Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Life and Other Inconveniences by Kristan Higgans

4.5 Stars

I wouldn’t say I actively avoided Kristan Higgans, but I will say as a person whose name is on A LOT of books on the paperback rack near the checkout lanes at the local Wal-Mart she wasn’t someone who was high on my list of must read authors. (That's where the keep the James Pattersons - blech.) Then she wrote a book about fat women that got everyone’s panties all up their butts and I decided that was something I needed to read . . . .

When offered an advanced copy of Life and Other Inconveniences I jumped all over it without even bothering to see what it was about first. Imagine my delight when I discovered it was one of my fave tropes – the “maybe you can go home again.”

The story here starts with a phone call Emma receives from her estranged grandmother Genevieve informing her that Genevieve has brain cancer, is not long for this world, and would like Emma and her daughter to come spend her last summer with her. The two have not communicated for 17 years – right about the time Emma announced that she was pregnant unexpectedly and Genevieve kicked her out – but the dangling carrot of a potential windfall via Genevieve’s estate being left to Emma’s daughter in order to put her through college has this family reunion happening no matter what Emma’s personal feelings may be.

This book hit ALL the right things for me. To begin with, I love dysfunctional families . . .

(They make me feel like mine might not be as awful as they appear to be.)

Second . . . .

I myself am poor. I love reading about rich people. And this one??? Granny Genny created a milkshake that brought all the boys to the yard handbag empire that had all the gals going . . . .

In my head she was what Vera Bradley must be like. And before Vera Bradley (don’t worry, I know that’s not a real human – I’m only sorta stoopid) reads this and takes offense that Genevieve was kind of a bitch on wheels? I loved her – it’s a compliment.

Not to mention . . . .

It’s summatime summatime sum sum summatime. I literally read this from cover to cover at the pool last Friday on a mental health day away from the office. (Anyone know a good dermatologist??? I’m gonna need to deal with the skin cancer I probably now have.)

I wish I could post some quotes to prove that both Emma and Genevieve were amazing female leads, this had great humor and the romance was wonderfully schmoopy. However, the ones I want to use are like half a page rather than a word or two and I like receiving free shit so I shall cease and desist before I lose my privileges. Just trust me that if you are a Higgins fan, a Chick Lit fan in general, or just looking for a good time while making sure your children aren’t drowning, this is a must read when it is released next week.

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

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Necessary People by Anna Pitoniak

41716929. sy475
4 Stars

“It’s not Machiavellian. It’s just survival.”
You know what’s even worse than being FORTY-THREE (*insert crying emoji*) reviews behind? Covers like this . . . .

So much same makes my brain hurt. The fact that I can remember anything about either of these books this long after reading them says a lot about the entertainment level they provided to me.

We’ll see if I ever get around to reviewing Temper, but as for Necessary People to me it was this . . . .

Meets this . . . .

My friend Elizabeth makes a fitting comparison in her review to Social Creature. Both feature the collision of the worlds of haves and have nots where the desire to achieve overrules all. Set in the fast-paced environment of cable news this familiar tale comes with a fresh new edge as Violet and Stella compete to be top dog.

Oh and NetGalley? You can probably go ahead and delete my pending request since I read my library copy a month and a half ago.

Monday, July 29, 2019

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad

4 Stars

If this title rings a bell to you . . . .

Or, at minimum, you are someone with a decent memory because it is very similar to the poem by Wallace Stevens. If you feel so inclined to Google said poem, you’ll find that Wiki says . . . .

The poem consists of thirteen short, separate sections, each of which mentions blackbirds in some way.

Such is the case with 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl. Intertwined vignettes where our MC (and, more importantly, her body) interacts with friends, co-workers, children, sexual partners, store clerks, her mother, her husband, the perfect Diane von Furstenberg dress, other women, etc. We watch as Lizzie morphs into Beth who then changes to Elizabeth who then becomes Liz as she grows from high school aged to adulthood and from fat to thin. We see how she views herself through these various ages and stages as well as how others view her via different perspectives being presented rather than Lizzie’s alone.

I picked this up pretty much immediately after reading the über bizarre Bunny because it was undeniable this was an author who could write . . . I just wasn’t smart enough to get all that she was putting down. This one, however? Holy crap. Talk about powerful and obviously someone who JUST. GETS. IT. Not to mention all the emotion is delivered without resorting to tragiporn or some pathetic trope or making us wallow in a billion pages. Mona Awad????? You are amazing.

Seriously. I want to crawl inside your brain and live there.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

32570475. sy475
5 Stars

Oh Abbi Waxman . . . .

I was lucky enough to stumble upon this author due to my addiction to covers featuring houses via the aptly named Other People’s Houses. (A rare occurrence where my brain didn’t fail me after being denied an ARC over at NetGalley and I promptly begged the library to obtain a copy for me.) I was double lucky to score a paper advance of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, a story that is currently making the rounds and winning over the hearts of readers both at Goodreads and Instagram. I loved that book so much I did something I don’t normally do – immediately jumped on the waiting list for Waxman’s other novel. And while my reaction to the story was pretty much the equivalent of this . . . .

I’m bummed that I’ve now read all of her books. I guess that’s what the newly installed She Shed is for. Come on over, Abbi, and allow me to hold you hostage be your hostess while you write your next winner . . . .

The Garden of Small Beginnings features leading lady Lili - book illustrator, mother of two, and young widow. This is the story of Lili’s family, friendships and new beginnings by way of a class her boss signs her up for after assigning Lili a project illustrating a gardening guide. This book has so much heart, so much humor and such a great approach to handling what could be some seriously heavy subject matter . . . .

“It wasn’t a nuthouse. It was a hospital.”

“With locks on the doors.”

“Well, yes.”

“And lithium and Thorazine and people who thought they were Amelia Earheart.”

“That was just one guy.”

Abbi Waxman is an author who makes me be a different kind of me. Someone who might not want to only read books about trailer parks, motorcycle alpha men, meth manufacturing and stabby stabs, but instead who wants to do real crazy shit like forming . . . . .

Cluck cluck mothafuckas. I’m fixin’ to read about eleventy-three more “chicky” books in the next few weeks after my reaction to this one.

All the Stars.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Trailer Park Noir by Ray Garton

2 Stars

Before we get started let’s get real clear on some things. Aside from my addiction to The Real Housewives In Every-Single-City-On-The-Entire-Planet franchise, I don’t watch a lot of television programs. The ones I do often find myself tuning into? Well, they tend to have some similarities. I like fellas like these . . . .

And chicks like these . . . .

Books that automatically get added to my Don’t-Care-How-I-Want-It-Now list? Those with covers like this . . . .

Or this . . . .

Or the one I’m currently reviewing.

My name is Kelly and I am addicted to the trailer park lifestyle. In theory Trailer Park Noir should have been a hit. Not only did it have a winner of a title and irresistible cover art, but the residents of the Riverside Mobile Home Park were just the type of folks I hoped to meet. Struggling single mother with a special-needs daughter, widowed PI with a booze problem, slovenly property manager, internet pornographer, methamphetamine manufacturer, dead person. You know, my kind of crowd. And the beginning and the ending of this book were what generally result in 4 and 5 Star ratings for me. So where did things go wrong in the middle???? Well to begin with, while I’m not personally “triggered” by many (okay, ANY) things, when it comes to items I feel others would potentially want to be warned about, it’s pretty much . . . .

And the people who could potentially be offended by this????

To me there’s a HUGE difference in writing about topics that you know will limit your audience (i.e., ANY book in the “grit lit” genre) and writing about a topic with the intention of turning off your readers. There’s not a fine line between gritty and squicky, there’s a giant cavern. Books like this or The Traveling Vampire Show leave a bad taste in my mouth because I question whether the taste level has been turned so far South as an attempt by the author to mask their inability to write well or because they get off on telling these types of stories. Either one is going to result in a low rating from me. Trailer Park Noir gets a bump from 1 to 2 due to its potential to be better than it was (and that title and cover, obvi).

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Be More Chill by Ned Vizzini

19476. sy475
1 Star

Let’s keep this one short and sweet. This was another book that was on my TBR for eternity. It got placed there due to my reaction to It’s Kind of a Funny Story. It finally made it to the currently reading stack (late, naturally) when I attempted to check out a copy for Young Adult Week. Good news is, I read it in a couple of hours. Bad news is, it was terrible. Lacking in character development and relying on the clichés that all boys are oversexed perverts who are lucky they haven’t gone blind despite their masturbatory tendencies and all girls are dumb sluts looking for validation from the nearest penis, it was clear I was pulling a Sergeant Murtaugh because I was most definitely “too old for this shit.” However, like so many things of late there’s a different version of this story that is pretty great . . . .

Maybe leave the book on the library shelves and track down your nearest community theater instead????

Monday, July 22, 2019

In Harm's Way by Doug Stanton

42435. sy475
5 Stars

In the early morning of July 30, 1945, the USS Indianapolis (after delivering the makings of what was known as “Little Boy” – the atomic bomb that would eventually be dropped on Hiroshima) was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. The torpedoes nearly sheared the Indianapolis in half and within 12 minutes the entire ship would vanish to one of the deepest burial grounds in the ocean. Nearly 300 men would die almost immediately – close to 900 would make it off the ship. In Harm’s Way is the true story of what happened in the four days it took for the military to discover the survivors . . . .

This has been on my to-read list for an eternity. In my mind it was always a book that could only be read during Shark Week. As my bad luck and failing brain would have it, I generally put myself on the wait list too late and have simply been putting this off every year when the timing failed. Until this year. As someone who does not read a lot of non-fiction I will say this earns every one of its 5 Stars for being succinct, not bogged down in military lingo and technical mumbo jumbo and presenting a story so horrifyingly fascinating it read like fiction. A must read for every shark addict . . . .

Friday, July 19, 2019

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

40489648. sy475
2 Stars

I checked out of Goodreads for several weeks due to taking some time off to watch my boys play ball and work being extra worky on the days when I was actually in the office. I returned this week FORTY reviews behind – not including this selection which didn’t even manage to make it to my “Currently Reading” list. Now I’m wondering how many more of these there are. I’m starting with this one because . . . .

If you know me, you know I’m not a blurb reader. Apparently I’m also not real good at slap-you-right-in-the-face clues via way of titles. I requested this book without knowing anything about it simply because I enjoyed In a Dark, Dark Wood and because I can’t help myself when it comes to requesting things from NetGalley. I will warn you, if you have a problem with this sort of presentation . . . .

I know I’m going on. And I know you must be wondering when the hell I’m going to get to the point – to the reason I’m here, in this prison cell, and the reason I shouldn’t be. And I promise you, it’s coming. But I can’t – I can’t seem to explain the situation quickly.

Ruth Ware is not the author for you. As for me? I kind of dig this style of delivery. However, I didn’t like this story the first time I was forced to read it back in the dark ages high school when it was called The Turn of the Screw. If I would have known it was a retelling of that old slog I would have avoided it. Sorry, Ms. Ware. I probably still won’t read blurbs in the future, but I’ll definitely read more of your books.

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

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Bunny by Mona Awad

3.5 Stars

“We never joke about bunnies, Bunny.”
A new release with comparisons to an old high school fave?????

Obviously I had to read it. But now that it’s over I’m not exactly sure what to say. I stumbled across another review that said this book was so far up its own ass it wasn’t even funny. I’ll give you that Bunny is a book that is up its own ass, but that’s kind of the entire point . . . and it's most certainly pretty funny.

Please don’t get to thinking I suddenly believe myself to be smart enough to pick up on alllllllll that was being put down, but I did read a pretty bigly chunk of this with a smirk on my face because it was exactly what comes to my mind as soon as the term “MFA” starts being dropped around places such as Goodreads. I even chuckled a time or two while reading about the Ivy League elite’s creative struggles . . . .

“Now Eleanor, I hope you’re not writing about a boy too,” Fosco says. Eleanor suddenly smiles. “Of course not, Ursula. I’d never be that stupid. But as it turns out I brought the wrong story,” she says looking at me. “My mistake.”

And I can totally relate to how hard it is to get shit done with a bunch of stupid Bunnies fucking everything up and when not-so-boyfriend-material book boyfriends keep coming along to ruin a potentially good time. The only thing that would have made this better was if it were a musical. That would be absolutely . . . .

I have no clue who to recommend this to. Freaks and geeks???? Or anyone who seeks out experiences like this . . . .

Or anyone who would want to be in a book club with someone like Mitchell.