Review: The Clan of the Cave Bear

The Clan of the Cave Bear
The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The first book in Auel’s prehistoric epic is, at times, slow with plenty of exposition about the Ice Age world, Neanderthal clan life and traditions, and character backstory. But all of it ends up being important to the story as Ayla strives to belong and to make a place for herself within the clan that has adopted her.
At its best moments, the story is an absorbing adventure tale that piqued my interest in the Paleolithic Era and human evolution. I particularly enjoyed the allusions to the Ice Age fauna. I’ve always been intensely interested in the mega-fauna of the period.
While all of this is thrilling, it is the novel’s feminist themes –

Men believed that a woman’s smaller, weaker physical form that allowed them to dominate her was a compensating balance and that no woman must ever be allowed to realize her full potential.

– and its exploration of humankind’s divergent evolution (or lack thereof) that really stuck with me. Throughout I wondered how much of the descriptions of clan life found in the pages came from intense research and how much was the author’s imagination. I mean, how can we possibly know their traditions, religious beliefs and rituals, and how they interacted with each other within the clan? Do we actually have fossil evidence of many of these details? I’m anxious to read the rest of the series but I hope the subsequent novels move a bit more quickly.

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Review: Can I See You Again?

Can I See You Again?
Can I See You Again? by Allison Morgan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Allison Morgan’s novel, Can I See You Again?, is about a professional matchmaker who is dumped by her boyfriend of four years on the eve of an expose that can turn her debut self-help book into a bestseller. When she learns that not including her own love life in the expose could cost her the chance and, in turn, could cost someone she loves something they love dearly, Bree makes a deal with one of her clients to pose as her boyfriend. The result is a comedy of errors that is sweet and just salty enough to avoid being cloying. Some of the plot points, I admit, are far-fetched, but the whole is an enjoyable, heartfelt romantic comedy.

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Review: The People We Hate at the Wedding

The People We Hate at the Wedding
The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Ginder

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received Grant Ginder’s The People We Hate at the Wedding through I expected a funny novel about siblings enduring the people they hate at their half-sister’s wedding. Instead, the bulk of the novel took place during the two months leading up to the wedding and explored the experiences that led to the animosity between the family members. Seen from the viewpoints of the mother, Donna, the bride, Eloise (Donna’s daughter from her first marriage), Paul and Alice (Donna’s children from her second marriage), with a couple of chapters seen through the eyes of Eloise’s groom, Oliver, and Paul’s boyfriend, Mark.
As an exploration of how events and experiences skew people’s perceptions of events and relationships, The People We Hate at the Wedding succeeds tremendously. However as “shamelessly funny” as one blurb put it – not so much. There were some funny moments but there were also a few moments I think were supposed to be funny (i.e. Alice’s hotel room binge; the three-way) that made me uncomfortable.
I like reading about strong people. Strong people are easier to root for, I suppose. However, the characters in The People We Hate at the Wedding are weak people pretending to be stronger than they are and all too humanly flawed. Oddly enough, though, the characters that seemed strong were also the least likable. So I may have learned plenty about human nature but I didn’t always enjoy myself.

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Review: Chat Love

Chat Love
Chat Love by Justine Faeth

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

With hints of the ever-reliable The Shop Around the Corner storyline (if you don’t know what I’m referring to, rent The Shop Around the Corner, In the Good Old Summer Time, or You’ve Got Mail and enjoy), Justine Faeth’s Chat Love, about a woman facing pressure from her family, her group of friends, her age, and her own desires to find love and a relationship so she resorts to online dating, has plenty of potential. But it isn’t particularly well executed.
I felt like I was reading a first draft rather than a fully fleshed out and edited work of fiction. The writing had a tendency to become repetitive while the characters weren’t always consistent with their thoughts and behavior. There were glimpses of humor but they faded before becoming fully realized. It was predictable but as a lover of romance novels and chick-lit, I’ve become used to that. In short, I simply feel that Chat Love just needs the love of a good editor to fulfill its potential.

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Review: Son of the Shadows

Son of the Shadows
Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Beauty and the Beast set in medieval Ireland. Son of the Shadows continues the epic tale of Ireland and Britain begun in Daughter of the Forest. Like its predecessor, the second Sevenwaters novel is a sweeping tale of romance, tragedy, family and sacrifice. For me, Son of the Shadows wasn’t quite as romantic as Daughter of the Forest but it is full of complex and strong characters that pull you in right from the beginning. Liadan is every bit as surprisingly heroic as her mother, Sorcha, was and Bran, though not as romantic a hero, is darker and more complex than Red (Hugh). To find something to complain about would be nitpicking on my part. The end tied up a bit too conveniently yet there were many questions left unanswered that I’m sure will be the subject of subsequent books.

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