Thursday, February 11, 2016

Review: MILLICENT MIN, GIRL GENIUS by Lisa Yee

Millicent is an 11-year old genius! Unfortunately, she’s also a dork (signing a yearbook in Latin?)

Of course, being a genius also means having no friends. She’s also a very naïve and gullible girl because people use her for her brains but she doesn’t figure it out soon enough. When she meets Emily, Millicent concludes that this is her shot to get a real friend…if she can hide her brilliant smarts. This follows the mantra: To gain another, you must lose yourself.

“Yet in Emily’s eyes I was a normal girl. And normal girls don’t talk about those sort of things. Normal girls talk about…well, just what do they talk about? I’m going to have to research that.” (71) She’s so adorable!

 
“I love blank pages, they hold so much promise.” (55) I loved that she loved to learn and read (just like ME!) And, like me, she overthinks and overanalyzes, and she’s not into boys or childish antics.

“I wish I could walk into Bob’s Hardware Store and buy a shut off valve for my brain. At bedtime, my mind races. Thoughts pour out and dance around. Numbers add up and divide. Lists begin and never end. Songs without names taunt me. If my head can only be as empty as [the boys], I would be able to slip into the delicious, deep sleep that eludes me.” (190)

“What my parents kept failing to understand was how happy I was when I was alone with my books. There was no pressure to perform or be cute, and books never disappoint—unless, of course, you’ve chosen a bad one. But then, you can always put it down and pick up another one without any repercussions.” (98)

“I hate shopping. To me, malls are monolithic icons of mass consumption and capitalism.” (29) Totally agree! Absolutely smart! Love her!

“I didn’t know what to say. Was I supposed to congratulate her or tell her I was sorry? I don’t suppose there’s a Hallmark card for this sort of thing. I mean, what would it read? ‘A standing ovation for your first ovulation!” (133) Hilarious!

“Last night, Emily and I had a huge argument over the definition of ‘attractive.’ She seems to think it has a lot to do with good hair, sparkling eyes, and the ability to make a person melt. Me, I believe that it encompasses the ability to communicate (the written word, as well as spoken), high intelligence, and a firm grasp of current events.” (107)

“True, I have led a somewhat solitary life and have on rare occasion wondered what it would be like to be popular. But it is not as if I sat alone in my room all day brooding. My life was so full with my studies and endless projects that there really wasn’t time for friendships. And if there wasn’t time for friendships, then wouldn’t it follow that there wasn’t time for loneliness?” (120)

Witty, funny, and smart!

My rating: 5 stars
 
 
 
 

Review: MIDORI BY MOONLIGHT by Wendy Nelson Tokunaga

Midori Saito's dream seems about to come true. Too independent for Japanese society, Midori is a young woman who has always felt like a stranger in her native land. So when she falls in love with Kevin, an American English teacher, she readily agrees to leave home and start a new life with him in San Francisco--as his fiancée. Kevin seems to be the perfect man. That is, until he dumps her for his blonde ex-fiancée, whom Midori never even knew existed. Midori is left on her own, with just a smattering of fractured English, not much cash, and a fiancée visa set to expire in sixty days. Unable to face the humiliation of telling her parents she's been jilted, and not wanting to give up on her "American Dream," Midori realizes she's in for quite a challenge. Her only hope is her new acquaintance (and potential landlord) Shinji, a successful San Francisco graphic artist and amateur moon gazer who fled Japan after a family tragedy. And eventually, Midori surprises even herself as she proves she will do almost anything to hang on to her dream of a new life.




My thoughts: Story had a dull, slow start, and I wasn’t getting into it the more I trudged on.

Midori is not an interesting character. There was some degree of biting wit, but it really did nothing for me.

My rating: 2 stars



Review: IT’S MY F---ING BIRTHDAY by Merrill Markoe

It's My F---ing Birthday unfolds in seven state-of-my-life addresses a hapless high school art teacher writes to herself on consecutive birthdays. Through outrageously funny years of needling parents, self-absorbed boy-friends, riots, O.J., and Monica, she navigates a circuitous (and ultimately successful) route to happiness in a world where everything seems to conspire to the contrary.





My thoughts: First off, I loved the title! It was the first thing that grabbed me. Then it all just hits you with this morbid and candid humor.

The book basically chronicles every birthday since her thirties. Everybody knows birthdays are depressing. The parents are so arrogant and critical. Who wouldn’t want to hang themselves? And why would the ex-boyfriend send flowers? Weird.

The nameless narrator explains all the misery in her life and the mistakes she hopes to avoid in the coming years. At times, her bitterness and constant bitching became a bit of a bore that I wondered why I kept reading. Is there a point? Is there a story here?

She also got a little vulgar when it came to men and sex. Yap, yap, yap—she doesn’t stop yapping! Even though the yapping was filtered with snarky and witty comments, it kind of stops being funny after a while.  The character was obsessive and neurotic with serious self-esteem issues. She will always be that “dumb girl.”

My rating: 3 stars
 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Review: GONE BUT NOT MISSED by A.R. Kennedy

Lillian Brannon wakes up on Valentine's Day in an exact replica of her bedroom but the only item that she believes is authentic is her dog, Laude. She is held captive in her kidnapper's basement apartment, summoned upstairs once a week for a chaste dinner. But will his kindness last, and more importantly, why isn’t anyone looking for her? Lillian’s story is interwoven with that of Nathan, a NYPD officer, who is intrigued by Lillian’s disappearance- how can a young woman be gone for two weeks before a Missing Person Report is filed? Local police believe Lillian has voluntarily abandoned a life she didn’t like. Lillian’s best friend convinces Nathan the authorities are wrong. With no jurisdiction, no resources, and no witnesses, he is compelled by the pictures of Lillian with her sweet smile and sparkling green eyes to obsessively take up the case. Armed with Lillian’s keys and personal information, he spends hours, then days in her home trying to find clues that will lead him to her.




 

My thoughts: It had a very slow start. Story begins in the POV of Ms. June? No, some other lady. Jen? Wait, is she Jen or Lillian? So confusing! Was the confusion the mystery? Oh, forget it!

My rating: 1 star



Review: L.A. LATE AT NIGHT by Paul D. Marks (short stories)

Welcome to Los Angeles. The city that sleeps with one eye open. Enjoy the hot Santa Ana breeze while you sip your tequila. Take a stroll down Sunset Boulevard. Dip your toes in Echo Park lake. Walk down Raymond Chandler’s mean streets. Meet your new neighbors: A rising star defense attorney with self doubts. A dinosaur LAPD detective resistant to change. A beat cop with anger control issues. A drifter who is easily led astray. And two brothers with extra bad luck. And of course, the city itself. The City of Angels. La-La Land. Los Angeles. A collection of 5 stories from the Mean Streets of Los Angeles by Shamus Award-Winning author Paul D. Marks.





My review: In “L.A. at Night,” a defense lawyer questions if she freed a killer.

The stories were okay. They tended to lag on sometimes and a lot of the police jargon was a bore. I could tell they were written as a script by the little inserts (“CUT” & “EXT. SHOT”). I could just see the scene playing out in front of me. I felt like I was watching Law and Order.

It was true: Nowadays you did need a gun to go the grocery store in L.A.

My rating: 2.5 stars
 
 
 
 
 

Review: OCTOBER 32 by Larry Rodness


WELCOME TO ELORA, where Halloween is a serious business.

The Fall Halloween Festival is “a joyous event celebrated with costumes and music and the sweet smell of baked goods designed to super-charge the youngsters and play havoc with insulin levels of the elderly.” (16) There is also a myth, which has a common theme of having a “stranger who upsets the status quo and changes the lives of everyone forever.” (19)

Although the concept of this strange Halloween fest was alluring, the story was slow to capture my interest.

It seems our traveling insurance salesman has stumbled on a town of wacky country folk, which is undoubtedly the focal point in the story. It’s funny how the character made a reference to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds because that’s exactly what I was thinking during this book. The thing was though, as I was reading through endless scenery and tedious dialogue, I kept wondering one thing: When were the freaking birds going to attack?

I don’t know. This seemed like an interesting story with a nice cover design, but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting.


My rating: 2.5 stars

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Review: SEVEN ELEVEN FORGOTTEN AND OTHER STORIES by Barnaby Hazen


These stories follow the life of Aaron, a quirky, run-of-the-mill cab driver.

The first story was kind of confusing in a garbled sort of way. It just sounded like the character was rambling on and on. It almost felt like I was listening to Rodney Dangerfield with his fast and senseless talk. Moving forward, the stories made less and less sense. Of course, some of his points were comical in a bungling, inept sort of way.

I thought they sounded interesting and unique when I read the summary, but, to be honest, the stories themselves sort of lost me.

My rating: 2.5 stars