenes darker than necessary – but overall the movie performance is just incredible. It’s worth experiencing both.

chocolat

Chocolat was one of the rare occasions for me where I watched the movie before the book. Usually, when that happens, I expect the book to fall short.  There’s something about understanding a movie plot line, or envisioning actors for characters, that can turn a book sour. Not this one.  Chocolat, both book and movie, is full of magic and wonder and things that make my tummy growl. Harris is one of my favorite authors and Chocolat is one of my favorite movies.  A win/win.

waterforelephants

Water for Elephants bore the scrutiny of the re-read. I adored the story.  Maybe it’s because I grew up near Baraboo, WI where the Ringling Bros Circus has been for almost 150 years.  Maybe it’s the exoticism of characters, the era, the mesmerizing colors and interactions.  Maybe it’s because it’s a NaNoWriMo novel (something I always hold dear).  Who knows exactly.  All I can tell you is that the story is fantastic and, surprisingly, the Hollywood adaptation did an incredible job.

outlander

Outlander might not be a movie but it’s even better – it’s a STARZ original series that, I believe, is planning to go through all the books in this epic series.  SQUEAL. I’ve re-read Outlander at least three or four times and it’s one of my absolute favorite stories.  It just grips me.  The STARZ series has done an incredible job with bringing it to life on screen.  It is 100% accurate?  No, but Diana Gabaldon is involved in the making and I think her adjustments have actually enhanced the story.  Really, it’s lovely all the way around!

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Book Review: Every Reasonable Doubt – 3/5

Every Reasonable Doubt by Pamela Samuels Young

doubt

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There are a lot of things about this book I really liked. Good writing, interesting plot, good pace, strong characters; there is a lot to love. I really enjoyed the dynamic of the law that you need in this kind of thriller paired with the social dimensions of race and relationships. Overall, really well done.

So – why only three stars? There are two things about this story that drove me nuts and I just couldn’t get over. In many ways, they ruined it for me. It’s not stopping me from starting book two, but if book two rubs me the same, I won’t be continuing from there.

Now that I’ve created suspense, here are the two catastrophic issues I had with this novel.

1) Shoddy Investigation: Obviously, a big draw of a legal thriller is an interesting crime and a good investigation, especially when the capabilities of the attorney are so hyped. Seriously though, the details of this crime were SO poorly done. I have no background in any form of investigation and I can poke holes in a ton of this. For example (no spoilers here, no worries). This murder was supposedly committed by a tiny, weak woman and NO ONE asked how it was possible that the man didn’t/couldn’t defend himself. Excuse me? Then there’s the question of blood on the main suspect’s clothes – it finally came up at the very end of the book but it was the lamest after-thought ever. She changed clothes and NO ONE noticed? I don’t care how similar the dresses were- people at a social charity event know if you went and changed your dress. It’s ridiculous, and those were just two obvious things. Maybe I’m off the mark since, like I said, I don’t have that background, but it was bothersome.

2) A Whiny Little Prick of a Husband: This is 100% purely personal opinion here so take it with a grain of salt. I loathe Jefferson. Seriously. What an ass! Look, I get it. I love my husband to death and I hate it when he or I get busy at work and cannot see each other. But do I guilt trip him every five seconds that I see him? NO. Does he make me feel terrible when I work late? Absolutely NOT. When one of us has to ramp up and do more we support each other. I recognize when my husband is stressed and working his butt off and I help him through it. Jefferson did the opposite and look, I get to a certain extent the frustration, but the lack of support he provided to his wife was unreal. And the book made it seem like the main character, the wife, was the one at fault. I saw absolutely nothing in the Jefferson character that showed me how he supported her at all. He knew darn well when he married her that she was a lawyer and to sing a new tune just when she’s hitting it big is just a dick move. It was infuriating and a very main part of the plot.

So! Unfortunately, despite a lot of really positive things with this novel and author, those glaring pieces of the plot really sucked the enjoyment out of the novel for me. I’m hoping for an improvement moving forward!

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Book Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora – 3/5

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

locke

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book and I have a love/hate relationship. I find it really hard to give it a rating. I had a hard time getting into it from the start. It wasn’t that it was bad. In fact, I found it pretty funny (I personally love excessive swearing). But nothing really caught me. Still, I pressed on.

There’s this big block in the middle that is legitimately interesting. You have intrigue, good plot, twists and turns, it’s truly marvelous. I was seriously caught up.

Then there’s some crazy shizz that happens. Everything hits the fan. And normally that would hook me more… but it didn’t. Because when everything hits the fan is not the climax of the book. It’s like… 4/5 of the way through. So there’s this part after the climax that’s just plain boring. Seriously. I was way too sunk into reading it to stop but I considered it.

By the end, it picks up again. There’s new twists and things end on a note I am satisfied with. But even with all the good, the bad is just too great. This is a roller coaster where the highs are exciting but the lows make you want to die. I fear the rest of the series will be just the same. I wish I could tell you if that was true, but I have no intention of picking up the rest… at least not anytime soon.

By recommendation? Read at your own risk.

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Series Review: The Bridei Chronicles by Juliet Marillier – 4/5


darkmirrorbridei2 bidei3

The Bridei Chronicles by Juliet Marillier – 4 out of 5 stars

Marillier is my kind of writer. I have now completed five books of hers and I love her style. She mixes history with fantasy in a way that makes everything come alive. It’s genius. The stories feel like fairy tales and yet they are darker than that – they have the low heartbeat of life throughout. They are poetry and yet easy to read. I’m sold on her style and someday I am sure I will devour all of her writing.

I was able to enjoy these books on audio and, can I just say, the narrator for this audio book has the voice. Like – melt the ladies right down to their Maryjanes kind of voice. Not that my own husband doesn’t have a nice voice and all, but if he spoke like Michael Page… *fans self*

Each book in this series works toward the same goal – the rise of a new king to the kingdom to bring all the lands together.  It starts off at the core of it all; we see the future king grow up from the mere age of 8. In some ways that can make the first book a little slow and predictable. In others that predictability really clashes with the magic and wonder that arises and makes the whole scene really interesting. Book one is focused on Bridei and Tuala, while book two and three hone in on other characters, with Faolan playing a large part in all three (in many ways I feel like this series ought to be called The Faolan Chronicles.)

Book one may seem a bit slow as it establishes the new reign – but where book one lacks adventure, book two makes up for it. Most of the story in the second installment takes place in a faraway land where secrets and suspicions run wild. Unpredictable love abounds and magic plays an even deeper role.

The third book rounds out the other two perfectly.  A lot more focus is placed back on the kingdom and there’s even more history involved, but that’s not to say the action is put at bay. People who were once perfect are no longer one-dimensional. There’s a lot that goes on and we have yet another excellent character thrown into our midst.This book relies heavily on character growth and it happens so well. What Faolan went through in book two was crucial to put him in the right spot for book three.

I love the likely and yet unlikely romance that occurs in all three books.  Marillier does a wonderful job of making it the focus but not the whole story. I find it hard to believe that the series is over. In many ways I don’t want it to be (there’s so much promise of what Bridei and Tuala’s children will become – and even what Saraid will mean in it all). Maybe that is another series that has been created or yet to come. Regardless, I was sad to put these characters away. For me, this was one of the best ends to a series I’ve ever encountered. A little Disney-esque maybe, but it worked really well and tied off a lot of loose ends.

All in all, a great read.

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YA Book Review: Paper Towns by John Green – 5/5

Paper Towns by John Green

Papertowns

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

John Green is some kind of word magician. Or plot sorcerer. Or character wizard. I don’t know what exactly, but the point is that Green is filled with glitter and rainbows and confetti magic.

I devoured this book in less than a day. When I closed the final page I just gave one nod and said, “Nailed it.” Green knows exactly what he is doing in all his stories.

When a book is truly 5 stars I don’t feel like my reviews are needed. What’s there to say? Go read this book is pretty much sufficient. But, still, I suppose I can relay a little of what makes this beautiful.

I have never seen a better trio of boy friends. Q, Radar, and Ben are fantastic. Green’s dialogue is perfect. You can see each person, you can understand who they are, and, even better, you can understand why the three of them are friends. That’s a lot to know about people who aren’t the main stars in a relatively short book.

Then, of course, there’s Margo. Probably the only thing that is a stretch is the relationship between her and Q – it’s too stale in their history for it to start being friendly again now, but I’ll take it. Regardless, I love all the different ways we see her and the influence she can have on people.

There’s life lessons galore but there’s so much to giggle at as well. Such a wonderful book.

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Book Review: The Rosie Project – 5/5

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

rosie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book just makes you want to go “aww.”

The buzz about this story is totally justified. So much about this book is downright adorable. I am such a sucker for the boy-meets-girl scenario all tied up in a new package. For that reason there’s not much that I think needs to be said about it on the whole. The cover will “spoil” the majority of the book already. It’s not so much a book about “what’s going to happen” as it is “how are they going to get there.”

As light as this novel is, I really enjoy the new flavor of the main character. He’s not your standard knight in shining armor – it’s endearing and energizing to see a new kind of protagonist, one with a “social handicap” so-to-speak. In that respect this story has some truly deeper ideas about love, how it manifests, as our expectations of ourselves AND others.

The moral of the story is not about being perfect individually, but perfect together, and it’s a lot of fun to read a book that reminds us of that.

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YA Book Review: Instructions for a Broken Heart – 2 of 5

Instructions for a Broken Heart by Kim Culbertson

instructions

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Sorry, folks, this is not good. I know some of you loved the book, but this was cringe-tastic. It’s like Culbertson took all the bad parts of a YA novel and shoved it all into a beautiful package.

This book has so much potential! A recent break-up, an Italian vacation, twenty dares from a best friend – I love the premise. The execution was total blerg.

Where do I begin? Let’s start with my biggest frustration – the trip. That was the most boring, god-awful travel log I have ever read. Seriously, how do you write a book about a trip to Italy and focus only on the bad parts? I’d done a trip like what Jessa experienced in this book and I know what Culbertson was getting at – school trips abroad are generally terrible ideas. You sit in a boring bus all day, you barely have any time at locations, etc. I don’t want to read about it. I don’t need to see all the nuances of why traveling in a group sucks.

This book, to me, is just littered with Culbertson’s life experiences. It’s so obvious to me that each experience Jessa has Culbertson likely had in life. I’m all for authors drawing on true experiences, but this is just too much. All the referrals to specific musicals and games and whatnot – it was all too exact. Television shows and movies were just too alienating; as a reader I didn’t know a lot of the pop culture that was mentioned. None of it had meaning to me and so I just felt like I was listening in on a young girl’s (boring) life.

And then, of course, my main issue. Every single character needed to just get over him or her self. I know people are self-absorbed at that age but I don’t want to read about it in the extreme. Jessa’s pity party went on for far too long – blah blah you loved him blah. Based on everything we learned from Carissa, he obviously sucked, so you shouldn’t have loved him. And this whole “being too busy” thing was just lame. And can I mention how apparently everyone in their brother was poet or a singer? I know they were drama kids, but still.

I don’t know, it seems like very little in this book rang true (what’s up with Jessa having like six incredibly close guy friends? And everyone on the trip hooking up? What was up with her telling a new story for her scar all the time?) or, when things did ring true, I didn’t want to know (I don’t need to know how bored you are on the bus. I really don’t,)

It’s not my intention to be completely mean.  I did finish it, after all. The writing was decent and there were some really nice lines but I just couldn’t get lost in it. So not worth it.

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YA Book Review: This is What Happy Looks Like – 3 of 5

This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

happy

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

You know what this book needs? I little whoopie to go with all those whoopie pies. (Heeeey oh!) You can’t have a super dashing movie star and a cutesy red head and only have a couple of chaste kisses. Is that a spoiler? Apologies, friends.

It’s not that I didn’t like the book. I did. In fact, I power read the book in about 6 hours. Usually that means it’s a home run, but instead, as I closed the cover, I didn’t feel much of anything. Imagine a meal at your local supper club. (Aka: the Lobster Pot) You leave with that happy, full-stomach feeling, but it’s nothing to write home abut.

The whole book has an ongoing feel of anti-climax. All the characters think they are taking a giant leap of faith, but in truth it’s only a hop. The “mix-up” of people in the beginning is quickly resolved. Ellie’s mom issue is short lived, her father issue is almost confronted, but not really, and movie star’s parent issues aren’t really issues at all. Even the difficult personalities of Olivia and Quinn end up fizzling.

The problem with this book is it’s too damn realistic. Smith has taken a straight forward, real-world approach – where grudges aren’t really held, where big plans fall through, and where love doesn’t have to be a big deal. Love can flow into life and slowly grow. That’s a wonderful truth about life, but it’s not what we want to read in books. We want big bangs and daring leaps – especially when one of the main characters is a movie star. Instead we get sprinkles and taffy. It’s all lovely, but it’s not enough.

Also – how is it that we never got o meet Wilbur the pig? I was so looking forward to that!

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Book Review: The Flight of Gemma Hardy – 3 of 5

The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey

gemma

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Make that a 3.5, 3.8, 3.9999 – but just not quite a 4.

The most impressive thing to me about this book is Gemma Hardy. Livesey has done what I, and so many other writers, struggle with. She has managed to create a very real human being. Gemma is bright, kind, and helpful. She’s also ruthless, rude, and a leap-before-she-looks kind of person. As a reader I felt like I was listening to the story of a good friend – someone who I know and trust is a beautiful person but who, inevitably, I don’t always agree with. Gemma lived a life where bad things happened to her that she couldn’t control, she also lived a life where bad things happened to her because of her actions. I loved that, as a reader, I learned what those things were. As Gemma grew up and started to understand the impact of her decisions, so did I. It was a really great experience.

So why don’t I love the book? I don’t know exactly. Maybe because too many strangers were nice to Gemma. Maybe because things were just a little slow. I’m just now seeing that this is, apparently, a re-telling of Jane Eyre, a book I haven’t yet gotten to. Perhaps I will better understand Gemma when I get to know a little more about Jane.

Oh – for anyone partial to Scotland or Iceland, you might get an extra kick out of this book. 🙂

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YA Book Review: Siege and Storm – 4 out of 5

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

siegeandstorm

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hold onto your hats, folks, because I’m about to blow your mind. Are you ready for this? I just finished book two and it was better than the first.

Seriously, that never happens. At least not when it comes to young adult books lately – especially young adult trilogies (I’m assuming this is a trilogy… I could be wrong, but pretty sure I’m not.)

Honestly, I really liked this one. It was reckless and interesting and the plot moved forward at a really good pace. The danger stepped up from the first one and the stakes got so much higher. But that’s not what made it better. No, it was the characters. I don’t know how Bardugo did it but the fact is I don’t trust anyone. No one. Not Mal, not Tamar, not Tolya, not Genya, not Baghra, not Zoya, not Sturmhond, not the Darkling (duh), and especially not Alina.

Say whaaat – how do you not trust the main character? The main character of a book written in first person? I don’t and that’s why this book is marvelous.

As always, I had my moments of scoffing (I mean, come on, the un-healable injury in the shoulder that hurts when the enemy is near? No one thought that was just a little too Frodo Baggins?) but overall I really like this story.

In my review of Shadow and Bone I ended it by saying that I was rooting for you Bardugo. And you pulled through! For that, I say thank you.

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Book Review: How Not To Write A Novel by Howard Middlemark

How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them–A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide by Howard Mittelmark

notwrite
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book, a book about writing, had me laughing aloud on the commuter train. Yup, I was that person going to crazy-town, the kind of person you aren’t sure you want to sit next to (though, I’m starting to realize that can be a good thing for others to think… it can mean a seat all to myself!) Back on subject now – this is a gem of comedy. At one point there is a quiz to help you identify just how stereotypical your characters are and there’s a part about “grandma” and, well, I don’t want to spoil it. Just trust it’s good. Comedy in of itself is a good reason for this book to be part of your life. Add that to the fact that it gives some lovely advice and you have a truly excellent piece of work.

This is a quick read. It’s laid out in a number of quirky little essays that give you a blunder (which, occasionally, made me cringe as I remembered these mistakes being my own) and then tell you just why this is a problem and why you should do to avoid it. Usually the advice was just not to do it. If the solution wasn’t that simple then it gave a couple more examples, all remaining tongue in cheek. It’s a brilliant and easy to read book that is a good reminder of some novel best practices.

Still, this didn’t quite earn top marks just because I hold writing books to a high standard. I want the book to be hard to get through because I’m constantly setting it down to fix something or compose something new. While this book did get me to jot down a couple notes to improve my current work, it didn’t draw me away enough. In fact, to a certain extend, the book was a distraction because it was so darn funny.

What a paradox! It’s a strange thing to downgrade a book for, but there it is. I think all kinds of people, even the casual writer, will benefit from the easy suggestions of the book. More importantly, everyone can value a good chuckle on the train, even my slightly weirded out seat-mate.

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