Monthly Archives: September 2016

Review of Burn It, by Jennifer Cie

Burn itI’ve had Burn It on my TBR for three years. I received it as a review request from the author, Jennifer Cie, but it never appealed to me. So, it languished. I randomly came across it on my kindle, this afternoon, and decided to give it a read.

Description from Goodreads:
With the rest of her life ahead of her, Jennifer Cie is taking a step back. As she reflects on what was once next, Jennifer dives into the past, finding mortality in no longer remembering how magical the world felt as a child, apologizing for the moment she realized she could not be her Prince Charming’s Cinderella, and lamenting the idea that in death people forget “there doesn’t have to be a dead body in the room”. A collection of “what I wish someone would’ve told me” narratives exploring youth, love, and death, the reader is taken on a riveting ride through Jennifer Cie’s past as she accepts the present.

Arg, reviewing memoirs of living people is hard. Reviewing living peoples’ memoirs that deal with their hurts and traumas is even harder. Because, in a very real sense, there is no way to separate the writing from the events. Oh sure, the author doesn’t have a firm grasp of formatting or needs to invest in far better editing is possible, but the writing of the story is irrevocably linked to the unchangeable events of their lives and criticizing one is critiquing the other. So, rather than try, I’m going to set down here a series of impressions I had while reading the book.

  1. Near the end of chapter one: This is the angst filled war cry of the Millennials—the 20-somethings fucked over by the baby boomers, fed a steady diet of ‘you can be anything you want to be,’ along side ‘you’re obviously too lazy to be successful, as you’ve not succeeded in this zero growth, zero opportunity, zero prosperity market that we’ve endowed you with.’ And it’s good. It’s emotive and moving, unfortunately it’s also pointless. It’s stream of consciousness, vignette rambling that never accomplishes anything, that never manages, despite it’s obvious intelligence and poetry, to cumulate into anything meaningful. And while I gather that’s sort of the point; it’s the perfect allegory for the position young adults find themselves in—the stranded, abandoned, farce of accountability—it’s frustrating to read. You start with such high expectations, are led along a pleasant, padded journey, to arrive nowhere.
  2. Early in chapter two: Oh, now we’ve hit the clichéd angst filled, ‘OMG love is so all-encompassingly horrible-wonderful.’ We all remember our early twenties being full of this same chaos of emotions.
  3. Tears. Not only for the things the author goes through, but for all the girls on college campuses everywhere going through the same thing. A huge emotional impact. I hope it was cathartic to write it and release it into the world.
  4. That’s a great wedding speech.
  5. Oh shit. Like one life shattering trauma wasn’t enough. Someone hug this girl…well, maybe she’s not the huggy time. But someone do what needs doing to comfort her. I demand it. Shelfish yes, but I demand it.
  6. This would be great for people in their early twenties to read. I’m almost forty and I can remember relating to some of it. But I’m too far removed for anything but the tragedies to truly move me. The rest, while relevant and real, feels over blown and dramatic. We all had to suffer through those same uncertainties, that lack of solid identity, that confusion and self doubt. That’s what growing up means. It’s not special or specific to anyone. But to those still mired in it, seeing another experiencing it could be really important. Or, might be their ‘this is what happens next’ moment.
  7. I really wish it wasn’t quite so poetry-journal in its format (including all the typos, missing words and homophones you would expect in a diary one keeps for themselves). It’s confusing and lacks any significant sense of purpose. The prose is great, but I need more structure.
  8. If I had a paper copy I just might burn it, as requested.

So, maybe not really a review, but there you have it. These are the main thoughts that jumped out at me while reading Burn it. Pass it out to female college Freshman.

Review of First Rodeo, by Judith Hennessey

First RodeoI won a copy of Judy Hennessey‘s First Rodeo through Goodreads. It was an extra surprise as Hennessey is a local-to-me author and half of it is set in Saint Louis, where I live.

Description from Goodreads:
Kate, an attractive, thirty-something, workaholic, single mother, is in the business of pleasing others. At the top of her yes list is her sometimes surly and controlling boss: her father. But when a crisis at work spurs Kate to examine her life, she surprises everyone by taking her young son and heading where few high heels have ever gone: Wyoming, home to more cows than humans. There, at the Prickly Pair Ranch, she meets a young, sexy, bull rider, who s lived a lifetime in just over two decades. He s full of big dreams of training horses, and his passion fuels Kate s dormant dreams of becoming an artist, and sparks fly and once again, Kate shocks everyone, even herself, and jumps on for the romantic ride of her life.

First and foremost, this is not, I repeat, NOT a romance. And that is fine of course, but I really feel like it is billed as one. So, it not being one felt like a bait and switch. Moving on.

I did not understand the choices Kate made in this book, starting with the insta-love between her and a man 13 years younger than her. The age gap didn’t bother me, but them having nothing in common and the instant relationship sure did. What was all that love based on? I saw nothing. Then, just about every decision she made baffled me. I could not relate.

In the end, I didn’t feel like I got any significant closure on the Jake front. He’s basically Brad Pit’s character from Thelma & Louise, except Kate tried to keep him. The events toward the end of the book (avoiding a spoiler here) came about as quickly as their relationship started. There was no buildup or gradual change.

I think what bothered me so much about it was that for most of the book you have dual POVs, making this feel like the story of them. Then when that suddenly changes and you realize it’s only supposed to be her story it feels like a bait and switch, just like the blurb. He is relegated to unimportant, but you’ve just spend significant time in his head. So, it’s hard to just dismiss him as the plot device he was.

I appreciate the theme of making yourself happy, instead of depending on another for it and some of the mysticism was interesting, though I didn’t really think it fit the rest of the story. All in all, I suppose there will be some who really like this. I’m not one of them. It was an ok book, but not my cup of tea.

As an aside, there was something odd going on with the page numbering. A whole chunk (~30 pages) was out of order. They were all there, just muddled up. I won the book on GR, so maybe it’s an ARC (though it’s not labeled as one).

What I’m drinking: It’s National Coffee Day. Yeah, that’s a real think; so coffee.

Review of Riding the Tail of the Dragon, by Jeannine Dahlberg

Riding the Tail of the DragonI picked up a copy of Riding the Tail of the Dragon at Goodwill. I do love my $0.70 books. I chose it for three reasons. For one, the author is from Saint Louis, which makes her local to me. Two, it’s signed and personalized to someone, which always ignites my imagination. And three, that author picture is everything to me right now. I’m not making fun. The book is fifteen years old and styles change. But it’s a Bedazzled Glamour Shot! Man, what a 1980s flashback that is.

Description from back of book:
Forces of feng shui and a powerful, benevolent Chinese dragon create a whirl of excitement for Seth Coleman as he pursues his search for Rachel Ramsey, an heiress who is presumed to have survived the ravages of World War II in Paris.

Leaving Paris, the trail to find Rachel expands to Macau via the Panama Canal and Hong Kong. Traveling aboard a tramp steamer, murder, mystery and intrigue manifest to a compelling plot, which continues to the shores of Hong Kong, the island of Lantau and Macau.

Seth gains maturity during his adventurous holiday. The Orient, with its mystical beliefs in the ancient Chinese theory of feng shui, opens a new dimension for Seth in learning about the principles of harmony and balance in nature with its influences for good or evil. There is a choice, and Seth’s decisions affect his consequences, igniting energetic support from the invisible world of the Chinese dragon.

This ancient, antediluvian creature, which symbolizes power, fertility and well being in the Far East, is from the beginning of Seth’s adventure his protective guardian.

A man now wiser in worldly matters emerges at the end of his journey to capture the essence of friendship, loyalty and love.

Wow, that was…not very good. The story was sweet and all, but it was basically a series of unbelievable coincidences that allowed a young man to leave America for France and trace a woman, who’s adoptive name he didn’t even know, to a whole different country with no trouble…none at all. I mean, he just happened to stay at the one hotel where someone could tell him this. Just happened to meet the one girl who could connect him to just the right person to tell him that. Just happened to hire the one ship that would lead him to here. Just happened to hire the one coolie that would help him with that. At every stage he met the right person, was in the right place, said the right thing, such that there was no tension, no conflict, no difficulties present to him. None. Then there was insta-love on top of everything else.

What’s more, until the end of the book, when the draft for the Korean war was mentioned, I didn’t know the time frame for the novel. Post-WWII was all I knew, as gas was still rationed in France. And being that it was just after the war, I had trouble believing that people were so willing to give the main character information about the family he was seeking, as they were in hiding. Why were so many people so willing to disclose their location to this American stranger? And if you were in hiding would you continue to go by, not only your same name, but title as well (General bla, bla, bla)? I’m sorry, nothing in this book was believable. I thought the blurbs mention of Feng Shiu and a dragon meant that there might eventually be a magical explanation, but no.

I was also a little uncomfortable with the othering of the people of the China and Macau. It was subtle and I suspect unintentional on the part of the author, but definitely present. As was the subtle way females were shown as less competent. You have a female secret agent and a daughter raised to be part of a military-like force and both are left out of all the action. When guns were passed out only men received them, even the one who had no military training at all. While the closest either woman came to being active in her own defense (even though present) was passing her knife to a man. And when one later made a major decision in her life, she first asserted, “My father agrees…” This being the adaptive father in another country, who had nothing to do with the decision being made. But can’t have a woman deciding things without a man, oh no. Can’t have that.

None of this was helped by the head hopping, stiff writing and stilted dialogue that used names and titles far too frequently to feel natural or the way it’s almost all tell instead of show. So, while I believe the author was aiming for a sweet, affirming, love story it was a basic fail for me.

What I’m drinking: You guys, I’m not well. I have a cold…maybe mild flu. I don’t know, but I’m hacking half my lungs out and am stuffy as all get out. So, I’m drinking my body weight in echinacea tea.