Thursday, August 21, 2014

review: the curse of van gogh by paul hoppe

One of the blurbs for Paul Hoppe’s The Curse of Van Gogh says that the story features “a more credible character” than that of other stories featuring art theft. While this may be true, it also means the book is excruciatingly boring. Hoppe wastes more than 100 pages having Tyler simply meet with people. Sure, one of them vaguely implies a threat to Tyler’s family, but nothing happens in the first half of the book; it’s all setup.
Review copy provided by BookSparks PR.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

review: my last kiss by bethany neal

While celebrating her seventeenth birthday, Cassidy has a bit too much to drink. As a result, her ghost self can’t remember how she died. Her death has been ruled a suicide, but some don’t think Cassidy would’ve jumped from the bridge.

Although Cassidy seems to be in ghost form so she can solve the mystery of her own death, she doesn’t seem terribly concerned about actually doing that. Cassidy comes across as vapid as her main concerns are about boys and her friends rather than figuring out who she was on the bridge with and why. When she discovers that her boyfriend can hear her, they first discuss her being a ghost before she bothers to ask about the night she died. It’s a conversation that lasts six short sentences before the subject goes back to Cassidy haunting Ethan. Cassidy does so little to figure out how she died that My Last Kiss is less of a mystery than a trite story about underage drinking and bad freinds.
Review copy provided by BookSparks PR.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

review: all fall down by jennifer weiner

Allison looks to have it all together--a big house in the Philadelphia suburbs and a daughter in private school--but she's barely hanging on as her husband's job doesn't pay what it once did (he's a newspaper reporter), her daughter is "difficult," and her father's in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. She takes pills to cope. Allison constantly tries to justify her addiction, which she doesn't admit is an addiction, but her family eventually intervenes.

Allison is incredibly selfish and wholly unlikable. Throughout All Fall Down I found myself wanting to strangle her. She became even worse in rehab. It's possible no other fictional character has ever been so haughty and self-righteous. The plot also feels unrealistic as Jennifer Weiner herself seems to acknowledge when Allison shares her addiction timeline and story in rehab. She went from hardly ever even drinking to full-blown pill addict (albeit one who suffered no consequences other than having her daughter’s teacher stop her from driving until she drank some coffee) after being prescribed a painkiller for back pain. And then after spending so much time with Allison lamenting her life and refusing to believe she’s an addict, Weiner tacks on a pat ending where nothing has been dealt with.

About the audiobook: Since I started reviewing audiobooks, I've discovered that nothing makes me hate a book more than a whiny child character narrated in a grating whine throughout. Although I hated Allison, I sometimes felt sympathy for her when Ellie would screech. Jennifer Weiner’s All Fall Down is narrated by Tracee Chimo (who plays Neri Feldman on Orange is the New Black). It runs 12 hours 45 minutes and was published by Simon & Schuster Audio in 2014.
Review copy provided by Audiobook Jukebox.

Friday, August 15, 2014

review: elly in love by colleen oakes

Elly in Love finds florist Elly being tapped to do a celebrity wedding that will be part of a reality show. Of course the celebrity wants things like navy blue flowers and is always partying when Elly needs to discuss wedding plans. Further complicating matters, a young man Elly’s never met shows up resulting in much upheaval. Then to top things off, her boyfriend is keeping secrets.

While Elly in Love had its moments, the second book in the series mostly grated. Elly’s assistant always being referred to as “Snarky Teenager” was amusing at first, but quickly wore thin especially since she wasn’t really snarky. Elly’s underlying insecurity regarding her size made appearances occasionally, but seemed to have inserted simply to make her more relatable. The best moments were the few scenes when Elly worked on the celebrity client’s wedding and gave her some great advice about friends that aren’t really friends.
Review copy provided by BookSparks PR.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

review: the rules by stacey kade

Stacey Kade’s The Rules is a fantastic example of how to do the first book in a series—it has a compelling enough plot to make additional books viable, but also has an ending that satisfies for those who don’t wish to read another book. In The Rules, a high school student is hiding in plain sight from the company that created her. Her “father” took her from the laboratory when his six-year-old daughter was dying from cancer. From that point on, he has raised the half-human/half-alien as his daughter, but with five very important rules to keep them safe. But Ariane can’t help but break some of the rules. Kade beautifully blends science fiction into a teen romance that has excellent characters. There are some great twists too that were hinted at in some bits of dialogue, but still seemed like bombshells when they happened.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Hyperion.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

review: serenade by emily kiebel

Emily Kiebel’s debut felt it was going in two directions. The first half of the book is about a college student who defies her mother by studying music on the east coast. Lorelei had her father’s support, but he dies in the first few pages. It initially seemed Serenade would focus on Lorelei’s struggle after the loss of her father and how to reconcile with her mother; instead, Kiebel introduced a new set of characters (Lorelei’s long-lost maternal relatives) who inform her she’s a siren. From there, Serenade is about Lorelei learning about being a siren and then rebelling when she decides to rescue an attractive sailor she was supposed to sing to his death. Because none of this develops until there are only a few chapters left, the pacing feels very off and the ending is rushed. A large number of loose ends are also left in what is clearly meant to set up a sequel (a big pet peeve of mine). Even so, there’s enough here to keep the story interesting, especially with someone as vivacious as Lorelei learning her heritage.
Review copy provided by BookSparks PR.

Friday, August 8, 2014

review: gravel on the side of the road by kris radish

Kris Radish’s collection of autobiographical essays could not hold my interest. Despite nonfiction being where the novelist got her start, the stories dragged and had little purpose. They also didn’t flow well. Radish jumped around in the timeline of her life and transitioned without any sense of a cohesive narrative. She went from being an intern (Spaghetti Dinner) to a job as a teenager (Salt and Pepper) to interviewing a soldier leaving for war (Soldier Boy). Overall, there’s little of substance.
Review copy provided by BookSparks PR.