Some people say that after a life-threatening event, they learn to enjoy life more. That they stop taking everything for granted.
Sometimes I felt like punching those people (5%).
My luck with new adult fiction has been spotty at best. Still; once in a while, I am pleasantly surprised. This book came highly recommended to me by several reviewers I trust, so when it showed up for free on Amazon, I said, "Why the fuck not? Let's go for it! Bring it ooooooooon."
This turned out to be a very wise decision.
THE YEAR WE FELL DOWN is about Corey Callahan and Adam Hartley and their burgeoning romance as they go from friends to lovers. After a hockey-related injury that leaves her paralyzed from the waist down, Corey has to readjust to living life in a wheelchair. Bowen really goes into gritty detail with this--having to deal with people saying things like "shake a leg" or "step right up"; physical therapy sessions; the necessity of handicap-friendly transportation, wheelchair ramps, and elevators; and things like catheters and whether sex is possible.
Adam is her neighbor from across the hall and it's pretty much attraction at first sight as far as Corey is concerned. He also has problems walking, but his situation is much more temporary: after fooling around while drunk on the ice, he ended up breaking his leg in two places and now has to be on crutches while wearing a cast, pre-surgery. Adam and Corey bond first over their shared frustration with being partially incapacitated, and then, later, over hockey, video games, and being down to earth in a school filled with rich kids. The only problem is that Adam is seeing one of these rich kids, a jet-setting girl named Stacia, who's gorgeous and wealthy--
And, of course, has the use of both her legs.
I actually really liked this story a lot more than I thought I would, but there were still a number of things that bothered me. Firstly, there was a lot of needless slut-shaming. Several times, Corey makes derisive remarks about "puck bunnies" or girls who like the idea of dating hockey players but not the actual sport.
"Just don't expect me to squeal like a puck bunny when you take the ice. And I'm not wearing a tight-fitting jersey with your number on it" (80%).
I couldn't help but find this insulting, since, being a girl who has absolutely zero interest in sports, this is probably how I would show support for someone who I was dating if they participated in one. THE YEAR WE FELL also tended to portray these sexualized women in a very negative light, implying that they were inferior for making use of their looks and sexuality to date the players.
Secondly, Corey has a "hope fairy" that is remarkably similar to Anastasia Steele's "inner goddess" from FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. The first time this happened, I blinked, thinking it was an odd metaphor, but trying to roll with it. When I realized it was a recurring descriptor, and that the hope fairy was going to be anthropomorphized, I did a big eye roll, followed by a facepalm.
My hope fairy reappeared, wearing black lace lingerie, and a pout on her face (46%).
My hope fairy, dressed in a bikini, did a quick little cheer with silver pom poms (62%).
The hope fairy flung herself face down on the desk and then proceeded to beat her tiny fists on the surface in frustration (66%).
Thirdly, I really didn't like how Adam treated Corey. Even though he's attracted to Stacia, he takes advantage of Corey's feelings. For her birthday, he gives her a vibrator and tells her to figure out if she can bring herself to orgasm! Um, that's totally inappropriate. A bit later, after his girlfriend comes back from her trip abroad, she ends up staying out late with friends instead of coming home to Adam, so he goes over to Corey's dorm with a bottle of champagne. They drink it all, and then, inebriated, Adam decides that he's going to help Corey figure out how much sensation she has below the waist. They engage in mutual masturbation. While drunk. And he's in a relationship! Um, what???
Eventually Adam does do the right thing, but I really hated Adam for doing that to Corey and Stacia. I thought he was terrible, and could never really bring myself to like him as much after that. Plus, he and Stacia have this weird arrangement where he lets her sleep around with whomever she wants when she travels. I don't understand this? That didn't seem very realistic to me. Who agrees to that?
The female friendships in this book are good, though. I loved Corey's relationships with Dana and Allison, and thought they were very supportive and well done. I also liked the sports references; they weren't technical enough that a non-sporty person like me would be totally lost, and really conveyed a sense of loss on Corey's part. Honestly, my heart ached for her. She was a wonderful character who had terrible things happen, and was realistically depressed at times but still chose to persevere.
Even though THE YEAR WE FELL DOWN had problems, it really was a good story and I read it in a single sitting while snuggled up in bed and trying not to cough out my entire lung. If you're looking for a new adult book with actual body to it, and decently fleshed out characters, this would be a good place to start. Even though I wasn't a fan of Bridger, I'm definitely considering picking up book two.
This book has what is possibly one of the best first lines in a book ever.
Our female protagonist has given over 20,000 hand-jobs. She works at an establishment that has Tarot/crystal ball consultations in the front room, and soft-core sex work in the back. Because the owner of the establishment likes her, and because her carpal tunnel syndrome makes her sound like a cement mixer when she's jacking people off, she gets promoted to working in the front, as a psychic.
And that's when the trouble starts.
Enter Susan Burke, a woman who is troubled about her family, specifically her step-son. She wants our protagonist to come to her house and do a spiritual cleansing because she thinks it's haunted.
One thing you have to know about Gillian Flynn is that she is a master at writing female antiheroes. You get all these wonderfully psychotic or disturbed or troubled women who don't fit the mold of a typical heroine. Gillian Flynn is also the Queen of twists. She'll take you by the hand, tell you she's taking you to the bathroom, don't worry, and then leaves you in an oubliette full of cobras.
I guess if I have one complaint about THE GROWNUP, it's that it's too damn short! I've been waiting for years for another Flynn novel, and this is all I get? This is a morsel. Instead of tiding me over, it has given me a craving for more...more...MORE!
This book should be called HOLLYWOOD DIRTBAG (pun credit goes to Mia). It's been a while since I've read a "romance" novel with a male lead who is this offensive and misogynistic. I mean, when the female lead does not fall into a dead faint at his feet upon meeting him, his first thought is literally Maybe she's gay (89). Because there is no other reason she wouldn't go for that shit. None. Riiiiiiiiiight.
I'm going to tell you now, this is going to be a very negative review, so if you are absolutely head over heels in love with this book & don't think you could stand to see the author criticized, you probably shouldn't read it.
Likewise, if you plan on reading this book and don't want to be spoiled, you probably shouldn't read this review, because there are going to be lots of spoilers. Many of the things I took issue with in this book are spoilers, and I want this to be a very thorough review about why I didn't like this book. While blunt and to the point, "I hated it" is not super helpful when it comes to making an informed decision on whether or not to buy a book.
So, moving on.
After reading and enjoying a titillating seventy-two-page work of nonfiction about Coke shareholders who became millionaires and billionaires and all decided to live in the same town in Georgia, movie star Cole Masten thinks it would be amazing to make a movie about this phenomenon called The Fortune Bottle.
He's also having problems with his wife, Nadia, who is cheating on him. Masten catches them in the act of cheating and puts the guy in a hospital by bashing him over the head with a heavy statue. Obviously, Cheaty McCheaterpants does not take kindly to this and serves him with divorce papers. The media goes into a feeding frenzy--Codia is no more. (And yes, they are actually called Codia.)
On the other hand, we have Summer Jenkins, who is being treated as a pariah for something she did after she caught her own then-fiance cheating on her. The most important thing to know about Summer is that she is Not Like Every Other Girl.
Cole Masten was the epitome of walking sex and had every woman in town drooling over his arrival.
Every woman but me, that is (12).
This is very important.
He was Cole Masten, for God's sake! She should be yanking down her bathing suit and bending over, not putting her hands on her hips and standing up to him (97).
* * *
"Girls in Los Angeles screw, kidnap, and kill for something like this."
I smiled at the image, a hundred big-breasted bottle blondes in different compromising positions, hands outstretched for a role that seemed undeservingly before me (106).
* * *
God, this was stupid. Any other blonde in LA would be on her knees unzipping his jeans for this role (107).
* * *
Being inside her had been completely different than Nadia...than anyone else (191).
* * *
"Do you know how many girls would kill for me to call them?" (251)
* * *
This was the second time in four weeks that I was shaving for this man. Like, REALLY shaving, in places that a good girl didn't allow to see the light of day (313).
* * *
Very, very Important.
So yeah, back to the book. When Cole meets Summer (who has conveniently become BFFs with his flamboyantly gay location scout), he decides that she would be perfect for the role of the main character in Fortune Bottle because of her hot-headedness and Southern Charm.
He finds the fact that Summer hates him utterly adorable and uses this as an opportunity to sexually harass her as much as possible. Like forcing a kiss on her in front of her friend. Or watching her sleep while having an erection and then, when she wakes up, forcing her down on the bed and telling her to "shut up." (I am not joking--this is how they have sex for the first time.) It is worth noting that Summer does not actually consent to this. She tries to hide herself and is obviously shocked and mortified, but then decides to roll with it anyway because that disco stick is a magic trick.
Also, she is allergic to condoms. No, not a latex allergy. She just doesn't use them. Doesn't keep them around. Has never even touched one(!). Seriously, she's never touched a condom before. And when she and Cole fuck, she refers to it as "bare and beautiful" (189). How about condomless and chlamydia-ridden? Or, sack-out and syphilitic? You know, since we're alliterating here.
Once they actually start filming Fortune Bottle, Cole starts ad-libbing a lot. To the point where the directors actually decide to make Fortune Bottle a romance, because they are digging the sexual tension between Cole & Summer. In fact, the movie basically becomes one giant ad-lib, a vehicle for Summer and Cole to act out their issues with each other using their characters as mediums. Which a) is kind of sick and unhealthy and b) I have difficulty believing any director worth his salt would actually allow because what Cole did was definitely sexual harassment and there are laws.
They have sex again, later on, and post-orgasm, decide that they love each other.
Also, Cole contemplates a new line of business.
God he could bottle her juices and become a billionaire (328).
Once again, no condoms.
I went to the bathroom and felt a moment of panic when the evidence of his orgasm came out. Right. Another unprotected experience. Good thing I had just finished my period, my window of fertility not open yet (329).
She takes him shopping at Walmart and they wear paper bags over their heads to conceal their identities. Because this is a sure way not to draw attention to themselves.
But just in case you didn't think this was funny the first time, the book ends with married Cole and Summer shopping at Walmart with their friends, all wearing paper bags over their heads. That is literally how this book ends. The characters shopping at Walmart, with paper bags over their heads.
Other random peeves:
☹ We have this moment of idiocy: "I never wear sunscreen." I scooped up some water and drizzled it over my thighs (77).
☹ Brad DeLuca from BLINDFOLDED INNOCENCE made a cameo...a big cameo...which was annoying, because I hated BLINDFOLDED INNOCENCE and I especially hated Brad, because that book had the same amount of hypocritical slut-shaming spurred on by the same misogynistic asshole hero.
☹ Summer also gives Cole a pet chick as a housewarming gift because...I don't know, then he'll have to take care of it and that's the ultimate revenge! Mwa ha ha. Also it's cute and fluffy and damaging to his masculinity. Or I don't know, something like that. Anyway the chick becomes a mascot-slash-running gag and eventually Cole becomes the chick equivalent of a "dog mom" even referring to himself at one point as its "parent."
☹ The thing that's alluded at constantly? The thing that made Summer a pariah among the town? It's actually warranted. She poisoned everyone at her wedding reception with ipecac because her husband-to-be cheated on her with a bridesmaid. Ipecac is actually a poison that used to be used to induce vomiting when other poisons were ingested. However, it is no longer used as such because it is too dangerous and can prevent other treatments/antidotes from working. If I remember correctly, Summer used half a cup of ipecac per dessert and not only would this probably be enough to poison her guests, but I'm also not even sure how she would obtain this much poison because even when it was administered back in 1965 you could only get an ounce without prescription, and the two remaining manufacturers of it closed up shop in 2010.
☹ When the Fortune Bottle becomes a hit, everyone thinks that this wedding prank is so awesome. SO AWESOME! It makes Summer beloved. They start calling it a "Summer Jenkins" and another jilted bridesmaid immediately went out and decided to do the exact same thing
☹ Pretty much every Southern stereotype and Californian stereotype you can think of are jammed into this book. Torre got California wrong. First off, this is the first time I've ever seen someone referred to with "California pale skin" (93). Most Californians are tan. Summer mockingly derides Cole for not knowing real heat when she tells us that eggs can fry on the pavement in Georgia. Guess what? They do in California too. And it's not totally unheard of for temperatures to go into the 100s. I've been in a heatwave where temperatures reached 112 degrees. We probably could have fried a whole roast on the pavement that day. It was like living in an oven.
There were probably more things about this book that bothered me, but these were just the main ones. I'm sick, and cranky, and I didn't like this book, so now I'm posting my review so I can return this e-book to my library and get my infected mitts on the copy of THE GROWNUP I just put on hold.
I applied for AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE on a whim because of the gorgeous cover. Something about the disaffected woman in curlers and retro makeup just spoke to me. I had no idea what the book was actually going to be about, except that it was probably going to involve housewives and they were probably going to be disaffected and possibly desperate, as well.
1. What I Do All Day - ☆☆
This story could have easily been called "The Middle Aged Basic Girl's Manifesto." It was essentially a list of basic activities pop culture expects middle aged white women to do, delivered in snide, grocery list format. Not particularly entertaining, although I awarded extra points for the author's observance.
2. The Wainscoting War - ☆☆
This short story, which is told entirely in emails between two female characters who are at war over the decorating in a duplex, had a lot of possibility. However, I don't think it was executed very well, and in the second half of the book, it got rather nasty and unpleasant, and not in a comical way, even though I think that is what the author was going for. Unnecessary animal deaths killed it further.
Also, I wasn't actually sure what wainscoting was, so I looked it up. Well, what do you know? I learned something new today.
3. Dumpster Diving with the Stars - ☆☆☆½
I think this is my favorite story of the bunch. Dumpster Diving is a reality TV show/game show about celebrities who try to compete for the best deals at garage sales, auction houses, and salvaging. The main character is a dried up author who ends up teaming up with a Playboy Bunny.
4. Southern Lady Code - ☆☆
This is literally just the author translating two-faced Southern lady doublespeak. Probably only humorous if you like Celia Rivenbark. I don't.
5. "Hello! Welcome to Book Club" - ☆☆☆
At first I thought this would be my first four star rating of this short story collection. Narrated in first person and addressed to us, the reader, "Hello!" contains some very jagged observations about books, book reviewing, and book stereotypes that are cringe-worthy but also somewhat on point. But then it ends with a very bizarre twist that causes the whole idea of the story to fall apart as credibility flies out the window. It was at this point that I found myself noting the author was terrible at endings.
6. The Fitter - ☆☆☆
Decent. It's about a man who is excellent at fitting things into other things. I thought this was going to be a sexual story, but instead of fitting his thing into other things, he channels his talent into finding the perfect bras for women. His talent has made him rich and wildly popular with women. His only employee is his wife, who is also the narrator for this story. This was another story I might have liked except for the ending, which was way too depressing. Also yay for gross boob descriptions.
7. How to Be a Grown-Ass Lady - ☆½
"The Middle Aged Basic Girl's Manifesto: Part II."
8. How to Be a Patron of the Arts - ☆☆☆☆
Okay, you know what? I changed my mind: I think this is actually my favorite story of the collection. I really liked the narrator's journey from artist to patron, and how she quietly accepted the fact that she was no longer willing--or able--to create. This is a concept that would translate well to novel format, and I have to admit, I was sad to see the story end. It was a good ending, too.
9. Dead Doormen - ☆
I think the crazy housewife bit has been done to death, don't you?
10. Pageant Protection - ☆☆½
This story read a bit like revenge fantasy as written by someone who really, really hates the TV show, Toddlers and Tiaras, and wanted to write an alternate ending in which CPS comes and takes all the children away from their mothers and delivers them to Sarah Lawrence to be raised by feminists.
Spoiler alert: that is not what happens.
11. Take It from Cats - ☆
Another one of those really brief, page-long interludes. I felt like these interludes were very lazy, and this one was especially so. I have seen lolcat memes that have told better stories than this one.
12. My Novel Is Brought to You By the Good People at Tampax - ☆
I didn't like this story, either. It was way too strange. I am not sure if it was trying to be witty, or funny, or what, but it failed on all accounts.
AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE has a handful of good stories tossed in among the bad ones, but it is a very sub-par collection and not really a very inspiring or intriguing sampler of the author's work. Those one-page long laundry lists of what it means to be a woman were very lazy writing, and I was not pleased that they were recurring.