Studying for Torts (This Book is an Issue Spotting Novel): The After Life of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

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On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she’d become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.

She didn’t.

And then she died.

Now she’s stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge–as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past.

Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly’s afterlife has been miserable.

But this year, everything is about to change. . . .

Source: GoodReads

Note this review is going to be pretty spoiler heavy because I’ve got issues with what occurred in this book-you really think you couldn’t screw up with A Christmas Carol (but you can apparently).

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One of the things you learn to do very early on in law school is issue spot.  Pretty much all your exams in law school are issue spotting.  And for the most part, if you finish an exam in the three hours or so you’re given to finish it that’s not exactly a good thing.

You also use this skill on bar exams and in actual practice as well.  So, it’s sort of hard to turn off when you know..it’s the weekend and you decide to chill for a bit to get away from your crazy clients.  And you read  a book and am like-hell, this could be a torts essay right here.  Also, there’s some criminal law issues cross referencing it.

Yeah…not exactly a good thing for a book.  Especially when said reader reviews books, but that’s how I felt when I was reading The After Life of Holly Chase.

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Originally, when I was issue spotting this one I though-hey, it might be fun to write you know a legal style memo or what not over this book review.  But guys, memos are long and when there are multiple torts involved like in this case it would probably be the length of a full length novel.  Plus, it would be super boring with me citing case law or made up case law that you either wouldn’t be interested in or like she’s butchering the law for the sake of being mean to a book.  But just if you’re interested Holly Chase and her father  could probably charge Project Scrooge with kidnapping a minor as well as suing them for the following torts: false imprisonment, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, possible negligence issues.   There’s probably lots of employment issues as well (it’s mentioned she’s being intentionally under paid).  I could go on, of course, but I won’t.

And we’re not going to analysis them.  Just know that based on this issue spotting, I thought that Project Scrooge was just as shitty as the person they were trying to reform (Holly Chase).

That’s right, Holly Chase is despicable.  And honestly, I don’t see  her growing that much throughout the course of the novel except that she finally gets rid of her bad dye job at the end of the novel.

So the general gist is that Holly was Scrooge one year and failed big time, because hey-emotional blackmail didn’t work for her.

Because at it’s core that’s what A Christmas Carol is.  Emotional blackmail intended to scare a greedy old miser into reforming himself into a somewhat better man.

I actually enjoy the original Dickens work and watch two or so versions per year.  Of course, one of these versions is the hilarious Blackadder version where there’s kind of a reversal effect, so I’m always looking for a good retelling (note, if you haven’t seen that version you need to watch it, it is available on Hulu).  But here, I couldn’t help but think that Project Scrooge was filled with assholes.

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I’m not joking.

What they do to Holly  is pretty terrible.  Yes, she is a terrible person, but the fact they let her live through this quasi purgatory/hell for five years and emotionally manipulate her is just wrong.   In fact, all of the interactions in this book were pretty much set up and weren’t even really real to begin with.

On second thought maybe it’s not Holly I’m so mad at them about, but about how we the readers were duped into all of this.

At the end of the book there’s this twist that I absolutely hate.  That all of this was more or less a version of the future and Holly goes back to her old life after pretty much committing suicide so this guy she falls in love won’t bite the dust.

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First of all, not going to go into how wrong that scenario is BUT I ABSOLUTELY FUCKING HATE THE DREAM/ILLUSION TROPE.

I’ve always hated the trope ever since I saw The Wizard of Oz for the first time.  Don’t get me wrong, I do understand why Hand decided to go in this direction.  It helped close a lot of the loose ends with this book, but at the same time it sort of failed quite epically.  Any ship that was built up, was worthless.  We didn’t get to see the payoff to any of them, since they didn’t really exist.  And one of them just ended on an extremely awkward note.

It was almost as if the author wrote herself into a corner and couldn’t figure out how to get that particular ship to work and didn’t even want to bother any further.  Even though that ship was the reason the character changed.

It just made me as a reader mad because again no payoff for the ship that the author spent at least a good chunk of the book building.  And you know what, until the end I really didn’t even care for the ship that much.  That tells you how much all of this sucked.

The book is going to be adapted to a movie per the author’s website, and I can tell you if I didn’t like that ending in a book it’s going to be worse on the small screen.

I also didn’t feel right as a retelling.  A good rule of thumb for A Christmas Carol retelling is the Scrooge.  And God does Holly suck at it.  Yes, she’s a self absorbed little twit, but while the Scrooge character of Dickens fame gradually changes throughout the course of his hauntings.  Holly doesn’t change really, until the end of the book.

Yes, there are some romantic moments in the book and moments where she’s not totally being an a-hole, and where she occasionally treats her assistant like a normal person, but for the most part.  Total a-hole.

I think her reformation was more or less when we got flashbacks about when her mother died, how she stalks her ex best friend who moved to NYC, and how she will go and sit and watch her dad’s newest movies at the movie theater.

But did I feel sorry for her, nope.

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I can really see this book working as a TV movie though.  It seems like it was written for that medium.  If you like cheesy holiday stuff, you might like this.  Just be aware that any emotional attachment towards any ship will be yanked from you at the end.

Overall Rating: B-

 

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Hallmark Movies Are Suppose To Be Movies: Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa de la Cruz

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Darcy Fitzwilliam is 29, beautiful, successful, and brilliant. She dates hedge funders and basketball stars and is never without her three cellphones—one for work, one for play, and one to throw at her assistant (just kidding). Darcy’s never fallen in love, never has time for anyone else’s drama, and never goes home for Christmas if she can help it. But when her mother falls ill, she comes home to Pemberley, Ohio, to spend the season with her dad and little brother.

Her parents throw their annual Christmas bash, where she meets one Luke Bennet, the smart, sardonic slacker son of their neighbor. Luke is 32 and has never left home. He’s a carpenter and makes beautiful furniture, and is content with his simple life. He comes from a family of five brothers, each one less ambitious than the other. When Darcy and Luke fall into bed after too many eggnogs, Darcy thinks it’s just another one night stand. But why can’t she stop thinking of Luke? What is it about him? And can she fall in love, or will her pride and his prejudice against big-city girls stand in their way?

Source: GoodReads

Everyone who reads this blog, knows my dirty little secret that I watch Hallmark movies.  You know, that I think most of them are shit.  That they preach horrible outdated views about women and what their roles are supposed to be-i.e. homebodies who have no ambition other than to bake banana cupcakes at the local cafe and give birth to a dozen or so loud poorly behaved babies-but I still keeping watching the movies mainly because of one reason…

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Pss, if you can’t see the gif the answer is abs.

Hallmark movies usually star soap opera veterans and/or male models who are usually very fit and therefore make for nice eye candy even though the movie might overall reek (and they usually do).

Hearing that Melissa de la Cruz had been hired to write some movies for them I quasi cringed.  My relationship with this author is so so.  I really loved her Blue Bloods series when it first came out, but since I’ve been reviewing books I have found her usual tropes cringe worthy and insulting.

Seriously,  small towns do not have Bloomingdales.  For most of my life I lived in the fourth largest city in the US, and we did not have a Bloomingdales.  So don’t tell me that podunk Ohio is going to have one nearby.  That’s not how things work.  I know, I lived in a itty bitty town for about two years and the most corporate thing they had was a Walmart.

It sucked.

In addition,  people in their late 20’s do not become instantly rich without help.  Or becoming a partner at a financial firm without connections.  Unless you are extremely naive or young, you will be rolling your eyes with this sort of shit and it happens all the fucking time that I read the book-though to be fair I only made it through about 30 pages.  But with model gorgeous men in addition to the gay b.f.f. who happens to be a world famous movie star that’s randomly staying in podunk-ville for Christmas.  I just had to get a drink to maintain my sanity.

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And then after having about six drinks, I was like I’m going to shoot my liver from reading this shit because it is just like an annoying Hallmark movie if it was written by a 12 year old who had to tell me every other page that her character was wearing Kate Spade pajamas.

I mean, I have a pair of Kate Spade pajamas myself but I don’t think they’re like the greatest thing ever where my audience needs to know abut them ever other page or what other brands my clothes are.  Or that I buy them (like this character apparently does) without trying them on.

I mean, who does that?  If I’m dragging my butt to the actual store, I’m going to try on to make sure that expensive ass dress fits.

With Blue Bloods, at least there was a purpose to that sort of thing.  The characters were rich girls in New York, and to be fair as the series progressed the brand name dropping ceased a little.  And I thought that was done in part to show the progression in character development.   But these are grown ass adults talking about their pajamas…

Okay.

Also, I’m the same age as the MC and she acts like she’s about a decade older.  I’m sorry.  But she made 29 feel ancient.  It didn’t help that there were innuendos that there’s something wrong with you if you  haven’t popped out and kid and got hitched.  You know, some people don’t want marriage and family right away.  To be fair though, Darcy is an insipid tart, but after about three pages of this shit I had enough of her.

It didn’t help that the Lizzy Bennet character (Luke Bennet) is pretty much your stereotypical Hallmark jerky douche who “loosens’ up the MC into liking small town life.

Enough of that shit.

This book is doing a disservice to one of the greatest novels and romances ever written and I just want to give you a Mr. Darcy look of disdain for it ( a gif will have to suffice).

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Look, I know Hallmark movies are bad.  As previously stated,  I watch them for the abs.  I was hoping that getting fresh blood like de la Cruz meant they would be getting fresh stories.  Like maybe one where the woman decides not to get to the chump and goes back to the city where she finally notices that the nice nerdy guy she’s friends  with is actually quite the catch and he is not remotely rude or an asshat to her. What I saw with this book was a poor Pride and Prejudice retelling stuffed with Hallmark tropes.  It’s NOT the retelling the audience wants or deserves, and I’m not going to pain myself trying to get through it.

I think it’s sort of official that I am not a fan of de a Cruz’s stuff anymore.  I have a few of her books in my shelf that I’ll get to at some point, but quite honestly it’s not going to be a top priority and at this point I feel like I’ve said all I wanted to say about her writing.  It’s a shame though, because she DOES have some good ideas.  The execution though is usually horrible and quite juvenile.

Skip this shit.

Overall Rating: DNF

And the Golden Charlie Goes To: Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

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Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.

But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.

Source: GoodReads

Starfish was one of those books I felt raw after I read it.  I highly recommend it, but the book can be trigger inducing.  It touches on issues of childhood sexual abuse, attempted suicide, and emotional abuse.  If you can read through all those harsh issues, its a great read.  But it is a doozy.   It will leave you feeling emotionally drained, but at the same time the book ends on a hopeful note.

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One of the things I like best about Starfish is that it deals with an issue that is timely for all ages, when plans go array.   Though, honestly, I wanted to shake Kiko for only applying to one school.  And them not letting her know until a week or so before graduation seems a little over kill but…

I’m ignoring it.

There’s actually a lot of things where I sort of had to give a passing glance through throughout the book to enjoy it.  A lot of easy passable coincidences that happened too easily for my liking, but it was easy to overlook when this book hit me at an emotional level.

The core of this book is Kiko’s growth, and that growth had to come directly from her and not anyone else in the book.  She doesn’t have a savior.  Yes, she does have help along the way, but ultimately its up to her to decide what to do with her life.

And I think that’s what I liked best about Starfish.  I could ignore all the coincidences because in the end it wasn’t randomly meeting an old friend or finding a mentor that pulled Kiko up from her problems.  It was herself, and while she had made progress she still had issues.

Admittedly, I did think some things were over the top.  The mother characters depiction especially.  Yes, I get she was a narcissist, but I can tell you from growing up with one that her mother seemed a little too extreme.

While some of the classic narcissist behavior was there, the mother was too obvious.  Her gas lighting wasn’t that skillful and she didn’t come off remotely charming.  The narcissist that I know can hide his true colors, and if you didn’t know him you would think he was this really outgoing, caring guy (which he’s not).  With this character,   everyone knew she was toxic, which isn’t exactly the way narcissists operate on.  She is definitely a contender though for a Golden Charlie, if there ever was one.  It amazes me that she was able to get custody, let alone full custody of these kids through the book.  Everything was just so messed up on so many levels.  Then again, I don’t know much (okay, anything) about Nebraska family law but I can’t seem it deviating two much from the two states that I do practice in.

I also found the romance in this book a little meh.  I started out hating it, but in the end I grew found to it.  Again, I think why I ended up liking it, was that it wasn’t the relationship that was saving the character from her problems but herself.  After I realized that’s what was going to happen, AND they didn’t get together right away.  I started liking the relationship more.  Still though, I could’ve dealt without it and it wasn’t my favorite thing about the book at all.

In all I do recommend Starfish.  There were some problems with it, but if I look over the coincidence make way for a plot twist, and while I did find the mother to character to be a bit on the extreme side, it was a worth while read.  The character’s evolution throughout the story really made the book for me, and it’s an oddly empowering story.  Again though, it is trigger inducing so if any of the above referenced themes bother you, you might want to considering at least going into this one with those things in mind.

Overall Rating: B+

 

 

It’s a Family Thing: Kissing Max Holden by Kathy Upperman

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Kissing Max Holden was a terrible idea…

After his father has a life-altering stroke, Max Holden isn’t himself. As his long-time friend, Jillian Eldridge only wants to help him, but she doesn’t know how. When Max climbs through her window one night, Jill knows that she shouldn’t let him kiss her. But she can’t resist, and when they’re caught in the act by her dad, Jill swears it’ll never happen again. Because kissing Max Holden is a terrible idea.

With a new baby sibling on the way, her parents fighting all the time, and her dream of culinary school up in the air, Jill starts spending more and more time with Max. And even though her father disapproves and Max still has a girlfriend, not kissing Max is easier said than done. Will Jill follow her heart and allow their friendship to blossom into something more, or will she listen to her head and stop kissing Max Holden once and for all?

Source: GoodReads

Books that deal with cheating and infidelity always have an ew factor to them.  And Kissing Max Holden is no exception.

First of all, I was reluctant to read this one in the first place because of that, its imprint (Swoon Reads has had a lot of misses for me), AND its hideous cover and title.  However, I found myself oddly liking and hating the book at the same time.

In the end I gave it a middle of the road rating, though it’s more of a higher middle of the road than lower book because it was ridiculously readable.  But God, was I frustrated with the characters throughout reading this book.  Seriously, I wanted to scream at every single one of them for being repugnant assholes.

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I think the cheating is the obvious factor.  But the cheating was more of a result of really weak characters who had a lot of issues.  At least I guess I should give them props for having issues, rather than being perfect caricatures.  But God if not everyone in this book was an asshole.

Asshole Number One: The Title Character

I did not find how Max Holden was this guy that everyone wanted.  Throughout most of the novel, he was a mess.  I really don’t know what Jill found interesting about him other than the fact he probably looks like a young Captain Hook via OUAT.  Because seriously, dude is a disaster for most of the book with him being constantly drunk, having a girlfriend, and just being a dope in general.

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He drives drunk twice in this book.

That in itself should make him unattractive.  He also cheats on his girlfriend who we’re told is a bitch so that makes it okay, but no it doesn’t.

Asshole Number Two: The Main Character

She knowingly cheated with Max (multiple times) and is super judge-y.  Also, she’s a hypocrite.

Asshole Number Three: The Main Character’s Father

He is a controlling dick throughout most of this book.  He also is a hypocrite.  AND did I mention he drained the main character’s college savings account so that he and his new wife could undergo fertility treatments.

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No.

Just no.

If you do not have enough money to pay for fertility treatments and have to use your other child’s money in order to pay for such treatments, you don’t have the money for a second child.

Those actions were just too repugnant of me not to be outraged for the MC.  And no, MC don’t try to downplay it by saying when you looked into the baby’s eyes you melted into a pool of baby love.  It just doesn’t work that way.

That’s your future.

Be pissed.

If that was my father and stepmom I’d still be pissed and I’d probably be resentful of my $10,000 petri dish sibling.

But hey, I’m a Slytherin so…

Asshole Number Four: Stepmom

See money on fertility treatments rant.  But she can apparently afford fancy dinner parties, Pottery Barn nurseries, and Nordstrom maternity wear.

Need I say more.

Asshole Number Five: Becky

Becky is the girlfriend that Max cheats on.  She is depicted as an asshole, so that the cheating between Max and Jilly didn’t look too bad.

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Note, it didn’t work.

Honestly though, even though everyone and their mother seemed like assholes in this book, I did enjoy this one.  I don’t know why exactly.  Looking at it post read, I should’ve liked it a lot less than I did since everyone was annoying and honestly I don’t think the character really developed or Max changed enough where the ship was tolerable.

And I’m trying to think about something good to write now.  Because really the book wasn’t that realistic.  The way infidelity was handled her was sort of confounding.  It was okay for one party, but not for another party….I don’t know, it sort of left me with a weird feeling.

But again, when I closed the book I didn’t hate it.  It was readable and even though I didn’t like the character or thought that certain members acted a little unrealistic, I still found it to be an enjoyable enough read.  But I don’t exactly know why.

If you don’t get mad by infidelity and double standards, you could foreseeably pick this one up.  Like I said, it’s not that bad.  It’s just full of assholes.

Overall Rating: A B-

Rom Com Horror Fusion: There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

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Scream meets YA in this hotly-anticipated new novel from the bestselling author of Anna and the French Kiss.

One-by-one, the students of Osborne High are dying in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, the dark secrets among them must finally be confronted.

International bestselling author Stephanie Perkins returns with a fresh take on the classic teen slasher story that’s fun, quick-witted, and completely impossible to put down.

Source: GoodReads

I applaud authors whenever they step out of their comfort zone, though I’m also a little skeptical.  Which is what describes my feelings when I saw that Stephanie Perkins was writing a teen slasher novel.

If you’re not familiar with Perkins’s work,  she has previously written three incredibly fluffy rom coms and has contribute two stories to two anthologies that focus on seasonal romance stories.  Needless to say, seeing that she was writing a horror driven story was a little unexpected.

Though, if you kept up on her blog you would know she had a penchant for such movies.

Anyway, overall after I finished There’s Someone Inside Your House, I was feeling a bit meh.    It wasn’t the worst book ever by any means, but I really think had it not had Perkins name attached it might’ve not been picked up.

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I’ll start with the good stuff.  This novel has a set of fairly diverse characters and they’re not token characters by any means.  The main character, for example, is biracial and her best friend is transgender.    They all have fully formed personalities and the interactions for the most part flow fairly naturally.

I will give Perkins this, her strength always seems to be her characterizations. Each of these characters for the most part seems fully formed.  Yes, I felt more disconnect than I did from her other books since the book was in third person, but I still felt like these characters could be real people.

I wasn’t such a fan the ship though.  I think, in part, because I felt it was rushed.  I guess this might’ve been in part because I’m so used to Perkins’s rom coms where the ship is the focus of the book.  But even then..the characters go from having an awkward conversation in a grocery store to having sex in a corn field ridiculously fast.

It just felt really fragmented if you want to be honest about it.

In general, the book felt very fractured.

I’ll be blunt, I’m not a huge fan of horror movies unless its a black comedy horror movie like Arachnophobia or Serial Mom, but in order for any of these movies to work the suspense has to be built up appropriately.   That’s why Hitchcock was as successful as he was with his classic suspense films.  Here, the suspense was minimum at best.  I mean, the killer was a random character that was revealed halfway through the book and I really didn’t care.

Honestly, this book should’ve gone in two ways.  It could’ve gone really dark or black comedy sort of dark, but it went neither here.  Instead, it was not that humorous and while the killer was creepy, he was fairly generic and the plot didn’t intrigue me enough.

And as for the deep dark secret that our heroine has….um, yeah.  I really had a hard time buying all that.  And her parents…again, yeah.  I had a hard time buying they were that heartless.  I guess it was possible, but yeah…it just was a bit eye roll worthy.

I really don’t know if I’d recommend this one.  Even if you are a die hard Stephanie Perkins fan, I don’t think you’re going to be a fan of this one.  It’s not bad, it’s just sort of blah.  Again, I think it’s one of those books that if it didn’t have a name attached to it, it would be thrown into the slush pile.  There’s nothing really original or intriguing about it, but was it terrible?

Hardly.

It’s just one of those books I know that I’m really not going to remember which is sad.  Again, I love when authors try new things, but this just does not seem to work for me which is sad, I’ve been waiting pretty much since 2014 for Perkins to release something else.

Hopefully next time, it will be a cute and fluffy rom com.

Overall Rating: A C.  The writing was halfway decent and it was readable, but it was also definitely forgettable.