Monday, March 20, 2017

Dinner: Changing the Game by Melissa Clark

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4 Stars

Confession:  I have a bit of an addiction to cookbooks.  Unfortunately, due to their hefty price tags I (i) have to refrain from purchasing nearly any of them and (ii) am often disappointed when I do shell out $20 or $30 bucks only to find them filled with stuff no one in my house would ever eat.  You see, much like Jim Gaffigan's brood, my clan is comprised of "eaties" rather than foodies.  They like meat.  They like bread.  Sometimes they like potatoes and every once in awhile you can blow dart a green bean down their throat. 

When I saw Dinner was actually about dinners, I was all in . . . but still bracing myself for disappointment.  While we try to eat dinner together every night we can, Springtime brings crazy baseball schedules and a lot of our meals are on the fly.  Until that kicks in, I've been focusing on some seriously QUALITY Sunday dinners.  Ones where everyone in the house will say . . . .




I was amazed by how much Dinner had to offer.  Almost every page contained something I might want to try.  I was also impressed that while the names sometimes sounded fancy, the ingredients were those most people who enjoy to (or are forced to) cook have in their pantries/spice racks. 

But the proof is in the pudding, right?  Here's last night's dinner:

Jalepeno-Honey Steak, Spiced Crab and Corn Cakes, Scalloped Potato Skillet Gratin and Roasted Cauliflower . . . . .




(Why yes, I did totally burn the first batch of crabcakes.  I was busy trying to keep my dog from eating cat vomit.  Yum.  Who wants to come over for dinner????)





I also made a "Dirt Cake" which is most definitely not an item contained in this cookbook, proving that the subliminal messaging contained within my friends'/relatives' Facebook posts are verrrrrrrry powerful . . . .




If you enjoy cookbooks or are maybe looking for a good one to present as a gift to someone starting out on their own - Dinner is definitely a winner.

ARC provided by Crown Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Zone One by Colson Whitehead

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1 Star

After having my morbidly obese patootey pretty much blown away by The Underground Railroad, I knew Colson Whitehead was an author I wanted to read more of. When attempting (unsuccessfully, natch) to get a library copy of Isaac Marion’s latest, this one popped up on the “sorry we didn’t have the fluffy zombie romance you were hoping for, maybe you would like to read a super smart zombie book instead?????” window.

Zone One is a story many of you have read before. Something happened that caused an event now known only as “Last Night” which created a new population of humans . . . .

“All over the world this was happening: a group of them hears food at the same time and they twist their bodies in unison, that dumb choreography.”

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In turn another new population was created – those known as “sweepers.” This is the story of a sweeper known to his comrades as “Mark Spitz.” Sidenote: Although it took about 14 years, the nickname Mark Spitz eventually was explained. I was highly disappointed when I found out it wasn’t due to him having an awesome pornstache . . . .

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However, to Whitehead’s credit, the actual reason was pretty amusing, despite the reaction it would probably garner from some readers . . . .

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Mark Spitz and his fellow sweepers have been assigned the task of clearing (or sweeping, duh) Manhattan block by block in order to prepare it for re-habitation by the “pheenies” (what survivors of Last Night are now known as – being that they rose from the ashes like a Phoenix and all that jazz). While not battling “skels” (or their more disturbing counterparts, the “stragglers”), the pheenies battle through their PASD (Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder). Zone One tells the story of three monumental days, as well as flashbacks of how it all went when “Last Night slammed down.”

I truly feel terrible giving this 1 Star because Whitehead most definitely proves that . . .

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Need an example? Here ya go . . . .

“A beat-up telephone trailed its umbilicus, caught mid-crawl from the premises. The copy machine dominated the back room, buttons grubbed by fingerprints, paper tray sticking out like a fat green tongue.”

That being said, I have never NOT finished a book before, but good godamighty did I want to throw in the towel here. If you think it’s probably because I’m stupid, you’re partially right. There were many a time where I thought to myself . . .

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But the main reaction I had while slogging through Zone One??????

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It’s a G.D. zombie book. Being boring is 100% unacceptable.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Desperation Road by Michael Farris Smith


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3 Stars

In the most monumental of all first round NCAA upsets GR buddy-ups I awoke this morning to notifications pinging of The Review Sloth beating me to the punch when it came to posting his opinings. I should have known better than to offer myself for a buddy read with a frenemy like Ron 2.0. Not only did he start reading the book days before the agreed schedule, but when I checked up on him to see his status he was “hoping he’d have time to finish it.” Since he is the go-to-guru of all things Netflix I figured he’d need another day or two minimum due to his binge-watching and went about my bidness (a/k/a reading and reviewing two other books). And now I find this??????? Ron may have just earned himself a new name . . . .

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I requested a reader copy of Desperation Road last Fall when my better half told me to. Per usual, I immediately forgot about it and proceeded to read alllllllllllll the liburrrrrrry books instead. After a combination of growing tired of not possessing that elusive 80% badge on NetGalley and seeing Ron add it to his TBR I figured it was time to roll the dice.

The story here is two-fold. One follows a recently released inmate named Russell and the other a woman named Maben who is seriously in possession of the shit end of the stick. As with most stories, eventually the two cross paths and you’ll find that a certain someone was 100% correct when he asked “What do we say about coincidences?”

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That’s right. What’s that guy’s name again????? Oh yeah . . . . .

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So there you have it. The story is woven well together, but nothing will probably come as a huge surprise to most readers. The writing is perfectly palatable and not overly done. In fact, I even pulled out the ol’ blue highlighting tool in order to share something with the class . . . .

“Maybe if you told me what was going on I could figure out a way to help.”

“Maybe Jesus will come down from His high horse and cook us supper.”


The pacing was great and the story had little to no filler, but give me a few weeks and I have a feeling this one will fall off my radar so much I’ll have to double-check to even remember what it was about. In my defense Mitchell and I might be a little jaded having recently reading The Weight Of This World which really went balls out when it came to desperation so we would have been more satisfied with a not-quite-so-tidy ending. I also seriously disliked Maben. What a waste of fucking time that bitch was. However, I’m interested to see what else Michael Farris Smith has in the tank and will definitely check his stuff out again.

DISCLAIMER: I’ve not yet read Ron’s review, but did notice we are of one mind when it comes to this rating. The forecast should be calling for swarms of locusts and rivers turning to blood any minute now.

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

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance


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3 Stars

I’m not exactly sure where this ramble is going to go, but if you’re of the sensitive nature it’s probably a good time to back away slowly . . . . .



Let’s get my main bitch out of the way first. While J.D. Vance admits in the introduction that he has not yet accomplished anything in his life, he still turned what could have been a real page-turner of a family history or some sort of socio-economic type of observational study into being all about him. Part of my lack of enjoyment may be blamed on the fact that I work in a law firm so reading the doldrums of the author’s schooling/interviewing/clerking processes were all a massive snoozefest for me and seemed like filler when the author should have just quit while he was ahead. Another reason is I’m flat out tired of famous 20 and 30-somethings writing their “life stories” when they haven’t even lived yet. When non-famous people do the same my reaction can get a little more volatile when it comes to their personal horn tooting . . . .



The main problem with Hillbilly Elegy is that it isn’t quite sure what type of book it’s supposed to be. I wish Vance would have stuck to this being a “memoir” as the title states. He could have followed the direction of Jeanette Walls and written about his childhood – with a particular focus on Mamaw. Mamaw might be my favorite character of all time. I’d say I want to be just like her when I grow up, but I’m almost certain I – along with the people I choose to surround myself with . . . . .

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already are (minus the pistol packing and hoarding of garbage). Mamaw was the glue that held a pretty sprawling family together. Nearly every story involving her had me busting up laughing. She was someone who came from nothing and took no shit when it came to keeping what little she had together . . . .

“Mamaw told Papaw after a particularly violent night of drinking that if he ever came home drunk again, she’d kill him. A week later, he came home drunk again and fell asleep on the couch. Mamaw, never one to tell a lie, calmly retrieved a gasoline canister from the garage, poured it all over her husband, lit a match, and dropped it on his chest. When Papaw burst into flames, their eleven-year-old daughter jumped into action to put out of the fire and save his life. Miraculously, Papaw survived the episode with only mild burns.”

Rather than not trying to fix what wasn’t broken, Vance’s work becomes a bit schizophrenic when it migrates from memoir and attempts to focus on the community as a whole. Although many of the attitudes and mindsets contained within the pages of this book were already well covered with the HBO documentary American Hollow, Hillbilly Elegy does a bit of bait and switch by taking the hillbilly out of the hills and instead following a population who, at some point in their family histories, migrated into towns. Unfortunately, Vance loses focus yet again when he broadens his sights even further and begins talking about working class white men as a whole. I’ll let you choose to read the book for yourself and see if it reads with more cohesion for you than it did for me while stating that the people who should read this are the least likely to. Mainly those who fit this bill . . . .

“There is a cultural movement in the white working class to blame problems on society or the government, and that movement gains adherents by the day.”

That mindset has grown to such epic proportions people are actually offended by women and minorities protesting because “all lives matter” or some other malarkey. Not to mention a twatting ignoramus/washed up reality show star has been elected as President by touting campaign promises like Mexico paying for a wall that will magically eliminate illegal immigration and create millions of jobs. I’ll mimic the book and put it on the record that the only people I’ve ever known who were/are abusing the system have been able-bodied white people, so GTFO with that woe is me bullshit. Although not in Appalachia, I too was raised in a small town (educated in a small town – taught to fear Jesus in a small town ™John Cougar Mellancamp) so I’ve heard about all I can of this type of rhetoric. At some point . . . .

“you have to stop making excuses and take responsibility.”

My family tree has no golden leaves growing from it. We’re poor, most of us aren’t well educated. We’ve been down and out, but thanks to the values instilled on us by our grandparents and great-grandparents and those before them, most of us simply pull ourselves up by our bootstraps when life gets rough. Those who don’t? Well, the longer they remain on this Earth the more glaringly obvious it becomes that they don’t want to do fuckall while they’re here and it won’t matter a diddly dang dong who the damn President is.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

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2.5 Stars

I arrived late to the Liane Moriarty party, but after reading both What Alice Forgot and Big Little Lies this year I’ve been declaring to anyone who would listen . . . .





Moriarty took the artistform formerly known as “Chick Lit” to a whole new level with likeable bitches as main characters and stories where skeletons fall out of pert near everyone’s closets. I put myself on the waiting list for Truly Madly Guiltyat both libraries as soon as I finished my first Moriarty book, and I’m still 71st in line at the main branch if that is any indication on how popular this author has become. Unfortunately, my reaction upon finishing wasn’t quite on par with the others . . . . . 



From the three books I’ve now read, Moriarty seems to have developed a nearly trademarked formula when it comes to her storytelling. Something bad happened at a certain time/place and the reader must follow the wibbly wobbly timey wimey until said something bad is revealed. This time around????

“This is a story that begins with a barbecue.” 

Over the course of the show and tell which is the plot reveal, we once again find out everything about the characters they might want to keep under wraps. Some of the “a-ha” moments were pretty obvious (Tiffany’s former life, for example) and some I completed missed the mark at first (I initially thought the “proposal” might be of the swinging variety which shows just why books that use dark or pervy sex storylines don’t put me off at all). Unlike the other selections, this one was . . . . 



The superbadawful that was revealed was, although traumatic, a fairly common occurrence and the characters just weren’t up to snuff compared to Moriarty’s others. Bottom line, while I still managed to keep turning pages I didn’t feel invested at all in any of these people’s lives and when the already used “memory lapse” trope was drug out for a second book, I couldn’t help but feel . . . . 



2.5 Stars because it was perfectly mediocre.

Monday, March 13, 2017

What Was She Thinking? (Notes On A Scandal) by Zoe Heller


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4 Stars

If you follow my reviews you’ll know my brain failed me once again as somehow I put myself on the library waiting list for this selection and failed to make any kind of bookmark to remind myself why. I vaguely remember some sort of list about “characters you love to hate,” but I’ll be damned if I can find the sumbitch now. Why wouldn’t I save that????? Those are my favorite characters! The only thing I can think is it must have been a short list and I’d already read the other choices (again, I sorta remember You being on it, but at this point my brain is my worst enemy so it probably just made that up so I’ll spend eternity wondering what other gems I missed). 

Anyway, long story long I ended up getting notified that my turn had come around for What Was She Thinking? (Notes On A Scandal) the day after being denied Alyssa Nutting’s latest contribution to the literary world. Normally I’m quick to shrug moments like those off and chalk it up on my frequent flyer list of denials, but this time my reaction was a bit more dramatic. It started like this . . . . 



And escalated from there . . . 



The timing of What Was She Thinking ended up being pretty amazing since I first fell in love with Nutting thanks to the little trip she took me on to a town called Tampa and maybe the cure to bring me out of my downward spiral of rejection when I discovered the plot for this book appeared to be another teacher/student tryst . . . . 



What I didn’t know was the second half of this book’s title was apropos as we would not be hearing things from Sheba the teacher’s perspective, but rather . . . . 



From a fellow teacher named Barbara. 

If you’re thinking of reading this for the shock and awe that comes with the details of an illicit affair, keep on keeping on (or just go get Tampa) because you will be sorely disappointed. On the other hand, if you enjoy the contributions to the world by an unreliable narrator, Barbara will have you delighted that she chose to ask herself . . . . 

“Who else will help her, if I don’t.” 



Gold star indeed!

Still not convinced you want to waste your precious reading time on this one? Go check out the movie. Apparently it was nominated for allllllllllll the Oscars a few years ago.

Friday, March 10, 2017

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

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5 Stars

Dear Book:



Also, be forewarned I highlighted pretty much the entire thing.

I usually am a person who opts not to read a synopsis before starting a book (as was the case here) and encourages others to do the same. However, since we are living in a world where Nazis . . . . oh excuse me . . . . “Alt Righters” feel free to spew hate wherever they see fit and although I know I have none of those people on my friend list I’m not na├»ve enough to believe those types of deplorables won’t crawl out of their baskets in order to troll every review of this book they possibly can and dump their ignorance on the masses I’m going to tell you the basics.

This is the story of Rosie and Penn’s family. Five spirited boys who each have their own delightful personalities. While this is the story of the entire brood, the focus in This Is How It Always Is is mainly on the youngest, 5-year old Claude . . . .

“He said he wanted to a chef when he grew up. He also said he wanted to be a cat when he grew up. When he grew up, he said, he wanted to be a chef, a cat, a vet, a dinosaur, a train, a farmer, a recorder player, a scientist, an ice cream cone, a first basement, or maybe the inventor of a new kind of food that tasted like chocolate ice cream but nourished like something his mother would say yes to for breakfast. When he grew up, he said, he wanted to be a girl.”

Penn and Rosie encourage Claude to be any and all of those things whenever they are brought up. But one of his “when I grow up” wishes seemed to stick a bit more than the others . . . .

“When I grow up and become a girl, will I start over? . . . . Will I have to start being a girl from the beginning and grow up all over again? Or will I be a girl who’s the age that I am when I’m growed-up and become one?”

Claude’s persistence regarding his desire to become a girl grows to the point where Rosie and Penn are faced with the decision of allowing him to do just that which lead them to question whether or not they’re doing the right thing . . . .

“You never know. You only guess. This is how it always is. You have to make these huge decisions on behalf of your kid, this tiny human whose fate and future is entirely in your hands, who trusts you to know what’s good and right and then be able to make that happen. You don’t get to see the future. And if you screw up, if with your incomplete, contradictory information you make the wrong call, well, nothing less than your child’s entire future and happiness is at stake. It’s impossible. It’s heartbreaking. It’s maddening. But there’s no alternative.”

So Claude gets a new wardrobe and handles the dreaded “bathroom” dilemma like a pro and ceases to be a sad little shell of a person, instead becoming a vibrant and wonderful Poppy. And when their town proves to be not quite as forward-thinking as Rosie and Penn would like it to be, they pack up and move across country where Poppy is only Poppy and no one knows about Claude. But a secret so big can’t remain a secret forever . . . . .

This book was everything. As I said in a status update, I want to marry it. Either that or I want to track down this family and become a fly on their wall so I can be a part of their life. I want to dress as Grunwald for Halloween and become a night fairy in charge of all the stars after I’m sure my own children are asleep.

These characters were perfection. Rosie and Penn were so real - parents with the best of intentions that somehow ended up fucking up anyway, because that’s what parenting is all about and really as long as your kids know one thing, everything else is cake . . .



Poppy was absolutely brilliant . . . .

“What are you then?”

“I’m all of the above. And I’m also more to come.”


Carmy was the grandma every child should dream of having . . .

“You’re too old to be open-minded and tolerant,” said Rosie.

“I’m too old not to be.”


And although I’m pretty sure I’d put triple locks on my door if she lived next to me, Aggie was a hoot . . . .

“Weird,” said Aggie. “What do you think it means?” “I dunno.” Poppy shrugged. “Something. There’s always some kind of secret message.” Aggie considered the matter. “I think your dad wants us to know it’s okay to use drugs. And not to tell anyone about it.”

When I started this story I was having a very much this type of experience . . . .



At some point things changed . . . .



Making my kid look at his brother with an expression that clearly stated . . . .



This Is How It Always Is shows that . . . .



But you gotta do what’s true to you, and for anyone who doesn’t like it????

“Fuck the bastards.”

I will confess the ending of this one kind of went off the rails, but I loved the story so much I’m not deducting anything for it. I will also say there’s a solid chance if you are not a parent (or at minimum old enough to have experience with your friends and relatives kids) you might not be able to fully appreciate the beauty contained within these pages. All the Stars.