Friday, January 18, 2019

Consequence: A Memoir by Eric Fair

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2 Stars

The third stop on my “Passport to Everywhere” experience is Abu Ghraib and Fallujah – courtesy of a book I’d never heard of until one of my Goodreads friends posted a "review to come" sort of review that put it on my radar. Consequence is a memoir in what I’m going to call the James Frey sect of memoirs so I’m not going to waste any time reviewing it. This quote by a government psychologist appointed to analyze the author says everything that needs to be said . . .

“There are signs of instability.” He also says my answers show a tendency to put myself in a better light. He says, “You seem a bit insecure. Is there someone you’re trying to impress?”

Two more trips to somewhere and I get my mug!!!!

Silent Hearts by Gwen Florio


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4 Stars

Bear with me kids because I read this one back in . . . .



And it was my first (probably last, as well) paper ARC from Atria *cries forever for being such a failure* . . . .



I have zero excuse. I actually thought I had reviewed this already. But thar she blows right on my “Currently Reading” shelf.

So the story here is about two very different women who come to work together/form a friendship in 2001 Kabul. Farida has ended up there after being uprooted from her homeland of Pakistan thanks to an arranged marriage. Liv has ended up there after being uprooted from her homeland of America thanks to her husband as well. While Farida is surprised to find herself falling in love with the husband she never wanted in the first place, Liv finds herself falling in love with her work while her husband attempts to #metoo anyone he possibly can . . . including Farida who works with their organization as a translator.

The blurb isn’t lying when it compares Gwen Florio to Khaled Hosseini. If you enjoyed his books, there is a very good chance you’ll enjoy this as well. I found the characters to be well-developed, the pacing set at a true page-turning beat, and the storyline compelling. Not to mention the direction things take once you get to know everyone . . . .



ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah


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5 Stars

It ain’t normal, kid.

What is?

Who the hell knows? Crazy Pete is the happiest married person I know.

Well, Matilda’s no ordinary goose.

To anyone who ever thought Grit Lit was a man’s game, Kristin Hannah has this to say to you . . . .



Well, at least for the first 70 plus percent of this. Then things did get a little . . . .



But even effin’ David Joy went a little cluk cluk at the end of The Line That Held Us so y’all can just suck a bag if it’s not okay here.

As for me? This is another book/author I have actively avoided for eternity for fear I’d be relegated to the shame corner for wrongreading. After finishing The Great Alone I have this to say to Kristin Hannah . . . .



I’m not sure I’d feel the same about alllllll of her novels, but boy howdy was this a winner.

Now for what it’s about (Dear Professional Blurbist – you are tldr). All you need to know here is this is the story of a family (mom, dad, daughter) who inherit an Alaskan homestead in the 1970s and impulsively relocate. No money, no job prospects, little food, insufficient supplies – oh, and a former POW Daddy with PTSD that tends to get worse when it’s cold and dark. What could possibly go wrong?

Leni’s story spans from 1974 to 2009 and is un-put-downable. I could have easily stayed up and read this in one sitting last night. It definitely doesn’t hurt that my neck of the woods is currently a winter wonderland where it’s dark right about the time dinner is finished and the fact that my back yard is a forest. The elements of nature seemed natural and were never over-the-top simply for dramatic purposes. And who needs outside elements when the scariest predator of all is right under your roof? Finally, allow me to introduce you to who is sure to be my favorite female character of 2019 . . . .



Large Marge, you is the bees knees.

I went into this year’s library challenge feeling kind of “meh” about the chosen theme. Now I need to remember where I put my knife and fork in order to make eating all this crow go a little easier. I don’t know that I would have ever made this quest to Alaska if not for this push and now that I’ve done it I can’t imagine not having this experience. Thank you, pornbrary, for having (nearly) all the books, making me take risks and rewarding me so handsomely each year . . . .

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Billy and Me by Giovanna Fletcher

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1 Star




Here’s another book I never reviewed, despite finishing it LAST FALL. I thought I’d leave well enough alone, but then I remembered . . . .



I believe this was a “if you like this, you may like this” library software recommendation. I instantly requested it for the cover alone. Then I took a peek at the synopsis and was instantly reminded of another story . . . .



But this poor little thing was just turrrrrrible. It started almost immediately . . . .



You know, once you start seeing things like that they just shine like beacons.

Then there was the fact that the female lead lived an hour outside of London, but knew absolutely nothing about the city other than Trafalgar Square. Seriously? I mean I’m as hermity as they come, but I still made sure to make the drive in order to putz around Chicago occasionally when I lived in Illinois. This was followed by the instaloviest of all love where our film star leading male decides after about 17.4 seconds to stay with the girl he pretty much just met followed by asking her to move in with him. Buuuuuuuut he makes sure he takes all the jobs there are to take and flirt with all the girls because that’s part of the job and then she makes sure to be super offended by the part of the job that is actually part of the job and they are both just horrible and have the emotional development of about an 11-year old and good lord I can’t believe this is A SERIES?!?!?!?! Yeesh. I’m also 100% blown away that this was not self-pubbed. The characters, plot, pacing, ALL of it was just awful.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman


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1 Star

What my face would look like if any of you were to approach me and ask: “Wellllll, did you love it as much as I did?!?!?!?!” . . . .



Because I am a terrible liar. Sorry I read this one wrong, everyone. Your billions of 4 and 5 Star reviews shall serve as evidence of my failure.

First, to all of you who were aware how hesitant I was to try this after my experience with A Man Called Ove and who promised this was really not a hockey book, I have this to say . . . .



It is 173% a hockey book – nearly exclusively for the first 38%, but really FOR.EV.ER. because “it’s a hockey town,” yo! And heaven help if they stop reminding you about that fact for one flippin’ page.

Next, here are some notes I made:

“If this another motherfucking book about a girl who goes to a party and gets raped by an overprivileged white boy who then either ends up killing/threatening to kill him or the boy who loves her/the bullied fat kid/her bestie/her daddy decides to kill/threaten to kill him on her behalf Imma burn the fucking building down.”

I didn’t burn the building down! Yay me . . . .



However, I am T.I.R.E.D. of these books. The subject matter at hand shouldn’t be a tired trope. Especially from an author who presents the viewpoint that “no one tells you it can be with someone you know.” Fuck you, dude. EVERYONE knows that it’s most likely going to happen by someone you know and unless you live in a “Beartown” where no one teaches anything other than hockey, that’s what you learn growing up.

Obviously I didn’t like this. I didn’t like the stuff mentioned above, or how un(or under)developed the OH-SO-MANY characters were, or that there always seemed to be HUNDREDS of pages left to read because the pacing was non-existent, or that it was so devoid of emotion. (I noticed that the same translator who was used in Ove was not used here. Maybe he can shoulder part of the blame?) I considered bumping up a half Star simply for Ramona . . . .



And Bobo . . . .



But JFC, at some point I have to stop rewarding clichés, ya know?

I think I need to cut ties at this point, appreciate the one beautiful story I read by this author and not sullen my own memory of him further.

Sorry I failed you all . . . yet again. The good news is I killed two birds with one stone – or hockey puck as the case may be here. I read a book I actually received as an ARC, but never opened because I was terrified of being the wrongreader (#nailedit) and I was able to check Book #1 off for the library’s Winter Reading Challenge by traveling to Sweden in my head for this selection . . . .



ARC provided by NetGalley (over a year and a half ago – whoops) in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, NetGalley!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth


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4 Stars

“Things were better from a distance. When you watched too closely, you saw things you didn’t want to see.”



Boy do I!

Meet the ladies of Pleasant Court. You have old pro Ange whose children have reached an age where they do things like watch other people play video games on the You Tube . . .


(Seriously, WTF? My kid does this like it’s his full-time job.)

Fran, who takes overprotective mother to a whole new level – especially when it comes to her husband . . . .



Essie, who is finding herself overwhelmed for the second time by a not-so-angelic baby . . . .


(Ha!)

And new neighbor Isabelle, who doesn’t have any children at all leaving many of the other neighbors asking . . . .



If you are a woman of a certain age, the neighborhood might seem a little familiar . . . .



If you’re a reader (duh, obvi), you may find plenty of similarities to someone who writes nothing but bestsellers (even down to the point where this takes place in Australia just like her books do) . . . .



No matter what, you’re sure to say to yourself at some point while reading . . . .



I ate this one up in about a hot second. First, if you put a house on the cover Imma read it. It's like my crack. Also, any book that starts off with a frazzled new mother leaving her baby in the park “for just a second” in order to grab a cup of tea is probably going to be on the far side of the “chick lit” spectrum where I feel most comfortable. 4 Starz rather than 5 because these characters were so cookie cutter at times that I forgot who was who . . . but that’s probably the entire point. #wrongreader

Come on St. Martin’s and hook me up with a copy of The Mother-In-Law!

Monday, January 14, 2019

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi


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1 Star

Yeeeesh, or as this book would say . . .

“Wow”

You know what makes me want to punch someone in the throat more than anything in the universe? When the only words they can come up with during an argument are “wow” or “whatever.” The fact that this is pretty much the only response either of the two main characters in this book have to anything that offends them did not bode well for my enjoyment of this book. Not to mention the laundry list of other things like . . .

1. I found Shatter Me to be okay, but I remember Mafi being quite the wordsmith. Definitely not the case here.

2. The female lead’s family has moved like a dozen times in her life – but apparently only to super racist uggo places (even before 9/11 took place which made uggos even more uggo) and yet don’t really have any money or anything to show for it so why move all the time???

3. If you want to argue that they weren’t poor – IT FLAT OUT SAYS THE OLDER BROTHER IS DYSLEXIC AND THEY COULDN’T AFFORD A TUTOR SO THE MC HAD TO “TEACH” HIM NOT TO BE DYSLEXIC ANYMORE . . . when she was like in elementary school and he was in middle school. I can’t even talk about this topic further for fear my brain will explode.

4. How many teenage movies can be ripped off in one book? Let me count the ways – girl makes her own creations via altering thrift store finds à la Pretty In Pink and since there is no such thing as too much John Hughes (except somehow there is now because a subset of people are super offended by everything I thought was awesome when I was a teenager) we also have the unexpected show up by dream boy in his car à la Sixteen Candles and no clichéd story would be complete without every problem being solved via a breakdancing battle like the Step Up franchise has taught us.

5. While we’re on the subject of things that offend the younger generation – there are multiple occurrences of “being stopped with a kiss” so see Argument #4 above and the old lady generation teenie bopper movie stuff that now pisses people off as to my confusion.

6. These children DON’T EVEN KNOW EACH OTHER. Now I know that’s the mom in me speaking, but JFC I’d rather have the instalove than this supposed “deep” crap when he doesn’t even know she has a brother and she’s unaware he’s the star of the basketball team. Talk about self-absorbed douchebags.

7. Not everything is racist. Or there can be more than one reason. The dude in class who is disgusting and tells her he “sees nothing” when he looks at her (or probably any other random student) could have a multitude of reasons – they’re not on the same social plane as he is, they’re fat, ugly, gay, poor, rich, etc., etc., etc. The forest is missed for the trees when it comes to pointing out that individuals like him are AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWFUL people – and yes maybe blatantly racist as well because they are pigs – but a lot of these kids were probably just assholes and thought she was a bitch because she acted like a bitch all the time and could have given a rip about her heritage.

8. Our MC wears hijab, but basically for a fashion statement. Wear what you want to wear, but good grief don’t get peeved when a classmate calls you out for conduct unbecoming.

I won’t be responding to any comments telling me I’m wrong on this one because (1) I’m well aware and (2) I’m sure the majority of those statements will be coming from children and Homey don’t play that. Before you get all up in arms, please note this is actual footage of me typing this review . . . .



I’m old. I’m cranky. I just didn’t get it.