The Secret Brother

Another book to follow Flowers in the Attic, telling the tale of the small boy suffering arsenic poisoning. V.C. Andrews long ago died, and I don’t know who ghostwrites the books since her death, but they should get a new writer.

I loved the horror and elicit sex that a true V.C. Andrews book entailed. Someone was always illicitly lusting after a family member, only they DIDN’T KNOW THEY WERE FAMILY!! To be honest, these books were never great, but they were creative about how rich people (and they were almost always ridiculously rich) could corrupt the idea of family.

In The Secret Brother, we meet Clara Sue, a teenager who lost both her parents to tragedy and her grandmother to illness. At the very beginning, this girl who’s suffered so much loses her brother to a freak drunk driving accident. While at the hospital, her grandfather with whom she lives, ends up caring for a young boy who was dropped off and suffered from arsenic poisoning. The rest of the book is about how upset Clara Sue is that her grandfather has weirdly replaced her brother with this poisoned boy and how she reacts like a spoiled brat, almost the whole time. Nothing in the book, other than maybe the arsenic, ties it to Flowers in the Attic. If instead of focusing on a spoiled teenager who is justly grieving for her family, the novel spent more time on the psychological impact of what happened to the little boy, perhaps this would have been a good book.

But instead, V.C. Andrews spends too much time on a normal teen love affair that turns sour. Who cares!

Anyway, not worth the read.

Read July 2015

Yes Please

Amy Poehler is fucking funny. I want to be her best friend. In Yes Please, she talks about how hard she’s worked to get where she is in her career and she doesn’t take any of it for granted. She talked about her beginning in improv, her stint on SNL, her current work in Parks and Recreation, and she’s just so funny.

In the book, there were many guest writers which I thought appropriate since she’s used to writing with a team. And you can tell that she loves all the people she talks about, even her ex-husband, and never says anything bad about her friends. She’s also a mom to 2 young kids and hasn’t always been the best person. She owns up to her failures and makes me cry with her, and then makes me laugh because she’s just so fucking funny.

Anyway, this is a memoir and she talks a lot about things that I’ve never heard of or watched. But the best part of reading this is looking up all the stupid skits online and laughing out loud.

This was a great book! Much funnier that any memoir I’ve ever read.

Read July 2015.

California

In Edan Lepucki’s California, the US government fell and all that was left was citizens fighting for what they needed. Throughout the novel, we slowly learn how the US fell and unlike many post-apocalyptic books, there wasn’t just one event. There were several cataclysmic weather events around the country (probably climate change related) and earthquakes (good ole mother nature) that separated parts of the country, leaving each group on their own.

We meet Cal and Frida, a young couple who fled from LA to find their own life hidden in the forest. While Frida isn’t the most helpful on their small farm, Cal had gone to school at a strange, survivalist school, that had remarkably remained open when everything else was falling apart, and was able to grow enough to sustain them. After several months, they find they have neighbors and strike up a friendship until the family commits suicide in their nearby home. Frida finds herself pregnant, somewhat of a miracle on their survivalist fare, and begins to worry about how a small family of 3 will survive all alone.

Cal finally tells Frida that he knows that theres a settlement nearby, within a few days walk, but it is not welcoming and he worried what would happen if they wandered into any settlement asking for help. Back in LA, only those with means lived in Communities and they didn’t let anyone in who couldn’t bankroll their way in. Faced with solitude and security or the unknown, Frida decides she needs to see what else is out there, and Cal agrees to go along.

This was an interesting book since not only did it deal with the post-apocalyptic world, it also death with what happens when someone is elected to lead with almost ultimate power. Those in power in the communities had a reason to keep people out, but what about the revolutionaries who fought against the communities. How can they survive? The book may have dragged out a little for me, but one Cal and Frida seek out the settlers and find a community with so many arbitrary rules and leaders, I was hooked. And the ending is just as dramatic and awful as most great novels like this.

Great read, highly recommended!

Read July 2015

The Girl on the Train

In Paula Hawkins The Girl on the Train, we meet Rachel, the girl, on a train. From our first meeting with her it is obvious something is wrong with her, especially since she’s compulsively drinking G&T’s out of a can. Now, for a girl from Oregon, I’ve never heard of a G&T in a can and had to look it up, and it looks like gin in a tin is a real thing which makes it so much easier to get drunk in public, I suppose.

Anyway, Rachel is crazy. Not necessarily certifiable (although its not really clear if this is the case), but she’s stalking her ex-husband and her ex-husband’s neighbors, and she’s pretending to go to a job every day that she lost because she was drunk. So, not a reliable narrator.

Hawkins sets the reader up to not believe Rachel, and yet, Hawkins tells most of the story from her perspective. The crux of the story is about Rachel’s ex-husbands neighbor, who Rachel had also been stalking by watching her house from the train twice daily, who goes missing. Rachel believes she knows who did it because she saw someone while stalking her ex-husband’s neighbor while she passing on the train. I know…that’s exactly how crazy Rachel sounds when she tries to tell the police. Add to that that her ex-husband’s new wife has already complained to the police about how Rachel stalks them and once came into the house and grabbed her baby. I know…how can we believe Rachel when she cannot come up with a reasonable excuse why she did something so horrifying, other than…she was drunk.

Anyway, this book was phenomenal! I devoured it with all its twists and turns, never knowing what Rachel might remember next. It was awesome. I can’t even tell you why, but it is!!

Read July 2015

Prince Lestat

Almost 20 years ago (20 years after the original release) I read Interview with a Vampire for the first time and I was mesmerized. I was young, impressionable, trying to find my own way in the world and I came across Anne Rice’s vampires in a used book store. Having seen the movie already, I was intrigued by Lestat and how his character came out against Louis in his own self-centered books following the Interview. Over the years, I’ve read most, if not all, the books in the Vampire Chronicles. I would never say they were great literature, but Anne Rice was inventive, dark, and strangely romantic in her telling of the vampires.

I hadn’t read another Anne Rice book in several years and was intrigued when I came across Prince Lestat at the library. I can’t say I had the highest expectations, but I expected to be drawn back to the world that Anne Rice created with these rich, beautiful vampires wandering around the globe.

Unfortunately, this novel disappointed me. There were too many characters and each had their own chapters to tell their stories. It wasn’t until the end when Lestat, oh the enigmatic Lestat, finally came to the front of the story to take his thrown as the Prince of Vampires and the central narrator of the story.

Overall, I love the Vampire Chronicles. This was one of, or the, weakest book of the group. It was hard to get through the first half or 2/3, but once I did, I enjoyed the novel. I believe Anne Rice wrote this for her fans who wanted to know what’s been happening with all the characters and instead of breaking up the tales, she shoved them all under one cover. Oh well, can’t win them all.

Read July 2015

The Divorce Papers

Susan Riegar’s The Divorce Papers throws a very different format at the reader, who will love it or hate it. Instead of a traditional narrative, Riegar chooses to tell the entire story of a young lawyer and her divorce client through emails, office memos, legal rulings, and other printed documentation. At first the formatting bothered me and I wanted more interaction between the characters, but by the end I appreciated the difference. More formal documents helped highlight the legalities of divorce, while the letters and emails emphasized the emotions of divorce.

It’s an interesting story as well. Sophie Diehl, a young lawyer, and her partnered mentor team up on a divorce because of Sophie’s lack of experience on divorce. In fact, she’s only taking on the divorce because the wife is a wealthy daughter of one of the firm’s oldest families requested her after an initial meeting. This divorce deals with a lot of money, which is used as a front for all the hurt emotions felt, which is probably typical for most divorces. Through email, Sophie uses her close friend as a sounding board for her career and personal life and we’re able to see a closeness in their relationship even though they never interact in person in the novel.

This was an interesting read because of the formatting and it really showed how technology doesn’t have to distance us from each other.

Read June 2015

The Secret of the Nightingale Palace

What happens when a young Jewish girls falls in love with a Japanese boy at the beginning of WWII? How does this brief love affair tear apart the girl and how can she ever recover? What happens when a gay Jewish man needs to marry and produce an heir for his department store empire? What happens if a wife hated her husband as he died from cancer?

These are some of the questions that Anna and Goldie, an estranged granddaughter and grandmother, will learn about each other as they cross the country from New York City to San Francisco. Goldie is an overbearing, stylish, wealthy grandmother who had some harsh criticism for her granddaughter’s soon to be husband causing a rift that lasted beyond the life of the husband. Anna, only 35, hasn’t recovered from the death of her husband and hasn’t talked to her grandmother in almost 5 years when she’s summoned to NYC to help. Turns out, Goldie needs to return an item that she’s held in safe keeping to her Japanese friend from her life in San Francisco over 60 years ago.

The story feels a little tired. This isn’t the first time that we’ve had the skipped generation story, whether they’re related like this novel or not. But this is a great story. The grandmother has lived a great and filling life while silently bucking the social norms. The granddaughters story doesn’t feel as full as the grandmothers but she’s also many decades younger. They both learn from each other, but the younger of the two has less history to bring. Its mostly the older, wiser, more stylish grandma leading the way when it comes to figuring out life and love, even if she’s kept it secrets for years. Which should be expected that someone who’s older should understand life better. And while I enjoyed this novel, its something I feel like I’ve read before, and not as original as many of the reviews give it.

Overall, it was an enjoyable read, even if a bit trite.

Read June 2015