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Monthly Archives: February 2010

Review: Everything Hurts by Bill Scheft

Everything Hurts: A Novel My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book as I was starting to really have problems with the back pain that had been bothering me a little bit for months. It was just the story for my frame of mind.

This is funny book. No question. It’s a very satirical humor, which I enjoy. As with most satire, even its most ridiculous moments have roots in reality.

Phil Camp is a sportswriter.  He’s also developed a mysterious pain that his doctor can’t fix.  He decides to follow up on a recommendation for an alternative approach.

I enjoyed both of the self-help gurus that were the focus of the story.

Doctor Abrams claims all physical pain is caused by issues in the psyche. Resolve those, and the pain will go away. The problem is, who can ever really resolve all resentments, anger, and so on?

Better yet was “Marty Fleck”, Phil’s alter-ego for his parody of a self-help book, Where Can I Stow My Baggage?. No one is more surprised than he is when people take it seriously, and are actually helped by it.

There’s a romantic storyline, and (as you’d expect) that has twists and turns as well. Janet was a little flat compared to the other characters, but not enough so to be an issue.

The (rather ridiculously complex) family relationships and accompanying issues made for interesting reading, and again, there were roots in reality that made the craziness worth reflecting on.

This book isn’t for everyone. The humor won’t work for some, the issues being satirized won’t speak to others. If it doesn’t sound like it would appeal to you, you’re probably right. If it sounds good to you, pick it up to read. I’m glad I did.

I received this book from the publisher for review.  I appreciate this opportunity, but it didn’t influence my opinion of the book!

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Posted by on February 14, 2010 in books, reviews

 

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Review: Dream House by Valerie Laken

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

About Dream House:

What price will people pay to hold their homes and dreams together?

When Kate and Stuart Kinzler buy a run-down historic house in Ann Arbor, Michigan, they’re hoping their grand renovation project can rescue their troubled marriage. Instead, they discover that years ago their home was the scene of a terrible crime—and the revelation tips the balance of their precarious union.

When a mysterious man begins lurking around her yard, Kate, now alone, is forced to confront her home’s dangerous past. Hers is not the only life that has crumbled under this roof. This man’s family also disintegrated here, as the result of one brief act of rage that may haunt him—and this house—for years to come.

For two days now, I’ve been thinking about what to say about this book. I’m still not sure. In fact, the book is quickly fading from my memory.

I enjoyed reading it, and I can’t figure out why it didn’t make a greater impression on me.

I liked the main character, in spite of (or maybe because of) her flaws. Yes, she’s a bit self centered, and a bit obsessive, but who isn’t? (What, that’s just me? Oh, sorry!). I was amused by her husband, mired in the good ole’ days of college, not quite ready to grow up. I should be more interested in the choices they each made during the book.

The dream house of the title is almost a character in itself, with a mysterious shadowy past, slowly revealing its secrets to me.  Unfortunately, almost is the key there– to me, it just remained a house.

Perhaps there was language or atmosphere that just didn’t register with me.  I read for character and plot.  The language didn’t get in my way, the setting provided support for the story, so I was satisfied.  I can imagine others might get more from those aspects than I did.

Maybe the problem is that I’ve encountered all of these pieces before, although not assembled in quite this way. Then again, that’s true of most books I read, at some level. There aren’t that many truly unique plots or characters out there. I just felt like Dream House should have had more impact on me than it did.

I did want to call out one part that I particularly enjoyed, where the teachers at the local high school break into the gym over the summer and have a party of the sort they weren’t invited to when they were students. The concept was amusing, and the reader was able to see a side of Kate (and one of the other teachers) that doesn’t come out elsewhere in the book. The scene is used to build up events that follow, so it isn’t just a throw away.

Shrug. I don’t have any reasons you shouldn’t read Dream House. Check it out of the library. Pick it up for vacation. Read it. Then go on to something else.  I’ll suggest Folly by Laurie R. King if you want a book where a woman is taking control of her life by working on a house.  It’s been over 5 years since I read Folly, and it still has more of a place in my mind than Dream House does.

TLC Book ToursI read this book as part of a TLC Book Tour. I appreciate the opportunity to read and review Dream House.  For more information about the book or the author, visit Valerie Laken’s website.   For other views of the book, check out the other tour stops:

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2010 in books, reviews, tour

 

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Review: Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin

Knots and Crosses (Inspector Rebus, #1)My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Last month, I read the most recent of Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus books, Exit Music.  I enjoyed it, and decided to check out some of the earlier books.  Knots and Crosses is the beginning of the series.

From Goodreads.com:

Detective John Rebus: His city is being terrorized by a baffling series of murders…and he’s tied to a maniac by an invisible knot of blood. Once John Rebus served in Britain’s elite SAS. Now he’s an Edinburgh cop who hides from his memories, misses promotions and ignores a series of crank letters. But as the ghoulish killings mount and the tabloid headlines scream, Rebus cannot stop the feverish shrieks from within his own mind. Because he isn’t just one cop trying to catch a killer, he’s the man who’s got all the pieces to the puzzle…

I found it interesting– for the first half of the book, I thought it was more of a character study than a mystery. That was OK, I like books that are primarily about characters. In the second half of the book, many seemingly extraneous details tied in to the murder, as the character picture and the mystery filled in together.

I enjoyed the character of Inspector Rebus, even if he isn’t someone I’d like if I met him.   He was a complex character,  one that I look forward to learning more about in future books.  The secondary characters were also interesting, for the most part.  There was more depth to his colleagues in the police department than in the depictions of his family members, which I think was an intriguing deliberate choice.

The mystery worked well enough.  For most of the book, it was presented as a way to get to know Rebus.  This isn’t the sort of book where you can solve the mystery before the police– there’s too much we as readers don’t know that contributes to the resolution.

As far as I could tell, Exit Music is either the last book of the series, or it marks a significant turning point.  Starting there and moving to the beginning was a curious experience.  Rebus is recognizably the same character, but he does change as the story continues.

I’ll continue reading this series.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2010 in books, reviews

 

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My January Reading

My reading for 2010 is off to a good (if not outstanding) start. My reviewing is running a little behind that pace!

So far
7 paper books
4 audio books
11 books total

On paper:

In audio:

  • Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
  • Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson
  • Borderline (Anna Pigeon Mysteries, #15) by Nevada Barr
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

Now I need to decide– am I going to review everything I read?  If so, I need to get my rear in gear.  If not, I need to figure out what criteria I use.  Obviously, I’ll write up any review books I read.   I probably want to comment on (if not review) all book club books. Beyond that, maybe it will just be my whims… What should I take into account in deciding?

Coming up, I have Love Walked In by Marisa de Los Santos (which I’m really looking forward to) for my book club L, Loving Frank by Nancy Horan (which I’m quite curious about) for my book club M, and Dream House by Valerie Laken (which really sounds intriguing) for a TLC book tour.

I hope you had a good reading month in January, and than February is even better!

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2010 in books, summary

 

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