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As of my "maternity leave," here are the stats of the past year: 74 books reviewed 9 guest posts 4 independent bookstores 3 d...

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder

This book was one big fat "WTF???" For reals. Mind blowingly cray cray. Off the charts. This is The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder by Charles Graeber.

During the 1980's and 1990's, as many as 300 (possibly more) patients died at the hands of Charlie Cullen. Known as a brilliant nurse but an odd character, Charlie was the guy you wanted to have on hand. He could work a code like nobody's business, his intelligence was clearly high, and he was good at what he did. Why, then, were deaths by tainted IV's spiking at every hospital he worked? No one has yet figured out why the Angel of Death killed so many without rhyme or reason. Sometimes madness just can't be explained.

It's no secret that I love a good murder mystery, and this one blew my mind. Graeber tells the most wild and unbelievable story in such a narrative that it reads like a roast beef with horseradish cream sauce sandwich. It was rich and meaty and absolutely shocking. I couldn't believe that I was reading a true tale. I was. 

It made me never want to go to the hospital again. This is the most chilling of true-life horror stories. Graeber gives us the Charlie character with no holds barred. We see him warts and all. The most amazing thing, however, was the pathos that Graeber brought to the story. He didn't make Charlie out to be some Texas Chainsaw Massacre-type murder, but rather made him a full and rounded character who, while never justifying his actions, seemed to be making choices that suited him. It was wild and insane. I loved it.

Hard copy below.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Under the Banner of Heaven

I am speechless in the face of Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven. Speechless.

Ron and Dan Lafferty, brothers in genetics and in faith, claim they were commanded by God to kill their sister-in-law and baby niece. Using this stringently, horrifically detailed crime as a jumping off point for exploring the intersection of extremist faith and violence, Krakauer takes us into the world of fundamentalist Mormons, exploring the history of the religion, the breakaway from the larger church that we understand today, and their death grip on The Principle--polygamy--at all costs.

My first reaction to this book is, "Holy mother of pearl, how on earth has the world not read this???" Not because of its revelatory power, which is strong and magnetic, but because it is such a well-written treatise on religious fundamentalism and the (dare I say?) inherent violence in the protection of those values. How on earth others wouldn't say, "Golly gee whiz, so-and-so thinks they are the next-come Messiah--maybe they are crazy!" mind-boggles me. You would think after the third person said this someone would say, "Waaiiiittt a second..." But no. Which I guess is not such a bad thing, as Krakauer's phenomenal book came out of it.

This is a non-fiction piece, which often takes me longer to read than a novel simply because of the larger amount of detail it contains and focus it requires. Not Banner, no sir. I whipped through this 400 page tome in a matter of hours, only because I refused to put it down. I also refused to stop thinking about it. It owned my life for days after--I couldn't stop telling every person I came across to read this book. I am a little behind the game; it was released in 2003, after all. Astounding. It was just astounding.

Krakauer has this amazing way of making his work come across like a work of deep and empowering fiction, and he chooses subjects that will fascinate the unfascinatable. (Yes, I just invented that word. You're welcome.) His research is meticulous, and it should come as no shock that many in the Mormon faith (both fundamentalist and not) didn't want this published. It does not shed a positive light on the history of America's fastest growing religion, but if we are honest with one another then we can accept that no religion exists with an unblemished record. Once we can accept this fact, we can move forward with understanding what others believe. It's what I seek--understanding belief systems and the history behind them because it's interesting to me.

So this is what I encourage you to pick up and enjoy this upcoming month. It's worth a read for nothing else than Krakauer's wondrous writing and ability to draw you in.

Buy the hard copy below. For real. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

ADHD According to Zoe: The Real Deal on Relationships, Finding Your Focus, & Finding Your Keys

I was excited to see a book on adult ADHD before I promptly became distracted by a shiny object. This is ADHD According to Zoe: The Real Deal on Relationships, Finding Your Focus, & Finding Your Keys by Zoe Kessler.

Zoe Kessler was diagnosed with ADHD in her 40’s—and a wave of relief of having a diagnosis combined with horror at the very same thing washed over her. Isn’t ADHD that thing that only pre-adolescent boys deal with? This sends Zoe, a blogger and a journalist, on a quest to understand her diagnosis and in turn, herself. This book combines funny (and sometimes painfully shocking) stories that illustrate Kessler’s points with the abundance of research she has found over the years to help her and to, in turn, help others.

This book is impressively well-researched and provides great references and tips for those currently dealing with ADHD as an adult--in particular, it is an excellent resource for women. Zoe has a relatable voice that is easy to read and makes you smile. It felt like I was getting drinks with her at the local dive bar and she was giving me tips on how to deal with my lack of focus. (Hypothetically speaking, you know, if I were dealing with the symptoms…)
This felt less like a self-help book and more like speaking amongst friends; I think this is so important in ADHD help literature as it can be embarrassing to confront in adulthood. Making people, particularly women, aware of how to address their symptoms in a practical and everyday way is niche that Zoe fills, and you should think about getting this for the zoned-out woman in your life. Just sayin’—it might be more helpful than you think.

For you!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

At the Bottom of Everything: A Novel

Sometimes life just happens, you know? If you are in doubt, you should pick up Ben Dolnick's new novel, At the Bottom of Everything.

Adam has not spoken with his childhood best friend, Thomas, in years. A terrible teenage secret changed their friendship dramatically, and things were never the same. A decade later Thomas's parents reach out to Adam, whose life has taken a less than stellar turn, to help find Thomas who has taken off to India and is nowhere to be found. It is there, at the bottom of everything, where you often find yourself.

This was such an interesting novel; I was unsure of where the plot was taking me through most of it which I enjoyed immensely. It wasn't predictable, but I also had no desire to predict the direction of the story which was a mix of a foreign and a great feeling. The story was told on an even keel, even as the proverbial dookey was hitting the fan.

I was most intrigued by the flashbacks to the boys' childhoods. The incident that affected their lives was shocking and heartbreaking, and it was the story leading up to it and the aftermath that had the book holding my heart in its hands. To have your world uprooted in such a way, then to keep the secret for so long will eat at your soul. I couldn't blame the boys for their worlds collapsing around them as adults.

This novel is super readable and packs an emotional punch, making it a great weekend read when you want to curl up with a cup of tea and an intriguing story.

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

It's Birthday Book Week on the Sassy Peach! That's right, the anniversary of my 30th birthday is this Thursday. In honor of it, I am posting reviews every day this week. Yay for books!!!

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan was a hot topic over the past few weeks.  You might remember this interview.

It's been called the greatest story ever told. A baby, born in a manger, grows up to lead a movement that would, centuries later, become one of the largest religions in the world. But who was the man named Jesus of Nazareth? Aslan, a religious scholar, dives deep into the history of ancient Palestine to examine who this man truly was, how his image and story were shaped in the decades the following his death, and how his zealotry shaped his own life and was shaped by the times he was in.

You guys, this book was awesome. It was so insightful and so colorful. It is deeply rooted in historical context which I love so hard. It is well-researched, incredibly in-depth, and exactly what I am looking for in my non-fiction reading enjoyment. I found myself highlighting a sentence or a passage every few pages. There is so much information and explication in this book that you will have to read short sections at a time in order to take it all in and process the information in front of your eyes.

Aslan is clearly an outstanding scholar and researcher, and his work speaks for itself. I didn't feel that there was any agenda in this book; it was as rooted in history as it could possibly be. In fact, the whole last quarter of the book is notes and sources. This makes me so ridiculously excited that I actually found myself jumping for joy. If you love history, if you love religious research, or if you just love a good story that is meaty and authentic, this is your book.

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Love Rehab: A Novel in Twelve Steps

I needed something short and fun for a day in the sun and water, so I picked up Jo Piazza's Love Rehab: A Novel in Twelve Steps. It was just what the book doctor (booktor?) ordered.

Sophie is having a very hard time getting over her breakup. Her ex-boyfriend cheated on her with his secretary but she still can't shake him, resorting to incessant late night texting and wallowing in self-pity. When she suddenly inherits her grandmother's house in New Jersey, she finds herself attending an AA meeting with her best friend. It then occurs to her--what women need is love rehab. Sophie builds a house for wayward women, those seeking refuge from love gone sour. But can she learn to love herself more than the jerk who broke her heart?

This was an excellent book for a day of fun in the sun. It required my buy-in and my attention while still making me giggle and sometimes roll my eyes in astonishment at Sophie's antics. It contained enough romance to be chick lit but lacked the romancey-ness that I avoid in novels. Sophie is flawed, of course--I mean, come on, she creates a rehab to help her get over her cheating loser of an ex. But she finds strength in numbers and through her calling to support others in their quest to mend their broken hearts.

I had fun with this book, and sometimes you need that guffaw loud, glad-I'm-not-her feeling in a book. This book just made me happy. And I like books that make me happy.

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Night Film: A Novel

I would venture to say that Marisha Pessl's Night Film is one of the most anticipated books of the summer. I got wind of it a few months ago when Stephen King recommended in a column of upcoming books and I sat on my hands impatiently while I waiting for an advance copy. I dove in like it was a pool of cold chocolate pudding in a hot desert.

Famed horror director Stanislas Cordova makes mind-blowing films that change your view on humanity and turn your world upside-down. His eccentricity and reclusive nature has only made him more of a cult figure to his followers since his last interview with Rolling Stone in 1977. Scott McGrath is a journalist whose life and career were ruined several years ago when he decided to pursue an investigation of the director. Now Cordova's beloved daughter, Ashley, has been found dead of an apparent suicide in an abandoned Chinatown warehouse. As McGrath pursues an unauthorized investigation in to her death, he finds a world of intrigue that is the largest puzzle he may ever have to put together--including black magic, mysterious disappearances, and the cult of Cordova.

Sometimes a novel will bowl you over so hard all you can do is sit on an abandoned curb stunned and wonder what the hell just happened to you. This is Night Film.

I will start by saying this book is a 500-something-page mindf&$%. There is no better way to describe how this book will own your soul for the time you spend inside its pages. There came a time where I myself was having difficulty distinguishing fact from fiction; I woke up one morning on vacation last week with an overwhelming desire to watch Lovechild, one of Cordova's films described in the novel. I had time, after all--I was on vacation. The only problem is that the films aren't real in real life. That's how invested I was in this book; Cordova's filmography is so lovingly detailed and realistic that it feels honest-to-Betsey real.

There were times mid-book where I found the miniscule detail for which Pessl is revered to be a little too tedious and I wanted more action; now that I am out the other side, however, I understand the importance of every detail provided and I have now changed my tune.

A few times in this book I thought I knew where the story was taking me only to hit a brick wall when it turns out I was wrong. This is the magic of Pessl's storytelling abilities. It was not about me; it was Pessl's ability to purposely lead me astray in order to turn around and punch me in the stomach. Smiling. With a baseball bat. That she hid in her trench coat.

I won't speak in detail about my favorite scenes, or the ones that blew my mind the most, because I do not give spoilers here. (Except for this one extended section toward the end that will 100% knock your socks off; seriously, when I finished the chapter I took in a deep breath and wondered if I actually took in any oxygen the entire time my eyes were racing across the pages.) Instead, I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy and discover the magic yourself.

Hard copy on below. Waste no more time, please.

Monday, August 19, 2013

If You Could Be Mine: A Novel

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan jumped out at me when I read the blurb. It sounded lovely and heartbreaking, and it was both.

Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were children. She has known no other love, and by the time Sahar is a teenager she realizes that it's not just a passing childhood fancy--she is deeply, unequivocally, and heartbreakingly in love with Nasrin, who reciprocates the feelings. They, however, are Iranian, and homosexual relationships carry a penalty of death. When Nasrin announces her engagement to a handsome, wealthy doctor, Sahar is completely broken. How can she save Nasrin from this fate worse than death--marriage? If she can't, can they ever be the same?

I fell madly and forcefully in love with this book just a few pages in. It is told from Sahar's first-person perspective and Farizan has created a character with such deep pathos that I felt I entered Sahar's life. I understood her struggles (both to love Nasrin and to let her go for what was best for everyone) and her desire to do whatever she must to keep Nasrin as hers. I was rooting for Sahar in what felt like such an incredibly personal way; I felt as if I were in her shoes.

Farizan is a beautiful writer, and she has crafted a structurally simple yet emotionally complicated narrative that kept my eyes glued to my Kindle screen. I only wanted to stay with Sahar, help her make good decisions, and shake her into realizing that she will be OK. Life will be easier. I loved everything about this book and I am so thankful I had the opportunity to pick it up and live in it for a few days.

You should get this for a young person in your life. Or yourself.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Between You and Me: A Novel

Oh, chick lit. You can certainly make me a happy camper sometimes. This is Between You and Me by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus.

Logan is just trying to make it post-college. She is working a job that doesn't fulfill her, she lives in a less-than-glamorous apartment, and she can't get her guy to commit no matter how hard she tries. When she is suddenly offered the opportunity to work as her cousin's assistant, she jumps at the chance. A Brittany Spears-like power star, Kelsey Wade is on a national tour--loved by the world but in desperate need of personal connection. As Logan works side-by-side with her cousin, she discovers that sometimes you have to let those you love pick themselves up--or you might just lose yourself.

This is the perfect lay-by-the-pool, sip-on-a-daiquiri, lounge and don't get up for hours unless you need a dip in the water novel. It required my attention the way a romantic comedy does--I was able to smile and giggle, shrug my shoulders at the antics, and generally enjoy myself. I revel in the ability to just accept a story as-is, and I loved that this was slightly over the top. It bought into every fantasy I have ever had of suddenly making it, becoming rich and famous and just generally fabulous.

It is easy to relate to Logan, always wanting to do the right thing yet never being able to please everyone. She takes the job with her cousin to rekindle the closeness they had as children only to discover that her aunt and uncle are still as crazy as they were years ago. Her uncle is no longer an addict; instead, he is addicted to managing Kelsey's career. There were times where I wanted Logan to strangle him just to get him to knock off his obnoxiousness, so I would say that he was a pretty well-developed character.

I was rooting for Logan to make the right decision, whatever that is. Sometimes the best stories are when there is no right decision. A lot like life, I might say. It's hard to let family unravel and be unable to fix it or make it better.

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Reconstructing Amelia: A Novel

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreigh. There is nothing else to introduce this book with because the book is awesome all by itself.

Kate is a single mother to fifteen-year-old Amelia. After Amelia is found dead of a presumed suicide by jumping off the roof of her school, Kate receives a harrowing text message that her daughter didn't kill herself. She doesn't know what to believe. In order to find out the truth, Kate must reconstruct her daughter's final months via texts, emails, and interviews. What she finds will break her heart, boil her anger into a rage, and give her answers to questions she never knew she had. 

This book kept me awake. I don't mean that figuratively, either. This book actually kept me awake. I read and read and read and read and read until 3am when I forced myself to dog-ear the page and attempt to sleep without thinking of picking up the book again until the next day. Which I did. Because I couldn't stop. Then the book kept me from doing work the next day. I stayed home and read until I finished. HOLY MOLY, YOU GUYS.

I honestly can't remember the last time I was this addicted to a book that I couldn't actually go to sleep. The story is so well-crafted and intricate that focus is a must. My eyes were like laser beams and my brain was like a computer, mulling over what I might thing this means and what I might thing would happen next.

I loved the character of Amelia as my own daughter, and I wanted to desperately to scream at her when she made decisions that I just knew were leading her to the inevitable conclusion. I wanted to reach into the book, grab her by the private-school polo collar, and scream at her to think about this decision long and hard. The adolescent years are so fraught with a desperation to fit in somewhere that kids are willing to make horrible decisions for just that shot of fitting in. How easy it is for me to sit here as an adult and want to tell Amelia that it's all right if those girls can't be trusted--just walk away. I want to say I would have. I can't say that's the truth.

Have you ever read a book and forgotten that the characters aren't actually real people? That's pretty much what happened the moment I started this story. It gripped me like a hand in a haunted house and I was so willing to go along with it because...well, because holy cow the story will blow your mind. 

Uuuuggghhhh, just go get the book. You can get it through the links below, but you seriously need to stop wasting time and read it for yourself. It is outstanding.

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Son of a Gun: A Memoir

I love off-beat family memoirs. They make me realize that my family at least put the "fun" in "dysfunctional." This is Justin St. Germain's Son of a Gun.

Justin is in college and living with his older brother when they receive a phone call that their mother is dead--shot in her home. Their stepfather is missing, later found dead in a suicide. Justin finds himself in a tailspin of grief in the immediate aftermath. His mother was his rock and gave him everything he could possible need in his childhood. In adulthood, Justin goes on a search to find out what happened that night. This involves looking back into his mother's past, rooting through her previous four marriages, and seeking out answers in the investigation that he never knew prior. What he finds both surprises him and doesn't, leading him to a kind of acceptance that will allow him to push forward in life.

This was a good read. It's split into two parts; the first part immediately follows news of Debbie's death and the months that follow. She was killed days after 9/11, warranting only a blip on the news. St. Germain pours out his pain on the page, painting a vivid picture of what it is like to lose a parent who played such a large role in his life. He recognized the sacrifices his mother made for him and his brother, and his loyalty and care is so deeply interwoven in the words he used to describe his pain over this loss.

The second part of the book occurs almost a decade later as Justin finds himself preparing to move in with the love of his life and beginning a book about his mother's death. His search for answers leads him to meetings he never envisioned happening, and the mix of emotions that occur over this months-long search for answers is raw and palpable. In one scene, he visits a support group for family members of murder victims and it's almost too much for him. Who else could understand such hurt?

The murder occurred in Tombstone, the tourist town famous for the shootout at the O.K. Corral. St. Germain weaves in the history of Wyatt Earp and the events of the time with the story of his mother's murder as he understands it. It was an interesting comparison to his own personal pain, and one that humanized his desperate need for answers--to begin to make sense of something that just doesn't, and may never.

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The People in the Trees: A Novel

Ooooh eeemmmm geeee. I just finished The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara and I am absolutely astounded--simply floored

Norton Perina is about to graduate medical school when he is offered to join the anthropologist Paul Tallent on a trip to find a lost people on the island of Ivu'ivu. Not only do they find what they seek, but Norton also makes a discovery that will change his life--the secret to immortality. Over the next decade, he finds proof that eating a specific turtle on the island halts aging, he wins a Nobel Prize for his work, and over time he adopts over 25 children from the island, taking them home to raise. His life comes crashing down, however, when one of his children accuses him of the ultimate sin.

This book was jaw-dropping. You may think you know the truth, but you have no idea. The thing is, Yanagihara never actually leads you in any specific direction; he tells you a story and you make assumptions based on your own cognitive framework. Then you read the last chapter and your world will be completely rocked. Everything falls into place, makes sense, and makes you question everything you ever believed.

This book reminded me of those in the "whoa" genre; I was lead to believe one thing while being given evidence that changed only when given the absolute truth. This book was truly incredible, and I raced through the first 100 pages and then the last 50 in complete and utter disbelief. The story is told in a semi-epistolary form; Norton is writing letters to his protege from jail, telling him the story of his life that led him to this point. It is somewhat first-person, but footnotes interrupt the narrative from the protege who put together the book, making some of it second- and third-person. It is fascinating, wild, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since I finished it. 

I had a range of emotions with this book, and the ending particularly floored me. It is well worth the read if you love a well-told story, if you want to just have the rug pulled out from under you, and/or if you love anthropology. I love all of the above, but most importantly is a story that hooks me and makes my eyes bug out of my head when it throws me a curve ball. This was it.

Kindle version on the left, hard copy on the right.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Art of Sleeping Alone: Why One French Woman Gave Up Sex

Hi fabulous readers! I am on vacation this week, which is awesome for both me and you. For me because I need a vacation, and for you because I am posting reviews every day this week. And they are all so so so fantastic. Enjoy Beach Week Reads here on Sassy Peach, Book Blogger!

The Art of Sleeping Alone: Why One French Woman Gave Up Sex by Sophie Fontanel caught my attention with its premise: A woman decides to become celibate for several years. Who would do this, and what came out of it?

Sophie had been a sexually active (and happy with it) woman for thirty-six years until one day she realizes she just isn't into it anymore--she is shut down with her lover and can't open up again. She goes on a quest to remain celibate in order to dig deep into her soul. What comes out of it is this thoughtful and exploring memoir that shows us what that searching looks like, how uncomfortable your friends really are with your singledom, and what it is like to be alone.

This memoir was short and sweet. Fontanel, a novelist and an editor at French Elle for many years, writes a languid and mindful novelette that enters into the soul and searches for answers to questions even sometimes she doesn't know she is asking. Choosing to explore an identity you have worn for decades without much deep consideration is a mind-blowing experience, and Fontanel's expedition is crafted in a story that reads as the way a mild, sunny afternoon languishing on the prow of a floating sailboat feels.

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Room 702

I lovedlovedloved the tagline--so I picked up the book. This is Room 702 by Ann Benjamin.

One year. One hotel room. Many stories--if these walls could speak. Beverly Hill's Winchester Hotel is an outstanding establishment that aims to please--customer's wishes are granted, discretion is implied, and luxury is guaranteed. Haven't you ever wondered what happens in your hotel room the other 365 days of the year you aren't there?

This was such an interesting book that I whipped through it in a matter of days. There are recurring stories, and a handful spread over days, but generally these stories are a one-night snapshot in a life. One man comes to commit suicide. A writer finds the key to unlocking writer's block. A woman comes happy and leaves destroyed. A happy couple celebrates their first night as husband and wife. A star unexpectedly overdoses with so much life ahead of him. The room holds so much love, so much joy, and so much pain. 

I really enjoyed the chronological aspect of this novel, telling me stories as people check in, as they already stay there, and as they are leaving. Some come for a week, some come for an hour. I got to know the hotel staff as well as the guests, and there were times where I felt if only I could ring the front desk I might be able to prevent the inevitable from happening. This was a charming read, and I felt emotionally spent after putting it down. I was able to care about people only to have them whisked away, never knowing what happened to them. But that's part of the deal--when you work in hospitality, it's only a few moments you have to know someone's life. 

Kindle version for purchase below. It's a steal at $2.99!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Necessary Errors: A Novel

If you are looking for one stunning piece of literature, look no further than Caleb Crain's stunning literary debut, Necessary Errors.

It's 1990, and the Czechoslovakian revolution is barely a year old. Having just missed it, Jacob arrives bright eyed and ready to take his new home by storm. He is a writer but currently teaches at a language school, using his cashed-in plane ticket home to buy his cigarettes and drinks. His group of friends pair off over time, finding one another in romance, while Jacob makes Prague his home and finds that his initial impressions of people are not entirely accurate. People grow, people change, people find themselves--including Jacob himself.

Let me tell you about this novel. It is STUNNING.  Capital S-T-U-N-N-I-N-G. Like someone took a stun gun, pointed it at my side, and fired every time I set down to open this novel. I couldn't gloss over any sentence; I had to drink every moment in from the goblet of genius that wrote each and every sentence of this story. Attention must be paid to this novel and its words.

Oh, so now you think I've gone a bit over board. NOT TRUE. This was a book that I wanted to stop reading in order to keep it forever fresh on my bookshelf. When I love a piece of art I find that I can't stand to finish it. This is because once it is over I may be devastated, and I can't have that, you see. This novel was just that. I wanted to only read a page at a time so that I could extend its life FOREVER. Of course I didn't do that in this case, but that's what I felt like.

I loved Jacob. I really did. I loved watching his relationships both romantic and platonic blossom and hurt and open him up to new possibilities. I loved his tenacity and his openness which still occasionally holding his cards close to the vest. I loved his character arc and the growth I saw in his throughout the 400-something pages in which I was so invested.

(I also loved recognizing all of the streets, the monuments, and the buildings mentioned in the book. I adored Prague; it remains one of the most amazing cities I have visited.)

I lapped up Necessary Errors like a nursing cat desperate for its mother's milk. I never stopped wanting more, and I am so sad it's over. Amazing. Just, simply amazing.

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Save Yourself: A Novel

I was not expecting Save Yourself by Kally Braffet to be as haunting and spellbinding as it was. What a nice surprise!

Where is peace and acceptance when nothing ever seems to go your way? Patrick and Mike's father is in jail for a hit and run on a child--and Patrick put him there by calling the cops. On top of this, his relationship with Mike's girlfriend has become extremely  and inappropriately close. He is also being hounded by Layla, a rebellious youngster whose evangelical parents have made her life hell. Layla's sister, Verna, is having the worst time ever in high school--and she is desperately seeking a change. A collision course toward one another will end horribly wrong--and ruin lives in the process.

This book was dark. (I thoroughly enjoy dark books!) I had absolutely no idea where the book was going until the last chapter, and I was shocked by the ending. I truly didn't expect it. I feel like so many books I read I can kind of pick up on where things are going, and that's not all that bad most of the time. I have always been one that enjoys knowing the ending because I can logically fit the puzzle pieces in as I go along. But I was genuinely surprised when I figured out what was about to happen in this ending.

My favorite part of this book, though, was the pathos that Braffet lent toward her characters. Every single one of them had a fatal flaw but never once did Braffet make up excuses for them. They lived their lives exactly as they were with no apologies. They were each genuine and honest characters, and together they made this story that was crazy and unbelievable yet so true to life. People hurt, and then they continue to live their lives. It's beautiful and sad all at the same time.

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Eating My Feelings: Tales of Overating, Underperforming, and Coping with My Crazy Family

I looooove to laaaugh, ha-ha-ha-ha. (Remember the song from Mary Poppins, the original Disney movie version???) Ok, well, anyway, if you also love to laugh, you will understand why I dove into Mark Brennan Rosenberg's latest, Eating My Feelings: Tales of Overeating, Underperforming, and Coping with My Crazy Family. Sounds like I could have written this.

Mark Rosenberg grows up as an overweight gay kid in New Jersey. He loves Clueless, All My Children, and Melrose Place. He lives for brownies and musical theatre. He is a riot on a plate. When not contriving ways to off his bitchy stepmother or finagle his way out of fat camp, Mark is busy finding his way though high school and later through the streets of image-obsessed New York City. Will he ever get fit? Will he find a job he loves? Will he get to tell Erica Kane that she is his knightess in shining armor?

These and many other questions plague Mark on a daily basis. The guy is seriously a riot. He doesn't take himself too seriously, and he recognizes what is funny about his life. One of my mantras in life is that you have to find life funny--or else you might just lose your mind. Ordinary circumstances could take a u-turn in Mark's life and take an incidence that could be cringeworthy or upsetting and turn it into comedy gold.

At one point I found myself giggling out loud on the train and the guy across from me gave me a very strange look. Any book that will make me smile during rush-hour traffic on the F train gets my vote. Mark is a sympathetic character even when he is clearly difficult. He feels like your best friend; I wanted to ask if I could join him for his snowstorm pig-out and eat my feelings with him. He writes the way I imagine he converses, and that makes him a number one guest at my next dinner party. If I threw dinner parties, that is. I don't like cleaning up after people, so I don't have them often.

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.