Author Archive for Kara Horgan

10
Dec
18

I didn’t love most of this. But I did love one part a whole lot. CBR10 Review 47.

Unknown-2Last year, I was surprised and delighted by When Dimple Met Rishi. It was such a refreshing and adorable YA romance. I was excited about Sandhya Menon and the way she represented strong, independent, intelligent women growing up in households of Indian immigrants. I loved the way she described the balance between old cultures and new, and the way both Dimple and Rishi respected the old ways while trying to invent their own.

I was thrilled when I got this book in a package from work. I couldn’t wait to read it. I assumed I would LOVE IT, and that I would fall in love with Twinkle the way I loved Dimple.

And, oh boy, I did not.

Twinkle’s story is this: she lives with her parent and her grandmother on the “wrong side of the tracks” of her wealthy Colorado town. She goes to a prestigious private school, and is afraid that she’s losing her best friend to a group of more popular, wealthier girls. She’s been carrying a torch for handsome Neil Roy FOREVER, but he hasn’t noticed her. Yet. And Twinkle plans to grow up and become a powerful voice in women’s film. She wants to be the next Mira Nair. Or Sofia Coppola. Or Ava DuVernay. Sounds good!

But really, this is pretty messy. In fact, I’m thinking that maybe this was written before Dimple…and just released after it was a success. Its still cute, but it isn’t great.

Twinkle, with the help of Neil Roy’s geeky identical twin brother, Sahil, decides to make a movie for the end of the school year talent contest (or something? It isn’t really clear.). They decide to make a gender swapped version of the original 1931 version of Dracula, and then everyone will see what a great filmmaker Twinkle is, and Twinkle will realize that Sahil has been in love with her for years, and the cool kids will accept her, and the world will be a perfect place.

There are a few big problems with this plan:

First, Twinkle is really kind of a horrible person. I get that she’s been dumped by her best friend, and she struggles with being poor, but she has some really nasty scenes here that I found unforgivable.

Second, her film making process seems to be missing many steps. All of the steps. They decide to make a movie, they go get costumes, and then they shoot it. Who wrote the script? Who blocked it? I know Twinkle filmed it and Sahil produced it, but…um…I think some other stuff has to happen, right? She just filmed it and then it existed on the screen.

Third, this is high school. A talent show movie isn’t going to bring media and local tv stations to watch. There is ABSOLUTELY no way that a movie SHOWN IN A HIGH SCHOOL would lead to an international scholarship and national interviews. I DO NOT ACCEPT THIS.

The most annoying thing in this book was that the entire thing was told in journal entries. They were so ridiculously unbelievable. Oh, Sahil ran to the bathroom so let me just write down these four pages of what happened to us tonight. NOPE.

Sure, the love story was cute and all. But Sahil was way too good for Twinkle.

But there was one thing I loved. Each journal entry was addressed to a different female filmmaker that inspired Twinkle. And one of them was to my friend, DeMane Davis! That was super cool. And DeMane had no idea! If you don’t know DeMane, she directs a lot of episodes of the fabulous Queen Sugar on OWN, she hangs out with Ava DuVernay, and she’s generally amazing and awesome. I hope her inclusion in this novel brings her a lot of new fans, and that each and every one of them is inspired by her awesomeness.

IMG_0420

 

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05
Dec
18

“One never knows when one is behaving like a creep; probably even that astronaut lady who drove for two days to beat up her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend didn’t think twice when she bought those adult diapers. It just felt right.” CBR10 Review 46.

UnknownHere are all of the things Dave Holmes and I have in common:

  • We went to college together and have a few of the same friends.
  • We both worked as DJs at WCHC.
  • We both remember what it was like to anxiously await the arrival of a new J Crew catalog.
  • We can both easily drop SNL’s Gary Kroeger into a conversation.
  • We both love music.

Here are some ways that Dave Holmes and I are different:

  • I have never been on MTV.
  • I’m not a gay man.

The similarities clearly outweigh the differences. Really, we are more or less the same person.

I don’t really know Dave Holmes. I think we would say “hi” to each other up at the radio station, and I think he knew my husband and his friends pretty well. But after listening to his audiobook, I FEEL like I knew him better than I did.

Here’s the blurb from Amazon about his debut book:

Dave Holmes has spent his life on the periphery, nose pressed hopefully against the glass, wanting just one thing: to get inside. Growing up, he was the artsy son in the sporty family. At his all-boys high school and Catholic college, he was the closeted gay kid surrounded by crush-worthy straight guys. And in his twenties, in the middle of a disastrous career in advertising, he accidentally became an MTV VJ overnight when he finished second, naturally, in the Wanna Be a VJ contest, opening the door to fame, fortune, and celebrity—you know, almost.

In Party of One, Holmes tells the hilariously painful and painfully hilarious tales—in the vein of Rob Sheffield, Andy Cohen, and Paul Feig—of an outsider desperate to get in, of a misfit constantly changing shape, of a music geek who finally learns to accept himself. Structured around a mix of hits and deep cuts from the last four decades—from Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” and En Vogue’s “Free Your Mind” to LCD Soundsystem’s “Losing My Edge” and Bleachers’ “I Wanna Get Better”—and punctuated with interludes like “So You’ve Had Your Heart Broken in the 1990s: A Playlist” and “Notes on (Jesse) Camp,” this book is for anyone who’s ever felt like a square peg, especially those who have found their place in the world around a band, an album, or a song. It’s a laugh-out-loud funny, deeply nostalgic story about never fitting in, never giving up, and letting good music guide the way.

I enjoyed this book. Dave breaks down the different parts of his life into chapters based on what music was popular and important to him at the time. He starts off by describing his childhood in St. Louis, moves on to his Catholic boys high school, then to college, life in NYC in his early 20s, coming out to friends and family, working for MTV, 9/11, and his current career and personal life. Dave’s a funny guy — very wry and sarcastic, which is right in my wheelhouse.

I don’t really remember seeing him on MTV in the 90s, as I wasn’t really into watching TRL or any of those crazy “Beach House” weekends. But I do remember the first time I saw Dave on Reno 911! and was all, HEY, I KINDA KNOW HIM! And I thought it was awesome. Since then, I’ve followed him on Twitter (he had that amazing thread a few years ago about how he dealt with a telemarketing grifter pretending to be from the IRS), and I knew he wrote a book, but I honestly just forgot about it…

Until this fall, I went up to Massachusetts for the weekend and met up with an old friend from college, who mentioned Dave in conversation. I immediately went to audible and added this to my library.

I enjoyed driving around and listening to this. I loved his stories about music in the 1980s, and how different music consumption was back then, how hard it was to find new stuff from new British bands, and how many friendships were built upon what music you liked and owned. I loved his stories about which celebrities were awful…Kid Rock, you apparently are the worst, and I’m glad.

Mostly, I appreciated the chapters about college. He had trouble fitting in there, and I did, too. It was a very homogeneous place — lots of Catholic kids from New England in LL Bean barn jackets, and it took me a while to figure out how to handle that. We both chose the school for similar reasons — it looked so amazing on our visit, it dazzled us and convinced us that it was the place. Eventually we both figured out how to navigate it and find our people, and it looks like we both found those people at the radio station.

So, thanks, Dave Holmes, for writing a very approachable, and amusing book about growing up and fitting in during the 80s and 90s. I enjoyed it a lot and have already recommended to a bunch of people we went to college with. I wish you continued success and look forward to reading (or listening to) anything else you decide to gift us.

 

26
Nov
18

“Sometimes people have to be allowed to have something to live for in order to survive everything else.” CBR10 Review 45.

Unknown-1Last year, after I read A Man Called Ove, I tried to get my hands on everything Fredrik Backman had written. Including Bear Town. I read it but didn’t review it. I couldn’t quite figure out what I wanted to say about it…that it was a good book that filled me with dread every time I picked it up? That I didn’t enjoy it but acknowledged that it was great? That, as the parent of a teenage girl, it scared me to death?

I wasn’t sure, so I didn’t say anything.

And now, here’s the sequel to Bear Town, picking up just a few weeks after Maya holds a gun to Kevin’s head out in the woods. And what do I have to say about it? I really have no idea.

I’ll tell you this: I enjoyed this one even less than Bear Town. And yet, there is no denying that Fredrik Backman is one of the great writers of the 21st century.

It was torture to turn the pages of this book. Teased from the very beginning that TERRIBLE things would happen to some of these characters that we had grown to care about in a town that we had no choice but to love, I was torn between wanting to know what would happen next and anxious about finding out what would happen next.

I cried at least twice. I never thought I would cry while reading a hockey book. But the way that this tiny community reacts to the events of the story took me on an emotional roller coaster ride. More than once I found myself flipping to the final pages of the book to see if certain characters were still alive, wondering if I should give up to save myself some heartbreak.

But I stuck with it. And I didn’t enjoy it. But its still really good. If you read Bear Town, and wondered just what happens next to Maya and Benji, or Bobo and Amat, then you have to read this.

I could have done without most of the political subplots, but I get that certain things had to happen in order to create the necessary conflict. This is a story about people, and I found it puzzling that so much time was spent with characters who don’t ever get names.

This isn’t my favorite Backman book, but its still very good. He’s firmly landed a spot on my must-read authors list.

 

22
Nov
18

Like Sam the Butcher, bringing Alice the meat. Like Fred Flintstone, driving around with bald feet. CBR10 Review 44.

UnknownWhen I was a senior in high school, many moons ago, I was lucky enough to go and see the Beastie Boys Licensed to Ill tour at the Worcester Centrum, complete with Murphy’s Law, Public Enemy, and a 6 foot hydraulic penis. To say I was obsessed with this record and this band was a bit of an understatement. They were young, and fun, and ridiculous. Their jokes were random and hilarious. I loved them.

A few years after that, I was a DJ at my college station, and we got a copy of Paul’s Boutique. I was looking for that same fun feeling that I found on Licensed to Ill, and was a little disappointed that it wasn’t there. Hey Ladies aside, this was a new direction for the boys from New York, and I wasn’t quite sure I was on board.

Fast forward to my first apartment and my first adult roommate, who was a Beastie Boys fanatic, and who got me to listen to Paul’s Boutique, and everything they had released since, with a new set of ears.

And whoa.

This music had somehow gone from being funny and ridiculous to brilliant and genre-bending. And I was 100% on board for anything and everything they might do next.

We all know the sad ending to their story, and that Beastie Boys didn’t get a chance to do everything they ever wanted. The death of Adam Yauch hit me hard, and was the first celebrity death that really made me contemplate my own mortality. But Beastie Boys didn’t want me to sit around and worry about the future. They wanted me to get out and live and have a great time doing it.

And that is what this book is about. Living life.

I can definitely say, without a doubt, that this is the single greatest audiobook I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Does it help if you are a fan of the band? Of course. But I think there’s a lot here for those who aren’t particularly crazy about the band. Does it make a difference if you aren’t the same age as me? Probably not…a lot of my adoration for this book had a lot to do with their amazing ability to perfectly paint a picture of a specific time and place (mostly, New York City in the 1980s), but Adam Horowitz and Michael Diamond are so authentic and compelling, I don’t think it matters.

Told in essay format, with the bulk of the writing by Adam Horovitz and Michael Diamond (but also with input from Amy Poehler, Spike Jonze, and Colson Whitehead, among others), the 98 chapters cover the entire history of the band, and starts and ends by talking about the unthinkable loss of Adam Yauch. And yes, I teared up a bit listening to them talk about the pain that his loss still causes.

Horovitz and Diamond do a lot of the book’s narration, but also get help from lots of their famous friends. Steve Buscemi. Maya Rudolph. Tim Meadows. John C Reilly. Will Ferrell. Snoop. Bette Midler. This book is filled with amazing voices telling delightful stories, and most of them do a wonderful job. Why isn’t Bette Midler narrating everything?

Note: I cannot stress how ridiculous some of this narration is. I laughed out loud at the chapter interviewing Cookie Puss’ dermatologist girlfriend from Scarsdale. Did any of it makes sense? No. But it was delightful. Similarly, the Will Ferrell reading of a review of one of their records that veers into a story about soup absolutely killed me.

Most importantly, the book includes a chapter written by (and read by) Kate Schellenbach, who was so unceremoniously kicked out of the band just before they hit it big. Rick Rubin didn’t think she was a good fit for their new sound, and just had the boys push her away until she was so far out, she couldn’t get back in. Horovitz and Diamond apologize profusely to her many times in the book, but I’m glad she got a chance to tell her own side of the story.

We also get to hear stories about the magical Black Flag show at the Peppermint Lounge in 1981, the mysterious Swiss filmmaker Nathaniel Hornblower, Biz Markie and his love of candy, their unabashed love of wigs and mustaches, and being ignored by their record company in favor of Donny Osmond.

Speaking of wigs and mustaches, Amy Poehler makes an interesting point when talking about the Sabotage video. She says that without it, there wouldn’t have been any Anchorman movies, Adult Swim programming, or Wes Anderson.

This book is wonderful, nostalgic, hilarious, and heartbreaking. I absolutely need to buy the actual hard cover version, so I can see the pictures and not just hear about them.

Thanks, Beastie Boys, for reminding me that listening to music should be fun. And thanks to my 1990s roommate, Kendra, for reminding me that Beastie Boys rule.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Beastie memories, their live 2004 performance on Letterman. Enjoy. I know I will.

13
Nov
18

Do I look like I drink water? CBR10 Review 43.

I think most of us know Retta from Parks and Rec, where she played Donna Meagle and was part of the TREAT YO SELF phenomenon of 2011. I also knew she loved the LA Kings and Hamilton, but really didn’t know much else about her before listening to her audiobook.

Now I know a lot about her…but I still don’t really feel like I know her. RETTA, WHO ARE YOU?

retta

You love handbags. You love your hardworking, immigrant parents. You love Duke University. You are super smart. You love dark roast coffee made in a Keurig. She loves to tweet.

tweet

You hate weddings. You hate when fans come up and show TREAT YO SELF in your face. You hate flying coach.

treat

Your anecdotes are fun, and your narration is wonderful. But I still don’t know you as much as I thought I would.

I enjoyed listening to Retta talk about getting her job on Parks and Rec and spending time with Jim O’Heir (Jerry), about loving working with Amy Poehler, and getting drunk in front of Robert Redford. These stories were entertaining and fun.

What I disliked was the super long chapters about the preferential treatment that being a celebrity got her when she decided to become a fan of Hamilton and the Los Angeles Kings. I understand that she works hard and deserves her success and any perks that may come along with that, but these chapters were tough to listen to.

But Retta is a wonderful narrator and I enjoyed more than I disliked. If you are looking for something light and breezy, this might work for you. If you are looking for an in-depth memoir, keep looking.

bounc

 

12
Nov
18

This book made me thirsty. CBR10 Review 42.

Unknown-1I read a lot of dystopian fiction. I have read about the super flu, zombies, the earth’s rotation slowing down, nuclear wastelands, and government created vampires. This was my first foray into dystopia via climate change fiction, and parts of it were terrifying.

The part that scares me the most in these dystopias are the scenes on the crowded highways. Where are you supposed to go if you can’t get there? These scenes scared me in The Stand and in World War Z — something terrible happens, and you have to leave… but everyone else is leaving too, so the roads are jam packed and nobody gets anywhere, leaving people to die in their cars on the highways. UGH. I’ll stay up at night for hours thinking about this.

This book has some highway scenes, but thankfully, they aren’t as bad. I got nervous when I started to read about the cars packed on the roads, and am grateful that the authors found another way to describe those scenes, and made the best out of a terrible situation.

The Dry is about California in the near future. What would happen if one day, there just wasn’t any more water? And what if FEMA had their hands full with another “Once in a thousand years” hurricane on the east coast, and just couldn’t get to California in time to help?

How long would it take for society to break down? How long would it take for your body to break down? And how far would you go to get a single sip of water for yourself or someone you love?

The plot of this book was great. When Costco runs out of water, what happens next? The story brings together kids from different backgrounds — a brother and sister looking for their parents, their neighbor who lives with a father who is a doomsday prepper, and a sociopath genius who will do whatever it takes to stay alive — all looking for one thing: WATER.

I appreciated that these kids acted like kids. They made mistakes. They hurt people and watched their friends and neighbors do the same. I also appreciated although one of the characters had a long-simmering crush on another, THERE WAS NO LOVE TRIANGLE in this book, and really, no romance at all. Such a relief.

I really only have one complaint about this book, and sadly, its a big one.

The writing is crap.

This book is written by Neal Shusterman and his son, Jarrod. Lots of times when books are co-written, its hard to tell where one author ends and another begins. I can’t say the same for this one. The writing style would suddenly change completely, from beautiful descriptions of the abandoned streets to stilted and clunky dialogue. Its too bad, as I found it pretty distracting from the plot at times.

 

31
Oct
18

A book about baseball that suddenly became a book about so much more. CBR10 review 41.

UnknownI’ve read a whole bunch of Kwame Alexander’s poetry stories — he writes for tweens and teens in verse, but it never feels boring or difficult. The plot moves quickly and easily and his topics are usually difficult ones. Divorce, death of a parent, unrequited crushes, adoption, the end of a friendship, etc. And it seems like his best books — for me, that would include The Crossover, Booked, and Rebound — revolve around sports. Basketball. Soccer. And now, baseball.

Noah is in high school and is in love with one of his two best friends, Sam. He’s been in love with her since the third grade, but she has a boyfriend. Cruz is huge and handsome and is a star on the varsity baseball team. Noah can’t compete with that, right?

Noah’s other best friend is Walt, but you can call him Swing, because someday he’s going to be the biggest baseball star the world has ever seen. He’s just not quite there yet.

Noah and Walt spend their days obsessing about girls, music (particularly jazz), baseball, and the mystery of who is leaving American flags all over town. When Noah’s parents go out of town, Walt moves in, and comes up with a plan to have Noah finally tell Sam how he feels about her.

And even though the words are in verse and prose, the conversations ring true for me. These boys talk like teenage boys about the random nonsense that teenage boys talk about. When talking about the mysterious flags all over town:

My soon-to-be stepfather things Amazon’s behind it. Some kind of big advertising thing they’re doing.

To sell flags?
Maybe they’re making a play for the US Army?

That’s ridiculous.
Why? I mean, they own everything. The end of the world as we know it, and it starts with Whole Foods and drones.

Not your typical poetry, right?

Later, the boys have a run-in with some local police officers, after Walt throws a big party at Noah’s house. And the topic switches over to police and Black Lives Matter and I found it extremely well done:

Men in Blue

Police officers
don’t say freeze
like they do
in the movies.
They just make you
freeze in a fear
cloaked
in deep, dark dread.
And they don’t
look menacing
all the time.
Some look like
they might actually
be a little gentle,
a little on the kind side.
But then
there’s a gun
pinned to their hip,
that makes your heart pound
so loud,
your ears burst.
And you’re not sure
what to do,
or what to say,
or how to move.
What if it’s
the wrong move?
Some look so stern,
like they don’t
have emotions
or a heart
that beats red.
But you wonder
if they might
smile when they’re home
with their own families,
playing with their own kids.
Like the guy in front of me.
He has no expression,
but under his straight lips
and steely stare,
someone must make him smile,
someone must make him love.
He loves somebody.
He’s gotta love somebody.
And I hope he remembers
somebody loves us too.

Eventually, this books becomes about a lot more than baseball. Its about race and police. And about PTSD and the veterans. And in true Alexander (and co-author Mary Rand Hess) fashion, the end of this book destroyed me. I did not expect a book about boys who wished they were better at baseball to hit me so hard.

This book is categorized as YA, and I would say its not for anyone younger than 9th grade. Its honest brutality is hard to take, even when it is beautifully presented.

 




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