Friday, December 15, 2017

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

3 Stars

I’ve made it very clear I’m not a big fan of fictional shorts in general, and I really struggle with collections of them. That being said, now that I’m attempting to dabble in audiobooks they really are the perfect fit for my short commute so I probably need to suck it up and start enjoying them more. All I can really say about Uncommon Type is it was completely adequate for my 15 minute, twice a day listening pleasure. I have been a fan of Tom Hank since I was knee-high to a grasshopper and he starred in (what I now realize was really freaking edgy) my favorite sitcom Bosom Buddies. I’ve loved him ever since and had zero doubt that he would be able to spin a yarn. And that he did. Seventeen of them to be exact. Each very distinct (excluding reference to a typewriter) and perfectly pleasant, just like “America’s Dad” . . . . 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson

5 Stars

WARNING: After take one last peek at what I had written before posting, I realize you have to read about 117 pages before I actually get to anything about the book. #sorry.

I’m going to begin by saying that (in MY opinion) middle-grade has to be the hardest (fictional) genre to write. There’s just soooooo much that can be going on in this age range. Maybe they’ve already hit puberty, maybe they haven’t – maybe they have parents who let them watch R-rated movies, maybe they are still only allowed to watch Pixar flicks because they haven’t reached that magical number “13” (or ten-plus-three as young Matthew in our story here would say). I mean, there’s just no middle-ground when it comes to this in-between age. Even we parents are often lost thinking stuff like: “Am I really going to let this kid play GTA??? Isn’t that the one where he can earn money by being a pixelated drug dealer or pimp????” Only to find out that yes, that is the right game, but he and his buddies spend all their allowance buying these cards that give them fake money so they don’t have to do anything nefarious in order to drive DeLoreans. #ihavenoideawhatimdoingasaparent

This no idea what I’m doing state of child rearing is what led me to dabbling in more middle-grade books. It’s also what made me realize how hard it must be to write something that isn’t too babyish or too adult or too benign or too offensive. Mad props to the authors who can pull it off. Authors like Lisa Thompson here.

I’ll admit I was an insta-sell on wanting to read this as soon as I saw the comparison to . . . .

Rear Window is hands down my favorite movie of all time. Like I love it so much I am pretty sure I was able to channel all of my brain power and make it be on television one time when we just had switched over to satellite and I lost my DVR of it and I needed to get it re-recorded stat for my insomniac viewing pleasure. I used to fantasize about living in a place like L.B. Jefferies’ apartment . . . .

That didn’t end up happening, but I do have a sick fascination of driving around as the passenger in the dark during the holiday season and crossing my fingers for open doors and curtains so I can peep into people’s houses and see their Christmas decorations. #notsorry #arentyougladyoudontlivenearme

All that being said, a comparison to Rear Window is a major double-edged sword because if I hate it, I will hate it exponentially. Luckily for Ms. Thompson she had nothing to worry about.

The story here is of a young boy named Matthew who stopped going to school or outside or almost anywhere other than his room and the “office” of his family’s home. Matthew is no longer able to be around things he can’t guarantee are germ free – including things like Nigel the cat. Well, okay, Nigel the cat was probably always disgusting and hard to be around, but even that relationship has become more strained. Now - when he’s not cleaning, that is – Matthew passes the time watching the neighborhood from his two upstairs vantage points. It’s from there that he takes note of something very important . . . .

“12:55 p.m. That time was important. I don’t know why it stuck in my mind but it did, even without writing it down. At some point after 12:55 p.m. on that bright, scorching day, Teddy Dawson went missing.”

It’s now up to Matthew (and an unlikely assistant or two) to decipher all of Matthew’s observations in order to help the police solve the case of the missing toddler.

As I said before, Lisa Thompson really hit this one out of the park. Matthew’s OCD was soooooo believable and I never felt like I was being hit over the head about him being a little “different” for lack of a better term (I’m looking at YOU here Ginny Moon). His sleuthing was also realistic. Although he was playing a bit of amateur detective he wasn’t allowed to get in the way of the police, for obvious reasons, but he also had a compulsion to not let something happen to this little boy on his watch (and his reasoning makes sense, is hinted at/eventually explained throughout the book). Goldfish Boy is a book for kids and parents both to enjoy. It gets all the stars.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Ghostwriter by Alessandra Torre

4 Stars

I was lucky enough to score an ARC of this book, but then never reviewed it because I’m a huge dick. Okay, really it’s because I’m not exactly sure what to say, but that doesn’t negate the fact that I am also a huge dick. All I know is when I saw an Alessandra Torre selection up for request on NetGalley, my reaction was like . . . .

Especially when it came with the disclaimer that it would not be like anything she’s ever written before. She’s not lying. If you are looking for something of the hide-the-salami variety, stay far far away from The Ghostwriter and might I recommend you maybe wander over to something like Moonshot instead. If you like your slap and tickle a little grittier, Sex Love Repeat might be the story for you. Or if you want to really let your freak flag fly and commence with the stabby stabby, The Girl in 6E might be a winner. The Ghostwriter really isn’t like any of those stories – and that’s what makes Torre an instant YES for me. She’s gotta a whole lotta stories in her head.

As for this one? Here’s a teenie little bit of info. Meet Helena . . .

“She’ll rip your heart out, but she doesn’t mean it.”

Helena is a bestselling author. After being delivered a death sentence via her doctor, Helena has one more story to tell . . . .

“The book is about my husband and my daughter. They’re gone. I’m dying. … This is what is important to me. Their story … it’s all that matters to me.”

I will spoil one thing in case anyone’s brain wants to go in the direction mine did. THIS REALLY IS NOT A ROMANCE. Although Helena’s ghostwriter is a man, they do not become romantically involved so just stop your brain before it can even go down that path. This is, however, a love story in a way. It is also a confession and a baring of soul and of healing. I thought maybe only a Torre fangirl could really “get” this one, but then my friend Deanna read it having never read Alessandra Torre before and loved it and I realized I was being the weirdest kind of elitist and trying to keep this author to myself and that is seriously stupid because she has at least one thing for soooooo many readers.

ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Tribes of Palos Verdes

5 Stars

“Surfers live by the rules of the wind and moon, because the wind controls how big the waves are, while the moon pulls the tide back and forth like a puppet on a string.”

This might have possibly earned its fifth star for being a “right place at the right time” kind of read, but I can’t imagine a universe where it would have scored less than four from me. If you know me (and Mitchell), you are aware that we enjoy a little . . . okay a lot of despair when it comes to some of our fave reads. What can I say????

The Tribes of Palos Verdes first appeared on my radar on one of those “books that will soon be a movie” lists that I am addicted to. I immediately wanted to read it simply for the cover . . .

But alas, the library didn’t have it. When the movie trailer popped up as an advertisement over on the Faceplace, I went looking to the library once again. I even gave up one of my seemingly endless porny book requests in order to beg them to buy this one. (I’m pretty sure they bought it simply to encourage me to not be such a perv all the time.)

The Tribes of Palos Verdes delivered misery in spades. Told from 15-year old Medina’s perspective, this is the story of what happens when her family transplants itself from the Midwest to an exclusive Palos Verdes neighborhood. A place filled with humble abodes such as the following and Average Joe types of neighbors like Donald Trump and the missus . . . . .

From a philandering father to a mentally unstable mother to a brother who attempts to fade into the woodwork via drugs to her own sad tale of being used (and abused), this story pulled no punches. I am always appreciative of authors who don’t feel the need to waste words, and Joy Nicholson delivers a real wallop here in barely over 200 pages. I also appreciate genre benders and The Tribes of Palos Verdes fits that bill as well as it appears it was originally released as an adult novel, but will definitely find its own tribe with older teens who like their fiction a little gritty.

Sidenote about the film: If Jennifer Garner can pull off this role I will eat my hat.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Althea & Oliver by Cristina Moracho

3 Stars

Althea & Oliver is a different take on the best friends-to-lovers trope. A very different take. I’m not going to waste any time or words on dealing with anything other than . . . .

The story here is that Althea and Oliver have been best friends since their first game of Candyland when they were six years old. When Oliver develops a strange illness . . . .

A line gets crossed that can never be uncrossed.

Bottom line is: Althea rapes Oliver. There’s no other way to say it. Oliver has a (so far) undiagnosed case of Kleine-Levin Syndrome (a/k/a Sleeping Beauty Syndrome) where he suddenly falls asleep and stays that way for an indefinite period of time. Sometimes he “wakes up” to use the bathroom, or to eat, but he’s never really conscious. Althea has been duped by Oliver before – accompanying him to the Waffle House when she thought he was back, only to have him eat his weight in breakfast and throw an absolute fit before falling asleep again. When Oliver and Althea attend a party which leads to their first make-out session where Oliver says he isn’t ready to take things further, only to once again succumb to one of his spells in short order, Althea knows the hypersexual Oliver she meets when he “wakes up” is simply a doppelganger of sorts. But that doesn’t stop her from having sex with him : (

Upon Oliver’s actual awakening, he can feel something is wrong, and when Althea is forced to confess he doesn’t want anything to do with her. And that is the part where a story that was well on its way to being 5 Stars simply for being such a THINKER of a tale dropped to a mediocre 3 because . . . . .

It got boring. And super unrealistic. I’m not going to even bother talking about it – let’s just say Althea’s time in New York? Ugh.

Since I’m not the target audience for this story, that may strictly be my issue, though. As I said before this still really was a real thinker of a book that should serve to open up the lines of communication regarding grey areas (for lack of a better term) of sexual encounters. At best, Althea taking Oliver’s virginity could be called dubious consent (I don’t even think you could call it that, but I’m willing to play devil’s advocate). But there’s also a question of “what if?” What if Althea said no or tried to stop Oliver because he wasn’t really Oliver and he couldn’t be stopped because he wasn’t really Oliver. She couldn’t do anything to stop him at a restaurant, would she be able to stop him in his bedroom? Obviously we’ll never know the answer since it wasn’t written that way, but it’s a pretty creepy thing to think about that would have changed the story 100%. Would readers be more sympathetic to Althea as a female being raped than they are of Oliver who (even in the book) receives “atta boys” rather than an OHMYGODGOTOTHEPOLICEIMMEDIATELY reaction? And what about Althea’s case of “buyer’s remorse” (again, for lack of a better term) when she decides to have sex with the ├╝ber creeper Coby only to beat the shit out of him the next day? Althea appeared to be a willing participant – but she was also intoxicated so could she consent? These are topics parents need to be discussing with their children – especially in the current environment today. If it takes something fictional to be a jumping off point for your family’s discussions, this might be a winner.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

An Affair to Dismember by Elise Sax

3 Stars

My friend Jilly gets the credit (blame???) for this one after posting a review for Matchpoint, the second in this series, that she had picked up in order to “decompress” from some stabbier selections. I thought that sounded like a good idea and it became an instantly better idea when I found out this first one was available on the ol’ Kindle for free. That is perfect for me because . . . .

Then I took a gander at her review for An Affair To Dismember and saw a comparison was made to the Stephanie Plum books, which is the equivalent for me to this . . . .

Jilly wasn’t lying. From a quirky grandma to a “love triangle” (term used EXTREMELY loosely since it is not the dark ages and women are allowed to date more than one man at a time until they D.T.R.), this truly does fall into the “if you like Stephanie, you’ll probably like Gladie” category.

Much like Stephanie, poor Gladie is just trying to make a dollah outta fiteen cent. She sucks at jobs, though, so she’s ended up back at her Grandma’s house in order to learn the family business of matchmaking. (I know, I know, you’re just gonna have to kind of go with it and create some alternate reality in your head that makes this a viable career – like the entire town is in a black hole with no WiFi so they don’t have access to Tinder or When the neighbor dies, Gladie doesn’t think much of it – until she goes and pays her respects on the family and gets a little more info . . . .

“I don’t think Randy Terns slipped and hit his head on the table. I think he was murdered. I think someone hit him over the head.”

After that it’s on like bing bong as Stephanie I mean Gladie becomes an amateur supersleuth while finding herself in various over-the-top predicaments . . . .

Where she keeps running into the local police chief . . . .

And also her Grandma’s new neighbor, who may or may not be the guy who shot Bin Laden . . . .

If you’re looking for something that’s light and funny and could easily be turned into a Hallmark Mystery Channel movie-of-the-week to veg out on while still in your PJs at 3:00 on a Saturday afternoon and while eating your weight in chocolate-drizzled kettlecorn (not that I know anyone who would do something like that), this might be a winner. (Don’t let the 3 Stars fool ya – 3 Stars is about as high as I go when it comes to these types of books. I really did have fun reading it.) Get it for free RIGHT HERE.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land

4 Stars

“I don’t find the idea of people or children hurting and killing each other upsetting. I find it familiar. I find it is home.”

Allow me to share Millie’s mother’s CV:

“Forty-eight-year-old Ruth Thompson was a popular member of staff at the women’s refuge where she worked. Employed as a nurse counselor, she was the main point of contact for the scores of frightened women and their children who were in hiding … Following her arrest, the bodies of eight children were discovered in the cellar of the house and a ninth found in the so-called playground.”

When I found out this was about a girl whose mother was a serial killer I was like . . . .

And when Millie was removed from her mother’s home and placed into foster care only to find herself faced with a real mean girl of a foster sibling I was like . . . .

By the time I got to the end, I was like . . . . .

The only gripe I have? After recently finishing the very "skillet to the face" type of Young Adult novel which was Living Dead Girl, I would have marketed this as YA as well. It earns 4 Stars because I’m pretending it was (it would probably be 3.5 otherwise). Be warned if you are an avid thriller reader that this one may not have all chills and thrills you need to satisfy your stabby side, but it definitely has a lil’ summin’ summin’ . . . . .

“You’re the spit of your mother, they used to say at the women’s refuge you worked at. That’s what I’m afraid of.”