Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Taking the Titanic (James Patterson)

Taking the Titanic
Ok, I'm not gonna lie to you guys- I only read this one because it had a subtitle and I needed that for my challenge. (The original book I had bought for this prompt turned out to be 700 pages long and really "heavy". I still totally plan to read it, but it's gonna take some time.)

First off, I'll start by saying that I do love James Patterson. I fell in love with the Alex Cross books in junior high, and there are too many one-offs that I like to count. So the idea of his "BookShots" confused me a little bit.  I mean, a James Patterson book is sort of a "forget sleeping because I need to finish this book ASAP also when was the last time I peed I can't remember, do I have a dog?" kind of experience. Why would that need to be streamlined? But, especially in today's world of click bait and Tweeted news I sort of understand now. The concept is still the same, what has been wheedled down is the character development and depth of the world you're in.  Those things don't seem very important to a lot of readers these days so maybe these things are the future of literature, who knows. (His accountants probably know.)

Ok, so back to the book at hand. The premise (if you don't feel like clicking through and reading it on Amazon) is sort of weird: a pair of crooks decide to swindle a bunch of rich people on the latest luxury ship (the Titanic) in what they are apparently hoping will be  their lucky year 1912. It turns out there is also ANOTHER swindley plan going on in the background so of course those two are going to end up screwing each other over. BUT THEN (and here are major spoilers!) the boat starts to sink! Heavens! I hope it will turn out ok!

The very nature of a "BookShot" means two things: it was very readable because it was basically nothing but action; and it was sort of a poor example of writing because it requires little more than the part of your brain that says "and then he goes pow! and then she runs real fast but THEN..."

So in general, I think the BookShots are ok, but this one is... a little blah. Maybe it's because I knew the ending before I started.

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Fully Loaded (Blake Crouch)

This one is a book of short stories, which normally I don't go for; but lately, I've been having a lot of trouble moving on when I finish one book (#BookHangover) so a short story from Crouch was a great palate cleanser... kind of like a creepy grape between courses.

Blake Crouch, if you are unfamiliar, writes a lot of creepy-in-a-realistic-way shit. His style of creep speaks to that darker side that all of us have. Each of these short stories is drastically different, but still each creates a fabulous world. I was really impressed by the multiple stories where I didn't see the twist coming until the last second, which, it seems to me, must be way harder than in a full sized book.

If you're looking for variety, or love thrillers and mind benders- definitely check this collection out. (You can also get most of the stories individually on Kindle, if you think you're only interested in one or two.)

The Book
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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (Taylor Jenkins Reid)

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Ok, so my decision to join the Book of the Month Club was a GOOD one because I have loved EVERY book so far. Evelyn Hugo was no exception.

The basic gist is that a wet behind the ears reporter is hand picked by an elusive, Elizabeth Taylor-esque former starlet to write a no holds barred tell all biography about her- including all of the sordid details about her seven sensational marriages- which up until this point in her life she has refused to comment on. But, as the story of her life and ambition unfolds, the reporter has to wonder- why her?

I cannot think of a single complaint about this book. Reid masterfully creates the world of golden era Hollywood, which we live and breathe every second of through Evelyn's assent to the height of stardom. I was swept up in the glitzy gilding, and then rolled over by the murky slime hiding beneath, just as so many hopeful actresses of the day were. Despite some questionable moral choices on Evelyn's part, I not only rooted for her- I understood why she made those decisions, I respected the purpose and drive behind them to get what she wanted from the world.

She isn't the only character who is well fleshed out; Reid gives life to all of her main creatures (a depth that is often lacking with modern authors.) The relationship that we see develop between Evelyn and Monique is riveting, and I genuinely felt a need for them to become closer, to create a friendship that I could live through those words.

The timing of this book is also interesting, with so many people concerned with the rights of women. Evelyn realizes at a young age that her body is a tool: she can use it to manipulate, to get what she wants, and as a weapon against others.  As she traverses the Hollywood landscape, she sees that men are "scamps" where women are "sluts", and that the repercussions of the same choices are very different when a woman is the one in question. (An excellent reminder that slut shaming goes much farther back than the age of Facebook.) Yet, instead of letting that get her down- or rather, keep her down- she uses that world's weaknesses to her advantage, coming out back on top. In the political climate of today, that is a powerful message for women: your body is your own, make your own choices, be your own person.

I would recommend this book to absolutely anyone who is looking for their next read. There's a little romance, a little intrigue, there isn't any sword fighting (Sorry about that, Helen.), but it is still one hell of a ride!

The Book
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The Writing
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Readability
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Sunday, July 9, 2017

A Handmaid's Tale- Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale
So, I don't know how popular my opinion on this book is going to be, and part of the reason is because of Hulu.

Alrighty, so if you've been living under a rock, this book is about a dystopian society which is slowly revealed throughout the book to be virtually barren.  The titular Handmaids are the women who have been shown to be fertile, tasked with helping to repopulate the human race (or, Gilead at least) with the most elite males of society. (As in, you're with a guy till he knocks you up, then on to the next. These are the guys with money. Shock.) They are forced to wear red, showing every person they come into contact with that they are to be "revered ". Except that... No one reveres them. The other castes of women, Wives (self explanatory) and Marthas (maids) look down on the Maids as being slutty (as if they aren't under threat of death if they don't go and do who they're told).

I'm not going to give an entire plot summary for you, you can just read the damn book because you should anyway, whether I'm a huge fan or not. At first I was really irritated that the circumstances of this world were shadowed for so long, that pieces of information were given out bit by bit without context. Probably because I was a bad girl and started watching the Hulu miniseries before reading the book. (I didn't want to... Amazon made me... They didn't add the book to their Prime reading until after I was halfway through the show! TOTALLY not my fault!) I already knew a lot about what had happened and why she was in the situation she was in, and with the dull writing style, the monotone and detached narrator was hard to concentrate on sometimes.

Anyway, my overall takeaway was this: the concept is amazing, but I actually think it was executed better in the show than the book. The ability to use visuals gives a whole new level, a level I found myself yearning for while reading. Seeing where they use reds, where they use blues, where they use blacks, the execution of cinematography. Obviously I wouldn't have this complaint if I had read the book first.
I still think this is a must read for everyone, but maybe do it the way you're supposed to and wait until AFTER you finish the book to watch the show.

The Book
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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Love Letters to the Dead


When we were creating our challenge, my friend wanted one prompt to be "A Book of Letters", which to me just sounded annoying. But, life is about compromises, so there it is. It's such an unusual format, I thought that surely this would be one of the last ones I would fill in, that I would be desperately combing Nook and Kindle for something that sounded survivable that met the prompt. And then, this popped up in my recommended reading, after I finished Marlena.

It was actually a pretty cool story device.

Laurel starts writing these letters as part of an English assignment at her new school. Initially she is hesitant about the idea (so we both agreed on that from the get go), but as she writes she begins to find catharsis in the process. Her family has just imploded, and as she writes her letters to famous dead people, we begin to learn how and why. The book is a wonderful combination of funny moments and sad, sometimes bordering on heart wrenching. 

All of these Young Adult books have really started me questioning my own teenage existence. Was I supposed to sneak out of the house? I didn't. It seems, based on the few books I've read this year, like I not only missed out, but also failed at some primary teenage objective. (Here's the sad part, the back door of the house was in my bedroom- I wouldn't have really had to do any sneaking anyway. Did I fail some test???)

This really was a fun book to read, and super fast. Highly recommend to anyone interested in the kind of My Girl genre of feels, because you will fall all in the "Thomas J  killed by bees" feels. And warning: those are tough feels to get back out of.


The Book
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Saturday, June 17, 2017

My 2017 Book Challenge

Just a warning, the graphic is a little tough to read, but I mean, fuck it- it's glittery.  I've also included the text below so you can copy and paste if you want to try it out!

  • A book that's been on your TBR list for too long
  •  A book with one of the four seasons in the title
  • A book that is a story within a story 
  •  A book with multiple authors 
  •  A book with a cat on the cover
  •  A book by an author with a pseudonym 
  •  A bestseller in a genre you don't normally read
  •  A book about a person with a disability 
  •  A memoir 
  •  A book involving travel
  •  A book with a subtitle 
  •  A book published in 2017
  •  A book involving a mythical creature
  •  A book from a nonhuman perspective 
  •  A novel set during wartime 
  •  A book with an unreliable narrator 
  •  A book set in two time periods 
  •  An espionage thriller 
  •  A book with a month or a day of the week in the title 
  •  A book set in a hotel
  •  A book that's becoming a movie in 2017
  •  The first book in a series you haven't read  before 
  •  A book about a difficult topic 
  •  A book that takes place in an island 
  •  A book based on mythology 
  •  A book recommended by a librarian 
  •  A book about a culture you're unfamiliar with 
  •  A book based on a fairy tale 
  •  A book set in your home state 
  •  A book recommended by another challenger 
  •  A book about a road trip 
  •  The first book you see in a bookstore 
  •  A book written  by a celebrity 
  •  A book translated to English 
  •  A book of letters 
  •  A book that you started but never finished 
  •  A book with a dark and mysterious cover 

Wishful Drinking (Carrie Fisher)

Is there anything as entertaining as getting the straight-from-the-mouth, crazy-as-fuck life story of a celebrity?

Let me start over... I LOVE Carrie Fisher. The work she did to bring light to the life of the mentally ill (and to try and help remove the stigma that goes with that phrase) is inspiring. I myself have dealt with several psychological diagnoses over the years, and I am fucking tired of being made to feel like less of a human because of it.

Still, there is no denying that the story of Carrie Fisher is pretty fucking fabulous, and the candid way she shares it is hilarious. From life with Debbie Reynolds as a mother to a particularly amazing story about Cary Grant attempting an intervention for drug use (I'm not even kidding), Fisher truly did not disappoint.

Of course, there is that shroud of sadness over the experience of reading the book. A woman who was so full of life, so exuberant about life, who never seemed suicidal in her drug use, is gone from us far too soon, and that is a light that will never be replaced.

My only real criticism would be that the writing often seemed scattered, and the syntax seemed strange. But you have to keep in mind this was a book version of her one woman show, and it reads that way. Other than that, it was a great, and quick read. I finished it in about 6 hours.

The Book
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