We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
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Well, this is not what I was expecting. It was a whole bunch of Martha’s Vineyard “I’m fancy” with more than a little bit of King Lear who-is-the-favorite-daughter and the Kennedys all-American family thrown in.

we were liars

So Cadence Sinclair Eastman is 15 and and blonde and rich. (I hate her already.) She and her cousins (who are also 15 and blonde and rich) and a not-really-related Indian boy friend, regularly summer on the private island owned by her uber-rich Grandpa. So they all hang out, being snooty, swimming, enjoying clambakes, and pretending they are too good for the younger siblings (who are also rich and blonde, so WTH?), while their parents and grandparents act even snootier and fight about race and divorce and who should inherit. It’s sort of icky, actually.

EXCEPT… the first lines of the story tell us that they were all lying, so we spend the entire book questioning what is actually true and what is just a lie. Maybe they aren’t all that priviliged and jerky. Maybe their summers aren’t quite that idyllic. And then…BAM! It’s like the rug is torn out from under us and we discover that NOTHING is what it seems. There are some big freakin’ lies going on and they’re painful and NOT idyllic or all-American at all. There is supposed to be this super-crazy reveal that I sort of saw coming, but then I had to question if THAT was false, so…

While I don’t think this is the best book ever written or anything, it was an interesting one and unlike anything I’ve read lately. I do think I might read it again to see what clues I can find about the lies and the sort-of-surprise ending. No love triangles, no dystopia, just YA with a twist.

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My TBR is filled with crap.
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And I need a new book to read. And NOT Sarah’s Key, Audible – that book scares the shit out of me, so quit trying to shove it down my throat! Ugh, I am tired of contemporary stuff and want to read something historical, but my entire TBR is just, like, every book ever written about the Tudors. Blah. I’m in a slump.

help

I am thisclose to just re-reading Scarlett again.

 

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Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
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stiff

By turns ghastly and intriguing, this nonfiction piece looks at what happens to our bodies after we die, particularly for cadavers willed to science. The realities are somewhat unsettling, but Roach treats the subject with a light, irreverent tone that reminds us we have nothing to fear once dead and no reason to try to control what happens to our bodies. After all, it is irrelevant because SOMETHING is going to happen to us all eventually, none of the choices are particularly dignified, and we won’t be around to call the shots anyway :)

My husband asked WHY I was reading this…I replied that I simply didn’t know. Stiff had been on my TBR for quite some time, and I was in the mood for something DIFFERENT. Well, different it is. And I loved it. It is by turns well-informed and full of useless trivia, and only a tad disturbing. It might make you gag, but Stiff likely won’t cause any sleepless nights. It’s worth a read, if you’ve ever wondered how long a dead body will actually stay preserved when embalmed, what might happen to corpses sent to universities for research, how exactly medical examiners can determine precise times of death, or what innovative new methods of body disposal might be around if you aren’t too keen on cremation or traditional burial. Fascinating.

Posted in Challenges, Creepy/Weird, Nonfiction | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu
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the truth about aliceThis is a fairly typical YA book about rumors and reputations and bullies. It’s got quite a few slut-shaming incidents and scenes depicting how boys get away with sleeping around but girls never can. It’s not groundbreaking or anything, but it was an enjoyable read.

Alice seems believeably flawed and yet surprising secure for someone her age; she reminds me of a former student with her pencil skirts and her pixie cut hair and raspberry lips. Kelsie, though, she’s the one who breaks my heart because I can totally get where she is coming from. Even knowing what she has done on several occasions is wrong, she is still able to make her peace with it, all for popularity. Too real, too sad.

This was a decent book, but I doubt I’d recommend or reread it. I counted this one as my Popsugar book set in high school. And just FYI, it was definitely not about Ann B. Davis or Alzheimer’s.

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The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
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I had heard this book is awesome. It also came up on potential booklists for teenagers, so I felt like I should check it out before recommending it to students. And, overall, it sounds like it probably is awesome…dog tells the story of (his) life. Except…I don’t like dogs. I know, I know, that makes me an evil bitch, but I can own that..

art of racing in the rain

So why am I reading it? I’d planned on it being the “book with nonhuman characters” for my Popsugar challenge since it was already on my TBR list. Anyway, even though I’m not a fan of dogs, I also don’t really like books with hokey, preachy endings. Again, I’m the hopelessly heartless…but…

Enzo is an aging mutt who lives with his racecar driving owner Denny. Denny and Enzo are very happy together watching videos of famous races and documentaries about dog reincarnation and Sesame Street. Denny gets married and has a daughter, and life blah blah blah. This eventually becomes both a cancer story and a legal story and the dog starts spreading his wisdom to us all, since he can’t actually talk and tell Denny, you see. Cutesy and okay, but not my favorite. Still, if you like dogs and are not the Devil, I think you’d probably enjoy it.

I eventually switched this to my “book that can be finished in a day” because who knows how many of those there will be and I can always fit in some YA fantasy for nonhuman characters :)

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The Black: A Deep Sea Thriller by Paul E. Cooley
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This had a bit of a Peter Benchley feel and to be honest, I really like one-off, fast paced thrillers that are tech- or science-based and at least pseudo-believable. And, for a buck as a Kindle promo, it was worth a shot.

the blackOverall, I liked it. This wasn’t a big blockbuster book, but I often enjoy less commercial, undiscovered authors, so it seemed worth a read. The Black started out a bit confusing as the characters weren’t distinguishable from one another. There were at least seven main characters and around 20 minor ones, so it was hard to keep them all straight at first. I plugged on through and figured the main players would emerge quickly enough, so I ignored the ones who seemed less important.

Basically, we have an oil rig supported by a major corporation with the latest technology and the finest crew. They discover a pocket of super-special, pure oil out in the deep sea. However, everything about the site seems to be off and none of the technology works as it should. Eventually they discover that the oil is living and fighting back and a disaster ensues which brings new meaning to the silly saying “Kill it. Kill it with fire!”

Strangely, that fairly unbelievable idea works as a premise until about 75 percent of the book is done. Then we get weird tense shifts, unmentioned characters thrown in (likely included only to sacrifice to the beast, but still…) and strange editing problems. It seems that either the author or editor crapped out around then.

Anyway, I cannot say I’d recommend this one, but I did enjoy reading it myself. It was not bestseller material, but it was fast and mindless and a good-palate cleanser. Just what I needed after reading some heavier stuff lately. I’m using this for my Popsugar thriller.

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Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
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I liked Gone Girl so much in book club that I decided to add this in for my “book by an author you love that you haven’t read yet” category in the Popsugar Reading challenge. It is one of the author’s earlier books, but not her first, so I couldn’t count it as a debut. (I did think of moving it over to the 500-page category though.)

Mild spoilers ahead, I suppose.

dark places

But here is what is not a spoiler: I didn’t really like it. The main character Libby Day, while sad, isn’t an interesting character to read about. I don’t enjoy her perspective or her whining. Yes, she has had to live with a terrible tragedy. I just don’t care to watch her pursue terrible life goals (i.e. exploiting her infamy for money so she won’t have to work) for an entire book.The author establishes very early on that since Libby was only a child witness, her testimony against her brother, the only suspect in the murder of her entire family, was coached. And then what? We are forced to struggle along while Libby sells off her childhood memorabilia for money and talks to old witnesses to try to solve an age-old crime. Except, I don’t really care about the crime. Or Libby. Or her wrongfully imprisoned brother Ben. Or whodunit, actually, which makes this murder mystery thriller a total fail.

Bleh. I had planned to go back and read Sharp Objects, Flynn’s actual debut novel, but now I’m rethinking that. There might be a reason Gone Girl was the first book we’ve heard about from her. And I hear this is soon to be a movie, and NO.

Posted in Challenges, Creepy/Weird, Fiction, Film Based on Books, I Want My Money Back!, Mystery, Re - releases | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Michelle joins the 2015 PopSugar Reading Challenge
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Since I’m off to a roaring start on my reading goals for 2015, (three and a half days in, three and a half books read) I think I will also add this Popsugar Reading Challenge to help me branch out some. If I can manage to follow along with it, it should get me close to my ultimate Goodreads goal of 80 (since it includes 52 books or one book per week if you count the trilogy as three). However, this challenge has specific requirements, so I may not get as far here, and while some books could count in multiple categories, I vow that I’m going to count each only one time. Check out the challenge itself here and then join me! Maybe we can keep each other on track. I plan to come back and update here as I read.

2015 reading challenge

A book with more than 500 pages – (Damn it, why did I finish Written in My Own Heart’s Blood LAST week??? I’m not ready to try that again any time soon!)

A classic romance -

A book that became a movie – Still Alice by Lisa Genova

A book published this year -

A book with a number in the title -

A book written by someone under 30 -

A book with nonhuman characters -

A funny book – The Potty Mouth at the Table by Laurie Notaro

A book by a female author – The Rapture of Canaan (reread) by Sheri Reynolds

A mystery or thriller – The Black: A Deep Sea Thriller by Paul E. Cooley

A book with a one-word title -

A book of short stories -

A book set in a different country – The Unimaginable by Dina Silver

A nonfiction book – Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

A popular author’s first book -

A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet – Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

A book a friend recommended -

A Pulitzer-Prize winning book -

A book based on a true story -

A book at the bottom of your to-read list -

A book your mom loves -

A book that scares you -

A book more than 100 years old -

A book based entirely on its cover -

A book you were supposed to read in high school but didn’t -

A memoir – Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

A book you can finish in a day – The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

A book with antonyms in the title -

A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit -

A book that came out the year you were born -

A book with bad reviews -

A trilogy -

A book from your childhood-

A book with a love triangle -

A book set in the future -

A book set in a high school – The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu

A book with a color in the title -

A book that made you cry -

A book with magic -

A graphic novel -

A book by an author you’ve never read before – We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

A book you own but have never read -

A book that takes place in your hometown -

A book that was originally written in another language -

A book set during Christmas -

A book by an author with your same initials -

A play -

A banned book -

A book based on or turned into a TV show -

A book you started but never finished -

 

 

 

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The Unimaginable by Dina Silver
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This was another Christmas present book like Still Alice. And the premise sounded great…small town girl seeking adventure goes to Thailand to teach underprivileged children, but while sailing with friends, an “unimaginable” disaster strikes.

Except…except…it’s the most predictable and imaginable disaster ever, especially since they alluded to it no fewer than five times before it happened! Just a hint: it’s only considered unimaginable IF you weren’t warned by your boyfriend, neighbors, sister, and various boating safety authorities about how dangerous the trip might be. And yes, I suppose the “Unimaginable” of the title is a bit of a play on the title of the sailboat they’re on called Imagine, but it simply doesn’t work. It also gets taken to the hokey level when  the love interest’s ex-wife pens a letter about what can be imagined and then in a terribly unnecessary full-circle wrap up, Grant and Jessica have a daughter and use the same damn “I can only imagine” line to inspire her. Ick!

unimaginable

The writing is predictable and uninspired, mostly because Silver displays interactions between the main character and love interest in a trite, underdeveloped manner. In fact, neither of them get the nuanced character development necessary for such a story. Grant is handsome, troubled, rich, unapproachable, and mourning his dead wife. Jessica is a naive, young, and eager small town girl. No character growth ever. Blah.

The story is also terribly slow moving. It takes 150 pages to get to the actual unimaginable “boarded by pirates” event, and then it gets only 25 pages of the story. The damn RESCUE takes longer and the uber-unnecessary “happy ever after” ending both get more page-time than the unimagined thing itself! The pacing on this is just terrible, the editing could use some work (typos and tense shifts abound!), and the writing is amateurish at best. For example:

I wanted so badly to wrap my arms around him, squeeze away the pain, and never let go. The words he used to described Jane were exactly the words I would’ve used to describe him. I lowered my eyes, thinking of the lettter and her beautiful words. I owed it to him to tell him, and just as I was about to lift my head and confess, my eyes welled with tears…

I squared my jaw and gazed into his eyes–dark blue, like the water that carried us — so that he might sense a shred of the shame that was festering inside of me.

Hurk. Sounds like every middle school love story ever penned, and yep, that is an extraneous “d” at the end of “described.” Yuck.

Throughout all of it, I had to keep asking myself: is this self-published? It’s got such terrible writing, terrible pacing, and it can’t decide if it is an adventure story, a romance, or someone’s crappy vacation memoir. Essentially, it’s by a subsidiary small publishing unit of Amazon…and ew. Shame on you, Amazon. Anyway, this was almost a DNF for me, and I think perhaps it should have been. Skip it and imagine your own story instead.

 

 

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Still Alice by Lisa Genova
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So, funny story. I’d heard vaguely of Still Alice a good bit recently on various sites and noticed some good reviews about it, so I knew it was about a woman with Alzheimer’s disease. However, I also remember hearing about that same time that Ann B. Davis, kooky cook Alice from The Brady Bunch, had died. So, somehow, I connected the two in my brain. I don’t know if that is what Brady Bunch Alice died of, (goodness I hope not…hey, somebody Google that for me, whydoncha?) but these two Alice-type-things became irretrievably linked in my head.

Because of that weird linkage, I resisted reading Still Alice for a while because I couldn’t bear to watch Alice from the beloved TV show go through that disease in print. (Makes no sense, I know, but my brain does weird things like that sometimes!) Anyway, I got this book in paperback for Christmas (thank you, Adrianne!) and decided it was just the palate-cleanser I needed after Outlander and two short humor reads.

Still, even with that weird brain connection I was unprepared for this – a book full of the strange workings of a failing brain. It isn’t about Ann B. Davis at all, of course, but it is about a Harvard professor of linguistics who discovers she has early-onset Alzheimer’s and then shit spirals out of control: she goes for a run but can’t remember how to get home, she is supposed to go teach a lecture but instead sits in the class with the students complaining that the professor (herself) didn’t show up, she puts Moby-Dick in the microwave and her BlackBerry in the freezer, she thinks her long-dead family members are going to walk into the door but can’t remember her own daughter, she thinks her carpet on the floor is an unbreachable hole, and she goes into a neighbor’s house to make tea thinking she is IN HER OWN HOUSE. And, it’s all so SAD.

I mean, yes, what else would you expect an Alzheimer’s novel to be, but it ends up being just tragic that this woman who spends her life investigating language and how the brain processes words, and she then loses all the words in her brain. To make it worse, she’s quite young for it and as she says, she can’t choose what to lose:

…I have no control over which yesterdays I keep and which ones get deleted. This disease wll not be bargained with. I can’t offer it the names of the Unites States presidents in exchange for the names of my children. I can’t give it the names of the state capitals and keep the memories of my husband.

That’s just…awful. When I think of all the useless trivia taking up space in my head, I realize how terrible it would be if those things were all that was left to me and all the important memories and people were just erased. What a horrible, awful, terrible disease. And, let’s face it, old people make me sad anyway…but when relatively young ones get this as Alice does? I just can’t even imagine…

Anyway, this book is a bit of a downer for sure, but Still Alice (DEFINITELY not about The Brady Bunch Alice) is definitely and completely worth the read.
still alice* I usually reject book covers with movie images because I prefer the original artwork. However, this was the version I read…and interestingly enough, this book will be a movie released later this month. And, in spite of Julianne Moore on the cover, I can’t help but think of Alice as the little curly-haired lady depicted in the novel. I just can’t picture someone like Clarice from Hannibal or President Coin in The Hunger Games as the main character for this. I’ll probably see this movie, and while I can see J.M. doing a good job in the role even though she doesn’t fit the physical description, overall (with Alec Baldwin, Kate Bosworth, and Kristen Stewart in it), my first impression of the film it is that it seems poorly cast.

Posted in Contemporary, Fiction, Film Based on Books, Random Rants | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments