Archive | January 2012

Book Review: Handbags and Gladrags: A Novel by Maggie Alderson

Book Review: Handbags and Gladrags: A Novel by Maggie Alderson

Format: paperback

First Published: June 7th, 2005

Genres: Contemporary Romance, Chick Lit

Synopsis (from Goodreads): Cross Bridget Jones with The Devil Wears Prada and you have this engaging romantic comedy about love, sex, friendships, and relationships…with a lot of style.

Emily Pointer, stylist for Chic magazine, has a rule about fashion: never wear anything older than six months…unless it’s so old you can pass it off as vintage. And never, ever fall in love, unless it’s for a killer pair of Manolos.

With a witty and biting insider’s take on the fashion world; the crazy circuit of the New York-London-Milan-Paris designer shows, and the most humbling of all experiences, love, Maggie Alderson delivers a poignant, funny novel of success and revenge, friendship and flirtation, passion and Prada that’s as fresh and rejuvenating as an afternoon at Bliss Spa.

Review: 

The novel opens with an email from Emily’s lover in their secret code planning a rendezvous. It’s not until a few chapters later that we find out Emily is in fact married. And from there on the entire novel became extremely predictable. I don’t think there were any events from that point onwards that even slightly surprised me.

I like Alderson’s writing but there is such a thing as too much. Too much name dropping and too many referrals to designer clothing and other designer items. There’s a part about one third of the way into the novel where Emily is unpacking her suitcase and inventorying her handbag. That was nearly the point where I just couldn’t take any more designer references. Everything from the four pairs of Prada shoes she was hiding from her husband to the Chanel cover she had on her purse pack of tissues was mentioned. The novel would have been half the size if you removed all the shopping and pointless fashion shows that were written about. I understand that as a high fashion magazine stylist you needed some of it but most of it didn’t add anything to the story.

Emily felt rather spineless as a characters. She would blame everyone else  for her problems and took no responsibility for her actions and decisions. So when others made decisions for her and she followed them it was always someone else’s fault when said decision didn’t work for her. I found her extremely shallow and to be one of those people who thought the world of themselves. She was also EXTREMELY hypocritical regarding a lot of things. I can’t get into this too much without spoiling things but Emily had one set of standards for herself and another which she held everyone else to. I felt very little/no character growth for her and that disappointed me slightly. Everything that happened to her was a result of someone else pulling the strings and Emily just following along trying not to rock the boat – with the exception of her little affair with her tanned Australian surfer photographer.

All this seems rather negative. I actually enjoyed the book – more for the supporting characters of Paul and Nelly than anything else. The exotic locations and the glamorous life that Emily lead appealed to me and I enjoyed that part of the novel.

Rating: 

2 out of 5

Purchase book at:

Book Depository / Amazon / FishPond

Book Review: Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs

Book Review: Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs (Alpha & Omega #1)

Format: paperback

First Published: July 29th , 2008

Genres: Urban Fantasy, Shifters, Paranormal

Synopsis (from Goodreads)Anna never knew werewolves existed, until the night she survived a violent attack… and became one herself. After three years at the bottom of the pack, she’d learned to keep her head down and never, ever trust dominant males. Then Charles Cornick, the enforcer- and son- of the leader of the North American werewolves, came into her life.

Charles insists that not only is Anna his mate, but she is also a rare and valued Omega wolf. And it is Anna’s inner strength and calming presence that will prove invaluable as she and Charles go on the hunt in search of a rogue werewolf- a creature bound in magic so dark that it could threaten all of the pack.

Review: 

I feel I should start this review by saying that I love Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series and because of this, I was thrilled to learn that this series was a spin off and concentrated on the wolves from Bran’s Montana pack. I’d often wondered what he got up to when he wasn’t busy trying to fix up Mercy’s mistakes.

The start of this book picks up directly after the novella Alpha and Omega (from the anthology On the Prowl) but it’s not necessary to read the prequel. I enjoy Briggs’ writing and her characters. She’s not shy about putting them through the wringer. She tortures them and makes them relive their nightmares and this only makes me like her stories more. I’m not sadistic but I like how real it makes her characters to me. The bad parts of life aren’t glossed over but rather highlighted in a way that can make me feel very uncomfortable at the brutality. At the same time I appreciate that for all the supernatural elements of her novels, it’s a vivid representation of human nature. Bad things do happen and Briggs addresses that life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.

Anna’s introduction to the supernatural world has not been an easy one. She was raped repeatedly by those in her pack who were supposed to be family and the ones to protect her from such a violent life. After three years of such treatment she meets Charles Cornick – the Marrok’s youngest son- and things change even further. She’s told that she’s his mate and that she needs to accompany him back to his pack.  And as if that wasn’t enough, there’s a rogue wolf in pack territory that needs to be taken care of. Oh Anna… what have you gotten yourself into?

Throughout everything, Anna has a spirit that I greatly admired. She wasn’t without weakness but she persevered and when push came to shove, she did what she had to do to protect what was hers. Charles was just as likeable. I like that the characters in the novel weren’t two-dimensional. They all have flaws and problems but they’re dynamic in the sense that they’re willing to change for the ones they love. It was an interesting ride to see Charles have to cope with Anna’s past and trying to help her despite it being a completely unfamiliar situation for him that went slightly against his Alpha nature.

I like how consistent Briggs is with her world. The mating bond, the pack bonds and the way wolves behave is all consistent with that of the Mercy Thompson series which is set in the same universe as Alpha & Omega. I loved the way that all events that occur in this novel happen in a way that feel planned for. The new characters and supernatural happenings feel perfectly natural happening in this story. That’s not to say that there are no surprises – there are many surprising actions and plot points that occur. But they are not just thrown at the reader – they feel appropriate and logical and exciting.

I really enjoyed this book. I can’t wait to read the next in the series. I’ve already bought it and am just waiting for it to arrive.

Rating: 

4.5 out of 5

Purchase book at:

Book Depository / Amazon / FishPond

Book Review: Fish Out of Water by MaryJanice Davidson

Book Review: Fish Out of Water by MaryJanice Davidson (Fred the Mermaid #3)

Format: paperback

First Published: November 25th, 2008

Genres: Chick Lit, Mermaids

Synopsis (from Goodreads)Fred the Mermaid has taken the bait and chosen to date Artur, Prince of the Black Sea, over human marine biologist Thomas. And just in time. The existence of the Undersea Folk is no longer a secret, and someone needs to keep them from floundering in the media spotlight. Fred has all the right skills for that job, but has a hard time when her real father surfaces and tries to overthrow Artur’s regime.

Review: 

I’d been looking forward to reading this instalment of Fred the Mermaid since finishing Swimming Without a Net a few years ago but couldn’t find a copy anywhere within my budget. Imagine how thrilled I was when I found a copy second hand for only a few dollars! I bought it immediately.

Dr Fredrika Bimm is just as sarcastic and snarky as I remember her being. She’s bad-tempered and grumpy and these are just a few of the reasons why I adore her as a character. The supporting cast as just as amusing as ever – Jonas is busy planning his wedding to Fred’s boss, Dr Barb, and Fred is busy being in the middle of a psuedo-love triangle with Artur and Thomas. Throw in an exiled absentee biological father and a pod of gorgeous mermaids (or to be more politically correct, undersea folk) and you get a rather amusing story.

It was a bit sad to realize that this is the last book in the Fred the Mermaid series. The appearance of Moon Bimm and Sam felt a little gratuitous and they didn’t add anything to the story. I felt they were included more because it was a nice way to farewell characters which had appeared in the first two books rather than adding anything plot wise.

This book was a very quick read – only 228 pages – and most of the drama that occurs happens in the last 30 or so pages. I got most of the way through the novel and realized that with the exception of Fred being grumpy, Jonas being over the top and Artur being royally dramatic, nothing had happened plot wise. But ultimately I think that this is one of those stories you read for the characters. If you’re reading this looking for a great story with plot turns and action – you won’t appreciate it. But Fish Out of Water does supply a few laughs and a happily ever after.

Rating: 

2.5 out of 5

Purchase book at:

Book Depository / Amazon / FishPond

Second Hand Books

I spent Sunday in book heaven. Or at least as close to it as I’ll ever be.

I went to the Brisbane Lifeline Bookfest – a second hand book sale where all proceeds go to the Lifeline charity.

With over a million books on sale it was a little crazy, but a lot of fun too. I managed to pick up a few books that I’d been interested in reading for a while now and some cookbooks to try and widen my recipe repertoire.

With my recent experience browsing and buying second hand books, I thought I’d post some tips that I thought might help someone who is looking to buy second hand.

1. Popular Books.
Books which have been popular in the last couple of years tend to have many copies at second hand stores. I saw hundreds of copies of the Twilight Series (by Stephenie Meyer) and the Da Vinci Code (by Dan Brown) on the weekend for a fraction of the cost of a new copy. I could buy all four of the Twilight books for $10 and they were in fairly decent condition as well. The more recently popular the book was, the more likely the chance that you will be able to find plenty of cheap copies second hand.

2. Rare Books.
Keep your eyes open for rare books. You’ll be surprised what bargains and what great gems you can find in second hand stores. I’ve come across many books that I’ve not been able to find in regular books stores in second hand ones – especially for books that have been out of print.

3. Condition of Books.
When deciding whether to buy a second hand book or not, give a thought of the condition of the book. Sometimes books are affected by the damp and will have pages stuck together. Give the book a quick flip though to make sure all the pages can move freely. Also, check the last page just to make sure that it’s there. There’s nothing worse than getting 99% the way though a book and finding out that the last few pages are missing.

If the front or back covers are coming off – that’s not a deal breaker for me. If that’s all that is wrong with the book using some clear book covering contact can fix that problem. I managed to pick up a copy of Colleen McCullough’s The First Man in Rome for 25 cents. After contacting it, it looks in great condition. It was a bargain!

4. The use of the Internet.
I use my smart phone when I’m second hand book shopping. Using sites like Goodreads.com and Amazon, I can determine if the book I’m getting is significantly cheaper than buying it online or if the book has had a name change and is actually a book I already own but under a different name.

The sites are also helpful when I’m undecided on a book – getting a rating or reading reviews from other people can turn a book from a maybe into a keeper.

I think the most important thing is to keep an open mind about second hand books. You never know what you’ll find. I think that’s half the fun of second hand book shopping.

Book Review: Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat and Obsession by Julie Powell

Book Review: Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat and Obsession by Julie Powell

Format: Hardcover

First Published: 2009

Genre: Memoir, Food

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Julie Powell thought cooking her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking was the craziest thing she’d ever do–until she embarked on the voyage recounted in her new memoir, CLEAVING.

Her marriage challenged by an insane, irresistible love affair, Julie decides to leave town and immerse herself in a new obsession: butchery. She finds her way to Fleischer’s, a butcher shop where she buries herself in the details of food. She learns how to break down a side of beef and French a rack of ribs–tough, physical work that only sometimes distracts her from thoughts of afternoon trysts.

The camaraderie at Fleischer’s leads Julie to search out fellow butchers around the world–from South America to Europe to Africa. At the end of her odyssey, she has learned a new art and perhaps even mastered her unruly heart.

Review:

This book confused me slightly. It picks up roughly two years after Julie and Julia ends with Julie having taken up an apprenticeship at a butcher’s shop in New Jersey. The first question that comes to mind is why? Over three hundred pages later and I’m still not exactly sure.

Julie tells us that she’s always wanted to be a butcher. I have read her first memoir and in that I learned that she had trouble killing lobsters because she didn’t think it was all that humane. Also, she didn’t buy a proper boning knife till eleven months into her year challenge. Neither of these facts really lead me to believe that her butchery desire was anything other than a recent development.

The entire first half of the book is description of butcher skills interspersed with events of Julie’s personal life – both present and flashbacks and it all just didn’t make much sense to me. There were times when the memories didn’t seem relevant to the other happenings in the story.

Descriptions of breaking down a side of beef and how to French a crown rack of lamb were interesting but in the end there was just too much of it. They were not detailed enough for a person to try and use it as a how-to guide but at the same time they were too in-depth for me to be anything but bored by them. I found myself skipping some of if because I’m never going to do any of that meat work and after the first dozen the novelty of reading about how a butcher does it had worn off.

The second half of the book was like a poor cousin to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love. Julie decided to go on a world wide trip to see how different cultures and countries butcher their meat. For me, it didn’t really feel like this part of the novel matched up to the first half.

It’s hard for me to look at a book and it’s characters when I know in the back of my mind that these are real people the author is writing about. At times I was disgusted by how Julie treated every person she met in this book but at the same time, knowing that she wrote it herself and she was the one to chose to portray herself in this light, I respected her for being so brutally honest. She knew how awfully she treated Eric and how pathetically obsessed she was with D. I feel slightly uncomfortable for Eric – having the entire world (or at least the ones who have read this book) know how his wife cuckolded him and how she badly she treated him in general.

This book had some things I enjoyed but ultimately not even the over-abundance of Buffy and other pop culture references could save it in my eyes. It was the literary equilivant to a car crash – horrible and yet I couldn’t quite stop myself from reading till the end.

Rating:

1 out of 5

Purchase book at:

Book Depository / Amazon / FishPond

Book Review: Lothaire by Kresley Cole

Book Review: Lothaire by Kresley Cole (Immortals after Dark #12)

Format: Hardcover

First Published: January 2012

Genre: Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

ALL FEAR THE ENEMY OF OLD

Driven by his insatiable need for revenge, Lothaire, the Lore’s most ruthless vampire, plots to seize the Horde’s crown. But bloodlust and torture have left him on the brink of madness—until he finds Elizabeth Peirce, the key to his victory. He captures the unique young mortal, intending to offer up her very soul in exchange for power, yet Elizabeth soothes his tormented mind and awakens within him emotions Lothaire believed he could no longer experience.

A DEADLY FORCE DWELLS WITHIN HER 

Growing up in desperate poverty, Ellie Peirce yearned for a better life, never imagining she’d be convicted of murder—or that an evil immortal would abduct her from death row. But Lothaire is no savior, as he himself plans to sacrifice Ellie in one month’s time. And yet the vampire seems to ache for her touch, showering her with wealth and sexual pleasure. In a bid to save her soul, Ellie surrenders her body to the wicked vampire, while vowing to protect her heart.

CENTURIES OF COLD INDIFFERENCE SHATTERED

Elizabeth tempts Lothaire beyond reason, as only his fated mate could. As the month draws to a close, he must choose between a millennia-old blood vendetta and his irresistible prisoner. Will Lothaire succumb to the miseries of his past . . . or risk everything for a future with her?

Review: 

I have to begin this review by saying that I’m a huge fan of the Immortals After Dark series. This instalment was no exception. The major appeal of the series in my opinion is the strong female characters.

I adored Ellie Ann Pierce. She was strong and determined and wasn’t afraid of anything – not even death itself.

It was an interesting concept – to have the heroine sharing a body with another soul who was her complete opposite. Where Ellie was good, Saroya was the epitome of evil. I loved how terrible Cole treated her characters. She tortured them both physically and emotionally and they managed to struggle through it and come out the other side strong for it.

The appearance of some of my favourite characters of the Lore made this book all the better. Nix and the other Valkyrie amused me with their antics and I like how just because many of the other characters in this series have found their happily ever afters it doesn’t doesn’t change them completely. Regin is just as bloodthirsty and upfront as ever.

This book also sort of doubles as a sort of encyclopaedic introduction to the Lore and the Lorian creatures. Having Ellie be completely ignorant to the new world in which she now exists in, Cole was able to have the creatures explained in such a way that readers would have a definitive definition for the different factions.

I have to admit that I was rather nervous that this book wouldn’t live up to my expectations. Lothaire, Enemy of Old, has been a big part of the series up till now and he had a lot to live up to. But his story was even better than I expected. Throughout it all, he was consistent with the character that I had grown to love. Evil and yet completely sexy. And his and Ellie’s steamy scenes? Woah… they’re pretty hot. There was variety and heat. Tenderness and fierce strength. In amongst all the what should be somewhat disturbing blood exchanges were some incredibly sweet moments.

This book didn’t lack for drama and action. From the start there is family rivalry, brutal slaughtering, angst, revenge and romance. I loved everything about this book and can’t wait till the next instalment of the series.

Rating: 

5 out of 5

Purchase book at:

Book Depository / Amazon / FishPond

Book Review: Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

Book Review: Bitten by Kelley Armstrong (Women of the Otherworld #1)

Format: paperback

First Published: 2001

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Shifters/werewolves,

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Elena Michaels seems like the typically strong and sexy modern woman, She lives with her architect boyfriend, writes for a popular newspaper, and works out at the gym. She’s also a werewolf.

Elena has done all she can to assimilate to the human world, but the man whose bite changed her existence forever, and his legacy, continue to haunt her. Thrown into a desperate war for survival that tests her allegiance to a secret clan of werewolves, Elena must recon with who, and what, she is in this passionate, page-turning novel.

Review: 

Whilst Elena may seem like the typically overdone blonde, blue eyed, overly perfect character don’t underestimate her. She’s also bitchy and damaged and at times her attitude does come close to a little over the top but she’s real and I think that’s what I liked most about her. This story is gritty and at times dark but wholely enjoyable. Her relationship with Clayton amused me greatly and I loved how they aren’t the stereotypical romantic couple that I come across in most novels I’ve read lately.

The supporting cast are brilliant. Jeremy and the other Stonehaven wolves stop Elena’s drama from becoming overwhelming and also add some much needed comic relief.

I didn’t expect a lot of what happened and I enjoyed the plot surprises. There’s a lot action and a decent amount of romance. These werewolves are the kind who  hunt – often resulting in something ending up dead and bloody.  They are not for the feint hearted. I can’t wait to begin reading the second book in the Women of the Otherworld series.

Rating: 

5 out of 5

Purchase book at:

Book Depository / Amazon / FishPond

My review for Stolen (Women of the Otherworld #2) can be found here