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review 2019-06-12 09:37
Beach Town
Beach Town - Mary Kay Andrews

I actually finished reading this two days ago, but I've recently become insanely obsessed with a silly game on my iPhone, and I've been ... distracted  Luckily, I remember enough about the book to clearly remember that for the most part it was ... ok.  Actually, probably not quite as good as ok, but the setting fed my optimism bias enough that I'll remember it as being an ok read.


The MC is a location manager for the film industry, tasked with finding the perfect "Old Florida" town: run down, palm tree laden, white beach bordered.  This mandate was arguably the most interesting part of the writing for me; as a Florida cracker myself, I actually remember "old Florida" and genuinely wish we could bring it back.  And I have to say, Andrews nailed "old Florida" in a way that's startling, especially given that Andrews is a Georgia girl.  Cypress Key (which I'm assuming is fictional), is described as just outside of Gainesville and Alachua, so definitely in the northern part of the state, but her description of it so closely mimics my own home town - right down to the old casino at the end of a pier and a decrepit boathouse at the base of the bridge, that I felt right at home.


The rest of the story though, was just plain average.  The romance didn't spark, the lack of reality in the timelines, and complete absence of the red tape involved in filming a movie; the complete cliche of the 'star' being an out of control coke head.  All of this just felt dialled in and lacked any of the complexity that I've found in Andrews' earlier work.  It was ok enough that I don't regret buying my copy used, but had I bought it new I would definitely have felt underwhelmed with Andrews' effort.

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review 2019-06-08 02:17
The Library of the Lost and Found
The Library of the Lost and Found - Phaedra Patrick

Meh.  It's not bad, just average in the statistical sense.  The story wasn't what I expected from the blurb; not because it was misleading, but rather because my inference of it was of a story altogether different. 


The story was never bad enough (or really, bad, though the writing wasn't strong enough to follow on the heels of Dorothy Sayers) to DNF it, but I didn't really care much about the main character, or anyone in her orbit.  I suspect this is supposed to be a tear jerker, but at no point did I feel even the slightest tug; my tear ducts remained unmoved and indifferent from beginning to end.  I also suspect it's plot twist is supposed to have packed an emotional punch, but honestly, this particular plot twist is practically a cliche at this point.


The MC's 85 year old grandmother is gay.  Whoopty doo.

(spoiler show)


As I said, it's not a bad book; it just wasn't really my jam.


It did, however, have a large number of scenes that take place in a library, and the MC volunteers at said library, so I got a monopoly square out of it, and of course another book off my TBR.

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text 2019-05-07 09:38
Gimme Some Sugar (Southern Eclectic, #3)
Gimme Some Sugar - Molly Harper

As my cold has improved, so has my attention span and I was ready for something a bit more involved than YA and comic strips.


First off:  I hate the title.  I've always thought that phrase nauseating. 


Otherwise, except for some appalling editing*, the story was the best one yet.


The Southern Eclectic series is Harper's non-paranormal, lightly romantic chick-lit featuring the members of the McCready family, an extended, eccentric, but close-knit family living in the fictional town of Lake Sackett and owners of McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop.  Because southerners believe in diversification.  (I once lived in a part of Georgia that had a florist and tanning salon, so there is a precedent, of sorts.)


This entry focused on Duffy McCready, and I didn't expect to like it as much as I did; as a character he's always been great, but I didn't see how a story about him straightening out his highly dysfunctional love life would interest me.  Molly Harper managed it splendidly.  It was humorous, well written, and one scene was so unspeakably sincere it made my eyes mist up, something that just rarely happens, though I concede this cold has me in an emotionally weakened state.


All in all it was a fun read; exactly what I needed on the day.


*The editors should be slapped.  Areas throughout the book were so poorly edited that pronouns and character names were swapped and the month a scene takes place went from February to March in the span of a few paragraphs.  And not because time marched on either.  I'd have rated this story even higher if not for the piss-poor editing.

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review 2019-05-05 05:29
Heartburn - Nora Ephron

My second Nora Ephron book, but my first experience of her 'fiction'.  I use the quotes because she writes an introduction in this edition, outlining that while the book is nominally a fictional piece, it's entirely based on the breakup of her second marriage, with minor adjustments and major alterations.


Ephron wrote comedy, it was her strength, but this is also the story loosely based on her own experiences with infidelity.  So while it's definitely written for laughs, the subject matter automatically makes it harder to actually laugh, although there are a lot of chuckles.  It is Nora Ephron, after all, and the woman was a genius at finding the humor in everything, but most especially in herself.


As for the story itself: the characters, the 'plot', the atmosphere; about those I can only say it's a book of its time.  It reads exactly like something written by Judy Blume, only for laughs.  There was just this profoundly screwed-up vibe about the 60's and 70's culture, when infidelity was both expected and intolerable, but mostly accepted because women didn't really believe they had a choice.


If you can accept this book as a book of its time and can enjoy cultural stereotyping when it's done with a generous and kind spirit, this is a book well worth reading.  It's the story of a woman who knows she let optimism triumph over common sense and is wise enough to own it, laugh at it, learn from it and move herself on, up and out.

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review 2019-03-28 08:06
Space Opera
Space Opera - Catherynne M. Valente

I hemmed and hawed over whether to give this 4 or 4.5 stars.  While generally, 4 stars is sort of my default for 'this was good', in this case, several pertinent facts should be kept in mind:


- I don't like space related books.  


- I don't like fantasy books that involve names I can't pronounce without physically hurting myself.


- I am not a fan of Eurovision.


Given all this, my 4 stars is a downright declaration of adoration.


(For the record, I didn't go with 4.5 stars because the story sagged a bit mid-way and I thought the deus ex machina at the end was both predictable and disappointing because she went there.)


Valente wrote a truly exceptional book.  I loved the writing, though the run-on sentences took a while to get used to; MT got his fair share of dark looks whenever he spoke to me while I was reading this, as it often meant I had to go back to the beginning of the paragraph/sentence and start over again.  But her biting satire, her anger tinged humor and her way of calling humanity out while holding it up was almost miraculous for the balancing act involved.  


I'd recommend this to almost anybody, though some might find Valente's refreshing honesty and brutal truth confronting.  


Speaking of brutal truths, I'll leave you with Goguenar Gorecannon's 11th General Unkillable Fact (you were right BT, it is sadly too long to put on a t-shirt):


You can't stop people being assholes.  They do love it so.  The best you can hope for is that some people, sometimes, will turn out to be somewhat less than the absolute worst. When they manage to trip and fall over that incredibly low bar, they'll make you want to end it all.  But when they leap over it, they'll make you believe this whole mess really was created for a reason...

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