I love Roman Holiday, so I should have been more wary than excited by an homage to it in fiction. Shame on me. This book had so much potential but ultI love Roman Holiday, so I should have been more wary than excited by an homage to it in fiction. Shame on me. This book had so much potential but ultimately fell flat because it recycled old material and didn't freshen it up. Here we have Amelia, an actress playing Audrey Hepburn's role in a remake of the classic film, and she just happens to meet a journalist while concealing her identity and they relive the plot of the movie she's acting in without ever addressing the coincidence. Meanwhile, Amelia befriends Sophie, who's a European princess slumming it for the summer before she lifts the mantle of responsibility to her country - and she also hooks up with a man who doesn't know her true identity. Yet another lifting of the source material without addressing that parallel either! Like the characters wouldn't have noticed they were living the movie they're filming? And then Amelia is staying in the exact same suite Hepburn stayed in and finds some of her unsent letters in a back of the desk, because of course Hepburn would have left the behind and the hotel wouldn't have cleaned the drawers or replaced the desk in 60 years.
I could have overlooked all this, because it was supposed to be fun and not great literature, but eventually the writing got to me too. A lot of the dialogue was really good, but the descriptions were weak and repetitive. Every scene is set by "she saw this and this," "he saw that," "they saw this and that and this." It got to be so obvious it was grating, particularly when the same was used in Hepburn's letters, which meant she didn't really have a distinct voice from Amelia. Largely due to this fact, it took me four days to read a book I normally would have read in one or two. People who know me know that's saying something.
So, I wouldn't totally write it off. It's mind candy, and I did read it directly after Go Set a Watchman, which was beautifully written. If this is your genre, it's worth a read -- but I might take a trip to Rome via Italian for Beginners first.
The fine print: received ARC from NetGalley....more
I've actually been thinking a lot lately about the choices I've made in my life, how they've created the me I am today, whether different choices woulI've actually been thinking a lot lately about the choices I've made in my life, how they've created the me I am today, whether different choices would have changed me and my present circumstances. And of course that largely comes down to career and dating. So when I started reading this book and found out that's what Ramie's journey is about, I was psyched.
But it turns out that it was all I could do to give it 2 stars instead of 1. There was a lot of repetitive inner monologue and not much action. The concept is a pretty tired one, and there's nothing particularly special to set this apart. There are a few interesting moments when Ramie acts like a 38-year-old that cause awkward situations for people who see her as 18, but otherwise... She rambles in her head for a few hundred pages, then there's an abrupt shift in the plot followed by another abrupt (and predictable) shift and rapid conveniently-ever-after finale. I don't want to post spoilers, so I'll just say that while the point of this book seemed to be introspection and self-awareness, the ending seems to suggest that those things are irrelevant and coincidental events are what really matter. (view spoiler)[To make it clearer, rather than becoming more herself, Ramie conveniently meets a man and lives happily ever after. As if the right man is all she needed in her life to be fulfilled. Grrrrrr. (Ok, end of mini-feminist rant. (hide spoiler)]
So, yeah. Major disappointment. Wouldn't really recommend. See What Alice Forgot for a much better novel in this vein.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This book was more serious and less funny than I thought it would be, but it was pretty solid. McFarlane explores a pretty serious topic, as a long-teThis book was more serious and less funny than I thought it would be, but it was pretty solid. McFarlane explores a pretty serious topic, as a long-term relationship is corrupted by cheating, and Delia has a difficult time untangling herself from the situation. Does she stay with him because she still loves him or does she strike out on her own? She goes back and forth between the two choices often (and understandably), so it's not quite clear until the very end what she's going to do. (view spoiler)[I could have lived without another man being part of the decision for her to go, but she might have done anyway. (hide spoiler)] Some of the secondary characters were really well done, particularly Delia's brother and online buddy. And while her professional experience seemed too ridiculous to be true, it somehow worked. Maybe with the teeniest suspension of disbelief. Probably the best element was the comic Delia drew, Fantastic Miss Fox. The handful of panels included with the text gave an idea of the plot and how Delia's story is born in her life experience. It was pretty neat, and I wish more panels had been included. I would have like to laugh more, but generally I enjoyed this one.
The fine print: received ARC from Edelweiss.["br"]>["br"]>...more
Despite the cover, this book is way more serious than chick lit-y (though there are several chuckle worthy moments). There was also more than one placDespite the cover, this book is way more serious than chick lit-y (though there are several chuckle worthy moments). There was also more than one place where I was incredibly choked up (okay, maybe even crying and nose-blowing). It was quite an emotional ride.
If the cover looks very Kate and Will, there's a reason. The royal Lyons family is very like the Windsors, with an older ruling queen, her stiff son, his absent wife (though here she is suffering from some sort of dementia and tucked away in the country instead of deceased), and their two sons - the older serious one and the younger (ginger haired) playboy. Gee, sound familiar? And after nearly a decade-long relationship, the heir marries a commoner (though she's American, not a wealthy Englishwoman). Despite sounding like things are "plagiarized" from reality, there are enough changes and details to make it feel fresh, and the similarities just ground the characters enough in reality to make it feel, well, realistic. (The history of the monarchy felt pretty real too - Queen Victoria was their ancestor, but after that, the authors are very vague about the descendancy. So it's fictional, but grounded in reality.)
Of course, it was way more than the echoes of reality that made everything feel so real. The characters were incredibly drawn, from the major players to those we see only in passing. I cannot adequately describe how well-written the characters were. Added to a very well developed plot (I liked the choice of five sections that took place a couple of years apart each), I felt the things that happened to them. I was elated, frustrated, despondent, and in love.
And I must really be in a thinking mood lately, because this one also made me ponder about the nature of celebrity, especially royal celebrity, and the connected ideas of privacy, identity, public masks, etc. etc. etc. Take that beloved Duchess of Cambridge, for instance. Since we first "met" her, she's always seemed so classy, poised, and lovely. But is she really? Or does the private Kate like to drink and curse and generally act a fool with her friends like the fictional Bex does? We'll never know, I guess. But I never thought about it before, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. By taking inspiration from a real person and crafting some incredible fiction, Cocks and Morgan shine a light on just how uncomfortable (and maybe even excruciating) unasked-for celebrity can be. With little Prince George in the picture (not to mention the impending arrival of his younger sibling next month), I could easily see this duo of authoresses taking up the tale of Nick and Bex starting a family - and I bet it would be just as unexpectedly real and fresh as The Royal We.
Now that was a lot of typing for a review of a book that I expected to be fluff. I think royal lovers and haters alike would enjoy this story and learn a bit about the negative effect of all the adoration on people who are real individuals, not storybook characters. All thanks to some storybook characters who read like real individuals. Good stuff.
The fine print: received ARC from NetGalley....more
Once again I fall for marketing hype! They mention Bridget Jones's Diary and I'm sold. I went back and forth on starting it because the whole serial-aOnce again I fall for marketing hype! They mention Bridget Jones's Diary and I'm sold. I went back and forth on starting it because the whole serial-adulterer thing didn't appeal to me, but I ended up giving it a shot. It really wasn't bad. Sure, I don't understand that cheating compulsion, but despite her bad behavior, Lily was a pretty sympathetic character. Kennedy did a good job of making her into more than just a cheating bride - she had career, family, friends, an interesting childhood back story. She had some interesting things to say about fidelity. I didn't agree with all of them, but they were well presented. And there was a great big twist at the end that made it look like the book was going to end poorly, but then she twisted things right around to where it ended to my satisfaction. (Vague enough for you?) So all in all, not my usual fare but a pretty engagingly-plotted read.
The fine print: received ARC from NetGalley....more
I read this on a whim because it was available from Overdrive at MRL, and I'm so glad I did. I thought it looked chick-litty (it was) and exotic (it wI read this on a whim because it was available from Overdrive at MRL, and I'm so glad I did. I thought it looked chick-litty (it was) and exotic (it was), but it was so much more.
Mili is an amazingly well drawn character, particularly in a novel that could easily be dismissed as a girly book. She was so real to me. It's been quite awhile since I've felt like I've known a character like that, like she's someone I could meet and befriend in real life. She was sweet and clumsy and hardworking and innocent and loving and traditional, but with this feisty spark. And then her love interest Samir - great back story and chemistry between them, and their interactions never felt like they were forced for a plot. They just worked.
I really don't want to give anything away by describing more of the plot, but I will say that everything felt so, so real. Dev's descriptions of everything - from people to clothes to culture and especially food - wow. I could see the sari colors, I could taste the dhosas. I was amazed at the way she worked a romance plot around the meeting of two cultures, modern and traditional. Education, family, responsibility... there were so many big ideas that she slipped in so smoothly. I laughed, I cried, I was seriously impressed,
I really can't say enough about this. I loved it so much that I almost gave it 5 stars. The main reason I couldn't was that one key plot point was a little too convenient. But otherwise, it was nearly perfect. Whether you like love stories or learning about other cultures (or maybe even neither), I can't imagine you'd be disappointed at all....more
I wondered where McNamara could possibly go with this series, but she obviously still has fresh ideas. What a pleasant surprise! I enjoyed the ridiculI wondered where McNamara could possibly go with this series, but she obviously still has fresh ideas. What a pleasant surprise! I enjoyed the ridiculously over-the-top plot - those weddings, the celebrities, the crazy things that happen to Scarlett! My main hang up was wanting to know why Sean was ever good enough friends with Alex to make him his best man. So all in all, another satisfactory bite of mind candy from McNamara. I'm assuming Scarlett and Sean will be having babies next - that should be interesting!...more
I just fell right into this book and didn't want to stop reading for a second. I loved Don as a narrator. He was this completely refreshing voice of lI just fell right into this book and didn't want to stop reading for a second. I loved Don as a narrator. He was this completely refreshing voice of logic and social awkwardness. His mannerisms and ways of dealing with friends, colleagues, and unexpected social situations were amusing and touching. His quest for a partner ("The Wife Project") leads him to help a young woman find her biological father ("The Father Project"), which eventually leads him to a personal project of reexamining himself and his life. And while the changes he makes might be inspired by a desire to succeed in The Wife Project, they're ultimately more about his being able to understand and enjoy life more -- without stepping TOO far out of the rigid boundaries of his comfort zone.
I went back and forth between giving this 4 and 5 stars. I think I just loved Don so much that I wanted his fun, heartfelt story to be more fleshed out. I have read a few reviews that suggested that the descriptions of his Asperger symptoms were oversimplified and perhaps stereotyped. Not knowing AS firsthand myself, I couldn't say. But I loved that there is a book in this world about a guy who's "wired differently" (his words) finding his way... in his own way.
The fine print: received ARC from Edelweiss....more