Monthly Archives: August 2012

Review: Where’d You Go, Bernadette

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When Bee comes home with straight A’s she reminds her parents of the little promise they made to her at the beginning of the year: Anything she wants she can have. So naturally she wants a family trip to Antarctica. This surprises her seriously smart TED-talk star father and her seriously eccentric mother. But a promise is a promise. Thanks for yours.

So begins this hilarious novel.

If you didn’t have ADD before, you might after reading this book. And I mean that in the best, most creative and daring of ways. Told through letters, emails, documents, and what one suspects are diary entries, this book just never stops (you know, until the end of course.)

Coming from Arrested Development, we would have expected nothing but clever from Semple. But the truth is, she over-delivers. Anti-social, unimpressed and a hundred percent dedicated to her family, Bernadette Fox is one of the most entertaining characters to ever escape from someone’s head. And that’s what it feels like – that she’s escaped from Semple’s impossibly hilarious brain. The rest of the cast is equally weird and simultaneously normal. Bee, a perfectly rendered teen daughter, captures the reader’s heart despite her frequent sarcasm because well, sometimes she’s got a point. And Elgie… you can’t help but feel sorry for the guy, despite his disappointing indiscrimination. I mean, Bernadette? She’s a handful.

So while this book may cause a few people to get a speeding ticket of the brain, it’s quite worth the risk. Move over Oprah, Bernadette is my new hero. Or maybe it’s Semple, I can’t be sure.

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Review: Opium Dreams

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Here’s the thing: I do not like Hawaii. I’m sorry if I am offending anyone. But I’m a freckle face (before lasers), pale, heat-melting girl. Hot = Bad. I’m the only one in my family who has this problem … they are forever begging me to go tropical. But I’m the mom and Ice Land = Good.

However, when my friend Dee DeTarsio (Goodreads Author) sent me Opium Dreams, she had no idea I felt this way about Hawaii and all those other melt-alicious Islands. (If you read her book, The Kitchen Shrink, she will be your bff too. Well, it will seem like it anyway. We’ve never actually met.) So. I read Opium Dreams. And now I have no idea, zero, why I’d never read any Kiana Davenport before.

Each short story is a small masterpiece. And each one is so completely different from the others that I was a bit skeptical this was the work of a single author. How can one author create such completely unique and captivating voices? Then I realized how: Davenport is the Meryl Streep of authors. Put on a different wig and the transformation is complete – this is what Meryl Streep has said of her characters. I’m thinking Davenport must have a closet full of wigs herself.

I still don’t like Hawaii. But I love this book. Thanks, Dee.

Review: My Korean Deli: Risking It All for a Convenience Store by Ben Ryder Howe

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I’ve never thought about what it might be like to own a convenient store in Manhattan. Me? I just want to get in and out of there as quickly as possible. Without getting shot. Or leered at. So this book was an important read. Turns out, owning a convenient store is hard and stressful and risky. Who knew lottery tickets could single-handedly keep a store alive? Or those gruff delivery men could wield so much power?

The most entertaining part of this book is the author’s dealings with his in-laws. Howe’s recounts of living in the basement of his in-law’s house is a perfect mixture of hilarious and pathetic. He is ever respectful, however, regardless of the strain his in-laws place on his marriage – and this makes his readers love him even more. Plus, he works for George Plimpton at The Paris Review and generously offers up the inside skinny on this eclectic and privileged man.

The book might be a little bit longer than it needed to be, but don’t let that deter you. It’s still a great, fun read.

Review: Confessions of A Male Nurse by Michael Alexander

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Confessions of a Male Nurse is not what I thought it would be. For some reason, I expected this book to be funny, light and occasionally hilarious. That was my pre-conceived notion of a male nurse rearing its ugly head and I’m happy to say I got it all wrong. Michael Alexander as nurse, may have been a novelty a decade or so ago, but that didn’t mean he capitalized on it. Breaking into the formerly women-dominated vocation was frightening and bewildering at times, and the author does a good job showing us why. By now, most of us understand how hard it was for women to break into the male-dominated work force and it’s refreshing to see the tables turned.

Then, there is the down and dirty side of hospitals. People’s toes falling off and morphine addicted heart-transplant patients are just two of the medical stories Alexander delivers. Not having a stone stomach about bodies and their flaws in general, I had to skip a few of these stories. If I was hesitant of hospitals before, I’m now petrified. Happily, however, after reading Alexander’s book I’m a bit more respectful of nurses. It behooves anyone who is about to have a syringe shoved into their butt to show a bit of respect, does it not?

Covers are tricky and subjective in general. But I wish this one had better reflected the book. The cartoonish picture just doesn’t accurately express the contents. On the other hand, it may be smart marketing. After all, it was that pre-concieved notion of hilariousness that got me, a major non-fan of medical pain, to read a book about male nurses in the first place.

Review: Sam Cruz’s Infallible Guide to getting Girls

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Goodreads does a much better job delivering a synopsis than I could ever do. So here it is:

“Why the hell can’t chicks be more like guys?

That question plagues high school senior Sam Cruz. Sam is perfectly happy being a player. He just wishes girls wouldn’t change the game from sex to relationships. It makes him look like an asshole. But when Sam’s best friend, Ally Klinger, gets dumped, she begs him to transform her into someone who can screw around then screw off. No risk of heartbreak that way. It’s Sam’s chance to create the perfect female AND cheer up his best friend. Armed with Sam’s Three Step Guide to Backseat Success, Ally gets the game better than Sam thought she would and before long, Sam has his wish: the female version of himself. Too bad it’s driving him nuts. Told from Sam’s and Ally’s alternating POVs, Sam Cruz’s Infallible Guide to Getting Girls is a fast-paced romantic comedy that follows these teens as they navigate the minefield of sex, love, and friendship.”

See what I mean? Goodreads is the man here.

Now then, Sam Cruz’s Infallible Guide to Getting Girls starts off with huge promise. The dialogue is quick and cool and entertaining until about halfway through the book. Then, unfortunately, this same dialogue begins to straddle funny and contrived. And this is important because much of the book is dialogue. Still, the alternating POV’s are well-written and both characters are likable and fun.

This is probably not a book for the younger teenager, however. The pace is quick, and sometimes even a little too quick. So much is happening all the time! You sort of feel out of breath just reading it. Which isn’t a bad thing, of course, but worth mentioning.

Overall, this is a fairly entertaining (older) teen read, with a lot of crude language and a great title.