Sunday, March 18, 2012

Book Review: Millie's Fling

Author: Jill Mansell 
Title: Millie’s Fling
Description: Millie lives with her friend Heather who has a nice boyfriend and a crush on Lucas. Mille meets famous author Orla (are there really names like that in England?), who wants to write a book about a normal person’s life, and Millie is that perfectly normal person. Millie meets a widower who is not quite ready to get back into the dating scene.  Millie has a nasty job and a nasty mom. Orla has a nasty spouse. All of these ingredients combine in various ways throughout this over-long novel.
Review source: free on kindle
Plot: too much. I can’t empathize with someone who sings gorilla telegrams. The coincidences are way too coincidental.
Characters: Didn’t like any of ‘em. The women were too cutesy. The men were either perfect, gay (that is, perfect and completely unavailable), or complete cads.
Writing style: there’s this British style that I really don’t like. It’s hard to pin down what exactly about it I hate. It’s too “madcap.” Also contrived, labored, too many plates spinning. And tries too hard to be funny. Sophie Kinsella pulled it off, though, in her latest, that I reviewed not too long ago. So that’s it when it works, this book is it when it doesn’t quite.
Audience: chick lit
Wrap-up: Sorry, it’s a miss for me. 2/5*

I'm claiming this book for three reading challenges: the new author challenge (17/15), the why buy the cow challenge, and the unread books challenge. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Book Review: Chocolat

Author: Joanne Harris 
Title: Chocolat
Description: The wind blows Viane and her six year-old daughter, Anouk, to a small, backward French village on Mardi Gras. Unapologetically pagan, Viane opens a chocolate shop across the plaza from the church, firing the opening salvo of a war between her and the village priest for the loyalty of the villagers. His austerity contrasts with her indulgence of the senses; both recognize the other as a threat and vow to come out on top. The village is visited by gypsies, more traditional enemies of the church; meanwhile, Viane plans a chocolate festival for Easter.
Plot: The central conflict, between Viane and the priest, plays out in the lives of a young wife, an older widow, a schoolboy, a man who loves his dog, and others. The narration alternates between the points of view of the priest and Viane. Unfortunately, only one of them is not a caricature. The tired cliché of the Church as the enemy of everything good is getting a little old.
Characters: I enjoyed the characters in this book except for the character of the priest, who, as I mentioned, is such a caricature as to be completely contemptible. How can it be that in so much fiction/media everyone can have a few redeeming features except for those who ally themselves with the church (an adulterer, an arsonist, a wife-beater, etc.)?
Writing style:  Magic realism.
Audience: Literary fiction. It’s short, a quick and easy read. I’d be surprised if men loved this book.
Wrap-up: This is one of the very few books that I enjoyed even though I had already seen the movie. The book was different enough to make it a worthy read in spite of my knowing the basic bones of the story already. I’ve already mentioned my main problem with the book, the heavy-handed portrayal of organized religion. It’s funny, though, how I can really enjoy reading a book even when I disagree with its message. (Though those of you who know me know that I'm not always the world's biggest fan of organized religion either!) Can’t we all just get along? Reading experience: 4/5*. What the book seems to be about 2/5*.
There was a sequel published not too long ago about Viane's daughter. I'll pick it up sometime...

I had seen the movie before I read the book (you know if you read this blog that I don't like to do that). In this case, the book was different enough from the movie that they didn't spoil one another. 

I'm claiming this book for two reading challenges: the new author challenge (16/15) and the unread books challenge.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Book Review: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Author: Ken Kesey
Title: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Description: I think everyone in the world knows the story from the movie. I have to admit that it has probably been thirty years or more since I saw the movie (the last thing I like Jack Nicholson in, by the way), so I can’t judge accurately how close the movie follows the book, though it was pretty close to what I remember. For the two folks who haven’t seen the movie, the book is about a mental hospital.
Review source: It was one of my Penguin prize books.
Plot: The plot revolves around the fight for control of the ward. The Big Nurse has her thumb quite firmly on all of the patients until Randle McMurphy shows up.
Characters: Kesey nails the main characters (McMurphy, the Big Nurse, and Chief Bromden, the narrator) perfectly. There are plenty of colorful secondary characters.
Writing style: Since the book is narrated by a mental patient, the narration isn’t always straightforward, but Kesey manages to both keep the reader involved in the narrative and convince the reader that the narrator is indeed quite mentally ill. Not only that, but he even manages to show how Chief evolves throughout the novel because of his contact with McMurphy.
Audience: This is literary fiction, but anyone who has seen the movie would probably enjoy the novel.
Wrap-up: The reason that it was in the Penguin collection in the first place is that it’s a classic. Probably one that everyone should read at some point. 3/5*

I'm claiming this book for two reading challenges: the new author challenge (15/15) and the unread books challenge.