Tag Archives: Book Review

Bookshelf: “The Last Song” and “L.A. Candy”

3 Apr

Who would have thought that Nicholas Sparks and Lauren Conrad would have anything in common?

Well, they do. Both penned novels that I finished during the past week while recovering from knee surgery. Moreover, both penned novels that I enjoyed!

I usually pride myself on reading more “deep” works and/or classics. However, while I’ve really been trying to broaden my horizons, I can never pass up a good Nicholas Sparks book despite the unrelenting predictability in regards to setting and general plot. (North Carolina, small beach town, boy meets girl, falls in love, yada yada yada.)

As for L.A. Candy, I chose it because it seemed like quick, easy, mindless reading – “fluff, if you wll. I got what I expected. It was fun, breezy….but no Pulitzer-caliber work. Perfect for the days when I was running on 2 hours of sleep, and on meds that made me drowsy. While usually I enjoy books that make me think, I was grateful that, for this one, and under the circumstances, I didn’t need to do so.

Read on for my “reviews” …

THE LAST SONG – by Nicholas Sparks

If you read Nicholas Sparks, you know the deal. All of his stories are set in the south, usually if not always in NC, in a small beach town. Two seemingly mismatched characters always fall in love, there’s usually some sort of snafu or disapproval of the relationship, and so on. However, “The Last Song” hits some deep notes, and delves not only into romantic love but also into familial love AND learning to love one’s self. It is a story about growing up, letting go of the past, and learning what is important in life. There is humor and passion, spunk and romance, sadness and contemplation. I feel that the characters really come to life int this story, and was interested to know that the screenplay for “The Last Song” movie was actually written BEFORE the book, which usually isn’t the case. Additionally, the screenplay was wrote FOR Miley Cyrus….which made sense, because, reading the book, she (no matter how much she may get on my nerves) is the perfect “Ronnie.”

I think that “The Last Song” is one of Sparks’ best, and I’d advise any fan of his to read it. I would also recommend this book to just about anyone, as it has a charm all of its own and can stand alone from his other works.

L.A. CANDY – L auren Conrad

I always hated “Laguna Beach” on MTV…..but, somehow, I admit, “The Hills” and “The City” got me. I figured that it was  probably for 2 reasons: I liked LC (Lauren Conrad), Whitney, and Audrina….AND, both of these shows revolved a lot around fashion and the fashion industry, which I’m a definite sucker for. However, while watching these admittedly silly and scripted “reality” shows, I never once thought about what went on behind the scenes and how it affected the characters.

Nor did I ever picture Lauren Conrad writing a book about it all. A clothing line? Sure, why not. A book? Never did that thought cross my mind.

While her writing skills are nowhere near as perfect as her side braid, Lauren did not disappoint as I thought she would. She proved that she could tell a story, use wonderful descriptive writing, and capture the essence of her characters.

Of course, some of it seems forced and contrived….but, it is a book about reality television, an MTV-esque network,

and young Hollywood, so what do you expect?

It was a nice, easy read. No brain surgery, but entertaining. I’ll read the sequel.

A for effort!

Next up, I’m going to finish two books that I’ve started but yet to finish: Committed” and “The Shack.”

After that? Anna Karenina. I’ve read excerpts, but never the whole thing. If my former lit teacher AND Oprah recommended it, I’m in. Plus, the main character of “The Last Song” was reading it….so I took it as a sign that it should definitely (finally!) be up to bat soon on my to-read list!

Bookshelf: The Alchemist, The Crying Tree, Alice I Have Been

28 Mar

Anyone who knows me knows that I love to read – and that I love to read a wide variety of genres. I was always an advanced reader growing up and have been a bookworm for as long as I can remember. I’m currently reading Elizabeth’s Gilbert’s, “Committed” and Nicholas Sparks’ “The Last Song” (with “The Shack” by William P. Young and “L.A. Candy” by Lauren Conrad on reserve.)

However, I have recently finished some of the most amazing books I’ve read in a while, and I simply MUST share!

“The Crying Tree” by Naseem Rakha:

This novel started off a little slow for me but turned into such a good tale about the pastoral life, the criminal justice system, family, and forgiveness. Set in rural Oregon, it is one of those books that is simultaneously gut-wrenching and intriguing – a story that is sad but….”good” at the same time. (Much like “Precious” or “the Lovely Bones.”)

The author writes with such a strong voice that the pain and heartbreak that the family deals with when coping with young son Shep’s murder is almost tangible. There are twists and turns along the way, and if you can get through some of the drudging parts, it will surely be worth your time. Follow Shep’s brother, Bliss, as he cares for his parents as they age and struggle with what their lives became….and as they all await the death sentence for Shep’s accused murderer. Once it gets going, you won’t want to put it down.

“Alice I Have Been” by Melanie Benjamin

Let me preface this by saying I had no idea when I began reading this that it was based on fact. Of course, I’d heard the story of Alice in Wonderland (and am still dying to see the new movie in 3-D) but I never knew that Alice was, in fact, a “real” person, or that the story and all of its eccentric characters were actually based on real living, breathing, people.

The amount of research that Benjamin must have put into this work of historical fiction is astounding but had to have been a fun and exciting treasure hunt all the while. She weaves fact and fiction together so beautifully that you’d never know the difference.

Alice I Have Been tells the story of Alice Liddell, whom the beloved fairy tale “Alice in Wonderland” is based upon. She talks about her upbringing, her relationship with her family and the author, and speaks about her struggles with identifying herself as an individual vs. Alice the character.

The story is an absolutely lovely take on Victorian England (I adore this era!) and is a unique and complex love story full of bad timing and misunderstandings.

You won’t meet any Cheshire Cats or Mad Hatters in this well-written, well-researched, and “grown-up” book, but you will meet the people upon whom Lewis Carroll based these infamous characters.

Alice I Have Been is one of the most intriguing novels that I have read in quite some time.

Saving the best for last … (in my humble opinion!)

“The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho

As an English major and lover-of-the-literary, I’d read excerpts of “the Alchemist” in college. I am now beating myself up for not reading the entire book MUCH SOONER.

With a swift ease, it has become one of my all-time favorite books, and reminded me why I want to someday write a novel.

Inspiring, magical, and just … well-done … it is a book that I would literally recommend to just about anyone. I’m glad that I ordered it without reading the description. A sherpard’s journey? Pyramids? Alchemy? No thanks….I would have been turned off before even turning the first page if I’d, as they say, judged this book by its cover.

So, diving into it with no idea what it was about (except for certain passages I’d vageuly recalled from class, years ago) I became engrossed, caught up in this young man’s journey, wanting to follow my dreams and seek out my own personal treasure.

The story is full of mystique, love, and self-evaluation….and it is a beautiful allegory that will have you pulling for Santiago the whole time as he makes his way in life and love. It is a cultural tapestry of words so beautifully written, that I doubt you will be able to put it down.

What could be simply seen as a fable, Coelho has managed to turn into a masterpiece.

Easily a classic. No doubt. It has made me want to read every other one of his books, and he, through this one simple work, has inspired me to keep writing, keep hoping, and keep dreaming.

A must-read!