Where Have All The Opinions Gone

“Opinions are like assholes; everybody has one.” My dad, who always has a way with words, often uttered this in my direction from the time I was old enough to understand what he meant. Let’s take a few minutes and actually dissect this sentence, since there are plenty of lessons to be learned here. First, let me back up a minute, and say I’ve been on both sides of this issue, as an author and a reviewer, and it’s never fun to be threatened within an inch of your life, told you have hamster-sized genitala, and that your opinion is invalid simply because it’s not in 100% agreement with the opinion of someone else. For those of you marching to the beat of the opinion police, I have three words in response: Fuck. That. Shit. If you can’t have a nice calm discussion with a reviewer, then don’t have a discussion at all. Nobody’s forcing you to provide your two cents, and nobody’s forcing you sons-of-hamsters to start an Internet Holy War complete with battering rams and pitchforks. No good can come from it, except death and destruction.

This brings me to another point: You can’t argue with stupid. When you do, that just makes two of you. If you want to piss and moan and dismember a person’s life just because of a review, then frankly, my friend, you have more time on your hands than I do. Which leads me to another point: If your life is so insignificant that you simply troll the Internet to accost unsuspecting souls for what you believe to be the greater good of society and to somehow prove that you’re one righteous, motherfucking bastard, then you probably need to find something better to do with your time. Like right now. As in immediately.

And if you do happen to be a stupid asshole, and you believe you were given some divine authority by God, the devil, your mother, or Jesus Christ himself to police the Internet, you may want to stop, pause, lather, and get over yourself. Because here’s a little secret: You weren’t given the power and authority to bitch slap whoever the hell you want just for your own entertainment. Just close your mouth and crabwalk away as fast as you can, because once you castrate yourself or someone else, those words stay out on the Internet. Like forever.

One Long Diatribe

18401347The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I should have written Richard Gere more letters. Heck, I should have written him one letter. One long diatribe where I offered up all of my feelings and emotions, thoughts on the Chinese government and Tibet, and all the women who have entered my life and then exited en masse, telling my story in a series of letters over a period of months or maybe it was years (I forgot), but if my source of inspiration for writing said letters is rifling through my mom’s underwear drawer, I’m glad I completely missed that memo.

If you like quirky characters that have a penchant for four-letter words, a woman who may be emotionally available through the aid of multiple therapy sessions, and a man who at thirty-eight years of age has no idea how to live without his mother, then sister have I got the story for you. You may want to sit down for this one, and read it while under the influence of prescription medication, otherwise you might smile at inopportune moments, like your neighbor’s funeral, or the sendoff of your favorite goldfish.

If Matthew Quick in any way resembles his characters, then he has more than a few quirks, and from my previous experience with playing in my own sandbox, there’s nothing wrong with a few idiosyncrasies. In fact, life hands you a Benjamin Franklin every time you come up with wonderfully original ones. If you don’t believe me, just ask Bartholomew Neil, or maybe you’re better off speaking with Matthew Quick. Either way, just make sure you wash your hands first.

THE GOOD LUCK OF RIGHT NOW had me galloping toward the finish with my hands up in the air. Without too much effort, I can safely say my enjoyment reached both hands, and then my brain, as I waited with bated breath for what I might discover within the confines of the next letter. If I were to dangle out on a limb in the middle of a windstorm, I might even call it inspiring. But that’s the kind of deduction you should make on your own, while not under the influence of prescription medication.

Trashy Mystery Romp

12012294Death, Taxes, and a French Manicure by Diane Kelly
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

From the first page to the last this was pure white trash. Not the kind that involves lawn implements, although a pink flamingo made a cameo appearance, but the kind that involves Kid Rock concerts, sucking on Buds, with half-naked women prancing around on stage and gyrating in cages with red thongs protecting the merchandise. Well, maybe not that extreme, but it felt pretty darn close, with red thongs and polka-dotted panties receiving more than just a cursory mention.

Tara and Christina would make any redneck proud with sprayed hair at its fizziest max, derriere showing shorts, tube tops, spandex, and enough makeup for the stage. Both come with enough spunk and junk-in-the-trunk to chase away scam artists and pencil-thin drug dealers. The antics left zany in Pinky’s rearview mirror, the ice cream was always plentiful, and even the ones with money ended up being whores and miscreants.

Britney and Chelsea proved to be the kind of women that made other trophy wives look good, with their ample, enhanced assets, bottled-blond hair, tight miniskirts, and enough drunken antics to rival certain childhood actresses, crotch flashing and yelling at the gardeners in nothing more than a pair of panties, after sleeping one off, notwithstanding.

But the voice was what really made DEATH, TAXES, AND A FRENCH MANICURE work for me. The following is how the character first learns about sex (at the age of nine):

I knew a little more about sex than most girls, what with growing up in the country and all. The first time I saw our neighbor’s Black Angus bull mount an unsuspecting heifer, my two older brothers explained it all to me.

“He’s getting him some,” they’d said.

“Some what?” I’d asked.


The mystery may have been a bit underdeveloped, the characters totally off-the-wall, and the frolics tipped my believability factor a bit over the edge, but Tara’s voice was friggin’ fantastic, and that’s most certainly why I kept reading. If you like your mystery romps trashy and larger than life (this is Texas after all), you may just find yourself enjoying this screwy read.

A Bit Of A Guess

9584960The Albuquerque Turkey by John Vorhaus
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

I had problems with the voice in THE ALBUQUERQUE TURKEY. It seemed a bit off to me, like my GPS had lost its signal. It took me a bit of time to figure out it related to word choice and some unusual phrases and dialogue. So at various points along the way, I was ready to give it up, and move on to my next read. But I’m glad I stuck with it, and that I punched through the metaphorical brick wall with both fists.

Sure, it was a bit odd, like my friend Snuffy who may have taken one too many sniffs from that superglue container I left out on the kitchen table, but like Snuffy, this novel still had its entertainment value. The plot may have seemed a bit convoluted and possibly a bit coincidental until the story truly found its direction. But the jokes were there, and so was the entertainment value, and so was the group of pranksters that staggered across the page. For starters, there was the cross-dressing absentee father figure, the nude model with the fair skin and feminine charms, the slaphappy artist with a slightly questionable work ethic and talent, and that’s just in the first half of the story.

It was always a bit of a guess as to what would happen next, so if you like being turned upside down and shaken around a bit, then this novel might hold as much promise as spiked Kool-Aid. If not, then you may want to skip out on this circus, and build your own big top in the backyard. And if that’s not enough, I’m sure you can round up a few barnyard animals to help the festivities run a little more smoothly. So to sum up, there was certainly promise, but it may have failed a bit in the execution.

I received this book for free as an early registration incentive for Left Coast Crime.

Downright Fun

20448958Don’t Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

If God wants to punish some poor bastard, I mean really punish him till he’s ready to poke out his own eyeballs, swallow a .44 Magnum, slit his own wrists, or end his own life in front of a city bus, he should force him to come back to earth as a teenage girl. In less than a month, you’d read about the extravagant deaths of Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer and even Hannibal Lector. Yeah, and those sonsofbitches never stood a chance either.

But the true beauty in this novel, aside from the sudden death experience, is all the voices inside the heads of the characters. I happen to hear a voice of my own (my muse), and no, I’m not crazy. But sometimes it feels like I am, so I can’t even imagine what it must be like to walk around LA and hear the voices of poodles and porn stars and strippers and businessmen and models and actors and who the fuck knows what else. If I could end my life in Santa Monica or on the Redondo Beach pier, it’s an offer I’d probably consider, just to make all those bastards shut up. So, yes, one voice is more than enough.

Not all writers can pull off first person plural (in fact I can’t recall another book I’ve read off the top of my head that uses this particular device), but Sarah Mlynowski pulls it off to perfection in DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT. Even when she drifts a bit into first person, you’re more than ready to go along for the ride. So while you may not want to think about this story, or have it stuck in your head, in the end, it just does.

Other than Cooper and Olivia, I wouldn’t say any of the characters are particularly loveable. In less deft hands, this could be a detriment to the story, as a number of characters spring off the pages clamoring for attention, but I found myself in a happy state of ignorant oblivion, where the pie was sweet even if the characters always weren’t.

This novel is sassy and flirtatious and coy and just downright fun all rolled up into one blast from the first page to the last.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

GPS In Your Hip Pocket

19015309 My Heart Is An Idiot: Essays by Davy Rothbart
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

If you want a handful of life lessons (sixteen in fact) on how to fuck up more than a few relationships with a road map and GPS satellite in your hip pocket to comfort you on your dark days, then MY HEART IS AN IDIOT could provide you better comfort than a blanket, a glass of warm milk, and your favorite movie on the tube. Whether you’re a cynic by nature or even if you’re holding out for the storybook fairytale or maybe a hero that goes by another name, you could find yourself mixing equal parts amusement and sadness and then flipping the switch to high. What comes out on the other side could leave you more than a little horrified, like the latest train wreck plastered across the news, but you can also comfort yourself in knowing that you weren’t on this particular train when it exited the station.

“Bigger and Deafer” – When it comes to making fun of people with disabilities, the appropriate response is no. Always no. But then I like to think I have more than two cents to rub together.

“Human Snowball” – If you want to read about a bus ride and a botched encounter with Lauren Hill (not the Lauryn Hill), then you’ll probably want to give this story a go. On a side note, Vernon adds a bit of comedic relief.

“What Are You Wearing?” – If you want a checklist in how not to conduct phone sex, and when to probably pass on picking up the motel phone, you’ll find your answers here. If you’re still confused when you reach the end, you might want to start from the beginning all over again.

“The 8th of November” – How Jim Thompson, arguably the best Ford mechanic in the Beltway, developed a friendship with the author with the idiot heart.

“Ninety-Nine Bottles of Pee on the Wall” – Meeting an author can be a pleasurable experience (most of the time) unless you’re Davy Rothbart and you carry around a few bottles of pee in your backpack. Which leads to a whole new set of problems and more than a few therapy sessions.

“How I Got These Boots” – A pair of boots, the Grand Canyon, and more than a few memories. What more could you ask for?

“Shade” – Sometimes you need to do a bit of searching to find a shady spot in New Mexico, and the author certainly had more than a bit of trouble with this as well. If it wasn’t for bad luck, a missed opportunity with Maggie, and a fruitless search for the mysterious Shade—the person, not the spot allotted tree cover—this one might have had a positive outcome. Sadly, though, he’s striking out more often than a power hitter with a swing flaw.

“Nibble, Lick, Suck, and Feast” – If you want to discover a bit of hilarity on an author tour, this story’s for you. If not, then we’ll move right along.

“Canada or Bust” – Missy, another female name that begins with M, and thus we have yet another missed opportunity in the love quest. If you need to improve the dating pool, there’s always San Francisco.

“Naked in New York” – How does one end up naked on a park bench? Apparently it’s not all that hard to do, and certainly not in “The Big Apple.” Read this tale for a few pointers.

“Tarantula” – Don’t have sex anywhere near a tarantula. Even if it’s in a glass cage and it’s far away from the bed. I don’t care how good she looks (the woman, not the tarantula), or whether or not she kidnaps you and tosses you in the back of the trunk, and promises to rock your world for the next sixteen days. Just…don’t. You’ll thank me later.

“Southwest” – Davy Rothbart may be blessed when it comes to sitting next to beautiful women on airplanes, but he probably needs a bit of help with his delivery and follow through. But that seems to repeat a bit too regularly over the course of these essays.

“New York, New York” – Maggie Smith knows how to strike a pose; the Twin Towers ended up in a pile of rubble; a few interviews got off to a glitch filled start; the bus ride proved longer than planned; and never say no to a woman named Laquisha.

“Tessa” – Drexel University and beer pong sound reasonably appealing, until Tessa proves a little free with her favors with another man, and you’re left shedding a few tears in your beer. There’s no crying in baseball, but I guess there is in beer pong.

“The Strongest Man in the World” – Peter, Byron, Evelyn, and Davy sitting in a tree, recounting a few stories, or maybe it’s three. Tell a few tales, but don’t pass the buck. If you’re not too careful, you might be out of luck.

“Ain’t That America?” – The moral of this story: You can strike out in love on more than one continent. Just keep that in mind the next time you’re moaning and groaning in your cup of tea.

So, in summary, there’s much to enjoy here. If you’re the kind of Joe who likes to watch a train derailment or two, or you’re one of those rubberneckers on the interstate trying to see the extent of the damage, you’ve just discovered your new source of enjoyment for the day. Just be thankful it’s not your life, and hope to hell you have a bit more luck in the relationship arena, otherwise you might want a Prozac or a Xanax.

Sardonic Poetry

6473959Sloppy Firsts (Jessica Darling, #1) by Megan McCafferty
My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Since I had to explain to my wife that my latest reading excursion was not in fact a between-the-sheets adventure with multiple terms for male and female genitalia, I might have reached my erotica novel quota for the month of May and possibly June as well. In case you haven’t already figured it out, this is not erotica, nor is it even classified as romance. But I was romantically involved with it all the same. SLOPPY FIRSTS punched my two front teeth out and slapped me hard on the cheek. It lifted my feet six inches off the ground, and turned me upside down. Had I managed to offer the world a coherent thought or two, I probably would have followed it up with a giggle.

Jessica Darling might have been the greatest thing to happen to my otherwise miserable existence. She actually made me happy to be alive, and I even managed to smile for once in my dejected life. She made me want to attempt night running and swoon over poetry and wander the hallowed halls of my youth aimlessly and have crushes on Spanish teachers and pretend that I had a big sister named Bethany who was so full of herself that her head was a ticking time bomb and run through malls…and yes, it really was that fucking good.

The voice was filled with sardonic poetry and wisdom and wit and charm, and she sounded older than she really was, even if her body had the developed pace of a kindergartner. Whether it was Burke or Bridget or Marcus or Manda or Sara, I was hooked, lined, and snickered, and I found myself reeling in a big mouth bass.

Whether I actually did or not is hard to say, but I found myself bouncing along the halls with my head held high and my corduroys on rye and a picture perfect wave across the sky helping me find my way home.

If I really stop to think about it, I probably shouldn’t have fallen in love with this novel, but you can’t always choose what books you love, and in this case, I tried to say no, but I ended up saying yes. Over and over and over again.

Elegant And Disturbing

13369245Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

On the surface, Grady Tripp is probably one of the most loathsome individuals I have ever read about in literature—he’s spent seven years on a 2,611 page monstrosity that has gone absolutely nowhere and like his life meandered everywhere, he’s come to the dissolution of his third marriage, he’s carried on an affair for about five years with the married chancellor who is now carrying his child, he’s smoked an entire football field of weed, and yet he can’t seem to cut himself off, and he harbors a certain amount of jealousy for James Leer, a student of his who has managed to finish his novel, while he has not—and yet I liked him anyway, and I couldn’t wait to see what crisis he would manage to find himself in the middle of next. He’s a train wreck, but he’s a somewhat loveable train wreck all the same, because he recognizes that he’s a complete and utter mess, and he has little, if any, hope for redemption.

This novel works, because Grady Tripp has a heart. He’s a man filled with misguided direction and false hope, and yet he still continues to go forth and attempt to conquer the world. He may have flushed seven years of his life down the toilet working on a novel that even he knows doesn’t really work, but he still believes there’s an ending out there somewhere for it, and all he has to do is find it. Like the main character, the prose of WONDER BOYS is both elegant and disturbing, and it’s a beautiful read from the first page to the last. And I enjoyed every single minute of it.

Soap Opera Monday

18046526 by
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Claudia Silver may be in her twenties, but she hasn’t left her teen years firmly behind. She has about as much sense as a love-struck fifteen-year-old left on the subway overnight and who might be prone to hallucinations on more than a few occasions. But I loved her anyway. That’s fucked up, right? Yeah, I thought so, too.

But like all teenage fantasies it wasn’t a perfect match, nor was it even a near perfect one. In fact, I abhorred her and loved her in nearly equal parts. There were occasions where I wanted to give her a hug, and there were plenty of occasions where I wanted to slap my forehead, scream, and run in the opposite direction. By the end, I might have had a nice semi-permanent red spot along with a decent amount of brain damage, and possibly finished my cardio for the entire month of March.

So what gives? I might have reached a new level of softness around my middle, or I might have just discovered a hidden gem in the midst of a woodpile before the entire stack of debris was doused in kerosene and set ablaze. I’m still processing and evaluating all the inputs, but I’ll go with the hidden gem option for two hundred Alex.

I was more than a little entertained, even if I wasn’t exactly rescued. CLAUDIA SILVER TO THE RESCUE reminded me of a soap opera, so it wasn’t all that surprising when this little tidbit was actually discussed in a bit of depth in the novel, and it reminded me on more than one occasion of how lucky I am with my family and my relationships and my job situation, because I really don’t endeavor to find out how much worse it could get for myself, but I have no problem reading about somebody else’s problems over the course of 259 pages or so.

Your Nora Ephron Self

18189066 by
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

If I were a woman, I could have quite a bit of fun reading chick lit and women’s fiction and romance and erotica and then passing along (hopefully) entertaining reviews to the reading public at large just for the hell of it. Oh wait, I guess I already do that anyway. So…moving right along, I must say WHAT NORA KNEW offered up quite a bit of entertainment with very little substance. You know, like trying to eat bubbles that a six-year-old has just blown in your direction after her kite took a nosedive in a public park and turned into a mangled mess on the grass. Rather than preside over the funeral (since your eulogy skills probably need a bit of work), you decided to entertain your mouth in another manner.

This novel reminded me of that, except without the death part. Since deaths aren’t funny. Unless you’re the kind of gal who laughs at a funeral—thank you Barenaked Ladies. Yeah, as long as you’re not that person, then we’re good to go, and you can proceed on with this review. If you are, my apologies, but you’ll probably want to remove your black pencil skirt and gray blouse from the scene in a most expeditious manner.

Whenever I read a novel, and I can’t seem to get the voice out of my head, I know we’re off to a good start. If I then proceed to stop at various points along the way, often rather frequently at the beginning, to jot down words and phrases or character names, then I’ve probably met my match. That is a good day indeed, because the book matchmakers have smiled upon me, which, in turn, means I end up smiling quite a bit myself. This proved to be such a book.

Molly Hallberg decided four generations of the upholstery business was enough for her, and rather than plant her acorn at the bottom of the family tree, she has decided to pave her own way, preferably through EyeSpy and Hipp magazine, and preferably with her own column that includes a header and byline. She may know everything about lying her way through an interview, but that doesn’t mean she’s actually qualified to do the job. And posing nude two years in a row at a SoHo art studio to supplement her meager Starbucks barista income doesn’t mean she’s actually qualified to do anything, other than prove to the masses that she can take her clothes off in public and hold one position for over an hour at a time.

Her boss Deirdre Dolson may dress like she’s eighteen, even if she’s forty-eight, but that’s just because she wants to keep up a youthful appearance. And her boyfriend (Molly’s not Deirdre’s) may have a Words With Friends addiction, along with being a professional rubber, but that’s just because he’s good with his hands…and words.

Even the names were rather inventive, along with being rather amusing. There’s Veeva Penney and Pamela Bendinger and Swifty Lazar and Darrin Aschbacher and Hunkster 500 (Match.com profile) and Thatcher Kamin and Keith Kretchmer. There’s also Angela Leffel who may, or may not, have a massive Twinkie addiction that she’s not willing to share on her blog.

So if you’re in the mood for an entertaining read, minus the thought-provoking part, you could do a lot worse than getting in touch with your Nora Ephron self. I know I’m rather glad I did.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.