Book Tour: Nicknames

Mary Geneva tells the tale of her crazy love life using nicknames for the many men who have come into and out of her life. | A book review by NewberyandBeyond.com
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There are a million bad dates in the city that never sleeps.

Mary Geneva has been on 999,999 of them.

When she moved to Manhattan in her mid-20s, Mary imagined being single in New York City would be like something out of a Hollywood movie. And it was—a horror movie.

Nicknames is a look at some of the most hopeless, horrendous, and frequently hilarious dates you can imagine. Mary shares her true-life adventures looking for Mr. Right in the treacherous New York dating scene. You’ll meet men so bizarre, their names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Our cast of characters includes:

● Crazy Eyes, who didn’t just resemble an escapee from the local mental hospital, but proved he probably belonged there

● James Bond, the mysterious South African with the secret life

● Germ Sperm, a guy so classy, he actually named himself Germ Sperm!

● And many, many, many more.

Part memoir, part self-help book, Nicknames will have you laughing out loud…and possibly abstaining from dating forever.

Note: I received a review copy of this book through Bliss Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

I requested this book expecting a fun and hilarious romp through somebody else’s love life (sounds kind of nosy when I put it that way, right?). And that’s what I got–to an extent.

In Nicknames, Mary Geneva lays bare her dating life, including all the crazy men she has met along the way. It’s a great premise, but unfortunately it just wasn’t for me. I’m a bit squeamish about reading sex scenes, and I clearly should have anticipated that there might be more than I could handle in a book about serial dating! Some of the stories are hilarious, but that wasn’t enough to make it enjoyable for me.

If you’ve just gotten out of a relationship, or you’ve dedicated years of your life to online dating, or you have some dating horror stories of your own, you’ll probably get a kick out of this book. It just wasn’t my cup of tea.

You can find Nicknames on Goodreads or Amazon, and you can connect with the author on her website, Facebook, or Twitter @marygenevanyc.

 

ARCs: If I Speak True and Pity Isn’t an Option

These two very different books by Jessica L. Brooks struck me in very different ways. #spon | Book reviews by NewberyandBeyond.com
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Note: I received an audio copy of these books from the author in exchange for an honest review.

If I Speak True

Dahlia Kennedy’s sixteenth birthday marks a decade of mysterious dahlias arriving and strange, lonely dreams of being in a forest. The only difference this birthday, however, is that for the first time, someone is there with her. And he’s practically from a whole other era.

The more often Dahlia visits Rowan in his land of Ambrosia, the stronger their connection grows. But… is Ambrosia real? Is he real? What is going on between the two of them, exactly, and why does he insist that she keep it to herself?

As secrets usually go, however, it’s only a matter of time before everything comes out. And when Dahlia finds out the truth of who Rowan is, who she is, and how he really feels — it’s beyond anything she could have ever imagined. (Summary via Amazon.com)

I had a few problems with this book. First of all, I hated the narrator’s voice, which made it difficult for me to judge the book fairly on its content. I found the plot interesting–Dahlia finds herself crossing over into another world and becoming involved in its affairs–but the romance was just not my thing. My aversion to fantasy is well documented, but it wasn’t too bothersome to me in this book. Still, it just wasn’t my kind of story.

If you like YA fantasy romance, you’ll most likely enjoy this one. Just maybe don’t listen to the audio version.

Rating: Not My Cup of Tea

Pity Isn’t an Option

Seventeen year-old Jonas Norton is trying to come to terms with what his blood disorder has robbed from him, including his two most favorite things: basketball, and competing in Hatchet Racket, Wanless’ annual hatchet-throwing contest. The facts that his father works constantly to pay for his blood tests and Jonas can actually see the disappointment in his eyes for being such a failure only make matters worse. And even worse than all of that? Jonas’ own twin brother, Micah, is perfectly healthy and becoming quite the basketball player himself. Also, Hattie, the girl Jonas has loved for forever? She has no idea how he feels. Sixteen year-old Hattie Akerman lives down the hill from Jonas. Though her father, Heath, tries to hide his lack of mental clarity behind the bottle and she’s pretty much given up on having any kind of relationship with him, she would still rather her younger sister, Lucy, not have to deal with the consequences of his behavior. Hattie helps her mother by baking food to sell at Market and looking out for Lucy. No matter what the rest of the town says about her crazy father, Jonas sticks up for them. He is, by far, her very best friend. As if things aren’t complicated enough already, Heath and Micah are unexpectedly drafted into President Kendrick’s army (an army from which no one ever returns) just days before Thanksgiving. When Heath disappears instead of arriving at the Meeting Place to check in, Hattie and Jonas decide they’ve had enough, and take matters into their own hands. And though nothing could have prepared them for what happens next, Hattie and Jonas learn that hope can be seen in every situation. You just have to know where to look. (Summary via Amazon.com)

This book, on the other hand, I really enjoyed! Dystopian YA is much more my cup of tea, and I found the alternating sections between Jonas and Hattie to be wonderful. They were both well-rounded characters, and I felt sympathy toward both of them. Jonas is struggling to keep healthy while his parents work overtime to try to pay for his blood disease care. Hattie’s father is starting to lose his mind, and her mother is left to care for her two children on her own. Both characters work well together, and their families, though not perfect, are also interesting to read about.

My one regret from this book is that there wasn’t more description of the dystopian world in which they live. I think this is the first of a series, however, so there may be more in the books to come! I’m looking forward to reading the next book in this series. (And I wouldn’t mind if this audio book narrator continued narrating the series.)

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

31 Days of All Things Books by NewberyandBeyond.com
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ARC: Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights

Salman Rushdie's newest novel is very well written, but it's not my thing. #spon | A book review by NewberyandBeyond.com
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Note: I received an ARC of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Summary via NetGalley.com.

From Salman Rushdie, one of the great writers of our time, comes a spellbinding work of fiction that blends history, mythology, and a timeless love story. A lush, richly layered novel in which our world has been plunged into an age of unreason, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights is a breathtaking achievement and an enduring testament to the power of storytelling.

In the near future, after a storm strikes New York City, the strangenesses begin. A down-to-earth gardener finds that his feet no longer touch the ground. A graphic novelist awakens in his bedroom to a mysterious entity that resembles his own sub–Stan Lee creation. Abandoned at the mayor’s office, a baby identifies corruption with her mere presence, marking the guilty with blemishes and boils. A seductive gold digger is soon tapped to combat forces beyond imagining.

Unbeknownst to them, they are all descended from the whimsical, capricious, wanton creatures known as the jinn, who live in a world separated from ours by a veil. Centuries ago, Dunia, a princess of the jinn, fell in love with a mortal man of reason. Together they produced an astonishing number of children, unaware of their fantastical powers, who spread across generations in the human world.

Once the line between worlds is breached on a grand scale, Dunia’s children and others will play a role in an epic war between light and dark spanning a thousand and one nights—or two years, eight months, and twenty-eight nights. It is a time of enormous upheaval, in which beliefs are challenged, words act like poison, silence is a disease, and a noise may contain a hidden curse.

Inspired by the traditional “wonder tales” of the East, Salman Rushdie’s novel is a masterpiece about the age-old conflicts that remain in today’s world.Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights is satirical and bawdy, full of cunning and folly, rivalries and betrayals, kismet and karma, rapture and redemption.

I picked up this book only because I have heard great things about Salman Rushdie, but I haven never read his work because I’ve also heard that he is hard to get into. He’s into magical realism, which I am not, and this book in particular happens to be a retelling of the 1,001 nights/Scheherazade myth, sort of? which is another thing I’m not super into. Still, I picked it up because it was available on NetGalley and I thought I should probably acquaint myself with this author. And? It was all right.

The writing is undeniably good. Rushdie is great at creating unique characters and weaving in humor even among dark or tragic events. The plot itself is well constructed, if you’re into myth retellings (which, again, I am not). The jinn which invade our world and turn it upside down are as childish and vengeful as you would imagine, and they have copious amounts of sex (which, although these sexual acts are not described in detail, keep me from ever describing this book as “clean”). And probably the best part is the descendants of Dunia, the part-jinn humans who have the power to float above the ground, kill people with lightning, or cause the corrupt to literally break out in hives. I wish more of the book had focused on these people, rather than spending so much time with the jinni.

I can’t honestly give an accurate rating for this book. Even though I can tell the plot and characters were well written, the story is just so far out of my wheelhouse and the kinds of books I typically enjoy that I can’t come to a conclusion on whether or not I liked it. If the summary sounds interesting, pick it up and find out for yourself.

Rating: Not My Cup of Tea

31 Days of All Things Books by NewberyandBeyond.com
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My Problems with Life of Pi

The embarrassing reason I hated Life of Pi. | A book review by NewberyandBeyond.com
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Before I explain the totally reasonable (and totally embarrassing) reasons I disliked this book, take a look at the Amazon summary:

The son of a zookeeper, Pi Patel has an encyclopedic knowledge of animal behavior and a fervent love of stories. When Pi is sixteen, his family emigrates from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship, along with their zoo animals bound for new homes.

The ship sinks. Pi finds himself alone in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi, whose fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with Richard Parker for 227 days while lost at sea.

So I was totally into this book for the middle two-thirds of it. The beginning, which took place in India and consisted only of descriptions of Pi’s life as the son of a zookeeper and the follower of many religions, was very slow, and I couldn’t wait for the journey to actually begin. When it did, I loved the idea of a teenage boy being set adrift in the ocean with only the terrifying company of an enormous tiger. The details were fantastic, as the author explored the consequences of Pi’s life on the open ocean, collecting water for himself, trying to catch fish or turtles to eat, protecting his skin from the sun beating down on him, and training Richard Parker to respect him as the alpha male. It was riveting stuff.

I started to suspect when Pi and Richard Parker reached the fantastical floating island with the skin-eating plants, but it wasn’t until the end of Pi’s journey that I knew: Despite all appearances, this book was not based on a true story. I have to cringe typing that. It’s so embarrassing that it took me until the end of the book to realize that Life of Pi is, incredibly, not true! I was so wrapped up in the idea that a young teenage boy could actually learn to survive alone in the middle of the ocean, even training a tiger to coexist peacefully with him, and make it safely to shore many months later. The framing of this story is done so beautifully that it seems like it might actually have happened, if not exactly this way, then at least mostly. But no. I was mortified when I realized that my understanding of this whole story was wrong!

Even putting this aside, however, I really disliked the ending of the book. (This is mildly *spoiler-y*, although it is included in the official Amazon review–I clipped it out for anyone who might not want so much spoiler information in their summary–so feel free to skip this if you haven’t read it and want to be totally surprised.) As Pi tells his story to the officials, it is so incredible to them that they demand to know what really happened. Pi obliges by telling them a much more brutal and less interesting version of the story, and while the reader is left to decide for themselves which story is the “real” one, or if it even matters which is more true, I think the answer is very clear and very disappointing. I’d rather have continued believing (as I somehow, incredibly, did for a while) the fantastic story Pi told than have this terrible, tacked-on ending.

Needless to say, I had a couple problems with this book. One was basically my own fault; the other, a flaw in the story itself (at least in my opinion). Still, the writing is very good, and the middle two-thirds of the book are an enjoyable and fascinating story. Give it a try, but come forewarned.

Rating: Not My Cup of Tea

Book Pairing: Walk Two Moons and One Hundred Years of Solitude

The next installment in the Reading to Distraction book pairing challenge. | A book review by newberyandbeyond.com
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You may remember from my Hobbit review that I’m taking part in the Reading to Distraction reading challenge this year. In this challenge, based on a BuzzFeed article, you read one favorite childhood book, and then read a similar, grown-up version. It has taken me a while to get around to the next book pairing on my list, because of the “adult book” in the pairing.

The books in this pairing are Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech (if you’re a long time reader of this blog, you can probably see where this is going) and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. According to the BuzzFeed article, here’s the connection:

Walk Two Moons is a story within a story, told by a girl longing for her missing mother. The tale she weaves is fantastical, tinged with spirituality, mysticism, grief, a bit of romance, and rich descriptions of the land. Marquez’s epic masterpiece widens the scope of each of those themes. In a long and entrancing history of the mythical town of Macondo, he writes about love, revolution, prosperity, loss, and the tragic rise and fall of a family.

 

Walk Two Moons
The Newbery book Walk Two Moons is one of my favorite books of all time. I loved it as a kid, and I continue to reread it even now. Sal is a fantastic character, and her world is populated with the same kind of offbeat but lovable characters that Sharon Creech is so good at writing. There’s a bit of mystery, some humor, and some very moving moments as Sal regales her grandparents with the tale of her friend’s missing mother, as they journey to visit Sal’s own missing mother. The story is one you won’t soon forget, and it holds up to repeated re-readings.

Rating: Re-read Worthy

One Hundred Years of Solitude
Unfortunately, this book did not even come close to the power of Walk Two Moons for me. One Hundred Years left me feeling confused and often bored. First of all, all the characters have the same names. I get that the author is using that as a tool to connect the generations of this messed-up family and show that time, for them, is circular and repetitive, but I still had an incredibly hard time figuring out who was who. The book was full of magical realism–not often something I enjoy–and it was often more atmospheric than plot-oriented (if you want to see my previous ventures into hefty, atmospheric books, look here and here).

Rating: Not My Cup of Tea

Now that I’ve read both books in this pairing, I can sort of see why BuzzFeed chose to put these two together. Both have an almost magical feel at times (though the level of this magic varies wildly), and both have a sense of timelessness, in that the characters do not seem to experience time in the same way that we do. However, I was very disappointed not to find a grown-up version of my childhood favorite, Walk Two Moons. But maybe that’s okay–maybe Walk Two Moons is just as grown up as it needs to be. It certainly didn’t suffer in my latest re-reading, and I definitely recommend that you pick it up, no matter what your age.

Mini Review: Bad Feminist

The collection of essays in Bad Feminist were just not for me. | A book review by Newbery and Beyond
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I really don’t enjoy collections of essays. Every once in a while, I allow myself to be convinced that I should read one, that I would enjoy it, maybe even love it. Especially when the topic is something I care about, like feminism and race relations. But no–I don’t like essays.

Bad Feminist, unfortunately, was no exception. Although I enjoyed a few of the essays, I found myself bored by many of them. I did enjoy Roxane Gay’s honesty throughout, especially when she spoke about how she fails to live up to the standards of other feminists. Still, many of the essays were stories taken from the author’s life, which I know too little about to care.

Rating: Not My Cup of Tea

ARC: The Gift of the Quoxxel

#spon review of The Gift of the Quoxxel
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Note: I received a free galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.

King Norr of Nibb was not content. He longed to know of the world beyond his tiny, island kingdom. Why travel elsewhere, said his people. What place could possibly be more perfect than Nibb? What frustrated Norr even more, outsiders never came to Nibb. Foreign ships approached, hesitated, then sailed away. Why was that?

And that wasn’t the only mystery. Who was the little girl who sang, but would not speak? What kind of monster lurked in waters along the shore? Had Dr Hinkus been devoured by woolly drumbkins? And most importantly, what’s for lunch? Drearily perfect Nibb was about to turn upside down. As King Norr often said, it’s enough to give one “haddocks.”

(Summary via Amazon)

For this week’s Mini Review, I’m going with bullet points.  First, the good stuff:

  • This story has some very funny moments.  There are some hilarious characters, and some truly absurd things happen to them.  I found myself laughing out loud on a few occasions.
  • The king and queen were my favorite characters.  The king, because he is so oblivious.  The queen, because she is not.  They work together so well and produce many of the previously mentioned funny moments.

Now, the not-so-good stuff:

  • Every character is quirky–there’s no way to anchor myself in what “normal” is for this world.
  • The vocabulary has tons of made-up words.  Just a personal pet peeve, but I hate this.
  • The story itself felt incomplete.  I wasn’t sure where the story was going, and I felt the ending was kind of abrupt.

So there you have it!  I was baffled by this book, honestly.  It was well-written, amusing, and whimsical, but I had no idea where the story was going or what the world and characters were supposed to be like.  Pick it up if you like quirky, out-of-left-field characters and vocabulary.

Rating: Not My Cup of Tea

ARC: Acts of Violence

Acts of Violence is a futuristic noir story with a twist ending--but is it worth your time? #spon | A book review from Newbery and Beyond
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Note: I received a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

My name’s Jack Mason. I made a mistake. Took home the wrong girl. Now she’s dead. Cut up. And they’re telling me I did it.

It’s the same cop that tried to take me down ten years ago. Now he’s coming at me hard. And he’s not the only one. Cole Webster, the city’s crime lord, thinks I stole from him. Broke me out of custody just to ask me about it. Then I killed his son. Now he really wants me.

Add to this equation a government agent, and I’m a real popular guy right now. Pretty much everyone I meet wants me dead, lawfully or otherwise. There’s nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. I’ve got till morning to uncover Webster’s trafficking operation and take the heat off me. And all I’ve got to go on is a pissed off homeless girl with a thirst for revenge.

Guess it could be worse. Can’t quite figure how. (Summary via Amazon.com)

This book is called Acts of Violence, and there sure is a lot of violence throughout (as you might have gathered from the Amazon summary above).  In the book, the main character is living on another planet where it rains all the time, and where crime always pays.  It’s kind of a futuristic noir setting, which I found a fascinating combination.  Jack Mason is pinned for a murder that the police are convinced he committed, and he has to prove his innocence–and possibly bring down the crime lord who has most of the police and local business owners in his pocket.

I found the MC’s narration well written and interesting.  His voice was realistic, but pretty straightforward.  No angst with this guy–he’s used to this kind of life.  Again, I loved the setting.  It’s futuristic, but brooding and dark.  It fit so well with the sneaking around and violent criminal acts that pretty much every character takes part in.

Be forewarned: There are several scenes that take place in strip clubs, in which there are some descriptions that you might want to do without, and there is (obviously) a lot of violence, some of which is described in detail.  None of it was enough to make me uncomfortable, but if somewhat sexual and violent details turn you off a book, you might not want to pick up this one.

I was surprised by the twist ending (although I’m not hard to surprise–I rarely see a twist coming), but I was slightly disappointed by it.  It made me see the characters in a new light, and I didn’t like what I saw.  But that’s just a personal preference.  On the whole, I did enjoy this book, although it wasn’t really my type of book.  Definitely check it out if you’re into brooding thrillers (is that a genre?  If not, it is now).

If you enjoy thrillers and mysterious circumstances, you might also check out Pool of Echoes and Unrelenting Nightmare.

Rating: Not My Cup of Tea

Review Copy: Unrelenting Nightmare

When infamous assassin Nomed receives the order to kill a VR genius, gender stereotypes ensue. #spon | A book review by Newbery and Beyond
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Note: I received a free galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Stuart Garrison, a brilliant virtual reality software developer, has his company poised on the threshold of industry dominance with the release of his newest virtual reality system-Next World. Among his competitors is Preston McBraid, the cutthroat CEO of a rival company. McBraid realizes that if he does not own Next World, his company is bound to lose its premier position atop the computer industry. Driven by desperation and greed, McBraid hires the notorious Nomed, a highly sought-after assassin who commands millions to kill a target. The FBI learns of the assassination plot and intervenes to protect Stuart. He in turn quickly augments the FBI team, hiring two security specialists as additional defense: a monster of a man, nicknamed Superman-and Alex Nichols, an expert in the field of security. Stuart clings desperately to the hope that he can make it though the onslaught of Nomed’s assassination attempts. If he does, his next ingenious virtual reality product-Mind Games-will blow the world away with its originality and staggering mass appeal, and catapult Stuart to the top of the computer industry as its reigning czar, and make him a billionaire many times over. In this gripping suspense thriller, the wannabe czar of the computer industry is unwittingly catapulted into a deadly cat-and-mouse game against the infamous Nomed, and only time will tell who is clever enough to survive. (Summary via Amazon.com)

Let me start with the good news. This book is well written. The author definitely has a talent for making the story come to life, creating tension and a drive to see what will happen next.  As you can see from the Amazon summary above, there’s a lot of tension and excitement to go around.

However, I had several problems with this book. First and foremost, practically all of the characters were male stereotypes, the kinds of guys you’d find in an action movie or a thriller. They were rich businessmen who cheated on their wives, FBI agents who smoked in their offices, assassins who used others to get what they wanted. The only women in the book were characterized by their similarities or contrast to the men—one gave her life and soul to a man she loved, who slept with her and strung her along simply for the benefits she provided him; another kicked butt but was constantly remarked upon because no one thought a woman could do what she does.

This alone made my enjoyment of the book considerably less than what it could have been, but there were a few other problems as well. The book teeters on the edge of racism and classism at times, and it is unclear whether we are supposed to agree with the characters’ beliefs or not when they start to cross this line.

The story itself was interesting, but it had too many problems for me to really get into it. Maybe you’ll enjoy it—the writing really is good—but it wasn’t for me.

Rating: Not My Cup of Tea

Review Copy: 5 Weeks in the Amazon

#sponsored review from NewberyandBeyond.com
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Note: I received a digital copy of this book from the author for review consideration.

This travel memoir was definitely an interesting ride.  In it, the author, Sean, travels to the Amazon to shed his persona and find his true self with the help of a shaman and a jungle drug/hallucinogen called Ayahuasca.  He goes on a special diet, abstaining from everything that isn’t pure, and purges himself physically and emotionally, in the hopes of discovering truth and healing himself.

The book is introspective and philosophical–the author tackles many of the basic questions of life during his time in the jungle and reminisces over past pains (both physical and emotional) and what he has learned from them.  He spends most of his time soaking up all the wisdom he can, despite not speaking any Spanish.  The book is occasionally disjointed because it’s written in journal form, with most sections written (as far as I can tell) during the author’s trip.  Still, the stories are fascinating, by turns humorous and philosophical.

Five Weeks in the Amazon is full of swearing, drugs, alcohol, and sex, so please be aware if these things make you squeamish.  Also, I must say that the author seemed a bit judgmental of those who choose to travel or live in a different way than he does, and that those who say he’s crazy for going into the jungle and partaking in these ceremonies with Ayahuasca simply haven’t had their eyes opened.  I found some of the more judgmental passages hard to swallow.  The book strays into New Age-y territory on occasion, with spiritual awakening and finding answers inside oneself as the main goal–not necessarily a bad thing, depending on what you’re looking for in your travel memoirs, but something that has never really interested me or fit with my worldview.

Check this book out if natural living, philosophical discussions, and off-the-beaten-path travel are your things–or if interesting stories can carry a book for you.  Otherwise, give it a pass.

Rating: Not My Cup of Tea

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