Friday, August 31, 2018

Don't Make Me Pull Over by Richard Ratay

3 Stars

I knew I was going to have to get my hands on a copy of Don’t Make Me Pull Over as soon as I saw the cover. I mean, who could really resist the siren song which is that of the family truckster . . . .

Being that I am of a certain age, my fondness doesn’t lie courtesy of film alone. No no, I was a willing victim passenger of the “way back seat” as a child. Much like the author, some of my best memories spurred from the place where only the youngest member(s) of the family were forced to ride. If you’re looking for a bit of nostalgia, Richard Ratay’s take on family trips might be for you . . .

“It wasn’t that we enjoyed spending endless hours imprisoned together in a velour-upholstered cell, squabbling over radio stations and inhaling each other’s farts. It was that we had no other choice.”

Funny how the timing worked out such that I was reading this right when my family is set to embark on a weekend road trip. Of course, their “must see” item on the road is where Last Chance U is filmed while mine would be something more traditional . . . .

Luckily Ratay was of like mind with me. You might find yourself a little bogged down with the history of not only how the automobile came to be mass produced, but also how roads themselves were developed/designed/funded. But right when you think it has gone off the rails, Ratay swings you back in the direction of his personal history and tidbits that make you chuckle from nostalgia. Like dodging Ol’ Smokey courtesy of the fuzz buster and CB radio . . . .

Or the holy grail of road trip time passers . . . . .

If you had one of these, you know time spent was precious because not only did it suck batteries like a G.D. hoover, but it also had no volume control and its use was sure to be permitted only momentarily before the elders in the car went batshit and snatched it away.

All in all, this served as a pretty decent trip down memory lane of all the fun that was had while trying to reach our destination . . . .

Thursday, August 30, 2018

To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

2 Stars

Quick question: Is the Netflix movie better than this book? My family is going on a road-trip this weekend to murder Ron 2.0 for me play some baseball and I don’t want to be wasting my precious freedom on crap (and I’ll already have a bedsore-in-the-making from binging Ozark, I’m sure).

Despite the fact that I’m a thousand years old and am well aware this book was not written for me, I’m still gonna do what I do . . . . .

1. This child was not in love with ANYONE, let alone 5 different someones. She had schoolgirl crushes.

2. Speaking of child – Lara Jean was supposedly 16, but she came off more like 11.

3. She still calls her parents Mommy and Daddy (and as far as I know, she's not from the South or white trash (like me) where Daddy still can get a pass) and it grated on my nerves due to the combo of her emotional maturity being nonexistent.

4. BOTH of the boys in this “love triangle” were shitholes. Dear Young Hoomans: Don’t date boys like this. They are uggos.

5. I knew this going in (but it’s still my space and I still do what I do), but this is the first in a series that has absolutely zero chance of having enough material to fill three books.

2 Stars . . . . .

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Ain't She A Peach by Molly Harper

3 Stars

Dear Molly Harper:

If you are looking for a little break from reality that doesn’t involve you spending time in either a straightjacket or a padded cell, her books might be right up your alley as well. The first in this series wasn’t a big hit for me because I thought the leading lady was kind of a twat twit, but Harper stepped it up a notch for this one and it earns an extra star. Heck, maybe it should earn even more, because any time you give me a leading lady who pretty much is described as looking like this . . . .

That somehow manages to not fall into the Manic Pixie Dreamgirl category, it’s kind of a miracle.

In addition, the leading male was the local sheriff so no matter how he was described there was only one man he was going to be for me . . . .

I looooooooove how the romance kind of takes a backburner to getting to know the family and townsfolk in this one. Especially when said characters are from the land of cotton, old times there are not forgotten, look away look away look away Dixie Land . . . . sorry, got off track for a minute there. But you know what I’m sayin’ – they’re all from a place where people say things like . . . .

And the whole time you’re reading it, you hear Shelby’s voice in your head. That’s a winner right there, kids.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams

2.5 Stars

Before I begin, let me say that this is not a book that normally falls into my wheelhouse when it comes to my “must reads.” So how did I end up with it? Well, there are several reasons. To begin with, where I live . . . .

Also, along with my favorite time of year of bulky sweaters that hide my fat, comes my arch nemesis of basic bitches . . . .


So I figured I might as well read as many “summery” things as possible and this one actually had the dang word in the title so bonus.

Second, this book has been all over Satan’s Website Instagram which has made my library checkouts pretty much the equivalent of . . . .

And finally, despite the fact that the never-ending blurb there was no chance I was ever going to read probably laid out the entire story to me, in my mind I was convinced that I was getting ready to experience . . . .

(And yes I realize I should have just re-read fucking Peyton Place I know, but whatever. I do what I want.)

Upon starting, I was crossing my fingers for a bit of Middlesex to be thrown in for good measure. I guess in the most generic way possible this was a teensie bit Peyton Place with a splash of Middlesex. It just wasn’t very page-turny for me and even my husband remarked that he hoped my spending an entire weekend on one book did not result in a rage of the Firestarter variety. But again, this isn’t my usual bag so take my mediocre rating with a grain of salt.

Monday, August 27, 2018

All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

1 Star

Somehow I managed to avoid Emily Giffin’s books for nearly FIFTEEN years, but couldn’t resist any longer thanks to all the times this one kept popping up over on Bookstagram . . . .

My reaction now that I’ve jumped the shark off that bridge????

Caricatures rather than characters (rich = bad/poor= good – upperclass white teenage boys = sociopaths at best/Brock Turners at worst/middle-class teenage girls = naïve victims-in-the-making) and a “ripped from the headlines” storyline (boy takes/shares selfie of passed out naked girl at a party) that comes off desperately as trying to be relevant but remains completely devoid of emotion throughout. Simply put, this was the most basic white girl of chick lit and was absolutely . . . .

I’ve had plenty of friends who read Giffin’s stuff in the past back when it was that whole wedding type of name series and loved her, but it’s pretty clear she is most definitely NOT for me and will be a one-and-done.

Friday, August 24, 2018

The History of Jane Doe by Michael Belanger

4 Stars

Allow me to apologize in advance for beginning this review with a spoiler, but I think you need to know this is the story of a girl who commits suicide. If that’s a dealbreaker for you, stay far far away because it even made an old grizzly bear like me almost have a feeling.

You should also know that if you’re not a fan of this guy . . . .

Again you should stay far far away because Michael Belanger definitely channels his inner John Green here. On the other hand, if you are sad that Green doesn’t crank out a book a week, this most likely will be a suitable doppelgänger until his next release.

I’m going to let Ray tell you the rest . . . .

“I don’t have cancer and both of my parents are still alive. I just thought I’d get that out of the way so you’re not disappointed. While we’re at it, I might as well tell you that I’m not a vampire, I don’t have magical powers, and the closest I’ve ever come to fighting a war against an evil dystopian government was in a video game. The truth is, I’m writing this mostly to help me understand everything that happened over the past year between my (ex) girlfriend Jane and me.”

Thus begins the history of Ray and a new girl we will know only as Jane Doe who moved to town . . . .

“Maybe she just likes us,” I said. “Be serious, Ray.”

Much like in An Abundance of Katherines, this one featured a best friend I would like to adopt as my own child. Sidenote: And really, what kid WOULDN’T want me to be his mama????

The story is told in a very 500 Days of Summer Format . . . . .

And by the end it has done everything possible to rip your heart out. For like the 47th time this year, this is a book that has me questioning why it has so few ratings and reviews – I mean that dang cover alone should garner a second looksee! I loved it and I think many YA readers would love it too.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

3.5 Stars

“Three, and they label you a serial killer.”

Korede has always felt it was her responsibility to look after her younger sister Ayoola. Not only is Korede older, but she’s also the sensible one, the one with the good job. And while she may not be the “pretty” one – at least she doesn’t have a habit of murdering her boyfriends.

Thus is the plot behind this compact little slice of fun. If you enjoy the stabby stabby over the bump and grind while sitting poolside, My Sister the Serial Killer might be right up your alley for a fun little time killer.

3.5 Stars because that cover deserves at least a half star all on its own . . . .

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

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

5 Stars

“I wadn’t aware that words could hold so much. I didn’t know a sentence could be so full.” 

I cannot imagine a book that will end up beating Where the Crawdads Sing for my best read of 2018. Truly, this was a case where the entire thing was practically perfect in every way for me (the only minor quibble I had was with the snippets of poetry, but that’s because I hate poetry). Due to the fact that I am so absolutely strung out and hungover from this book, I’m going to do words even less well than I usually do.

The story here starts in 1969 with a dead body – and then it immediately timehops back to 1952. It’s there you meet Kya on the day her mother has decided to up and leave the family and the marsh behind. Kya’s siblings follow their mother’s footsteps in short order – as does her father eventually. It’s then that Kya becomes known as “the Marsh Girl” and the reader works their way back to finding out what exactly happened to that dead fella.

This was a true genre bender that had something for nearly everyone – coming of age, family strife, first love, first loss, and dare I forget – a potential murder. It was a modern day To Kill A Mockingbird and I feel so honored to have been approved for an advanced copy.

If you’re looking for an epic tale that spans over five decades, look no further than . . . .

“Way out yonder, where the crawdads sing.”

All the Stars there are to Star.

ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest (*cough blubbering cough*) review.
Thank you, NetGalley!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Mean Girls by Micol Ostow


Here’s the thing. I’m not going to bother rating this book because it truly serves no purpose except for that of a Mean Girls completionist. While this wasn’t a screenplay, it was very little more – and often the lack of additional words/direction/emphasis/info/whatehaveyou would leave a Mean Girls virgin missing out on the joke. As for me? I got this from the library, but am 100% guaranteed to be buying a paper copy. It’s a sickness.

As for any of you so called “friends” who knew this existed and didn’t bother filling me in????

Monday, August 20, 2018

Calypso (Audio Version) - by David Sedars

5 Stars

I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of Calypso from Little Brown, but KNEW I would have to hear the audio version in order for my experience to be complete. I started this last Friday on my commute and remained plugged in on the way to and throughout my youngest's double-header on Saturday. I'm not a real chatty person to begin with (my husband even bought me a "Do Not Disturb" sun hat to wear to games in order to enable my introversion) - but even without the hat the gods smiled upon me and I was left alone with my earbuds until the entire book was finished.

This morning I got in the car and started it all over again from the beginning. There just aren't any words. Is it possible to feel nostalgic for a family you don't even belong to? At this point I feel I've been allowed to be such a part of David's life that Amy, Lisa, Gretchen, Tiffany (rest her soul) and "The Rooster" . . . . errrr, I mean "The Juicester" (who has managed to become my favorite) are somehow all related to me as well. If you've never experienced Sedaris, I don't recommend starting here. Instead I'd suggest you pick up Dress You Family In Corduroy and Denim or When You Are Engulfed In Flames. You'll know right away if you are a fan or not. If so, you'll run through his works in short order and find a giant tribe of middle-aged women who will embrace you into our fold waiting for you at the finish line. If not, you might want to keep that to yourself - pre-menopausal hormones can be a real bitch.

Our House by Louise Candlish

3.5 Stars

What would you think if you came home from a weekend getaway to find someone new moving into your home? Probably something like . . . .

Just like Fiona did in this selection when she got home to the “birds nest” to find it occupied by a new family. You see, Fiona and her soon-to-be-ex-husband Bram split after he just couldn’t keep it in his pants – despite being given a second chance. In an effort to not scar their children any more than necessary, the two chose to maintain ownership of their (dream) home where the children would remain permanently and lease a small flat where the non-custodial parent at the time would reside until it was their day with the kids once again. So how the hell did it fall under new ownership? You’ll have to read Our House to find out.

This was a solid 4 – maybe even 4.5 Stars – for me. I enjoyed the slow rolling delivery immensely, thought the pace was perfect, LOVED the storytelling of both his and her perspective . . . . until that ending . . . . .

Seriously. Why does everything but the kitchen sink need to be thrown in to a perfectly good book? All that extra mumbo jumbo at the end was completely unnecessary and knocked down the rating of potentially one of the best domestic thrillers I’ve read. Buuuuuuuut I'm rounding up instead of down. Mainly because of that cover.

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

Friday, August 17, 2018

Dr. Strange Beard by Penny Reid

2 Stars

Before I even begin, let me say that when it comes to a new Penny Reid release, my reaction has been and most likely will always be . . . .

I adore her stuff. It’s funny, it’s sexy, the dudes are fantasy bangbots and the women aren’t, but instead are successful, independent and diverse. She writes ‘em skinny, she writes ‘em heavy, famous worldwide and famous only thanks to a certain banana cake – she’s even written a female lead on the spectrum. All that being said, it really didn’t surprise me much that Reid chose to write about a mixed-race couple this time around. What did surprise me?????

What a freakin’ snoozefest!

And aside from the fact that it was dull as crap, I’m not going to pussyfoot around the other issues I had with it so if you’re easy to take offense, it’s probably time to get scootin’.

I realize that I’m not a person who needs a “sensitivity reader” to go through a story before I take a gander at it, but I also understand others are and certain authors are willing to oblige in order to not offend their fanbase. That being said, if you’re going to water down potentially awesome characters (seriously, she’s undercover FBI – he’s supposedly a veterinarian, but since he was never even in the G.D. town he lived in there wasn’t a lot of puppy kisses going around) into this bowl of milk toast then I’d prefer it just to never happen. Also? You know what makes the ethnically diverse bestseller movement so great? Not so much that the characters are diverse, but that the AUTHORS are as well.

This was supposed to be a fluffy romance. I’m pretty sure most readers of smut just want to sit around in PJ pants and get our sploosh on while visions of nekkid Jason Mamoa dance through our heads. If I want to read well-written fictional takes on current social issues I’ll seek out Jason Reynolds or Angie Thomas, thank you very much.

I’m going to give you a specific example here of how this went off the rails for me (again, because I picked up a ROMANCE book, not something deep) – if you don’t agree with my take so be it, this is MY space for MY opinion and Imma give it.

So the leading lady gets pulled over by a blatantly racist cop for driving while black. She pulls into Roscoe’s (splooshy bearded bro this go ‘round) sister’s driveway – sister comes out and schools the disgusting manbearpig on being a vile human. Simone (female lead) then proceeds to dress down the sister for speaking on her behalf and taking away her opportunity to be her own voice, etc. etc. DON’T START CLUTCHING YOUR PEARLS. Stay with me here because I get the point that was trying to be made. The problem I have is then the sister tells the entire family about what happened and so the next time (because OF COURSE THERE’S A NEXT TIME with this uggo cop) it is Roscoe there and he gently nudges Simone until she realizes he’s going to let her do the talking. Thanks for sticking with me, I’m almost at my point. Okay, so WHY DIDN’T THAT SECOND SCENARIO HAPPEN FIRST???? It would have been sooooooo much more effective (because remember, this is a “one that got away” trope so these two have been kismet since they were tiny little children and also he remembers errrrrythang (which I’ll get to here in a second maybe) so he should know how she would want to react/want him to react) if Simone had explained to everyone how much it meant to be her own voice AFTER she got to be her own voice. Instead it came off all preachy and awful because if this person TRULY thought they were going to potentially be shot would they really get on a soapbox instead of just saying “thanks for making sure I’m not dead” and then deal with the P.C. shit later???

Which leads me to my other problem – that just so happens to be the exact opposite of the above – NOT ADDRESSING THINGS AT ALL. First, Roscoe has an eidetic memory and while the presentation of such is about as subtle as a skunk in your bed, it’s not confirmed until nearly the end. Why? For suspense??? If so, MAJOR FAIL because dead horse was dead like 17% into the mah fah. And second, comments are made throughout the book about Simone not seeing how beautiful she is. I was DYING for an “a-ha moment” when it was disclosed that . . . .

Seriously. I would have loved for Simone to be a dark-skinned girl. Just like I’d love for a “plus size” girl to be larger than a fucking size 12. But it never happened. So was Simone darker skinned? Did she just have low self esteem? Was her face all scarred up from a knife fight? WTF?!?!?!?! Did she really and truly just not care because she was so badass????? I need answers!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Okay not really, but it would have been nice to have an answer.)

It sucks that this missed the mark so hard for me. But again, don’t get it twisted because I’m already in line for the book we’ve all been waiting for – BILLY’s . . . .

“I mean, ladies. Holy cow. Get thee a Winston, stat!”

^For serious. Doooooooooooooooooo it.


Who else has only been able to picture Krieger ever since the title of this book was released???

Just me?

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott

2.5 Stars

It appears I read this one wrong. It also appears that I spend a goodly chunk of time using my review space saying “if you like Megan Abbott, then you’ll like this” on books that I actually liked more than most Abbott books – excluding, of course, The End of Everything because that thing was the bomb diggity. Now please don’t get it twisted and think I won’t IMMEDIATELY cut wait patiently in line for her next release because I absolutely will. There was just something missing here for me. While I was never once tempted to put Give Me Your Hand to the side and pick up a different selection, it wasn’t nearly as page turny (new word) for me as some of her other stories. Even when I’ve had fair-to-middlin’ reactions to Abbott’s books, I’ve appreciated how dense the story and how few words she takes to get it done. This one definitely had some slow spots and the females weren’t nearly as awesomely cringe-inducing as in some of her other stuff either despite a pretty juicy storyline . . . . .

“By telling me you trapped me,” I say through my teeth. “By telling you,” she whispers, rain still glistening on her, “I was free.”

Maybe I’ve just been desensitized???? *shrug*

On the other hand, it was nice to know there’s a reason behind the times when I get like this . . . .

2.5 Stars, but rounding up because I still drank that Kool-Aid, yo. Now go read Diane S. or Dan or Char’s reviews to see that you actually do want to read this and not listen to anything I have to say.

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

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Country Dark by Chris Offutt

5 Stars

The only reason Country Dark even pinged my radar was because of David Joy. Since Mr. Joy can’t churn out books at the one-per-month rate I’d like him to, I’ve been picking up his recommendations from time-to-time instead. What can I say about this one???? Well . . . . .

If you’re not a fan of “hick lit” I can’t say this will be the one that changes your mind. But if you are? Boy are you missing out if you haven’t already added this to the TBR. Don’t let the title scare you off either. While there is certainly some darkness to this story (one of the opening scenes is of a girl nearly getting raped) – it isn’t pitch black. It’s simply a story that spans the end of the Korean War to the ‘70s about family and doing whatever it takes to provide for them while living in rural Kentucky at the time . . . .

“The Tuckers were a good bunch with bad luck, same as a lot of hill families.”

Sadly, since this is not “the next Gone Girl” it wasn’t released with a mass market campaign, movie options and a gazillion advanced copy push. Unlike all of those so-called next-best-things, THIS story might actually be one of the best you’ll read.

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

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

3 Stars

When Emma was a kid, she finally got the dream she had been begging for years to receive – going away for the summer to sleep away camp . . . .

Not quite, but her three cabin mates did go missing and were never seen again. Fast forward to the future where Emma is a successful artist, but only able to paint the same image over and over again – three girls lost in a wood. When offered a chance to return to Camp Rich Bitch Nightingale as an art instructor, Emma doesn’t take long to debate her answer. Mainly because she feels . . . .

“Some wrongs are so terrible that the people responsible must be held accountable. Call it justice. Call it revenge. Call it whatever. I don’t give a fuck. All I care about is this particular wrong. It can’t be ignored. It must be righted. And I’m the bitch that’s going to do it.”

I picked this one up . . . . well, basically because I’m a lemming and it kept popping up on Instagram and convinced me I needed it. Sad thing is I still have an unread ARC of Sager’s first book that I never bothered to get around to. As for this one? It’s not going to change your life, but I will say it is compulsively readable. In my comments below you’ll see I said the mystery wasn’t a super shocker. I won’t give anything away, but I will say the present day goings on weren’t a shocker due to a very clear moment that made me go . . . . .

However, due to what I like to call “kitchen sink syndrome” it appears Sager is not an author who takes a direct route to the ending which amounted instead to one that was sort of a mess because the puzzle pieces just didn’t fit together seamlessly. The “two truths and a lie” bit was also not an effortless addition and came off more as a gimmick so 3 Stars it shall be. (Also, is “Lies” the new “Gone Girl” because it’s kinda appear errrrrrrywhere.) I do appreciate that Sager’s two titles have similar cover art – old ladies like me appreciate anything that helps ring a bell when it comes to making a choice at the bookstore/library (Mary Kubica - and/or her people - are also really good at this).