Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Book Review: Absolute Beginners by S.J. Hooks

Absolute Beginners by S.J. Hooks
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Professor Stephen Worthington's structured routine gets a wrench thrown in it when unruly and outspoken Julia takes a seat in his English lit class. He starts seeing her against his better judgment, and it turns out that there is a lot that he can learn from her.


This book is like a light-hearted and sexy version of The Rosie Project. Stephen is a stuffy, over the top, and lonely young English professor who acts older than he really is. At first, he thinks his student Julia is obnoxious - she's crass, she dresses terribly, and she is disrespectful in his classroom, even if she is whip-smart. She ends up getting the better of him when she shows him that not being type-A isn't always a bad thing. 

What I really liked about this book was that even though I often thought that Stephen was over the top at times with his type-A personality, I liked Julia's character a lot. She was nonchalant, easygoing, and there were plenty of humorous exchanges between her and Stephen that carried that story for me. Moreover, the storyline actually carried it well enough so that even though it is definitely erotica, I didn't feel like the author was just trying to string me along from sex scene to sex scene. 

In addition, this is erotica that I think works for women. Julia shows Stephen what she likes in bed, which he appreciates since he's had such little experience.  I like the message of healthy sex and openness that this book espouses. Since Fifty Shades of Grey, the market's had a huge influx of similar erotica, with domineering but often jealous and controlling men that want to oversee every aspect of the leading woman's life. Not super healthy, but it definitely has a niche. This was a nice alternative for popular erotica, and the writing was pretty good too. 

I would definitely read the second installment of this series.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with a free advanced digital copy of this book in return for my honest review.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Book Review: How to Start a Fire by Lisa Lutz

Book Review: 
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How to Start a Fire by Lisa Lutz

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. May 2015. ISBN: 978-0544411633

Lisa Lutz sizzles with this story of friendship between an eccentric trio of women - dashing back and forth in time from their days in college and throughout their lifelong friendship, they are shaped by their ups and downs and their undeniable flaws, but you’ll root for them every step of the way. Her characters are all at once razor-sharp, witty, and compelling - each with a unique story and hilarious dialogue that will make this book hard to put down. Much funnier than the The Spellman Files for me, and a real winner as a summer read.


When quirky roommates Anna and Kate rescue George from her passed-out stupor on a neighboring lawn at a freshman-year party (in a stolen shopping cart, no less), they begin a life-long friendship that persists despite calamity, lies, and murder. With chapters jumping back and forth through time, it drives the narrative while you attempt to piece together how these characters came to be in their present states. How does Anna, the ringleader with slightly manic episodes, deal with her inner demons - find herself living with her parents after her once-successful career? How did she piss off everyone around her? Why is Kate, the steadfast eccentric, on a road trip with no destination? Who does George, the beautiful down-to-earth outdoorswoman, settle down with?

You'll like this book if you like:

  • character-driven plots
  • quirky characters
  • eccentric plots
  • ridiculousness
Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with a free advanced digital copy of this book in return for my honest review.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Book Review: At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen

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A Book Review of:

At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen

(Author of Water for Elephants and Ape House)


Philadelphia socialite Maddie Hyde is not keen on sailing overseas while World War II is raging and the journey across the Atlantic is dangerous. But when she and her husband Ellis are banished from his parents' house and cut off from their allowance after a debauched outburst at a party, they find themselves doing just that. Unable to enlist due to colorblindness, Ellis is ridiculed and shunned by his father and society. To work his way back into his father's good graces (and his pocketbook), Ellis, Maddie, and their friend Hank become determined to find proof of the Loch Ness Monster, which his father infamously photographed years earlier. When they get overseas, they see first-hand the toll that WWII has taken on the small town of Drumnadrochit, Scotland.  Maddie becomes immersed in the small town and the people who live there, and begins to learn that monsters come in many forms.


I really enjoyed Maddie's growth as a character, which was really the center of this story. She wasn't compelling to start - she was lost, a woman pushed around by her husband and his best friend, taking a back seat to their general amusement and whims. She really only starts to become the person that you want her to be when she is forced into spending time with herself in this strange place, and starts to recognize the hardships that the war is having on the town -- and that she could do more to help. This is where she really steps up and comes into her own. 

Gruen succeeds in many of the same ways that she succeeded in Water for Elephants - she does a great job of painting the historical aspects of the period into a story filled with a little magic (here in the form of superstition and folklore), compelling and often twisted characters that you can really love to hate, and an interesting place setting. You don't hear a lot about Scotland during WWII, and I really enjoyed this perspective the same way that I enjoyed riding along with the circus in Depression-era America.  Although the love angle isn't as well fleshed-out in At the Water's Edge as it was in Water for Elephants, it does still help propel the story along nicely. My only real suggestion? More Nessie! I really could have used more of the water-dwelling monster aspect. I'm kind of a sucker for that. 

Professional Reviews:
Check out Sara Gruen's interview with Publisher's Weekly here.

I received free access to a digital advanced copy of the book through Netgalley in return for an honest review.