Showing posts with label relationships. Show all posts
Showing posts with label relationships. Show all posts

Thursday, August 3, 2017

A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Oima

Rating: WORTHY!

This is an interesting story about a school bully and a deaf girl. Shoya's problem is boredom, but instead of finding benign ways to deal with it, he resorts to destructive ones - picking on other children and doing dangerous stunts like jumping off bridges. Shoko is a girl who is deaf, and consequently her speech is impaired. She is new to Shoya's school, and she communicates by writing in a notebook, and encouraging others to use it to write questions to her.

Shoya immediately starts picking on her because she is such an easy target for him, especially since she has such an accepting and friendly disposition, and she never retaliates. His behavior is abominable, but the thing is that very few people in the class treat Shoko with respect and consideration, not even other girls. Shoya's behavior is the worst though, and even as his friend start deserting him and abandoning their juvenile practices as they mature and pursue academic interests more studiously, he never does.

Inevitably, Shoya goes too far and Shoko quits the school. Several years later, they meet again. This meeting is where the story begins. All the rest is flashback, and since this is a series, the story is never resolved in this one volume. On the one hand this is why I detest series as a general rule, and why I dislike flashbacks. On the other, this series - at least this introductory volume of it, was not so bad. The art was a bit too manga for my taste, but on the whole, not bad, and the writing was enjoyable, but all this can ever be is a prologue. I detest prologues!

So while I may or may not pursue this series, I did enjoy this one volume despite my reservations about such efforts, so I recommend it, and I may well get into volume two as time and opportunity permit.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Princess Jellyfish by Akiko Higashimura

Rating: WORTHY!

This title was so bizarre that I pulled it off the shelf in the library and glanced through it, and decided to take it home. I'm always game for a good graphic novel, and this one was so weird it intrigued me. I love the utterly bizarre names the Japanese give to their manga and anime. This delightfully-named author-illustrator is apparently quite accomplished in Japan and this particular book has already been made into a Japanese TV show and a live-action film which I may try to catch if I can.

This girl named Tsukimi Kurashita lives in this apartment block which is for girls only, and several of those who live there are artists for comic books. She is painfully shy and poor at interacting either with men or with what she describes as princesses, which are good-looking and fashionably-dressed girls. The story gives an interesting insight into Japanese culture. How authentic it is, is hard to gauge, but I assume it has at least some roots in reality. Tsukimi believes that there are only two kinds of women: the princesses, and what she calls fujoshi, which literally means 'rotten girl' and is a term used to describe Japanese women who do not want to get married, stay at home, and raise children.

Tsukimi is of course a fujoshi, who is obsessed with jellyfish because that was the last good memory she had of time with her mother before she died. She views some of the jellyfish, in their natural finery, as dressed like princesses, and she starts drawing them and collecting pictures of them. She ends up with a pet jellyfish when she passes a pet store and sees two different species in the same tank which she knows should never be kept together.

She ends up taking the jellyfish home, accompanied by a princess who helps her when the guy at the pet shop is abusive to her. This princess stays with her in her room, and it's only the next morning that she realizes that the princess is actually a guy named Kuranosuke Koibuchi, who cross-dresses to avoid having to deal with the political aspirations of his family.

He's much more interested in getting into the fashion industry than ever he is in pursuing politics. He's adopted by the girls that Tsukimi knows in the apartment, because they don't know he's not really female, and because he brings food from home, which they enjoy. Tsukimi doesn't dare tell anyone she's invited a guy into the house. He ends up giving them all make-overs!

I'm amazed at how bizarre this story is, but I adored how playful and mischievous it was. You have to wonder how writers like this come up with these totally oddball ideas. Both Tsukimi and Kuranosuke were delightful. Other than friendship with an interesting woman, Kuranosuke has no professed attachment to Tsukimi when they first start hanging out, but he suffers distinct pangs of jealousy after he gives Tsukimi a make-over and his older brother - very much a suit - starts showing an interest in her. His bother is the only one who knows that he cross-dresses, and has kept his secret even though he finds it rather objectionable. This relationship was a joy.

Overall this was a delight to read - amusing, entertaining, and fun. I recommend it.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Will & Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge

Rating: WORTHY!

I found this in the library and it looked good at first glance. The artwork was cool and interesting, and the story looked entertaining. When I started in on it this morning, it proved to be every bit as entertaining as it promised – which is always a nice feeling to have delivered between the covers! I have to say, full disclosure, that the author suckered me in. The story is set in Charlottesville, Va, where I’ve lived, and within the first few pages there was not only a mention of Doctor Who, but a quote from one of my favorite characters from that show, Sally Sparrow! Way to lure me!

It wasn’t all plain sailing though. The ending was a bit trite and predictable, and seemed to center around the main character miraculously getting over herself and finding validation from nothing more than a guy liking her, which rather sold her out in my opinion, but other than that, it was entertaining and the artwork remarkable.

The main character, Will, is nyctophobic, and has been ever since childhood. She sees some really interesting shapes in the dark, very few of which are out-and-out scary, but some are definitely on the creepy side. Others are truly works of art, and if I saw them, I’d find them fascinating, but Will doesn’t seem to pay that much attention to them despite her fear. Or maybe it’s because of it.

Talking of which, apparently no one locks their doors in this town? That wasn't my experience I'm happy to report! Will is able to go over to her friend Autumn’s house, enter the house, go upstairs, and wake up her friend. That really creeped me out. I seriously hope people do not live in that manner. That person entering the house and going to the teenager’s bedroom might not have been one of her friends.

There was more than one incident of this warped nature. Three friends, Autumn, Noel, and Will take a trip down the river on air mattresses with Noel’s thirteen-year-old sister Reese, who can’t swim. She’s tipped into the water by Noel, who thinks it’s a great joke. The water is extremely shallow at that point, but Reese didn’t know it, and Will never said a word to Noel about how cruel that was, despite her own experience with fear. I have to say that made me wonder about Will. Overall, I rather liked her, but she made that hard to do sometimes, especially when she appeared really dumb with regard to this guy liking her. She was blithely unaware of it, despite herself having advised Autumn of Noel's liking for her, of which Autumn was blithely unaware. What’s with the too-dumb-to-see motif?

We need to get away from the tired trope that girls are too stupid to realize a guy likes them. Yes, I'm sure there are some who are, but you'd think it was every other woman if you judged them by how many times this cliché is played out in novels. It's tedious and it makes the girl look stupid. Maybe you can argue that Will is so self-absorbed by grief over her parents' deaths (a year previously) that she's inured to the attention, but she sure didn’t seem like she was that badly-off for the most part. Besides, this behavior says a volume of other things about the character that are equally off-putting, and if she's that far enveloped in grief, then she sure as hell isn’t going to get over it in the course of a couple of days, as is depicted here!

That said, this novel was interesting, the people were pleasingly and refreshingly not your usual run-of-the-mill types (apart from the stereotypical blindness to attention from the other gender), and the story worked, so I consider it a worthy read.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Ghost Buddy: Zero to Hero by Lin Oliver and Henry Winkler

Rating: WARTY!

Billy Broccoli has moved to a new home with his mom, which they're sharing with her new husband and his daughter. No word on what happened to his original dad. Billy is facing a new school and is missing his old friends (although why he can't visit them isn't explained), but he's not expecting that his new home is haunted by a ghost named Hoover.

I know this novel, the first in a series, is not aimed at my age group, but I found it to be far too black and white and simplistic to be even mildly entertaining, and Henry Winkler's reading of it left something to be desired. Maybe younger kids will like this because it seemed to me that it was pitched too low for middle grade. Cliche abounded and it was boring and predictable. Things were too disastrous to begin with, the pain-in-the-patoot neighbor kid was a ridiculous caricature (I can't imagine any cops even responding to a kid who calls them and reports a car being parked one inch over the no parking area, much less the cops having the car towed for that).

Billy does show some maturity in how he handles his revenge on this neighbor, but there was too much bullying and threats. It's stories like these which put a young kid's foot onto that dreary road to reality TV, sports is everything, and frat parties. if that's what you want for your kids, then have at it. I'd prefer something which has the guts to take the road less traveled instead of the lowest common denominator. I'd like to see some moral ambiguity, some gray areas, and some thought-provoking options which seem to me to be more age appropriate for the audience this book is aimed at. An approach like that that would have made for a much better story and a better educational experience for kids.

It's not like Winkler (or Oliver for that matter) is an unknown who doesn't have the mojo to ease a series like that through a publisher's door. Why would he need to take the easy way out as though he's some unknown children's book writing wannabe? For that matter, was the publisher so star-struck that they didn't want to look too closely at this? Whatever. I can't recommend this one. Winkler is dyslexic and I think he could have turned out better work than this on that and other such topics.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly

Rating: WORTHY!

Analyn Pearl Yengko, aka Apple, is a Filipino girl who has moved to the USA, and is living in fictional Chapel Spring, Louisiana. She's very conscious of her appearance and doesn't consider herself "American". She learns what losers her "friends" are one day when jerk Jake makes a jackass "joke" about all Asians eating dogs, and how Analyn is on the Dog Log - a virtual list of ugliest girls in school that some boys create each year.

Given that the author is a Filipino and hates carrots, it seems to me that this novel might be very much autobiographical, at least in its roots, although that's just a guess. The biggest problem for me with it was that it's first person PoV, which is actually Worst Person PoV. That said, this effort actually didn't nauseate me. Some authors can make it work, and this is evidently one of those!

Analyn wants to become a rock star. Improbably, her favorite band is the Beatles because all she left the Philippines with was a tape from her deceased dad. The tape was Abbey Road, the last album the Beatles recorded together, although not the last to be released. Now Analyn has a whole set of Beatles albums of her own, although how she managed to get those if her mom is as stingy as we're led to believe is a mystery.

Analyn wants to buy a guitar she's seen in a store, but her mother is very negative on pretty much anything Analyn wants to do, except that in a fit, Analyn finally gets her mom to quit calling her Apple. My prediction at that point was that, given her love of The Beatles and her desire to play guitar, Analyn will be proud to be Apple by the end of this novel. It felt that predictable. But it is a middle grade novel, so I tried not to down-grade it too much for the trite factor!

The author does make the classic debut novel mistake, however, of having the character look at herself in the mirror so we can get a description of what she looks like. I think it was even a bigger mistake in this case because it's not necessary to know exactly what she looks like. In fact, I think the novel would have been better had we had no idea (other than that she's Filipino, of course) what she looks like.

On the subject of cliché, the new cool guy in school has his hair in his eyes, but on the other side of this coin, he's improbably not actually the new cool kid. The A-list girls take an immediate dislike to him because he's not fawning over them, and he almost gets into a fight with one of the A-list boys at the dance over them making fun of one of the dog list girls - one who is trope-ish-ly overweight.

I think she had the new boy hail from California because there's perhaps a Filipino population there, so he's got an 'in' with our main characters and doesn't think she's ugly. That said, the author offered no explanation for why he and his mom moved from California to a penny-ante little town in the middle of Louisiana. His mom is an artist, so it's not like she had to move there for her work. She paints abstracts, but why she wouldn't want to live by the sea, or in the forests, or in the mountains, for pure inspiration is unexplained.

For that matter, why did Analyn's mom move there? Yes, we're told there's a nurse shortage and so she got in on that, but is there really a huge nurse shortage in that little town? It would have made more sense had they moved to a large city where a shortage might be expected. And why would the US hospitals be looking to hire nurses from the Philippines given how picky they are about what schooling nurses have had? This wasn't well thought through, and it makes little sense to adults, but I guess the author thought it wouldn't matter for a middle grade novel.

On the up-side, the novel did make for an interesting and engaging read. There's a subtle undercurrent of humor running through the text which I appreciated even as I cringed at some of the clichés: school bullies, cliques, the overweight girl, the snotty cheerleader type, mean boys, the derided teacher, the beloved teacher, and so on.

The bottom line is that this story, for the grade it's written, isn't bad at all. It's a very fast read: the lines are widely spaced, so despite it being ostensibly almost three hundred pages long, it would probably be only half that if it were single-spaced and in a slightly smaller font size.

The situations Analyn gets into are reasonable and realistic, and her behavior, for her age, is understandable, so for me, overall, this rates as a worthy read.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Dear Digby by Carol Muske-Dukes

Title: Dear Digby
Author: Carol Muske-Dukes
Publisher: Open Road Integrated Media
Rating: WORTHY!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review.

This is a seminal novel, particularly in that it mentions the word seminal - nearly always in conjunction with fluid - some 31 times. That has to be a record outside of in-vitro fertilization hand-books (and perhaps even there, too).

This hilarious and tragic story was first Published in 1989. It's related by a 'Dear Abby' style editor, Willis Digby (her father wanted a boy). And no, she doesn't work for Seed magazine. Instead she works for a feminist magazine which has a circulation of some five million. Willis, the narrator, is not at all satisfied with her job and is concerned about some of the whack letters she gets, but this doesn't prevent her from being a smart-ass in her responses to some of them.

She's also concerned that she's going quietly nuts, so it's rather nice that she has someone with whom she can compare herself. She befriends a woman named Iris (as in seeing Iris), who is officially nuts, supposedly, and who starts writing to Willis about finding a certain fluid in her underwear each morning. She's convinced someone is raping her in the night, but of course no one believes her. Willis decides she will believe Iris.

Willis also receives threatening letters of a more or less vague quality, and she's rather foolish in not taking those a bit more seriously, as events demonstrate, but she gives an impressive account of herself when push comes to shovel. There exists a number of YA authors, as impressive as it is sad, who seriously need to take a page or ream from Carol Muske-Dukes's writing.

This novel is about relationships, about definitions of crazy, about a woman coming to terms with her life, and taking the reins. About time! I highly recommend it for its impressive story-telling, its humor, and the superior quality of the writing.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Pretty Girl-13 by Liz Coley

Title: Pretty Girl-13
Author: Liz Coley
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books
Rating: WORTHY!

Well I'm in love with Liz Coley, and I've only just started this one! This novel impressed me from the off, so I am thrilled to be on my third novel in a row to which I find I can warm up. I love this title which translates to PG-13(!), but this book is a disturbing book, especially after the very recent revelation (at the time I'm writing this) of the three brothers who abducted three teen-aged girls and held them for a decade. I don’t know how anyone can come back from that, but it's heartening that people do. At least those women were not tortured and left in shallow graves; that is they weren't tortured physically in the commonly understood sense. They were very much tortured emotionally and psychologically, and that's more than probably worse.

In this fictional account (perhaps rooted in fact? I don’t know, but I'm going by Coley's dedication: For J, who survived) Angela Gracie Chapman was abducted from summer camp when she was thirteen. No one ever discovered what had happened to her. Now she's sixteen and "wakes up" walking down the street towards her home. Her parents almost go into shock; they're also victims of this crime.

The detective who was on the case arrives quickly and she's subject to the indignity of having to go to the hospital for a rape examination by a male doctor. Nowhere is there a social worker, psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist of any appropriate kind available. I find that hard to believe - unless the hospital she was taken to was truly second rate. She can’t get such an appointment until the next afternoon.

Meanwhile, the nurse keeps calling her 'sweetie', which doesn’t seem to bother Angela in her 13-year-old state, but I definitely feel like I want to catch that nurse upside her condescending head for it. Angela blacks out for a few minutes when the doctor examines her vagina and no one seems to see this, not even Angela - not properly. Hopefully the psychiatrist will latch onto that. From her physical state, it's clear she has been manacled and held prisoner for the intervening three years, and from her mental state, it’s clear that she dissociated herself from what was happening and walled it off in order to try and cope with the horror of it, which accounts for the "amnesia" (yes, in quotes- more on this anon!).

She has flashbacks in a different person to things she did or things from which she was protected by dissociation. Her thirteen year old self did not know how to cook, but her sixteen year old self seems to have that knowledge hidden away somewhere. She's very strong for her size, and her hands are calloused, like she did hard work, but she cannot recall it. When she woke up that day on her own street, she carried a bag with clothes and a shiv. She recalls none of what that means.

Her immediate problem right then is that she still thinks she's thirteen and expects to be treated like that, but her dad won't even hold her hand. She can barely handle the knowledge that she's actually sixteen and the world has moved on three years while she was on hold like some kid's forgotten DVD. She can hardly stand to look at her face in the mirror which looks so different from her mental image of herself. Her favorite clothes don’t fit and her body seems like it belongs to someone else. It’s ironic that someone, someone with very piercing dark eyes, she half-recalls, "borrowed" her, and now she feels like she's borrowing someone else. Since her clothes are annoyingly useless, she goes with her mom to the mall to buy fresh, and is outraged by the prices. She buys very little, but later, she finds something in the bag that evidently her alter ego (or one of them!) lifted from the store without her (Angela's) knowledge. The fact that she lets this go without even analyzing it is portentous.

The psychologist, Lynn Grant seems very much on the ball. I was impressed with her first meeting with Angela. It was very well written. She failed to address what might happen if a media circus surrounds Angela, which I thought was an awful omission, but When Angela awakens from what she thought was a few minutes of hypnosis, she learns from Grant that she was "out" for a half hour, and Grant was talking to another personality called Girl Scout, not to Angela at all, and Girl Scout is very worried about Angela.

Angela has to fight her parents a bit to get what she feels she needs. Her father is being completely dumb about this, not understanding Angela at all, and her mother wants her to get back to normal. Her mother accidentally reveals that she's pregnant, and what with that and reading her mother's scrapbook that she started after Angela's disappearance, Angela is now half under the impression that her folks gave up on her and moved on, and that she's shortly to be replaced with the new baby. In the end, bolstered by Grant's agreement, Angela determines that she should go back to school, but start in ninth grade because she knows she has catching up to do, but not that much.

On her first day at school in her first class, she's recognized by a girl called Maggie, who takes Angela under her wing and surrounds her with supportive classmates who vow to help her catch up on school-work. That part is hilarious, and delightfully written. The potential problem starts as she's leaving at the end of the day, and she runs into her old friends from when she was thirteen: her "boyfriend" Greg, and one of her two girlfriends, Livvie. She has refrained from calling them because she felt really weird about it, and so young compared with them, given that she feels paused at thirteen.

She goes back with them to Greg's house and apparently does not realize the importance of calling her folks, who seem remarkably lax about her exposure and vulnerability in traveling to and from school given that she's an abduction victim. There seems to be no concern for her at all that her abductor might want to "re-acquire" her, or that the media might make her life hell once they learn of her return. She's reassured to see that Greg and Livvie still view her as a close friend, but she's surprised that they no longer hang out with the third of their foursome who evidently became a school pariah when she ratted them out for having a kegger. No one speaks to her any more. The immediate feeling I got after reading this was that Angela is probably going to end up seeking her out.

She seems to still have the hots for Greg, which she did at thirteen, but it does seems a bit awkward to me. It’s definitely an exceptional and forgivable case of instadore! I get the feeling that maybe all will not turn out well between them. But something goes very bad elsewhere, and unexpectedly so. Her favorite uncle comes to visit her and they go for a walk. Suddenly it's night and Angela is home and cannot recall the last several hours. Eventually she figures this out as one of her personalities surfaces for the first time - the one that took over every time she was raped by her captor.

This same personality tells her that her uncle has been abusing her for years, every since he began babysitting her. She became so agitated by it that she zoned out and this new personality, which she knows as 'The Slut' takes over. This is the personality which has been buying the exotic underwear and which puts on make up much more boldly than Angela ever would. It's also the personality that came out in the back seat of Greg's car one morning when he was supposedly giving her a ride to school. He took her for a ride sure enough.

Angela's personalities have begun frothing to the top as her therapy sessions continue, and she finally volunteers for an experimental treatment using gene therapy which is aimed at blocking the ability of specific neurons to communicate, which the doctor in charge of the study thinks will effectively kill Angela's alter egos. In order to do this, they have to map her brain using a CAT scan, while Dr. Grant brings out each personality one by one. Unfortunately, she can only bring two out, one of which is the slut

This assault, of course, causes a rebellion in her alter egos, and they become much more active. She evidently has four of them in addition to "herself". The Slut is a street-wise and very sexual being; Tattletale is a very young personality who communicates with Angela using a really old tape recorder she had as a kid. She is the one who dealt with her uncle's advances. Girl Scout is still around, but she has chosen to make herself scarce at this point. The Little Wife is the one who cooked and cleaned during Angela's captivity, and i had thought she was another personality, but Coley confused the issue. The Slut and Little Wife are both the same personality. That took some grasping. The Angel is a male personality which may well be the one who killed her captor - assuming this is what happened, and it's starting to look like that.

Angela has told Dr. Grant about all of these except for Tattletale and her knowledge of her uncle's sexual assaults. She's kept this a secret because she fears it will break up her family if it comes out that her father's younger brother has been molesting her. Her mother has already told her that her father is being so distant because he's wracked with guilt about not keeping his daughter safe. I must confess, suspicious little tike that I am, that I'm seriously wondering if her father knows more about her uncle's activities than he's willing to admit. But what bothers me more is that none of the doctors have any worries about what Angela will get up to when The Slut puts in an appearance. They're failing to adequately protect Angela from herself, and that bothers me. I don't know if it's written this way because Coley wants it like that, or if it's because she simply hasn't thought this through properly. I guess we'll find out as we go!

One thing which bothers me now is that Angela makes arrangements to babysit for a neighbor so she can pick up some cash. This bothers me because I'm now concerned about which personality is going to actually be doing the babysitting and what the consequences of that will be! As it happens that first night seems to go well. It's only after Angela gets home that the problems start. Her personalities like to come out at night and do stuff: like make diary entries, clean her room, do her math homework, etc! This means that poor Angela 'wakes up' without having had any sleep! The baby had concerned me because of Angela's personality splits, but having read a little further, it concerns me for a different reason!

Worse than this, however, is that Angela makes out (in 'The Slut' personality) again with Greg and he tells her that he's going to break up with Livvie, and start dating her again - but he never does break up with Livvie. As each day passes, he still sits with her at lunchtime at school. Angela goes shopping with Kate to get a nice dress for the upcoming formal. They run into Livvie and there's this serious bitch-fest which comes up between her and Angela out of nowhere! Livvie is obviously still planning on going to the formal with Greg. which causes Angela to pursue Greg about it and it becomes quite obvious (to us, but not to Angela, evidently) that Greg isn't going to leave Livvie. He makes out with Angela again and the next thing she knows, he's dropping her off at home with everything agreed, except that Angela can't remember the last hour. All she knows is that she has no one to go to the formal with.

I have to wonder where Livvie is during these times. If she and Greg are so close, how come he has all this time before and after school to get it on with Angela? How come neither he nor she have any concerns about STDs or pregnancy? Yes, I'm overly protective of Angela, because unlike some of the better female protagonists I've read about of late, Angela actually does need protection, and she's not getting it, not from her family, not from Greg, who supposedly is very fond of her at least, and not from her doctors! This can only end badly!

Angela has the procedure to eliminate the personalities, but they can apparently do only one at a time, and the first to go, at Angela's insistence, is The Slut/Little Wife. Before she goes, she puts in a quick appearance to tell Angela she left her a diary entry hidden in a drawer at home. When Angela reads it, she discovers that she was apparently impregnated by her "husband" during those three years. It isn't expressly stated, and Angela does not appear to read it that way, but the Little Wife's tale of growing fat and thin again?! But that's not the weirdest part - more on this in a few! Also Little Wife reveals that she conjured up The Angel to 'take care of' the husband.

Hey, for once I was right in my prediction! Yeay! Things ended way badly with Greg. But let's not jump too far ahead! So Katie has a boyfriend called Ali who has a brother called Abraim, both of whom I really like. The whole friendship with Katie is turning into something wonderful, and her interaction with Angela is precious. She isn't at all fazed by Angela's slow revelation to her (doled out carefully over their reacquaintance) that she has dissociative disorder. Katie thinks it's cool and embraces it whole-heartedly, casually bringing it into conversation without any hesitation or fear. The four of them go to the formal and have a good time, but Coley doesn't share any details. Instead, she jumps straight to where they drive up the mountain, and watch the sun come up.

WHAT? This is a sixteen year old, going on thirteen, who was abducted for three years, has some serious issues (understandably!), and her parents have no problem whatsoever with her quite literally staying out all night with a boy they've never met? (Her parents miraculously disappear from the story during that evening - nowhere in sight, which is distinctly weird!) This, I'm sorry, but this is bad writing, Coley's first real slip-up IMO. Greg chases down Angela (having been made suitably jealous at the formal!), and tells her he's dumped Livvie, and now they can be together, but Angela no longer has Little Wife the Slut on board, and she turns Greg down, so this monumental prick teams up again with Livvie and the two of them start a not-so-subtle hate-campaign at school, which no one in authority seems to have any interest in stopping! I find that a bit much. Angela is reduced to carrying around a small spray-paint can to spray over the absurdist and libelous graffiti they leave about her.

Worse than that, the evil Greg and Livvie call the press and reveal the story of the abducted girl returning home, so now the press is all over the school and all over her home. This I find unbelievable. Not that the press would behave like jerks, but that they would not have found out about Angela already. Everyone in the school knew. The students would have told all their friends and their parents. It's simply not credible that this story wouldn't have broken much sooner than this.

But let's roll with this one, because we have bigger poissons à faire frire (see how wonderful it looks in pretentious French? lol! Or should I say, Français prétentieux ?)! Anyway, Angela gets home to find not the press, but the police and the press, although why there are so many police is a mystery since they don't seem to be doing anything about the press. Detective Brogan is there, and he tells Angela that they've found the cabin where she was held, and while there was ample evidence of her being there, there was no trace of her captor anywhere to be found; the cabin looks abandoned. Did the avenging Angel kill off the criminal? It may be more complicated than that. Recall that apparent baby that seems to have disappeared? Was the baby killed? Or is the baby the selfsame one which Angela babysat?

Angela now has the opportunity to go with the police to the cabin to see if it triggers any memories, but she's not too fond of that idea. And why didn't the police, who are aware of her sessions with doctor Grant, have one of her personalities describe her captor to a police sketch artist? Angela takes this news badly and throws up. Later, sitting in the shower trying to get her other selves to reveal something Angela is convinced they're hiding from her, The Angel shows up and his hands are bloody and he begs Angela to get rid of him next so neither she nor anyone else can discover what he did. Angela doesn't want to let him go, because he protected her from Greg. She now regrets even "killing off" Little Wife/The Slut.

Then Angela comes back into herself to find the bathtub bloody. She just had her period. So this complicates things! I love this story! If this is her first period, it explains why there was no issue with pregnancy in her trysts with Greg (although STDs still remain a problem - and note that Coley makes no mention of Angela being tested for any such thing after her return, which is one thing I'm sure they would have done). However, if this is her first period, there is no way she could have become pregnant during her stay at the cabin, But I think this is a red herring on Coley's part! Shame on her trying to mislead me like that. I thought we were friends!

When Angela gets back downstairs after her shower, something truly weird happens. Her mother refers to detective Brogan by his first name. Coley has made me so suspicious now that the first thing I thought when I read that was to ask myself: "Did Angela's mom have an affair with Brogan? Is the baby she's carrying actually his? Am I evil or what? Hey, Coley did this to me, making me second-guess everything she's writing! It's not my fault!

Angela discovers that Doctor Grant cannot get her in to erase The Angel until after Thanksgiving, so she's stuck with him until then, but there's no word on whether Angela talked to her and told her anything about what has happened recently, so I'm forced to assume they didn't talk. This isn't good, because Angela is already irrationally tarring herself as a murderer, and now she has all Thanksgiving to let it eat her up. But it gets worse: Coming over for turkey is that turkey Uncle Bill who raped her repeatedly when he was supposed to be babysitting her.

He starts feeling her up in the kitchen every time they're alone until The Angel surfaces, breaks his fingers, and stabs him with a large fork. But it gets worse. Her father comes running in at this ruckus and tackles Angela to the ground claiming she's finally had the psychotic break he was expecting all along! I want to kick that son of a bitch squarely in his juvenile balls before I cut them off and feed them to the neighbor's dog. I hope Coley has some deep, penetrating revenge coming down on both these scum.

Her mother is no better - she calls for an ambulance! Now the picture is complete: Angela's abuse started long before she was abducted, long before rapist Bill started on her. It started with Angela being unfortunately born to parents who are complete dickheads. As the siren approaches (seriously - they got here that fast?) Bill the pond scum punches her in the stomach and pins her arms behind her back and the medics, brain-dead robot puppets that they are, immediately inject her with a sedative, and she blacks out.

Some one needs to fire those medics. Angela wakes up in a room, restrained on a bed, with her mom sitting by. When she reacts negatively, not violently, but merely negatively to her mother's mention that Bill (or is it Bull?) is fine and forgives Angela, her mother threatens her with another sedative! Angela (and I cheered when I read this!_) asks her mother to leave and requests doctor Grant to come in. Coley slips a bit here, too, because when Grant comes in, Angela asks her to remove the restraints (which remind her horribly of her abduction and imprisonment) and Grant acts shocked that she's even in them. This is a trained psychologist who came back from vacation to see to Angela, and who has already spend some considerable time there that day, yet she apparently didn't observe that Angela was in restraints, nor did she note it from her chart - a chart which is she was any kind of decent doctor, she would have thoroughly taken in the first chance she got!

This novel is divided into four sections, starting with You, then We, followed by Us (I think - I went thru the book several times trying to find section 3 and couldn't!), and ending with I. The end of section 3 is a bit too pat for my taste. Angela, who has discovered the The Angel was eliminated while she was sedated, miraculously integrates the other two by herself. I don't like this part because it sends a misleading message that anyone can overcome the most appalling mental trauma with barely any effort at all. But the story isn't over yet and I'm excited to read the last section to find out what's hidden behind the firmly closed door that The Angel wouldn't even let Angela's other personalities through. I think Coley wants us to believe it's the secret of Angela killing her captor, but I'm convinced, rightly or wrongly, that it has to do with babies.

Coley betrays Angela here because rapist Bill evidently gets off with a restraining order and no jail time. Now Angela's grandmother is pissed off with Angela for forcing her to choose which of her two sons she will favor. She chooses to favor the rapist. Angela makes a date with Abraim - the first upon which they will have gone without Katie and Ali along for the date, but before that, she has to babysit. There is it again. Coley has to be telegraphing this baby stuff for a reason!

Or maybe not! Angela has an uneventful babysitting, that is until she touches the baby blanket when she's checking on him, and suddenly the Harrises are back home and it's one o'clock. Now where did the two hours go? It looks like Angela actually isn't quite as integrated as she thinks she is. Did we get a trip behind that locked door which The Angel wouldn't let anyone past? Angela sleeps very late the next day and when she finally gets up, she realizes that her rocking chair has been moved. This was a regular occurrence during her split days, but it should no longer happen. Angela arrives at the disturbing conclusion that there's yet another personality which has never even surfaced, let alone become integrated with the rest of her!

I so love this novel, and that's where I'm going to leave this review. This novel made me excited, angry, emotional and anxious to read the next page. Despite some issues and flaws (which Coley commendably addresses in an afterword where she reveals that 'J' was indeed an Angela but in real life), this novel is possibly the best I've read since i started blogging this year. The ending is awesome and so well written it makes me depressed that I didn't think of it! I am definitely going to be stalking Coley's name on bookshelves in future!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Love Rehab by Jo Piazza

Title: Love Rehab: a novel in twelve steps
Author: Jo Piazza
Publisher: Open Road
Rating: worthy!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration of any kind for this review. Since this is a new novel, this review is shorter so as not to rob the writer of her story, but even so, it will probably still be more detailed than you'll typically find elsewhere!

Editing notes:
P 25 "So you listen to Dixie Chicks on repeat sober..." Needs a comma in there somewhere! It took me three reads to get it.
p104 There's some weird formatting by the Rule 7 text!

Love rehab is a very short novel (~140 pages) which took a bit of getting into. Frankly my initial feeling when I started reading this was that this was "chick-humor" which I wouldn’t appreciate (not that I'm a big fan of guy humor either. I prefer my humor gender-neutral!), or that it was a kind of feminine humor that you need two X chromosomes to really get/appreciate, or that I just would be plainly and simply bored with it (not bored of it, Richelle Mead!) and just wouldn't like it. There is a certain brand of feminine humor which I find genderist and obnoxious, but this novel doesn’t have that, and once I got the rhythm of it, it turned out to be funny and engaging.

I'm not sure about the immediate introduction of an instadore candidate, but to be fair, I am not sure either where that will go, so I won't complain about him yet; after all, this is Love Rehab, so there simply has to be a love interest somewhere along the way, I suppose!

So here's the story: Sophie, the female protagonist is going through a huge obsession-depression over the fact that Eric, her long-time boyfriend, dumped her for a younger, curvier "administrative assistant" (yeah, I'll bet!) at his office. Sophie's friend Annie, who is an alcoholic owner of a bar, shows up in her drive in a stolen police car, and is ordered to go through AA in order to avoid a worse sentence. Sophie goes with her and in a chat with the AA leader afterwards, realizes that she has an addiction to love and needs rehab. Since there's no such thing available to her, she undertakes to start one in her New Jersey (or is that Noo Joyzi?) home. She puts out word through her editor (she illustrates children's books), and a host of people show up to the Sunday meeting. They tell their stories, Annie and Sophie end up with a new house-mate named Prithi (no one can live there unless their name ends with an 'ee' sound!), and Love Rehab is launched!

One problem I did have with this was that while undergoing the oppressive struggle to get out from under the aftermath of a bad relationship, Sophie (the name means wisdom!) is talking about getting her eyebrows waxed. Excuse me, but isn't that part of the problem, that women have been conditioned to feel that their natural self is inadequate and in order to be acceptable to men they must turn themselves into the closest approximation to a Barbie doll that they can reasonably (even unreasonably) manage? When I read this I thought: I shall be seriously interested in where that goes as I continue with this!

So these meetings start snowballing with more people showing up, all of them as wacky as we've already met, with bizarre, sad, and humorous stories and as the word gets around it gets distorted. One woman called Katrina shows up asking if this is the right address for the 'Love Retreat'! She ends up moving in, sharing a room with Sophie! She's spoiled rotten rich and still having bad relationships, and she starts offering everyone aroma therapy (gag) and gods know what. I'm over 50% in and loving this tale so far. Not a lot seems ot be happenign in moving Sophie's sotry forwards, btu you get to wrapped up in the peripherals that it doesn't matter. But I guess that depends on how you define 'moving her story forwards'. She's so involved in the group that overall, she's doing fine and is really starting to overcome her addiction without really noticing. Maybe that's the point.

In many ways, this novel could have been written by Nora Ephron (were she still alive. I wouldn’t expect her to write it now!). One of the things I resent about this genre of story is that it's always about fabulously well-off yuppies who never seem to ever have to do an honest week's work, and who get morosely hung up about laughable trivialities. They have pretty much everything they want and they still can't find happiness! This novel was not quite that, but it had enough of that stigma inherent to turn me off it a bit - but not a lot. These characters were fun and interesting, and engaging, but I kept wondering why they never seemed to have to go to work, especially Sophie who can apparently take a straight three months off her job without her editor ever once getting on her case, and without her ever wanting for ready cash to splash around! And she thinks she has problems? It would be really nice to just once have a story like this, but about regular, working stiffs from a life which is a notch or two lower than the Ephron class battleship of thirty-something yuppie-dom.

So the predictable relationship with Joe the Alcoholics Anonymous counselor predictably happens. Although it happens in a better way than all-too-many of the young-adult novels I've been habituating of late, it still smacked of too much YA instadore. I found that to be really sad, because it betrays everything this novel purports to be about, and it is such an unrealistic event as to be a complete sham.

Yes, sometimes you do find the perfect partner on the rebound, but that's not the norm, it’s the extreme rarity. Most of the time when you've been hurt as badly as Sophie was, it wrecks your life and all hopes of a decent relationship in the foreseeable future, because your misery turns others off. There is (almost) never that perfect partner waiting for you just around the corner. In my experience no one even really cares that much because they've all been there too, and rather than being moved by and empathic towards your debilitating withdrawal, they're nauseated by it and don't want to know about it. Certainly, potential partners don't. In my experience, the only real honest and effective way to get through it is to go cold turkey and avoid other people until you get a grip. Of course if you have close friends and they're ready, willing, and able to put up with the ungodly mess that you are, then that's a good way to go, too!

The worst part of this novel was Sophie's love interest, which was telegraphed by someone with a sore thumb sticking out, and it was completely out of place for me. The ending, therefore, was so trite and demeaning as to be truly nauseating; it was an all-Nora-Ephron ending, which betrayed the growth which we're supposed to believe Sophie had undergone by rendering her into a helpless child who needed rescuing by a man, but that's all I have to say about that.

Even having said that, I can still recommend this novel because overall, it's a fun story about an important topic with which we all have some familiarity, some of us more than others. It does slip in the latter half as compared with the first half, and there is a bit of the way-too-predictable going on, but there is also a nice thread of sly humor and a host of interesting people and amazing behaviors to enjoy. So yeah, give it a read! It’s short and fun so what have you got to lose?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

H2O by Austin Boyd and Brannon Hollingsworth

Title: H2O
Author: Austin Boyd and Brannon Hollingsworth
Publisher: AMG Publishers
Rating: WARTY!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of my reviews so far, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley, and is available now.

I am not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration of any kind for this review. Since this is a new novel, I don't feel comfortable going into anywhere near as much detail over it as I have with the older books I've been reviewing! I cannot rob the authors of their story, so this is shorter, but most probably still be more detailed than you'll typically find elsewhere!

It's funny I should start reviewing this tonight when it's pouring down with rain outside as a humongous and adorable thunderstorm comes rolling through!

After reading only only a couple of sentences of H2O I thought I would dislike it. The florid language just turned my stomach, but I pressed on and was rewarded with a story which grew more fascinating as I progressed, but as I progressed it became obvious this was Christian fiction and there was no mystery over what the protagonist was experiencing. I was interested to note that it takes two guys to write a novel from the female perspective! lol! I'm an atheist, but I have no objection to religious fiction as long as the author(s) don't try to make too much sense out of it or take it too seriously, so I began in a state of curiosity as to where they would take this.

The main protagonist is Kate Pepper, a senior (rank, not age!) employee of an aerospace software corporation who is flying high in her world. She's also well-known for her sashimi and for the charity affairs she puts on with her boyrfriend Xavier. I love Kate Pepper. I know someone whom I really respect and whose maiden name is Pepper, and I used to date someone whose nickname was Pepper, and I love the Pepper Potts character in Ironman, so this effect hardly comes as a surprise to me, but the character is written well, even though she's sometimes infuriating to me. Unfortunately, that wasn't going to pan out too well!

I don’t know what it is about women with a soft belly, but Kate has one, amd I would take one of those over one with a washboard stomach - all other things being equal - any time, anywhere! OTOH, I'd take the washboard if she had a mind behind it, and the soft belly didn’t (and I had a choice!). But that's just me. Where this soft spot for a soft spot came from, I have no idea, but it’s a part of me and I don’t care to discard or abuse it.

Kate Pepper is an over-achiever, which didn’t win any points with me. Much worse than that, though, is that she's in an abusive relationship - of the mental, not the physical kind, but the physical kind is more than taken care of by Kate herself! She slices her hand making sashimi. She flies off her motorbike and is hospitalized because she's going way-the-hell too fast in the rain. She passes out in the shower, and goes temporarily blind making rice balls!

The one thing all of these events have in common, which Kate is evidently too slow to figure out, is water. There is something about water on her skin which transports her - and as the story progresses evidently does so quite literally - to another world - or more accurately to another time: Biblical times. This world is hard to understand and very scary and hallucinatory as far as Kate is concerned. I'm bothered by the fact that if water has so dramtatic an effect on her, then why doesn't the water - which is some 70% of her body! - have a huge effect? Why doesn't the water in the coffee in which she over-indulges, have an effect? There is a lame attmept to explain this away by saying the water needs to be in a pure form to have this effect on her, but that's just nonsense! No water is truly pure - even fresh water from your faucet or from a store bought bottle has some contaminants in it; that is not necessarily to say these contaminants are harmful, just to say that there's really no such thing as pure H2O.

When I got to a point which was some 30 pages shy of finishing this novel, I was seriously done with it! If this is Christian religious fiction, it falls far short of the glory of god! H2O has gone downhill fast and I find that hard to believe given how interested I was in it at the start, but I've read children's stories that are more intelligent, sophisticated, and believable than this one is. It’s painfully obvious what this is all about and has been since the first couple of visions which Kate has had. The only mystery in this novel is why Kate is so retarded in figuring out what’s going on. She was raised a Catholic and yet is completely brain-dead as to the religious nature of the visions!

I'm sorry, but I don’t want to read stories about people who are that irremediably and unrepentantly (yes, I use that word advisedly!) stupid. This Kate, the dumb as a brick Kate, is not the Kate I was led to believe this story was about in the beginning. That Kate - the one I loved, has left the building. I don’t know this substitute Kate and I don’t want to. This Kate is a weak woman who needs a guy to rescue her. But then the church has never been very kind to women, has it? Not since Eve at any rate! But that's not the worst sin in which Boyd and Hollingsworth indulge themselves!

Her "savior" has the initials JC. Why isn't that a surprise? But get this: his name is John Connor. Yes, he's the guy who fights the terminator machines! Not really, but did Boyd and Hollingsworth not see a Terminator movie? That's actually not the great sin; the great sin is that these visions appear to be nothing more than Jesus trying ineffectually to get Kate back into the fold. Jesus evidently is learning nothing from his consistent failures, but like an idiot, he continues repeating these same actions over and over again regardless of the cost to Kate, in the absurd hope of a different outcome! Seriously? Isn't that the definition of insanity?! He's putting her through this endless torment in order to say "Hi!"? I thought that was supposed to be Satan's job?!

Let me make this comparison: If someone you hadn't seen in a long while wanted to renew your acquaintanceship, but instead of simply coming right up to you and saying "Hi!", deliberately avoided meeting you face to face, and instead tried to force you back into a relationship by slipping you a drug which caused you to have bizarre and scary hallucinations, and caused you to injure yourself because of those hallucinations, making you think you were ill, delusional, and mentally deranged, would that be someone you actually wanted to be acquainted with? Excuse me, but you are a bona fides nut-job if your answer to that question is "Yes."

We're talking here about a character which I consider to be fictional, but which 90% of the US population accepts as real. He's claimed to be not only the most powerful being there is, but also supposed to be love itself, and yet the only way he can think of to get you to pay attention to him is quite literally to hit you upside the head? No! No one who loves you does that to you, not even when that person is human. For a god of love to do that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. This is an abusive relationship!

The irony here is that we’re shown Kate in an abusive relationship at the start of this story and she's back in one at the end! Just when we see her start to drag herself out of the previous one, we see her being told by more than one person that she needs to get into another one, where an even more powerful alpha-male figure wants to literally take over her life and do it not with love, but with violence, abuse, and threats? The biggest one of those threats is of course, that she either bows to him and quite literally worships him for eternity (how boring is that?), or she must literally rot in hell? How is this a step up for her?

I'm sorry but I can't read any more of this story! It's simplistic, juvenile opiate for the masses, and it makes zero sense even within its own religious framework. This story began great, and I was willing to go with it despite my misgivings that it would go exactly where in fact it actually did go, but though it started so well, it rapidly went to hell in a hand-basket. I cannot recommend this story to anyone who has any integrity and self-respect, and I especially cannot recommend it to women.