Tuesday, February 6, 2018

I Drink for a Reason

Book 8 of my 2018 Reading Challenge

I Drink for a Reason by David Cross

Summary (via Goodreads)
After a decade spent in isolation in the Ugandan jungles thinking about stuff, David Cross has written his first book. Known for roles on the small screen such as "never-nude" Tobias Funke on Arrested Development and the role of "David" in Mr. Show With Bob And David, as well as a hugely successful stand-up routine full of sharp-tongued rants and rages, Cross has carved out his place in American comedy. Whether deflating the pomposity of religious figures, calling out the pathetic symbiosis of pseudo-celebrity and its leaching fandom, or merely pushing the buttons of the way-too-easily offended P.C. left or the caustic, double-standard of the callous (but funnier) right, Cross has something to say about everyone, including his own ridiculous self.
Now, for the first time, Cross is weaving his media mockery, celebrity denunciation, religious commentary and sheer madness into book form, revealing the true story behind his almost existential distaste of Jim Belushi ("The Belush"), disclosing the up-to-now unpublished minutes to a meeting of Fox television network executives, and offering up a brutally grotesque run-in with Bill O'Reilly. And as if this wasn't enough for your laughing pleasure in these troubled times, some of the pieces splinter off with additional material being created online in exclusive video and animated web content created solely for the book-a historical first (presumably)!
With a mix of personal essays, satirical fiction posing as truth, advice for rich people, information from America's least favorite Rabbi and a top-ten list of top-ten lists, I DRINK FOR A REASON is as unique as the comedian himself, and cannot be missed.

My Opinion
I would love to read the review of someone that had no idea who David Cross is and picked up this book.  They would think he was a psycho.

I like his standup and acting but it didn't translate to an enjoyable book for me.  The bits in the list form were too long when being read instead of performed and things come off as abrasive (not in the good way) when not accompanied by his delivery which makes it abrasive (In the good way).

So I was plugging away thinking this would be a 2 star review but the number of times he used "retarded" dropped it to a 1 star for me.  

Favorite Piece
"Correspondence with Dave Eggers"

Friday, February 2, 2018

The Lake and the Lost Girl

Book 7 of my 2018 Reading Challenge

The Lake and the Lost Girl by Jacquelyn Vincenta

Summary (via the book jacket)
On a stormy night in 1939, Mary Stone Walker disappears from her home in White Hill, Michigan. Everyone knew the talented poet was desperate to escape her demons, but when Mary goes missing without a trace, one question lingers in the small town: Did Mary successfully break free of her troubled past and flee, or did her life end that night?
Sixty years later, Lydia Carroll's husband is fixated on the local mystery. English professor Frank Carroll has invested years in the search for the local poet and her lost works, sacrificing his family, his reputation, and even Lydia for the ever-more-unlikely discovery. As Frank's behavior grows more erratic, Lydia fears his interest in Mary has evolved into an obsession - on that threatens to destroy the family they have built together, and which can only be undone by solving the mystery of what happened to Mary on that rainy night in 1939.

My Opinion
I really can't say anything about the book or plot without spoilers.  I liked the author's writing a lot but this particular story left me more annoyed than anything else.  Without saying what the ending turned out to be, it could have been discovered much earlier if people had communicated earlier and I have a low tolerance for that in stories - my personal preference.

Quote from the Book 
"To have someone like that. It was a wish, a prayer, and it became something that never completely left her mind. Her life would be safer if she had someone like that. To have someone like that in her life would mean this world, and even her marriage, would feel less bleak."

Monday, January 29, 2018

Betsy Ross and the Making of America

Book 6 of my 2018 Reading Challenge

Betsy Ross and the Making of America by Marla R. Miller

Summary (via Goodreads)
Betsy Ross and the Making of America is the first comprehensively researched and elegantly written biography of one of America's most captivating figures of the Revolutionary War. Drawing on new sources and bringing a fresh, keen eye to the fabled creation of "the first flag," Marla R. Miller thoroughly reconstructs the life behind the legend. This authoritative work provides a close look at the famous seamstress while shedding new light on the lives of the artisan families who peopled the young nation and crafted its tools, ships, and homes.
Betsy Ross occupies a sacred place in the American consciousness, and Miller's winning narrative finally does her justice. This history of the ordinary craftspeople of the Revolutionary War and their most famous representative will be the definitive volume for years to come.

My Opinion
This was very thorough and just as much about the time period as about one specific person.  I was surprised to discover that as I was reading because of the title but as I'm preparing this review I realize that observation is right there in the description.  I didn't look at what it was about before I bought it because it cost $1 brand-new.  I couldn't read many pages at a time because of the depth and detail but it was a good one to carry in my bag for the times where I had a few minutes to read.

Although there is no definitive answer on how instrumental Betsy Ross was to the creation and/or design of the flag, the author did a good job both of explaining why we want there to be one figure to hold above others when inventions are almost always a collaborative process and why Ross deserves her place in history even if it was a group effort.  To quote from the book, "Congress knew then what we must understand now: there was no single maker and no one prototype. That subsequent generations have tried to bring order to these chaotic circumstances - to strive to identify a single moment and a single maker for the first United States flag - is an artifact of the way we have come to think about the Revolution itself, as the result of orderly deliberations by larger-than-life statesmen, rather than a desperate, ad hoc scramble to defeat the greatest military force in the world."

I love the expression "He takes out his words and looks at 'em, 'fore he speaks." to describe a quiet, thoughtful talker.

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Gypsy Moth Summer

Book 5 of my 2018 Reading Challenge

The Gypsy Moth Summer by Julia Fierro

Summary (via the book jacket)
Summer 1992...Gypsy moth caterpillars have invaded Avalon Island, an islet off the East Coast.
Leslie Day Marshall, only daughter of Avalon's most prominent family, has returned to live in "The Castle", the island's grandest estate. Leslie's husband, Jules, is African American, and her children biracial, and islanders from both sides of the tracks form fast and dangerous opinions about the new arrivals.
Maddie LaRosa straddles those tracks: a teen queen with roots in the tony precinct of East Avalon as well as the crowded working-class quarter of West Avalon - home to Grudder Aviation's factory, the lifeblood and bread and butter of the community. When Maddie falls in love with Brooks, Leslie and Jules's son, that love feels as urgent to her as the questions about the new and deadly cancers showing up across the island.
Vivid with young lovers, gangs of anxious outsiders, a plotting matriarch and her demented husband, and a quietly troubled young boy, The Gypsy Moth Summer is about love, gaps in understanding, and the struggle to connect: within families, among friends, and between neighbors and entire generations.

My Opinion
My palms were sweaty the entire time I was reading this; I wanted to keep reading to alleviate the tension but also didn't want to read because I didn't want to know if the bad things I felt were coming actually happened.

The author did a great job of making me feel the characters' progression so that when Jules acted differently in the end of the book than he may have in the beginning, it felt authentic because of the isolation and madness of the island and the moths.  I normally would've felt sympathy for Dom but only felt anger.  The ending didn't make me happy but I was satisfied.

This is an accurate description of parenting:
  "She waited for her boy...to come to her.  She'd hold him.  Kiss his sweaty forehead.  Beg him to tell her his sadness.  Hang over his pain.  She'd swallow it whole to free him."

Quote from the Book
" 'On an island with one exit,' she said, 'everything is heard.' She sounded tired. Bitter. 'Seen is another matter. You could say that Avalon is a magical place. Girls don't get pregnant. Boys don't drive drunk. They money what's-her-name stole from the PTA account is replenished as if it never happened.' "

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Just Another Week in Suburbia

Book 4 of my 2018 Reading Challenge

**I received an electronic copy of this book via NetGalley and would like to thank the author and/or publisher for the opportunity to read and honestly review it**

Just Another Week in Suburbia by Les Zig

Summary (via Goodreads)
Casper Gray goes to bed a happily married man.
He wakes up questioning whether everything is a lie.
Life in suburbia holds few surprises for Casper. He and his wife Jane are still trying for a baby after seven years. His neighbours have their quirks to be navigated. And his job as a high school teacher, while satisfying, comes with its challenges. Every day is much like the one before - that is, until Casper makes a discovery that threatens everything he knows...
As Casper's fears grow into obsessions, his world starts to unravel. Just Another Week in Suburbia is a story about love, trust, and insecurity, and the question of whether you can ever really know another person.

My Opinion
This book was deceptively simple.  It's very grounded in reality but the characters are still unpredictable enough to keep me surprised.  There's no huge dramatic "aha" moment but I didn't want to put the book down, probably because I love to people-watch and this felt like looking into a couple's window and witnessing their private marriage moments.  I would definitely read this author again.

I can't really say much about the discovery or the progression after it other than to say that it was a perfect example of how something so small can begin an unraveling and change the dynamic of everything.  Some of the stuff involving his work felt unnecessary but overall, I understood the journey of the characters even if I wouldn't react the same way.

This would be a good book club book, assuming the book club can handle a few graphic sex scenes, because there is a lot of discussion potential about characters' choices and how the reader felt about them.  

Quote from the Book
"Everyone knows what they should've done after it's too late to do it."

Friday, January 12, 2018

Alice in Wonderland

Book 3 of my 2018 Reading Challenge

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll 

Summary (via Goodreads)
The story of a little girl who fell down a rabbit hole and found herself in Wonderland continues to delight readers of all ages. Accompanied by the classic illustrations of John Tenniel, it is one of the best loved novels in the children's literature.

My Opinion
My 11 year old daughter's team for Odyssey of the Mind is using this book as inspiration for their skit so I read the book as well when she was finished with it.

I know this was written a long time ago but was there really a time when a drink having the mixed flavor of cherry-tart, custard, pineapple, roast turkey, toffy, and hot buttered toast be would described as "nice" as the author did?  Maybe it grosses me out because I'm not much of a food mixer.

I don't remember being especially enthralled with this story when I was younger and that holds true today.  It was fine, the illustrations were very good, but I won't be re-reading this one again. 


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Music Shop

Book 2 of my 2018 Reading Challenge

**I received a copy of this book via a Goodreads Giveaway and would like to thank the author and/or publisher for the opportunity to read and honestly review it**

**I read an advance uncorrected proof so quotes may not be exact in the final publication**

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

Summary (via Goodreads)
It is 1988. On a dead-end street in a run-down suburb there is a music shop that stands small and brightly lit, jam-packed with records of every kind. Like a beacon, the shop attracts the lonely, the sleepless, and the adrift; Frank, the shop's owner, has a way of connecting his customers with just the piece of music they need. Then, one day, into his shop comes a beautiful young woman, Ilse Brauchmann, who asks Frank to teach her about music. Terrified of real closeness, Frank feels compelled to turn and run, yet he is drawn to this strangely still, mysterious woman with eyes as black as vinyl. But Ilse is not what she seems, and Frank has old wounds that threaten to reopen, as well as a past it seems he will never leave behind. Can a man who is so in tune with other people's needs be so incapable of connecting with the one person who might save him? The journey that these two quirky, wonderful characters make in order to overcome their emotional baggage speaks to the healing power of music--and love--in this poignant, ultimately joyful work of fiction. 

My Opinion
I really like the author's writing style and quirky characters; it makes it very easy to read and fall into the story.  I actually had a dream about these characters last night but they were doing something much different than the actual book (In my dream Ilse was a secret millionaire and Frank sold a painting to solve his own money issues instead of taking it to auction like he was supposed to) which made the reading a little strange today because I kept thinking about it even though it wasn't in line with the plot at all.  Seriously, nothing about those actions are anywhere in the story - I guess maybe I should add a spoiler alert that there's not a random art heist, haha.  And now that I think about it, maybe the art world of "The Object of Beauty" is still on my mind as well.

The author also has a good sense of humor.  I recognized when Kit was learning German but could only talk about being ill because the lesson was hospital-related.  It's the same reason I can say "this is my aunt's pen" in French but nothing that would actually be helpful in conversing.  I also laughed when she said any mistakes in the book are entirely Frank's or Peg's (two of the characters) instead of the standard author disclaimer.

I didn't love the last few parts where things could've been resolved earlier if people just talked to each other but overall this was a smooth read to pass some time.  Now I want to go listen to the music they talked about.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"Real love was not a bolt out of the blue, it was not the playing of violins, it was like anything else, it was a habit of the heart. You got up every day and you put it on, same as your pants, your boots, and you kept treading the constant path."

"Jazz was about the spaces between notes.  It was about what happened when you listened to the thing inside you.  The gaps and the cracks.  Because that was where life really happened: when you were brave enough to free-fall."