The Memory Keeper’s Daughter
by Kim Edwards

Grade: B-

The Synopsis: David and Norah Henry are a young couple having their first child in the 1960’s. David Henry is a doctor, specializing in bones. Norah goes into labor on a snowy day, and the doctor who planned to meet them at David Henry’s clinic doesn’t make it. David delivers the baby himself, with the help of his nurse Caroline Gill.
Norah gives birth to twins–a boy and a girl with Down syndrome. David gives the baby girl to the nurse and tells her to take the baby to an institution. Instead, Caroline takes the baby herself and raises her.
David tells his wife that the second baby died, and from that point forward, they are never the same happy couple. Norah is torn apart by grief for her dead daughter, and David deals with the guilt of lying and causing her this grief.

The Review: The first chapter of this book gripped me with the story of David and Norah’s meeting and marriage. However, when David gave the baby away I just wanted to stop reading.
I found the book fairly boring and it did not captivate me, apart from the occasionally chapter where things actually happen. Norah flirts with alcoholism, and then nothing comes of it, she just stops drinking. Time moves on, but much of the writing does not move the plot forward. It feels quiet and depressing.
The book covers a serious topic, but I felt that the connection between readers and characters was not very strong. This could be a personal thing on my part, as the character I felt most connected with was the teenage son.
It is a best seller, so perhaps you should judge for yourself, but if you are looking for something fun to read, this book is not it.

Review: Tara Road

May 21, 2007

Tara Road
by Maeve Binchy

Grade: A

Synopsis: This book begin with the focus on one woman, Ria, but the scope of the novel expands to follow the lives of several interesting characters. The story is about love, motherhood, home, friends, and dealing with sudden changes in life.

Review: I loved this book. It is sweet, the characters are loveable and interesting. Maeve Binchy manages to provide deep personalities and stories for each character, even down to the teenage daughter, and the husband’s mistress. The main character is a wonderful woman, who starts out with little self-confidence, but as she grows older she manages her house and children impressively. She’s a woman I wouldn’t mind being like–she’s kind to everyone around her, a good friend, a great cook. The book is fairly lengthy, so it is ideal to take on summer trips, to read by the pool or the beach.

Hot Item

January 7, 2007

Hot Item CoverHot Item
by Carly Phillips

Grade: B

Synopsis: In the last of Carly Phillips’ Hot Zone trilogy, it is the middle Jordan sister, Sophie, that is to fall in love. The uptight woman who lost her parents at age ten does not want to fall for an athlete. As a partner in the family PR firm, who’s clients are all professional athletes, Sophie has built a wall around her heart, one that no man has been able to climb. That is until Riley, who joins Sophie in her search for a business partner and family friend, Spencer. Riley, a football star, has his own reasons for finding Spencer, but spending time with Sophie is just an added bonus.

The Review: I’ve read that this is the best of Phillips’ Hot Zone trilogy. I don’t know that I agree. While definitely fun, because what could be more fun than athletes (besides firefighters and cops, of course), the book has a few major problems.

First, all three books, but I feel this one most of all, has mistakes. Not spelling or typos, which it does have, but actual mistakes. Some of the details don’t match up. For example, Anabelle, the oldest sister, has a baby. Through most of the trilogy, the baby is female. But on one page in Hot Item, Sophie refers to the child as her nephew.

It was still fun to read. The plot was a little ridiculous. All three books have people who have been attracted to each other for a significant amount of time, think getting together would be a terrible idea, somehow end up away together, hook up and fall in love immediately. But hey, that’s why we read these kinds of books isn’t it? I noticed that, in this book, Riley just assumed Sophie would marry him, without asking her outright (but maybe I just dislike that because it goes against both the romantic and the feminist in me).

There are some interesting characters. Uncle Yank, who raised the girls after their parents’ death, is a stubborn old man who has finally found love. And he’s a little crazy and going blind. Makes for interesting family get-togethers.

So in conclusion, if you’re going to read these, read them in order. But if you miss them, that’s fine. You’ll probably read something similar or have already, anyway.

Blue Flame

December 27, 2006

Blue Flame CoverBlue Flame
by Jill Shalvis

Grade: B+

Synopsis:Jake Rawlins doesn’t know what to do with himself after an accident during a heroic fire rescue. Wanting to get away from the media and the possibility of never being able to fight another fire, Jake heads for the one place no one would look for him: Blue Flame, the ranch his father left him. Callie Hayes is not happy to find her employer wants to spend weeks at the ranch she knows he hates. And she is equally unhappy when things start to go wrong at the place she has made into her home. With everything happening all at once, how can two people with chemestry be expected to keep their distance?

The Review: Now I know I’ve said that I like guns with men, which I do, but everyone knows that of all the people the government pays to keep us civilians safe, firefighters are the hottest. So it’s hard to find fault with Jill Shalvis for writing three books about the San Diego fire department.

Blue Flame, the second book, happens to have the least to do with fire. It seems to focus more on Jake’s healing and learning to love the wilderness than fighting fires, though his skills do come in handy by the end of the book. The plot is similar to many other chick lit books. Jake never had a good relationship with his father, which he may or may not regret, but was left the ranch anyway. Callie lives for the ranch and doesn’t like the idea of Jake selling it to new owners who may force her to leave the home, the job and the people she loves. The two figure out how to love and reconcile. There are some interesting pieces of the plot, such as Jake’s major hero complex, his relationship to his half-brother, the brother’s relationship to the new girl at the ranch, the alcoholic and the character of Michael, Callie’s best friend.

Though I feel like I’ve read the same book before, it was still great fun. At times it was funny, at times it was sweet. It was really everything I could ask for in a chick lit. Maybe not exactly refreshing, but that’s okay.

Shalvis writes in a way that is very engrossing, maybe not the best, but entertaining at least. Though there are definitely plot devices she brings in yet never finishes, the book as a whole was fun to read. And who doesn’t want to read about firefighters?

Southern Exposure

December 22, 2006

Southern Exposure CoverSouthern Exposure
by Karen Kelley

Grade: B

Synopsis:Jody Dupree didn’t think she would see the sexy stripper she spent one incredible night with again. But she couldn’t stop thinking about their night together. So when he turns up at the police station and is really a reporter wanting to ride around with her and learn about being a cop, she is wary and excited. But as a reporter, Logan Hart wants to find the story in this sexy cop he’s been paired with on his newest assignment. And Jody is not one to give up her secrets. Especially the ones about the day her father was murdered and she was left for dead.

The Review:This is, I think, the second book. It’s not part of a series, but I’ve read a book with some of the same characters by Karen Kelley that tells the back-story of some of the other characters, called Southern Comfort. And there is another one that deals with characters mentioned in Southern Comfort. But these are the kind of books where you don’t need to read them in “order.”

The book itself was fine. There were some sweet moments, but for the most part it is exactly what one would expect. Jody puts up a fight and doesn’t want to get involved because it’s too complicated. But she caves rather easily and the two fall in love in record time. And there’s a lot of sex. More than I thought was necessary.

I have to say, I have a thing for these kinds of book when they involve guns and fighting and cops. I think that’s why I kind of like reading books by Kelley, since all the ones I’ve ever read by her have either one or both of the main characters in law enforcement. I know it’s a little weird. But for people who can get on board with the idea of a sexy man with a gun who can save you, you know what I’m talking about. Not that Logan had a gun in this book. It was Jody, but for some reason it doesn’t matter to me. As long as there are guns.

The other thing I like about this book is that there weren’t any mistakes. At least none that I picked up. The right character names were used, there weren’t any typos that I could find. In my opinion, that moves the grade of the book up significantly, even when the book itself wasn’t the best.

Review: Fat Chance

December 20, 2006

Fat Chance
by Deborah Blumenthal

Grade: B+

The Synopsis: Maggie O’Leary is a successful columnist. Overweight herself, she writes an advice column for other overweight women to help them accept and love themselves. However, Maggie gets an opportunity to meet her favorite movie star, spurring her to try one last diet.

The Review: I loved this book. The story is meaningful and fairly original. The character is loveable. You even get to read some of Maggie’s advice clumns, which seem pretty well-researched on Blumenthal’s part.
The only problem is quite a bit is discontinuity. Blumenthal suddent adds a sidestory in the middle about Maggie’s assistant, who we previously know little about. Despite this, you quickly become attached to the secretary and care about her story too. The other point of discontinuity is that while Maggie is in California, a day seems to pass in her plot line, but when she speaks to her coworkers back in New York, it seems as if days have passed for them. An example of this, to make myself clearer, is that one day Maggie decides to send a gift to her secretary, and the next night when she is talking on the phone to her, the secretary has received the gift and used it over the course of several days. I think Blumenthal meant for us to feel as if days were passing in Maggie’s time too, but she would have the characters say they’d do something the next day, and so the day they did it, you’d know it was the very next day, not weeks past like you were supposed to think.
I found the discontinuity pretty easy to read around, although it is a bit distracting, which is why I did not give this book an A. The story is fun and interesting, and I definitely recommend this book! Happy reading!

I'm In No Mood For Love CoverI’m In No Mood For Love
by Rachel Gibson

Grade: C-

Synopsis: Clare Wingate walked in on her fiance and the washing machine repairman. So she deserves to go wild. The problem is who she wakes up next to in the morning: Sebastian Vaughan, a sexy blast from her past. And he’s not going away again.

The Review: Now I picked this up at the drugstore after my last final and I just wanted to read something that was as non-academic as possible. And this pretty much met my criteria. Except it wasn’t very good.

I’m not saying that there aren’t worse books out there. It’s more that there are better writers, fewer typos (which drive me crazy) and better plot-lines out there. I think this book could have been okay if someone else, who knew more of what they wanted it to accomplish, wrote it.

It was inconsistant. Half the book is Sebastian (and the names are a little out there, since the woman is Claresta) struggling with his desire for Clare, thinking he can’t have her. His father works for her mother, so it’s almost like the bosses daughter. But all of a sudden, that no longer seems to be an issue. And it never is an issue for the father, the mother or Clare.

There are subplots that are never really finished. Sebastian’s mother died, and he talks forever about selling her estate, and I’m sure he does. I just don’t know anything about it. Clare’s friends talk about their men, though none are actually characters in the story. And there is some illusion to them meeting people, but nothing (and those would have been good subplots for this, it needed other relationships badly).

Overall, if you find yourself shopping for books in the supermarket or drugstore, it’s fine. But otherwise, don’t waste your night on this.

Review: Her Sexiest Mistake

December 12, 2006

Her Sexiest Mistake CoverHer Sexiest Mistake
by Jill Shavlis

Grade: B

The Synopsis: Mia Appleby has the perfect life. That is, until her niece comes for a surprise visit, and a sexy neighbor moves into the house down the street.

The Review: This book does not have a new plot line. From the neighbor, Kevin, who shows her that she really was lonely before he came along, to the troubled niece just looking for someone to care about her while she makes their life a living hell, this is something I’ve read many times before.

The only new thing that Shalvis brings to the plot is Kevin’s brother, a committment-phobic deaf man. Of course, he also finds true love (in Mia’s best friend of all places) and learns to stand on his own two feet instead of leaning on his brother. The only problem with this is that half the book is printed in italics to indicate sign language. I have nothing against sign language, but it is very hard to tell who can understand when they are talking. Both Kevin and Mike are fluent, obviously, and I think the girlfriend, Tess, is by the end too, though it’s hard to tell. Even Mia’s neice can translate when needed, because Mia is the one who never learns. How everyone becomes perfect signers by the end of the book is a mystery to me, but hey, if that’s how it works.

The book ends a little quickly, from eveyone angry and broken up to suddenly happily ever after. Though you could do better than a Jill Shalvis, you could also do much worse. For a night of pure fun and little thinking, this will do the trick.

Review: Rockville Pike

December 9, 2006

Rockville Pike CoverRockville Pike
by Susan Coll

Grade: D

The Synopsis: Jane Kramer is in an unhappy marriage, dislikes her home, town, and pseudo-job.

The Review: This is a story about a woman who does not fit in in the suburbs, does not have any skills to leave her husband and find work, and even if she did, I doubt she would. Jane is hard to sympathize with, because she does not take any initiative to try and make her life happier. She is the type of person who never finishes anything she starts, and makes her family’s financial problems worse by shopping all the time. I wonder where she wears all those clothes, because she is never as well dressed as the other mothers, and never goes out even for coffee with anyone.
For the most part, the book is her telling you everyhing wrong with her life, but never actually showing you–you barely know what she spends her days doing, besides thinking about her son’s youth soccer days. She claims to have a close relationship with her son, but she doesnt even interact with him til the end of the book.
In the end, Jane eventually does make a move to do something about her life, but even her seemingly drastic measure seems aborted half way through. However, after she does this, her life is magically better. A relative dies leaving them money to pay off the credit cards, she stops fighting with her husband with no explanation, she suddenly discovers what she can do as a job and actually seems to stick to it this time. Either this is all too pat and easy, or she never had problems worth reading about in the first place.
This is the first book I have read by Susan Coll, and I suspect it will be the last.

Review: Being Committed

December 6, 2006

Beging Committed CoverBeing Committed
by Anna Maxted

Grade: C+

The Synopsis: Hannah Lovekin, detective, has to do a little detective work in her own life if she’s ever going to have a proper relationship.

The Review: It took me a few days to get into this book. It was so stereotypical, cliché job, cliché character, cliché psychology. I hated the main character for the first 150 pages. It took me a few days to sit down and read this properly, but once I hit page 150 today, I read straight through to the end–page 372. I was planning on giving the book a D grade before I hit that magical turning point; when I finished, I wanted to give it a B grade, but the grade has to reflect how uninteresting the beginning was. (Also, I think the cover is hideous, but I just have a strange aversion to green. There are other, more attractive, covers for this book out there.)
Hannah Lovekin is introduced as a detective (a traditional chick lit career), who has issues with intimacy related to problems with her mother. When her boyfriend proposes to her, she rejects him, decides she has made a mistake, and tries to get him back. He sets her on the path of digging up her past and resolving her issues before he will get back with her. Hannah sets off to reinvent herself, but finally she does end up uncovering her past–this is where the good bit starts!
A good read, you just need to push past the unoriginal beginning. After that, the characters have more depth, you begin to understand Hannah better, and as she grows a bit, you begin to like her. The ending was sweet (maybe too sweet? but I liked it). This book was published quite awhile ago, so you can potentially find it in your local library. Happy reading!