review: Slip of the Tongue by Jessica Hawkins

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Thank you to Jessica Hawkins and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. I appreciate it!~

Was this book good?

Well, what does it tell you that right after reading it, I bought everything else Jessica Hawkins has ever read and devoured her words like a starving animal? Maybe that last sentence was unnecessarily creepy, but you get the idea.

Just…

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So, this was not at all what I expected. Given the summary, I fully believed I’d be rooting for one particular couple, and the opposite happened. Don’t you love that? I love, love, love when authors surprise me – especially New Adult authors. It’s a genre that often relies on routine plots, and Jessica Hawkins is anything but routine in her writing and imagining.

Slip of the Tongue is about Sadie Hunt. She’s your typical New York girl – living in Manhattan with her husband Nate, working for a PR firm and struggling with the idea of growing up and moving on. Worse, her husband – once loving, sexual and sweet – has turned into a ghost overnight. Cold, mono-syllabic and withdrawn, Nate has taken his love away from Sadie – something she can’t understand and can’t bear. He won’t discuss it with her, leaving her to draw her own conclusions.

Enter a new neighbor, stage left.

Finn Cohen is the opposite of Nate. He wants Sadie. Badly. He seems to be willing to do anything to be with her – and in her current mindset, it’s very, very tough for Sadie to resist.

Does she?

You’ll have to read to find out, but it’s obvious from most of Hawkins’ writing that she is fascinated by cheating, and it’s no different here. I love that she focuses on this particular part of relationships – monogamy, finding the ‘one’, marriage, affairs, etc – because so many authors really shy away from it. On GoodReads, most novels that deal with cheating have terrible reviews. It’s not something many readers can stomach. I’m normally one of them actually. For instance, Thoughtless by S.C. Stephens is super popular and the entire thing infuriated me. Mainly because of the main character.

Sadie was different. I really felt for her. She seemed like a genuinely good person who just can’t help herself / nor figure out what the hell happened to her life. She struggles with her decisions, knowing that what she’s doing is wrong – but in the end, she tries to do the right thing. She tries to give everyone what they want.

Naturally, she can’t. But she still tries, and that means something to me. Her marriage with Nate felt very real to me – as were the reasons behind his sudden change of heart. How the little things DO add up. How it can be the smallest thing, but in a marriage – it can mean disaster.

Regardless of small quibbles (the ending wraps up too quickly for me), I just loved, loved, love this. I’ve read it twice. Go and give Jessica Hawkins the fame she deserves! Go, go, go!

review: My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

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{Source: GoodReads.com}

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. I greatly appreciated the chance to read this book!

Official Synopsis
Gloria Steinem—writer, activist, organizer, and one of the most inspiring leaders in the world—now tells a story she has never told before, a candid account of how her early years led her to live an on-the-road kind of life, traveling, listening to people, learning, and creating change. She reveals the story of her own growth in tandem with the growth of an ongoing movement for equality. This is the story at the heart of My Life on the Road.

Review
What a delightful read.

Although – hand on heart – I am a feminist through and through, I don’t/didn’t know a lot about Gloria Steinem. I read her interview in Lenny (Lena Dunham’s newsletter) and found her to be intriguing and funny. So I was anxious to get started with this book.

In recounting her “life on the road” as a nomad, Steinem could be staid or depressing – after all, she has seen a lot of history that would be unpleasant to think about, AND had a lot of men figuratively and literally pat her on the head and call her “dear” or “honeybun” (you know it happened).

Thankfully, Steinem is a pleasure to spend time with. What’s more, she comes across as genuine, intelligent, warm and openhearted. This is inspirational to me, as I cannot even imagine the vitriol she’s had directed her way throughout her journey in feminism and fighting for equality.

The most fascinating thing to me about this collection of stories is that none of them are designed to make Steinem seem ‘more’. She does not seek to become ‘more’ important, ‘more’ liked, or ‘more’ in any sense. Instead, she shines the glow on others – her father (who inspired her to travel, learn and grow), taxi drivers, servers, college students, and others she has met while traveling. These chance encounters and brief conversations have all served to inform Steinem’s views on the world and its inhabitants. She comes across as grateful and appreciative of these experiences and encounters, no matter how minor they might seem to an outside perspective.

Highly recommended – this is a lovely read, and offers a new and fresh look at Steinem’s past, as well as the birth and rise of the feminist movement. Further, it’s a deeply moving rumination on the importance of every day encounters and of paying attention – no matter the occasion.

review: Down London Road by Samantha Young

downlondonroad {Source: GoodReads.com}

So.

Down London Road is a puzzler. In terms of On Dublin Street (which I gave 4 stars), I liked the heroine much better, I thought the characters were a bit tighter and at least things actually happened to the heroine in this one – compared to Joss whining because she has to fuck a hot, rich guy all the time.

But I gave this one 3 stars, and I need to untangle why here. I’m not even sure myself.

The Good

1. Jo. Weirdly, I liked her a lot. Her one main flaw was her refusal to accept help from friends, while banging rich guys for money/dresses AND THEN getting offended when anyone dared point out it might be better if she just … ya know, let her loved ones help her out? Every.single.time Braden said, “I can get you a job in my office” and she was all self-righteous and refused, and then ran off to hang onto her boyfriend Malcolm’s arm at a party and simper at him, well, my blood boiled. I’m all for female agency, but I think she just FELT like being contrary.

All the players from On Dublin Street are back and Jo is suddenly best buddies with all of them and invited to Sunday lunch at Elodie’s. I have decided Elodie is my favourite. The way Young describes her as tipsily asking everyone if they’d like a refill and then spilling the wine while drunkenly saying, “Oopsie” makes me want to be friends with her immediately.

Anyway, back to Jo. I liked her. She worked hard, she tried her best and her circumstances were horrible. Her Mum especially – whoa. I couldn’t imagine living with that.

2. The sex was decent. I was comparing it to Joss and Braden, and I think the sexual tension itself just didn’t measure up. But it was still pretty hot. I do wish everyone would step out of the box a bit. It’s a little vanilla, and while I don’t mean I want them to get all Christian Grey/Bella Swan or whatever her name was, I just think maybe… well, you probably know what I mean.

3. Cole. He was a darling and Young has a talent for writing teenaged boys. I fully believed everything he said, including all the shrugging.

4. Malcolm. He was a nice guy, he was attractive and he won the Euro Millions!! I’LL MARRY YOU!!

The Not-So-Good

1. Cameron. I wasn’t a fan. It wasn’t simply that he didn’t measure up to Braden (he didn’t, by a long shot), or that I kept picturing him as Adam Levine (who I don’t find attractive), it was his disgusting attitude toward Jo in the beginning. I couldn’t, for the life of me figure out how he got into her pants after the things he said to her. He was beyond a dick – and it was all based on ridiculous assumptions that barely meant anything (his Uncle married a gold digger? Cool story, bro. Nobody cares.) And his treatment of her after she spends the night at Malcolm’s and he has to help Cole out? OMG I felt RAGE. RAGE.

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2. It took them forever to have sex. And then all they did was have sex, argue about nothing and NOT TALK ABOUT ANYTHING. All their worries could have been cleared up in a 2 second conversation.

3. They made a serious relationship decision about 3 seconds after they started dating, which I won’t spoil here.

4. Cam’s moronic reaction to seeing his ex-girlfriend. I didn’t buy FOR A SECOND his reasons for acting weird. Not for a second. Sorry, guys don’t work like that.

5. The set-up to Young’s next book. I guess I just feel like not everyone is going to get along all the bloody time. If Elodie invites any more people over for Sunday lunch, there won’t be enough room for her.

Sigh. Still anxiously waiting Jamaica Lane or whatever the next one is called though. Young had me at describing Olivia as “slightly overweight”… can’t hate that. Not even a little bit. No matter how much I complain, I can’t seem to NOT read Samantha Young’s books.

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review: In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

intheunlikelyevent {Source: GoodReads.com}

Note: I won this book in a GoodReads.com giveaway from the publisher, Knopf. I thank them for the chance to read and review. All opinions are my own.

Oh, Judy.

I love Judy Blume so much. As soon as I finished In the Unlikely Event, I immediately picked up my well-read copy of Summer Sisters so I could be back in one of Judy’s worlds again.

In this tale, we follow quite a few perspectives (I admit to finding this tough and a tad confusing in the beginning, but I quickly found my groove), but the main heart of the story is Miri Ammerman, a fifteen-year-old girl living in Elizabeth, New Jersey in the 1950s. As planes plummet to earth, Miri struggles with the fever of first love, a best friend who seems to be unraveling at the seams, a rambunctious, opinionated and loving family, and a town in chaos.

Three planes did actually crash in quick succession in Elizabeth, during Judy’s childhood. Those scenes are especially vivid and all the more wrenching because you know it happened. Those balls of fire, those plane bellies upended and spilling intestines, those bits of people found strewn across the earth like piano keys. It’s all too much, and that’s reflected in the characters’ growing horror as they wonder… what is happening? Is the world ending? Is it a conspiracy to kill children? Is it just bad luck?

Could it be that the world is that cruel, that unfeeling… that dark?

I loved following Miri’s story, and I found her to be an engaging and lovely character – tart in her opinions, intelligent and as fiercely trusting as only a fifteen-year-old girl can be. The haunting touches throughout the book – Ruby (she hit me the most, like a smack, looking into that baby’s eyes), Natalie’s eating disorder, Penny and Betsey, Fred the dog, Mason… it all comes together to form a tapestry of normal life, made even more beautiful by tragedy.

Judy Blume has said this may be the last book she ever writes. If so, it’s a worthy coda to her wildly successful career. But I hope it isn’t true. I can’t wait to fall into another one of Judy’s worlds again.

She’s just that good.

review: Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

firsts {Source: GoodReads.com}

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Okay. So. Here’s the thing.

1) There is a character in this book who should just go die in a fire.
2) The honest depictions of sexuality in teenagerdom were refreshing and honest.
3) The slut shaming that goes on is really, really tough to read.
4) Zach is the cutiest cutie pie that was ever adorable.

Okay, so that’s four things.

Firsts was good, but not *great*. I could feel while reading that with careful editing, the book would have risen to another level, so I do think some pruning would be advisable. The book is about three chapters too long.

Firsts is about Mercedes, a girl with a rather odd hobby. Mercedes de-virginizes guys so that their girlfriends will have good first times. You see, Mercedes had a terrible experience when she first had sex, so she’s trying to make sure that doesn’t happen to other girls… yeah, it’s as bizarre as it sounds. She’s also having no-obligation Wednesday sex with her lab partner, hiding her secret life from her psychotically religious best friend (who made me roll my eyes on more than one occasion) and flirting with her new buddy Faye, who rolls into town with all the finesse of a Mack Truck.

As you can imagine, none of this ends well, and Mercedes is pressured into having sex on more than occasion, which I found very upsetting. Not to mention there are implicit threats of rape from one character. There really isn’t much exploration of the illegality of this and I think it’s a missed opportunity. He’s quite possibly one of the biggest douchebags in all of YA history, and I dearly wish the book had ended with a better comeuppance.

Regardless, I enjoyed this one. It’s wonderful to have a YA novel that doesn’t sugarcoat sex, or assume teenagers aren’t having it / obsessed with it. Likable writing – and like I said before, I do think that the book would bump up another star with editing – it’s way too long.

A note as well: I’ve heard Mercedes called a lot of things by reviewers (nice slut shaming, btw) but in my opinion, she’s a lot like a regular teenager. Fairly self-centered, confused, lots of feelings down below, not a lot of smarts. I know I was a total headcase at that age. Mercedes is typical, and that’s why she’s largely unlikeable – because teenagers are assholes, in case you’ve forgotten.

review: It Was Me All Along by Andie Mitchell

itwasme {Source: GoodReads.com}

Andie’s story was, at its core, all too familiar to me. Not the unhappiness of her childhood or her obsession with sweets – but at the heart, her comforting herself with food? Her untreated depression? Her discomfort in her own body? I felt those intensely.

For me, it’s not sweets… it’s cheese, sour cream, chips. Basically, a plate of nachos. It’s my kryptonite and has been ever since I first tasted “7 layer dip” as a kid. Through high school, I comforted myself with food – bags of chips dipped into containers of sour cream was the fave.

To read about Andie’s frustration with herself was intense for me – and I believe it would be for anyone who suffers/suffered from an eating disorder. And her journey toward better health – both mental and physical – was lovely and felt true. It was a bit glossed over (I started walking and lost 135 pounds…) and I definitely don’t think that eating everything in moderation is possible for everyone – or even most people. But it worked for Andie.

Not to mention, she met Leonardo DiCaprio. As someone who went to Titanic six times in the theatre, heavily related. If I touched his back, I think I’d faint. Congrats, Andie. Get it girl.

review: The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

thenightwatch {Source: GoodReads.com}

One major reason I love Sarah Waters’ books is that she paints such a rich history for women. I love how she features lesbians and lesbian life throughout history. There is much written about men and gay men (natch, why shouldn’t men take over literature too?) and yet, not a lot of quality, compelling, raw, devastating and accurate prose written about women, women who loved other women. It’s so important that we have Sarah Waters.

The Night Watch is my favourite Waters novel. It’s perfect. Everything about the way she constructed the book, everything about the editing of it, the descriptions of World War II and its aftermath (gah, I can’t get over how well she writes period dramas, without delving into cliched tropes), the characters, the relationships. It’s perfection, beginning to end.

And oh, how I adored the people we met.

Gentle, vicious, frustrating, frustrated, impulsive, silly Helen.

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Noble, complicated, intelligent, miserable Kay.

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Gorgeous, devastating, intimidating, wealthy Julia.

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Irrepressible, disappointed, beautiful, melancholy Viv.

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Interestingly, Waters chose to begin this novel at the end, and go back in time to find out how our characters came to be where and who they are. It’s a frustrating tactic (because in a way, we’ll know all we know by the first act) but an effective one, as Waters peels the onion slowly and lyrically.

She brings wartime London alive with precision and grace, and her characters stumble through their lives, never quite making the right decisions, never quite realizing where they will end up. The relationships are so skillfully woven here, and the vividness of certain scenes and images still stick in my mind.

By the end, you might feel a little cheated – I did when I first read it- but I now choose to marvel at how Waters unraveled their stories and how she showed what was truly vital for us to know – after all, hindsight is 20/20, and these characters never knew and might never have dreamt, where they’d be after the war.

Were they would be after those rash decisions, when it seemed as though the world would end – but then, it didn’t.

review: Murder in Paradise by Francine Pascal {Sweet Valley High Super Thriller #6}

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This is an awesomely cracked-out volume in SVH history.

Elizabeth, Jessica, Mrs. Wakefield, Enid, Lila and Mrs. Fowler all head to a spa for a “retreat”. While there, they notice that absolutely everyone on staff is stunningly beautiful. All but the actual owner of the spa, a Dr. Mueller, who is thoroughly creepy, looks vaguely like a frog, calls Jess and Liz her “beauties” and fawns over Alice Wakefield like a lesbian who hasn’t gotten any in about a dozen years.

Dr. Mueller ends up taking Enid beneath her wing, because boo hoo End isn’t as pretty as her friends and her Mom couldn’t make the trip because GASP she had to WORK (the nerve!) and Elizabeth is about as sympathetic about this as you’d imagine.

“Oh Enid, shut up, you’re adequate enough and you have a cute body… I guess. Sorry though, no time to chat, I have to go cheat on Todd with this guy I just met!” Liz trills, flipping her perfectly silky blond hair over one tanned, sculpted shoulder.

Yes, the twins are as insufferable as ever and Lila isn’t much better, interrupting what seems like a gorgeously relaxing mud bath to chase after some asshole she thinks is a celebrity… or something. It’s a sub-plot not worthy of Lila’s usual devilish glee over other people’s misfortune. She should be cackling about Enid’s ugliness, not passing up the chance to be wrapped in hot towels with her lover, I mean best friend, Jessica. (I can’t be the only person who thought Lila and Jessica were secret power lesbians, can I?)

Eventually, the truth is revealed! Tatiana Mueller is bat-shit crazy and she wants to steal Alice’s face so she can be beautiful at last! MUAH HA HA HA HA…

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Seriously satisfying romp, with enough of Liz being a total dick to please any Wakefield hater.

review: Swimming Sweet Arrow by Maureen Gibbon

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God, I loved this book when I first read it. Still do, as a matter of fact.

Yeah, yeah to the pearl-clutchers who call it “vile” and “pornographic” (you must be SO much fun to hang out with!) just because the main character is a girl who actually enjoys sex! GASP HORROR SHOCK.

The tale of Vangie growing up and eventually, growing apart from those she once held dear, really hit my heart. It’s one of the more realistic depictions of sex – in all its messiness – that I’ve ever read, and the dirty fun of the characters, and their intimate, raw lives, just never gets boring.

It strikes close to the bone with so much of the story – the friends who realize they really don’t know each other anymore, the many many variations of sex, the rape, the pain, the awful squalid chicken farm, and the reality that becoming an adult sometimes means letting go of childish things.

Highly recommended – mainly, for its perfect characterization of Vangie, and for an author who isn’t afraid to make her main character sexual. Love.

{buy Swimming Sweet Arrow on amazon.ca . amazon.com . amazon.co.uk}