Archive for August, 2014

28
Aug
14

Scootsa1000’s #CBR6 Review 32: The Vacationers by Emma Straub

Unknown-1I had no idea who Emma Straub was until I picked this off of the new release table at the library last week. I assumed that maybe she was Peter Straub’s daughter, and thought I was getting myself a fun horror story for the end of the summer.

Well. I don’t know if she is actually related to Peter. Maybe?

And this was actually a pretty fun book. I’d compare her writing to Jonathan Tropper — telling a difficult story with humor and wit. And while I think Tropper might be funnier, Straub is a better writer, and her characters are much more realistic.

The Vacationers is the story of two families and their problems. Franny and Jim; their son Bobby and his cougar girlfriend, Carmen; teenage daughter Sylvia; and Fran’s best friend, Charles, and his husband, Lawrence. They all decide to rent a house is Mallorca for two weeks, putting aside their domestic and personal problems, and hoping for a vacation that can save their relationships.

Fran and Jim have big problems. Jim has recently been fired for sleeping with an intern at work, just before their 35th wedding anniversary. Franny, shockingly, isn’t handling this very well. Jim wants to be forgiven, but Fran isn’t sure what she wants. Jim is jumping through hoops for Franny, and Franny is more or less just ignoring Jim.

Bobby, a real estate broker in Miami, has his own problems. He and Carmen (his older girlfriend, that nobody seems to like), are in a rut, and Bobby has some major financial debts piling up. His goal is to spend the vacation buttering up his parents in order to ask them for a huge loan.

Sylvia is off to college in the fall, and glad to be rid of her high school friends and away from New York City for a few weeks. And she has a “bucket list” for her last summer at home, and the number one item on the list is to lose her virginity. Enter Joan, Sylivia’s super hot Mallorcan spanish tutor…

And lastly, Charles and Lawrence, a married couple trying to adopt a baby. Charles and Franny have been best friends for ages, and Lawrence and Jim have never been able to compete for their affections. Theirs was the story I enjoyed the most, and found to be the most realistic and intriguing.

The story is filled with upsetting, yet familiar, situations. And for the most part, Straub makes it work. To be honest, not all of it worked for me. I totally could have done without the quirky bits where Jim follows Franny around Mallorca on the back of a motorcycle owned by a British pediatrician. Ugh. But the rest was fun and real. We all know the mom who makes too much food, as if feeding people will make their problems go away. We’ve all gotten drunk and done something stupid that we wish we could take back. And every family has the relative who is dating someone that makes everyone scratch their heads and go “huh?”

I’ll look for more work by Straub in the future (I guess she has one other book, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures). She has a lot of talent, and this was pretty impressive for such a young novelist.

 

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20
Aug
14

Scootsa1000’s #CBR6 Review 31: A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin

UnknownLast year, my kids did the swim team at our pool. That meant I had HOURS of time for reading, just sitting pool-side, and I got through the first three GOT books. This year, one kid had a broken arm and we also ended up going away for a month. This meant very little time for me to dedicate to George Martin. But I did manage to plod my way through book 4 (and jeez, I just picked up book 5. WHEN AM I EVER GOING TO HAVE TIME TO READ THAT ONE?!?!?!?).

Like many of you, AFFC was not my favorite of the series. There were many characters I really didn’t care about at all. Anybody with the last name Greyjoy? Yeah, I don’t care. Samwell and Gilly? Don’t care. The Faith of the Seven? Yes, I should care, but no, I don’t.

But. There were many things I actually did like about this book. (And yes, there are minor spoilers below.) For the most part, I really liked reading Jaime’s continuing transformation. I know, there was a ton of anti-Jaime sentiment because of certain acts on the HBO show this year. I much prefer book Jaime to TV Jaime. He’s a deeply flawed, not very good man, but I liked a lot of the choices he made in this book. Especially his last choice, regarding the plea for help from his sister in King’s Landing.

And his subtle transformation to becoming a new man was just one of many character transformations in this volume: Arya becomes Cat, Sansa becomes Alayne, and Samwell briefly becomes a man who is free to love Gilly (but I didn’t care).

Also interesting was reading chapters from Cersei’s POV. Her thirst for power and her obsession with protecting Tommen, no matter what the consequences, were like a car crash. I knew it would end badly, but I couldn’t look away.

And while the Iron Islands bored me to tears, I (mostly) enjoyed time spent in Dorne. I look forward to reading (and watching, I guess) more about Dorne and the dysfunctional Martell family.

This volume didn’t have a “WOW” moment like in the previous entries — Ned’s killing, the Red Wedding, the Purple Wedding, Tyrion’s escape, Lady Stoneheart’s appearance — and I kept expecting one to jump off the page and surprise me. Sadly, I didn’t get one, but maybe I just need to readjust my expectations when reading Martin. But he did leave me perplexed at the very end, by the re-appearance of Pate (yes, I had to flip all the way back to the prologue to see if Pate was the character introduced there). I’m intrigued, George RR.

My last comment about this book is more a comment/question for any of you who watch the show and read the books. On HBO, Brienne (and Gwen Christie) is such a kick-ass character, I can’t help but love her. If the show decides to follow her plot line from the book (not like they have thus far), I’ll be distraught. But when reading if I didn’t have the vision of Gwen Christie in my head, I wonder if I would have been as upset at what happened to Brienne. Brienne as a book character is fine, but she’s a wonderful TV character.

Taking a little break before I pick up book 5…

 

 

08
Aug
14

Scootsa1000’s #CBR6 Review 30: The One & Only by Emily Giffin

Unknown-1I dare you to read this book and not picture Kyle Chandler in your head for all 433 pages. Go ahead. I dare you.

It can’t be done.

And really, that’s fine with me. It only made the book more enjoyable for me.

The One & Only is the story of Shea, a 30-something woman in a Texas town that is all about it’s local college football team. Shea works in the athletic department at Walker, her alma mater, and never misses a football game. She lives and breathes football, much to the confusion of her best friend, Lucy. Oh, and Lucy just so happens to be the daughter of Coach Carr, the winningest coach in Walker football history.

When Lucy’s mom dies suddenly from a fast-moving cancer, Shea starts to re-examine her life. Is working in the athletic department all she really wants in life? What about her love of writing?

Can she do better than her stoner boyfriend, Miller, the former Walker back up quarterback? Or should she move on to Ryan James — former Walker QB and now Dallas Cowboys superstar? He’s shown interest in her, and everybody just adores him.

And what about Lucy and her family? Will they be ok after losing their mom, who held their family together? Will Shea’s complicated friendships with Lucy and with Coach Carr make it easier for them to move on?

Like in her previous books, Giffin tells a pleasant story, and often dances around difficult social situations. Here we deal with adultery, grief, and domestic violence, but I never really found this to be a “difficult” book.

And then we have Coach Taylor. I mean Coach Carr. If you aren’t rooting for him to have a happy ending at the end of this book, well, then I guess you haven’t watched Friday Night Lights before.

I guess the biggest compliment that I can give this book is, that after 433 pages, I was disappointed there wasn’t more. I could have read about Shea and Coach for another 433 pages.

Unknown

 

07
Aug
14

Scootsa1000’s #CBR6 Review 29: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

UnknownIn the summer of 2004, I found myself at home on maternity leave with a newborn baby and a lot of sleepless nights. After I went through my entire Tivo’d cache of The Issac Mizrahi Show (seriously, the best talk show ever. I mourn it every day.), I was dying for new TV to watch. And I was rescued by my friend Amy, a tv critic, who had a pile of DVD screeners for the upcoming fall TV season that she was finished with. I can’t remember most of them, but I definitely remember my two favorites: House MD and Veronica Mars.

I was a huge fan of Hugh Laurie, so it was no surprise that House would become a favorite. But Veronica Mars? I had no idea and wasn’t all that excited about it. It was on UPN, for god’s sake. Wasn’t that the annoying girl who had been on Deadwood for a minute? And her dad was the guy from Just Shoot Me? Eh, no thanks. I kept putting the DVD at the bottom of the pile.

And then one day I watched the whole thing. And then I watched it again. And that was that.

Yes, I own all three seasons on DVD. And yes, I gave money to the Kickstart campaign. I have my T shirt, and my movie script. I watched the movie on iTunes as soon as it came out. And while I thought it was a bit Logan-heavy and a bit Keith-light, I still loved it.

So really, was there any doubt that I would be reading and loving this book?

Do I even need to write up a complete review?

I do? OK. Well.

The book picks up a few weeks after the ending of the movie. Veronica is back in Neptune, running her dad’s office while he recuperates from the big car crash in the movie. It’s spring break in Neptune, and all hell breaks loose when a young girl goes missing. Veronica is hired to investigate by the Neptune Chamber of Commerce, and gets her friends Mac and Wallace to help her out. So far, so good.

And then things get interesting. Another girl goes missing, and this one has a connection to Veronica that she didn’t expect. I won’t spoil it for you, but it creates the necessary conflict, and it moves the story along nicely.

The book completely worked for me: it has plenty of Veronica’s trademark wit, lots of cameos from our favorite Neptune residents, and builds on the loving relationship between Veronica and Keith that I adore. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series, and hope this one comes with a lot more Vinnie Van Lowe than we’ve been given. You really can’t have too much.

 




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