Thursday, April 28, 2016

Thought This Was Interesting!!

Rare Objects - Published 2016 (Harper)

The FitzOsbornes in Exile - Published 2011 (Knoft)

I just happened to be doing some browsing to unwind from work and its stressors when I came across this.  As I had just completed a review on Rare Objects yesterday, I thought it was interesting the cover pages were almost identical, but one was published in 2011 and the other in 2016.
Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Review: Rare Objects by Kathleen Tessaro

Rare Objects
by Kathleen Tessaro
Release Date: April 12th 2016
2016 Harper
ARC Edition; 400 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062357540
Genre: Fiction / Historical
Source: Review copy from TLC Book Tours

3.5 / 5 Stars

Maeve Fanning is a first generation Irish immigrant, born and raised among the poor, industrious Italian families of Boston’s North End by her widowed mother. Clever, capable, and as headstrong as her red hair suggests, she’s determined to better herself despite the overwhelming hardships of the Great Depression.

However, Maeve also has a dangerous fondness for strange men and bootleg gin—a rebellious appetite that soon finds her spiraling downward, leading a double life. When the strain proves too much, Maeve becomes an unwilling patient in a psychiatric hospital, where she strikes up a friendship with an enigmatic young woman, who, like Maeve, is unable or unwilling to control her un-lady-like desire for freedom.

Once out, Maeve faces starting over again. Armed with a bottle of bleach and a few white lies, she lands a job at an eccentric antiques shop catering to Boston’s wealthiest and most peculiar collectors. Run by an elusive English archeologist, the shop is a haven of the obscure and incredible, providing rare artifacts as well as unique access to the world of America’s social elite. While delivering a purchase to the wealthy Van der Laar family, Maeve is introduced to beautiful socialite Diana Van der Laar—only to discover she’s the young woman from the hospital.

Reunited with the charming but increasingly unstable Diana and pursued by her attractive brother James, Mae becomes more and more entwined with the Van der Laar family—a connection that pulls her into a world of moral ambiguity and deceit, and ultimately betrayal. Bewitched by their wealth and desperate to leave her past behind, Maeve is forced to unearth her true values and discover how far she’ll to go to reinvent herself.

My Thoughts
Rare Objects is set during the Great Depression, and follows Maeve Fanning as she deals with the ups and downs of life, of being independent, duirng this time period.  A first generation Irish immigrant, I enjoyed the struggles that May had as she searched for a job, dealt with her mother, associated with her friends, and tried to deal with the morals and values of this time.  May has had a lot of difficult moments in her life, and seemed like she led a bit of rebellious life when she was younger, but she could also be manipulative and a bit of a liar when it suited her purposes and her needs.  

First of all, the beginning of this novel was quite interesting and really drew me into the story.  May is quite the troubled character, leading a double-life, one of partying and drinking in New York while lying to her family and friends about what she was doing, even going so far as to miss her best friend's wedding to hide her activities.  As May meets various characters from her girlhood when she returns home, we learn quite a bit about her background, one that was rebellious enough that her friends' parents had cautioned them about being seen in public with her or even having her in their homes.  I found this quite fascinating, that dynamic mix of old-fashioned values with the new independence that women were trying to build for themselves, how slow a process it actually was for women.  Unfortunately, as May became involved with the Van der Laars, the story actually became a bit bogged down for me, and I actually found myself losing interest in it; there were simply too many threads wound together, many quite predictable, and the philosophical, social, and moral issues didn't help streamline the story.  To be honest, I found it hard to believe that someone like Diana Van der Laar would be allowed to even associate with someone like May. I definitely believed in the treatments Diana would have received once her 'issues' were perceived by her family as it would have reflected on the entire family and would not have been tolerated.  However, her dramatics wore on me after a while; I actually liked the stronger Diana who told May to get her life together and work out her issues.  That Diana was more interesting.

I really like the descriptions of the time period, and I did like the complexity of May's character.  While there were times when I could have shaken her, it was nice to see her grow up a little bit throughout the novel; at first, I really thought she was quite egocentric, believing herself the center of her universe, and I like how that was removed as she met her childhood friends again and had to apologize for her previous behaviour.  I did find it a bit of a stretch to imagine how May would have landed such an interesting job however, as it was the middle of the Depression and millions of people were looking for work.  

I actually found Mr. Winshaw to be one of the most intriguing character, if he was annoying at times, and I wish he had more of a story to tell.  I don't feel like the author was really able to get a fix on him and how he really fit into the story, and this did cause a bit of a problem for me.  

Rare Objects definitely has a lot to recommend it, and the many story lines by themselves, are intriguing, but I don't feel like everything came together at the end.  I didn't particularly like Maeve at the beginning of the novel, and although she did transform to some extent, I'm not really sure it was enough to really make her really likable for me, or even genuine. Many of the periodic details were fascinating however, and I did enjoy those tremendously.  While I would recommend it, I would definitely be careful to whom I did so as I don't think it would be for everyone. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Review: The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan

The Decent Proposal
by Kemper Donovan
Release Date: April 5th 2016
2016 HarperCollins
ARC Edition; 320 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062391629
Genre: Fiction / Contemporary
Source: Review copy from TLC Book Tours

3.5 / 5 Stars

A struggling Hollywood producer, Richard Baumbach is twenty-nine, hung-over, and broke. Ridiculously handsome with an innate charm and an air of invincibility, he still believes good things will come his way. For now he contents himself with days at the Coffee Bean and nights with his best friend Mike (that’s a woman, by the way).

At thirty-three, Elizabeth Santiago is on track to make partner at her law firm. Known as “La Máquina” The Machine—to her colleagues, she’s grown used to avoiding anything that might derail her quiet, orderly life. And yet recently she befriended a homeless man in her Venice neighborhood, surprised to find how much she enjoys their early-morning chats.

Richard and Elizabeth’s paths collide when they receive a proposal from a mysterious, anonymous benefactor. They’ll split a million dollars if they agree to spend at least two hours together—just talking—every week for a year. Astonished and more than a little suspicious, they each nevertheless say yes. Richard needs the money and likes the adventure of it. Elizabeth embraces the challenge of shaking up her life a little more. Both agree the idea is ridiculous, but why not?

My Thoughts
The Decent Proposal is one of those books in which I was very interested in the beginning, but not as much towards the end.  I really liked the premise and thought it would be interesting to see how it all played out; half a million dollars just for meeting with someone for two hours a week?   Thought the movie and book discussion idea was a brilliant way to get to know someone and I definitely enjoyed the thoughts of each character over some of the books.  

The setting of the book takes place in Los Angeles, and the author definitely goes to a lot of pains to ensure that you never forget it; there are many great descriptions of the area, including some historical facts, and while I enjoyed them tremendously, I did feel they had no impact on the story or even relevance.  In fact, I actually thought the story kind of got lost at times because of the descriptions.  What it did was make the characters seem almost one-dimensional, focusing a lot on their looks and their beauty.  What I found kind of intriguing is that the peripheral characters who seem almost lost to society were definitely not good-looking - Orpheus and Bev.  The author almost went out of his way to mention his characters' good looks, and I was getting a bit annoyed by this as it is usually irrelevant to me.  Because of this shallowness, it made Elizabeth seem uptight and unapproachable, unhappy in her life because she had no man to complete it.  What nonsense! And then there is Richard, good-looking, but with a string of women on his arm, made him seem shallow and uncouth.  Luckily, I liked both of these characters, despite their behaviour, and liked the mystery that surrounded them and tied them together somehow.  

As previously mentioned, the premise is quite intriguing, and I like how the author takes the reader on a journey to solve they mystery.  It was not quite what I was expecting, although I did have a suspicion about part of it; you do have to kind of just go with it though, as some of it does seem a bit contrived.   I liked how Richard and Elizabeth's friendship slowly developed over the course of the book as I am definitely not a fan of insta-love.  I did think there was going to be a love triangle at some point, but I am glad that was deflected by the author.  I wasn't too crazy about Mike for most of the novel as I thought she was selfish and self-involved, and I don't think my opinion about her changed too much over the course of the book.  I also felt that a lot of the inner monologue was a bit jarring, and while it did give us more insight into the characters, it also kept me from being fully invested in them and really caring what happened to them.

The Decent Proposal is a light, I hesitate to call it a romance, chick lit.  The two main characters are usually likeable, but it would have been nice to see their characters develop a bit more.  The main strength of this novel is the writing.  The author's talent is great and I would love to see him tackle something a bit more in-depth and complex to really show off his writing skills.  I would recommend this one to anyone looking for something light and fun, but I am definitely curious as to what this author does next.  

About the Author
Kemper Donovan has lived in Los Angeles for the past twelve years. A graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School, he worked at the literary management company Circle of Confusion for a decade, representing screenwriters and comic books. He is also a member of the New York Bar Association.

Follow Kemper on Twitter.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Review: Who Invited the Ghost to Dinner by Teresa Watson

Who Invited the Ghost to Dinner: A Ghost Writer Mystery
by Teresa Watson
Release Date: February 1st 2016
Ebook Edition; 393 Pages
Genre: Fiction / Cozy / Mystery
Source: Review copy from Great Escapes Book Tours

4 / 5 Stars

Cam Shaw is hoping that her life will be ghost-free from now on. But that hope dies with the appearance of Mac “the Faker” Green, a wise-cracking ghost from Vegas who has followed her grandmother home. And during the opening night of Blithe Spirit, someone has sent Susan Ingram to her ghostly afterlife. What does her death have to do with the death of her mother-in-law fifty years ago? Who is trying to wipe out the Ingram family one person at a time? And when will that Vegas ghost stop sticking his nose into Cam’s business?

My Thoughts
Who Invited the Ghost to Dinner was a fun and relatively fast-paced cozy mystery that had an aspect of the paranormal to it.  I really thought the main ghost, Mac Green, was a lot of fun and I enjoyed his character quite a bit, loving the way he just popped up at the most inappropriate times.  

What I really liked the best about this novel was the characters and their quirkiness.  First of all, I loved Mac, he was a lot of fun and I thought his sarcasm and quirkiness really added to the story.  I found myself really looking forward to the scenes when he just popped up; I thought some of the scenes were quite funny, especially when he showed up in Cam's bedroom while she was getting dressed.  I definitely look forward to seeing more of him in future novels, and learning more about his background; let's just say my interest has been piqued by him.  I also really liked Cam's grandmother and newly acquired husband; they are just so quirky, and I really hope I have their energy when I am in my eighties. While I did enjoy Cam as a character, I did find her to be a bit annoying at times though. Her crankiness at not always being involved in the investigations or not being told police business did get on my nerves quite a bit as really, it was none of her business, despite her relationship with the chief.  I do like the way Mike and Cam's relationship issues are dealt with however, as Mike's job does get in the way and I do think that Cam has to realize at some point that she will not be privy to police details on cases that Mike is following.  Knowing a couple of police officers quite well, for her to be involved in some situations and to sit in on interviews actually comes across as fake.  

I did enjoy the mystery however, even if I was disappointed that one 'mystery' was not resolved in this book.  It does allow for future visits from this character and I do see some interesting times ahead for Mac and for Cam, and maybe a trip to Las Vegas?  I enjoyed the twists and turns in the book even though I figured out who did it quite early on; it was still interesting to see how the author would get to the solution and how many scrapes the characters would get into before that happened.  I personally like the paranormal aspect to this novel and really enjoyed the ghosts and their reactions to the events.  

Who Invited the Ghost to Dinner was an enjoyable cozy mystery and was quite fun to read for the most part.  I liked most of the characters and thought they were quite quirky in their own right; Mac was an especial favourite of mine and I would love to see him in future novels.  I could do without Cam's annoying behaviour when she isn't given information on murder cases that Mike is following, and some of her other behaviour was a bit juvenile, but overall I do like her and think there is a lot of room for development.  Teresa Watson is also the author of the Lizzie Crenshaw mysteries, of which I am a fan.  Knowing how enjoyable those books were, I am sure these ones will continue to grow and develop as well, and I am looking forward to the next book in this series when it is released.