Friday, January 31, 2020

Ghost World by Daniel Clowes

3 Stars

There’s nothing really to say about this one. It’s nearly 20 years old, it’s a bit of a cult classic, a major motion picture was made, etc., etc., etc. Basically I’m late to the party and I read it because it was on some must read list of graphic novels I found (and lost) eons ago. Ghost World contains various snippets from the lives of lifelong friends Enid and Becky as they are on the cusp of adulthood and discovering maybe they don’t have as much in common with each other as they used to. As everyone else has already said – the artwork is where the magic happens. Not saying there’s anything wrong with the content – the characters/their interactions ring pretty true to that awkward stage when you’re trying to find yourself between child and adult – but the art is just great. These vignettes would have been something to look forward to had I been a reader of this back when it was serialized rather than picking it up after it had been turned into one collection.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem

48580453. sy475
3.5 Stars

Motherless Brooklyn is told from Lionel Essrog’s perspective. An orphan residing in the St. Vincent’s Home for Boys in Brooklyn, Essrog and a handful of others ranging from 13-15 are picked up by local hood Frank Minna as day workers for his local “delivery company.” Fast-forward 15 years and those same boys are assistants for Minna’s “detective agency” . . . . . and Minna is dead. What follows is Lionel’s attempt to discover the whodunit.

I have absolutely zero recollection of how this got added to my TBR. All I know is the library had one copy so I have been waiting on it for months and months. During that time I discovered it had been adapted into a feature film with an all-star cast. I can’t imagine anyone better than Edward Norton being the one to declare this novel a labor of love and not rest until Essrog was brought to life on the big screen. He’s a narrator like you’re never seen and deserves to be portrayed by an actor with Norton’s capabilities. Why, you ask? Since I didn’t mention it before, it’s due to the fact that Lionel Essrog suffers from a severe case of Tourette’s syndrome. And that’s the whole reason this book works. The “mystery” is one of not only the meh variety, but also one that is all but solved and explained to the reader by pretty much the 60% mark – and there’s a completely unnecessary romantic interest thrown in to muddy up the waters. Heck, the entire thing gets a little bit lost in itself. Although a specific timeframe is never provided, readers must assume the story takes place roughly in the 90s (some people have cell phones that fit in their pockets, but also still beepers and landlines and drive cars like Mercury Tracers). However, the actions/exchanges of the characters along with the noir style of delivery tricks the brain into believing it to be taking place decades ago. (Apparently the film has fixed this glitch and has the story taking place in the ‘50s.) Lionel compares some of his tics to the acting style of Art Carney and he and the other Minna Men are told they look like rejects from Welcome Back Kotter – it’s just odd. But Lionel Essrog himself? He’s perfection.

“I’d appreciate hearing from you—Doorjerk! Doorjam! Jerkdom!—if you see anything odd.”

“You’re pretty odd,” he said seriously.

“Something besides me.”

He’s the quintessential loveable loser. Not only due to having a very in-your-face medical condition during a time when people weren’t familiar with it and instead simply assumed him to be “the Freakshow,” but also due to his naiveté and loyalty to a boss he truly believed to be a legitimate businessman. With the recent backlash regarding authors who choose to write tales that are not their personal story to tell, I’m certainly glad Lethem is an author who was not censored simply for the fact that he himself does not have Tourette’s.

Look, Ma – no .gifs!


Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Nice by Jen Sacks

3 Stars

What if, rather than ending her dates like this . . . .

Our dear Bridget ended them like this instead . . . . .

That’s pretty much what Nice is about. You see, Grace is an empath, which in the dating world turns her into . . . .

But then her odd form of “buyer’s remorse” makes her do stuff like . . . .

Things get complicated when Grace discovers that someone has picked up on her little secret - and due to his own line of work he ain't scurrrrrrred.

This wasn’t a terrible way to spend a couple of hours. I’m a fan of dark humor and killing bad dates is fairly dark. I’m also a fan of twisted love stories and this one ranks pretty high up there for that as well. It isn’t a book that will change your life, but it might be a book that keeps you on the FBI watch list when the library tells you the Winter Reading Challenge is to “Imagine That” and you can’t imagine something more enjoyable than murdering every dude who you didn't want to go out with again with no repercussions *wink*

And that right there was #5, kids. Thanks for following along and see you all in the summer when the major award I neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed will be some sort of glass that holds an alcoholic beverage and yet another theme I’m sure to whine about.

Prince of Folls by Mark Lawrence

3 Stars

I’ve used my words a couple of times in the past week, so Imma just gif this one up.

Prince of Fools is the story of . . . .

Okay, his name is actually Jal and he’s not a bastard. He is, however, waaaaaaay down on his granny the Queen’s favorites list and he 100% knows nothing. Also . . . .

I’m nine parts bluster and one part greed and so far not an ounce of murder.

Thanks to the work of a blind version of this . . . . .

Jal finds himself paired up with a fella named Snorri who, due to his size and strength, called an old favorite to mind . . . . .

Now the two are bound together, dealing with a bit of . . . .

And are faced with the daunting task of battling these dudes in order to save the kingdom . . . .

The only thing really wrong with this book was that it wasn’t Prince of Thorns. That being said, if Jorg and his band of merry men sounds too graphic/offensive/whatever for you/your kid to read, this is 100% a scaled back version. No raping or pillaging is going on here. Lots of action, lots of adventures, a fair amount of humor, some familiarity with other popular plotlines in fantasy stories, but sparing the gory details. Please note these books are male-centric, so don’t come crying about female representation. You’ll find that in Lawrence’s Book of the Ancestor series.

Yet another selection brought to you by . . . .

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

5 Stars

When I first heard the plot of this book was about a young black woman being confronted by a security guard due to him believing she may be a kidnapper I immediately dismissed the idea of reading it because I thought “that is stupid – most people would just assume she was the nanny.” And then I realized I either had to read it or drink a gallon of poison because did my brain say that due to my subconscious already having that information? Or was it due to me having some sort of implicit bias that would automatically categorize a 20-something black woman as some sort of hired help (that’s where the poison comes in)? And would I feel that way about young women of any color who were accompanying a child of a different race? What if it were a 30-something? Or a 40-something? What if it were a man? What if I’m not “woke”?!?!?!?! (Just kidding – I am well aware that I am not woke *sad face emoji*)

Anyway, that’s the type of things this book makes you think of. Hot button topics like race and socioeconomic status and perception and appearance vs. reality are all tackled within the pages, but not done so in a heavy-handed manner. You see the goings on from each character’s individual perspective – including all of their biases. And those characters are all flawed. From the vapid Alix (I’m not even going to address the stupid pronunciation of her name), to Emira and her state of arrested development, to their male counterparts, to their friend groups. It was a real thinker (but again delivered with humor) that one minute had me “aww how cute-ing” a scene (for those interested I’m referring to the Kelley and Emira exchange on the bus where he declares her to be his girlfriend), that by the end of the book had me wanting to grab that poison again because “holy hell that was maybe not so cute after all.”

Reese’s Hello Sunshine Book Club has been a fairly consistent deliverer of what I like to call “Saturday Reads.” They have kept me not only interested but also invested and are light enough to get through in an afternoon. Such a Fun Age would easily be another 4 Star selection, if not for the addition of Briar bumping it up to the full monty. If you know me you know that . . . .

(Probably not someone who should have had a couple of my own, huh? Hindsight is 20/20 and I like mine okay since I have molded them into mini-assholes much like myself, but other people’s kids? Blech.)

Anyway, every couple of years a kid comes along that I’d like to meet. The last one I can remember is Frank and now there’s Briar. Not only did her description conjure up an angelface like . . . .

But her worldly observations????

Briar asked questions like, “Why can’t I smell that?” or, “Where is that squirrel’s mama?” or, “How come we don’t know that lady?”

“If you eat all your toes?” Biar looked back at Emira, and whispered, “Then, then guess what, Mira? No more toes.”

“Should I come eat pie with you this week?”
“Yes,” Briar decided. “But you can only have ten pieces.”

Oh my lord I just wanted to kidnap her from a grocery store!

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

Monday, January 27, 2020

Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente

24886019. sy475
5 Stars

“Magic is just a word for what’s left to the powerless once everyone else has eaten their fill.”

First things first . . . .

Are you fucking kidding me right now, Goodreads???? Go home, recommendation feature. You. Are. Drunk.

If you couldn’t tell by the title, this is a retelling of the classic. Some changes include Snow White not being quite the damsel in distress the original made her out to be, but instead . . . .

The seven dwarfs not be dwarfs at all, but rather ladies of il repute . . . .

The goings on behind the evil stepmother's magic mirror confirming once again . . . .

And an ending that will leave you saying . . .

And left Mitchell and I like . . . .

I probably never would have read this one had I not asked for recommendations in order to complete the library challenge. Many thanks to my pal Vivian for putting it on my radar. It’s getting all the stars.

Friday, January 24, 2020

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

45721673. sy475
5 Stars

Ooooooh this was so good I almost peed my pants . . . . .

No I didn’t. I said what I said.

American Dirt has been on my TBR for a minute. All I knew about the story before knowing I wanted to read it was it begins with the gunning down of nearly an entire family at a quinceañera by the cartel. That right there is what you call . . . .

By this point 99.999999% of you have already decided if you’re going to read this or not. I mean, not only did it make the internet explode (we’ll get to that later), but it has also been chosen by The Queen of All Things and Barnes and Noble as their book club selections. For the one person out there who doesn’t know anything about this book, from the jumping off point above survivor Lydia knows that her son’s life is in jeopardy and they must immediately escape Acapulco. The only place she can imagine being far enough away from the reaches of the cartel to disappear completely is the United States. Thus begins a fifty-three day, 2,645 mile journey detailing the lengths a mother will go to for her child. Basically . . . .

“Like in the movies?”

“Yes, mijo. Just like in the movies.”

Interspersed within that tale is the background of just how their family became targets to begin with as well as those of other migrants they meet along the way. It is a FICTIONAL depiction. There are a lot of instances of right place/right time, kindness of strangers, better them than me, thank god we had money, etc., etc., etc. that obviously make this dissimilar to most true accounts. But no one ever said it was based on a true story, so my rating has been driven by my investment in the characters and the page turnability factor.

Talk about a story that sucked me in until the last page! Well, nearly the last page. Per usual I could have lived without the Epilogue. This was a story of the migration itself, after all, and having a blip of an “after” without any details regarding the hows behind Lydia and Luca’s new life, school, etc. was unnecessary to me (and also left a lot of unanswered questions to those truly ignorant of the undocumented person’s experience when it comes to becoming a member of society without truly being allowed legally to be a member of society). I did not feel like this was ANYTHING resembling “tragiporn” until the very end (as I said, in reality I’m sure many more tragedies generally face those attempting to make this trek) and a fade-to-black approach was taken rather than graphic content being added to amp up the shock and awe factor. There were no “white saviors” to come rescue the characters. The story did not perpetuate negative stereotypes other than the cartel is not made up of good guys, which hopefully everyone can agree on. To me, it was simply brilliant.

Now it’s probably time to address the pink elephant in the room.

Once upon a time there was an author who showed up at a reviewer’s house and stalked her for not liking her book. I immediately went to the library so I could read it (and my husband was absolutely horrified by what a whackjob I obviously am). When asked if I was still going to read this, my response was simply . . . .

I had tried and failed to get an ARC, then begged the library to buy it for me, then waited an eternity for it to be released and got first dibs for my efforts . . . which just so happened to be the same day the poo really hit the fan on the intertubes. I couldn't wait to start this son-of-a-gun.

I want to make something real clear in that I believe everyone has a right to have an opinion as well as the right to express it. People should stand up for what they believe in. I thought the conversation was going to be that encouraging publishers/readers to experience more #ownvoices selections, which is great. What I didn’t expect was this attempt to keep authors from writing any character or story they have in their brain due to not be “brown” enough as the case was here (or gay enough or Muslim enough or any other type of “enough” in other cases). Censorship is something I will never get behind. We need as many voices as possible bringing real-life issues to the forefront. Not to mention the flat-out trolling of any reader/reviewer who dared to give American Dirt a chance.

I also encourage people to make sure they have their “own voice” before jumping onto the bandwagon of some of these social justice warriors. You will find people who have not even bothered to read the book themselves and are simply regurging what others have said, or who have an ulterior motive of attempting to sell their own wares, or who have gone viral by devolving into calling a complete stranger a bitch and a “white” person (despite her being of Puerto Rican descent). That is gross. But again, bottom line is opinions are like assholes and what people think about a book is 100% an opinion. My opinion just so happens to agree with the Instagrammer who renamed this release . . . . .

Maybe that’s my privilege showing. And speaking of . . . . do you see that blurb? DON WINSLOW??? A white dude who has made an entire career out of writing books about Mexicans. Yet no one seems to have a problem with him. Or even better, why weren’t people up this guy’s ass????

Dammmmmmmn, son. Talk about #hollywoodsowhite. Not to mention those two actually write stuff that perpetuates the falsity that MexicansSoBad.

But enough of this. Read the book if you want, don’t read it if you don’t. And now to quote my boys Ed Sheeran and Khalid . . . .

♪♫♪I could use some help
Gettin' out of this conversation, yeah♪♫♪

Let’s end this with some recommended selections for those who may be looking for #ownvoices stories:

Fruit of the Drunken Tree
Prayers for the Stolen
Darius the Great Is Not Okay
The Joy Luck Club
Inside Out and Back Again
Two Boys Kissing
Exit West
The God of Small Things
anything by Sherman Alexie
anything by Jason Reynolds

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs

3 Stars

Welllllllllll. Here we are again. Good news is, I liked this one more than the badgers. Bad news is, I still kind of read it wrong. Positives include my type of people like werewolves and vampires and shifters without all of the . . . . .

Mercy in particular really kinda being my type of person . . . .

Set in Coeur d’Alene, which is apparently the werewolf capital of the world, much like . . . . .

And a heavy on the whodunit while being almost nonexistent when it came to the romance. Buuuuuuuuuuut, these people were kind of terrible at being supernatural creatures and it was one losing battle/tranquilizing/kidnapping after another that made this seem A LOT longer than 300 pages to me.

However, it did achieve the goal getting me yet another step closer to my Major Award . . . .

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Hot and Badgered by Shelly Laurenston

35534548. sy475
2 Stars

Eeeeeesh. Okay, I’m really the wrongreader here. A bunch of my friends really dug this one. I’m going to go ahead and take this opportunity to blame my local gifthorse for my experience : )

You see, this is the time for the annual Winter Reading Challenge from my local library. While the only real requirement is to read five books in three months, a “theme” is selected each year and I try my best to play along for the most part. It gets me out of my comfort zone and takes books off my TBR that were quite possibly destined to stay there for eternity – never to even be thought of. The problem is, my approach to reading is very much . . . . .

Meaning, I’m a mood reader and I 100% was not in the mood to “Imagine That” via fantasy books. I thought maybe paranormal fantasy or urban fantasy might help push me toward the finish line, but turns out I have maybe lost my taste for those as well . . . . .

So the story here is a honeybadger a tiger and a non-shifting shapeshifter walk into a bar . . . .

Okay, maybe not exactly like that, but three sisters of the aforementioned variety are in a pickle due to their scumbag daddy scamming the wrong people and getting a hit put out on them. At first I thought I would dig it and it would be a little reminiscent of . . . . .

But then the action sequences were all . . . . .

(only with more vagina)

And the “love interest” was all . . . . .

And it never stopped and never had any sort of a plot aside from fight scene after fight scene and eleventy-seven characters being introduced just to get the crap kicked out of them or killed and . . . . .

But I read it so that makes me one book closer to obtaining more free crap for my hoard.


Tuesday, January 21, 2020

If You Want To Make God Laugh by Bianca Marais

2 Stars


1. One aging, suicidal, infertile, almost divorcée;

2. One nun excommunicated from the Catholic Church decades ago (after being secretly raped and impregnated by the parish priest) whose baby was taken and raised by the sisters in the convent;

3. One currently pregnant girl (who also was a victim of rape);

4. One former maid and mother of pregnant girl who is currently dying;

5. One set of good intentions of dying woman delivering currently pregnant girl’s baby to wealthy white sisters named in numbers 1 and 2 above;

6. One (now formerly) pregnant girl who gets herself hired as current maid for sisters 1 and 2 in order to be near son;

7. Two cases of HIV;

8. One setting of post-apartheid South Africa;

And you’ll have what was added to my TBR due to it being soooooooo many people I follow on Instagram’s choice for Book of the Year. When will I learn that I am an old curmudgeon rather than a millennial and I don’t share a lot of these young whippersnappers’ opinions?

Positives? The black/white racial commentary was very well done. Not real heavy-handed and how both sides viewed each other was presented throughout. I also loved Ruth. I won’t forget her soon. Other than that?????

If you know me, you know that tragiporn isn’t generally my idea of a great time unless it’s done extremely well and catches me in the feelings when I’m off guard. This one was like being beaten over the head with a frying pan to get the point across.