Book Review: The Nest

With is stylish robin’s egg blue argyle  jacket and its worldwide hype on every list, website, and daytime talk show from here to Timbuktu, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest was worth a shot when I found it discounted at my local BJ’s Wholesale Club.

Now don’t get the wrong impression by that last statement. Plenty a worthy novel has graced the book department of  BJ’s. And, while I was not impressed enough to deem it worthy of any more accolades, The Nest, was a  fairly light and entertaining read.

The Nest chronicles the dysfunctional lives of the Plumb siblings. Their dysfunction stems mainly from their dependency on an inheritance that they have yet to be bequeathed. All of them have lived beyond their means for too long, banking on the fact that when their youngest sibling turns 40 they will have access to a momentous sum of money left behind by their late father. However, when one of them gets into a sticky situation, he puts them all in jeopardy of  losing their long awaited endowment.

So, reasons why I liked the book:

A) It was written well

B)…

Yeah that’s all I got. The book was a light read and written well enough that it kept me entertained, but the characters are un-relatable, pretentious rich “kids” who are crying into their Cheerios over money they never had.  And besides that, the characters don’t even lead interesting lives. They are just hanging by a thread worrying their days away, trying to dig themselves out of holes they created, when they realize there is a good chance they will not be coming into a windfall.

Maybe I judged this one a bit harder than necessary because of all the hype and the fact that I was left wondering where it all came from. But overall, I would have to give The Nest a 3 out of 5.

 

Book Review: World War Z

I’m am not typically drawn to sci-fi and I haven’t jumped on the Walking Dead craze, but something about the way World War Z was presented made me want to read it. This a-typical foray into zombie land, did not disappoint.

World War Z by Max Brooks is instantly intriguing as it reads more of a historical fiction novel than sci-fi. Brooks wrote the book from the point of view of zombie apocalypse survivors, each telling accounts of what they saw and how they were affected. I think this helped to keep the gore to a bare minimum and the literary quality high, which one would not expect from this genre.

While I hope we all realize that the threat of a virus that “reanimates” the dead is far-fetched, the idea of a super virus is not, and it was interesting to consider that a similar situation could occur. Some of the scenarios really had me thinking about “what-if”, which again proves how well done it is, as this plot could have gone completely juvenile.

World War Z  while written well, was still a fairly easy and enjoyable read. I would recommend it to anyone, as I think you will be surprised how much you actually like something that you typically may not think to try.

I’m giving Max Brooks’ World War Z a solid 4 out of 5.

 

 

Book Review: Russian Winter

Maybe I’m the only one, but due to my inability (read lack of talent!) to pursue dancing myself, I am mesmerized by those who can do so, especially ballerinas. I recently watched Misty Copeland’s A Ballerina’s Tale and follow all the major ballet companies on Instagram to gush over each dancer’s grace and artistry. So it comes as no surprise that I found myself reading a book about  a Russian ballerina.

Daphne Kalotay’s debut novel Russian Winter focuses on both the past and present of Nina Revskaya. When we first meet Nina she is hunched and aging, being tended to by a visiting nurse as she passes her days in a wheelchair in her apartment overlooking the Boston Public Gardens. Nina has decided that it is time to start letting go of her belongings as her condition worsens and begins working with a young auctioneer named Drew to sell off her much heralded jewelry collection. As a former world renowned ballerina, she has come to acquire some truly magnificent pieces, especially a unique amber set that survived her defection from Stalin-era Russia.

Through her own flashbacks and that of an oddly intertwined character by the name of Grigori Solodin, we come to find out these amber pieces have quite the story to tell. The book switches between the past and present to lead you to the true meaning behind the jewelry . This is done somewhat jerkily, with not much of a proper transition between  the two worlds. While a bit irritating, I found myself getting use to this somewhere in the middle of the book. The book did do a nice job though of intertwining history, romance, and other themes quite well.

While overall I did enjoy this book, be prepared. The ending is not what you will be looking for. At least for me it wasn’t. Not that there is a twist, but rather a lack of an actual ending at all. This book could have gotten  a better rating from me if it didn’t just… stop. No cliffhanger, just , the end. If this book would have given me five more pages, It would have gotten a full 4 out of 5. But, 3 1/2 stars it is because a great story was killed by the author’s inability to round out her book with a strong ending.

Lenten Reading Round Up!

Well Lent has come and went once again (Happy early Easter everyone!). For those of you who don’t remember, instead of giving something up, which I always fail horribly at, I pledged to do more of the things that make me happy, less stressed, and a more loving person who puts positive energy into the universe. The top three were read more, write more, and exercise more.

As you can tell by my absence, I didn’t quite succeed at writing more and the empty tub of Ben & Jerry’s in my trash can is a clear sign of my dedication to fitness…

But! Lucky for you I did read quite a bit, finishing 3.5 books over the last 40ish days.  So on that note, let me give my two sense on each (besides the 1/2 book which was London, which you already heard about…I hope.. please read my blog…please?).

The first book I finished was Since You’ve Been Gone by Anouska Knight. You have probably never heard of this book, because it is not on any list that I know of, but it was received as a gift and had baked goods in pretty pastel colors on the front;right up my alley! Actually, I was a little concerned of what I was getting myself into as this is published by Harlequin Press, which has a reputation for Fabio-esque romance novels.

Since You’ve Been Gone did have its  “over the top imagery” moments, if you will, but it was not the whole focus of the book, so I was still able to enjoy it. The main character, Holly, is in a rut, or bit of melancholia really, after the sudden loss of her husband. Putting her focus into her business, a cake shop, she lives day to day rather than in the moment. That is until she starts receiving orders from one particular client who time will tell if he is trouble or a tasty treat.

Since You’ve Been Gone is nothing spectacular. Its plot line is a simple as it seems: Girl looses boy, girl meets boy, silliness ensues, and then… well I don’t want to ruin the ending or anything, but I think we all know there isn’t any plot twists here. If you need something light and fun, and you’re low on cash (you will probably find this one in the bargain section), then you will thoroughly enjoy. Overall, given the genre, I give it 4 out 5 stars.

 

The second book I finished was The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. Another gift, but this one I though looked a little more promising. It is touted as a thriller, with the cover of my copy quoting Stephen King saying, “The #1 book of 2009…Several sleepless nights guaranteed.” With that sort of recommendation I was ready for some Gone Girl-esque suspense.

The Little Stranger focuses on the remaining residents of Hundreds Hall, a once vibrant Victorian edifice, that is quite literally sinking into the ground in the Post-War era. The widowed Mrs. Ayres and her adult children, Caroline and Roderick still live on the estate, hanging on to a lifestyle and a status that has long gone by.

After a chance encounter with the simpleton Dr. Faraday, the family takes him in as a friend and he becomes attune to the fact that something within not just the Ayres’s home, but the family members themselves, has gone amiss. Are they cursed, haunted, or simply going mad after remaining stagnant for so long? That is the mystery posed.

However, this mystery is not at all that thrilling, and actually turns out rather predictable and dull. Certainly not as chilling or gripping as a Stephen King novel. The writing was well done and helped progress the novel forward, but was not a page turner due to its mystery.

I did enjoy The Little Stranger, but was disappointed. But for those who like a period piece, this was Ms. Havisham meets Downton Abbey, then you might enjoy it. I’m giving this a 3 out of 5 stars.

 

The final book I read is the showstopper! Devil in the White City by Erik Larson is the true history of how the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair came to be and the sub-story about the terrifying serial killer that lived there under the radar. Reader’s will follow architectural mastermind Daniel Burnham as he struggles to out do Paris in the building of the World’s Columbian Exposition, with far less time and far less resources. One of the biggest concerns is what can be built that can surpass Eiffel’s tower?

Flip over to the story’s other mastermind, this one criminal, who has many aliases but is most accurately known as Dr. H.H. Holmes. With an “entrepreneurial spirit” Holmes comes to the World’s Fair to create several shell companies which will help him hide his true identity and his true intentions. With his sparkling blue eyes and school boy charm, how could anyone accuse him of being a ruthless psychopath?

Larson does a fabulous job of telling both sides to this story which reads like fiction but is amazingly a great piece of history. Even those that do not tend to stray from fiction should give this book a try. It is flawless in its ability to captivate the reader and send a chill down your spine! I am very interested in reading Larson’s other works, especially In the Garden of Beasts.

If that review still doesn’t have you running out to by this book, also take into account that you might want to read this before Leo takes to the screen as Holmes. No release date has been set, but he and Scorsese are diligently at work!

Obviously giving this a 5 out of 5 stars!

So Happy Easter everyone, and happy reading!

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Book Review: London

Well it only took be about 3 months, but I finally finished the mighty tome that is Edward Rutherfurd’s London.

For lovers of historical fiction this is definitely an author you will want to check out. This is my first experience reading his work, but it did not disappoint and with similar titles such as New York and Paris I feel I will probably continue to enjoy. Be aware that these books are very hefty, but in my opinion this one was worth it.

London  begins in 54 B.C. and takes you on a historical journey until modern day (1997. As that is when the book was published). It follows several different families from different walks of life. These families evolve in so many ways, from status to religion, political views, and even name, that you can’t help to want see how they will transform in each era.

I was also drawn to the way the landscape of London evolved over time. From its earliest days being nothing but a camping ground for nomadic tribes, to the grandiose forum that erupted under Roman rule, to a more modest working man’s city, and beyond. The history of not only the characters, but the city itself was very intriguing.

Rutherfurd also does a wonderful job of combining fact with fiction, with nods and mentions to several historical figures while keeping them secondary to the characters’ storylines.

The only con, which I feel tends to be the case with a lot of historical fiction, and especially one of this length, is that there were some dry spells, simply because not all of history is exciting! But Rutherfurd does seem to combat this as best he can, and for the most part the book moves along rather smoothly.

Overall, again, I recommend this to anyone who really enjoys historical fiction. It is very reminiscent of Ken Follett, so if you enjoy any of his works, then you should give this a shot as well. For me, 4 out of 5 stars for London.

 

Book Review: Poor Little Bitch Girl

It’s summer. So, you will have to forgive me for reading something so devoid of quality or sustenance. And, also please for give me, because I most definitely judged this book by its cover. It was flashy and pink, and girly all over. Such is the only explanation I can give for reading Jackie Collins’ Poor Little Bitch Girl.

Poor Little Bitch Girl is apparently #9 in the Lucky Santangelo series.  Lucky is the female equivalent of Steve Wynn, being the posh owner of one of the hottest hotels on the Vegas Strip. In this book she is more of a minor character to her son Bobby and his friends. The book takes on the point of view of a circle of characters who are all joined together in some way by the murder of the movie star Gemma Summer Maestro.

There is Annabelle, Gemma’s daughter, who unable to make a name for herself while living in her parent’s shadows (her father is the hot shot  director Ralph Maestro and also suspect numero uno in the murder of his wife), has moved to New York and is secretly running a high class escort service with her coked-out boyfriend.

Denver, is a sassy Hollywood lawyer handling the defense for Mr. Maestro. She is usually laser-focused on her career, but this case finds her in situations which will pull her in a more playful and certainly sexier direction.

In Washington, Carolyn struggles with the ups and downs of being a mistress to a congressman, but hopes that she will become his number one after he learns she’s pregnant. She can’t wait to tell her best friend, Denver!

And, Bobby. The son of the famous Lucky Santangelo, who finds himself somehow in the middle of this whole mess, just by loose friendships he holds with the girls and Annabelle’s boyfriend.

The whole crew comes together for a giddy romp of a book, with vulgarity and overtly sexual scenes sprinkled throughout for just the right amount of trash. If you are a wordsmith, Collins does find the need to throw in cumbersome vocabulary every so often just to make it appear that this book is of any decency or literary prowess. It in fact is expertly void of both of these things, but does not lack in the entertainment level  of perhaps your favorite Hollywood tabloid, which makes the book very hard to put down.

Overall if you are looking for a light, smutty, pink and flashy, girly novel, this one is for you! I give it 31/2 out of 5. Happy Reading!

 

Book Review: Lucky

Well hello there inter-webbians!

It’s practically summertime and you’ll know what that means… all the good TV shows have wrapped!

But don’t  be discouraged! This is a huge positive (well, if you like reading my blog it is), because this means I am bored and looking for something to occupy myself with, AKA me writing more.

This also gives me time to read more, hence this post.

Like any good book junkie, I was in the middle of reading Memoirs of a Geisha (stay tuned for a future review!), when I happened upon a used book sale. Among the goodies I picked up was Lucky by Alice Sebold. Sebold may be best known for her novel, The Lovely Bones, which was turned into a 2009 movie featuring Mark Whalburg and Stanley Tucci. Lucky is her earlier written memoir detailing the events of her own rape and its after effects on her life, especially during her years at Syracuse University, where on the eve of the last day of classes, she was victimized.

As with The Lovely Bones, which follows an all-American family as they struggle through the events of their daughter’s kidnapping, Lucky, entwines the dark and light aspects of the case, with finesse. While rape is not something that anyone would associate with the word “beautiful”, Sebold manages to write the chilling details of her victimization, beautifully. The acts that are forced upon her are crushing and gruesome, but her personal storytelling of the ordeal is almost poetic. This quality comes about because this is not a fantasized, Hollywood version of sexual assault, but a deeply emotional journey that Sebold relives as she writes.

The after effects of the assault on her life are strangely captivating, especially if you have ever been a naïve, nubile college female (i.e. me), because you can picture yourself in her shoes, but then cannot imagine actually having to live it, instead of the freedom and fun that you may remember.

As a semi-aspiring writer, this is the sort of writing I hope I can grow up to write. Sebold is able to take a nightmare of a subject and write it in a smooth, engaging, yet still gripping, fashion.  I highly recommend this book to anyone, but especially to college-age women, as it opens their eyes to situations that they could easily be put in. Overall I give this book a 5 out of 5.