Saturday, November 30, 2013

Bel-Ami by Guy de Maupassant

My Review from Book Nerds Across America
Date Read: October 8, 2011

I have to admit, I selected this as our October book to movie for one reason...Rob Pattinson.  I began reading with the expectation that this was going to be like one of the numerous books I was forced to read in high school, but I was pleasantly surprised.  It was a very easy ready and I enjoyed it thoroughly.  

Georges Duroy moved to Paris upon completion of his military service in order to "improve his position in life".  He is working at a railroad office making not nearly enough money to survive.  He is starving and living in poverty when he runs into an old friend on the street, Mr. Forestier.  Mr. Forestier is the editor of the La Vie Francaise newspaper.  He invites Georges to his home for dinner and gives him money to buy a nice suit for the occasion.  Mr. Forestier also invited the newspaper's owner and several writers, with hopes that they will give Georges a position on their staff.  Georges makes an excellent impression on everyone in attendance...especially the ladies.  This is where the "history of a scoundrel" truly begins.

Mr. Forestier's wife Madeleine assists Georges in writing his first article, which secures him an entry level position.  While his salary increases, his financial position does not.  He uses his additional income to bribe police officers and other insiders for information to use in his articles.  His standing as a writer improves greatly, but he decides that he will need to use other methods to advance socially.  He realizes that he has a way with the ladies and begins using his looks and charm to his advantage.  He seeks out a series of wealthy married women and establishes relationships with them based upon their ability to help him achieve his goals.  Even after amounting his own financial wealth, he is never satisfied with his position.  He is always jealous of those with more and is continuously strategizing his next move.  

I do not want to give away EVERYTHING, but this gives you a pretty good idea of the events that unfold in this book.  I can't think of a better person than Rob to play Bel Ami...which is translated as "Beautiful Friend" in the book.  The movie is now available on Netflix and DVD.  If you haven't seen it yet, here is a copy of the trailer.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly

My review from Book Nerds Across America
Date Read: May 18, 2011

The Lincoln Lawyer was recommended to me quite some time ago, but I have to admit, the fact that the movie was released starring Matthew McConaughey and Ryan Phillippe is what ultimately got my attention.  

Mickey Haller is a defense attorney in LA who represents a questionable group of clients.  Drug dealers, prostitutes, etc.  He will represent anyone who can pay his fees, but when he lands his "franchise case" (a case that will pay him six figures and will allow him to comfortably pay his bills for a while) he begins to question his choice of profession.    

Louis Roulet is a wealthy young real estate agent accused of attempted rape and attempted murder.  For the first half of the book I actually felt sorry for Louis as the defense attempted to prove that he was the victim of a setup.  As the book progressed and Mickey's investigator discovered additional information that connected this case to one of his previous clients, the truth behind the case became apparent.  Mickey ends up putting himself and his family in danger as he strives to do the one thing his father taught him about the profession, to always identify and protect the innocent.  "There is no client as scary as an innocent man."    

I have always enjoyed the John Grisham legal thrillers.  The one thing his books lack is a common element that makes you look forward to the release of his next book.  That is what drew me to the Kay Scarpetta series, which is next month's Sunday Mystery Corner.  When there is a character I can connect with that develops throughout a series, I am always excited to see what happens next.  This series is no exception.  Michael Connelly established a great character that we can continue to follow.  There are currently four books in the Mickey Haller series, which I hear only get better.  

What I liked most about this book is fact that the reader is able to unravel the mystery along with Haller.  Clues are exposed throughout the story and we can slowly see how Mickey plans to address the ethical dilemma that he is in.  With many legal mysteries, the reader is often blindsided with an unexpected ending.  Connelly left enough of a mystery to hold my attention, but provided enough clues to make me feel like I was an active participant in the discovery of the truth.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

I reviewed Water for Elephants shortly before the release of the movie over at Book Nerds Across America.  I just watched the movie again and noticed I never posted the review on my blog.  In an effort to consolidate all of my reviews in one location, I will be posting several of my old reviews over the holiday season.

Date Read: March 26, 2011

Jacob, who is in his 90s and residing in a nursing home, narrates the story.  Throughout the book he has a series of flashbacks that tell the story of his life during the 1930’s depression-era.  We first learn that he was orphaned during his final quarter of veterinary school.  He was about to take his final exam when he discovers that he no longer has a family, house, or career to come home to.  He decides to hop a train to establish a new life for himself.  The train, unbeknownst to him, belongs to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.  He meets August Rosenbluth, who is Marlena’s husband, equestrian director, and manager of the menagerie.  August offers him a job as the show's veterinarian, but Jacob quickly learns that the show is far from spectacular.  The animals are underfed, mistreated, and the employees are considered to be dispensable.  The circus is struggling financially, but Uncle Al (the ringmaster) spends all of their money to acquire an elephant named Rosie.  He believes the elephant will become the star attraction that will save their show. As it turns out, she drinks all of their lemonade and can't follow a single command.

Sarah Gruen does an excellent job of describing the grueling behind the scenes details of life on the road with a circus.  From the performers to the laborers to the freaks of nature acquired to help draw in a crowd, I could easily visualize the characters.  It did not take long to discover that Jacob and Marlena are perhaps the only characters with any morals.  Through their kindness to Rosie they begin to establish a bond with her and each other.   

I thoroughly enjoyed the book as well as the movie.  While I rarely believe a movie lives up to the expectations we establish as readers, this was very well done.  They did change some parts of the book for the big screen and combined a couple of characters into one, but it did not impact the overall story.  I absolutely love Reese Witherspoon and Rob Pattinson, so I couldn't have been happier with who was cast as Jacob and Marlena. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Let It Bleed by Jeri Smith-Ready

This is a free novella that is available on Jeri Smith-Ready's site.  It is a VERY substantial story with about 125 pages.  This is not just an extra scene, but an ESSENTIAL part of the story.  It bridges the gap between the third and final book in the WVMP radio series.

There is A LOT that takes place in Let It Bleed.  If you decide to skip directly from Bring on the Night to Lust For Life, you will be doing yourself a real disservice.  Two characters are murdered, four new characters are introduced, and a main character is essentially removed from the series.  I'm sure some of these details will be discussed in the final book for those who did skip the novella, but I can't imagine she will provide even a fraction of the detail.

There were a couple of events that greatly impacted the relationship between Ciara and her maker, Monroe.  I don't think they will ever have the type of relationship Shane and Regina have, but they are establishing a more friendly relationship.

This book also contains Vital Fluid's first performance.  Vital Fluid is Shane's new three-man nineties cover band and they totally rocked.  More of Shane and his musical talent is always welcome.

I can't thank Jeri enough for advising me to read this before starting the final book in the series.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Music Monday: Toad The Wet Sprocket Concert

I was a HUGE Toad fan back in high school and college.  When I heard they were releasing their first new album in over 15 years and touring, I was ecstatic.  If you are a Toad fan, you will LOVE the new album.

Last Tuesday I went to their show in Cincinnati and it was PHENOMENAL.  They sounded as good, if not better, than they did when I saw them back in my college days.  They played a great mix of both their old and new music and I loved seeing them in a smaller venue than they used to play.

My 8 year old son loves their music as well, but the concert was well past his bed time on a school night.  I had to take a few pictures and short videos for him, which I will share with you.  I did not record the full songs because I was there to enjoy the show not record it.  On the other hand, if I didn't have something to show Preston the next morning, he NEVER would have let me live it down.

I can't take credit for the first picture. Glen posted it on his Instagram.

New Constellation - The title track off of their new album.

Walk on the Ocean - The final song of the evening.

Good Intentions (A short video on my phone)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Review: Spiral Bound Brother by Ryan Elliot Wilson

I am usually more of a YA/NA reader, but every now and then an adult book or series will pique my interest.  When I first read the description, Spiral Bound Brother reminded me of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.  A friend recommended that book to me last year and I really enjoyed it, so I decided to give this book a try.

Anyone who enjoyed Staggering Genius, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, will most likely enjoy this book as well.  It contains a similar sense of humor, but without the depressing subject matter.  

The characters are quirky, but they definitely held my attention.  The use of three different narrators, as described in the overview above, was essential to the success of this book.  I enjoyed hearing Craft's side of the story, but I don't think I could have read an entire book from his POV.     

The writing was brilliant and I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.  I never would have guessed this was the work of a debut author.  If this is any indication of the quality and originality of Wilson's work to come, he will have a very successful career.

I am extremely happy I read this before Christmas.  I now know what I am getting for the friend who needs absolutely nothing, but recommended A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.  The fact that there are even E.E. Cummings quotes and references is an added bonus.  He is a huge fan of Cummings and I think he will enjoy this immensely.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Review: My Beautiful by Alicia Rae

My beautiful picks up where Beautiful Chances left off.  Lily is trying to come to terms with the loss of her family and wants to reconnect with her Aunt, Uncle, and cousins in Colorado.  I really enjoyed the interactions with her family and some of her friends.  The additional characters added depth to the story and took the focus off of just Lily and Kyle's relationship.  There is still a lot of adult content, but it didn't feel as forced as it did in Beautiful Chances.  The scenes were more fluid and mixed seamlessly with the story line.    

Lily received another threat from the stalker we were first introduced to in book one.  I don't want to give away any spoilers, but I NEVER would have guessed who the stalker was.  I was pretty sure it had to be someone she knew and I even had a short list of suspects.  I was not even close.

The last few chapters contained a lot of action and suspense, which helped to build anticipation and excitement for the final book in the series. Lily finally seems ready to move forward with her life.  The one person who is still a complete mystery is Kyle.

At the very end of the book Kyle promises to open up to Lily...tomorrow.  Just like the "free beer tomorrow" signs you see at the bar, tomorrow never comes.  I guess we will have to wait for Beautiful Dreams, which is scheduled to be released in January 2014, for Kyle to reveal the dark secrets from his past.  I have to imagine the events are from his time in the military, but that is pure speculation.

I feel like Alicia has come a long way between her debut novel and this book.  The dialogue was more eloquent and there was far more to the story.  I honestly can't wait to find out how Lily and Kyle's story will conclude.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Beautiful Chances by Alicia Rae

I am participating in a review tour for the second book in this series.  Since I hadn't read the first book yet, the author was kind enough to send me the Beautiful Chances ebook.

Lily is a twenty-four year old who is struggling after the loss of her family in a car accident three years prior to the start of the book.  She moved to Florida from Colorado shortly after the accident to escape the constant reminders.  She was very close to some of her extended family prior to the event, but she hasn't seen any of them since.  She has been living on Sanibel Island where she has been writing and unsuccessfully trying to move forward with her life.  She is still having nightmares about the accident and will not allow herself to get close to anyone because of a fear of losing them.

One day when she is sitting on the beach writing, she is approached by an attractive stranger named Kyle. The rest of the book is pretty much a whirlwind romance.  There is A LOT of adult content...probably a little more than was necessary.  There are some really sweet date nights and they obviously care for one another, but Lily is still struggling with her past.  Kyle helps her work through her issues, but he remains somewhat of a mystery throughout the book.  He is extremely protective, possessive and overbearing at times, but we aren't sure why.  I actually thought he was a little creepy on a few occasions.

I felt like the story had a lot of potential, but it didn't really live up to my expectations.  There is a situation with a stalker, which could have added to the story.  The topic was brushed over and appeared to have been forgotten.  I'm sure it will surface again in the next book, but addressing it further in this book would have added substance to the story.

There were a couple of surprises at the end of the book, which definitely made me want to read further into the series.  I just hope the focus of the second book is on the plot and story development rather than what is going on in the bedroom.  A little of that every now and then can go a long way.  It shouldn't feel like the focus of the book.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Captive by A.D. Robertson

I absolutely loved the Nightshade trilogy.  I have even read the two books in the prequel series, so I was excited to hear that Andrea Cremer was writing another book set in the Nightshade world.  This series is for adults and is definitely not YA due to some graphic adult content.  That is the reason she decided to use a pen-name instead of the name associated with her YA books.

Captive tells the story of Shay's parents, Tristan and Sarah Doran.  Tristan is a Keeper and Sarah is a Searcher, which in theory means they should be mortal enemies.  What starts out as a ploy on both of their parts to gain information, and perhaps Sarah's freedom, turns into far more.  Tristan and Sarah are both strong and independent characters.  As the story developed I couldn't help but love them, which is probably why I was on Team Shay since they very beginning of the Nightshade series.

All of the events take place prior to Nightshade, but I would recommend reading the Nightshade series before Captive.  There is a lot of history and detail behind the Witches War, Keepers, Searchers, Guardians, and the nether creatures that is discussed at length in her YA books.  It is touched upon briefly in Captive, but it was described at a level I would consider to be more of a refresher.  I don't think I would have appreciated this book nearly as much as I did if I didn't already have this background information.

If you are an adult fan of the Nightshade series, I would highly recommend reading Captive.  It contains all of the action and suspense I have come to expect from the Nightshade books with the addition of a steamy romance.  I will definitely be counting down the days until the release of the next book in this series.