Friday, April 18, 2014

What's Your Poo Telling You? by Josh Richman

It's EVERYBODY POOPS for adults!

Poop is one of those things that you're supposed to stop finding funny after age seven or so. However, if you've ever seen a single episode of Family Guy, you'll know that these expectations are a total lie. Poop is, always has been, and always will be, funny. Even Shakespeare made poop jokes.

WHAT'S YOUR POO TELLING YOU is a palm-sized guide that talks about all the different kinds of poop and what they mean. No, not in a divination sense. There is no "assology" to be found in here (badum-ting).

Instead, this book talks about what kinds of diets result in which kinds of poop, and whether they merit a doctor's visit. I was pleasantly surprised, actually, by how well comedy and health mix in this book. Being healthy can be fun!

3 out of 5 stars.


I Know I Am, But What Are You? by Samantha Bee

Samantha Bee is the best friend you never knew you wanted.

Comedienne memoirs are kind of a new thing for me. There are several kinds - memoirs written by women who think they're funnier than they actually are; memoirs written by women who can be funny, but are writing this book to prove that they are srs; women who are hilarious but also kind of terrifying and you'd never want to go anywhere alone with them after dark; and women who are not only funny but also likable and serious BFF material.

Such is the case with Samantha Bee.

I KNOW I AM isn't so much about her comedy career as it is about her life. She's lived quite a colorful one, and in this candid memoir she covers everything from her distaste for the elderly to a precociously sexual preadolescence of fleeing creepy perverts.

I'm pretty sure Samantha is that one person who always says what everyone else is thinking, even (especially) if it's offensive. In fact, the more likely it is to offend people, the likelier it is that she'll probably say it because it's sure as shoot that no one else will. I have friends like that in my life, and even though they leave you a little speechless, it's cathartic for everyone at the table to have someone say, "Good lord, should she be wearing that dress? I'm waiting for her boob to pop out like a cork!" Or, "That BDSM lesbian couple was really cute but did anyone else think that they were racist when they went off about Mongolians?"

Definitely recommend this to fans of Mindy Kaling and Tina Fey's memoirs. :)

3.5 to 4 out of 5 stars.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Take the protagonist from THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME, age him 30 years, and then put him smack-dab in the middle of When Harry Met Sally.

You'll get a pretty close approximation of THE ROSIE PROJECT.

Some of you were laughing at me because I had to read this for book club, except I'd put it off until the last minute and was flailing around on Goodreads being all, "But I need to finish, guys!" But as usual, life wasn't working out in my favor. Netflix decided to add season two of Robot Chicken (finally!), and I got to the next episode of Candy Crush Saga. Freaking lame.

But I finished the book - and several others, too. (When I'm not distracted, I can read pretty fast.) And I even took a while page full of notes after coming home from book club because if you get a table-full of fifteen women together in an ambient restaurant there's a lot of talking going on and it's kind of hard to focus on your own ideas because holy shit, verbal alphabet soup. And THE ROSIE PROJECT is actually pretty complicated for a book that could easily be classified as chicklit. It's like an onion, as Shrek might say; it has layers.

Don is a 39-year-old Australian professor with undiagnosed Asperger's syndrome. He studies genetics and all he knows about his condition is that he has major social skills issues, especially with the opposite sex. In fact, he's on his way to being the next 40-Year-Old Virgin. However, he knows his case isn't totally hopeless because the nice little old lady next door told him he'd make a kick-ass husband one day, if only he can land the right woman. Enter "The Wife Project." Don, being a scientific kind of guy, decides that the best way to go about meeting his ideal match is via a questionnaire (because nobody in the history of online dating has ever lied on a dating survey, right? *cricket chirp*).

His work in genetics brings him into the acquaintance of Rosie, who is looking for her real father. She has it narrowed down to three possible candidates, each more dysfunctional than the last. Rosie is pretty much a case study of what Don isn't looking for in a woman: she's loud and touchy-feely, she smokes and drinks, she's a vegetarian, she has bright red hair that comes out of a bottle, she's crude, and she dresses like a punked-out goth. And yet, Don finds that he enjoys being around her, which just isn't logical, dammit, because by all rights, she's someone who ought to grate his nerves.

Side characters include various dates-gone-wrong, like Olivia of the bright dress and bad manners. (At the book club, one of the members was going off on the rainbow dress and how in the narrative she was described as looking like a parrot. I happened to be wearing a rainbow dress and I was like, "Hey, what've you got against rainbow dresses?" LOL) There's also the husband and wife duo, Gene and Claudia. They have an open marriage, apparently, and Gene, a skeazebag of a human sexuality professor, has made it his life's ambition to sleep with a woman of every ethnicity for "research."

I think Gene was probably my least favorite character in the book, possibly because I'd just read BLINDFOLDED INNOCENCE by Alessandra Torre, a book (also about a womanizing "professional") where the male love interest casually reveals that he's slept with 180 women. The difference between these two books, and part of the reason ROSIE gets three stars while BLINDFOLDED gets a glaring zero, is because Gene's behavior isn't sexy in this book. It's crude and debasing, and gets treated as such - and he ends up getting his comeuppance, too.

I also found it a little weird that Rosie thought that people with Asperger's couldn't feel love. It made me do a double take, because, um, really? People with Asperger's have emotions, they just aren't very verbal and have trouble with body language and unspoken social norms. People who don't have emotions are sociopaths, and imminently more troubling. I suspect this is what pissed off so many readers and led them to claim that THE ROSIE PROJECT was being insensitive towards people with a bona fide psychological condition, and on that note I agree. The philosophical dilemma in the beginning, involving the crying baby and a gun, may have also offended a lot of people. It had me in stitches, especially when the children began climbing on the desks and chanting, "Shoot the baby!"

The subplot where Rosie and Don are trying to figure out her father is also very confusing and contrived. If you can't figure out what happened, know you're not alone. I thought her father was someone totally different than who he actually was because the writing was so vague. It totally reminded me of Mamma Mia, except with a lot of genetics research thrown in. Weird.

The cutest part, though? Easily their date in New York. Or when Don was trying to practice sex positions with one of those model skeletons in his lab. Tee hee. Awkward! Overall, I enjoyed this book. I'm not crazy about it, and sometimes it dragged or was even boring, but it really has a cute message to send about how love can come when you least expect it, and that acceptance is a key role in finding your ideal partner. Ironically, Don is the one who must learn acceptance.

2.5 to 3 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Me Since You by Laura Weiss

Rowan is a typical teenage girl: she hangs out with boys, lies about her age, sneaks out to drink, and likes to party. The only impediment to all of this is that she's the daughter of a local cop who, with the help of his buddies, seems like he's determined to keep her from having any fun.

One day, her family's lives are torn apart when her father is the first on the scene when a man decides to kill himself--and his infant son--by throwing himself off a bridge.

After that incident, her life will never be the same.

The writing in ME SINCE YOU isn't bad. It's very much like Sarah Dessen, if Sarah Dessen happened to be very depressed.

I couldn't get through this book. I read for enjoyment, not to be miserable. Plus, Rowan was such an awful, selfish protagonist I found myself wanting to bitchslap her every time she said or did something. I have trouble believing that anyone--even a teenager--could be so awful to someone so clearly in need of love and support.

I also feel that ME SINCE YOU is a bit too long. The wangst is stretched out to the point where it seems nearly endless. I didn't like the romance between Rowan and Eli. I felt like she was taking advantage of a boy who was in a fragile emotional state, especially considering her lack of empathy. I didn't find it cute or life-changing. By the time I got to page 240, the thought of enduring another 100  pages left me feeling rather depressed myself.

1 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fire & Flood by Victoria Scott

FIRE & FLOOD is probably one of the most gimmicky and derivative books I've read in a while. It shamelessly rips off Hunger Games, the Pokemon/Digimon franchise, and LOST. These ideas are then pieced together in such a haphazard way that I couldn't help but wonder if the author just decided to screw it, and bypass further editing in favor of releasing her book to follow in the wake of the Divergent and Catching Fire releases.

What makes this book like the Hunger Games series?
-The corrupt government recruits people to fight in this gladiatorial style competition for a prize.
-Tella decides to fight because of her little brother.
-The games take place in various ecosystems specifically designed to cause the players as much strife as possible.
-Only one player can win, but they band together for the duration.
-They get special uniforms for the games.
-A snake pin!
-One of the players has an animal symbol of rebellion. (A hawk, instead of a mockingjay.)
-The dash for the eggs is a lot like the dash for the Cornucopia.

What makes this book like the Pokemon/Digimon series?
-Pandoras are zoo animals that come from freaking eggs.
-Everyone gets a different animal.
-The animals have various attacks, like FLY, DIG, HORN ATTACK, SPIKES, HYPNOSIS, MIMIC, and MEAN LOOK. Those aren't the actual names, but still.
-One player decides to take a Team Rocket approach and capture other people's Pandoras.
-The Pandoras can fight each other and also solve real-world problems.

"I'd like to officially welcome you to the Brimstone Bleed. May the bravest Contender win" (59).

Happy Hunger Games to you, too.

The MC is extremely unlikable: vain, shallow, totally focused on her clothes, appearance, makeup even when it was totally inappropriate for the situation. Don't get me wrong, it can be refreshing to have an MC who knows she looks good and isn't shy about it. Mac, from the Fever series, was like that. But Tella, the MC of FIRE & FLOOD, is one of those girls who doesn't know she's beautiful until a man (or several men) help discover this point of the most disturbing way possible, of course.

The one female character, Harper, who is aware of her sexuality, is ruthlessly slut-shamed. All the undesirable men ogle and flirt with her and stare at her boobs (Tella's love interest is curiously immune). Right at the beginning, Tella says, "She has cream-colored skin and a body that belongs in a magazine--the kind for guys, not girls" which is as good as saying that she belongs in a pornographic magazine. She also talks about how she wants to punch Harper in the face for being so pretty, and that this is the reason why she will not be friends with her. Fuck you, Tella. It's always incredibly disturbing when an MC objectifies the other female characters, and I found it really off-putting how much time was devoted to having people put down Harper. For example, when it's revealed that she's a young mother, Tella and some of the guys joke about how the father could be one of the guys in the camp. Because she's so slutty-looking, even though she's never actually had sex with any of these men in the camp. But hey, if animals can hatch from eggs, maybe you can have sex through osmosis in this world. Who the fuck knows! But don't fucking slut-shame. Okay? Okay.

The male characters are all super-rapey. Tella has two contenders: a washed-out Byronic hero from the Edward Cullen school of love interests who likes to glare at her and treat her like a child, and a complete psycho. The lines between their behavior towards Tella are perhaps not as distinct as the author would have liked so she has the psycho sink to really fucked up and depraved levels of behavior like murder, animal abuse, and attempted rape.

Unfortunately, the lines between consensual and nonconsensual are as clear as a Robin Thicke song. For example, in the desert ecosystem they have to sleep in their undies, it's cold at night and the sand will rob their bodies of warmth (so why not keep your clothes on???). Tella's love interest makes a point of ogling her instead of Harper and even molests her a little in front of their teammates, leading to some truly ribald comments. But Tella gets off stripping for him and plots their wedding while he macks on her. No, I'm not kidding.

Jaxon ogles Harper. The boys gather desert carnage for our beds. Guy watches me undress. I imagine our wedding (219).

Then for the bad guy, we get lines like this.

"I see you're going to need some breaking" (253).

And perhaps even more disturbingly,

He's watching me the way Guy does (264).

That doesn't make you rethink your choice of love interests? Really?

On the other hand, this is a girl who stands stock-still in the middle of what should have been an epic fight scene and fantasizes about her rhinestoned t-shirt that says GIRLS DON'T FIGHT, THEY FLAUNT, wondering if it's still in her closet as the mayhem goes down around her. Again, not making this stuff up. It's in the book. I've never read about a more passive heroine in an action-adventure series who was the main character. It's like if you took Bella Swan (hey, Tella, Bella), and slapped her in the middle of Hunger Games but also rendered her immortal so her stupidity wouldn't cause her to die the way it would in the real world. Tella is a girl who, when she finds herself stripped after being knocked unconscious, wonders what her assailant thought about her mismatched underwear. When she gets molested by her would-be rapist, she thinks the best course of action is to give him what he wants, not make him angry, and endear herself to his men. She thinks kissing can be a weapon. She pines away for her real love interest, hoping he will come and save her.

And yes, while it is nice to have a strong man who will watch out for you, he shouldn't be your first line of defense. Rapists and assailants tend to wait to strike when you're alone; and while no one should ever be blamed for their assault, because they are the victim, and I don't believe in victim-blaming, women should know how to defend themselves, as a general rule.

But unfortunately, this is a rule that Tella does not subscribe to.

Also, there's insta-love.

My body aches for him in a way I've never known. I feel like an animal, all muscle and hormones and lust (186).

The world-building is haphazard at best. Their world is kind of like our world and yet different enough that I feel like some explanation for the transitions are necessary. DELIRIUM is about as vague as I can tolerate with regards to world-building and FIRE & FLOOD definitely crossed that line. For example, the MC mentions Nordstroms and Disney, so I know that their world is our world. And yet, apparently animals can come from eggs and the government has these super sekrit games that they make people play--and yet they don't broadcast it on live TV so if it's not for entertainment and fear, then what is it for? Nobody ever says. Because THEY DON'T KNOW. (Clever. Not.)

FIRE & FLOOD was an attempt at taking several popular gimmicks and combining them in a patchwork opus. It didn't work. The beginning is awful, and while it gets better a little in the middle, the storyline quickly takes a turn for the worse when the two (I hesitate to call them love interests) men make their interest in Tella known. I suppose the one saving grace of this storyline is Madox, Tella's fox Pandora. He was freaking adorable. Too bad he wasn't the MC.

1 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn

Okay, if you are interested in reading this book, do not read the spoilerific Goodreads summary. Honestly, it amazes me how spoiler-laden some of these summaries are. Why not give away the ending, too? I mean, God.

COMPLICIT is the story of a brother and sister living with foster parents. The sister has been in jail for a crime she committed years ago and is just now being released. They have a dark and convoluted past worthy of any Gillian Flynn or Tana French novel, and James, the main character, is afraid that his crazy sister Cate is going to fuck up his life in revenge.

And she is, pretty much, only not the way he thinks.

COMPLICIT kept me turning the pages but it didn't really blow me away the way it did everyone else who read it. By about 3/4 of the way through, I suspected I knew what happened and I was disappointingly correct. But then, I was a psychology major and I've read a lot of psychological thrillers, so it's hard to impress me anymore.

For people who aren't psychology majors, or who don't hold Gillian Flynn up as the golden standard for all psychological thrillers to follow, this book will probably be a total mindfuck. It definitely stands out among all the NA romances and caste-based dystopian novels.

Also, an additional bonus (for me) is that this book is set in Danville, where I've been several times. I kept going OMG I KNOW THAT PLACE! OMG I KNOW THAT PLACE! And that was fun. :)

3 out of 5 stars.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Tipping Sacred Cows: The Uplifting Story of Spilt Milk and Finding Your Own Spiritual Path in a Hectic World by Betsy Chasse

I think the best way to summarize my dislike for this book is to break down the summary on Goodreads.

Wife, mother, and award-winning producer of the sleeper hit What the Bleep Do We Know!?

Oh, you didn't know this author also did a film? Don't worry, she'll only name-drop it hundreds of times.

Betsy Chasse thought she had it all figured out...until she realized she didn't.

Betsy Chasse realizes she's just as fallible as the rest of humanity. Oh woe!

She didn't know anything about happiness, love, spirituality, or herself...nothing, nada, zilch.

 I mean, everyone else has total understanding of life, the universe, and everything...right?

In a book that's anything but quiet, Chasse takes readers on a playful romp through the muddy fields of life and spirituality.

270 pages of navel-gazing and anecdotes about how great and awesome Betsy is.

Witty, yet unflinching, Chasse exposes her own experience tipping sacred cows and dissects the fragile beliefs we all hold so dear.

Betsy manages to convey that she has absolutely no idea about philosophy, psychology, or religion, and yet somehow also manages to proselytize as ardently as any used car salesmanish telemarketer.

Because the truth is, we each have a choice to believe the stories we tell ourselves or create new ones.

I vote for creating a new one. This one really sucked.

A candid, no-nonsense confession

Clearly, we have different ideas as to what constitutes 'nonsense.'

Chasse's story gives readers the freedom to break free from their old patterns and gleefully frolic through fields, cow tipping at will and in the process, create a new reality for themselves. 

Now, you, too, can bask in your egocentric, capitalistic, hedonistic delusions.

0 out of 5 stars.