The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

The Grownup CoverAfter reading plenty of negative reviews, I was expecting a bit of a let down with this novella, originally published in George R.R. Martin’s Rogues anthology in 2014. However, since I’ve devoured every other book by Gillian Flynn, I decided to read The Grownup as a standalone book anyway. I surprisingly and happily enjoyed this creepy little treat quite a bit.

As usual, Gillian Flynn creates an in-your-face, kickass female protagonist–this one reads auras and gives hand jobs for a living. I loved the up front way the narrator (her name is never given) discussed men and what they desire, while also being a little disturbed by it. Though that frankness IS what appeals to me in every Gillian Flynn novel. She gives just enough polish to allow for surprise at the dark and disgusting undertones. More

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Reckless Eyeballing by Ishmael Reed

I have been reading many short stories for my multicultural literature class, so it was nice to delve into a full-length novel. Reckless Eyeballing is a 148 page sort-of fiction about a playwright and his troubles with racism, anti-semitism, feminism, misogyny, and much, much more. It only took me two sittings to finish, and was a relatively easy read on the surface.

Reckless Eyeballing

Reckless Eyeballing is told primarily through Ian Ball’s perspective — a Creole playwright who is trying to get his play, also entitled “Reckless Eyeballing,” into a popular theatre. The story is about his encounters with racists and feminists who want to hinder or change his play to suit their needs. Other, more minor characters include Tremonisha Smarts — a feminist playwright, Jim Minsk — a Jewish director, and Lawrence O’Reedy — a racist detective.

While Reed seems to poke equal amounts of fun at everyone and their faults, it seems to me that feminists get the short end of the stick. While there is one redeemable feminist, she is only really that way in the very end of the novel, and basically turns out not to be a feminist at all. In one of the most humorous parts of the novel, the “Flower Phantom,” a man in a beret, trench coat, and mask goes around New York City shaving off prominent feminists hair and leaving them with a Chrysanthemum. The black men of NYC secretly rejoice and praise this man, as the feminists seem to run everything in the city, and have been putting men on the “sex-list” for many years, affecting who is published, praised, paraded around town for their woman-friendly attitudes. Ian Ball hopes to get taken off the sex-list with his play, “Reckless Eyeballing,” which is about a black man who was lynched for looking at a white woman for too long. 20 years after the fact, the woman in question wishes to take the dead man’s skeleton to court in order to sentence him to death. Outrage and hilarity ensue.

This story is definitely easy to read if you take it at face value; it’s short, seems pretty straight forward, and for the most part has simple characters that are easy to identify and label. However, if you treat this as a true Ishmael Reed book, you could read it dozens of times and still come out with something new each time. While I did not love the book, I did enjoy the amazing amounts of layering that Reed accomplishes. By subtly hinting at being a pseudo-fictional tale, there are many popular references to jazz musicians, Disney characters, and an allusion that one of the main characters is basically a stand-in for Alice Walker, and the character’s script-turned-play mirrors Walker’s book-turned-film, The Color Purple.

To truly understand the multilayered intertextual themes, the reader will have to have a basic understanding of a lot of prominent black literature and culture both in and out of the USA. However, before taking the multicultural literature class, I can say that I did not know much about that scene, and I could still enjoy the basic premise and humor of the extremely satirical novel from Ishmael Reed. If you think of the novel as light reading with dark undertones, it makes for a satisfying, humorous, quick read. If you prefer to look deeper into the text, you will also be satisfied — there is layer upon layer of cultural and literary references to feast upon.

Mercury Falls by Robert Kroese

Mercury Falls was one of the first books I started reading when I got my Kindle — over a year ago! It is a 370 page humor/fantasy/magical-realism piece. It’s actually a little hard to pinpoint the genre, because the book does so many things.  There are a few other books in the series, which has no true intended order. I believe I got this book for free, which is why I read it first.

Mercury Falls

Mercury Falls centers around the coming Armageddon and certain PAIs (Persons of Apocalyptic Interest). The two big main characters are Mercury, a wayward angel who does pretty much what he wants when he wants for reasons only he knows about; and Christine, a journalist working for a reputable newspaper, traveling the USA and writing about end-of-the-world cults and their doomsday predictions. Her boss and owner of The Banner, Harry, has had the lifelong ambition to be the first newspaper to correctly document the pending apocalypse. This is why Christine has been sent to interview most anyone who claims they know the date of Armageddon.

The novel follows Christine’s travels around the US, and eventually to the Middle East, and all the attempts to either support or negate Armageddon made by humans, angels, and demons alike. Her plans go astray when Karl Grissom, a 37-year-old who still lives with his mom, is named the Antichrist by a competition based on a popular young adult series. Hilarity and fast-paced calamity ensue.

Though it took me an insane amount of time to read this book (I started it in early 2012), it was actually pretty enjoyable. Kroese portrays Heaven as a huge bureaucracy that in order to get anything done has to step on so many toes in its other departments that nothing ever gets done. None of the angels really know who “the big guy upstairs” is, where humans go when they die, or what the plan after Armageddon is. Half the fun of the story comes from the fact that disgruntled angels act pretty much like humans.

My favorite character is Mercury himself, the best–and really only–anti-establishment angel out there. I could never really guess his motives or which side he was on, whether it was pro- or anti-Armageddon, as the book calls it. He really throws everyone for a loop when he starts building snowmen instead of ushering in Armageddon like he’s supposed to be doing. Although the plot did move along quickly in this book, it was really the unique characters and creative Heaven that Kroese created (portals, a planeport limbo) that made the book so much fun to read.

Once I got over the initial push, about the first 100 pages, it got interesting and amusing and hard to put down. The contrasts of Christine’s apathy towards religion, Harry’s fanaticism, and Mercury’s mischief of minor miracles make this semi-religious book extremely lighthearted. Once I got into it, Mercury Falls was an easy, quick read. I’d recommend it if you want a humorous look on Armageddon.

One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

This series is about Stephanie Plum. After losing her job as a lingerie buyer for E. E. Martin, which by no means was her fault, she decides to go to her cousin Vinnie’s bond company and try to make some quick cash catching fugitives, or FTAs (Failed to Appear). She gets her FTAs from Connie, the office manager for Vinnie, who has big hair, big boobs, and a big, Italian mouth.

One for the Money (Stephanie Plum, #1)

This book is about Stephanie’s first FTA, Joe Morelli, a cop who has been accused of murder. His bond was out for $100,000, which puts Stephanie at a cool $10,000 if she can bring him into the police station. Joe Morelli does not have a great reputation when it comes to women, which Stephanie knows firsthand, having lost her virginity to him when she was 16. They have an interesting past, and it keeps being brought out on their occasional meetings. These meetings are pretty funny, because Stephanie is new to this whole bounty hunter thing, and she does not have the best luck capturing Morelli. Luckily, her mentor in bounty hunting, Ranger, is there to help her along the way.

 I got the recommendation to read this book from my mom, and pretty much all the other women in my extended family. Since we don’t generally see eye-to-eye on reading material, I was weary before starting. I was pleasantly surprised at how well written it turned out to be. Although it gets my mom to laugh out loud on many occasions, I was still surprised that I found myself chuckling now and then, usually when Stephanie is at home, conversing with her hamster, Rex.

I really enjoyed this book. Evanovich has a way with phrasing, and I found myself mentally making notes of phrases that I really enjoyed — I physically wrote down some from the later books that I may share. Also, Stephanie Plum is a pretty strong female character who is fun to read about. Perhaps this just came at the perfect time in my life, or perhaps it really is as good as it’s cut out to be. Either way, One for the Money is a quick read and is definitely worth your time.

Also, every book in the rest of this series kind of spoils the ending of this one, so if you care to find out on your own what happens, read this one before you read the rest of my reviews. If you don’t mind spoiling a little bit of the fun, you can still get enjoyment out of this book knowing what happens in the end. I did, anyway. After reading a few of the other books in the series, this is still easily my favorite.