Thursday, July 26, 2012

review: rosewood confidential by liv spencer

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Liv Spencer’s Rosewood Confidential goes in-depth into the first two seasons of the hit ABC Family series Pretty Little Liars.  In keeping with the format of other show guides from ECW Press, Rosewood Confidential goes episode by episode with a summary of what happened followed by other tidbits like “extra credit” (explanations of references made in the episode), “slip ups” (mistakes made), and “back to the books” (how Sara Shepard’s books relate to the show) among others.  At the beginning of the book are the biographies of the main actors; those who play secondary characters are profiled throughout the episode guides.  There are also extras like features on the music and wardrobe to break up the standard format a bit.

Spencer definitely did her research on the show, but I didn’t always agree with what she deemed “slip ups.”  For example, she calls it a goof when Hanna claims not to be able to afford a fancy hotel despite her expensive wardrobe in episode 1.03 and again when Hanna says the dance in episode 1.14 is for a good cause even though it’s to benefit their class trip.  I can explain these (and some of the other so-called slip ups) easily as being very much in character.  Hanna’s already been established as a shoplifter, so the expensive clothes probably weren’t paid for.  As for the dance, Hanna’s exactly the sort that would think “a good cause” is her own class trip.  However, I did appreciate the inclusion (even if it wasn’t really a slip up) of an interesting nugget of information regarding episode 1.21.  In that episode it seemed weird that the girls kept saying website when they were clearing referring to Facebook.  Spencer clears up the mystery by revealing that “website” had to be dubbed in later when the ABC Family lawyers told them they couldn’t use Facebook.  Little facts like that make Rosewood Confidential a great read.
Review copy provided by the publisher, ECW Press.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

review: off balance by dominique moceanu

As so many others were during the summer of 1996, I was enthralled by the US Women’s Olympic Gymnastics team.  The youngest of the Magnificent Seven, Dominique Moceanu, was the one who really caught my attention.  Her floor routine set to The Devil Went Down to Georgia was absolutely electrifying.  But as the summer faded into fall, I returned to school and heard little about the first group to take home the gold.  Now Dominique Moceanu, along with Paul and Teri Williams, has written a memoir about how she came to be on the team at just 13 and what followed.

Before the release of Off Balance, Moceanu caught my attention again in a 20/20 segment about discovering she had a younger sister.  Jennifer was born without legs and given up for adoption when Moceanu was six.  It’s a subject she addresses in detail in the book, though even she cannot explain how she didn’t remember her mother being pregnant.  Moceanu also discusses the strict training and harsh conditions at Bela and Marta Karolyi’s gym as well as how she believes they blackballed her in USA Gymnastics.  Although not going in-depth into some of the more salacious details surrounding a few documented struggles like her emancipation, Moceanu does not shy away from her teenage rebellion and strained family relations.  Off Balance provides plenty of information for those curious about the teen they watched so beautifully compete.

After reading Off Balance, it will difficult to watch the 2012 team that the Karolyis are still very much a part of.  Moceanu’s claims about them are disturbing indeed.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Touchstone.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

review: the other woman by hank phillippi ryan

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The Other Woman from TV reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan features a fairly intricate plot involving political scandal and multiple murders with a cop and a disgraced reporter at the center of it all.  Adding another layer, Jake and Jane are interested in each other, but a relationship could never work because of their jobs.  That’s a big sticking point for Jane, who is on probationary status at a newspaper after losing her TV job for refusing to name her source when the station was sued for slander.  The Other Woman is full of plenty of twists, especially when Jake’s case ties into Jane’s work.  The characters are engaging and kept my interest as much of the plot began to intertwine in ways I hadn’t imagined.
Review copy from Amazon Vine.    

Friday, July 20, 2012

review: mercury by lesley-ann jones

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Mercury:  An Intimate Biography of Freddie Mercury by Lesley-Ann Jones might have better been subtitled “…of Freddie Mercury’s Sex Life.”  Jones seemed downright obsessed.  Even when writing of his childhood, Jones focused on his sexuality.  She quoted a girlfriend of his youth as saying, “I never thought Bucky was gay.  Not at all.  Never saw any evidence of that.  Maybe his masters knew, and were discreet.  We his friends were certainly not aware of it.”  Although some discussion of his sexuality is appropriate for the adult years, the speculation throughout hardly seemed necessary.  With so many pages devoted to whom Freddie had sex with, there was little to reveal who Freddie was outside of the rock star persona.  Jones mentions Freddie was fiercely private, but this biography barely skims the surface of who he was.  

Most annoying was the apparent assumption that all readers are already familiar with Queen’s history.  Jones frequently referenced things without elaborating.   She writes of the band not having enough money to get out of their contract with Trident, but that “they’d get by with a little help from their friends.”  Did friends lend them money?  Jones never explains.  At another point she mentions that Freddie had become friendly with Michael Jackson, but then had a falling out.  The only explanation offered is a brief mention of Michael not liking that Freddie did cocaine.

Mercury does, however, have some interesting, well-told stories such as how Queen’s “Keep Yourself Alive” aired on a popular BBC music show uncredited because of a mistake made during the album’s pressing.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Touchstone.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

review: private: #1 suspect by james patterson & maxine paetro

Jack Morgan’s Private firm investigates four cases in Private: #1 Suspect; this is at least one case (if not two) too many.  Every time James Patterson and Maxine Paetro finally got around to discussing one of the cases other than the primary one, I had to remind myself exactly who the players were.  The main case is pretty good:  Jack Morgan is suspected of killing his ex-girlfriend who was found dead in his bed.  Given his resources, it shouldn’t be too hard for Jack to prove his innocence; but unfortunately for Jack, an identical twin complicates matters.  The authors should have left the focus here, but instead pad out the novel with a few other cases.  The case introduced shortly after Jack finds Colleen’s body involves men found dead in their hotel rooms after contacting an escort service.  This case could have been another standout, but it was neglected for so long after its introduction that I lost interest.  And then there was the case that got so little attention that I actually had to page through the book in order to get the details right for this review.  Three mobsters are killed while transporting prescription drugs.  This storyline added nothing.  Finally, there’s a case that seems thrown in simply to add a little glamour.  Jack isn’t even involved in this one!  Two of his employees are hired to keep an eye on an actor who seems to have a penchant for underage girls though he says he doesn’t remember sleeping with them.  With the exception of the mob drug case, each one receives a decent ending; unfortunately, the pacing kept me from becoming invested in any of the secondary cases, so I didn’t really care when they were finally solved.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Little, Brown and Company.