Stand Alone Sunday

standalone-sunday

Standalone Sunday is a feature created by Megan over at BookSlayerReads where each Sunday she features a standalone book (not part of a series)! There’s tons of focus on books that are part of a series… It’s nice to focus on some standalone novels, too!

Title: The Master of Ballantrae

Author: Robert Louis Stevenson

Setting: 1740s Scotland

After a couple of dud books that I had been looking forward to, I was really relieved when I picked this one up and was hooked almost from the first page. Maybe it helped that I skipped the long introduction and got right into the story.

This is a retelling of the Biblical story of Jacob and Esau set during the 1745 Jacobite Revolution. Two Scottish brothers, James and Henry Durie, reprise the roles of those scriptural brothers and the conflict could not be more exciting. After a coin toss, James heads off after Bonnie Prince Charlie while Henry fights for the king. James is presumed dead after the Battle of Culloden and Henry marries the girl intended for James. But James is not as dead as all that, and returns to make trouble for his family.

In some ways, this reads like a soap opera. Just when you think things are settled, up pops something horrible. Pirates, duels, a daring escape, buried treasure — it has it all. The only thing that might discourage a modern reader is occasional use of dialect, but it is rare and there are footnotes in case you are really lost. Totally recommended as a great story sure to keep you turning pages.

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Standalone: Book Review of Crimes Against a Book Club

I saw this great idea over at bookslayer33414407reads, to focus on Stand Alone books once a week or so. I’m making this one my first entry.

Title: Crimes Against a Book Club

Author: Kathy Cooperman

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Source: Kindle First book

Format: Ebook

Synopsis:

“Best friends Annie and Sarah need cash—fast. Sarah, a beautiful, successful lawyer, wants nothing more than to have a baby. But balancing IVF treatments with a grueling eighty-hour workweek is no walk in the park. Meanwhile, Annie, a Harvard-grad chemist recently transplanted to Southern California, is cutting coupons to afford her young autistic son’s expensive therapy.

Desperate, the two friends come up with a brilliant plan: they’ll combine Sarah’s looks and Annie’s brains to sell a “luxury” antiaging face cream to the wealthy, fading beauties in Annie’s La Jolla book club. The scheme seems innocent enough, until Annie decides to add a special—and oh-so-illegal—ingredient that could bring their whole operation crashing to the ground.

Hilarious, intelligent, and warm, Crimes Against a Book Club is a delightful look at the lengths women will go to fend for their families and for one another.”

My view:

This sounded like it would be right up my alley. I love my book club, I love humor, I love caper stories, so this seemed like a natural for me. And there were definitely parts I liked. But the parts I didn’t like really bugged me!

I could totally sympathize with Annie. I have three kids with medical problems and the bills can be overwhelming. My kids sometimes wonder why we didn’t take vacations to Disney, why we didn’t sign up for dance lessons and music lessons and have nice cars. Easy – all our money went to medical bills. The idea of coming with some crazy scheme to finance a new therapy – sign me up.

And I appreciated that they weren’t taking money from other cash-strapped moms, but from the upper crust, the ones who want whole heartedly support conspicuous consumption. I got a little tired of how outstandingly attractive Sarah was, how she only had to show up and everyone wanted to talk to her, to be her. You know, she’s been on hormones to get pregnant. That makes you gain weight and get puffy.

My real problem was the secret ingredient. SPOILER:

It’s cocaine.

And that’s my biggest complaint. Annie comes up with this brilliant scheme to make her skin care creme more attractive, to give it that extra something. I was expecting something kind of like this, but really? Has she never heard of the health risks? She takes a few really basic precautions, like telling Sarah not to sell it to pregnant women, but that’s about it. What about those elderly women? What about those with heart problems? It’s so unbelievably stupid for such a supposedly smart woman to do. And then when the consequences inevitably hit, I just had to roll my eyes. There was a lot of potential in this one, but in the end, I just couldn’t buy it. Sorry, but not recommended.