Book review: Grin and Beard It by Penny Reid

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Famous comedian Sienna Diaz is filming a new movie in rural Tennessee.  Although she has no sense of direction and doesn’t seem to know how to read a map, she decides to drive herself to her new, temporary home. Park ranger Jethro Winston finds her pulled over, hopelessly lost, and incredibly frustrated. He doesn’t recognize her and offers to drive her home, beginning a tentative new friendship that slowly blossoms into something more.

I really enjoyed Truth or Beard and thought that I would enjoy Grin and Beard It more than I did.  Sure, Jethro and Sienna were cute together.  They had chemistry and I liked both of them individually, but they sure jumped into things quickly.  Both of them seemed to have a lot of issues to work through and I never really got the impression that they dealt with them.

I mean, Sienna was super insecure and always convinced that Jethro was going to leave her, but then she just… wasn’t.  And Jethro was super worried about his past and his dad coming back to haunt him and Sienna, and then all of a sudden, he’s just… not.  These aren’t conflicts that can automatically resolve themselves.  What happened?

I liked and appreciated the feminist messages throughout this book.  Sienna isn’t shy about the fact that she’s fat, and there’s a definite body positivity message running through the plot.  But, despite all of this, Sienna’s attitude toward Jethro’s celibacy kind of grossed me out.  I mean, if it had been Sienna who decided to save herself for marriage and Jethro was complaining and yelling, “BUT I’M HORNY THOUGH,” while constantly pressuring her and pouting around because he wasn’t getting laid, we’d all agree that he’s a terrible person, right? But since it was flipped and it was Sienna complaining about Jethro not wanting to have sex, it’s supposed to be this feminist message or something?  No.  I get that Sienna was insecure, but Jethro matters too.

Aside from that whole thing, I laughed out loud a lot and thought that the book was pretty cute.  It definitely needed an editor – so many unnecessary, repetitive, and drawn out scenes – and I was surprised at the direction Reid took the plot, particularly with Marta.  I wanted to like the book more than I did. It just didn’t quite do it for me.

Still, I’m looking forward to the books featuring Billy, Cletus, and Roscoe.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆

Book review: Truth or Beard by Penny Reid

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About this time last year, I read Penny Reid’s Neanderthal Seeks Human.  I’d heard some great things about it but ended up not liking it as much as I’d expected.  Then I heard about Penny Reid’s Winston Brothers series. I was skeptical, but I decided to give it a chance.

It was so much better than I expected.

Jessica James has recently returned to town, planning to work for a few years before leaving again to travel the world.  For years, Jessica has harbored a crush on Beau Winston and some serious disdain for his twin brother, Duane. A case of mistaken identity leaves Jessica questioning everything she thought was true – could Duane really be the one she wants after all?

I loved Duane Winston.  He’d always liked Jessica, but she was so fixated on his brother that he thought nothing would ever happen between the two of them. Once they get together, they fight and banter and come together with such electricity that I couldn’t even handle it.

Now, this book wasn’t perfect by any means.  Much like in Neanderthal Seeks Human, we spend a whole lot of time inside Jessica’s head, and there’s a lot of repetition that could have been cut out.  The good in this book outweighed the bad, though, and placed this book at a firm four stars.

Final rating: ★★★★☆

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I was forced to read and actually enjoyed

Happy Top Ten Tuesday!  For all of the books that I willingly read (good and bad), I have to say that I hate being forced to read something.  Generally, being required to pick up a book, analyze it, and formulate academic opinions with sourced cited is enough to make me despise a book, no matter how good it may be.  Today, I’m going back in time to a previous topic and discussing

// I had to read the Handbook of the International Phonetic Association in my sophomore year of college when I took an introductory phonetics course.  This is one of the first classes that you take as a linguistics major, and it sets you up for understanding the rest of the major. It’s also really useful for when you don’t know how to pronounce a word because now you know what all of those symbols in the dictionary or on the Wikipedia page mean!  This book also helped me get a relatively well-paying job correcting text-to-speech errors during my senior year of college.

// Invitation to a Beheading was required reading in a Russian lit course I took during my last year of college.  I actually hated this course because it was so boring.  There were no tests, no quizzes, no papers, and no required discussion.  I honestly do not even remember how we were graded.  We just sat in a lecture hall as the professor droned on and on and on about these dusty old Russian novels.  He didn’t even try to make it interesting.  The one bright spot was this book, which is also the only book by Nabokov that I’ve ever enjoyed.

// Can I talk for a second about my love of morphology?  It’s the area of linguistics that studies how we put pieces together to make words, and it absolutely fascinates me.  I took a grad-level seminar on morphology during my last semester of college and wrote my thesis on English word formation.  This book was the foundation of that paper and it explains why we make words like “hocus pocus” instead of “pocus hocus” or “wibbly wobbly timey wimey” instead of “wobbly wibbly wimey timey.”

// I’ve talked about Kallocain before, and it’s the first of four books on this list that came from a Scandinavian lit class during my junior year of college. In Kallocain, Leo Kall creates a truth serum with the potential to alleviate some of the strain on the legal system.  Accused criminals can just be injected with the serum, and if they’re guilty, they’ll just confess. As in any good dystopian novel, it’s not long before things get out of hand and the serum is abused by the government.

// If I’m honest, I don’t really remember a lot of what happens in A Tale of Two Cities.  If I remember correctly, it’s been about eleven years since I read it, and I’ve probably read a good five or six hundred books in that time.  What I do remember, though, is discussing it at lunch with my friends.  Talking about the shocking revelations.  I remember how it made me feel, and I remember liking it.

// As I recall, Great Expectations was required reading during freshman English in high school.  It was my first experience with probably the best English teacher I ever had – a woman who made required reading fun.  Much like with A Tale of Two Cities (coincidentally assigned by the same teacher), I don’t remember much of what happens in Great Expectations. I do remember Pip, though, and discussing him and Miss Havisham in depth over many school lunches.

// The second of four books assigned in that delightful Scandinavian lit class, We rocked my world.  It’s so interesting to go back to the beginning of dystopian novels to see where it all began.  We is written in a very detached, almost clinical manner. Our narrator doesn’t even have a name – he’s just D-503.  He doesn’t have words for what he’s experiencing, and it’s just. so. good. 1984 didn’t do it for me, but I thought We was great.

// Had it not been assigned in that Scandinavian lit class, I doubt that I would have ever gotten around to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I’ve talked before about how I slacked off in that class, but I had to give a ninety-minute presentation on this book so you can bet that I read it more carefully than I’ve ever read anything in my life.  I went on to really enjoy The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.  Somewhere in my garage is The Girl in the Spider’s Web, which I will someday get around to.

// I often forget about Of Mice and Men.  Not necessarily the book, but the title escapes me.  Just the other day, I found myself Googling “that book about Lennie and George and the bunnies.” This is another book I read during high school, and aside from Lennie, George, and the bunnies, I don’t remember much.  I do remember liking it, though.

// Finally, we have Sidetracked. This is the fourth and final book from this list that was assigned in my Scandinavian lit class, and I loved it.  I recently found out that there’s a BBC miniseries about Det. Wallander that I might have to watch. The mystery in this one is just so good – I was on the edge of my seat for the majority of the book.

Have you really loved any books that you were forced to read?

Book review: Jackaby by William Ritter

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You know, when a blurb says something like “Game of Thrones meets The Hunger Games in an epic new series” or “If you liked Gone Girl, you’ll love this thrilling, darkly funny debut,” I’m immediately skeptical.  How many times can I say it: Don’t set your readers up to be disappointed. That said, I largely ignored the blurb for this one: “Doctor Who meets Sherlock in William Ritter’s debut novel.”

Sure. Doctor Who meets Sherlock.  I rolled my eyes.  I set that thought aside.  And I started reading.  And much to my surprise, this book is exactly like what would happen if you mashed up Doctor Who and Sherlock.  Great job, marketing team!

In Jackaby, Abigail Rook has just arrived in New England circa 1892.  She needs a job and pitches herself as the new assistant to Mr. Jackaby, a paranormal investigator.  While Jackaby has an eye for the extraordinary, Abigail notices the little, ordinary things that might otherwise be overlooked.  Abigail and Jackaby make a great team, and their first case together is a serial killer.  While I might have solved this mystery myself within the first few chapters, watching Abigail and Jackaby get there was sure a wild ride.

One thing that I really appreciated in this book was the utter lack of romance between Abigail and Jackaby. They are colleagues, and maybe sometimes friends, but nothing more.  That’s not to say that there’s no love interest in this book – I don’t want to give you the wrong impression – but it’s not Jackaby and it happens in the shadows, never taking away from the main point of this book: the mystery.

The book is well-written, entertaining, and engaging.  The plot is very fast-paced and all the characters were loveable. I mean, just look at this quote:

That the battles are usually in her head does not lessen the bravery of it. The hardest ones always are.

Once I finish my ARC’s and current library checkouts, I hope to head right into Beastly Bones.

Final rating: ★★★★☆

Book queue

It’s been a busy three days when it comes to galleys!  Thinking that I’d only be approved for one or two if I was lucky, I requested a whole ton of books on Netgalley earlier this week.  Then, as I was sitting at my desk, minding my own business and trying to do the job that I actually get paid for, my phone started blowing up.  Seriously, notification after notification was rolling in and I had no idea what was going on.

I had a constant flow of emails from Netgalley, which was so unexpected!  Not only was I approved for five galleys that I’d requested, but I was invited to read Alice Hoffman’s new book!

I’m already knee-deep in The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash, so, what’s next?

What’s next in your reading queue?