"Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather, and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know." - John Keats

"You're not allowed to say anything about books because they're books and books are, you know, God." - Nick Hornby

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Review #13: Calling Me Home, by Julie Kibler

Calling Me Home is a wonderful debut novel from Julie Kibler, and I predict this will be this year's The Help.

Miss Isabelle, an eighty-nine-year-old white woman, asks her hairdresser Dorrie, a thirty-something black woman, to accompany her to Cincinnati for a funeral.

The story switches between Dorrie narrating in present day and Isabelle telling the story of her early life, set in the late 1930s and early 1940s, just as America was emerging from the Depression, on the eve of the second World War. Dorrie's got a lot on her plate - her young son is in some grown up trouble, her beauty shop isn't exactly a cash cow, and the man she's dating seems to good to be true. She's having a lot of trouble trusting that he's not going to turn tail and run like all the other men in her life have.

Young Isabelle is the daughter of a country doctor, living in a small southern town that doesn't allow non-whites to be within the city limits after sundown. Like many young southern girls of that era, she bonds more closely with her mother's maid, Cora, than with her own mother, and finds herself falling in love with Cora's son Robert. But true love or not, this is 1940s Kentucky, and the son of a black maid has no business even being near a young white girl, let alone loving her.

No review I give this book will do it justice. It's an excellent read on all accounts, and both Isabelle's and Dorrie's stories are extremely compelling. I found myself in tears on more than one occassion, and I can't wait to see what Kibler will write next.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Review #12: Beautiful Bastard, by Christina Lauren

Beautiful Bastard started out as Fifty Shades of Twilight fanfic. Someone, some really, really, really stupid someone, actually greenlit this pile of crap and published it. On paper. With, you know, ink and glue. That person should be fired.

Chloe Mills is an intern at a big, fancy-schmancy family company, and she's working for Bennett Ryan, who is the surly prodigal son, recently back from Europe and poised to take charge of the company. Somehow, Chloe knows the Ryan family, including Bennett's dad, and they all love her, but for some reason, Bennett hates Chloe, and Chloe thinks he's a jackass. Which, he kind of is, so I can't fault her for that. But what I can fault her for is that five pages in, she's leaning over a conference room table, and Bennett's got his hand up her skirt, ripping her underwear, and suddenly, they're boinking all over the place.

Of course, Chloe's horrified, and Bennett clams up, and he goes back to being a jackass, and she goes back to being... whatever Chloe is. But ten pages later, they're boinking again. Lather, rinse, repeat, and you know what the most annoying part is? He rips her underwear every freaking time. And little Miss Chloe here doesn't wear Hanes Her Way. No, ma'am. She wears Agent Provacateur and La Perla. On an intern's salary. And likes it when Bennett rips her drawers. I'm here to tell you, if I spent three hundred bucks on a pair (one pair!) of underwear, I don't care if it's George Clooney himself, nobody's ripping my skivvies. My biggest splurge is the 5 for $25 sale at Target, and I think I'd get mad if George ripped one of those. (Well, maybe not. It's George. Probably I could make him buy me some new ones.)

And then, the book just... ends. Sex, sex, sex, underwear ripping, sex, big fight, weird uncomfortable slightly rapey scene in a lingerie shop, sex, sex, underwear ripping, sex, and then that's it.

Chloe, honey? Kick Bennett to the curb, find someone who's not going to be all rapey in the conference room, and maybe get some therapy. And Bennett? Grow up and get over yourself. You are a jabillionaire with a nice family who loves you. You have no reason to be all angsty. And learn to do the BDSM thing the right way, dude.

You know what this book is? It's porn. Which is okay. I like porn, if it's well done. But this is bad porn. With bad sex. Bad cheesy hairy 70s porn with a big giant porn stashe and a bow chicka wow wow soundtrack. Ew.

Review #11: Tainted, by Brooke Morgan

Holly Barrett is swept off her feet by Jack Dane, a charming Englishman with not a few quirks. She falls madly in love, and within weeks, Jack is living in her home (with Holly's young daughter Katy, mind you), and they marry. Holly's grandfather Henry - her only living relative since her parents were killed three years ago - blesses the relationship, even going so far as to help foster the union when they first meet.

Enter Katy's absent dad Billy, the young wealthy city boy who took Holly's virginity and left her with a baby on the way. Billy's spidey senses are tingling, and he knows there's something up with Jack Dane. But Holly and Henry can't see past Jack's charms, or their anger at Billy for leaving Holly and Katy behind, and Billy is left out in the cold.

Eventually, though, Henry can't tune out Billy's protests, and starts to research who Jack Dane really is. Jack figures out that Henry and Billy are on to him, and what happens next is shocking.

Morgan is a decent enough writer, but I found myself quite frustrated with the characters. Jack is so glaringly wrong that I couldn't understand how Holly could fall for him, and more, how everyone else could be so charmed by him as well. Jack, for his part, is not as charming as Morgan seems to think he is. Only Katy, Billy, and the dog (the dog, for heaven's sake! really?) seem to be able to see through Jack's facade.

Review #10: Eat, Drink, and be from Mississippi, by Nanci Kincaid

I've sat on this review for a week or two, mainly because I'm not sure what to say about it. Eat, Drink, and be from Mississippi follows the story of Truely Noonan, a young man from Mississippi who lights out for the fortunes of California as soon as he is legal. He falls in love, makes his millions, and loses his love. He drifts through life, meeting a young teenage boy through a convoluted series of events, and winds up almost adopting him. His sister's marriage falls apart, she becomes more involved in his life, and he realizes that family sometimes finds you, whether you want them to or not.

Eat, Drink is an okay book. It's not fantastic, and it didn't leave me on the edge of my seat. There were a few twists I didn't see coming, and I was relatively satisfied with the ending. I wish that Kincaid had fleshed out her characters a little bit more, though. It's like she edited out huge sections that would have given her characters heart and empathy and sympathy and soul.

I probably would have put this book down and wandered away from it, save the fact that I feel like I invested too much time in to it to not finish it.