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review 2018-02-03 23:40
Wherein Ella Progressively Loses Her $hit
We are Never Meeting in Real Life. - Samantha Irby

Samantha Irby starts this one with a bang. Last night I was forced into the world to go grab another keyboard (even though I'd already ordered one that would arrive sometime this morning.) I was in my PJs, settling in for a night of reheated pizza, catching up on my book reviews, reading and early sleep, when I realized I could no longer type spaces. So I threw on some black work boots, grabbed the audio-sync for this one and ran out the door. I was only going one place: keyboard & home! Except it took me twice as long as it should have because of Samantha Irby's first chapter, "My Bachelorette Application."


I should stop here to tell you I've never been to Samantha Irby's blog, never heard of her before a crazed cat started showing up in my recommendations everywhere, never read anything from her before last night. But I have now seen the light. Read on.


Lord, she had me rolling in the car. I was laughing so hard tears streamed down my face and I started to choke. I sat in the car howling like a loon outside of the store in 10 degree (or some godforsaken) weather. I don't know how anyone could find that chapter in particular not funny. I devised a new movement to push Chicago closer to Baltimore so Irby and I could be neighbors and neither of us have to get dressed or leave our apartments.


Since I was creating new maps, I also devised a "need" to stop at both Starbucks and Walgreens, with driving between the two, so I could listen more, and I sat outside of Starbucks ordering a coffee from my phone so I wouldn't miss anything.


She's SO right about, well, everything in that chapter. She's honest but not bogged down with ego issues that make her pretend to be anything less than a fiercely smart woman. As we would have said when I was a kid, "there's no shame in her game," and man, I needed to laugh like that. I don't want to quote because I'd end up quoting half the book. But do yourself a favor and if you can, listen to at least that first chapter.


She wants "someone who will leave her alone for extended periods of time" in a relationship. I concur. She "pretends to be interested" in lots of things, like "world issues" and "social justice" but really she just wants to watch TV and stay inside. She also has a perspective on why The Bachelorette is basically a radical feminist show (my words, not hers - she's funny.) She convinced me. I've never watched it, but I may need to. Especially since once Chicago moves closer, she apparently will watch Shark Tank with me!


I may be predisposed to love this book because I, too, am a wild child who was not raised by my parents or wolves. I too prefer saying inside. I too “shot a rod” through the engine of my car once because I had no idea oil changes were “a thing.” I too have bad credit because I thought it would be smart to simply ignore checking accounts once they ran out of money. I too think marriage and parenting are hard, expensive and notice that all my friends/family who have done that look irritated and exhausted all the time. I too am pretty sure I’d kill any PTA mom if forced to deal with her and her nut allergies these days. I, too, have given up on pleasing others and I’m increasingly happy with that decision. I have always said that if I’d ever had kids, I would have left them somewhere with my keys long ago anyway.


I did question some things about the book. I don't believe Fred (Chapter 2) really had curtains. That's just unrealistic to a point where, unless he's gay and a decorator, I don't buy it. I'm a 50-something woman and *I* don't have curtains. (Blinds rock, and you don't have to wash them.) That's really the only thing that sounded too outlandish for me to believe in this whole adventure through Sam Irby's head. (I can call her Sam. We're practically sisters now. I might be stalking her on Goodreads, or not.)


OK, so seriously, it’s not all fun and games. There’s a tonal shift that doesn’t really work once she gets further into the book. She contradicts herself. She chastises people for their attitudes toward their own pets, then she does something pretty unthinkable. And this is where the tone doesn’t work. I couldn’t decide if she was being honest or just sticking to the heartless bitch character study when she isn’t crushed by putting her old sick cat “Helen Keller” down. I’ve had to put my “feline-children” down before, and the idea of walking out really turns me off. I’m as misanthropic as this writer, but this was her “cat-child” (her words this time) not a person, and I just don’t get it. I honestly don’t know if she’s doing comedy here or being honest. Once I started thinking about that, I wondered about the rest of the book and my review, but I gave up trying to figure it out. I’m just typing on my new keyboard...


Leaving that aside, it would be nigh impossible to stay as hilarious as the beginning without killing your readers, and it has some low points or things that just didn't work for me.


I would guess that the further you get from city-dwelling, worldly, different-from-the-majority, and skeptical curmudgeon or the closer you get to being worried about matching or what other people think, the less you will enjoy this. If you have a problem with cursing in any form by anyone, this is not the book for you. It's not gratuitous. There is a time and place for FUCK, but if one is even slightly uptight about those words, then the non-cursing parts might throw you for a huge loop.


One final but very serious thing: DO NOT READ THIS BOOK if you are easily grossed out or again, if you have a hard time with explicit clarity about bodies and words. I’m serious. I am going to blog hard about Amazon “reviews” someday, but before I do, I just need to note the undercurrent of racism in the Amazon “review” universe. Most of the people who hated this book didn’t like her use of “the English language” or found her subject matter objectionable or don’t like the cursing. Did they bother to read the blurb or ANY of the reviews? And how do you leave a nasty review about a book you didn’t read more than a few pages of?


This one really just takes the cake: I’m quoting from an Amazon 1-star review:


When I hear "funny book" I think David Sedaris, Adam Carolla, Augustan [sic] Burroughs. No. This was just sad, angry, low-rent and pointless. She says she hates men, hates to learn, dislikes society in general, and automatically assumes all republicans or suburbanites are racist jerks who hate gays, blacks, the poor, etc. (she's afraid of moving to the suburbs because she knows she'll be called the "n-word." Really???

She says sexual things that are less shocking than they are gross and creepy. (Example: She has no guilt that her white girlfriend must deal with her hairy, yeasty, crotch; it's payback for Obama not getting blacks reparations for slavery. Yeah. It's there. Page 135.)


OK, first of all, it’s “Augusten Burroughs,” bitch. Second, I’d bet my white and black parts on this reviewer being a white woman. Third, [she] names three white men -- all of whom I’ve enjoyed greatly through the years -- as her benchmark, then acts shocked by the tastelessness she finds in Irby’s book? Those three white males have written some of the most raunchy pages in my memory, including straight scatology. Is it because she’s a woman that she is somehow expected not to have bodily functions? Is it her black “urban” self that is unacceptable? Carolla in particular is just pure misogynist at times, Burroughs writes explicitly of sex acts -- homosexual sex at that. I really cannot get my head around this one. I’ve never jerked off into a sock, but I don’t judge those guys for their normal human behavior simply because my experience is different. I would never have trashed a book because I find that sort of gross. Of course I do -- I’ve got lady parts! Maybe a woman should try writing a jerk-off book and see how that plays?


This is a woman who has lived and continues to do so. She's not doing it anybody's way except her own, and she really couldn’t give a shit if you approve. God bless the chile for figuring it out earlier than I did. Though this had high and low points, I’ll be reading more from her in the future.


A Few Great Chapter titles:


  • You Don’t Have to be Grateful for Sex
  • A Case for Remaining Indoors
  • Fuck It, Bitch. Stay Fat.
  • I’m in Love and It’s Boring.
  • The Real Housewife of Kalamazoo
  • Thirteen Questions to Ask before Getting Married
  • Feelings Are A Mistake
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review 2018-02-03 22:07
Lap Dog (Shelter #2)
Lap Dog: Book Two of the Shelter Series - Kate Sherwood

Dang you, Sherwood! I was supposed to quit this book halfway through in a boiling rage, ready to rip Simon a new one. Instead, I grudgingly liked him by 25% and was rooting for him about halfway through and just hoping everything would work out. 



This still isn't perfect. Simom Yeung is the first prominent main character who is Chinese-American in any of Sherwood's books that I've read, and he's in a crime family. Really? And just because the characters call this out doesn't really take away from the problems of this, just as having them call out the old school family honor/respect stereotypes doesn't really mean she's not using those stereotypes. 


Yet despite that, this was a great story. I don't know if I'd categorize it Romance (™) but Simon and Tristan do come to first respect each other, then kind of like each other, then warily admire each other and finally care for each other. I didn't think it was possible from the initial set up that opens the story, but their journeys and getting to know each other were well-paced and given the time to really breathe, despite all the chaos going on around them. The resolution was perhaps too easy and convenient, but I honestly don't care because I wanted these two to get their HEAs - not just with each other but for themselves as well. They still have things to figure out about their new lives though, so there's more room to tell more stories about them later. (And hopefully resolve a few more of those dangling threads that didn't get addressed here.) 


It was also great seeing Shane and Noah again, and seeing glimpses of their relationship throughout. They even get a short story interlude at the end of the main story. It felt more like it was there to explain why Shane doesn't label himself asexual (though he is clearly on the spectrum) but whatever label someone wants to use or not use is up to them.

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review 2018-02-03 02:41
Killman Creek (Stillhouse Lake #2)
Killman Creek - Rachel Caine

This book picks up a little after where the first one ends, and keeps the action going pretty well throughout. We get not just Gwen's POV in this one, but also Sam, Connor and Lanny.  While I wish their POVs had sounded more unique to their characters, it wasn't too much of a detriment. The chapters flow smoothly and it was never confusing which POV I was reading.


I did start finding the various twists and reveals to be over the top. The more that got piled on this whole dark net network, the less seriously I was able to take it. It reached the point of ludicrous, which I'm pretty sure wasn't the author's intention. Also, there was a serious plot hole with Connor

being slipped a cell phone that belongs to his dad. The phone is supposed to look exactly like the one that Connor's mom got him at the beginning of the first book. However, Sam gets everyone new matching smart phones at the beginning of this book because they were all supposed to ditch their old phones. So why is no one questioning why Connor still has a phone that looks like his old one?

(spoiler show)

that makes his whole storyline rather unbelievable. 


Still, this is probably one of the few times I wasn't yelling at characters for being TSTL because their actions and motivations actually made sense to them and their situations. So bonus points for that. Though I did find it rather convenient that they didn't question at least some of those twists and turns sooner.


There's been a third book announced, but I have no idea where Ms. Caine can go with this without tormenting her characters more than is actually necessary (I say while reading A Song of Ice and Fire). Also, the plot is pretty well wrapped up here, so this may just be where I leave the series. 

Maybe the letter at the end is more important than we were supposed to think at the time? But even the letter doesn't make sense, because for Melvin to have written it, he'd have to have believed there'd be a chance he would lose. And no way would he ever entertain that idea.

(spoiler show)
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review 2018-01-30 06:48
A feel-good story about how when we're lost, all we need is to allow ourselves to be found
One Good Dog - Susan Wilson,Fred Berman,Rick Adamson
The Cat Who Went to Paris - Peter Gethers

A feel-good story about how when we're lost, all we need is to allow ourselves to be found.


Watching Milo and Otis nearly killed me at age 30. I've learned my lesson since, though I did have one unfortunate incident. I asked the recommender about The Cat Who Went to Paris -- possibly my favorite travelling animal read ever -- only to arrive in the station, have some woman glance at my book and tell me Norton the cat had recently passed away. I bawled openly in a taxi, rode to my destination and stayed in bed for the first couple days of my vacation crying and rereading the amazing tales of Norton the-Now-Sainted Cat. I would have remained there, but vacation companions were furious with me. It's not just fictional or written animals. I adopted a hard-core tomcat to whom I constantly apologize. He bites me; I suggest couples therapy.


It was with some trepidation that I asked booklikes' own Audio Book Junkie if this was going to be a "dangerous" animal story. I was warned of dog fighting, though it happens off the page. I dove in anyway. After all, I told myself, I'm an old woman. I've lost not only pets but several very important humans including my partner; I am submersed in the field of abuse, incest, violence and trauma. I'm tough. Hah!


I tell you all of this to say I'm an easy touch. I over-relate to stories with anthropomorphized animals. Critically, this doesn't deserve a great review, but I loved it for exactly what it was. Your mileage will probably vary.


The basics: two lost, clueless, angry, violent, and male beings: one human, one canine. Both has paid the price for his own machismo without realizing how much it has cost. Worlds collide; redemption is possible. ~fin~


There are some nice caveats added to the formula. We get decent, somewhat nuanced peripheral nods to human differences, homelessness, fatherhood, family, and how early pain can form a hard exterior that is nearly impossible to break through without some kind of force. Also respect was given to normally marginalized or caricatured groups. I would have liked the world of dog fighting to be treated more fully, but it's the backstory and not the main event. We do get the man's backstory, but he's so much harder to like, perhaps we need it.


Removing the hard outer shell is a lesson it takes both man and dog a while to learn. We hear both characters' rationalizations for bad behavior along the way. At times they are infuriating even while adorable or funny. Adam March is a jerk at the beginning. Chance is a dog who never had a chance. Both can be so dangerous to others they need to be separated.


It's funny how much easier it is to allow for a dog's violent or bad behavior than it is for a person with a very similar background who has learned to protect himself in exactly the same way. It's hard to give humans the breaks we give even non-talking animals.


Neither is perfect or "finished growing" at the end, but they've come so far, and allowed themselves to become vulnerable at least to each other. It's a heartwarming story that reminds us even the most volatile animals can be reached with some understanding, boundaries, decency, openness and enough Chance(s).


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review 2018-01-30 04:31
Hoppy's Big City Adventure - Gabrielle Grice,Jubayda Sagor ,Eve Arroyo

Hoppy has a lot of friends who warn him on his travels.  There is a storm coming, and he does not seem to care.  He just wants to sit on his lily pad in the sun.  


If a storm is coming, where is the sun?  This story is a cute adventure about choices, paying attention, and listening skills.  I found that is was clever, funny, and has great pictures.  This was a great add to my bookshelves for reading to my favorite kids!  I give this book a 4/5 Kitty's Paws UP!



***This early edition was given in exchange for an honest review.

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