You’ll Grow Out Of It by Jessi Klein (5 out of 5)

•August 14, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Jessi Klein isn’t a very familiar name. Until you dig deeper. Turns out she’s the award winning head writer of the hilarious Comedy Central show, Inside Amy Schumer. She’s done writing for other shows, had her own stand-up special, and has been on NPR. Not a newbie by any means, but this is her first book. It’s newly released in paperback, from our friends at Hachette Book Group. I strongly encourage you to read it, especially if you are a fan of “real women’s essays”. What do I mean real women? Simple. No shrinking violets and weeping willows here. Jessi walks us through many parts of her life and gives it straight- from disastrous relationships to therapy to lingerie to whether you’re a poodle or wolf (proud wolf here!), the debacle of the wedding dress, engagement, IVF, among other real topics that more of the female population should talk about. Or write about. Or both. Or even recommend that other women read about these matters. Starting with this very book! Jessi adopts a tone that is open, brutally honest, and yes, hilarious. Reading about her and Mike (her husband’s) struggle to get pregnant was both poignant and humorous, because in her hands, she brings the good, the bad, and the funny. Not easy to do that while talking about a serious subject, but she does that. And pulls the reader in while doing so. A book that will entertain throughout and afterward. Here’s hoping that she decides to write a book about her career next. I’m sure I’m not the only one wanting to hear Amy Schumer stories! 

Shadow Girl (Afton Tangler #2) by Gerry Schmitt (3 out of 5)

•August 12, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I got this as a freebie from Stefan at Penguin Random House. Thanks! It’s newly out in hardcover. Not too bad. I should note that this is the SECOND book in the series. I think you could, like myself, start it here and be alright. It’s not a nailbiter by any means, but a satisfying read. There aren’t a lot of surprises, but the author lays out the plot and all of its participants and it runs pretty smoothly. But again, not a nailbiter. I kind of wanted to stop reading halfway through because it was running along slowly. My problem, as a reader, is that my favorite genre is psychological suspense. Which has a lot of shadiness, dark surprises, savagery at times reminiscent of me left alone in a room too long with popcorn. Regular mysteries do not really do it for me. There are exceptions, obviously. I wanted to disclose this. It didn’t color my enjoyment of the book, although it did make me antsy midway through to pick up the pace. Of the book, not picante sauce. As mysteries go, a decent read. 

Leland Odin, head of the international television network The Diamond Shopping Network, is dying in a hospital from heart problems. His donor heart is on it’s way to the hospital when the helicopter carrying it is shot down. Days later, as Max and his partner Afton try to get to the bottom of what happened, they decide to pay the dying tycoon a visit. They run into a doctor who tells them that Leland is very ill and not to be disturbed and very critical. There’s something very wrong here, from the Asian doctor with the nametag reading “Sanchez” to the vibes that Afton cany ignore. The doctor disappears and she and Max discover Leland has been attacked, his head practically cut off his body. Afton runs out of the hospital after the phone doc, and gives chase. She pounces and almost gets him, but the wily Asian does a number on her and injures her so bad that she ends up in a hospital. That man, Nagong, is irate that this American hurt him and voes he will exact revenge. He informs his boss, an older lady named Chao Mom Cherry, that he killed the man who hijacked her drug shipment. Leland is, indeed, fatally injured. Cherry isn’t through yet with her vendetta of revenge. She and Nagongbhsveva third accomplice, a Southerner named Hack, who has a thirst for violence, women, and cocaine, and he is their liason in this foreign country. Leland’s partner at DSN, Jay Barber, goes for a run after hearing of his partners death, and Hack gets him and the three kill him after trying to determine where her drug shipment ended up. They also do away with the young doc who had given them the information on what plane Leland’s heart was coming in on. The two bodies end up in a pigpen on a desolate farm, and Max and Afton know they have very big problems on their hands. They try to getbinfo from the deceased men’s families, only to encounter walls of resistance. Through nothing short of a series of breaks and due diligence of the department, they manage to figure out who the killers are. It isn’t until Nagong attacks Afton, her daughters, and even the adorable bulldog, that they realize it goes deeper than they thought, and they need to apprehend immediately. On the other side, Cherry and her team of yes-men do get their precious cocaine shipment and are preparing to move it across state lines, when Leland’s drug addled daughter gets wind of how much it is worth, and steals the truck with her druggie boyfriend, right under their noses. An epic battle plays out, bringing us to the inevitable close of this thriller. Honestly, it really did pick up steam after the 34th chapter; before that, I was mildly intrigued but not to the point that I couldn’t put it down. When I say 34th chapter, I do mean that. It has 50-some odd chapters, but they are shirt and concise ones, so it does go by quickly; it’s not a “Gone with the Wind” type situation. Good stuff, good characters, just a little too quiet for me on all fronts. 

The Unlikely Story of A Pig In The City by Jodi Kendall (5 out of 5) 

•August 9, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I LOVED this middle school delight. Someone is going to compare it to the movie “Babe”. That’s perfectly alright, but I love Hamlet more than I loved Babe. Yes, Hamlet is the adorable little piglet that Tom, Josie’s brother, brings home to the Shilling apartment on Thanksgiving. Tom rescued Hamlet from a farm and has to give Hamlet a home for the time being. Josie immediately forms a connection with him after holding him for the first time. The only problem with Josie keeping Hamlet is that the apartment is small and overcrowded. And it’s not fair to a farm animal to keep them locked up when they are used to being outdoors. Josie sets out on a journey to find a forever home for Hamlet. Can she do it? And if she does, can she let him go? She’s head over heels for Hamlet, as is the family. Sometimes, though, the hardest thing is to let someone you love go. This is a wonderfully funny and heartwarming story for kids ages 8-11. This 44 year old kid loved it. 

“The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City” is out October 3, 2017, from Harper Collins. I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy for your kiddos. 

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent (5 out of 5)

•August 8, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I failed my Penguin Random house rep, Stefan. He told me this was great, and I relegated it to my living room table pile. I tried to read this three times in the past 7 weeks. June, July, and August have been a mass of upheaval, exhaustion, and change. With extra exhaustion for me. I read one book in the past eight days. One book? Moi? You may as well call Kim Kardashian a whore, for you know…. This is NOT like me at all. I read 5-9 a week most of the time. The only time that grinds to a screaching weasel halt is if I’m depressed or exhausted. Worry not, folks…it’s exhaustion. I’m back on the path of the zealous. I got two read today on my only day off. Hopefully can keep that momentum going! 

Anyway, Stefan, you were right. I absolutely dug this book. I like the cover, although for some reason, I kept visualizing shoeless clowns eating McDonalds in the jungle every time I examined it in detail. THAT is a disturbing image. There are moments in this book where you are disturbed. Or, if you read books like I do, it makes you more determined to finish it and see how it plays out. I implore you to stay with it. Three words to describe it? Deep, dark at times, and visceral. 

Turtle Alveston is a 14-year old tough cookie. She reminded me a lot of Scout from “To Kill A Mockingbird”, but more introspective. Turtle does her ruminating in private, quietly mourning her mother’s death and isolated from civilization and social niceties and nuances by her tortured and enigmatic father. Of course, a boy enters the picture and the frame goes crashing to the ground. Turtle begins to realize from her “relationship” with Jacob that her relationship with her dad is not safe and not conducive for a healthy life for her beyond the current moment. Turtle begins to break out of her shell (pardon the pun) with acts of physical and emotional rebellion, and the upheaval that follows is nothing short of realistic and heart-wrenching. But betcha by golly wow, you ROOT for her to get out and away from her dad’s mercurial thumb. This book is not for wussies. If you want that, go read your Nicholas Sparks and knit your kitten hats. I prefer the stuff of real, true life turmoil and familial tension. Done and done with this book! I’m not kidding, Scout is probably my favorite fiction kid character in a long time. I should say teen, but I have terrible flashbacks of Haim and Hanson, so I will refrain. Tallent lives up to his name and writes a story so fraught with sadness, hope, and spunk that you finish it with a triumphant “Hmph” and hand it over to your closest reading buddy who will get knocked out by what they read. I can’t wait to hand sell it in October! 

“My Absolute Darling” is out, via Riverhead Books, on August 29, 2017. I will be absolutely stunned and pissed if this book isn’t a hit and Tallent doesn’t get the credit he deserves for knocking one out of the park. Well done and then some! 

The Tombs by Deborah Schaumberg (3.5 out of 5) 

•August 8, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I love the cover! I pulled this out of a box of Winter 2018 advances because I believed it to be a steampunk novel. Not quite, and not quite sure how to title it. 

Avery lives with her dad, working 14 hour days as a welder, barely making ends meet, and mourning the loss of her mother three years ago. Her mom had unusual gifts that attracted the notice of the wrong people, the much feared crow men of The Tombs, the city’s asylum. Her mom is in nothing short of solitary confinement, and Avery harbors little to no hope of ever seeing her again. Until her not-yet-tapped powers overtake her and cause an explosion at the ironworks factory, and then Avery is under the microscope herself, and after going on the run from the evil doctor who took her mom away, she joins forces with several friends and co-workers to get the answers, be safe, and try to get to her mom. There are nothing less than ten million things distracting Avery along the way, and that got tiresome. Now I know how anyone who talks to me feels! Is she trying to get answers to save her friends? Is she trying to save her mom? Is she in love with this guy, that guy, or the rhubarb pie? Would her dad be able to quit tinkering with clocks in enough time to realize his time is running out? So many characters, so many illegal U-turns, so many untouched slices of crow pie. And so many things left to dangle in the open. I was mighty confused with her wayward heart and the two suitors. What the hell was going on there, anyway? She wants Coke, she wants Pepsi, yet she ends up dehydrated. She loves her mom and wants info about her own powers, but when the time comes to use them, she is busy questioning the absence of friends of hers. The ending didn’t tie up well with me, especially one sacrifice in particular. One of the reprehensible cow patties gets his, but the other skates free. There is exultation and joy, but muted because she still has no clue what went down. Neither, sadly, does the reader. Way too many distractions and characters who play a role in but then just go bye-bye. Great premise, but really…what the hell? If it turns out that she is planning a sequel to this, then maybe those things will be addressed. If not, well…what the hell?

“The Tombs” is slated for release by Harper Teen on February 20, 2018. 

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips (3 out of 5) 

•August 5, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Joan and Lincoln’s trip to the zoo turns into something completely terrifying. There are gunshots heard, and Joan sees zoo workers lying on the ground and bleeding. She takes Lincoln, her son, and they find a secluded part of the zoo in which they hide. But…are they in plain sight? What’s going on? Thankfully, in this day and age, cell phones with their scrolling news feed inform her that there have been multiple shootings and a hostage situation. Joan’s husband Paul corresponds as much as he can, but to avoid being discovered, Joan has to create a distraction with rocks and her phone is discovered. Thankfully, her and Lincoln are not. It isn’t long before Joan discovers there are others hiding and they need to figure out how to outwit the killers and/or get out unharmed with the kids. Can they do this? How nerve wracking can this be? Turns out…not as much as the cover jacket promises. I wasn’t very frightened at all, and the story plays out like the six o’ clock news. The beauty of this book- the fierce kingdom, if you will- is the unwavering bond between mother and child. That’s the greatest part of this story. The rest is window dressing. It’s out now (in hardcover) from our friends at Penguin Random House.

The Nix by Nathan Hill (5 out of 5) 

•July 23, 2017 • Leave a Comment

It took me far too long to read this. Allison from work told me it was great a few months ago and I bought the hardcover when it was going back on a return (It is currently available in trade paper back!). I was especially glad given the length of the book…600 some pages. Given my suddenly heavy work schedule, it took me a few days to finish this, but I really got through most of it last night and today, I finished it. Wow! Definitely one of my favorite books this year. Reading it, I had many flashbacks of Michael Chabon’s “The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay”. Very similar vibe. Samuel Andresen-Anderson (Dig that name!) is a college professor a few days a week, stalled writer for over ten years, daily player of Elfscape (or as it’s known IRL, World of Warcraft), and mourner of lost love, reknowned violinist Bethany Fall. One incident with a student that he busts for cheating on a paper comes back to haunt him. Not as much as his long disappeared mom, Faye. She’s suddenly all over the news for throwing rocks at a political candidate. She’s facing jail time, being portrayed in the press as a radical hippie once arrested for prostitution, but all Samuel can recall is a loving wife and mother, until she abandoned her family and disappeared into thin air. She needs his help. Samuel is torn, but tried to be a good person and help out his mom. Until the publisher tells him they are suing him for never delivering that book he got the advance for- ten years ago. So they hatch a plot for Samuel to get the scoop on his mom and write a sordid tell-all. Can he go through with it after seeing Faye again for the first time in decades? This book is full of spirit, heart, tenderness, lost love, and the overriding theme of importance of family. Shit is always going to change, as things are constant, but you have to find your center. A lot of the book is not just about Samuel doing so, but also Faye. From Chicago to New York to Norway and beyond, this is the truest tale of embracing your past along with your present, and finding the answers you seek, while making peace with all incarnations of who you are. And humor. A lot of tongue-in-cheek humor lightens the mood here. 

Oh, that title? Norweigan folklore defines a nix as a spirit that steals children away. Loose modern day translation could define it as anything you love that steals your heart and disappears. Yes, we all have them. What we don’t often have is a debut novel that crafts a wonderful story of long lost love and second chances around that and makes the reader Fall in Love with that story. Until now. Nathan Hill has managed that feat. Go get it and read it!