Thursday, February 19, 2009

Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea [Handler]

Book: Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea
Author: Chelsea Handler
Reason for Reading: book club
Genre: Nonfiction
Summary: This book beings with grade school shenanigans and ends with a Costa Rica vacation with many memories and experienes in between. Chelsea Handler describes multiple memories and experiences from her life, covering a range of topics from money making schemes, jail, dating, family and her love of midgets.

Christine's Review: '..Vodka' is a quick, fun read that will have you in stitches. While I enjoyed most of the sections, the strongest was Chelsea's opening section regarding grade school shananigans. A compulsive liar, she tells a teacher she is in negotiations to be in Private Benjamin II. The story continues to grow, and before she knows it, Chelsea is the toast of elementary school with people believing Goldie Hawn is like a second mother to her. If anyone had a friend growing up who could create ridiculous stories (yet lie so well they seemed true), this chapter will certainly bring up memories.

A few things to note is that this is a collection of essays and not a memoir, so it can seem disjointed at times. There is also frank language. Overall-this book is quirky and well written. Handler is quite witty and very funny.

Book Junkie's Grade: B+

Lessons of Desire [Hunter]

Book: Lessons of Desire
Author: Madeline Hunter
Reason for Reading: for fun
Genre: Romance - Historical
Summary: (from He first appears beneath her prison window as her savior—a sinfully attractive man whose charm and connections have ensured her release from an unjust arrest. But author and publisher Phaedra Blair quickly learns that the price of her “freedom” is to be virtually bound to her irresistible rescuer. For Elliot Rothman didn’t come solely on a mission of goodwill. He came to extract a promise that Phaedra won’t publish a slanderous manuscript that could destroy his family’s name, and he’s not above bribery, threats, or bedding her to get his way. And with each erotic encounter raising the stakes between them, Elliot discovers he’s ever more reluctant to lose this sensual game…or the one woman who’s every bit his match.

Christine's Review: This book had almost everything I look for in a romance novel except one thing-the female title character was not likable. Try as I might, I could not get behind Phaedra Blair. I found her general personality obnoxious and annoying. I understand her plight as a feminist woman in the 1800's (as unrealistic certain aspects of her life seemed to be) but I found myself breathing a sigh of relief when I was done reading sections from her perspective. Elliot Rothman, her love interest, was far more interesting, but his sections alone could not redeem the book.

Recommend? No

Book Junkie's Grade: C

Lady of Sin [Hunter]

Book: Lady of Sin
Author: Madeline Hunter
Reason for Reading: for fun
Genre: Romance - Historical
Summary: (from She arrives at his home without warning or invitation, determined to win him to her campaign to reform womens rights. Instead, Charlotte, the widowed Baroness Mardenford, ends up being nearly seduced by Nathaniel Knightridge. No woman is safe from the mesmerizing sensual power of the famed courtroom advocate, and Charlotte discovers she is no exception. But does he recognize her as the masked woman who recklessly joined him in forbidden passion a month ago? And how to avoid becoming his Lady of Sin when he decides to pursue her again?

Christine's Review: Let's be honest-few of us read romance novels for the great writing, intricate plot twists or deep character development. We read them for the romance and (almost always) happy endings. They are 'feel good' reads and it has been awhile since I read one.

I really enjoyed this book-the title characters were likable and there was enough of a plot (beyond the romance) that kept me interested all the way through the book. The love scenes weren't over the top or too explicit (so this can appeal to a wide range of readers) and the relationship between the main characters was believable.

Overall, if you are looking for a quick, fun, sensual love story, this is a good bet.

Book Junkie's Grade: B

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Pillars of the Earth [Follett]

Book: The Pillars of the Earth
Author: Ken Follett
Reason for Reading: book club
Genre: Fiction
Summary: Pillars is a historical novel about the building of a cathedral in Kingsbridge, England. Set in the middle of the 12th century, it traces events between the time of the sinking of the White Ship and the murder of Thomas Becket. The book is told from the perspective of a few fictional characters (a stonemason, his step-son, a sadistic lord, a young lady and a prior) against the backdrop of actual historical events of the time.

Christine's Review: This book as many distinctions: selection for Oprah's book club in 2007, listed as no. 33 on BB'c Big Read (2003 survey with goal of finding the national most-loved book), Follett's best selling book to date (he is an accomplished writer of spy thrillers), the second most popular book ever in the history of Germany (second to the bible) and was named one of the '101 books to Read Before You Die.' Needless to say-with all these accolades, I had high expectations. After completing the book (all 900+ pages), I was not impressed.

My primary complaints with this book were the writing style, repetitiveness and the unrealistic situations. The story takes place in the 1100s yet it was written with modern language. I can forgive that to a point, but in one section, a female character is referred to as "hot." Granted, I wasn't alive in the 1100s, but I doubt that term was used to describe physical attractiveness.

Next, the repetitiveness. I estimate the book could have been reduced by one hundred pages (if not more) if Follett did not repeat himself constantly. He felt the need to drill physical characteristics down the readers throat at every opportunity: "she was ugly, she had curly hair." A note to Follett-we get it! Yes, it is a long book but readers are capable of retaining basic tidbits. He also rehashed the plot summary at the beginning of certain chapters which was completely unnecessary.

Finally, there were many unrealistic situations in the book. I realize this is a work of fiction but some things just did not mesh. For example-one of the main characters, Tom Builder sees his wife die shortly after childbirth, and then the following night has sex with another woman (Ellen) and declares his love for her. What?? Speaking of Ellen-we are told that she has been living in the forest with her son Jack (she supposably gave birth to him in the forest) for years. She meets Tom Builder, his pregnant wife and 2 kids walking through the forest (did I mention that are all emaciated and starving) and decides to seduce him after his wife dies. She supposably has fallen in love with him after one meeting. Ellen has also survived in the forest for almost 10 years with no assistance, but once she starts traveling with Tom Builder, she and her son are starving. They must have had some hunting skills that they could have leveraged!

Overall, this book was long, repetitive and downright ridiculous at times. The characters were one dimensional and there were major plot holes. I have no idea how or why this book has received so many rave reviews. If you have the time to dedicate to reading, there are much better books out there.

Recommend? No, don't waste your time!

Book Junkie's Grade: D

Remember Me? [Kinsella]

Book: Remember Me?
Author: Sophie Kinsella
Reason for Reading: for fun
Genre: Chick Lit
Summary: Lexie Smart is a 25 year old sales associate (specializing in carpet) with bad teeth, great friends, a small bank account and a loser boyfriend. After a late night of partying, she falls down a flight of stairs trying to hail a cab. When she wakes up, she finds herself in a private hospital 3 years later. Her teeth are fixed, her body is toned and her bag is gucci. She is married to a multi-millionaire, is now managing the department she used to work in, has a new set of friends and lives in a beautiful loft. The problem? She doesn't remember anything from the last three years.

Christine's Review: This book had potential but was not executed very well. Kinsella is known for smart writing and with the exception of a few well written sections, it fell flat. The characters were either one dimensional or weren't developed enough. While certain situations were humerous, but they were not 'laugh-out-loud' funny which was dissapointing. I empathized with Lexie's plight, but the big reveal as to the 'event' which served as a catalyst for her personality change did not seem extreme enough to warrant such a transformation. The romance aspect of the book was also lacking. Granted, Lexie's relationships developed in a time when she has no memory, but with better character development (specifically relating to the men) these sections could have been fantastic.

Overall, this book was a quick read but there is better chick-lit out there. This is the first 'miss' for Kinsella as far as I'm concerned-I recommend the Shopolahlic series and 'Can You Keep a Secret?' if you haven't already read them.

Book Junkie's Grade: B-

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Book Junkie's 2009 Goal

My 2009 goal:

Read and review at least 52 books. As you can see..I'm on track with the reading but I'm falling behind on the reviews. I will hopefully get them finished this weekend.

Top 5 Books of 2008

The top 5 books I read in 2008 (in no particular order):

*The Book Thief [Zusak] - powerful story that will leave you in tears
*Atonement [McEwan] - beautifully written with layered characters
*Twilight [Meyer] - addictive and fun..almost makes me wish I were in high school again
*The Glass Castle [Wells] - the best memoir I've read in awhile, I was hooked from the first page
*Something Blue [Griffin] - chicklit at its best; a light, quick read that will have you in stitches