Friday, April 25, 2008

Review: End of Story by Peter Abrahams

There has been some discussion lately in the blogging world about not ripping into authors when doing reviews on your blog. I'm conscious of this, too, since Jonathan Santlofer visited my blog after I read his latest book. My intention would never be to rip into an author, knowing how "birthing" a book must be such a labor of love.

However, the point of a book review blog is that one can critically review a book, which includes the option to really dislike a book now and then. So with all respect to Peter Abrahams, I really did dislike this book.

You know those horror movies where you are watching and practically yelling at the main character "Don't!! Don't go in there!!! Can't you hear the scary music??" Well, this book was kind of like that for me. The main character, Ivy, just gets stupider and stupider as the story goes on. At one point, she is just making such totally poor choices that I was truly tempted to just not finish the book at all. And I, the reader, had this mystery figured out way before she did, leaving me feeling like maybe her elevator didn't go all the way to the top floor. It was pretty blatantly obvious what was going on, and she was blind as a bat.

Maybe it's because I'm a marriage counselor, and I see people ruining their lives with crazy and ridiculous choices all the time. I'm fully aware of the power of love, but I also fully believe in the power of counseling to help a person get a hold of themselves and stop ruining their lives. There were some points here where, had I been a fellow character in the book, I would have dragged Ivy to counseling kicking and screaming. She needed some serious help.

Granted, I think the author meant for the reader to feel this kind of dismay towards Ivy and possibly the frustration I felt was his plan all along! Still, it really really made me mad when she got rewarded in the end for her ridiculous behavior. It's been awhile since I had such a strong reaction to a book, but if it weren't a library book, it'd be in the trash right now just for spite.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Review: Blind Submission by Debra Ginsberg

I know, I'm a prolific reader lately, huh? When my life gets stressful, I read, read, read.

Oh, boy, if you have a book somewhere inside of you, you're going to have a hard time with this one. I myself have a non-fiction book in the works (pretty halfheartedly) and found myself setting down this book to search for agents online!!! It really whets your appetite to get published, so watch out for this one if you're not ready to submit query letters.

Set in a literary agency, the main character gets caught up in a mystery concerning an anonymous author who seems to be writing the story of her life -- with a not-so-savory ending, if you get my drift! The thing I just loved about this book was the characters, particularly the literary agent, Lucy Fiamma. It escapes me how anyone can imagine such a crazy lady!! And, I would have never, in a million years, guessed who-done-it.

What a great, fabulous book for book lovers everywhere!! Get your manuscripts out and ready to edit!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Review: The Abortionist's Daughter by Elisabeth Hyde

First let me say there wasn't anything that I didn't like about this book. It's highly readable, has great characters, moves along quickly, and I darn well spent half the night reading it!

Still, it's not going to be my favorite book of the year. I can't put my finger on it. I did not dislike it. However, I didn't love it either. Having a murdered abortion doctor as one of the main figures of the book, maybe I felt like the author was using the political issue as a catalyst? I'm not sure. She definitely tries to create sympathy for one who chooses this profession, and yet, she does a good job of not making the character entirely likable, too. So I don't even have a major complaint there.

I'd recommend this book. Particularly if you've got a long car ride, travel day, beach day and so on. It's a fast paced read and it'll keep you entertained, for sure. There's just nothing magical about the prose or totally engrossing about the storyline -- nothing that puts it in the "you have to go to the bookstore and get it right this minute" category.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Review: The Murder Notebook by Jonathan Santlofer

What's that you say? This book isn't even out yet? Why, you're absolutely correct! I received it from the Early Reviewers Group on Library Thing! You can request books in advance of publication, to read and review. Some people say they have never received a book, but I've received one every single month that I've requested one!

I really enjoyed this book. I don't think I would have ever picked it up in a bookstore, although I'm not sure why. I think it has something to do with the cover, all the blood...? I'm usually not a mystery, and certainly not a gory type of reader. So I may have passed this one by. However, having recieved it from the Early Reviewers group, I felt I should give it a try.

It's a story about a police sketch artist, and how he helps solve cases with his drawings. His girlfriend, a homicide detective, is trying to solve a big case and he's called in. Other characters include his mother, a therapist, and his dead father, a cop whose death he seems to feel responsible for. There's plenty here for readers like me who seek out books mostly about the complexities of relationships and how they play out in our lives. Throw in a dash of suspense, and you'll be up all night!

I know some readers will be turned off by the combination of the storyline and the sketch drawings that pepper the book. I can hear some of my fellow readers now saying that it's "gimmicky" and another way to stand out from the rest of the mystery crowd. It didn't bother me; in fact, the drawings were wonderful and helped me in my imaginings of the characters. I know, I know, though - some people like their own imaginings, thank you very much. At most, it would be a very minor criticism of a great book.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Review: Out Stealing Horses

Darn. I had a whole bunch of pages turned down in this one, because I wanted to treat you to some of Per Petterson's wonderful writing, but alas -- I returned the book to the library and hadn't finished this review!!

This one got great critical acclaim, and I have to add my applause. It was translated from Norwegian, and at first I was bothered by short, choppy sentences, but soon forgot that in the beautiful writing and wonderful storyline.

Set in Norway at the turn of this century (2000), with flashbacks to the narrators childhood during the second World War. It's one of the kinds of books that I love, where there isn't so much fast paced action as there is deep reflection on the nature of things. It's just great. Read it.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Catching Up.....4 Reviews...

What can I say without starting a huge political debate? The only thing, I guess, is to say that there is really not much here that can start a debate. Barack Obama is so clear on one thing: We are all Americans, we all have a right to our opinions, and if we all really listened to each other, we might learn something. He does, obviously, share his opinions on things - but all the while pointing out what the "other guys" think that has some value and validity. Yes, you'll feel like you know a bit more about his platform if you read his book. But it really is about hope. Do you want to stop feeling hopeless about this country and get back that feeling that we really can survive. Yeah. Well, read this then. Even if you're a Republican. Seriously.

Ah, yes. I think the thing I liked best about this book was the cursive writing on the cover. Love it! The remainder .... not so enthusiastic. It is a book based in Argentina at the time of civil unrest. I wasn't all that interested in the characters. Even the relationships seemed unreal to me for some reason. Note that I did like it enough to finish it, so I guess that says something, but I wouldn't read it again knowing what I know now. If you're really interested in Argentina, though, go for it!

I loved "Amy and Isabelle", Elizabeth Strout's first book. We read it year's ago in my book club and I remember loving it. So I was pretty excited to read her latest. I liked it, too, sailed right through it. But it's another in a genre that I've kind of exhausted lately (Gilead, Be Near Me), that of the secret lives of priests and ministers. This one is a lot less heavy than Be Near Me. I loved the characters and thought it really portrayed small town church life very well. Worth reading, especially if you read at stop lights! (That was for you, Jay Are!)

Ah, finally I read Byron Katie. Years ago I heard about her, and I recommended this book for my mom. But I never read it!! In fact, I resisted reading it because I thought it was cognitive-behavioral. (As a therapist, I'm not cognitive-behavioral. I don't like the thought that changing our thoughts changes our mood. While I think that's probably true, I find this approach in therapy largely ignores emotions and I don't like to do that).

Well, I read her. And I don't think it's some 1-2-3 way to ignore your emotions. It's not CBT. It's more like Buddhism. It's total acceptance. It's taking responsibility. Even more, it's taking responsibility and being happy about it! Here's some of her quotes that I love:
  • No one can hurt me; that's my job.
  • Would you rather be right, or free?
  • When I argue with reality, I lose -- but only 100% of the time
  • I am the cause of my own suffering -- but only all of it.
Oh, do read it. Read it, please!