Book: The Good Luck of Right Now

"The Good Luck of Right Now"

For thirty-eight years, Bartholomew Neil has lived with his mother. When she gets sick and dies, he has no idea how to be on his own. His grief counselor, Wendy, says he needs to find his flock and leave the nest. But how does a man whose whole life has been grounded in his mom, Saturday Mass, and the library learn how to fly?

Bartholomew thinks he’s found a clue when he discovers a ‘Free Tibet’ letter from Richard Gere hidden in his mother’s underwear drawer. In her final days, Mom called him Richard–there must be a cosmic connection. Believing that the actor is meant to help him, Bartholomew awkwardly starts his new life by writing Richard Gere a series of letters. Jung and the Dalai Lama, philosophy and faith, alien abduction and cat telepathy, are all explored in his soul-baring epistles. But mostly the letters reveal one man’s heartbreakingly earnest attempt to assemble a family of his own.

A struggling priest, a ‘Girlbrarian,’ her feline-loving, foul-mouthed brother, and the spirit of Richard Gere join the quest to help Bartholomew. In a rented Ford Focus, they travel to Canada to see the Cat Parliament and find Bartholomew’s biological father…and discover so much more.

Quick judgment: the book is good, it’s easy to read–and it’s very heart-warming. To those who liked author Matthew Quick’s writing for The Silver Linings Playbook, but wasn’t much of a fan of Sorta Like a Rock Star, and Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, would think this book is a return to form for the author.

But to tell you the truth, I didn’t really get the importance of looking for Bartholomew’s biological father. Not even in the end. But that’s mostly because, although we’re told that Bartholomew’s not right in the head for most of the novel, he’s actually a very well-adjusted guy. And that got me thinking–

We call people with mental disabilities ‘special,’ and this book underlines the fact that they aren’t unlike you and I. They might be handicapped, but they are able-bodied human beings too. They are capable too. They just have more to work through than us.

Or they’re not just as good as pretending they’re okay like normal people are.

And that’s the thesis of The Good Luck of Right Now, in my opinion. In pretending, how do we know when we’re fooling other people–or when we’re already fooling ourselves?

Quick posits early in the book that Bartholomew knows about pretending. He’s very honest about it. Apologetic, even. But over the course of the book, we get new pretenses from other characters. People who are saying something, but meaning something else. It’s a hard look at how we, as people, live our lives–always pretending, even in little things. Embellishing to make ourselves look better, or more humble–or just to not look like a bad guy.

The Good Luck of Right Now looks like a simple book, but it’s ripe for discussion; about our beliefs and our identities.

It’s something I would urge people to read–even if it’s just because I want someone to discuss the book with.

Book: The Probability of Miracles

"The Probability of Miracles"

For the last five years, seventeen-year-old Cam has been in and out of hospitals, fighting the cancer that is waging a war on her body. So when she’s told she needs a miracle, moving 1,500 miles north to Promise, Maine–a place where amazing, unexplainable events are said to occur–is not how Cam wants to spend the short time she has left. If science can’t cure her, what makes her mom think the mystical powers of a “miracle town” will?

But even Cam can’t deny that strange things happen in Promise. A field of electric purple dandelions grow on a hillside. The sunsets last for hours. Hot pink flamingos come to rest in the frigid Atlantic. An adorable boy named Asher keeps popping up, exactly when Cam needs him. And then, a mysterious envelope arrives, containing a list of things for Cam to do before she dies. As she checks each item off the list, Cam finally learns to believe–in love, in herself, and maybe even in miracles, improbable as they seem.

I was looking for a miracle when I picked this book up. Something to cheer me up, against all odds. Instead, I had to plow through the book like it was an assigned reading from a difficult English teacher. And I don’t think it’s the story’s fault so much as it is the realization that… well, I’m not the book’s intended audience. I was looking for something too particular, and I didn’t let the book just be what it was.

Or maybe I got used to books with cancer patients where the protagonists are more sympathetic. Because Cam definitely isn’t your average cancer patient. She’s too human. She makes mistakes. Lots of them. She loves unconditionally–and yet with so much restrictions. She steals. She has no tact. She expects things to be given to her, and yet still has such a low self-esteem. Cam is definitely flawed, and I should love her for it. But I don’t. Because I feel like she gets away with everything just because she’s a cancer patient.

Wendy Wunder, the author, doesn’t come through with the ramifications of Cam’s actions. She bitches to her mom? It’s swept under a rug. She gets a live lobster to live in the basement? The characters shrug. She kidnaps her younger sister for a three-day trip to Disneyland? Her mother just gives her a silent treatment.

I know Promise, Maine is supposed to be a place where miracles happen–but I thought it would still have a semblance of reality. Because, to be very honest, none of the characters in this book feel real. I couldn’t care less what happens to them. And when the book ends? I’m just grateful that I managed to finish the book finally–almost two months after I started reading it.

Yes, I said it wasn’t the story’s fault why I didn’t like the book. And I stand by that. The reason I picked this book up was because I liked the premise. The promise of change, of growth, and of acceptance. But I completely blame the utter lack of characterizations and ramifications for the book’s failure at being anything more than fluff.

I’m not asking the book to be depressing. I just want it to feel real.

But these are just my thoughts. There are other opinions about the book that you can look up. Like:
Pretty Books
West Allis Public Library Teen Events
Kirkus Review

Book: Crash Into Me

"Crash Into Me"

Owen, Frank, Audrey, and Jin-Ae have one thing in common: They all want to die. When they meet online after each attempts suicide and fails, they made a deadly pact: They will escape together on a summer road trip to visit the sites of celebrity suicides…and at their final destination, they will do themselves in.

As they drive cross-country, bonding over their dark impusles, sharing their deepest secrets and desires, living it up, hooking up, and becoming true friends, each must decide whether life is worth living–or if there’s no turning back.

Right from the start, I decided to believe that all the characters would survive in the end. It’s just how these type of novels go. It’s either your character is already dead and they’re just recounting life before they did themselves in, or something will happen to change their minds about killing themselves. That’s how it’s supposed to work.

Imagine my surprise when, as three characters become better people, one of them start to spiral deeper into unexplicable depression. It’s a great twist. It keeps the reader guessing. It kept me guessing if maybe I was wrong and there will, at least, be one casualty.

But the keyword to that statement is ‘inexplicable.’

There’s a twist. There always is one, nowadays. But the thing with twists is, they have to be earned. This one doesn’t earn it. I mean, the writer obviously knew he was going to drop the twist somewhere in the story–but it doesn’t fit. It feels forced. Tacked on. And the bad thing is, you also know that it’s part of one character’s history. An integral part that was purposefully held back just to surprise the viewers.

I hated it.

Not the twist. The twist is fine. I hate the fact that the author held back on it. He should’ve built up on it. No, I don’t mean put in clues. Voracious readers would be able to latch on to those and the twist wouldn’t make as big an impact to them. But in terms of how the characters relate to each other, talk to each other; let the omissions and the hesitations speak; let the fears show; and, let the readers feel what the character is supposed to be feeling.

Crash Into Me is a good book. Was a good book. It’s not completely original; but the story was solid and the characters, though they may not always be likeable, at least they’re relatable. It’s the twist near the end that completely ruins it for me.

But that’s just me. Head on to what other blogs have to say about the book, maybe they liked it better than I did. Here’s a few:
Read, Read, Read
A Good Addiction
Chick Loves Lit

Abroad: New Zealand

New Zealand

I’m sure no one really noticed, but really late last month, I went on a trip out of the country. It was mostly for a wedding, but because of the steep airfare, I decided to go and have a vacation as well. So here goes my story of how I took the ultimate break to New Zealand.

Day 1. A friend and I took an eight-hour flight to Sydney that took ten hours–because of time zone changes. At Sydney, we passed the time (mostly) by talking, but we also browsed the shops. The really expensive shops. No plans on buying anything yet–not with our budget, and with our trip just starting.

From Sydney, we had another three-hour flight to Wellington, our destination, that took four hours–more or less. And the first order of business? Visit Gollum of course! (If you clicked on the link, yes I did cheat–that’s a photo of Gollum when I was leaving New Zealand. I haven’t uploaded the one from when I arrived yet.)

But wait, there’s more. On the day of our arrival, something big was happening at Wellington. A red carpet premiere. Of epic proportions! It’s for The Hobbit! (Okay, so the picture isn’t off the titular hobbit. But again, forgive me for I am lazy with the uploading, and that was the only I have of the red carpet premiere that’s already up somewhere).

We didn’t really get to do much more during our first day. We arrived some time around three in the afternoon, and we headed straight to the premiere. We stood there for hours (until seven, I think), but I didn’t really notice that it was already evening because–surprise–the sun doesn’t set until nine. Seriously.

Our Kiwi friends took us to their homes, fed us, and then it was time to turn in for the night.

Funny thing I learned on my first day in Wellington? Kiwis don’t believe in ghosts. Or the ones I met, anyway.

Day 2. Wait. Can I give you the option of choosing to read the rest of this entry? Let me figure that out for a bit–

Oh, here we go!

Continue reading

Book: Deadline

"Deadline" by Mira GrantShaun Mason is a man without a mission. Not even running the news organization he built with his sister has the same urgency as it used to. Playing with dead things just doesn’t seem as fun when you’ve lost as much as he has.

But when a CDC researcher fakes her own death and appears on his doorstep with a ravenous pack of zombies in tow, Shaun has a newfound interest in life. Because she brings news—he may have put down the monster who attacked them, but the conspiracy is far from dead.

Now, Shaun hits the road to find what truth can be found at the end of a shotgun.

I was very excited when I found out from Tina (of One More Page) that Deadline was finally out. I loved Feed. It was the zombie novel that changed the way I look at how zombie stories can be told. So, obviously, I was ecstatic to grab my copy of the sequel as soon as it was out—and now I have, on my hands, my very own copy of Deadline.

Okay, I’m not actually holding it. It’s kind of hard to hold a book while typing at the same time. And I’ve already finished reading it. Umm. Yeah, so there’s that. And, uh, I kind of lost my train of thought. Let’s just get on with the book, shall we?

Deadline picks up some years after the events of Feed. After the game-changing end of the first book, the opening of Deadline definitely surprised me. I mean, sure I’ve read the opening months ago, but how it was handled still surprised me. It was a good surprise, as it wasn’t where I was expecting the story to go. And there’s not ‘but’ here.

In Deadline, the Center for Disease Control (or the CDC) is still far from discovering a way to contain the Kellis-Amberlee virus that had turned many of the dead into shambling zombies. And we begin to find out the reason why. It’s a conspiracy!

Sure, we get that from Feed. It wasn’t a secret after the climactic confrontation between Shaun Mason and General Tate in the end of Feed. We knew that someone bigger was pulling the strings—we just don’t know why. What surprised me was the involvement of CDC in the conspiracy. Or rather, the people in the CDC involved in the conspiracy.

In a post-apocalyptic world, there are only a few people you can trust. Shaun, our protagonist, had his team of trusted allies by his side the whole time—most of whom we only meet in this book, so I feared that Mira Grant (the author) would pull another Buffy. Except she can’t. And, thankfully, she didn’t.

What I liked most about Feed was present in Deadline as well—our characters were constantly in motion. Feed had our three main characters (Georgia, Shaun and Buffy) on the political trail of Senator Ryman’s presidential campaign. Deadline has Shaun with a permutation of team members going out on road trips every so often as he searched for the truth. This was good as the second book had more characters than the first, and we are only actually meeting them for the first time here, so the characters each get their own chance to shine. And they do.

The only thing that didn’t live up to my expectations was Shaun’s perspective. Feed was told through Georgia’s eyes, and it had her dry humor. With Shaun taking the helm for Deadline, I was expecting a lighter persona for the readers to latch on to. Except Shaun’s voice wasn’t light. It makes sense, taking into consideration the events that happened to Shaun prior to Deadline, but still—it felt like I was still reading the book through Georgia’s perspective. (And in a way, I was. But I’m not expounding, because that way leads to spoilers.)

Overall though, the book was solid. I’m still not sure if we did get the answers we were supposed to get, as I got lost in the medical jargon that the characters employed, but we do get two crazy developments by the end of the book that made sure that I’m going to be buying the third book, Blackout, as soon as it hits the market. Developments you’ll have to find out for yourself when you read the book, because I’m not going to spoil a perfectly good story for you.

Deadline is available locally through Fully Booked. But I suggest you give them a call first to find out which branch actually has a copy. It took me two trips (and a lot of griping and ranting) before I got my copy.

If you’re still undecided about the book, check out what other people have written about it:
One More Page
The Word Zombie
Pen and Ink, Camera and Keyboard