Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Double Review: Never Tear Us Apart / Never Let You Go by Monica Murphy

Monica Murphy dropped two novels in 2016 with her new adult series Never Tear Us Apart.  The first book is titled the same of the series, and is followed by Never Let You Go.  It is a dark, gripping tale of two young adults struggling to find themselves -- and love -- in the wake of a devastating tragedy.

Never Tear Us Apart - Book 1
Perfect for readers of Colleen Hoover, Jay Crownover, and K. A. Tucker, the first novel in this darkly sexy contemporary series from bestselling author Monica Murphy kicks off an emotionally powerful two-part tale of forbidden love.

A long time ago, when I was fifteen and a completely different person, I saved a girl’s life. I spent only a handful of hours with her, but somehow, we connected—and I’ve never been the same. No one understands what we went through. No one knows what it’s like to be us. We survived, yet I don’t feel like I’m really living—until now. Eight years later, I find her. I want to make her mine. I need to make her mine.  But she’ll hate me forever when she finds out who I really am.
@Goodreads - @Amazon

Never Let You Go - Book 2
The second novel in this darkly sexy contemporary series from bestselling author Monica Murphy wraps up an emotionally powerful two-part tale of forbidden love.

The truth hurts, they say—and my pain cuts deep. While I was falling for Ethan, he was deceiving me the entire time. He held a huge secret, protected by his lies. When I discovered what he was hiding, the truth shook my world, threatening to ruin us forever. Ruin me. But I soon realized that what we share can’t be destroyed.

The connection between us is too strong. It always has been. I can’t deny him any longer. And I can’t deny my truth: I’m in love with Ethan.

I don’t want to let him go.

While we’re trying our best to make this relationship work, other forces are fighting against us. My family, who wants to keep me safe. The media obsessed with my tragic past. The public that feeds off of it. Even Ethan’s father—the man who nearly destroyed me all those years ago. He’s doing his best to finish the job.

Despite my love for Ethan, the doubts creep in, clouding my mind. Is he worth the pain? Will our love survive, or will we have no choice but to end it—end us—once and for all?
@Goodreads - @Amazon

This is the story of a twelve year old girl that was kidnapped from a local amusement park by a man that brutally raped and tortured her for three days, and the fifteen year old boy that saved her... the kidnapper's very own son.  Told in the dual perspective of Katie and Will (now Ethan), both past and present, Never Tear Us Apart is a strong beginning to the series.

Eight years after the highly publicized kidnapping, torture, and rape of Katie, Ethan finds the girl he saved.  The girl he rescued from his monster of a father who also abused him throughout his life both and physically and emotionally.  The man that was a confirmed killer of two other teenage girls he also abducted and raped.

Katie is a shell of a person; utterly destroyed, and believable as a victim of something no living creature should ever have to endure. Scared, but desperate to get her life back, she finds herself at the amusement park where she was abducted eight years prior, where she meets Ethan. She then forms a bond with him that she has never had with another man, understandably.

But she does not know that he is the boy that saved her.

Overall, four stars.  Fast-paced, believable, dark enough to interest my even my incredibly black soul, and most importantly, the two characters had their own unique voices.  The end was a bit... clean and tidy (too much for my taste), but overall, a very decent read.

Never Let You Go picks up where Never Tear Us Apart left off.  Still told in the dual perspective of both Katie and Ethan/Will, and still with flashbacks to the incident 8 years ago.  Except this time, the flashbacks add nothing; the story was already told.  In fact, there's issues with the flashbacks; in the first novel, Katie stopped talking to Will after the incident because her mother insisted on it, but in the second novel, Will was the one to cut ties with Katie.  So I guess the flashbacks did provide something -- plot holes.

The second novel, although readable, simply dragged.  The ending was bad, Will annoyed me so much I started thinking he was a slight creeper (not great to think when reading a romance novel).  In my opinion, this entire novel could have been summed up in a few chapters and added to the end of Never Let You Go, which should have been a standalone.  Two stars.

(Combined rating of both books in the Never Tear Us Apart series)

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Review: It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

Uh-oh; Colleen Hoover (lovingly known by the blogging community as simply 'CoHo') has a new novel out that guarantees to make you cry and be depressed and think about things you normally wouldn't... like every other Colleen Hoover book.  Worst book introduction ever? Maybe. But this is CoHo, guys; you know what to expect.
Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up—she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true.

Ryle is assertive, stubborn, maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily. And the way he looks in scrubs certainly doesn’t hurt. Lily can’t get him out of her head. But Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing. Even as Lily finds herself becoming the exception to his “no dating” rule, she can’t help but wonder what made him that way in the first place.

As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan—her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.

@ Goodreads - @ Amazon

The good:  Colleen Hoover, y'all! (Note: this is the first time in my life I've ever even thought the word 'y'all', let alone used it in a sentence)
The bad:  Insta-love, love triangle :(

This one is hard for me to review for two pretty significant reasons:
  1. Colleen Hoover, y'all! (Make that number two; I'm on a roll here)  Honestly, I feel that if anyone other than CoHo wrote this, I would have given it a higher rating.  So please, keep that in mind. 
  2. I can't really say much about the novel without giving the entire thing away.  Unfortunately, the "reveal" (which comes at approximately halfway through the book), is the entire book.  
Every review I read on Goodreads was gushing with praise, and of course, completely lacking in detail.  If I had zero problems with the novel, my review would undoubtedly follow suit.  Unfortunately, I had some problems with it, and in order for me to discuss them, I have to talk about the novel a little bit.

BEWARE: Major Spoilers!

Review: Dumplin' (Dumplin' #1) by Julie Murphy

Dumplin' (Dumplin' #1) by Julie Murphy is a young-adult standalone series novel featuring a beloved self-proclaimed fat girl named Willowdean, with a deep and profound love for Dolly Parton (not a typo); it is a novel about accepting oneself, and making the most out of life, no matter your circumstances.

Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

@ Goodreads - @ Amazon

The good:  Unconventional (read: overweight) heroine
The bad:  Love triangle, weak, shallow characters, slow moving plot

Before I tear into this like a piece of bloody meat and have the entire internet (or the four of you that still read this blog, in any event) thinking that I am some kind of fat person hater, I feel like I should explain my mindset and why I didn't connect with this novel on any level despite spending the vast majority of my life as fat, if not fatter, than the heroine in this novel.

So, briefly:  I got fat at the age of six which I could blame on a psychological event, but for the purpose of this review the whys are quite irrelevant.  After years of not really caring much about what I looked like, I was diagnosed with Diabetes type 2 at the age of 30.  I found that losing weight as a morbidly obese diabetic was not just difficult, but pretty much damn near impossible.  I underwent weight loss surgery (Roux-en-Y gastric bypass) in January of 2015.  My Diabetes type 2 was cured immediately post-op; I've lost 168.8 pounds to date.  I went from a size 22 to a size 4.  From 300 pounds to 130 pounds.

Now, back to the novel.
Read on for spoilers...

Willowdean,"lovingly" called Dumplin' by her former beauty queen mother, is a fat Dolly Parton loving fanatic.  She's not necessarily proud to be fat, but she's not exactly ashamed of it, either.  So basically... girl is fat. Girl has no desire to lose weight, but is unhappy with her body and constantly deludes herself about it. Girl likes guy. Guy likes girl, but girl sees herself as too fat to allow him to get close to her. The end.

Very contradictory main character. She's proud of her body / she doesn't like to be touched because she's embarrassed by it. She doesn't care what people think of her because she's fat / she cares what people think of her if she were to date a really hot guy that she really likes. ???????????????

Oh wait -- did I mention that "Dumplin'" had a morbidly obese aunt that died in her 30's of a heart attack? Yet even then all of her concerns about her weight are aesthetic. It would have been really easy for the author to have had the main character decide to lose weight to get healthy like her deceased aunt would have wanted -- tell me she wouldn't have! (and hey! looking better is a perk, too!), but no!  

Willowdean's aunt's weight held her back her entire life, right up to her untimely death on the couch.  Where she effectively ate herself to death.  So what does Willowdean do?  Signs up and participates in a beauty pageant.  Because she found out that her deceased aunt wanted to enroll some twenty years prior, but didn't because she was fat. 

So yeah... Girl is going to kick herself in the fucking ass when she gets diabetes type 2 at the age of 30 because she was so "content" with being fat her entire life. Positive body image bullshit would be fine, in theory, if being obese wasn't extremely fucking unhealthy. But it is extremely unhealthy.  Love your body regardless of what it looks like, absolutely, but if you are overweight, try to lose some weight for your health.  Not for society.  For YOU.  

Willowdean's desire to actively not lose weight really doesn't make sense, because despite convincing herself that she is okay with her body, she really isn't.  She holds herself back because of her weight.  So the overall message of the book to love yourself is a huge fucking miss here.   If she really did love herself, and didn't hold herself back at all, my review would have been different.  But, deep down inside, I felt that Willowdean didn't like herself, purposely held herself back because of what society might think, and still didn't give a fuck about losing weight.  It's like the author is telling every overweight teenage girl to stick with being fat, and to just accept mediocrity and loneliness.

In summary, aside from my bias, Dumplin' was still not very great. Nothing really happened. Slow-moving "plot" (I use that term loosely), with lackluster characters.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Review: You Were Here by Cori McCarthy

You Were Here by Cori McCarthy is a new young adult coming of age novel, featuring a quirky and cute heroine, and an impossibly irresistible -- but usually silent -- book boyfriend.  Set largely where yours truly grew up, I couldn't help but fall in love with it.  I'm biased; whatever.

Grief turned Jaycee into a daredevil, but can she dare to deal with her past?

On the anniversary of her daredevil brother's death, Jaycee attempts to break into Jake's favorite hideout—the petrifying ruins of an insane asylum. Joined by four classmates, each with their own brand of dysfunction, Jaycee discovers a map detailing her brother's exploration and the unfinished dares he left behind.

As a tribute to Jake, Jaycee vows to complete the dares, no matter how terrifying or dangerous. What she doesn't bargain on is her eccentric band of friends who challenge her to do the unthinkable: reveal the parts of herself that she buried with her brother.

@ Goodreads - @Amazon

So yeah.  LOVED. IT.
Please note: This title was provided to me free of charge in exchange for an honest review, courtesy of Netgalley and the publisher. 

Let me back up -- I strongly disliked You Were Here at first. I hated the main character right off the bat what with her ridiculous death wish, and her shallow, shitty "friends". However, a New Year resolution of mine forced me to press on, and give it a chance without abandoning it around the 25% mark, and boy, am I glad I did.  The main character -- and her shitty friends -- ended up being not quite so awful, after all. 

I'm pretty sure I'm in love with Ryan Mikivikious (Mik) and his selective mutism (which, I should add, annoyed me greatly in the earlier chapters, and later consumed me with a hunger for this motherfucker to speak. When he did, my life felt complete.) 

Also -- this was big for me -- the setting for the last quarter of the novel was my old stomping grounds: NE Ohio, specifically the abandoned Randall Park mall (which I've frequented), and the defunct amusement park, Geauga Lake, which I frequented a lot throughout my childhood, and well into adulthood. The rides they discuss, I've ridden. The nostalgia was strong with this novel. 

Fans of emotional YA reads are going to gobble this one up; those that have been to Geauga Lake are going to love it. 

For more on Geauga Lake, and its current state of neglect, click here (2:14 YouTube video, news broadcast from 2013)

For a drone flyover of Geauga Lake from 2014, click here (4:38 YouTube video) 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Review: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven is a new young-adult novel about mental illnesses, family, love, and surviving in the aftermath of great emotional trauma.  Recommended for fans of Rainbow Rowell, John Green, and Gayle Forman, All the Bright Places is sure to pull at your heart strings. Soon to be a major-motion picture starring Elle Fanning!

The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

@Amazon - @Goodreads

I don’t know how it is possible to love a book that I am so incredibly mad at, but it has happened.  This is a book that will most-likely make you as angry as it made me, and probably very sad.   This is a book that will stay with you for a very long time if you have ever had suicidal thoughts, or experienced the loss of someone who has taken their own life.  

Meet Violet.  Brilliant.  Beautiful.  Damaged.  Less than a year ago, she was in a fatal car accident; her older sister, Eleanor, was killed.  Violet wants nothing more than to leave small-town Indiana for college and get on with her life.

Meet Finch.  Brilliant.  Bat-shit crazy, with a family history of domestic abuse.  Suicidal.  Known as “Freak” at school.  He meets Violet one day at school on the bell tower, and talks her off the ledge.  Over the course of the school year, they become friends and eventually more.  Yes, another damaged girl + damaged boy love story, but one that is incredibly well-written and relatable.  

The novel is told in the dual perspectives of Finch and Violet, concentrating slightly more on Finch, a 17 year old boy with what seems to be a death wish.  It is clear that Finch has an undiagnosed mental illness, and desperately needs help, but his family merely accepts him the way he is.

Finch is a complex character that is both lovable and infuriating.  And let’s be honest:  a little annoying.  His actions throughout the novel are selfish at times, and heroic at others.   Part of me hates him, while another part of me understands him at his core.  

I will not say much about the ending, except that it is tragic yet beautiful; haunting, yet inspiring, and will not be forgotten easily.

Folks, if you or someone you know someone is suffering from a mental illness and may be suicidal, please get them help.  And if you are suicidal, please think about the people you will most assuredly leave behind with guilt, regret, and questions that will forever be unanswered before you choose to end your life.    
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1 (800) 273-8255

Publication Date: January 6, 2015

Monday, February 2, 2015

Review: Never Never (Never Never #1) by Colleen Hoover and Tarryn Fisher

Never Never is the first novella in a new collab series by the extremely popular Colleen Hoover and Tarryn Fisher.

Best friends since they could walk.

 In love since the age of fourteen.

Complete strangers since this morning.

He'll do anything to remember. She'll do anything to forget.

@Goodreads - @Amazon

This novel is told in the dual perspective of the two main characters, both of whom lost their memory at the same exact time without suffering any kind of injury or illness.  They just "woke up" one day at school, not knowing a single detail about themselves, such as where they lived, what their names are, or anything at all relevant to themselves.  But they remember all the latest technology and can use it efficiently.

As I type this out, I find myself thinking that the three-star rating I gave this novella is a bit generous.  It's a bit... far-fetched.   To put it mildly.

 Instead of telling a family member or, I don't know, a DOCTOR, about their memory loss, they instead do absolutely nothing, looking to each other to try to fill in the gaps about their lives. As this happens, Silas, the boyfriend, starts falling in love with Charlie all over again, who was cheating on him before the memory loss incident took place. Oh, but he was cheating on her, too, with the school guidance counselor. Two assholes. Now, two assholes with no memories. There is a twist at the end that interested me, but frankly made no sense at all, followed up a cliffhanger ending that answers almost nothing. So why the three stars?  Despite its flaws (the central one being the completely unexplained medical mystery memory loss, which is... pretty significant), it was a fast read.  I gobbled it up, and when I finished, I wanted more.   So what if it is the novella equivalent of a crappy daytime soap opera.  I liked it, despite... everything.  Somehow.

Publication Date: January 7, 2015

Review: I Was Here by Gayle Forman -- NEW RELEASE

For fans of Gayle Forman's If I Stay (now a major-motion picture), I Was Here tells the story of two best friends; one that committed suicide, and one that was left behind to pick up the pieces of her life. Grab your tissues!

Cody and Meg were inseparable.
 Two peas in a pod.
 Until . . . they weren’t anymore.

 When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question. I Was Here is Gayle Forman at her finest, a taut, emotional, and ultimately redemptive story about redefining the meaning of family and finding a way to move forward even in the face of unspeakable loss.                                       @Amazon @Goodreads
I have to say, I absolutely love stories like this, so this review may seem a bit biased.  I have had a friend commit suicide, and while we weren't best friends... well, let's just say that I can relate to the main character of this story completely.

Meg was a girl that had it all.  Looks, brains, a close-knit family, and a full scholarship to her dream school in Seattle.  Cody, in contrast, didn't have much: a part-time mother, no father, little money, and hardly any future prospects.  One morning while checking her e-mail, Cody's entire world was changed; she had received a suicide note from Meg, who penned one last e-mail to her friends and family before drinking poison in an anonymous motel room.

Cody then makes it her mission to find out why her best friend committed suicide, all the while suffering through her own anguish -- why didn't she know?  Could she have done anything?  Why?

The answer is both surprising and unsurprising.  The novel, on a whole, is both inspiring and depressing.  Forman pulls at the heartstrings, and makes you really think about if your best friend were to commit suicide.  And hopefully, she will make you think of what would happen to those you love if you, yourself, were to commit suicide.  Don't do it!

Highly recommended to those of you that like a thought-provoking, emotional read.

Publication Date: January 27, 2015

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Now a major motion picture, If I Stay by Gayle Forman is the haunting tale of a young woman faced with an impossible decision.

On a day that started like any other, Mia had everything: a loving family, a gorgeous, admiring boyfriend, and a bright future full of music and full of choices. In an instant, almost all of that is taken from her. Caught between life and death, between a happy past and an unknowable future, Mia spends one critical day contemplating the only decision she has left. It is the most important decision she'll ever make.

Simultaneously tragic and hopeful, this is a romantic, riveting, and ultimately uplifting story about memory, music, living, dying, loving.

@Goodreads - @Amazon

First and foremost, ignore that little statement USA Today made on the cover stating that this will appeal to fans of Twilight.  Not that it won't (it very well might), but a statement like that might make the reader think that this novel is comparable to Twilight.  It is not.  If anything, I'd compare this novel to The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, as it is written in an out-of-body perspective.  

The novel opens with a horrific, fatal car crash.  Mia, the protagonist, finds herself outside of her body, which is badly injured and lying in a ditch, thrown from the car -- brain contusions, broken bones, internal injuries, you name it.  She finds the bodies of her parents first, dead and horribly mangled.  Her little brother, Teddy, is missing from the scene, likely thrown from the car as well.  She watches as emergency medical workers clear the scene and transport her body to a local trauma center.  

Throughout the mayhem, Mia has a series of flashbacks about her life leading up to the crash.  The reader meets her family, her best friend, Kim, and her boyfriend, Adam.  Mia is an accomplished classical cellist on the road to Juilliard, with the most amazing, loving family imaginable.  Her parents are (I feel like an idiot for saying this) "hip", open-minded, tattooed, and just cool.  Her little brother, Teddy, is adorably sweet and funny.  Adam, her boyfriend, is hot and in a band.  

In between flashbacks, Mia watches over her friends and family in the hospital, also noting her progress.  She is in a coma, in critical condition.  She has grievous injuries, including some that happened post-accident, during her emergency surgery.  Mia learns from the way hospital personnel act towards her body that she may actually have a choice as to if she lives or dies.  

This was a really good, poignant novel, but I do have a few problems with it.  Firstly, it was a bit on the short side, weighing in at only a little more than 200 pages.  (Note: The Kindle version of this novel ends at 79%, which was a bit of a disappointment, because the end is naturally abrupt on its own.) Anyway, because the novel was so short, the characterization suffered a bit, and the love story between Mia and Adam felt a bit forced.   I did not believe in their love.  I did believe in Mia's immediate family, however.  I felt the loss of her parents and brother profoundly.  I felt the love from her extended family, as they visited her in the hospital after the accident.  But I did not feel anything for Adam, and I believe I was supposed to.   However, I'm old and jaded, and I know a love like theirs can turn sour on a dime.  They're teenagers.  He's in a band.  If Mia died, Adam would be getting laid on the regular in two weeks.  Meh.

This novel makes you think what you would do in Mia's situation.  I won't tell you if Mia decides to stay or go, but if I were Mia, I think I would have let go.  

(Actual rating 3.5)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Review: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Currently a New York Times bestselling novelist, Liane Moriarty, author of The Husband's Secret, spins a new tale about secrets, lies, friendship, and schoolyard scandals.
Sometimes it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal. . . .
A murder… . . . a tragic accident… . . . or just parents behaving badly?
What’s indisputable is that someone is dead. But who did what?

Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads: Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?)

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay. New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.
@Goodreads - @Amazon

A murder.  Maybe.  The blurb says there might have been a murder.  Or maybe an accident?  Does someone die?  Who dies?

Well, I'm not going to tell you who dies, or if it was a murder, an accident, or just parents behaving badly.  But I will tell you that you won't know who dies until, well, they die.  At the very end of the novel.

The book opens with something happening at an elementary school.  We have no idea what happened, only that something did, and we only know that is was something major because the blurb tells us that someone dies.  It's very unclear what happens in the beginning; we are told there is a scuffle of sorts witnessed by an elderly lady with a cat named Marie Antoniette (let them eat cake) in the very beginning.  Then the novel takes us back six months and introduces us to entirely new characters.  Bye, old lady.  Hello, three 30-something ladies.

The author tells us just enough to pique our curiosity early on.  One of the characters may have a psychotic monster child.  Another may be a victim of domestic abuse.  But the question still remains -- WHO DIES?  (And should we care?)

The novel is well-written, with relatable, although slightly clich├ęd characters, but it's the schoolyard scandal (read: kindergarten politics) that killed it for me.  I lost interest about halfway through the novel, but pressed on, because, well -- WHO DIES?

The ending is actually very good -- there are some twists that you will probably see coming, but the slow build-up was worth it.  I gobbled up the last quarter of the novel greedily; once it got good, it was very good.  

This book will be well received by women ages 25-45 with elementary school children.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

From acclaimed author Rainbow Rowell comes Landline, a new novel about an estranged couple and the magic phone that reconnects them at a critical point in their relationship.  Rainbow Rowell is famous for her earlier young adult fiction, Fangirl and the greatly beloved Eleanor & Park.

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.

Maybe that was always beside the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened? @Goodreads - @Amazon
Pros: Cute cover!
Cons: Everything else.

It's not that Landline was a bad read; it just wasn't great. I went into this thinking that it was going to another epic, soul-punching romance like Eleanor & Park. It wasn't. The idea of the novel was cute -- a magical telephone that connects an unhappily married couple -- but the execution left much to be desired. First and foremost, the protagonist's name: Georgie McCool. That name mcsucks. It fits the cheesy theme of the novel, however.

Georgie herself did nothing for me, nor did any other character in the book. Neal, the husband, a short, fat guy, really did nothing for me, and I found myself rooting against their marriage. In the flashbacks prior to when Neal and Georgie married, when they were supposedly in love, they had no chemistry. Their relationship just never felt right.

Georgie and Neal have kids, but they are hardly worth mentioning. Neal is a stay-at-home dad while Georgie writes for TV sitcoms -- think Liz Lemon, but without the personality. Throughout the duration of the novel, the children are with Neal visiting relatives for Christmas, and Georgie hardly ever gives them a thought.

So blah blah blah, Georgie finds a magic phone that allows her present day self to talk to Neal before they got married, when they were in a big fight. Blah blah blah, Georgie has to make a decision: Now that she knows her marriage is shit, should she break up with Neal in the past so that they never get married?!

....No mother would ever consider a choice like that if she was given the option. Neal wasn't abusive physically or emotionally; he was unhappy because Georgie worked insane hours, never got time off, and he had to raise the kids pretty much exclusively. Georgie, on the other hand, was content aside from the fact that she knew Neal was unhappy. So for her to give any thought to breaking up with Neal in the past and thus not having kids with him is far-fetched and ridiculous.

I realize this novel is about a magic phone, which is far-fetched and ridiculous in itself, but that should have been the only thing far-fetched and ridiculous in the novel.  That way the reader could connect to it somehow, someway.  In theory.

The majority of my issues with this novel were due to Georgie and her utter lack of emotion towards her children.  It wasn't realistic, and really makes me think that Rainbow Rowell has never had children, because she does not appear to understand the type of bond a mother has with her child.  Not even close.  Because of this, I felt that Landline read more like a young adult novel, because young adults would be less apt to be bothered over the lack of a mother-child bond than say... a woman that has had a child.

Do Georgie and Neal end up staying together?  Who cares.  Read Eleanor & Park instead. @Amazon.com