Thursday, April 30, 2020

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

3.5 Stars

I had zero intention of ever picking this book up after having a real-not-so-great-time with Everything I Never Told You. Even when it became a show with my decades-long girl crush Reese as the star and my years-but-not-quite-decades-long newer crush Kerry as the other star. And I even have Hulu thanks a package trio that began with the hubs’ obsession with Marvel (hence Disney+) and ESPN the Ocho (hence massive amounts of tears because everything sportsball related has been cancelled for 2020 and you have to watch old Tiger Woods victories on repeat if you want any Saturday action). But then my real-life reading pal Reggie told me it was good and we are of like minds when it comes to books and it was also available for instant checkout through the library so I figured what the hell.

In case you’re new here, allow me to sum up my personality in .gif format for you . . . . .

During lockdown I have been mixing up my reading as much as possible to keep things from blending into one another (especially thrillers – boy do I forget what those are about like 12 seconds after finishing the book), but I really dig a story full of unlikeable people. Generally I tend to root for the underdog (even when they are murderers or meth-heads), but everyone once in a while I really appreciate a book where I can just kind of hate on everyone. Thus was the case with Little Fires Everywhere. When my husband asked what it was like, my response was pretty much . . . .

Except for Izzy. I really loved Izzy.

I am just old enough to remember when surrogacy and foreign adoption and birth mother rights were new and the court battles that went on regarding change of mind or change of heart. Placing this firmly in that time (with subtle reminders in the form of television programs/songs/election campaigns, etc.) was a smart choice by the author. This would be a fun one for a book club to see just which characters people found sympathetic/which side of some of these hot button topics people choose. And then there would be me sitting in the corner by myself with my shitty attitude that found all three female leads to be atrocious . . . . .

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier

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4 Stars

I’ve noticed a lot of commentary the past month or so regarding what people are reading – whether it’s venturing out of their comfort zone because all of this lockdown time has provided ample opportunities for reading or, alternatively, those who are remaining firmly planted in their wheelhouses because the world in general has become different enough. I have found my tribe in those who have come out of the closet and admit they enjoy looking for something in the dark rather than the light, the crazy rather than the cozy, the stabby rather than the snuggly, the . . . well you get the picture.

Jennifer Hillier is an author who falls into that category. She starts off with a simple enough storyline that’s already not for the weak of heart – a kidnapping at a local shopping center by a person dressed in a Santa suit. The chances of ever discovering the whodunit are obviously next to nothing, but the mother hires a private investigator anyway as a last resort when the case goes cold. A year later that mother (Marin) finds out allllllll sorts of stuff. Not about her son, but about her husband Derek’s affair. And she decides that if she can’t do anything to get her child back, she can do whatever it takes to save her marriage.

See what I mean with that first gif? She’s just batshit. Hillier’s mind goes from 0 to 60 and while her stories may be over the top and crazy, they walk the knife’s edge from getting too Lifetimey and campy. Really my only “gripe” about this is . . . . .

God I hate face covers. They are just so generic.

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

Monday, April 20, 2020

One Of Us Is Next by Karen McManus

2 Stars

Is lockdown making anyone else do crazy things???? Like convincing yourself you have to read ALLLLLLLL of the library books because at some point you won't have time to read? Or that you’ll really like a sequel despite spending pretty much your entire existence avoiding sequels? Yeah, me too.

Much like my opinion of nearly all “seconds” in a series, I felt this one was unnecessary. Especially seeing that this author has already proven to not be just a one-hit-wonder with Two Can Keep a Secret. The synopsis here is some characters from the first book return for the second and this time around a game will be used in order to uncover the players’ dirty little secrets . . . .

The problem? One Of Us Is Lying worked because it was an homage to The Breakfast Club. This one didn’t have any of those nostalgic vibes and instead falls flat as just another YA mystery. Teens may very well love it, but this oldster found herself really feeling her Captain Murtaugh vibes . . . .


Thursday, April 16, 2020

The Easy Italian Cookbook by Paulette Licitra

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5 Stars

In case you missed it, my life has become an endless feeding session of these young humans who are being held captive in the house for at least another 30 days. Luckily I receive an expired meat delivery courtesy of the Walmart truck a new cookbook every couple of weeks so they don’t rip my arm off like one of my homeboy Joey E.’s tigers. In order to prevent me from punching someone in the face when my at-home workday ended and my dinner making sessions begin, I started taking my own precautions . . . . .

After a month of this, it’s kind of more like . . . . .

This cookbook is getting all of the stars because (1) I am a fatty, (2) I love Italian food, (3) it helped me make things the past week that made me feel like Carmella Soprano . . . .

(^^^^Chicken Carbonarra)

(4) it includes “duh” things most could probably throw together themselves, but that will still impress all your bougie friends . . . . .

And most importantly, (5) it had an alcoholic beverage section . . . .

Who knew Bellinis were so easy to make? Or so delicious? *hiccup*

Copy provided by Callisto Publisher’s Club in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo

5 Stars

Or Easter, as the case was here.

In all honesty, I picked this one up because I kept getting it confused with A Good Neighborhood due to the cover similarities. I didn’t read a synopsis for either, just noted that my friends gave both pretty high ratings and added them to the TBR in hopes that I would eventually be able to tell them apart.

I started The Most Fun We Ever Had on Good Friday knowing that I would probably have loads of free time for reading because despite the “office” (a/k/a my reading chair) being open, most of the courts, the stock market, etc. were closed so there probably would not be high demands for work that needed to be done.

This is the story of the Sorenson family. David and Marilyn, their four daughters Wendy, Violet, Liza and Grace, the daughter’s husbands and boyfriends, their grandchildren – the whole gang. The kick-off to the book is a “re-storking” of sorts when Jonah, a family secret given up for adoption 15 years prior, makes a sudden reappearance in the family. The ever popular timehop device is then utilized to complete the narrative, taking us back to the 1970s when David and Marilyn first met and continuing via the back-and-forth past-to-present until the story is complete.

First things first, this one isn’t going to be for everyone, so please take my rating with a grain of salt. If you are looking for a book with a lot of twists and turns and edge of your seat excitement, this is not for you. It also has a lot of pages, so there’s a solid chance if you don’t find yourself connected to these people it will be quite a slog to get through. I was completely invested in the Sorensons, however, so I loved every second I got to be a part of their lives. Maybe it was because I come from a similar large Catholic family. Maybe it was because I love ensemble casts. Maybe it was because these characters seemed so authentic and I loved them one second and wanted to tear their hair out the next. A biiiiiiiiig maybe that it was full of humor rather than tragedy. Whatever the case, this was exactly what I needed on a weekend that would have surely brought out some family drama (either in my own or that I ended up hearing about someone else’s) if history hadn’t been rewritten due to the ‘Ronee.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby

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4 Stars

Back when I had feelings, my self-esteem was a toilet.
Dear Sam Irby . . . . .

YMMV because her stories are about things like dropping hamsters due to aggressive menstrual cycles and shitting her pants and various other “swimsuit area” issues women sometimes have . . . .

But she also talks about marriage and step-parenting and her cats and everything else that isn’t quite so in-your-face and also . . . . .

Barry knows books.

Also, she is a woman of a certain age who grew up dreaming of being able to channel the lies of Veronica Sawyer, Vickie Miner and Daria Morgendorffer, who listened to badass bitches like Hole and Liz Phair and believes this video could quite possibly be the great unifier . . . . .

Not to mention, fantasizes about calling 911 regarding real-life issues such as . . . .

Hello, 911? I’ve been lying awake for an hour each night, reliving a two-second awkward experience I had in front of a casual acquaintance three years ago, for eight months.

And just gets it regarding being a fat person . . . .

I can’t watch This Is Us because even though the brothers are hot and the dad is a smoke show, in the first couple episodes the fat girl doesn’t get to be much more than “fat,” and wow, no thank you! Maybe there are fat people sitting around silently weeping about being fat every minute of every day, but that is a redemptive arc thin people like to see on television, and it’s just not the fucking truth.

Plus, we have the same policy regarding interactions with strangers on the intertubes . . . .

There’s no mute button for the woman at the grocery store who won’t stop asking you where the shampoo is, even though you’re pushing your own cart while wearing both sunglasses and a coat. But you know who you can mute? Everyone you hate on the Internet!

I double-dipped on this one and read part of it on the Kindle while listening to part while taking the dog for his daily stroll through the ‘hood. Irby’s delivery style (just like her writing) may not be for everyone, but for me the dry, droll reading added an extra level of hilarity.

If you don’t shy away from stories that are a little . . . . okay A LOT . . . . crass, I recommend all three of her books.

Monday, April 13, 2020

The Operator by Gretchen Berg

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2.5 Stars

Man, I have a disappoint. This book had so much potential. To sum things up briefly, The Operator is a story that takes place back in the 1950s in a little town called Wooster, Ohio. The main character of the story is a gal named Vivian, who makes a living working for Ma Bell . . . .

Like all of the other operators, occasionally Vivian likes to listen in on a call or twelve two in order to keep up with the local gossip. But what happens when the gossip in question just so happens to be about her?????

This book is all about Vivian believing one dirty little secret from her past is going to become public domain, while eventually watching all of the skeletons fall out of some other townsfolks’ closets as well. As I said before, it had tons of potential (and that cover is the bees knees). Unfortunately, it fell flat for me.

Obviously YMMV, so if it’s on your to-read stack, give it a whirl.

Friday, April 10, 2020

The Easy College Cookbook by Candace Braun Davison

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5 Stars

Captain’s Log – Day 873 of Quarantine: My existence has become an endless feeding session of the young Earthlings residing in this dwelling. So many requests for food. So many dirty dishes. So little alcohol . . . . .
Anyone else relate? At this point with all of this “family togetherness” by the time evening rolls around I pretty much am like . . . . .

But then I remember that one of these chicks might actually be leaving the nest soon so I suck it up, take their order, serve it up with only a teensie side of . . . . .

And only occasionally toss a jar of peanut butter, a loaf of bread and this cookbook on the kitchen counter for those days I really can’t take one more second of communicating with the trolls I created inside my own body.

Seriously, though, this may be my favorite cookbook I’ve ever received. When I got married, I pretty much could burn water. And before my husband was my husband he offered to cook chili for me and it turned out to not even be opening up a can of Hormel, but a SEASONING STARTER you are supposed to add to your ground beef/tomatoes/beans/onions/etc. that was pretty much just tobasco sauce and chili powder. (Talk about fire in the hole!) We could have used a little kitchen helper like this. Every recipe is definitely easy (and yes, you fellow oldies will find many to be kind of “duh” creations – “Nuts on a salad? Who would have ever imagined!?!?!?!?!). However, please remember we are living in a time where people pay a shitton of money for things like “avocado toast” not realizing it’s smashed avocado on a piece of toast with some salt and pepper . . . .

And I was pushing 40 before I knew you could make a halfway decent egg in a microwave so we ain't all Ina Gartens, bro. I love that these recipes are simple. I love that they are designed for one or two people. I love that this incorporates breakfast, lunch, dinner, salads, snacks, desserts (tell me your life didn’t change with the first Pinterest mug cake you could make only for yourself and eat in the quiet gloaming after sending your hellions to bed). I love that they are cooked in microwaves and on hot plates and require little to no kitchen apparatuses (apparati????) in order to get a finished product.

This might be just what the youngster in your life needs before venturing out on their own. Mine will have to buy one for himself, though, because I’m keeping mine.

And once again to (literally) put my mouth where someone else’s money was – I made the creamy tomato soup last night . . . .

(This pic for the ‘Gram shows a couple of $10 items that have become staples in my kitchen that I highly recommend to young’ins. I made my grilled cheese and ham the old fashioned way in a pan because I am pretty much Paula Deen when it comes to any excuse to use butter . . . . .

But this sammich maker has been the bomb dot com. I also didn’t know how much I needed an immersion blender in my life until I got one. Not only is it mommy’s little helper when it comes to soups and smoothies, but have you found yourself with no ability to grab a FrappĂ© on your one required day at the office due to state-wide shutdowns? No problem. A little coffee, a little cream, a little ice, this blender and a can of Reddi-wip for a quick huff the top is nearly as good and won’t cost you $7.)

Copy provided by Callisto Publisher’s Club in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix

2.5 Stars

Remember back in the olde days of yore when you used to be able to leave your house and go do things that weren’t “essential”???? Yeah, me either. Just kidding. But here’s what I did back in those olden times . . . .

Go inside the IKEA for a book pic? Hell to the motherfuggin nah . . . . .

Or actually buy something from there? Yeesh . . . .

Using only an Allen wrench for 27 hours to assemble something until your skin peels off all of your fingers only to discover you’re missing three to seven vital parts in order to obtain a finished product should probably be part of the Geneva Conventions regarding torture.

But I digress. Despite my own IKEA phobia, the title and cover of this little beauty was EV.ER.Y.THANG. and deserves all the stars. After seeing one of my friends liken the storyline to my favorite gang . . . . .

I thought for sure it was going to be a winner. Unfortunately, I didn’t walk away with Scooby Doo vibes (but if you’re looking for that, go snag a copy of Meddling Kids). Instead I felt like this was sort of a layman’s version of House of Leaves. It was okay, but just okay for me. I have WAAAAAAAAAAY higher hopes for The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires which I just received from the library.


Wednesday, April 8, 2020

A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler

2 Stars

I’ve been on a bit of a roll with reviews of books I really liked so I thought today would be a good time to go back to my roots . . . .

No, June. My roots of being a wrongreader. Or maybe not so much this time because this book seems to have been a mixed bag for my friends as well.

On the surface, A Good Neighborhood is about an argument between neighbors over a tree. In reality it’s about race relations and socioeconomic status and gender roles and on and on. If you follow me you know that I am hit or miss when it comes to tales of the “tragiporn” variety. Obviously this was not a winner. The problems I had here? Caricatures rather than characters – with the good being soooooooo absolutely squeaky clean they read like wholesome family teens from 1950s family television programs while the bad encompassed every awful trait one could have (stereotypical used car salesman, bigot, pedo, etc.) – with a storyline that featured a multitude of twists designed to bring the feels that instead came off as trying waaaaaay too hard to make the point(s). This just didn’t work for me . . . .

The one thing I did like that many others probably won't? The third person "neighborhood" serving as narrator.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel

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5 Stars

I requested The Familiar Dark without knowing anything about it other than I really dug The Roanoke Girls by this author and was up for whatever she had to offer next. When I discovered it was a story about a mother’s quest to find out who murdered her 12-year old daughter in the Ozarks region of Missouri and the ancillary players would be found in titty bars, trailer parks and consist of “entrepreneurs” who adjusted their sales from meth to heroin based on the growing demand, well . . . .

My expectations were also EXTREMELY high. Basically, I was willing to settle for no less than something like . . . . .

Luckily Amy Engel delivered. Holy crap. Every star.

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

Monday, April 6, 2020

Last Couple Standing by Matthew Norman

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4.5 Stars

After watching the marriages of all of the other couples belonging to their friend group “The Core Four” disintegrate, Mtch and Jessica come to the conclusion that perhaps desperate times truly do call for desperate measures and decide the solution to a happy marriage might come in the form of a . . . .

What could possibly go wrong????

So I owe both NetGalley and Matthew Norman a giant apology since I’m the one who requested an early copy of this, held on to it for an age and then actively avoided it because when I finally got around to reading the blurb (you know your girl is all about a cover, and this was a good one), I assumed it would not be my cup of tea. I have no idea why I decided to take the plunge yesterday, but holy crap am I glad I did. I read this author once before (Domestic Violets) when the library didn’t have the book of his I actually wanted (We’re All Damaged) and was a bit underwhelmed. This time? Oh yes indeedy are the comparisons to Jonathan Tropper spot on and I effing LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVED this. After wrongreadng a book on Saturday (due to a plethora of reasons, I’m sure, but bad dialogue was definitely one of them), this little diddy was a breath of fresh air come Sunday and I sat on the deck for the afternoon and sucked it right up. I loooooooooooove dialogue driven stories – especially witty dialogue that just flows without attempting to try too hard – and this one was near perfection. I also love realistic marriages and children and ensemble casts so this had soooooo many things going for it. And yes, the subject matter of cheating is absolutely one I generally avoid, but this book covered this hot-button issue with feeling and humor that made my end-of-book reaction simply . . . . .

As it reminded any happily-enough married person reading it that . . . .

On your side of the fence, the grass is green as fuck. On this side, there is no grass. There’s just booze and sadness and fucking designer jeans.

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