Fast Food Maniac: From Arby’s To White Castle, One Man’s Supersized Obsession with America’s Favorite Food by Jon Hein (3 out of 5)

•February 6, 2016 • Leave a Comment


I have a confession. I love to eat. I’m trying to eat healthier and lose weight. I’m trying to keep that weight I have lost so far, out to pasture. A hell of a time for this book to wander into my mainstream. I received a copy of this for free from BLOGGING FOR BOOKS, in return for a honest review. And honest it will be, even to the detriment of those Howard Stern listeners who are acquainted with Mr. Hein. I have to be honest, I haven’t heard Mr. Hein on Howard, so I’m not biased beforehand. I thought the cover and the book sounded right up my alley. A lifetime addiction to fast food and all the greasy convenience it entails. No doubt part of the reason I need to work on that midsection full of tires and the love handles that only a pregnant goose could compare to. Anyway, this was not at all what I thought, although I did enjoy it. I know that I was looking for more of a funny yet hard-hitting look at fast food in this country today, similar to Fast Food Nation, but more updated. I got updated- Hein does a good number on that, but that’s where the hard-hitting ends. Extensive research was conducted, but it seems to me to be a bit short in the end.

Hein headed all over our fine USA and dived into some of the most loved places. There isn’t really a bad chapter in the book- meaning, there are no exposes on how bad that some of these items are. There are a lot of good chapters- meaning, what is great at the restaurant of choice. There’s some nice history in there, and a bit of Hein’s thoughts on his favorites. But there’s not much more than that here. It’s a walk through the halls of Greasy Gastrointestinal Glory in the ole USA, but without benefit of the dire warnings we’ve seen from other authors or documentary makers (Eric Schlosser and Morgan Spurlock) about how bad this shit is. So, if you want a lighthearted prance through the walls of Fast Food USA, this is your book. It wasn’t much the book for me, however. Simply because I’m in a different place nowadays with my eating and lifestyle choices. Ten years ago? This would have been my bible. Now it can be someone else’s.

River Road by Carol Goodman (3 out of 5)

•February 5, 2016 • Leave a Comment


This one starts out with a slightly drunk creative writing teacher Nan Lewis taking off in anger after a Christmas faculty party reveals that she’s not being granted tenure. After trying to find out why from various members of the party, she takes off- slightly toasted. On her way home, she hits what she believes is a deer. She abandons her car at the foot of her driveway and staggers home to pass out. The next day she finds out from a police officer knocking on her door that one of her favorite students Leia Dawson was killed in a hit-and-run accident. The police see the damage to her car, and despite her story, immediately suspect Nan. She’s detained and then set free, when the forensics tests reveal that it’s not Leia’s flesh in her tires, but a deer. Then they arrest Ross, the head of the department and a former flame of Nan’s. Nan sets out to find out what happened, but not before everything and everyone around her and in the school comes under some sort of suspicion. Who hit Leia? Who tried to kill Ross and Nan with a set-up suicide? What led to all the drama at the holiday party? Do you care by the end of the book? Is there a serial killer who hits people with their car? Is there such a thing? The reader is brought to the precipice of thinking perhaps there is.

I have read Carol Goodman’s previous books. The Lake Of Dead Languages is still on my list of favorite mysteries of all time. This one doesn’t even come close. It held me all the way until halfway through, when the number of suspects exponentially skyrocketed. Add in all sorts of ridiculous melodrama, and a side-plot about drug usage that somehow ends up tying in with Leia’s death. I bought that, too, until the final scene in which Nan almost dies. The worst offender in the drug wars in this town bites it, but the pretty boy frat student who has a thing for Nan doesn’t? There’s no way anyone could have survived that scenario that’s given to the reader. When the side plot is revealed in full, you find yourself shaking your head. I did! Worse yet, I guessed who was behind the whole thing. I think the hardest thing to swallow was the side-plot, a plagiarized book, and the ultimate who-done-it. I figured it out right away. Sadly, I was right. Sadly, this book failed to live up to my expectations. I wanted to smack Nan much of the way through the book- and this is a woman who lost a child to a hit-and-run! Those are characters who are supposed to draw sympathy, not ire. Not here. I was annoyed to the max. I will say this, though, Carol Goodman knows how to pull you in. There was no shortage of suspects, either, which is always a nice bonus. Sadly, though, no shortage of surprise at the culprit.

Doctor Who: Plague of the Cybermen by Justin Richards (2 out of 5)

•January 28, 2016 • Leave a Comment


I’ve been gone from here for over a week. Without going into a ton of detail, life has been a real bitch the past week, and I had to take a break. Sometimes, no matter how many books you read or blogs you write, the muse leaves you, or you’re just so gutted you cannot sit in front of your computer and make something constructive happen. This has been me the past week. Add recovering from a procedure myself, and we have a hiatus. I’ve read a few books in the past week; those reviews are forthcoming. I was stuck on this book for over a week; Doctor Who novels are not long, and they are not typically suck. I did not care at all for this one. I’ve never had a problem with a Justin Richards novel until now. A quick look over at the Shamazon and the Goodreads and I see I’m not the only one who didn’t love this.

This is another Eleventh Doctor novel. In our television screens, played by the enigmatic Matt Smith. I will give Justin Richards this- he wrote the Doctor, as portrayed by Smith, perfectly in this book. I could visualize the facial expressions, the gestures, all of it. That’s one of the positives. There weren’t many, sadly. The Doctor arrives in Klimtenburg in the 19th century, to find that the small town has been overcome by a plague. At least, that’s what the residents believe and tell him. After the Doctor and his accomplice in this novel, a villager named Olga (no companion in this one) begin to dig around (literally, bodies of those taken by the wasting disease, from underground), he realizes this is no ordinary plague. Those pesky Cybermen are behind this! Now here’s where it gets garbled- the first 60 pages of the book have you hooked, and then once the revelation sets into the Doctor of what’s really going on and who’s behind this, then it gets dodgy. There’s no surprise for the reader, because it tells you in the title that those metal bastards are somehow involved. The plot starts to disintegrate (like the bodies) quickly, and you’re left holding the remains of what could have been a great novel. Part of my problem is that the Cybermen in this case, as Richards writes them, seem to come off as more intelligent that they are. This should have been more fast-paced than it was. I do have to say that the character of Klaus (KLAUS!) annoyed me to no end, and I really did enjoy Olga as an accomplice to the Doctor in this novel (why didn’t they bring her into the canon?). Also, there were some inconsistencies with the sonic screwdriver compared to what we see in the series. And it’s just so SLOW paced. For this book, let me take a page out of the book of the Cybermen: DELETE this one from your To-Be-Read lists. There are better Justin Richards Doctor Who novels to check out. (The Deviant Strain, The Resurrection Casket). I would recommend those over this one.

Guest Post: Holly’s Favorite Children’s Books of 2015

•January 19, 2016 • Leave a Comment



Most of you know Holly from my many blog posts picking on her for heaping more and more children and teen titles on me. Some of you know her from my picking on her on Facebook with her borderline organization/planner madness (Hi Darcy!). I was telling Holly how I have done some guest posts for Erica over at and I told her she she should do one since she knows kids books so well. So here is Holly’s guest post of her top children’s picks for 2015. There are some additions and corrections to the piece of paper Holly provided me with. I have a bit of an issue with editing, grammar, punctuation, etc. and Holly just kind of wrote things in a manner that I had to edit. This goes on daily- ask her how often she wants or does punch me because I correct something she says or writes. So, here without further ado, is Holly’s post.

Georgette often comments on the blog about how I force Teen and YR8 children’s titles on her. In all fairness, there are some she actually ends up loving! (See post about her top 15 books of 2015, plus the 13 to watch in 2016; a decent majority ARE the books I am posting about here today). We kept coming across articles toward last year’s end about the best in children’s literature for 2015, and those were lists I don’t think either of us quite agreed with. So she told me to do a guest post with my list. For those of you who don’t know, I a the children’s frontlist buyer for Barbara’s Bookstore. I read a lot of teen and children’s books, although I do sometimes manage to sneak an adult fiction title in there. In fact, two of my favorite books last year were THE WATER KNIFE by Paolo Bacigalupi and The Tournament by Matthew Reilly.

Now to the good stuff! I did my top picks by age group, and then did a Top 5 for each. I made an exception to my own rule with Teen, which has 10 picks. The books, by the way, are in no particular order.

Kids First Books: These are known to many as “board books”. These are primarily for the age group of newborn-2 years. The picks offer either wonderful illustrations and or fun interactions.  DREAM ANIMALS BY EMILY WINFIELD MARTIN, ON THE FARM BY KATE RIGGS, ITSY BITSY SNOWMAN BY JEFFERY BURTON, TEN PENGUINS BY SCHOLASTIC, AND DOGS BY MATTHEW VAN FLEET.










13 To Read In 2016 (G’s Picks)

•January 13, 2016 • Leave a Comment


I wish I had an organized bookshelf like this. NOPE! I have a nice one that D put together for me and got me a few years back…then there’s another small bookshelf with mass markets and those that have stripped covers that I inherited. Then they’re all over the bedside table. And the living room table. And in various places at the store. Everywhere. Surrounded. Happily. I just did my top 15 of 2015 on my blog, and over at Erica’s blog as a guest post. I told her I would send her this also, so her readers have something new to look forward to. Something old, something borrowed, something blue, oh wait..that’s for another oddball ceremony. This has nothing to do with that! So anyhow, here are my picks for the top 16 books to read in 2016. They are  all over the map, as are my reading tastes. I hope you’ll check them out. I hope you’ll read, review them, share them on social media, give a shout out to the authors and publishers- and let’s not forget, those pesky booksellers in brick-and-mortar stores that continue to humbly recommend their favorite reads. Enjoy! I would love feedback, tweets, angry pigeon bombs, whatever, on whether any of these are on your lists or what you think when you do read them. I LOVE talking to you all! Here goes:

THIS WAS NOT THE PLAN- CHRISTINA ALGER- I read this book a few months ago. I read most of it while watching Jay Cutler of the Bears screw up another game that the Bears should have won. And instead of screaming, throwing my popcorn at the TV, and coming up with ways of torturing the sulky QB, I picked up the book and read another chapter. And didn’t set it down. I read it in 3 hours. My friend Dylan came by to go to a late lunch and I asked him to give me a little more time to finish the book. I hadn’t had that reaction in a long time. This is funny, completely relatable, and heartwarming. I like to say it reminded me a lot of Nick Hornby’s “About A Boy”, but in present day. Charlie Goldwyn is my favorite character since Tom Violet (Matthew Norman’s “Domestic Violets”, one of my all-time favorites). He’s working crazily to make partner at his law firm, trying to get over his wife’s death and also managing to not really bond with his young son Caleb. Charlie has too many at a firm party, and manages to get fired. Now how will he deal? He ends up having to learn to be a single parent, how to navigate dating again, and all sorts of other predicaments that he didn’t plan upon. I laughed my ass off, and you will too. Out on 2/2/2016.

FLOOD GIRLS- RICHARD FIFIELD- Tied for first with “This Was Not the Plan” as my top favorites of 2016 so far. I was head over heels for this book and halfway through it when I got the death flu in December. It was one of those flu bugs that knock you from here to Paraguay and every vacuum cleaner in between. I had to put this book down because every time I picked it up to read it, my head started spinning and I felt sick. As soon as I felt a third better, I picked it right back up and finished it. And that one part? I bawled like a baby. I haven’t cried at a book since The Nightingale last year. I guess I was due! This was like a Joshilynn Jackson book that was a hell of a lot more ribald, meets A League Of Their Own, meets Fannie Flagg at a honky town, meets Coyote Ugly, meets Roseanne. In fact, if this is a movie (and it damn well should be! I’m going on record) Roseanne would be a great lead for Laverna. Laverna is a tough as nails woman who runs The Dirty Shame, the town dive. She also runs the Flood Girls, the local softball team. Throw in her estranged daughter Rachel who’s a recovering addict and coming back to town to complete her 12 steps, a host of memorable supporting characters, and you have a novel that grabs you and never lets go. Definitely an ensemble piece and every character is as memorable as the next. Also out on Feb 2, 2016

AND AGAIN- JESSICA CHIARELLA- I had the pleasure of meeting Jessica at my first meet n’greet last September. She was incredibly nice, upfront about how hard it is to write a book, and it was fun. My assistant manager Dan read it as well and enjoyed it as much as I did. It’s a book that stayed with me for awhile after I read it. The premise alone was the type of thing you expect you’ll read about or hear about on the news any day now, with the advances of medical technology as they are. This book centers around 4 radically different people, all with terminal diagnoses, and here’s their chance- as part of a far reaching study- to be “reborn” into new bodies that are exact replicas, but minus the diagnosis and the imperfections that those bodies had. But are their souls intact? How can you be the same person as you were before, when you are essentially “new”? This is a deep thinking book. Not so bad with the terminology that you’re wracking your brain or anything, but it raises many moral questions. I love a book that does that! This book is out today- Tuesday, January 12. Head out and get a copy!

18 AND LIFE ON SKID ROW-SEBASTIAN BACH-Ok, quit laughing. I am 100% serious here. I am a HUGE fan of hair metal. I was a huge fan of Skid Row, and yes, yes, I admit it- I had a thing for Mr. Bach. Who didn’t, with those legs, that blond hair, that voice, that attitude? I haven’t read this book yet, but I requested a copy a long time ago. I can’t wait to read about his childhood growing up as a child of a well known painter, to the heyday and high times (literally) of Skid Row, to what happened between them that led to his being canned, to his adventures on Boradway, to marriage and parenthood, and rocking in general. I CANNOT wait to read this! The release date on this continues to change, but as of last check, it’s out on April 12, 2016.

SWEET DREAMS ARE MADE OF THIS- DAVE STEWART- Yes, THAT Dave Stewart. Guitarist, producers, and musical virtuoso best known for his time in the 1980’s duo The Eurythmics. I always liked Dave Stewart, especially after finding out he’s a Virgo (I’m usually cursed with those 80’s heartthrobs, either Geminis or Leos. Not him! ). I thought he was a charismatic genius then, and I still think that now. This man has got to have insight, stories, and quite a story to share. I can’t wait to read his story. This book is out February 9th.

NFL CONFIDENTIALJOHNNY ANONYMOUS-I read about this months ago. A very popular NFL player has busted the dirty underside of football wide open in this little tell-all. I have to say, I’m not terribly surprised by a lot of what I’ve read in this, but I am terribly entertained by a lot of it. And believe it or not, as alarming as some of the revelations are, they are also funny. There’s  a lot of humor here,  and oh boy, do you need it to be playing in the NFL these days! I’m only halfway through it, but it’s definitely on my list of books for any football fan to read. The book is out now!

SUMMER OF SUPERNOVAS-DARCY WOODS- I really loved this YA novel. I think Holly thought it was hokey or maybe she wasn’t surprised when I picked it up because it has an astrology angle to it (and I love astrology). However, this one sounded a little bit fun as well. And it was! Will’s deceased mom left her with her astrological chart. Will’s a teen who’s looking for her soulmmate- but he has to be a Sagittarius . Only problem is, two boys, brothers, one is a Pisces and one is an Aries. She’s dating one officially, but the sparks really fly with the other brother. Will’s genuinely torn between the two and despite her traitorous heart, she can’t let her mom down, can she? I will tell you what I loved about this. Very real characters, real dialogue, and some serious soul searching astrology. Win! This book is out 05/10/15.

REVENGE AND THE WILD- MICHELLE MODESTO- This one was a lot of twisted, weird fun. And cannibals are involved, so definitely not your usual YA fare…which is why I loved it. Westie was only a young girl when she lost her arm and her family to cannibals on the wagon trail. Nine years later, she’s tough as nails and trying to formulate her plan for revenge. Her plan takes a slight detour when a family comes to town with the hopes of making her friend Nigel’s invention a reality- an invention that will save Rogue City. The only problem? The family looks exactly like the family that murdered her family! Westie has only the help of Nigel’s scarred servant Alistair, but she’s determined to get to the bottom of this- Rogue City’s future be damned or not. Here’s the thing about this unlikely book- there is a LOT of heart beating in these pages. So it’s not your conventional happy la la young adult book- that doesn’t mean it sucks and doesn’t deserve accolades. The opposite, in fact! This one is out soon- on February 2, 2016.

WE’RE ALL DAMAGED: A LOVE STORY- MATTHEW NORMAN- Again, if you haven’t read Domestic Violets yet, SHAME! Anyway, this is going to be his next book. This was the title last time I checked. It was also, I believe, slated for a release in the summer of 2016. I am ridiculously excited, as is most of the staff at my store (all DV fans). I really don’t know much about it, except I am dying to read it. So it makes this list! If you’re bored in the meantime, check out his debut novel. You won’t be sorry!

GATHERING OF SHADOWS-V.E.SCHWAB-I am ass backwards. Or bass ackwards.This is the #2 book in the series, but I am  reading it before the first one. The lovely publisher sent it to me and I thought it was a new series. Bad me! So read the first one first- don’t do it in the order I am! Kell has the shadow stone, people have died, Rhy is more somber and serious, and Kell is struggling with his guilt. London is preparing for the Elment Games-a competition of magic that is supposed to be a bonding ceremony and draw people closer together, but there’s a pirate ship near that may change things. Two Londons, tons of magic, and nefarious bad guys afoot. It’s no wonder I’m enjoying it! Anyway, this second book is due out February 23rd.

SHALLOW GRAVES- KALI WALLACE-This was a spooky book. Spooky with a capital S. And yes, it is young adult, but hopefully those young adults reading it aren’t easily rattled. I’m not a young adult (43 in two days time), but this shit scared me senseless. Don’t let it stop you or your youngins from reading it, just beware that it is somewhat bone chilling. Breezy wakes up in a shallow grave, one year after she died. She has no idea how she got there, why, or whom. She is somehow conscious and able to sense murderous instincts and impulses in those around her. This isn’t just any garden variety type superpower, and the undead usually only have this power in bad Walmart fantasy novels, so what gives here? Once you get the story, well, just read it and find out. Unbelievably complex and page-turning, this one is out on January 26th.

The Dark Days Club (Lady Helen #1)- Alison Goodman- If you Victorian England with a little paranormal and some romance that isn’t a Harlequin paperback knockoff, this is the book for you to read. Another book I was finishing when I got the flu a month ago, and this one did keep my mind off of nausea and the like. I love Victorian England, and I love some paranormal. I don’t like the romance crap too much, so this was perfect. Just a touch of forbidden feelings, and that was enough. Lady Helen Wrexall is supposed to be concentrating on making her presentation to the Queen (formally marking open season on the young ladies of the ton), but one of the housemaids disappear and the mysterious Lord Carlston- a man shunned by the ton since his last wife died mysteriously-somehow may have the answers to how, why, and when, if not the power to stop this from happening again. Will Helen dare to ignore the warnings of her family and throw her cards down on his table? Will she be able to survive? What does any of this have to do with her deceased mother and father, who were also shunned by the ton? If you are a fan of Gail Carriger (I am), this is a book you’ll find yourself comparing- and that’s a huge compliment! This one is out January 26th.

FORGETTING TIME- SHARON GUSKIN- This was a book that made me bang my head against the wall. But I couldn’t put it down. And I couldn’t leave it behind, either.  If you’re a fan of Jodi Picoult, this one belongs in that category. And it still didn’t end like I thought. Which is what I can say about the last nine Jodi Picoult books. Jerome is a doctor writing his final book (he’s dying), on the phenomena of kids who have the spirits of deceased children inside of them, causing them to act irrationally, among other disasters. Janie is a mom with a 4-year old son who is seriously unhappy and whom those wild behaviors get him bounced from the school. I can’t say too much more without giving more away, but prepare yourself for an umbrella of mixed emotions. That’s why it’s on my list, because it will definitely wreck havoc with your emotional barometer. It’s out February 2nd.




The Fold by Peter Clines (2.5 out of 5)

•January 12, 2016 • 2 Comments


I received this book for free from BLOGGING FOR BOOKS.

This was a title I was looking forward to. A friend of mine had read a graphic novel by the author and highly recommended his style of writing. I liked the premise, but once I got into it, it wasn’t at all what I thought it was. Very disappointing. A lot of technical lingo too- so much that it sometimes overwhelmed the reader. At least, this reader. And then it just stopped working. About halfway through. Not at all what I expected.

Mike Erikson’s a regular guy in his small town- at least, that’s what he starts out as. Then a crony of his presents him with a doozy of a mystery- in the New Mexico desert (where else??? Couldn’t they have set it somewhere not clichéd? Like….. Wyoming?) there’s a team of scientists messing with a device they’ve named “Albuquerque’s Door”. It uses a secretive algorithm that shrinks the distance a person can travel into a single step. Pretty fly, eh? Except…. is there a catch? Is there? The scientists also claim that traveling through the Door is perfectly safe. Of course, the scientists with their Weird Science dreams aren’t telling the whole story- and Mike, of all people, is the one who may have to unravel the mystery, reveal the truth, and then hope to someone’s god that he isn’t caught in a nightmare of his own curious making. What the hell is going on out there?

Sadly, this is a story that keeps you guessing. And then when the reveals come forth, they aren’t really surprising. There’s a final twist that doesn’t ring true nor surprising at all. It’s a bit of a conundrum, this book. Mike is a great character and the plot is unique in that no one, as far as I know, has come across this premise…but the execution is missing dots, bleeps, and blips all over the sci-fi radar. So I would advise you to keep hunting for that unique science fiction fantasy title that will realize all your dreams. This one isn’t it.

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin (2 out of 5)

•January 8, 2016 • Leave a Comment


I have no idea where I picked this one up, but wow… I liked that cover. I read the back and immediately went for it. This is the first fictional title for the Flatiron Books imprint (St Martin’s Press), and well, they certainly picked a lightning rod for a auspicious beginning. This one is out on 2/2/16
I’m glad I got the chance to read it. What a mindfuck this book is. I enjoyed it but it picks you up, tosses you around, plays with every dial of intellect one possesses, and throws in a bit of paranormal reincarnation for good measure.
I have NEVER read a book like this, although I can see why Jodi Picoult is one of the main blurbs on the back. This is a straight-up reality check, this book.  A number of characters intersect in the strangest of lifepaths. Janie is a divorced mom who’s struggling to raise her 4 year old son Noah on her own. Noah has all sorts of behavioral issues, from refusing to bathe and be in water, to having nightmares, to telling her she’s not his mother. Things continue to get worse, as his school takes notice of these issues and tells Janie she needs to get her son professional help. Help comes, in the unlikely form of Dr. Jerome Anderson, a man dying and trying to finish his last book (similar, at times, to a master thesis). The subject of his book are young children who appear to have the ghosts and spirits of dead people in them. This is what makes Noah (and those in the cases before him) act out. Jerome tells Janie the only way they can help Noah is to figure out, from the information he gives them and the character traits he exhibits, whose spirit has taken over his body. After several missteps, they meet with Denise, a grieving mother who’s still hoping her son (who’s been missing 8 years) is alive and comes home someday, and inform her that there’s a chance her son Tommy has taken over Noah’s body and soul. But to give that any credence, Denise has to admit her son is dead. And where is he? How did he die? Will they bring him to justice? Where is the true spirit of Noah, Janie’s pride and joy? How can Jerome make this legit and can he finish the book and solve this scientific case before he dies? This is a veritable punch drunk slam dunk. There is a new twist every other chapter, but it overwhelms the reader at times, to the point that the plot gets bogged down with emotion and the intellect takes the detour.
Unfortunately, it goes in and out and all over way too much for my liking, and things are wrapped up way too nicely. I had figured out what the connecting thread was between the cases to the current case that the book wraps around, and I was right. So it lost me a little there. The parent-child love relationship is never in doubt, but the reader’s fragile grip on reality is after reading only halfway through.
I had no idea what to make of it whilst reading it, and I have no idea what to make of it now that I am done. I’m glad they started the fictional sector with a book like this. It’s sure to have people talking and arguing every which way when it is released, and you can certainly see a labor of love, but you can also see holes in parts of the narrative. So it didn’t capture me as much as I think the author wanted to. An audience? No doubt it will gain one. It’s a masterfully told story; the only problem is that half of the book you’re busy going “What the ?” and it loses some of its grip upon the reader as a result. It would make a really good book club book. No question. And a great debut novel. No question. It just wasn’t the one that knocked my socks off.


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