Category Archives: book review

Review: Breaking Bad 101 by Alan Sepinwall

Breaking Bad 101: The Complete Critical CompanionLooking back, I wish I could say I was on board with Breaking Bad from the beginning.

Lured by the potential of a former X-Files writer, I tuned into the first installment and let the first season stack up on my DVR – only to delete it when the DVR got full.

I didn’t quite connect with what Vince Gilligan and company were trying to do in season one. But with seasons two and three generating such a huge buzz, I decided to give the show another try. Like the product at the center of this show, I was hooked, binging all of season three in the weekend leading up to the debut of season four and then breathlessly waiting each new installment as they aired. Continue reading

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Audiobook Review: Fast Girl by Suzy Favor Hamilton

Fast Girl: A Life Spent Running from MadnessThe best DVD commentaries come when the participants have had an opportunity to perspective thank to the passage of time. It allows for a more honest assessment of what worked, what didn’t work and what could or should have done differently.

Listening to Suzy Favor Hamilton’s Fast Girl, I kept feeling like I wish she’d allowed a little more time to pass before penning (or in this case ghost-writing) her autobiography. Hamilton spends large chunks of the book focusing on the highs she got from first competitive running and later as a high-end escort in Las Vegas and very little (if any time) focusing on the lessons she learned from these experiences or the consequences and/or impact on her life and the lives of her family and friends. While the salacious details of her year as one of the top escorts in Vegas may sell a few books, I walked away from this book feeling like Hamilton left a lot of unexamined issues and questions on the table. Continue reading

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Review: Bless Her Heart by Sally Kilpatrick

Bless Her HeartPosey Love hates three little words. Every time someone says, “Bless your heart,” Posey sees red.

But who could blame her? Her life hasn’t exactly turned out the way she pictured it would. After a decade of marriage, Posey hoped to be raising a child with her pastor husband. Still aching each month as she hopes for a positive instead of a negative indicator on a pregnancy test, Posey finds her world turned upside down when her husband absconds with another woman and leaves her with a repossessed car and a pile of outstanding debt.

Moving back in with her mom, Posey decides that she’ll “give up” going to church for the Lenten season and follow her younger sister’s advice to experience each of the seven Deadly sins during those forty days. Continue reading

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Review: Never Alone by Romily Bernard

Never ApartHe steps back, steps back again. He can’t believe what I’m saying. Once, I might not have believed it, either. But the lie is the closest to the truth we’re going to get. We’re never going home. We Fall again and again, and every time it’s a little different, but it’s never right.

Grace is trapped in a loop that resets itself every five days. Despite her best efforts, she can’t find a way to escape the seemingly inevitable death of her boyfriend Ander at the hands of Finn.

Heaven knows she’s tried forty plus times now.

But landing in the latest loop, things feel different. Her twin brother Jem has returned, Ander has no memory of their previous Falls (he did in the first forty or so) and her family seems to be more functional. As Grace contemplates embracing the current Fall and staying in this set of events, she can’t shake off the feeling that there’s something she’s overlooking in trying to break the never-ending cycle of tragedy and death. Continue reading

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Review: Eleanor Olyphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely FineEleanor Oliphant may think she’s completely fine. But spend a few pages with her and you’ll find out that she’s not quite as fine as she thinks she is.

Eleanor wants for nothing physically. Her regular job provides a steady income that allows her to provide for the basic human necessities as well as a few extras. For example, enough vodka to pass the hours of her weekend until it’s time to go back to work again. She has her weekly conversations with her Mummy and she looks forward to certain documentary programs on the radio or television.

Yes, Eleanor is doing just fine, thank you.

Except she’s not really. Emotionally distant from herself and those around her (at one point, Eleanor points out that her foster child upbringing taught her to stop “wanting” things that weren’t vital to her survival), Eleanor has finally found the man of her dreams. He’s the singer for an up and coming band and while the two haven’t met, Eleanor just knows that once they meet, it will be love at first sight and things will start being more than just “fine.” Continue reading

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Review: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

The Upside of UnrequitedWhile Molly Pescan-Suso has experienced 26 crushes in her life, she’s rarely acted on them. Entering the summer before her senior year, Molly yearns to find the right person to share a first kiss with and possibly take things from being a crush to actually being her significant other.

Now, Molly has two possible new crushes on her radar — the popular guy Wil and the fantasy t-shirt wearing, Reed. Which one, if either, will Molly chose makes up most of the drama and teen angst of The Upside of Unrequited.

Becky Albertalli caught my attention last year with the funny, entertaining and thought-provoking Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda. And while Simon has an Easter egg cameo in this book, overall Upside ranks as one of the more disappointing stories I’ve read lately. Much of my frustration with the novel comes from its first-person narrator, Molly. Albertalli tries her best to make Molly self-deprecating about her lack of romantic experience, chalking a lot of it up to a lack of confidence because of her body type. Molly’s own self-image isn’t necessarily the most positive as she repeatedly refuses to believe that anyone else would find her attractive, despite there being signs from that two potential crushes might be interested in more than just being an unrequited object of her affection.

I get what Albertalli is trying to do with Molly and giving us the perspective of someone who is an outsider, looking in at what the “popular” kids (including her own twin sister) are doing. But it felt like Unrequited was getting a bit redundant and hitting all the expected romantic comedy touchstones for Molly instead of giving us an authentic journey for her. In the end, it feels only like Molly comes out of her shell because a boy likes her and not because she realizes that she has inherent worth as a person regardless of her external appearance.

Albertalli fills Upside with a diverse group of characters, many of whom feel one-dimensional. Too many of them feel like they’re summed up by one or two characteristics instead of being fully realized characters.

It all adds up to a disappointing sophomore effort by Albertalli. Maybe my expectations were too high for this one. But I can’t help but feel like this one had potential that it never quite lived up to.

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Review: Lie to Me by J.T. Ellison

Lie to MeWith Gone Girl casting a huge shadow across the literary world, it seems like we get a potential “next Gone Girl” hitting the shelves every week.

On the surface, J.T. Ellison’s Lie to Me could be classified as another book trying to be the “next Gone Girl.” But that would sell her new psychological thriller short.

Ethan and Sutton Montclair appear to have a perfect life. Successful writing careers, the nice house, a perfect marriage. But if you pull back the layers a bit, things aren’t quite as perfect as they seem. Sutton is being harassed by a book blogger with an ax to grind, Ethan’s got a severe case of writer’s block and their marriage is on shaky ground from Ethan’s one-night stand and the death of their infant son. When Sutton vanishes one morning, leaving a note for Ethan not to try to find her, suspicion begins to fall firmly on Ethan. The discovery of a burned body that could be Sutton only ratchets up the scrutiny from the authorities and the media.

Ellison does a nice job of layering the tension in Lie to Me. As she peels away the layers of the Montclair marriage, we find out that neither Ethan nor Sutton is quite as innocent or as sweet as they portray themselves to the outside world.

While most of the novel is third-person narration, Ellison includes the occasional chapter from the first-person perspective of the mastermind of things. Determining who is speaking and what their vendetta is against the Montclairs really drives much of the novel
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That is until we get the big reveal and things kind of go off the rails a bit.

I won’t ruin anything for anyone. But I can honestly say the first two-thirds of this novel had me gripped, intrigued and not able to turn the pages fast enough to see what development would come next. And then we get to the big reveal and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes a bit. I wanted to make the jump with Ellison, but I just couldn’t.

That’s not to say that Lie to Me isn’t a good novel. It is very good. It’s just not a great one. And that’s a shame because, as I said, the first two-thirds of it are completely compelling.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received an ARC of this book as part of the Amazon Vine Program.

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