Baxlala’s #CBR5 Review #13: Why Moms Are Weird by Pamela Ribon

books-why-moms-are-weirdI’m terrible. I read this weeks ago and meant to review it right away, but then I had to read a bunch of other library books before they were overdue, otherwise they send the library secret police after you or the books turn into pumpkins or something. Apologies to Why Moms are Weird, because I have a feeling this review isn’t going to do it justice.

Why Moms are Weird is by internet sensation Pamela Ribon. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Ribon, she is a blogger who used to work for Television Without Pity, which I discovered through Damn Hell Ass Kings, which was home to the first bloggers I ever read, of which Ribon is one. I apologize for that sentence. I suppose I could go back and edit it but NOPE moving on. Pamela Ribon, along with being a famous blogger and one of the founding members of TWoP and DHAK, is a television writer and novelist and, you know, more importantly she also created one of my favorite terms of all time, “wonder killer.”

I read her first novel, Why Girls are Weird, back when it first came out (TEN YEARS AGO FUCK I’M OLD) and, though I haven’t read it in years, it has stuck in my brain in a way that so many other novels just don’t do. I’m sure part of this is because I read it so many times, another part of it is because John Cusack plays an important role, but the most important part is that it’s fucking awesome.

I was sure that I wasn’t going to like Why Moms are Weird as much as I liked Why Girls are Weird (I say liked because, while I want to reread it, I’m a bit afraid to in case my advanced age means I’ll now hate it, see also: Garden State) and I was right, but I still really enjoyed it. Why Moms are Weird is a different animal than Why Girls are Weird. It focuses on a woman named Benny who has purposefully moved far, far away from her overbearing mother and irresponsible sister, not because she doesn’t love them, but because did you not see the overbearing and the irresponsible?

However, when her mother is in an accident, Benny travels across the country to be with her family. She finds the house in disarray and, in the process of organizing and cleaning it, she not only learns to better understand her mother and sister, she learns to better understand herself. I realize that I typed the most cliche sentence ever just now but don’t hold it against this book, OK?

The thing that struck me about this novel is that it could very easily be labeled chick lit (though…just don’t or I’ll kick you), but the most important relationships in it are not the ones Benny has with any of her man friends. That’s not to say those relationships aren’t important, but the real love story here is between Benny and her family. Her wonderful, infuriating, weird family. And there just aren’t enough novels like that.

Next up: Going in Circles, also by Ribon (I pretty much checked out all the Pamela Ribon books the library had, FYI).

Baxlala’s #CBR5 Review #12: Girl Walks Into a Bar…by Rachel Dratch

Let’s just get this out of the way: Rachel Dratch is hilarious. She should be more famous. She should be known for more than Debbie Downer and “that SNL lady who got kicked off of 30 Rock.” Remember when she played that baby with the arm on its head? COME ON.

Girl Walks Into a Bar is Rachel Dratch’s memoir and, in it, she addresses the whole 30 Rock kerfuffle, her career post-SNL (or lackthereof, as it mainly consists of her playing lesbian roommates and undesirable dates in terrible comedies), and her late-in-life pregnancy, all with candor, humility, and OBVIOUSLY a great sense of humor.

For those who are not familiar with 30 Rock, the facts are these: Rachel Dratch was cast as Jenna Maroney, she shot the pilot, and then they (they as in NBC suits, I guess?) decided to “go in a different direction,” and so they recast her with Jane Krakowski. The decision was made, according to THE MAN, because the character didn’t test well, and Rachel (I call her Rachel because we’re friends now) was out.

I very vaguely remember this being a thing, and people saying that it was because she’s not as hot as Jane Krakowski or whatever, but Rachel says it’s the kind of thing that happens all the time and we shouldn’t be bitter on her behalf. I think she’s just being a good person. I mean, she doesn’t sound bitter at all about this, whereas most people would have burned NBC to the ground (see also: Conan O’Brien), and, yeah, maybe she was pretty pissed when it happened but now she sounds very well-adjusted about it.

Still. It seems unfair that Rachel Dratch isn’t as famous as Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. All three were on SNL together, the three are friends (as much as I can tell from the internet and this book), and yet it’s Amy and Tina who are the power comedy couple. Rachel is the Cinderella to their wicked step-sisters, except not really because they don’t seem wicked, they seem AWESOME and really I just want to hang out with all three of them, is that too much to ask?

For those who might read Girl Walks Into a Bar hoping for a backstage tell-all of SNL, with tales of drugs and sex and backstabbing, this is not the book for you (for some of that, check out this article on Pajiba). Rachel talks about her time on SNL, of course, and how she ended up there and what happened to her afterward, but she has nothing but nice things to say about her fellow cast members and she doesn’t spend any time dishing any dirt on anyone. If that’s what you’re looking for, I don’t know, go become friends with Bill Murray or something. (But if you do that, please let me know how because I would also like to be friends with Bill Murray.)

Anyway, things turned out OK for Rachel. Don’t feel bad for her or anything. She has a lasting legend thanks to Debbie Downer and her time on SNL, her baby is adorable, she seems happy with where she is in life, plus she made some awesome appearances on Billy On the Street. SHE DOESN’T NEED YOUR PITY, OK.

Baxlala’s #CBR5 Review #11: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

daughterofsmokeandboneI can’t believe I’ve never read this book. I mean, NOW I’ve read it, obviously. I’m not going to come here and review some book I’ve never read before, though that does sound kind of fun, to just puzzle pieces of books together from bits I’ve heard about them or movies that have been made. Like so: Twilight is about a sparkly vampire and a wereboy who fall in love with Bland. The vampire is allergic to emoting and showering. The wereboy is allergic to shirts. There are some fights and Michael Sheen is there for some reason. GET OUT OF THERE, MICHAEL SHEEN.

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WTF is happening here?

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is fucking awesome and you should read it THE END.

Oh, right, I’m supposed to write more. So it wasn’t so long ago that I was complaining about how I was swearing off of YA fiction because of that book that broke me, and then I realized that I’d accidentally gotten some YA from the library (it just happens, you guys, I’m like a moth to a flame, burned by the fire) and so, begrudgingly, I sat down to read it one bright, Saturday morning, and, after not-so-very-long, I was telling my husband that I hoped he had plans for the day because I was going to be reading that damn book until I finished it, such was the power it held over me.

Can you believe I’ve made it this far without even really talking about the book? I CAN. I’m avoiding it because I don’t even know where to begin. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is about Karou, a young woman with peacock-blue hair who spends her days in art school and her nights in league with creatures known as chimaera, who grant wishes in exchange for teeth (human, animal, whatever). Then some angels show up and they are PISSED.

See, now, right now, you’re all, “wtf, this sounds ridiculously weird, why would I want to read this?” and just trust me, OK, you’re going to get to a certain point of this book and realize you can’t put it down, and you’re going to spend the entire day ignoring your husband and pets (and kids, if you have them) so you can finish it. TRUST ME. This book is weird and clever, bursting with originality, the heroine is flawed and strong and can fight like Buffy, and the author has pink hair. WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT?

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Baxlala’s #CBR5 Review #10: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

warmYou know how sometimes you pick up a book and know you’re going to love it before you’ve even finished the first chapter?

That was Warm Bodies for me. I’ve been obsessed with zombies for as long as I’ve known what a zombie was, from “they’re coming to get you, Barbara” to rage virus infected monkeys, mostly because zombies terrify me and so I want to be as prepared as possible for the impending zombie apocalypse, meaning I will read or watch or DEVOUR (mmm, brains) anything zombie-related, out of self-preservation at the very least.

I did things in the wrong order, however, as I so often do, and saw the movie before I read the book. It’s not that I didn’t WANT to read the book first, it’s just that I’d had it reserved at the library and it didn’t come in until after I saw the movie. And, sure, LOGICALLY, I could have just put off seeing the movie until the book came in but I really wanted popcorn, you guys, I’m sorry.

The book ended up coming in the next day, and if it had only come a few days earlier, I totally would have had it finished by movie time. In the end, I don’t think it mattered much. I loved the movie, I loved the book, and the two were similar enough that I only loved the book more by a teeny tiny bit, and that’s because, in the book, I got to live inside the zombie’s head. Sure, there were voiceovers in the movie but it’s not quite the same, you know?

Warm Bodies tells the story of a young zombie named R, named so because he can’t remember his real name. He doesn’t recall how he became a zombie and he doesn’t know how long he’s been a zombie. R meets a young (and live!) woman named Julie when he and his zombie friends attack Julie’s group. R eats Julie’s boyfriend, Perry, and, upon tasting Perry’s brain, R absorbs his memories and falls in love with Julie, going to great lengths to protect her for the rest of the book.

I loved this new spin on the zombie tale, a difficult endeavor, really, in this zombie-saturated landscape. Much like Shaun of the Dead, Warm Bodies is funny, much funnier than I expected, and the people, even the zombies, feel like actual human (or, you know, human-like) people. The zombie threat is real but there’s a real heart to the story, a cold, dead, zombie heart that warms and starts beating as the story unfolds.

This isn’t the Walking Dead, so those of you who need a little hope with your apocalypse will get that. Also, I don’t know about you, but I spent most of my time reading Walking Dead wishing that I could punch most of the characters in the face. There was no problem with that in Warm Bodies, as I deeply enjoyed the characters, especially the zombies. R, though he is a zombie, has a best friend named M (played by Rob Corddry in the movie to absolute perfection), and (in the book), even has a wife and children, assigned to him by the Boneys, the longest-dead zombies who have lost all traces of humanity.

Something I loved about Warm Bodies was that the zombies, though undead and slaves to the inevitable brain-hunger, still held onto some basic human conventions, much like how the zombies in Shaun of the Dead were able to perform the same rudimentary tasks they’d done in life. The Warm Bodies zombies go to church together, have a school of sorts (how else to teach zombie children how to kill humans?), some zombies get married and are given children, and still others even attempt some undead schmexy times (you can imagine how successful that was).

R, as he spends more time with Julie (and inside Perry’s mind, which he can access by eating the bits of Perry’s brain that he keeps in his pocket, YUMMY), starts becoming less zombie-like and more human. It’s a nice thought, that should we end up lurching about, all undead-like, we could still come back from it. Nice and hopeful, just how I like it.

If there was anything missing for me, it was just that I wanted to know how the zombie apocalypse had come about this time. But I didn’t find the book lacking because it didn’t provide this information. That’s just my preference. I always want to know how it happened. Otherwise how will we prevent it?

Baxlala’s #CBR5 Review #9: One Day by David Nicholls

200px-One_day_-_david_nichollsThe only reason I read this book was because it was available to check out for Kindle IMMEDIATELY at my library. And I’d only decided to check something out from the library because A) I spend too much money on books but even if I didn’t B) we’re running out of empty bookshelves at home. AND THE LIBRARY GIVES YOU THINGS FOR FREE. But it was too cold out to actually GO to the library (also, it was closed, so…), so I was forced to go through my To Read list on Goodreads and look up each book one by one until I found one that was immediately available and One Day was the winner.

I was the loser.

Ha! Just kidding. Sort of. I don’t know, you guys, I can’t figure out how I feel about this book. I loved the writing, loved the gimmick (the book covers the span of 20 or so years but only one day from each year HENCE THE TITLE) but, for the most part, hated the characters. Well. Hate is a strong word. I didn’t hate them, but I didn’t particularly care for them or care what happened to them. OR SO I THOUGHT, because I was SUPER DEPRESSED by the time I finished it, so I must have cared a little?

One Day tells the story of Dexter and Emma, who share a special day after graduation, and their friendship and whatevership throughout the years. Dexter is rich-ish, posh and arrogant, but with a slight charm (I say slight because, while he is described as being charming in the book, I mostly wanted to kick him in the nards), while Emma is, well, his complete opposite. They banter and fight and flirt and toy with getting together but WILL THEY? WON’T THEY? OH MY HEAVENS, HOW WILL I GO THROUGH LIFE NOT KNOWING?

(I’m being an asshole. I devoured (not literally) this book and that’s because I desperately wanted to know what happened to them.)

I think, when it comes down to it, I can say this was a good book but I didn’t so much enjoy reading it. I read it quickly, over two days I think, but mostly because, as I finished each chapter, I wanted to read more and more to see where Dexter and Emma ended up over the years. And yet, I hated how real it was. I hated how much I identified with some of Emma’s thoughts and fears and I hated how the ending crushed my heart in my chest. Which I suppose means the author was successful. The rat bastard.

Baxlala’s #CBR5 Review #8: Out of Time by Caroline B. Cooney

cooneyThis is the book that broke me. It finally happened. I think I’m sick of YA fiction. I’ve always wondered at what point my brain would just get completely sick of the trash I feed it and refuse to do my bidding. This is it. My brain no longer obeys me and, since I’ve finished this book, it’s not allowed me to pick up any other YA books. I’ve tried! My brain just won’t read YA anymore. I might be done with it, you guys, I’m not sure what my brain is doing.

(Or, you know, I just need a break from it. TELL ME, BRAIN, I NEED TO KNOW.)

Out of Time is the sequel to Both Sides of Time, a time travelling novel that makes time travel boring. Zing! Just kidding. But the time travel in these books is kind of, just, like magic? Like, there is really no way to control it and Annie, the main character, just kind of assumes it’ll work sometimes? But whatever, let’s talk about the book.

In Both Sides of Time, Annie traveled to 1895 and it turns out she sort of messed up everyone’s lives. Which happens a lot with time travel, I guess. The sequel delves into the problems she caused, namely the problem of Strat (her LOVAH) being committed to an asylum. By his father. Which is a total dick move and all, but Strat had been writing school papers about his lover from another century, AND EVEN WORSE, made a habit of wandering around the estate shouting Annie’s name into the nothingness. Who wouldn’t commit that guy?

Annie decides she’s going to travel back in time again during a class trip to NYC. She doesn’t know about the problems with Strat yet, but she really super wants to see him which seems to be a good enough reason for Time to send her back? Sure, whatever. While in the past, Annie again meets up with our old friends misogyny and MELODRAMA. But whatever, this book is for 12-year-olds and I guess they love that. Melodrama, not misogyny. I have no idea what 12-year-olds think about misogyny.

Anyway, lots of stuff happens that basically amounts to nothing except SPOILER ALERT Strat gets out of the asylum and runs away to Egypt with two of his asylum buddies. There’s also this whole subplot about Annie’s father having cheated on her mother and how he’s shacking up with the mistress and everyone hates him but they make up in the end somehow WHO CARES.

I guess there are two other novels in this series but I A) haven’t been able to find either of them at a used bookstore yet and B) I’m not sure I could bring myself to read them even if I did. I will, however, be adding The Face on the Milk Carton (also by Cooney) to my To Read (reread?) list because DO YOU REMEMBER THAT SHIT? Crazypants.

Baxlala’s #CBR5 Review #7: Both Sides of Time by Caroline B. Cooney

200px-Both_Sides_of_TimeEveryone in this book is an idiot. Which is OK, because most of the characters are teenagers and everyone knows that teenagers are idiots. I can say that, because I used to be one.

Both Sides of Time, by Caroline B. Cooney, is a book I read MANY MANY times when it came out, a book I loved because it contained NOT ONLY a sassy heroine, smitten hero, and love story, but TIME TRAVEL. My tastes? They have not changed much (see: Lost, Doctor Who, Safety Not Guaranteed, etc).

The only thing I really remembered about this book was that the heroine somehow went back in time. Which is pretty much all you need to know. Annie Lockwood, fed up with her distant boyfriend and her romance-missing life, somehow travels back in time, from 1995 to 1895. There, she meets Strat, a handsome, rich, almost-betrothed young man who obviously falls immediately in love with Annie, since she’s completely unlike any other girls he’s ever met. Meaning: she’s a total harlot who appears out of nowhere with HER LEGS EXPOSED LE GASP!

In 1895, she breaks up the almost-engagement, learns what it was like to have servants dress her, and stumbles across a murder investigation, all while falling deeply and hopelessly in love with Strat, as only a teenager can.

I have to say, after more recently going on journeys with the likes of Katniss Everdeen, Beatrice Prior, and most especially Hermione Granger, I found the character of Annie Lockwood to be a bit lacking. This book was written in 1995 (and is JUST SO 90s) and I seem to remember there being an overabundance of these types of books around that time, each featuring a beautiful but damsel-in-distress-like heroine, bored with normal life but really taking no ownership over it, who at some point meets a beefy, handsome stranger who throws her life into turmoil. But in a good way. Usually.

Then again, it’s unrealistic to expect teenagers to be proficient in bow-hunting or magic or, hell, even their FEELINGS, so I’m going to cut Annie some slack here. She’s pretty preoccupied with her own family, which is falling apart, and, in the end, she makes a mature, grown-up decision, so good on her.

Something that cracked me up was the focus on how bad women used to have it. I mean, obviously, it’s not funny that women used to have no power, etc, but the way it’s brought up in this book, over and over and over again, was both awesome and completely heavy-handed. This book is for 12-year-olds, though, so I guess good for Cooney for making sure any girls reading would know how shitty things used to be?

(There is, of course, a sequel, which I will obviously be reading and reviewing. I mean, duh.)

Baxlala’s #CBR5 Review #6: Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

where'd you goI read Where’d You Go, Bernadette because Ashley told me to. So many of my reviews seem to start this way. But it’s true, I wouldn’t have known about this book if Ashley hadn’t talked and talked and talked (I LOVE YOU, ASHLEY) about it so much.

I’m not sure that I loved it as much as Ashley did, but I sure did enjoy it. I devoured it, really, not wanting to put it down until I’d finished it and, honestly, I would have read another ten volumes had they existed, as long as they were about the same family and written in the same style.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is about a family of three (four, counting Ice Cream, their dog): Elgin, the work-a-holic husband and father, Bernadette, the reclusive and socially anxious wife and mother, and Bea, their precocious daughter. Bernadette is an enigma to her husband, who works for Microsoft and mostly ignores Bernadette’s rants and rampages. Bernadette spends most of her time avoiding the mothers (aka “gnats”) of the other children at Bea’s school, especially her neighbor, Audrey. Which you will understand as soon as you “meet” Audrey.

I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by telling you that Bernadette goes missing at one point. I mean. It’s all in the title, really. Bea is determined to find her and drags her unknowing father along for the ride. IT IS DELIGHTFUL. And not only is it delightful, but it will make your heart hurt in very specific ways, which is always nice because how else would you know you have feelings?

INSERT HUGE TIME JUMP HERE OOPS SORRY BUT:

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Oh, hey, so I started this review a million years ago and, not only did I think I’d finished it already, but I thought I posted it, too. It turns out that NO I did not post it because here I am, just posting it now. It’s been about a month or so since I finished Where’d You Go, Bernadette, so some of the novelty has worn off, but I will say that I still remember it vividly, which is more than I can say about most books a month after I’ve read them.

So, yeah. Just read it. It doesn’t take long and ALSO Ashley recommended it. WHAT MORE DO YOU NEED? A picture of a baby penguin? OK FINE:

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Baxlala’s #CBR5 Review #5: Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Divergent hc c(2) insurgentI decided to review the first two volumes of Veronica Roth’s dystopian YA trilogy together, mostly because the plot is all a big blur in my mind. These books borrow heavily from Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy, but not in a bad way or anything. The novels are different enough that they stand out and, honestly, it’s going to be awhile before anyone can write dystopian YA fiction without having it compared to The Hunger Games.

Divergent begins a few days before The Choosing, when 16-year-olds choose which faction they want to become a part of. Factions are as follows: Abnegation, Dauntless, Erudite, Candor, and Amity. I found the names of the Factions to be a bit eye-rolly and heavy handed, but it’s YA fiction, so I’ll let it slide. YOU’RE WELCOME, WORLD.

Beatrice Prior is our heroine, who is currently a member of Abnegation. The Abnegation are selfless and kind and patient and Beatrice does not relate because WHO DOES, amirite? Beatrice, tired of selfless life on the high road, wants to be brave. So she joins Dauntless, which is a big deal, because the Dauntless are completely crazy, jumping off of trains and other nonsense. Basically, they’re the opposite of what Beatrice has grown up with.

Beatrice must make it through the Dauntless initiation, a frightful affair full of weapons and hand-to-hand combat and back-stabbing, without being either kicked out to live among the Factionless, or, you know, DYING. Fun times! The Factionless are exactly what they sound like, members of the community who have failed Faction initiation or who have been excommunicated for some other nefarious reason. They don’t seem that important at first BUT THEY WILL BE.

I don’t want to say too much about Insurgent for fear of spoiling, but Insurgent picks up where Divergent ends, which is good because, if I remember correctly, Divergent was very cliffhangery. Aren’t they all, though? Insurgent follows Beatrice (now known as Tris) through a harrowing journey, filled with death and love and fighting and again, NOT TO SPOIL, but I will just say I’m not quite sure what I think about the end of Insurgent. I’ll withhold judgement until I read the last book, but it isn’t out yet, which is very annoying.

This series didn’t grab me the way The Hunger Games did, but it was interesting and I’ll definitely be picking up the final part of the trilogy once it comes out. Until then, may the odds be EVER in your favor oops never mind BYE.

Baxlala’s #CBR5 Review #4: Bridget Jones’s Diary: The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding

Thursday 10 January

Weight: 867 lbs (due to entire Chipotle burrito bol still sitting in belly), cigarettes 0 (as don’t smoke), alcohol units 1 (responsible glass of red wine, for heart), calories 1557 (if Chipotle nutrition calculator can be trusted)

Have just finished reading Bridget Jones’s Diary: The Edge of Reason, aka BJD 2: THE DARCY STRIKES BACK. Still working out feelings re: sequel, as original was pure perfection, part of identity, Pride & Prejudice-related (so obviously superior to almost all other works of fiction), etc. Am having trouble reckoning feelings for this novel, as trainwreck of a movie is hanging over head in manner of pinata filled with poo or old, stinky cheeses.

bjd what

Seriously?

Shall not dwell on turd of a movie, however, flawed as it is, because love the lovely book! Like Bridget Jones’s Diary, sequel is based on Jane Austen novel, this time Persuasion. Had not read Persuasion until several years ago and ended up liking just as much (if not more? blasphemy!) as P&P. Naturally, Persuasion suffers from clear lack of Darcy, however Wentworth equally swoon-worthy, also Anne Elliot is obvious patron saint of Singletons everywhere, having been declared old spinster at virginal age of 27.

Our little Bridget is still struggling with job, money, romance, family (overbearing mother, drunken father), blah dee blah LIFE in usual ridiculous and fun manner. All old friends characters are back, including urban family (Jude, Shazzer, Tom), Marrieds (Smug and Otherwise), insane boss Richard Finch, delightful mess Daniel Cleaver, and of course Mark Darcy, with whom Bridget is now deeply in love. New characters join Bridget’s world in form of odious Rebecca, a jellyfish (aka frenemy) on the prowl for Bridget’s boyfriend, and friend Magda’s adorable moppets, created to make Bridget look alternately crazy and competent.

Do wish that book had not included any romantic turmoil for Bridget and Mark Darcy, however realize that there would have been conspicuous lack of plot otherwise. Could not even bring self to get worked up over ridiculousness of certain plotlines (Thai prison, hole in side of flat, stinky fish left in purse for weeks, what-have-you) because of love for all things Bridget and Darcy, also because of equally important happy ending (spoilers)! Suppose am typical girl that way, heart going all aflutter at any mention of Jones-Darcy reconciliation, evidence of Darcy-still-in-love, etc.

Recommend this book for all who enjoyed Bridget Jones’s Diary, or like well-done chick lit (still hate that hateful phrase, should stop using immediately) in general. Especially worth reading for special treat in sequel (as all sequels must one-up original) in form of Colin Firth (aka THE Mr. Darcy) being interviewed by Bridget Jones, which unfolds exactly as one would expect.

In short, sequel is v.g.