Book Review: Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

Book: Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling – published by Penguin Random House, audible edition, 4 hours 57 minutes.

Synopsis: In Why Not Me?, Kaling shares her ongoing journey to find contentment and excitement in her adult life, whether it’s falling in love at work, seeking new friendships in lonely places, attempting to be the first person in history to lose weight without any behavior modification whatsoever, or most important, believing that you have a place in Hollywood when you’re constantly reminded that no one looks like you.

In “How to Look Spectacular: A Starlet’s Confessions”, Kaling gives her tongue-in-cheek secrets for surefire on-camera beauty, (“Your natural hair color may be appropriate for your skin tone, but this isn’t the land of appropriate-this is Hollywood, baby. Out here, a dark-skinned woman’s traditional hair color is honey blonde.”) “Player” tells the story of Kaling being seduced and dumped by a female friend in L.A. (“I had been replaced by a younger model. And now they had matching bangs.”) In “Unlikely Leading Lady”, she muses on America’s fixation with the weight of actresses, (“Most women we see onscreen are either so thin that they’re walking clavicles or so huge that their only scenes involve them breaking furniture.”) And in “Soup Snakes”, Kaling spills some secrets on her relationship with her ex-boyfriend and close friend, B.J. Novak (“I will freely admit: my relationship with B.J. Novak is weird as hell.”)

Mindy turns the anxieties, the glamour, and the celebrations of her second coming-of-age into a laugh-out-loud funny collection of essays that anyone who’s ever been at a turning point in their life or career can relate to. And those who’ve never been at a turning point can skip to the parts where she talks about meeting Bradley Cooper.

My thoughts: I l-o-v-e Mindy Kaling, and I l-o-v-e-d this book. I read Mindy’s first book a few years ago, about a year or so into watching her show The Mindy Project. It fell a little flat for me, and I think it was because I didn’t recognise her voice as much as I do now. I decided to pick this book up in audio format, for something light and fun to listen to on my drive home from work in the evenings (I’ve listened to way too much true-crime lately and it’s become a bit of a downer for me). This book was a mood lifter and laugh-out-loud funny for sure, but at times was surprisingly touching and I felt myself moved to tears on more than one occasion. I feel like that’s the true mark of a wonderful comedy writer.

Mindy mentions how often people confuse her with her Mindy Lahiri character, and at times I admit I’ve been guilty of that. Granted, there are some blurred lines between the two, but Mindy is more grounded than her on-screen persona and that comes across quite clearly in this book. I looked forward to listening to this every evening on my drive home, and was really disappointed when it ended. I think this would make a great beach read, and I highly recommend picking it up of you’re after something light-hearted and easy to read this summer.

Rating: 8/10

Spookathon TBR

The Spookathon has begun! If you’re wondering what the heck a Spookathon is, it’s a week-long readathon where you focus on reading spooky books, that runs from October 17-23. My earlier attempt at a readathon was a spectacular failure, but I am determined to make this one work and complete all of the challenges. Here are the challenges set, and what I’m planning to read for each one –

1. A book with a spooky word in the title – Goosebumps Book #33 The Horror at Camp Jellyjam
2. A book with red on the cover – Sweet Valley University Thriller Edition – The Roommate
3. A 2016 release – Girl Last Seen by Heather Anastasiu and Anne Greenwood Brown
4. A book containing a creature – The Hatching by Ezekiel Boone
5. A Thriller – All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

Book Review: Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Book: Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter – published by Century, paperback edition, 544 pages.

Synopsis: With a missing girl in the news, Claire Scott can’t help but be reminded of her sister, who disappeared twenty years ago in a mystery that was never solved.

But when Claire begins to learn the truth about her sister, nothing will ever be the same.

My thoughts: [TW: rape, graphic sexual violence]

I love that the synopsis of this book is so concise, and I feel like that’s how all good thrillers should be described; so with that in mind I’ll try and keep this review short and sweet. If you’re not averse to reading about graphic sexual violence and rape (in the context of a well crafted story), I highly recommend picking this up.

This book was an absolutely page-turner, I couldn’t put it down, and I think at one point I read about 50% of it in one sitting. It’s captivating, there are twists and turns throughout, and the character development is extremely well done. I likened this to what I imagine it would be like if Liane Moriarty wrote crime thrillers, because of the rich back story and character development.

My mum had been telling me to read Karin Slaughter for a while, so I caved when I saw she had a new release out that was getting a lot of positive reviews. I really like that this was a standalone, as it was a wonderful introduction to the writing of Karin Slaughter for me. I’m glad that I took mum’s advice and finally picked this up, and I’m so happy to finally have a new author to be excited about.

Rating: 10/10

Current Library Loans

I’m doing well at sticking to my plan of visiting my local library every second week or so, and I’m making good progress with the library books I’ve taken out so far. There are a couple of books that seem to make their way to the bottom of the pile, and if I’m not interested enough to pick them up by the time the renew period is over, I return them. Obviously I’m just not that into them, and that’s ok. Here’s what I have out on loan at the moment –

Girl Last Seen by Heather Anastasiu and Anne Greenwood Brown
Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat
Secret Brother by Virginia Andrews
Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little
Dangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick
Christopher’s Diary: Secrets of Foxworth by Virginia Andrews
We Could Be Beautiful by Swan Huntley
The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey

October TBR

October is approaching! Which means it’s Halloween (in some parts of the world at least), and time to bring out all the spooky books on my TBR shelf. One of my favourite booktubers Lala is co-hosting something called the Spookathon, which is essentially a readathon where you focus on reading “spooky” books. You can watch her video about it here. Keeping this in mind as I’d like to participate, here are the books on my TBR list for the month –

The Hatching by Ezekiel Boone
The Widow by Fiona Barton
Girl Last Seen by Heather Anastasiu and Anne Greenwood Brown
The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey
Goosebumps Book #30 It Came From Beneath The Sink
Goosebumps Book #33 The Horror at Camp Jellyjam
Sweet Valley University (Thriller Edition) The Roommate

I’ll be sure to let you know how I go, once the month is over!

Book Review: Celeste by V.C. Andrews

Book: Celeste by V.C. Andrews – published by Pocket Star, paperback edition, 432 pages.

Synopsis: He was her mirror image. Now the mirror has cracked.

Celeste and her twin brother, Noble, are as close as can be — until a tragic accident takes Noble’s life. It’s a loss that pushes their mother, a woman obsessed with New Age superstitions, over the edge….

Desperate to keep her son “alive,” Celeste’s mother forces her to cut her hair, wear boys’ clothes, and take on Noble’s identity. Celeste has virtually disappeared — until a handsome boy moves in next door, and Celeste will risk her mother’s wrath to let herself come back to life.

My thoughts: [TW: rape, physical and emotional abuse] [Spoilers]

I’ve read quite a few V.C. Andrews books in my time, and I’m confident in saying this is the worst so far. It has all the markings of true V.C. Andrews trash: hints at incest, fatal car accidents, a pivotal scene where the protagonist gets her period for the first time, rape, child abuse, a psychopathic matriarch… the list goes on. Although it seems strange to say a book containing ANY of those themes could have even an ounce of charm, but there is a kind of nostalgia linked to some of V.C. Andrews’ books, and this one lacks any sort of charm whatsoever.

The story revolves around Celeste and her twin brother Noble (wtf is that name), who dies suddenly in a freak accident near their house. Now, the twin’s mother vaguely comes across as a bit of a weirdo from the start of the book, but after Noble’s death she forces Celeste to take on his persona – fully cementing her froot-loop status. She cuts Celeste’s hair off, throws out all of her belongings, forces her to do hard manual labour to toughen herself up, and goes so far as to tape down Celeste’s breasts when she starts to develop into a young woman.

The whole book is completely bizarre, and although the synopsis hints at a “handsome neighbourhood boy” moving in and shaking up Celeste’s life with romance; what actually happens is he repeatedly rapes her once he discovers she is in fact not a boy but a vulnerable young woman. Oh, and he robs her too. Celeste falls pregnant and mother proceeds to steal her baby, dye its hair, and raise it as her own. The ending leads into the next book in the series, which I 100% will not be reading. I was tempted to ‘DNF’ this, but I gave it a go and it was a huge waste of time.

Rating: 2/10

Book Review: My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

Book: My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix – published by Quirk Books, audible edition, 10 hours 11 minutes.

Synopsis: Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers.

But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act… different. And as the strange coincidences and bizarre behavior start to pile up, Abby realizes there’s only one possible explanation: Gretchen, her favorite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not about to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend.

With help from some unlikely allies, Abby embarks on a quest to save Gretchen. But is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?

My thoughts: I want to start out by saying I absolutely adored the 80s setting of the book. Although I was (for the most part) too young to experience the 80s in all it’s glory, I still feel a lot of nostalgia for the era and it was wonderful to read a book set in this time. It was also refreshing to read a book about teenagers living in that 80s, because of the technology available to them. I mean, Abby had a MICKY MOUSE PHONE.

To be honest I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going into this book, I’d seen some positive star ratings on Goodreads but hadn’t read any of the reviews for fear of spoilers. This was a great book. I felt like it was well paced, the character development was really good, the setting was a lot of fun, and the themes were dealt with in a pretty decent way considering it was set in high school. I mean, demonic possession of a teenage girl? How would you even be able to tell most of the time AMIRITE? He he he. Parts of the story were genuinely creepy (the scene where Gretchen is scribbling something on a piece of paper will stick in my mind for a long time), and I have to admit at times in the book I even teared up a little bit.

I was always really excited to step into the world when I hopped in my car for the long drive home from work every evening (which is when I usually listen to audio books). On some evenings I even sat in the car for a little while longer when I got home just so I could hear what happened next. I also want to mention the cover art for this book, which I think is so perfect for the era the story was set in, and the high school setting. 80s yearbook perfection. Although I read this in the dead of winter here in Australia I think this would make for an awesome summer read, so definitely put this on your to-read list for the upcoming season if you haven’t already done so.

Rating: 8/10

Book Review: Perfect Days by Raphael Montes

Book: Perfect Days by Raphael Montes – published by Penguin Press, hardcover edition, 272 pages.

Synopsis: Teo Avelar is a loner. He lives with his paraplegic mother and her dog in Rio de Janeiro, he doesn’t have many friends, and the only time he feels honest human emotion is in the presence of his medical school cadaver—that is, until he meets Clarice.

She’s almost his exact opposite: exotic, spontaneous, unafraid to speak her mind. An aspiring screenwriter, she’s working on a screenplay called Perfect Days about three friends who go on a road trip across Brazil in search of romance. Teo is obsessed.

He begins to stalk her, first following her to her university, then to her home, and when she ultimately rejects him, he kidnaps her and they embark upon their very own twisted odyssey across Brazil, tracing the same route outlined in her screenplay.

Through it all, Teo is certain that time is all he needs to prove to Clarice that they are made for each other, that time is all he needs to make her fall in love with him. But as the journey progresses, he digs himself deeper and deeper into a pit that he can’t get out of, stopping at nothing to ensure that no one gets in the way of their life together.

My thoughts: This book was creepy in all the right ways. I picked it up on the recommendation of Kirstie from Melbourne On My Mind (one of my favourite booktubers), and was not disappointed. I managed to read it over the span of a couple of days (during yet another failed readathon attempt *sad trumpet*), and was completely captivated by the story the entire time.

I love stories like this, psychopath obsession/kidnap scenarios are my jam and I don’t care how much of a creep that makes me. I’ve heard people compare this book to You by Caroline Kepnes, but to me they were very different. The overall vibe of this book seemed a lot darker and more chilling to me, although Teo and Joe could both easily be classified as narcissistic psychopaths.

I have to admit, some points of the story made me feel physically ill but I don’t want to go into too much detail because #spoilers. I enjoyed the twists and turns along the way, and I honestly had no idea how the story would end. This is definitely worth picking up if you like books about obsession, stalking, kidnap, or just want something a bit creepy to curl up with on a cold winter’s night.

Rating: 8/10

Current Library Loans

I try to make an effort to visit my local library once every one or two weeks. Because I reserve most of my books online I don’t spend that much time browsing the aisles, but it does mean I always have a book on loan that I know I definitely want to read. Now lets see if I can find some free time to read in between all the time I’ve been spending watching the Olympics lately! Here are the books I currently have on loan from my local library:

Celeste by V.C. Andrews
Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon
Secret Brother by V.C. Andrews
Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little
The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly
The Special Ones by Em Bailey

Holiday Book Haul

The last thing I need in this world is more books. And yet… I just can’t seem to resist the lure of new books while I’m away on holiday. Despite being very close to being over the limit with my luggage on our way to Adelaide last month, I still managed to pick up these goodies:

Black by Fleur FerrisEbony Marshall is in her final year of high school. Five months, two weeks and four days . . . She can’t wait to leave the town where she’s known only as ‘Black’. Because of her name, of course. But for another reason, too. Everyone says Black Marshall is cursed. Three of her best friends have died in tragic accidents. After Oscar, the whispers started. Now she’s used to being on her own. It’s easier that way. But when her date for the formal ends up in intensive care, something in quiet little Dainsfield starts to stir. Old secrets are revealed and terrifying new dangers emerge. If only Black could put all the pieces together, she could work out who her real enemies are. Should she run for her life, or stay and fight?

The Hatching by Ezekiel BooneDeep in the jungle of Peru, a black, skittering mass devours an American tourist party whole. FBI agent Mike Rich investigates a fatal plane crash in Minneapolis and makes a gruesome discovery. Unusual seismic patterns register in a Indian earthquake lab, confounding the scientists there. The Chinese government “accidentally” drops a nuclear bomb in an isolated region of its own country. The first female president of the United States is summoned to an emergency briefing. And all of these events are connected. As panic begins to sweep the globe, a mysterious package from South America arrives at Melanie Guyer’s Washington laboratory. The unusual egg inside begins to crack. Something is spreading… The world is on the brink of an apocalyptic disaster. An virulent ancient species, long dormant, is now very much awake. But this is only the beginning of our end…

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack ThorneIt was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children.While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.