BOOK REVIEW: Happy-Go-Lucky by David Sedaris

58989873Title: Happy-Go-Lucky

Author: David Sedaris

Audiobook Length: 7 hours and 30 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Humor, Essays, Memoir, Short Stories, LGBT

Read Start Date: August 27, 2022

Read Finish Date: August 30, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Back when restaurant menus were still printed on paper, and wearing a mask—or not—was a decision made mostly on Halloween, David Sedaris spent his time doing normal things. As Happy-Go-Lucky opens, he is learning to shoot guns with his sister, visiting muddy flea markets in Serbia, buying gummy worms to feed to ants, and telling his nonagenarian father wheelchair jokes.

But then the pandemic hits, and like so many others, he’s stuck in lockdown, unable to tour and read for audiences, the part of his work he loves most. To cope, he walks for miles through a nearly deserted city, smelling only his own breath. He vacuums his apartment twice a day, fails to hoard anything, and contemplates how sex workers and acupuncturists might be getting by during quarantine.

As the world gradually settles into a new reality, Sedaris too finds himself changed. His offer to fix a stranger’s teeth rebuffed, he straightens his own, and ventures into the world with new confidence. Newly orphaned, he considers what it means, in his seventh decade, no longer to be someone’s son. And back on the road, he discovers a battle-scarred America: people weary, storefronts empty or festooned with Help Wanted signs, walls painted with graffiti reflecting the contradictory messages of our time: Eat the Rich. Trump 2024. Black Lives Matter.

In Happy-Go-Lucky, David Sedaris once again captures what is most unexpected, hilarious, and poignant about these recent upheavals, personal and public, and expresses in precise language both the misanthropy and desire for connection that drive us all. If we must live in interesting times, there is no one better to chronicle them than the incomparable David Sedaris.

My Review: This book is so hilarious I actually laughed out loud. The synopsis on Goodreads makes it sound like a lot of this book is surrounding the events of COVID, but that’s not actually the case. It’s really only a small part toward the end of the book.

I listened to this as an audiobook and it was read by David Sedaris himself. Some of the parts were “narrated” and some of the parts were recordings of Sedaris at a book reading event — you can hear the laughter of the audience in the background.

Although most of the book is funny, Sedaris includes some dark tales surrounding the abuse suffered by Sedaris and his siblings at the hands of their father. Once, when Sedaris was about 10 years old, he complained of a stomach ache in order to get out of going to school the next day. Later that night, when Sedaris was playing with his guinea pig, his father had Sedaris go to the bathroom for a visual “anal exam”. His father, who Sedaris described as some guy who always walked around in his underwear, would also do weird and creepy things to Sedaris’ sisters. For example: “He said of my sister, who was tottering on platform shoes, a straw hat on her head, looking, I’d later realize, a lot like Jody Foster in Taxi Driver: ‘God she’s got a great set of pins!’ I didn’t know what pins were and when I later learned that they were legs, I thought ‘well that’s a…nice…thing…to say about someone, in general, I mean, if that person isn’t, you know, your daughter.'”

A lot of the stories in the book were about Sedaris’ father, now deceased, but who at the time was old and infirm in a nursing home. The creepy man that Sedaris used to know was long gone and Sedaris had to reconcile the horrible man he used to know and dislike, with the affable, rather pleasant person he had become in his old age.

I think it takes a lot of courage to write such private things into a book that will be read by millions.

I highly recommend this book to anyone in need of a good laugh.

BOOK REVIEW: Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune

53205888._SY475_Title: Under the Whispering Door

Author: TJ Klune

Audiobook Length: 14 hours and 54 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, LGBT, Romance, Contemporary

Read Start Date: April 15, 2022

Read Finish Date: April 23, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Welcome to Charon’s Crossing. The tea is hot, the scones are fresh, and the dead are just passing through.

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace from his own funeral, Wallace begins to suspect he might be dead.

And when Hugo, the owner of a peculiar tea shop, promises to help him cross over, Wallace decides he’s definitely dead.

But even in death he’s not ready to abandon the life he barely lived, so when Wallace is given one week to cross over, he sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

Hilarious, haunting, and kind, Under the Whispering Door is an uplifting story about a life spent at the office and a death spent building a home

My Review: This book for me was only so so. To be honest, the pacing seemed a little off to me. When Wallace dies and finds himself at the tea shop, there was a long patch of storyline where he is just figuring out how to be a ghost. It isn’t until almost the end of the book, when Wallace is told by “the Manager” that he only has 7 days until he has to cross over, that things start to pick up. Actually, these 7 days pass by so quickly it is annoying, since this is arguably the most interesting part of the book (I think it is the climax of the book) –and then the ending (the anti-climax) takes ages.

I also was not too impressed with the “love story” between Hugo and Wallace. I just didn’t feel anything about it. It was not steamy, there was no sexual anticipation between the lovers. Where are all the feels, T.J. Klune? It was basically just two people saying “I love you” to each other and touching hands. This is classified as a “romance” novel on Goodreads, but it didn’t really feel that way. I wanted to feel the butterflies in my stomach whenever Hugo and Wallace were in the room together, unable to touch because Wallace was dead and Hugo was alive. I wanted to feel the racing of my heart when they spoke to each other guardedly, neither admitting their feelings to each other, but instead there was nothing. It didn’t need to be X rated or anything, but a little more than what it was would have been appreciated. Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by the Bridgerton series.

The above being said, I did like the plot — it wasn’t unique per se, but it was well done, which is why I am giving this book 3 stars.

BOOK REVIEW: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

32620332._SY475_Title: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Audiobook Length: 12 hours and 10 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance, LGBT, Contemporary

Read Start Date: April 11, 2022

Read Finish Date: April 15, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

My Review: This book was written back in 2017, but I guess has had a resurgence of readers due to being a “booktok” recommendation (?). It is also, as of the writing of this review, on the NY Times Bestseller’s list. Needless to say, I had high expectations. Although “booktok” got it right this time, I had a really hard time writing a review of this book.

What do you say about something, when you liked everything, for no express reason? From the very first moment, I was captivated by this story. It was interesting. There was mystery (why did Evelyn choose Monique to ghost write her biography?). There was love (all be it, not in all of Evelyn’s marriages). There was friendship, betrayal, a glimpse into the “rich and famous”…

At the center of it all, a formative woman with a secret — she was bisexual at a time when that was not permitted.

You loved Evelyn, but you also loved to hate her. She was caring, but also at times selfish. Monique was interesting in her own way, even though her story was typical i.e., woman has husband, woman has mixed feelings about divorcing said husband (did I do the right thing, etc etc), woman finds in the end that she deserves true love (which she didn’t have with her ex).

The characters were well developed and seemed true to real people i.e., I could imagine that this was a book about a real person, or at very least based upon a real person.

I don’t want to say too much else, otherwise I will give away essential plot points. This book is highly recommended.

BOOK REVIEW: Last Exit by Max Gladstone

57693437Title: Last Exit

Author: Max Gladstone

Book Length: 21 hours and 3 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction, LGBT, Horror

Read Start Date: February 26, 2022

Read Finish Date: March 2, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Ten years ago, Zelda led a band of merry adventurers whose knacks let them travel to alternate realities and battle the black rot that threatened to unmake each world. Zelda was the warrior; Ish could locate people anywhere; Ramon always knew what path to take; Sarah could turn catastrophe aside. Keeping them all connected: Sal, Zelda’s lover and the group’s heart.

Until their final, failed mission, when Sal was lost. When they all fell apart. Ten years on, Ish, Ramon, and Sarah are happy and successful. Zelda is alone, always traveling, destroying rot throughout the US. When it boils through the crack in the Liberty Bell, the rot gives Zelda proof that Sal is alive, trapped somewhere in the alts.

Zelda’s getting the band back together—plus Sal’s young cousin June, who has a knack none of them have ever seen before. As relationships rekindle, the friends begin to believe they can find Sal and heal all the worlds. It’s not going to be easy, but they’ve faced worse before. But things have changed, out there in the alts. And in everyone’s hearts.

My Review: I received this audiobook from Netgalley as an ARC. First, I want to talk about the pros.

The cover: wow. I just love it. It’s so eerie and beautiful at the same time.

The writing: Love it. The writing is simply amazing. I loved the style. I loved the way that it made me see the story.

The plot: In general, I was positive about the plot and the execution of the story. The book is heavy on character development and the background of the characters, which I liked. You really get a feeling for who these characters are and how that plays into the story as a whole. That being said, I would have liked to have more background into the alternate worlds, the rot, etc. It felt like that this was the sequel to a book that was never written. What is the rot? Why was it unmaking worlds? I’m still not 100% clear on that.

While trying to save Sal, the characters come across this evil entity, known only as the “cowboy”. He wears a white cowboy hat. Sometimes people were turned into his pawns, signified by their wearing of a  white cowboy hat. Who is this cowboy? What is he supposed to signify? I’m still a little confused about this.

This is were the con for me comes in. This book is LONG: 21 hours of listening time. I found that at least the first 30% of the book was dedicated almost only to character development / backstory, so it dragged a little bit in the beginning. I also found the book confusing at times and had to backtrack and listen again (sometimes 3 times) to what had happened in order to understand what was going on.

I’m not going to blame the author here for this because I am the mother of a 6 month old who I was also taking care of while listening. Was I maybe too distracted for this book? Possibly. Sometimes my baby was crying and I missed a key part and had to rewind. Other times my mind just wandered elsewhere and when it returned, I was totally lost. I will say that this book takes concentration to read and fully understand. I think I just didn’t have the bandwidth to really give this book the justice it deserved because it really is a great story.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. If you are a fan of the Dark Tower series from Stephen King, you will not be disappointed in this book. However, I would not suggest to multitask when reading, as it takes full concentration. Therefore, I would suggest to read the book rather than listen to it as an audiobook.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

BOOK REVIEW: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Title: The Song of Achilles

Author: Madeline Miller

Book Length Audiobook: 11 hours and 15 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mythology, Romance, LGBT

Read Start Date: February 2, 2022

Read Finish Date: February 4, 2022

Link and Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13623848-the-song-of-achilles

Achilles, “the best of all the Greeks,” son of the cruel sea goddess Thetis and the legendary king Peleus, is strong, swift, and beautiful, irresistible to all who meet him. Patroclus is an awkward young prince, exiled from his homeland after an act of shocking violence. Brought together by chance, they forge an inseparable bond, despite risking the gods’ wrath.

They are trained by the centaur Chiron in the arts of war and medicine, but when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, all the heroes of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the cruel Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

My Review: We meet Achilles in his youth when a young exiled prince Patroclus is sent to live with Achilles’ father King Peleus. Despite being a book about Achilles, the Song of Achilles is actually told through the voice of Patroclus, Achilles companion and lover. Although the myth of Achilles centers around the Trojan war, I liked how somehow this book was more centered on the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles then the war. The war was more an ancillary topic, another setting if you will, where the relationship took place.

Other than the general knowledge about Achilles and the duly named “Achilles heel”, I knew little to nothing about his myth before reading this book. I was a little surprised therefore when Miller changed the way Achilles died (from an arrow through the back rather than heel), as I felt this altered the myth itself. I’m not sure why she choose to do it this way, but okay.

I listened to this book as an audiobook and finished it rather quickly. I really liked how Miller told the story, the language she used was descriptive in a way that made me imagine what she was saying. Her words created images in my mind as I listened.

I’ve read a lot of reviews where the reviewers complain about pacing: it’s too slow in places and too fast in others. Honestly, when I read the book, I didn’t even notice! Some reviewers also had issues with the character development, that the characters were flat and underdeveloped. I also did not notice, nor did I really think too much in depth about the development, or lack thereof, of the characters.

I read this book as entertainment and it was more than adequate at accomplishing this goal. I have no complaints whatsoever about this book. I often listened to this book while doing other things: laundry, cleaning, feeding the baby, exercising etc. Maybe I was just too distracted to notice the issues (pacing, character development etc)? I don’t know. What I do know is, despite the negative reviews from other, I have to say I really enjoyed the book and I would recommend it.