Tag Archives: book reviews

Review: The Collector by John Fowles

I was recently invited to write a guest review for Pattinase’s blog feature ‘Friday’s Forgotten Books’.  I selected John Fowles’s 1963 debut novel The Collector.  If you’ve never read this novel, it really is a forgotten classic–maybe even a forerunner of the psycho-thriller genre– but often overshadowed by Fowles’s later novel ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’.

Take a peek: Pattinase’s ‘Friday’s Forgotten Books’.       

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Books and Beyond: What else or where else do you review?

One of my favorite aspects of book blogging is writing book reviews.  Maybe it speaks to my background as an educator–constantly evaluating and analyzing.  Whatever it is, I love to write reviews and with the advent of the internet have gone beyond reviewing solely books.  In addition to posting my  reviews here, I also submit them to Amazon.com.

Last year I joined Trip Advisor (nat-n-ant) and have since published a few reviews of the hundreds of places we’ve traveled to during our annual summer road trips.  Though Trip Advisor has been recently criticized for review integrity, I love the site and have found many wonderful places to visit and restaurants to try that I might have otherwise missed.  I have notes on so many great places (pictures, too!) and fully intend to post more reviews when I have some free time.   

I also write short book reviews and recommendations for my local library.  Brevity is the key to those mini-reviews–written on an index card–something that can be elusive to a chatterbox such as myself!  I love suggesting great books to other people and recently got some great feedback from a teen volunteer who read Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty at my recommendation.  She told me that she loved the book and read the remaining books in the series to find out what happened to the characters.

At restaurants, I always fill out comment cards complimenting on the good and noting the not-so-good.  When given constructively, feedback is a valuable tool for any company that deals with the public.

So, how about you?  Are you a reviewer of books or other things on sites beyond your blog?  Do you write for Yelp! or some of the others that offer public opinion?

Review: The Plight of the Darcy Brothers by Marsha Altman

darcyTitle: The Plight of the Darcy Brothers

Author: Marsha Altman

Genre/Pages: Regency Romance/368

Publication: Sourcebooks; August 1, 2009

Rating: 3.5 BOOKMARKS

 

Second in a series, The Plight of the Darcy Brothers finds Fitzwilliam Darcy making hasty travel plans to the Continent to save yet another Bennet daughter from scandal.

It’s been an unintentionally (though enjoyable) Austen-esque summer here at Chez Book, Line, and Sinker. In addition to Altman’s terrific sequel, I’ve been (slowly!) working my way through the Spanish version of  Pride and Prejudice and finished Prada and Prejudice, at the recommendation of another blogger.  

part of my 'on the nightstand' stack

part of my 'on the nightstand' stack

It seems that Jane Austen fans can be divided into roughly two camps: the purists and the rest of us.  Austen purists may struggle with contemporary authors serializing Pride and Prejudice (or the other novels), but I think that if the author does his or her research and tells a solid story, these sequels can find success and have a place in the literary world.  (Take my poll at the end of this review and tell me how you feel about serializing classics!)

Marsha Altman is one such author, creating a realistic continuation of Pride and Prejudice while seamlessly incorporating new characters without detracting from the original story.  The Plight of the Darcy Brothers is the second installment in her continuing series and though I haven’t read the first book, had no difficulty following this story.

The novel follows Darcy and Elizabeth as they travel to the Continent, Italy specifically, in an effort to save the reputation of yet another Bennet sister.  Along the way, Darcy comes to learn several shocking things about his father and the Darcy family.  As they travel on, Darcy wrestles with  internal conflict, trying to come to terms with what he’s discovered.

Altman’s skillful use of narration helps the reader understand what motivates each character.  Told in the third-person omniscient, we can see into the minds of the majority of characters and it gives the story greater depth and authenticity.  Austen herself also wrote in this narrative style.

Altman doesn’t skimp on details and fills readers in on all the characters from the original novel.  The subplots keep the story moving and it’s a quick and entertaining read.  I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and have plans to read the first book shortly.  Readers who can’t get enough of Pride and Prejudice should give Marsha Altman’s series a whirl. 

Thanks to Danielle at Sourcebooks for this review copy!

Book Review Calendar: Do You Have One?

Here at Book, Line, and Sinker, I make a valiant attempt to review four or five books each month.  My review books come from a variety of sources and to help me keep on track, I started using a calendar. (So high-tech, right?  Are you disappointed!?!) 

Now don’t think for a red-hot minute that I’m using any of the electronic calendars available at my fingertips.  Nope, it’s a good old fashioned Sharpie marker and paper calendar for this technical savant.

cal

Yes, it’s true.  This is an actual photograph of book review schedule for May and June 2009, complete with scribble-outs and various notes on a camera I wanted for my birthday. 

My last post had something to do with guilt over TBRs and one blogger, SuziQ Oregon, amused me to no end with her comment about her TBR Spreadsheet.  It sounds way more organized than my feeble attempt to keep things straight over here.  

So, how do you keep your book reviews organized, or do you bother?  If you commit to reviewing books for publishers, publicists, or authors, do you just jot it down on your hand or do you have a fancy spreadsheet?  Spill the beans!

A Pile of Guilt: Do you fret over your TBRs?

Forgive me bloggers, for I have sinned.  The cause of the recent rainy weather is my TBR pile–it’s BLOCKING the sun, preventing it from shining. 

In an act of desperation, I recently moved my TBR pile from my desk, where it was taking up prime real estate, to a dark corner of my office, out of view.  Why did I do this?  Simple.  The guilt over the leaning tower of TBRs was eating away at me, gnawing on me each time I plopped into my chair.  I tried rearranging and restacking them, to no avail.  They didn’t go away or look less daunting, so I banished them to the corner.

How did I find myself in such a conundrum?  Way back in February, at my request, a book blogging friend sent me a box of books as I prepared to launch Book, Line, and Sinker.  I wanted to have some books to review and feared I wouldn’t have enough material.  This kind blogger sent me a box of 20 books and I was overjoyed.  I pawed through the box, reading dust jackets and flipping through pages.

I picked out a book and blazed through it.  And then I started jotting down other bloggers’ suggestions for books and I even started getting review copies from some publishers and authors.  And the 19 books began to collect dust because I was reading everything else first!  Even though the blogger has told me repeatedly that it’s no big deal, I still feel terrible!  

Then, as if I didn’t have enough stuff to do, I created an insane challenge in which I thought I’d read 30 books this summer.  So far, I’ve made my way through 6 (and want to KISS the person who suggested Gargoyle–it was UNBELIEVABLE).  I’m going to keep plugging away but will be content to finish all 30 by Labor Day 2010! 

So, the 19 books are still lurking in my TBR pile only now they’ve found themselves piled below 12 others that are lined up for reviews in August and September.  Will I ever get to them all?  I have a book review each week for the next 8 weeks but should be able to squeeze in some of the 19 between now and September. 

Are you guilty over your TBRs?  How do you handle it?!  I need an intervention or at least have to say a few Hail Marys to assuage my guilt!

Review: Two Years, No Rain by Shawn Klomparens

norain

Title: Two Years, No Rain

Author: Shawn Klomparens

Genre/Pages: Fiction/320

Publication: Delta Trade/Random House;  6/23/09

Rating: 3 BOOKMARKS

 

Weatherman-turned-children’s television host Andy Dunne has been living a literal and figurative 580-day drought, with no relief in sight.

Shawn Klomparens’s Two Years, No Rain, tells the story of Andy Dunne, a man in his early 30s who, to borrow one of his weather terms, is a ‘desiccated’ husk.  His personal life and job reporting weather for a satellite radio station parallel the parched weather and landscape of San Diego. 

Andy excels at repressing emotions and spends a good deal of the novel denying himself the right to the most basic and primal emotions.  He buries grief over personal loss, ignores the pain of his wife’s infidelities, stands idly by as their marriage disintegrates, and patently ignores his health.

Andy applies for and gets a job that propels him to television fame.  The job opens the door to a trip to Hong Kong and the unburdening of Andy’s guilt and regrets.  While on the island, a typhoon strikes and, ironically, the weatherman isn’t conscious to see a good part of it.

Relationships, loss, avoidance, regret, and infidelity are strong themes in this novel and each is weaved throughout.  Klomparens pens a realistic world for Andy with well-developed friends and family, though I thought the characterization of Andy’s love interest, Hillary, was a bit soft.  I learned more about his niece than I did about Hillary.  Their relationship was based mostly on hundreds of text messages and illicit late-night phone calls because of their respective marriages. 

After Andy’s marriage falls apart, Hillary’s marriage to Jason deteriorates.  It’s no coincidence that Hillary’s husband shares a name with Andy’s twin brother–Klomparens uses Hillary’s Jason as Andy’s foil–reflecting the unspoken competitive relationship that Andy and his twin shared. 

The novel is chock full of symbols and metaphors—stormy weather, withering plants that flourish with proper care and attention, the text messages between Andy and Hillary, dry weather, an empty house, ‘new’ and ‘old’; page has depth and more to offer than meets the eye.

Darkly humorous, I enjoyed several laughs during the novel.  Ultimately, Two Years, No Rainis really a quest on which Andy struggles to finds peace with his losses, regrets, career, and relationships–only then can the literal and figurative rain come.  This would be a great read for a book club and there’s a discussion guide on Klomparens’s website. 

Thanks to Lisa and Trish at TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this novel!

Book Blogs + Book Reviews=Book Sales?

As my book blog is poised to turn 6 months old, I’ve been reflecting on its purpose and potential.  People are visiting, reading, and commenting on my posts, but does that translate to book sales?  Do book blogs generate enough buzz to actually sell books? 

The book blogging community is such a supportive one, but are we reaching the masses?  Recently, I started posting my reviews on Amazon to reach a wider audience.  But is this enough?  Are their other avenues that I’m missing?

I read about 60 book blogs during the week.  In six months, I’ve read 13 books that were either reviewed or suggested by other bloggers (five of which were for my Summer Reading Challenge).   In total, I’ve been motivated to read eight books purely on bloggers’ reviews.  But my reading of these books didn’t generate new revenue for the authors because I  borrowed them from my local library.

I would love to know if book blogs, reviews, and tours have a quantifiable impact on book sales.  Do authors notice a spike in sales and interest if they market their books through blogs?  Do you think your blog (and book blogs in general) help sell books?  Inquiring minds want to know!