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Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

April 17, 2012

Featuring Hamlet Von Schnitzel.

Release Date : 04/17/2012

Publisher : Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam

Edition : Hardcover

Pages : 336

 
 
 

MY THOUGHTS

Zombies. Tiny taxidermied alligators in even tinier hats. Artificial bovine insemination. Serial killers that turn out to be the household cat. Gratuitous use of the F-word (and the V-word, for that matter). Giant rusted metal roosters. If any of the aforementioned things offend your sensibilities, this book may not be for you. You have officially been warned. If some or all of those things left you even slightly intrigued, however, then I heartily recommend reading Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir), by Jenny Lawson. This is one of those books that will have you reading entire chapters aloud to anyone who happens to be around you, if only because you’ll be laughing so hard that you’ll want to reassure them that you haven’t gone completely bonkers.
          Jenny Lawson grew up in a very small, very remote town called Wall, just outside of San Angelo, Texas. You might expect that this would have made for a simple and sweet childhood, filled with stories of frollicking through fields of flowers and evenings spent at Grandma’s knee while she knits in her rocking chair on the porch and tells you about “the good old days.” Not so, dear reader, fortunately for us. Having a somewhat-more-than-off-kilter professional taxidermist for a father apparently makes for a much more interesting upbringing than you could ever hope to read about. It isn’t all sunshine and rainbows and deer carcasses, though. Jenny’s life so far has also had more than its fair share of heartache, including (but not limited to) multiple miscarriages, a crippling anxiety disorder, and even tragicomically resurrected beloved family dogs. Okay, as far as I know, there was only one beloved family dog that had the misfortune of being resurrected (read: dug back up by a pack of hungry vultures), but isn’t one more than enough? At any rate, Lawson somehow managed to make me laugh on almost every page and straight-up guffaw at least once per chapter, sometimes only seconds after she’d just revealed something that should’ve been sob-worthy. The woman’s got skill.
          When you finish reading this book you are likely to come away with a renewed appreciation for the (comparatively) mundane upbringing you probably had. You will want to find the most eccentric, zany member of your family and give them a hug. That, or you’ll be strangely sad that your childhood was decidedly devoid of things like filing cabinets filled with chickens in the family garage, working cannons in the yard, wild bobcats in the house, and vats of water for boiling skulls. How deprived you must have been, poor thing. You might even be tempted to relocate your family to a small rural town so that you might share with them the joys of potential-future-zombie-hunting (a.k.a. searching for local cemeteries so you’ll know from which direction the undead will be stumbling when the apocalypse finally hits). Even if you decide to stick with your running water and your turkey-free lawn, you’ll be glad you read this book.

 

Rating: ALL of the stars. All of them.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I will state that I received a free digital copy of this book from NetGalley for review purposes. However, I would like to add that I fully intend to purchase a copy of this book as soon as it’s available so that I can go back and re-read it when I need a laugh and maybe even read it aloud as entertainment with friends.)

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

August 19, 2011

The HelpRelease Date : 02/10/2009

Publisher : Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam

Edition : Paperback

Pages : 544

SYNOPSIS

(Goodreads.com)

Aibileen is a black maid in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, who’s always taken orders quietly, but lately she’s unable to hold her bitterness back. Her friend Minny has never held her tongue but now must somehow keep secrets about her employer that leave her speechless. White socialite Skeeter just graduated college. She’s full of ambition, but without a husband, she’s considered a failure. Together, these seemingly different women join together to write a tell-all book about work as a black maid in the South, that could forever alter their destinies and the life of a small town…

MY THOUGHTS

Stockett did a wonderful job of developing the story and time period without making it seem drawn out or overdetailed. The Help is completely character driven and very well paced to where it feels like the events are truly happening naturally and just being chronicled. It’s so simple to escape into these maids’ lives and witness and sympathize with their troubles and the racial barriers they face.

Minny has to be one of the best characters written in a while; she’s stubborn and loud but admirable and lovable. Even through some of the worst times, she holds a solid image and maintains the status of a force to be reckoned with. Aibileen is brave and holds an amazing comprehension and acceptance for others. Regardless of the heartbreak she endures when they learn “the truth” about black people, she takes each kid in as her own. Miss Skeeter is one of the bravest characters that has been written in literature, even if the enemy she faced did not seem quite as deadly initially. Facing a society so rooted in a belief, she stood strong. Her quirkiness and defiance set her apart and had me rooting for her. The supporting characters were all equally interesting and upsetting, although I’d have to say my favorite was Celia because she was just so strange but so naively nice. Hilly was a great villain that truly represents that breed of detestable humans who make it their mission in life to belittle a group of people and hold the highest possible socialite position. I feel like I’ve just exited their world through a time machine and I’m honestly longing to go back and find out what happens with each of them.

Great characters, great dialogue, great plot. This is bound to be added to the classics list and it’s definitely become one of my favorite books!

Rating :

All Men of Genius by Lev AC Rosen

August 16, 2011
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Release Date : 09/27/2011

Publisher : Doherty

Edition : Hardcover

Pages : 416

 
 
 
 
 
SYNOPSIS

Inspired by two of the most beloved works by literary masters, All Men of Genius takes place in an alternate Steampunk Victorian London, where science makes the impossible possible.

Violet Adams wants to attend Illyria College, a widely renowned school for the most brilliant up-and-coming scientific minds, founded by the late Duke Illyria, the greatest scientist of the Victorian Age. The school is run by his son, Ernest, who has held to his father’s policy that the small, exclusive college remain male-only. Violet sees her opportunity when her father departs for America. She disguises herself as her twin brother, Ashton, and gains entry.

But keeping the secret of her sex won’t be easy, not with her friend Jack’s constant habit of pulling pranks, and especially not when the duke’s young ward, Cecily, starts to develop feelings for Violet’s alter ego, “Ashton.” Not to mention blackmail, mysterious killer automata, and the way Violet’s pulse quickens whenever the young duke, Ernest (who has a secret past of his own), speaks to her. She soon realizes that it’s not just keeping her secret until the end of the year faire she has to worry about: it’s surviving that long.

MY THOUGHTS

I’d heartily recommend this book for lovers of Oscar Wilde, fans of steampunk, and anyone who enjoys a humorous mystery with a dash of Regency romance mixed in. This one definitely squeezes in a lot of genres, but it does so beautifully. The world that Rosen has built for his characters is engaging and believable, and it’s one I hope to return to in the future.

Violet is the very image of your typical, distracted genius – she pays very little heed to her appearance, favoring utility and simplicity over aesthetics, she stays up well into the night working on experiments and inventions, and is misunderstood by (and therefore frightening to) the household staff. She is quick-witted and yet sometimes endearingly naive. In fact, all of the characters are endearing in their own ways (save, perhaps, for Malcolm). You’ll likely find yourself grinning throughout many parts of the book, and even laughing out loud on occasion.

If the characters aren’t enough for you, the plot ought to be. There are surgically altered animals, killer automata (Terminator, anyone?), forays into a labyrinthine basement, secrets galore, and even a rudimentary mecha. I would be hard-pressed to find anything about this novel that I didn’t like.

Rating:

World War Z by Max Brooks

August 3, 2011
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Release Date : 10/16/2007

Publisher : Random House

Edition : Paperback

Pages : 342

 

SYNOPSIS

We survived the zombie apocalypse, but how many of us are still haunted by that terrible time? We have (temporarily?) defeated the living dead, but at what cost? Told in the haunting and riveting voices of the men and women who witnessed the horror firsthand, World War Z is the only record of the plague years.
MY THOUGHTS

Max Brooks, author of The Zombie Survival Guide, set out to create a sort of “mock non-fiction” history book with World War Z. With that in mind, that is precisely how the novel reads; much like a history book. This can be taken one of two ways, of which I took both! Either A, the monotonous detail worked into the story (such as new settings and characters in each chapter transition) can be quite bothersome, especially when they all tend to melt into one motley setup anyhow. Or B, the frighteningly realistic accounts of these fabricated events can begin to warp your reality and drag you into Brooks’ post-apocalyptic, zombie infested world. I found that it helps to read along with the audio book with this one, as each character has a different narrator with the accent of their respective countries of origin. This helps distinguish the events taking place across the world, rather than lumping it altogether into one massive event.  One drawback of this however, is that the audio book is abridged and there are pages and even entire chapters left out, so make sure you take the time to go back and read those omitted sections. That being said, World War Z by Max Brooks is certainly a must read for any & all zombie aficionados, while casual readers may find the “mock non-fiction” story telling to be a bit dead. (pardon the pun)

Rating :  

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

August 2, 2011

Living Dead GirlRelease Date : 09/02/2008

Publisher : Simon Pulse

Edition : Paperback

Pages : 176

SYNOPSIS

(Amazon.com)

Once upon a time, I was a little girl who disappeared.
Once upon a time, my name was not Alice.
Once upon a time, I didn’t know how lucky I was.

When Alice was ten, Ray took her away from her family, her friends her life. She learned to give up all power, to endure all pain. She waited for the nightmare to be over.
Now Alice is fifteen and Ray still has her, but he speaks more and more of her death. He does not know it is what she longs for. She does not know he has something more terrifying than death in mind for her.
This is Alice’s story. It is one you have never heard, and one you will never, ever forget.

MY THOUGHTS

This is probably one of the more, if not the most, disturbing YA novel I’ve read that has dealt with this subject matter. Not in a way that you can’t read it and that the author, Scott, goes overboard with unnecessary detail, but in the sense that it is so honest and so matter-of-fact that it forces you to feel its realness. The author does a great job of capturing Alice, a girl who is so far broken it seems impossible to go back to the way she was before she was captured and molested by Ray, a fear-inducing man who is mentally unstable. I found myself completely entrapped in her story and was fascinated by what kept her going – the shard of hope she held that her family could live as long as she slowly, painfully died. The ending was sad, but to me it was also hopeful in a sense because of her situation and what she really wanted in the end. Seeing her character transformation from beginning to end was beautiful as well, watching her come alive and slowly develop a will to feel again. Scott did a wonderful job with this novel and I think it will leave a haunting mark on most readers.

Rating :

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