The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

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

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

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.

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Michelle joins the 2015 PopSugar Reading Challenge

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 in the LAST week of December??? I’m not ready to try that again any time soon!)  —-  Then, I decided to fill this slot with our book club read: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, but it became the Pulitzer Prize winner for 2015, so I moved it. (This MAY be the slot that never gets filled!!!)  Ok, finally, just to get this one over with, let’s make it, Grey by E.L. James

A classic romance – H.R.H. by Danielle Steel

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

A book published this year – Wreckage by Emily Bleeker 

A book with a number in the title – The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

A book written by someone under 30 – Looking for Alaska by John Green

A book with nonhuman characters – The Mermaid’s Sister by Carrie Anne Noble

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

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

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

A book with a one-word title – Anthem by Ayn Rand

A book of short stories – Dear Life by Alice Munro

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 – Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

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

A book a friend recommended – The Gatecrasher by Madeleine Wickham

A Pulitzer-Prize winning book – All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

A book based on a true story – The Vow: True Events that Inspired the Movie by Kim & Krickitt Carpenter

A book at the bottom of your to-read list – The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (Honestly not sure why this was at the bottom of my TBR list, but somehow it was so, here this shall fit. I liked it and I’m not really sure why I’d put it off!)

A book your mom loves – The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

A book that scares you – The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard (because kidnapping is definitely scary!)

A book more than 100 years old – The Awakening by Kate Chopin

A book based entirely on its cover – The Red Tent by Anita Diamant (ok, so this one is a definite stretch. I don’t normally pick books just because of their covers and this one I read for book club, and it was a re-read. But, that cover IS pretty cool.)

A book you were supposed to read in high school but didn’t – Lord of the Flies by William Golding (And just to clarify for all my teacher friends: I’m not a slacker; I read everything ever assigned to me. However, I should have probably read this as a senior as it’s still assigned to the seniors where I teach, but we got a new teacher my 12th grade year and she never assigned it and I read it on my own in college).

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 – Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit – No Time to Wave Goodbye by Jacquelyn Mitchard (Set mostly in California, a place I’d sort of like to visit…these are getting hard as I approach the end of the challenge!)

A book that came out the year you were born – Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor

A book with bad reviews – Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

A trilogy – Infected, Contagious, and Pandemic by Scott Sigler

A book from your childhood- The Cay by Theodore Taylor

A book with a love triangle – The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

A book set in the future – The Martian by Andy Weir

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

A book with a color in the title – Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

A book that made you cry – Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (Ok, to be honest, I didn’t cry on this or on any previous read of this novella. However, this is likely because I am a terrible person and I NEVER cry at books. Still, this one comes close; I’m just not evil enough that I can squeeze out even a single tear for poor Lennie. I do have so much literary sadness over this one that I WISH I could cry.)

A book with magic – Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

A graphic novel – Resistance: Book 1 by Carla Jablonski and Leland Purvis

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

A book you own but have never read – Sounder by William H. Armstrong

A book that takes place in your hometown – Sisters of Shiloh by Becky & Kathy Hepinstall

A book that was originally written in another language – Night by Elie Wiesel

A book set during Christmas – Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand

A book by an author with your same initials – You Deserve a Drink: Boozy Misadventures and Tales of Debauchery by Mamrie Hart

A play – Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

A banned book – To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

A book based on or turned into a TV show – Doctor Who: The King’s Dragon by Una McCormack

A book you started but never finished – Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers


And…for extra books I read while finishing the challenge that fit NOWHERE: Buried Onions by Gary Soto, Timothy of the Cay by Theodore Taylor, Animal Farm by George Orwell, Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella, Oedipus Rex by Sophocles (Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald translation) Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles (unknown translation), Antigone by Sophocles (Fitts and Fitzgerald translation again), The Seven Against Thebes by Aeschylus (E.D.A. Morehead translation), Longbourn by Jo Baker, andThe Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman.

I’m currently working on One Second After by William R. Forstchen and Winter Stroll by Elin Hilderbrand to try to finish up my overall 80 for the year. With 18 to go and only about 6 hectic holiday-prep weeks left in the year, I don’t think I’m going to make it.


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The Unimaginable by Dina Silver

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!


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

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.

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The Occupation of Eliza Goode – Shelley Mickle (DNF)

THe Occupation of Eliuza Goode, by Shelley MickleOh, sigh. Starting 2015 out in true Kelley fashion, I hated this book. I came across The Occupation of Eliza Goode while looking for a nice historical novel, and it sadly fell flat for me.

The book is told by two different narrators, one in the present and one in the past. In the present, Susan gets a call from her mysterious cousin Hadley who wants her to read all these letters she found that were written by a young distant relative of theirs. I did not care about this storyline at all. Hadley might be a huge liar and might have a terrible disease. Yawn, let’s get to the historical parts!

So in the past, Eliza Goode is a prostitute who runs away to join the Civil War, or something, because she was sold as a courtesan to some dude who was old enough to be her father. It’s super boring, and it shouldn’t be, because the Civil War is a time period that I generally really love. I hated the writing, which seemed disjointed and passionless, and never really was able to draw me in, and Eliza’s story was rather drawn out and boring – I stopped reading on page 109, about 30%. I don’t understand the wonderful Goodreads reviews this book has, but I’m willing to accept that maybe it’s just me. Oh well.


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Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

I’ve been reading Jenny Lawson’s hilariously funny posts over at for a while now. She always cracks me up, but I hadn’t gotten around to reading her first published book Let’s Pretend This Never Happened until this week (and yes, I’m looking at you, again, Outlander). She’s down-to-earth, she writes in long convoluted sentences with lots of parentheses, she’s supremely socially awkward, and she has a thing for taxidermied animals dressed in cute clothes. In fact, she reminds me a bit of me, just with the addition of stuffed critters and giant chicken sculptures.

let's pretend this never happened


My favorite parts are always Lawson’s interactions with her long-suffering husband, Victor. I laugh out loud at these because she always manages to say things in such a unique way. For example, after Victor leaves the only remaining wet towel in the house on the floor, she leaves him a series of passive-aggressive Post-It notes so he can correct his behavior and, I suppose, so she can avoid confrontation, a skill at which she is notoriously bad. It devolves into a tirade about tuberculosis, who should throw away the empty pizza box or clean cat vomit, why there are so many business suits awaiting the dry cleaner if they both work at home, the proper technique for drying clothes, and why she has secretly poisoned one (or more) items in their refrigerator. She also may or may not have stapled their wedding photo to the cat’s leg as an apology which will later require amputation.

Other standout chapters include “I Was a Three-Year-Old Arsonist,” “If You Need an Arm Condom, It Might Be Time to Reevaluate Some of Your Life Choices,” “No One Ever Taught Me Couch Etiquette,” “Thanks for the Zombies, Jesus,” and “A Phone Conversation I Had with my Husband After I Got Lost for the Eighty Thousandth Time.”

The accompanying photographs with captions and little notes from her editor inserted into the prose crack me up as well. It seems that the only thing that can reign Jenny in isn’t Victor, it isn’t the folks over at Penguin Books, it’s isn’t even necessarily sticking to the truth: it’s anxiety. She gets mouth diarrhea whenever she is forced into a social situation and ends up at various times telling people how she gets stabbed by a chicken cutlet, how she was sort-of stabbed in the face by a serial killer, and that her vagina is fine. She tells us in the first lines of the book that she is also an exaggerator who doesn’t know when to quit talking and insists she should only talk to people over email, and that my friend, is something I can definitely relate to. Anxious minds think alike, I suppose, and I think Jenny Lawson is my new hero.

Basically, I just want to live in Jenny’s house because it sounds like the best kind of fun. (Of course, I can only come once they find the dead bodies and call the exterminator again.) Barring that, I’ll just be her best friend, even though she doesn’t really make friends with females. Damn. I guess I’ll just wait for book two.



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The Potty Mouth at the Table by Laurie Notaro

If you read this blog at all, you know how much I LOVE humor writer Laurie Notaro. So I’m not sure how I missed her last book of essays, The Potty Mouth at the Table. (Except Outlander, so I guess I do know why.) Anyway, when I finished that god-awful-long series, it was time for something light and fun, so here we go!

potty mouth

I have to admit, the Tuscan Tomato Herpes Bisque, peeking at Anne Frank’s underwear, and noticing an immigrant child’s tiny Tic Tac toes cracked me up. She also rants on foodies, judgmental poets, and Yelpers and writes a helpful note about food safety for her widower husband in the event of her death.

One of my favorite parts involved Laurie eating some bad falafel, then getting onto a train, and publicly making the most ungodly noise known to man, after which Notaro warns readers: “Fanned fingers cannot catch vomit, but what they really can do is turn your little half cup of coffee (again, mostly creamer) into a spray-water feature in a fountain that rivals the Bellagio’s and make it appear that your digestive system is hooked up to the city’s water supply.”

Ha, public vomiting and humiliation = super funny.

Also, after taking her husband to a really bad play, he gets his revenge and abandons her to the wolves, er, deer in their yard: “I quickly had a vision of myself making it two steps out of the car before a frothy-mouthed Bambi leaped from the rhodendrons and used my face as a punching bag, while I curled into a fetal position and attempted to roll toward my porch like a pill bug, as my husband shouted encouraging but muffled words from the driver’s seat through closed car windows.”

And if that isn’t enough to make Laurie’s husband sound awesome; note that he even lets her bring home random thrift store purchases that may or may not be perfect for her 80-year-old self. I love it as I am also a step away from Hoarders myself.

Not the funniest of her funny (trucks with nutsacks), but this Idiot Girl is still definitely worth a read!


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Two Dorks, One Book: Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon

So, this is the series that wrecked my Goodreads goal for the year (by like 20 books, but whatever). AND, it was so not worth it. I mean, don’t get me wrong, overall, I think I liked the series as a whole, but I just spent 8 months of my life on these 8 books, and they’re only…sort of…good. So please forgive my ranty, uberlong, jump-all-over-the-place post, but I’m feeling SCREAMY.

moby image

I gave lazy comments to Kelley’s reviews on the first seven because, meh. And also because, I couldn’t remember what the damn things were about by the time I was done reading each one. They’re that long and convoluted. So, since I’m finally finishing the last one (Cue “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang), I’m doing a longer review while I read so I can put this thing to bed.

First off…I do not care that John Grey (who I’m pretty sure was named William in the first book, but again, whatever, because that seems to be a thing this author does here) is captured or has a broken eyeball or that his son, actual William, or Lord Ellesmere or Lord Ransom (or why-the-hell do English folks have so many damn titles?) is whining that he’s not technically an earl any more or that Ian and Dottie are each marrying a Quaker.

Why are there even Quakers IN this book? And why is there a Dottie? Or a Hal or a Ben or an Adam? And why the hell are all these f-ing people all related? Because every time there is a new character… Bam, backstory and family tree of someone we already know! I am just so tired of meeting people (a la Simon Fraser and Charles Grey and Denny Hunter and Denys Randall-Isaacs — whose name is too close to Denzell Hunter and who ALSO drops a name halfway– and Perseverance/Percival-whose-damn-name-changes-halfway-through-the-book Beauchamp or Wainwright or whatever) who I am supposed to already know. To me, that’s just lazy writing of an author to sick of her own book to develop a new and interesting character.

To top it off, there are now also Rendills and other similar named folks who aren’t actually even related, and I don’t even know what all. So someone buy Diana Gabaldon a baby-name book next time she writes a novel, k? Because even if all of this was still happening in Scotland where everyone is Mac-something (and I’m still quite miffed that it’s not, since THAT is the series I signed on to read!), THERE ARE MORE THAN FIVE FAMILIES IN THE WORLD. BRANCH OUT A DAMN BIT, Gabbs. I don’t care if the names are similar because he/she is some great-grand-whatever of the current characters because apparently everyone is a time traveler AND this is  Continue reading

Posted in 2 Dorks 1 Book, book club reads, Excuse me, Fiction, Film Based on Books, I Want My Money Back!, Random Rants, Romance, WTF? | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments