The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer (5 out of 5)

•August 30, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Chances are pretty fair that you know Amy Schumer. Or rather, you know her show Inside Amy Schumer. But do any of us REALLY know her? This may be our best bet to get a glimpse. The book is exactly like and yet different from what you see on her television show. As she points out, everyone expects people in Hollyweird to be “on” at all times, which is hard for a self-declared introvert. Yes, Amy Schumer is an introvert. That’s just one of many surprises contained in her autobiography. My eye-opening moment was reading that she had her heart broken by a guy the EXACT way I did. Shit, if I loved the woman before that reveal, I was ready to get a lower back Amy Schumer tattoo after the fact! But the public Amy and private Amy, as much as her fans would like, while keeping large parts of that persona we see on the show, are two different people. And isn’t that so true on most cases? Those who live and work in the public eye DO, more often than not, put on a different face while dealing with the public in a private sector. I felt bad for Amy reading some of the stories about her private time meeting her public time. But more than that? I admired her MORE! Reading about her upbringing, from the thoughts rolling through her head at her bat mitzvah, to realizing her parents were divorcing, up to her father’s diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, was coated in her trademark sarcasm, but with a touch of realism. This woman can be snarky and make you cry til your butt plug comes out, but she is a very real person with real emotions, and that’s pretty fucking refreshing in a memoir. She touches on her love life, her vagina, her close relationship with her siblings, her show and those who help her write it, as well as her movie from last year, Trainwreck. I don’t think any of us will ever truly know Amy Schumer, but this is the best bet we have to come close. So, yes, if you love the show and her comedy, pick up a copy and read it! Don’t leave it to read in the bathroom while you’re taking a dump. No, wait, maybe you should…she would probably love that shit! Literally! Wickedly funny and also heartwarming in parts, THIS is the real Amy Schumer, vagina and all. The book is out now. 

The Asset by Shane Kuhn (3 our of 5)

•August 25, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I loved Shane Kuhn’s first two books, The Intern’s Handbook and Hostile Takeover. I thought after the second book that he probably was done with the John Lago series for a while, but I hoped he would be making a return. This is why I hate falling head over heels for characters and certain styles of books. Those two books were sarcastic, warped, and FUN. Sadly, I did not encounter much fun with Kennedy, this book’s hero. I have a problem separating church and state, as far as Kuhn’s titles go. I did get through this pretty quick, and it clips along at a leisurely pace and doesn’t lag much, and I LOVE that. However, I kept thinking this guy’s heartache and guilt over his sister’s death in 9/11 was more of a plot device than character development. I never saw many sides to this character except heartache, which the character himself readily admits has influenced his choice of jobs and lack of caring attitude about many parts of his life. At least it wasn’t my imagination, if the character himself admits it in the first part of the book! I had a hard time connecting to Kennedy, and no problem with the supporting cast…the team, his friend Wes, and his sister’s friend Love. That means it is going to be a tough sell, and it was…for me, at least. I have customers that will love this and I will happily sell it to, but it just isn’t my favorite work by him. My heart belongs to John Lago. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy this!!! I did, I just felt like I was watching it as I would watching an action movie, just not much in the way of connecting as a reader with a book.

Kennedy goes above and beyond his job duties as a TSA security director. You could say he buries himself in his quest to make America’s airways safe again after 9/11. There is, of course, the fact that his sister was killed on 9/11, which is not only fueling his inner fire to full boil, which causing him to rot ibternally from guilt. All around him, Kennedy is surrounded, as well as suoervised by, incompetent people dropping the ball. He gets intel that a very real threat is on its way, and attempts to warn his superior, who shrugs it off. Kennedy is then instructed to show up at a clandestine meeting, where he believes terrorists are ready to put him on ice. He uses his wits and escapes, only to be rescued and informed he passed the tests the CIA has set for him to prove that he has what it takes. He is then taken on as a counterterrorism operative, with an elite group of varied occupations, into the top secret project known as RED CARPET. The focus of the main threat is a shadowy monster known as Lentz. It doesn’t take long for the curve balls to start getting thrown at Kennedy, as those close to the Red Carpet begin to expire and the pressure to catch him and stop what could be a worldwide cataclysmic disaster worse than 9/11 begins to mount. There are few twists I didn’t see coming, so Kuhn still has a handle on the element of surprise and throws the reader into a bit if a tailspin. Still, sadly, this did not rock the casbah so much for me. It was a case of too little, too late. I think anyone who enjoyed Vince Flynn or Daniel Silva would enjoy this book. I just had too many expectations after the John Lago series for this to knock my socks off. A decent thriller overall.

Among the Wicked (A Kate Burkholder novel) by Linda Castillo (3.5 out of 5)

•August 23, 2016 • Leave a Comment

It kills me that I had to give this fine author less than 4 stars. I have read every book on this series, based around Painters Mill, Ohio, an Amish town. I have loved the Amish since I don’t know when. I almost moved to Lancaster in 1995 with Biceps…. but alas, not to be…. I love to read all things Amish though, because they are a fascinating people. Castillo doesn’t let her readers down. Kate Burkholder, her staff at the PD, and her tormented lover John Tomasetti are solid characters through and through. I would recommend this series to any mystery fan.

This time around, Kate gets a visit from the far outer reaches of the NYPD. There is an Amish settlement there and the troubling death of a 15 year old girl who was found dead in a snowstorm. The town is isolated-to a ridiculous degree- by a megalomaniac bishop who watches over his followers in an almost fanatical fashion. So much that when I read the description of the bishop, I immediately thought of Charlie Manson.. ie, bordering on cult-like status. Given that Kate grew up in an Amish family until she left and was “excommunicated” from the family, she knows the way of the Amish, and the NYPD cops think she is the perfect person to go undercover and figure out what really happened to the girl who died,along with uncovering what is going on in the town that so many have been cast out and disappeared. Kate’s boyfriend is not happy that she agrees, but in she goes. It doesn’t take long before her guise starts to crack and residents begin to shun her, based on the questions. Things get worse when Kate goes to her first service with the bishop and immediately has alarm bells ringing. Shortly after, she is summoned to a private meeting with the bishop, who drugs her and attempts to “help her”. She gets away and alerts the cops, but things go from bad to worse when Kate is attacked and her life hangs in the balance as things get much worse. The ending was a surprise in that it involved one party I didn’t see coming. I liked that Castillo involved a very real problem that we hear about on the news, but I haven’t heard about in many novels. Major applause for tying it in with what was going on, but I had a hard time connecting those dots, and to the Amish, no less. But score major points, regardless, because I was gobsmacked at the end of the book. However, as a reader, I felt like Kate was thrust out into a frozen tundra in upstate New York. And if the one party in the NYPD knew she was intimate with the Amish lifestyle, it made NO fucking sense to want to put her into that case, because it stone cold busted one very guilty party. The answer to what killed 15-year old Rachel is revealed eventually, but something seemed missing even in that. This loyal reader felt like the author had to mix things up and pull their best to solve a crime in another state, but this book made me feel like “There’s no place like home” for Kate and her supporting cast. I missed those characters all too much, and as I said, although loose ends were tied up, something was off here. Some love, but not all the love I normally give to Castillo’s work. 

The Hike by Drew Magary (5 out of 5)

•August 19, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I should start this off by saying that I don’t think I can write a review that is worthy of this book. This book defies any normal standards I have tape measured for a blog post. I have two blank pieces of scrap paper where I jotted thoughts down as I made my way through the book. It made a huge impact on me. In what ways?? I don’t think I can delineate it without giving away key points of the book. You may have heard of our author. He writes for GQ and Deadline. He won on the TV show “Chopped”. He has written two non-fiction titles. His first fictional book, The Postmortal, should be required reading for anyone living in this day and age. It was, by far, one of my favorite books of 2011. If you haven’t read it…WHY NOT? And while you’re at it, pick up this one too!!! It’s out now, brought to us by the folks at Viking (Penguin Random House). 

The only sentence I feel appropriates this book is that it’s the biggest head trip I have NEVER had. I could not put it down. And by turns, I could not fathom some of what I read. But what a fantastical ride it is! For as much oddity is poured into the reader’s glass, there is a fair shake of wisdom hiding here, along with a few noteworthy life lessons. I felt like that with “The Postmortal”, but that book just scared the crap out of me. This was, through a good portion, much more light-hearted. And outright funny in parts. Try reading it while sitting with your dad in a VA waiting room for five hours. The codgers kept looking at me because I would laugh out loud. Sorry, people, it was funny! 

Our guy Ben goes to take a hike one day. He has business meetings ahead of him and doesn’t anticipate any problems, until he gets lost. On the path in front of him is a scene of indescribable carnage. He takes a path that leads to an adventure that he NEVER expected. He gets attacked by two men wearing masks of skinned Rottweilers. He then finds notes with his name upon them telling him to “Stay on the path, or you will die”. He meets and make friends with a profanity spewing, smart ass crab named Crab(their rapport reminded me of Chico & The Man, or better yet, Sanford & Son. Really- the only difference is the friendship is between a man and a crustacean instead of two men. In Magary’s capable pinchers, it works!). As he continues down the path, he walks into a muddied lair full of bloody body parts. He is then nabbed by the gigantic cannibal woman Fermosa, who despite her penchant for eating people, is unfailingly polite. Ben gets stripped of possessions and clothes, and thrown into a dark cell. Once he has regained his strength, he is told he has a choice- fight one man, or five dwarves(this has to be the weirdest Fight Club scene ever. No joke!). Being in this mess and missing his family has made our amiable hero a whole angrier man, and he kills the man in the ring. Fermosa then claims the spoils if the defeated, and sics the five dwarves on Ben anyway. He gets through that, only to stumble into even more trouble. The only clue Ben has that he has to get out of this damnable mess is to stay on the path, and that he now has to seek out a mysterious being named “The Producer”. Then- and only then- will Ben find his way home to his family. When Ben sleeps, he skips back in time, reliving decisions and things he wished he had handled better. The alternate reality and the world Ben unwittingly finds himself trapped in (with all of these odd beings, death around every twist and turn on the path, and two moons!) would not have been out of place in an old Twilight Zone episode. One of my favorite characters is the time traveling lost Spanish explorer Cisco. His emphatic mutterings of hatred toward Amerigo Vespucci had me in stitches (“The filthy Italian PIGDOG!”, “The filthy garbage person”). Cisco and Ben bond in a big way, and their friendship provides some of the most endearing parts of the book. Despite Ben’s situation being dire at times, he still manages to forge strong bonds, first with Crab and then with Cisco. Ben has another go round with Fermosa, on his way to his biggest challenge on The Path- Voris. This may mean life or death …or does it? You have no idea what the fuck Magary is going to throw at you next. And that is the beauty of this book. No matter how odd it gets, the heart never stops beating. You never stop wanting Ben to get out of this maze and find his way home to his family, yet the selfish side of this reader wanted to see what messed up oddness happens next. The worst part of this book? That it had to end. 

Pasta Wars by Elisa Lorello ( 5 out of 5)

•August 15, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I don’t remember the specifics of how I met Elisa. I think I did a search on Amazon for books on Duran Duran and her book Friends Of Mine: Thirty Years In the Life of A Duran Duran Fan popped up. I quickly set about asking her to send a copy (Ingram couldn’t get it because they were not stocking that small pub at the time) and I would review it. She graciously did so, and of course I loved it. Then we became FB friends too, and the poor girl has to read my asinine statuses every day! My coworker remembered that I had been looking at the book online, and ordered a copy off of Amazon for me. It was a great surprise! Obviously, I loved the book because Elisa’s writing style has a way of making you feel as if she has adopted you and let you into her life. Not too many authors can pull that off these days, but she can! And that was her memoir. This was the first fictional book of hers that I read. She sent me an autographed copy of it, too. Thank you, Elisa. That gesture of kindness, by the by, did not influence my review. This isn’t a bribery situation. For if it were, Elisa forgot my Fannie May Trinidads. Her other fictional titles are Adulation, She Has Your Eyes, Faking It, Ordinary World, and Why I Love Singlehood. So if you want to get going in her catalog, there are her titles. However, add Pasta Wars to that list pronto. It is brought to us by the folks at Adaptive Books and is available only through the Barnes & Noble book chain and through Amazon.com. The other indie chains have to wait until the official release date of January 17, 2017 before we can sell it, but that won’t stop me from getting the ball rolling in advance. Put it on your lists, friends, if you are waiting until 2017. If not, get a copy now! And make sure you aren’t hungry when you pick up this book. Or you are SO totally screwed. But really, this is a great book to read whilst recovering from a broken heart, as well. Last September, I was undergoing a great deal of personal turmoil surrounding someone that I had been talking to for awhile and had strong feelings for, only to be thrown about again and again like a piece of rock candy to Secret Squirrel. I’m not sure why poor Elisa got the message but I poured my heart out to her, and she reciprocated with a wise advice and kind words, and better yet- a Louise Hay book that helped me. I took her advice, vanished from FB for awhile, got myself out of that headspace, and while I was going through one hell of an awful depression, life moved on. And so did he-with a mutual friend, it turns out. A year later, I have gone through some serious soul searching and come out devastated that the back and forth boomerang between us would not produce anything lasting beyond friendship. You get on and you get over, but distractions are a wonderful and welcome thing. The finality of this year and half experience was almost two weeks ago. I am SO glad I had this book to read, laugh at, and connect with on multiple levels. And how absolutely refreshing to read something light and yet full of life. No wooden characters in this pasta boat! Last but certainly not least, the message of love permeating throughout the book, was a balm that I can only cheesily write about in a book blog, but with full disclosure and seriousness, someone like myself really needed to read something with the underlying message it carries forth. Never step down from what you believe on, and never give up hope on finding “The One”. I am so glad I found Elisa and her gift that keeps on giving us more novels, especially this fun romp. I am utterly besotted. You will be, as well.
Katie Cravens is the CEO of Pasta Pronto, a highly successful brand of nutrition-conscious meals. She’s planning her wedding when an unexpected early return to home finds her fiance Max in bed with the hostess from a favorite recipe. She tosses him out and the engagement as well. As things typically do in real life, the wheels come off the road and a food poisoning outbreak in the line leads to lawsuits and stock prices plummenting. Katie just can’t catch a break, until she finds out that the world famous Caramelli Ristorante of Rome could go into a partnership with her and quite possibly save her and the company’s ass. She takes off to convince the brother and sister duo to partner up with her. Luci, the sister, and Katie hit it off, and she is all systems go. Luca, the stubborn hot-headed hot-as- hell brother, is a tougher nut to crack. He openly derides Katie’s line of ft foods, and argues about the merger. Then he decides to give Katie a chance to gain his respect- by learning how to cook and eat like a true Italian- and if she manages to do it, he’ll acquiesce. This gig of war produces more than its fair share of chemistry, food appreciation, and fights. You can’t have explosive chemistry like these two without something blowing sky high. A close call ends with a heartbroken Katie heading back to the States, only to have her media publicity team tell her that they have a competitive cook-off between her and Luca scheduled (“Pasta Wars” is the name) for television. Katie objects at first, until her spurned feelings come to the surface as she accepts the challenge. Can she do this and get her revenge on Luca? Can she win for the sake of her company? More importantly, can she keep her feelings away from Luca while she battles for the soul and sanctity of her company? Will she get the blue ribbon? Will she get her just desserts? Will she get the guy? Pick up a copy and find out in this light-hearted, romantic foodcom. You’ll be glad you took a bite. 

The Great Suppression: Voting Rights, Corporate Cash, and the Conservative Assault on Democracy by Zachary Roth (5 out of 5) 

•August 13, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Just because I try not to engage in political debates on any forum, does not mean that I do not have an opinion, an interest in, or an inclination to educate myself about what led us to this unpaved road in politics. I simply keep my thoughts to myself on my political affiliation, because I have no desire to get into a salami-pulling screamfest with some of the guttersnipes wandering the social media highway in this election year. We got this book in last week. After sending a tweet to Roth (who is the brother of one of my favorite Twitter personalities and author Gabriel Roth) and telling him we had the book, I settled in to reading it. This book is ridiculously important in an election year like this. The area I work in? Diehard conservatives. I am not sure how many we will sell, but you can bet the instant someone starts discussing Trump’s bully politics and the election process, I am going to put this book in their hands. Roth, a MSNBC reporter, knows his shit. This reads like an objective viewpoint on voters rights, right-wing tactical maneuvers of the GOP, and underhanded dirty tricks that have led to states to restrict early voting and setting in place voter ID laws that rigged the game. Anyone who has the right to vote should read this book. The troubling consensus that Roth brings to the table is that the conservatives have pulled every trick in the book to undermine a fair, democratic process. Really, one needs not look any farther than the nomination of self-propelled important egoist Donald Trump, a man with NO political background. How did the political process get so fucked up that many feel we will never get it back? What Roth has done here is give a scathing, passionate, extensive, and riveting account of everything from campaign finance to the overturning of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 2013, to gerrymandering Congress, and the roles of corporations in this ugly scene. Scared now? Read what these search motherfuckers have been up to, and fear hard-for our future. But do yourselves and all others who give a crap about what is going down in this country a favor. READ THIS BOOK! 

The Twilight Wife by A.J. Banner (5 out of 5)

•August 10, 2016 • 2 Comments

Mid-winter, I got an email from Tara at Touchstone (Simon & Schuster) about a book coming out that they were VERY excited about. I had to be one of 20 people to email back first to get a copy of the advance. I heard psychological thriller and I was on board. One of my favorite genres; also one of the ones where I am freaking let down consistently. I replied to said email, but I had been off the day of the email, so I got a note saying as soon as new copies were printed, they would send me one. A few months went by, and then I got an advance. I had, in all honesty, forgotten about it. Then I saw the letter inside from Tara. Well, Tara, I FINALLY got to it! No idea when it comes out, because the copy I did get is in a manuscript form. Easy to read, but hard to keep it bound together and hard to scour it for info on release date and author. So I apologize. I really do not have much info on it. I DO know this…I really dug it.By far, one of the better psychological thrillers I have read since Girl On The Train. 

Kyra is a woman lost. She has a rare form of amnesia that resulted from a skuba diving accident that seriously injured another friend. Had it not been for her devoted husband Jacob, she wouldn’t have survived. And that’s the weird thing. No matter how much Jacob tells Kyra he loves her and will help her try to regain her memories, something is gnawing at Kyra. She begins to investigate the past and finds some sort of proof that signifies she had an extramarital affair. But did she? Her long distance best friend Linny tries to help via email, and Kyra secretly begins digging in town as well as beginning to go to a therapist, to regain her memory and quiet the sea of discord rising up inside her. Supporting cast characters lend an ear of authenticity to the story ( except for Van’s allergic reaction during the dinner and where the Epipen went. That had an ominous tone to it, but it was dropped. Also..what about Nancy’s obsessive behavior where Jacob is concerned? Two ends that I felt weren’t wrapped up completely) but some of them, I felt, were more sinister window dressing than evildoers in the story. The creepy resemblance of Kyra to a wild woman named Matilda, and that connection to David Ingram, the town’s elder recluse, does add another layer to the story that I didn’t see coming. I won’t lie, I did have a hard time getting into this until the first initial glimpse of married life with Kyra and Jacob receded into the background and Kyra started kicking ass and taking names. And once that started, the story took off on a wild ride with one curve ball after another, and it doesn’t stop until the last page. It was a pleasant surprise once things started to get discovered. Before that, Kyra struck me as meek and way too docile for someone who had a close call and yet let her husband chastise her for asking pertinent questions. Jacob? I really wanted to kick his ass for how he spoke to his poor amnesia-ridden wife. All she wants are answers and her life back, and this schlub who loves her can only knock her down? Why? What are the people in the town NOT telling her? All in all, a satisfying flourish, plot twists by the chapter, and a finish that didn’t defy the boundaries of intelligence. Thrillers like this are a pleasure to read. 

 
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