Month: March 2016

Trying New Things

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I was lucky enough to receive an advanced reader’s copy of Terry McMillan’s novel I Almost Forgot About You.

almost forgot about you

This novel starts off strong, with protagonist Dr. Georgia Young, a successful optometrist in the Bay Area, discovering that someone she deeply cared about has passed away. And upon learning of his demise, she realizes that she regrets that she did not tell him how she felt, and now, never has the chance to do so.

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She SEES that she needs to shake things up. #optometryjokes

What follows is the tale of a middle-aged woman deciding to take charge of her destiny, learn to forgive, and create a life in which she is happy, rather than merely well off and living a life of habit.

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She wants to be as happy, in general, as Hercule Poirot is with his moustache.

There is a lot to like this novel. Most of the characters in this novel are black, and the way that McMillan writes, it is clear that she is not trying to cater to a white audience. As a result, this novel is one of the few novels to truly display a different viewpoint than avid readers generally get the chance to experience.

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Yay, diversity!

The characters in this novel are well drawn. Throughout the span of 368 pages, the characters have time both to become real to the reader, and to change, either in terms of the reader’s understanding or the character’s life journey (or both). They exhibit moments of unexpected grace and understanding, as well as flaws that betray an age or race or trait appropriate bias.

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They’re REAL characters…

On the other hand, there are some aspects that are not as lovable.

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One of the most glaring errors in this novel is that while it is not slated for release until June 7, 2016, it already feels dated. As I mentioned earlier, Dr. Young lives in the Bay Area. She works in the Embarcadero – in other words, in the city of San Francisco, currently the most expensive American city. Yet there are numerous references to the dream of New York, dashed with the reasoning that NY is too expensive to live in.

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#pointedlook

 

Another potential con for this novel annoyed me more while I was reading it thn in retrospect. The main character, while thinking over and occasionally meeting, past loves from her life, waffles. Her opinions of what the relationship consisted, and of whether or not she wants to sleep with them, are constantly changing. In retrospect, this waffling is realistic. Change is not easy, and most people are not entirely honest with themselves, and even when they are, what they want often changes. But I still found myself rolling my eyes a bit, sometimes.

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#eyeroll

I definitely recommend this novel, and it is an enjoyable read. It just doesn’t quite reach the level of transcendence that many of the other novels I have been reading lately have possessed. I am still very glad that I read this one, and hope that you will take the time to do so, as well.

On a scale of spaghetti, this novel gets 4 delicious plate-fuls out of a potential 5:

4 spaghetiis

Have you read I Almost Forgot You? What did you think? Are you looking forward to it, if you haven’t read it yet? Or have you read some other McMillan works? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

WTF Disney?

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I find it slightly hilarious that Disney did such a great job with Star Wars, but cannot seem to get adaptations of their own fairy tale cartoons right. I recently watched the live-action Cinderella, and even though I was only half-watching it, it still nearly put me to sleep.

 

This sleeping kitty picture is more interesting than that movie.

There is so much to ask about this movie, but I think the most pressing question is why bother to make a live-action Cinderella based off of your Company’s well-known, cartoon version if you’re not even going to try?

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Okay, I mean… I KNOW why,  but for a big-budget movie, you’d think they could have tried hard to make it, you know, decent.

This movie could have been amazing. Instead, I was bored.

While the actress who played Cinderella herself is beautiful, and physically looks the part, after having watched this Cinderella movie, I have to wonder if she can act. The cartoon version of her character seemed to possess more intelligence, somehow. Live-action Cinderella comes across as a kind little idiot.

kind little idiot

And while it was cute that cartoon-Cinderella can talk to animals, the live-action movie keeps the animals, but doesn’t allow them to talk back. I guess it’s more realistic, but it also makes your heroine seem like a schizophrenic. When she goes on her rant to the prince about hunting the stag, you truly have to wonder what he sees in her. My personal verdict is that he was extremely horny – which, considering how quickly a marriage is generally consummated, doesn’t bode well for that union.

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Divorces don’t grow on trees, prince!

In addition, talking about being realistic here for a moment, if Cinderella is an environmentalist who can’t even stand for animals to be hunted, I am presuming she also can’t bear to eat them. I am not certain of the exact time period in which this movie takes place, but I find it hard to believe she’s going to be able to eat a well-balanced diet without eating meat. Maybe that’s one bonus for the prince: by the time he gets sick of having sex with her, she’ll probably have made herself mortally ill via malnutrition.

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Not any meat, she says. I feel FINE, she says. Now *I* have to tell her husband she’s dead. #FML

The message that kindness is the most important trait really seems more like – kindness is the only trait that matters. This message, while kindly met, I’m sure, is also kind of odd. You sort of feel like, if Cinderella’s mother had not stressed kindness quite so much, maybe she wouldn’t have been afraid to grow a backbone and tell her stepmother “no.” Kindness can be a great trait, but allowing other people to walk all over you is not kindness, it is cowardice.

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Don’t forget to wipe the horse shit off on your stepsister, girls. She doesn’t say anything, and smiles, so she must like it. Every masochist needs people like us.

And speaking of her stepmother – what a waste of Cate Blanchett, who looks gorgeous, but isn’t mean enough or smart enough to make this character sizzle. Cate deserved a better role, and you have to wonder if she had a larger part that got edited out for butterflies and ugly renditions of the signature Cinderella dress.

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I’m sorry, Cate. I know there is a better evil stepmother inside of you.

They took this iconic dress:

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… and turned it into this:

Cinderella dressEssentially, they took a sparkling, sophisticated vision, and turned it into a cheap-looking tart. Why is the dress such a dark blue? Why is her hair down? Why are there fucking butterflies all over it? I don’t know, but I hate it.

And finally, and perhaps most unforgivably, why have Lucifer in the movie, if you’re going to completely water him down?

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Shame on you Disney. Shame. On. You.

Sex & Horror #yesplease

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-For at that moment Mr. Kinnear, dead as he was, was the stiffer man of the two of them.--Alias Grace

When I trekked cross-country to come live in the Bay Area, I had a copy of Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood that I had purchased at a library sale, and which I had barely begun reading when I left it in a hotel room somewhere in the middle of the country. I was very disappointed, and intended to get another copy on my hands at some unknown point in the future.

Then, recently, I remembered that I had a library card, and can thereby procure a myriad of very wonderful books, including the previously abandoned Alias Grace.

It was an interesting read. The first novel I had read by Atwood, I was impressed with her skill, imagination, and particularly, her character development. Based on the true story of Grace Marks, a woman imprisoned for decades for a murder in which she may or may not have been complicit at the tender age of 16, this novel was fascinating. The story began to meander a bit for the latter third of the book, but I can understand why it did so, and it was not unpleasant to read, it just felt a bit more out-of-focus than I was a wholehearted fan of.

However, I am glad I read it, and I am also glad to point out the quote above, which melds, in a single, concise sentence, two of my favorite literary themes: eroticism and horror. (Some of you may remember I am slowly writing a paranormal erotica short story anthology, which provides even more evidence that I am a fan of these two themes.) Ever since I can remember, horror stories have fascinated me. And sex, whether we love to think about it, hate to talk about it, or both, is also generally fascinating to people in one way or another.

Have you read Alias Grace? If so,what did you think? If not, what is your favorite horror story? I like to read comments as well as novels, and would love to hear from you!

The award-deserving book you need to read, like, yesterday

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Wow.

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I was lucky enough to receive an advanced reader copy of Britt-Marie Was Here: A Novel
from Atria books, and now I know what to get the difficult people to shop for this year for birthday gifts. Britt-Marie was Here is certainly amongst the best books that will be released this year. I say this remark with confidence, despite the fact that it is almost March – the novel is that good.

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This book deserves ALL the awards

Britt-Marie and the town of Borg in which she tries to make a fresh start in life as a woman in her sixties are well-drawn and lovable characters. This novel is realistic, heartbreaking, heartfelt, and full of hope. And you should read it.

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That is all I want to say about this novel, because I think it’s best if you simply pick it up and read it for yourself. Which you can do May 3rd, when it is released. Happy reading!

No Jesters, Fun Read

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One of the publishers at Netgalley was kind enough to allow me an advanced reader copy of K.C. Held’s Holding Court.

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A short, YA mystery about Juliette, a teen with “Psychic Tourette’s Syndrome,” which means she often randomly blurts out phrases that seem illogical and odd, but are actually prophetic.

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Juliette lives in an odd town, the kind where when your mother leaves to be an antiques guru in Europe, and you can get a job in a castle that had been brought over from Europe, purchased from the original American procurer by a man who wants to pretend to be Henry the Eighth.

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Watch your head!

But her crush, Grayson Chandler, works there, and she needs some cash to get a car.

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Unfortunately, her first day at work, Juliette stumbles across a dead body, and isn’t sure anyone believes her. Desperate to prove she’s telling the truth, Juliette flexes her Sherlockian skills as she makes money, gets terrified, and gets much closer to her crush than anticipated…

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Overall, I thought this story was entertaining and fun. It’s a quick, light read, and long before the story has wrapped up, you know how it’s going to end. Yet the author is having fun, and the result is a fun read. I recommend this novel if you are looking for a light beach read.

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Have you read any enjoyable beach reads lately? Let me know in the comments below!

Deerstalker cap: By Cyril Thomas [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Love = Insurance?

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Landline

Such a good book, you guys. Seriously. Pick up Landline: A Novel, if you don’t already own a copy.