Category Archives: Book Reviews

Pressing Issues (or ways I’m distracting myself from writing)

Last week it was preparing myself for my first mini-marathon. The week before, maybe it was Halloween or my oldest daughter’s school trip to Washington DC.

Whatever the reason, I seem to be finding more and more things to place in my own way and to not write. It’s not that I don’t have the time. Right now, time is the one thing I do have. More eye troubles and another recent eye surgery have forced me to take a time-out, in fact.

No running, no work. No bending, no lifting. No cleaning. No sleeping on my right side. Surprisingly, I am allowed to drive, but seriously, where would I go and what would I do with all these restrictions and a black eye? Until Wednesday, at least, there’s tons of things I can’t do.

I can, however, sit for seemingly endless hours at my leisure while life goes on around me, not entirely uninterrupted, but as close as it’s gotten to it in a very long time.

So, what am I doing with the hours between sleeping and eating and checking in with the family every so often?

Reading mostly.

My spot on the waiting list at our local library for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson came at a very unopportune time. I’m halfway through the nearly 500 page story and I’m hooked. I also have the next one in the series, The Girl Who Played with Fire, waiting in the wings. I only hope the third one is available soon after I’ve finished with the other two.

Larsson was a brilliant writer who died shortly after delivering his three manuscripts for publishing. It’s unfortunate that he was unable to realize the full extent of the brilliant writing career that he so deserved. It makes me wonder if he, too, ever put off his writing in favor of other things. Or did he keep at it, day in and day out, until he was finally able to present something worthy of catching the eye of the right person at the right time? Something every writer dreams of.

So, what’s stopping me from realizing my dream? That’s a big question.

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A Visit with an Old Friend

It’s been a few months since I’ve picked up a book, I think. I honestly can’t remember the last one I’ve read. But, right now I’m re-reading The Pillars of the Earth. It’s due to come out later this year, I believe, in a mini-series for television, so I’m eager to brush up on my memory of the book.

At just under 1,000 pages, it’ll maybe take me through the doldrums of winter. At least that’s what I’m hoping. Maybe once I’m done I’ll write a book review on it since I started this blog well after my first go ’round with the book. But suffice to say, it’s definitely worth a read. And don’t let the historical presence of it intimidate you. Not my normal choice at all, but once I started it, I couldn’t put it down!

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The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

I did it again.  I swore I wouldn’t, but I did it anyway.

I picked up another book (and not exactly a light read, either) before I’d finished my self-imposed rewrites on my own novel.  The trouble with this is once I get started on a book, I rarely put it down for anything other than the basics…like eating or sleeping or remembering, for instance, that I have children and a husband.

In my defense, it wasn’t my plan.  When I walked in the bookstore that afternoon, I was only browsing.  Innocent enough.  Then I saw it.  The paperback version of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski.  This book has long been on my Reading ListAnd it’s an Oprah Book Club book, so, I figure I have to give it a whirl.  But, the 500-plus page paperback was even more daunting when it was only available in hardcover.  So I’d waited.

And waited.

Which only made it even more inevitable, that at the exact moment I saw it in paperback while perusing the aisles of the bookstore, I was already bound to it.  The decision was made on the spot.  And everything else in my life would be put on hold.

I feel the need to issue a bit of advice, if not a mild warning here.  If you’re into instant gratification, fast-paced-plot reading, then The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is not for you.

It’s a “meat and potatoes” kind of book.  One that you curl up with on rainy days or in the dead of winter.  It’s very well written but very verbose, and not necessarily in a bad way.  But also not everyone’s cup of tea.  I happen to enjoy loquaciously written novels, so it was right up my alley.

The story was heartrending, the main character, very likable.  And if you’re a dog person, all the better.  The four-legged characters in this book were brought to life wonderfully, over and over again, by Mr. Wroblewski.  Although, after finishing the book last night, I have to say, I was not pleased, and very surprised, with the ending.  I don’t want to give anything away here, so I won’t go into specifics, but suffice to say, I think the story would have been better served had the turn of events at the end played out slightly differently.

All in all, I’d recommend The Story of Edgar Sawtelle to a select group of readers.

3 Stars

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Julie and Julia Book Review

Although, I’ve read many different genres, I’ll be the first to admit that I tend to shy away from memoirs.  I have found a few that I enjoy, but I’ve read an equal amount, if not more, that I didn’t really care for much at all.  Ironically, some of those least favorites were touted by critics as “one of the best memoirs ever”.  Or some similar hype.

It wasn’t until I saw the previews for the movie Julie and Julia, that I knew I had to read the book.  Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell will go down as one of my favorite memoirs and I’d definitely recommend it for those looking for some funny, light-hearted reading.  Although, her writing style carries a somewhat more sophisticated tone than my recent picks (and I willingly admit to finally giving up and “skipping over” the French food words), I still thoroughly enjoyed this book.

I’ll admit I was never really even a fan of the late Julia Child, either (may she rest in peace).  But I didn’t have to be to enjoy this book.

It’s a book for those of us who enjoy cooking, or wish they did.  Anyone who’s laughed at their own culinary disasters or managed to make a 7-course dinner party look effortless.  For those who have ever been stuck in a dead end job and dreamt there could be something more to life…or for those who are still stuck and still dreaming.

Definitely a must read.  3.5 stars

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Finger Lickin’ Fifteen

The latest in the Stephanie Plum series, Finger Lickin’ Fifteen, delivers the usual juiciness and robust flavor that fans have come to expect from bestselling author, Janet Evanovich.

Cover courtesy of http://www.evanovich.com

Cover courtesy of evanovich.com

Full-figured sidekick, Lula, pushes her way (in true Lula-fashion) to center stage in this story, having to dodge the bullet (well, in this case, the meat cleaver) more frequently than our all-time favorite heroine, Stephanie Plum.  Stephanie is never short on her fair share of near-mishaps though, leaving the reader laughing out loud at the antics of this beloved duo.  Hey, it’s all in the name of justice.  Well, that and a gravy boat-load of reward money!

And, who can forget Grandma Mazur?  Fans won’t be disappointed as this spunky senior definitely knows how to kick things up a notch or two whether in the kitchen or while hot on the trail of the bad guys.

Speaking of turning up the heat, we can’t leave out the yummy men in Stephanie’s life; the always hot and mysterious hunk, Ranger, or semi-sweet and spicy Trenton cop, Joe Morelli.  It’s an inevitable smorgasbord of choices, but can Stephanie have her cake and eat it too?

Rating: 5 Stars  (out of 5)

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Book Review Rating System

Below is my rating system for books I’ve read.  I enjoy a wide variety of books in various genres.  I keep an updated list of my favorites and current reads on the right.  If you’re ever at a loss for something to read, check out some of my bookshelf favorites!

0 Stars = Big thumbs down; couldn’t get into it or didn’t finish it.

1 Star = Finished it (finally) but not one of my favorite books.

2 Stars = It was alright; not particularly my genre, but well written and probably enjoyable for someone else.

3 Stars = Glad I read it and I’d recommend it for some people.

4 Stars = A good read; would definitely recommend it and possibly re-read it.

5 Stars = It’s a bookshelf keeper; would definitely recommend and read again (and again).

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Stephanie Plum Series

I’m usually one for structure when it comes to reading.  Typically, I’d never push the envelope by starting a new book series anywhere but at the beginning.  But that’s exactly what I did when I started reading Plum Spooky by Janet Evanovich, only I didn’t realize it at the time.  I was clueless to the fact that Ms. Evanovich has apparently been at the business of writing novels for some time now.  She started off first with romance novels before finally settling in on the life and times of quirky, Jersey-girl bounty hunter, Stephanie Plum, and finding voice through an eclectic mix of laugh-out-loud humor, some love, a little lust, plus crime and mystery all wrapped into one.

It started with Plum Spooky, the eighteenth book (and not the last) in the series.  Nevertheless, I was pleased to see how effortlessly I was able to jump right in and follow most of the storyline without having read any of her previous novels.  (She’s good like that!)  Plum Spooky could have been a stand alone novel for all I knew, and it wasn’t until later that I realized, looking in the front of the book, that low and behold, Janet had accumulated a long list of other juicy Plum works just waiting for me to sink my teeth into.

Of course, I know that it’s always best to start at–or in this case, go back to–the beginning.  And that’s just what I did with One for the Money, where I completely fell in love with not only Stephanie, but her entire family, her on-and-off-again boyfriend, Trenton cop, Joe Morelli, her tempting mentor, the mysterious Ranger and a plethora of other likable characters and irksome bad guys.

If you haven’t picked up this series yet, Janet likes to make it easy for us followers.  She numbers her book titles, like Two for the Dough and Three to Get Deadly.  Then, just for kicks, she throws in a few off-the-cuff books (including Plum Spooky) into the mix.  She brings back the favorites and tosses in a new (possibly supernatural and definitely hunky) guy named Diesel, into the mix, with titles like Plum Lovin’ and Visions of Sugar Plums.  “Plum”–ha, ha–get it?

Janet’s latest, Finger Lickin’ Fifteen, lives up to all its promises and delivers once again, with its page-turning plot and laugh-til-you-cry amusement.  One of the best series I’ve ever read.

Overall series rating:  5 Stars

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