Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale

The Actor and the Housewife, by Shannon Hale, is a charmer.  It took me a long time to read and not because I disliked the book but because it was deceivingly long!  While the paperback looked completely normal,  the paper was thin and the font was small.  That's my theory anyway. 

The story is about a housewife, Becky, who loves her husband and children fiercely.  She loves being a wife and mother.  You can feel how much while reading.  She's so satisfied and happy.  It was nearly unrealistic, but Becky is such a real character that it was hard to find fault.  Felix, the actor, is Becky's best friend.  They meet while Becky is in Los Angeles selling a screenplay.  They become enamored of each other in a strictly platonic way - at least on Becky's part.  Felix is British, charming, successful, and terribly witty.  I fell in love with him.  I confess.

The dialogue between the two main characters made me smile.  It was fun, quirky and you could feel the chemistry.  I wanted this story to be a romance so badly!  But maybe at heart it really was.  If this story has a weakness, it's that Becky and Felix weren't together enough.  The two were magical together.  When they were apart, when Becky was going on and on about how happy she was with her family, it got a little long.  That's minor though.

Becky is a Mormon so there are several mentions of her faith and her relationship with God.   This doesn't bother me in the slightest but let that serve as a warning for those who would be bothered.  This is a great story of friendship that I highly recommend.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Decision

Reading is one of my favorite things.  (Big surprise!)  It's not quite top 5 for priorities in my life but it's right up there.  Everything about books makes me happy.  That being said, I'm not enjoying reading at the moment.  I started out the year planning on doing the A to Z Challenge and the New Author Challenge.  For the A to Z Challenge, my goal was to read an author for every letter.  I'm doing pretty well actually.  At some point I decided to do the titles as well.  That is fifty-two books just for that challenge.  As last year's total was around fifty I knew it was possible. 

It's probably still possible but I'm just not going to pursue it anymore.  I'll leave up the list on the right and fill it in as I read something that fits but trying to read that many books because they fit into the alphabet was taking too much pleasure out of reading.  I'm still planning on finishing the author section.  That was the original goal and it's really possible.  The titles will have to wait until next year - if I choose to continue.  The idea of picking a book off my shelf because I want to read it sounds pretty good right about now. 

Why do I put the pressure on myself?  I'll never know.  I have enough work/home/dog pressures to stress about what I'm reading - especially if I don't like what I'm reading.  Why bother?   The freedom of that decision makes me incredibly happy by the way.  I look forward to choice.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, & June by Robin Benway

I wasn't sure what to expect from The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, & June by Robin Benway.  I wasn't sure if it was a superhero novel or something supernatural.  Really, it was a neither.  It was at heart a story about growing up, dealing with circumstances beyond control, and living with changes.  Add in a few "super powers" and you have a strong story.

April, May, and June are sisters who are dealing with their parent's divorce.  They've moved to a new town with their mother while their father moves to a different state.  While dealing with a new school in a new town, strange abilities - that they noticed briefly as children - manifest themselves again.  April discovers that she can see the future, May can disappear, and June can read minds.  Initially their abilities are exciting but when April starts getting visions of a dangerous situation, her need to protect her sisters hurts their relationship.  They learn that they do best when working together.

I enjoyed this more than I expected.  It's a quick read and it's an interesting story.  I wonder if there is a sequel planned which might explain more about how the girls got their abilities.  It was hinted that there was a family history and I'd like to know more.  Highly recommended for older teens and adults as there is some alcohol usage and talk of sex.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

4th of July by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

4th of July, by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro, is the fourth book in the Women's Murder Club series.  I've been slowly making my way through the series even though each is a quick typical Patterson read.  The characters are established and the rythym moves the story along.  The introduction of Yuki brings the group of women back up to four.  I read a lot of James Patterson's books although I have mixed feelings about them.  I won't get into all of that here and just try to review the book.  

This book begins with a horrible event that sends Lindsey to her sister's home in Half Moon Bay.  She needs a retreat and a break from the situation back in San Francisco.  The news of murders in the quiet town peaks her interest and she becomes involved with local police force.  She's suspicious about a link to the current murders and a John Doe that has haunted her since early in her career.

Lindsey's friends, Claire and Cindy, make cameo appearances but the focus is truly on Lindsey.  This is all her story.   Her boyfriend literally appears here and there as he flies back and forth to Washington.  I don't have high hopes for this long distance relationship.

I figured out one of the murderers towards the end of the book but the others were unexpected.  It was nice to not feel the need to read ahead (I'm a last page reader) as the book moved so quickly.  While it's not the best writing in the world, it is still a solid story and was fine for a summer read.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Blessings by Anna Quindlen

Blessings, by Anna Quindlen is one of those books where the story just stays with you because of it's simplicity.  There isn't an overwhelming plot, no truly unexpected twist, and a relatively small cast of characters.  It's truly the story of two people and how a baby that doesn't belong to either of them, changes their lives.

Skip is a young man who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  After being released from jail, he goes to work for Mrs. Blessing.  She is an elderly woman who owns the grandest estate in the area.  She likes Skip and hires him as her groundskeeper.  She's formal, stuffy, and very much into her routine. She's got secrets though and is not as perfect as she looks.  They are an odd pair.

Skip finds a baby that was left at the estate and secretly cares for her.  He's afraid to turn her in and grows to love the baby girl, considering himself her father.  When Mrs. Blessing finds out about little Faith, she assists in her care and the deception.

The descriptions of the house and land are so lovely that the house almost becomes a character in the novel.  Mrs. Blessing is described so beautifully that I can see her standing at her window, looking disapprovingly at everything she sees. While the book isn't long, it is full of wonderful words.  I truly enjoyed the story and recommend it to everyone.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Insatiable by Meg Cabot

Disclaimer:  I am a fan of Meg Cabot.  I enjoy many of her books (not all) and I think she writes fun, quirky stories.  So I really wanted to enjoy Insatiable.  It's a vampire story by an author I enjoy!  What could go wrong?  Only a few things.

The story focuses on Meena, a writer for a soap opera called Insatiable.  When her new boss wants to do a vampire storyline, she gets upset because there are too many vampire stories out there.  While out walking the dog in the middle of the night, she meets a mysterious man who saves her from a swarm of bats - in the middle of New York City.  He sweeps her into a quick and intense relationship before telling her the truth about who - and what - he is.

The good . . . Everything moves along quickly and the supporting characters are quirky and fun, despite being slightly annoying.  The story builds off the historical story of Vlad the Impaler and I enjoyed the more traditional vampire traits - as seen in Bram Stoker's Dracula.  The historical take on things was interesting a different from what I've been reading.  I also appreciated that Lucian was not completely reformed.  He wasn't attacking innocents but he had a temper and he wasn't perfect.  Meena recognized this and that was good too.  It's nice to see a realistic heroine. 

The bad. . . The writing was slightly choppy with needless descriptions.  We (the readers) don't need to be told that Jon is her brother at end of the book.  We've been reading, we know this.  Jon is a major character.  That annoyed me.  The whole story took place in a matter of days which didn't give a lot of time to build a romance.  I'm assuming that this is the start of a series and the end was definitely left open to a sequel.  I do like a more solid ending.  Despite that, I will be reading the next book that comes along.  I'm interested enough to continue but not excited enough to mark my calender. 

Vampire fans may like the "pure" version of the vamps in the story but I don't know that it will satisfy.   I guess we'll just have to wait for next summer.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Looking Back

It's July 2nd, which means the year is half over.  Amazing. I still have a few reviews to catch up on but I want to review my year so far.  I hate when I get behind in my reviews. . .

2010 started out as a great year for reading.  I started off with my plan to at least complete the author side of the A - Z Challenge.  At some point I started reading titles too so now I am overwhelmed with all the books I need to read.  Lovely.  I'm doing all right though and I have a vacation coming in October which means lots of reading will be done.  I'm over halfway to my goal. 

January:  I read five books which is a really good start to the month.  All five counted toward my author goal which was fantastic.  My favorite for January was The Hunger Games.  I can't wait to read Mockingjay in August.  Unfortunately it won't count toward my goal.  My least favorite in January was Fireworks over Toccoa which was a good book.  It was hard to pick a least-favorite. 

February:  I only finished two books in February because the majority of the month was taken up by a book I finished in March.   Both books were good with Hot Six in the lead.  It was a good installment in the Stephanie Plum series and I was happy to hang out with Stephanie, Ranger and Joe Morelli again. 

March:  Four books finished in March.  That's pretty standard for me and it was good to finish Under the Dome and move on.  Ironically, it was my favorite book of the month so despite the fact that it took FOREVER to read, I did enjoy the book.   My least favorite was Going Overboard which wasn't great.

April:  Four books again.  I really can't pick a favorite.  While all four were good solid reads, none stand out enough for me to reward them.  

May:  I read eight books in May!  Wow!  That's pretty amazing for me.  I did go on a quick vacation but that is still a significant total for me.  The book I enjoyed the most was My Fair Lazy.  It was so fun.  It made me happy!

June:  I read five books in June which keeps me on track.  My favorite was The Book Thief but I liked all the books I read during the month.  It was a good month. 

Now I need to catch up on late reviews and move on toward July.