Real by Katy Evans

Once again I’m left wondering if I somehow managed to read an entirely different book than everyone else. I don’t get it. I mean, what the fuck is this book? Is it for real? It can’t be for real. Is it Beautiful Disaster fan fiction? It sure reads like it: poorly written story about an underground fighter who is god’s gift to women, quickly becomes unhealthily obsessed with speshul snowflake heroine and throws a fit or twelve. Except this time Bipolar Disorder serves to excuse the distasteful Alpha behavior and up the stakes. And remember how everyone wondered how Travis could stay so in shape when he never worked out? Well, THIS GUY works out for NINE HOURS AT A TIME. So he earned that EIGHT PACK, okay?!

Oh, Brother.

I’m trying to think of a single thing that I didn’t completely loathe about this book and am coming up short. There is nothing remotely good, nothing remotely sexy, nothing remotely REAL about Real. Reality has no place in that world. Like the so-called sexual tension that everyone is raving about? Off the charts stupid. Who even acts like that? From the moment Brooke and Remington meet, they’re just doing THE MOST. This is what happens, basically:

Brooke: I can’t believe you dragged me to this underground fight to see some guy you want to bone, Melanie.
Melanie: I’m such a whore!
Brooke: Everyone is a whore except me.
Melanie: I know! You’re so classy in your frilly collared shirt and perfectly presentable high-waisted pants! I’m nothing compared to you!
Brooke: Cool. That’s what I was going for.
Melanie: Look, there he is!
Brooke’s vagina: Oh, CLENCH!
Bimbette: RIP ME A NEW ONE, RIPTIDE!
Melanie: HEY RIPTIDE, OVER HERE!
Remington Remy Riptide RIP Tate: *looks*
Melanie: NO, A LITTLE TO YOUR LEFT AW SHIT.
Brooke: Yep. ME.
Brooke’s vagina: Sloppy wet clenchity CLENCH!
Remington’s Eyes: Glimmering amusement. Warm, unbearably intimate things.
Brooke’s Vagina: HOMG CLENCHING SO TIGHT
Remington’s Eyes: Lust. Want. Need. Claim Mate.
Brooke’s Vagina: ZOMG SO WET DRIPPING SOAKED PANTIES STILL CLENCHING
Melanie: Good thing your OCD makes you much too classy to hit that.
Brooke: You’re a slut, Melanie! I’m leaving!
Remington: Psh, TOTAL K.O. Gotta go see about a girl.
Brooke: Who’s sniffing me?
Remington: *growls* NAME.
Brooke’s vagina: SPLOOGE. CLENCH. SPASM.
Bimbette: EVERYONE IN HERE WISHES THEY WERE YOU, BROOKE! WE’RE A BUNCH OF WHORES AND SLUTS! YOU’RE SO LUCKY!
Melanie: Her name is Brooke Dumbass Dumas! Here is her phone number! I’m really invested!
Remington: *marks her while panting and growling and sniffing* You Brooke. Me Remington. Bye.
Brooke: WAH. HE PROBABLY WON’T EVEN CALL ME.

This is the entire BOOK. They hardly ever spend any time apart and so it’s scene after scene of him speaking in this husky, thick, hoarse, rough, guttural voice (lust!) and wearing low-slung sweatpants while she rubs his anterior deltoid or whatever, girl parts clenching (71 mentions of clenching in this book! SEVENTY ONE!). Or they’d be telling each other secrets with their eyes while they play each other songs that have Deep Lyrics that are Hella Trite (songs like Iris and Anyway You Want It? What? First of all, STOP. Second, who are these 24 year olds? They never listen to anything from the past decade!). Remington pants and salivates in her presence, and is always smelling her and his friends tell her how wild she makes him, prostitutes tell her how they’re really bad at their jobs because they can’t even get him hard because his dick only responds to HER now, he saved her from an egging and carried her off to loving nurse her “wounds”, he gets his fans to buy her red roses (GAH), and STILL she whines about how he doesn’t like her afterwards and how maybe she’s fat. GTFO. WHAT MORE DO YOU NEED?

Brooke: “Am I pretty?”
Everyone: YES!!

All of the secondary characters serve as foils for Brooke and Remington. The women are constantly re-affirming how classy and beautiful and smart Brooke is by giving her approving looks and constant compliments. They’re all described as sluts or whores except for one or two. No man is as big and muscular and hot and desirable as Remington. None of the fighters he goes up against, and certainly not any of his friends. Like Pete, Remy’s soul brother personal assistant.

“Do you have any brothers, Pedro?”
“Rem.”
My eyes widen and I can’t believe this little guy is going to surprise me again. “He’s your actual brother?”
“Not blood brother, hell, we don’t look anything alike! I’m like a book and Rem’s a bull! I don’t have blood brothers … my soul brother is Rem.”

MY eyes widened when I read the words “little guy”. Seriously? Why was that even necessary? I could’ve sworn he was described as tall initially. But OF COURSE Remington dwarfs him. And then, because everyone has to bow down, Pete has to chime in and talk down about himself? What?! He’s a…book? I don’t even understand what that means, to tell you the truth.

I’m so tired of these books that are nothing more than ruminating on how HAWT SAUCE the hero is. And it’s like every book tries to one-up the one before it. Oh, that guy was sexually abused? Well, if you think that’s sexy and tragic, wait until you see THIS guy! He’s BIPOLAR! Just line after line and page after page of descriptions of how mind-blowing his eye color, physique, penis, facial hair, cheekbones, etc, are. The guy can’t just be hot. He has to be SCORCHING. Every woman must melt at the sight of him, their panties sliding to the floor. None of these men have personalities, by the way. Everything is so centered on how good-looking they are and how fucking virile they are. Men want to be them, women want to be with them. Not a moment goes by that their magnificence isn’t remarked upon, it’s so draining. SO DRAINING.

So Remington’s a bull, eh? Well, now he’s a LION:

The man eats for three fully grown, hungry lions.

He has a blast up on the ring, and makes it appear like he’s a lion, and his opponent a mouse, and he’s just playing with it.

He scents the back of my ear. Then I feel his hand, scraping down my hair, softly petting me. His tongue follows, lightly lapping the place on my neck he bit in the shower. He drags it along the curve of my shoulders, my ear, awakening every inch of my skin. I feel like he’s a lazy lion, bathing me with his tongue, licking and nuzzling me.

Lions ain’t shit. Guy eats for THREE OF ‘EM. Take that! Seriously, why is this dude constantly smelling and licking her and saying things like, “You’re my mate and I claim you.” WHAT IS HAPPENING?! Not cute. I’m sorry, did I not notice that I was reading a paranormal romance? Is Remington Tate a fucking werelion? It sure would explain his constantly changing eye color which is supposedly because he’s Bipolar? Nope. You’re dumb. The way that mental illness was fetishized in this book was so disturbing. Absolutely shameful.

I’m not even going to get into the dwama with her baby sister and Remington’s foe, Scorpion (check my updates).
Or how horribly parents are depicted in this book.
Or the incredibly dumb ending that involves Remington in a hospital bed and Brooke writing him a sappy letter, telling him that she’ll alway think of him when she hears the song Iris.
And WHO edited this thing?

I’m gonna stop typing now because there’s just too much. Too much to talk about.

I’ll just leave you with this song:

description

Every guy here’d love to be you, Riptide
Even when taking your lumps
There’s no man in town as admired as you
You’re everyone’s favorite guy
Everyone’s awed and inspired by you
And it’s not very hard to see why

No one’s slick as Riptide
No one’s quick as Riptide
No one’s neck’s as incredibly thick as Riptide’s
For there’s no man in town half as manly
Perfect, a pure paragon!
You can ask any Pete, Coach or Riley
And they’ll tell you whose team they prefer to be on

No one fights like Riptide
Douses lights like Riptide
In a boxing match nobody bites like Riptide!
For there’s no one as burly and brawny
As you see he’s got biceps to spare
Not a bit of him’s scraggly or scrawny
That’s right! And every last inch of his face is full of hair!

-2409840938204320943423409832048320480932840932840932840932009228304928320943209840932840932840932093284320984098320932840932 stars

P.S. SRSLY, THIS IS THE WORST BOOK I HAVE EVER READ. It’s so offensive! I judge everyone who likes this, not even going to lie. SORRY I’M NOT SORRY.

For a black girl

A few years ago I took a creative writing course. It was an attempt to light a fire under me, since I had a habit of abandoning every story that I ever started. While I was writing, I was feeling a bit stuck… as usual. I knew that if I didn’t make it clear that my protagonist was black, that everyone would assume she was white by default. I wanted to make it clear, but I didn’t want to drum it into people’s heads (as you often have to do to get the point across). So I decided to acknowledge the race of the non-black characters. I received my assignment back with a line through the word white and a note on the side that read something like: “Unneccesary. We don’t need to know what race s/he is.” I waited until after class to speak with her about it, I asked her why she had crossed out the word white. I thought it was hypocritical; how many times had I read a story that defined its (secondary,) characters by their races? “The old black man”, and so on. Luckily, she recognized the fault in her white gaze and apologized.

I may not have been told the words, “White is right.” but I definitely knew it, from a very young age. How could I not? In all the stories I read people of color  were forever delegated to the background or were completely invisible. I was used to reading about white characters. I was used to watching them on my television set. I was used to seeing white people on the covers of ALL of the magazines. White was default. White was normal. White was the norm. White was beautiful. I grew up hearing things like: “You’re pretty for a black girl.” It was supposed to be a compliment, but it felt more like a punch to the gut. No matter how many times I heard that phrase, I never grew immune. It cut deep. It was evident that the standard of beauty was not someone who looked like me, and it angered me. It baffled me. I watched movies and television shows and willed people of color into being. I remember watching Boy Meets world and thinking, Shawn Hunter should date a black girl. And when he fell in love with Angela, my voice grew hoarse from yelling “Whaaaaaaaat.”. It had worked! When I read books I’d ignore descriptions and imagine characters as black. I craved color because the overwhelmingly white world that I lived in was just that. Overwhelming. I brownwashed to maintain balance.

I remember having a friend over to my house as a kid and coloring scenes from The Little Mermaid or some other popular Disney film. It would be twenty years before Disney produced a black princess but with the help of my trusty brown crayon (not even Burnt Sienna would do), I had that covered. There was something so satisfying about seeing a black Mermaid. And hell, she’d still have the red hair, just like my friend Carly who had dark skin like me and hair the color of a shiny penny. I remember asking a friend who was sleeping over, “Why are you using PEACH?” She had stayed true to the Alice in Wonderland that we were all familiar with. I was baffled, weren’t there enough white, blond haired, blue eyed Alices in the world? If you had a chance to make Wonderland reflect the world that you lived in, why wouldn’t you take it?

So back to the grindstone for me. I’ve been trying to focus on reading romances featuring characters of color, but I find that a lot of them are still written with the white gaze in mind. It’s soul crushing. It’s exhausting. I’m tired of reading what appeals to white readers. I’ve got a couple of stories that I’m working on featuring Black, Mexican and Korean main characters. I’m going to write what I want to read, and hopefully do it well.

City of Bones

Fifteen year old redheaded Clary Fray lives an ordinary (you could say mundane) kind of life in the not-hip-at-all neighborhood of Park Slope with her secretive single artist mom. Her father is dead, but she does have a sort-of uncle named Luke. She also has a male best friend named Simon who she insists on hanging out with, but then promptly ignores. Naturally, he is in love with her. Since she can’t be bovvered to pay attention to his bespectacled bottom unless another girl does, she doesn’t even notice. That rock solid friendship will be tested by Clary’s strong attraction to another boy. Oh, and there’s some stuff involving kidnappings and nephilim and demons and vampires and werewolves and warlocks and a million other things in there too.

The story opens at an all ages club that neither exists in this world nor any other world within a world. Anyway, it is at Pandemonium that Clary reaches clarity and jumps into the Fray. She sees Jace Wayland and siblings Isabelle and Alec Lightwood fighting demons! They are SHADOWHUNTERS, members of the Clave who are lead by a Council who sign Accords with Downworlders…okay, so I don’t know if it’s because it’s the first book in a series, but the amount of infodumping and otherworldlyness in this book was beyond. Oh, and boring. CoB is filled with embarrassingly awkward conversations in which someone casually monologues an excerpt from the Mythology Encyclopedia. Take this conversation, for example:

“Blackwell, don’t touch that-it’s valuable,” Luke said sternly.
The big redheaded man, who had picked up the statue of Kali from the top of the bookcase, ran his beefy fingers over it consideringly. “Nice,” he said.
“Ah,” said Pangborn, taking the statue from his companion. “She who was created to battle a demon who could not be killed by any god or man. ‘Oh, Kali, my mother full of bliss! Enchantress of the almighty Shiva, in thy delirious joy thou dancest, clapping thy hands together. Thou art the Mover of all that moves, and we are but thy helpless toys.'”
“Very nice,” said Luke. “I didn’t know you were a student of the Indian myths.”
“All the myths are true,” said Pangborn, and Clary felt a small shiver go up her spine. “Or have you forgotten even that?”

Doh! Tell him what he forgot! It’s almost as if they know Clary’s eavesdropping! Drop those crumbs, fellas! Spin that world! “Hey Luke, have you forgotten what NEPHILIM ARE?!”

Everyone is constantly translating things: “Hugin,” Luke said softly. “Hugin and Munin were Valentine’s pet birds. Their names mean ‘Thought’ and ‘Memory.'” Oookay. Jace (Cool J Loves Latin) even translates “Mea Culpa” at one point for Clary even though I’m pretty sure everyone knows what that means.

So Clary’s mom is kidnapped by some guy named Valentine and all she can think about is how Jace looked like a fair-haired angel from a Rembrandt painting, except for that devilish mouth. (She’s an artist!) Ah, yes. The requisite love triangle begins to take shape (actually it’s more of a quadrilateral). Clary thinks Jace is totes hot and Jace is extremely jealous of her friendship with Simon and Simon is obvs into Clary and Clary’s extremely jealous because Isabelle is paying attention to Simon but she still manages to completely forget he exists at times. Alec is giving Jace longing looks and is really mean to Clary! Isabelle dances with Simon at a party, and at one point Clary notes that he’s now Isabelle’s “responsibility”. The whole thing is just played up to the hilt to ensure the most angst possible. Jace and Simon’s desires are evident in small physical tics that Clary always picks up on and yet still manages to be oblivious about (she does manage to pinpoint Alec’s feelings immediately, though). Conflict conveniently crops up in the middle of heart to hearts. I lost count of how many times Simon was cut off, or Clary was cut off, or Jace. It was excessive. Even when Simon and Clary have an uninterrupted conversation they just speak cryptically and lay back to back on a bed? Nope! No one really communicates, they just crack bad jokes like champs. Speaking of jokes, Jace sounded like Simon who sounded like Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I got a huge Joss Whedon vibe from this book (as well as a Harry Potter one, natch), and as usually happens when someone bites off a huge chunk of someone else’s schtick, all you get is trite shit. I just kept thinking, “Man, you’re trying SO hard!” while I was reading this book.

The dialogue made me want to claw my eyes out.
“Was it weird, hearing from Jace?” asked Simon, his voice carefully neutral. “I mean, since you found out…” His voice trailed off.
“Yes?” said Clary, her voiced sharply edged. “Since I found out what? That he’s a killer transvestite who molests cats?”
“No wonder that cat of his hates everyone.”

NO.

I wasn’t quite sure where the cut-off was as far as what the Shadowhunters were privy to regarding mundane culture. One minute they’re befuddled by slang terms like “shotgun!” and then the next they’re saying things like: “Enjoy that new carriage smell.” Nope! And Simon and Clary are using words like laconic and going to poetry slams and Clary’s quoting Blake because of the Doors?

“Then you’ll see the world as it is-infinite,” said Jace with a dry smile.
“Don’t quote Blake at me.”
The smile turned less dry. “I didn’t think you’d recognize it. You don’t strike me as someone who reads a lot of poetry.”
“Everyone knows that quote because of the Doors.”
Jace looked at her blankly.
“The Doors. They were a band.”
“If you say so,” he said.

NO.

Oh, Clary. She’s the most speshulest snowflake ever. She goes from living a mundane kind of life to living a semi-charmed one. She comes out of every fight unscathed, and picks up on things the Shadowhunters have spent years perfecting. I mean, fucking really: She’d never thrown a weapon before, never even thought of throwing one. The closest she’d come to weaponry before this week was drawing pictures of them, so Clary was more surprised than anyone else, she suspected, when the dagger flew, wobbly but true, and sank into the werewolf’s side. Alec echoed my thoughts when he tells Clary : “But with no training, no nothing, you’re still not much use, are you?” Because training is kind of essential when throwing daggers mmmkay? But she’s so special and so smart and so artistic, she just figures it all out. And sometimes she and Jace just happen to find (view spoiler)

Then there’s little things like Clary’s voice “rising to a scream” twice in the space of two pages, or her shivering in every single situation. Two people flushing on the same page. The fact that there are little to no adults in this book, it’s like the worlds are peopled with fifteen year olds. And worst of all, the INCORRECT depiction of a butterfly kiss: It was a…quick brush of lips on skin… WRONG.

Here’s a Latin phrase that kept popping into my head when I was reading this book: Deus ex Machina. What does it mean, Jace?

Not my bag.

P.S. The movie looks SO BAD.

Cream

I continue to be surprised by how glorified (and fetishized) white skin is in romance. Most recently it was a (contemporary!) book where the heroine’s pale, pale skin tone is constantly noted upon by the hero. He’s so distracted and aroused by it that he says one point, “You’re so white…” and wonders in hushed reverence what it would feel like, and taste like and OH GOD. I read the book with an arched brow thinking, Pretty sure it’ll taste like skin. Relax, bro. When I read a scene like that, I come away with the conclusion that black folks aren’t the only ones with color issues. In all the romances that I’ve read (and I’ve read A LOT) pale skin is by far and away seen as more attractive than tanned skin, which is surprising to me as a California girl. I griped about it to my sister, B one day:

Me: Sometimes I get so tired of reading about white people. Le sigh.

B: I brownwash so I’m always shocked to find out a character is white. >.>

Me: HA! It’s hard to do that with the books I currently read, skin is always described as being so white, and people are always blushing. Lately I’ve been googling “multicultural romance PLEASE” for real. But I used to brownwash all the time.

B: I find it racist and disturbing that their white skin color would get so much description. There’s something wrong with that, I just know it.

Me: DUDE.

I share B’s sentiment. When pale skin is remarked upon so often, I feel like the writer is trying to tell me something. Is it code? Is the heroine classier by default? Is it a physical indication of her innocence and if so, what does that say about darker women? Are we not allowed to be innocent? Fuck that noise.

And then there’s hair color which is obviously a well used indicator in romance. Red hair tends to be attached to feisty heroines. Brown hair is boring and needs blonde and red highlights to be interesting. Saying that a woman is blonde basically means “hot as shit, naturally”. My husband told me a story recently: he works at a construction company and he overheard a handful of his male coworkers talking animatedly about a hot woman downstairs in the reception area. “Seriously bro, you need to go check that hottie out. She’s BLONDE.” Andy told me, “So obviously I had to check her out too, but not too obviously because I wasn’t a part of their conversation. Luckily I had to go downstairs “to do something” so I took the opportunity to swing by the front desk. All I saw was this haggard old woman with bleached hair. That’s who they were talking about!”

WHAT.

Don’t even get me started on eye color.

I need to read more books where physical descriptions don’t dominate the pages. I also need to read more books about brown people.

So it shall be done.

Trespass

Sarah has been on the run for three weeks when she stumbles onto Russ’ property in BFE Montana, hungry and wounded. He invites her to stay for as long as she needs to and doesn’t require any explanation for why she’s in her current predicament. Sure, it seems a little stupid (okay, a lot), but the guy doesn’t have a television or the internet. So there’s the entertainment factor. Also, Russ has been celibate for 7 years (since his wife died) and he’s immediately attracted to Sarah. Second, he’s a vet so he has that whole nurturing thing going on. Third (or fourth? whatever), and most importantly, Russ is THE BEST.

Honestly it just worked for me. Even with the initial lies, the stealing, and the whirlwind romance thing (less than a week, for true?), I just believed. I went with it: “Yep, that’s exactly what a person would do in your predicament!” I would justify. Maybe I was just so tired of reading about 6’3” thick-necked muscle men who growl their words that Russ in all of his beta glory left me dazed? It’s possible. If you couldn’t tell by now, I really dug Russ. He’s just wonderful. He’s sensitive without being emo, and he could be jealous and possessive, too, but oddly enough it didn’t bother me.

Sarah, on Russ: So handsome. Not movie-star handsome-the kind of looks that conked a girl over the head-but the sort that if a woman were attracted to the type of man Russ was, she couldn’t help but melt. And he wasn’t Sarah’s type, even, but she melted all the same. She was a lump of chocolate and Russ was a warm radiator.

I love how Sarah makes the first move with Russ, how she reaches out and takes what she wants. I mean, she shouldn’t have taken his watch and his money. That wasn’t cool. Much like Russ, though, I was a big ole pushover when it came to Sarah.

“I’m gonna say something real stupid now,” Russ announced, going perfectly still.
“Oh. Alright.”
“I’m pretty sure I’m in love with you.”

I hope they live happily ever after.

Tagged

Always and Forever by Farrah Rochon

Always and Forever is the story of Phylicia and Jamal who are first introduced in A Forever Kind of Love as the best friends of the protagonists (you won’t be lost if you haven’t read the first book). The story is set in Gauthier, Louisiana, the cutest little town this side of Stars Hollow: It looked like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting, with its brightly colored storefronts sporting striped awnings and hand-painted We’re Open signs hanging in the windows. Jamal hadn’t known towns like this still existed, especially with predominantly black populations.

Basically, I want to go to there.

Jamal is converting a Victorian home into a green B&B and needs Phil’s assistance as she is “one of the most sought after restoration specialists in the entire region”. Problem is that Phil wants nothing to do with Jamal. See, even though they both felt an immediate attraction and completely bonded at their best friends’ wedding, the next day Phil was like: “And you are?” Ouch. The reason why is completely believable and understandable, but I still felt for Jamal who is, by the way, THE BEST. He’s such a wonderful character. Sweet, sincere, sexy. And so sensitive!

“Good morning,” Jamal said.
“Good morning,” she answered and moved right past him.
Jamal closed his eyes and let his chin fall to his chest. So much for that.

He just drops nuggets like this one, making me swoooon:

“…I dread even going to the house in the morning, because it’s so damn hard to work near you and not touch you. To have you ignore me. Do you know how much that kills me?”

DUDE.

He also…plays the saxophone. I think I’ve watched The Lost Boys one too many times to find that romantic. All I can come up with is cornball. Other things that I quirked my eyebrow at: there’s a bit where “the thought of being mistaken for Phylicia’s husband didn’t scare him as much as he thought it would.” He and Phil are in ARIZONA to go to his sister’s wedding, two seconds after they started dating. So um, you’re in it to win it Jamal. Relax. If anyone should be scared it’s Phil. And Jamal’s actions were a bit too much to swallow at the end. Not that I didn’t get how he could be angry, but the level of anger raised these old eyebrows a bit. No worries though, I welcomed him back with loving arms.

Phil is just as swoon-worthy. She’s hard-working and strong and passionate. It was wonderful watching her finally let her guard down with Jamal. I loved that he didn’t try to solve all of her problems for her and that the obvious “easy fix” was never an option for either of them. Also? Her relationship with her mother brought tears to my eyes.

Love this book. So, so satisfying.

ALL THE STARS!!!!

Tagged

Night Hawk by Beverly Jenkins

Before I read Night Hawk I’d been holding out for a hero. I’d been holding out for a hero until the morning light. He had to be strong, and he had to ride his horse into a saloon and he had to have a Scottish brogue that he brought out on special occasions. Ian Vance aka Ian Bigelow aka Preacher? NAILS IT. He gets the job done. That is, when Maggie Freeman wasn’t taking matters into her own hands. She didn’t wait around for Ian to swoop in and save her, although she has no doubt that he would. They complimented each other perfectly and I loved watching them fall in love. I wish there had been more focus on the romance and less awkward info dumps, though.

“…I do most of the doctoring for the race around here, deliver all the babies too. Learned my doctoring during the war.”
“Where are you from?”
“South Carolina. Trained under Susie King Taylor.”
Maggie was unfamiliar with the name and it must have shown on her face because Lola explained. “Susie helped nurse the Black troops of South Carolina’s Thirty Third Regiment. She was fairly well known back during those days.”
…as Maggie listened she told how Susie’s family…escaped slavery on a Union gunboat and joined the Union Army. “She was about fifteen when the Yankee officers came to St. Simon Island to recruit soldiers. She was hired to be a laundress at first…

And it continues on from there, pulling me completely out of the story. Sure, I’d love to know more about Susie King Taylor and Big Nose George Parrot (holy crap!) and Jim Beckworth, but surely there was a way to be a little less obvious when introducing an Important Moment in History to a scene that has been running along so nicely, and I’m all invested.

All in all, a lovely book. 3.5 stars!

The Journal of Best Practices by David Finch

David Finch and his wife Kristen find themselves at an impasse after five years of marriage. He is not the man that she married, probably because he has a special gift for playing other people or “characters”. Luckily Kristen has a hunch – he has Asperger Syndrome – and therein lies the rub. This is why they have trouble communicating, why they’ve lost touch: Finch’s innate lack of empathy. So what’s the solution? Well, Finch’s love for his wife makes him want to be a better man, and while he goes about that process in a way that is a bit clinical, his aim is true.

The book was the perfect combination of hilarious and heartfelt. Finch has a way of detailing his compulsions that makes them hard to criticize because you’re laughing so hard. Make no mistake, I also cringed, but only before I burst out laughing again. It was immensely entertaining, although there was one point where I put the book down and didn’t pick it back up for weeks. Usually that means that I’m done, but when I picked it back up I was right back to being immensely entertained. One issue that I found with the book was Kristen’s lack of acknowledgement of her role in the crumbling of their marriage, or what I felt was her lack of acknowledgement. She says all of the right things in every situation, she talks about them each taking responsibility for their actions, and how they should be more communicative, but he really does all of the heavy lifting. And I guess that’s the point of the book? It’s his journey, after all.

This book was of special interest to me as my husband also had a late in life Asperger Syndrome diagnosis. I wasn’t expecting to understand my husband more by way of reading this book or to receive some sort of epiphany; I simply wanted to see certain aspects of our relationship reflected back at me, and that was extremely satisfying.

3.5 stars

Easy by Tammara Webber

Easy struck a chord with me; the depiction of college life felt authentic and brought back memories of dorm days and frat parties and mean rumors and heartbreak and The Games We Play. Of course there’s a lot of texting too, which don’t exist in my memories because I AM OLD. Pagers, anyone?

Jacqueline, the girl formerly known as Jackie, has been dumped unceremoniously by her boyfriend, frat boy and future politician Kennedy. Honestly, I’m surprised that she wasn’t expecting it. He did, at one point say, “You’re my Jackie.” It’s supposed to be this sweet sentiment like, “We’re meant to be.” But what I saw was: “You’re the wife that I’m gonna step out on.” Crushed, Jacqueline doesn’t want to get out of bed, and she certainly doesn’t want to go to Econ and sit next to her now EX Boyfriend. Fortunately for her, there is a guy with a lip ring, tattoos, and charcoal smudged fingertips staring at her from the back of the classroom just waiting to step in. Because when God closes a door he sometimes opens a window. So that hot guys can climb in and watch you sleep.

I liked Jacqueline. She’s smart, she’s kind and she’s a bad ass who doesn’t let herself get knocked around. Also? She plays the upright bass. Hell yeah. I didn’t entirely hate Kennedy and I appreciated that he wasn’t completely written off as scum. He lets his little head make important decisions which is dumb but also so like a guy, am I right? I felt like he truly cared for Jacqueline and it was nice to see a bit of his home life and his interactions with his siblings.

Lucas, of the lip ring and tattoos and charcoal smudged fingertips, is just mysterious enough. He’s got a pretty heartbreaking backstory. He’s obviously into Jacqueline, but he still manages to give her mixed signals and act like he couldn’t give a rip, which is also SO like a guy, am I right? In case you were wondering: Lucas>Kennedy. Lucas is HAWT. Which brings me to one of my issues with the story: I felt that it was incredibly weird (and lame) that while Jacqueline is having a very serious conversation about rape with a group of girls, that as soon as Lucas’ name is mentioned (he volunteers as a self-defense assistant) the girls get all silly and swoony and “He is SO yummy.” Which is SO like girls, am I right? But seriously, it completely threw off the tone of the moment.

All in all, Easy was a sweet story about finding love and finding yourself. For me, Lucas is hot sauce because he helps make Jacqueline stronger, he encourages her independence and he makes an awesome sacrifice for her. I really did enjoy this book, and I’ll probably re-read it a million times.

 

Back to the Good Fortune Diner

Tiffany Cheung has had a string of bad luck: she has no job, no apartment, and no car. She balks at moving back home and working at her parents diner – which is Good Fortune in name only, in her opinion. Not only do her family have a certain high standard that they expect her to live up to, but she has set some pretty high ones for herself as well. She doesn’t get a thrill from working in a diner like her brother, Daniel, saying to him at one point: “I hate that after all the work I put in, this is where I’m at. I was supposed to be an editor at a publishing house by now. But here I am, thirty-two and back living with my parents.”  But then she reconnects with Chris (high school crush) who hires her to tutor his son, Simon. And guess what? The crush is alive and well. There are goosebumps and sparks and racing pulses, oh my.

Okay, so it’s not as if I haven’t read this type of book thousands of times – former high school weirdo/nerd returns to small town and finally scores big with the quarterback hottie, yet Back to the Good Fortune Diner still managed to feel fresh. Not to mention refreshing. I’m not gonna lie – I get tired of reading about white people. The story resonated with me because I could understand not only how it felt to be the only (or one of few) POC in a predominantly white environment but also how it felt/feels to be an awkward individual in general. Sometimes being a combination of the two feels downright tragic (please watch The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl if you haven’t already). Tiffany’s self-preservation tactics tickled me; she’s crushing on Chris big time but gets all Ice Queen when she’s around him, giving the appearance that she couldn’t care less when that couldn’t be any further from the truth. He’s pretty popular with the ladies so watching him squirm was entertaining; his attempts at flirtation with her in the beginning are awkward but their initial interactions still manage to crackle with sexual tension. By the time Tiffany started letting down her defenses, I was relieved although not entirely convinced that she could loosen up so entirely around Chris in such a short period of time. But nevermind that, I quite enjoyed her “propositioning” him using kittens as bait. And that gravy/French fry scene? I actually clutched my pearls and said, “Dang.”

I completely bought Tiffany and Chris’ attraction, but the love? Not so much. It was too much, too soon. And don’t even get me started on Chris’ father, whose transformation from racist to introspective, empathetic human being was a bit of a stretch. How nice for Tiffany, that a well overdue talk down to a big bully magically relieved him of his ignorance. I wish.

Despite that, I still enjoyed Back to the Good Fortune Diner and hope to read more by Ms. Essex.

3.5 stars.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.