Heroes Are My Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Books like Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s Heroes Are My Weakness are why Goodreads.com needs to update their rating system. The three-star rating I gave it makes it look like I didn’t like it all that much when in fact I did like it quite a bit. Just not enough to give it four full stars. Heroes Are My Weakness is not Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s best novel but when it comes to contemporary romance, a middling effort by Phillips is better than most.
Like her other novels, Heroes Are My Weakness is populated with endearing characters – human and non-human – a little mystery, and a lot of heart. What it doesn’t have is as much steaminess as some of her previous novels. And the sexy moments that are there don’t always flow with the story. That along with some plot holes keep this one from being a great or even a really good addition to Phillips’s works.
If you enjoy Heroes Are My Weakness or are a fan of contemporary romance and haven’t read any of Phillips’s novels, I highly recommend Ain’t She Sweet.
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The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion
My rating: 1.5 of 5 stars
Watch what you wish for. Like ‘I wish Graeme Simsion, author of my beloved Rosie Project and it’s equally delightful sequel, would write another book, or, in the case of Adam Sharp, reconnecting with the woman he had a three-month affair with twenty-two years ago and never let himself get over. I want to be able to say that Simsion’s third novel (the first not part of the Don Tillman series) had some redeeming quality but for the life of me, I cannot come up with anything. I did worry for a while that I was comparing The Best of Adam Sharp to the Don Tillman books and that my enjoyment suffered because of that. But no. I just hated it.
I think the novel’s main weakness lies in its main character, Adam Sharp. Aside from his almost encyclopedic knowledge of music from his father’s generation, Adam is boring, completely average, and mostly unmemorable. Until he becomes totally unlikable. He utterly lacks character except that he is selfish and awfully self-centered for a guy with no real character. Worst of all, he does not change. In the 22 years between their affair and reconnecting with Angelina, he doesn’t evolve. We are let to believe that he changes his self-serving ways by the end but he’s 49 years old and completely wishy-washy so I found that really difficult to believe.
Much like the story of how he reconnects with his “lost love” (a love he was too selfish and characterless to keep in the first place!). While reading, I felt as if Simsion had just written this novel as an excuse to live out some male fantasy – average schmoe meets a beautiful, fragile, actress who somehow falls in love with him, he gets to the sexual teacher in her relationship and discover her fetish fantasy, 22 years later when they’re both with other people they reconnect and end up part of some perverse, three-person game that just happens to involve life-altering sex all sanctioned by her husband. I honestly kept expecting him to wake up from what was surely a dream. The best thing about the novel was the music. The one thing I did like was the playlist at the end.
I recommend reading The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect and just skipping this one altogether.
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Harry’s Trees by Jon Cohen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I am so thrilled to have received a copy of Jon Cohen’s novel, Harry’s Trees from Goodreads.com. This book will be hard to beat as my best read of 2018. It has so many wonderful qualities that it is difficult to figure out where to start gushing about it (which is why it has taken me over a week after finishing to write my review).
Harry’s Trees is the extraordinary story of how Harry and Amanda and Oriana learn to live again after two separate tragedies. As the novel explores how each person copes differently as they attempt to come to terms (or not) with their losses, it also shows that if we look hard enough we can find fairy tale elements in everyday life. At its heart, Harry’s Trees is a love letter to some of my favorite things – books, libraries, reading, and nature (For those who know me and know that I’m a major indoor cat, that last part may come as a surprise). Cohen’s writing lovingly, and with a devilish sense of humor, depicts the feelings evoked by reading and just being in among the trees while telling a darn good story that has everything you could want in a good read.
The book is packed with a lovable cast of three-dimensional, relatable, fun characters. I especially loved Oriana for her spunk, conviction, and fearlessness, and Olive for her strength, devotion, and her quirkiness. And now I long to live in a gorgeous treehouse in the middle of the woods with a stack of fairy tales and Sibley’s guides to keep me company.
If you enjoy Harry’s Trees (and I really think you will!) you’ll probably enjoy one of last year’s best reads, The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman with which it shares some thematic similarities. Both also have a great sense of humor.
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But she did need the library, more than food or oxygen.
~ Jon Cohen, Harry’s Trees
Happy Library Week!
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I enjoyed watching – but did not love – the film adaptation of Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted but I cannot resist a good fairytale retelling. And that’s what Ella Enchanted is. This retelling of the Cinderella story stands out from the pack for a couple of reasons: Ella, in this story, is under a curse which explains how a spunky young woman would allow herself to be treated so cruelly by her step-family; most of the story encompasses Ella’s pre-Cinders life, and the story is filled with unique and fun characters. Ella Enchanted’s greatest strength, however, is Ella herself with her fun, sassy narrative voice and her honest emotions.
If you enjoyed Ella Enchanted but you are looking for something a bit more mature, then I highly recommend William Goldman’s The Princess Bride or Kathryn Wesley’s The 10th Kingdom and then (if you haven’t already) watch the hilariously classic The Princess Bride movie and the lesser-known but totally fun miniseries of The 10th Kingdom.
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