Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Review: Free To Bloom by Jill Green

The Book: Free to Bloom or (http://freetobloombook.com/)
The Author: Jill Green
The Publisher: Advocate House

Summary: Free to Bloom is a delightful collection of eleven stories highlighting moments in Danielle's life, from divorce to growing marijuana.

Reaction: At 94 pages, this was a super fast and enjoyable read. Each short story exposes the main character's life in short blips of time and covers a wide range of emotions- fear, anger, love, passion - and so many others. Despite being short stories, there is never a lack of action, imagery, or detail.

At times, I did find myself wishing that some of the stories were more connected with back story, if only to keep myself chronologically grounded.

Regardless, this was a wonderful read that left me smiling throughout much of it. Very good read.

Verrdict: 4 Stars

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Review: The Baker's Wife by Erin Healy

The book: The Baker's Wife
The author: Erin Healy
The publisher: Thomas Nelson

WOW! If I could sum up The Baker's Wife in one word, it would definitely be "wow".  I wasn't sure what to expect with this book as I had never read anything by Erin Healy, but it far surpassed any pre-conceived notions I had based on the descriptions of it. It has a little bit of everything in it: suspense, action, arguments for and against religion, love, spirituality, mystery. You can download the first four chapters for free here.

Summary: After a scandal cost Audrey's husband his pastoral career, they opened a small bakery in town. One foggy morning, Audrey was driving to the bakery when she hits a scooter and finds a puddle of blood in the intersection, but no body. The scooter and the blood both belong to the wife of a local detective, who is missing. The detective is positive Audrey is behind his wife's disappearance.

Unable to locate his wife, the detective takes matters into his own hands, holding Audrey's family hostage in the bakery. It's up to Audrey, an ex-con, and a teen to find his wife before the detective completely loses control. 

Reaction: I just can't say enough good things about The Baker's Wife. I was hooked from the first page right through the last. There was never a dull moment. I never wanted to put the book down. I loved how each character had at least one intricate connection to someone else and I enjoyed how each connection was slowly revealed.

There is significant religious reference, but not in an annoying or over zealous way (which is saying a lot, because I generally avoid religiously centered books). There are characters that portray both pro-religion and anti-religion, which I enjoyed. I like that both sides were represented.

The characters are so lifelike that I almost felt their emotions as they experienced them. I was teary-eyed more than once! The back story for each character felt like it was almost torn from them, raw and emotional. They were exposed detail by detail until the complete web of their lives are before you. The skill with which Healy does this will leave you in awe.

I absolutely will be seeking out Healy's other novels.

Verdict: 5 Stars hands down.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Review: A Thinking Man's Bully by Michael Adelberg

The book: A Thinking Man's Bully
The author: Michael Adelberg
The publisher: The Permanent Press

I am very conflicted when it comes to A Thinking Man's Bully. There were many aspects of the book that I loved and many that I hated. I was very eager to read this book, so it makes me a bit sad to leave it feeling so unsettled.

Summary: Matt Duffy was a childhood bully who was friends with another child bully who committed suicide. Now, his own son has become a bully. But it's not until his wife urges him to seek a therapist after his son also attempts suicide, is he able to see where he fits into the scheme of things.Through a series of "stories" written to his therapist, Duffy faces his demons for the first time in his life.


What I loved: The premise - I was bullied in school and was very interested to hear stories from the opposite point of view; the writing - Michael Adelberg has a talent for visualization without flowering up the prose. I don't feel like he wasted any of my time with useless words.

And that's about it.

What annoyed me: When I think of A Thinking Man's Bully, it brings back bitter memories of when I read Memoirs of a Geisha. With Memoirs of a Geisha, I actually finished the whole book before I realized that even though the whole book was set up as a memoir, and titled as one, it was a complete work of fiction. I was angry. I felt lied to. And I feel similar frustrations with A Thinking Man's Bully. Now, I realized early on that it was indeed fiction, however, not until after I was a little into the book. Sure, if I had paid more attention to the cover synopsis clearly stating the main character's name, which is drastically different than that of the author, of course I would have connected it. But often, I don't really read the backs of books completely, an since this was a book I won on Goodreads.com, it wasn't like I went to the store and selected it based on what it was about.

My point in mentioning this is that without noticing the difference in names, the fact that this is NOT non-fiction is not made apparent AT ALL. First, it is set up with a table of contents which are typically not found in fiction books. Second, the story is told as "memory stories" to the narrator's therapist, where the narrator makes a point to highlight in separate sections his discussions with the therapist. Third, there are numerous mentions of the narrator "writing this book". In non-fiction you are keenly aware that you are reading a book, and that is okay. With fiction however, I absolutely do not want to be reminded on a continual basis that I'm reading a book. It shocks the mind out of the story and the whole "feel" of the story is gone. It completely ruined the book for me.

Other small annoyances:
*The cover is unflattering at best. Thankfully a crappy cover isn't going to stop me from reading a great book, but a great cover will definitely GET me to read a crappy book. Just sayin'.

* The title - I realize the title was suppose to sum up all the bullies into a cozy one-liner, but the inaccuracy of the title bugs me. The title refers to self-chosen nickname for a specific character in the book, and one who I believe doesn't have a remotely large enough part in the book, as implied in the synopsis.

*The chats with the therapist - Like a previous reviewer noted, the stories are great. The therapist chats? Not so much. I felt they were boring and too easy. The narrator is a tough man, not prone to talking about his feelings. Yet, just a couple visits into the tale and he's spouting off psychoanalysis jargon like he is the shrink and not the patient. Sure, eventually the patient will get the idea of how the therapist wants them to retrain their thinking... but it was too soon, too easy. I would expect him to fight against the therapist's demands much harder than he did.

In all, this was a good book by a wonderful storyteller, but the plot setup, cover, and some character interactions left the book feeling flat and, at times, unbelievable.

Verdict: 2 Stars

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Review: Suburbanistas by Pamela redmond Satran

The book: Suburbanistas
The Author: Pamela Redmond Satran
The Publisher: Downtown Press

Suburbanistas is a light, easy read. If given the free time, I probably could have blown through this book in a day, maybe two, despite the fact that it has 335 pages. While I love series books, and Suburbanistas is the fourth in a series located in the fictional town of Homewood, I don't find myself eager to look up the rest of them. Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy the book. I'm just not over-the-top in love with it.

Summary: This is a story of two best friends; Stella, a famous movie star with a career heading south and Mary Jean, a mom of four married to her childhood love, who just happens to be Stella's ex. After two decades, the two of them reunite. Can they become friends again? Or are they just too different now?

Reaction: The characters are well developed and the plot is mostly believable. The story flows easily, with a few surprise twists, but nothing too shocking.

I chose this book looking for a fun read, and that's exactly what I got. Beyond the horrible cover art, is a charming tale of small town suburban life. Above all, it's a story of friendship.

Verdict: 3 stars