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review 2018-09-14 21:11
Truly Madly Stupidly
Truly Madly Guilty - Liane Moriarty

This book made me want to stab something. 

 

Nobody in it was likeable except Tiffany the former stripper and her husband Vid, who spoke like Gru. Everyone else acted like elementary schoolers. The passive aggressiveness, the snide comments, the two-faced behavior. Nothing spoke of adults. And the children were monsters, with the exception of Dakota who didn't have much of a personality at all.

 

The plot was so transparent I could see my hand through it. I had it figured out within about 50 pages. Nothing makes me angrier than a short story that was stuffed to make a novel. This was a prime example. Too much cliche plot filler, too much fluff, too much everything. And none of it was even good. This should have been a novella of max 40 pages. Not 400. Your eyes just glaze after a while. And with the audiobook, it JUST. KEPT. GOING. Every time I thought it was done, it pulled a Return of the King, and popped back up. God. 

 

Yes, this was a overhyped popular book with little substance, one-dimensional characters and a plot any middle grade could see.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-09-05 02:42
The Inexplicable Logic of My Life (Audiobook)
The Inexplicable Logic of My Life - Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Warning:

Death and grief

(spoiler show)

 

I loved Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe and was worried that nothing else would measure up to it. 

 

As with that book, this one is centered around a young high school boy trying to figure out life while detailing in his relationships with those around him. Here, we have Salvador, his gay dad Vicente and his best friends Sam, who is more of a sister to him, and Fito, who is also gay. Sam's and Fito's lives are not as easy as Salvie's but he has his own issues to. His grandmother is sick again, and he's feeling an anger that he can't place where it came from. The ghost of his mother is always there, nearby, and his unknown bio dad is a big question mark. As Salvie, Sam and Fito go through their last year of high school, they face trials, joys and life-changing events. 

 

I didn't really click with the narrator. He did a great job but for some reason his voice just never sounded like what I thought Salvie's voice should sound like. Then Saenz started tugging at the heart strings as first Sam, then Fito, then Salvie and Vicente experienced significant losses in their lives. All the characters are great, flaws and all, and Vicente is a terrific father. But Mima. Mima got me.

 

I lost my nana at the beginning of the year, a few weeks after New Year's. She had been sick a long time and waiting for death, but that didn't make it any easier when we got the call late one night to hurry and come before it was too late to say our goodbyes. I wasn't as close to her as Salvie is to Mima. My nana only spoke Spanish and I only speak English, so we couldn't talk without a translator. But I never needed a translator to know how much she loved me. She had God in her heart, and she loved her family with all her heart. If I was sick or not feeling well when we were visiting, she'd whip up some lemon tea with her special blend of spices and I'd feel better. She made the best tamales and her house and yard always smelled like guavas. Ten months have passed and I still sometimes forget she's not just a couple hours down the highway, and this'll be the first Christmas where we don't all gather at her house, sing carols and eat tamales until we can't move. 

(spoiler show)

 

I saw my nana in Mima, and myself and all my cousins in Salvie, and the special bond that they shared. It's no surprise those were my favorite parts of the book, and that pulled this up from a 3-star to a 4-star read for me.

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review 2018-09-01 07:26
Anger Is a Gift
Anger Is a Gift - Mark Oshiro

Warnings: Institutionalized racism, racism, policy brutality, police shootings, death 

 

I'm going to steal this line from Elena, because it perfectly sums up how I feel about this book:

"The more potential a book shows the less I’m inclined to be generous when it doesn’t live up to it." 

Not that this book didn't always live up to its potential. I think it met that potential and messed it in equal measure.

 

I've followed Mark Does Stuff off and on over the years, and discovered a lot of great shows and books I otherwise wouldn't have tried because of him. I often find his commentary interesting, insightful and funny. I don't always agree with him and the conclusions he makes, but he always explains those conclusions in ways I can understand and respect.

 

Still, I was hesitant to read this book. I was concerned that knowing so much about the author might impact the way I read this book, and I did keep picking out things he'd mentioned about himself or his life experiences being reflected in the characters and the plot, which was distracting to say the least. More than that though, given some of the things I've disagreed with him about over the years, I was worried this wouldn't be for me. And perhaps, in the end, it isn't. So I went into this with certain expectations I wouldn't have had if there was just any other author, and I honestly can't say how much of that influenced my reading.

 

There was a lot here to like, and a lot to not like. After thinking over this review for the last few days (more like a week-and-half as I'm editing this review yet again), I'm still not sure how to write one. So I'm doing a list!

 

 

Some positives:

~Moss's relationship with his mother Wanda was pretty great. Wanda supported her son, and she realized that by trying to protect him he was doubting himself.

~Likewise Javier and his mother have a pretty tight relationship too. I wish there would've been more focus on Javier's mom, given what happens, but she's kind of forgotten.

~Moss's love for his city and his community. He takes pride in being from Oakland, and it's presented in a positive light. Knowing Mark lived there for years, I can imagine he walked the same streets and road the same trains. He really brings the city alive.

~Moss and Javier's friendship was sweet and cute. I adored them and how they just sort of clicked. It was easy to see why Moss would have such deep affection for him over so short a time.

~Moss's ways of coping with his anxiety and how he remembers his father were well done also. As someone with anxiety, I could sympathize with Moss's spiraling self-doubts. The rolodex of memories he keeps of his father shows that had a great relationship, and it was clear how much his father's absence still effects him. 

~The action sequences were very well-written and felt like something you'd see in the movies. Or on the news. =/ The action just exploded off the page and was a big part of why I felt the second half was more solidly written than the first half. These are the parts that flowed the best for me.

~There's no closure. There can't be. 

 

Some negatives:

~The dialogue was often exposition-heavy and felt more like I was being continually hit over the head with an anvil as the world of West Oakland High was being established. Maybe that was by design, but I thought it would've been more effective if more subtly handled. Show, don't tell.

~On that same note, there's also a lot of info-dumping. Moss is walking through his neighborhood early in the story, thinking about who lives where and what they're like, but we don't meet most of these people. By the time we do eventually meet some of them, I'd forgotten everything that was info-dumped about them.

~The same thing happens when we first meet Moss's school friends. Each one is introduced with two or three facts about them, and that's pretty much all the development most of them get. I also had trouble getting a sense of their personalities since they all talked and acted the same. 

~White people jokes are racist jokes too.

~The treatment of Esperanza was abysmal. Moss gets angry at her because she doesn't 100% immediately understand his personal life experience. He doesn't have to make any effort to understand her life, but she's just supposed to magically understand his life and when she doesn't she's a bad friend. The resolution with this character was total fubar. Moss was a jerk towards her for most of the book. (Other reviewers have gone into detail about this.)

~The metal detectors: They don't work that way. I even did some research after that scene because it pulled me out of the book so much. The info that the vice principal gives them later somewhat explains it but it's never explained how a broke, inner-city school could afford any of this stuff, much less how the police could afford it in these days of budget cuts. Even at bargain basement discount prices, military equipment isn't cheap.

~The info the vice principal gives them was never mentioned again, even when Moss had that reporter's attention. 

 

We all know race relations suck in this country, and we've all seen the various stories about police shootings and brutality, and campus cops manhandling students. It's also been disclosed that the military have experimented on our own citizens, so the idea of something like this happening in a school isn't entirely implausible. In a near-dystopian future, this could be all too real. We also have a long history in this country of the police and military coming in to break up peaceful protests with excessive force. Situations like the ones described in this book do happen, and this book doesn't pull any punches. This is an important discussion, and there needs to be more books that focus on these issues. I just feel this story could have been told with more nuance and less hammering. Instead, we get a book were all the good guys are super good, and all the bad guys are super bad. And white. Because ALL white people are the enemy, doncha know. (No, they're not.)

 

I'm still not sure how to rate this. I want to give it four stars for the spotlight it shines on some serious issues and because some of the writing was really solid. The execution of its message often fell into the two-star range though, but splitting it for a three-star rating doesn't seem right either, so I'm leaving this unrated.

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review 2018-08-07 21:50
Purr M for Muuuuuuuurder
Purr M for Murder: A Cat Rescue Mystery - T.C. Lotempio

Well, my dad means well when he sends me stuff. And usually he gets me. He sent me a Golden Girls collectors magazine once, and a cat shirt, and a book about a cat saving Christmas. But this book is just...wow. 

 

I don't read mysteries, for one. And I really don't do cozy mysteries because I find them campy and easy to figure out. But the 52 pages I read of this was like a bad Lifetime movie. Or maybe Hallmark. 

 

I mean, we start out with a conflict with the cat rescue and Baddy McBadguy.

 

 

Rich white Southern man in a 3-piece suit, Italian loafers, and a pit of money for all I know. Beak of a nose, beady eyes, weaselly fellow. Hates do-gooders and only worries about money. Wants to shut down the rescue. It was so straight out of a cookie-cutter Disney Channel movie I couldn't believe it. 

 

The McCall sisters are more of the same stereotypes. One is a jilted former New York exec. The other is the hometown bomb shell who stayed behind to run the family businesses. 

 

All we needed was a motorcycle riding Michael Shanks to show up and we would have a made-for-TV movie there, but I digress. 

 

 

Mmmm.

 

Wait, what? Oh, the book.

 

Anyway, the writing was stilted and stiff. The author didn't have a grasp of modern technology, and the dialogue was forced. The McCall sisters made immature decisions for grown business women, and that's what made me hang it up. When a book places characters in unrealistic positions and has the characters do unbelievable things just to move the story in a certain direction, it shows poor writing. People act a certain way and have certain natural reactions to things, and I am finding more and more that authors do not get that. And I am an author. Like this story: these ladies go to confront  Baddy at his business, they can't find him, it's way early in the morning and dark in the building. Normal people would effing leave. Not these brilliant ladies. They wander inside, using their cellphone as a flashlight, and proceed to just snoop. I closed the book when they had found the office, turned on the lights, saw nobody was there and decided to OPEN A LN ARMOIRE FOR NO REASON. They were there to see a person, not spy. There was no reason to spy, yet the author thought it was a great way to make the women end up caught in the murder web of the book. But do grown women really act this way? I certainly don't. 

 

Two stars, but subtract half a star for the cellphone flashlight stupidity.

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review 2018-08-05 18:01
Blonde Ops
Blonde Ops - Natalie Zaman,Charlotte Bennardo

Omg, I could barely finish the first chapter. Barf. Bec, the main character, is a rich girl kicked out of her prep school for numerous reasons. She's also a hacker with a grudge against authority. Her mother is your typical power-suit wearing business woman with no time for her daughter. Her daughter is clearly troubled and she can't even spare a single hour for her. 

 

As Cinemasins says, SKIP!

 

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