Tuesday, July 28, 2020

There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself

Calling these short stories "love stories," might be a bit of a stretch but that does not diminish their greatness. Raw, cruel, ironic, and playful these short stories won't leave your brain. Written by one of Russia's most acclaimed living writers; these stories are bleak, realistic, relatable, and compelling. From illicit trysts, divorce, children born out of wedlock, poverty, alcoholism, to horrible living conditions- readers are pulled along through a world of bleak (yet realistic) tales of woe and small triumphs. A fantastically quick read. I look forward to reading more of her short story collections!

Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Plot

Ominous and unsettling this story of a cursed family is compelling, but leaves the readers full of questions. When a successful businessman and his wife are killed by a weird swamp creature, the man's estranged brother becomes caretakers for the two children he left behind while the police investigate to figure out what happened. Chase doesn't want to take them back to his stuffy studio and he doesn't want to stay in the house where they were murdered so he takes the kids to Maine, where the old family home is. Right off the bat weird stuff starts happening and the head of the police department is not happy to see Chase, accusing his family of always being trouble. Visions and monsters lurk around every corner. What is going on with the house and the surrounding bog and does it have anything to do with the death of his brother. The artwork is great but I have a lot of questions, I guess, I'll have to wait for part two to come out!

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Mexican Gothic

What a ride! This gave off some real spooky vibes - reminiscent of The Haunting of Hill House and Rosemary's Baby. Mexican Gothic has a slow, unsettling, suspenseful pace where nothing adds up. Noemi's father sends her to a remote and isolated mansion in the Mexican countryside to check in on her cousin who has sent a very unsettling letter. Catalina mentions spirits, things in the walls, and voices and Noemi's father is convinced that someone needs to see her and evaluate if she needs medical help. When Noemi arrives she is instantly perturbed by the creaking old mansion; there is mold, windows don't open, and the staff and family are beyond peculiar and demanding. It's the most uninviting place she's ever seen. Like the letter suggested, her cousin Catalina is deeply disturbed and not right in the head. Noemi decides to stay and try to convince her cousin's husband to let her get psychiatric help or at least to get out of the damned house and get some fresh air. They're wrapped up in their own little world and something is deeply wrong. The longer she stays the more she too comes under the houses deeply disturbed spell. What is going on here and how can she and her cousin escape? Slow start, but one hell of an ending - didn't see it coming!

Friday, July 17, 2020

The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly

So stinking cute! I grew up in the region and we LOVED going to Medieval Times in Chicago, Illinois -this young adult feminist, coming of age, romance is set in the same location! Careful never to actually call it medieval times, the book is still obviously centered around the same thing. Jousting, serving wenches, knights, broadswords - the whole kit and caboodle. Kit has worked in the castle for three years with her friends and family. Her older brother is a knight, her Uncle is the king (manager) and her two best friends are also there. She loves everything about it....  except that girls can't try to be knights - it's only for men. The only place up from serving wench is princess. Kit knows she is just as good as the knights - she's been practicing with her brother for years! During one of the shows, her brother lets her ride out in his place (helmet on) and she rocks the night - even becoming the champion. When she rips off the helmet and reveals she is a girl she becomes a viral sensation. But just because she's having a moment in the spotlight doesn't mean things are easy. Their electricity is turned off at home, she has a crush on her best friend, she's unsure how she'll pay for college, and she just wants to take care of her mom. A wonderful, witty, fun, and feminist read. Loved it.

Under the Tuscan Sun

If this were a little shorter this most likely would been bumped up to a 5 star review. As it was I adored hearing (I listened to the audio - it was great!) about all the hard work, money, and experiences thrown into a centuries old house in the Italian country side. It made me want to visit Italy even more. The food, the language, the sights, the sounds, the way of living. I was swept right in. Granted not many except the very wealthy could recreate Frances Mayes experience. Undertaking a whole house flip - overseas - would be very costly. Especially when you only live in the house during Christmas and in the summer. In places it was a bit drawn out - but overall it was pretty solid.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Mount Hope

So good and I'm so sad this series is over. I mean I get it, there are only so many Jane Austen novels you can adapt, but I really enjoyed this. I like Sarah Price's writing style and these books are just nice fluffy reads that you know will wrap up nicely. Per usual I won't summarize this one because I assume that anyone reading this adaptation will have read the original, Mansfield Park. Remarkably similar, I like the few tweaks they made to make it finish in a modern day Amish community. Instead of getting caught by their father putting on plays, they get caught singing hymns in English! The scandal!! Fantastic as always!

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility has always been my favorite Jane Austen story and I was so happy that this modern day adaptation did it justice! Set in a modern day Amish community - many things are still similar. Modesty, patriarchal societies, gossip, etc. Some minor differences include youth singings instead of balls, shunning instead indecency, and a spotlight on religion. A fantastic adaptation of my favorite and one that I will definitely read again!

Second Chances

Perfect!! Honestly - this series is money in the bank! Hands down my favorite Jane Austen adaptations. They just go so perfectly together! A very faithful adaptation of Persuasion set in modern Pennsylvania in an Amish community. I won't summarize it because I will assume if you're reading this, you've already read Persuasion. What more could you want? The writing is good and everything. This is a series I will definitely read again!

Monday, July 13, 2020

Love and Other Wounds

Very raw; this short story collection is very reminiscent of Frank Bill and other Appalachian writers. Meth heads, Aryan brothers, murder, prison tattoos, hillbillies, bar fights, and heists; these quick and dirty stories real you in instantly. There are no happy endings, only vindictive victories, revenges, or defeats. Not an uplifting read, but an engaging one that readers won't be able to stop thinking about.

Friday, July 10, 2020

The Meaning of Maggie

Poignant, hilarious, and deeply emotional; Maggie's "memoir" about the year she turned 11 is an absolute joy. Extremely book smart and filled with big plans for the future (she will be president!), Maggie is happy that she's one year closer to voting and to college. There's only one thing in her life that's not great - her dad (well and her two older sisters - honestly they're more obsessed with lip balm than with grades!). Her dad's legs have gone pretty much all numb and he relies on his family to wheel him about and move him from place to place. Maggie is sure she can find a way to fix him - she just needs to get a hold of the M encyclopedia to see what he actually has. This is a charming and heartfelt coming of age story that features the most adorably naive and nerdy 11 on the planet (she even has footnotes in her memoir/journal!). An eye opening look at how children react to illness and big family changes.

Red, White and Royal Blue

I loved everything about this!!! The witty banter, the slow burn romance, the politics, the friendships. All of it! It was so well written! The quick and dirty summary is that the president of the first female president ever hates the stuffy, pompous grandson of the Queen of England. When they are forced to be in each other's presence for Henry's older brother's wedding they get into a scuffle and nearly start an international incident. They have to pretend to be best friends now to save face and in the process of being friends Alex decides that maybe.... Henry isn't all that bad after all. Adorable, super witty, emotional, and all around fantastic. I will read anything this author writes now. Instant fan!!

Mumbo Gumbo Murder

I can't say I had this predicted early but after the second murder I knew who it was. Kitschy and extremely over the top, the best thing about this book isn't any of the characters or the plot itself, it's the setting. New Orleans is the stand out in this cozy mystery; not Carmela the scrapbook store owner, Detective Babcock her grumpy fiance (although to be fair I'd be more than grumpy if my fiance kept discovering bodies), Ava the stylish single romantic best friend, or any of the ten thousand suspects. New Orleans is pretty much the only good thing about this mystery, I can't believe there are FIFTEEN books in the series before you get to this one!! Carmela sure knows how to do the job better than the police apparently! Carmela and her bestie are wandering the streets, enjoying the food and drinks, while watching a street parade when they hear a window break and screaming. They rush over and discover that Carmela's friend (honestly more like acquaintance) has been killed inside his antique store. Since it's her FRIEND, obviously Carmela has to do some sleuthing - why would she ever trust her fiance - you know, the detective on the case?!?! Lots of red herrings, asides about food, crafting tips, and witty banter. Pretty banal in my opinion and I wouldn't read more in the series.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

The New One

Birbiglia, Mike. The New One: Painfully True Stories from a Reluctant Dad. digital. 5hrs 9mins. 2020. Hachette Audio. ISBN 9781549126994.

Comedian Mike Birbiglia, knocks it out of the ballpark with his second collection of humorous essays and insights. Instead of discussing his hilariously terrifying sleepwalking troubles (Sleepwalk with Me: and Other Painfully True Stories) he's graduated on to scarier topics... parenthood. The New One chronicles Mike and his wife, Jennifer's journey from: denial that they'll ever want kids of their own, grim acceptance when his wife decides that she actually does want a baby, to creating an entirely  new lifestyle subject to their child Oona's needs. Peppered throughout the book are Jennifer Hope Stein's poetry about their daughter, their marriage, their fears, and their love. The poems go hand in hand with her husband's insights and help balance the story of their forays into parenthood. The stories are poignant, moving, and humorous. Fantastically narrated by both the authors, this is a book that all parents will easily relate to and laugh along with. A great gift for new (and old!) parents as well as comedy fans. A fantastic and engaging listen! - Erin Cataldi, Johnson Co. Public Library, Franklin, IN

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Superman Smashes the Klan

So very timely! The title instantly caught my eye and I knew I had to read this. This was based on a 16 episode story ark from the forties that showcased Superman taking down the "Clan of the Fiery Cross" on the radio show. It was immensely popular at the time and is credited with stopping a third wave of KKK "power." The story is about a Chinese family who moves to Metropolis and are instantly targeted by the Klan and get a burning cross in their yard. The children are dejected but with the help of Lois Lane, some neighborhood kids, and Superman - they begin to feel their confidence return. Really well done and addresses lots of key racist ideologies. I really liked that at the end of the graphic novel there is a little essay with pictures talking about the origins of the comic and the history. Really well done!

On Her Majesty's Secret Service

I REALLY enjoyed this one - in fact this might be my favorite of the Bond novels I've read so far! I can't recall if I've ever seen the movie or not, but the story seemed fresh to me. Due to a tip from the musty ol' College of Arms, 007 has the first solid lead on Blofeld in months. Bond has been itching to get a hold of Blofeld to make him pay for his crimes and involvement in Spectre and Thunderball and now he may finally have a chance. Bond prepares to go undercover to determine if their tip is legit and to see what Blofeld is really up to hiding out in the alps. Ski chases, lots of steamy romance (Bond actually falling for a girl?!?), intrigue, and the usual Bond swagger - this 007 novel does not disappoint.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Court of Thorns and Roses

Why did it take me so long to read this!? People have been hyping up this fantasy series for years and I've never paid it any mind. I was an idiot, I enjoyed this book so much, I couldn't stop reading it! It's suspenseful, intriguing, romantic, adventurous and more - everything I want in a fantasy. Even though this is a "teen" book I would categorize it more as "new adult" - there are a few steamy moments and since it's a fantasy - the age isn't necessarily as important since the main character isn't in high school. Nineteen year old Feyre is responsible for her two older sisters and her crippled father, once wealthy they have sunk to the very bottom and they are very near starving. Feyre made a  promise to her mother before she died to take care of her family so she hunts and works herself to the bone even though none of them ever seem grateful for it. One day she manages to kill not just a doe but a big wolf as well. She soon finds out it was a faerie she killed and as penance she must go to over the wall and be a captive with them for killing one of their kind. She doesn't expect to be treated to warm baths, new wardrobes and good company when she gets there. What is going on? LOVED it and I will be reading the rest in this series!