Book Review: Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight #bookreview #reconstructingamelia

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

4/5 stars

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kimberlymccreight.com

This book was a mystery, thriller, horrifying/intriguing-for-mothers read. Kate is a single mom of Amelia, an excellent student at a Park Slope area private high school. But early into the book, Amelia is found dead at her school, an apparent “impulsive suicide.”

This would all make perfect sense if Amelia had shown any signs of suicidal behavior, but she didn’t. That fact, along with the anonymous texts Kate receives after Amelia’s death lead her to believe that Amelia didn’t kill herself but rather was murdered. Using all of her extensive resources (Kate is a high-powered attorney), Kate attempts to unravel the mystery behind the daughter she thought she knew so well.

Reconstructing Amelia is composed of prose, emails, texts and blogs. There’s the usual cast of mean girls, tough cops, and Stepford wives. As a mom, it was a challenging read. Amelia is Kate’s only child, and as a single working woman, it seems like Kate is no longer a mother without her beloved daughter.

It’s definitely in the realm of murder mystery. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out who was behind the anonymous emails, who was “in charge” of the secret group to which Amelia secretly belonged, why certain characters behaved the way they did — even who was really Amelia’s birth dad.

Although it’s not my usual genre, I recommend it. However, if you’re looking for a better psychological mystery, I recommend Before I Go to Sleep and Defending Jacob.

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Book Review: How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff #bookreview #howilivenow #megrosoff

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff 4 stars

Say there’s an anorexic American teenager who goes to visit her aunt in England and falls in love with her cousin who happens to have a form of ESP — just as world war breaks out.

You might think, what a weird premise for a book. But that’s How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff.

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Daisy, who has been cast off by her father and stepmother, goes to England to meet her aunt. Daisy’s mother died at her birth, and she’s never met her British relatives. But her aunt travels often for work, leaving Daisy with her cousins and their strange customs and pets. She’s both intrigued and somewhat repulsed, having grown up in NYC and not in the countryside. But gradually she gets to know the empathetic, loving family, and just as she finds her place with them, war changes everything.

The dialect is pure self-absorbed teenager, even as Daisy faces starvation (not self-imposed) and separation during the war. That’s what makes the book amusing even as it Tackles Serious Issues (as Daisy would say/write). Yet Meg Rosoff also embraces a huge degree of anonymity. We know they’re in England and we know there’s a war. That’s ALL we know — although that may be a plot device (see: teenagers, self-absorbed). We don’t know the year or the time frame — there’s vague reference to internet and email so it must be current/future — and we don’t know much about Daisy’s family except what’s happening in the now. It works, as a device.

There’s enough detail and yet enough left to imagine that the pacing is fantastic — until the end, which felt incredibly rushed. Thank goodness this book isn’t 1 of 2, or a trilogy, because I’d hate to see it stretched out beyond the story. But the ending is abrupt and doesn’t do much for the storyline.

Highly recommend on basis of creativity and storyline (and editing) alone.

Also, it’s going to be released as a movie in the fall!

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I look forward to seeing it.

Book Review: Gabriel’s Inferno

3 Stars.

Take 50 Shades of Grey, mix it with some original Twilight, literary highbrow and a huge amount of sexism, and you’ve got Gabriel’s Inferno.

I can only recommend it under the following conditions:

1. You’re a sucker for an ALPHA male.

Because Gabriel is the ALPHA-est of Alpha males. He’s disgustingly rich, overly-educated, strong and powerful, as well as tattooed. Also, he takes erotic photography, drinks like a carp, is an esteemed professor and of course he’s got a body like a god. You’ve got your typical Alpha here.

2. Likewise, you like your heroines quiet, shy, guileless virgins who lets the man lead her.

How else can I say this? Picture Bella Swan. Now picture her six years later. That’s Julianne/Julia/Kitten/Rabbit/Beatrice whatever name some male character gives her.

3. You can wait over 500 pages for sex.

Of course, there’s petting and stuff, but… yeah. After a while, it really drags.

4. You don’t mind pesky things like details.

He’s her professor! Yet nobody finds out about their “courting.” Paul (who plays the Jacob role in this one) simply accepts that Julianne/Julia/Rabbit simply has a boyfriend and gives up. While the Dante discourse is somewhat interesting, any discussion of Julianne’s/Julia’s/Rabbit’s/Kitten’s/Beatrice’s study is relegated to a few sentences about how she’s found a new thesis advisor.

It gets 3 stars because in a looooooooooong book, I only found one extraneous comma, and while the waiting for sex part dragged, it was still somewhat erotic. But mostly I rolled my eyes and found Gabriel really sexist and annoying.

Book Review: The Edge of Never by J.A. Redmerski

The Edge of Never by J.A. Redmerski.

5/5 stars

Camryn is still mourning her boyfriend’s death — and the subsequent unraveling of her life — when she decides to take road trip. With no particular destination in mind, she gets on a Greyhound bus (ew). A few stops in, she meets Andrew, who is traveling to visit his dying father. Camryn is initially wary of him, but when he protects her from a fellow bus-traveling pervert, she decides to trust him, and after visiting his dad they go on their own road trip in his Chevelle (apparently that’s some sort of car).

Andrew’s spontaneity and happy-go- lucky demeanor are in direct contrast to Camryn, who is very guarded (as you probably should be when you meet someone on a Greyhound). Eventually he challenges her to let loose a little, and to her credit, Camryn embraces it.

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I really enjoyed this novel. The beginning was slow moving, but once Camryn met Andrew, the pace moved along nicely. Though it may sound cheesy, Andrew’s zest for life was infectious. Camryn was reasonably cautious, but she couldn’t resist him for too long (who could?)

The author has written other books, and it shows. I don’t know how to explain it but to say that it was lot more cleanly written than many self-published or independent books I’ve read. And I’ve been reading a lot of those lately!

This book really won me over with its creative story, unusual characters and unique situations. It could have been really depressing but it wasn’t. Both Camryn and Andrew could have been one-not characters (depressed! Happy!) but they were written with a deft hand. While the language was simple, nothing flowery or over-wrought, the point came across well.

I dipped my toe into erotica

(Not in a toe-fetish way. Because, EW.)

I read an erotic book. I really liked it. I’ve been talking about it on my personal Facebook NONSTOP since I finished it. And very few of my friends will read it. Why? Why?? Why???

It’s called Captive in the Dark and just because the plot revolves around sex slavery, kidnapping, prostitution and DUBIOUS consent–

Nice-Nice said, “It sounds a rapey. I’ll pass.”

Prom Queen said: “It sounds horrible!”

Miss Manners said: “Barf.”

Mary F. Poppins said: “Are you sure I’LL like it?” (What does she think the F. stands for, anyway?)

Here is my 5-star review from Amazon:

IF you can get past the very violent, sadistic, graphic and extreme sex, I’d highly recommend this book. I realize many people will be completely turned off. Personally, I just kept an open mind. I’m aware there are lots of strange sexual proclivities in the world, and this is FICTION.

Most of my friends refuse to read it. Their loss!

All that said: this book is really intense, creative, unique and hot. The author really shot for the moon with her characters and plot — and she got there. The story is gripping. Even though the plot was completely foreign to me, I could follow it. Even though most of the characters are reprehensible, they’re also strangely relatable. All human beings understand the feelings of loss, captivity, lust, love, hate, shame — even if they don’t experience these things in such a physical way as the characters.

There were some comma issues, which I described in the review, but they didn’t detract much from the story. It was like watching a porn with a plot (not that I’ve ever seen a porn WITH A PLOT). Hard to look away.

I’ve clearly gone straight into freak mode. If there are more books like this out there, I’m okay with it!

Love, Unscripted: 10 Things I Hate about You

You know those times you’re finished working at the business you own, which is situated near the local vineyards in which you invest, pondering how you’re wasting your Ivy-League college degree in economics, while sitting in the huge apartment you’ve personally designed, surrounded by the stained-glass art you like to make for fun, perhaps mindlessly strumming a tune on your guitar (or playing a piece on your baby grand piano), singing completely in-key, while your favorite football and/or hockey team plays on tv, nursing a beer and considering inviting your friends — some of whom you graciously employ; others in whom you merely invest some profits from your business — over for a game of pool or poker (at which you excel) and cooking a feast for them using your expert culinary skills — hey, maybe even some of the fish you caught while camping at your family’s lake house! — simultaneously feeling lonely because you’re woefully single despite being a tall, thin, blond/blue 27-year-old at whom men throw themselves?

No? Sucks to be you, then! It’s just another typical day for the protagonist in Love, Unscripted.

20120806-092506.jpgHow I picture Taryn

What could possibly be missing from Taryn’s life? Wait, I know: a man for whom she can cook, feed, provide shelter, love, sleep with, protect from fans, encourage, surprise, impress, honor and have multiple orgasms, that’s what!

But not just any man! The only man who fits the bill is Robert Pattinson Ryan Christiansen, hottest actor on planet Earth and star of a very famous series of movies that women love, based on a series of books that women love even more.

Not that Taryn would know this — she’s never seen a single movie in which Robert Pattinson Ryan Christiansen has appeared. Nor has she read any of the books on which his movies are based. Because, you see, she is not like other women! She falls in love with him for his true, inner (good-looking, funny, sensitive, rich, large-penised) self.

Taryn is an INDEPENDENT WOMAN. Sure, she wants to marry him and produce lots of Aryan Nation children with him, but that is no reason to forsake her responsibilities of running a bar in a small coastal town in Rhode Island. (Which is where Ryan just happens to be filming, hence their meet-cute.)

Where was I? Oh, yes. I was thinking that Robert Pattinson Ryan Christiansen is kind of a dick. Why? Well actually he’s totally not a dick at all, but compared to Taryn, everyone is a dick.

Honestly, that’s all I can say so far — I’m only 3/4 of the way through this 600+ page book — but I’ve disliked Taryn since about page eight so it’s been hard-going.

The sex scenes, however, are fantastic.

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Post-Script: I finished the book yesterday and found the last quarter vastly superior to the first three. Taryn finally begins acting like a human being and gives up the independent Superwoman thing that was so unbelievable for the first FOUR HUNDRED PAGES. She even tells Ryan to fuck off at one point!

My overall grade is a C+. It could be 200 pages shorter — yes, we get it, being a famous person comes with problems — and Taryn could have had a few more “normal person” characteristics. Better editing would have helped a lot. I hope the next book is more thoroughly vetted. Yes, I am going to read the next book in the series.

After all, the sex scenes were hot.

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

(Yes, I’m a fast reader! In the last week I’ve finished Beautiful Disaster, On the Island [a few times] and now The Fault in Our Stars. I’m also reading a Sophie Kinsella book, just to relax. They’re like cheap wine-boxes of literature.)

Clearly I’m one of the few who didn’t love The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I’m basing this off the overwhelmingly positive reviews on Amazon. The problem is, I can’t put my finger on why I didn’t love it — and because I didn’t love it I don’t feel the urge to re-read it. Also, the subject matter is teenagers with terminal cancer, so it’s not even something I want to revisit.

Credit: Amazon.com

Which is not to say I avoid books about children with terminal cancer, or other such depressing topics. I loved Room  by Emma Donoghue which is essentially about a little boy who, along with his mother, lives as a prisoner (and, of course, his mom is a sex prisoner). Also, I really enjoyed Every Last One by Anna Quindlin, which is a slice-of-life story about a family — until the husband and two children are killed by a childhood friend. Cheery! And yet, I found it compelling and well-written.

What I did love about The Fault in Our Stars: I don’t think any other contemporary writer writes like John Green. His writing is so nuanced — and it’s actually so nuanced that I can’t give a specific example of his nuanced-ness except to say that he is very nuanced. Maybe it’s the conversation about the cancer-support group that the leader claims is LITERALLY in the heart of Jesus, and the main characters’ discussion of whether they are LITERALLY (or not) in the heart of Jesus.

He also totally gets teenage thoughts and dialogue. The obnoxious, self-centered — while still being unsure and full of doubt — ruminations and retorts are perfect. Oh, sometimes I miss being a teenager, just for what you can think and say without getting in too much trouble because everyone just chalks it up to being a teenager! (And do not look forward to my children getting older for that very reason. Animal already rolls his eyes at me.)

So, it’s about young people with cancer. Hazel, the protagonist, has terminal cancer that could kill her very quickly, anytime. Augustus Waters, her love interest, has bone cancer that took a leg. There’s also Augustus’ best friend, Isaac who has cancer that takes his vision. And the support-group leader who had ball-cancer (as Hazel refers to it). Other characters include Hazel’s parents and Augustus’ parents, and a very very strange reclusive writer.

I don’t know if this because I’m a mother and/or I’m old, but I related more to Hazel’s mother than any other character. I could literally feel her pain; her only child was dying of cancer. Her father was a fairly one-dimensional crier; Augustus’ parents were rather one-dimensional pithy sentimentalists as well. However, given the sort of hipster trendy vibe I always get when I read John Green stuff, their multi-dimensionalism could have been in the fact that they were one-dimensional. His writing is very meta. (Which is not a concept I can explain except to show some examples. It’s just… meta.)

My biggest issue with this book was Hazel and Augustus’ relationship. Which, as it’s the entire plot of the book, is kind of a problem. I just don’t feel it. Yes, they both have cancer. Yes, he had an ex-girlfriend with cancer. Yes, he’s a little too quirky for most girls (probably). For the record: Hazel is awesome. I want to meet her — and obviously since I’m practically old enough to be her (very young) mom, we would not be friends, but she’s just so awesome. Despite her incredible (also) quirkiness, she really comes across the page in such a way that I felt like I was intruding on really personal moments in her life.

Maybe because Hazel was such an amazing character, everything and everyone else seems a little less sharply defined. I think a book about Hazel without any reference to Augustus would have been excellent.

Three stars out of five.

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