Online Review Wars

November 30, 2006

Recently, the blog world has been heating up over a debate about the merits of online reviewers–specifically those on Amazon.com. Literary critics who write for print journals seem to think that online reviews are given more consideration than they deserve, affecting book sales with “wrong” opinions.

You can read the back story of the main debate here.
There are links to the past scuffles that have led to that article in the first line, so read those first.

Really, this all seems pretty ridiculous. As far as I know, you don’t need a special degree to review books, and you can never have a wrong opinion. If some reviewer on Amazon is well known, and people find that they agree with their taste in books, well it makes sense to listen to them! If it drives sales up or down well . . . clearly the author isn’t writing an appealing book!  And really, I wouldn’t trust the review of any literary critic to fit my tastes at all–just think what they would say about the books I review here!

Everyone Worth Knowing CoverEveryone Worth Knowing
by Lauren Weisberger

Grade: C-

The Synopsis: Bette Robinson quits her job at a New York banking firm after a particularly frustrating clash with her boss. Through a connection, she snags a job with a PR, event planning sort of firm. She finds herself having to fit in at wild parties with glamorous people.

The Review: The lucky main character, Bette, must having amazing connections to net herself two such highly sought after jobs in NYC, with absolutely no experience for the second. The romance angle in this book is a bit odd, and not particularly exciting. One celebrity pretends that she is his girlfriend to cover up for not having a real girlfriend, while the other love prospect just drifts in and out of her life, and you don’t get to know either of them particularly well.
I’m a big fan of getting inside other characters’ heads, or at least getting to know the main male character so that you can cheer him on. The guy in this book is pretty cool, but you only get to know him in a couple of scenes.
The majority of the people Better spends time with are through work, and they’re pretty shallow. No exciting dialogue to read there, so that was disappointing.
A good point was that both male characters had interesting backgrounds, instead of being a cookie cutter chick lit heo. The text itself is on the long side, so it’s a good time filler. There are enough interesting bits to get you through it if you’re just looking for something to feed your eyes with.

Review: Mr. Maybe

November 27, 2006

Mr Maybe CoverMr. Maybe
by Jane Green

Grade: B+

The Synopsis: Libby Mason’s ideal husband comes with a fashionable address and the money for her to decorate it just the way she wants. Libby is passing time with a fling, Nick, when she meets Ed, a wealthy bachelor. Libby has to decide if her dream man is really who she wants to spend the rest of her life with.

The Review: I love Jane Green’s topics and writing style. This book managed to even make me think a little, about whether the ideal man I keep in my head would be someone I’d really like if I met him.
My criticism about this book is that it is too predicatable. You see her decision, and you know which character you are supposed to be rooting for. I love Nick, he’s a great guy, and my other criticism of the book is that he just disappears for a large chunk of it. When he is not in Libby’s every day life, he hardly gets mentioned. This book is definitely based strongly in Libby’s head–we don’t get to see anything of what goes on in Nick’s life or head when Libby is not on the scene.
If you have enjoyed any of Jane Green’s other novels, or have not read any of her books yet, I strongly recommend this one, and think that it is one of her best! (Also, I love the cover, although it was awkward to carry around to classes!)

The CakeTomorrow is my mother’s birthday, so she’s getting her cake today, and I thought I’d share the recipe.
It’s a sponge cake, light and airy, and we try to avoid ruining that with heavy frosting, so my family prefers to use none at all. If you want to go with my way, add some seedless jam (apricot is my personal favorite) and a little powdered sugar to your list of ingredients. If you do want frosting, I suggest you search for a nice caramel frosting.

Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Must Love Dogs

November 25, 2006

Must Love Dogs CoverMust Love Dogs
By Claire Cook

Grade: C

The Synopsis:
Sarah Hurlihy, a divorcee, finds herself pushed back into the dating world when her sister posts a personal ad for her. She meets a few men, and a few dogs, but none of them seem to stick.

The Review:
I might have given this book a better grade, but I found it somewhat boring. This could potentially be because I saw the movie first, so I already knew the general story, but part of it was just the lack of action in the plot. Sarah meets some men, they turns out to be not right, she meets some more, finds new issues. However, after seeming to close the story on the first men, they suddenly appear back in her life later in the book. We’ve already met those characters and figured out that they are not going to be the one for her, so why must we go through it again? In the end, the book is pretty anticlimactic, and a little bit awkward. When I think back, the best thing that pops into my head about this book is how the author dealt with her life outside of romantic prospects. Sarah is a kindergarten teacher, and clearly confident about her ability and good at her job. This is actually logical about the fact that a divorced woman in her 40’s might not be good at new relationships, but she does have other parts of her life figured out. There were other good points, but this one stuck in my head.

Customer Service

November 22, 2006

I don’t know about you, but I’m excited about Thanksgiving, and the mad rush of shopping to follow this Friday. This is the time when I like to get my big-ticket items, such as electronics. If you know ahead of time exactly where you’re goingShopping and exactly what item you want, I’ve found that you don’t get too overwhelmed in the rush.
In my excitement, I was reading this BusinessWeek story, about how improved customer service is a goal of lots of stores this coming Friday.
I don’t know about you, but or some reason, hearing the phrase “May I help you?” leaves me wanting to run out of a store as fast as possible. It makes me feel pressured, as if I need to know what I want, or maybe I don’t look like the right sort of customer. So, I wondered, what might shops be doing to improve my experience?:

1. Staples: Asking “What can I help you find today?” instead of “Can I help you?”
This is definitely a better way of asking the question, although I still don’t like to feel attacked by salespeople as soon as I walk into a store.

2. Home Depot: giving employees more bonuses for high customer satisfaction scores.
Okay, but will this really improve my experience? I would give them a high score if they just gave me the $30,000,000 they’re spending to do this . . .

3. Nordstrom is offering lines of clothing that its customers requested
Gee, what an innovative idea–sell what women want in a women’s clothing store. Shouldn’t this be a given?

In another note, some stores will be opening at midnight for Black Friday this year, instead of the usual 5 a.m. so get those credit cards ready early!

Review: Monkey Business

November 22, 2006

Monkey Business CoverMonkey Business
By Sarah Mlynowski

Grade: C

The Synopsis:
This book follows four MBA students living in the dorms. Kimmy applies her class lectures to developing a strategy to make Russ her boyfriend. Russ does not like to make hard decisions, and now that he is far from his girlfriend in Canada, he is losing all direction. Layla, the perfectionist, is obsessed with finding the perfect husband to go with her life. Jamie is the goofy one; he lifts everyone’s’ spirits, while keeping his own problems hidden.

The Review:
This book was a nice distraction, but definitely not one of my favorites. The MBA students, despite many of them having a few years of work experience since finishing their undergraduate degrees, behave with less maturity than most students I know in college now. The author obviously knows something of getting an MBA, but she uses the same knowledge over and over, making me think she just got a brief overview from someone. For example, when talking about their interviews for summer jobs, it seems that all of the students only get asked one question. My recommendation for this book is to go ahead and read it if you need something to do, but it is not good engaging enough to pull you in if you have other activities available.

Review: Rachel’s Holiday

November 21, 2006

Rachel's Holiday CoverRachel’s Holiday
By Marian Keyes

Grade: A

The Synopsis:
Irish-born New Yorker, Rachel Walsh, finds herself prodded into rehab by her concerned friends and family due to her abuse of cocaine and alcohol. Rachel lets herself be convinced because she is expecting a spa-like environment, filled with movie stars. Instead she finds herself doing housework, cooking food, and slowly realizes that she really does have a problem.

The Review:
I absolutely love Marian Keyes, and this is one of her best books. It takes a serious topic that I have rarely seen covered in a chick lit novel, and makes it witty and fun to read about. The novel has a love interest, but Rachel’s drug problem must be solved first. It is refreshing to read a book where the main focus is not on the heroine getting the man. Rachel’s big Irish family is hilarious, and she herself is quite an endearing character. You might be frustrated with her personality and behavior throughout the book, even when she seems to be recovering, but it is always a good thing when a book draws me in enough to start worrying about the characters as if they were my friends. I recommend this, and all of Marian Keyes books. Her best, in my opinion, are about the Walsh sisters, and though they do go in some order, you can read later books without ruining the plot of earlier books.

Review: Crazy Sweet

November 20, 2006

Crazy Sweet CoverCrazy Sweet
By Tara Janzen

Grade: B+

The Synopsis:
In this new sexy and action-intense book from Tara Janzen, Gillian Pentycote returns as the heroine, after losing her memory in the previous book (Crazy Love.) Using the new moniker “Red Dog,” she is now a highly skilled Department of Defense-trained operative, on a mission to take-out the man who tortured her into losing her memory in the first place. The secondary couple spends the book in a battered hotel room in Panama during a riot, but still manages to fit a hot and steamy sex scene in between bombings.

The Review:
Tara Janzen is one of my favorite authors. She writes from the view of my ideal, and probably nonexistent, man. Her male characters are highly-skilled covert agents, equipped with muscle cars and guns. I find that her research into these more “male” areas makes her books unique, and adds a lot of spice. This book is an enjoyable read, as are the previous ones in the series; however I did find a couple of disappointing aspects. First, this is the sixth book in the “Crazy” series, and they all follow a very similar, predictable plot line. Despite her interesting writing style, a variation on the plot of tough-guy-melts-for-ordinary girl would be welcomed. Second, the secondary story in each book is always my favorite part. This always leaves me disappointed by the primary plot line, although it is a good tactic to get readers to run out and buy the next one, because the secondary couple is always the primary couple in the following book. I will most likely read the next book in the series, and I recommend this book and the previous ones as a fun and engaging read.