Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mennonite In a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home [Janzen]

Book: Mennonite In a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home
Author: Rhoda Janzen
Genre: Nonfiction

Review: After her husband leaves her for a man he met on gay.com, Rhoda is in a bad car accident and finds herself living in a house she cannot afford. Moving back home to recoup, she pens a funny, heartwarming memoir about her life growing up in a Mennonite family as well as the history of her marriage.

I fell in love with Rhoda's family, especially her mother in this memoir. As the book unfolds, we learn Rhoda is not quite as innocent in the breakdown of her marriage as first assumed, which makes for an interesting read. Overall, funny and engaging.

Book Junkie's Grade: B+

Dune Road [Green]

Book: Dune Road
Author: Jane Green
Genre: Chick-Lit

Review: Kit, a recently divorced mom of 2, moves from her palatial mansion in a wealthy suburb of CT to a smaller home in the same area. She has a great relationship with her ex-husband, a Wall Street banker (she didn't want to become the trophy wife she felt he wanted) and a great group of girlfriends. She starts working as an assistant to a reclusive writer and begins dating a new man. Meanwhile, one of her friends starts dating her boss yet is being secret about it, and another is facing financial problems in the wake of the current economic environment. Kit's life is further interrupted when a woman arrives claiming to be her sister.

I'm a huge fan of Jane Green and this book was 'off.' First of all, Green's 'American' English could use some help. Where was the editor? Certain words should have been changed as this book is about Americans. The reasons why Kit and her husband got divorced were very thin and I'm sure most readers were routing for them to get back together from practically page 1. The subplot involving her friend Tracy was completely ridiculous and *spoiler alert* I find it hard to believe that anyone would automatically forgive someone for purposely setting them up with a physically abusive conman. Furthermore, Green became lazy at the end and spent a lot of time recapping certain aspects of the characters that they reader already knew from the previous 200 or so pages.

'Jemima J' this book is NOT!

Book Junkie's Grade: C-

Best Friends Forever [Weiner]

Book: Best Friends Forever
Author: Jennifer Weiner
Genre: Chick-Lit

Review: Estranged for years, former best friends Addie and Valerie are reunited when Valerie shows up at Addie's house in the middle of the night needing her help. Told in past and present, we learn about the girls friendship (beautiful Valerie with an unstable home life, and overweight Addie, whose loving family is impacted when her beloved brother suffers brain damage in a terrible car accident). At present, now in their 30s, the girls are on the run after Valerie's actions may or may not have killed a fellow high school classmate.

I enjoyed learning about the girls when they were younger and seeing their friendship develop. However, their present selves were so cliche they seemed like cartoons. Valerie, in particular, was so over the top stupid/ridiculous it was too much even for a light chick-lit book. Furthermore, the ending, which some may find touching, was too over the top to ever happen in real life.

Book Junkie's Grade: C+

Twelve [McDonell]

Book: Twelve
Author: Nick McDonell
Genre: Fiction

Review: After his mother dies of breast cancer, clean cut Mike (who doesn't drink or smoke) defers college for a year to become White Mike, the drug dealer of choice for boarding school teens with too much time and money on their hands. 'Twelve' follows White Mike as he searches for his missing cousin as well as upper east side teens who prepare for a big New Years Eve party that has tragic consequences.

An interesting narrative almost makes up for the thin plot and complete lack of character development. However, if you are looking for something quick to read on an airplane and need a break from chick-lit, this is an easy read.

Book Junkie's Grade: B-

The 8th Confession [Patterson, Paetro]

Book: The 8th Confession [Women's Murder Club]
Authors: James Patterson, Maxine Paetro
Genre: Thriller

Review: San Fransisco detective Lindsay Boxer is working a puzzling case where high society people are being murdered but there are no marks on the bodies. She soon discovers her case is similar to killings in the early 80's where a rare snake was used to poison victims. She works to find the killer while balancing time with her friends and boyfriend.

It's been awhile since I read a Patterson book and I forgot how fun they are-a quick, suspenseful read! I will definitely be reading more books in the Women's Murder Club series.

Book Junkie's Grade: B+

Look Again [Scottoline]

Book: Look Again
Author: Lisa Scottoline
Genre: Fiction

Review: Ellen is about to throw out her mail when she notices a child on the missing persons flier looks like her 3-year old adopted son. Unsure what to do, she begins researching his birth parents (she knows her adoption was legal) and the couple whose child was stolen. She soon finds herself tangled up in a tangled legal web where she may end up losing the one thing she loves more than anything, her son.

While an interesting concept, this book jumped the shark by the main character's actions (she tracks down the people whose son was stolen and gets their DNA...why wouldn't she just hire a private investigator?). There was also an action sequence that came out of left field toward the end of the book and I eventually just didn't care what happened to her.

Book Junkie's Grade: C

The Castaways [Hilderbrand]

Book: The Castaways
Author: Elin Hilderbrand
Genre: Fiction

Review: When a young couple battling infidelity rumors is killed in a boating accident, their best friends must deal with the aftermath. Each section is told from a different friend's perspective while we learn about past secrets and shocking truths.

A delicious read, I enjoyed every second of this book, even though certain sections were predictable and a few key characters were incredibly annoying. A perfect beach read!

Book Junkie's Grade: B+

Commencement [Sullivan]

Book: Commencement
Author: J. Courtney Sullivan
Genre: Chick-Lit

Review: Bree, April, Celia and Sally meet freshman year at Smith College and development a close friendship. 'Commencement' follows the group post-graduation as they struggle with the trials and tribulations of work, love and family dynamics.

This is a fun, light read that is perfect for the beach. (as a side note, this book made me very happy that I didn't go to an all girls college!)

Book Junkie's Grade: B

Blame [Huneven]

Book: Blame
Author: Michelle Huneven
Genre: Fiction

Review: Twenty-eight year old college professor Patsy is an alcoholic. When she runs over a mother and daughter in her driveway during a drunken blackout episode, she is sentenced to a few years in prison. Faced with the knowledge that she killed two innocent people, Patsy gets sober, becomes an active member of AA and eventually marries a much older man. As Patsy rebuilds her life and career, she is forced to analyze her past behavior and actions, as well as those of others. Ultimately, this book challenges the reader to define important questions about 'blame' and 'responsibility' for ones actions.

This book was not an engrossing "I can't put it down" read but it was engaging, interesting and well written. The subject matter was also different from anything I've read before. I've thought about the novel since completing it and it has inspired discussions with a few friends about the concepts of 'blame' and 'responsibility' so Huneven did a good job getting under my skin!

Book Junkie's Grade: B+

The Magicians [Grossman]

Book: The Magicians
Author: Lev Grossman
Genre: Fiction

Review: Tagged as the 'adult Harry Potter', '..Magicians' follows Quentin as he enrolls in a secret magic school, learns his craft and discovers that a world from his favorite childhood series is real.

While this was well written, Grossman shamelessly "borrowed" plots from Harry Potter and Narnia which made this novel far from original. The main character was not likable and did not grow/mature throughout the novel, while the secondary characters were never fully fleshed out and it was difficult to connect with anyone.

[Note: Although this book has science fiction elements, it read more like a traditional fiction novel, which is how I'm classifying it.]

Book Junkie's Grade: C+

The Golden Compass [Pullman]

Book: The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, Book 1)
Author: Philip Pullman
Genre: YA: Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Review: Orphaned at a young age, Lyra lives amongst scholars at a prestigious university. When her uncle arrives to give a presentation on a mysterious substance called "dust"-Lyra becomes intrigued. Soon, children start disappearing including Lyra's best friend. She embarks on an adventure to figure out what "dust" is, rescue her friend and in the process discovers a world she didn't know existed as well as secrets about her past.

'The Golden Compass' was a 2007 movie that was widely criticized by (book) fans due to plot changes/missing scenes. I saw the movie and thus expected the book to depart from the movie. While there were a few differing scenes, overall, they were close (the movie did end a scene before the book). The book was well-written but anti-climatic because I knew what was going to happen. I liked it but do not plan to read the rest of the series.

Book Junkie's Grade: B