03
Aug
20

Come for the gorgeous book. Stay for the page-turning mystery. CBR12 Review 19.

UnknownReader, this book is, without a doubt, the single most beautiful hardcover I have ever seen. Just look at those blue pages! Absolutely stunning. I admittedly bought this book simply because it was so pretty…and then, Cannonball friend Karen McManus tweeted about what a great mystery it was, and into the vacation reading pile it went!

This story starts near the end: a young woman named Anna turns herself in to police in a small Hamptons summer town, confessing to the murder of a missing local woman, Zoe Spanos, 8 months earlier. From the transcript of her confession, there are clearly a lot of holes in her story, so we aren’t quite sure whether or not Anna actually has anything to do with Zoe’s death or not.

As the story continues, it jumps from summer to fall to the previous winter. We get to know Anna, who is working as a nanny for a local family for the summer, away from home in Brooklyn for the first time. Anna is attempting to recreate herself after a bad year of drinking, drugs, random hook ups, and visits from the police. And Anna has a chilling resemblance to Zoe Spanos, who disappeared on New Year’s Eve and hasn’t been heard from or seen since. The locals constantly remind her how much she looks like Zoe, and her host family admits that it was her resemblance to Zoe that got her the job, as their young daughter loved Zoe.

Anna gets to know a few people in town: Zoe’s sister, Aster; Martina, Aster’s best friend, who has a successful podcast about Zoe’s disappearance; and Caden, Zoe’s longtime boyfriend. As Anna starts listening to the podcast, she learns all about Zoe and her new friends, and wonders if any of them could be responsible for her disappearance.

Anna also starts to have strange visions — sort of like deja vu — whenever she thinks about Zoe, and some of the visions are so vivid she starts to wonder if she has ever actually been in this town before, or if she had previously met Zoe.

The mystery constantly had me second guessing myself. I kept thinking I knew what happened and who did it, and then Kit Frick would pull the rug out from underneath me with something so surprising, but that made so much sense. Did I 100% buy the ending? No. But I didn’t care. I was so invested in the story, and was impressed that all of the loose ends got tied up by the last page.

Other things I loved about this book (besides the blue pages):
Several references to Rebecca and Manderley. What better way to set the scene than by paying homage to one of the creepiest mysteries ever?

Anna is most definitely an unreliable, and often not very likable narrator, and I was still hoping she would be ok at the end.

There is a map of the town. I love a good map.

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All in all, a great summer mystery. I’ll be looking for Kit Frick’s earlier books, for sure.

cbr12 bingo: UnCannon

 

 

 

07
Jul
20

“Was there ever a time you thought – I am doing this on purpose, I am fucking up and I don’t know why.” CBR12 Review 18.

I think you can tell a lot about a person based upon what kind of books they give as gifts. The world is made up of the following types of book gifters:

  1. Those who just walk blindly into a bookstore or onto Amazon to buy a last minute gift, not quite sure if what they bought is good or not, or if you’ll like it or not, but it looked popular or shiny.
  2. Those who try to get everyone to read their favorite book, even if they don’t think you’ll really like it.
  3. Those who really think about what they know about you as a person, and what they think you might enjoy.

I was lucky enough to get a book in the mail this year from a friend who is a #3 (yay for #3, clearly the best of the bunch). She sent me a book that she loved, but more importantly, that she thought I would appreciate as well. I hadn’t ever heard of it, and didn’t find out anything about it before I started it, but I trusted her judgment.

And. WOW. This book is everything: A dark satire, at time hilarious, but also, sometimes really sad. A story about family being who you choose, not who you are born to be with. A bitter takedown of the East Coast elite. A brief history of Richard Nixon. A scathing indictment of the treatment of the mentally ill in this country. And most importantly, a book about finding one’s place in the world, maybe in the last place you ever expected.

When I tell you this book is everything, I’m serious. This book has a subplot about swingers groups meeting after hours via sign-up-genius in laser tag storefronts in Westchester County. It has an international arms deal being broken up with the promise of a car full of chocolate halvah. It had tens of thousands of dollars hidden in a suburban backyard in ammunition shells. It made me want to go on a safari. It also made me want to get another kitten. All the things.

A super quick overview of the story, in which a middle-aged man’s life completely changes between two Thanksgivings:

Harold Silver is a professor of American History, and he specializes on Nixon. He and his wife spend Thanksgiving at his horrible brother George’s house, and Harold wonders why its fair that George is so awful, but has everything: the beautiful house, the powerful job, the beautiful wife, the dog, the kids. And then George’s wife, Jane, kisses Harold in the kitchen.

This random event is followed by some truly awful acts of violence, and in a matter of weeks, Harold finds himself divorced, living in his brother’s house, and raising his niece and nephew. Harold has a brand new life, and seemingly, the opportunity to become a new man.

I’ll be honest, it was slow going for me in the beginning. If anyone else in the world had given me this book, I might have put it down and conveniently forgotten about it. But I kept going…a little bit here, and little bit there (which, seeing that there aren’t any chapters, was hard!). And then about 300 pages in, I could not put this thing down. I needed to know what was going to happen to all of these people that I didn’t even know about a few days ago. I needed to make sure they would all be ok. I am so glad I kept at it, so I could find out for myself how it all came together.

So, thanks, Annie. Thanks for thinking of me and for thinking I might like this book. I really did.

 

 

28
Jun
20

When Jason Mantzoukas says he’s obsessed with a book, you better believe I’m going to read it. CBR12 reviews 15-17.

UnknownI’m a big fan of the graphic novel. I will fight anyone who doesn’t think spending time with a graphic novel counts as reading — for any reading level from elementary to adult. It counts.

Since we started self-distancing, I’ve read three amazing — and so, so, so very different — graphic novels.

The first, All You Need is Kill, is probably the most famous of the bunch. The inspiration for the Tom Cruise/Emily Blunt movie, Edge of Tomorrow (great movie, terrible title), AYNIK tells the story of Keiji, a soldier in the United Defense Force who is about to go out and fight against “the mimics” for the first time. The alien mimics are attempting a hostile takeover of Earth, and they are winning.

In a Groundhog-Day type story, every time Keiji is killed on the battlefield, he wakes up and finds himself back to the morning before the big battle. He becomes quite the warrior, and after he pairs up with the world’s greatest soldier, Rita Vrataski, the duo seem unstoppable. Rita seems to understand what’s been happening to Keiji, but is somewhat cryptic about how he can stop repeating the day of the battle. Every new day that Keiji and Rita “meet”, their relationship changes, bringing them closer and closer together, yet we realize that both of them can’t survive in order to move forward.

It’s probably wrong of me to consider this a graphic novel — in actuality, it is a manga. But I loved it. From the very first (or last) page, the reader is immediately immersed in Keiji’s world, and the backstory is irrelevant. There’s a reason this one spawned an exciting action movie.

*****

Unknown-1Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me is the total opposite of All You Need is Kill. No action, no aliens, no killing. Just a confused girl trying to figure out her friendships and her dating life.

Freddie is obsessed with her girlfriend, Laura Dean. But it doesn’t really seem like Laura Dean is all that obsessed with Freddie. Laura Dean lies and cheats, but Freddie always takes her back. Freddie’s friends (and an advice columnist) all think Freddie should move on, that she should find someone more deserving of her love. But Freddie just can’t stay away from Laura Dean, no matter how badly Laura Dean treats her.

Freddie finally starts to realize that being with Laura Dean has changed her — and not for the better — when her best friend, Doodle, has a personal crisis, and Freddie isn’t there to support her or help her. I think we’ve all been Freddie at some point in our lives,  and I was so happy for her when she finally figured out how to move forward and be present for her friends and family, while still being able to have love.

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Unknown-2Finally, the weirdest graphic novel I have ever come across (yes, weirder than Saga), The Case of the Missing Men. Did I like this? I have no idea. It was strange and messed up, but so original, and I couldn’t put it down.

The official blurb:

The Case of the Missing Men is the first part of an ongoing mystery thriller set in a strange and remote East Coast village called Hobtown. The story follows a gang of young teens who have made it their business to investigate each and every one of their town’s bizarre occurrences as The Teen Detective Club (a registered afterschool program). Their small world of missing pets and shed-fires is turned upside down when real-life kid adventurer and globetrotter Sam Finch comes to town and enlists them in their first real case—the search for his missing father. In doing so, he and the teens stumble upon a terrifying world of rural secret societies, weird-but-true folk mythology, subterranean lairs, and an occultist who can turn men into dogs. The Case of The Missing Men is at turns funny, intriguing, eerie, and endearing, and is beautifully illustrated in a style reminiscent of classic children’s pulp series like Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.

This started out creepy, with people wearing paper plate masks with faces drawn on them, and it got even weirder. Tiny, killer gnomes. Lunch ladies murdered in the school cafeteria. A bunch of men who think they are dogs. And a corrupt police department who ignore everything, leaving this case in the hands of a bunch of high school kids.

I first heard about this one when I was listening to a podcast where Jason Mantzoukas talked about all of the media he was enjoying during quarantine. He was obsessed with this graphic novel series, and was desperately trying to get it produced as a series. I love Jason, but can’t say for sure that I’ll continue with the series. The artwork — simple black and white — was a little unsettling, and the small town (in Nova Scotia?) was no place I would want to visit. But if Jason gets his wish, and finds a place to make this into a show, I’ll probably pick up the next book, simply because he’s the best.

 

 

24
Jun
20

“I am wonderful, I deserve to be wonderful, and I contain multitudes.” CBR12 Review 14.

UnknownI haven’t been great about reading lately, and have been even worse about reviewing. But as a loyal Constant Reader, I felt like this might be the book to jumpstart my COVID reading habits, and I was mostly right.

Similiar to earlier collections like Different Seasons, The Bachman Books, Full Dark No Stars, and Four Past Midnight, If It Bleeds is made up of four long-ish, unrelated stories (or novellas, if you’re feeling fancy): Mr. Harrigan’s Phone, The Life of Chuck, If It Bleeds, and Rat. Two of these seem awfully familiar, like old-timey King. One of the stories brings back one of King’s favorite characters, and ties itself in (I think) with the world of The Dark Tower. And one of the stories just might be my all-time favorite from King. High praise, indeed, seeing how much I love The Mist, The Jaunt, Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut, and Herman Wouk is Still Alive.

Let’s start with the familiar:

Mr. Harrigan’s Phone is a fine, but not particularly memorable story about a young boy named Craig who befriends his elderly neighbor, Mr Harrigan, and goes to read to him after school for many years. They bond over books, and later, over the magic of the iPhone (first series!). And when Mr Harrigan eventually dies, Craig misses having him around so much that he sometimes calls Mr Harrigan’s phone, just to hear his voicemail message. And sometimes, the next morning, Craig will have an undecipherable (or is it? I honestly don’t know) return text message from Mr Harrigan’s phone. As Craig grows up, he thinks of Mr Harrigan less frequently, but still calls his number every once in a while, mostly when things aren’t going so well in his life. After trouble with a bully, Craig calls. And when that bully suddenly dies? Is it coincidence? Or does Mr Harrigan have some sort of power that he wields from beyond the grave?

Rat is definitely a story idea that Stephen King has played around with before. If you could trade something good in your life for something bad in someone else’s life, would you do it? And who would you pick to suffer the consequences of that choice? (Thinner and Fair Extension are similar stories that come to mind. Are there others?) In this instance, a writer — who never really lived up to his potential — gets an idea for a novel, and heads up to his cabin in the Maine woods to write. The last book he tried to write ended up with his house almost burnt down and leaving him very very close to a nervous breakdown. But this time will be different! Not his most original story, but still, never boring. And a bit rattling to read during self-distancing, as there are some flu scenes here that are a little bit creepy, which certainly added to the ambiance of the story. SIDE NOTE: I listened to this audiobook, and Steven Weber did a great job with this story.)

The title story, If It Bleeds, is a Holly Gibney story. I like Holly a lot as a character, so I was all in on this one, but from what I’ve read, not everyone is a fan, so YMMV. Back at home after the events of The Outsider, Holly becomes obsessed with a horrific (seriously, AWFUL) national tragedy, and soon becomes convinced that the perpetrator of this terrible crime is in some way related to El Cuco, the face-stealing monster that she and Ralph Anderson faced in Texas a few years ago. I was tense throughout the entire story — and my anxiety was at 11 for the last 50 or so pages. Good news for fans of this year’s HBO miniseries, as this novella could easily set up Season two.

SPOILERS FOR IF IT BLEEDS:

I’m doubling down on my theory from The Outsider that the monster is related to Dandelo from The Dark Tower. Chet Ondowsky could have been Dandelo’s first cousin, their traits were so similar.

This brings us to The Life of Chuck, which I think is one of the greatest things King has ever written. I don’t even really want to talk about it because I would hate to give anything away…but I will say that it wasn’t at all what I expected after the first few pages.  The story starts in a not-too-distant time, when the world is breaking down. Disease, climate change, riots, and other natural and not-so-natural disasters are bringing us to the verge of the apocalypse. (Another story that was a bit chilling to read during our current global situation. Great timing, Uncle Stevie!). California finally falls into the ocean. The internet is barely working. Huge sinkholes open up, eating cars and making transportation almost impossible. And then, out of nowhere, strange billboards start popping up with a strange message saying “39 GREAT YEARS! THANKS, CHUCK!”.

Who is Chuck? And what has he been doing for 39 great years? The answer surprised me, and the road to that answer fascinated me. I look forward to coming back to this story someday, I know it will stay a favorite.

As a post-script, here is the song that was in my head the whole time:

 

 

 

 

 

26
Apr
20

“All whiteboards are magical.” CBR12 Review 13.

UnknownFrom Goodreads:

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

Ninth House takes place in a world just like our own, except for in this world, magic — used for both good and evil — is real. And the secret societies at Yale, and it’s famous and successful alumni, are the keepers of this magic and secrets. The eight secret (Skull & Bones, Scroll & Key, Manuscript, etc.) societies are overseen and policed by another group, Lethe, otherwise known as the ninth house. This is not Rory Gilmore’s Yale.

Alex Stern is not your typical Yale student — she never graduated high school, she’s been in and out of rehab for most of her teen years, and most of her friends are dead. But Alex can see ghosts — called “greys” and that makes her amazingly attractive to the powers- that-be at Lethe. Lethe offers her a place at Yale, and Alex drops everything (including her mom) in California to start her new life in New Haven.

With only the guidance of Darlington (a senior, tasked with training Alex about the intricate workings of Lethe and the rest of the houses) and Dawes (a grad student who manages the day-to-day operations at Lethe), Alex soon learns that magic is real, and darker than she ever imagined. And that maybe leaving all of the knowledge and secrets of the world’s dark magic to entitled rich kids who like to party isn’t the best idea in the world.

Alex suddenly finds herself mixed up in the murder of a local townie girl named Tara. The police assume it is simply a drug deal gone wrong, but Alex can’t shake the feeling that there might be more to it, and that the secret groups she has been tasked with overseeing are somehow behind it.

The story is told via multiple timelines: the current plot is interspersed with snippets of Alex’s life in California as well as her arrival at Yale and her training with Darlington. It starts near the end of the story, and I did re-read the prologue a few times as I neared the end of the book, making sure I didn’t miss any important details in the story.

This book consumed me. I honestly struggled with putting it down. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about reading it. And when I was reading it, I wanted more. I didn’t want it to end. (Until it did, and I was like, really? That’s the ending we’re going to go with? I could have done without the whole Daisy plot line, to be honest.)

Imagine my surprise when I realized that this was the first in a series! I has absolutely no idea. This is both great and terrible.

Its great because I really enjoyed 90% of this story (see my comment above about the ending). I loved the characters (even those who were completely abhorrent), and the setting, and the magical undertones. I loved the subtle digs at Yale and its ridiculous tow-towing to members of its secret societies. That JP Morgan made his money by manipulating the weather, which effected the commodities markets. That alumni like the Bush family and Stephen Schwarzman made their money thanks to the bloody rituals that were commonplace at Skull & Bones. I loved the inclusion of New Haven as a living and breathing entity. I freaking loved Dawes, and hope she looms even larger in the next book.

And yes, it’s also terrible. By the time the next book comes out, I will have forgotten everything about this one, and will struggle to keep up with the plot and the characters. This happened to me with the Red Rising books, the Ember in the Ashes series, and even with Strange the Dreamer and its sequel (or sequels? I don’t even know anymore.) My old brain can’t remember everything anymore. But I look forward to the next book, and any more that Bardugo wants to set in this fictional version of New Haven.

 

 

11
Apr
20

“The lights will come back on someday…and then we’ll all finally get to go home.” CBR12 Review 12.

UnknownI am not saying anything you don’t already know when I tell you that this book is simply amazing.

I first read this book back for CBR6 (and shockingly — I think I was the first review of it!!), and recommended it to everyone I knew for months afterwards. I bought copies of it for birthdays, and housewarmings, and hostess gifts. I participated in the very first #cannonbookclub. I thought about getting a Survival is Insufficient tattoo. I was all about this book.

And I remember how it pushed me to think about how I would react if something like the events of this story — a deadly flu pandemic, made to sound like simply an inconvenience by the media, suddenly appearing from overseas — and obsessing about what my family could do to survive. My kids were little, and these thoughts kept me up at night. It didn’t help that the very first cases of Ebola had appeared in the US that same week. My mind didn’t stop racing.

This time, I missed the book club discussion, as I was too busy with work. I work as an editor in the publishing department for several academic, cardiology-focused journals, and we were working around the clock, publishing anything related to COVID-19. And I kept thinking, I’m working on this all day, do I really want to come home and read about a flu pandemic that wipes the bulk of humanity off the face of the earth?

And strangely, it turns out, I did. And not only did I want to read it, spending time in this world with these characters truly made me feel better about the events in our world today. The end, where Clark shows Kirsten the lights in the distance, is still filled with hope.

A few things were different this time around…last time, I felt like Kirsten was the main character, but this time I really felt like Arthur was. Last time, I thought a lot about hope for the future, and this time the sections about memory and remembering the past really stuck with me. This one part in particular, about what the survivors will never experience again, was simply stunning:

“An incomplete list:
No more diving into pools of chlorinated water lit green from below. No more ball games played out under floodlights. No more porch lights with moths fluttering on summer nights. No more trains running under the surface of cities on the dazzling power of the electric third rail. No more cities. No more films, except rarely, except with a generator drowning out half the dialogue, and only then for the first little while until the fuel for the generators ran out, because automobile gas goes stale after two or three years. Aviation gas lasts longer, but it was difficult to come by.
No more screens shining in the half-light as people raise their phones above the crowd to take pictures of concert stages. No more concert stages lit by candy-colored halogens, no more electronica, punk, electric guitars.
No more pharmaceuticals. No more certainty of surviving a scratch on one’s hand, a cut on a finger while chopping vegetables for dinner, a dog bite.
No more flight. No more towns glimpsed from the sky through airplane windows, points of glimmering light; no more looking down from thirty thousand feet and imagining the lives lit up by those lights at that moment. No more airplanes, no more requests to put your tray table in its upright and locked position – but no, this wasn’t true, there were still airplanes here and there. They stood dormant on runways and in hangars. They collected snow on their wings. In the cold months, they were ideal for food storage. In summer the ones near orchards were filled with trays of fruit that dehydrated in the heat. Teenagers snuck into them to have sex. Rust blossomed and streaked.
No more countries, all borders unmanned.
No more fire departments, no more police. No more road maintenance or garbage pickup. No more spacecraft rising up from Cape Canaveral, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, from Vandenburg, Plesetsk, Tanegashima, burning paths through the atmosphere into space.
No more Internet. No more social media, no more scrolling through litanies of dreams and nervous hopes and photographs of lunches, cries for help and expressions of contentment and relationship-status updates with heart icons whole or broken, plans to meet up later, pleas, complaints, desires, pictures of babies dressed as bears or peppers for Halloween. No more reading and commenting on the lives of others, and in so doing, feeling slightly less alone in the room. No more avatars.”

All of the little things that make up our day-to-day existence, impossible to describe to someone who has always lived in a world without any of them.

I’m curious to know what will happen with the HBO show that is supposedly ready to premiere this fall…I can’t imagine people will be super excited to watch a show about a global pandemic. I hope we get to see it at some point, and I hope the show honors quality of the book (although, reading that they made Arthur’s character from Mexico is certainly a choice that made me say, huh?).

This remains a favorite. Can’t wait to read Glass Hotel!

25
Mar
20

I’ve been reading a ton, but just don’t feel like writing, so here’s a review dump. CBR12 Reviews 9-11.

UnknownReader, I’ve been reading a bunch of random books, with absolutely no direction in my life. Sitting at home and just trying to get out of my own head by getting into someone else’s. These are three of them. I liked some better than others, but they all had interesting bits. Here they are, in order of least favorite to most beloved.

You’d Be Mine was a random Kindle download I picked up when the whole RWA thing blew up, and I had seen Erin Hahn interact with a bunch of writers that I like, so I gave her a shot.

It tells the story of a superstar country singer/hearthrob Clay Coolidge who finally meets his match in Annie Mathers, his opening singer on his huge summer tour. Annie is the daughter of Nashville royalty, but determined not to follow in her parents’ tragic pasts. Clay drowns his sorrows on a nightly basis with booze and women, and is on the path to complete destruction.

The plot is very A Star is Born, but with teenagers. Clay’s fame slowly recedes as his problems increase. Annie’s fame skyrockets, but she just can’t give up on Clay.

Nothing super original, but I enjoyed the story. I don’t love country music, but for some reason, I love to know about its history and how cut-throat it is to make it in Nashville.

Next!

imagesRegretting You was a hot mess of a book that I couldn’t put down. I haven’t read Colleen Hoover before, and probably won’t again, but I enjoyed the experience for what it was. Not going to tell you the plot, because that’s no fun.

This book zigs and zags constantly, and I was constantly surprised by some of the plot twists that came about. It reminded me of When Life Happened, which was a popular Cannonball book a few years ago (CBR9!)…the book starts off as one thing, and then quickly becomes another thing. I like that reading experience, even if the book and the writing aren’t all that great.

This book is mostly about mother/daughter relationships and how secrets can tear families apart. As the parent of a teenage girl, I hope I never, ever encounter a teenager as HORRIBLE as Clara in this book. I wanted her to get punched in the face. She was the worst. Everything she did to everyone was the worst. Yes, teenagers are dumb sometimes, but this was OFF THE CHARTS.

TL;DR — the writing of this isn’t great, but good lord, this was addicting.

Unknown-1Lastly, a popular choice around her of late, Get a Life Chloe Brown. I really liked this one.

Chloe is a wealthy young lady, living on her own for the first time, and dealing with the chronic pain of fibromyalgia. It effects everything in her life, and ruined her last relationship.

Chloe’s apartment handyman is the gorgeous and charming Redmond. Red was once an up and coming artist with the world at his fingertips. But now he fixes lights and heaters in an apartment complex.

Chloe relies on sarcasm to keep her feelings in check and to mask her almost constant pain. Red wears his emotions on his sleeve. Clearly, these two aren’t going to get along right away.

But they do. And they have fun together. And they bring out the best in each other. And sometimes the worst in each other. They have ups and downs, but I never doubted that things would work out ok for these two (and really, that isn’t a spoiler. You’ve read books before. You know.)

I really liked that this book had a female lead who was a woman of color, who happened to be plus-sized, and who had real, legitimate problems. Red never mentioned her color or her size other than when he was saying how beautiful she was. Her family was filled with fun sisters and grandmothers. She was an amazing web designer. Her looks don’t matter. All that mattered was that she was someone who was lost in her own life and trying to find her way,  and that being with Red made her happy.

I had a few quibbles with the editing of this book, and actually felt that the book would have been better without any of the “adult’ scenes in it. I felt like those took me out of the story. But these are minor issues! I liked it! I’d definitely read another book by Talia Hibbert.

 

 

06
Mar
20

“This is how all Noirs end, with a hug.” CBR12 Review 8.

UnknownCut and Run was one of my free Audible Originals last month. It is an absurd little story about a rag-tag team of organ harvesting good guys down in Mexico. Honestly, its best not to care too much about the plot, because, as I said, it is absurd.

But this thing has a murderer’s row of a cast! It was a delight to listen to from start to finish. The performers really raised the quality of the material.

We have D’Arcy Carden as Sam, the beautiful “saleswoman” who traps philandering husbands and drugs their drinks.

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Then, there’s Sam “Splett” Richardson as Abe, Sam’s partner. Abe is a well-meaning doctor who is trying to cure diabetes and needs many kidneys on which to experiment. (In what ways he experiments it is unclear. IT MATTERS NOT. THIS IS RICHARD SPLETT.)

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Ed Begley, Jr, is their boss/friend Gordon, the crime lord of Dearborn, Michigan. Gordon manages all of the details of the organ harvesting and is the main point of contact for all of the terrible bad guys that they deal with.

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Rachel Bloom plays Katie Reynolds, Abe’s girlfriend, and famous children’s author. She writes a very popular and very dumb serious of books called the Werewolf Brothers. Until the happenings of this story, Katie has been unaware of the nefarious kidney thieving that’s been going on under her nose. Everyone in the story agrees, Katie is a dynamite lady.

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Thomas Lennon plays Jeff, the FBI agent who falls under Sam’s spell and accidentally has his kidney stolen in a seedy Mexican hotel. Sam feels badly about what happened with Jeff and Jeff can’t stop thinking about Sam, kidney be damned.

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The theme song, Dynamite Lady, is sung by the one and only Aimee Mann. I can’t find a link to it, but its charming and fun.

Oh, and have I mentioned the narrator? The narrator is America’s fricking sweetheart, MEG RYAN. Why isn’t Meg Ryan narrating all of our audiobooks? She does a fantastic job here, balancing the whimsy and the plot, and keeping us invested in rooting for a bunch of organ harvesters.

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This isn’t a super long story, it clocks in at under three hours. The production is sketchy at times (lots of background noise going on here), but its a fun way to spend an afternoon.

 

 

 

29
Feb
20

“If you’re ever feeling poorly about yourself, about your lack of achievement, your utter inconsequentiality, your ridiculous little life lived in the shadows—take a moment and write some Internet reviews of other people’s work.” CBR12 Review 7.

UnknownFor those who take part in the annual Pajiba 10 voting, you may know me as the person who, year after year, picks nine random people to go on my list behind the great Bob Odenkirk. I’ve been a massive fan since back in the days of The Ben Stiller Show, The Larry Sanders Show, and, of course, Mr. Show.

He’s provided us with some of the greatest comedy sketches ever. I mean, come on.

SNL.

Ben Stiller.

Mr Show

And yes, sure, he’s also a terrific dramatic actor. Who would have thought that Better Call Saul would end up being as good — if not better? — than Breaking Bad?

But I prefer my Odenkirk to be ridiculous. And this audiobook was exactly what I needed last week.

Odenkirk got a bunch of his friends — David Cross, Brian Posehn, Megan Amram, Paul F Tompkins, Jerry Minor, and the great Jay Johnston — to narrate different sections of the book with him, and honestly, most of the short pieces simply read like skits that never made it on to Mr Show.

AND I AM 1000% OK WITH THAT.

My favorites: “The Phil Spector I Knew,” about a guy in Phil’s entourage, who had only been shot by Phil a few times (“Let me testify to his character. Phil has only shot me three times in ten years.”). “The Origin of Blackbird,” in which we see which one of The Beatles was the worst. “Baseball Players’ Poems About Sportwriters and Sportswriting,” which included this gem:

Elegiac

What does the word
“elegiac” mean?
What about “pastoral”?
And “comtemplative”?
Why do you
Keep calling
Baseball all these weird French names?
Stop it.
Douchebag.

Yeah, that killed me.

But my favorite was “Hitler’s Dinner Party: A Play”. I cried laughing when Hitler and Ava walked into the dinner party and the hosts were like, oh, hi, Hitler. I’m sure it was funny on the written page, but listening to it was simply too much.

Is this short book for everyone? Absolutely not. Reading the reviews on Goodreads was kind of funny…I guess a lot of people buy random comedy books without knowing anything about the comedian. And lots of other people like Breaking Bad, so they assumed they knew what Bob Odenkirk’s comedy would be like.

But this book was definitely for me. Thanks to andtheIToldYouSosfor reminding me that it was in my audible queue!

I’ll just leave you with this, another great moment from Mr Show:

01
Feb
20

Today is only February 1, and I already find myself way behind in reviews for 2020. CBR12 reviews 4-6.

Unknown-1How can I already be so far behind? I always have such good intentions with reviewing…and I am great about keeping up with the reading. I just never find the time to sit down and think and type. Thus, I gift to you these three quick reviews for books that were FINE.

First, Love Lettering, a book I never would have heard of if I hadn’t been obsessively following all of the tweets about the RWA meltdown over the holidays. I somehow stumbled across some tweets from Kate Clayborn, who is a Lucy Parker stan, and who also was tweeting some really interesting things about contemporary stories and economics. Her new book took place in a place I was familiar with — Park Slope, Brooklyn — and sounded fun for a cold weekend.

It was cute. Meg is a Park Slope celebrity of sorts — she is a famous journal designer (SERIOUSLY. I AM SURE THIS EXISTS IN PARK SLOPE) who provides hand-lettered themes and layouts for customers’ planners and bullet journals. I mean. Park Slope.

She isn’t all that satisfied with her personal life, but she is working toward changing things in her career. And then, tall drink of water — and former client — Reid walks into her shop. She had designed Reid’s wedding invitations the previous year, and had hidden a message in them telling Reid and his fiancé that their nuptials would be a mistake. Reid deciphered her message and comes to confront Meg.

Meg is quirky, Reid is serious. Opposites attract, etc. She has issues with her family and friends, and he has issues with his job and New York.

Cute story, a bit strange to base a romance on hand lettered signage around New York, but maybe I just don’t ever look at signs that much when I’m out and about.

One strange thing that stood out to me — Meg never once mentions what she looks like. She describes handsome and tall Reid in detail. And we know that Meg likes to wear quirky outfits, but that’s it. No issues with her body or looks, which was great, but strange that it was literally never once mentioned.

*******

UnknownAmerican Royals was fun until it wasn’t.

I was reading this during the whole “Sussexit” situation, which made it a bit more interesting, I guess.

What if George Washington had decided to become King of America after the Revolutionary War?

This book takes place in an alternate USA, where the royal family in Washington are the biggest celebrities in the world. Princess Beatrice, the oldest child, is heir to the throne, and will be the first-ever Queen of America. Her twin siblings, Samantha and Jefferson, love to party and travel, and aren’t really taken all that seriously.

Its time for Beatrice to think about her future, and she is provided with a list of eligible husbands from her parents. But what if Bea already has a husband in mind? One that isn’t quite so eligible?

Jeff’s love life has always been front-page news, but he broke up with his tabloid-ready girlfriend Daphne, and is now dating a commoner, Nina. The public isn’t all that excited about their relationship, but will that stop Jeff and Nina?

And Sam wishes her family would take her more seriously. She’s more than just a party girl with fancy clothes.

The story was…fine. But I got seriously annoyed when I only had about 50 pages left and realized there was no way all of the plots threads would be tied up and that this clearly was meant to be book one in a series. UGH.

********

81qrcrf-e7LLast up, and this one was my favorite, was The Bookish Life of Nina Hill.

Nina lives alone in the Larchmont neighborhood of Los Angeles. She works in a bookstore, does trivia, and deals with her anxiety. She plans out every spare second of her day so that she doesn’t have time to be anxious. She doesn’t have much of a family to speak of, until one day, a lawyer comes to find her at work to tell her that her father is dead.

She never even knew who her father was, and suddenly she has inherited a whole family of siblings, nieces, nephews, and aunts.

Meanwhile, Nina meets Tom, a member of an opposing trivia team. He’s handsome, and thoughtful, and understands her quirks and issues. But Nina hates that he isn’t a book reader.

Cute story, and a nice homage to the Larchmont neighborhood. I didn’t love Nina’s prickly side, but I understood it, and appreciated her honesty. Of the three authors, Abbi Waxman is the one who I read again.




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