Friday, July 29, 2011

Olive Kitteridge [Strout]

Book: Olive Kitteridge
Author: Elizabeth Strout

Review: 'Olive Kitteridge' is a series of short stories about people living in a small town in Maine. Olive Kitteridge is a retired school teacher and is the focus of a few stories, while making appearances in the others. She is many things to different people-beloved teacher, obnoxious mother-in-law, annoying wife, caring and supportive neighbor. Strout nails human emotion in this beautifully written novel yet depressing novel.

I am generally not a fan of short stories but this is so well written and the stories so engaging that I had a hard time putting it down. It was simply excellent. I felt a kindred spirit to the town in general as well as Olive. It may be because I'm from a small town in the northeast (originally from Maine but grew up in upstate NY) that Strout really captured the spirit of the people. Olive also reminded me a lot of a person close to me. For the most part she has good intentions, but very little self awareness.

Grade: A

Broken [Hart]

Book: Broken
Author: Megan Hart

Review: College sweethearts Sadie and Adam were happily married for years when a skiing accident rendered Adam a quadriplegic. Sadie's life now revolves around taking care of Adam and her therapy practice. Once a month, Sadie meets Joe for lunch, and he tells her about his latest sexual adventure. Although still in love with her husband, Sadie imagines herself in the role of the women Joe tells her about. Sadie navigates her feelings for Joe while trying to repair her relationship with her husband.

This book reads like a well-written fiction novel with racy chapters intermixed. This is a harrowing love story between Sadie and Adam and how their relationship and marriage is impacted by tragedy. Heart wrenching, I found myself almost in tears at certain times. One of my favorite books is 'The Dive Off Clausen's Pier' and I found this book a grown up, sexier version. Speaking of sexier, Hart's inclusion of Joe's tales was well-done. My only complaint with this book was that there was little development of Joe as a character and there is a scene at the end of the book (spoiler alert: when he goes to Sadie's house, how did he know where she lived?) that was far fetched.

Overall, I loved this book. This is the best, most well-written erotica I've read to date. However-if you are looking for a traditional, uplifting, "I feel happy" romance novel, this is not for you. This book deals with a serious topic (marriage impacted by a horrible accident).

Grade: A- (please note this book is 'erotica' and not for all readers!)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Dead Reckoning [Harris]

Book: Dead Reckoning [Sookie Stackhouse Book# 11]
Author: Charlaine Harris

Review: Fans of Sookie and Eric will be disappointed with the latest installment of the southern vampire series. Witty banter between the two is completely gone. I vaguely remember the days when I read books 4 and 5 and laughed out loud routing for them to be together. In fact, normal communication of any sorts must occur off the pages because they do not communicate well nor have any fun in this book. Most fans have been waiting a long time for these two to be together so it's disappointing that now they are a couple, it isn't translating well. It seems clear that Harris is breaking them up and Sam will be the last man standing. I have nothing against Sam, but I've always been an Eric fan and was hoping they would end up together.

However, back to the plot of the book...similar to the last book, there were a few story lines, none of which that were that interesting. Merlotte's is firebombed (this could have been interesting but it felt recycled from a previous book) while Pam and Eric are having trouble with the king regent, Victor. Speaking of Pam-she has a serious love interest for the first time in the series and the entire relationship happens off the page. Even more annoying (SPOILER ALERT) her love interest is killed off with very little fanfare. There was a fae subplot with Claude and Dermot that was never fully fleshed out (I'm guessing this will be the main story arc in the last two books).

This whole book just felt a little "off" with many characters acting out of character. SPOILER ALERT: There was a random Alcide appearance (Alcide was waiting for Sookie in her bed..really?). Amelia reappears and then is kicked out of Sookie's house when Sookie overreacts to a certain situation. Southern gentleman Bill makes a vulgar comment to Sookie at one point (I will admit it's the only time I laughed though reading the book). Prim and proper Pam also says things out of character, while Eric is just a shell of his previously hot, quick witted self.

I am beginning to question the editing of these books as things were presented or "revealed" that don't fit with the timeline of previous books.It doesn't seem like Harris is having fun writing this series anymore (I used to laugh all the time reading them) and is trying to stretch out a few ideas to complete her book deal. Or..maybe I enjoy the HBO show more and I''m holding the book to a higher standard? I welcome comments from other fans of both series.

Grade: C

The Count of Monte Cristo [Dumas]

Book: The Count of Monte Cristo
Author: Alexandre Dumas

Review: When Edmond Dantes is falsely imprisoned for political treason, he plots revenge against the three men who put him there. He escapes the prison after fourteen years, acquires a large fortune, reinvents himself and slowly enacts his revenge.

The first 2/3 of the book are extremely slow. Dumas writes with excruciating detail and introduces characters that don't appear to have an integral role in the story. I attempted to read every night around 10pm and it was a struggle most nights. It is over 26k kindle pages and I thought about stopping multiple times. I complained so much to my husband ("everyone tells me they love this book but it is a snoozefest" I would say) that he finally told me to stop reading and move on. But I pushed through and I'm glad I did. Dumas lays an intricate groundwork necessary for the conclusion of the story which was very satisfying, although somewhat obvious (events were heavily foreshadowed although I did not foresee his handling of Danglar).

Overall, I ended up really enjoying this book. All of the characters Dumas introduced play a role in the story (even though it may take another 15 hours of reading to find out why). A few things bothered me about the book (not sure if 'bothered' is the correct term') which as a reader, you have to go with (**spoilers below**):
*Dantes meets the Abbe Faria in prison. The Abbe is a walking encyclopedia and knows almost every language, imparting his knowledge (and apparently perfect accents) to Edmond. He seemed too good to be true.
*Dumas comments multiple times that the Count is very pale and unable to gain any color due to his time in prison. I'm pretty sure anyone who hasn't seen the sun for 14 years would burn just the same as the rest of us.
*No one recognized the Edmond as the count. I will say that while reading I had a hard time believing this but after seeing facebook photos of guys I haven't seen since high school, I wouldn't recognize half of them.
*I was weirded out with how the Count's love life was resolved at the end (SPOILER). He ends up with someone that he thought of as his adoptive daughter for the majority of the book. Gross.

**For fans of the movie starring Guy Pierce and Jim Caviezel: the movie is a VERY loose adaptation. "Kings to You" does not appear in the pages. Edmond and Fernand were not childhood friends (in fact, they were not friends at all). Edmond had no idea why he was in prison until the Faria helped him figure it out. There were few chase/fight scenes. The movie count was flashy while the book count was very subtle. Several key characters were missing. Albert is not Edmond's son. And last but not least-Edmond and Mercedes do not end up together. I happened to watch the movie the night after I finished reading this and it was all I could do to not shout "that didn't happen!" repeatedly. Enjoyable movie..just VERY different.

Grade: B+

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

BossyPants [Fey]

Book: BossyPants
Author: Tina Fey

Review: Readers expecting a memoir of Tina Fey's life will be disappointed with 'BossyPants.' While thoroughly sarcastic, it reads more like a collection of essays. Fey recounts memories from her life but reveals very little personal information about herself. I believe she has an older sibling who is maybe mentioned once. The best chapter is a section on her father (Don Fey), but her mother is barely mentioned at all. While we hear a funny story about her honeymoon, readers have no idea how she met her husband or fell in love. If you are a fan of 30 Rock, Tina Fey is Liz Lemon (with a husband and baby). She did provide some details behind the scenes in the television industry which were interesting.

Overall, it was an okay read. I never laughed out loud nor feel like I learned too much about Tina Fey. I would be interested in reading a book about her father, he seems like one cool cat. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone (however, I recommend 'Sh*t My Dad Says' to almost everyone I know), but if you want to read it, borrow it from the library or a friend. It's not worth the hardcover price.

Grade: B-