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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.





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.





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.


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.


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.






WTF did I just read? A spoiler-filled rant. CBR9 Review 15.

unknownI’ve read a whole bunch of reviews of More Than This over the past few years, but none of them ever really say what that book is about. Everyone talks about how much they like Patrick Ness, and that he really nails the voice of a troubled teen. But nobody mentions the plot of this book.

For good reason, I’ve learned.

I just finished reading this and I’m going to be spilling some spoilers. So really, don’t read this if you ever plan on picking up this book.

Seth is a troubled teen out in rural Washington who one day decides to commit suicide by walking out into the ocean. Fine. Sad, but fine. An interesting way to start a book.

But then, Seth wakes up outside of his childhood home, somewhere in the suburbs of London. Its his old neighborhood, but it also isn’t…There are no people and no animals. The weather is messed up. There is a thick coating of dust everywhere. And Seth is covered in weird bandages and has a shaved head.

Oh, and theres a huge, shiny, black coffin sitting open in his old bedroom.

Is Seth in Hell? Reliving his painful childhood?

Because Seth sure had a painful childhood. His little brother, Owen, was kidnapped by a prisoner who had escaped from the local neighborhood prison one day. Owen has never been the same after that trauma, and Seth’s parents always blamed him for Owen’s problems…leading Seth, of course, to blame himself, as well.

Every time Seth falls asleep, he has vivid dreams about his life. His family, his friends, his relationships, and the end of his first love (which led to him walking into the ocean). Seth is gay and was recently shamefully outed at school by one of his best friends, thereby ending his relationship with his best friend, Gudmund.

And this is where the book does the craziest twisty turn and I really just couldn’t deal.


Seth finally meets two other people in town, Regine and Tomasz. They help him escape from a crazy robot-man hybrid (“THE DRIVER”) who is chasing them all over the place, trying to kill them. And after spending time with Regine and Tomasz, Seth realizes that the life he remembers wasn’t actually his life. He didn’t die.

He was in a fricking Matrix. Living his life virtually, like the rest of humanity. And only now, in this grey and uninhabited world, has he really started to live.


The story then turns into a weird, extended chase scene. The kids run away from The Driver. The Driver finds them. The kids try to figure out who the Lethe program (which I’m really just going to call The Matrix) works. The Driver chases them. They fight. They run. They realize that life really is worth living.


Look. I get that Patrick Ness is a major talent in the YA world. But this book was a major miss for me. I really just wanted to read a book about Seth and Gudmund working through their relationship at school and with their families.

I did not want a YA angst filled Matrix.

Another complaint: The More Than This referenced in the intro is from a Peter Gabriel song, not the Roxy Music song. I refuse to accept that.

Interesting tidbit: I brought this home from the library and left it on the table in the living room. The 7 year old asked me what it was about, and said that the cover was cool. I agreed and told her that I didn’t really know what the book was about yet, and that maybe the door on the cover represented opening a new part of someone’s life. She laughed and said, “That’s not a door. Its a computer.” And when she turned the book on its side, it was.



A Stephanie Plum plot checklist. CBR9 Review 14.

unknownIs this a review? I don’t even know anymore. But I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t really have anything new to say about these books. Its sort of like Janet Evanovich has a 200 page template and just fills in the blanks. Like a gigantic, best-selling Mad Lib.

I really don’t know why I still read these. I don’t like them that much anymore. But maybe I do? I don’t know!

I’m annoyed that Stephanie SPOILER slept with Ranger because she had some sort of epiphany about Morelli not really wanting to settle down. I’m all set with these three. Just choose or don’t.


Here’s the template I imagine in my head. I’m pretty sure these are most of the things that happen OVER AND OVER AND OVER in these books. Did I miss any?

√ Stephanie’s mother is secretly drinking.
√ Stephanie’s father doesn’t say much and eats a lot.
X Stephanie’s sister or her family is mentioned.
X Joe’s grandmother gives Stephanie the evil eye.
√ Lula talks about being a former ho.
√ People eat donuts.
√ People eat fried chicken. Bonus if they eat it at breakfast.
√ People eat pizza.
√ People eat meatball subs.
√ Grandma goes to a wake.
X Stephanie goes to a wake.
√ One of the crazy characters from Stephanie’s past shows up.
X Stephanie’s ex-husband is mentioned.
√ Ranger says “babe”.
X Bob eats something that isn’t food.
√ Vinnie’s sexual deviancy is mentioned.
√ Stephanie has to get a new car.
√ A car explodes.
√ Stephanie sleeps with Joe.
√ Stephanie sleeps with Ranger.
√ Rex makes an appearance.
√ Lula shoots her gun.
X Stephanie has to borrow Uncle Sandor’s old car.
√ Stephanie goes home from her parents’ house with a bag of leftovers.
√ Stephanie’s mom makes a pot roast.
√ Someone random comes to dinner at the Plum’s house.
√ Bulgari green shower gel is mentioned.
X Anyone exercises.
X Connie has any plot outside of the office.
X Grandma takes out her gun.
X Joyce Barnhart is mentioned.
√ Ranger mentions anything about his private life.
√ Eddie Gazzara is first to report to a crime scene and laughs at whatever nonsense Stephanie has gotten herself into.
√ Stephanie almost dies but is rescued at the last minute.
√ Joe calls Stephanie cupcake.
√ Stephanie still can’t decide between Ranger and Joe.

And yes, I’ll read book 24 when it comes out. And no, I don’t know why.




Note to self: Never question Rainbow Rowell. CBR9 Review 13.

51qavrpjbcl-_uy250_Last week on Instagram, Rainbow Rowell posted a photo of a book she had just finished and recommended. The cover of the book looked a bit ‘twee’ to me, and I filed it away in the back of my mind, a book for a rainy day. I went and I judged a book by its cover, instead of listening to the all-powerful words of Queen Rainbow. I’m sorry. I’ve learned my lesson.

The next day, I saw it randomly, unshelved, just sitting there at the library. It was a sign.

This book was fun. And mysterious. And suspenseful. And not realistic in the least, but I don’t care.

Like a cross between The Shining and The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Bellweather is a grand old resort in upstate New York that has seen better days. In the winter of 1997, its barely hanging on, basically surviving on the profits it makes from a high school musical convention that it hosts every November, bringing the teenaged musical stars from all over the state of New York together for a weekend of music, drinking, and sex.

But the hotel has a secret. That a horrible event took place there 15 years earlier…a bride who murdered her husband just moments after their wedding, and then took her own life. And it was all witnessed by young Minnie, who was there for her own sister’s horrible wedding.

Minnie was never the same. Obsessed with horror movies, she was never able to fit into society after that weekend. She lived with her parents, interacted with the general public as little as possible, and gorged herself on horror and junk food for the next 12 years. But in 1997, Minnie decided she needed to return to the Bellweather, and face her past.

Of course, the weekend that Minnie arrives is the same weekend as Statewide, New York’s festival for the best and brightest on the musical scene. Twins Alice and Rabbit (Bertram, but don’t call him that) Hatmaker are both there from their tiny, podunk town, along with their bizarre new music teacher, Mrs. Wilson. The Hatmakers are both looking forward to the weekend — Alice, because she only understands life when it takes place in music, and Rabbit, because he’s pretty sure he’s gay and wants to take this time away from home to come out to his sister and see what life is like outside of Ruby Falls.

Also among the cast of characters: a child flute prodigy and her controlling mother, a crazy Scottish conductor missing several fingers on his right hand, an elderly concierge who loves the hotel like its a part of his family, a douchy — but so cute — college acapella singer, and an adorable deaf dog.

A blizzard is expected that weekend, maybe the biggest snow storm New York has seen in years. And this year, Statewide just so happens to take place on the 15th anniversary weekend of that horrible murder/suicide many years before. What could possibly go wrong?

Kate Racculia has put together a page-turning mystery, sometimes very dark and sometimes funny, filled with colorful characters that I sometimes rooted for and sometimes pitied. There’s a lot of darkness here: murder, adultery, mental illness, sexual confusion, and child abuse, but then someone breaks out into song and dance, so that the darkness never overwhelms the story. The light and dark are very well balanced.

I’d never heard of Kate Racculia before. She’s written one other novel, which I’ll be sure to add to the list soon. Thank you Rainbow. I’m sorry I ever doubted you.



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