I finished this three days ago. To log it in Goodreads I had to find my notes to remember the title, then look it up to remind myself of the storylineI finished this three days ago. To log it in Goodreads I had to find my notes to remember the title, then look it up to remind myself of the storyline. A very forgettable mystery with an ineffective hook. The main character is supposed to run a dime store, but its stock and uses don't jive with the feel of the dime store motif. Also, the owner spends most of her time making expensive, designer gift baskets, which sounds very much like what the author would have preferred to write about instead of dime stores. Lastly, the chapters occasionally switched from first to third person for no apparent reason, making it seem like the publisher was more interested in meeting a deadline than following the basic laws of the English language. Pass....more
Amen. How great to have a plus - size female sleuth? There is no attempt at preaching, food, or body-shaming in this mystery, and the long tradition oAmen. How great to have a plus - size female sleuth? There is no attempt at preaching, food, or body-shaming in this mystery, and the long tradition of women in mysteries being dames, dishes, or dolls definitely benefits from a much needed progressive update. Bonus points for including but not over emphasizing the green cat and handling a wheelchair - bound character with dignity. I look forward to blitzing through the rest in the series....more
Abandoned at page 15. The main character is a handwriting analyst with a psychology background. At the funeral of a friend who committed suicide she dAbandoned at page 15. The main character is a handwriting analyst with a psychology background. At the funeral of a friend who committed suicide she declares, unforgivingly, that committing suicide is purely a selfish act. Done. Game over. I couldn't continue the book. Anyone who analyzes mental behavior, normalcies, and illnesses as their profession would have a better, more intelligent, and clinical understanding of what suicide really is. The author may believe that suicide is selfish, but if she wants us to believe in her character, the comment should have been very different....more
This was a fun kickoff to a new series set in a London millinery store. The hats were memorable, and I learned something about the process of making hThis was a fun kickoff to a new series set in a London millinery store. The hats were memorable, and I learned something about the process of making hats. The author worked in that knowledge without it seeming teachy. I have already picked up the second in the series. A breezy break from the overload of food-based, quilt-based, overly gentle cozies out there. Long live the Queen!...more
I feel I do not know enough southern slang to cuss this novel out the way I would like. This debut in a mystery series succeeded and failed in fits anI feel I do not know enough southern slang to cuss this novel out the way I would like. This debut in a mystery series succeeded and failed in fits and starts. For example, by page 52 Chase STILL hadn't indicated where the story was set; I had to Google a couple of rivers mentioned in the text to figure that one out. This novel also suffered severely from what I call CCC, or Cozy Compassion Conundrum, where all the characters in a cozy mystery are so friendly to one another and bake and serve drinks all the time that were this the real world, they would all glom on to each other like ping pong balls covered in gorilla glue, and then implode into a black hole due to dessert-induced diabetes, alcoholic stupor, and the sheer inappropriate weirdness of loving their neighbors far more than one should.
The romance and the mystery both suffered from Chase's adherence to CCC as well. The police chief, recently returned from war overseas, is both traumatized by his experience AND effortlessly charming and not bothered by it at all. And the mystery, well, after spending an entire novel fleshing out the beloved townfolk, Chase is too reluctant to cast any of them as the culprit.
I've heard many positive things about Chase, so I might give her another try. Heavy on the "might."...more
This was a much livelier mystery and more on par with the debut of the series. Some of the references to the author being collected in each book stillThis was a much livelier mystery and more on par with the debut of the series. Some of the references to the author being collected in each book still feel forced, like they were shoved into the narrative with a shoehorn, but the action was more interesting and left me feeling like the next entry in the series might be enjoyable....more
The second entry in the Book Collectors series fell far short of the debut. Not including the employer and the cook in the plot to the same degree lefThe second entry in the Book Collectors series fell far short of the debut. Not including the employer and the cook in the plot to the same degree left the mystery seem floaty and unhinged. The attempt at flavoring everything a la Sayers didn't work as well as the debut's mimicry of Agatha Christie. Still enjoyable enough to kill time, but a lesser success than the first....more
This was a fun debut from mother-daughter team Victoria Abbott. The premise was slightly different from other cozy mysteries, if a bit unbelievable. SThis was a fun debut from mother-daughter team Victoria Abbott. The premise was slightly different from other cozy mysteries, if a bit unbelievable. Some of the characters, such as the cook, were delightful, and the four-legged critters were as well. Enjoyable enough to keep reading the series, but not engaging enough to have me waiting with baited breath....more
24 hours have passed since I finished this book. I've spent a fair amount of time thinking about how to approach writing a review, and I've come to th24 hours have passed since I finished this book. I've spent a fair amount of time thinking about how to approach writing a review, and I've come to the conclusion that this book deserves an autopsy instead. The structure and narrative flow of WTCB could have made this a pretty clever YA novel, and I'm fairly sure that so many people have raved about this book because of those qualities. However, the juvenile, horny, wish fulfillment that is Cullen Witter, and the author's deplorable, degrading, and irresponsible depiction of women and girls absolutely negate any interesting plot devices. Since I'm presenting a dissection of this corpse against hundreds of positive reviews, a William C. Morris Debut Award, and a Printz Award, I'm going to clinically lay out the blunt force traumas.
I'll start with some of the women.
Woman 1: Dead body (p. 1) Woman 2: Cullen's mom, who cries (p. 2), and cries (p. 4) Woman 3: Aunt Julia, Oslo's mom, who Oslo guilts into making "her forget that she failed to raise him right" (p. 3). She cries (p. 4) and in her guilt about how Oslo turned out "rambled on and on about wanting to die" (p. 4). And cries, "could barely utter a sentence without bursting into tears (p. 28), and cries "Julia is wailing from her metal folding chair" (p. 18) AND cries "'Is she ever going to stop?' I asked Gabriel" (p. 19). And, what's that? Oh yeah, she cries "Aunt Julia down the street with her screaming and crying" (p. 31). Woman 4: Ada Taylor, Cullen's object of lust, who is given "black widow" status after two of her boyfriends die (p. 6). However, all the males in town are still in lust with her due to the belief that "If I have to die to get that, then death it is" (p. 7) Woman 5: Libby Truet, Gabriel's best friend. As Gabriel is the most angelic character in the novel, she, by default, is the least offensive female depiction. However, her character is only mentioned twice. Woman 6: Mena Prescott, Lucas' girlfriend, who Cullen barely tolerates and would like more if she behaved differently, see below (p. 11). Woman 7: Benton's date, "little" Susie: "I have this on good authority, little Susie was seen kissing and hanging all over that pathetic and sinful kid of Stanley Baker's." Benton later realizes: "He couldn't be with some skanky girl like that. He was better than that" (p. 67). Woman 8: Vilonia Kane, proclaimed psychic (p. 104) who is portrayed to be a nut.
The nobleness of male characters by how they treat women:
Lucas: "He smiled at the pretty girls but always managed to say something nice or sweet to the not-so-pretty ones" (p. 5). This results in girls being able "to feel good about herself for maybe the only time that day she had a huge zit on her cheek" (p. 5) "Lucas pretended to love her [Mena Prescott] as much as she thought he did. But it was all bull, really" (p. 12). Cullen shows tenderness and comfort to his brother Gabriel: "pats his back several times, like he's hugging and old woman at church" (p. 32).
Their lives could have been better, but it's all their fault:
"If Sara Burch would have ignored the boys in fifth grade when they called her a bookworm, then she might not have become the glorified slut she is today" (p. 8) "I call this the Pretty Paradox. Pretty girls always want guys who treat them, and almost everyone else, like complete shit. It is perhaps one of the most baffling phenomena in history" (p. 9) "She [Mena Prescott] also made me uncomfortable by always hugging on me or kissing my cheek, always doing something that I assume she thought I would find flattering or sexy, but instead just found annoying and offensive" (p. 11). "I also hated her [Mena's] accent...hearing her voice made me ashamed to be human" (p.11). Lucas' sibling is dead, but it is presented as "Since his mother couldn't stop one child from getting drunk and driving into oncoming traffic on the interstate, he had to suffer the consequences" (p. 30) Lucas' mother, "let her husband hit her two small children, so I never really took the time to know her" (p. 119). Ada telling Cullen she needs to go back to a previous boyfriend who is paralyzed, "I owe it to him," "It's my fault, any way you slice it" (p. 178). The boyfriend had been in a completely different state when the accident happened.
All the teen girls are shown as sexual deviants:
"Mena Prescott had a past that did not involve innocent, good-natured boys like Lucas" (p.13). The description continues on the next page, illustrating that in her past she has made drunkenly made out with drug users before realizing they were losers (p. 14). And they can be procured, like buying produce: "That's right. The one, the only [Alma Ember]. Oh yes, my friend, she's all yours" (p. 48). "I had decided that even if Ada Taylor was showing me attention and affection purely because she felt sorry for me, I was still madly in love with her" (p. 100).
Despite having close to no visible redeeming qualities, all the girls Cullen finds attractive perform for him sexually, almost immediately after he realize he wants them:
"R-rated moment with Laura Fish" (p. 33) Alma, after saying no more than hello to Cullen, begins to kiss him and bite his ear (p. 52). Cullen uses the word "cannibalize" (p. 52). Cullen fantasizes that this will lead to "mediocre sex with a used-up college dropout [Alma] who does nails on the weekend for extra cash" (p. 52). Other characters also comment on the immediate performance: "She was ready to take you home," "She was over you all night," "She must really be desperate" (p. 53). Alma pity performs for Cullen after his brother disappears. He takes her to the same place he had sex with Laura Fish and she jumps him so vigorously his back digs into a rock and he requires stitches (p. 61). After returning from the hospital he ends up in Alma's bed where "she showed me what being a good wife had taught her" (p. 61). When Alma's mother finds him in Alma's bed, "She leans down, kisses him on the forehead, and continues on with her vacuuming" (p. 61).
Women can't handle things things men can:
After Gabriel disappears, Cullen's mom "decided it was appropriate to pretend to be okay...in the hopes that Gabriel would reappear just as easily as he had vanished" while "My father, on the other hand...talked to sheriff's departments all over the state" (p. 70). "It was the nine-week mark when my mother stopped doing things. Things like buying bread and milk. things like showering or brushing her teeth." Cullen's father steps in and handles his mother's business. "My dad remained patient. He calmed her down" (p. 171).
Lastly, women should be honored by the presence of their men:
"'You're a jerk,' she [Ada] said. 'I'm [Cullen] the nicest guy you've ever met, and you know it'" (p. 130). She then sleeps with him.
As an added bonus, the novel is set in the town of Lily, which is set upon and invaded by numerous woodpecker fanciers, but she, the town, should be GRATEFUL for the invasion because of all the things it will bring to her. And during the Woodpecker Festival we are treated to a rhapsodic interlude between a boy and his corn dog: "There is a certain uniqueness to a festival corn dog...of hunger built up from maneuvering around the crowd. I like my corn dogs bare and thrown nonchalantly into a paper sleeve. I like to see how fast it takes me to talk myself into a second or a third one."
I'll leave out too much of a lecture on how reading and books are inescapably linked to education and intelligence, and what it means when our tools for learning depict and portray girls and women in this manner. While some of the instances in this book could be chalked up to the ways the characters think and not how the author thinks, the sheer volume of instances prove that this is a pervasive, systematic, and all-encompassing world view in this novel, a view seen fit by multiple acclaimed book awards to be worth celebrating....more
I think that unusual narrative devices often result in critics thinking something is highly literary despite large, sucking chest wounds elsewhere inI think that unusual narrative devices often result in critics thinking something is highly literary despite large, sucking chest wounds elsewhere in the work. Fountain here uses a stream of consciousness narrative to portray a few short days in the life of Billy Lynn, Iraq War hero and PTSD soldier. In select passages SoC works incredibly well to illustrate how vets may think about war and how they might interact with oozingly patriotic, everyman Americans who like to quote news terms and choose not to think intelligently and comprehensively about the nature of war.
My biggest issue with this novel is that one cannot base an entire work on a couple of well-written sentences. Over the course of 307 pages the SoC horrifyingly illustrates that almost nothing is happening in terms of plot, and that all the author's time spent in Billy's head has left all but a few of the other characters stuck in a 2D world. Part of Bravo squad, a group of 10 soldiers who were stuck in a firefight, each of the remaining 9 non-Billy characters becomes interchangeable and largely forgettable, defeating the author's own purpose of making the experience of war intimate and psychological.
It does not take long to start hating being in Billy's head, and hoping that he will find a way out as well becomes increasingly worse as it quickly becomes apparent that nothing is happening and the narrative is not moving forward.
As for the novel being accessible to a wide range of readers, I'm left wondering who I would recommend this to at all. Many female readers might not be interested in a novel that focuses on an all-male military unit, the lead up to a football game, the football game, the leaving after a football game, and a bunch of aging, balding, rich men talking about Ponzi Hollywood movie schemes. Many vets are, perhaps, not looking for a book that will help them intensely remember the feeling of war and loss, so I'm left thinking that only non-military men who are bitter about the Iraq wars are perhaps the only interested readership.
Lastly, the depiction of women in this novel is a fairly strong reason for me to advocate against recommending this book to readers.
When a love interest does arise for Billy, she is an uber-supportive Dalls cheerleader whose patriotism is so ebullient she orgasms on the main character within minutes of meeting him. That, through the course of a football game, Billy would get this girl to declare her love and say that she will wait for him when he goes back to Iraq is disgustingly stupid and insulting to the whole gender. While Fountain's point may have been that male soldiers get into a certain pattern of thinking about women, that does not explain that the other female characters in the novel are Billy's mother (an abused drunk) and sister (disfigured from a car accident, yet he still finds her sexually attractive). In this book, Fountain, or at least Billy, finds women to only be sex objects, inferior characters, or incestuous sex objects.
I'm all for more books that explain the horrors of war. Perhaps some day we can understand what it is truly about through means other than explosive and firearms. Except for a few truly good sentences, this book has far more to discredit it than recommend it, and it is not the novel I would use to explore the natures of war and peace....more
What was most likely quite the exciting caper when it happened was turned into one of the least exciting nonfiction works I've ever read. Any interestWhat was most likely quite the exciting caper when it happened was turned into one of the least exciting nonfiction works I've ever read. Any interest in this book was due to the facts presented, and not at all due to the writing itself. Perhaps Crosby was concentrating on presenting research more than entertaining the reader, but there was no happy medium. ...more
Rarely do you find a book whose story can legitimately justify every word. I don't think Wein's story has a single syllable that isn't necessary to thRarely do you find a book whose story can legitimately justify every word. I don't think Wein's story has a single syllable that isn't necessary to the story. The text reads brilliantly, not only as an exercise in narration, but as a work of art as well. I could not trip over myself fast enough to gobble up the story, while at the same time luxuriating in the details, the characters, and the history of the novel. Yet while so much of the reading built me up with suspense, I'd love to read this novel again and again.
The nature of this work crosses a lot of boundaries in readers' advisory, and I will absolutely put this in my mental tool belt to recommend to all types of readers. On top of that, I feel like Wein has dropped an enormous gift to readers by creating such marvelous, brave, fantastic, and human female characters. Without going on and on about how beautiful they are, that they're princesses, or that their lives were difficult but then they met A MAN. On behalf of librarians the world over who are looking for good female characters in fiction, a million thanks....more
I really wanted to love this book. This is the second time I've tried to read it. The concept of a small (tiny) country fighting to afford enough candI really wanted to love this book. This is the second time I've tried to read it. The concept of a small (tiny) country fighting to afford enough candles and teen royalty trying to keep it real is, in theory, engaging. However, the journal format, while friendly, was also unexciting and slow moving....more
I was completely turned off by the overly grave and "important" Greek chorus effect that framed the narrative. I have loved other works by Levithan, bI was completely turned off by the overly grave and "important" Greek chorus effect that framed the narrative. I have loved other works by Levithan, but the structure of this story stopped me cold. Too calculated....more