Archive for the ‘Grown-Up Lit’ Category


The Pitch:

Enter Intern: Chloe Mills.  Enter Executive: Bennett Ryan.  Proceed to HR disaster in the making.  And lots of sex…

The Pros:

Switching character POV, some pretty amazing one liners, smoking hot sex scenes.

The Cons:

Level of believability, the ending.

The Soapbox:

Full disclosure – I’m done with this entire series of books…ALMOST all of them.  I was so sucked in that I haven’t had time to review them until now.  While there are still – technically – three (?) of those “half” books left for me to read…I’m not gonna do it.  But I’ll save that reasoning for the review of Beautiful.

My Friend (with a capital F) is the one that convinced me to start this series.  She gave me that “first hit for free” with this one and now that I’m in official Beautiful Series Rehab I look fondly back on this book and how simple it all was at the start.  How much I liked Bennett and Chloe in THIS book.

Sure she’s kinda stupid for sticking around for as long as she did.  And sure – my prediction that things would get kind of boring once they realized they loved each other was 100% true.  And of course it still follows the tried and true method of all romance novels in terms of pacing – but it was a lot of fun.

It’s another one of those fanfiction done right kind of examples and I applaud the authors for that.  But as I sit here in Beautiful Series Rehab I can’t help but feel bittersweet about this book – the gateway drug.  If you just want to laugh about it check out MNAR.  If you want to follow me on my decent into romance novel rage…please keep reading the reviews.

The Breakdown 

Rating: 3.5 Stars – though I tend to lean toward four.

Reasoning: This book was the absolute perfect “initiation” book for me, and some of the sex scenes and one liners in this book still resonate – but the ending killed it.

Recommended For: Romance novel lovers, lovers of sass and strong female leads, Mommy’s who need a break from their lives!


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12924261I was very surprised to find out that one of my favorite books as of late, John Dies at the End, had a sequel coming out.

Not to be outdone by the first book in the series, This Book is Full of Spiders was full of absolutely mind-bending fun.  Rather than the rambling movement toward a terrifying conclusion that John Dies had, this book was a much more structured affair.  I use this term loosely, of course, because we have switching narrators, pages from fictional novels, posts from fictional blogs, and top-secret transcripts from conversations of military personnel.

It was comforting to see all the old characters back in pretty much the same shape as we left them.  It would appear that things in “undisclosed” haven’t changed at all since the terrifying events of the previous novel.  There is plenty of referencing of the previous novel, but enough explanation that a new reader might get what is going on.  But I am honestly of the opinion that if you are going to read a series you need to start it from the beginning.

Things escalate very quickly in this novel and never slow down.  Just when you think you have a handle on what is happening something completely disturbing and unsettling throws you right off the scent again.  I am still haunted by some of the imagery created and I finished this book weeks ago.

Just like the first novel there really isn’t a lot I can say about this book without giving away everything.  It is some of the strangest and yet most brilliant writing I’ve seen in a long time.  Every piece of the novel is strategic for the conclusion and so anything I say could potentially be a spoiler.  You definitely don’t want to have anything spoiled for you in this novel so I think I need to leave it at that.  Just read these books!  Not for the faint of heart but so worth it!

My Rating:  Five Stars

My Reasoning:  Absolutely satisfying sequel to the first novel.  How often can you say that?  Both hilarious and horrifying with enough twisting and turning that you never get bored.

My Recommendations:  Fans of cracked.com, fans of the first novel, anyone that can handle some horror and dick jokes.

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Ohh…you read that right.  There is a book with the title Wallbanger and it is worth reading!  I had all intentions of posting this review before the dreaded “singles awareness day”, but my lovely little 6 month old had other plans for me.  At any rate I finished Wallbanger the day after Valentine’s Day and have since been stewing and working on my review.

You see, dear readers, Wallbanger comes from an ever-increasing group of what I’m calling “fanfiction first authors”.  Like Cassandra Clare (Mortal Instruments), E.L. James (50 Shades), and apparently this Christina Lauren woman (Beautiful Bastard) – Alice Clayton was a very famous fanfiction author before her novels were published.  Said novels were also fanfiction first before having the names changed and being published.  You can read my…opinionated reviews on these authors at your own leisure, but know that I do not hold Alice Clayton in the same category as those other fine ladies.

I really like Alice Clayton.  She was always extremely nice to me in our email exchanges when Wallbanger was still a Twilight Fanfiction story.  She also had no pretenses of hiding the fact she intended to publish using different names.  Nor did she forget to thank the “banger nation” in her published novel.  In my opinion she played the game extremely well, and I have nothing but respect for that.

That being said, I still can’t help but feel on the fence about this whole “fanfiction first author” situation.  It’s not quite big enough to be gaining media attention but I feel like it might be changing the face of publishing.  Well at least publishing in the romance novel genre.  I have had conversations with my casual reader friends, my MFA friends, and even my husband and family and there doesn’t seem to be any kind of hot and fast reaction.  What initially seems like disgust soon turns into begrudging respect, and what is initially indifference soon turns into misguided dollar signs.  Just like the current state of Hollywood, anyone who isn’t a book/writing snob like me (self-proclaimed of course) seems to think I should be able to publish something because these women did.  The brutal truth is I wish I had something worth publishing – but mostly for the same reasons I wish I had anything worth publishing.  I want to be published, all writers do, but I think my hang up on the “fanfiction first author” publishing’s is this – it was fanfiction.

Fanfiction is something sacredly geeky.  It’s the place you can escape to when you need to geek out about your beloved fandom without being made fun of.  There is no judgment in fanfiction-land.  There is something for everyone…and I mean EVERYONE.  You can write about anything, you can make the characters do things you would never show to another soul, you can make all sorts of fandom’s intertwine and people BELIEVE it!  It’s this magical place where you can be your best self and no one will shame you.  Because even if someone does you just hide them and carry on in your own little world.

Having a novel that was beloved within fanfiction-land taken from us, doctored up for the mass media, and given (usually) a complete name change breaks that bond between writer and reader in this little world.  Most unfortunate of all once these stories make it on to the written page they are pulled, in their entirety, from the Internet forever.  I understand why this needs to happen but there is still a part of me that wishes I could go back and visit that story on the screen.  There is a strange, feverish, all encompassing feeling when you see that your favorite online story has been updated.  Perhaps knowing you can’t even reminisce of that by visiting the site anymore is what I miss most when these stories finally get to ‘the big show’.

All things considered I still really love Alice Clayton, and Wallbanger even more.  My friend and I would have an absolute conniption fit every time we received the email that it updated.  There would be a text message from one to the other with just one word: Wallbanger.  All other things in our life stood still while we would read the chapter and then spend the rest of the day texting back and forth what we thought.  It was a magical time.  I am happy to report that the same magic has been captured again on the page with this publication.

The only critique I have, which was the same with the online version, is the last third of the novel.  There is a bit of a pacing issue, as well as what I feel was forced drama for the sake of plot.  As well as a level of believability at the end that even I could not look beyond, but it’s a romance novel so I’m not going to even go there.  It is still a fantastic novel with authentic and likeable main and supporting characters.  There is a fantastic use of show not tell for all the settings, and wicked sharp humor.  And the banter….oh the banter.  Alice Clayton is a master of banter.  This novel will make you yearn fondly for the days of when you were wooed, or if you are single make you feel optimistic that decent guys still exist in this world.

I’m still not sure where I’m at with the “fanfiction first author” situation but if every author could have the same grace and talent as Alice Clayton I think publishing would be in a much better place.  Read This Book!

My Rating:  Four Stars

My Reasoning:  Other than what I perceived as pacing, drama, and believability issues at the last third still an excellent book.  The chemistry, the banter, and the writing are absolutely swoon-worthy.  Must read for a steamy little treat.

My Recommendations:  Single and taken ladies that need a little fire and romance in their life.  Wallbanger is just what you didn’t know you were looking for.

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I wasn’t going to read this series.  Was not even remotely interested in it.  I’d heard about it, read an article that was absolutely tearing it apart for what it was about, seen the SNL skit, but I still just wasn’t interested enough.  Of course, all it takes is one suggestion from a friend and I decide otherwise.  But, this time I’m almost regretful that I did read it after a friend recommendation; mostly because it saddens me that I can’t share in my friend’s excitement over the series.  After the media circus that has erupted over this book, and the many (many) conversation starters that I could have about this book – in the end I didn’t like it because it just wasn’t very good.  Not because of the content, not because of the scandal, not because of the questionable media coverage…it just wasn’t good.  Here’s why:

1.  It reeked of Twilight fanfiction.  I know there have already been numerous articles written in criticism about the origins of this story being fanfiction – that’s not really my issue.  If an author is able to take something she/he wrote as fanfiction and turn it into something marketable more power to them (worked out for Cassandra Clare), publishing is an awful beast that is being run by the masses these days anyway.  MY ISSUE is that after making it through an online publication and a professional edit to be released as a ‘real’ work of fiction I, as the reader, shouldn’t be able to tell it was EVER fanfiction.  That is just not the case with this story and that was insufferably frustrating to read…for 500 pages.

2.  It never graduated to anything substantial.  Perhaps because it is just professionally edited fanfiction that is the reason that this story was lacking – but I think its just bad writing.  If there is going to be 500 pages of story something pretty epic better happen.  There should be some kind of universal truth revealed; there should be some kind of hero’s journey, or Jesus…even a character arch.  None of that happened.  The characters remained almost exactly the same from the beginning of the story to the end.  The settings and situations of the story remained almost exactly the same from beginning to end.  If there WAS a theme…I couldn’t find it, and it was never developed by the end of the story.  This story never graduated to anything an actual piece of fiction would have manifested into and that made it boring and repetitive fanfiction.

3.  The main character went from forgettable to unlikeable.  Now if you are basing your character development off of Bella Swan you basically have a blank slate to work with – she is one of the most awful female heroines I’ve seen written in a long time.  The author was able to take that blank slate and make her character, Ana, into someone at least forgettable.  I didn’t hate the girl, but her stereotypical clumsiness and lack of conviction and self-confidence about anything made me not like her either.  She was forgettable – her friend Kate was much more interesting to read and sadly barely makes an appearance throughout the marathon of this story.  Yet, as Ana is put through her paces by Christian she goes from forgettable to completely unlikeable by the end of the story.  She was reduced to some horrible jealous harpy that cannot let his past go and continually goads and provokes his temper and moods and yet is confused and upset by his reactions.  In other words the author takes a seemingly normal girl, introduces her to sex, and this event transforms her into a bitch.  When with female authors realize that MOST woman don’t want to read this?  It is just perpetuating the idea that women are needy bitches, and authors continue to lose an amazing opportunity to write about a strong female character that is sexually confidant and mentally stable.

4.  This is a story about mental illness shrouded by BDSM.  You get about 50 pages into the book and realize that Christian Gray is mentally ill.  Not in a ‘haha – yeah we all are’ but as in he has bi-polar disorder with aggressive tendencies and a problem with personal boundaries.  He is a crazed stalker that has so much money he’s used to getting exactly what he wants.  If you peel away all the kinky sex that is happening in this book you realize it’s about the fallout of child abuse.  Which would actually be interesting to read, but that is continually swept under the rug by the author.  You can’t even be mad at Christian Gray for being so mentally ill because he’s going to therapy and supposedly taking drugs for his issues.  He’s doing the best he can with the horrible cards that were dealt to him.  But the author keeps bringing it up throughout the story as a way to distract the reader from realizing that is the ONLY legitimate storyline happening.  Basically, what I’m trying to say is that if you take away Christian’s back story that is teased throughout the 500 pages you’re just reading porn.

5.  The availability of this book is troubling to me.  I’m not saying this book should be banned, but I do think this book should have a warning.  I’m also not so naïve to know that if a teenage girl wants to get her hands on this book she will.  Honestly I’ve read A LOT worse on fanfiction sites than this book can provide and that is not regulated at all.  But, I think that by having this book easily accessible to teenage girls and boys is setting a bit of a scary precedence for me.  I remember having conversations with my grown friends about how I don’t think 11 year old girls should be allowed to read Breaking Dawn without speaking with a parent about it, or how my niece in the 4th grade probably shouldn’t be reading Goblet of Fire until she had a better understanding of evil and death.  If we are putting this book out on the shelves at Target then what are we saying to pre-teen girls whose parents don’t care enough to know what they are reading?  I’m always a firm believer that parenting should come first, you NEED to know what your children are reading.  But if you’d have to input your birth year onto an online site to read about the stuff happening in this book (which doesn’t deter teenagers anyway), then why isn’t there ANY kind of regulation when it comes to the print version?  I don’t have an answer…it just worries me that if we let this one go what will be next?

In the end I didn’t like this book because it was poorly written.  My suspension of disbelief over what this girl accomplishes sexually over the course of two weeks after being a virgin was just shattered.  The only reason people are talking so much about this series is because of the KIND of sex that they are having and quite frankly it was more unbelievable than shocking to me.  Maybe that says something about me, but honestly some of the mechanics of what was going on was just laughable and distracting.  Smut written for smut has its place and I welcome it in its place.  Writing a 500-page novel and trying to pass it off as fiction is not where smut lives.

I actually groaned when I realized I’d already told my friend I’d read the next one in the series.  I just don’t know if I have the patients to slog through and skip over another 500 pages of nothing.  I hope these books are printed on recycled paper because honestly it wasn’t worth the trees we killed for the ink.

Rating:  Two Stars

Reasoning:  Interesting enough in the first 150 pages, almost unreadable in the last 150 pages.

Recommended For:  No one really, but if you need something to talk about on coffee breaks than I guess…

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     I’m not really one to go for these high concept novellas…or graphic novels…or whatever this is, but a friend of mine put it into my hands and I thought, ‘What the hell.’

In order to expand your mind you have to live outside your comfort zone sometimes, and it was nice to take a break from all the paranormal YA stuff I’ve been reading lately.

This was a really quick read, I finished it in about an hour, it was mostly art, the prose was sort of free forming and metaphorical.  There was a big overarching theme of ‘the other’ in all the pieces, and a fair amount of nudity for what I’m assuming was shock value.

If you’re going to write about ‘the other’ it usually tends to aid your point when you make the reader feel uncomfortable – so that was accomplished.  I can’t really say that I enjoyed the book.  I appreciated it, I respected it for the art that it was, but there was only one ‘story’ that I found worthy of the whole experience and that was “Lucky House”.  There was an incredible feeling of regret and yet a burning for freedom and recognition throughout the piece that I enjoyed.  The artwork for it was also beautiful and telling.

Growing up in Santa Clarita, home to CalArts, I’ve seen my share of what I like to call ‘art for arts sake’.  I would NEVER dream of calling myself an art anything really.  I know what I like, and usually it’s pretty tame.  But I can appreciate the creation of art, the process, the love that people have for it, and their interpretation of it.  That being said this wasn’t really my ‘kind’ of art, but I appreciated the gesture.

Final Score: Two Stars

Reasoning:  While the composition was excellent and “Lucky House” was memorable the majority of the work seemed to be leaning more toward shock value than actual story telling or art.  Not that shock value isn’t a form of art – it’s just not the kind of art that I’m into.

Recommended For:  Art fans, people into shock art, things like that.

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So I have this favorite website of mine, you might have heard me mention it quite a few times already it’s called cracked.com

Cracked has an amazing host of authors that are posting geektastic articles about everything a nerd like me would want to read – dinosaurs, cartoons, video games, zombies and how to combat idiots.  Needless to say I’ve wasted many hours on this website and I love to support places that give me that much joy.

A while back they were promoting the hell out of a book written by one of their own, John Dies at the End, so I tucked that thought away and vowed to buy the book when I had the chance.  Turns out that chance was this past month and I’m…speechless.

I really don’t know how to write a review about this book.  I really don’t.  I even did research about this trying to jog any vein of thought to get me going but I’m still completely stumped.  The best I could come up with is genre-bending humor horror novel.  Does that help?  Didn’t think so.

Let me start from the beginning.  This book is an internet success – huge bonus points from me on that front – so huge in fact that “David Wong” (aka Jason Pargin) was contacted by a publisher to have it translated from zeros and ones into dead trees for profit.  It’s estimated that over 70,000 people have read it online.  Read that again – 70,000 PEOPLE HAVE READ THIS ONLINE.  Does that make me a schumck for buying it…not at all.  I’m all about supporting writers that deserve it and David Wong deserves it.  Not just because he’s the editor in chief at Cracked, not just because he’s an Internet superstar, not because the movie rights were bought up by Don Coscarelli and Paul Giamatti and it’s going to be released in 2012 – he deserves every discounted Amazon penny I spent because he wrote one hell of a book.

I have to say when you have two anti-hero’s, a talking dog, an “undisclosed” location to protect the reader (lol), mixed with unchecked guy humor and peppered with some very unsettling back-story and bad guys – I’m so in.  I honestly would rather read around 400 pages of dick jokes and the phrase “farting softly” repeated far too often to some of the god-awful YA love triangle BS I read most of the time.  Did I mention the disturbing back-story?  It’s the kind of disturbing back-story that makes you really question the validity of the main character, Dave, and yet still love him and all his tortured anti-hero angst all the same.  John, the one who dies at the end, keeps everything decidedly light in the face of pure evil as he rants about his penis size and builds weapons out of pretty much anything.  Factor in Molly the wonder dog, a drug nicknamed ‘soy sauce’ that could potentially make you a super genius while on it, and a crazy time bending adventure to Vegas just in the first half of the book and you’re starting to see the tip of the ‘hellmouth’ of this novel.

It was smart and filled with so many hilarious tropes that I wanted to punch him in the balls (in a good way), with a mythology that I’ve never really seen before.  Of course there was a big baddy (would it be a horror novel without one?) but the big baddy really took a backseat to all the other outrageous horrors that were going on to get there.  I really want to talk about it but I’m afraid that if I do I might spoil something.  Everything is woven, sometimes dizzyingly, together into a story that comes off as sloppy in the beginning but quickly cinches up at the end with a very unsettling normalcy.

The best way I can describe this book is all the snarky awesome of Buffy mixed with the stoner wisdom of Kevin Smith, a handful of dick and fart jokes, and some of the most terrifying images of demonic anything I’ve ever read.  It’s unsettling and hilarious, graphic and juvenile, heartwarming and brain scratching, but most importantly it’s entertaining as hell.  There was not a moment while reading where I thought I should be reading something else.  I took the red pill and held on for dear life with this book.  Read it.


Final Vote:  5 Stars

Reasoning:  Took me completely by surprise and never ceased to disappoint.  As the book goes on the story digs deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole created and it takes everything within you not to just scan the pages to see what’s going to happen next.  Horrifying, hilarious and highly recommended!

Suggested For:  I would say everyone but certainly NOT for the faint of heart, or the super religious.  There is a lot of disturbing demonic stuff going on in this book that might offend – but if you’re like me that’s pretty much all the more reason to read it.  I love me a snarky demon running a dystopian horror show.

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People love the bejesus out of this book and for the life of me I cannot understand why.  Is it because this guy wrote The Remains of the Day about….twenty years ago?  Is it because it has won an ungodly amount of awards?  Is it because it was made into a movie that no one saw?  I just can’t wrap my mind around why this book has won so much praise because it bored me to tears almost the entire time I was reading it.  It was a struggle to get through this book, but I was determined to finish it just so I could validate to myself that reading Young Adult fiction is just as good as all this “literature” that everyone thinks I should be reading. 

*****spoiler alert***** If you don’t already know the point of this book, which I don’t see how anyone couldn’t, you should not read any farther and just look at the break down at the bottom. *****spoiler alert*****


How could you take a topic as awesome as human cloning for the purpose of organ harvesting from young adults and turn it into a two hundred page yawn-fest?  I kept trying to give it the benefit of the doubt but it was just so fricking boring…

They spend a lot of time at a school like this:

Doing nothing but speculating about the mundane and boring things that most Jr. High and High School students speculate about.  The author continues to linger on these unexciting and seemingly inconsequential moments for the characters for pages upon pages.  Somehow the idea that the students were living out the melodramatic trials of serial dating overshadowed the fact that a teacher (excuse me I should use the ‘English’ term – Guardian) flat out told them there were all going to die before reaching their mid-twenties because they were just bags of organs waiting to be harvested!  Why?!  How?!  Could you go about your normal high school business if a teacher had told you that?!

It doesn’t get any better once they move to dilapidated houses such as these:

There is also this ‘significant’ scene that takes place at some nameless English beach about the bitchy character thinking she’d found the person they cloned her from – turns out not so much – but that ate up about 40 pages of this novel.  40 pages.  Maybe I’m exaggerating but it felt like that and the narrator goes back to that moment so many times in her aimless wandering through her thoughts that it was probably more like half the book.

The narrator can never finish a thought.  Almost every chapter starts out with.  ‘Tommy and I were having a laugh down at the countryside about beetles, but I’ll get to that later.’  Oh…she gets to it later, about halfway through the chapter, but not until she lets me know that once time they were sitting somewhere and a beetle passed by and they both laughed for hours about it under the foggy English rain.  Did that seem entirely counterproductive?  Welcome to this book.  *deep breath*

It doesn’t help that the narrator is also constantly driving places in her car and sees stuff like this and has an instant flashback:

The whole book is told in flashback and then there are flashbacks within flashbacks.  Nothing gets interesting until the very end and even that is so anticlimactic I decided maybe I should harvest pages from the middle of the book just to do the idea justice. 

At the climax of the book she isn’t bothered by the fact that once they hunt down people that used to work at their school they are basically told that A) people find them creepy because they are clones B) they were lucky to have been brought up ‘civilized’ because at least they weren’t forced to live in ‘shadows’ until they were murdered for their body parts C) everything they had been told in school was a well crafted lie and D) none of it matters because no matter what they’re going to die and the program is going to continue.  Her and her friend/lover/client(her job is to take care of him after he ‘donates’) just get back into the car and drive away.  Then of course he goes out into the muddy fields and screams for a bit, he’s the only character that seems to give a damn about his predestined fate and then they go back to the secret hospital that they live in.  Next the boyfriend/client tells her that he’s basically resigned to his fate and he doesn’t want her to be around for when they clean him out like a pool in spring.  So she lets him go and receives her notice that her time has come.  Notice what I did there – nothing that clever happens in this book.  Not even once.

At this point everyone she knows is dead, their bodies just empty shells because they have been given the once over, she knows exactly what happened to them because it was her job, she knows she will be resigned to the same fate soon and yet none of that bothers her all that much.  She just sits in her car thinking something like,

‘English countryside, English cottages, at least I got to have sex with the one guy, English countryside.’

I’ve now saved you the trouble of having to read this book.  Perhaps the movie will be better.  I’d hope so because at least the cinematography will be well utilized for this script.  Also – I do not suggest looking up organ harvesting in Google image search – won’t sleep tonight – thanks again Google!  That was the most frightening thing that I saw while reading this book and it didn’t happen until after I was done.


Final Vote:  1 Star 

Reasoning:  I’d like to say that I felt different or even unsettled by the nature of the content of this novel but I wasn’t.  The narration style and execution on this idea were underutilized.  The drama was non-existent and the characters left little to connect with.  Overall it was just pages of ramblings about nostalgia from someone who wasn’t even allowed to know what real nostalgia felt like tied up with a sloppy bow of social commentary.  This would have been better as a very short story, maybe an article, maybe a blurb in the news, but these two hundred pages were not the best way to tell the story of this very interesting idea.

Suggested For:  No one.  Honestly I’m sure that people love this book for their own reasons but I’m not going to suggest this for anyone.  Maybe an enemy – but they’d be smart enough to stop reading after the first ten pages, unlike me.

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