“Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed

wild by cheryl strayed

Sigh. I really, really wanted to like this book. A lot of my girlfriends have read it, heck, one of them met the author at the REI in Seattle, but alas, I just could NOT get into this book. I just didn’t like Cheryl Strayed AT ALL, and that pretty much ruined everything. Wild is a story about a 26-year-old woman (back in the 90’s during the O.J. Simpson trial) who is depressed after the death of her beloved mother and decides to find herself after she makes countless bad choices. For example, she cheats on her normal (and decent) husband and then plays Russian Roulette with her vagina by screwing men anywhere and everywhere all in the name of getting over her mother’s untimely death. Did I mention she gets into heroin? Then gets a matching tattoo with her ex-husband? I mean, train wreck, people! So after all of this, she remembers a book about the Pacific Crest Trail and decides to hike from California to Oregon. I was interested in this story since one of my very good friends hiked the Appalachian Trail years ago, and I wanted to read about a similar story. Whereas my friend Mary is a total badass and nature nut, Cheryl Strayed was constantly checking out every dude on the trail and wondering if they wanted to sleep with her. She had no preparation for the most part, and got lucky SEVERAL times. I really have no idea how this girl didn’t get into any serious trouble wandering in the wilderness alone.

I will say there is a passage about her mother’s horse that just brought me to tears. Just horrific. Also, there is a scene where Cheryl imagines her mother reincarnated as a fox that visits her on the trail. That too made me smile. However, the rest of the book was not my cup of tea. Speaking of tea, she kept mentioning the old favorite drink of mine during that time, Lemonade Snapple. I kept craving one after reading the book. Unfortunately, I don’t think they make lemonade Snapple anymore since I have been on the look-out.

Next time, I’ll skip this book and instead call Mary for stories of her trail walking’ adventures.

Jen’s Rating: **


“Landline” by Rainbow Rowell

landline book coverI read two time travel books back-to-back without even realizing it, and I’ll say that this book disappointed me.  I read Rainbow Rowell’s earlier book Eleanor and Park (which I loved!), and was hoping for something just as good.  Nope.  I think part of the reason I had trouble with this book was because the two main characters aren’t great people.  Georgie McCool (yes, that is her real name) falls in love with the pensive guy in college, Neal, who eventually becomes her husband.  They have two young daughters, but Georgie is more in love with her work as a comedy writer than her own family.  A few days before Christmas, Georgie and her college best friend, get the chance of a lifetime, which is to write their own show on television and pitch it to the big wig Los Angeles decision maker.  The two have dreamed of this moment their entire relationship.  Unfortunately, Georgie is supposed to go with Neal and her girls to visit his mother in Omaha.  Neal is just a plain jerk throughout the book, and I can’t understand why anyone would ever like him.  Anyway, as Georgie stays home to work on the show, she stays at her childhood home and discovers that she can communicate with Neal, FROM THE PAST IN THE 90’S, by using her old landline telephone.  The best part of the book comes around Chapter 25 which involves a dryer and a pug.  Other than that, the book was boring to tears and just not likeable.  As a supposed comedy writer, Georgie was pretty dramatic and not funny.  I won’t lie and say that sometimes I felt like I was reading the horrible sequel to Eleanor and Park since the actress on the audiobook is the same for both.  Overall, I’d say skip this.  (And now, when I hear Rainbow Rowell’s name, I just imagine my husband saying “is she named after sushi?  Her name is Rainbow Roll” over and over again).

Jen’s Rating: **

“11/22/63” by Stephen King

stephen king 11 22 63 book coverWhat a great book!  I had never read a Stephen King book, (can you believe that?!) but I don’t get into the horror genre at all.  I was never allowed to watch his TV mini-series’ stuff either when growing up, so I avoided him.  This audiobook is one of the best I have ever read.  The actor is fantastic, and really gets into the role.  “11/22/63” is a time-travel story that becomes a love story.  I was really gripped from the beginning following mediocre teacher Jake Epping into superhero-dom and going into a time machine to take on the 1960’s and the assassination that changed America forever.  Sure, the book is totally far-fetched and science fiction-y, but that is what makes it good.  I love comic books where ordinary people become selfless heroes with nothing to lose.  Jake Epping was a great character to get behind and root for.  As I was reading this book, I also happened to watch The Shawshank Redemption and realized that King likes to merge other elements of his famous works in his new works.  Even though I had never read It, the story was still mentioned.  I love historical fiction and have watched many documentaries on the assassination of JFK along with the Zapruder film, so I really fell into this novel.  I was also very much into the story of Harry Dunning and the circumstances of his survival of his father’s brutal rampage of his family.  The book lagged a wee bit in the middle and got pretty romancy, but I did enjoy the ending.  Sadie was a bit of a bore, but what can you expect from a divorced woman in the early 1960’s?  On a sidenote: I was excited that Jake and Sadie danced the Lindy Hop to the Glenn Miller Orchestra.  I had actually gone to the Symphony shortly before reading this and had the music in my head the entire time.  Great book – Long but totally worth it!
Jen’s Rating: ****

“The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears at the World’s Most Famous Cooking School in Paris” by Kathleen Flinn

the sharper your knifeI love to cook, and I especially love watching cooking shows, so I was happy to read this light book about Kathleen Flinn’s wish to graduate from Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris, France.  I love to watch Ina Garten, Ree Drummond, and my favorite, Giada De Laurentiis (who is a Le Cordon Bleu alum I might add).  I’ve always wanted to go to Paris to see the Louvre and eat a baguette while drinking Burgundy wine while wearing a sweater, so this book took me where I always imagined.  Kathleen Flinn is a corporate junkie until she is unceremoniously fired.  She decides to fulfill a dream to learn how to cook at the famed school.  I found her meeting with Julia Child simply charming, and as an ex-newspaper/obituary typist, I found her honesty on wanting “Graduate of Le Cordon Bleu” in her obituary very thought-provoking.  What dreams do you have?  Do I have any dreams left?  I’ve accomplished a lot in my 32 years, and I am happy to say so.  Are there more things to do, absolutely, but I love these gutsy memoirs where people just drop their lives and do something magical since I would NEVER do it.  Anyway, Kathleen is a bit boring at first, but I grew to enjoy her.  This book definitely made me hungry since each chapter had recipes at the back for fun cooking experiences.  I actually TRIED making the beef bourguignon, but I totally ruined it, and I was very sad serving it for our annual Sunday night dinner with our friends, Jess and Jeremiah.  In the recipe, you marinade beef stew pieces in wine overnight and then cook it the following day.  My fridge smelled MAGICAL, but I cooked it too long and the beef was not tender as I had hoped.  Meanwhile, it was still ok, but I was still very sad about it.  Some of the recipes were just crazy, and I can’t imagine making some of the stuff she had to endure.  My one complaint about the book is a factual error, which tickled me.  There’s a point in the book where Kathleen and her husband visit the beaches of Normandy on the 60th anniversary of D-Day, and she mentions how she is walking where Patton walked on that day.  Unfortunately, Patton was NOT at D-Day.  He was in London throwing off the Germans from knowing where the next attack was by sitting on a fake army.  (Can you tell I’m the daughter of a history teacher?)

Anyway, if you are looking for a fun read, this is a good one.  Gotta love food!

Jen’s Rating: ***

“Robogenesis” by Daniel H. Wilson

robogenesis bookAfter reading the awesome Robopocalypse, I delved right into the sequel Robogenesis.  I feel as if book#2 suffers from the sophomore slump as most series do, and this is definitely being set up as The Empire Strikes Back of the robot book series, which I imagine will be a trilogy (at least).  At the end of Robopocalypse, the good guys win and Archos R-14 is defeated, or so we all think.  You would think the world would be a better place now that humans/and good robots have won the war, but that is not the case at all.  Many people were annihilated for no reason, and that made humankind wary of all robots since they don’t have any of the facts about what happened to end the threat.  In this book, Cormac Wallace is no longer the common narrator.  Instead, there is a mysterious storyteller named Aryat Shah.  Now the story picks up on the story of the victims of the first book and The New War, and now we have to witness The True War.  (Lots of war, eh?)  Basically, humans hate robots and want to kill any that they come across.  Any hybrid human/robot people are now in bleak situations because they shall be hunted.  Robopocalypse was such a page turner, that this book just didn’t live up to the pace.  This story is told in three parts by three different characters.  I really loved Cormac, and was disappointed that his arc was at the ending.  You follow Lark Iron Cloud, Mathilda Perez (who is now a robot hybrid with bionic eyes as you can see on the cover), and Cormac Wallace.  Part One was really boring to me other than the interesting part in Russia with Vasily and Maxim, the supercomputer.  Best quote of the book?  “I may be a simple man, but I am very good with an axe.”  At least that part kept me interested.  Overall, I was bummed that my favorite characters from book one that made it to book two were just lame.  I didn’t understand the end AT ALL and was actually quite confused.  Apparently, robots can be in the Japanese sea one minute and then Colorado the next.  (Well, that’s how I interpreted it anyway).  There isn’t so much a cliffhanger ending to this book, and a ton of unanswered questions.  Overall, it held my attention, but I just wanted more.

Jen’s Rating: ***

“Queen of the Tokyo Ballroom” by Jennifer Sky

queen of the tokyo ballroom bookI downloaded this book from Amazon (which is a bit ironic considering the author played an Amazon warrior on Xena:Warrior Princess), and listened to it on my lunch break.  It is extremely short at a little over 45 minutes.  For those that don’t know Jennifer Sky, she was on Xena in the late 90’s as Amarice and was later Cleopatra 2025.  When I went to the Xena Convention in 2013, I watched her talk about what she had done with her life since the shows ended.  She mentioned to the crowd that she was writing a memoir.  I had read her piece “My Life as a Warrior Princess” in the New York Times last year, and I made a mental note to look for the release.   I’ve never wanted to be a model, and I have never really been into the fashion industry, but I realize how young most female models are.  It’s the same story that has been told many times about how girls get enthralled by modeling and go overseas alone and become victims to many common issues (eating disorders, sex, abandonment, growing up too fast, etc).   Jennifer Sky, a loner Florida girl, becomes a finalist for a modeling contest and leaves her family behind to live in Tokyo for a summer when she is only fifteen.  Interesting and well-written, I just wish this was longer.  The end was creepy but kind of predictable in my opinion.  You still feel sorry for what Sky went through in her childhood.  She probably coped better than most.  I am a bit disappointed that her memoir is just a short novella.  She shared much more personal information at her Xena Convention appearance, which I think could have easily given this book more oomph,  Perhaps she is working on more works?  I hope so.

Jen’s Rating: ***

“Robopocalypse” by Daniel H. Wilson

robopocalypse bookThis is the best book you have probably never heard of.  (And when I say “best,” what I really mean is best in the category of apocalyptic and dystopian future novel with shades of comic book writing).  I discovered this series in a strange way.  I kept seeing the cover of Robogenesis at stores, and I kept thinking, “that looks like Natalie Portman, I wonder what that is about?”  I saw it again at the library and thought, “why not?”  I didn’t realize it was a series, and I was tickled that ROBOPOCALYPSE was available as an audio book.  My husband and I have been reading this together.  He started it first and really enjoyed it.  I’ve never read World War Z, but I guess this book follows the same style of writing.  Cormac “Brightboy” Wallace is the common narrator who shares the story of  the robot war from footage, his own account, and data from other characters in the book.  You won’t like every character at the beginning, but some of the ones I HATED, I absolutely LOVED by the end of the book.  So what happens in Robopocalypse you might ask other than the apocalypse?  Well, it scared the hell outta me.  Sure, we don’t have robots in our every day lives (YET) but we rely on all kinds of gizmos and gadgets to get us through.  Archos-R-14 is a robot that becomes sentient, and decides it would be awesome to take over the world.  Essentially, Archos-R-14 talks to all electronic things and can control them.  By doing this, EVERYTHING that is a machine becomes EVIL.  I’m talking smart cars killing people, baby dolls coming alive (and scaring the living beJesus out of me), elevator shafts, cell phones, you name it, it will kill you.  People are always talking about how technology is great to make our lives better.  Last time I checked, technology was making it hard for people to really CONNECT.  Today is Apple Day where they will show the new way to make everything else obsolete.  I think there is an iWatch, which means, THE WATCH IS GONNA KILL YOU, HIPPIE BASTARDS AND THEN KILL ME.  See, Robopocalypse is the best book ever.  Anytime I see a news program when technology is running amok, I think ROBOPOCALYPSE.  Basically, you need to read this book and become a freak like me.  If you’re in the mood for a sci-fi book that is fun and fast paced, give this a try.  BE AFRAID.  I sure as hell was.  And I loved it!  My favorite character was probably Lurker.  Apparently, Steven Speilberg bought the rights to this book for a movie.  I am TOTALLY into that.

Jen’s Rating: *****