Posted in Books

“No One Asked for This: Essays” by Cazzie David

I never like to judge a book on anything other than its own merit, but that becomes difficult when the writer has such a visible public persona. While Cazzie David isn’t necessarily a celebrity in her own right, she has a kind of adjacent fame, due to her father’s success and her relationship with Pete Davidson. David is also fairly young, which doesn’t mean her work is juvenile by default, but does give me pause. The point has been made that without her father’s fame, David would not have this book out, and I tend to agree. While No One Asked for This shows definite potential and some of the essays are worth reading, the book is sloppily cobbled together with essays of middling and low quality in addition to the more polished ones. I do think some of the essays are genuinely good and I did enjoy parts of the book. But when putting out essays they should be of uniform quality, and this ain’t it, chief.

No One Asked for This: Essays

In terms of the make up of the book, I would say 50% of the essays were totally intolerable, which automatically means I cannot recommend it in good conscience. 30% of the essays were decent, and 20% were excellent. I can only assume that David had to pad the book with some slapdash work, because her best efforts show a decent writer. It’s just disappointing to read something good, and then immediately be hit in the face with the written equivalent of a leaky garbage bag.

I am probably the closest thing to an ideal reader for this book: I am a mentally ill, Ashkenazi Jewish woman in her mid-twenties who enjoys comedy. That being said, I found some of David’s writing impossible to stomach and way more self-involved than self-exploratory. She exposes a lot of vulnerability, but without any artistic merit, it is completely superfluous and soulless. If you’re going to get deep, you have to draw something out of it, and it felt more like she was like, “Look! Look at my thorny pain!” Which is fine, but not especially interesting. I did find her anxiety relatable, but at some point an essay needs to be about more than just your feelings of dread. I also felt a little weird about her insistence that she didn’t want to take medication for her mental health, which was repeated throughout the book. Why? Medication is pretty great. She described herself as someone bowing under the weight of anxiety and depression in an alternating manner, which sounds pretty terrible when the alternative is going to the doctor and possibly some side effects.

The best essays in the book are “Mean Sister,” “Tweets I Would Tweet If I Weren’t Morally Opposed to Twitter: I,” “I Got a Cat for My Anxiety,” “Moving Out,” and “Erase Me.” The rest are either outright bad or mostly forgettable, so I would advise just checking the book out of a library and reading these ones. I did enjoy reading David’s depiction of her family, which seems about as eccentric as you’d expect. Her obligatory Pete Davidson essay was actually quite impressive- being the ex of a person who suddenly becomes Very Famous for dating someone Ridiculously Famous is a rare experience. I think it comes across that Davidson was deeply mentally ill, as was David. I don’t agree that it’s an unflattering depiction of Davidson or his ex-fiancé, pop star Ariana Grande. Frankly, given how David was treated by the media and Grande’s army of child fans, the way she writes about them is fair. Leaving an emotionally exhausting and unsteady relationship is a fair thing to do, and I think becoming more Famous by Relation than David was used to effected her a lot. Being a famous person’s kid is very different than being the ex-girlfriend of the fiancé of one of the most famous people in the world. Overall, I thought it was fine.

While I wasn’t overly impressed by No One Asked for This, I will keep an eye out for further writings by David. I think her work shows a lot of potential and I’m interested to see what is next for her.

Posted in Books

“The New One: Painfully True Stories from a Reluctant Dad” by Mike Birbiglia

The New One: Painfully True Stories from a Reluctant Dad is one of those weird books that started out as something else- while Birbiglia is a writer, he is probably best known as a stand-up comedian and an actor. He has had success in a variety of mediums, has authored multiple books, starred in films, and most recently, toured with the show this book is based upon, The New One. I was fortunate enough to see the show on its stop in Washington, DC, and it’s great to see in person, Like all of Birbiglia’s works, it is a deeply constructed, intensely intricate, uncomfortably intimate production. The book expands on those themes, featuring further stories and some poems by Birbiglia’s wife and writing partner, poet J. Hope Stein.

While I tend to distain further expansions of established works as money-grabs, The New One works on every level. Despite having watched the show once in person, and a second time when it became available on Netflix, the jokes still hit for me. Despite being familiar with the material, it still feels new, as it’s been refreshed by additional detail. The book is fundamentally about becoming a father, but doesn’t center fatherhood in the narrative of parenthood. Rather, Birbiglia centers his failure as a father, his failures to provide support, to connect with his wife and child, who have formed a unit. The book is about being a family, and how becoming a new kind of family is difficult. It is not just funny, like a lot of books by comedians, but Birbiglia’s work always has that undercurrent of existential dread, so that’s no surprise. The poems were occasionally quite profound, but the book would have benefited from truncating those sections a tad.

This book is well worth a read, especially if you’ve enjoy Mike Birbiglia’s other exploits. If you’re interested in The New One, you can view it on Netflix. The New One: Painfully True Stories from a Reluctant Dad is also available wherever books are sold, or to check out from your local library. If you are buying it from Amazon, you can support us by using our affiliate link.

Posted in Books, Movies

5 of the Best “Pride and Prejudice” Retellings

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is one of the most retold stories, and there are numerous adaptations, retellings, and novels based on the story available for lovers of Elizabeth Bennett and William Darcy. Here are a few of my favorite versions of the classic novel.

Bride and Prejudice

This is one of my top films of all time, and for good reason. It’s a Bollywood style movie, filmed mostly in English. There are a million reasons to love it: the songs are catchy and amazing, it’s really funny, and the actors are top-notch. The casting is perfect, in particular Indira Varma, who I love in everything she does but perfectly encapsulates Kiran (Caroline Bingley) and her bitchy, classier-than-thou energy. The biggest star-power in the film comes from Naveen Andrews, best known for Lost, and Aishwarya Rai, who does not require any introduction. If you haven’t seen this movie, you have not lived!

The Lizzie Bennett Diaries

This cross-platform multimedia web series drew a lot of eyeballs when it first debuted, and if you’re looking for a slow-burn long-form P&P experience, this is for you. There are a hundred episodes on the main channel, and a lot of supplemental material for one looking to fully immerse in the world of Lizzie Bennett, communications grad student living at home, and tormented by her mother’s ambition to marry off her daughters to eligible Bing Lee, a young med student new to the neighborhood. I watched all of the vlog-style episodes as they were released, and have embarked on a rewatch this month.

Longbourn, by Jo Baker

This novel shows how the other half lives, telling the story of the domestic servants in the Bennett household as the events of Pride and Prejudice unfold. Housemaid Sarah, orphaned and lonesome, sees the world through fresh eyes, and experiences love, loss and triumphs of her own, in a life entirely different from the comparably privileged Bennett family.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Seth Grahame-Smith

While the whole monster adaptation thing got kind of out of hand, this book is actually a very enjoyable read. It’s a darker take on P&P, with the love story set against the backdrop of a zombie plague ravaging seventeenth century England. It’s gritty, sarcastic, angsty, and incredibly entertaining. It was made into a starkly mediocre movie, but the book really holds up and it a fun, unusual version of the tale.

Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld

This novel follows the Bennett sisters in the modern-day, all single and with their mother desperate to see them married, especially as Jane is pushing forty. Jane hits it off with new neighbor Chip Bingley, but Liz has friction with Chip’s friend Fitzwilliam Darcy, who is less than charming. This book is sexy and surprising, plus it answers a lot of the questions Austen fans might have about a modern Elizabeth Bennett- does she want kids? Will she get married? Does she use Tinder? This novel is a heftier read than a lot of other similar books, but worth it.

These are some of the best Pride and Prejudices, but there are a million more! If you’re looking for a new favorite, The Clergyman’s Wife by Molly Greeley might be for you. It tells the story of Charlotte Collins, formerly Charlotte Lucas, discovering that love might overcome being sensible for the first time in her life. We’re giving away a paperback copy of The Clergyman’s Wife! To enter, all you have to do is like this post. You can also follow us to see giveaways for the rest of November!

Posted in Books

“With a Dog AND a Cat, Every Day is Fun” Vol. 1

This adorable manga chronicles the life of a manga artist and animal lover Hidekichi Matsumoto and her animals. Her dog, Inu, is an adorable fluff ball composed entirely of enthusiasm and sunshine, and her cat Neko is an equally cute but insidiously diabolical feline.

This book is pretty much what it sounds like, most panels depicting the trials and joys of a multi-pet household. It’s just so inherently joyful- a really laugh-out-loud read full of relatable moments for people who love animals. Some of the funniest panels are the ones which cast Neko, a domestic house cat, as a demonic creature hell-bent on emotional manipulation. Inu is primarily characterized as a sweet dumb baby, though both animals are written and drawn so lovingly, even when they are clearly actively impeding Matsumoto in daily tasks.

The art style is very distinct, and Matsumoto switches it up in a few places, which keeps the manga visually interesting and overall a pleasant reading experience. I do tend to have low expectations for books about my favorite topics, but this one blew me away! I laughed, I teared up, I flipped back to look at panels so I could enjoy them again. I cannot recommend With a Dog AND a Cat, Every Day is Fun enough. Once you read one, you’ll be as ravenous as Neko.

With a Dog AND a Cat, Every Day is Fun, volume 1 can be purchased wherever books are sold. You can support the artist by following her on twitter, where she posts this series.

Posted in Books

“Fangirl” The Manga, Vol. 1

Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell came out in 2013, and has remained popular in the years since. Rowell has been the darling of the young adult world, with her 2015 follow-up Carry On, and its sequel Wayward Son, as well as a number of graphic novels for Marvel and other works.

Be that as it may, a Fangirl manga seemed a bit a of a stretch to me. The book came out seven years ago, and though it remains popular, not every book needs a graphic adaptation. I was a big fan of the book, but haven’t reread it since 2015, so I decided to give the first volume a shot to see how it holds up.

The art is beautiful, for a start. Character design is on point, Cath and Wren in particular stand out as well drawn, easily differentiated both by their minor physical dissimilarities and by their body language and expressions. Reagan was one of my favorite characters in the novel, and she is really well portrayed here. Levi looked a little different than I expected, but his facial design is so open and smiley that it perfectly captures his character.

I think this adaptation really captures the mood of the novel, which is generally pretty gloomy and lonely, with some lighter moments and humor. I think the manga really conveyed the loneliness Cath feels, and her emotional state as she tries to transition to college life without the support she needs. Cath still comes across as very sympathetic, even as her flaws are easier to understand through a visual medium. I think the adaptation to manga actually adds quite a bit to the perspective the reader has on the story, and is a very enjoyable read. For me, it really held up, and reading it again reminded me of all of the things I liked about it. I would recommend picking up the first volume, at least to see if it’s for you.

Fangirl, Vol, 1: The Manga comes out on October 13, 2020, and can be purchased wherever books are sold, or borrowed from your local library. You can also buy it using our Amazon affiliate link, which supports this blog.

Posted in Books

“A Deadly Education” by Naomi Novik

Naomi Novik has been the darling of fantasy in the last few years, with her best-selling award winners Uprooted and Spinning Silver, but she’s bit off a new challenge this year with A Deadly Education, the first of the Scholomance trilogy. 

While Novik is known for her spell-binding fantasy, this book brings a surprising amount of social commentary to the mix. Novik’s protagonist, El, is one of thousands of young wizards ensconced in a mechanical marvel of a school reminiscent of Howl’s moving castle. The haves in this case are “enclavers” young wizards from prominent or established families who belong to an enclave, a wizard community. The have-nots are pretty much everyone else, wizards from all over the world who are less well-connected, and less prepared for the trials of wizarding life. Isolated from the world, these teenagers must survive nearly constant attack by maleficaria, monsters with the fervent wish to consume tasty wizardlings. 

El is a have-not, a girl used to being disliked. She has no one but her mother, a healer who could have her pick of enclaves but chooses to live apart. El is just looking for her best shot to impress the enclaves, and with her particular power, she knows that a show of force would get her the moon. She did not plan on being aggressively befriended by the class golden boy, who suspects her of a kind of magical corruption. El is eminently likable, a character with a short fuse and an observant nature. While she is closed-off from others, she has a big heart and a huge capacity for love, just little opportunity to exercise it. She is a great view into a world teeming with complexity and potential. It’s also great to have a female character who isn’t a missish teen with a hero complex- El isn’t out to save the world, and she has a realistic, if a little cynical, view of things. She’s a sweet little prickly hedgehog and I adore her. 

The world Novik is building here is beautiful and interesting, although the book indulges a little too much in exposition towards the front end, by the halfway point, any reader will be on edge to find out if El will survive junior year. The book also leaves some lovely tension about El’s destiny to keep you excited for her next adventure. 

A Deadly Education is out on September 29, 2020. You can buy it anywhere books are sold, or borrow it from your local library. If you are buying it off of Amazon, you can do so using our affiliate link.

Posted in Books

“Instant Karma” by Marissa Meyer

Marissa Meyer is a YA author best known for The Lunar Chronicles, her science fiction fairytale quartet that spawned a graphic novel sequel duology and a handful of short stories set in the same universe. Since their publication, Meyer has published a handful of other titles, but Instant Karma is her first foray into realistic fiction. It’s a YA romance, set in a Florida beach town just when summer is getting started.

Prudence is not just an over-achiever, she’s the over-achiever. Unfortunately, her lab partner, Quint, is the worst kind of slacker, and after a disastrous final project, Pru is determined to resubmit their assignment. However, their teacher won’t accept it without Quint and Pru’s input, and Quint is not inclined to spend his summer on schoolwork. Pru makes him a deal, but to hold up her end, they have to spend a lot of time together- like, a lot.

Not only does Prudence have to spend an unfortunate amount of summer with her nemesis, after a weird karaoke accident she finds herself the instrument of karmic justice. Pru realizes that with a gesture, she can dish out the universe’s recompense on anyone, and they will be rewarded or punished. Unfortunately, it isn’t up to Prudence to decide what people deserve, and karma can really be a bitch. When faced with the consequences of karmic retribution, Pru has to to figure out if the upside of instant karma is worth the potential fallout.

This book runs a little long for a YA realistic fiction title, and it definitely takes a while to get into. Prudence is an unpleasant, off-putting character, difficult to like. She has a tendency to judge and write-off others, and while she certainly has her moments, she’s not the best character in the book. Quint is more interesting, he has a lot of depth to him, and I enjoyed the parts with him most. The story does work, as Prudence is written to be unlikable, but it could have been a bit more subtly done. It’s supposed to be a big deal for Prudence to realize that she’s wrong and she’s been making snap-judgements, but the reader picks up on that from the third chapter. The pacing isn’t great, the story drags its feet for the first half of the book, and then picks up and doesn’t stop running.

The pacing problem comes from the book trying to do too much- this is a stand-alone novel, and it doesn’t have the space for character development a series does. There are too many sub-plots, which leaves the novel feeling bulky without adding at all to the narrative cohesion. The karma aspect of the plot is underdeveloped and seems as though it was put in just to justify some of the plot-twists rather than as a novel concept. It reads more like a romantic drama than anything else, which does work for the story.

While the book certainly has its flaws, Meyer’s fans will certainly enjoy it. The book is just as romantic as her previous work, and it’s a pleasant read. There are a lot of really fun characters, and the setting is really inventive, but it’s not what you might expect from the premise. The book veers less towards supernatural justice and more towards environmentalism, which isn’t a bad thing, but certainly isn’t something expected, given the cover and the publisher summary. 

I did like the Pride and Prejudice-like relationship between the two protagonists. Their animosity is amusing, and it’s fun to watch that slowly melt away. There are some pretty great side characters, and overall, the story holds together and ends satisfyingly.

Instant Karma will be available for purchase November 3, wherever books are sold, or at your local library. You can also purchase it from Amazon using our affiliate code. The reviewer was provided with an advanced readers copy in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Books

“Shit, Actually” by Lindy West

Film commentary comes in many forms, from the long-form newspaper review to the poster blurb. Lindy West’s new book Shit, Actually is a series of essays that offers a chatty, light overview of an eclectic collection of movies. While fans of West’s work might enjoy Shit, Actually, I found it to be a departure from her normal thoughtful, intense writing style and had trouble getting through it. West’s past work includes a lot of deconstruction of the societal norms that surround women and fat people in incisive, lingering prose, while this book is much less focused on actual film commentary and more interested in providing humorous summaries. While West’s previous work has been timeless, this collection comes across as very of-the-moment rather than evergreen. 

West introduces her work with a note on the COVID-19 crisis, and there are multiple references to the global pandemic throughout, which kind of puts a clock on how long this book can feel relevant. In a lot of ways, these essays come across much more as blog posts than essays edited and published in a book. While that works really well in some collections (see anything by Sam Urby) these essays have no flow, they don’t form a cohesive narrative about movies, the industry, or anything, really. There is a lot of use of Internet grammar, which does come across as very funny, and works well within the medium. The choice of films is also a bit difficult to parce, West offers her criteria for inclusion as movies she likes, cultural touchstones, and movies she thinks need to be talked about. She then proceeds to not actually talk about any of the movies, just summarize them and throw in the occasional one-liner. 

There were definitely great, funny parts of this book. The titular “Shit, Actually,” which deconstructs the 2003 British romantic comedy Love, Actually is far and away the funniest and most polished of these essays. This makes sense, as this was one of the essays, originally published on Jezebel.com, that inspired the collection. This essay is truly funny, and provides pretty good commentary on the movie, pointing out the nonsensical elements and sexist tropes that populate the film. It’s not exactly an original take today, but it was originally published in 2013. There are some moments of genuine insight, but for the most part the entire book is just speed-of-light summaries of the movies that are still somehow too long. While the book is marketed as an examination of popular film, asking big questions, most of the essays come off as movie reviews dictated into a cell phone and promptly abandoned. West’s previous work might lead a reader to expect a thoughtful, well-constructed commentary for each film, that takes into account gender, race, and social stigmas, but that reader would be disappointed. Instead, Shit, Actually provides just under two dozen movie reviews containing a Wikipedia summary with a few jokes thrown in. West, normally a writer of startling originality and spectacular voice, really falls flat here. While I have in the past written a positive review of West’s work, this book was a big disappointment.  

Shit, Actually, will be published October 20, 2020. It can be purchased wherever books are sold, or borrowed from your local library. You can also buy a copy on Amazon, using our affiliate link here.    

Posted in Books

The Destruction of Sydney Sage

220px-Bloodlines_NovelThe character of Sydney Sage first appeared in the fourth Vampire Academy book, Blood Promise, introducing the alchemists, humans who hide vampire activity from the world. Despite an ingrained hatred of vampires, dhampir, moroi and strigoi alike, Sydney helps Rose, and comes to have a grudging respect for her. While Rose is much beloved by the fandom, Sydney has a special place in a lot of hearts: she is intelligent, complex, and is terrifyingly competent. It is remarked upon frequently that she can do anything, and she pretty much can. Syndey gets her own series, Bloodlines, six books which follow many of the characters from the Vampire Academy series.

Sydney goes through incredible growth in Bloodlines, but the end of the series completely destroys all of the progress she’s made, and relegates her to domesticity. Sydney begins the series disliking vampires, and distrusting them, forced to work with Adrian Ivashkov to protect Jill Dragomir, a moroi princess. Over the course of the series, Sydney overcomes her distrust of vampires, becomes adept at magic, and falls in love with Adrian. She makes friends, develops new skills, and discovers that the alchemists are not always the good guys. She makes tough decisions, overcomes seemingly impossible odds, and defeats those who seek to control her. All of that, to end up living in the middle of nowhere with Adrian, and to become a mother by adoption at twenty.

Sydney spends a lot of her life sacrificing for others- she becomes the alchemist in her family to protect her older sister, who was a victim of abuse. Sydney deals with an eating disorder brought on my control issues, which stem from her upbringing. She realizes that the alchemists are essentially a cult- a cult built on brainwashing, xenophobia, and fundamentalist Christianity. Sydney breaks free, and tries to get her sister out. This is no small thing- Sydney has built her entire life around a belief system, and has to break free of it almost completely without help. It is through the love of her friends, people she was told to distrust, that she detaches herself from the alchemists and makes her own choices.

growth GIF

Adrian and Sydney are a couple fans love, and for good reason. They started out with completely different world-views, and basically hating each other. Over time, they develop a mutual trust, an attraction, and then they fall in love. They each bring out the best in the other- Sydney helps Adrian with his self-destructive behavior, Adrian sees the best in Sydney and is proud of her at every turn. Both help each other to stop repeating patterns of behavior that harm them. Their love helps them grow, and it is a complex, nuanced relationship, which is tested both by its forbidden nature, and their differing backgrounds.

Sydney and Adrian go through hell to be together, before they marry to protect Sydney from the alchemists. This might have been earned by the trajectory of the previous books- since they have been separated by the alchemists, they need a way to never be torn apart again. I can buy them getting married, despite it not really being completely in character for Sydney to make an impulse decision like that. It makes some kind of sense for them to marry, considering how high the stakes are at this point, but it still feels  a little wrong. It doesn’t ruin Sydney’s character arc, though. She’s still herself, even if she marries Adrian, she has the potential to follow her dreams and live the life she wants. At the end of Silver Shadows, one has a reasonable expectation that they will find a way out of their predicament, defeat the bad guys, and live happily ever after.

And then The Ruby Circle happened.

shocked oh my god GIF

To make a long story short, Olive, a dhampir restored from being strigoi gives birth to a baby, one she claims is fathered by another dhampir. This should be an impossibility, but she thinks it’s because of the spirit used to restore her to life. She dies in labor, after being attacked by a strigoi, and tells Adrian and Sydney to bring the baby (whom she names Declan) to his father. His father rejects him, and later runs away, telling Sydney and Adrian to look after him. And then . . . they just do? They adopt Declan, pass him off as their child, and move to Maine, where Adrian teaches kindergarten and Sydney goes to college.

Bill Hader Reaction GIF by Saturday Night Live

There are a couple of reasons this makes no sense. Firstly, the reason Declan “needed” to be hidden is because he’s the child of two dhampirs, and his mother didn’t want him used for experiments by the moroi or the alchemists. This is an easy fix, one of two ways: either tell Lissa, the queen of the freaking vampires about it, and have her sort it out, or just lie about who his father is. Declan has a living aunt, Nina, his mother’s sister, who loved Olive so much that she nearly sacrificed her life to restore her sister’s. It makes zero sense to have Adrian and Sydney adopt him just to conceal his identity and abide by the wishes of a teenager who ran away from fatherhood. Sydney is way too smart not to realize these options.

Secondly, there is no way anyone would feasibly believe that Declan was Sydney and Adrian’s child. They have been in the public eye of the vampire court the entirety of when Sydney would have had to be pregnant with him, when she clearly wasn’t. Did they just hide him for a year, and then trot him out, hoping no one noticed that she was never pregnant?

Thirdly, even if Sydney and Adrian had to make a choice about taking him in or letting Nina have Declan, they would have let him be with his aunt. No matter how much they might have bonded with him, or felt bad about not saving his mother, they are young, dependent on others, and unready to be parents.

There are a few other reasons that this ending is unsatisfactory, and unworthy of the Sydney Sage fans love. After uncovering corruption in the ranks of the alchemists, Sydney merely bargains with them for the names of corrupted alchemists, in exchange for her freedom. She also has some words with her father, but just to get her younger sister the freedom to see their mother. Sydney knows that the entire alchemist organization is a corrupt, zealous cult, with dangerous, inhumane practices, and she just . . . walks away? She has been the victim of reeducation, brainwashing, and torture, and she just negotiates what amounts to amnesty for herself, and shared custody for her sister. The Sydney Sage fans love would have (and should have) torn the alchemist organization asunder. Allowing a corrupt institution like that to continue to exist would not be acceptable to her- Sydney is a pragmatist, but she’s also uncompromising in her morals. Whether Sydney would have destroyed the alchemists, or reshaped them, she wouldn’t have let them continue to do their work and just move away.

tumblr_nbdlq2UZQh1r2a4kfo1_500

Another source of rage is what Sydney and Adrian do with their fresh start- move to Maine and live a low-key life. Sydney deserved to go to an Ivy League school, or run the UN, or do something equally extraordinary. She could have done those things, even with a husband and a young child, if she wanted. It doesn’t make any sense for them to settle in the middle of nowhere. Adrian becomes a kindergarten teacher, which is equally out of character. Sure, he loves art, and has a childlike sense of wonder, but Adrian can’t get up that early in the morning, nor does he have the qualifications to teach kindergarten. It would make more sense for him to go to art school, or become a reclusive artist who supports his high-achieving wife by providing childcare. This ending isn’t disappointing because they left the vampire world behind, Adrian didn’t have much to keep him there. It’s disappointing because they both wanted something else, and deserved better. They both grew so much, and learned so much from each other, and ended up in a completely illogical place. It is especially tragic for Sydney, who worked so hard, and achieved so much, only to live in relative obscurity in the human world, where she would never be able to be her true self. While Adrian certainly deserved better, the triumph of the series is Sydney, a young woman who went from being controlled to controlling her destiny, from being strong-armed to making her own choices, and from an isolated existence to a life full of love. She deserved to have a real ending, one worthy of her journey.

Posted in Books

“No Offense” isn’t just bad . . . it’s kinda offensive

I’ve been a Meg Cabot fan forever, since I picked up my first Princess Diaries book. While she’s best known for that series, Cabot is a prolific writer, and has dozens of novels available for both teen and adult audiences. I loved her Size 12 is Not Fat series, and the Queen of Babble trilogy. Her romances are engaging, her heroines are plucky, and I’ve always found her books enjoyable. I say all this to explain that it brings me no pleasure to hate on No Offense, her latest romance coming out August 11.

This is the second book in a new series of seaside romances set in small town Little Bridge, one of the islands in the Florida Keys. It follows arrived librarian Molly Montgomery, an unlucky-in-love new resident in Little Bridge, and John Hartwell, the sheriff. They bump heads when John is called to investigate a baby abandoned in the library bathroom, and sparks fly, despite their differing world views. Molly thinks that no one could abandon a baby in a bathroom without a good reason, and John thinks that anyone who could do it should face consequences. Both endeavor to find the baby’s mother, while John simultaneously juggles his teen daughter, and a thief breaking and entering all over town.

This book has a lot of problems, the worst of which is the main couple. Neither is all that compelling, and both lack enough traits to make up a personality. John is a career cop, which doesn’t really play well in this day and age, when the public is rapidly realizing that policing as it is traditionally undertaken in America does more harm than good. There isn’t a lot to him besides his job and his kid. Molly has a similar problem, she seems like an amalgamation of what people think of older millennials- she loves true crime, stalks her ex on social media, and drinks wine pretty much whenever she’s not at work. While Cabot’s protagonists usually like a drink or two, Molly might actually be an alcoholic. She gets drunk at a city function, as the guest of a prominent resident, and she is a city employee. She’s also intensely cringey. Also, as a library employee, I was personally taken aback at how little research Cabot appeared to have done about library operations. Completely inaccurate, with the notable exception of when a guy yells at Molly for no reason- that’s spot-on. Just to give an example, Molly keeps books in her bathroom. In her bathroom, where the moisture and the steam is. I can’t think of a self-respecting librarian who would expose books to that kind of environment.

48836843I saw my other main issue of this book written cleverly in another review, which I was unfortunately unable to track down. Basically, all of Cabot’s books now are “white woman solves mystery with associated man, featuring ethnic best friend.” Given how much better her other books are, it’s really sad to read this phoned-in claptrap.

I wasn’t originally going to write a review of No Offense, but then I saw it on a couple lists of exciting books coming out this summer, and I felt bad. Don’t waste your time on this, go read one of Cabot’s better books. I promise, they’re just as romantic and much less disappointing.

No Offense will be published August 11, 2020, and can be found wherever books are sold, or at your local library. You can also purchase it on Amazon using our affiliate code. The reviewer was provided with a advanced reader’s edition in exchange for an honest review.