Leftovers by Laura Wiess. An honest story of two girls growing up too fast, starting in middle school and following them into their first year of high school. The point of view is unique - Blair and Ardith take turns telling the backstory to an unnamed (for a time, anyway) audience. The story builds up layer by layer. It's fairly easy to guess what happens at each climax, but that doesn't make the read any less interesting. I was expecting a more dramatic ending since the blurb says the girls commit an "unforgivable act," but I suppose that can be subjective, and I'm used to reading more shocking, disturbing things. It's a YA book so it can't be too over-the-top dramatic. Overall, I really enjoyed the honest emotions and well-done writing.
A Slipping-Down Life by Anne Tyler. The book tackles a lot of issues - daily grind of high school, passion for music, crushes, even marriage - but has a strange lack of emotion throughout. The reader is never invited in to Evie Decker's mind, so what she thinks and feels remains unknown. This bothered me for a lot of the book; at the same time, the story itself was pulling me in. Evie has never been interested in anything, she's a good student who floats by without being noticed. After hearing his voice on the radio, she goes to a rock show to see Drumstrings Casey. After that first performance, she starts going to a bar every weekend to see him. Still, there is no passion expressed for neither Casey nor the music he plays. Things continue on in this vein, with the stakes getting higher and staying mysterious due to no insight to the characters' thought processes. There is a wrench thrown in at the end that, despite being small (a single line of dialogue) slants the whole story, and that is when I realized everything worked. It might not be a book that will tug on your heartstrings and make you feel understood by the narrator, but it's incredibly entertaining and well-done.
Creating Myself by Mia Tyler. I thought Mia was beautiful and inspiring when I saw her as the first plus-sized model in Seventeen. I loved that her style was more rock, rougher around the edges than typical models would allow you to see. Reading various books about Aerosmith and those who surrounded them, I was eager to hear about her hectic childhood from Mia herself. The book is very open and honest, but I kind of feel like her childhood was glossed over. She shares all sorts of details about her relationships with her parents, friends, drugs, sex, and more, but it seemed like she was holding back, emotionally. As she got into the more recent years of her life, it seemed like she was being more true to herself - which is understandable: it's easier to remember emotions you felt recently as opposed to those in childhood. By the time I got to the last few chapters, I could actually feel the emotion, which in turn affected me. It's a very interesting account of her life, and very inspirational. It's never just about her, and despite being a model, she rarely mentions physical appearance, which is refreshing. She focuses on what helped her get through tough times, and how she's trying to help others as well.
Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick. The premise of this book sounded interesting: a man comes to a small town and no one knows who he is or where he's from. As the townspeople start to open up to him, Charlie Beale becomes integral to their lives, including an involvement with a woman, and things are downhill from there. The writing is straightforward, not beautiful yet not sparse. Still, the first portion of the book was so much backstory, with little to no action or emotions, that I wasn't sure I would make it through. Nothing really stood out for me, but every time I decided to stop reading, I'd come back to it. I had to know what happened with Charlie and the woman. This book is worth sticking with. I had several options in mind for how the story would play out, and the actual ending was none of them. The emotions are more prevalent in the second part of the story, and the characters seem more real.
The Aftermath of Rock 'n' Roll by Noelle R. Andrews. This book was written to serve as a warning to women getting into relationships with potential psychopaths. Knowing that, and given the title, I thought the story would focus more on Andrews actual relationship and marriage to Adrian, the frontman of a rock 'n' roll cover band. Instead, that part is kind of glossed over; despite being together for over sixteen months, the majority of the book focuses on Andrews' legal battles. The lawyers were frustrating, yes, but I didn't find it especially applicable to the purpose of the book. Most of the emotion I felt throughout the book was similar to watching a horror movie, thinking "Don't run up the stairs, you'll get trapped!" Andrews admits at various points in her relationship's timeline that there were warning signs about her soon-to-be-husband, and she ignored them. Trust me, I understand how it is to be caught up in someone and think they are who they're claiming to be, when their whole existence is based on lies. At the same time, I think a woman of her age, with her independence, wealth, education, and children at stake would have been a bit more hesitant at becoming financially involved with a man so quickly. She paid for everything from the start and seemed upset that Adrian never offers to pay or reimburse her. Still, she kept paying for everything. When you consider they met on a millionaire matchmaking website… I'd be surprised if it's possible to meet people on that site who aren't gold diggers.
I'm not trying to make this a "I know better" type of review. (Apparently many of Andrews friends warned her from the beginning, and she acknowledges them in the book, saying they can send her a massive, collective "I told you so.") Sections were very scientific, with information on psychopaths and appropriate footnotes. Other sections were simply emails or transcripts from Andrews' husband, and the footnotes consisted of her rebuttals to anything he said. The book felt like you were listening to a friend gripe about her relationship. The epilogue, however, is exactly what I expected the book to be. It's the most raw, honest part of the whole thing. Andrews shares more insight into her experience, what she learned from it, and how it's affected her life and approach to relationships now. She has an extensive bibliography of books and websites to help out anyone who might be in similar situations.
Delirium by Lauren Oliver. "Love, the deadliest of all deadly things: It kills you both when you have it and when you don't. But that isn't it, exactly. … Love: It will kill you and save you, both." A reread, originally reviewed here. I'm getting ready to read the second book of the series and needed to refresh my memory. It's been a year and a half since I read it originally, but it was almost like a new book, which I mean in the best way. I kind of remembered the story and how it ended, but reading it was just like it was new. Oliver's language and word choice are perfect. Everything is so beautiful and suspenseful without the reader really realizing it. She has a unique way of describing love of all kinds.
Hana by Lauren Oliver. A short story, really, five chapters that cover parts of Delirium, but told from Lena's best friend Hana's point of view. It's interesting to have another insight into the world Oliver created, but I was surprised to find Hana wasn't as likable as Lena, especially because Lena looks up to her so much in Delirium. I didn't think there was too much to this story, but the end… oh, the end throws a wrench and changes everything.
Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver. So many sequels are hard to read because there's no action, it's just the author's way of bridging the gap between the beginning and the conclusion. This is not the case with Oliver's second book in the Delirium series.[Potential Spoilers:] Delirium ends with Lena making her escape into the Wilds, seeing Alex getting shot by guards. Pandemonium's beginning is a little confusing - we're abruptly shifted into the "Now," with Lena being a student in a high school classroom. The next chapter is a "Then," and starts with her rebirth after her escape. I usually don't look at chapter headings, so it took me awhile to realize the book was jumping back and forth between "Now," with Lena infiltrating the system, and "Then," as she adjusts to leaving her old life behind. It's easy to slip into this mindset though, and the two stories run parallel to each other nicely. There is a lot of suspense, but while her first book was more beautiful, Pandemonium is grittier and rougher, as Lena adjusts to life without rules. The ending is absolutely incredible, exactly what I had hoped would happen since the end of the last book, and it will be nearly impossible to wait for Requiem.
A Patch of Blue by Elizabeth Kata. If any book should be sold without a cover image and blurb, it's this one. I initially read it back in high school, ignored the blurb on the advice of the teacher, and was surprised by the twist ending. The twist ending is the best part of the book, I feel like it's crucial to the story if the reader is as blind as Selina, the main character. Without being surprised by the end, the book is still interesting, but very depressing. That's all I'll say about it, in hopes you haven't yet read the book but will now pick it up without seeking out any other reviews.
Comediennes: Laugh Be a Lady by Darryl J. Littleton and Tuezdae Littleton. This is a very cohesive book on comediennes, dating back to the beginning of stage productions. It's interesting to read the history (or as the authors call it, herstory) of females in comedy, but it is a lot to tackle in one book. Many of the early profiles are spotty, which is fine because certainly it's hard to find information on some of these ladies. However, that pattern continued later into the book, with some comediennes having a short paragraph that didn't give too much information. Things were unbalanced because other comediennes would have incredibly long profiles, or entire chapters dedicated to them. I understand some women are more well-known or accessible, but I wish they had been the focus, rather than cramming in a lot of information about others when there wasn't much to say. Overall, the book was informative and interesting, but I think if the scope was narrowed to certain women in comedy, it could have been more effective and well-done. I would have been just as excited about the concept if it profiles X number of women by telling their
2013 Writer's Market edited by Robert Lee Brewer (Chapter 1: Finding Work). The first chapter of the Writer's Market focuses on finding work, including writing pitches and query letters, where to find reputable outlets, and how to making working for free pay off. Examples or good and bad pitches and queries were included, which were really helpful. I've always been nervous about even the cover letters I've submitted with fiction stories, so it was nice to read what worked for even more professional tasks and see that I wasn't too far off base. One section dealt with funds for writers that didn't include writing jobs, necessarily, which I found interesting. It focused on grants and how to apply, make sure they fit, and make sure you deliver what's expected. The section on ghostwriting was especially interesting to me, since it's something I've mused about before. After reading that portion and looking back over books I've read to see that ghostwriters are often featured prominently (getting credit for their work), I have to say it's something I'd be interested in doing.
Friends Like Us by Lauren Fox. I don't know what to say about this book, it was that good. I read it every chance I got, which isn't saying I read fast - the book almost demands you read it slowly, to fully appreciate the language, especially the puns, oh the puns! Absolutely delightful. The plot itself was very interesting, with a touch of mystery, since the prologue is set in present day, and the story goes back to explain how the characters got to that point. Willa and Ben were best friends in high school who lost touch; Willa and Jane are best friends and college roommates. When Willa goes to her high school reunion and reconnects with Ben, she finds out that he had been in love with her for years. As they rekindle their friendship, however, Ben falls for Jane. Fox's style is realistic, hilarious, and phenomenal, and I'm eager to read her previous novel, as well as anything that follows.
Father-Mucker by Greg Olear. Sometimes you just have one of those days where nothing goes right, and you let yourself get beat down and take it. But sometimes, as in Josh Lansky's case, you know you're going to have a bad day - his horoscope predicts a mere two-stars - and you can brace yourself for it. So Josh does, to the extent one can be prepared for anything when your wife is out of town and you're in charge of two children under five. That's actually Josh's every day life - he's a stay-at-home-dad, a screenwriter suffering from writer's block. He's been with his wife, Stacy, for ten years. She was an actress when they met, but instead of making theirs a Hollywood marriage, she stops acting and gets a marketing job. They leave New York City to move upstate, and Josh falls in with a handful of stay-at-home-moms who arrange playdates. This is where he finds himself when a mom tells him that Stacy is having an affair. And thus we are introduced to Josh's two-star day, which is the entire span of the book.
Three hundred pages over the course of just one day actually works, since there is a bit of backstory, and Josh's imagination frequently runs wild. There were a lot of celebrity references that I could have done without, as well as the outspoken opinions. Josh is not necessarily an opinionated character, as I saw it, but every once in awhile some hatred for Republicans or tattoos would come out and ramble for several sentences, and it screamed "This is the author!" to me. There was also a weird thing where there would be italicized phrases in the middle of a sentence, which were occasionally song lyrics, or maybe catchphrases, or Josh's thoughts - I never quite got the point of them, and they interrupted the sentence, so I just started skipping over them. I don't think I missed anything.
Ex: "Chris teaches at the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park, but his wife does the cooking at home and I get fish right on my dish."
Overall, an entertaining book. I liked the conflicts that came up, and Josh handled them in a realistic way that I could identify with. I think stay-at-home-dads would especially like this book, because the focus seems to be on how they shouldn't be such a rarity. Also, the four-year-old son in the book has Asperger's, and there is a lot of nonfiction information about the condition, as well as autism, inserted nicely into the book.