Monthly Archives: September 2016

Review: Crosstalk by Connie Willis

4 Stars

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the chance to read this book prior to publication in exchange for my honest review.

We jump right into this book and meet Briddey Flannigan.  She works for a small but competitive cell phone company and is dating one of the young executives, Trent Worth.  Prior to a marriage proposal, Trent wants Briddey to have an EED – a simple, outpatient procedure that will increase the empathy between them.  This procedure has become all the rage and everyone from celebrities to world leaders is having this done to have a better emotional connection to their partner.  She’s excited even though her overbearing family wants her to leave Trent for a nice Irish boy and she’s grist for the insidious rumor mill at work.

Briddey and Trent undergo the procedure and when Briddey wakes, she finds that she’s not connected to Trent at all, but to her horror, she has connected with C.B. Schwartz.  He’s the geeky researcher that spends all his time in the sub-basement of Commspan, where they both work.  He tried to talk her out of getting the EED, had tried to show her that the world needs less communication and not more.  He tried to warn her of unintended consequences.  And now here she is, stuck with this man in her mind, reading all of her thoughts.  Something that should have been utterly impossible.

To add to the mix, her boyfriend can’t understand why they haven’t connected.  But then he goes off into high-powered, super secret meetings.  She starts to realize that there might be something going on when she starts to hear more than just C.B.’s voice in her head and she starts to get snippets from not only Trent but from everyone around her.  They come in like a flood, a deluge.  C.B. becomes her life-line.  Teaching her to put up barriers and defenses against the voices.  Then, against the odds, Trent breaks through and can hear her thoughts too.

Trent wants to bring telepathy to the world and make it the next great smartphone companion.  Who needs phones when you can have instant communication?!  This leads Briddey and C.B. on a race against the clock to keep Trent and Commspan away from them and away from telepathy, that they know is dangerous and debilitating.  Just imagine being able to hear thousands of voices all at once, their innermost thoughts.  Knowing what I think about in the privacy of my own head from time to time…you couldn’t pay me to open myself up to that!

I really did enjoy the book.  It was a very fast read for being as long as it is.  I just kept wanting to go from one page to the next to see what was going to happen next.  The only real disconnect that I had with the book was with Briddey’s niece, Maeve.  She’s 9 years old and her mannerisms and speech sometimes follow that of a child, but in many ways she’s far too old for her years and far too intelligent.  She’s doing things that you wouldn’t see from most adults let alone a 3rd grader.  I understand genius and she may even be a savant, but I think her age really did take away from the story a bit, especially near the end.  I think if she was a little older, I could have swallowed it a little better.

Still a very fun read.  You knew what was going to happen with Briddey and C.B. pretty early on, but it was still a very satisfying ending.

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Filed under Science Fiction

Review: The Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

2 Stars

Small town living where everyone knows everyone, but everyone has devastating secrets they are keeping.  It’s a soap opera complete with the vapid names.  Bryte, Lance, Zell, Jencey.  And the characters are just as vapid as their names.  Even with an okay plot, there is absolutely no one to root for except for one character who happens to be a child.   Everyone else inspires feelings from disgust to disbelief.

Jencey has come skulking back home after her husband turns out to be a rat.  She and her two daughters have moved back in with her parents.  She’s trying to escape not only her husband and his problems, but also the ghosts of her past that made her run away from her idyllic home town.  Bryte and Lance are now married.  Bryte was one of Jencey’s closest friends.  Lance was the first love of both women.  Bryte has a secret and one that could destroy her life and the marriage that she worked so hard to secure.

Zell is the nosy next door neighbor who has a finger on the pulse of the town.  She’s suffering from empty next syndrome and takes it upon herself to become somewhat of a surrogate mother to the two neighbor children after their mother ran away from her family and responsibilities.  She has a secret too, one that has been eating away at her.  After a devastating accident at the local pool, Zell takes in Cailey so that her working mother can take care of her little brother, Cutter.  She steps in and becomes the mother that Cailey always wished she had?

The town has another secret and one that is darker and more dangerous than anyone could have imagined.  This was the only piece of the story that felt real and I really wish more time was spent building up this portion of the story-line and less on the annoying soap opera drama.

I think one of the other absolutely annoying aspects of this book was the way that everyone seemed to look down on the ONE working mother in this book.  None of the other women work and they seem to think that Cailey’s mother is somehow beneath them because she works to keep her family together.  She barely has a voice in this book and the one that she does have makes her seem like she’s neglectful and selfish.Even the working dads were treated like crap.

Without the soap opera-like drama, this could have been a really good book.  As it is, it’s not much more than a quick beach read or something to read when you’re on a plane or cooped up in a car on a road-trip.  I really couldn’t get past the names, they really turned me off almost from the very beginning.

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Filed under General Fiction

Review: After You by Jojo Moyes

1 Star

I should have known better.  I don’t know if I’m a glutton for punishment or a masochist.  I didn’t like Me Before You, so I’m not sure what possessed me to check out the sequel, After You.  I don’t know if I thought it was going to get better or if somehow the characters were going to redeem themselves  I must have just been very hopeful.  Because it didn’t get any better and the characters certainly didn’t redeem themselves.  This is the first book in a very long time that I just wanted to be done with and I didn’t really care what happened to anyone in the book.  Dangerously close to a DNF, but I pushed through and was completely underwhelmed by the entire thing.

The story picks up a year and a half later.  Louisa is working in a bar in the airport, depressed and completely unable to move on with her life.  She’s miserable and she’s utterly devoid of any spark of life.  Gone is the vibrant and talkative woman that we met in the first book.  She’s been replaced with a wet noodle with absolutely no personality and seems to have even less coping skills than she had before.  She has fallen apart and doesn’t seem to be able to put the pieces of her life back together again.  She lies alone in a nearly empty apartment and one night finds herself drunk, on the roof yelling at Will and her life.  She falls.  Louisa goes back home to recuperate and has to convince everyone that she didn’t jump.  Even the paramedic who was the first responder.

She stays home for awhile and we get to hear more about her family drama and her family becomes a character in this book, something I think we could have done without.  They are all utterly annoying.  You want to slap all of them at several moments.  The story went nowhere and their involvement ended with absolutely no resolution, so I don’t know why it was made so important in the first place.

The romance that Louisa has with Ambulance Sam was actually quite nice at points.  But at other points it just lost it’s authenticity.  The additional drama of Lily was interesting in the beginning, but it soon just became another excuse for Louisa to just ignore her life and just dwell on someone else’s problems.  I mean who in their rational mind would turn down the chance to go to New York City to work for a millionaire and be a companion to a rich businessman’s wife?  Especially when she can work with her old friend nurse Nathan?

I know that I’m again in the minority when it comes to Lou Clark.  I know that both books received overwhelmingly good reviews.  This is just my personal review.  You might love it.  If you want to see what happened to Louisa after Me Before You, then you will probably like this book.  If you were as exasperated as I was with Louisa, then you might want to steer clear.

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Filed under General Fiction, Romance

Review: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

5 Stars

Fair warning, yet another book that you shouldn’t read around your co-workers or strangers unless you want to get really strange looks as you laugh so hard your tea comes out of your nose.  This book isn’t meant to be a comedy or a humor book, it’s a memoir.  But you truly can’t help yourself.  There are times where you know you shouldn’t be laughing, but it just bubbles up and bursts out.

Jenny takes you through her less than normal upbringing in a very small Texas town.  It’s funny stuff, there are serious issues she raises, like poverty, but they are approached in a way that you smile at how her family pushed through and thrived.  Bread-bag shoes and all!  And her parents are definitely NOT the normal parents that you and I probably grew up with.  Did your dad come into your room at night with a magical talking squirrel?  How about throwing a live bobcat at your fiancée?  Having your father explain that he’s not making stew but he’s boiling skulls to your future in-laws?  What about a taxidermy shop?  Yeah, didn’t think so!  It’s amazing that Jenny and her sister survived at all!

Jenny doesn’t shy away from anything and talks very candidly about her life, the good and the bad.  She talks about miscarriages, suicide, mental illness and dead animals.  Her candor and her self-awareness is amazing and her ability to speak about subjects that many of us would simply bury and hide away is something that I find amazing.  She has shown that mental illness isn’t something to be ashamed of or to hide from the world.  It helped shape who she is and she’s sharing her world with us and it’s amazing.

At one point I was tempted to switch careers and go into Human Resources.  And the chapter names alone are worth the price of admission!

I would definitely recommend Jenny Lawson’s books to anyone who wants to sit down and read vignettes about real life and how we deal with it and how it effects us and those around us.  I really can’t accurately describe this book in any meaningful way because it’s a memoir about a real person.  She’s not a historical figure, mega celebrity, etc.  She’s a perfectly abnormal human being and this is the story of her life so far and how she got to this place.

I recommended Jenny’s books to my daughter, who suffers from severe social anxiety and depression.  She was brave enough to go to a book signing and had the privilege of meeting Jenny and one of her most prized possessions is the book that Jenny signed and the selfie that she was allowed to take.  She was able to see that she’s so much more than her mental illness and she doesn’t have to let that illness define who she is or take away her happiness or her life.  Let’s Pretend This Never Happened lets the reader know that it’s okay to be broken, we’re all a little broken and that’s okay.  What’s important is to never give up and live Furiously Happy (had to plug her other book, which was amazing too!).

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Filed under Biography/Memoir, Humor