Book Review: The Grownup

Title: The Grownup
Author: Gillian Flynn
Format: Hardcover
Published: 2014

“On a whim/because of a feeling” is probably not a good method of picking every book I ever read, but it’s the method I used with this one.  There is something about the cover art that just drew me in, and I couldn’t help it.  “Story by the author of Gone Girl” led me to believe it had some potential because Gone Girl was widely successful.  So I paid $1.50 for this at my local used bookstore because it looked brand new and I was drawn to it.

Also, it’s quite short, which I liked, because I’ve not been able to finish books lately.

Anyway.  So the book starts out with our main character describing her day job – she gives hand jobs to guys.  23,000 plus over the past three years, by her estimates.  But carpal tunnel set in and she moved up in her company, to clairvoyant, and now instead of jacking off guys for their hard earned money, she took a more figurative approach with the women folk.

She met a woman named Susan.  A disgruntled mother with a busy husband, a son of her own, and a crazy step-son that needed stopped.  Oh, and the house.  The house was angry, and could she fix Susan’s life?

Eventually our MC decided to swindle her out of a few grand by sprinkling sage and lavender around the house, washing a wall or two, and then calling everything fixed.  The husband was gone so much he may as well have been MIA.  The son was a sweet seven year old with a lock on his door because the step-brother was a bit of a handful.  And the step brother was a teenage with a devious streak that everyone was afraid of.

Part way into the con, there’s a twist that I’m not going to share with you because holy shit.  I didn’t see that coming and all and when it hit, I stopped reading for a minute to take in it’s glory.  Next came a twist on the twist that left you confused as to what was right and what was wrong.

Y’all, I’ll write you a story, but I am not this smart.

No wonder Gone Girl was so well received and no wonder this story originally released in an anthology with an amazing cast of authors along side it.

I’m being vague on purpose because I don’t want to spoil it.

So the story is fabulous.  The first few pages were so funny that I was laughing out loud in the middle of McDonalds.  And there are some fabulous one liners like “Books may be temporary, dicks are forever” that are delivered so matter of factly that you just can’t stop reading.   (Oh, and for those who are worried, it’s a clean book.  They don’t describe any of the handjobs at all…)

When I finished the book, I smiled.  It was perfect.  I just want to caress this book’s cover all night and tell it I love it.  And when I flipped the last page and saw who the acknowledgement was for, I was giddy with delight.  I’m so glad I was surprised by that at the end.

So definitely 5/5 pages for this.  Read it.  Love it.  Share it with your friends.

Book Review – Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

Title: Afterworlds

Author: Scott Westerfeld

Format: Audiobook

Published: 2014

 

Generally speaking I do not make a habit of listening to books I have not read first. It is a weird rule of mine. When I listen to books I’m traveling to work and am stuck in massive traffic jams. I need to many times keep my attention on the road and not on what is coming out of my radio. It is why I pick books with which I am familiar that way I do not get caught up with the story and neglect to pay attention to the road before me and the jerks who suddenly decide to cut me off.

 

Yet, I reached a point where the book I was familiar with was not in yet and I had just finished the previous book, I was in a bind and I needed something good and I needed something fast. So desperately I took to looking at the books that were in at my library and my eyes fell upon Afterworlds. I debated for a very long time. Should I go with something new or rack my brain for something old that I enjoyed. In the end I choose after worlds and I’m glad I did. The book was rather good, though I admit it was a bit of a mind screw at the same time.

 

The premise of the book is two stories at once. The first story is of Darcy a young girl who wrote a novel in November for National Novel Writing Month. (Funny that’s going on right now!) Once completing the novel she submitted her story to an agent for publication and got signed for an amazing deal not only for the one book but for a sequel as well. To be honest, the deal she got was a little too good to be true based on my experience and research of the publishing industry. The other story is Darcy’s novel Afterworlds about a girl named Lizzie who has a harrowing experience where she should have died but instead can will herself between the world of the living and the world of the dead.

 

Throughout the novel the story goes back and forth between the two plot arcs. Darcy’s world is one of deep fascination. She is navigating waters that are still foreign to me but I have read a lot about, the world of publication. As I read her tale I found myself sitting there going ‘Is this what it is really like? Or is this a convenient plot point?’ I always asked that question as I struggle to believe the reality of the generous contract Darcy received at the start of the story. Yet I know there has to be some nuggets of truth littered in the story as the author Scott Westerfeld is a seasoned published author.

 

The other half of the story about Lizzie was creepy and gripping as well. I loved the fantasy element and the picture that was painted of the afterlife in this world. I was gripped by this story as well as it was filled with intrigue and suspense. The story came to a nice end which was built up as in Darcy’s story she debated the end most thoroughly. I do know that I wonder if there will be a second book simply because Darcy was signed for a sequel and she had an interesting start of an idea to write for her next book.   If there is you can be assured that I will want to read it because I enjoyed this story and would give it a 4 out of 5 pages and because it is a story by my all-time favorite author.

 

Book Review – Green Angel

TITLE: Green Angel
AUTHOR: Alice Hoffman
FORMAT: Hardback
PUBLISHED: 2003

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Green Angel is a novella (or maybe even novelette) about a teenager named Green.  Her parents and sister set off to go to the market in the city and she gets left behind (because somebody has to).  Unfortunately, there’s a fire in the city, and almost nobody gets out alive.

The family of four becomes a sad, lonely teenager.  This book is about her dealing with her grief and continuing on as a human being.

So right off the bat, several things stand out.  First, while it is Green telling her story, it feels like we’re hearing it in her head.  There’s no dialogue, really, and in this case, that really works.  You feel one with the main character fairly quickly.  Second, the time frame.

I don’t have any idea whatsoever what time frame this story is supposed to be in.  The family carts vegetables off to market.  There are silversmiths.  But there is also a mention of the great traffic outside, which is a modern word that stands out (whether meant to or not).  I couldn’t tell if this was supposed to be ages ago or a simpler time in the future or something else.  And on one hand, I really wanted to know, because I couldn’t figure it out on my own, but knowing or not knowing doesn’t affect the enjoyability of the story.

I liked it though.  I thought it was really unique from everything I’ve read, and I totally enjoyed reading it.  The imagery from Green was just incredible, and I’m really sorry that I couldn’t see pictures of some of these things.  (From the cover artist – omg.)

Easy 5/5, for sure.

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This satisfies the Book I Can Read In A Day portion of the challenge.

4(I think)/52 books completed

Book Review – W is for Wasted

Title: W is for Wasted
Author: Sue Grafton
Format: Hardcover
Published: 2013

W is for Wasted is the 23rd book in Sue Grafton’s alphabet series.
In this story, we follow Kinsey Millhone (rhymes with Bone) as a series of bizarre events unfold around her. To start, a homeless man dies on the beach with her name in his pocket. The story flips back and forth between the first person POV of Kinsey (as the entire series was) and the third person POV of something happening to somebody, but you’re not exactly sure who is involved or why we need to know it. Oh, and for some strange reason, Robert Deets is in town, asking Kinsey about the guy who stiffed him on a bill. Eventually it all ties in.

As the story unfolds, Kinsey ends up with a group of unlikely allies – the homeless friends of the dead man. Henry ends up with a cat. And we eventually find out how it all fits together.

I’m trying to not have any spoilers here, so I apologize if the review is vague, but there’s really not a lot of specifics I can give.

I didn’t mind the storyline so much. It was a bit predictable in places – a lot of the third person stuff I had figured out really early on. But then again, this is a cozy mystery, so of course it’s a bit predictable. There weren’t any huge issues, aside from characters that I just didn’t like. But that wasn’t a fault of the author.

I did have a bit of an issue with some of the phrasings in the book and a few of the references. Remember, the series started in the early 80s, and Sue has tried really hard to make Kinsey not age all that much. She keeps her slightly antiquated – she likes using index cards so she can slide them around… She likes the sound of her typewriter – so we don’t feel time as much, but there’s still that little thing in the back of your mind. If Only Kinsey had a cell phone. But then again, if that were the case, she’d be in her 50s, and I’m thinking there’s not that much running down the beach after a guy with a gun that she can do in that state.
Anyway, as I was saying… there were several references that we had to question – some felt too old, some felt too new, some were just weird. Like I said, Kinsey’s my mother’s age, so I kept asking her “would you have ever said…” or “what would you call…”

My biggest problem, though, had to deal with this book versus the rest of the series.
Here’s the thing. When Sue started the series back in the early 80s (it’s almost as old as I am!), the books had a very dedicated format/feel/whatever. The last few, however – since at least Q – have had a different feel than the rest of the series. I’m not saying it’s bad or good, but you sort of want a series to have the same feel all the way through. Maybe that’s the side effect of writing a 26 book series, or the side effect of writing for 30 years on a series. But A, B, C… don’t feel anything like the last half dozen have. (My favorite in the series is still L.)

So this causes the problem of rating the book.
I asked my mother (she read it at the same time I was, which made sharing the book really interesting) what she would rate it and she said 4/5.
As a standalone, I’d agree. The writing is better than the earlier books, and the story is tighter.
As for how it fits the series, I’d only give it a 3/5, if that makes sense.

Book Review – How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting To Kill You

How to Tell if Your Cat Is Plotting To Kill You
Matthew Inman (The Oatmeal)
Paperback, 2012

My boyfriend bought this book at a recent trip to the bookstore.  As soon as he brought it home, his cat, Ellis, a grey tabby, perched himself three feet away and glared at us as if he could read the cover and we were somehow onto his evil plot.  Yes, this book might just be a bit more than comedy.

The book itself is a collection of comics about how you know if your cat is plotting to kill you.  I’ll give you a clue.  He is.

It includes a series of comics featuring the Bobcats at work, a bit about ways to tell if your cat is a mountain lion, cats vs the internet, and how to tell if your kitten is plotting to kill you.  After reading the book, you will have a better understanding of why your cat eats dog food (hint: it’s bulking up on protein omnomnom), you’ll be reminded that attacking large inanimate objects is practice for hunting large game, and you’ll finally have that oververbal cat talk translated – they’re huge roars of awesomeness!

Sure, the book is cheezy, but it’s nothing that we’ve never thought once in a while owning cats.  I have three – DC, Brynn & Alix – and I’m telling you, if the book is telling the truth and the kneading cats do is really to check for weak spots, I have no chance.  Brynn does that stuff for an hour at a time.

But I do think that the book is fun.  I think it’s a must have for any cat lover.   With that said, I don’t think a not cat lover will like it at all.  So, if you’re a cat lover, It’s a 5/5 but if you’re not, I’m not sure you’ll appreciate the book.

Book Review–After Visiting Friends: A Son’s Story by Michael Hainey

Title: After Visiting Friends: A Son’s Story
Author: Michael Hainey
Format: Electronic
Written: 2012
Published: 2013

 

One early morning while Michael Hainey dressed for Kindergarten, his uncle Dick showed up at their modest Chicago home to tell Michael’s mother that her husband, a respected journalist,  had died in the wee small hours of that same morning.   Years later Michael read his father’s obituaries for a report and was struck by a few  things that just  seemed…off.    For more than a decade the persistent ghost of his father was joined by the haunting feeling that Michael, his mother and his older brother hadn’t been told the truth.     They knew Robert Hainey had an aneurysm burst as he was coming home from his night shift on the copy edit desk of the Chicago Sun Times.   Yet the obituaries in Hainey’s own paper said that he’d died after visiting friends…

on the other side of Chicago.

Why was Robert Hainey “visiting friends” at 4:00am?  What friends–if they were indeed friends at all–lived over there?    And why had Richard Hainey felt the need to lie to the family yet print the truth in his newspaper?

I’d read a write-up on the book in Entertainment Weekly; friends told me there was also a story on NPR.  The more I heard the more I was torn between curiosity and skepticism.   I desperately wanted to know the truth about that mysterious death, but I also just really hate “Daddy Issues” stories.    After five years of watching Jack Shepherd whinge about it on LOST and decades of characters in novels wittering on about it, there was also a pretty deep mystery about whether or not I would have the patience for yet another story about fathers and sons who don’t connect.

Curiosity won out, and I splurged eleven dollars on the Kindle Version once it wasn’t available at the library.  (Silly me, expecting the Nashville Public Library to buy a book that didn’t have naked people embracing on the cover.)   That was late Friday night, and I joked with Mandi that I wasn’t sure I’d have the review done since I had just downloaded the book.

I clicked the file open on my trusty Kindle Paperwhite and did not come up for air for three and a half hours.

I have been very fortunate in the last six months to have found many good books.  My ratio of good reads to mediocre/bad reads has been much better lately, thanks in large part to a vast network of recommenders who are honest and enthusiastic about sharing exciting titles.   So I can’t say I’ve had many bad reads.

The problem with that is that when I try to tell you how good this book is–no, how FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC this book is–I’m afraid I’ll come off like someone who just rates everything super high all the time.   (“Oh, look! Kath’s turning into Harriet Klausner!”)   After all, my review last week was a five-worm book.   It was also “the most entertaining, thrilling, and captivating read of the last six months.” 

So what superlatives are left?  And will you believe that they are earnest reactions and not bandwagon hype?     I honestly hope you will because this book was amazing.   In searching for answers to who his father was and how and why he really died, Hainey takes us on a journey through the lost world of pre-Watergate journalism and mid-century newspapers, crisscrossing the Midwest as he hunts down leads.   He takes us through his personal history, but he also serves as a docent to  the history of journalism, railroads, Chicago and the Dust Bowl.   Halfway through the novel you realise that Hainey has become a latter-day Virgil, taking the reader through the concentric circles of life as it spirals to the inevitable end.   There is literally not one paragraph of the book that is dull or uninteresting or pointless or showy.   Every word fits together as if it were made specifically to tell this story.

If you love mysteries, history, journalism, memoirs, then this is a book you will enjoy.   If you’ve ever found yourself questioning God about why you are here, or found yourself wondering exactly how and why your life turned out this way, then you’ll find a kindred spirit in Hainey.

It goes without saying that this book is a five-bookworm read, but I’d also say that it’s one of the rare books I’d rate as “Beyond Five”.

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Beyond Five!

Beyond Five!

 

Book Review – Legends of Darkness by Georgia L Jones

Title: Remnants of Life
Author: Georgia L. Jones
Written & Published: 2012

In Remnants of Life, Samantha Garrett, a working wife and mother, drops the kid off at school, and gets into a car accident.  How serious?  Human before the accident, she transforms into a vampire-esque warrior called a Samoda.  This is not your mother’s car wreck, people, this is a whole new kettle of fish.  (Or something like that.)

So here’s the deal.  I was really excited to get this book.  And then I started reading.

I’m not a huge fan of first person, because it’s usually done wrong.  And in this case, it was done wrong.  There are a bajillion different ways to write a sentence, but one of the traps I see first person authors doing is falling into the “I verb something” sentence formatting pattern.  Mix it up.  Give us some “Verbing, I something” or “something was verbed” or whatever.   Instead of “I hollered as I shut the bathroom door,” make it “Hollering as I shut the bathroom door,” and it reads a lot better.

Another issue I had was that the dialogue fell a little flat.  For instance, the kid is six and if his dialog had stood alone, there’s no way I would have guessed that.  (I was sort of thinking younger teen, actually, until the MC said he was six, just because he still needed a ride to school…)

With that said, this is a first novel effort from a new author (that’s not redundant; she doesn’t even have a list of short fiction credits) and a fairly new publisher.  She’s only going to get better, and the product is already beautiful.

The storyline pulled me in, and I wanted to keep going and turn the next page.  The character development was good and the creature building was good.

In the end, if you can forgive the first-person I-verb writing style, the payout is worth it.  I’m giving it three out of five pages.

I don’t know why this is required, but here it is:

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for review from First Rule Publicity from the author as part of a virtual book tour. I was not compensated nor was I required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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