Die, Dude Brow, Die: Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner

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Cameron’s cosplay–dressing like a fictional character–is finally starting to earn her attention–attention she hopes to use to get into the CalTech costume department for college. But when she wins a major competition, she inadvertently sets off a firestorm of angry comments from male fans.

When Cameron’s family moves the summer before her senior year, she hopes to complete her costume portfolio in peace and quiet away from the abuse. Unfortunately, the only comic shop in town–her main destination for character reference–is staffed by a dudebro owner who challenges every woman who comes into the shop.

At her twin brother’s suggestion, Cameron borrows a set of his clothes and uses her costuming expertise to waltz into the shop as Boy Cameron, where she’s shocked at how easily she’s accepted into the nerd inner sanctum. Soon, Cameron finds herself drafted into a D&D campaign alongside the jerky shop-owner Brody, friendly (almost flirtatiously so) clerk Wyatt, handsome Lincoln, and her bro Cooper, dragged along for good measure.

But as her “secret identity” gets more and more entrenched, Cameron’s portfolio falls by the wayside–and her feelings for Lincoln threaten to make a complicated situation even more precarious.

Source: GoodReads

I really liked Chaotic Good, but I felt like it was missing a certain oomph.  This was one book where I wanted 200 more pages than the mere 250-ish pages I got.  However, what I got I can’t complain about too much.

Though, is it so wrong that I want a certain character to die a slow death.

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This book hit home in a lot of ways.  Any woman has probably encountered a dude bro (aka a misogynist asshole)  at some point in her life.  It’s like an experience that we all experience but all wish we could  have not experienced- I  sort of equate it to  having a period except misogynic assholes just don’t tolerate biological women but ALL women and  birth control cannot make misogynists  tolerable, though it can prevent their existence technically I guess.  God knows you have  if you’ve ever been told to smile, been honked out when you’re jogging, or for that matter have been told you’re not a real fan because you’re female and might like aspects of a series or game that those of the masculine persuasion might not because you know dude bro’s opinions are so much better than yours…

I could go on, but you get the picture.  Chaotic Good tries to conquer misogynist assholes and while I do feel like a lot of important aspects were raised, at the end of the day I wasn’t so satisfied with how everything was dealt with.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know.  I probably wouldn’t be satisfied unless Brody was castrated and they made a section at his store for nincompoop dicks, but I’m ahead of myself.  I think what really bothered me about Chaotic Good was that everything just clicked into place seemingly easily.  Up until the last fifteen pages, it seemed like Cameron’s life was one big dumpster fire.  But a picture of her gets liked by some costume designer, the dude bro gets an exorcism, and her twin brother and his boyfriend like her again, so everything in hunky dory.  Life just doesn’t work that way…

Also, really, why are you friends with that dude bro, Cameron?  He is the type of guy you block on the internet and run, run away from.

Besides the ridiculous fast wrap up, I did like the book though.  Although, the whole premises could’ve been avoided with Cameron ordering her comics online to avoid dude bros.   God knows, I order stuff on the internet just because I’m too lazy to drive, and I have also ordered stuff online come to think of it to avoid annoying people.  It is so much easier than wrapping my breasts up, stuffing my hair in a beanie, and going around as a guy just to avoid  assholes.

Honestly, I wish rather than having the whole I’m going to avoid the misogynist at the comic store that Cameron would’ve just been androgynous looking or gender queer.    God knows, it would’ve been refreshing and a lot hell more realistic than this complicated scheme that could’ve been avoided by just Amazon-ing it, BUT hey it’s fiction, so..

I will say I do love the gender bending trope.  It’s a timeless favorite of mine ever since I saw that old black and white film, Some Like It Hot, it’s just that a lot of times the situation that has the character flipping genders doesn’t really make sense as in Chaotic Good.

Other than the suspension of logic, I liked the book.  The romance wasn’t my favorite but it worked.  Honestly, I could’ve passed on it either way, but it wasn’t terrible.  It sort of reminded me of the Penny/Lenard relationship on The Big Bang Theory which wasn’t really my favorite ship but it had it’s adorable moments.  I liked the D&D crew too save for Brody, who really needs to die a slow death.

God, I hate Brody.  I wish there was a way to block a character in a book.  I have to give Gardner credit though for making me hate that asshole.

I didn’t like that he was still part of the group at the end though.  He really shouldn’t have been…

I guess overall, I liked this book.  I was just hoping that some things would’ve been fleshed out a little more.  It seemed to me that this was a story that could’ve dived into the meat of things more than it did.  What I got I liked but I just wanted more…

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Overall Rating: A solid B.  The book is timely.  I liked that it did address issues.  I just wanted more.

 

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What I Wanted vs What I Got: And She Was by Jessica Verdi

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Dara’s lived a sheltered life with her single mom, Mellie. Now, at eighteen, she’s dreaming of more. When Dara digs up her never-before-seen birth certificate, her world implodes. Why are two strangers listed as her parents?

Dara confronts her mother, and is stunned by what she learns: Mellie is transgender. The unfamiliar name listed under “father”? That’s Mellie. She transitioned when Dara was a baby, shortly after Dara’s birth mother died.

But Dara still has more questions than answers. Reeling, she sets off on a road trip with her best guy friend, Sam. She’s determined to find the extended family she’s never met. What she discovers—and what her mother reveals, piece by piece over emails—will challenge and change Dara more than she can imagine.

From rising star Jessica Verdi, this is a gorgeous, timely, and essential novel about the importance of being our true selves.

Source: GoodReads

What I Wanted: A book with a mother-daughter relationship that was a bit Gilmore Girls-is but instead of running away from rich parents because of teenage pregnancy, the Lorelai ran away because she came out as transgender and Grandpa and Grandma Gilmore couldn’t handle it.  Also, some coffee would’ve helped too.

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What I Got: A book where the MC and her mother really have a nonexistent relationship and once the MC found out that her mother was transgender, she pretty much flips out on her and runs away with some random guy we’re told is her b.f.f.

Yeah…

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Okay, going by the premises I knew that there was going to be a road trip and all of that, but I was hoping at the very least that the relationship between Melly and Dara would’ve been a little bit more than it was.

Even before Melly’s secret is revealed she and Dara are distant at best.  Dara has her head in the clouds and Melly was just…I don’t know not all the way there and sort of rigid.  The premises to me just seemed like there would be more of a mother and daughter connection than there actually was.

As I mentioned before, I really didn’t care for Dara.  She was was self absorbed and really had no realistic ambitions.  While I know that not every teen is college bound, I wish she would’ve had a slightly more realistic plan for the future than work for a juice bar and attempt to play pro tennis.  It just annoyed me, especially since Verdi has all the supporting cast point out several times throughout the narrative that it isn’t likely that Dara is going to advance in the pro circuit.

As for how trans issues were handled…honestly, I only made it about 110 pages in the book, and as a cis female I’m probably not the person you want to ask about sensitivity issues.  Still though, I found Dara’s behavior sort of disturbing at least from my perspective.  She instantly wants to meet her grandparents, despite hearing from her mother that they are essentially bigots.

Oh, it’s okay if they hate the woman that raised me for eighteen years they’re my grandparents…and I’m not a bigot because I follow sport stars that preach LGBTQ issues.

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You see where we’re going here.

Given that I DNF’d this, I didn’t see every cringe worthy moment that results from Dara’s betrayal and stupidity.  However, being the spoiler loving junkie that I am (and the should I even bother addict that I am) I took a peak at the end and it seems as disappointing as I predicted it.

Some of you might be wondering what I was expecting.  After all, the blurb clearly illustrates that there’s going to be some sort of separation between Melly and Dara throughout the duration of the book.  And I expected it, but I also expected them to have some sort of bond besides liking to eat hot sauce.

Instead, it was more about Dara’s relationship with stupid Sam who had a girlfriend until like two minutes ago which totally means he’s going to be in Dara’s pants by the end of the book.

Look, this book just wasn’t for me.  Maybe it gets better as it progresses, but quite honestly I wanted to read more about Melly than Dara.  And unfortunately I had to read more about Dara who is more f’d up than Rory Gilmore on the Netflix’s revival (seriously, Rory look at your choices).

Overall Rating: DNF.  I’d rather watch Rory and Dean and that’s saying a lot.  Because, ew Dean.

 

A Book That Makes Me Like Camping (Or Reading About It): Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

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Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern day, Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets.

But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together.

What could go wrong?

With no one but each other for company, Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to hash out their issues via witty jabs and insults as they try to make their way to safety. But fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature makes getting out of the woods in one piece less and less likely.

And as the two travel deeper into Northern California’s rugged backcountry, secrets and hidden feelings surface. But can Zorie and Lennon’s rekindled connection survive out in the real world? Or was it just a result of the fresh forest air and the magic of the twinkling stars?

Source: GoodReads

Jenn Bennett is officially on my favorites list.  This book sort of solidified it for me.  Starry Eyes took a topic I really didn’t think I’d like-camping-and turned it into an interesting foot popping story.

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Because really Bennett is the master of ships.  I adored Zorie and Lennon and all of their love hate-ness.  And despite being an extremely ship book, here were a lot of things about this book that resonated with me.  It was a book that I could really identify with because I shared a similar experience to what Zorie dealt with this book when I was roughly her age.

The emotions that Bennett has her going through throughout the book was something that I could identify with.  How a parent’s betrayal can have ramifications on not only their significant other but their kids as well.  I thought that Bennet did a good job showing this.

If I had to fault the book, I think what bothered me is the drama did get a little over the top at times.  Especially the fall out with Reagan.  Honestly,  I didn’t even get why Zorie was friends with Reagan.  It seemed so forced.  She more or less existed as a plot point to get Zorie and Lennon stranded-which by the way happens much later in the book than I thought it would.  But anyway, back to Reagan and her friends they really were just pointless.  When they abandoned Zorie and Lennon I was glad, I was like finally….

While Reagan annoyed me, I did like some of the supporting characters which is better than a lot of YA books.  I thought Lennon’s family was pretty well fleshed out and I did like Zorie’s mother.  Her dad though was a douche.  But I have to say the depiction was pretty much spot on, living through a similar situation the dad character did make sense to me.

As I mentioned earlier, I was pleasantly surprised with the whole how lost in the wilderness thing was handled.  I’m not an outdoors girl.  I freak out when there is even a fly in my house.  Honestly, I don’t even like reading about the outdoors.  Yeah, there was that one somewhat interesting Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys super mystery  where she goes camping, the Hardy boys pop out of nowhere-they always popped out of nowhere in the super mysteries-, Nancy and Frank almost make out again and their chased by the mob who apparently their trail guide owes a lot of money too but….not your typical outdoors book.  No, when I think of outdoorsy type of books I think about that stupid Literature and Culture class I took where I had to read that book about that guy who went to Alaska to live in a bus and die, oh and write a stupid paper about my local park that used to be the site of a Confederate powder mill.

Ah, memories that the blog reader does not  know or care about…

Weird discretion that probably has you confused aside, I think it shows just how good and enjoyable a book is when they can make a subject you find meh at best enjoyable.  Not that I’m planning on going camping anytime soon, but after reading Starry Eyes I don’t think I would mind so much reading it.

If you like love-hate romances, second chance romances, have an interest in the outdoors, or for that matter astronomy you should definitely give Starry Eyes a try.  Bennet is definitely on my to buy list now.  And it seems I have a bit of a backlist to get too.

Overall Rating: An A-

North of Nope: North of Happy by Adi Alsaid

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His whole life has been mapped out for him…

Carlos Portillo has always led a privileged and sheltered life. A dual citizen of Mexico and the US, he lives in Mexico City with his wealthy family, where he attends an elite international school. Always a rule follower and a parent pleaser, Carlos is more than happy to tread the well-worn path in front of him. He has always loved food and cooking, but his parents see it as just a hobby.

When his older brother, Felix—who has dropped out of college to live a life of travel—is tragically killed, Carlos begins hearing his brother’s voice, giving him advice and pushing him to rebel against his father’s plan for him. Worrying about his mental health, but knowing the voice is right, Carlos runs away to the United States and manages to secure a job with his favorite celebrity chef. As he works to improve his skills in the kitchen and pursue his dream, he begins to fall for his boss’s daughter—a fact that could end his career before it begins. Finally living for himself, Carlos must decide what’s most important to him and where his true path really lies.

Source: GoodReads

Amendment: I just noticed from the blurb that the MC is a duel citizen.  I probably skimmed over this when I read the 88 pages or it’s addressed later on.  That at least gives the book more factual credence than I previously thought it had-re the employment situation.  That’s what you get for not reading the entire thing I guess (shrugs).  

 

Another day, another DNF.  I have to tell you guys I really do hate DNF’ing books.  The thing is after reviewing books for seven years and reading bull shitty books even longer, I just don’t have the tolerance like I used to to stomach through.

And even though I know it’s better for me to stop, I keep hearing the whole quitters never win lecture my mom always spewed when I throw a book against the wall.

However, one thing I don’t think my mom ever really conceptualized is that it sometimes its better to cut your loses than to continue with something you’re going to hate and that’s sort of the situation I was in with North of Happy.

I made it through about 88 pages of this one before I threw it into the giveaway pile-and yes, I have a huge box of books in my garage that I need to get rid of.  Usually that means, giving it away to a library or maybe to a needy family or two at the holidays.  Note, I’d probably do a giveaway at some point on this blog too-only thing is I’d have to go to the post office and pay probably a ridiculous amount in shipping and I’m not that fond of doing that (sorry, not sorry).

Anyway, digression about the give away box aside, North of Happy was a book I knew I was not going to like.  The set up itself seemed interesting- it involves cooking and fish out of water tale.  BUT add seemingly pointless delusions that seem to indicate the MC has mental illness but is never addressed as such, a MPDG of a love interest, AND a suspension of lack of reality when it comes to immigrants getting a job in the US (it’s not that easy) I got annoyed fast.

I ended up giving it more of a it’s me not you DNF score.

Let’s start with what bothered me the most.  The delusions the MC has.  I think they’re meant to sort of have a magical realism quality about it, but God knows they came more or less as delusions as someone who is mentally ill and I wished that would’ve been addressed.  Maybe it was as the book progressed, but I didn’t see it happening anytime soon.  Also, I got to say the delusion of his brother annoyed me.  He was one of those characters I wanted to smack and shake.  Just so sanctimonious with his follow your dreams, screw stability in life, and I manifest myself as a random pigeon shit.

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Yeah, that probably doesn’t make sense unless you read the book.  Though, it’s probably the only time I’ll be able to use a gift of that weird Bird Lady from Home Alone 2: Trump Makes a Prequel Pee Pee Tape at the Plaza! 

But hey, my review my thoughts, and that was what I was thinking when I read this book.

Here’s the thing what really annoyed me about the Felix delusions.  If the book was going to have delusions in it, I wanted them addressed for what they are-mental illness.  Having them as a plot point or being used in this weirdo quasi magical realism thing just didn’t work.  It honestly cheapened the story more than anything else.  And honestly is kind of insulting.

The other big issue that annoyed me was Emma.  She’s your stereotypical MPDG (manic pixie dream girl) I just rolled my eyes at her entrance and could really care less about her.  Also, I really can’t see some girl suggesting some random dude to be hired for her mother’s five star restaurant.  It just seemed out of the blue, and again characterization wise it seemed just out there.   Especially since when What’s His Face-I don’t even remember his name and it’s been a little less than a day since I quit this book-shows up at Emma’s mom’s restaurant he’s acting a little less than sane.  I mean, unless Emma wants to sabotage her mom, I really don’t think asking to hire the random weirdo was a good idea.

Which brings me to concern three.  Even if I didn’t take immigration law, I have I still would’ve rolled my eyes with What’s His Face getting a job because of filling out various employment verification forms your have to fill out when you’re hired by a job.  Add the fact I did take immigration law, and know (unlike the current ignoramus who is sadly president) that low wage jobs are usually not in abundance for immigrants.  Let alone tourists like What’s His Face.

And yes, I know people could technically be paying him under the table…but Emma’s mom is a celebrity chef and I doubt she was going to be hit with a scandalous expose on Eater.com but hey what do I know…Mario Batali liked to flaunt labor laws in the past so…

Even the recipes that were introduced at the beginning of each chapter were lackluster to me.  It was more or less a list of ingredients.  Which is more less like my grocery list.  Yes tomatoes, flank steak, onion, garlic, cilantro, and corn tortillas can be appetizing but just listing the ingredients isn’t going to make me salivate.  There is an art to food writing.

Which reminds me, at some point I really do need to start reviewing my stash cookbooks.  Especially my mom’s.  She has some cookbooks published in the 80’s and 90’s that would be fun to review-though probably not very gluten free friendly.

Digression, digression.

I am doing that a lot in this review.  Which does not bode well for the book.  At the end of the day, ask me two or three weeks about North of Happy and I probably won’t be able to tell you much just that it had a lot of potential and just didn’t deliver.

Overall Rating: DNF

Under Baked: Recipe for Kisses by Michelle Major

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Chloe Daniels doesn’t need a man—after escaping a marriage gone bad, she guards her heart as closely as the details of her past. So when hot-tempered celebrity chef Ben “the Beast” Haddox storms into her struggling toy store, Chloe is determined not to be drawn in by his broad shoulders…or baby-blue eyes.

In his hometown, Ben’s culinary career is almost as famous as his bad-boy rep. He’s out to prove to naysayers he’s a success by opening a new restaurant—and the only thing standing in his way is Chloe’s store. But before he has a chance to convert her space into his signature eatery, she cooks up a plan to show him that her shop is worth saving.

As things start to sizzle between them, Chloe must figure out how to avoid getting burned. Can she trust herself to love again, or has she jumped out of the frying pan and into desire?

Source: GoodReads

I haven’t posted lately.  It’s a mixture of just taking a mental health break from blogging, being on vacation, and just being too exhausted from work to blog.  But I have been reading.  Just a lot of romance instead of YA.

I get that way occasionally.  However, I have a stack of interesting YA books I need to get to get to, so I’m sure I’ll be chugging back YA books soon enough.

Recipe of Kisses interesting me mainly because it was suppose to be a romance featuring a celebrity chef.  I like watching cooking shows, and I read cookbooks in my free time.  So I was like..hmmm, could be good.  Especially since hero is suppose to be a loud angry Gordon Ramsay type.  Only thing is, Ben is not near as entertaining as Ramsay and I had such a hard time buying that a thing could develop between him and Chloe that I DNF’d this book.

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I’ll be honest, I could see this book as a Hallmark movie.  It had every single hallmark (ha, ha, no pun intended) that such a movie would have.  I could even see it now Ben being played by Colin Egglesfield and Chloe being played by Lacey Chalbert.   That’s not a good thing, people.

I mean, nothing against those actors but I shouldn’t be imagining a bad 90 minute TV movie in my head.  If I’m picturing a book as a movie it needs to be a fantastic movie,  not one where I snark at it at every turn.

Honestly, the Hallmark movie would’ve been more fleshed out.  At the very least there would’ve been a whole reason for the whole non-lease renewal thing.  And seriously, if Colorado law is anything like Texas or Louisiana law, I’m surprised that Ben couldn’t have thrown Chloe’s ass out for not paying rent.  It annoyed me how she kept acting like a victim because he didn’t want to renew her lease-I mean, bitch, please find another location.  You can still have your store.  And for that matter, pay your fucking rent.   And don’t act like Ben is a bad guy for kicking you out.  Also, can that annoying employee who wears the tie dye shirts and tells you how to run your business.  She was not endearing, she was an annoying old biddy who Gordon would’ve told to fuck off if she was on his show (actually, he did sort of tell off a woman who reminded me of that lady on Hotel Hell when he helped out that pentecostal looking woman in West Virginia who was a horder-I watch way too much TV).

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It’s amazing how many grievances I can find when I only read 40% of the book.

Ben is no saint either.  He has anger issues to say the least.  Furthermore, I did not understand for the life of me why he stayed with his ass hat father when he could rent an apartment or something.  It just didn’t make sense of me, the plot point brats (and yes, I’ll refer to the kids in this book as brats) wouldn’t that upheaved by moving away from their abuser grandfather’s house.  And quite honestly, the brief amounts the father character appeared he made me cringe.

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I could do without him.

As for the  plot point brats, we have the stereotypical sullen teenage girl who we all know Chloe is going to form a bond with and then the younger boy who was pretty much there for the cuteness factor.  I really could have done without them or the toy store business.

The toy store thing annoyed me, I guess because it just didn’t really fit and I didn’t see why Chloe was so driven to save her store.  She was more about saving the women who worked there.  It would’ve made more sense for her to work as a counselor or something, just saying.

Also, the characters interaction to each other didn’t make much sense.  Chloe wants the store so she is instantly mad at Ben.  She doesn’t seem to think that hey dude owes building.  And when she sprays him with pepper spray….uh, no.

This book just wasn’t for me.  I hate to say, I think I’m becoming a little cynical.  Maybe it’s because the line of work I do, but when I read a romance with shoddy characterization the first thing that comes into my mind is divorce court and that just isn’t right.  One thing I’m asking myself when I read romances lately has been would I have enjoyed this ten years ago.

And the answer with this one is no.  It’s just too flat.  It had potential to be a great story but it really failed on execution.  Let’s just put it this way, if this book was a beef wellington Gordon Ramsay would be throwing it against the wall.

Overall Rating: DNF