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review 2017-09-14 03:12
You'll Be the Death of Me! by Stacia Wolf
You'll Be the Death of Me! - Stacia Wolf

You’ll Be the Death of Me! stars Allison Leavitt, a successful mystery author, and Jay Cantrall, a Los Angeles police detective who’s been temporarily transferred to Spokane after a scandal. They happen to be neighbors in the same apartment building, and although they’re both instantly attracted to each other, they also don’t entirely trust or like each other.

Allison is leery of men who only want to date her for her money, doesn’t really think that sex (aside from masturbation) is all that great, has body issues (due to some scars and, possibly, her curviness), and is still working through her feelings of guilt and terror over a past traumatic event. The only man who interests her anymore is fictional: Detective Ben Stark, one of the main characters in her mystery series. Shockingly, Jay looks like both Allison’s mental image of Ben and the image of Ben on the proposed cover art for Allison’s next book. She can’t decide whether she’s interested in Jay because he looks like Ben, or because she’s just interested in Jay.

Meanwhile, Jay is leery of women who are more interested in his celebrity twin brother than they are in him. To be honest, he has trust issues with women in general at the moment, since it was his ex-girlfriend’s lies that resulted in the scandal that got him sent to Spokane. But there’s something about Allison that keeps drawing him in. Allison, her best friend Paige, and a landlady with an annoying Chinese crested dog that she believes can do no wrong make it hard for Jay to keep to himself.

I spotted this in a used bookstore clearance section a while back and snatched it up primarily because it was a Samhain Publishing title. Some of those can be difficult to find or incredibly expensive now that the publisher has shut down operations. What if it turned out to be really good and I missed out on it? And if it wasn’t good, well, it only cost me $2.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that I’d picked up a stinker. Allison in particular seemed to have way more issues to deal with than could properly be handled in such a short book, and the whole thing about Jay’s twin seemed incredibly contrived. In general, these two characters needed to spend at least a few months getting to know and trust each other before I could believe in them as a couple. Instead, they were together for maybe a week or two, enough time to drool over each other and have sex, but not enough time to truly trust each other once the issues readers could see from a mile away started cropping up.

I hated them as a couple so much. Anytime Jay made any kind of small talk that touched on money or Allison’s job, Allison immediately assumed that he was just another guy hoping she’d pay his bills in exchange for sex. I was more forgiving of Jay’s blowup when he inevitably spotted Allison’s newest cover art, but their arguments after that made me dislike them both.

They both refused to listen to or believe each other. In fact, Allison somehow still

believed that Jay was after her money even after he blew up on her about the cover art. How did she think that was going to work? Did she think he was simultaneously going to snarl at her for being more interested in his brother or her fictional character than in him and convince her to pay his bills? Besides that, a true gold digger wouldn't have cared if she only liked him because he looked like her character or his twin brother. It should have only taken a second or two of thought to realize that her conclusions didn’t make any sense.

(spoiler show)


But logic wasn’t exactly the author’s strong suit and, unfortunately, the result was extremely inconsistent main characters. For example, after spending most of the book up to that point thinking that Allison knew full well the effect she had on men (or at least on him in particular), on page 79 Jay suddenly divined that Allison was uncomfortable with her body and reacted accordingly. Then there was Allison, who spent most of the book saying that she’d never orgasmed while having sex with a man and could only get off while thinking about her fictional detective. Despite that, on page 104 this thought suddenly popped into her head: “it had been way too long since she’d made love.” Huh?

I hated how the author wrote about Allison’s issues with sex. Jay couldn’t even fathom that someone might not enjoy sex and became fixated on the idea that Allison’s previous lovers just hadn’t done a good job. He, of course, would do better.

“What did Allison need? Love, passion, romance? Him. She needed him. She needed him to teach her the better side of sex.” (106)

I could imagine him saying that out loud and me laughing in his face.

Sometimes things happened just because the author wanted/needed them to happen, and not because they particularly made much sense. For example, at one point Jay and his partner, Pearce, were doing a stakeout and Pearce, for some unknown reason, decided that he absolutely had to make up with ex-girlfriend right then and there. So he asked her to come see him during the stakeout. Yeah, you read that right. And then when the suspect recognized him and the stakeout went bad, Ping (the Chinese crested) accidentally got loose and Jay injured himself trying to avoid him. Allison blamed herself for Jay’s injury because she hadn’t kept a tight enough hold on Ping’s leash, and so she felt obligated to help him out a bit while he recovered. Pearce told her she shouldn’t be so hard on herself...and failed to say anything about his part in the whole incident. In fact, not a single person blamed Pearce for Jay’s injury, and there were no consequences for his actions. The author literally orchestrated the entire thing just to force Allison and Jay to spend more time with each other.

The book had other issues, but I think I'll wrap things up here. You'll Be the Death of Me! was a quick read, and yet it still wasn't worth the small amount of time it took to get through it. Even the dog wasn't very appealing.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2017-09-09 12:43
Fidget Spinners Destroyed My Family- George Billions
Fidget Spinners Destroyed My Family - George Billions

   This is a social drama, a psychological dystopian descent, about the self-destruction of a classic mum, dad, two children and cat family. The story slips genre into black comedy and momentarily into horror of the plausible variety, always so much more disconcerting than ghouls and zombies. This is a novella, which a fast reader may well consume in one sitting. The book could easily have been longer, though possibly that would have diluted the constantly disturbing buzz in its pages.

   This story is very well written, with clear flowing prose and only a few typos. The story is narrated through the first-person mother with a very realistic feeling voice. I felt that I was sitting listening to the mother’s distressed, sometimes questionable, and less that sober first-hand narrative, rather than, as we are directed to believe, a story cobbled together by the author from episodic conversations.

   My only complaint about the story was the abrupt ending. I would have liked to hear the completed story of the family from the tragic peak we are left on. I feel a need to know if disintegration or renovation of the mother to child relationships was the eventual outcome.

   I had a sort of personal interest in the story that only added to its poignancy, one that is all too common in western culture. I have lost a parent through the ravages of alcohol. But believe me, such a direct connection isn’t a required ingredient for one to get the full taste of this sad tale.

   I have an issue with the cover as on the book at this date, September 2017, in that it really doesn’t reflect the content. The big youthful, blood-smeared, smile gives the impression that one is in for some sort of zany horror comedy. That isn’t the case. Too many books are falsely sold, or not, by misleading covers. This book doesn’t need a creepy cover to sell it, just the publicity it deserves, which I like to think will be boosted by this and other reviews. True or not, the family disassociations and disintegration explored in this social drama are tragically reflected to varying degrees in many real lives.

AMAZON LINK

 

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review 2017-08-15 01:37
The White Monkey
The White Monkey - John Galsworthy
A Modern Comedy - John Galsworthy

This first part of the second of three (!) trilogies concerning the Forsytes does not have the epic sweep or grandeur of The Forsyte Saga. Many of the more dynamic characters of the previous books are marginalized or not present at all, leaving us with Fleur and Michael, and her father Soames.

The plot revolves around the question of Fleur's affections. Her husband, Michael, well remembers Fleur's sudden turn-around considering his suit and knows that her love for him, if there at all, is more of convenience than passion. Will she abandon him for another? Meanwhile, he introduces the wife of a former employee to a line of work not considered 'suitable' by the world at large. Soames tests his conscience when he finds out about a scandal after being newly appointed as trustee to a financial concern.

Everything and everyone is uneasy, it seems. The writing is far cry from the more modern styles of some of Galsworthy's contemporaries, but he hits on the unease and the open acknowledgement of moral ambiguity. The cracks that were appearing when Soames reflected with horror on all the common people strolling in Hyde Park are now ravines. A person's backgrounds and connections are no guarantee of their behavior, conversation is less about information and more about affect, and Soames' eyes, as well as others, are turned up to the sky and thinking of fire raining down from the skies.

That was the single most interesting thing about the novel to me. The first World War hardly received a mention, but it plays in the minds of the characters of The White Monkey. The characters also know it is not the last war either. The advent of airplanes used in warfare and the possibility of bombs falling on London is reflected on more than once.

Overall, I liked the novel, but it was easy for me to occasionally forget about the book and move on to others for weeks at a time. These characters are worth further consideration, but they don't have the sparkle of Irene or June.

A Modern Comedy

Previous (The Forsyte Saga): To Let

Next: The Silver Spoon

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review 2017-07-28 05:05
Cells at Work! (manga, vol. 1) by Akane Shimizu, translated by Yamato Tanaka
Cells at Work! 1 - Akane Shimizu

Cells at Work is a semi-educational series that takes place inside a human body and stars a bunch of anthropomorphized cells. Red Blood Cell is a cheerful delivery girl who takes oxygen to cells (I suppose they’d qualify as the “ordinary folks” of this world) and carbon dioxide back to the lungs. There are lots of potential dangers along the way, so different kinds of White Blood Cells protect everybody. One recurring character, for example, is White Blood Cell (Neutrophil) 1146, who is part of the force that acts as the body’s initial defense against foreign invaders and infectious diseases. He’s depicted as a savagely violent man who is nevertheless polite and maybe even a little friendly towards Red Blood Cell.

In this volume, readers get to see White Blood Cell and others deal with Streptococcus pneumoniae, cedar pollen, Influenza virus, and a scrape wound. This results in the introduction of characters like Helper T Cell, the violent and manly Killer T Cells, hilariously intense and dramatic Memory Cell, Mast Cell, Macrophage, the adorable Platelets, and more.

I can’t remember which review put this on my radar, but I’m glad it did. I don’t know how long I’ll be able to continue on with this series before it gets stale, but this first volume, at least, was a lot of fun.

The educational aspects were a little rough. Yes, there were little information boxes that explained what each type of cell was and what it did, what each invader was, etc., but it’s been a long time since my last Biology class, and I admit that I got a bit confused here and there. For example, I had a tough time grasping the distinction between the different kinds of white blood cells. Also, I had particular trouble translating what was happening on-page during the cedar pollen chapter to what would have actually been happening in the human body. The steroid’s actions seemed extreme. If the author had truly intended this series to be educational, then diagrams and/or a few paragraphs of explanations at the end of each chapter that went into a little more detail about what would really be happening inside the human body would have been helpful.

That said, I was certainly entertained, and I loved the way Shimizu opted to reinterpret some of the biological details. For example, since platelets are relatively small compared to a lot of the other cells, Shimizu opted to depict them as an army of adorable children. And since one of the things macrophages do is remove dead cells and cellular debris, they’re depicted as maids. Extremely violent and powerful maids. I also enjoyed the naive T cell’s transformation process.

The entire volume was fun, but my favorite chapters were probably the cedar pollen and scrape wound ones. Although the cedar pollen chapter was chaotic and occasionally a little hard to follow, Memory Cell’s habit of lurking around and issuing dire warnings made me laugh. Plus, since I’m currently dealing with allergy-related drainage and headache issues, I could definitely relate. I found it bitterly amusing to see the whole horror show depicted as confusion and overreaction on several cells’ part that just snowballed from there.

The scrape wound chapter appeared, at first, to be a rehash of the same kind of thing the cells dealt with during the Streptococcus pneumoniae chapter, with just a few slight differences. While I enjoyed several of the panels depicting particularly crazed White Blood Cells, I was a little worried that the author had already run out of ideas. That was when the Platelets came into play. I had thought they were okay but nothing particularly special earlier in the volume, but they won me over in this chapter. They made the most adorable little army. Somehow the blood-spattered White Blood Cells standing around them and protecting them made the whole thing even better.

I definitely plan on getting the next volume, but nothing beyond that just yet - I’m going to approach this series one volume at a time. I doubt there will be cliffhangers, and I don’t want to buy several volumes only to discover that the series is already stale by Volume 2. This first volume, at least, was lots of fun despite some occasionally confusing moments. Crossing my fingers that Shimizu manages to keep things fresh and interesting in the next one.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2017-07-27 00:00
Royally Wed: A Romantic Comedy (Ladies-in-Waiting Book 2)
Royally Wed: A Romantic Comedy (Ladies-in-Waiting Book 2) - Pamela DuMond Where fairy tales and real life collide ....

Ms. Dumond has the perfect formula for romance. Love, laughter and perhaps happily ever after. Royally Wed is short enough to complete in one setting but long enough to leave an impression. Lucy is a mass of neurotic charm that is hard not to love. You can take the girl out of the city but not the city out of the girl.
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