Archive for March, 2017

26
Mar
17

Have you been looking for a comedic horror novel that takes place in an alternate dimension and features a foul-mouthed crab? Look no further! CBR9 Review 21.

I’m a sometime Deadspin reader, and have been a fan of Drew Magary’s ridiculous posts on parenting and the Williams-Sonoma holiday catalog for a few years now. But I thought he was a grade-A jackass when he was on Chopped a few years ago, and kind of took a break from him for a while.

magary.gif

But then I read his book of essays on how his life has changed since becoming a father (and yes, he made me cry with his story about his son who was born extremely premature and is now healthy). I had yet to read either of his fiction offerings, until Audible offered this one for just a few bucks about 10 days ago, and I snapped it up.

I didn’t know ANYTHING about this story before I turned it on, and I’m glad. It wasn’t like anything I had read before, and I’m not even sure I can properly describe it.

But I’ll try. Just a little.

A man named Ben goes to an old resort somewhere in the Poconos for a business meeting. The hotel is a shadow of the glorious resort it must have been once, and is practically empty. But the day is lovely and the scenery is beautiful, so Ben decides to go for a hike.

And then his entire world turns upside-down.

Within minutes, Ben realizes that something is wrong. He sees something horrifying and runs as fast as he can, staying on the path in the woods, trying to get back to the hotel and safety. But Ben can’t find the hotel. No matter which way the path goes, the hotel isn’t there anymore.

So Ben just follows the path.

All Ben wants is to find his way back to the hotel. Back to his wife. Back to his three children. No matter what the cost, Ben has to get back to them.

I can’t really say too much more about Ben’s journey without giving too much away. But the story is much more than the average “man does whatever it takes to get back to his family, overcoming obstacles and personal challenges.” This book takes that to the extreme, in the craziest ways imaginable.

Every time I thought one thing was going to happen, something completely different happened. And it was frequently surprising, and often shocking. But all in a good way. For the last 1/3 of the story, I couldn’t stop listening. I HAD TO KNOW what was going to happen to Ben. Props to Drew Magary for keeping me invested every step of the way.

I was impressed by the crazy world and outlandish characters that he created. Especially crab. I LOVED CRAB AND WOULD READ A MILLION BOOKS ABOUT HIM. He was my favorite crab of all time. Sorry, Sebastian.

And the ending? Mind. Blown.

Seriously. I never in a million years expected that.

I’ll definitely be seeking out Magary’s other novel. I was more than impressed by what I found here.

 

20
Mar
17

If you’re on a boat with Bono and he wants to sing, you can stay up past your bedtime for once. CBR9 Review 20.

Unknown-1Here’s a fun fact: the first job I ever had was working for a sports management firm in the tennis division. Every summer from 10th grade until I graduated from college, I helped a team of amazing people put on these massive sporting events. I mostly worked in the men’s tennis division, but spent a little bit of time in the women’s tennis department. I met a lot of players, coaches, and entourages (Including Oates of Hall & Oates. John Oates is a tennis groupie. I had no idea!). I quickly learned that these tennis players, who are some of the most elite athletes on the planet, had no idea how the rest of the world works. They couldn’t socialize with normal people. They didn’t know how to do anything that wasn’t arranged for them.

And they were not a monogamous bunch of people, for sure. We found players and groupies in locker rooms, empty sponsor tents, and even in the bushes more than once.

I recently saw a few reviews of this book on our site, and thought it might be a fun read for me. And it was. I loved the tennis bits of it, which were pretty accurate. The rest of the story was fine.

Charlie Silver is a 24 year old ranked in the mid-20s and about to play a big match at Wimbledon. She’s known as a nice girl, adorable in her braids and flouncy tennis dress. Always a smile on her face and handshake for her opponent, she’s like the girl next door.

When Charlie is badly injured, she decides she needs to make some changes in her life. She fires her long-time coach and hires a brash, loudmouth asshole (he’s pretty much the male version of Miranda Priestly) who has never coached a woman before. She finds herself with a new image — the Warrior Princess — created by a team of people that don’t even know her. She wears black leather on the court and doesn’t smile or shake hands anymore. She’s a badass. She wants to win a grand slam and does whatever this team of new people tells her to do in order to move up in the rankings.

But this Warrior Princess isn’t the real Charlie, and that’s what most of the book spends its time trying to tell us. And that was fine. I didn’t mind going along with Charlie to realize that she’s really just a nice girl and that rankings and sponsorships aren’t that important if you don’t like who you’ve become.

And I’ll admit, I was fooled for a minute and was wrong about Charlie’s love interest.

SPOILER

I really thought Dan was the one that Jake was secretly spending time with. And I thought Charlie might just end up on her own, which would have been ok.

END OF SPOILER

Not everything was completely believable here. Seriously, who would go to bed if they were on a boat with U2 and they were considering having a “jam session”? But enough of it worked. And it brought back lots of crazy memories of travel and tennis, so that was good enough for me.

 

 

 

20
Mar
17

I’m clearly an idiot with a Sophie Kinsella problem. Send help. CBR9 Review 19.

UnknownI’m going to be honest with you. I’m way behind on my reviews, and the books are all starting to mix together in my mind. I’m not sure if I can remember which characters were in London and which were tennis players and who lived on Nantucket, so please bear with me today as I attempt and sort all of this out!

I’ll start with the book I liked the least…and yet couldn’t put down.

A few weeks ago, Classic reviewed this book and very eloquently (and with gifs!) explained all of the problems with Sophie Kinsella’s books and characters. And we both admitted that we were the only ones to blame for our problems with Kinsella. We know that she writes ridiculous characters who do crazy things with completely unrealistic consequences. But we keep reading. Why?

This book, in particular, was a problem for me. Katie — now going by Cat, because she’s attempting to become a new person with a new life in London — works for a fancy branding company. She is the lowest employee on the ladder, she can barely afford to eat, pay her rent, and keep herself dressed in London, but she DOES. NOT. CARE. Because London.

She lives with awful people in a horrid apartment that is about as far away from her office as possible. Her commute sucks. She has no friends. Her boss is a witch. But LONDON!

She’ll never move home to the country, where her dad owns a farm. No more country life for Cat! Cat’s a city girl.

Blah blah blah, Cat meets a man, who turns out to be top dude at her company. Cat gets fired from her job and blames her witch of a boss. Cat moves home, once again becoming Katie, and helps her dad and step mom launch a successful GLAMPING business.

Yes. With yurts.

Of course, Katie lies to everyone about everything and is horrible and awful. When her boss the witch comes to her GLAMPING site, Katie is pretty much the worst human of all time and should have gone to jail for some of the stunts she pulled.

But, ha ha! It was funny! Or so Sophie Kinsella seems to think.

All of these characters were awful. They did truly abhorrent things to one another. Their attitudes about money and city life vs country life were infuriating.

The only person I liked was Katie’s dad. I imagined him as Jim Broadbent.

Of course, everyone’s problems get wrapped up in a pretty package at the end. Ha! Isn’t that a delight? The bad people get slapped on the wrist and sent away. And the good people all live happily ever after.

Except that the good people weren’t especially good. And didn’t really deserve a happy ending. Like Classic, the only character who interested me at all by the end was Demeter, the witchy boss. But even her ridiculous problems were all solved with a snap of the fingers, because that’s how real life works.

I would have much preferred this book if Demeter had pressed charges against Katie for abuse while glamping. That would have been a far more interesting story.

I really didn’t like this book at all. But couldn’t put it down. And of course, I’ll read whatever Sophie Kinsella writes next. Because I’m clearly an idiot with a problem.

 

 

09
Mar
17

WTF, UNCLE STEVIE? CBR9 Review 18.

UnknownNo matter how many times I read this book (which, as we all know, has been many, many times), I can’t help but get worked up by what happens in the very first chapter.

Seriously, I can’t think of another book in a series that starts out with such a HUGE event.

And every time I read it, I’m all, “WTF, UNCLE STEVIE?!??!!!?!?!” But, in a good way.

I guess I’ll mark this section as SPOILERS, even though this book was written in 1986. If you’ve read it, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, I’ll try and be as vague as possible.

When those lobstrosities come out of the water, and start asking their questions, I’m tense. I know EXACTLY what’s going to happen, and how it will affect everything else that happens in the book, which will then affect everything that happens in the series. And still, I’m nervous and upset.

This time, I listened to the late, great Frank Muller narrate the story, and it was even more terrifying. His reading of nonsense words like, “Did-a-chick? Dum-a-chum? Dad-a-cham? Ded-a-chek?,” was honestly scarier than anything in The Shining.

This is the second time I’ve reviewed this book for a cannonball (the first being way back in CBR3!), and much of what I said then still holds. I think this one is still my favorite (although I do now have a greater appreciation for both Wizard & Glass and The Dark Tower). I love getting to know Eddie and Odetta/Susannah (note, I still do not love Detta Walker in any way, shape, or form). I love seeing Roland struggle with our world (or, at least, something similar to our world), and being amazed by little things like tuna fish, pepsi, and airplanes, but disappointed in other things like pharmacies, hot dogs, and fat policemen.

Because I love this series so much, I tend to ignore the major issues that I have with this book. For instance, all of Detta’s dialogue. I get that she was written to sound like a made-up cartoon character, but still. She is awful. I also never quite buy how quickly my beloved Eddie and Odetta fall in love. Yes, I understand that they are pretty much alone in another world, but they certainly go all in pretty quickly.

Listening to Frank Muller, I do have a new complaint. Muller is an amazing narrator. He’s easy to follow and makes it simple for the listener to understand which character is speaking at any given moment. He makes you feel bad when you’re supposed to and makes you smile when something funny happens. But I hated the voice he gave Eddie. The Brooklyn accent was simply too much for me. I adore Eddie, and hope that as he spends more time in the gunslinger’s world, his co-op city accent will fade away. I’m not sure I can handle it for 5 1/2 more books.

 

 

 

06
Mar
17

I’m feeling generous, so I’ll round this up to 1 star. CBR9 Review 17.

unknownBeing a stay-at-home mom in a town where you don’t know anyone can be tough. We’ve been in our house for seven years now, and this is the year where I’ve really started to make friends and find like-minded people that I enjoy spending time with. It took a while, but it was worth it. And now I’m invited to join a new book club with all of these wonderful friends. Exciting, right?

Well, I was excited. Until I read the book that was chosen for this week’s meeting.

My god. This might just be the worst book I’ve read in my seven years of cannonballing. Does it make me like these new friends a little bit less? No, not really. But it makes me wonder about this book club, for sure.

Here’s the good:

This was an original, interesting premise. Splitting time between the late-1970s and the late 1990s in Cleveland, this is the story of a bunch of greedy bankers who forced the city to default on its loans (which actually happened in 1978) and did a lot of other, horrible, greedy things in the process. I was interested in how safe deposit box robberies like the ones described in the book could happen. And I liked the fact that the author was an engineer who decided to become a writer, and self-published this book on Amazon, going on to win some sort of award or something. Good on her to go chasing after her dream. I certainly couldn’t do it, so I’m all for anyone who has a goal and actually achieves it.

Also, it was free on Kindle.

Here’s the bad:

Literally everything else.

The dialogue was terrible.
The characters were one dimensional and totally unlikable.
The book was easily 30% too long.
Other than the details of how the safe deposit boxes were being robbed and how the city of Cleveland had tunnels that ran between the downtown buildings, I honestly didn’t care about a single thing that was happening here.

Seriously.

Our “heroine” in 1998 was Iris, a miserable, alcoholic, asshole. I think I was supposed to feel badly for her and the situation she was in. But really, she was terrible. If I could have reached into my Kindle and shaken her into unconsciousness, I would have. She deserved it. Every horrible and ridiculous thing that happened to her was HER. OWN. DAMN. FAULT. She was a completely dysfunctional human and I couldn’t stand her.

Meanwhile, our two heroines in the 1978 part of the story were no better. Beatrice was an idiot, and her Chinatown subplot was a surprise to nobody but her. And Maxine was worse. She was a manipulative bitch and I cared zero about her future.

But these girls brought down the bad guys all by themselves!
And I don’t care!

I’m not a non-fiction person, but I guess I would have been better served if I had gotten a Cleveland history book and read that instead. I spent a few minutes reading a Wikipedia entry about Dennis Kucinich when he was Mayor of Cleveland in the 1970s and the city went bankrupt, that was much more entertaining.

I’m not sure how this week’s book club is going to go. I hope I’m not the only one who hated this book. And I hope there will be copious amounts of alcohol. I might not make it through otherwise.

01
Mar
17

Sometimes I wonder if I read the same book as everyone else. CBR9 Review 16.

unknownI’ve only read one of Ann Patchett’s books before this, and I enjoyed Bel Canto. I thought it was well-written and the kidnapping plot kept me invested until the very last page. Last year, my book club read State of Wonder and I just couldn’t get into it. That very same book club chose Commonwealth for their September book. I didn’t go to the meeting, but I put my name on the library list, and it took FOREVER for it to be my turn. The librarian told me that she hasn’t seen such a popular books in ages, so I was excited.

And now I’m done with it, and I’m not as excited as I was. In fact, I’m not really sure how I feel. A little bit mad, I think.

In short, Commonwealth is a very well written book about a bunch of horrible people that I hated who do awful things and then have to live with the memories of everything that happened in their pasts.

If that isn’t enough for you, I”ll expand a bit.

Commonwealth begins with policeman Fix and his gorgeous wife Beverly celebrating the christening of their baby, Frannie, sometime in the mid-1960s out in Los Angeles. They have a huge party filled with neighbors, and cops, and family, and a random district attorney who heard about the party and felt like getting away from his wife and kids for a few hours. His name is Bert and he shows up at the party with a giant bottle of gin.

And then everyone’s life spins out of control. From here on out, I have no choice but to drop some spoilers. I’ll try not to give away much that isn’t in the Amazon blurb…

Bert and Beverly fall in love, get married, and try to blend their families. They move to Arlington, VA with Beverly’s two daughters, leaving Bert’s four kids with his wife behind in LA.

Bert is a huge asshole and Beverly isn’t much better. She can’t deal with Bert’s kids when they come to visit every summer (and I don’t really blame her, but MY GOD, SHES THE WORST STEP MOTHER EVER). And Bert conveniently disappears whenever any parenting is to be done, which leaves these six kids to figure out life for themselves.

The kids have some fun adventures, but they also experiment with guns, drinking, and drugs, all while they are still in elementary school. Needless to say, none of this ends well.

This book made me feel like I deserve some sort of award for being a normal mother.

Years later, Frannie has an affair with a John Irving-esque author, who writes his next big novel based on Frannie’s family and her supremely messed up and tragic childhood. This novel turns into a movie, and slowly but surely reminds all of the characters about the crazy life they have led. And about how awful and fucked up they all are.

Seriously. They are awful. The only one I liked was poor Jeannette, who everyone thought might be brain damaged. She ended up in a happy marriage with lovely children, so good for her.

All of this awfulness goes on for years and years, until Fix and Beverly and Bert and his ex-wife Teresa are all in their 80s and the kids are mostly grown up with families of their own. Some more screwed up than others, for sure, but all of their lives still tainted by the events that took place at that christening party years before.

Yes, this book is extremely well-written. Ann Patchett is a gifted author for sure. I just hated all of the characters and all of their actions. I hated everything about this book, and yet, I couldn’t put it down. The momentum of the story was impossible to ignore, I needed to know what was going to happen next, even if the thought of it made me cringe.

This book has won 9 billion awards and has amazing reviews everywhere. Just not right here.

 

 

 

 




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