Category Archives: Book Reviews
He’s Just Not That Into You – Greg Behrendt, Liz Tuccillo
With those six words I knew I was in for a different kind of advice book experience. This book directed at women stresses something that really is common sense, when a guy isn’t interested in you, you aren’t going to be able to magically change that and turn his feelings on. Amazing this book actually tells us something women shouldn’t be surprised to hear. The guy not calling, not having time for you; the guy who is leaving her as soon as he can but loves you and needs you, probably isn’t that into you. We all make mistakes, with dating and just otherwise navigating this thing called existence. Going after the wrong person, is I guess one of those things that can happen to smart people. This book poses questions from women, often so ridiculous and sad, yet not that unheard of and then presents the arguments women sometimes don’t want to hear or acknowledge. Behrendt is sure to address that, although not desired by this one guys we are just infatuated with, there will be someone worthy and someone who wants us just as much as we want them. Little homework exercises are presented at the end of the chapters, as well as a counterpoint to the argument Behrendt makes, but in the end it comes back to the sense it actually all makes that he’s not into you, once you really take some time to think about it. This isn’t a typical advice or self-help book, because it does have a decidedly comedic and snarky feel, that when a women is feeling down and out from dating torment, can actually provide a bit of fresh air and a laugh when needed most. Absurd as it is, the common sense approach really is uncommon sometimes.
The White Queen – Phillipa Gregory
Having never read historical fiction before, and not being a fan of this particular period of history, I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy this novel. Elizabeth Woodville, maternal grandmother to Henry VIII, is the main focus of this novel about the War of the Roses. She is a widow with two young sons who was looking to cast her lot higher, and ends up married to King Edward IV, having ten children with him, and being a part of some major events in English history. I wasn’t to familiar with her story, so I didn’t really have much to critique when it came to historical accuracy. I will say this is an interesting story, full of intrigue, manipulation, and made this historical period a bit more interesting for me to digest. I had seen a movie adaptation of The Other Boleyn Girl, another of this author’s novels, and did expect there to be that same element of grandiose drama, which this novel definitely contains. Remember with historical fiction to take things with a grain of salt, besides any biographical facts about the historical figures, because this isn’t written as a biography, but as a novel. I did have fun reading it, and it did encourage me to seek out a little bit of information about this time period and the people in the novel, which isn’t a bad accomplishment for a story about history and those who shaped it.
Into the Darkest Corner – Elizabeth Haynes
In this fast-paced psychological thriller Catherine “Cathy” Bailey is a single girl, enjoying her life and time with her friends while she looks for her Prince Charming. On Halloween she meets the gorgeous, and seeming perfect Lee Brightman. However, it quickly turns into a tale of obsessive love and an abusive relationship. Catherine begins to feel there is something not right with the mysterious Lee. He has a job that keeps him away and that he can’t talk about, showing up at her home one night injured. Her friends don’t see it, and think she is crazy for not being grateful for the great “catch” she has in Lee . . . flash forward four years and Cathrine, now “Cathy” is battered, broken, and ill. Suffering from OCD and PTSD, she is not the same carefree single girl looking for love she once was. Checking her locks and windows compulsively, living in almost utter seclusion except for going to work, her life is not her own. Cathy is struggling to keep her sanity as she discovers Lee is set to be released soon, and she fears he is looking for her.
This was an intense read, that kept me, pardon the phrase, on the edge of my seat. The story shifts chapter to chapter between two timelines. In one there is Catherine’s relationship with Lee that starts with a simple Halloween outing and turns shockingly sinister. The second is the paranoid, broken Cathy as she struggles for normalcy. Somehow the two timelines blend well, and didn’t jar my concentration as much as I thought they would. Both follow a journey that is shocking, gripping, and suspenseful. I could truly sense the dread and shift in Catherine as she endured a violent and painful relationship with Lee, becoming who she was in the second timeline. In the end it was how she would survive that was the experience I found most intriguing, somehow finding her way back to the old Catherine to fight for her sanity and her very life. I will say I was a bit shocked by the ending, but satisfied nonetheless with the journey this thriller, and suspense novel took me on.
On the Island – Tracey Garvis Graves
My good friend and fellow blogger Steph at KitchenKM isn’t a huge fan of reading fiction, so when she recommended the book On the Island I was immediately intrigued knowing her recommendation wouldn’t have come easily. The premise does sound a tad salacious, as if The Blue Lagoon was mixed with The Mary Kay Letourneau Story. 30 year old teacher Anna Emerson is going for the summer to tutor TJ Callahan in the Maldives, where his family is vacationing. TJ is 16 years old and recently in remission from Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The two travel together to the island, and what should be an uneventful trip turns into and unplanned struggle for survival when the pilot has a heart attack the two are stranded and forced to survive on a remote island. This story of survival and what appears to be a taboo romance is handled with heart and grace. Anna is not a cougar looking for her prey, but a woman who was looking for a change in her life and ends up with more than she bargained for when she must rely on the very student she came to tutor. TJ is a teenage boy who has had to grow up fast because of his cancer, and then again when thrown into this survival situation he must face adulthood and his growing feelings for his teacher. These two people only have each other, and bond while facing dangers in their struggle to live and survive. The romance is handled over the course of time, and I think that is what softens any taboo or salaciousness of the age difference and student/teacher rolls. The relationship is not fully realized or consummated until TJ is nearly 19. This romance isn’t a quick island romp, but built out of adversity and life and death struggles that shape the bond and eventual love for each other that develops between Anna and TJ. This is a fast paced read that kept me turning pages and explores the deepening of a relationship over the course of time between characters that felt honest to me. I am glad to say my initial expectations were wrong, and I enjoyed this wonderful romance.
One for the Money (Stephanie Plum) – Janet Evanovich
Stephanie Plum is the sassy and feisty heroine in a series of Janet Evanovich novels following her
adventures misadventures as a bond enforcement agent, or bounty hunter. Recently having lost her job as a lingerie buyer, this plucky Jersey Girl must figure out how to come up with some cash, and turns to her dad’s cousin for work as a bounty hunter. Clearly not well-suited to this dangerous work, she somehow has a keen instinct to know when she should dig deeper into a mystery surrounding an FTA, i.e. Failure to Appear. Her first assignment is Joe Morelli, a vice cop seemingly turned killer who grew up in her neighborhood. The two have a colorful history and clearly strained feelings exist, but she must do all she can to get her man. With some help from Ricardo Carlos Manoso, otherwise known as Ranger, bounty hunter extraordinaire and mystery figure of male danger she lands herself in some rather dangerous situations along the way to getting to the bottom of things.
This series, which has a nineteenth book coming out, is funny, sexy, and lively. Stephanie is a regular girl who takes a job as a bounty hunter out of need, and lands in deep water time and time again. I have now read 6 books in the series and have enjoyed each of them. They have funny characters, like Lula a former prostitute who ends up going along with Stephanie on some of her FTA missions as the series progresses. Grandma Mazur is Stephanie’s funeral loving grandma, who seems as trouble prone as Stephanie. Even “Big Blue”, a tank of a Buick Roadmaster that Stephanie endures driving after she continually loses cars fires, bombs, and garbage trucks becomes kind of iconic in her world.
The back and forth flirtations/relationships she has with Morelli and Ranger are endearing, because what girl wouldn’t love having two sexy guys in their life. Watching her figure out her feelings as she goes after FTAs is amusing, because both men must continually keep her out of the trouble she seems to draw to her. She isn’t a damsel-in-distress, but she is definitely a girl who attracts trouble, and the two men in her life have to endure a lo.
I find myself going back to this series for enjoyable, light reads, with a bit of adventure and romance mixed in. Stephanie isn’t perfect, and that is what I love most. She goes in, does her thing, and somehow manages to make it out in the end. Her no holds barred approach is always amusing. I plan to continue reading the series and see what trouble our fearless bounty hunter finds herself in next.
Divergent – Veronica Roth
Much as Suzanne Collins did in her Hunger Games Trilogy, Veronica Roth in Divergent begins painting a disturbing and startling vision of the future. In the dystopian Chicago of the future society, for better or worse, has broken into five factions that regard a particular virtue as important and the key to a better future. Abnegation the Selfless, Dauntless the Fearless/Brave, Erudite the Knowledgeable, Candor the Honest, and Amity the Peaceful. Beatrice Prior is 16 and about to come of age in this society as the Choosing Ceremony is about to take place, and she must make a choice that will forever change her. Growing up in Abnegation has never felt right to Beatrice, and a hard choice confronts the young woman as cracks in what is supposed to be a seamless societal structure begin to show. Her journey is a fast paced, exciting, and gripping as she confronts the choice she ultimately makes. Beatrice is a strong female narrator, painted in true strokes despite the dystopian premise of the story. Growing up, making choices, no matter what are universal themes. The themes about society as a whole and what virtues, frailties, and power surrounds are equally intriguing. A very different world from The Hunger Games, but no less imaginative, and for Young Adult fiction I find it to be equally thought-provoking. Well written stories take the reader in and raise questions, make us laugh, make us cry, make us cheer, and Veronica Roth has created a well-written novel. I am eagerly anticipating the second book in this trilogy!
11/22/63 – Stephen King
Having never read a Stephen King book, it was with some trepidation I began reading 11/22/63 for my bookclub. I was surprised that I ended up enjoyed the book. It is not the usual King “Horror,” but about a time traveler and a real historical event. The event is the watershed moment, November 22, 1963, the day President John Kennedy was assassinated. It is a lengthy book, something I have heard repeatedly about King’s writing, but not a badly written story at all. The book focuses on time traveling teacher Jake Epping and his journey as he attempts to change the obdurate past. It weaves in the historical figures Lee Harvey Oswald and his wife, with the fictional people Jake meets along the way. The more outrageous time travel element is about the only discernible supernatural or paranormal device more expected of King, but at it’s core remains a character book and a book about choices. The story about a regular man, an extraordinary opportunity, and the consequences for himself and those around him of taking or not taking that opportunity. And as historical fiction, and being a history lover myself, the notion of a journey to the past, and the implications of altering the past, or the butterfly effect, did intrigue me despite my being unfamiliar with King’s writing. Engaging storytelling, and an interesting premise, helped me navigate King’s lengthy writing style. Overall, I found it an enjoyable read, good for King fans as well as King newcomers.