Thursday, March 25, 2010

In Memoriam

On a day when we're all remembering, I just wanted to do something I never do - a re-post.  This is what I wrote 364 days ago when I finally got my head around the fact that my friend was gone.

Say Goodnight, Not Goodbye 

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey

Note: Per FTC regulations, this is a review of an advanced reader copy that I received free from the Hachette Book Group. This book will be released to the public on February 15th.
I admit, with my lack of Irish heritage and slim understanding of Irish history, that perhaps I was not the best audience for Patricia Falvey's The Yellow House.  I honestly couldn't be certain if the plot of the book was something that was common in families during the time of Ireland's "troubles" or if Falvey merely packed in many elements of that time period in order to create and maintain the drama and forward movement of the story.

Eileen O'Neill is the daughter of a farmer and a housewife in the early part of the twentieth century, growing up in a happy home with her older brother Frankie and younger sister Lizzie.  The lovely mountain Slieve Gullion can be seen from her home, and Eileen finds comfort and joy in the mountain, thinking of it as a mother figure.  All is well in the yellow house, with love and music, until the day Lizzie goes to the fever hospital and their mother comes home without her; Lizzie is gone.  As the rumblings of the Irish revolution come nearer, Eileen's mother leaves them with Frank in tow, and later suffers a breakdown which puts her in the hospital for the duration of the book, with Frank's Protestant grandfather raising him.  When her father is killed by English loyalists, Eileen flees with her baby brother Paddy and takes job in a mill in a nearby town to save money to fund her dream of one day reclaiming the Yellow House for her family and reuniting them.  

This is where I felt the need to suspend my disbelief.  Eileen becomes a labor reformist, forges a relationship with the wealthy son of the Protestant mill owner,  becomes a talented fiddler with the Ulster minstrels, marries a Catholic seminarian-turned-rebel, participates in IRA activities, swears in Gaelic, and gives birth to a daughter named Eoife (Eee-fa).  I'm sure if tattoos were in vogue back then she'd have had a shamrock tramp stamp.  

It is an engaging story; I just found it a tidge unbelievable.  More outlandish things happen, and there is a happy ending.  Falvey's writing is beautiful, almost lyrical, but as I said, I had no prior knowledge of the subject matter.  However, Falvey intrigued me and I'd like to read more on the topic.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Top Ten

So, my amazing friend Ms. Mix and Bitch had told me to rank my reads, but there is no way in hell that I can rank the 100+ books that I read in the last year (I'm counting my Pajiba reviews in that total, because I read that shit).  However, I will give you my ten favorite books from Year One of the Cannonball Read.  If you haven't checked them out yet, I invite you to - hey, why not add them to your list for Year Two?  So, in order from ten to one, here goes:

10.  Anybody Out There? by Marian Keyes

9.  Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

8.  My Lobotomy by Howard Dully

7.  Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult

6.   Paradise by A. L. Kennedy - This one didn't get reviewed, due to time restraints, but it knocked my socks off.

5.  The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson

4.  Beautiful Boy by David Sheff

3.  The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie

2.  Band Geek by Dustin Rowles

1.  Still Alice by Lisa Genova

*Honorable Mention - Columbine by Dave Cullen

(Actually, Columbine deserves to be #3 or 4, but I kept my Pajiba reviews separate, so it gets its own place.)

There you have it.  You can check out ten of the eleven books listed; Band Geek is not yet published but I hope like hell that it is one day soon, because it's effing amazing. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's Here!

Yes, I'm talking about Cannonball Read II: In My Pants (also known as Cannonball Read II: Electric Bookaloo or Mother May I Read With Danger? II).  Check out the post at Pajiba and join in - don't be shy!  Even if you're not a regular Pajiban *looks at Mel with purposeful eyes* you can play along!  We have a Facebook group and everything! 

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Year Two, Y'all

So, in the next few days, we'll be announcing the kickoff of Cannonball Read 2.0 over on Pajiba.  My main goal is to get a LOT more committed participants involved.  We want you to read!  And have your reviews posted on the site! And become more literate and enlightened bitches and hos!

We're also doing this for Amanda.  (Yes, I totally played that card.)

Stay tuned, kiddos.  And start eyeing up that TBR pile you have hidden under the bed, in a cupboard, behind the terlet, wherever. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Ok, friends, followers, and otherwise, I didn't make it to my target goal of 100 reviews.  It was a lot easier when I was unemployed, but now that I've been among the workers of the world for nearly seven months, I've slacked.  Add in the reviews I've done for Pajiba that I didn't count on this here corner of the interwebs, and I managed to come a little closer to that goal. 

With no further ado, here is the roundup of the books that didn't make it to the review stage; I'm going to do my best to put them in chronological order, but they're books I read mostly in between:

Sixty Eight - Girls Dinner Club by Jessie Elliot

Sixty Nine - Stiff by Mary Roach

Seventy - Picture Perfect by Jodi Picoult

Seventy One - Rhett Butler's People by Donald McCaig

Seventy Two - The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Seventy Three - The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Seventy Four - This Can't Be Love by Kasey Michaels

Seventy Five - Lady Killer by Lisa Scottoline

Seventy Six - A Royal Duty by Paul Burrell

Seventy Seven - Regeneration by Pat Barker

Seventy Eight - High Noon by Nora Roberts

Seventy Nine - Blue Dahlia by Nora Roberts

Eighty - Black Rose by Nora Roberts

Eighty One - Red Lily by Nora Roberts

Eighty Two - The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

Eighty Three - Key of Knowledge by Nora Roberts

Eighty Four - Key of Valor by Nora Roberts

Eighty Five - The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

Eighty Six - Conspiracy in Death by J.D. Robb

Eighty Seven - Lucky by Alice Sebold

Eighty Eight - Daring to Dream by Nora Roberts

Eighty Nine - Holding the Dream by Nora Roberts

Ninety - Finding the Dream by Nora Roberts

Ninety One - Flowers on Main by Sherryl Woods

Ninety Two - Dispatches From The Edge by Anderson Cooper

Ninety Three - The Eye in the Door by Pat Barker

Ninety Four - The Ghost Road by Pat Barker

Ninety Five - Harvesting the Heart by Jodi Picoult

Ninety Six - Paradise by A.L. Kennedy

Ninety Seven - A Mother and Two Daughters by Gail Godwin

So there you have it.  Three books short.  I couldn't finish Anna Karenina or if on a winter's night a traveler.

I'll still be writing reviews for Pajiba, and I'm running the next incarnation of the Cannonball Read.  I just won't be participating, because I need to corral our next group of Cannonballers.  Hope to see your lazy asses there; we're doing this in honor of Pink.

I only hope she's proud of me. 

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Title Sixty Seven: Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

Yes, I'm cheating again. Shut it, fools. It was a rough week, and anyway Rusty already reviewed this.

"The year is 1954. U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels and his new partner, Chuck Aule, have come to Shutter Island, home of Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane, to investigate the disappearance of a patient. Multiple murderess Rachel Solando is loose somewhere on this remote and barren island, despite having been kept in a locked cell under constant surveillance. As a killer hurricane bears relentlessly down on them, a strange case takes on even darker, more sinister shades — with hints of radical experimentation, horrifying surgeries, and lethal countermoves made in the cause of a covert shadow war. No one is going to escape Shutter Island unscathed, because nothing at Ashecliffe Hospital is what it seems. But then neither is Teddy Daniels." - Barnes and Noble
My only previous experience with Lehane was Mystic River a few years ago, and I dug that book, so I figured this would be worth the read. Was it? Yes it was. I was completely immersed in the story almost from the beginning, the gears in my brain whirring as I tried to keep up with the pace and the twisting narrative laid out by Lehane. A couple of times, I found myself flipping back a page to re-read a passage or two, not because I was lost, exactly, but because I felt like there was a nuance that I might have been missing. Teddy Daniels is the good guy, and he has no idea who else is on his side. It could be that everyone is out to get him. Ghosts from his past won't leave him alone. He's a man on a mission. Then, just when everything seems to be resolving itself, Lehane comes up behind you with a two-by-four and nails you in the back of the skull. Everything that came before was smoke and mirrors, and holy shit, were you fooled.

I loved it. I read it in record time because I couldn't wait to get to the end, and when it was finished, I was satisfied. The conclusion isn't pat, but it's tidy, like a perfectly square box with a really rad gift inside.

Title Sixty Six: Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk

Ok, I'm totally going to cheat for a couple of posts, okay? From the author's very own Official Lullaby Site:

"Carl Streator is a solitary widower and a forty-ish newspaper reporter who is assigned to do a series of articles on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. In the course of this investigation, he discovers an ominous thread: the presence on the scene of these deaths of the anthology Poems and Rhymes Around the World, all opened to the page where there appears an African chant or "culling song." This song turns out to be lethal when spoken or even thought in anyone's direction and once it lodges in Streator's brain, he finds himself becoming an involuntary serial killer. So he teams up with a real estate broker, one Helen Hoover Boyle, who specializes in selling haunted (or "distressed") houses (wonderfully high turnover) and who lost a child to the culling song years before, for a cross-country odyssey. Their goal is to remove all copies of the book from libraries, lest this deadly verbal virus spread and wipe out human life. Accompanying them on this road trip are Helen's assistant, Mona Sabbat, an exquisitely earnest Wiccan, and her sardonic eco-terrorist boyfriend, Oyster, who is running a scam involving fake liability claims and business blackmail. Welcome to the new nuclear family. "

This was my first Palahniuk. (No, you cannot revoke my Pajiba card for that. It's in the rules that I've just made up.) I didn't really know what to expect, so I wasn't really surprised when I was completely blown away. I mean, damn, this dude can write. And somehow make you totally uncomfortable while keeping you so intrigued that you can't put the damn thing down. There were passages that made me actually squirm in my seat but I had to know what happened. None of the characters are likeable. In fact, they're all pretty much creepy and I felt like I needed a shower after I finished. But it was good. It wasn't so much a novel as a living thing, breathing words and images. I won't ever read it again, because it's too dark for me, but it is one of the best books I've read in a long time.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Title Sixty Five: Star Bright by Catherine Anderson

No. I must have been high when I decided to read this. I mentioned it to a friend and he replied, "I would rather poke my own eyes out than read that." I may take it out back, put it on the grill, and set it on fire.

Rainie fakes her own death while on a cruise with her husband because he's going to kill her. She ends up working as a bookkeeper for a rancher dude in Crystal Falls, Oregon. Of course he's hot, and of course he sees her as a delicate flower that he wants to pick. They fall in love and all. His entire extended family foists themselves and their "aw shucks"-iness upon her, and she decides she'll marry him, but she has to divorce the psycho, who apparently killed his two previous wives to get their money, like he was going to do to Rainie. She gets her divorce, the FBI tries to use her as bait to get the husband, it doesn't work. One night, in a scene stolen right out of the movie Sleeping with the Enemy (which is discussed earlier in the book) the husband shows up in the backseat of Rainie's car and forces her to drive to her apartment - she won't live with Parker, the rancher, because he's Catholic and his family wouldn't approve and he's fucking THIRTY-FIVE YEARS OLD - and tries to kill her with a mix of Ambien and wine, and making it look like she offed herself. (Seriously? I can take a giant Vicodin for my broken spine and then go out drinking with Pajibans all night. This lightweight has a glass of wine and three Ambien and almost dies. Pussy.)

Whatever. Parker figures out that she was giving him clues on the phone, via talking about her HALLOWEEN COSTUME, and hoofs it over. Rainie uses the last of her strength to smash the wineglass into PeterExHusband's face. The paramedics come and get her to the hospital and pump her stomach. A couple months later Parker and Rainie get married.

I need Brillo for my brain.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Title Sixty Four: Lucy Sullivan Is Getting Married

Hello, dahlings. It is I, Marian Keyes. If you haven't suspected before now, I have actually kidnapped your adorable little Nicole and locked her in a closet so that I could take over her blog and promote my books. Here's another one!

On a lark, my heroine, Lucy Sullivan, goes with three coworkers to visit a psychic one evening after work. The fortune teller's prediction for Lucy is that she'll be married within a year. Lucy brushes this off with a "Bah!" That is, until her coworkers' predictions start coming true, and she meets the lovable, unemployed Gus, an Irish musician who charms his way into her pants and her pockets. Perhaps Gus is undependable and fond of the drink, but he's an artiste, moppets. He is a free spirit. Meanwhile, Lucy's best friend Daniel begins dating her roommate Karen, but this doesn't bother Lucy in the least because she simply doesn't find Daniel attractive.

You may be able to guess where the story goes. (I know, but dearies, I wrote it.) Gus turns out to be a worthless cad, Lucy realizes that her father is an alcoholic and that she's been beastly to her mother for years without understanding what the latter goes through, and Daniel is a dream.

Go buy it.