Profile for Alan A. Elsner > Reviews

Browse

Alan A. Elsner's Profile

Customer Reviews: 850
Top Reviewer Ranking: 1,343
Helpful Votes: 5193


Community Features
Review Discussion Boards
Top Reviewers

Guidelines: Learn more about the ins and outs of Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Alan A. Elsner "Alan Elsner, author" RSS Feed (Washington DC)
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20
pixel
Wreckage
Wreckage
Price: $4.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not very good, August 1, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Wreckage (Kindle Edition)
Two guys and one gal stranded on a desert island after a plane crash. One good guy, one bad. The good guy and the woman are both married - but they are stuck together for two years. Then they return to reality.

This book is pretty unconvincing unfortunately. The back and forth between the island and civilization doesn't work very well, the descriptions of life on the island are lame.


Best Served Cold (Set in the World of The First Law)
Best Served Cold (Set in the World of The First Law)
Offered by Hachette Book Group
Price: $9.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Lots of gore which eventually weighs down the reader, July 23, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This novel follows the fate of Monza Murcatto, a mercenary general fighting in a fictional kingdom with medieval weapons. As we begin the book, she is cruelly betrayed by her employer, the sinister Count Orso, who fears that a string of victories has made her too popular and a threat to his rule. She and her brother are set upon by seven men; the brother is killed and the half-dead Monza is hurled off a turret into a ravine below. Against all odds, she miraculously survives, although partially maimed, racked with pain and addicted to smoking a narcotic to relieve her suffering. Thereafter, her sole reason for living is to be revenged on the seven who betrayed her and killed her brother. One by one, she begins to hunt them down with the help of a motley crew of fighters, poisoners, harlots and fellow mercenaries.

The premise is promising but the book is increasingly gloomy and very bloody. Many limbs are hacked, eyes gouged out and many gruesome and ghastly deaths occur. Monza herself is not a sympathetic character and halfway through the book (which is overlong) she begins to ask herself what it is all for. The revenge she wreaks does not make her feel good and does not bring back her brother, who himself was less than admirable as we discover.

So although this is a worthy endeavor, it's not that enjoyable for the reader.


The Last Breath
The Last Breath
by Kimberly Belle
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.89
118 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The plot and characters didn't feel real, July 17, 2015
This review is from: The Last Breath (Paperback)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The protagonist of this unconvincing novel, Gia Andrews, returns to the small town in Eastern Tennessee which she fled in shame 16 years ago when her father was convicted of murdering her stepmother. Gia, now aged 34, has not been back, neither has she ever visited her father. Instead. she has devoted her life as a humanitarian worker, to helping people in African refugee camps and to survive famines and earthquakes. Her return is prompted by her father's release to home custody and hospice. He has cancer and only a short time to live. We're never really told why Gia, who shunned her father in life, would feel compelled to be there for him in his dying days.

Gia's older brother and sister have also shunned their father and are reluctant to reconcile even while he is on his deathbed. Both come off as fairly pathetic characters. And townsfolk have camped outside the home shouting slogans through bullhorns to protest his release. (This seemed particularly far-fetched to me. If you examine how people actually behave toward killers - think Boston Marathon, Aurora and Charleston, it is very different.)

Interspersed with this narrative is a parallel story describing the final months in the life of the murdered woman, Ella Mae, who has been having an affair with her next door neighbor and on the night of her death told her husband she wants a divorce. In fact, the first chapter of the book is an account of the murder seen through her eyes - although we aren't shown the identity of the killer of course.

While trying to come to terms with herself, her siblings and her father, Gia also falls into bed with the hunky owner of the only local eatery. Lust, we're told, soon starts to turn into something more for both of them. Could it be LOVE? And even if it is, does it have a future? Could Gia hang around after the death of her father or will wanderlust take her away from the delicious Jake back to the refugees of the Horn of Africa? And soon, doubts begin emerging about who really killed Ella Mae. Was there a massive miscarriage of justice? Is the killer still lurking?

The problem with this book is that nothing about it feels real. The love affair between Gia and Jake doesn't feel real. The characters don't feel real. The lust Ella Mae feels for her lover actually seemed much more authentic than anything that Gia starts feeling for Jake. The author is from Eastern Tennessee but has failed to imbue her book with any real local character or feeling. We don't really feel this little town, its atmosphere, smells, its rhythms. And the plot becomes more and more preposterous as the book goes on. So, unfortunately, although the premise seemed promising, the execution does not live up to it.


Imperfect Chemistry (Imperfect Series Book 1)
Imperfect Chemistry (Imperfect Series Book 1)
Price: $0.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre teen lover affair between stud and geek, July 14, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Another in the growing genre of young geeks finding love, this book is pleasant but pretty superficial. A much better version of the same theme is offered by Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project: A NovelThat book was more probing - but also funnier and more authentic. I would definitely steer readers in that direction.

In this version, Lucy is a teenage genius who already at 20 has her doctorate - but has zero social skills. She seems to be somewhere on the high-functioning autism scale - but underneath the frumpy lab coat, she's a hottie, as one of the other characters remarks. Her love interest is Jensen, recently dumped by Chloe and an objective of desire for every sorority sister on campus. But Jensen, who lives next door to Lucy, is drawn by her unfailing honesty.

Very little happens to disturb the path to true love and hot sex for these two. There is a minor hiccup near the end which can't really be called a crisis. This is really a two and a half star book but I rounded up. It's OK to while away an hour or two but it never rises about the mediocre, either in its characters or plotting.


SUNYOO® 20L/35L Large Capacity Packable Handy Lightweight Laptop Backpack Waterproof Resistant Travel Daypack (20L-Black)
SUNYOO® 20L/35L Large Capacity Packable Handy Lightweight Laptop Backpack Waterproof Resistant Travel Daypack (20L-Black)
Offered by SUNYOO
Price: $39.99
3 used & new from $16.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Neat day pack, July 13, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This small bag is a handy day pack. It can actually hold more than it would appear and it folds up very small. Plus there's room for a phone and water bottle. Price is reasonable -- good for a day hike or bike ride.


Afterworlds
Afterworlds
Offered by Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
Price: $10.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fantasy without much connection to reality, July 13, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Afterworlds (Kindle Edition)
The protag (to use a term much employed in this book) of this novel is 18-year-old Darcy Patel, who as an 11th grader writes a Y/A novel within a month and sells it to a top publisher for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Her story, as she moves to New York, mixes with other Y/A best-selling authors and experiences first love, alternates in this book with the book she wrote which is entitled "Afterworlds."

Both of these stories are unconvincing fantasies. The novel within a novel, "Afterworlds," features a girl called Lizzie, who is very like Darcy, and who finds herself as the sole survivor of an airport massacre perpetrated by members of a fundamentalist sect. She survives by pretending to be dead -- and in that moment actually crosses over into the world between the dead and the living where she encounters, Yamaraj, a hunky teen with Bollywood good looks. This personage, we learn, is something calls a psychopomp (silly name) -- a creature neither alive nor dead whose role is to escort the newly dead to the underworld. Lizzie, by crossing over, has made herself into a psychopomp and she soon develops the ability to commune with ghosts, walk through walls and teleport herself through a mysterious underground river, all around the world. Soon she is battling a serial killer while snatching sensuous kisses with the yummy Yama. This plot is very involved and I soon lost track of what was a stake and why.

That became a large problem because for this book to succeed, the reader has to accept what the narrator tells us all the time -- that t"Afterworlds" is brilliant, that a publisher is justified giving a large six-figure advance to its teenage author and that the author herself is immensely talented. I found myself unable to accept any of these propositions -- and the more I read of Darcy's book the less convinced I became.

Meanwhile in Manhattan, Darcy is exploring what she calls Y/A heaven. She hooks up with another Y/A author a little older -- Imogen. She goes on a lavish book tour with Imogen and another author, she keeps putting off writing - but somehow we know she will produce the successful sequel to her successful first novel. I also found her backstory as the daughter of a high-achieving Indian American family unconvincing. Her parents, who make a brief appearance, bore no relationship to any Indian-Americans I have ever known. Their happy acceptance of her lesbian relationship with Imogen, without a moment's hesitation, did not ring true.

Realizing that this book is a fantasy, the question that readers must answer is whether this particular fantasy is convincing enough the merit our time and attention.


Married Sex: A Love Story
Married Sex: A Love Story
by Jesse Kornbluth
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.07

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Threesome turns bad, July 9, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
David Greenfield, a Manhattan divorce attorney, is happily married to Blair, a Barnard professor and his wife of 20 years - or so he tells us in the opening pages of this rather disturbing novel. They have great sex, intricately described, fueled by copious quantities of wine and marijuana. Great sex denotes a great marriage, David tells us, which is what he and Blair are lucky enough to have. By the same token, David has learned through his profession that a lack of sex denotes an empty, dead marriage. And what is the secret to great sex? David tells us it depends on a commitment to his partner's pleasure, "the beloved's joy." It never seems to occur to David that the joy of his beloved might have other dimensions beyond what happens in the bedroom. He is about to become enlightened.

David says he is content - but in fact he wants more. More sex and more money. He represents the wives of the super rich seeking big divorce settlements which brings him into contact with the seriously wealthy -- and he seems to feel that his own life is lacking because he is not in their league financially. Blair and David live a good life and seem to have enough money to fund it -- but it's not enough. He has a wonderful marriage - but something seems lacking.

David goes to a photography exhibit and meets the artist Jean Coin (interesting name), who turns out to be both devastatingly attractive and fiercely intelligent. They banter and then part and he thinks no more of it. But a few days later she calls him with a proposition. Jean offers David a six-week affair, no strings attached, until she departs on an assignment to Africa, David is tempted - who wouldn't be? - but of course there is his great marriage to Blair to consider. So he selflessly suggests instead a threesome with his wife. And she, inexplicably agrees.

At this point, this reader was screaming at these silly, benighted characters, "don't do it." Much as they tell themselves and each other that this night with Jean will be only about pleasure and exploring new experiences and testing new sexual limits, it is obvious that it can only damage their relationship. And much as they vow that it will have no effect on their marriage, it is equally obvious that the effect will be profound.

The sex is hot - but something cracks in the marriage. It's as if Jean has thrust a spike into the fissures of Blair and David's relationship. Blair's internal balance most especially is upset. What seemed perfect was not in fact perfect. She is plunged into a deep, personal and professional crisis -- and she seeks to deal with it in the most hurtful way imaginable. David, who initiated this dumb idea, now finds that he has taken the coin and there is a heavy price to pay.Can their relationship recover and survive? Can they fix what was always broken. although neither could see it? You'll have to read the book to find out.

Though well-written and soundly constructed, this novel was not particularly pleasurable for me to read. In places, it was kind of icky -- and that's not because I'm prudish or don't like reading about sex. But in this book the sex seems like an intrusion, turning the reader into a voyeur. More than that, I never really identified with these self-indulgent characters living their fairy-tale Upper Manhattan lives and going through their somewhat pathetic mid-life crisis. David struck me as a wimp, always taking the easy path, mostly passive, never really facing the issues. Blair came across first as a victim and then as an avenger, behaving toward the person she claimed to love in a way that was incredibly cruel. I didn't care that much whether their marriage survived or not.

I'm curious to see how others respond to this book. It may speak to some in a way that it didn't to me.


Girl on a Wire
Girl on a Wire
Price: $4.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging novel set against background of circus life, July 7, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Girl on a Wire (Kindle Edition)
Julieta is a tightrope walker who belongs to a family of circus performers - The Amazing Maronis. Her family for decades has been locked in a feud with another family of performers, The Flying Garcias. Nobody knows the exact source of the hatred which goes back three generations - but it still burns fiercely. However, the two families are about to come together in a new circus, the Cirque American, being put together by a billionaire entrepreneur who happens to be a huge fan of the art of circus.

As the Maronis arrive to join to troupe, they are met with outright hostility not only from Garcias but others who have heard bad things about them. But Julieta, who is around 17, is inextricably drawn to Remi, a daring trapeze artist around the same age who belongs to the Garcias. The allusion to Romeo and Juliet is fairly obvious.

Complicating matters, Julieta's grandmother, once a performer herself, has a gift for magic -- not of illusion but "real magic." She is able to imbue objects with mysterious powers for good or evil and also to sense if objects have the power to harm. And it soon becomes apparent that someone -- we know not who -- has gotten a hold of some of those objects and is using them to harm and possibly even kill members of the Maroni family.

This rather engaging novel, narrated by Julieta, is both a coming of age love story and a mystery. What is the source of the feud, what is the nature of Nan's magic and who is trying to kill various Maronis using dark means? Remi and Julieta team up to find the answers while also developing their own rather innocent teen romance.

Julieta specializes in feats of daring, including walking on wire strung between skyscrapers with only a parasol to help her balance and without a safety net below. It sounds crazy to me (and incredible that city authorities would allow a young girl to risk her life like that in public) but the author makes us see and feel these feats through Julieta's eyes.

In short, this is a pretty diverting and engaging novel set against an unusual background. The author delivers a convincing depiction of what circus life is like and gets into the head of an ernest and brave young woman trying to figure out what it means to belong to a family and what it means to dare to love - which is perhaps her most courageous act of all.


We Are All Made of Molecules
We Are All Made of Molecules
Offered by Random House LLC
Price: $9.78

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stereotypical characters, July 6, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This pleasant teen tale was rich in stereotypes and low on originality - but still a pleasurable enough read. Stewart, who seems to be somewhere on the high-functioning autism spectrum, lost his mother tragically to cancer at age 11. Now, two years later, his father Leonard is moving in with new girlfriend Caroline, whose marriage ended in divorce when her husband Phil suddenly announced he was gay. Caroline has a daughter a year older than Stewart - Ashley who is a queen bee fashionista type at the local high school and appalled that this strange man and his brainiac son are moving in. She's keeping her father's sexual identity a secret because it might harm her social standing. Ashley has a crush on Jared, an athletic type with a nasty streak a mile wide who is both a bully and homophobe.

The story is told in alternating voices, Stewart with his preternaturally intellectualism and Lauren with her empty-headed snobbism.How will these two very different families merge? There will be crises along the way and they will need to dig deep and find courage and compassion and tolerance and understanding etc etc to prevail.

Lauren's voice is amusing although the author is a little cruel in painting her character. She comes off as hopelessness self-absorbed, shallow and selfish and also pretty silly. Stewart is our little hero, resourceful and brave. Phil's depiction, as well as that of his lover Michael, plays straight into long-outmoded stereotypes of what gay people are like. Both seemed liked possible cast members for the old TV show "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy."

Having said all of that, this book did provide a couple of hours of fairly undemanding entertainment.


The Cost of Courage
The Cost of Courage
Price: $9.43

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good story but poor writing and a lot of padding, July 2, 2015
This book tells the story of one French family under Nazi occupation in Paris -- a young man and his two sisters who heroically join the resistance and other members who do not. It is based on the recollections of some of the key characters and has some good material - unfortunately not enough to add up to a truly compelling addition to the literature of World War II.

The author, for some unknown reason, chose to tell the entire story in the present tense - and I really don't understand why. This is a book about the past -- and use of the present tense makes the prose flat and one-dimensional. It seemed pretentious to me. The job of a historian is in part to transport us to another time, but this should be done through vivid writing and compelling storytelling - neither of which are really in evidence here.

My other criticism is that the author seemed to have garnered insufficient material from his interviews with the protagonists to add up to an entire book - so he pads the narrative with well-known World War II history that has nothing to do with the subject. Perhaps his subjects were too old by the time they told their stories and had forgotten some of the details. In any case, we don't need verbatim chunks from speeches of Winston Churchill or explanations of the Russian invasion of Finland. They are not relevant.

I think the story of this family was worth bringing to public attention. A long magazine article would have sufficed. There isn't enough here to make a book.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20