Wednesday, September 26, 2012

White Trash Beautiful by Teresa Mummert

(White Trash series, book 1)
“I’m not na├»ve. I know I don’t get the happily ever after. My knight in shining armor took the highway detour around this god forsaken shit hole. I’ve made peace with that. That doesn’t mean I’m going to lay down like a doormat and let every cocky prick in the trailer park have his way with me.”
Cass lives a depressing life in a small trailer park in Eddington, GA with her mother and abusive boyfriend Jackson. She works hard to barely make ends meet. One day Tucker White, the leader singer in the band Damaged, walks into her diner. He tries to show her that there is more to life than the hand she has been dealt but being with Tucker will come at a high price.

WARNING! This review contains a pretty big spoiler; check yourself before you wreck yourself...

Well, fishsticks. I think I just expected too much from this book. I saw so many people talking about it on Goodreads, and then it skyrocketed to the top 5 on B&N so I thought surely it would just rock my face off. Sadly, it didn’t. It wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t that great either.

Cass is stuck living in a trailer park with her mother and her boyfriend, Jackson. When she’s not waiting tables at the local diner to help support all three of them, she’s trying to keep her mother and boyfriend off drugs and attempting to cover the bruises Jackson leaves all over her body. She hates her life. Enter Tucker White; a rock star that wanders into her diner and convinces her that she deserves a better life and he is just the person to give that to her.

The premise is great and I knew there would be plenty of angst, which is why I was so anxious to read this book; the execution, however, falls a little flat. I felt like the characters lacked a lot of development, so it was really hard for me to buy into this whole whirlwind romance. Sure, we know Cass is depressed with her life and Jackson wasn’t always a drug addict that took out his anger on her…but what do we know about Tucker; that he’s a super famous rock star who makes tons of money and didn’t have great parents growing up. Do we know why they weren’t great parents? Nope, we sure don’t. I guess I just wanted a little more background on the characters, especially Tucker.

I’m also not a big fan of the relationships where they are head over heels in love after only a week. I want a good love story, a progression to the big, huge, “I love you and I’m beyond crazy about you and want to spend my life with you” moment. That didn’t exist in this book. I just didn’t really buy the romance between Tucker and Cass, and the main reason why is because I feel like it was really rushed. Oh, and one other thing that just seemed incredibly unrealistic? Tucker’s reaction to Cass being pregnant. He was ecstatic about knocking up a girl that he’s known for a couple weeks? I don’t buy it. I understand he likes her a lot (or loves her, I guess) but having that kind of reaction seemed incredibly unrealistic to me. I was also slightly confused as to how he was able to go out with Cass and not get hounded constantly if he was such a big rock star; or better yet, how Cass didn’t know who he was if she was such a huge fan of his band? I don’t get it.

Cass was really the only character in this story that I truly liked; Tucker was just alright for me. I liked that Cass was trying to make something of herself despite coming from nothing, and battling the constant nagging feeling that maybe she isn’t destined for a better life; maybe this was exactly what her life was supposed to be. She was kind of the saving grace for this book, IMO.

It’s not a bad story, but it’s just not really a good one either. I wanted to like this book so much that I think my expectations were just a little too high. I’m still looking forward to the next book in the series, and hopefully it will delve a little deeper into Tucker’s personality and what his past is all about; maybe then his and Cass’s romance will be more believable to me. Honestly, I think the best word to sum up this book for me, personally, would be “mehhh…”  

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Futures and Frosting by Tara Sivec

(Chocolate Lovers series, book 2)
Carter, Claire, and Gavin have formed the perfect little family. Their friends are getting married and everyone is growing up, maturing and ready to face the future. Or are they?
From bachelorette party hell, porn addictions, dinner roll baseball and botched wedding proposals to finding out everyone’s extended family is chock full of crazy, Carter and Claire begin to question the strength of the ties that bind them. Unfortunately, these ties have nothing to do with fuzzy handcuffs and everything to do with the mounting differences between them.
Will their friends make a mess of things with their inappropriate comments and need to know everything, or will they convince the couple that happily-ever-after sometimes really can start with beer pong?

“My mom’s not afraid to punch a kid.” – Gavin

Sweet mother of God, Tara Sivec has managed to do it again. What is ‘it’, you ask? Well, let me tell you. She has managed to make me fall in love with someone who is simultaneously causing me to pee my pants from laughter. Now, I’m not a love doctor or anything but as far as I’m concerned, that folks, is true love. Tara: if I liked vagina, I would be avidly listing the reasons why you should switch teams. And I’m pretty persuasive, just so you know. Lucky for you, I like the peen…but if you need a “sister from another mister” type in your life, I can make some room in my friend circle! Just sayin’…

So I bought this book the day it was released, but I put off reading it for a week or so. I just loved Seduction and Snacks so much that I was nervous the sequel wouldn’t live up to it. Well, that and I didn’t want to face the reality that this series was over. I actually started and finished this in one day (while at work…so you know I was super productive at work that day) and I am ecstatic to say that this book is absolutely as good as Seduction and Snacks.

The plotlines were perfect, and I love that we got more of the supporting characters in this book!! Drew was even funnier this time around (his proposal idea had me fucking rolling) and GAVIN!!!...sweet mercy, that kid is such a little spitfire and because it’s not my kid cussing up a storm and telling the flower girl at a wedding that I’m not afraid to punch a kid, it’s not just funny; it’s beyond f*cking hilarious!  

Oh, and here’s a fun little tidbit for you: I cried during the book. Cried like a little fucking baby. I’m sure anyone who has read it can probably guess what part I’m talking to, but it involves beer pong. I think that’s the first time I’ve cried over beer pong…or let’s just say it is so I can maintain some of my dignity…

I honestly don’t have anything negative to say about Futures and Frosting, other than the fact that I’m pissed it’s over! Seriously, if you haven’t read this OR Seduction and Snacks, you should be punched in the ovaries because you are dumb and hate funny things. If you aren’t dumb and don’t hate funny things…and more importantly, don’t want to get punched in the ovaries, READ THIS BOOK NOW! Oh, and ladies: I have to side with Claire on this one...spitters are, in fact, quitters. *shrugs*

This is by far one of my favorite series and if I ever hear someone say a great love story can’t begin and end with beer pong (as all great love stories should) this will be my response……

The Devil's Metal by Karina Halle

(Devils series, book 1)
It’s the summer of 1974 and 21-year old Dawn Emerson has only three things she wants to do: compete one last time in the Ellensburg Rodeo, win back her ex-boyfriend Ryan, and become the best damn music journalist at Central Washington University. But all her plans are left in the dust when she’s contacted by Creem magazine to go on the road with one of her favorite groups, the up-and-coming metal band, Hybrid. 

At first the assignment reads like a dream come true. Not only will Dawn land some much-needed credibility as a female music journalist, but she’ll finally get to experience life from the other side of the stage, and maybe crack the drunken, enigmatic code that is guitarist Sage Knightly. Instead, Dawn finds herself on an aging tour bus filled with ego-maniacs, band politics and a whole lot of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. When monsters start showing up in dressing rooms and some of Sage’s groupies become increasingly strange and dangerous, Dawn discovers the band is not only going places – they’re going straight to Hell.

And Dawn has a backstage pass.

*I was given an ARC of this book for review on The Indie Bookshelf. I have tweaked this review a little bit from the original…*

Sex, drugs, and rock & roll; that’s what this book is about. Oh, did I forget to mention demons? Yeah, throw some demons in there, too. Intrigued? Yeah, that’s right, you should be. The Devil’s Metal is an absolute trip that will leave you feeling like you were right there on the tour bus with Dawn, Jacob, and Hybrid experiencing all the highs (literally) and lows with them. Karina Halle perfectly captures the 1970’s lifestyle and uses extensive, but not overbearing details to paint a picture of life during the bellbottom-wearing, Quaalude-popping, rock and roll era. I’m a late 80’s baby, so I never experienced the rock & roll, hippie, Woodstock craziness of the 70’s, but this book made me feel like I was going through the motions right along with Dawn; from living on a sweaty, dirty tour bus to watching the shows backstage to being surrounded by a cloud of pot smoke in the middle of the concert crowd. Karina knows how to paint a picture, no doubt. She also gets a couple extra points in my book for the several Led Zeppelin references (they are one of my favorite bands), and a reference to Lawrence, KS (home of the KU Jayhawks!!) Yeah, I’m a nerd and get excited about things like that; don’t judge me.

There is an omnipresent hair-raising factor that casts a shadow over the entire book that will make you always feel like something just isn’t right; there is just always something or someone that is a little off. There is quite a bit of foreshadowing that leads you to believe maybe the band knows exactly what’s going on and they just aren’t telling Dawn, like this line for instance: “We all lost our souls when we joined this band…” Hmm…do they mean that figuratively or literally?? However, even with all the hints and foreshadowing, the cause behind everything happening isn’t super obvious; Karina picks the perfect moment to pull you out of the dark and bring to light the reasoning behind all these strange happenings…and strange is putting it mildly. I mean, it is just a big bucket of crazy topped with a nice, heaping pile of WTF?!

Karina does a wonderful job of giving each character their own, very distinct personality traits. It’s obvious she spent a great deal of time developing each character into their own, which makes it so easy to love these characters. Well… some of them. The relationship that forms between Dawn and Sage is slow moving, ridiculously teasing, and eventually crazy hot; the friendship between Dawn and her best friend, Mel, is heartwarming, hilarious, and in one particular scene, gut wrenching. One of my favorite lines of the whole book actually comes from Mel when she’s referring to Dawn’s ex-boyfriend: “He’s good for sloppy kisses and cherry popping and looking slammin’ at our prom.” That line makes me laugh every time! Dawn’s relationships with her Tourette’s-ridden brother Eric, Jacob, and the other members of Hybrid add to her likability as well.

The end seriously gave me chills, and I'm pretty anxious to read the sequel. I don't believe this is classified as YA, and most of the material really isn't appropriate for young adults; there is sex, drug use, profanity, and some pretty scary stuff, y'all. The only paranormal books I had read previously involved vampires, werewolves, things like that; I can't remember reading a book that involved demons and all that other freaky jazz that showed up in Lake Shasta, but I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed that different aspect of paranormal craziness. I'm not big on horror because I'm a big baby, but this book had my interest from almost the very beginning. If you want to read a dark, paranormal, creep-tastic novel with a little romance and a lot of rock & roll on the side, check out The Devil's Metal; it'll take you on one Hell of a ride...

Not available for purchase through Barnes and Noble

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

WICKED on her hipbone, GIRL across her heart
Words are like a road map to reporter Camille Preaker’s troubled past. Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, Camille’s first assignment from the second-rate daily paper where she works brings her reluctantly back to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls.
NASTY on her kneecap, BABYDOLL on her leg
Since she left town eight years ago, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed again in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille is haunted by the childhood tragedy she has spent her whole life trying to cut from her memory.
HARMFUL on her wrist, WHORE on her ankle
As Camille works to uncover the truth about these violent crimes, she finds herself identifying with the young victims – a bit too strongly. Clues keep leading to dead ends, forcing Camille to unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past to get at the story. Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming.

There were several other books I had planned on reading before this one, but after I finished Gone Girl I was on such a Gillian Flynn high that I had to read another one of her books immediately. I was super excited to read this book, because 1) It’s written by Gillian Flynn, and 2) anyone who knows me knows that I love fucked up characters; however, this book tested my boundaries for how much f*cked-up-ness (yeah, I made that up) I can handle in just 230 pages. Sharp Objects just might be a little more than I can handle.

After two young girls are brutally murdered, Chicago reporter Camille is send back home to Wind Gap, Missouri to cover the story. The only problem is that Camille doesn’t want to go back home; she doesn’t want to stay with her overbearing and yet incredibly hateful mother, her stepfather who has barely spoken a handful of sentences to her, and her thirteen-year-old half-sister who she  quickly finds out has an incredibly dark, sinister side to her. Unfortunately, Camille understands having a dark side; she has been carving words into her skin since she was a teenager and has developed an alcohol addiction. While being forced to deal with her painful childhood memories, she is interviewing anyone she can to get some answers about these serial killings; unfortunately she may have to dig deeper into her past in Wind Gap if she wants to find some real answers.

I hate to say this, but I contemplated not finishing this book. It wasn’t even because of the content (although we’ll get to that later); it was because the first half of the book read like molasses. I felt like I was just trudging through it and the story wasn’t progressing one bit. It was a little brutal.

It’s pretty obvious just from the synopsis that Camille has serious issues; she does. I like broken characters, the ones that aren’t perfect. Camille, however, was a little too broken even for me. I still found myself empathizing with her, but not wholeheartedly. The details of how she carved words into her body made my skin crawl, the true story behind her losing her virginity made me cringe, and I had to remind myself multiple times throughout the book that Camille is in her 30’s. It didn’t seem that way at all. The way she was written made it seem like she was maybe 25-26…but no way was she in her 30’s; which just makes some of things she does even more disturbing: having sex with an barely legal 18-year-old boy, doing drugs with her thirteen-year-old half-sister…I mean, really?! Come on girl, get it together.

Her mother is a whole other bag of fucked up that I really can’t even go into, because I despised her so much. Her relationship with Camille was by far the most disturbing mother/daughter relationship I have ever read about and the times where they were interacting seemed to be the times where I really empathized with Camille. Amma, her half-sister, has something off about her too. She’s the perfect, pretty, most popular girl in Wind Gap, but she also has a really mean side to her. I mean, she takes the whole “Rachel McAdams in Mean Girls” act to a whole other level; a disgusting level.

Ultimately, the book turned out alright and I did like it, I just didn’t love it. The second half picked up so it read pretty fast and I got thrown a few times on who I thought was the serial killer. I think the fact that it seemed like every character in this book was fucked up in one way or another was just a little much for me; I’m good with one or two characters having serious issues, but any more than that it feels almost depressing. The saving grace of this book was the sheer suspense of “who-done-it,” which is why I ended up giving it 3 stars. If you want a dark, shocking novel that is incredibly disturbing at times, check out Sharp Objects; but if your skin is crawling half way through, don’t say I didn’t warn you…

Monday, September 17, 2012

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media – as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents – the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter – but is he really a killer?
As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

“There’s something disturbing about recalling a warm memory and feeling utterly cold.” – Nick

HO-LY SHIT. I finished this book Friday night and it haunted me all weekend; seriously, it did and it wasn’t like I was just sitting around doing nothing other than letting my mind wander. I tailgated and went to the KU football game on Saturday, I went to my friend’s end-of-summer BBQ on Sunday, and yet this book kept invading my mind like a sneaky, little ninja! I mean, I’m in the middle of a round of flip cup and all of a sudden my mind is like, “Hey, remember when ____ found out about ____?! Do you remember that??? DO YA???” Needless to say, I wasn’t on my A-game, flip cup wise. I guess the easiest way to put this would be to say that this book fucked me up royally.

It is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary, and what should be a day to celebrate ends up being a day from Hell; Amy has vanished and slowly all fingers start to point at Nick as the prime suspect. He’s distant, unattached, almost as if he really doesn’t care that his wife is missing. He’s smiling during press conferences, taking pictures with attractive girls in the search party, and lying his face off. As more and more evidence is brought to light, mainly by his wife’s annual anniversary treasure hunt, this case becomes a national media circus and everyone is pointing the finger at Nick; including his twin sister, who has started to have doubts about her brother’s innocence.

I really can’t a whole lot about the events in this book, because I’m too nervous that I will accidentally give something away and that would just absolutely ruin it. This is a story that documents the mind and moves of a true psychopath. It raises the question of how well do you really know the person you married? What if they have a past you don’t know about? What if it’s all an act for something bigger they have in mind? It’s chilling to think about. You want to believe you know someone, but how much do people actually reveal to us? How much do we really know about anyone?

As far as the writing goes, it’s pretty flawless; Gillian Flynn does an excellent job of switching POVs between Nick and Amy. I really enjoyed the Midwest references in the book; I’m not from Missouri but I am from Kansas so most of the references were easily relatable: drinking soda from red Solo cups, we have “decks” not “outdoor spaces,” we come up with recipes like Frito Pie. You know, I think Nelly & the St. Lunatics said it best… “It’s a Midwest thang y’all, you ain’t got a clue.” There aren’t a lot of authors that use the flyover states as the setting for their novels, so I always get a little flit of joy when someone does; it’s the little things. She also brings to light how big of a role the media now plays in high profile cases. It really is true that finding an unbiased jury in 2012 is extremely hard to do when you’re dealing with a case of this caliber. I mean, think of the cases where wives went missing: Scott Peterson, Drew Peterson, Gabe Watson. The media had a hay day with all of these cases and all of the news stories were televised nationally; it’s incredibly hard to find a person who hasn’t already formulated an opinion about the case. The media can turn you from the grieving husband to the wife killer in a matter of one broadcast. I thought the incorporation of the Ellen Abbott character was clever, and clearly mirrored the image of Nancy Grace with her overbearing, loud-talking, I’m-right-you’re-wrong-he’s-guilty attitude. Spot on…spot on.

Gone Girl gives a perfect and chilling portrayal of a modern day psychopath that will stay with you for days, even after you finish the book. It’s fucked up in more ways than one, and it’s very clear that both Nick and Amy have issues that they refuse to admit to each other. Their love story consists of an angst-driven romance, fueled by lies and deceit, and lit on fire with a big match full of crazy. Hold on to your britches y’all; this book will take you on one hell of a ride. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Pushing The Limits by Katie McGarry

(Pushing The Limits series, book 1)
No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with “freaky” scars on her arms. Even Echo can’t remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprisingly understanding, Echo’s world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together in pretty much impossible.
Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she’ll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

“I watched you battle against the worst memory of your life and I watched you win. Make no mistake, Echo. I battled right beside you. You need to find some trust in me…in us.” - Noah

SWEET MOSES! This book was just beyond incredible. I love, love, LOVED IT!! I actually had this downloaded on my Nook for a couple months and completely forgot about it (I download books like it’s nobody’s business) and as I was cruising Goodreads I saw someone’s review, and I thought “Don’t I have that book downloaded already?” You bet your ass I did, and after the rave review I decided to bump it to the top of my to-read list. I am so glad I did; I fell completely head over heels in love with these characters. (I also kind of wanted to punch myself in the face for having this book for so long and not reading it buuut…let’s move on.)

Echo used to be one of the “it-girls” at her high school; she was smart, pretty, popular, a member of the dance team, and dating one of the hottest guys in school. Now, she’s a social pariah who keeps to herself, and always wears long sleeves to cover up the scars on her arms that fuel the gossip mill; the scars that Echo wishes she had answers for. She has managed to block out that entire day and has no recollection of what actually happened to her. As if that wasn’t enough, she is still reeling from death of her brother, Aires, who was killed in Afghanistan and the idea of her father being remarried to her former nanny. While her overbearing father and his new, young wife try to push Echo back towards normalcy, she finds herself at a standstill: what is normal anymore?

Noah didn’t used to be a pot-smoking loner; he was a star basketball player, got good grades, and made plans to attend college after high school. All that changed when he became a product of the system after his parents were killed in a house fire. He was labeled emotionally unstable, and was no longer allowed to see his two younger brothers. Feeling helpless, he turned to drugs and let his grades slip. Little does he know, a fiery red head is about to change his whole outlook on life, love, and everything in between.

I honestly can’t say enough positive things about this book. It had two of the most honest, raw, damaged characters I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing and I seriously don’t think I could love them anymore than I already do. I was rooting for Echo and Noah from page 1 and my heart ached for them; here are two people who have done nothing to deserve the hand they’ve been dealt and yet they have to play it. Their evolution from acquaintances to a couple was perfectly written, well timed, and heartwarming. I wanted them together all along, but the moment that put it over was when Noah met Echo’s dad and stepmom; he performs such a small gesture but it just made my heart beyond happy! (Excuse me for a moment while I swoon…)

….Okay, I think I’m good….

This book made me laugh out loud and made me cry; it made my heart break and made it swell; it’s just fucking incredible. The ease with which Katie McGarry transitioned between Echo and Noah’s POV was impressive, and the writing style in general was great. Seriously, this is one the best books I have read this year and if you haven’t read it yet, you REALLY don’t know what you’re missing. You need some Echo and Noah in your life; TRUST ME! These two characters are just fucking amazing!!! If you haven’t read this book, buy it now; just don’t do what I did and let it sit in your e-reader unread for months.  *facepalm*

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

You're Not Doing It Right by Michael Ian Black

Darkly humorous and told with raw honesty, You’re Not Doing It Right is Michael’s debut memoir. In it, he takes on his childhood, his marriage, his children, and his career with unexpected candor and deadpan wit, as he shares the neuroses that have plagued him since he was a kid and how they shaped him into the man he is today.

“Martha wants to be married in a Catholic church. I do not. I would prefer to be married in a more secular setting, one that has personal meaning for me: a riverboat casino perhaps, or a Taco Bell.” - Michael

Michael Ian Black is a bit of an asshole, and yet…I find him hilarious. Granted, I have a kind of asshole-y sense of humor sometimes, but I think it’s the honesty in his humor that just kills me. I saw a few reviews that said something along the lines of, “if you’re a woman you won’t like this book.” Um…I absolutely disagree. If you are a woman with a sense of humor, you’ll dig this book. If you don’t have a sense a humor, well, I feel sorry for you…and what would you be doing picking up a comedian’s book anyway?

This is a memoir that includes stories about his childhood, dating life (or lack thereof), marriage, children, and everything that makes those things great; and makes those things really suck. He talks about the joy of getting an Easy Bake oven for Christmas (because he was convinced his lesbian mom was trying to turn him gay), his obsession with Kevin Federline’s weight gain, convincing himself he has a brain tumor…and that’s just to name a few. There were several instances throughout this book that I found myself obnoxiously laughing out loud, and I think my favorite story was about his struggle to deal with his sister’s sleep apnea. While I was reading it I kept thinking, “I probably shouldn’t be laughing…this shouldn’t be funny…sleep apnea can be scary…” and yet I found myself laughing anyway. Because it wasn’t funny; it was hilarious. Here’s a little snip-it from that part of the book; it’s Christmas Eve and he’s in the shared bedroom with his sister:

“Every nerve in my body focuses on my sister. Breathe! She’s still not breathing. Should I get Mom? I should get Mom. But what if I wake up the whole house and it turns out Susan is fine? Then everybody will be awake and then the Santa Rules will almost certainly apply. I don’t think I can risk not getting presents just to save my sister’s life. On the other hand, Santa definitely won’t come if I let my sister die. Definitely not this year and possibly never again. She’s not breathing. She’s dead. I know she’s dead.”

There really isn’t a whole lot else I can say about this other than if you like reading memoirs, you should definitely put this one at the top of your list. Well, I would recommend putting it at the top of your list if you like memoirs and a dark sense of humor. I promise you won’t regret it, and if you do…well…that just f*cking sucks, I guess.