The X-Files: The Truth Is Out There (Vol. 2)…edited by Jonathan Maberry (4 out of 5) 

•October 23, 2017 • Leave a Comment

In typical fashion, I read the second volume FIRST. I’m also not sure why this one was still on the shelf when it came out in 2016. If a book doesn’t sell after three months, it goes back to the publisher for full credit. Not this one! Then again, that’s my gain.

This is a collection of X-Files short stories, edited by horror and young adult author Jonathan Maberry. There are glimpses of the Lone Gunmen, Skinner, Agent Doggett, and that sneaky bastard, The Cigarette Smoking Man. The stories take place anywhere from the 80’s up to 2017. What a fun collection this was! It was a great way to pass three hours on a damp, rainy Sunday. Now I have to go back and read the first one. But if you’re an X-File-phile, this will be great fun. I deducted a star because I’m a grammar bitch and there were a number of misspellings and incorrect grammar. I apologize to Dave W ahead of time because the book has been defaced with my red pen of editing death. IDW Publishing should fucking hire my broke ass to edit their collections! No joke. Other than that, a fun read! Out now. 


How To Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell (4 out of 5)

•October 22, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I saw the hardcover of this book go by me many times. I kept thinking the colorful lines were 80’s inspired. But for some reason, it kept skipping off my bookdar. Then the paperback came out recently, with a new cover (not a rare occurrence!). I saw this skinny girl wearing a silk dress with a drink in her hand and blatant disregard for YOU (and you, and you, and you) written all over her face. I was intrigued. I was also reminded of Elizabeth Wurtzel. Who’s Elizabeth Wurtzel? She wrote a number of NYT bestsellers, most well-known one being “Prozac Nation”. This book reminded me of that book, but add doses of humor, fashion, and the magazine/print industry of yore (when print media was successful and magazines were not folding by the day; sadly, those days are declining). Wurtzel has humor in hers, but there was also a fair amount of darkness. Marnell has some dark moments, but almost all of her story has some light hearted moments and sarcastic humor. Much more than Prozac did, in fact.  Marnell gets pulled into the heady excesses of high fashion, zines, beauty and glamour, and surprise!-no surprise!-alcohol and drugs at a young age. Her inability to concentrate on her school work leads her to self-diagnose with ADHD and her father, the doctor, prescribes her Ritalin without a moment’s hesitation. This pops the cork on what turns out to be a cocktail of prescription meds abuse that continues throughout school, throughout personal turmoil, and yes, even through her first real job at a fashion magazine( and the ones that follow). That leads to streamlining alcohol, and the heavy drugs enter the picture. Cat continues to do what she wants, and her downward spiral begins to include bulimia, as well as being warned by her bosses before she ends up getting fired. Can she get her shit together before it’s too late? Before she hurts others? Before she ends up killing herself in the process? This is not just a cautionary tale, people. It is a brutally honest look at self-depracation on a scale that would have killed any Adderall amateur. It is also, as I said, alone in that much of the book, her forthright view of how she “murdered her life” (and career. And relationships. And health. And..well, you get the picture) is refreshing in its candor that you aren’t as worried as you should be reading a story like this. Because this girl has serious spunk. Not to mention great fashion and beauty sense (she gives great tips). And cojones that she shouldn’t have for what she did to herself for so many years. The true beauty of this is that it teaches many a lesson, it draws you in from the first page, it makes you give a shit about this silly girl, and yes, it makes you laugh. Cat Marnell  is a true one of a kind disaster artist. Now go read her story! Out in paperback now. 

Waiting For The Punch: Words to Live By from The WTF Podcast by Marc Maron & Brendan McDonald (4 out of 5)

•October 22, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Marc Maron isn’t for everyone. Podcasts aren’t for everyone. I happen to like both Marc Maron and podcasts. I happen to love the overly blunt nature of Maron’s WTF Podcast. If you pick up this book without having listened to the podcast, you’re going to be fucking lost. Or…maybe…you’ll be intrigued enough by the snippets offered forth on a litany of subjects such as the first time, addiction, mortality, fame, and many other topics to try out the podcast. I hope you get hooked either way! However much I enjoyed what can only be called a collection of celebs on every topic imaginable, I wouldn’t be doing my job as the midget blogger if I didn’t send you to Maron’s first book, his marvelous and unvarnished warts and all life story, “Attempting Normal”, currently out in paperback. Check that out, check out the podcast, and yes, check out this collection. Be prepared for your think tank to be saturated with intellect, bluntness, profanity, some heartbreaking anecdotes, and a lot of FOOD FOR THOUGHT. I lost my best guy friend to leukemia a day after he was diagnosed in August, and that grief likes to rare its ugly head at strange times…like when reading Maron’s book and the chapter on mortality. Shit is REAL out there, and I am so glad that there are people like Marc Maron who are podcasting the reality of real life. The book was a great compendium for Maron fans, and you can do worse than pick up a copy! Out now in your local bookstore. 

In The Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende (3 out of 5)

•October 22, 2017 • Leave a Comment

A snowstorm in New York brings together three very different people: Grizzled and neurotic professor Richard, his beautiful tenant Lucia, and the young, mute, and terrified young girl Evelyn. A car accident leads to a terrible discovery; a body in the trunk of the car that Evelyn was driving. The blizzard strands the three of them alone in Richard’s apartment as they try to get Evelyn to open up, and then a plan needs to be hatched, to deal with the body, getting the mute Evelyn to tell them what happened, and then for Richard and Lucia to get her safely away from the situation. The backstories of all three characters bring their own share of tragedy, which in turn helps them relate easier to one another once they open up. However, that’s one of the few saving graces here. I liked their histories more than their present incarnations. Richard annoyed me so bad. Lucia was a character I didn’t mind at all, but I wouldn’t, because she has moxie! Evelyn was a sympathetic character, but again, her tragic history got my attention more than her present story. Not everyone can live in the past, people. I felt like Allende wanted us to do that for most of the novel. I didn’t care for most of the present story, and the end of the body in the trunk story seemed like something out of a Reelz crime reenactment instead of something that would tie the three characters together in a more sentimental, believable way. It was contrived. There were parts of this story where I just didn’t give a shit. This is the first of Allende’s books where I can say that. Unfortunate. Lucia saved the book for me. And that is one of the few things, along with the histories of the three characters. Speaking of things that drove me nuts and things left unanswered, at the beginning of the book, Richard has to rush his cat to the vet for an emergency situation. And we never find out the outcome! Considering that this is one of the few things that Allende uses to demonstrate that Richard does, in fact, have a heart under that tartan vest, to not have an ending to it, well, par for the course. Unless you’re a die-hard fan, you may want to pick up a different tome. “In The Midst of Winter” is brought to us by Simon & Schuster. It’s out Tuesday, October 31, 2017. 

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert (5 out of 5)

•October 6, 2017 • Leave a Comment

This has to be one of the best young adult books I have read this year. It’s also not out until January of 2018, so don’t go hunting for it until then. But…put it on your young adult to be read list THIS INSTANT!! . I loved that cover right away. I read the back of the book and thought maybe I would enjoy it. I fucking loved it! I’m not someone who usually enjoys young adult or fiction that has any affiliation with fairy tales or horror. A book that messes with both? Sure, why not?! Best move I made all week! Thank you to the author AND the folks at Flatiron Books who both sent me a copy. 

Alice and her mom Ella have always spent their lives on the move. Her grandmother, reclusive author of one impossiple-to-find cult book, passes away on the family estate, The Hazel Wood. Ella has settled into a comfy home life with Alice, but once news of Althea’s death gets out, the shit hits the fan. And so does everything else! Ella had recently remarried, and Alice comes home to find her mom missing, her stepfather holding a gun on her and demanding she leave, and her step dad’s daughter giving her all sorts of strange tales. Alice goes to her friend Finch, a boy she is somewhat enamored with, but with whom she had concerns, due to his obsession with her grandmother’s book. Together, they elude dark and shadowy figures and find out that a creature from “The Hinterland” has her mom. What the hell? Indeed! Because The Hinterland is straight out of that cult book that Finch and others are freaking obsessed with. How can an imaginary realm of the fantastical sort cross paths with a real, living Ella? Alice (I should mention she gets her name from one of the short stories in the book. The tale is Alice-Three-Times) must find out. Mysterious deaths, strange disappearances and halting life events, as well as Ella vanishing into thin air, all combine to make her and Finch get to the bottom of things. Something goes down, and Finch disappears from the landscape. Can Alice handle all of the unpredictable, strangeness that is the Hinterland? She gets to the Hazel Wood, but does she make it out with Ella? With Finch? Alive? Or is this some strange, hauucinigenic trip? What was Althea’s deal all those years ago, that Ella had to flee with Alice as a baby? All I can say is….what a strange trip it’s been! This is the edge of gothic fairy tales, tailored for the young adult crowd. With a great, defiant young adult lead in Alice, and a troubled but enigmatic young adult lead in Finch. They carry this tale(s) with scary aplomb. What else did I love? That cover is flipping gorgeous! And it fits what’s inside SO WELL. I loved every creepy, crawling surprise in this book. I loved the clash of the two worlds, and the possibility that the one could coexist in the shadows with the other. I loved Melissa Albert’s worlds and the characters in them. Alice had some of the best lines of young adult literature that I have read this year. It would be a miscarriage of writing goddesses if this doesn’t get the accolades and awards this “book pusher” deserves, upon its release. I implore you to put it on your TBR for January, usually the bleakest of months in the Midwest. It would be the perfect deterrent for those winter doldrums, as well as a companion to those wintry nights. The forest never looked so enchanting. 

Down and Across by Arvin Ahmad (4 out of 5)

•October 1, 2017 • Leave a Comment

This one was sent as an advance. I liked the design of the cover, plus the fact that it looked to be a quick, light hearted read. It’s going to be released January 30, 2018, by Viking Books. I really enjoyed this one. 

Scott Ferdowdki is a teen who’s lost his passion. For everything. His dad is always on his case about finding his passion, his “grit”. He is always quoting popular studies and articles to try to get Scott motivated. When Scott begins hedging on completing his current internship, his father quotes Cecily Mallard, a professor who is well known for her talks and books on grit. Scott tunes out, until his parents depart for a two month trip to Iran. Then he blows off his internship, takes all his money, and impulsively hops a Greyhound to Washington, D.C. On the bus, he meets a quirky firecracker named Fiora. They strike up a friendship. He tells her of his plan to meet Cecily in person and ask her how to up his grit, and she informs him she loves constructing crossword puzzles. They part when they reach DC, but Scott wakes up in the hostel he’s staying in to find Fiora has somehow tracked him down. Her family life, personal, and professional life is up in the rafters, and she still tries to help her newfound friend find a way to figure out his life’s path and passion. She succeeds, and Scott ends up impressing Cecily enough with his honesty about he is there. This includes daring Scott to flirt with DC socialites and get some digits, which leads to meeting Jeanette, a cute, somewhat stalkeresque Christian conservative who crushes hard on Scott and reveals her true colors as a bigot when Scott and Fiora’s friend Trent comes out of the closet. She gets him fired and Scott (who was helping Trent at the bar to make extra cash), too, effectively ending that friendship. Fiora then tells Scott she played a part in the outcome, and a hurt and angry Scott takes his leave of Fiora. They orchestrate one last adventure, to try to get Trent a job with the campaign of the Independent Party candidate that he worships. Scott and Fiora’s story doesn’t quite come to the end the reader (well, this reader, at least) hoped for, and I took points off for that. You’ll have to read it and get back to me about that. Trent and Scott’s friendship is touching, real, and heartwarming. Jeanette…well, every story has a crazy bitch hiding somewhere, and she’s IT. Overall, what a great book! Anyone who has ever had a point in their life where they question the direction they are meant to go in, will immediately identify with Scott. There is one other scene in the book, which hints at racism among the masses. Given what Fiora pulls with Jeanette and the text messages and pushes Scott to a point of no return, it seems to tie in with what happens. The timing of the scene is kind of forced and somewhat stilted, though, and that bugged me, especially when the plot played out so well all the way through. Maybe it served to make Scott realize it was time to go home and let his parents know what he’s been up to. Again, a great read and inspiring to young people who are at a crossroads in regards to school, career, what sort of shoes will match their wig. You get the picture. In January, 2018, you should get the book. 

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken (5 out of 5)

•October 1, 2017 • Leave a Comment

This was a hoot! I usually do not talk politics. I do, however, read about politics. It’s almost always something funny and unconventional. Al Franken, Senator from the great state of Minnesota, and his latest book, fit those descriptions perfectly. Full disclosure: I am a fan of his other books. But I’m not from, nor living in, Minnesota, so I have lost track of Al and what he’s up to since he became a senator. Happily, I’m all caught up now after reading this book! So are many others. I work in a bookstore in a largely conservative community and we didn’t expect his book to take off, but the tides of expectation in the community’s consciousness may be turning, because it’s been one of our biggest sellers this fall. Not to mention still being on the New York Times Bestseller list after a number of months. Pretty great accomplishment in a world of vicious political social media battles and everyday mayhem on Twitter. (Seriously…someone take his Twitter away!). The book is available now in hardcover at your nearest bookstore. BOOKSTORE. NOT Shamazon. Go get a copy. It’s brought to us by Twelve Books, an affiliate of Hachette Book Group. 

Al Franken recounts his path to the hallowed Halls of the U.S. Senate, from the SNL days onward. He also takes us through his very humble upbringing, meeting his wife Franni, his days with Tom Davis, SNL, and the road up to deciding to run for Senate. His humor and good heartedness shines through every chapter. This guy really gives a shit what is going on in our country! From introducing bills to breaking down the rhetoric of a great many bills that he has played a part in over the years, Franken gives the reader a lot of food for thought. Along with a lot of laughter. And vocabulary words- I learned a lot of great vocabulary words in this book. There are some battles that Franken doesn’t win, and those get equal time as those that he does win. I liked that you could got the triumph of victory and the agony of defeat, and it’s unbiased and fair in the manner that he tells it. Overall, a sarcastic, genuine, heartwarming, enlightening look at the Senate, the politics unfolding in the years past, and the state of the current unrest under Trump. I think it’s very important to mention that 3 friends of mine are staunch Republicans and voted for the current administration. They all read the book, and unabashedly enjoyed it. Better yet, they have purchased copies and gifted to friends who are conservative. Maybe Al Franken has a universal appeal that we are not yet aware of. It was a hell of a book, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys current events, humor, and learning more about the working of our legislative system.