Friday, December 25, 2009

U is for Undertow

U is for Undertow, by Sue Grafton.

Sue Grafton started her "alphabet" mystery series with A is for Alibi back in the '80s and hasn't looked back since. Her novels, featuring P.I. Kinsey Millhone, still take place in the late '80s, this one in 1988, where Millhone can frequently be found typing away on a Smith-Corona typewriter.

This book, as in all her alphabet mysteries, was good, but the ending was just a little too 'pat' for me, though admittedly Grafton did take a long time connecting all the storylines running through the novel.

3 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold.

These were the lovely bones that had grown around my absence: the connections - sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but often magnificent - that happened after I was gone. And I began to see things in a way that let me hold the world without me in it.

Great book, and now I definitely want to see the movie when it comes out in January. Susie Salmon is murdered in December 1973 when she is 14 years old, and she then goes to Heaven, but it is a sort of "in-between" Heaven: she can still look down upon Earth and see everything that is happening there. Her father is sure he knows who her murderer is (and is, in fact, correct) but there is no evidence, and the police do not believe him at first. The novel spans over a period of ten years or so (perhaps a little longer) and Susie watches as her siblings and friends grow up without her.

I've never read a book with this sort of narrator before, and Alice Sebold kept me captivated until the very end.

4 stars out of 5.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Soon to come

I have been reading a lot of Kristin Hannah books, which is why I haven't written many reviews lately (I try to write reviews of books by different authors, not just the same one over and over). However, I have two Kristin Hannah books left to read and then I will be reading The Lovely Bones, the bestseller by Alice Sebold that is now a major motion picture which is coming out in theaters soon. I have heard that this is a great and very intense book, so we will see if my expectations are fulfilled.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Double post: A Desirable Residence & Say the Word

I've been neglecting this thing ... hence, a double post.

1) A Desirable Residence, by Madeleine Wickham.

It must be nice in the summer, she thought, forgetting that this still was, to all intents and purposes, the summer. Her mind always worked at least half a term ahead.

Wickham is better known as Sophie Kinsella, the author of the "Shopaholic" series, of which I am a big fan. Her real name is apparently Madeleine Wickham, and there are a few books she wrote before her Kinsella years, such as this one. This was one of the earliest ones and it was fine, but I like her later novels much better. The 'voice' was completely different from that of her "Shopaholic" books; yes, this is still a chick lit novel, but it caters to a different crowd.

2.5 stars out of 5.

2) Say the Word, by Jeannine Garsee.

Normally I make a terrific hostess. I like to plan menus and select flowers for the centerpiece. I enjoy deciding which set of china will look best on our formal, twelve-foot-long table. This only shows you how desperately dull my life really is.

An interesting YA book. Shawna's mother, who left her and her father ten years ago, has just died, and secrets are starting to arise. The reason her mother left them was to be with her lover, Fran, and she and Fran raised Fran's two boys together. Her will, however, was never updated, and so Shawna's father gets everything; this forces Fran's family into almost-poverty and they move from New York to Cleveland Heights, where Shawna and her dad live, to stay with an aunt.

The book was pretty good. Shawna starts to question herself and the people around her, and Garsee does an excellent job of showing this as well as the consequences and fallout that occurs.

4 stars out of 5.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Her Fearful Symmetry

Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger.

The problem was located in the word how: he would live, but without Elspeth the flavour, the manner, the method of living were lost to him. He would have to relearn solitude.

This is the second novel by the author of The Time Traveler's Wife, which was recently made into a movie (sidenote: both the novel and movie were great), and thus I shouldn't have been surprised by its weirdness. The novel had many twists and turns, especially at the end, and it was a modern-day ghost story of sorts. It's definitely worth reading, but like I said, is very strange at parts (much like The Time Traveler's Wife, I suppose).

3.5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Best Friends Forever

Best Friends Forever, by Jennifer Weiner.

If time was a dimension, and not a straight line, if you could look down through it like you were looking through water and it could ripple and shift, I was already opening the door. This had all already happened, the way it always did; the way it always would.

Weiner is the author of 7 novels, only one of which (In Her Shoes, which was made into a movie) I have previously read. This novel was excellent. The characters felt real, and the writing is simple but good. The ending was a little contrived but I do like endings where it all "works out", so in my opinion it was fine.

4 out of 5 stars.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Love or Something Like It

Love or Something Like It, by Deidre Shaw.

It occurred to me then that for the first time that we were getting older, that our pain and misfortune might not always be erasable, that our lives going forward might hold some disappointment, the adult kind, the kind that mattered.

I liked this novel a lot, probably because the narrator and main character, Lacey, seemed a lot like me, at least to an extent. She gets married and moves with her husband Toby to L.A., where he is a comedian. She tries to get into the Hollywood scene, and starts out as a writer's assistant, finally making her way up to script writer. And she encounters many trials and tribulations along the way. As one of the reviews of the novel says: "This book reads like the long-awaited letter from that friend of yours who decamped to L.A. a decade ago: newsy, funny, sad, triumphant" (Caitlin Macy).

4.5 stars out of 5.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Admission

Admission, by Jean Hanff Korelitz.

The flight from Newark to Hartford took no more than fifty-eight minutes, but she still managed to get her heart broken three times. This was a feat at once pathetic and, bizarrely, something of an underachievement, Portia thought making a painful note on the reader's card of an academically unadmittable Rhode Island girl and shoving the folder back into her bag. Any of her colleagues, she thought ruefully, might have had their hearts broken by twice as many applicants in the same amount of time.

Admission grabs its reader from the first sentence on, and doesn't let go until the very end. The prose is so detailed that it took me a while to read this book, but I have to say that I was glad I stuck it out. Portia, the main character, is an admissions officer at Princeton, and she has had this career for the past sixteen years. She has also been living with her partner (but not husband), Mark, for the same time span. The novel follows her through an especially taxing admissions season, and the ending (and plot points revealed throughout) was surprising, but satisfying.

4 stars out of 5.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

True Colors

True Colors, by Kristin Hannah.

Loss like theirs should leave a mark - summer grass gone suddenly brown, dark clouds that refused to leave, a tree split by lightning. Something.

This is the first book I've read by Hannah - she has written a few others - and it was very good. The book tells the story of the Grey sisters, who lose their mother at an early age to cancer; it starts at this point in time, in the '70s and follows them all the way through 2007 and 2008. The dialogue, characters, and setting are all great, and I enjoyed reading this novel.

4.5 stars out of 5.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Intensely Alice

Intensely Alice, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.

Naylor has written 120+ books, and one of the series she writes is the Alice series, which I have been reading for a long time. Alice "tells it like it is", which is one of the reasons I like her as a character, but in this book, she seems more naive then usual. I don't know if the reason I think this is because I'm more grown-up now than I was in middle and high school when I was reading the series, or what, but in this novel she is approaching her senior year of high school and still has a sense of naivete.

Still, the Alice series is a good read overall, and this book was no exception. Naylor does tackle some serious subjects, such as religion, sex, and "politics", to an extent, and perhaps she is trying to get rid of some of Alice's naivete that has followed her up until now.

3 stars out of 5.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Hope in a Jar

Hope in a Jar, by Beth Harbison.

One of the reasons I don't usually buy books is that I read too quickly ... this book is 340 pages and I finished it in 1 day, about the span of 12 hours or less. Probably about 2-3 hours total. I am a big fan of Harbison's books - try reading Secrets of a Shoe Addict or Shoe Addicts Anonymous, also by her, and you'll see why - and this one did not disappoint. A breezy, fun, chick lit novel that I definitely enjoyed.

4 stars out of 5.

Secrets to Happiness

Secrets to Happiness, by Sarah Dunn.

This book was hilariously written, and was interesting to read. There were a few paragraphs at which I laughed out loud. Here's one example of this:

Holly's mother Fiona called her once a week, usually on Friday afternoons, before she left for her mahjongg game but after she came home from MOPS. Holly wasn't one hundred percent sure what MOPS was, except that it involved church and small children and gave her mother a chance to rail against all these crazy parents these days indulging their kids with made-up peanut allergies and nonsense about choking hazards and things that can fit through toilet-paper tubes. If it were up to Fiona, she'd lock the MOPS toddlers in the church basement with a big batch of peanut butter cookies and a sack full of marbles and see who managed to make it out alive. Still, volunteering made her feel good.

The ending of the novel was a little crazy, but still believable, and I definitely enjoyed the novel overall.

4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Last Song

The Last Song, Nicholas Sparks.

There's a reason why four of Nicholas Sparks' books have been made into movies - they are just THAT good. Granted, I have read almost all of his books, save for the one he wrote with his brother, so I am a bit biased, but I thought that this book was as good as all of his previous ones, and could definitely be made into a movie as well.

Ronnie (Veronica) is in North Carolina for the summer visiting her father, and as a New York City girl, she is not happy to be there. She then meets Will, however, who turns out to be her first love, and summer seems to be looking up; until she finds out a secret her father has been keeping from her. The ending itself was bittersweet, but Ronnie's ending is overall happy, if that makes any sense.

4.5 stars out of 5.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Swoon

Swoon, by Nina Malkin.

I don't know what to classify this story as - certainly not a "ghost story," but it's more than just a possession story too - but it was entertaining. Dice (short for Candice) has just moved to Connecticut from New York City to live in Swoon, the same town that her cousin, Pen (Penelope), and her family live. Dice's parents still live in the city, since both of their jobs are there, but they commute home to live with her on weekends. Pen has a near-fatal fall from a tree, and she "must have died for a second," because Sin (Sinclair), a soul from the past, comes to reside in her body. He's not there ALL the time, mind you, but when Pen's normally blue eyes turn black, it is him who is occupying her. Sin realizes that she must exorcise Sin from Pen's body, but there's a problem: she's in love with him.

Interesting premise, and unlike anything I've ever read before. Here's some lines from the novel that I liked:

(a descriptive phrase-->) "In reality, I curled away like a croissant ..."
"Not to get all Pinocchio about it, but could Sinclair Youngblood Powers be turning into a real boy?"

The narrator is at times sarcastic (see above) and definitely too trusting of people - she lets Sin give her the recipe for his OWN exorcism, which actually makes him into a "real boy" - flesh and blood - though admittedly does get him out of Pen's body.

4 stars out of 5.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

That Old Cape Magic

That Old Cape Magic, by Richard Russo.

I read a great review of this book in People magazine, and immediately wanted to read it. Unfortunately, since I was moving out about a week later, I couldn't request it at the Ann Arbor library; so, a month or so after that, I got it from the WB library, and just finished reading it today.

I had never read any of Russo's novels before but this one was very good. I'm a big fan of Massachusetts (having been born there ...) and I like reading about the Cape. The novel follows Jack Griffin (who goes by plain "Griffin" most of the time) throughout his life, and throws in two very dysfunctional families in the process. He cannot get over his own parents, both dead; he was a screenwriter, but now is a college professor; and he and his wife have recently separated. Griffin is a likable main character, and by the end of the novel, after scattering his parents' ashes, he comes full circle.

My favorite line from the novel:
"Happiness sucks as a spectator sport, darlin'."

Very true. The novel also had its funny moments, which made me laugh out loud, and it was a good blend of humor and seriousness.

4.5 stars out of 5.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Wednesday Sisters

The Wednesday Sisters, by Meg Waite Clayton.

I heard of this book through a U of M alumni newsletter - the author, Meg Clayton, is a UM Law School alum. This book is one of the best I've read in a while. The "Wednesday Sisters" are a group of women, mostly mothers, who get together originally on Wednesdays, in a park in Palo Alto, CA, and eventually they all start writing and their meetings become a writers group of sorts. Two of the 5 women write novels that get published, and the rest write stories that get published as well. The book follows the women through the trials and tribulations of their lives, and the ending is just about perfect, in my opinion.

5 stars out of 5.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Life Without Summer

Life Without Summer, by Lynne Griffin.

Sad book, with a shocking ending, but the writing is tight and the book is overall enjoyable. The author is apparently a "nationally recognized expert on family life" (so says the back cover bio) and contributes to Boston's "Fox 25 Morning News." This was her first book and was very good, in my opinion.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Along for the Ride

Along for the Ride, by Sarah Dessen.

Admittedly, I am a big fan of Dessen's, and I like most of her books. This one was no exception, though I don't think it was as strong as some of her previous novels, such as This Lullaby. Auden (named after poet W.H. Auden) goes to live with her father, stepmother, and new baby half-sister, Thisbe, for the summer, in Colby, Maine, after realizing that she's never really had excitement during any of her summers. She is going to be a freshman at college in the fall, and is looking for something ... she doesn't know what ... to happen. She meets Eli, who likes to participate in bike tournaments (competing), and who hasn't really been social with anyone since the death of his best friend, Abe, the year before. The story goes on from there and, as with all of Dessen's books, includes a happy ending. She has definitely achieved mastery in the YA genre, and I love how her books include so many variables that all tie up neatly in the end. Overall, 4 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Carter Finally Gets It

Carter Finally Gets It, by Brent Crawford.

Not only was this book hilarious, it was like a chick lit novel - except for guys, and written by a guy! It's Crawford's first book, apparently, and I hope to see many more from him. The main character, Will Carter (who goes simply by "Carter"), is entering his freshman year of high school, and Crawford really gets into his mind. Simply HILARIOUS and a "must-read." :)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Commencement

Commencement, J. Courtney Sullivan.

I felt like this book ended abruptly, but other than that, I have nothing but good to say about it. It reminded me a bit of Prep (Curtis Sittenfeld), except that it was set at Smith, an all-women college, and followed the four women more throughout their "adult lives" (when they graduated from college to the present, 4 years later) than their college lives, though it frequently referred to memories from them. It also sort of reminded me of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Ann Brashares), in a weird way, maybe because there were four women (and in the Sisterhood, there are 4 girls).

Anyway, great book overall ... I highly recommend it. :)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hollywood is Like High School with Money

Hollywood is Like High School with Money, Zoe Dean.

Another entertaining chick lit novel by the author of "The A-List" series, which is basically "Gossip Girl" but set on the West Coast (California). Dean has written many non-"A-List" books, and this is her best to date. One of the minor characters is named "Magnolia," which I've never heard before, but which works for the character, who is a major "free spirit".

I zipped through this book in about a day total ... very easy reading.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Beach House

The Beach House, Jane Green.

This novel took place in Nantucket, MA, and now I want to move there! I've never been there but have heard it's beautiful. Something unusual about this book was that it was written entirely in the present - normal for a chick lit novel, but it was more just a "regular book" than chick lit. Jane Green has written a bunch of other novels as well, none of which I've read, but this book was a very good read - I finished it in a day or two.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hollywood Car Wash

Hollywood Car Wash, by Lori Culwell.

A nice, breezy chick lit novel. The Michigan scenes were set at U of M, which was kind of funny, but I feel like the author didn't really do her research on it - one line depicts the lead character crossing the "quad", and if I (or any Michigan student or grad, really) was writing this book, they would've definitely said "Diag".

Funny book overall, though, and interesting peek at the "Hollywood lifestyle" that is so publicized in American society today.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Music Teacher

The Music Teacher, by Barbara Hall.

Apparently she's written some books for teens too. Excellent book ... makes you think about life. Being a violin player, I particularly enjoyed it (the narrator/main character is a violin teacher).

The Visibles

The Visibles, by Sara Shepard.

Also the author of the "Pretty Little Liars" series for teens.