Waste Of Space, by Gina Damico ~ 4.5 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt For Young Readers for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: July 11th, 2017

400 Pages

Synopsis: Cram ten hormonal teens into a spaceship and blast off: that’s the premise for the ill-conceived reality show Waste of Space. The kids who are cast know everything about drama–and nothing about the fact that the production is fake. Hidden in a desert warehouse, their spaceship replica is equipped with state-of-the-art special effects dreamed up by the scientists partnering with the shady cable network airing the show. And it’s a hit! Millions of viewers are transfixed. But then, suddenly, all communication is severed. Trapped and paranoid, the kids must figure out what to do when this reality show loses its grip on reality.

Waste of Space is one of the wackiest books I’ve read in a long time, but in a good way. I’m not a big fan of reality tv unless it’s a talent show, so as soon as I read the premise, I was immediately intrigued by how this satirical look at the industry would play out, and Damico more than delivered. Everything is over-the-top, from Chazz, the narcissistic, smarmy producer, to the blatant product advertising, to the outrageous stunts the cast is forced to take part in to make Waste of Space “must see tv”. But it’s not long before things begin to go seriously awry, and the only thing that is clear, is that everyone is lying: the producers, the scientists, and even some of the contestants. At first, the contestants seem to represent your stereotypical, one -dimensional reality stars, but as the story progresses you learn there’s much more to them than they seem.

The narrative style flashes back and forth between the characters in the form of video and phone transcripts and blog posts. I did find this a little jarring at times, but not enough to spoil my enjoyment of the story. There are so many twists here that it’s literally impossible to put all the pieces together until the surprisingly bittersweet ending. 

Waste Of Space, is a fun and humorous read, that also has unexpected deeper moments. It’s decidedly different from everything else out there, and makes for a memorable read. Due to some sexual situations, I recommend this for older teens, who I think will get a real kick out of it.

Breaking (Burning), by Danielle Rollins ~ 3.0 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury USA Childrens for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: Available Now

352 Pages

Synopsis: Charlotte has always been content in the shadow of her two best friends at the prestigious Underhill Preparatory Institute. Ariel is daring and mysterious. Devon is beautiful and brilliant. Without Charlotte never lived up to the standards of the school–or her demanding mother–her two best friends became the family she never had. When Ariel and Devon suddenly commit suicide within a month of each other, Charlotte refuses to accept it as coincidence. But as the clues point to a dangerous secret at Underhill Prep, Charlotte is suddenly in over her head. There’s a reason the students of Underhill are so exceptional, and the people responsible are willing to kill to protect the truth…

Breaking is the “companion book” to Burning, which means that technically you could read this as a standalone, but I personally think you’ll get more out of it if you read the books in order. 

Breaking has more mystery to it than the previous book, as it opens with the main character, Charlotte, dealing with her two best friend’s suicides only a month apart. She discovers that one of them has left a clue behind, and she determinedly sets out to find out what really happened. None of the characters are very likable. There are flashbacks to when Ari and Devon were still alive, and they both gave off that stereotypical “mean girl” vibe, with Charlotte being the follower. But, there’s a twist near the end of the book which gives a creative twist to this trope which is why I changed my mind about the 2 star rating I was considering giving this. I had mixed feelings about Charlotte. She came across as self-pitying and insecure throughout much of the book, but the more you find out about the relationship she has with her mother, the more understandable this is. And, as the story progressed, she did get stronger. There’s a big build-up to the romance that develops between Charlotte and Jack, but for me, there wasn’t enough chemistry between them.

The plot itself is interesting and kept me guessing for the majority of the story. It’s the last 100 or so pages though, where things get truly exciting and the events from Burning are tied into what’s been happening here. 

Overall, I though Breaking was an okay sequel that could have used more character development. The ending leaves no doubt that there’ll be a third book, and I’m interested in how things will turn out. Because of the darker themes and some brutally graphic scenes, I’d recommend this for older teens who are looking for contemporary fiction with a hint of the supernatural.

Final Girls, by Riley Sager ~ 3.5 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and Dutton for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: July 11th, 2017

352 Pages

Synopsis: Ten years ago, college student Quincey Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the sole survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to–a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well–maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiance, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

Final Girls has been incredibly hyped since last year, so maybe it was destiny or karma, that it wasn’t going to quite live up to my expectations. That’s not to say I thought it was awful. I just don’t agree with my idol, Stephen King’s assessment that “The first great thriller of 2017 is here!” There are several things I liked about it, but let me get the negatives out of the way first.

Final Girls. We’re all familiar with them thanks to the movies. Who doesn’t recognize the names Laurie Strode/ Halloween; Nancy Thompson/Nightmare On Elm Street; and of course Sidney Prescott/Scream. Here, Riley Sager has given us three new survivors, in Lisa, Sam and Quincy. The main focus is on Quincy, who ten years after her escape from the massacre at Pine Cottage, has supposedly gotten past the horrific events of that night. Her mind has protected her somewhat by blocking out most of what happened. She also has Jeff, her caring boyfriend, and Coop, the police officer who saved her from the killer she calls “Him”. She’s happiest when creating new dishes for her popular baking blog, so life seems good.

And then Lisa, who she’s never met in person, but has communicated by phone and emails, is discovered dead, and Sam, who has been off the grid for the last several years, unexpectedly shows up. Immediately Quincy’s carefully structured life starts to spiral out of control. I was expecting to feel complete and total empathy for Quincy, but to my dismay, I disliked her almost from the very beginning. She is much too gullible and trusting for someone who’s been through what she has. She also takes Jeff, who genuinely cares about her, completely for granted, which really bothered me. I wound up not being able to relate to her at all. Sam is a sketchy and unlikable character, and her and Quincy’s developing relationship is truly toxic. Some of the things they wind up doing to prove they’re survivors just don’t make any sense. There’s too much time spent on their actions and there are parts that are unnecessarily repetitious and inconsistent which makes the story lag, especially in the middle.

The chapters alternate between what’s happening in the present day, and what happened ten years ago at Pine Cottage. The chapters set in the past are the most exciting of the book, especially as more and more of Quincy’s memories begin to return. It’s the last third of the book that had me glued to its pages. There are so many shocking twists that each time I thought I had finally figured everything out I was proven wrong. When the big reveal came, it may not have been completely credible, but it was unexpected and impactful in every way. 

In the end I think Final Girls starts as a fantastic concept, but the story gets a bit muddled along the way. I need to be honest and say I’m definitely in the minority here because most of the reviews on Goodreads are giving it 4-5 stars. Although it wasn’t a perfect read for me I’d still recommend it to fans of horror and slasher films. 

 

Far Right Interpreted NPR’s Tweeting Of The US Constitution As Dishing President Trump

JULY 4, 2017. THE DAY NPR TRIED TO START A REVOLUTION…NOT! Thank you Gronda for shining a light on this terribly sad affair.

Gronda Morin

Image result for photos of the constitution and paintings with forefathersOn July 4, 2017, NPR News tweeted the entire US Constitution to honor the US July 4th Independence day, our day of celebrating when this country broke away from the United Kingdom to become the USA.

But conservatives who were not familiar with this famous document took offense to certain passages which they believed  described the republican President Donald Trump in an unflattering way. And they responded, accordingly.

Dear Conservatives, “Methinks thou protest too much.”

Image result for photos of the constitution and paintings with forefathersHere is the rest of the story...

On July 5, 2017,  Jeremy Binckes of Salon penned the following report along with a transcript of US Constitution that some on the right found so offensive, “NPR’s Declaration of Independence tweet-storm angered some Trump supporters.”

“In an act of patriotism and civic responsibility, National Public Radio tweeted out the full Declaration of Independence — the document that told England’s King George that the 13 colonies would be…

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Happy Fourth of July 2017!

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Tomorrow we’ll mark another celebration of our Independence, yet, many Americans, including myself, aren’t exactly in a celebratory mood given Mr. Trump’s shenanigans and the overall political climate. 

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But than I started thinking about everything in this country that’s still great. While there’s a very long list, here are a few of my favorites.

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The Constitution and the Bill of Rights

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 Yes, I know that Amendments like the 1st, 4th, 14th, and 15th, are currently in danger of being trampled on, but I have to believe they will outlast the Trump Administration.

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The Internet and Google

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I know they have their flaws, but can you imagine life without them? No more blogging, and HELLO–Google Doodles!

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National Landmarks like Mount Rushmore

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There are so many plays and musicals over the years which have entertained and inspired us, but right now I’m just going to name one: Hamilton. Thank you Lin-Manuel Miranda for your artistry and for bringing to life the creation of this country.

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Yes Hollywood can drive us crazy with never-ending film franchises (Pirates Of the Caribbean) and pointless and insulting remakes (The Mummy and the upcoming Jumanji), but far outweighing the flops are films like: The Shawshank Redemption, A Beautiful Mind, Rocky, 42, Dead Poets Society, Slumdog Millionaire, Selma, To Kill A Mockingbird, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, 12 Angry Men, and so on. 

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American Literature

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Yes. I’ve saved the best for the last. While the U.S. can proudly lay claim to thousands of talented authors and poets, there are a select, iconic group whose works have helped shape and become part of our national literary heritage. Writers such as: Francis Scott Key, Mark Twain, Alice Walker, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Maya Angelou, Willa Cather, Emily Dickinson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Harper Lee, James Baldwin, Margaret Miller, Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, Walt Whitman, William Faulkner, Frederick Douglass, Upton Sinclair, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Langston Hughes. 

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Many of us feel the United States is at one of it’s lowest points in its history. But you know what’s so wonderful about the majority of American people? Our perseverance. Our willingness to fight for what’s good and decent. Our compassion for our fellow human beings with whom we share this planet. So, tomorrow, I’m going to celebrate our Fourth of July holiday, and think of everything that’s wonderful about this country.

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And Wednesday, July 5th I’ll go back to worrying about civil liberties, immigration, the environment, education, free speech, and our increasingly embarrassing and dangerously unstable president.

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Every Last Lie, by Mary Kubica ~ 4.0 Stars

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Thanks To NetGalley and Park Row Books for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: Available Now

288 Pages

Synopsis: “The bad man, Daddy. The bad man is after us.”

Clara Solberg’s world shatters when her husband and their four-year-old daughter are in a car crash, killing Nick while Maisie is left remarkably unharmed. The crash is ruled an accident…until the coming days, when Maisie starts having night terrors that make Clara question what really happened on that fateful afternoon. 

Tormented by grief and her obsession that Nick’s death was far more than just an accident, Clara is plunged into a desperate hunt for the truth. Who would have wanted Nick dead? And, more important, why? Clara will stop at nothing to find out–and the truth is only the beginning of this twisted tale of secrets and deceit.

Told in the alternating perspectives of Clara’s investigation and Nick’s last months leading up to the crash, master of suspense Mary Kubica weaves her most chilling thriller to date–one that explores the dark recesses of a mind plagued by grief and shows that some secrets might be better left buried.

While I’ve certainly heard of Mary Kubica, Every Last Lie is the first book of hers that I’ve read, but after finishing it I can certainly understand why she’s so popular. It starts off a little slowly, but the pace picks up after the first few chapters. The characters of Clara and Nick are ones you can’t help but become emotionally invested in. Both of them are flawed and make many mistakes, but this just makes them even more relatable. Because of this, my heart was breaking for the both of them throughout the story, especially Nick, who I really became attached to. I have to admit I found myself getting a bit weepy during his chapters, especially in the latter half of the book when the fateful last day was approaching. There are so many twists to what caused Nick’s fatal crash, that right up until the end I had no idea what the outcome of Clara’s investigation was going to be. There are basically just two reasons why I’ve only given this 4 stars. Because of the author’s reputation and the suspenseful build-up, when the end came, I thought it was a little flat. And, there were a few plot holes that I didn’t feel were addressed, which is a pet peeve of mine. Otherwise, I think this is a great mystery/suspense novel that’ll make a wonderful beach and vacation read. I already had Mary Kubica on my list of TBR authors, but I’m definitely moving her previous books nearer to the top of my list now.

Lovely Literary Lines

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Today’s Google Doodle pays tribute to poet, artist and activist, Victor Hugo and his frustrating yet hauntingly beautiful Les Miserables, which was completed on this date in 1862. I read this entire 1,400 page English edition (it’s 1900 pages in the original French), when I was in high school, and to this day its virtuous former thief, Jean Valjean, remains one of my favorite literary characters. So, in honor of the beloved Victor Hugo and his magnums opus, here are my personal top ten quotes.

It is nothing to die. It is frightful not to live.

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He never went out without a book under his arm, and he often came back with two.

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Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.

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Not being heard is no reason for silence.

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You ask me what forces me to speak? A strange thing; my conscience.

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No army can withstand the strength of an idea whose time has come.

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There is nothing like a dream to create future.

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Nobody knows like a woman how to say things that are both sweet and profound. Sweetness and depth, this is all of woman; this is Heaven.

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Let us study things that are no more. It is necessary to understand them, if only to avoid them.

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If you wish to understand what Revolution is, call it Progress; and if you wish to understand what Progress is, call it tomorrow.

 

Trump Twitter Tantrums ~ Dear God! Make Him Stop!

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Before you read any further I want to warn you that this is going to be another one of my rants against Mr. Trump. If you choose to proceed, do so at your own risk!

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So, after three days of Twitter tirades against “Fake Media” outlets such as CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, Mr. Trump turned his ire on Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, hosts of the popular MSNBC talk show, Morning Joe. Now, I’m going to be upfront here and say I’m not a fan of the show or Joe and Mika. They’ve gone back and forth playing footsie with Mr. Trump, a little too much for my taste. Currently they seem to be on the outs with him again, which is apparently what provoked this latest outrageous tweet:

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While Scarborough didn’t escape completely unscathed from the juvenile name calling, Mr. Trump saved the most personal, vulgar and coarse attack for Brzezinski. During a week filled with things that actually matter such as the Senate’s  attempt to pass a healthcare bill which will leave at least 22 million people without insurance, the implementation tonight of parts of the equally appalling Muslim Ban, and refusing to discuss possible protections in place against further Russia interference in our elections, Mr. Trump apparently has enough time on his hands to launch a disgusting and sexist attack against yet another woman. Not only is this nauseating, but it’s embarrassing for us as a country that our so-called leader persists in these types of personal attacks. First Lady Melania Trump defended him this morning, saying through her spokeswoman:

As the First Lady has stated publicly in the past, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder.

Huh. So Mrs. Trump. How is your chosen platform against cyber-bullying coming together?

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It seems that Mr. Trump sees Morning Joe’s criticism of him, including questioning his mental health as a personal betrayal. But here’s the rub. When you are a world leader, you need to expect criticism against yourself and your policies if you respond, you do so with maturity and aplomb. Heck, Mr. Trump was, and still is, one of President Obama’s biggest, nastiest hecklers. I’m not defending attacks from Madonna, who commented how she’d like to blow up the White House, or Kathy Griffin who for some demented reason thought it was a good idea to pose with a fake and bloody decapitated head of Mr. Trump, or Johnny Depp who “jokingly” asked fans in Glastonbury how long it’s been since an actor assassinated a president. Obviously all three of these celebrities crossed the line. However, in no way does this excuse Mr. Trump’s misogynistic and vitriolic behavior. 

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I suppose it’s clear that for at least the next 3 1/2 years that in between his weekly golf games, we can all look forward to more obscene Twitter tantrums, the gutting of agencies like the Education Department, the Centers for Disease Control, and the Environmental Protection Agency and trampling on people’s rights and his embarrassing us on the world stage.

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I could go on about things like his further destabilization of the Middle East by sending mixed messages regarding Qatar, who currently hosts the largest contingent of our military in the region, but I believe I’d better stop now. I’m going to just finish by saying once again, to not only my American followers but also to my international ones:

WE ARE BETTER THAN THAN THIS! 

We need to seriously examine who we want to represent us and be the chief lawmakers in this country not only in next year’s elections, but also in 2020. Mr. Trump is already raising money and holding campaign rallies. Do we really want another four years of someone who is a misogynist as well as racist, bigoted, impulsive, unstable, and is only concerned with looking out for himself? There’s really only one answer.

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*I know I’ve used the above gif a few times before, but it makes me happy, so I hope you’ll forgive me.*