Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Pay it Forward, by Catherine Ryan Hyde

I’d seen the movie a few years ago, and then was gifted with this book via BookCrossing. I was expecting differences between the two, but it is really obvious that whatever studio accepted the screenplay really wanted a “dry white toast” version of the story. Needless to say, I liked the book better, and now wish I hadn’t spent time on the movie at all.

I think that the saddest aspect of the book is that “pay it forward” has not spread far into real life, and I’m too cynical (at least at the moment) to believe that it can.

As far as the story itself, I had some difficulty believing in the character of Trevor. I mean, seriously; how many children of alcoholic mothers and absent fathers turn out so well and navigate in such manner through junior high?

That said, it was a sweet story, and I’m glad I was able to spend some time being inspired by the characters that were left out of the movie.

[originally posted to BookCrossing, 2/26/07]

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

A Town Like Alice, by Nevil Shute

Basics of the story: Jean inherits a large sum of money from an uncle she barely remembers as a child. The bulk, however, is to be held in trust until her 35th birthday. In collecting the yearly capital, she gains the chance to prove her maturity to her trustee, Noel. She recounts to him her war story--how she was trapped in Malay when the Japanese invaded, how she survived being shuttled from base to village to port, never finding haven in a prison camp, and having to bury nearly half the women and children in their company. At one point in their journey, an Australian POW befriended them and paid harshly for it. Jean receives closure on this chapter in her life when she uses the money from her legacy to build a well in the village that finally took the female prisoners in. In speaking to the villagers, she finds her next mission [to tell any more would be a thorough spoiler].

What I thought: For a novel written in 1950, about an unfamiliar part of WWII, it kept my interest quite well. It isn't deep in character development, but the author does enough to move the plot along. Shute also does well in describing the countryside, be it jungle or outback.

I found it refreshing to read a romance that didn't read like a porn script or an unrealistic, generalized fantasy. This novel is a rarity--clearly set in the past, but with elements that engage the reader throughout the book.

[originally posted to BookCrossing 6/9/03]

Saturday, February 3, 2007

One for the Money, by Janet Evanovich

I'd handled books in this series via my (former) library job since I'd begun working there in 1996. I knew they were very popular, but then so is Danielle Steel [disclaimer: no judgement is meant upon her as a person nor upon her fans, she simply isn't my cup o'tea]. I finally decided to start reading the series after I'd leafed through a discard of High Five and liked what I read.

Evanovich decided to start her character out as a neophyte in the crime-solving business and to pair her up romantically with a vice cop. I acknowledge that this is good for character and plot development in general for the mystery genre, but I hope that the mentor-student aspect doesn't continue for the rest of the series. I realize that I'm being picky, but if the mystery-solving in books to come involves as much direct danger as Stephanie got herself into with this book, I want her to become more independent and less of a chick-tied-to-the-tracks. Evanovich may be an entertaining author, but Stephanie is NO Kinsey.

For a first novel, Evanovich has created a likeable heroine, a plot that moves along easily (even for a 1-3:30 AM read), good twists, and colorful secondary characters.

[originally posted on BookCrossing 4/15/03]