Monday, June 24, 2013

Dark Places

This is the first novel I have read by Gillian Flynn and at the moment I am not certain that I will be reading a second one. There were too many things about the composition and storyline that bothered me that made it a slow read.

First off, one of my pet peeves is when the point of view changes throughout the story. The whole plot is mostly told through the eyes of Libby, a survivor of her family's murder from 25 years ago, and is told through first person. It is actually rather difficult to write in first person because you only see what is going on through one person's observations, etc.. In this piece, Flynn would be writing through the eyes of Libby and then say that one of the other characters thought something. Unfortunately, that isn't plausible in first person. The other thing about the POV in this novel is that all the flash backs through the eyes of other individuals are in third person. Typically, you don't want to change POVs and that for me, a nit picky English major, was a deal breaker.

Secondly, the storyline had some interesting twists, but for the most part I felt that quite of bit of it was written for shock value. It seemed over done in some areas and in others, it fell very flat. I am also not really a big fan of distastefully done sex in any storyline and this novel seemed to have a great deal of that in it. In terms of the subject matter, I understand the stereotype goes along with slasher heavy metal, drugs, and sex, but again, it felt more like it was written for shock value than anything else.

Thirdly, the main character was written in such a way that I didn't feel anything for her. Flynn started the novel out with a very acidic and aggressive view point of the character, which may have been intentional, but it turned me off almost immediately. It really took everything that I had to finish the novel and halfway through, I stopped caring about the characters in the storyline altogether.

However, through all the negative issues I had with the novel, Flynn does do a very good job at developing some of the main characters. As much as I disliked Libby, I had a clear picture of what she was like as a person, how she would behave in public, and how the tragedy in her past had shaped her. Flynn also was able to write the storyline at a decent pace, but since I was not invested in the story as much as I wanted to be, it was a slower read for me.

I do think that Flynn is a decent writer, but perhaps I should have started with her first novel first before reading this. For me, I didn't really enjoy this novel as much as I was hoping and if I can't connect to at least one of the characters in the plot, the whole book falls flat and is not enjoyable.

Overall, if you are into a storyline that doesn't follow conventional point of views, has some extremely dark topics, and don't mind a acerbic main character, than this novel is for you. If you are someone like me that needs a connection to at least one character within all the darkness, than this novel is not for you.

Rating: 2 stars out of 5

This book was purchased at a local bookstore; I was not asked to write a review on this book.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How I Slept My Way to the Middle: Secrets and Stories From Stage, Screen, and Interwebs

Normally I would not pick up an autobiography/memoir, but I love Kevin Pollak and could not resist. This book did not disappoint and I found myself laughing out loud at several passages. I think what I liked most about this book is that it was written in a way that mirrored normal conversation. What I mean by that, is that one story leads to a different story that leads to a different story, but somehow everything goes back full circle to what was being talked about in the first story. Did you follow that? If you ever have a conversation with me and my friends, that is exactly what happens.

The other thing I loved about this book was that it showed a personal side to some of the actors that Pollak had a chance to work with. Yes, some other reviewers along with Pollak himself calls it "name dropping", but it is a book about working within the acting community. How would you write a book about that subject if you didn't dish a little on the stars you got to work with.

There are several stories that I loved in this book. The first one is when Pollak talks about working with Walter Matthau. He has always reminded me of my grandfather in the way that he looks. However, having read the memoir, I now know that he did not TALK like my grandfather in any way! There is a passage about what he said to Sophia Loren during the table script read that had me in stitches along with another incidence involving Matthau and Fred Astaire. The second one has to deal with one of my favorite movies of all time "The Usual Suspects". I was waiting for the passage on that and especially loved when Pollak talked about the line-up scene. It is my favorite scene in the movie, one of which I can watch over and over again and still laugh so hard that I am crying.

I don't want to give away any spoilers, so I am going to keep this vague in case anyone else would like to read it. However, I will say that there is a great deal of language in it for those of you who would like to keep it clean and sometimes the style of writing may irritate those of you who do not like talking in circles. For me, I thoroughly enjoyed the book just like I enjoy Pollak's stand-up specials. If I knew how to talk like Christopher Walken I would, but since I don't I will leave it to Pollak to dazzle me with.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I got this copy of the book from my local library; I was not asked to do a review on it.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Shadow of the Wind

Synopsis: Within the dark city walls of Barcelona 1945, a young boy and his mourning antiquarian book seller father visit a secret book cemetery. Daniel finds his first book, a mystery called "The Shadow of the Wind" by an obscure author named Julian Carax. Becoming obsessed with the novel, he tries to find out more about the author only to learn that all the copies of his books have been mysteriously burned and that he may have the very last copy in existence. Soon it is apparent that his innocent quest has brought one of Barcelona's darkest kept secrets into the light exposing bringing forth a story filled with madness, murder, and forbidden love.

Review: This was a book I picked up several times and put back down before buying. It was an author I had not read before, but there was something about the title and the cover art that was intriguing. The review blurb on the inside cover by Stephen King was the clincher for me and I bought it. Once I started reading it, it was apparent why it got such amazing reviews. I couldn't put it down. Even if I knew I only had 2 minutes of time, I would pull the book out of my bag and read until that very last second of free time.

Carlos Ruiz Zafon was an outstanding storyteller and I am definitely going to read his other novels. He was masterful at weaving a story through the eyes of a young boy whose life mirrors the mysterious author Julian Carax's life. You found yourself wondering if Daniel will take the same road traveled that led Julian to disappear into the shadows of Barcelona or if he will somehow be able to break free of this self torment and keep history from repeating again.

What was so great about this book was that it read like a cinematic noir novel of the time of Alexander Dumas. Exquisite details filled the pages and I felt like I was actually in Barcelona during the 1940's. I was breathing the air, tasting the food, seeing the smoky cobble streets, and feeling the same intense desires to find answers to an old mystery. The plot was expertly constructed with the climax in just the right place and followed a pace that kept me wanting to read it all in one night if I could. All the characters I felt like I knew them and had a clear picture of what they looked like. Just absolutely breathtaking as it's stories unfolded before my eyes.

If I was to criticize anything about this book, it would be that the translation of the novel from Spanish into English didn't always happen smoothly leaving some words in the wrong grammatical order. However, that happened so rarely that it did not take me out of the story or kept it from being enjoyable.

I would definitely recommend reading this book if you like noir, mystery fiction. It is an amazing read. There really isn't anything else I can say, but an absolutely amazing read.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I bought this book at a local bookstore; I was not asked to do a review on this book.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Order of the Dimensions

Synopsis: "When Jane Kremowski first began her graduate studies in physics at Madison State University in Wisconsin, little did she know where her work would take her. Now, she is embroiled in a multitude of dimensions all leading to different outcomes. She and her colleagues therefore must act wisely in order to take and keep away the Order of Dimension from falling into the wrong hands for the sake of her loved ones." (Image taken from and synopsis is taken from the back cover of the book).

Review: The author of this book, Irene Helenowski, contacted me through Book Blogs and asked me if I would be interested in doing a review of this book. Young Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy is not normally what I read, but I was intrigued by the subject matter of her book and agreed to read/review it.

Overall, I thought that the book was very interesting with the fact that you would be able to jump into different dimensions of time. However, the book moved very quickly and these "jumps" were not always easy to follow or written about in detail. I found myself rereading a little here and there trying to determine if the characters had "jumped" or if they were still in the dimension they were currently just in. The means of transportation was not very well explained either and I had to use a bit of imagination to mentally picture what it looked like and how it worked.

I also thought that the characters needed a little more fleshing out/development. Even after I finished the book, I was still not sure what the main characters looked like exactly. I think that the author gave a good and brief introduction as to what types of people each one would be, but it didn't always come through. There are several scenarios in the book that I felt were a little unbelievable due to their reactions or lack there of to the peril they found themselves in.

For the plot, I thought it was a good baseline for what the story could eventually become. It has several climax sequences and moves forward throughout the piece. However, I thought that the pace was very fast and things got overlooked. There was too much dialogue and not enough detail filled in between these conversations. I never was able to get a clear concrete image of the setting that the characters were in or their emotional attachment, etc. since the very next page would be yet another dimension/scene.

In closing, I think that the subject matter is a good premise for a book, but feels incomplete. There were some other editing issues that I had with the book, but that is just the nit picky English major in me complaining. The author has mentioned that the new editions do not have these typos in them and she is currently working on a sequel to this book.

"The Order of the Dimensions" would be very suitable for the young adult readers that the author has written it for. However, if you are someone like me that needs to know more details and how certain mechanics of the dimension jumper contraction works, then this book will not be for you. In the end it was a very pleasant read. I do hope that the author continues writing and that her young readers will become that much more interested in the sciences.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

I was given a copy of the book by the author to review for free; I was not paid to do a review of this book.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Devlin Diary

Synopsis: A novel that combines two storylines between London 1672 and Cambridge 2008 with murder and mystery. Hannah, a woman doctor during Charles II reign in London, is unwillingly brought into a mystery that involves the violent murders of several men high within the political good graces of the King's court. Centuries later, Hannah's personal diary is found by another strong woman guest teaching at Trinity College. Claire finds herself in a similar situation when one of her colleagues is found dead with this seventeenth-century diary being the key to finding out who the murderer is. While sifting through all the records, Claire and fellow historian Andrew bring into light secrets that have been hidden for centuries in London's dark past. Will their findings change history forever and help them find the murderer?

Review: I have not read Christi Phillips work before and was happily surprised by how much I did like this book. However, one of the problems I had with this book was that it went back and forth between present day Cambridge and London in the 1670's. For me, I think that I would have enjoyed this book more if there was just the one storyline in London being written about and explored. Since I know more about the present time, I am always fascinated by historical fiction books and enjoy being transported to another time.

Christi Phillips does seem to be a very competent writer and this book was very well written, but it was a slower read for me. There was quite a bit of information given on the history of Charles II, which is fine, but I think I would have liked to experience it as a reader instead of just being told about it like at a history lecture. That made it very difficult for me to become invested in the story and to see it enfold in my mind. With the constant back in forth, I was ripped from one storyline to another and I had a hard time getting back that cinematic mental unfolding with each time change.

Overall, I thought that the book was good. If you don't mind going back and forth between two different storylines, then this book is for you. There were some things that were rather predictable and using a diary found in the uncatalogued shelves of an old English library is not very original. However, with the strong female leads and wonderfully elegant writing, those things could be overlooked enough for the novel to be enjoyable.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This book was purchased at a local bookstore; I was not asked to review it.

Sunday, June 2, 2013


Synopsis: Professor Robert Langdon awakes in a hospital in Italy with retrograde amnesia and only moments later realizes that someone is trying to kill him. After barely escaping the hospital with the help of an attractive young doctor, he tries to retrace his steps only to realize that world is about to be changed forever and time is running out. Dante's "Inferno" is the key to all the riddles left behind by a brilliant madman, but will he be able to figure them out before the deadline?

Review: I've been trying to stay away from the mainstream authors and read some authors I have never heard of, but I couldn't resist buying this book. Call it a guilty pleasure.

What I liked the most about this book was all the additional information that was given in it. Several other reviews I've read thought that it made it a slower read, but I did not. Since I have never been to Italy, all the additional information helped me to visualize the old cobble streets, small alleyways, and other cultural aspects that I may have not been able to pick up on otherwise. This helped me to transport myself into the book, which I like.

Something that made this book a little slow of a read, for me at least, was the constant flash backs throughout. Even though I do feel that some of them were significant, there were several that could have been cut making the read a little smoother. There was one that confused me a little and I had to go back to reread it. However, it was late and it could just have been my tired eyes playing tricks on me.

Overall, I thought that this was a fairly decent book. It had a cinematic quality to it that let you see it enfold before your mind's eye, which I like. It would be very hard to give you any specifics about the book without spoiling it, so I will only say this: If you like books with quite a bit of cultural/setting detail, literary references, and artistic symbolism then this book is for you. If all of those things are not your cup of tea, skip the book and wait to see it if they turn it into a movie.

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

This book was purchased at a local bookstore; I was not asked to write a review on it.