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review 2019-04-09 03:35
Jason's Woes Follow (and Grow) in his new Small Town
Dispatches from a Tourist Trap - James Bailey

 Sometimes lately I feel like life is a chess match, and no matter how hard I look at the board I can’t see the next move. Or maybe I think I see it, but really I don’t. Like my pawn is sitting there, all ready to put the other king in check, and somehow my queen gets swiped and two moves later I’ve lost the game and my pawn is still waiting there, impotent and useless.

 

So Jason mother's Janice continues her bad decisions when it comes to men -- she leaves her husband for a new guy, who happens to be the dentist she's started working for. We met him in The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo, and they clearly didn't waste time resuming whatever it was they had back in high school. Janice has moved herself and Jason to her parents' house, enrolled Jason in a school filled with very friendly people, and tried to move on with her life.

 

Jason realizes full-well that his choices are a life with his grandparents and a much smaller school, hours away from his friends and girlfriend; or life with Rob, near them. As much as he doesn't want to be in Icicle Flats, he knows it's the better choice available. But he complains the whole time about it -- this is good for readers, Jason complaining makes for an entertaining read. This time, he's not just complaining in emails, he's set up a blog, too. I was wondering how the blog was going to work instead of the emails -- it's actually a really good move, allowing Jason to tell longer stories without the emails being too long.

 

Which is good -- because he has long stories to tell this time. There's a literature club he's involved with at school that's discussing books that ruffle the feathers of many, which leads to all sorts of trouble. There's a flirtation with pirate radio. A camping trip that is fantastic to read about (and probably not a lot of fun to live through). A disastrous experiment with eBay. And basically, a bucket-load of culture shock. Also, after a few short weeks of dating, Jason's first real relationship becomes a long-distance one. High school relationships are bad enough, throwing in a few hour bus-ride into things is just asking for trouble. So yeah, between emails and his blog -- he's got a lot to write about, and his friends have a lot to respond to. Somehow, they make it through the school year more or less intact.

 

Jason feels incredibly authentic -- immature, self-centered, irresponsible, but he's got his moments. He can put others before himself, do the right thing because it's right -- not to stay out of trouble; But man, he can be frustrating the rest of the time. There were a lot of opportunities along the way here for him to be a better friend, a much better boyfriend, son and grandson; and he missed almost all of them. He comes through when necessary, don't get me wrong and he's not a bad guy -- I just wish he'd grow up a bit faster. Which again, means that Bailey has nailed his characterization, this his how people his age should be.

 

I'm less than thrilled with Bailey's approach to religious characters in these two books. I'm not questioning that there are people like the characters he depicts running around everywhere and that the situations would've played out a lot like they did here (but some of it pushed believability). I just would like a small indication that there were some sincere people trying to do the right thing in the middle of all this.

 

Having talked about The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo just two weeks ago, it feels hard to talk about this book beyond some of the plot changes -- this feels like the same book, just with new problems. Which is pretty much the point, right? I still like Jason (as frustrating as he can be), his girlfriend is fantastic, I want good things to happen to Drew. Jason's already complicated life is about to get a lot worse, which should prove very entertaining for the rest of us. A strong follow-up in this series.



LetsReadIndie Reading Challenge

 

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review 2019-03-26 02:19
This Kid’s Struggles will Bring A Smile to Your Face
The First World Problems of Jason Van Otterloo - James Bailey

Subject: New worst day of my life

 

If you have stock in me, sell it now. Or is it buy? Buy low, right? Then buy, buy, buy, because if JVO shares go any lower it can only mean I’m dead. Nothing is going right and everything is going wrong. Very wrong. 

 

It's been awhile since I read an epistolary novel (maybe Where'd You Go, Bernadette? -- oh, and The Summer Holidays Survival Guide from last year -- duh -- I should stop thinking before I have to rewrite this whole paragraph), but I've always enjoyed them. There's something about the structure, the conceit, the immediacy of it all that really appeals to me, and has since the day I first cracked the cover of Dear Mr. Henshaw 35 years ago or so.

 

This particular novel is a collection of e-mails from fifteen year-old Jason Van Otterloo (known by some as Otterpop, others just call him Jason) and his friends over the summer of 2003 in Seattle. This is a good setting for the book -- it's before the ubiquity of cell-phones/texting among teens, but at a time they could be emailing several times a day and it not seem strange (like it would in the mid-90s). I don't know if that was Bailey's thought process, but it's what occurred to me. The emails are primarily Jason's -- not just because he's prolific, but that's a lot of it. Incidentally, I only caught one thing that jumped out at me as an anachronism -- which is about the best that I can think of in an indie book set in the past (I don't go looking for them, but they jump out at me. Binge-watching wasn't a thing in 2003. At least not by that name).

 

Jason's a pretty bookish kid who loves classic movies -- not just AMC (back when that's what the station was about), but there's a theater near his home that shows old movies. His best friend, Drew (the recipient of most of his emails), frequently goes to those with him -- they also play video games together, generally at Drew's. Jason's parents, Janice and Rob, aren't in the running for Parents of the Year, to say the least. I'm not sure at what point Jason lost enough respect for the that he started calling them by their first name, but it could have been when he was pretty young. On the other hand, there's enough venom in it (at least the way it reads to me) that it might be a recent development.

 

Janice shows the occasional burst of maternal activity or instinct, but it's rare. Rather than a father, Rob seems like the bullying older brother character in most books I read as a kid. But in general, the two of them act like they're stuck in their early 20's -- coming home from work long enough to greet each other and Jason, then they leave (not together) to meet up with friends and get drunk. Occasionally, they'll get into a fight with each other, but nothing too serious. It doesn't appear there's any intentional abuse -- physical or mental. It's primarily neglect that they're guilty of. Over the course of the summer, Rob does say a few things that will likely cause emotional scars when Jason has a few years to think about them, but they're unintentionally mean (one was said when Rob was attempting to be nice and fatherly).

 

Generally, Jason's e-mails are about whatever antics his parents are up to, arranging to meet Drew or whoever else, Jason's soliciting Drew for advice about a girl he meets (he ignores almost everything Drew says, to the reader's amusement and Drew's frustration), and Jason recruiting Drew or someone to get summer jobs together. There's an ongoing thread about a new neighbor who enjoys sunbathing, and Jason enjoys (hopefully surreptitiously) watching her. Rob enjoys watching her, too, but doesn't bother trying to be surreptitious.

 

Jason's emails are largely self-centered. Most of the stories told are his, not Drew's. He does seem to care about Drew and is interested when Drew unloads a little. But largely, the relationship seems to be about Drew listening to Jason. Drew gets something out of it, however -- maybe offline -- because he seems emotionally-centered enough (for a fifteen year-old) to not put up with Jason as much as he does, if Jason just didn't contribute anything to the friendship. Just don't ask me what it is. His self-centeredness seems typical for his age, and it doesn't make him a bad kid -- just a selfish one, and a lot of that is because he's never been parented by anyone who has a clue. Although, really, I'm not sure how many kids who have been well-parented who don't act like that.

 

His parent's (individually and corporately) show a signs of self-improvement -- AA, marriage counseling, and others. Jason is openly skeptical about these efforts -- perhaps because he's seen similar things before. Not only is he skeptical, but he seems to actively subvert these efforts. It seems odd for a kid who spends so much time complaining about his parents to complain about them trying to be better -- but it's honest. He doesn't believe in them, so why get his hopes up that this time will be any different? Sure, from the reader's perspective it's easy to say that these reforms might be longer-lived if he supported them. But from Jason's? Nah.

 

There is a little character development over the course of the novel -- but not a lot, But it's just a few months, so there shouldn't be a lot, right? What's there seems genuine and true to the character -- which is great. At the end of the day, you'll have enjoyed watching Jason struggle and survive -- learning enough to keep going.

 

Jason's optimistic and amusing -- which is says a lot about him. The whole book is told with a light touch --it's not overly comic, but you grin as Jason recounts his latest embarrassment with Gina, or Rob's most recent humiliating escapades -- or even as he and Drew talk about their mutual astonishment when another friend has some romantic success. Things are bad, but they're not bleak. They're even kind of fun.

 

The cover, by the way, is perfect. It not only reflects a plot point, but it encapsulates the feel of the book. In a figurative sense the world pees on Jason the way this dog literally does. Yet, it's kinda cute and amusing while it's happening. Several good things happen to the boy, but overall, the book is about his problems (right?) and his reactions to them.

 

I don't know what a YA reader would think of this -- I imagine they'd find Jason relatable and likeable, but I'm not sure. But for those of us with enough distance from their YA days, it's something that can be read with an air of "I remember when life was like that." Even if it's set over a decade later than my own teen years, I know people like Jason, I had friends who had a Gina in their life, and I dreamed of a girl like Sian. I'm probably not alone in this. This is a comfort-food kind of read -- it's entertaining and makes you feel good. I get kind of a Thomas Rockwell or 80's version of Todd Strasser feel from this, very much a Lad Lit starter kit kind of thing, now that I think about it -- which is good. Young Adults need something that's not dystopian. There's a sequel coming out in a week or two, and I'm really looking forward to it.


Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for this post and my honest opinion, which is what I provided.

LetsReadIndie Reading Challenge

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2019/03/25/the-first-world-problems-of-jason-van-otterloo-by-james-bailey-youll-enjoy-this-15-year-old-struggle-through-summer-of-03
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review 2019-02-13 21:50
From Elk to Mermaids!
Camp Club Girls: Bailey - Linda Carlblom

Linda Carlblom’s “Camp Club Girls: Bailey” 4-in-1 collection includes “Bailey’s Estes Park Excitement”, “Bailey’s Peoria Problem”’, “Bailey and the Sante Fe Secret”, and “Bailey and the Florida Mermaid Park Mystery” with Kate, Alex, Elizabeth, and Sydney each partnering with Bailey, respectively. These mysteries provide just the right amount of danger and suspense to keep girls engaged without being frightening and fall between the Boxcar Children and Nancy Drew as far as reading level and intensity are concerned. The Camp Club Girls series has a nice diversity of characters from different racial backgrounds, united by their faith in God and their knack for solving capers. Although each story focuses on an adventure with two of the girls, the rest of the club is always kept up-to-date on the mystery and offers support through research and prayer. Scripture is quoted frequently and woven neatly into each story, and the girls are given a chance to reach out to others and evangelize as they work on each case. However, they do make mistakes, and they have vulnerabilities, which also teaches an important lesson: none of us are perfect.

These stories included several interesting scenarios and settings. From elk stampeding through town to sheep bearing strange messages, from a Native American pottery shop in the desert to Mermaid Park in Florida, there is no shortage of mysteries for Bailey and her friends to solve! They make new friends along the way and help those in need, all while having fun and strengthening their faith. I would highly recommend this series to girls ages 8 and up!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.

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text 2019-01-05 07:10
Preorder Blitz - Wanted Anthology

 

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Lane Hart, NYT bestselling author – Dalton: Savage Kings MC
ATF Agent Bradley never suspected that the pretty, charismatic bastard was actually an unrepentant thief, born to be an outlaw.

 

Angela Snyder, NYT bestselling author – Devious
When the moment comes to take my revenge on Victoria’s father, will I be able to pull the trigger if it means losing her forever?

 

Sybil Bartel, USAT bestselling author – Hard Limit
I didn’t survive growing up in the nation’s most violent cult only to be taken out by an innocent blonde.

 

Rachel Lyn Adams – Mac (Desert Sinners MC #1)
The moment she walked into the clubhouse I knew she was off-limits. That wasn’t going to stop me from making her mine.

 

Kim Bailey – Claiming Chaos
Kira was a voice in the dark and a threat to his control. A chaotic beauty who Bodhi must fight, kill for or claim as his own.

 

Laramie Briscoe – Creeker (Red Creek Renegades #1)
As a Creeker, I live by two rules. Don’t f**k Banner Clark and don’t get caught doing illegal shit, but then again I’ve never been a fan of rules.

 

Marissa Dobson – Road to Kaytlyn
It takes kidnapping to bring two separated lovers together, but can they survive the walk through Hell?

 

Geri Glenn – Hood Rat
Georgia knew the south side was going to be rough, but she never dreamed she’d come up against anyone quite like Tripp.

 

Amanda Heartley – Flynn: Bad Breed MC
Violence has followed me all my life, and it got worse the day I joined the Bad Breed MC.

 

Marie James – Desperate Beginnings: A Ravens Ruin Prequel
My dreams never contained hope. My nightmares always included brutality. For me, it was always a desperate beginning.

 

Keri Lake – ABSOLUTION
After one of his penitents confesses a brutal murder, Father Damon breaks canon law to mete out justice and ends up an unlikely pawn to the woman who witnesses his crime.

 

Daphne Loveling – Rebel Ink: A Lords of Carnage MC Novella
Six is on the run, and she collides with Bullet. He protects what’s his, and she’s been his from the moment they met.

 

Liberty Parker – Walking the Crossroad
When Jasper and Knuckles started their MC, it was due to the Crossroads they found themselves crossing in life.

 

S.H. Richardson – Dread Masonry Ink
One hardened man looking for redemption. A broken girl looking for safety. An unlikely alliance forged in stone.

 

Roxy Sinclaire – SEALed to Protect
Could she believe that he was her protector? Or just her family’s traitor?

 

Winter Travers – Drop a Gear and Disappear: Kings of Vengeance MC
The only person I ever loved, taken by the men who wanted me dead. They may have her now, but vengeance will be mine.

 

Erin Trejo – Dark Savage
I’ve lowered myself to their standards to keep my club safe. One woman and more than one mistake bring my end closer.

 

J.M. Walker – Before Us
When she slipped out of my hotel room, I made it my mission to have her back in my bed. And when we finally crashed, I’d have to save her from the one person she trusted most…Me.

 

D.B. West – King’s Road
Hold on tight for a ride down memory lane in this Savage Kings MC prequel.

 

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After witnessing a murder, Makenna is abducted by a vigilante and taken to his underground lair where she unravels a secret that entangles both their lives.

 

 

 

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text 2019-01-02 22:30
December 2018-That's A Wrap!
The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky: A Novella of Cosmic Horror - John Hornor Jacobs
Scapegoat - Adam Howe,James R. Newman
The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories, Volume Three - Charles Beaumont,J.B. Priestley,James Purdy
Becoming - Michelle Obama
Winter's Bone - Daniel Woodrell
In the Night Wood - Dale Bailey
Mourning Jewelry - Stephanie M. Wytovich
Husk - J. Kent Messum
Saga Volume 9 - Fiona Staples,Brian K. Vaughan
Where the Crawdads Sing - Delia Owens

I read 13 books in December!

 

Audiobooks

 

BECOMING written and narrated by Michelle Obama 5*

WINTER'S BONE by Daniel Woodrell 4*

MOURNING JEWELRY by Stephanie Wytovich 4.5

WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING by Delia Owens 5*

 

Total: 4

 

ARCS/Reads for Review

 

THE SEA DREAMS IT IS THE SKY by John Hornor Jacobs 4.5*

SCAPEGOAT by Adam Howe and James Newman 4*

IN THE NIGHT WOOD by Dale Bailey 4*

HUSK by J. Kent Messum 4.5*

THE VALANCOURT BOOK OF HORROR STORIES, V.3 edited by James Jenkins and Ryan Cagle

 

Total: 5

 

Random Reads

 

THE TRAVELING VAMPIRE SHOW by Richard Laymon 2.5*

 

Total: 1

 

Graphic Novels

 

SAGA, VOLUME 9- by Brian Vaughan 5* YOU BROKE MY HEART!

SANDMAN: OVERTURE by Neil Gaiman 5*

KILL OR BE KILLED, V. 1 by Ed Brubaker 4*

 

Total: 3

 

 

Horror Aficionados Mount TBR Challenge:

Challenge: Read 40 Books Already on my TBR

 

(I failed but had fun trying!)

 

1. City of the Dead by Brian Keene

2. The Warblers by Amber Fallon

3. October by Michael Rowe

4. It's A Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad World by Curtis Lawson

5. Bad Pennies by John Leonard

6. Cold in July by Joe Lansdale

7. Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill

8. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

9. Hex by Thomas Heuvelt

10. Bird Box by Josh Malerman

 

Running Total: 157

Total Goal: 150

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