Wendy (here_be_dragons) wrote,
Wendy
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Book Reviews - #85 through #92

Well, being ill is good for one thing - when I'm too weak to do anything else, I read more than usual. I've got a whole bunch of books to review this time, all read in the past couple of weeks. spikesmom, you may want to skip the first one - it's a bit spoilerish, and the book has since become part of your Mount TBR. :)


#85 -
Three-legged Horse by Ann Hood

I've had this book on my shelf since I received it as an advanced reader's copy back in 1989; finally "forced" myself to read it by offering on BookRelay. ::grin:: Abby is a violinist who has spent the last 10 years playing in a folk music trio, and when the band breaks up, she is forced to take a good long look at her life - what's working, and what isn't. (The rest of this is SPOILERISH) . . . Mostly her life isn't working, especially her unusual and unsatisfying marriage to Zach, an artist who manages to be away from home almost all the time, and only spends a few weeks or months out of each year with his wife and daughter. Abby struggles to reconcile how empty she feels most of the time with the love she feels for Zach when they're together, although she finally starts to see that perhaps what she feels is obssession, rather than love. A good way into the book, I was surprised when the PoV changed, and we were able to see into the minds of both Zach and their daughter, Hannah. (It's not that I mind PoV changes, but I found these jarring, as the first one came so late in the book). None of these people are particularly happy, and none of them are particularly likeable, either. Mostly, Abby and Zach are selfish and self-absorbed, and I felt sorry for poor Hannah, who seemed to get the short end of the stick from both her parents, and was already on her way to growing into an unpleasant person herself. Still, I enjoyed reading it, even though I found it a bit depressing, and the end not entirely satisfying. (Although I'm not sure how it could have ended any other way, given what happens). I did keep me up until nearly 2.00 one morning because I wanted to see how it ended. And I suppose it was a hopeful ending, in its own way. (ARC from Waldenbooks)

#86 -
Love Bites - Lynsay Sands

Bwhahahhaha! This was a fun book. It was recommended to me by several of the folks in my local BookCrossing meet-up, and I'm glad I took their advice. The genre is listed as "paranormal romance," which was a new one to me . . . it's a vampire book, but cute and romantic. It's funny, and I enjoyed the characters. Plus, there's some sexual content (what I'd consider fairly standard romance-book sex, although since I don't read much romance maybe I'm not the best one to judge); not incredibly graphic, but definitely more than "they kiss . . . fade to black." I especially enjoyed the author's take on vampirism - it's a more "scientific" explanation than many I've heard, and I liked it (although I wish the author hadn't connected it in any way with Atlantis). Utter fluff, but fun. :-) (Amazon.com)

#87 -
Single White Vampire - Lynsay Sands

The second book in the Argeneau Vampire Family series. I didn't enjoy this one as much as the first - I found there to be a bit too much similarity between this and the first book -using the same ideas, phrases, that sort of thing. The plot was different, and enjoyable enough, but in the final analysis, it was really not much more than a run-of-the-mill romance book (rarely my favourite genre), and the fun and novelty of it being about vampires didn't carry over from the first book. For me, anyway. It wasn't a bad book - just not as special as the first one. (BookCrossing Meet-up)

#88 -
Angels and Demons - Dan Brown

I have some mixed feelings about this book, but in the end, I did enjoy reading it. In a general way, the plot was a bit too similiar to DaVinci Code for my liking - there were several shared elements to the stories, (the death of a guy with important knowledge, and the subsequent involvement of his daughter/granddaughter; clues which point to an infamous historical "secret" society being involved). I also found the bulk of the plot *very* predictable, and at times I was distracted by what came across as poor writing. (Clunky dialogue, mostly, but also some awkward phrasing and one event in particular which I found, erm, highly unbelievable). That's the bad stuff.

In the book's favour was the setting: Rome, a city I love. It was fun to follow along on their adventures, in many cases to places that I've visited and can picture clearly in my mind (I loved this about DaVinci Code, too. Brown has chosen his settings well in this way). And, while I have said that I found the story predictable, and most of it definitely *was*, there was a twist at the end that I *never* expected, and it was fantastic. At first, I thought that it was just a bit of authorial carelessness, when he made a character do something that I found utterly out-of-character. Slowly, however, the awareness dawned that . . . well . . . it being out-of-character was entirely the point. Great fun. So, while sometimes found the book a bit tedious, because it was easy to see where the story was going next, I did enjoy the romp through Rome, and the ending definitely made up for that earlier predictablilty. So, overall I'd rate this book pretty high - I think I enjoyed it just a bit more than DaVinci Code, in spite of the quibbles. Plus, (SPOILER AHEAD!) I will say I was relieved that, in the end, he *didn't* blow up St. Peter's and the Vatican museums. I could never quite stop worrying about all that incredible artwork going up in a blast. Even though it's the sort of thing that you know all along will *never* actually happen at the end of a book like this. But still. I was nervous. :D (BookCrossing RABCK)

#89 -
Betrayal - Fear Street Saga Book 1 - R.L. Stine

Read this book in a couple of hours - a very quick read. It's a young adult book, and not particularly inspired, but also not bad. It begins in the late 17th century, when a young woman is wrongly accused of witchcraft by one of her neighbors. Thus starts a family feud which promises to play out in every generation until at least 1900. Not sure yet whether or not I'll be curious enough about what will happen to find copies of the subsequent books. (Bookcrossing Meet-up).

#90 -
Filthy Rich - Dorothy Samuels

Hee! This was a fun book, and a very fast read. I read it in just a few hours on Labor Day. It's chick lit, told by Marcy, a young woman who has been asked by her boyfriend to be his "lifeline" on a television game show (similar to "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire"). When she gives the wrong answer, he dumps her on the spot (yes, while the cameras are still rolling) - and he's not very nice about it. Afterward, Marcy finds herself at the center of a media feeding-frenzy, as dozens of talk shows want her to make appearances, and she has to decide whether or not she will embrace or run from this overnight celebrity that is being thrust upon her. Marcy is likeable and funny, and the book is filled with satirical references to television culture, past and present. There's a Brady Bunch theme that I appreciated (having been a big fan back in the day), and some of the names used are very clever. Lots of television celebrities make appearances, as well, including Oprah and Dr. Phil. I liked the sparse writing style, too - there are times that the plot skips ahead rapidly, but in telling the story cleverly in Marcy's "voice," we learn what we "missed" in a very few words. I did guess the ending, though. And not just the obvious bit that I think we were supposed to guess, but the bit that Marcy says surprised her and probably the reader as well. If you've read it, you'll know what I mean. Kingman's offer at the *very* end. Yeah, I saw that coming miles away. :D (227 pages; BookCrossing Meet-up)

#91 -
Primal Mothering - Hygeia Halfmoon

This woman is even more "progressive" about parenting issues than I am - and I consider myself fairly progressive. (I'm not sure progressive is the right word, but I can't think of a better one. What I mean is going against what's considered to be the current "norm"). It was an interesting book, in spite of the fact that even I found some of her ideas radical. She talks about the benefits of breastfeeding well past infancy, co-sleeping, no daycare, all of which are choices I made, as well . . . attachment parenting, but she's taken it to it's extreme. Her ideal seems to be constant togetherness between mother and children, for, well, I'm not sure when she intends it to end, as she advocates homeschooling, as well. She also advocates a fruitarian diet for the entire family - just fruits and nuts. Period. I'm not a nutritionist, so perhaps that really is a healthy diet, but it sounds a bit limited to me. She also talks about homebirth, not immunizing children against diseases, and some other things along those lines. She's got some good ideas, and makes strong arguments at times.

However, I do have a fairly substantial gripe with the book. There are a few things that bother me. First, while I'm willing to be open-minded about the things she suggests, she seems to have a "my way or the highway" attitude going on - that any woman who doesn't follow Halfmoon's ideals has been brainwashed by the medical/pharmaceutical/patriarchal, etc. society, and needs to wake up and take back her power. Which in this case means following all of the advice given in this (and the author's other, oft-mentioned) books. I do have a problem with this. Not all of the the things she advocates are going to be good choices for all families, and, while she complains about how others have judged her, she seems to be falling into the same trap herself, by judging anyone who does things differently from the way she's done them. Hey, it's cool to feel strongly about things, especially in such an emotionally charged subject as parenting. But I don't think it's appropriate to ever say that "THIS" is the ONLY way to do things properly, or you're brainwashed or a bad parent. Ugh. I would have much preferred to read a book offering these ideas as valid suggestions, while acknowledging that other parenting decisions can be equally valid, as well.

Second, she seems to discount entirely that men have any right to be parents. Her attitude seems to be that, as long as they're not abusive or disagreeing with the mother's decisions, it's okay to keep them around, but they're not really necessary nor even that useful. Now, in some cases, this is true. There are (IMO) men who do not live up to the standard that I'd want as a parent for my child. (Fortunately my own husband does not fall into this category). But I think it's outrageous to declare that men who aren't being abusive in some way shouldn't have any rights at all in the raising of their children.

She also makes a few bold claims which are, in my experience, simply untrue. For example, she says that babies who are carried in slings are "always" blissful and never cry. I will accept that her children never cried. (I'm skeptical, but perhaps it's true). That, however, was not at all my experience using a sling. We tried it, my son didn't like it, so we didn't use it. Now, this doesn't mean I think slings are bad - they work for lots of people. Just not for *everyone* as Halfmoon insists, and all babies will not be "blissful" when worn. There are examples of this sort of thing throughout the book, and when I catch her out in making a claim that I know to be untrue from my own personal experience, I have to wonder where else she is exaggerating, as well. I've thought of a couple other examples of information I found dodgy: she states that looking directly into the sun is good for one's vision (in spite of the fact that this is well-known to cause blindness); and she says that skin cancer is a myth perpetuated by the sunscreen industry, and that if one eats only fruit (as she does), there are no toxins to burn in the skin, so you can have unlimited sun exposure with no risk. ?!?!?!?

So, on the whole, it was hard for me to enjoy this book, because I found the author to be intolerant of opinions other than her own. Which is a shame, because she does make some good arguments - that women should trust their own instincts when making decisions regarding their children, and not just blindly trust what "society" tells them to do. I've flown in the face of societal pressure a few times, but that doesn't mean I think *everything* society tells us is wrong. I do believe that I'm the best judge of what my child needs (yes, a better judge than even his father is), but that doesn't mean that I feel my husband should have no voice in the way we raise our son. So, the book was interesting, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who is looking for actual parenting advice - I think she goes too far in rejecting the current norms, which is likely as unhealthy as following them without question, and she doesn't leave much room for people to honour their own wisdom - she seems to want everyone to agree with hers. (169 pages; BookCrossing)

#92 -
Getting Over It - Anna Maxted

This is the third of Maxted's books I've read, and once again she has dealt with some serious issues, but manages to be humorous along the way. This book did make me laugh out loud in a few spots, and I cried once, as well. Helen is going through some typical mid-20s stuff - boyfriends, issues with flat-mates, a less-than-thrilling job - when her father dies suddenly of a heart-attack. As she watches her mother fall apart, she wonders why she, herself, isn't feeling more grief. Sure, she wasn't that close to her dad, but still, she'd have thought she'd feel more than she does. And, of course, during the course of the book, she meets a guy who just might be "the one," but will they ever manage to stay together? I thought that the big subject of the book - dealing with a lack of grief for one's dead father - would be the thing to affect me the most, considering that my own father died two years ago, and I stlll haven't managed to work up any real grief. Well, as it turns out, that's not where this book touched me - I found one of the subplots to be far more heart-wrenching (but I don't want to say what, as it's spoilerish). This was a good book - funny, and Helen is a loveable character, although at times her lack of tact and ability to embarass herself are *almost* over-the-top. But not quite. I'd recommend, especially to anyone who likes chick lit.(403 pages; Book Relay)
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