Tuesday, October 30, 2012

In the Pink

In the Pink: How I Met the Perfect (Younger) Man, Survived Breast Cancer, and Found True Happiness After 40, by Susan McBride.

Ed wasn't yet home from work, and I didn't want to call and tell him something so serious over the phone. So I called my mom and burst into tears. "I'll be right over," she said, and appeared on my doorstep within minutes. When I let her in, she gave me a bear hug, crying as I cried, telling me, "If I could take the cancer from you and give it to myself, I would do it in a heartbeat."

I wished someone would take the cancer from me, too, but I didn't want to give it to her. I just wanted it gone.


Susan McBride is the author of Little Black Dress, which I reviewed here in 2011, and I also got to do an email interview with her then. Now she has released In the Pink, a novella which details her fight with breast cancer while she was writing LBD and some of her other novels as well.

McBride has a history of breast cancer in her family - her aunt had breast cancer, and later another relative is diagnosed with it too - and her doctor almost didn't catch it at first, which is scary. A year or so previously, she met Ed, who turns out to be the love of her life (she in fact has a child with him, at age 47!), and she worried that he wouldn't stay with her through this, since they weren't yet married - but he did, and they go on to get married and have a daughter.

The book itself is very short, clocking in at 87 pages including a few Q&As in the end, and then readers also get a sneak peek of The Truth about Love and Lightning, McBride's next novel which will be in stores in February 2013.

3.5 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Gone Girl

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn.

"I don't know. She's not a never-met-a-stranger kind of person, but she's not - not abrasive enough to make someone ... hurt her."

This was my eleventh lie. The Amy of today was abrasive enough to want to hurt, sometimes. I speak specifically of the Amy of today, who was only remotely like the woman I fell in love with. It had been an awful fairy-tale reverse transformation. Over just a few years, the old Amy, the girl of the big laugh and the easy ways, literally shed herself, a pile of skin and soul on the floor, and out stepped this new, brittle, bitter Amy. My wife was no longer my wife but a razor-wire knot daring me to unloop her, and I was not up to the job with my thick, numb, nervous fingers. Country fingers. Flyover fingers untrained in the intricate, delicate work of
solving Amy. When I'd hold up the bloody stumps, she'd sigh and turn to her secret mental notebook on which she tallied all my deficiencies, forever noting disappointments, frailties, shortcomings. My old Amy, damn, she was fun. She was funny. She made me laugh. I'd forgotten that. And she laughed. From the bottom of her throat, from right behind that small finger-shaped hollow, which is the best place to laugh from. She released her grievances like handfuls of birdseed: They are there, and they are gone.

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
I stayed up until 1am last night to finish this book, and today I am tired but it was worth it. This was the book everyone was talking about this past summer, and I put my name on the hold list for it at my local library and just now was able to read it; however, it is definitely worth the wait.

The story opens on Nick and Amy's fifth anniversary. She makes him crepes, and then he heads out to the beach to relax for a bit - alone. He goes to The Bar, the bar that he and his twin sister Go (Margo) own, and gets a strange call from a neighbor: his house's door is wide open. Nick goes to check and finds his living room smashed to bits and Amy gone. The police come and investigate, and eventually they find some disturbing things: blood, mopped up, all over the kitchen floor; the struggle in the living room looks posed as well. All signs point to Nick, but Nick, even though he has a 23-year-old mistress, didn't do it; eventually, he and Go figure out something disturbing about Amy that has to do with the case, and they start investigating it themselves.

The first half of this book is told in alternating chapters, between Amy Elliott's diary (soon to be Amy Elliott Dunne after marrying Nick) and Nick's recollections from the present. After the first half, there's a VERY interesting twist, and we end up with not one but TWO unreliable narrators. Nick is an unreliable narrator because about 1/4 of the way through the book, he confesses that he has a mistress - Andi, 23 (he is 34, Amy is 38) - and says something to the effect of "I am guessing you like me less now." His wife, Amy, was the subject of the book series Amazing Amy, that her parents, who studied psychology like her, wrote when she was a little girl. We later find out that she has always held a grudge against them for this, because any decision that they thought she made poorly gets written into the book the way they would have wanted it to happen.

Amy is extremely smart, and after the first half of the book when we learn that her diary entries were "unreliable," so to speak, things really pick up, and we begin to see her in a completely different light.

I definitely recommend this book for anyone that likes mysteries, and also anyone that likes a good story in general; it has a ton of twists and turns that will keep you hooked.

4.5 stars out of 5.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Casual Vacancy

The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling.

Together they rattled through the conventional aspects of the tragedy: the widow ("she'll be lost, she lived for Barry"); the children ("four teenagers, what a burden without a father"); the relative youth of the dead man ("he wasn't much older than Miles, was he?"); and then, at least, they reached the real point of departure, beside which all else was aimless meandering.

"What'll happen?" Maureen asked Howard greedily.

"Ah," said Howard. "Well, now. That's the question, isn't it? We've got ourselves a casual vacancy, Mo, and it could make all the difference."

"We've got a...?" asked Maureen, frightened that she might have missed something crucial.

"Casual vacancy," repeated Howard. "What you call it when a council seat becomes vacant through a death. Proper term," he said pedagogically.


So let's get something straight first off: this book is not Harry Potter by any means. It's Rowling's first book for adults, and you can definitely tell it's for adults: it has a lot of swearing, sex, and other debauchery in it. That being said, Rowling is an exceptional storyteller, and this book is no different, though it clocks in at a rather lengthy 503 pages.

If you've ever lived in a small town, you will relate to the people of Pagford, England, who are constantly in each other's business. When Barry Fairbrother dies, a "casual vacancy" on the town's parish council is created, and a few Pagford citizens take it upon themselves to run for his seat. These people all know each other, and their teenagers know each other, some of whom who hate their parents ... and that's when things start to get interesting.

Official synopsis:
When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled marked square and an ancient abbey, but what lies beneath the pretty facade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils ... Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?
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The Casual Vacancy book J.K. Rowling
It was a little hard to keep track of all of the characters in this book because there were so many of them, and they all know each other. The Mollison family (Shirley and Howard, and their adult son, Miles, whose wife is Samantha) are one of the most respected families in town, and so it makes sense for Miles to run for the council. Colin Wall is the headmaster at the local school, and his adopted son, Stu "Fats" Wall, hates him; his mother, Tessa, always tries to be the peacemaker. Gavin Hughes likes to stay above town politics, but his girlfriend, Kay, and her daughter Gaia have just moved from London to be with him, and Kay (a social worker) ends up getting involved with some of the poorer families in Pagford.

There's also the only Indian family in town, Dr. Parminder Jawanda and her family, including Sukvinder who is constantly made fun of by Fats for having hair over her lip. Sukvinder is friends with Gaia, who is currently being adored by afar by Andrew Price, son of Simon Price, who also wants to run for council ... that is, until Andrew hacks into the council website and writes a piece about Simon's various indiscretions.

And we can't forget 16-year-old Krystal Weedon, whose mother Terri is a drug addict; Krystal inevitably ends up taking care of Robbie, her toddler brother, when Terri is unable to do so. Fats strikes up a relationship with Krystal, but one day when they aren't paying attention, something awful happens to Robbie.

What I liked most about this novel was that all of the stories were intertwined, and at the end of the book we notice this more than ever. The actions of the teenagers and of the people running for council, as well as their families, all end up combusting in the end for a rather interesting finale, and a "hot topic" that everyone in the town has an opinion on ends up causing strife throughout as well.

4 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Diary of a Submissive

Diary of a Submissive: A Modern True Tale of Sexual Awakening, by Sophie Morgan.

His grip is solicitous as he helps me to my feet. We walk past you, arm in arm. He smiles. Nods. You half nod back before you catch yourself and wonder what on earth you're doing. I am looking studiously at the ground, my head down.

You can see I am shaking. But what you can't see his how aroused this whole experience has made me. How hard my nipples are in the confines of my bra. How my trembling is as much from the adrenaline high of everything that has just played out in front of you as it is from the cold and humiliation. How I thrive on this. How it completes me in a way that I can't fully explain. How I hate it yet love it. Yearn for it. Crave it.

You can't see any of that. All you can see is a trembling woman with dirty knees, walking away on wobbly legs.

This is my story.


The tagline for this novel is "Everyone's waiting for the real life Fifty Shades of Grey ... Sophie Morgan's tantalizing tale does not disappoint." Sophie Morgan's name is also a pseudonym, for reasons that will become obvious from the very beginning of the book. I have read the Fifty Shades series, and if those were considered R-rated, this novel would be NC-17 ... let's just say that when I was reading it in public, I may have tilted the cover down just a little, so people couldn't see what I was reading!

I read this for the BlogHer Book Club, too, which was rather interesting, since it walks a fine line between porn and an autobiography. It's more like a well-written 50 Shades, which I definitely appreciated (since the writing in that series was AWFUL), but everything that happened in this novel was/is true, according to our narrator, though I noticed a lot of similarities to 50 in terms of situations. About the author:

Sophie Morgan is the pseudonym for a journalist in her early 30s. While working hard at a career she loves, she is surrounded by friends and amused and exasperated by her family in about equal measure. She loves animals and Marmite (the British food spread), hates people who stop abruptly when walking down the street so you walk into them, and spends too much money on books, DVDs, and handbags, mostly in that order. The one thing missing in her life is someone with whom to share it - someone who will dominate her sexually, as well as help sort out the recycling.

I almost wrote "this novel takes place in England" just now, because at times it felt like a novel - it was extremely detailed, but not "fictionally so" - no "sexy" adjectives added or whatnot - and it almost felt like fiction, even though I knew I was reading an autobiography. Sophie lives in England (hence the Marmite references) and has a hectic career as a journalist. In her free time, she likes to have crazy sex, though most of her "inner circle" doesn't know about the "submissive" side of her personality.

While she was at university, she met her first lover, Ryan, with whom she started a Dominant/submissive relationship with (capital "D," lower-case "s" is the proper grammar, as she explains in the book). After college, she has a few more "vanilla" relationships, and then she starts a D/s relationship with her best friend at the time, Thomas, experimenting with him and one of his friends, Catherine. The middle and end of the book details her tumultuous relationship with James, whom she meets when she interviews him for a story - very similar to how Ana and Christian meet in 50 Shades.

This book was interesting because it gives us an insight into Sophie's psyche; she knows that something's a little wrong with her for getting beaten up and liking it, as well as letting herself be ordered around, but at the same time it also gets her excited. She talks about her relationships with her family and friends, and how she first discovered she was in to D/s relations, or how the inkling was there during her childhood. I could have done without the almost-pornographic sex and D/s scene descriptions, but if they weren't there then this book would probably not have been as interesting, I will admit, and definitely wouldn't be compared to 50 Shades, though I'm not sure if the author was aiming for that or not.

3.5 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I was compensated for writing this review for the BlogHer Book Club. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

In Need of Therapy

In Need of Therapy, by Tracie Banister.

"Maybe Victor keeps coming back because your rejections lack conviction? Maybe there's some part of you that enjoys all the attention?" Ford posited.

I arched an eyebrow. "Are you psychoanalyzing me, Dr. Fordham?"

"Just some food for thought, Dr. Alvarez."

"And here's some food for our stomachs," I said as the waiter approached our table with two burger and fries-filled plates. His timing couldn't have been more perfect. While I enjoyed shrinking other people's heads, it made me nervous when the same was done to mine.


In Need of Therapy is about Pilar and her crazy Cuban-American family. Pilar is a psychologist who just started a practice in South Beach, and she has two sisters - one of whom is married with kids, and the other who is much younger (23), currently unemployed, and living with Pilar. Pilar's mother worries about her "becoming an old maid," as Pilar is almost 30 and has no romantic prospects - not counting her persistent ex, Victor, who declares his love for her every time he stalks bumps into her. One day, however, a cute new psychologist moves in to the suite across the hall in Pilar's office building. Slight problem, though: he's married.

Official synopsis:

While working hard to make a success of her recently-opened practice in trendy South Beach, Pilar must also find time to cater to the demands of her boisterous Cuban family, which includes younger sister Izzy, an unemployed, navel-pierced wild child who can't stay out of trouble, and their mother, a beauty queen turned drama queen who’s equally obsessed with her fading looks and getting Pilar married before it’s “too late.” Although she’d like to oblige her mother and make a permanent love connection, Pilar’s romantic prospects look grim. Her cheating ex, who swears that he’s reformed, is stalking her. A hunky, but strictly off-limits, patient with bad-boy appeal and intimacy issues is making passes. And the sexy shrink in the suite across the hall has a gold band on his left ring finger.

When a series of personal and professional disasters lead Pilar into the arms of one of her unsuitable suitors, she's left shaken, confused, and full of self-doubt. With time running out, she must make sense of her feelings and learn to trust herself again so that she can save her business, her family, and most importantly, her heart.
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Overall I enjoyed this book. The parts with Victor and others in the book made me laugh, and Pilar has a good sense of humor. At times I thought the writing was almost too descriptive - ie, "Ford posited," in the excerpt I posted at top - but in general it had a good flow to it. Another blogger described this book as "My Big Fat Greek Wedding but Cuban-style" and I would definitely agree with that; I was surprised to learn the author is not Spanish, since there are many Spanish words sprinkled throughout the novel, and Pilar's big family seemed authentically Cuban.

I also really liked the ending of this novel. Although parts were predictable, Victor's fate ended up surprising me, though it actually made perfect sense. It would also be interesting to learn more about Pilar and her family, maybe in a series of books, but the ending seemed rather finite overall.

3 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received an e-copy of this book to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Author Interview: Melissa de la Cruz

I have been a huge fan for a while now of Melissa de la Cruz's books. Lately she has been focusing on supernatural themes, but she's also the author of The Au Pairs series as well as a few non-series books, like Girl Stays in the Picture. She's the author of the highly acclaimed Blue Bloods series, two of which I have reviewed, and her newest two novels are Serpent's Kiss, the second book in the Witches of East End series, and the Wolf Pact series, which will be released in four parts in e-book format only. I was recently lucky enough to have the chance to interview her about her books via email; here's what she had to say.

Melissa de la Cruz
photo credit: Denise Bovee
What is the significance of the title Serpent's Kiss? I may have missed something, but I couldn't figure it out.

I just liked the title, and for me it meant there was a serpent in their midst and they had to find out who it was. The Serpent's Kiss is the Kiss of Death after all! :)

Why did you choose to publish Wolf Pact as an e-book in four parts, and when do parts 2, 3, and 4 come out?

My publisher and I thought it was integral to readers having a richer experience of Gates of Paradise, the Blue Bloods finale, and the speed of publishing it was very convenient. The parts come out every two or three weeks or so leading up to the publication of Gates of Paradise.

Why do characters from some of your series (i.e., Blue Bloods) pop up in other book series of yours? I love this - always fun to see Blue Bloods cameos in other books, like Witches of East End.

For me, to write about a paranormal world, it just made sense that they all inhabited the same world. They're all connected somehow. I always liked the Marvel Team-Ups (see The Avengers) so for me it's a little like that.

What authors have or currently influence you and your writing?

I would say very early on I loved Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace and really wanted to write books that were about society and relationships in the way that he did, and I also wanted to write paranormal, so definitely Stephen King and Anne Rice, and I love the scope of epic fantasy and I loved Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Right now I would say I'm really interested in structuring a book like Gone Girl, I thought Gillian Flynn did such a great job craft-wise and I want to try that out.

If you could pick any of your books or book series to be made into a movie, which would you choose?

Witches of East End IS becoming a TV series. We're shooting the pilot next week! :)

I would love for Blue Bloods to get made one day, and my new series co-written with my husband, FROZEN, a post-apocalyptic fantasy, is perfect for cinema. We would love to see that on the big screen.

What are you currently working on?

Right now, Witches 3: Winds of Salem.
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Keep an eye out for Wolf Pact part II, which will be released on October 23rd, and Melissa's newest Blue Bloods and Witches of East End books, to be released in 2013. And if you've never read any of Melissa's books, make sure to check out her other series' as well - they're all great reads!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Serpent's Kiss

Serpent's Kiss, by Melissa de la Cruz.

Hanging was less violent than burning, but neither could be called humane, and now the memories of Salem and her own girls' hangings returned, as much as she tried to push them away: the townspeople jeering and celebrating, couples kissing and groping as the hangman fit the nooses around each of their necks. Some in the crowd were raising their fists, while others cried out in ecstasy or with smiles on their faces as the condemned swung off the platform. This was a part of humanity that Joanna would rather not have witnessed. It was the wrong way around; those with blackened hearts were in the crowd, not on the gallows. She wiped away a tear, remembering Freya's defiant stare and Ingrid's broken sobs. Joanna loosened the red scarf at her neck, because she suddenly felt as if she was being choked herself.

Serpent's Kiss is the second novel in de la Cruz's Witches of East End series, and I reviewed the title book in the series in August 2011. I am a big fan of de la Cruz's books, and I especially like how characters in some of her other series tend to pop up in different series of hers; in the first Witches book, some of the Blue Bloods vampires showed up in East Hampton. In Wolf Pact part 1, which I also recently read, Freya and Ingrid's uncle, Arthur, has a small role as well.

In the second book in the series, things appear to be settling down in the Beauchamp family's life - at first, anyway. Life in North Hampton has become a little less complicated, at least until Freya's twin, Freddie (or the god Fryr,  in their world) shows up. Freddie has been in "Limbo" for quite a while, and Freya is overjoyed to see him, though he makes her promise not to tell their mother, Joanna, that he is home, or their sister, Ingrid. Freddie claims that Freya's boyfriend, Killian, stole something important from him, and it was because of Killian's actions that Freddie was placed in Limbo.

At the same time, 32-year-old Ingrid has finally found love, with Matt Noble, a police detective - who is also a mortal. Ingrid is a little inexperienced, as well, and finds herself embarrassed every time she tries to explain this to Matt.

Norman, Joanna's husband whom they thought was long-lost, has also reappeared, and he wants to work things out with Joanna, who is currently dating a gentleman named Harold, also a mortal - or so she thinks.

The author juggles a lot of plot points in this novel, but ties most of them up nicely at the end. The witches and their partners have interesting lives, and Serpent's Kiss is just as good of a read as Witches of East End; their story will continue in June 2013, as well, with The Winds of Salem. I liked how Ingrid and Freya had some "normal" human problems - Ingrid is deciding if she wants to date Matt, and Freya is dealing with trust issues with Killian, ever since Freddie returned - yet they also have their "witchy" problems to deal with that we in the human world don't usually experience.

Also, stay tuned: I will be interviewing Melissa de la Cruz over email sometime in the next week, about this series, Blue Bloods, and her new Wolf Pact e-book series.

4 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Jennifer Johnson Is Sick of Being Married

Jennifer Johnson Is Sick of Being Married, by Heather McElhatton.

The perfect woman is actually three women rolled into one: Mrs. Howell, Mary Ann, and Ginger from Gilligan's Island. Three women who when combined become the whole package. The refined lady, the demure sweetheart, and the sultry sex kitten, all in one. A woman who can bake coconut pies, charm cannibals, and cavort on white-sand beaches in six-inch stilettos.

Simply put, the perfect woman is a sweet rich slut.

I was sent this book to review without reading the previous Johnson novel, Jennifer Johnson Is Sick of Being Single, but this novel can stand on its own two feet without having read its "prequel."

Jennifer is newly married to Brad Keller, whose father and family own Keller's department store, where we gather that Jennifer used to work as a copywriter. The Kellers are rich beyond belief, very Christian, and very controlling; Mother Keller and Brad's father send Jen and Brad to the tropics for their honeymoon, to a Christian resort, where they proceed to have the worst trip (or honeymoon, for that matter) ever, ranging from diarrhea to being locked out of the resort one night.

When they return to Minnesota, Jennifer finds herself bored with nothing to do all day, and she quickly finds herself becoming one of the "ladies who lunch." Brad wants them to exude perfection, as well, since his father is about to name a successor to the store and he is up against his sister, Sarah, for the position of CEO. Jennifer finds herself disliking Brad and his family more and more, until the end of the novel where she decides to take action and get herself out of the marriage as painlessly as possible.

I was reading this book in a hotel lobby during breaks (the hotel is connected to my workplace) and I found myself laughing out loud at various parts and dialogue throughout; I'm sure I looked like a crazy person, but I couldn't help myself, because the dialogue is hilarious. Not only will I be reading Jennifer Johnson Is Sick of Being Single, but I almost wish Jennifer was real, because I have a feeling she would be as awesome in real life as she is in the book. Other parts that made me laugh were sections on their new "space-age" refrigerator, which has a computer screen and an Ice Empress that can find you whatever you want to eat or drink in the fridge; the Ice Empress speaks Japanese, and it later turns out that she's not as "friendly" as she appears to be.

Kirkus Reviews has called this novel "bawdy, occasionally lewd, and often funny," and "a cross between chick-lit fare and Bridesmaids." If you're looking for smart and funny chick lit, look no further - Jennifer and her friends will guarantee you a good read.

Jennifer Johnson Is Sick of Being Married will be in stores on October 9th. 4.5 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A second look: Matched

"Cassia. Do you regret your decision to be Matched? Do you wish that you had chosen to be a Single?"

"That's not it."

"Then what is it?"

"I think people should be able to choose
who they Match with," I say lamely.

"Where would it end, Cassia?" she says, her voice patient. "Would you say next that people should be able to choose how many children they have, and where they want to live? Or when they want to die?"


I first reviewed the novel Matched, by Ally Condie, in May 2011, and I thought it was fantastic: I gave it 4.5 stars out of 5. When the chance arose to review it again, this time for the BlogHer Book Club, I jumped at it, and I've recently finished re-reading it to see if my initial thoughts were still the same.

My original post on the novel was a little short, but here's what I had to say about it:

This book was amazing and the sequel, Crossed, is coming out in November 2011. Cassia lives in a dystopia society where the Government tells them who they will marry, how many children they will have (and this must happen before the woman turns 31), and where they will live. The citizens have the "luxury" of dying on their 80th birthday, before they have the chance to incur diseases like Alzheimers or other degenerative ones. Cassia has never questioned the system, and is in fact pleased when she is Matched with one of her childhood and best friends, Xander. When they give her information about her match on a computer card, however, the picture that comes up is not Xander's, but rather of another local boy, Ky. Cassia must decide if she wants to stay with Xander or make it work with Ky, who is an Aberration, and if ultimately she wants to break the Government rules.

This novel reminded me of a combination of The Giver, in that people are killed when they get to be old, and The Handmaid's Tale, for some reason, which is also set in a dystopian society. I am very much looking forward to reading Crossed when it comes out in November.
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I did read Crossed and thought it was just okay, but the third and last book in the series, Reached, will be in stores on November 13th, and I will probably read it just to see how the trilogy ends.

However, after re-reading Matched, I still stand by my 4.5 out of 5 star rating. I've read a lot of dystopian lit since May 2011, most of which was also very good, but the premise of Matched is still intriguing, and it's definitely worth reading, especially if you want to read the entire trilogy.

*Disclosure: I was compensated for writing this review for the BlogHer Book Club. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Accelerated

Accelerated, by Bronwen Hruska.

He rolled the bottle between his hands, then struggled with the childproof cap and shook the pills onto his desk. They looked like lavender Tic Tacs. He realized now that there was only one way he could ever give this medication to Toby.

He funneled the pills back into the bottle, leaving one on his desk. He popped it into his mouth and downed it with a gulp of water from the bathroom sink.

He'd never been big on drugs. After his sophomore-year roommate dropped acid and tried to jump off the clock tower, Sean decided to skip the experimentation that kept most of his friends high through art school. Taking the Metattent was different. It was his responsibility to try it. He sat at his desk waiting for something to happen.


I was blown away by this book, and the fact that it's Hruska's debut novel amazed me as well. Sean Benning earns $70k a year working for a tabloid in New York City, even though his passion is art, and because his estranged wife's family is rich, they are able to send their son Toby to The Bradley School, which otherwise would cost about half of his Sean's yearly salary. Everyone always tells Sean how lucky Toby is to be at Bradley, and up until now he's agreed. When the school starts pushing Sean to put Toby on ADHD medication, though, Sean has Toby diagnosed and then gives him the pills, even though he disagrees with their diagnosis. After an incident that almost kills Toby, Sean begins to realize that its not just Toby that the school has tried this with - it's a lot of his male classmates - and the cover-up is bigger than it originally seemed.

Hruska has children enrolled in private school, which is probably why the "privileged" life is easy for her to write about, as she's intimately acquainted with the types of parents these schools lure in. One of these schools suggested her son be "evaluated" at one point, as well, and they put him on Ritalin only to take him off of it a bit later; Hruska did some research and found out that in 2007, 9.5% of all U.S. children were diagnosed with ADHD. She says: "With numbers like that, I started to wonder if the problem was not that more and more kids were unfocused, but that schools, parents, and a generally accelerated society  were expecting too much of them."

Bravo to Hruska for a great first novel - I finished it in about two days because it was so hard to put down. The characters are all people we can relate to, even though some of them live in a world where school costs $40,000 a year, and Hruska has weaved a story that will captivate even the most discerning reader.

5 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Judging a Book by Its Lover

Judging a Book by Its Lover: A Field Guide to the Hearts and Minds of Readers Everywhere, by Lauren Leto.

I am not a scholar of literature. All my commentary comes from my experiences and presumptions as a reader. As you read what follows - my one-sentence book reviews, my gross generalizations about others' bookshelves, my categorical statements on how to fake any author, my love lavished on little-known treasures in literature, my cheat sheets on how to write like any author, my horror stories from my life as a bookworm, and my open letters to authors' fans - feel free to be annoyed if I snark on an author you love. Feel free to berate my schooling - my college degree is in political theory and constitutional democracy, a pretentious way of explaining that in one point in time I read a lot of Dostoyevsky and Plato. I'm a law school dropout and I managed to fail my college precalculus math class three semesters in a row. I'm afraid to get on planes. I am not an authority. I'm a Janet Evanovich fan, for Christ's sake.

This book was definitely not what I thought it was going to be about, so perhaps it was that notion that influenced this review. In fact, this book is something that people would probably expect me to write, since I'm a huge reader (obviously, from this blog!) and I like to read varied novels and other stories; because of this, it's a little strange I didn't enjoy it more. It could be because I expected it to be funnier, too - the author, Lauren Leto, started the website Texts from Last Night, which I follow on Twitter and which is a hilarious website that is definitely worth checking out. She also grew up in this area (metro Detroit) though she now lives in Brooklyn.

Synopsis from the publisher:
Riffing on everything from what a person's bookshelves reveal about his or her character and imaginary dinner parties with famous literary couples past and present to her petition to change the phrase from "bookworm" to "bookcat" and proper at-home use of book critics' go-to words like ennui, oeuvre, indelible, and frisson, Leto shares her snarky but spot-on observations about books and the passionate conversations they generate as well as memorable moments from her own adventures in reading.
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The "memorable moments" that the synopsis references were actually my favorite parts in the book - if there had been more of these, perhaps I would have liked it better. As you read above, Leto gives sort-of a disclaimer saying that her views and opinions may differ from her readers, but overall I found the book to be a little boring. I know this is nonfiction, which I don't usually read, and I'll admit I did chuckle at a few of the descriptions - I especially liked the book critics' "go-to words" section - but I found myself wanting the book to be funnier, since that is what Leto and her website are known for, and in that aspect this book was a disappointment for me.

Judging a Book by Its Lover will be in stores on October 2nd. 2 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.