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review 2016-01-16 21:39
"Breaking the Rules" by Katie McGarry
Breaking the Rules (Pushing the Limits Book 6) - Katie McGarry

Breaking the Rules picks up right where Pushing the Limits leaves off, following Noah and Echo as they spend the summer road tripping after their college graduation. As I noted in my review of Pushing the Limits, Noah and Echo have especially tragic backstories, such that, much as I liked and rooted for them both, it was hard for me to envision them living happily ever after. As I expected, Breaking the Rules makes clear that their relationship is not going to be all sunshine and roses -- though there are sunshiny, rosy moments throughout. Noah and Echo both have a lot of baggage to unpack and destructive patterns they need to break out of, and this book is about them figuring out how to start doing that. It's honest, it's believable, it's emotional... but it's not fun. This book is more painful that Pushing the Limits, but in many ways it's more credible. 

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review 2014-09-08 02:08
Sometimes It's Nice to Trade My Troubles For Someone Else's...
Beauty and the Mustache: A Philisophical Romance (Knitting in the City Book 4) - Penny Reid

Thursday morning, my 17-month-old son had a massive seizure. We got an ambulance ride, an MRI, an EEG, a spinal tap, tons and tons and tons of lab work, and two days and one very, very long night in the pediatric ICU. This book kept me company in the wee small hours of that long, sleepless night, and in the interminably tedious moments spent waiting for test results and doctor's consults, stuck in a small, sterile room amid the unfamiliar beeps and buzzes of all that medical equipment, holding my small, sleepy baby in my arms. It didn't demand too much of my concentration, and it was sort of nice to trade my own all too real fear and grief for someone else's fictional troubles. 

 

Ashley Winston leaves her friends and life in Chicago to go home to rural Tennessee for the first time in eight years when her mother misses their nightly phone call twice in a row. She turns out to be terminally ill, and Ashley goes home to help her Momma through the last few weeks of her life. In doing so, Ash reconnects with her six bearded brothers, who are no longer the selfish boys who used to torment the only girl in the family, but instead smart, reasonable men who would love to welcome her back home, if she can only trust them. She also meets her oldest brother's best friend and boss, game warden/park ranger/poet/songwriter Drew Runous. Drew is like a son to Ash's mom and like a brother to her brothers, but his feelings toward Ashley are not at all brotherly. 

 

This story sort of defies the usual romance tropes, although Ash compares herself to the unlikeable heroines in so many romance novels: "It's like they've been hit with a vanilla ninny stick, devoid of personality and blind to the gift before them. They're doomed to wander in ignorance until the last thirty pages of the book." (Loc. 2684 of 7852) Ash isn't unlikeable or devoid of personality, and her failure to wake up to the "gift" of Drew's love and devotion until the last thirty pages of this book has more to do with her grief over the loss of her mother (and Drew's determination to keep a respectful distance as she works through that grief) than it does with any vanilla ninny stick. 

 

This story wasn't perfect--Ashley's six hillbilly brothers (Jethro, Billy, Cletus, Beau, Duane, and Roscoe) are totally over the top, and personally I'd have liked it better if she had maybe two or three brothers and we (the readers) got a chance to know them as fully drawn characters, rather than six brothers who all blend together into a single caricature; and also leaving Chicago means leaving the friends and the knitting group which ties this series together, though Ashley managed to keep in touch with them even from a distance. Also, Drew was a little on the Gary Stu/too-good-to-be-true side. 

 

However, I thought Penny Reid did a really good job portraying Ashley's emotional journey through the shock of her mother's diagnosis through her death, and beyond, but perhaps because of my own emotional journey with my baby's seizure, I was particularly drawn to that part of the story. 

 

Anyway, this one struck a chord with me. 

 

(P.S.: my son is home now and recovering well. All of the diagnostic tests were normal. We may never know what causes his seizures, but at least we have a plan (anti seizure meds) and will know what to do should this happen again.)

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review 2014-06-15 16:15
Great Book. Sucky Ending.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky

Back when this movie came out, I heard good things about it, but we had a baby and no free time, so never got around to seeing it. Then I heard it was based on a book, and I thought, well, at least I have time to read... but as I was reading blurbs and reviews of the book in preparation to buy, I kept seeing it compared to The Catcher in the Rye.

 

I hate The Catcher in the Rye. More than any other book I can think of, I loathe that book, I loathe Holden Caulfield, and it is at the very top of my list of Books-I-HATE-that-Everyone-Else-Loves (followed closely by The Great Gatsby). And of course the fact that everyone else loves Catcher in the Rye makes me loathe it even more. So, based on all those CitR comparisons, I took a pass on The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

 

Yet I kept hearing good things about Perks, and eventually I broke down. The good news is, the comparisons to CitR are undeserved (though I get why people make them): Holden Caulfield is a spoiled, entitled, jaded, self-indulgent, self-centered, whiny little prick; Charlie is (blessedly) not. Charlie is observant, sensitive, generally considerate, and focused on others much more so than on himself (to his peril, as we learn). However, he's far from a perfect narrator: despite his prodigious intelligence, Charlie is painfully (sometimes unbelievably, as in the scene where he "discovers" masturbation) naive and clueless in social situations. He's also mentally ill. His diagnoses are never made explicit, and I'm not a doctor, but I'd say he's suffering from depression and PTSD stemming from several childhood traumas, including the suicide of one of his only friends, the death of a beloved aunt, and another, deeper trauma (so deep Charlie himself has shut out the memory) that is not revealed until the last pages of the book.

 

Despite Charlie's imperfections as a narrator, I connected deeply with his story. This book is set in 1991-1992, Charlie's first year of high school. That puts him one year behind me (and since he stayed back a year, we are the same age). Like Charlie, I too found my niche in high school among the semi-geeky, semi-awesome (depending on one's perspective) drama and music kids (we were called "art fags" at my school). Like Charlie, I too spent countless hours with my friends listening to Nirvana and the Smiths and watching Harold and Maude and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Like Charlie, my friends and I wrestled with issues like unrequited first love, teen dating violence, substance use, sexual orientation and identity, suicide, abortion, and childhood sexual abuse.

 

I've read several other reviews that criticize Perks for raising all of these issues in only a glancing way, without thoroughly dealing with any of them. I see what these reviewers are saying, but I think that critique is grossly unfair. Charlie's perspective is very similar to my recollection of my own high school experience. All of these huge, weighty, adult issues kept popping up unexpectedly, and you just had to figure out how to think about them, talk about them, what to do about them in the moment so that you could get back to the day-to-day business of finishing your homework, preparing for exams, going to this weekend's party -- but no, you never actually solved these problems. You didn't figure them out. You dealt with them as they came up, and then you spent years reflecting on those experiences, learning from them in the hope that you will deal better the next time you find yourself in the same boat.

 

Why only 3.5 stars, then, if I found Charlie so authentic? The ending. So disappointing. I don't want to spoil it for anyone (and the book is totally worth reading, even with the bummer ending), but I will say that Charlie has a very late-in-coming revelation of a major childhood trauma that sends him around the bend. He gets hospitalized for two months, and upon his release, suddenly he has a new shiny happy outlook on life that, frankly, he didn't earn, and I don't buy. I don't mind the relatively superficial treatment of all of the other weighty issues of the book, but Charlie is this book, he is the narrator, and if we can't trust him, we can't trust anything about the story. I'd have been happier with an ending that left him damaged but honest.

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photo 2014-03-04 20:33

THALIA: I don't know who this author is. I would like to know, so I can decide whether or not to avoid their books in the future. If anyone does know and is willing to share, I'm sure I and many other readers would appreciate it.

 

(original post vvvvv)

* * * * *

 

I haz a sad.  And a rage.

 

I recently opened my email.

 

Hey look!  An email blast from an author I like and admire!

 

*click*

 

Oh.  Noes.

 

I don't need to tell the Booklikes community how much this email blast saddened and, yes, angered me.

 

Let's look at the ways this email blast is oh, so wrong:

 

1) Misuse of the phrase "beta readers."

Beta readers are just that - they read the book in beta stage, i.e. before it is ready to be released to the public.  Beta readers give criticism that is used to - hopefully - improve the book in its final draft stage.

 

SENDING A BOOK TO READERS IN ADVANCE OF PUBLICATION IN ORDER TO GENERATE REVIEWS IS NOT A BETA READ.  IT IS AN ADVANCE READER COPY.

 

2) Asking for ONLY five-star reviews to be posted publicly.  

Anything less - a glowing four star review, a "I liked it but" three star review - no, you are supposed to email the author directly. 

 

I CAN'T EVEN...I JUST...I..... *sputters in incoherent rage*

 

3) NO mention whatsoever that the reviews must disclose that the reviewer received the book for free per the FCC rules.  Plus, the author is offering a "gift"if the review meets her criteria, making this in essence a "paid" review - and thus a no-no.

 

This author is a successful professional in a high-powered, competitive industry and has at least one advanced degree.  She is also formerly traditionally published, and belongs to professional writers' organizations.  

 

THIS IS NOT A NAIVE BABY SPA.  THIS IS SOMEONE WHO SHOULD - AND I FIRMLY BELIEVE DOES - KNOW BETTER.

 

And Hugh Howey claims that self-pubbed books are higher rated on Amazon because they are intrinsically of higher quality and value (see my previous post entitled "Announcing..." for more info).

 

Shyeah, right, Howey.  Authors are gaming the system.  Period.

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photo 2014-03-04 19:29

I haz a sad.  And a rage.

 

I recently opened my email.

 

Hey look!  An email blast from an author I like and admire!

 

*click*

 

Oh.  Noes.

 

I don't need to tell the Booklikes community how much this email blast saddened and, yes, angered me.

 

Let's look at the ways this email blast is oh, so wrong:

 

1) Misuse of the phrase "beta readers."

Beta readers are just that - they read the book in beta stage, i.e. before it is ready to be released to the public.  Beta readers give criticism that is used to - hopefully - improve the book in its final draft stage.

 

SENDING A BOOK TO READERS IN ADVANCE OF PUBLICATION IN ORDER TO GENERATE REVIEWS IS NOT A BETA READ.  IT IS AN ADVANCE READER COPY.

 

2) Asking for ONLY five-star reviews to be posted publicly.  

Anything less - a glowing four star review, a "I liked it but" three star review - no, you are supposed to email the author directly. 

 

I CAN'T EVEN...I JUST...I..... *sputters in incoherent rage*

 

3) NO mention whatsoever that the reviews must disclose that the reviewer received the book for free per the FCC rules.  Plus, the author is offering a "gift"if the review meets her criteria, making this in essence a "paid" review - and thus a no-no.

 

This author is a successful professional in a high-powered, competitive industry and has at least one advanced degree.  She is also formerly traditionally published, and belongs to professional writers' organizations.  

 

THIS IS NOT A NAIVE BABY SPA.  THIS IS SOMEONE WHO SHOULD - AND I FIRMLY BELIEVE DOES - KNOW BETTER.

 

And Hugh Howey claims that self-pubbed books are higher rated on Amazon because they are intrinsically of higher quality and value (see my previous post entitled "Announcing..." for more info).

 

Shyeah, right, Howey.  Authors are gaming the system.  Period.

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