The Stranger Game by Cylinder Busby (4 out of 5)

•July 14, 2016 • Leave a Comment

  • This was a nice surprise. It shouldn’t have been, because almost everything Jenny slaps the sticker on, is a great pick. Jenny, for those unfamiliar, is our children’s rep for Harper Collins publishers. Don’t rush out to get this one justvyet, though. It isn’t out until October 25 of this year. Put it on your to-be-read list, though! Target age group is 13 and up. I highly recommend it for adults too. Psychological suspense thriller is one of my favorite genres and this one reads like one. Just when I was starting to lose faith!
  • Nico’s older sister Sarah disappears, devastating her family, friends, and anyone who knows her. Nico can’t voice how she really feels (relieved) because Sarah really isn’t a nice bigger sister, taunting and being cruel to Nico on a daily basis through the years. After four years, Sarah is found. But is she really?? This Sarah is the complete opposite of the girl who vanished four years before. While it can be argued that this is not unusual in kidnapping cases, in this case, it raises bells of alarm for Nico. Sarahs’ physicality and the difference isn’t bothering her, but the abrupt attitude change toward Nico. Where there used to be abuse and unrelenting taunts, there is now kindness. Sarah’s amnesia has caused her to forget everything, including what happened to her and how. Nico sets out to figure out what happened to her sister and once she dies, well, wow. The author does a superb job of not taking the easiest door to an answer to the plot, and she imbues both Nico and Sarah with vivid brushstrokes so that the reader DOES give a rat’s ass about what happened and what will happen to both of them. No contrived plot devices anywhere, which was nice after the past 10 booka that I read. What a great change of pace, and a fine thriller for your young adult. Pick it up in October! 

We Are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun and Susan Mullen (5 out of 5) 

•July 6, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Holly got me a copy of this one because it takes place in the 80’s and it had the word tornadoes in the title. Holly knows what I like to read too well sometimes. This is one of quite a few YA books that have come my way as of late that I enjoyed so much that I can’t wait until its release so I can sell the hell out of it. This one comes out on November 1, 2016 from St. Martin. Put it on your list now! In a time of great world turmoil and violence, it would be a nice breath of fresh air for the teens to read something so uncomplicated and fun. 

Cath and Scott have been best friends their whole lives, growing up together, sharing confidences, mix tapes, and being each other’s strongest supporter. In Cath’s case, this means going off for the first year of college and being separated from her family, dog, and Scott. A formidable for any girl, but Cath has that rare combination of self-confidence, spunk, and sarcasm. I love, love, love  her character! Scott is left behind in their tiny town, working with his dad at his men’s clothing store, while harboring (and practicing) his dreams if being a musician. Of course, both Cath and Scott have their share of ups and downs, as well as forgettable and heart-wrenching love affairs gone wrong. Cath tells Scott something he doesn’t want to hear and he fires back with teen anger, and things are estranged. However, as in all true friendships, a tragedy in Scott’s life brings not only growing pains, but a reconciliation between the friends and an unexpected consequence, that unfortunately, I predicted, to this story of a best friendship. I thought the character of Scott was very accurate in its portrayal of a young man frustrated working with his dad while waiting for his rock n’ roll dreams to come true. A realistic look at a teen friendship and the ups and downs associated with growing pains. Go out and get this fun book when it comes out in November! 

The Girls by Emma Cline (4 out of 5)

•July 3, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I usually do not pay attention to critics. This book has been blowing up all over the place before and since it’s release. Given my long-term obsession with anything related to the Manson family and their swath of terror in the late 60’s, it made sense to give it a read. Then I decided to read other nonsense instead. Finally, after quite a few regulars gave me the gushing raves, I started reading it this week, during partial inventory. The last fucking thing I wanted to see after taking inventory was a book! But I pushed on with “The Girls” anyway. And I am glad I did. 

Evie Boyd is a typical teenager living in Northern California when she becomes entranced by a group of rundown, bedraggled girls walking through a park. She watches them get bounced out of a store for trying to steal, and she buys them the toilet paper, pretends she lifted it, and with this “gift” to the girls, she’s “welcomed”into the group. One particular young girl, Suzanne, has Eve’s interest completely- as in, besotted. The ranch where they live is dirty, gross, and alarming to anyone who isn’t part of the group living there. The head of this group? A Rasputin-like nadir named Russell. Russell is, of course, not only leader of the group, but also some mystical presence in the eyes of all who come through the camp. Including Evie. She quickly becomes one of the girls, and falls deeper into what can only be described as some sort of odd love for Suzanne. The story encapsulates what happened, at the ravings of the madman at the center, but really, the girls and what goes on between them (does anything? Or is it in Eve’s imagination that feelings exist for her from Suzanne?) is at the heart of this story. And when the doubtful Eden evaporates in a haze of summer heat and blood, where does Evie stand? A completely different look at the Sharon Tate murders through the eyes of someone who was on the inside but not involved in the murders. I am real surprised that no one thought of this plot device until now. Truth be told, as a lead character, I really did not love Evie. I wanted to shake her, smack her, make her shampoo her hair with something other than Vaseline, but you can’t imagine what went through a 14-year old girl’s head while in “love” with a hypnotic presence like Suzanne. But Cline? If you didn’t know better, you would think she was there, or knew someone who was. This book is gorgeously written. There were more than a few times when I had to go back and re-read entire sentences because they were beautifully written. This woman can write. She makes a horrendous time and occurrence have some miniscule beauty imbedded. Not easy. And no, this isn’t alternate history, which some customers thought. There is still violent horror and senseless death, and the end result is the same. Except for Evie. She is an all-new footnote to what occurred, and through her eyes, a new window into what was a horrifying event. I highly recommend this book. 

Every Little Step: My Story by Bobby Brown and Nick Chiles (4 out of 5)

•June 20, 2016 • Leave a Comment

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I should confess right away that I may be biased in my review. I have always loved Bobby Brown’s music. I was horrified when the tabloid circus began roasting him and Whitney on a spit during their marriage. I should also confess I have always loved Whitney’s music as well. Then that scary interview with the infamous “Crack? Crack is wack (sp: whack)”. I have to be honest. Once I saw that interview, I was convinced she WAS smoking it, and I blamed Bobby Brown. So many did! The tabloids- as well as the Houston’s-had a field day pointing the finger of blame at this guy. After Whitney’s death and autopsy revealed that she had evidentially been still using, some of the validity of those claims went out the window. Then their daughter Bobbi Kristina dies in almost the same way years later? To say this is a tragic story doesn’t give it the full decree of justice. And years after the allegations, who’s clean, sober, and still here? Bobby Brown. And what a story he has.

Raised in the Orchard Park project outside of Boston, Brown has a relatively decent upbringing, by his own admission. At some point, he’s bitten by the singing bug and begins performing at the age of 9. Not long after this, he becomes friends with Ralph Tresvant and they begin a friendship that not only begins the part of the story known as New Edition, but a lifelong friendship that continues to this day. New Edition’s formation and dissolution is but a springboard to what most readers would say is the “juicy” part of the story: Bobby’s romance with, marriage to, and divorce from Whitney after 15 years. He doesn’t shy away from the good, the bad, the downright bizarre, and the ugly. What you take away from this is that Brown was a willing participant in all, but that doubts were expressed in some matters, and doubts went nowhere. You also take away that there is a sense of shame and regret, but hey- true love is crazy and never does that ring so true as it does here. It’s also very obvious from Brown’s story that there was a lot of love for Whitney and his daughter, and that it was he, not Houston, who walked away from the marriage. So if you are expecting lurid tales of bacchanals, drug-fueled orgies, and the like, you will be disappointed. What you get is a respectful narrative of a love affair that consumed them both until the drugs and fighting tore them apart. No amount of love, nor tough love, is kept from the reader during the entirety of Brown and Houston’s marriage. Brown’s love for their daughter Bobbi Kristina is obvious throughout the story, as well as his heartbreak over what happened to her so soon after what happened to Whitney. You get what he knows of the story, but you also get the feeling that the only people who know what happened are the deceased and the Houston’s, and we probably will never know the entire story. You do have a fair sense that the little fucker named Nick Gordon knows more about-and may be guilty as hell- of Bobbi Kristina’s death. More details are brought forth by Brown than had already been circulated through the media, so the reader can make their own judgment. What IS obvious is that it tore Brown up then, and will until the end of his life. Anyone who has ever lost a child can relate to his pain throughout the story, beginning with their estrangement after the divorce, and his short-lived joy that they had reconciled shortly before her death. That part of the book tore my heart out, and I do not nor will ever have kids. Bad reputation or not, it’s very obvious that Brown loved Whitney and their daughter very much. So overall, this is a book in which the only living person left in the wind on this story, gets to tell his side. The other two won’t get a chance, but the reader leaves with the impression that Brown has been completely truthful in his story. And again, it’s a straightforward story, and there aren’t many nitty gritty details, but he tells it like it was, and not in a bitchy, vindictive way. Refreshing for a memoir where rampant drug usage is a prevalent side to the story. I would highly recommend this memoir.

The Gallery by Laura Marx Fitzgerald (4 out of 5)

•June 13, 2016 • Leave a Comment

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This book really reminded me of a literary version of the game Clue but set in the Roaring Twenties and with a twelve year protagonist who’s quite a hoot and holler. Martha’s mom is a maid and head of staff at the Sewell mansion, and she harbors no illusions about the cast of nuts that she works for. Our matriarch Rose worries about the paintings in the house; yet she’s been a shut-in for years (that angle reminds me of Grey Gardens). Her husband (I don’t think his name is ever uttered actually. So I’ll call him Mister Man in honor of the Culture Club song) is a newspaper magnate obsessed with growing the business by leaps and bounds and pouring more largesse into his gargantuan ego. The dynamic between this couple? Off the charts into Strangeland. The tabloids are chasing headlines and getting them about the peculiarities of the Sewell and what goes on behind closed doors. So who’s the dirty rat? Alphonse the footman? He seems to know a lot more than he is letting on. Or could it even be Martha’s mom? What reason could there possible be for airing all their dirty laundry in public? Well, come hell or high water..it’s Martha to the rescue! And what a fun rollercoaster ride the reader gets taken on with this voyage to intended discovery. This bunch of reclusive weirdos really give a run for the money throughout the book. Martha is one of the most fun 12 year old characters I have run into in a book in a long time. The book was a ton of fun! It is a sequel, also. I did NOT know this until the children’s buyer informed me, so now I will have to go back and read the 1st as well (for the record, the 1st is called Under the Egg). This book is out from the fine folks at Penguin and slated for release tomorrow, June 14. I hope you will acquaint yourself with the lovely Martha and the merry band of weirdos living in the Sewell mansion. Thank you to the lovely Sheila at Penguin Random House for the advance. I can see why you recommended it.

Last Call At The Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger (5 out of 5)

•June 11, 2016 • Leave a Comment

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The minute I saw the cover, I wanted a martini. Then I wanted to read the book. I did the cardinal sin of judging the book by its cover. This book is out now. And a load of fun! I described it to my coworker as a mixture of Douglas Adams, Jim Butcher, and your favorite paranormal bartender. The fine folks at Quirk Books bring this fun book to our attention. Quirk=quirky. Indeed.

Bailey Chen is fresh out of college when she arrives home to Chicago. Her friend and former awkward fling Zane gets her a gig as a bartender at his uncle’s bar. Bailey is more than a little startled that they are all monster fighting bartenders! Zane enlightens Bailey that long after dark, a posse of demons have been prowling the streets of Chi-town. Bailey gets the honor of mixing the drinks that will stop the fiends in their tracks and save the city and innocent parties from harm. Bailey is an independent, strong female lead who stands up for herself while fighting the good fight! What fun to read about a tough, ballsy girl. Zane is a trip himself. The supporting cast of warrior bartenders? Hilarious. An added bonus is the cocktail recipes throughout the book. All around, this book is a blast. Get out and get yours!

Trash This Motherfucker: In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

•June 8, 2016 • Leave a Comment

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I think the last time I had to put a book under this was sometime last year. This book came out last summer, so it is not a new title, per se. What is it? Supposedly last summer’s hot psychological suspense. What is it, really? Ridiculously drawn out, tedious, and convoluted to the max. The characters are cartoon character brats who want things their way, in the worst Burger King motto of literary device. At first glance, I thought it was “Cruel Intentions” meets “Gone Girl”. It’s more Scooby Doo meets Mean Girls. And that is not a good thing!

Leonora…known to most as Nora but to her old school chums as Lee..(Another point of contention…you are going to have the reader confused by the lead character being called two names throughout the book…and when that same character lashes out and pouts like a petulant, prepubescent teen when another character calls them by the unpreferred name, it is going to be hard not to want to bitch slap that character instead of feeling sympathetic.) is invited to a “hen party” for her former best friend Clare. What is a “hen party”? If you aren’t English, you won’t know. It’s what they call a bachelorette party. I thought it was a fowl orgy. She hasn’t talked to Clare in 10 years, and the end of that friendship is shrouded in mystery. Let me ruin it for you-it was over a guy they were both mad for. Why wouldn’t Nora, being a mystery author herself, question this invite out of the blue? She does briefly, but decides to go anyway. Their mutual friend Nina decides to go, so Nora goes with her. When they arrive at the destination, they’re greeted by Flo (Kiss my grits meets SWF), Clare’s maid of honor, best friend, and the person who arranged the hen party. Let’s talk about Flo. She is one step away from Kathy Bates in “Misery” about Clare, even wearing the same clothes as her beloved friend. When one of the guests has to leave to get home to her newborn child, Flo makes menacing comments during the Ouija portion of the evening. Ouija boards. Yeah. I know many bachelorette parties with those. Seriously?!?. It was like a bunch of spoiled rich kids gathering at a party for someone, who it turns out, may be a viable loon burger. The house where this is happening? Is in the middle of a forest. Half of the house is a huge glass window….creepy is what the author is going for, and I’ll give her points for that. While I was creeped out, I was also questioning it, though. The house is broken into in the middle of the night. Instead of calling the cops, everyone brushes it off. The next night, it happens again- this time with deadly results. Nora wakes up in the hospital to the authorities telling her that she was in an accident and they need her to tell them what she remembers. Amnesia and fear play catch and release with Nora, who is told that Clare is also gravely injured and that Flo tried to commit suicide. SAY WHAT? The cooking couldn’t have been that bad! Nora remembers what happened (James, the groom and the man that broke up theur friendship years ago, is an integral part of this), and quickly freaks when the cops inform HER that she is under arrest for MURDER. Oh, the noes! This leads to a seemingly recovered Nora sneaking out of the hospital, hailing a cab to the deep, dark wood (the cab driver knows what she is talking about, despite Nora having no idea of the address?) and the scene of the crime, hr reasoning that she can solve, as Scooby Doo would. What follows is so contrived it can’t really be expected that a reader with an ounce of intelligence would buy it. I certainly didn’t. I was ticked that I spent time reading this odd little supper club production. I urge you to pass on this one. Ridiculous, overwrought, and appalling to question the reader’s intelligence as this has. Throw that in the trash bin!

 
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