Archive for September, 2019

26
Sep
19

Huzzah! CBR11 Review 42.

downloadA few weeks back, I saw the good folks over at One More Page Books showcasing this book on their social media. It looked really cute, so I popped over on my way home from work and bought it.

Reader, it was an absolute fricking delight.

I have never been to a Renaissance Faire in my entire life. I still don’t ever plan to go to one. But my ignorance and inability to personally relate to the theme of this book in no way deterred from my enjoyment of it.

Emily (who was beyond relatable) moves to a small town in the middle of podunk, Maryland, to help her sister after a terrible car accident leave her unable to work or drive. Emily, who is much younger than her sister and not all that close to her, jumps at the chance to be useful to her sister and her niece for the summer. It seems that Emily has just been dumped by her long-term jackass of a boyfriend, and now has no where to live and nothing to show for the past 7 years of her life. Driving her niece around and helping manage doctors appointments sounds pretty good.

Caitlin (the niece) signs up to work (volunteer? I don’t quite know) at the local Ren Faire…a small fair compared to the huge one on the other side of Maryland, but big enough to somehow be a big fundraiser for the high school. When you sign up you have to promise you’ll be available for weeks and weeks of rehearsals, all of the weekends of the fair, and that you must have an adult sign up with you. (DON’T QUESTION IT JUST GO WITH IT. The PTA event coordinator in me was CRINGING at this.). I guess nobody in this town needs a summer job? ANYHOO.

Emily gets roped into signing up with Caitlin. She makes new friends, she practices being a tavern wench, and she meets Simon. Simon is an English teacher during the year, and the Faire is his baby. He took it over from his older brother, who had started it up from nothing years ago. Simon is all seriousness, glares, and disapproving scowls. Emily is not all that pleased to meet him. But her new tavern wench persona, Emma, is most definitely pleased to meet Simon’s alter ego, a dashing and flirtatious pirate captain.

Because you have all read books before, I don’t really need to tell you the rest of the plot. Just know that its fun and cute and I liked it a lot.

What I do need to tell you is that Emily and Simon are both complicated and realistic adults. Emily is filled with self-doubt and definitely lacking confidence and self-worth after the treatment she received from her ex. Simon lives in his brother’s shadow and has never felt that any of his ideas matter or that he has anything to offer. They make mistakes, and they are human.

No, I didn’t really buy the BIG FINISH. But I don’t care. I loved it all anyway. Huzzah!

Jen DeLuca’s birthday is September 14. #birthday #cbr11bingo

 

 

 

24
Sep
19

Running late with my #SummerRead pick. CBR11 Review 41.

downloadIts too bad I didn’t find out about this book until Labor Day weekend, because it really was perfect for the CBR11bingo #Summer Read square.

Annie is an aspiring screenwriter who lives with her uncle in Columbus, OH (clearly, the hot spot for screenwriters). Both of her parents died when she was young, leaving her with her childhood home, memories of a perfect love story, and an obsession with Romantic Comedies, particularly those starring Tom Hanks.

Annie hangs out at the local coffee shop, filled with quirky friends and regulars, watches a ton of Netflix, and compares every single date she’s ever had to While You Were Sleeping or You’ve Got Mail. Needless to say, Annie’s romantic life is not thriving.

Neither is her professional life. She writes freelance content for websites (been there!) and works on a Rom Com of her very own. But she doesn’t work very hard on it, because she never plans to leave her house, her uncle, or Columbus.

Suddenly, the town and the coffee shop are all abuzz because a for-real Hollywood Romantic Comedy is going to be filming in their quaint neighborhood. Directed by an award winner WHO JUST SO HAPPENS TO BE HER UNCLES COLLEGE ROOMMATE. Ahem. I feel like that would have come up in conversation before he arrives in town, but whatever. Annie’s uncle makes a few calls and suddenly Annie is the director’s new assistant.

Annie has a meet cute with the super-hot star of the movie, Drew, but she thinks he’s obnoxious and insufferable (for reasons I never quite understood), and she treats him somewhat rudely.

But of course, he eventually shows her how nice and down-to-earth he really is, and she realizes she misjudged him. Meanwhile, she’s being bombarded with requests from paparazzi and gossip columns for dirt on Drew, and she starts to see what his life is really all about and why he acts the way that he does. He’s kind and intelligent and she really, really likes him. But he’s leaving to go back to Hollywood in a few days, so she doesn’t think she should do anything about her growing feelings.

Annie was not particularly likeable. At no point in this book does Annie behave like a reasonable adult. Her obsession with Tom Hanks movies is a major obstacle to her living a normal life. Her friends all tell her she needs to face reality, and she just ignores them and hopes she can meet a man with a houseboat, like Tom Hanks in Sleepless in Seattle.

The entire story was silly, the last 40 pages were ridiculous, everything about it was unbelievable.

But it was just so, so cute, I couldn’t put it down. An easy, feel-good read that I devoured. Looks like there will be a sequel about Annie’s quirky best friend and the owner of the coffee shop, and I’m completely on board.

I would also happily read a companion novel about an obsession with young Hugh Grant. Just saying.

 

 

12
Sep
19

“Monsters aren’t born, ever. They’re made, piece by piece and limb by limb, artificial creations of madmen who, like the misguided Frankenstein, always think they know better.” CBR11 Review 40.

414myiFEQNLCBR11 Bingo: #history/schmistory

Vox was an interesting reading experience. I was completely absorbed by it, but really only liked about half of it, and very much hated the ending. And yet, I think I would recommend it…but not to everyone. Does that even make sense?

In a potential future (or is it now?), our extremely conservative right-wing religious government decides that they’ve had just about enough of women. All women are ordered to leave their jobs in order to maintain their homes and take care of their families. Even worse, all women (AND GIRLS. EVEN BABIES!) are government-issued a tracking bracelet that monitors the number of words they say on a daily basis. All females are given a limit of 100, after which they receive an electric shock that gets stronger and stronger every time the word limit is passed.

Of course, the horrible president who put these laws into practice has a personal emergency when his brother has a brain injury, and he needs the greatest neuro-language-brain specialist in the whole world, who just so happens to be a woman, our heroine Dr. Jean McClellan. A woman who’s husband works for this horrible president, and while he doesn’t support these new laws, certainly doesn’t do anything about them.

When Jean is approached by the horrible president’s people about joining their elite team to cure the president’s brother, they don’t even have the courtesy to call her Dr McClellan. They address her as Mrs McClellan, and pretty much leave all of the details of her return to work and the removal of her (and her daughter’s) tracker to her annoying husband. Why would Jean’s knowledge of language and brain function be so critical to the team, yet her ability to sign paperwork is questioned and left to the men in her life? Awful.

The entire plot about keeping women at home, monitoring speech, and sending troublemakers (women who rebel, homosexuals, women who have sex outside of marriage, women in inter-racial relationships) to work camps after publicly shaming them infuriated me. Yes, it was absolutely outrageous, but sadly not too far from the realities that we face today. And the men just got to sit back and watch it all happen. It was this part of the book that kept me reading.

The subplot, where Jean and her team try to figure out what’s really going on in the lab, was just too much. So many dumb coincidences that really ruined the reading experience for me. OF COURSE her husband worked for the president. OF COURSE her research team included the hot Italian scientist she had been having an affair with. OF COURSE the people on her street had been (or were going to become) national news for their misdeeds. OF COURSE her son was going to turn from a normal teen to a Nazi in training.

It really bugged me that the idea of the book was such a strong one but that the details (and the end. My god, the end) were so sloppy. How in the world did the government – after removing 50% of the work force – find the people to fill all of the jobs previously filled by women AND find people to monitor the word trackers AND run the work camps AND manage the new girl-only schools? This made no sense to me. But the original (frightening and realistic) idea of the story was strong enough to keep me invested.

 

10
Sep
19

HOLD UP. This is the first of a trilogy? Yikes. Part of me wants to know more, and part of me is just too tired. CBR11 Review 39.

downloadI feel like a bit of a failure as a reader (well, a listener) after this experience. This was not easy.

I really wanted to love this story. It was beautifully imagined and written. This story had everything: drama, action, humor, and adventure. The audiobook performance was unbelievable. The African mythology it was based upon made me want to know more.

And yet, I barely made it to the end.

From Amazon:

Tracker is known far and wide for his skills as a hunter: “He has a nose”, people say. Engaged to track down a mysterious boy who disappeared three years earlier, Tracker breaks his own rule of always working alone when he finds himself part of a group that comes together to search for the boy. The band is a hodgepodge, full of unusual characters with secrets of their own, including a shape-shifting man-animal known as Leopard.

As Tracker follows the boy’s scent – from one ancient city to another; into dense forests and across deep rivers – he and the band are set upon by creatures intent on destroying them. As he struggles to survive, Tracker starts to wonder: Who, really, is this boy? Why has he been missing for so long? Why do so many people want to keep Tracker from finding him? And perhaps the most important questions of all: Who is telling the truth, and who is lying?

Drawing from African history and mythology and his own rich imagination, Marlon James has written a novel unlike anything that’s come before it: a saga of breathtaking adventure that’s also an ambitious, involving story. Defying categorization and full of unforgettable characters, Black Leopard, Red Wolf is both surprising and profound as it explores the fundamentals of truth, the limits of power, and our need to understand them both.

I struggled from the very first chapter, in which our narrator, Tracker, starts talking to someone (we find out later, his inquisitor, as he is in prison) and telling random stories that don’t seem to fit together. (NB: having finished the entire book, I guess maybe the stories actually do fit together, but at the time I was so confused and discouraged that it was literally CHAPTER ONE and I was lost). And then Tracker talks for another 600 pages about his quest to find a boy. On his quest, he meets tons of fascinating characters, gets himself into crazy situations, and sees some unbelievable things that I didn’t completely understand, but most of the time just went along with.

Tracker is not a very reliable narrator. He’s very (Extremely. Extraordinarily. Oh, so very.) opinionated and is more or less fueled by the hatred he has for those who have done him harm. Or is he fueled by love? Are hate and love the same? I DON’T KNOW.

This book is dark. There is a lot of violence and profanity. Some of the violence was hard to get through (oh my god, in the scene with the white scientists, I literally had to pull my car over to the side of the road). I enjoyed the profanity a lot more than the violence, for sure. Some of it actually made me laugh out loud. I thought many times about just stopping, but remembered some of the reviews here on the site (narfna in particular) urging readers to keep going. I’m glad I finished it, but disappointed that I had such a hard time with it and wish I had enjoyed it more than I did.

I listened to the audiobook, which was an amazing feat of voice acting from Dion Graham. Each and every voice was different and distinct, which when you have such a large cast of characters, both men and women, is no small accomplishment. But I had trouble understanding a lot of what he was saying at times. Some of the characters spoke too quietly and some of the dialects were difficult for me to decipher. This was my problem, not Dion Graham’s. I give him nothing but kudos. Another issue with the audiobook is that I wish I had been given access to a map and a list of characters (which I think was part of the hardcover edition). At times I didn’t have any clue who was involved in certain scenes or plots or where things were happening. This world created in this book is huge, but I had trouble differentiating locations and people.

Something interesting that I wondered throughout is if Marlon James had read The Dark Tower books…Tracker and his crew often travel across huge areas by using “magical doors,” of which there are “ten and nine.” Those who have read any of King’s Dark Tower books know that magic doors are how Roland and his ka-tet travel from world to world and that 19 is a magic number. I’m sure this a just a coincidence, but I obsessed over it anyway.

I know that Michael B Jordan has purchased the rights to produce this as a film or a show. I hope it becomes a show on a network that can throw a lot of money at it, because I think it could be amazing to watch.

CBR11 Bingo: #farandaway

 

08
Sep
19

Do you like Fall? Do you like snacks? Do you like being happy? Yes? Then this is the graphic novel for you. CBR11 review 38.

519OHqOUISL._SX352_BO1,204,203,200_This was, without a doubt, the most enjoyable reading experience I’ve had this year. Every single page was a god-damned delight.

Do I need to say more?

OK. Well. This is Rainbow Rowell, so if you love her, you’re going to need to read this. It reminded me a lot of her short story “Midnights,” except that this is about best friends who love Halloween instead of Best Friends who love New Years Eve.

Deja and Josie work at an amazing Pumpkin Patch (honestly, if this is anything like the Patch that Rainbow Rowell says inspired her, I will get on a plane and go to Nebraska as soon as the leaves start to change. I NEED TO GO TO THERE.). Because they are seniors, this is the last year they’ll probably work together, and tonight is their last night.

Josie has had a crush on the cute girl who works in the fudge shop for years, and Deja has convinced him that tonight is THE night, the night when he’s finally going to go an talk to her.

And so the two friends make their way through the Pumpkin Patch, eating delicious (I MEAN, COME ON. THESE SNACKS ARE TOO MUCH.) holiday snacks and trying to find Fudge Girl. And that’s it. But what more do you need, when you are in such good hands?

The story is the literary equivalent to your comfiest hoodie — cozy and warm — and the artwork is fun and bright and totally looks just like fall (don’t worry, Faith Erin Hicks, I didn’t forget you!).

I loved this little book and my only complaint, as I previously mentioned when faintingviolet reviewed this, is that it isn’t longer. I could have read this for days.

 

 

 

 

 

04
Sep
19

“Nobody was really surprised when it happened, not really, not on the subconscious level where savage things grow.” CBR11 Review 37.

920686#CBR11Bingo — #bannedbooks

The first time I read this book was the summer before I went into 8th grade. A friend at camp had her mom’s copy of The Shining, which we all read, and became obsessed with. The next time I went to the library, I headed right over to the Adult “K” section, and found a paperback of Carrie, sitting along with Firestarter, ‘Salem’s Lot, The Cycle of the Werewolf, Night Shift, and a few other King titles. I read them all that summer, and never looked back.

I remember enjoying Carrie, but other than the prom and the pig blood, really didn’t remember much about it at all. Why did it take me so long to read it again?

The story of Carrie White is pieced together through book/magazine/news/interview excerpts. When the book starts, we already know a few things.

Carrie White is dead.
Carrie White had telekinetic powers.
Carrie White had not had an easy life, both at home and at school.
Carrie White killed her mother and hundreds of other people at the school and in town before she died.
Carrie White was not a monster.

We learn that Carrie was often (frequently) picked on for being different. Carrie has a crazy mother. She never wore the right clothes or said the right things or had the right (or any) friends. For as long as anyone can remember, she’s been the butt of every joke. Every desk and bathroom wall has her name on it:

“Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet, but Carrie White eats shit.”

Carrie’s mother was a religious fanatic. She punished Carrie for going through puberty, locking her in a dark closet to pray for hours (days?) at a time for being impure. Of course, Mrs White never bothers to tell Carrie anything about her own body, so when Carrie gets her first period in the locker room showers, she thinks she’s dying. The girls in class think this is just about the funniest thing ever, and pelt her with pads and tampons, while chanting “plug it up!”. Only the gym teacher and one other classmate, Sue Snell, feel even a bit of remorse for how they treated Carrie that day.

The emotions she experiences from this incident –ANGER. SHAME. — wake up Carrie’s dormant telekinetic powers, and soon she can control pretty much any object at will.

Sue Snell feels so badly about how they treated Carrie in the shower (not to mention how they’ve been treating her for years) that she convinces her boyfriend to ask Carrie to the prom, unknowingly saving her own life by doing so. Tommy agrees, not only to make Sue happy, but because deep down, everyone knows that they’ve been mean to Carrie for no good reason for too long.

“But hardly anybody ever finds out that their actions really, actually, hurt other people! People don’t get better, they just get smarter. When you get smarter you don’t stop pulling the wings off flies, you just think of better reasons for doing it. Lots of kids say they feel sorry for Carrie White—mostly girls, and that’s a laugh—but I bet none of them understand what it’s like to be Carrie White, every second of every day. And they don’t really care.”

Everyone knows what happens at the prom. Pushed too far, Carrie releases all of her power at once, destroying everything and everyone in her path.

I think the most amazing thing about Carrie is that even though everyone (honestly, even if you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, you still know) knows what happens, every single thing that happens fills you with dread. When the book starts, we know that Carrie and hundreds of others from her small Maine town are dead.  But the devil’s in the details here – everything we find out about Carrie, her mother, and the kids at school, ratchets up the uncomfortable feeling that this is going to end way worse than we though. The whole thing is pretty impressive for a first time novelist who supposedly threw his first draft in the trash. Thanks to Tabitha King for taking out of the garbage and making Uncle Stevie take another look at it.

Carrie appears on the ALA list of 100 Most Challenged books 1990-1999.

 




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