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Melinda Ott has commented on (164) products.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
The Rosie Project

Melinda Ott, March 26, 2015

This book has been sitting in my Kindle account for quite some time. I think it fell victim to my aversion to hyped books, or at least that is what I'm telling myself. I recently won a copy of The Rosie Effect in a giveaway and I thought I should probably read this one first. I went in expecting something light and quick.

Don't get me wrong--this was light and quick. Light in that it wasn't a book that I felt like I had to work to read and quick because I could not put it down. To assume, however, that it being "light and quick" means it is fluffy is just wrong. While this book is definitely smooth going down, shall we say, it definitely packs a punch.

It took me a little time to settle into this book, to no fault of the books. You see, I am a devoted fan of The Big Bang Theory and this book is very similar. The main character is a man with Asperger's and a scientist. Yet, it quickly becomes clear that Don Tillman is not a Sheldon Cooper clone...he wants to have a relationship and take pro-active, and questionable, steps to achieve that goal.

The other characters in this book are well-drawn as well. Rosie is an interesting woman and she turns out to not be what I initially thought she would be. I can't say that I "liked" Gene, but he was an effective foil for Don and one that I wouldn't expect. But, there was quite a bit about this book I didn' expect--I thought I had figured the Father Project out and was a bit flummoxed to realize that I had guessed wrong.

There is great comedy in this book (including some unorthodox uses for skeleton) but there is great emotion as well. Don's feelings are crystal clear to the reader long before he ever has the slightest inkling of going on. Yet, when he does figure it out, it hits you like Billy Crystal's speech in When Harry Met Sally (but it is not when Don actually recites that particular speech...yes, that happens!). I think the greatest strength of this book is how Simsion develops Don without Don actually knowing it. And, yes, this is a love story--a quirky and sweet romantic tale, but it isn't what I would consider a "romance." Don's relationship with Rosie is the tool that leads to his self-realization, not the other way around.

It has been a while since a book so quickly worked its way into my heart as this one did. Ignore the hype (even though it is all well-deserved) and pick up this book!
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Mademoiselle Chanel by C W Gortner
Mademoiselle Chanel

Melinda Ott, March 23, 2015

I will admit that I knew very little about Coco Chanel before reading this book. I knew that she was French and worked during the first part of the 20th century. I had a general idea of the "Chanel Style" and was very familiar with the iconic Chanel No. 5, as that is the perfume my mother wears.

And that was the extent of my Coco Chanel knowledge.

It is somewhat unusual for me to go into a historical novel being somewhat ignorant about the subject matter and, frankly, it is a treat. Usually with historical fiction, I know the parameters in which the story has to operate but, in this case, I really only knew that there were some major (like World Wars I and II) events that would be happening.

I hesitate to say that Coco's story is a rags to riches's more of a "raise yourself up by using every single tool at your disposal" story. While there are some "happy coincidences" in Coco's young adulthood, her success is still her own and, at times, comes at her expense. There is not mistake: Coco is a tough, tough woman. Yet, I admired her, even if I felt that some (okay, many) of her choices were questionable. She reminded me of one of those quintessential and glamorous 20th century anti-heroines, usually played on the silver screen by the likes of Bette Davis or Joan Crawford.

Gortner creates the France, and especially the Paris, of this time period exquisitely. Sometimes I get the feeling that authors just expect us to know what Paris is like and they get a little lazy in building it for us, but Gortner does not do that. He illustrates every detail beautifully and lets the city evolve as it did through this tumultuous time period.

Here is the difficult part of the review for me. What I'm about to say did not actually bother me about this book, but I can see how some readers may have a problem with it. As I said, I knew little about Coco Chanel going into this book. Once I finished, however, I did some admittedly light research (by "light" I mean wikipedia and a few other sites). Gortner was very accurate about his facts. However, judging by what I found online (and, again, it was "light" research), I think he gave Coco's character a very generous dose of the benefit of the doubt when it came to her actions during World War II. I won't go into the details as I don't want to spoil the book, but it sounded to me that the "real" Coco was a little more, how should I say this?, opportunistic during the Nazi occupation of Paris than Gortner's characterization of her. Personally, I don't see anything wrong with this--this is, after all, a novel and, frankly, no one really knows what Coco Chanel was thinking and feeling during that time. Who knows? It could be that Gortner was spot on with Chanel's motivations and just looking at the hard facts might give someone the wrong impression. Still, readers who are more knowledgeable about the subject matter and more concerned with accuracy may have problems with this.

Overall, though, this was an exceptionally good read. Even though it is a work of historical fiction, it is definitely more of a "character" novel and that Coco--well, she was quite a character!
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When Mountains Move by Julie Cantrell
When Mountains Move

Melinda Ott, March 18, 2015

This is a difficult review to write for a few reasons. It is the sequel to another novel, which means that there is substantial back story and, in this case, I would recommend that people read Into the Free before reading this book. Also, because it is a sequel, several elements of the plot actually began in the first book. So, this is sort of a review of both books.

I also want to put out that, while this is labeled as a "Christian Fiction" work, that is due more to the fact that it was put out by a Christian publishing house than with subject matter. Yes, faith is mentioned, but not any more than one would find in a mainstream novel. Readers who go in expecting a Christian novel probably won't be disappointed, but neither will readers wanting something mainstream. I would hate for someone to pass by this book simply because it is labeled as religious.

As for the book itself, I did enjoy Into the Free, but felt the ending was abrupt and unsatisfying (THEN I found out there was a sequel!) so I almost think that these two books should be read together. Because Cantrell does a complete job of developing characters in the first book, the main characters are pretty much brought on in this book "as is." There are a few secondary characters, the neighbor, Kat, and the ranch hand, Fortner, that Cantrell explores. Kat is developed in a more natural fashion, while Fortner is an enigma until the end of the book. Other than that, the secondary characters who were not previously introduce in Into the Free are kept in the background.

The plot of this book is quieter than its predecessors. Quite a bit went on in Into the Free, whereas this book is more streamlined and deals with fewer topics. I believe it was because of that more than anything else that led me to enjoy this book even more than the first. In retrospect, Into the Free more than anything served as a set up for this book, which brings everything to a close.

There were parts that I found predictable, but that didn't irritate me too much. By the time these scenes came up, I was already invested in the story. I did feel that the ending was a bit too condensed. By that, I mean that Cantrell wrapped up a lot of threads at once and that was somewhat frustrating to me as a reader.

While I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone who hasn't read Into the Free, I would heartily recommend both books together to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, no matter what their religious beliefs may be.
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Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty
Three Wishes

Melinda Ott, March 11, 2015

I was initially a bit hesitant to read this. I had read her most recent novel, Big Little Lies, a few months before and, while I enjoyed it, I felt that it was a bit on the satirical side. That is fine now and then, but I had the feeling--unfairly--that this tone would show up again in Moriarty's other novels. But, then came the day I needed something light to read on my phone (I'm hiding my face in shame as a I type that....) and, scrolling through the many, many kindle titles I own, I settled on Three Wishes.

I did not realize that this was Moriarty's first novel until after I had finished it--there is nothing less mature about this book compared to her latest novel. In fact, I found this book to be superior to Big Little Lies,

The strongest aspect about the book is how well Moriarty crafts here characters. At the center of the story, of course, are the triplets. Each woman has a very distinct personality, and Moriarty doesn't base their characters solely on the fact that they are triplets (I've read a number of books with twins as characters where this was the case). Yes, there is some element of their birth in their personalities, especially in Gemma's character. Lyn and Cat are identical and Gemma is not, which would, of course, have some impact on her. For the most part, however, the women are shaped by what they experienced in their back story and will experience as the plot of this book. Even the secondary characters--the women's parents, their assorted parents, and their grandmother-come to life and, with the exception of the Grandmother, are able to buck any cliches (and, even though she is a bit stereotypical, Nana Kettle is still a treat).

Moriarty deftly structures this novel so that you are sucked in at the opening scene and you spend the next 3/4 of the novel getting back to that point. It doesn't read as a flashback--instead, it is almost like looking at scene through a window and then walking through a door into the scene itself. I was afraid that the last 1/4 of the would be a letdown. Once the reader swoops back to the original scene, where can they go? While Moriarty does use this part of the book to wrap up the rest of the story, it doesn't fell like a throw-away. She takes the time to draw each character's arc to a satisfying conclusion.

There is only one point that keeps me from giving this a 5 star review. Two of the sisters are or were involved in adulterous situations, but on different ends. Moriarty makes a few comments about this, enough to make the reader think that this should be a point of contention between the two characters, but then she drops it without offering any closure. I think Moriarty missed a great opportunity to delve even deeper with these two sisters.

In the end, though, this was a delightful read and one that convinced me that Liane Moriarty is more than Big Little Lies. This is a book that I would recommend to just about anyone looking for sometime fun and light--but not fluffy--to read.
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Grimm: The Killing Time (Grimm) by Tim Waggoner
Grimm: The Killing Time (Grimm)

Melinda Ott, March 5, 2015

Let's face it...all readers have that guilty pleasure that they don't want to admit that they read. It might be romance or cheap sci-fi or YA or erotica. For me, it's these Grimm tie-in novels.

Well, to be fair, it is this Grimm tie-in novel. This is the third one to be released and all three novels are standalone (from each other, not fom the show) and have different authors. I will admit that I chose not to read the first, The Icy Touch, because every single review I read all said that it seemed like the author had never seen the show. I did read the second, The Chopping Block, and it was fine. It could be an episode of the show except the subject matter was over the line for network television. But, it left me with a low bar for the third book.

Well, folks, I was surprised with The Killing Time. This is actually a pretty darn good book! Like The Chopping Block, it is set up like an episode of the show, which is a nice little treat when the show is on hiatus. Waggoner stays true to the characters of the book and uses them all (except Adalind, who is--thankfully--absent from the story) very well--better than the show's own writers frequently use the characters. Every one of the major characters--Nick, Hank, Juliette, Renard, Monroe, and Rosalee--have an important part in the plot and come together in a seamless way. Waggoner also created an interesting new Wesen, a shapeshifter suffering from dementia, that I would love to see in an actual episode.

I did have some tiny nitpicks and one major irritation. There were a number of little details that just seemed, well, silly. We're talking a Wesen phone chain and a hug-fest. Really. But, whatever. As I said, I didn't expect art with this. But, here is my irritation--every time a character was introduced, we had to get their entire backstory. This novel is set between the 3rd and 4th episodes of the 3rd season, so there is one heck of a backstory for every. single. character. I felt that it interrupted the narrative and, well, I already knew all of that. I mean, I get it...if someone who has never watched the show read this book, they'd be lost without that. Yet, how many people who have not seen Grimm are reading this book? (In other words, you should be watching Grimm, it's a heck of a show!) I wish all of the backstory recitations had been cut so hat we could just get on with the story.

So, even with those things that rubbed me the wrong way, I found this book a fun, quick read. No, it wasn't literature, but sometimes you just need fun. If you've enjoyed the show, I highly recommend checking out The Killing Time. If you don't watch the show, you should!
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