Tuesday, June 10, 2008

SBT Book Reviews

Either I got really luck with my first few picks for the Summer Book Trek, or LDS fiction is just getting better. Yes! Since I don't put on my English major hat when I read for pleasure, I'm mostly just looking for great characters and interesting plots.

My first two books for the Summer Book Trek had both of those elements. Yay!

First I read Spare Change by Aubrey Mace. This is one of my favorite genres: good chick lit. There's plenty of lame stuff out there, but the great ones are so fun to read. Good chick lit has a heroine who grows, a believable romance, great characters in the supporting roles, a sense of humor, and a hook with a heart. Spare Change had all of these elements and I stayed totally engaged. (Conversation with my husband: it's 1:30 in the morning. Are you going to bed? Me: yeah, as soon as I'm done with this book!) I like that the the main character, Riley, isn't a frivolous rattlebrain obsessed with shoes and boys. Neither is she on a crusade to change the world. She's somewhere right in the middle, like most of us. I like that she is sometimes sad without being depressed, and her problems aren't of the neurotic variety. There seems to be some idea out there somewhere that chick lit chicas have to have some kind of neurosis (thank you, Bridget Jones) but that usually makes me impatient. Riley is far more sympathetic for being so real and normal. She's more quirky than crazy. I like Paul, her love interest. And I like that there's a believable pace to their relationship. This was a fun read, and I've recommended it to several friends already. One interesting thing is that it's not LDS specific so I've passed it off to a couple of my non-LDS friends, too.

Next I read Freefall by Tracy Hunter Abramson. This was so good! All the tight action and intrigue of a thriller without the excessive violence or profanity. I started this at midnight on Saturday to fall asleep to, and I was done by lunch the next day. A true page turner. So cool. This was such a good story. I loved the heroine who wasn't a helpless damsel, but rather a take charge girl who pulls her own weight and then some without trying to be one of the boys. She's smart and brave and totally believable. The story opens with a bang, in the middle of the action. When a whole novel is paced that way it can start to feel kind of relentless, but Abramson knows when to dial it back. I worried too that the romance was going to go too fast, but it seemed to move way more like real relationships do as Brent and Amy try to navigate their adjustment to each other and the demands of their careers and emotions. I really think Abramson struck a great balance between the romance and the suspense. I also liked that her details were believable and although my sister commented that a couple of elements were too "convenient" and I tend to agree, overall this book rocked.

I haven't read much LDS romantic suspense and this novel was one of my first stabs at the genre. It had some good elements to it but I didn't fully buy into the main character and I think the whole story really started more around page 70. But I want to focus on the positive so on that note, I'd say the minor characters were funny and the whole subplot of everyone following the soap opera was hilarious. I do think that the main character showed some growth and the thriller when it finally unfolded was cleverly constructed (it just took a bit long to get there).

This was a pretty delightful find. The First Year by Crystal Liechty has some elements of the chick lit I like so much, but it's not exactly chick lit. This is less about romance and more about Beth's adjustment to the first year of marriage and all the challenges that come with it. Liechty's voice as an author is funny and entertaining. Sample text: There has been a lot of debate over the centuries as to what really took place that day in the Garden of Eden. But I know the truth. Adam left the toilet seat up for the millionth time, and Eve decided it was payback time - eternal damnation style. I found myself laughing out loud and reading especially funny parts to my husband. Even though she tackles some heavy stuff too, the novel never tips into the over dramatic. I kind of wished she would have explored some things a little more (the subplot of being poor in a rich neighborhood) just because I think it would be interesting to see what she did with it, but overall, her humor really buoys the whole book and makes it work.


LDS Publisher said...

I think LDS fiction is getting better all the time. Great reviews. I haven't read any of those books yet. You've got me wanting to read Spare Change; Freefall is already on my list. For me, Betsy Brannon Green is hit and miss. Some of her books I really like and others, not so much.

Aubrey said...


Thanks a million for your positive review of my book, Spare Change. Sometimes it's hard to get someone other than your immediate family to give an author's first book a try- I'm really grateful to you for helping me to get the word out!