When I first read the back of this book I thought it sounded potentially hilarious and at the very least quite interesting. And while the premise cert...moreWhen I first read the back of this book I thought it sounded potentially hilarious and at the very least quite interesting. And while the premise certainly is interesting, Wolitzer falls a little flat on her delivery. The story begins in the seventies when the Mellows first publish their how-to sex guide (featuring illustrations of themselves in all the positions!) but rapidly moves to the present day and focuses on the current lives and loves of the four grown children.
It's hard to imagine, but this story truly was boring. The book was well-written, the author's way with language and humor was fairly adept, and yet I was just soooo bored. The adult characters were really still just whiny adolescents blaming their parents for all their problems, and the parents were now retirees unable to accept the realities of age and still stuck in the memory of their sexual heyday.
Wolitzer's primary focus in the book is certainly the notion of self-discovery -- a worthy one for discussion and certainly relevant to any reader, as were other primary issues (family, expectations, sexuality, acceptance.) I think all the right elements were present in the novel but never quite achieved their potential. I give this book 2.5 stars - it would make a good beach read, but make sure you're wearing sunscreen in case you fall asleep! (less)
This engrossing tale delves deep into the power of memory and the often blurry lines between actual events and the stories we're told about those even...moreThis engrossing tale delves deep into the power of memory and the often blurry lines between actual events and the stories we're told about those events. The focus of the book are Lila and Billy, a set of unusually close fraternal twins whose lives and stories are enwtined more than anyone can imagine. After Billy's death Lila completely breaks down, leaving her husband Patrick - a man who has always valued reason and logic over emotion - to sift through what he knows and what he is told to piece together the truth about Lila and Billy's childhood.
Often poignant and incredibly readable, this novel was very well-written and I highly recommend it with 5 stars. Every family has its secrets, some more so than others - I think Tucker truly captured the quiet darkness that exists deep in the recesses of the human mind. She also tackled the very interesting topic of twins and the unique bonds they share, sometimes to the detriment of their other relationships. This book will make you think; it'll make you call your sibling or your mom; it will certainly make you want to read more from Lisa Tucker. (less)
This richly layered historical narrative provided a fascinating glimpse into an often-overlooked facet of Renaissance life. Serafina is willful, passi...moreThis richly layered historical narrative provided a fascinating glimpse into an often-overlooked facet of Renaissance life. Serafina is willful, passionate and adamantly unwilling to accept her fate and a life in the convent. While she plots her escape and creates a web of deception that only her advisor Zuana can penetrate, the rest of the convent struggles to reconcile her presence and her rebellion with the potential for glory that her renowned singing voice might bring them. At the same time the abbess seeks desperately to remain a convent apart while the greater church invokes new restrictions on the tiny luxuries the nuns still enjoy.
I was engaged and invested while reading this book - at first I was thoroughly on Serafina's side; as the story wore on, I felt more and more for Zuana and her own struggles. By the end of this complex retelling of a star-crossed lovers tale, I was both happy with the outcome and extraordinarily sad for all of the women involved. I give Dunant and Sacred Hearts five stars and highly recommend it as an intense and thought-provoking read. (less)
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful: Not-so-historical fiction, September 8, 2009
First, I wish this book had been billed as pure ficti...more 1 of 1 people found the following review helpful: Not-so-historical fiction, September 8, 2009
First, I wish this book had been billed as pure fiction, rather than 'based on a true story'. I'm not sure how much truth Lindley managed to include in her story - I'm not sure that very much truth is actually known about Eastern Jewel. While her life and story would be riveting to explore, this novel seems taken entirely from Lindley's imagination and relies far too heavily on the princess and her supposed sexual exploits to fuel every plot twist.
The book is well-written and was a fast and enjoyable read, but I'm left with a definite distaste for Lindley's portrayal of life in Asia during such a tumultuous historical period. Eastern and Western characters alike are presented as stereotyped caricatures of real people, while the placement of plot points in actual history seemed disjointed - time is skewed, as 'years passed' but Eastern Jewel had only aged one year.
I give Lindley 3 stars for her vivid descriptions and smooth, easy writing style, but I wish she'd chosen pure fiction and left claims to historical accuracy for another genre. (less)
This book reads like a bad made-for-tv movie and was a complete waste of time. Spencer's grammatically shaky, over-emotional and adjective-laden prose...moreThis book reads like a bad made-for-tv movie and was a complete waste of time. Spencer's grammatically shaky, over-emotional and adjective-laden prose made the book a pain to navigate and nearly impossible to enjoy, while her complete inability to draw a realistic human character forced the story into cliche after cliche. Her teenagers were wooden, drenched with sickly sweet kindness and school spirit and completely lacking any normal adolescent characteristics; her adults were erratic, frenzied and drawn without an ounce of realism.
I picked up this book at a used book sale and thought the story might have some interesting twists - there were none. I thought the plight of the characters, especially the principal's wife Claire, might resonate in some way - it did not. I suppose if nothing else, Home Song did evoke strong feelings in me as a reader: I was so angry with each of the characters and so bored by the non-existent plot that I couldn't wait to finish the book, review it and shelve it on the 'never to be touched again' pile.(less)
I love chocolate and I love good chick-lit, especially of the British variety, so I was ready and excited to dive in to this potentially delicious rea...moreI love chocolate and I love good chick-lit, especially of the British variety, so I was ready and excited to dive in to this potentially delicious read. Unfortunately, good chocolate just isn't enough to carry a story when the characters are vapid, shallow and seem completely implausible as actual human beings.
The book definitely has some redeeming and hilarious moments - a fabulous break-up revenge scene and a plot-turned-caper to retrieve Chantal's stolen jewels - but it was so hard for me not to shake my head in disbelief at the way the characters acted and spoke that the good moments just didn't outweigh the bad. I was especially turned off by Lucy, the narrator and convener of the Chocolate Lovers' Club. No self-respecting woman would actually stick with a cheating boyfriend for so long and actually be proud of herself for it, nor would true friends let such stupidity go on indefinitely. And when her Crush shows interest in her she's about as awkward and moronic as a girl could be - and not just once, but over and over again. I appreciate characters drawn from reality, people whose lives aren't perfect and whose problems are real if sometimes mundane, but Lucy was over-the-top. Chantal was the most appealing character for me, and her problems seemed the most legitimate, but even she possessed a fair amount of bizarre and unrealistic quirks that didn't fit together.
If you want to learn a million different types of chocolate, or drool over your book a bit, then this book is a worthwhile read. As far as chick-lit goes, however, I was really disappointed. I want to find women in books that strike me as people I might know, friends I might have - not women who make me cringe and give the worst name to the fairer sex.(less)
Since finishing this book (which I did very easily, it's a quick and entertaining read) I have been struggling with how to review it. On the one hand,...moreSince finishing this book (which I did very easily, it's a quick and entertaining read) I have been struggling with how to review it. On the one hand, it's a fun tale about a normal woman who has the unlikely good fortune to meet her celebrity crush and actually find a meaningful friendship with him. Their banter is witty and their improbable friendship weathers the occasional storm just like any relationship, with spousal jealousies, the demands of work and family and general differences of opinion getting in the way. The story is often laugh-out-loud funny, and the characters are endearing in their own strange ways.
On the other hand, there were many times while reading that I wanted to just shake the book, or the characters within it, for the completely unrealistic moral overtones that I found leaping from most of the pages. Are there really people out there who believe it impossible for married women to have male friends, or vice versa? Are there families out there who would stage minor interventions because a sibling had a friend and the rest feared for her moral soul? I have no problem with storylines that contain religion or spirituality, but I want the devotion to seem realistic, I want to believe that the characters are people of faith, but real people. With this book I'm just not sure I bought it.
All that being said, I definitely recommend this book - it's not your standard chick-lit, the main character being far less independent than most heroines of the genre - if nothing else you'll have a good laugh. (less)
Set in Canadian Niagra between 1915 and 1923, Buchanan's debut novel is a historical, naturalist love story. With some characters and events loosely b...moreSet in Canadian Niagra between 1915 and 1923, Buchanan's debut novel is a historical, naturalist love story. With some characters and events loosely based on true historic figures and a looming and powerful Falls dominating nearly every page, this novel was certainly interesting but fell a little short on plot strength towards the end. I liked Bess and Tom, and was certainly rooting for them to succeed in life and love. I thought Tom especially was very well drawn - I found his deep and abiding relationship with the river and the falls to be both fascinating and a little chilling - that he was based on a real riverman of the era made him even more appealing. Their lives were perhaps overfull of tragic events, but I think that the realities of the era lend themselves well to such drama.
I think Buchanan's writing is clear and strong, and her characters are well-voiced. She captured the life of the times as well as the history and power of the Falls; she also incorporated a strong environmental message that would have been important then and still resonates now. I enjoyed the book, and would definitely recommend it with 3.5 stars - be prepared however, for a rushed and perhaps overly simple ending which in my opinion greatly reduced the impact of the novel as a whole. (less)
This unusual glimpse into the Witness Protection Program was interesting and engagingly written, though I had some problems with its fundamental plot...moreThis unusual glimpse into the Witness Protection Program was interesting and engagingly written, though I had some problems with its fundamental plot devices. The story grabbed me from the very beginning, with clever dialogue and quick surprises that kept me turning the pages. Melody was a well-written and quite loveable narrator -- Cristofano is to be highly commended for his ability truly to capture a woman's voice in such emotional and intelligent detail.
And yet, for all the highlights this novel held, I was ultimately disappointed. Other reviews seem to view the ending as realistic and honest - I, on the other hand, felt it was wildly unrealistic and also unsatisfying. Not that I expect a book to end with every character's problems solved and the story wrapped up - on the contrary, I much prefer novels whose characters suffer real problems with real, not-so-sexy solutions. But Melody and Jonathan were tortured yet false - I just didn't buy it, at the end of the day I guess I just didn't buy it. I was rooting for Melody, I thought Cristofano perfectly captured her uncertainty, the confused psyche that might allow her to have romantic feelings for her would-be assassin -- the romantic elements of the story was not my problem. But I finished reading and felt let-down, felt almost angry at the cop-out ending.
I give this book 3.5 stars -- it was thoroughly enjoyable and Cristofano is definitely an author to watch - I just wanted more from this particular book!(less)
Metz has produced a raw and moving memoir of her life as a grieving widow faced with the reality of her dead husband's infdelity. Her writing is hones...moreMetz has produced a raw and moving memoir of her life as a grieving widow faced with the reality of her dead husband's infdelity. Her writing is honest and brave as she chronicles the unraveling of her marriage post her husband's death - as evidence of each new woman comes to light, Metz acknowledges that there were signs along the way, signs she either misread or simply ignored.
She approached her 'recovery' with zeal, contacting all of her husband's lovers, researching the sociology and psychology of infidelity and of human desire, but also with the very real shame, fear and dismay that anyone would feel in the same situation. Metz was more forgiving than I can imagine being, and there were times along the way that I found her self-questioning to be tedious, but overall I was rooting for her, hoping she would emerge at the end of the tunnel with a capacity for love and happiness that had previously been taken from her. This memoir is definitely worth the read - I give it 3.5 stars.(less)
In The Crying Tree Naseem Rakha tells the story of a family destroyed by tragedy and fueled by emotion and vengeance, a mother, father and daughter tr...moreIn The Crying Tree Naseem Rakha tells the story of a family destroyed by tragedy and fueled by emotion and vengeance, a mother, father and daughter trying desperately to find a way to live beyond their loss, and failing miserably. Individual grief makes them strangers to one another, allowing secrets to lie dormant for years and forcing each to live alone within the family unit.
When the killer's execution is finally scheduled, Irene is faced with emotions she never expected - she hated this man so much, but through years of secret communication has come to view him differently. When their hidden relationship comes to light, other family secrets are also revealed (though I had guessed to big secret fairly early in the novel, I think Rahka does a wonderful job building momentum and keeping the reader interested until the end) and each family member must seek a new kind of forgiveness.
I'm labeling this book a must-read - the character development is compelling and real, the plot moves at a good pace and the widely varied emotions are portrayed with heart-wrenching accuracy. Rahka took a difficult story of loss and a political argument about the death penalty and melded them into a very human tale that forces the reader to stop and think. Four stars - read this book, give it to a friend, and then discuss! (less)