The Girl In Red by Christina Henry (4 out of 5)

•December 25, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Pretty good. I did not like it as much as I liked her take on Capt. Hook, but she still makes a compelling case for an author who turns fairy tales upside down, inside out, and right back up. In other words, what that Gregory Maguire used to do, and be good at (was he, really? More and more book friends of mine are realizing he really isn’t all that and a bag of chips!). Christina Henry? Far better. Believe me.

This is the 2nd book I have read by her and I thoroughly enjoy her writing style and complete and utter dissection of the characters. Maguire likes to make you believe he has the dark side down. After watching several of my employees try to read Wicked in the past 6 months and ultimately abandoning it, I became more convinced that Christina Henry is who you need to read for the true dark side of fairy tales. If Maguire is Nora Roberts, Christina Henry is Anne Rice.

This time around, Henry tells us about Red, the girl in the forest. This Red is NOT the defenseless little girl in the tale of yore; rather, an ass kicking banshee trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world populated by blood spewing zombies, killing machine men with dark desires, and cannibals. All Red needs to do is get through to try to get to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Only two problems with this story- there is a LOT of emphasis on Red being biracial. Almost too much, like it saturates the story, becomes an integral part of the story, when it really doesn’t play ANY part in the story. And obviously, Red wants to get to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, and the ending, well, there isn’t much to it at all. Quite a letdown after what was one hell of a story overall. Take away those two issues and you still have one hell of a story. Highly recommend. Take my word for it- drop Maguire and acquire a Henry.

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (5 out of 5)

•December 24, 2019 • Leave a Comment

The long-awaited followup to “The Handmaid’s Tale” did not disappoint in the least. Well, except that fiasco in which Scamazon shipped out copies of the book before its release date. But that’s why you flip off those fuckers and buy it from your local indie bookstore! Anyway, this is one of my top 10 fiction titles this year. And yes, it still reads like it is happening in today’s world.

We’re back in Gilead years later. Three women are fighting for their lives and those we know in Gilead. Agnes is a “child of the state” and has lived her whole life, as is, in and under Gilead’s rule. Daisy has lived her young life on the other side of civilization, in Canada. Until unrest leads her to make a difficult decision tied to Gilead. Founding Aunt of Gilead, Aunt Lydia is still within its walls, blurring the line between duty and derision. Gilead is still in an uproar over what happened to “Baby Nicole”, making leaders and followers question everything and everyone, and leading to what can only be an uprising that Gilead and its brethren may not recover from.

Three things you need to know: Atwood is still a mistress of her craft. While this does not lead off directly where Handmaid’s Tale left off, it seamlessly ties that incident into the current happenings in Gilead and the reader doesn’t want for anything. The three ladies forefronting this literary wall are going to break it down one way or another, and take no prisoners is the reader once you open up the book. She also weaves in current events into her narrative, providing more insight into the thought processes going on with the ladies as they try to navigate a more on-the-edge Gilead than we are used to. All in all, well worth the decades long wait to see how it all plays out for Gilead.

Old Baggage by Lissa Evans (5 out of 5)

•December 24, 2019 • Leave a Comment

I think I picked this for the Literature Bandits. Or I suggested it after seeing it at Hawthorn in my first few weeks there. I honestly don’t remember. But within a few days of starting it, I was really digging it. I also had a hunch Nicole would love it and would not have a hard time running the book club there with this one. And she did dig it.

This is out in paperback. Not sure I ever saw the hardcover in Burr Ridge, actually. And you know me, I’m a hardcover girl. I liked the tonal of its cover and font in fitting with the theme was perfect. I think I read more feminist-friendly books in 2019 than in the past 20 years.

It’s 1928 and Matilda Simpkins is trying to figure out the best way to change the world next. Hers is a thrilling, event packed past- in the name of equality for women. During the Women’s Suffrage Movement, she was jailed five times for marching, singing, giving fiery speeches- anything in the name of women’s rights. But once you live through a time such as that, everything else pales in comparison. That’s where Matty is currently dwelling- middle age boredom. After a chance meeting with one of her former comrades, she decides to pass on the message in the form of a club for teenaged girls. What follows can only be described as entertaining, heartwarming, and a great deal of fun. I highly recommend this for book clubs, or for anyone who enjoys the everyday debate of equal rights. Good stuff!

The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney (3.5 out of 5)

•December 8, 2019 • Leave a Comment

This was released in hardcover in September. I have read and thoroughly enjoyed the first two books by JP Delaney. I also enjoyed this, but certain things from it spurred to post the following review on Goodreads: OMG. What the hell did I just read??

JP Delaney is great at stretching the boundaries of normal to include perversity, psychological mind melds, the dregs of human identity, and throw in a good measure of stunned and welcome disbelief for the reader at the end of the book. All of those same were present here, except add in some sci-fi elements, which was new for this author.

Abbie wakes up, having no memory of what happened to her or why she is in the hospital and feels like a whole new woman. She is…except she is. The man at her side says he is her husband, and she has an adorable little boy, too. But Abbie feels like something is terribly awry. She’s a miracle of modern science, but she is bristling with indecision, fear, anger, jealousy at the nanny who seems super close to her husband and son….human emotions but it seems Abbie may be an android….or is she? You really have no idea until the end, but when you get there, you’re no doubt going “Holy shit”. It’s one of those books, but it superceded even what Delaney has managed with their previous books. If you want something that makes you shake your head and try to figure it out, this is the author for you. The only thing was that some of the things that end up happening, along with reprehensible characters, make you scratch your head. Delaney has not ventured into the science fiction side of the tent until now, but they have done a great job with trying to make it work. Not my favorite of the author’s catalog, but also a new direction, which can’t be said for many authors. The ending erases a lot of those initial quibbles.

Being Elvis: A Lonely Life by Ray Connolly (3 out of 5)

•December 8, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Another Elvis book? ANOTHER ELVIS BOOK??? That’s what I said when Courtney recommended it to me. Courtney works, is a wife and mom to a newborn, she really has valid reasons for not getting reading done! So when she recommended this to me, I bought it. In May. And then my Dad got sick, passed, I moved from one bookstore to a bigger bookstore, life got crazy, etc. I uncovered it in October and read it. It profoundly disturbed me. Elvis’ end disturbed all of his fans, his family, his friends, everyone. He was an icon who was widely adored, but whose last few years had been marred by weight gain, lethargic shows, rambling and incoherent speeches between songs, and the manner in which he passed did not inspire fond memories of the King. If anyone ever needed a reminder of how lonely Elvis Presley’s life was, this is another reminder.

Overall, as a book, it was decent. Although there was a lot of focus on his movie career and not as much on the music. Given the book’s overall vibe, this makes sense because he was greatly depressed because the quality of those movies was nonexistent, and brought him a great deal of grief as a result. But the thing that really sticks with the reader is the hopelessness of the last 5 years of his life, after his marriage ended and he started popping all the pills that shady Dr. Nick prescribed. He just went through the motions. And Connolly reiterates the empty echoes rolling through Graceland toward the end. It is a very dark book. Anyone who has read about the King before may find it darker than most, because Connolly does unearth a lot of psychology in this one. This is currently out and available in paperback.

Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of The View by Ramin Setoodeh (3 out of 5)

•December 7, 2019 • Leave a Comment

This was a damaged copy sitting on the back bookcase at work. I had just read a bunch of depressing shit and was seeking world peace, enlightenment, unlimited chocolate chip cookies, or tabloid journalism. This fit the last bill, but a bit more dignified. A bit. It’s not the sort of book that will broker change. Except-maybe-the channel you watch for your morning cup of politics, current events, and the occasional celebrity.

Setoodeh writes this as an insider who is somewhat a fan who is grappling with his conscience for watching the show, enjoying it, and then having to spill the beans to earn that check from the publishing house. While reading it, there were entire times where I said this very thing aloud. But eventually, you get over that sense once the fur starts being flung. In this case, anyone from Elisabeth Hasselback to Joy Behar to Meghan McCain, back to those who auditioned and didn’t get the gig. Except Whoopi. Ironically, when I started this one in October, I had just finished a terrible book where Whoopi Goldberg and her films had a prominent role. It was quite eerie; those books back to back. I will say this about this book; I liked to make fun of Barbara Walters; I blame Saturday Night Live at a young age.

This book actually made me respect her more; not only her business savvy, but her work ethic. Not to mention her reasons for wanting to create a forum like The View, unheard of in television at that point. The fact that it is still trucking along at this date just proves that she has staying power, retirement or not. The book was a lot of dish, not as much dash. Very enjoyable as a quick read for those who like some dish, but it’s not a book that will change the world.

Once Upon A Book Club: The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner (3 out of 5)

•December 5, 2019 • Leave a Comment

This was my last pick for The Literature Bandits in July. By this time, I was pretty sure that I was on my way up to the new gig. BR was so good to me for many years, but all good things have to come to an end. This was about a month after losing my dad, and half of the Bandits were on vacation. I do keep in touch with most of them… Saying goodbye to that little book club was as hard as saying goodbye to BR was. It figures that I finally have a dedicated group of ladies coming out every month and then I’m off to the wild blue yonder of VH.

Anyway, I had this friendly argument with people in the last month about “The Mars Room” vs “The Flamethrowers”. Personally, I loved The Flamethrowers more. More passion, more intellect, less disappointment. The Mars Room didn’t pick up until halfway through, and the end completely pissed me off. Care about the characters and that end? Fucking ridiculous. Kushner is one talented lady, but this book was torturous to get through. At least the first half.

Romy is serving two consecutive life sentences, while life in San Francisco goes on outside the prison walls. Kushner invokes the heartstrings of the reader by bringing Romy’s young son Jackson into the story. Romy is desperate to try to connect with her son, especially when she hears that things are not going according to plan. Tie that in with the life behind prison walls, from relationships to death to friendships, humor, and the absurdities of life behind bars. Kushner nails it, no doubt, but just as the reader is really behind Romy’s third eye, she rips the rug out from under the reader, and leaves you yelling at the book. I threw the damn thing out- I remain pissed at that ending. So…if you want a controversial book club pick that will invoke some discussions, this is a good pick.