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Actress, knitter, author. Is there anything she can’t do? CBR10 Review 9.

imagesI’m a big fan of Krysten Ritter. I love her as Jessica Jones. She was a fun addition to Veronica Mars. She killed it as the B in Apartment 23. And she broke my heart on Breaking Bad. And now, she’s written her first novel **, a mysterious thriller that proves she’s an author to look out for in the future.

Bonfire tells the story of Abby, a tough environmental lawyer at a big Chicago firm, who is sent to the small (AND TERRIBLE) town where she grew up in Indiana to work on a case. It seems that the enormous chemical plant that pretty much employs the entire town just might be poisoning the water supply, and Abby puts on her best Erin Brokovich hat to find out what — if anything — is going on.

Meanwhile, her visit home brings back lots of memories that she’s been repressing for years, including the mysterious disappearance of her former best friend, Kaycee. Back in high school, Kaycee and her friends pretended to be severely sick…could her disappearance have anything to do with the case Abby is working on today?

There was a lot to like in this mystery. I kept changing my mind about who was good and who was bad, and whether or not Abby was a reliable narrator (a la Rachel in The Girl on the Train) because of her personal issues and her EXCESSIVE drinking.

Did I like Abby? I have no idea. Sometimes I thought she was a genius, and sometimes I thought she was insane, and most of the time I worried about what Ritter was going to do with her in the end to potentially redeem her from some of the mistakes she made along the way.

No worries there. Ritter totally surprised me with a few things toward the end that explained Abby’s irrational behavior. I still didn’t really like her, but at least she started to make some sense to me.

I didn’t love this book, but it was extraordinarily readable. I brought it with me when I chaperoned a ski trip with one of my kids, and stayed up well into the night trying to figure out the mystery. Ritter has a lot of potential, and I look forward to reading anything she might write in the future…I just hope that maybe her next book is a little bit lighter and fun. This one was definitely dark and intense.

**It seems that Ritter had a bit of help writing this book, primarily from my YA nemesis, Lauren Oliver. I don’t know exactly how involved Oliver was here, but her voice does not overpower Ritter’s, which is a good thing. There are some plot lines involving kids at the local high school that are probably more Oliver than Ritter, and that stuff was some of my least favorite in the book.




Blah blah blah fried chicken blah blah blah Stephanie’s car gets totaled blah blah blah Stephanie makes a bad decision. CBR10 Review 8.

UnknownI keep saying that I won’t read more of these. And yet, here we are.

I think the fact that I can read these books in one sitting makes me feel like they aren’t so bad, that they’re fine, that I’m just spending an afternoon enjoying something light and enjoyable.

But I’m not really enjoying them anymore, so what’s my deal?

So here’s the deal:

Zombies have come to Trenton. And they are stealing brains from dead bodies.

Meanwhile, Diesel is in town and sleeping in Stephanie’s bed. So now she has three gorgeous men who want to spend the night with her? OK then.

Also, Stephanie and Lula have to track down the usual bunch of weirdos. Lots of garden gnomes and a giant snake to keep them busy.

Lastly, Grandma Mazur has taken up online dating and is on her way to Florida to meet up with her new boyfriend, who looks just like George Hamilton.

Of course, everything works out in the end. Except for the most important thing — Stephanie still has no freaking idea what to do with her life and can’t stop fooling around with Ranger and is pretty much playing house with Morelli and has Diesel sleeping in her bed and I want to murder her.

Yes, they ate lots of fried chicken and donuts and drank many pitchers of beer. Plus burgers and meatloaf and pot roast and macaroni salad. I think my favorite part of these books is reading about what Stephanie eats.

And yes, Stephanie totaled two (maybe more? I think two) cars in this book. Where is Ranger getting all of these black cars? And why doesn’t he mind when she totals them hours after she gets them? Just how charming is Stephanie? In 24 books, how many cars has she wrecked? Should she still have access to car insurance?

I guess Stephanie is never going to change, and I need to just accept that and move on. But you know that I won’t, and I’ll be here next year bitching about the same things in book 25.


In which Joe Hill takes one step closer to becoming the world’s greatest Stephen King impersonator. CBR10 Review 7.

Unknown-4I’ve said this before: I can’t imagine it would have taken very long for the reading public to figure out that Joe Hill was really Joe King if he hadn’t admitted it himself. And in each book of Hill’s that I read, I see more and more of his dad in the writing.

In fact, if you told me that two of the four novellas in Strange Weather had actually been written by Uncle Stevie, I would just nod, and say, “of course they were.” Because I feel like the first and last stories — “Snapshot” and “Rain” — really were King stories that Hill just reworked a bit. And that isn’t a critique. He took them and made them his own.

The other two stories — “Loaded” and “Aloft” — were more original. “Aloft” was my least favorite of the four, and I still liked it pretty well. “Loaded” was the best of the bunch, but I didn’t really like it at all. But I’ll get into that in a minute.


In a very King-like premise, a lonely boy comes across an evil man with a magic (demonic? otherworldly?) Polaroid camera. Every time he takes a picture of someone, he takes a memory away from them. And if he takes enough pictures, eventually nothing will be left in their memories at all. Can a fat 13 year old boy stand up to this evil man and his crazy machine?

Well, of course. Having an awkward kid stand up to evil is one of King’s go-to plot devices. But just because I knew what would happen didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it.


Man, this was a rough story. It upset me over and over again. But that was the intent. Hill really wears his politics on his sleeve here (JUST LIKE HIS DAD), and here he wants to discuss gun control. Or, really, the lack thereof.

A loose cannon security guard stumbles into a domestic shooting, makes racist assumptions, kills innocent people, and convinces himself it was for the greater good. He then goes and gets himself MORE guns and does WORSE things, all while playing the part of a hero on the national news.

The end of this story was not at all what I expected.


I should have known that the good guys wouldn’t win. This isn’t a book by Janet Evanovich.  The last few pages of this story were literally gut-wrenching. And made me wonder just what in the fuck is going on with guns in the country.


Kind of a throwaway story, but still fun.

During an attempt to skydive in memory of their recently deceased friend, a small group encounters a mysterious cloud that looks like a UFO. The most anxious of the skydivers actually ends up landing on that cloud and being stuck there for several days and thousands of miles.

Ridiculous, and yet…a poignant look at unrequited love, friendship, social anxiety. And a nice break after the darkness of “Loaded.”


What would happen if the rain could kill you? And what if the killer rain had been created and released to the world by terrorists?

Taking place in Boulder (WHERE ELSE WOULD THE APOCALYPSE TAKE PLACE?), with a kick-ass heroine named Honeysuckle, she sees her entire world come crumbling down with the first killer rain storm. She sees her loved ones die in pain and she is overwhelmed by grief. But she keeps on going. She wants to do what’s right. She’s awesome. And just like in a Stephen King story, Honeysuckle is surrounded by normal people just living their lives. Good people, like her new ultimate fighting friend, and horrible assholes, like the weird cult down the street. Writing about regular people in irregular circumstances is what Hill (and King) do best.

And, like his dad often struggles with, Hill does not stick the landing with this one. And I could have done without real-life references to Trump and his tweeting (except, this quote was spot-on:

It was reassuring to know that our national leaders were using all the resources at their disposal to help the desperate: social media and Jesus.

It reminded me a lot of an old King story (“Rainy Season”) about frogs raining from the sky. But I liked this one a bit more than that.







“The only boundaries are those we create for ourselves.” CBR10 Review 6.

Unknown-4I’m going to admit something to you all that might not make me very popular around here.

I grew up in Boston and lived there until my husband’s work took us to Northern Virginia in 2005. I love the Celtics. I cried when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004. And I am a massive New England Patriots fan.

I don’t care that everyone who isn’t a Patriots fan ABSOLUTELY DESPISES the Patriots. They’re my team and they always have been. The fact that they’re on a run to go to their 8th Super Bowl in the past 16 years is just an added bonus.

Malcolm Mitchell is one of my all time favorite Patriots. His story is great: raised by a single mom, he worked hard at football and got himself to the University of Georgia. But when he got there, he questioned why he was only reading at a Junior High level. To him, football had come naturally, but school work had always been a challenge for him. So he made a promise to himself to improve his literacy skills.

And so he read. And he read. One day, he was walking around Barnes & Nobel looking for a new book to read, and he approached an older woman who was picking up a copy of Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You. He asked her for some book recommendations, she told him about her book club’s selection for the month, and he asked if he could join the book club. A book club made up of suburban moms and grandmothers who had no idea who he was or that he was a big deal at UGA. She agreed and he showed up to the next meeting.

Soon, he was a regular at their monthly meetings. Even after being drafted by the Patriots, he still participated by reading the books and sending his thoughts via text. And when he won his first Super Bowl last year, he made sure to give a shout out to his book club friends.

And now, Malcolm Mitchell is a published children’s author. Building upon his personal mantra, that “the only boundaries are those we create for ourselves,” Mitchell figured that this was the next logical step for him.

The Magician’s Hat is for younger kids, but the message inside is for anyone who loves reading.

A local library has a big reading festival and invites a wonderful magician to come and perform for the kids. He does some cool tricks with coins and spoons and dazzles the crowd. And then he takes off his enormous, magical hat, and asks a little girl to come up on stage with him. He asks her what she dreams of being when she grows up, and she tells him that she dreams of being a dentist. When she reaches into the hat, she pulls out a beautiful book about teeth! The next kid has a dream of becoming a great football player, and when he reaches into the hat, he pulls out a book about football that teaches him how to play, how to win, and how to lose with grace.

The last boy doesn’t believe that the hat is magical. And he tries to trick the magician by telling him that he dreams of being a dog when he grows up. But instead he pulls out an amazing book about space. The magician tells him,

Sometimes, you must really reach and stretch for what you want to be. That’s part of the MAGIC.

Because, of course, the boy really wanted to be an astronaut. The boy is amazed and realizes that anything you dream can be found in a book.

The desires that are within you bring out the magic in these books. Follow your dreams and they will take you wherever you want to go.

That’s a message for kids that I can get behind.

I’m glad that we have young athletes like Malcolm Mitchell out there who can be role models for our kids. And I’m glad that those ladies in Georgia found a place for him in their book club.





I would like to drown everyone in this book in a vat of eggnog. CBR10 Review 5.

UnknownI was super excited when I saw this at my local bookstore. One of my all-time favorite classics, modernized and gender-swapped, set at Christmas, and with a cute cover. This was going to be great.


This was absolutely awful. The worst. The writing was terrible and amateurish. The plot points were forced, like they were simply following a checklist of things that Jane Austen originally wrote. Every single character was a horrible human being that I never wanted to know.

Darcy Fitzwilliam is a privileged 1%-er who makes millions of dollars running some fancy hedge fund in NYC. She comes from big money — The Fitzwilliams are the second richest family in Ohio — but was disinherited by her dad when she wouldn’t marry boring and wealthy Carl 9 years ago. She packed up her bags, moved to New York, and magically started to make millions without her daddy’s help.

When Darcy’s mom has a heart attack the week before Christmas, Darcy jets home for the first time since her dad’s ultimatum. And at her family’s extravagant holiday party, she drunkenly makes out with her handsome but not-rich neighbor, Luke Bennett, whom she hates and has hated since high school.

Blah blah blah.

Everyone in the world knows what will happen in this story, which is fine. I don’t have a problem with Darcy and Luke ending up together and making each other better people. I just hated how it was presented and written.

Here are a few of the horrible things that I can’t accept:

First of all, what airline offers a “redeye” flight from Laguardia to rural Ohio? This is not a thing that exists and I couldn’t get past it.


Secondly, what sane human being thinks they can waltz into a public school on CHRISTMAS DAY, have the doors be unlocked, and the front office staffed? And why make this seemingly sane public school principal so willingly accept a bribe from Darcy? NO.


Why does one of Darcy’s brothers need to be named William Fitzwilliam? And why did she need to have brothers at all? She didn’t mention them until they started texting her with gossip about the commotions she caused with her drunken make out sessions.


Why did there need to be two brothers (one Fitzwilliam and one Bennett) named James? THIS WAS SO LAZY.


We did not need two separate scenes in restaurants where Darcy was so flustered she couldn’t read the menu and just ordered random items.


Darcy cheers herself up by getting in bed and watching Gilmore Girls, yet she calls the show DULL. Not on my watch, Darcy.


Nobody on the planet drinks as much eggnog as these people did. They all deserve heart attacks.


Darcy ends up naming her baby daughter after her assistant, Millie. BECAUSE SHE DOESN’T KNOW ANY GIRLS NAMES. Supposedly she is a super brilliant business woman WHO DOESN’T KNOW GIRLS NAMES. I CANT.


Lastly, my biggest issue with this book was that Darcy was a nasty human being. Her family was also terrible. And Luke wasn’t so great either. They both got involved with engagements with the wrong people for the wrong reasons and then hurt those innocent people for no good reason. I guess we’re supposed to think Darcy is awesome and selfless for buying her assistant a diamond necklace, but I do not.

Darcy’s dad was a nightmare. His lame ass apology to her for cutting her off so long ago “oh, hey sorry about that, but I love you and its all good” made me want to punch him in his privileged face. I hated them all.


Of course, I should have listened to yesknopemaybe when she warned us not to read this. My bad.





90% of this book was amazing. The other 10% was not. CBR10 review 4.

Unknown-2I loved a lot of this book. It was a cute rom-com story based on the fabulous The Shop Around the Corner (which is also the basis for the very good, You’ve Got Mail). Strangers who start up an anonymous pen pal relationship and fall for each other suddenly meet in real life, where things aren’t as perfect.

Here, we have Bailey Rydell, moving across the country to live with her dad for her senior year of high school. Her parents are divorced, and she was living with her mom and step father…but that was complicated. So, off to Northern California she goes.

Bailey is obsessed with classic films. She dresses with 50’s retro style and wears her hair like Lana Turner. And she belongs to a classic film chat forum under the name of Mink, where she has a very flirtatious relationship with another film fan named Alex.

Oh. And Alex just happens to live in the same town as Bailey’s dad.

But instead of telling Alex she’s moving to his town, she keeps quiet and tries to keep to herself. She’s had some very traumatic experiences in her life, and tends to be awkward at socializing. She would rather get comfortable in her new town, while she tries to figure out just who Alex might be in real life. If they’re meant to be, then nothing can in the way of their relationship. She just wants it to be on her terms.

When Bailey meets the very annoying and very handsome surfer boy Porter at her new summer job, we all know what will happen. Of course the annoying boy will turn out to be secretly sweet and sensitive and they’ll fall head over heels in love with each other. Fine.

All of that part of the story was super cute and fun. I really enjoyed it. I liked that these kids made some serious mistakes and owned up to them. I liked that none of the characters were perfect. And I liked that these two had both been through something terrible and helped each other deal with it.

But there were are few things that I didn’t love. And these stop me from giving this book 5 stars.

  • Bailey’s mom going completely offline. WTF?
  • Porter wasn’t really that annoying. Bailey was equally, if not more, annoying in their first conversations.
  • Why would anyone be mad that Patrick didn’t out himself the minute he met Bailey? Why should he have to do that? Why couldn’t they simply be friends with a mutual interest in film?????????
  • And most of all…SPOILER…I hated how Porter managed the relationship when he realized who Bailey was. And I hated how she allowed him to dictate the terms of their relationship. He was a dick. And she was stupid.

But all in all, this was cute and fun and I enjoyed it. Thanks to all who recommended it. It was perfect for being locked up at home during the freezing cold weather on the east coast.




“Never give up on your dreams, and never let anyone tell you that what you love is inconsequential or useless or a waste of time. Because if you love it?…That is never a waste of time.” CBR10 Review 3.


I really wanted to love this quirky and cute little book. And for a little while, I did. A modern, geeky take on Cinderella? A love story where the interaction takes place mostly over text? Cons and Cosplay? It all sounded great.

The first two-thirds of this story worked for me. Elle lives with her horrible step-mother and horrible twin step-sisters in the house where she grew up. Her mother died when she was really young and her father died a few years ago, after remarrying. After his death, horrible step-mother erased every single trace of his memory and basically turned Elle into a slave. (I didn’t buy into any of this, but tried to just go along with the story.)

Her sisters live a life of leisure, playing tennis and hanging out at the country club, while Elle does everything at home, and has a job in a weird vegan food truck that looks like a pumpkin.

Elle’s one escape from her terrible life is her love of the old sci-fi show Starfield, which she and her dad used to watch together. He even started up a small Convention in Atlanta to celebrate the show, which has now evolved into a huge con. Now that Starfield is about to become a huge budget movie, the Con will be bigger than ever. Elle dreams of going to the Con, winning the costume contest (by wearing her dad’s old costume), and escaping to Hollywood to become a sci-fi screenwriter.

Meanwhile, Darien is a teen heart-throb actor on a nighttime soap opera. He has just been case as the lead in the Starfield movie, and nobody thinks he can pull it off. But he’s a secret Starfield fan and wants this role more than anything.

Darien and Elle accidentally meet over text (he’s trying to text the Con, she inherited her dad’s old phone) and develop a relationship over the next few weeks that quickly turns serious. He doesn’t know who she really is and she has no idea that he’s about to star as her favorite character of all time.

Add in some truly mean and hurtful scenes with the stepsisters, some awful words from the stepmother, a cool friend who works in the food truck and saves the day with her seamstress skills, and a missing crystal slipper at the Cosplay Ball, and there’s your Ciderella story.

And it was cute. But some of it really bugged me. Including:

All of the YouTube vlogger stuff. Awful.
The “dramatic” scene on the golf course near the end. So dumb. Wouldn’t Sage be potentially arrested? Or did Darien just throw money at all of the damage they caused? UGH.
The drama with the neighbor’s dog was very confusing. And by the way…
The epilogue was fine…but WHO BRINGS A DOG TO A RED CARPET PREMIERE?

And what bugged me most of all was the entire “selling the house” subplot. Elle states near the beginning of the book that her Dad left the house to her. So legally, doesn’t horrible stepmother need to involve an attorney before she just sells the house without Elle’s approval or involvement? Even if the house is held in trust until Elle turns 21, wouldn’t she still need to be involved in this decision? I COULD NOT GET OVER THIS.

Yes, it was cute and fluffy and an easy read. But if I have to choose a Cinderella reboot, I’d go with Cinder by Marissa Meyer. That series was so good for a while (and it ended so not good). But the underlying message of this book was cool. Even when Elle is told again and again that the obsession she has (and that her parents had) over Starfield is stupid, she doesn’t stop loving it. If it makes her happy, then she should go ahead and love it, no matter what anyone else thinks. That’s a message I can get behind.





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