Thursday, November 11, 2010

Marry Him! by Lori Gottlieb

So I have dating on the brain. It's been a subject of discussion A LOT recently, and this book totally coincides with the blessed subject. So Singletons -- this is for YOU. That's right -- If you find yourself hearing the faint sounds of a tick-tock when thinking about children. If you find yourself wandering the home appliances section of Target, AGAIN. If you can't figure out why men don't appreciate the National Treasure that you are, as evidenced by the amount of First Dates that don't progress to Second Dates -- then today is your lucky day! Even if you're married or steadily dating - knowledge is power, right? And if there is anything we ladies lloove it's power.

So in the spirit evaluation . . . let's take a quiz!

1. When walking into class/church/a bar/the discotheque, and spending the first minute scoping out the dudes, you

A) Realize you're way better looking than most people in the room and could probably get whomever you want.

B) Roll your eyes and think, Really? And then gather your girlfriends about you while lauding the many virtues of Girl Time! and how dudes just Suck.
C) Lament that there is only 2 men there that look like they're worth talking to - which is SO lame because it appears as though every other female is thinking the same thing.
D) Acknowledge that these guys may not appear attractive and your heart may not flutter,
but a little social effort may yield some interesting/amusing/educational results. You never know!

2. You've been known to turn down a date because

A) He laughs too loudly and it's totally a turn off.

B) He usually wears beat-up running shoes with everything, including the occasional Hawaiian print shirt. FASHION. DISASTER.

C) There is glaring lack of anything remotely resembling butterflies, fireworks, chemistry or other known analogies that get the blood racing. There's just no interest.

D) He has addictions/a nasty temper/is unkind and rude. In general: RED FLAGS.

3. If you could choose ONE quality that would define your husband-to-be, you'd go with

A) Romantical supreme!

B) Nearly-nerd Smarts!

C) Alpha-male work ethic!

D) Kindness.

Okay that's enough. I've never liked quizzes and my transcripts prove it. SO. If you find that you circled ANYTHING other than 'D' then it's time for you to acknowledge that you need help. Go ahead, say it with me: My name is _______, and I'm single for a reason.

I know. It hurts. But pain is good. Pain teaches us lessons. Pain is just weakness leaving the body. And now that you're hedging on depressed, go pick up this book instead of that pint of Ben & Jerry's you're thinking about. Because here's the thing that Gottlieb presents- there ARE good men out there, but women have a tendency to overlook them because that all-consuming attraction just ain't there with Mr. Good Enough.

Mr. Good Enough is NOT the man the graces the covers of romance novels or Jane Austen movie remakes or sparkles like diamonds in the sunlight. He's the solid and stable (and usually only average looking) man who works hard at a regular job, has a good sense of humor and is kind to his friends and family. Oh and he's also the one whom most women pass up until they realize their mistake, but by then -oops!- some other smarter women has nabbed him and will probably live happily together for the rest of their long and meaningful lives.

Marry Him is Gottlieb's story of her quest to find a husband as a 40-something year old. It's fascinating, it's painful, and it is totally readable. She takes Disney Princesses and feminism and turns them both on their heads, and then does the same to scores of women who continue to "hold out for something better," by consulting with married friends, single friends, matchmaking companies, marriage & family researchers, and a personal dating coach.

Most of this was not new to me (thanks dad!), but I found her experiences fascinating and her takeaways totally right on. I've loaned it to several single girlfriends already, all of whom not only really enjoyed it but also have decided to change a few approaches they have to dating. And for that, Ms. Gottlieb, I thank you .

4.5 fist pumps worthy.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Golden Spiral (Hourglass Door #2) by Lisa Mangum

I started reading this series because I noticed this cover in a bookstore a few months back and it lured me in. Remember that Donald Duck short from forever ago when Disney pulled a School House Rock and had this educational cartoon on The Golden Ratio? That's what I first thought of.

Yeah that takes you back doesn't it.

Anyway. The book is TOTALLY unrelated to the golden mean, so sorry if you got excited there for a moment. In fact, I can't recall a Golden Spiral making an appearance at all. Not as a trippy staircase or Da Vinci diagram or bizarre time concept. I bet that is where all these problems stem from - false advertising with lack of cool spiral.

Abby is attempting to rescue Dante from some freaky in-between world of time, while Zo has gone all Anarchist Tyrant and is ruling the River of Time with an iron fist. Plus he has a big grudge against Abby and is destroying the pasts of her close friends and family, which will in turn damage her and the choices she makes in relation to the Hourglass Door. At least, I think that's what happens. Honestly, I was confused throughout large bits. Time travel jenk seems to do that to me.

The facts are these: The first book was good -- creative premise, likeable characters, decent love story, mystery and good pacing. It had what I require for an entertaining read. This book though? Let's just say there are no good ratios going on here, golden or not.

It's your typical #2 Bridge To The Conclusion. Some parts were really slow, other parts were a hot mess of WTH blended with Whatever I Don't Even Care Anymore. Nothing that is supposed to be Suspenseful! actually is, we get no added character depth, and I'm not sure anything was even accomplished. The Most Obnoxious Award goes to both Abby and Dante. Mostly Abby -- she is a true Mary Sue in this one. Pretty much all they do is kiss and make googly eyes and Dante & Co. tell Abby how brave and incredible she is like 18,000 times and I don't get WHY. She's brave because her friend has gone insane, she's trying to get Dante back and her family is no more thanks to Zo? If that makes you brave than I guess every single one of us is like freaking Captain Heroic so congratulations everybody on being SO BRAVE!

For me The Golden Spiral was something of a let down. Down, down the golden spiral into Meh.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monsters of Men (Chaos Walking #3) by Patrick Ness

You know the drill by now with series books, right? Go read the first two and then feel free to come back.

This is a big book and I just don't have it in me to go into detail. So here's the skinny: the shiz has hit the fan. Mayor/President Crazypants is all, "I'm going to brainwash Todd, annihilate The Answer and that upstart Mistress Coyle, and wipe out the entire Spackle population all while discussing gold trim options for my new military uniform with the local tailor." Which he pretty much does.

BUT WAIT. We now have a new voice in town vying for attention. Enter Spackle #1017, whom we briefly (thank goodness - can we say creepster) met in the previous book. He is called The Return by the spackle community, who refer to themselves as The Land. And he is on a mission to destroy Todd and pretty much everything else.

Then we have the Determined Though Conflicted and Quite Possibly Dying Viola, who still is being manipulated by the Machiavellian Mistress Coyle and a host of other people. And maybe Todd? She's not sure because - SURPIRSE! - he can silence his Noise now. Which Viola no likey, and she senses that Todd is slowly being brainwashed by the ever increasing power of Mayor/President Prentiss.

So pretty much its non-stop power plays and broken treaties and bombs exploding everywhere while Todd and Viola continue to be separated way more than they (and we) want. It's truly maddening. Add to that the fact that every time the Mayor or Mistress Coyle was mentioned my eyesight turned red and I chanted DEATH! in my head. In a word: Exhausting.

The spackle/The Land was way more fascinating, and less preachy, than I had anticipated. I liked that we see through their point of view in this. They are flawed, they feel a lot of regret and sadness and hatred, they can be bloodthirsty. The inclusion of the spackle, especially given the very early references given to them and the first spackle war, make the series come full circle.

Let it be known that the end of book 1 and 2 was like, Holy Crap! But the end of Monsters was like HO. LY. CRAP. Yes, Kanye Caps to the max. With tears. Lots of tears. And yet it doesn't end sad, so don't let my sob fest deter you if you've been interested in this series up to this point. In fact, I think its the best ending to a series I've read in a loonng while.

4.5 out 5 stars. I can't give it a 5 because of the High Angst Level caused by Todd and Viola's separation and manipulation. I'm pretty sure it aged me a few years.

Book source: Amazon. As in, I proudly own these.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway

Audrey has decided to finally dump her lame boyfriend. Little does she know that that very night he would write a hit song about her, launching both his band and Audrey into a whirlwind of fame and paparazzi. This is Audrey's side of the story; her take on The Dumping, the Mistake that is Simon Lolita, the Fame Monster (no, Lady Gaga does not make a cameo), the True But Sometimes Misguided Loyalty of her bff, and the Treasure that is James From The Scooper Dooper.

I feel in the mood to start with the downsides. I like ending with the happies.

So the most glaring offense is the language. I went to a high school football game recently and was appalled anew by the language of such short little humans. Still, I'd rather not have it shoved in my face every other paragraph. It's too much for my fragile self.

Next, the story. "Audrey, wait!" is the name of the infamous song, the reason for all the calamity that follows. No teen, especially one who cares about music, will be in love with a song that is ALWAYS played on the radio and MTV and every other media outlet. Every person Audrey has contact with comments on how much they lluuurvve this song! Really? NO ONE hates it? Emo, Indy, Punk AND Pop fans all adore it? Right.

Then the fame. Audrey becoming an InstaCeleb is a stretch. Remember when that song "Hey there Delilah" was playing every two minutes, and how The Real Delilah made page 48 of US Weekly, and people were like, I wonder who Delilah is and what makes her sooo great? But actually didn't care after 3 seconds? Yeah. Not here. So while that parts requires some imagination, I DO like the Average Girl Is Involuntarily Thrust Into Spotlight And Tries (always without success) To Retain Her Normal Lifestyle theme.

Which brings us to The Likes. I like Audrey, potty mouth and all. She's very witty, fairly rational, generally kind and totally spunky. I like her relationships with people. With her entertaining parents, her best friend, and even, in the end, her Ex BF. I love her blossoming relationship with the Charming Nerd James.

I like that this book, just like Amy & Roger's Epic Detour which I read right before this, has a song line at each chapter heading. Because Audrey, being the cool girl she is, is REALLY into music.

Though I can't say that I'd recommend it because of the language, Audrey, Wait! really is a fun read. 3.9 Grammies for this catchy piece.

Book source: Paperback Swap

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

I'm fairly certain that had I read this in June my summer would have been vastly different. Namely, I would have cajoled a girlfriend to road trip with me, which would've resulted in an added 5 pounds from craptacular food, a few small roadkills, that affair with a lifeguard I've been meaning to have, and a notebook full of pictures and playlists. In short: Awesome.

Kind of like this book.

Amy Curry's life has taken a nose-dive over the past few months. Her twin brother is in rehab, her father died, and her mom put their house up for sale and is moving them to Connecticut. All right before her senior year. Mrs. Curry arranges for a friend's son, Roger, who is also headed to the east coast, to accompany Amy on the trip.

I feel that more plotline summary is unnecessary -- just think "Good Read About A Road Trip" and you can probably guess what happens. Adventures/Life Lessons/Tears/Romance/New Friendships all make a flashy appearance. As does a topiary moose, a Stealthy Break-In, and a sock-slide at WalMart.

The Favorite Bits: The pictures -- copies of receipts, flyers, emails and playlists. It makes the journey feel real and personal. Also love that each chapter heading features a song line that ties in somehow. Morgan Matson I approve of your taste in music, and have even looked up a few songs on Roger's playlists. Totes to you, dear lady. Parenthetically, your bio picture is disgustingly adorable.

I also loved Bronwyn (despite her name) with her refreshing kindness (she's from Texas, so...) and"Get up, dress up, show up" mantra. And can I also say how nice it was, for the first time in living memory, to read something that takes place (only somewhat, obviously) in southern California? Finally a book that isn't obsessed with New York! I kind of love Miss Matson more because of her obvious love of the LA area; that, and her featuring of some of the nations' favorite foods -- should I ever decide to go to Kentucky.

The Not So Much: I'll try not to be spoilery, but I rarely succeed at that, so whatever. Here's the thing with Amy & Roger - by the end of the book they've still only known each other for like a week. I know long road trips force you to bond faster yada yada yada. But I REJECT the end. It felt cheap and rushed. Some highway bonding and romantic tension should not an intimate relationship make. Particularly with characters who want long-term commitment. So I'm not buying.

I've heard this book as being touted as something Sarah Dessen could've written. I would qualify that with a "But Not Quite As Innocent" follow-up. The F word is dropped a few times, and there's some hanky panky insinuations thrown in for good measure. I love that I just used the words hanky panky. How pervy does that sound.

Epic Detour is an Ultimate Summer Read that can be enjoyed any season of the year. Two thumbs up for a good exploration.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce

Scarlett and Rosie March have dedicated their lives to hunting and killing the Fenris. Scarlett carries physical scars from when she was attacked in an effort to protect her little sister Rosie, but Rosie carries the weight of guilt from that night. Now, armed and trained and a bit bloodthirsty, Scarlett wants to take the hunt from the country to the city, with Rosie and their neighbor/hunting partner Silas in tow. But when things become more dangerous than they had imagined, Rosie finds herself wanting a new life while Scarlett thrives more than ever in the slaying of Fenris.

I have conflicting feelings on this one. None of which are very strong. What intrigues me about this story is the sister relationship. I had the same feeling about The Last Summer (of You and Me) by Ann Brashares. It's that whole We're Opposites And Yet Sometimes The Same Person thing that's going on. Maybe it's because the only sister I have is 15 years younger, so this bond is somewhat foreign to me. Scarlett is fiercely (read: overly) protective; Rosie continually does things out of a She Saved My Life So I Owe Her mentality, which gets old. But there's a real love there beyond duty and shared DNA.

The Fenris thing - meh. Kind of overdone. And not all that gripping, actually. The best part was the slight blend with Little Red Riding Hood. Because the girls lure the wolves in with their red cloaks and then chop their heads off. Heh. The action sequences are good, but I wasn't breathing quickly in anticipation or anything.

The Big Mystery is pretty clear from early on, which is always a let down. I like feeling incredibly smart by guessing how it will go, getting it right, and then claiming that I KNEW IT! all along. (It brings to mind Gwenyth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam in Emma -- "Triumph?! You made a lucky guess!" "Have you never known the triumph of a luck guess?!") So when Big Mysteries are really obvious I feel cheated of my rightness.

And then there's Silas. The Love Interest. Whom Rosie falls for but doesn't want Scarlett to know, since Scarlett sees romance as a distraction from wolf gutting. Plus, he is her hunting partner, so that might get messy. The Tension comes from 1) it being unlikely that Silas feels that way towards Rosie since he's 5 years older and much cooler, and 2) keeping it all hush-hush from Scarlett. Which, as we all know, never works. But after some confessions and tears and a Close Call, all works out well.

So, I feel good about this one. But not great. 3.5 sharpened axes for Sisters Red.

Book source: Local library.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Perchance to Dream (Theatre Illuminata #2) by Lisa Matchev

When Eyes Like Stars left off, Bertie was about to set off on a quest to reclaim her dashing swashbuckler from the evil clutches of a frightening sea witch, and to also find out more about her past and to actually step outdoors for once in her life and to cavort about with Ariel and probably do some other things I can't remember.

And that is where Perchance opens. Honestly, I can't give a real summary because I myself feel a bit confused about what happens. There is lots of adventuring, which I always like, but this involved too much Maybe This Is Real And Maybe It's Not scenes and not enough witty banter/fairy pranks/Nate the Pirate. Some more Secrets From Bertie's Past are revealed, involving an interesting father-part-time-bird, the Love Triangle continues to drag on with Ariel taking the lead, a couple new charming secondary characters are introduced, and then it just sort of eeennddsssss.

But not really.

Because there is still another book on the way. Of course.

The premise of these books is quite fun, and I like the carnival/gypsy/Euro thespian feel it has going for it -- Colors! Circus men! Flying carriages! -- but in Perchance it started to drag a bit. Drag confusedly. Part of the problem, I think, is that we don't get enough insight into the characters. And because they are interesting characters it just seems like there is so much to explore with them.

Ah well. I hope better things for the next one. At least we can expect (probably) more lovely cover art.

3 out of 5 dancing elephants.