Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Review of STARRING IN THE MOVIE OF MY LIFE by Laurel Osterkamp

Starring in the Movie of My Life by Laurel Osterkamp
Synopsis via Goodreads:
Thirty-five-year-old Samantha acts without thinking. Her heart is huge while her sense of purpose is small; she's willing to fight for those she loves, but she's never learned to fight for herself. Eighteen-year-old Melody is cold and calculating, and she's driven by the desire to better herself. As these compelling yet deeply flawed women battle for the affections of twenty-five-year-old Nathan, he becomes increasingly confused and torn between them. Nathan is Melody's English teacher, and after he saves her from being raped, she becomes attached. Melody longs for the affection she's never felt, so she involves people in her self-invented drama, making sure she is at once the star and the director. Meanwhile, Samantha is newly married to Nathan. But Samantha has hang-ups about motherhood and lingering feelings for her ex. To make sense of the world, Sam relates her life to the themes of her favorite movies, while she independently makes a documentary to jump-start her non-existent film career. Stylistically influenced by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner, Starring in the Movie of my Life is told alternately from both Samantha's and Melody's points-of-view and relates two complete yet combined stories about love, acceptance, and redemption. It speaks to our universal desire to be saved by the ones we love, and the monumental effort required to save ourselves.
My Review: 5 stars
I was pleasantly surprised by how great this book is.  Which makes me all the more happy to be a part of this book tour.  It's a smart read with great depth.  A book that you can read and enjoy and also one you can pick apart and still be thinking about days later.  It makes you think.

The story is told from 2 points of view.  Samantha is the adult married to a high school teacher and Melody is a senior in high school with an unhealthy infatuation with Samantha's husband.  The book starts out with Nathan Lindon, Samantha's husband, saving Melody from being raped by a fellow student.  Melody then decides that what she feels isn't gratitude but, romantic love.  She then develops a plan to steal him away from his wife, who she isn't very impressed with.
Although Melody and Samantha are completely different personalities, both are hugely flawed.  Just when I thought I could stand behind one and condemn the actions of the other, the character I rallied behind does something reprehensible and condemning.  Then I'm left feeling critical of all the characters.  Which makes the book so believable and realistic.  Laurel Osterkamp's characters are deeply flawed and complex.
Someone interested in psychology could spend hours dissecting the characters and the types of personalities they are.  Samantha is flighty, impulsive and has deep-rooted issues with commitment, despite being married to Nathan.  They both claim to love each other, but I'm not sure I was ever convinced.  What I mean is, I believe that they believed they loved each other, but I couldn't say I thought it really was more than convenient tolerance and mutual need.

Meanwhile, Melody is the opposite.  She is methodic, manipulative, calculating and meticulous.  She's so smart and so stupid at the same time.  Her neediness and entitlement issues are part of her downfall.  Both women weave such tangled webs and desperately look to Nathan to save them and fill the voids in their lives.  And while Nathan seems like a pretty great guy, he's fatalistically naive.

What I really valued about this book was it's honesty.  It's honesty about how flawed, vulnerable, needy and afraid people are.  It's honest about how even though people make mistakes, big and small, everyone hopes for redemption and then true happiness to follow.  It's honest about how so many people are afraid to be the real them and in turn grow tired and unable of maintaining the facade and ultimately end up hitting rock bottom.  And it's honest about owning up to your mistakes and their consequences.  You can tell that Ms. Osterkamp knows people and their natures.

Another aspect of this book I enjoyed were the steady use of movie references.  I'm a movie buff and I think I'd seen all the movies mentioned except for one, so I got it.  I understood her fascination with movies and how she used the comparisons.

All in all, this book was fantastic.  A really enjoyable read and the author has gained another fan in me.  I like to make mention in my reviews of use of profanity in my reviews and in this book the use was low.  Probably 5 words or less, but they did come up.

I'm happy to also be able to giveaway a copy of this book.  For a chance to win an ecopy of this book, simply leave a comment about this review and a winner will be chosen by use of on July 6th.
Purchase links:

Laurel Osterkamp's first novel, Following My Toes, published by PMI Books, won the 2008 National Indie Book Award for Excellence (Chick Lit category). She drew on her experiences as a high school film studies and creative writing teacher as she wrote Starring in the Movie of my Life. Currently she lives in Minneapolis with her husband, son, and daughter, and is working on her third novel

Monday, June 4, 2012

Review of JESSICA RULES THE DARK SIDE by Beth Fantaskey

Series:  Book 2 (sequel to Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side)
Synopsis via Goodreads:
It’s one thing to find out you’re a vampire princess. It’s a whole other thing to actually rule. Newly married Jessica Packwood is having a hard enough time feeling regal with her husband, Lucius, at her side. But when evidence in the murder of a powerful elder points to Lucius, sending him into solitary confinement, Jessica is suddenly on her own. Determined to clear her husband’s name, Jessica launches into a full-scale investigation, but hallucinations and nightmares of betrayal keep getting in her way. Jessica knows that with no blood to drink, Lucius’s time is running out. Can she figure out who the real killer is—and whom she can trust—before it’s too late?

My Review:  4 Stars 
I thought book 1, Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, was a fun read.  Really cute, not too serious.  Book 2 is similar.  If you enjoyed Jessica's first story, you'll love the second.  I did.  

Jessica and Lucius are married and completely in love.  Everything else should just be gravy, right?  Wrong.  Being royal is not the same as ruling a kingdom.  Jessica is having a lot of difficulty finding her backbone when it come to the politics and governing.  She's feeling out of place and exuding a lack of confidence.  This is a huge problem for the happy couple because they need to a majority of the Elders' votes, in order to be exalted to King and Queen.  Jessica knows that this is Lucius' rightful place - King and ruler.  But is it hers?

When Lucius is framed for the murder of an elder, she has no choice but to assert herself and take charge in his absence.  Since vampire mlaw states that blood is denied to those accused of murder, Jessica finds herself racing against the clock to find who has betrayed them and to save Lucius' from falling into a coma from blood deprivation. 

Thankfully, Jessica has her bestie, Mindy, and Lucius' mysterious cousin, Raniero.  These guys keep the spice and angst in the story.   Mindy and Raniero add comic relief, when they can.  For the most part, Jessica Rules is a more serious installment.  It's still a lighter vampire novel for the younger YA crowd, but there's a darker aspect to this one.  It's a life and death of your true love and murder kind of dark, without taking itself too seriously.

I think this is what I like best about Beth Fantaskey's stories.  There's dark content, but not in a slit-your-wrist kind of way.  She's able to separate herself from the other vampire stories by doing this, being silly and flirtatious.  Her books are fun!  She the kind of author that stands out to me, because her storytelling is so different.  I find myself laughing, biting my nails and swooning at some of the things Lucius and Raniero say.

So, if you liked the first book, definitely give the second one a try.  Just be forewarned that it's a tad darker and most of the romantic fun comes from Mindy and Raniero (since Lucius is in solitary confinement with his life on the line).   I anxiously await the sequel!