Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Case of the Great Granny by Thomas Pisano

A little over a year ago, it was suggested to me that as a writer/reviewer, I read books differently than the average reader.  I understood that to some level, although of course I had to argue it.  What fun is life without  a little adversity?  Right now though, I have to admit that I was wrong.  Writing and reviewing has completely changed how I read books and I didn't realize just how much until I read this one.  Thank you, Mr. Pisano!  You've given me the chance to be just a reader instead of a critiquer!

In this book, we start off with Detective Daggers and his new partner as they are called to the scene of a crime.  Mrs. Hoover has been triple murdered and it's up to them to figure out the reason and the rhyme.  With an entire cast of possible suspects and an old lady that was more spry than I am, it's a good time waiting to happen.

I'm throwing all of my usual reviewing skills out of the window on this one.  Before the book even begins, Pisano instructs us on his purpose of writing.  There are no hidden meanings.  This book will not change your life.  It will not inspire you to be better.  It will not teach you a darn thing!  Pisano's entire purpose for writing this book is pure entertainment.  Had the preface not stated his purpose, I probably would have ripped this book to shreds.  Sorry, T!  From a reviewer's perspective, I could easily have found soooooo (notice all the o's?) many problems with this book, beginning with editing (which you all know is a pet peeve!).  Since I was given permission, however, I just shut down a part of brain and sat back and enjoyed the ride.  The story is very Sam Spade/CSI/Days of Our Lives.  I had a blast reading it!  I think it's the most fun I've had reading a book in a long time.  I'm not going to lie and say it's literature or that there aren't better books out there.  I will say that if you can let go and just enjoy it, it feels like pinning on a badge and being cop for a day.  For those cops of you out there, it feels like a day off, watching somebody else tell off your entire squad for you.  Of course that's just assumption, since I'm pretty far off from being a police officer.

Overall, as long as you can let go and just enjoy the read, it's great.  I could easily have done without the gratuitous sex, but I'm sure alot of the male readers out there will enjoy it.  Not that women don't enjoy sex, but it's definitely written from a male's fantasy mind.  Also, there's a notice in the book that it is NOT for anyone other than an adult.  It does get explicit in some areas.  I strongly suggest this book for those women out there who want to get your husband to read and can't find a book he'll start with.  Sex, gore, prostitutes, secret plots, buttloads of money, alot of swearing...everything the non-reading honey might want!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Flirting With Forever by Gwyn Cready

While searching Amazon, Campbell Stratford clicks a book link that whisks her back in time to the seventeenth century.  Being an art historian and landing smack dab in the middle of one famous painters home, she sinks right into her surroundings without trouble.  Since she's up for the directorship, she decides to use this time to gather some dirt for a fictography she's working on of another painter of the time.  She believes this fictography will ensure her promotion. 

Peter Lely is stuck in the afterlife and waiting for himself to be reborn into his new life.  When the guild comes to him with a request, he reluctantly agrees.  Someone is traveling through time and will write a tell-all book that gives away many of the guild's secrets.  Peter's job is to stop the author before all is lost.

This is just the beginning!  I had so much fun reading this book!  I have to admit that at the beginning of the book I was a bit lost due to all the art jargon and the guild information, but it didn't take me long at all to get up to speed.  Once I'd hit that stage, this was one of those great books that you just can't put down.  I found myself sucked right in, eager to see where we'd end up next. 

The time travel portions of the book are fascinating and well crafted.  Each era is detailed without being bogged down.  Actually, thinking about it, the thing I most enjoyed about this book were the details.  Usually a writer will paint a picture with words, using them all as a grouping to create their scene in your head.  Gwyn does that, but she takes it a step further.  She also throws in quirky details that make the story  more alive and entertaining.  For example, when she's whisked away, Orange Crush is spewed around her office.  We don't just see the mess the whirlwind left, we see Orange Crush covering every surface and an empty, abused can laying on the floor in our minds.  Well, in my mind anyway.  Gwyn has a knack for taking one tiny detail and changing the entire nuance of the scene.

I also found myself giggling over Gwyn's use of pop culture.  'Countess Inigo Montoya' indeed :D  She has a good point though.  If you ever find yourself in another century, there's absolutely no reason not to pretend you're married to Antonio Banderas!

As always, I have a complaint!  Perhaps my heart has hardened.  Maybe my hormones have gone all wacky.  It's quite possible I've just been reading too much drama and mystery.  The sex and romance in this book really annoyed me.  I know, I know.  It's a romance book!  What did I expect?  Well, I expected sex and romance.  The scenes are pretty tasteful and don't even come close to bordering on erotic.  The story is sweet yet passionate.  I think the reason it annoyed me is that I kept finding myself so intrigued with the rest of the storyline that when the romance parts came up, it drew my attention away from where I wanted to be.  I wanted to find out what was going to happen with the Evil Anastasia or Jacket The Loser.  I wanted to find out how they were going to fix the newest mess they were in.  Being forced to take a few minutes to acknowledge the budding and growing relationship took me away from that.  That being said, anybody reading this book strictly for the romance won't be disappointed.  There really is nothing wrong with it other than the fact that I wasn't personally in the mood for it. 

This is a seriously great read.  If you're not in the mood for romance, skip those portions.  You have page control!  If you are in the mood for romance, savor every word!  This book is difficult to put down and I'm actually intrigued enough to go hunting more of Gwyn's books and see if the others are just as good.  Great job, Gwyn!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Donner the Western Dragon by Suzanne Davis Marion

Though I love reviewing children's books, being summer I have an overabundance of children running around and thought it might be great fun to let them review it.  Firstly, they were really excited to have a chance to help out with 'Aunt Maymay's reviews' :)  Secondly, they're much better judges of what children enjoy than I am :)  Here is what my unprofessional critics had to say:

Ashlee (Age 5) :  This book is pretty good.  I love every page.  All of the stuff in it is pretty cool.

Bre (Age 9) : The balloons that spell out 'Donner' are pretty cool!  It's pretty awesome!  I liked when Donner said he was handsome at the beginning.  The pictures are pretty cool.  I learned that you can be a hero by helping.

Griff (Age 11) : From when kids can first read books until maybe 9, kids will love this book.  I'm a couple years too old for it and didn't learn anything.  The pictures were pretty good.  It took a little while to read so it didn't go by too fast.

Overall, it seems that at least the kids agree on the illustrations and I can see why.  They're bright and colorful without being too childlike.  Technically this would be a chapter book since it has chapters, but it's easily readable for younger children.  None of the words are too difficult and though there are quite a few words per page, it's not enough that it would deter a child.  All three of the children have informed me that they believe they deserve to keep the book as their 'payment' for reviewing :)  In my opinion, that makes this book a complete success :)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Power of Vitamin D by Sarfraz Zaidi, MD

I have to admit that I requested to review this book on a whim.  To be honest, I don't review enough nonfiction and this one didn't sound too horribly boring.  With the health revolution that's been going on the past few years, I was at least hoping to find something useful to say once I'd read the book.  I so love it when I'm wrong!!!

I love this book!  It's knowledgeable yet written in a way that even the most rudimentary of readers will be able to understand.  There are case studies included.  Basically, it just makes sense.  After reading the history of Vitamin D and learning what it actually is, how we obtain it and the uses it has in our body, I have to admit that I'm hooked.  Even if you aren't a health nut this book has something for you.  The information contained within is actually interesting.  The boring book I was expecting just wasn't here.  It didn't take me much time at all to breeze right through this book.  Surprisingly, I found it more difficult to put down than several of the fiction books I've read lately.  I have to admit, I'm a fiction junkie.  However, if all nonfiction books were this interesting, I'd definitely read alot more of them.

This book actually had a bit more impact on me than it might some readers.  I found that several of the diseases that can be caused by low vitamin D levels are actually diseases that are prevalent in my family.  Taking into account where we live and our lifestyles, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that my entire family could suffer from vitamin D deficiency. 

Yes, I can read your thoughts.  This is like those commercials where you listen to all of the symptoms, realize you have them all, and you're probably dieing of testicular cancer (and you're a female!), and that could possibly be the case.  I intend to find out.  Starting next week I'm going to be putting Dr. Zaidi's theories into practice and seeing just how well they serve me.  I've suffered (and I do mean suffered!)  from psoriasis since the age of 6.  I'll keep everything else the same as far as my lifestyle goes, but I'm going to attempt to intake the 'proper' amount of vitamin D daily and see what happens.  I'll then come back and comment on here in a few weeks and we'll see if it makes any difference in my life at all.  Of course, I'll be under my doctors care because anything less would be irresponsible.  If Dr. Zaidi's theories are correct, as his research indicates, this could mean a medical breakthrough for those of us out there with popular health issues that don't want to be heavily medicated the rest of our lives.

One last note:  Vitamin D is not a vitamin!!!  It's a hormone!  I love when I read a book and actually learn something!

H by Barbara Dinerman

After being infected with herpes, Joan Halprin, a single woman in her mid-thiries, feels untouchable.  She spent her youth enjoying worldly experiences in New York and other cities, but now it's time to start a serious career as a copywriter for a Fort Lauderdale advertising agency.  Despite feeling like a pariah in her personal life, Joan is anxious to prove herself professionally.

Fort Lauderdale in the 1980's is experiencing a real estate boom.  Joan's parents have moved from Boston to a retirement community in the area, and her brother and his thrifty wife have settled nearby.  But even with the presence of her family, Joan feels isolated with her 'H' problem, despite knowing that one in four women, and one in five men, are similarly afflicted.

Her irrascible, rotund new boss certainly isn't helping her regain her self-esteem.  But with her irrespressible humor, Joan concots an extraordinary solution to most of what ails her.  Will this creative project work?  (From the back of the book)

I've found that when I'm not sure how to describe a book, I always succumb to posting the blurb on the back of the book.  I hate doing this, but sometimes you just don't have the right words to explain what's going on in the book.  Plus, most books are open to interpretation and often I've found that the blurb on the back of the book isn't what I took away from it at all.  In this case, I posted the blurb of the book because I just couldn't find any other way to explain it.

Barbara's writing style is the only thing that saved this book.  The characters are forgettable.  You don't like them or hate them.  They're just lifeless and there.  The plot is....well.....missing.  At the end of the book, I can't figure out why I read it.  I took absolutely nothing away from it and I don't feel like I was told a story.  I feel more like I walked in in the middle of a movie and watched ten minutes of it before walking back out again.  I don't feel fulfilled.  Of course, someone with 'H' will probably identify much more closely with the character of Joan and possibly get more out of the book than I did.  This book has been billed as Joan's search for her identity, but she doesn't find it nor does she appear to have lost it.  I'm just all out confused by this book.  I don't understand the point.  Yes, I'm rambling but I tend to do that when I'm confused.

Having all the negative stuff out of the way, I do think Barbara has some real talent as a writer.  Her flow and description is the only thing that kept forcing me to pick this book back up.  With her love for flamboyant characters, I'd love to see her take Joao and create a story around him.  Of all the characters, this is the one she seemed to show the most love for and have the most interest in.  I think Barbara has some amazing creativity tucked in her brain but sadly this book doesn't show it.  I can't wait to see how she progresses as a fiction author.

Hazardous To My Health by Marcia N. Hill

Claude Hall was probably most well known for his imaging as the third 'Marlboro Man'.  He also appeared in television shows such as The Rifleman and Bonanza.  Some of his movie credits include State Fair and Viva Las Vegas.  This book is his ex-wife Marcia's account of their time together from the time she first met Claude to the last time she looked him up on the internet.

Though I had no idea who Claude Hall was, being a child in the 80's, I definitely knew who the Marlboro Man was.  As I began reading Marcia's story, I found myself intrigued with the life she was living.  She was held prisoner against her will and did her best to keep herself and her children as safe as possible.  It's a quick and interesting read that I'm sure most people will be thrilled with.  It's definitely a great beach read, given how quickly and enthusiastically you can read it.

I did happen to have one question after reading the book and I'm hoping Marcia will be willing to stop by and answer it.  Marcia's first husband, Bill, who is also the father of the the children seems to step out of the book for most of Marcia's time with Claude.  I'm not saying Bill's a bad guy.  I've never met him and Marcia doesn't have anything negative to say about him.  I just don't understand it though.  Bill obviously knew that Marcia was in an abusive relationship and that his children were in danger.   It's made quite clear that Claude had his hooks in the police.  Claude also had some pretty powerful enemies.  Why wouldn't Bill do everything in his power to get his children out of the situation they were in?  If he wasn't willing to go to the police, why didn't he go to one of Claude's enemies and ask for help?  I have to admit I'm not all that familiar with how mafia of any type works, so hopefully someone can shed some light on the subject for me. 

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All books (unless otherwise specified) belong to me already, have been borrowed, or are sent to me by the author, publisher or review company for review. I do not receive any monetary rewards for reviewing books. The opinions expressed in my reviews belong solely to me.