Alicia G. - - Reviews

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The Actor and the Housewife
The Actor and the Housewife
Author: Shannon Hale
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.
 31
Review Date: 10/8/2010


Shannon Hale is a great writer, but she's using her talent for evil with this book. This book will take you on an emotional roller coaster, and personally I did not enjoy it. I couldn't put it down in most places, it made me sob, it made me laugh, it made me depressed. And after all that, after investing completely in the characters to the point of extreme and possibly insane empathy, the ending was not cathartic at all. (I realize we usually complain about the "predictable" outcome, but in this case it would have been a relief.)

Despite it's ridiculous fantasy of a plot (please: the actor and the housewife? it gets better: he's basically Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise and she's a Mormon from Utah), this book takes the most painful of all "realistic" outcomes (the type that, yes, we all experience from time to time but optimistically hope will not become the norm) and makes you feel like even in your movie star fantasies you can't escape from them. Fun!

But take my sarcasm with a grain of salt and as the warning I intend it to be. If you enjoy Hale and are braver than me about books that toy with your emotions and refuse to give you a predictable ending, definitely give this a try. It is well-written and unique.


American Wife
American Wife
Author: Curtis Sittenfeld
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 296
Review Date: 8/22/2010


I am disappointed in this book, but up until the last fourth I would have recommended it. Once you get past the sensationalist concept of basing a novel on a loose version of First Lady Laura Bush's life, it's actually very well written, emotive, sympathetic, and fascinating.

But then Sittenfeld inexplicably chooses to jump forward past not just her husband's election to president, re-election, and the beginning of the war but also past the *decision-making* process that led them there. Sittenfeld cheats the reader out of any sort of explanation as to why or how the title character, Alice, and her husband Charlie (the "GWB" character) would jump from Charlie's tentative step into sports team management to re-entering politics, much less to running for president. I can only assume this is due to the author's ignorance of the campaign and/or election process. Perhaps if these were original characters who did not hang from the skeleton of real-life people, this would not be a big deal, but Sittenfeld cannot have it both ways. We either want to see the juicy fictionalized "inside story" or we want a completely independent love story. This book works well (even very well) as the latter, and once I get over my irritation I will still appreciate that about it. But don't go into this expecting historical fiction because from that perspective, this book is a set-up that lacks pay-off.


Angels & Demons (Robert Langdon, Bk 1)
Angels & Demons (Robert Langdon, Bk 1)
Author: Dan Brown
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 3673
Review Date: 12/11/2006


This is the prequel to "The Da Vinci Code." If you were a little put off by the subject matter of "Code" but were entertained by Dan Brown's style, you'll probably like this better. Plus, Robert Langdon gets a little romance!


Atonement
Atonement
Author: Ian McEwan
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 891
Review Date: 1/27/2007
Helpful Score: 9


At first, this feels like one of those books that is well written, but somehow not entertaining enough. The insight into character is very true, very perceptive, but plot arrives at such a slow pace. And yet it's obviously very deliberate, very controlled writing. I enjoyed the old-fashioned character analysis and the way he handled the growing emotional connection between Cecelia and Robbie was beautiful. The way he made emotional catalysts equally as important as the physical to the plot line is quite remarkable. I think I liked the book--it's definitely one to contemplate more in the future. (They're making a movie of this soon and I honestly cannot imagine this will translate well to the screen--especially with the way it ends!)


Austenland (Austenland, Bk 1)
Austenland (Austenland, Bk 1)
Author: Shannon Hale
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 146
Review Date: 7/29/2010


Hale has a nice, effortless style that makes this book a real page-turner. This book is light and entertaining, and short -- I read it by the pool during the summer and it was perfect for an escapist afternoon. The characters have substance (plenty for this type of book) and I thought this book did a great job tapping into the whole Jane Austen phenomenon. It played with the typical girl's familiarity with the subject in a manner that was compelling (even to a reader who love/hates Austen, like me) without completely falling into a swoon. So far I have enjoyed everything I've read by Hale (this and "The Princess Academy") and plan to read more.


Been There, Done That
Been There, Done That
Author: Carol Snow
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.
 81
Review Date: 1/21/2010


Loved this book, perhaps because it reminds me of my own experience as a (legitimately) "nontraditional" college student amongst kids, on average, 4 to 6 years my junior. I quibble with some of the blatant stereotypes that Snow tends to embrace, but at least it becomes clear that the stereotypes are mostly in the mind of her narrator. Kathy, the protagonist of the novel, is wimpy in her "real" life and more interesting "undercover," but the book is a fast, compulsive, and entertaining read (if a little light).

I usually read the first sentence of books in my to-read pile in order to decide what to read; this one I read the whole first chapter before I realized I had decided on it. For that alone I would give it an extra star, since even the best books these days tend to begin badly.


Bet Me
Bet Me
Author: Jennifer Crusie
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 884
Review Date: 1/27/2007


I don't generally read romance, but the characters are surprisingly engaging in this book. The chick has some spunk, there are real people trying to keep the two lovebirds apart (rather than the usual chance events and stupidity-related problems), and there are no maternal urges in sight. Bonus points because though I hate girls who obsess about dieting, the book actually used that as a problem to deal with rather than some personality quirk. Pretty kinky sex scenes. There's light bondage!


Big Stone Gap (Big Stone Gap, Bk 1)
Big Stone Gap (Big Stone Gap, Bk 1)
Author: Adriana Trigiani
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 465
Review Date: 4/11/2010
Helpful Score: 5


This charming book reminded me of the movie "Waitress" (starring Keri Russell and Nathan Fillion) ... in fact, so much did it remind me of the movie that, remembering the name of the female writer/director of "Waitress" was some form of "Adrian," I had to make sure the author and the director were not the same person. (They aren't. This is Adriana Trigiana; "Waitress" was Adrienne Shelly.)

Still, if you liked "Waitress," you might like this book. The qualities of "Waitress" this reminds me of are the tone (that hard to define way of being naturally quirky, effortlessly conveying the idea that the characters are just like this without being aware that it's unusual), the small-town setting, and the piercing insight of the main character's revelations into the world around her and her place in it.

It's a great book to curl up with on a rainy day or a slow Sunday. I read a lot of books in quick 5-minute "bites" of time; this was not a good book for that type of reading. It's a book to take some time with in order to enjoy the progress of the rolling storyline. (Not that the storyline is "slow" - there are plenty of interesting plot developments - but it doesn't have intermittent climactic moments or chapter-by-chapter cliffhangers as so many modern novels do.)

I had never read anything by Trigiani before, but this book may have made me a fan. I will be ordering more of her novels ASAP.


Bitten (Women of the Otherworld, Bk 1)
Bitten (Women of the Otherworld, Bk 1)
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 671
Review Date: 3/22/2010


I came across this novel in the midst of a serious vampire fic binge (which can overlap with werewolf fic), but it stands out as a little bit different from the rest.

First, I don't tend to like werewolf novels, but I liked this. The dog/human dynamics are well-written and include fresh details, while at the same time Armstrong does not feel the need to over-explain how it "works."

Second, this book has a little more "weight" than I expected, or that is typical of the genre. It's a bit more of a mystery than a romance, although romance--and sex--is also included. The last werewolf book I read was "Kitty and the Midnight Hour" by Carrie Vaughn. That book is far more light-weight than this is. I read it quickly, and discarded it easily, and felt vaguely dissatisfied afterward. On the other hand, in "Bitten" the story occasionally seemed to take awhile to get to where it was going, but I was never quite sure where the story would lead, either (a good thing). And there is enough going on in the dynamics and the storyline to stretch the reading over several days.

Finally, the characters are interesting and original. The heroine has suffered--in her past, her relationships, for being what she is--but she is not a damsel in distress. No whiny female protagonist here. No "misunderstood" love interests in need of compassion, either. (Both of these tend to be genre cliches.)

I recommend this book if you're craving a rich werewolf story, but save it for another day if you just want something to toss away after enjoying for an afternoon.


Bond Girl: A Novel
Bond Girl: A Novel
Author: Erin Duffy
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 11
Review Date: 11/1/2012


Similar to "The Devil Wears Prada" but with a less whiny protagonist. (Full disclosure: I didn't like "The Devil Wears Prada.") Here, Alex doesn't think she knows it all, and the book isn't one long complaint. Enjoyed this as a light read.


Bury Me Deep
Bury Me Deep
Author: Megan Abbott
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 17
Review Date: 3/24/2013


After I read "The Song is You" I set about reading everything Megan Abbott had ever written, but unfortunately none of her other novels seems to match it. I liked this one the least. As far as I can tell, it's deliberately written to distance the reader from the characters. Success!


Crazy Heart
Crazy Heart
Author: Thomas Cobb
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 15
Review Date: 12/17/2011


Well written, readable book about an interesting, flawed protagonist. I read without seeing the movie. Towards the end, there is a giant plot cliche (you'll know it when you see it) and then a realistic but ugly (and frustrating) ending. I don't feel like I wasted my time reading this book, but I enjoyed putting it down more than picking it up.


Deadlocked (Sookie Stackhouse, Bk 12)
Deadlocked (Sookie Stackhouse, Bk 12)
Author: Charlaine Harris
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 24
Review Date: 9/4/2012


I have read and enjoyed the Sookie Stackhouse series, but unfortunately have to admit they are going the way of most lengthy book series: By book 12, plot is a thing of the past and there is literally nothing interesting to read about but what goes on day-to-day inside Sookie's head. And even that is a re-tread from other books: Sookie doesn't like being mixed up in supernatural feuds! Sookie feels responsible! Sookie feels used! Sookie might prefer a different boyfriend who would treat her better!

Many Amazon reviewers have turned on author Charlaine Harris with this book, and I have to say I understand why people are frustrated. The central drama of this entry is Eric and Sookie's relationship, but nothing is resolved by the end of the novel.

(Mild spoilers below - as I said, nothing actually happens, so you essentially know everything if you've already read previous books in the series.)

In this book, Eric and Sookie are together, but even though Eric does nothing new (in fact, their ongoing troubles date back to two books ago), it is clear he has disappointed Sookie, who seems perpetually on the verge of breaking up with him. If that's all the drama that is left in this series, it might be time to put readers out of their misery.

To sum up my opinion of this novel: Quick read and not pointless if you like the characters. Just don't spend any money on it if you can help it. This entry is nothing but filler.


Death Comes to Pemberley
Death Comes to Pemberley
Author: P. D. James
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 54
Review Date: 6/26/2013
Helpful Score: 2


This is a bit of a slow read, with a somewhat less satisfying payoff than a story written by Austen. Overall, it's a skillfully written sequel to Pride & Prejudice, though Mr. Darcy has perhaps become here TOO perfect (and his perspective seems the most nuanced). This book is not quite a murder mystery and not quite a romance, which makes it difficult to either describe or recommend. I can only suggest that if the concept sounds interesting to you, then yes, go ahead and read it! But I would not, perhaps, put it at the top of your list (particularly in the summer; this one goes much better with a hot cuppa).


Dedication
Dedication
Author: Emma McLaughlin, Nicola Kraus
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 104
Review Date: 3/22/2010


Women: If you've ever been in a relationship with a boy who other people raised their eyebrows at, said wasn't "good enough" for you, or disappointed and thrilled you repeatedly, constantly, over and over ... you will understand this book.

If not, you won't enjoy it. Actually, you may not enjoy it either way--I definitely squirmed in discomfort a few times--but you will feel like somebody out there understands what you went through/are going through.

Without spoiling things: the ending is...if not satisfying, at least it doesn't cheat. This is an easy book to read, and funny, though slightly annoying in structure (it alternates chapters--one in the past, one in the present). It also neglects the one scene that would seem to be the crux of the entire relationship, which seemed an odd narrative choice to me.


The Devil Wears Prada
The Devil Wears Prada
Author: Lauren Weisberger
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 1733
Review Date: 1/29/2007


I couldn't finish this book. It's unnecessarily long, and at only a third of the way through I had already set it aside and made myself pick it back up twice. Andrea is the annoying character, as far as I'm concerned, not the so-called evil boss. I didn't find her sympathetic at all, and as the narrator she's constantly smug and self-justifying. I actually loved the movie--at least Andrea is held partly accountable in that.


The Diplomat's Wife
The Diplomat's Wife
Author: Pam Jenoff
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 95
Review Date: 4/22/2011


This book held me engaged right up until the last couple chapters, where suddenly it became a conspiracy theory. I expected the romance to resolve implausibly (romances tend to do that), but the author made the romance dependent upon the mystery -- which is clearly not the point of the book and clearly NOT Jenoff's forte.

The odd part is that there were no red flags through the majority of the book that the writing would deteriorate so rapidly towards the end. As a result, the climactic moments are a complete let-down. First the female narrative becomes shallow and ludicrous with no emotional nuance (he's dead! how sad! he's not dead! how shocking!) and then the romantic obstacles are unravelled through inexplicable revelations that come completely out of left field.

The conclusion of this book reminded me of the (deliberately ridiculous) conclusion to the movie "Down With Love" except without the irony. Unfortunately humour doesn't seem to be Jenoff's forte, either.


A Discovery of Witches (All Souls, Bk 1)
A Discovery of Witches (All Souls, Bk 1)
Author: Deborah Harkness
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 251
Review Date: 8/11/2012
Helpful Score: 1


I both liked and didn't like this novel. At times it's very engaging, particularly in the beginning. But there are many chapters farther in that just feel like filler. There is a lot of mythology-building that read like exposition and I got bored at times waiting around for the next plot point. That said, the characters are great and the book does some innovative blending of genres (though I'd say Harkness is most inventive with the vampires).


Eighteen Acres
Eighteen Acres
Author: Nicolle Wallace
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 12
Review Date: 7/29/2012
Helpful Score: 2


I work in politics and media in Washington, D.C. and read this novel while immersed in a presidential election, so it was pretty much tailored for me. But with that caveat, I will say I really enjoyed it. It was a very fast read, insightful about the characters and full of minor but fun behind-the-scenes details. Wallace has worked in this arena long enough to not sound overly impressed with titles and job descriptions anymore, which means she is more focused on plot and characters than on their setting or importance. Great light read: Take it on an airplane or to the beach and enjoy telling people you're reading a novel by one of the major characters from the 2008 election (that's "Game Change" to the HBO buffs).


Eon: Dragoneye Reborn (Eon, Bk 1) (aka Eon aka The Two Pearls of Wisdom aka Eon: Rise of the Dragoneye)
Review Date: 12/27/2009


I skimmed this book. I usually love stories with a female protagonist pretending she's a boy, but this book didn't grab me at all. Lengthy explanations of magic without earning the time taken on it. Eon/Eona could have been interesting, but the hatred of her own sex that had been nurtured into her most of her life --and the incredible internal struggle that would generate-- was barely explored. Granted, this is YA fiction, but that's hardly an excuse. It got better towards the end, so maybe the sequel is great, but I probably won't be reading it. Not enough build-up in this book to draw me in.


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