Size Doesn’t Matter (7): Mini Reviews from a Lazy Blogger

I received this book for free from BEA in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (7): Mini Reviews from a Lazy BloggerThe Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak
Narrator: Aziz Ansari, Eric Klinenberg, Kathleen McInerney
Published by Dial Books on September 30, 2015
Genres: Humor
Pages: 48
Format: Hardcover
Source: BEA
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A book with no pictures?

What could be fun about that?

After all, if a book has no pictures, there's nothing to look at but the words on the page.

Words that might make you say silly sounds... In ridiculous voices...

Hey, what kind of book is this, anyway?

At once disarmingly simple and ingeniously imaginative, The Book With No Pictures inspires laughter every time it is opened, creating a warm and joyous experience to share--and introducing young children to the powerful idea that the written word can be an unending source of mischief and delight.

Let’s be honest, here. I picked this up at BEA 2014 because I had time in my schedule and wanted to see a celebrity. Obviously I wasn’t that excited about the book itself considering that I didn’t read it even though it took less than five minutes just now. The only reason I got to it now is that I’m trying to organize my house, and I found this where I’d stashed it to read quickly (oops).

My main qualification for picture books is if they’re fun to read aloud, and this book basically demands to be read aloud at story time in libraries. Actually, no, it really does demand it. Novak taps into one of the great joys of children: laughing at grown-ups. I wasn’t expecting much from this, but it’s pretty charming AND it encourages parents to read to their kids, which is very much important.

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (7): Mini Reviews from a Lazy BloggerExit Stage Left by Gail Nall
Published by Epic Reads Impulse on September 8, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 356
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss

In this funny and sweet digital-original novel perfect for fans of Fame, Casey works to find a new passion after her dreams of becoming a Broadway star are ruined.

Casey Fitzgerald has always been an actress. She's known it was her destiny ever since she snagged the role of "apple" in her kindergarten's production of The Food Pyramid. But when she doesn't get the lead in her performing arts high school's production of The Sound of Music, she begins to question everything. Not getting the lead means no recommendations, and no recommendations means she can kiss good-bye any chance of getting a scholarship to the prestigious New York College of Performing Arts.

After some soul searching and some wise words from her friend Harrison, Casey decides to totally reinvent herself. She's already ditched her on-again off-again boyfriend Trevor and is interested in the new boy at school, so why not start fresh with everything? But every new destiny she tries doesn't seem quite right. And when her best friend, Amanda, who did get the lead, starts hanging out with Trevor, Casey's not sure if she'll ever be able to leave the drama behind.

Fluffy contemporary with an emphasis on musical theater? This book didn’t even have to audition for a place on my TBR’s casting list. This metaphor, however, has been relegated to the stage crew because wow was that bad.

Exit Stage Left was one of those books that I really enjoyed reading but didn’t actually like that much, if that makes any sense. There was a real addictive quality to it for sure, but it was also frustrating for me.

The heroine, Casey, annoyed me a lot. I actually liked some of her less positive qualities, like her jealousy over her best friend getting the lead role in the production, because it can be really hard to be happy for someone, even someone you love, who gets something you wanted. My problem with Casey is that I didn’t really understand the choices she made. Her decision to get back with Trevor instead of trying Oliver, though literally explained to the reader, really didn’t feel right to me somehow. Not to mention that the pay-off when the ship finally resolves is almost nil.

Also, the crisis that losing the lead role caused for Casey was believable. She’s now doubting that she can pursue theater and questioning her talent; though an over-reaction, with her scholarship in jeopardy, it’s a real problem. Her response, though, is to consider five other possible careers. The list she creates includes horseback riding and figure skating. The amount she doesn’t seem to know about the world is baffling. The crisis makes sense but the way she reacted was over the top, but not in a way that was funny.

Size Doesn’t Matter (7): Mini Reviews from a Lazy BloggerModern Romance by Aziz Ansari, Eric Klinenberg
Narrator: Aziz Ansari, Eric Klinenberg
Length: 6 hrs, 14 mins
Published by Penguin Audio on June 16, 2015
Genres: Nonfiction, Humor
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
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A hilarious, thoughtful, and in-depth exploration of the pleasures and perils of modern romance from one of this generation’s sharpest comedic voices

At some point, every one of us embarks on a journey to find love. We meet people, date, get into and out of relationships, all with the hope of finding someone with whom we share a deep connection. This seems standard now, but it’s wildly different from what people did even just decades ago. Single people today have more romantic options than at any point in human history. With technology, our abilities to connect with and sort through these options are staggering. So why are so many people frustrated?

Some of our problems are unique to our time. “Why did this guy just text me an emoji of a pizza?” “Should I go out with this girl even though she listed Combos as one of her favorite snack foods? Combos?!” “My girlfriend just got a message from some dude named Nathan. Who’s Nathan? Did he just send her a photo of his penis? Should I check just to be sure?”

But the transformation of our romantic lives can’t be explained by technology alone. In a short period of time, the whole culture of finding love has changed dramatically. A few decades ago, people would find a decent person who lived in their neighborhood. Their families would meet and, after deciding neither party seemed like a murderer, they would get married and soon have a kid, all by the time they were twenty-four. Today, people marry later than ever and spend years of their lives on a quest to find the perfect person, a soul mate.

For years, Aziz Ansari has been aiming his comic insight at modern romance, but for Modern Romance, the book, he decided he needed to take things to another level. He teamed up with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg and designed a massive research project, including hundreds of interviews and focus groups conducted everywhere from Tokyo to Buenos Aires to Wichita. They analyzed behavioral data and surveys and created their own online research forum on Reddit, which drew thousands of messages. They enlisted the world’s leading social scientists, including Andrew Cherlin, Eli Finkel, Helen Fisher, Sheena Iyengar, Barry Schwartz, Sherry Turkle, and Robb Willer. The result is unlike any social science or humor book we’ve seen before.

In Modern Romance, Ansari combines his irreverent humor with cutting-edge social science to give us an unforgettable tour of our new romantic world.

The only reason I listened to Modern Romance is because I love Ansari on Parks and Recreation. I didn’t know anything about the book aside from the ugly cover, the title, and the fact that Ansari wrote it. I did, however, make some assumptions based on the fact that I know Ansari is a comedian, namely that Modern Romance would be comedic first and foremost.

Actually, Modern Romance is a bit more sociology than stand-up. Ansari certainly presents the information in a humorous way, but he was doing actual studies and interested in the results. It’s sociology/self help but presented with Ansari’s characteristic humor.

The results themselves weren’t particularly new to me for the most part, though I did learn some things in the chapters devoted to romance in foreign countries. Ansari’s conclusion was also very repetitive. Still, I very much enjoyed his delivery and it was totally worth the time I spent listening.

Size Doesn’t Matter (7): Mini Reviews from a Lazy BloggerThe Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands
Published by Aladdin on September 1, 2015
Genres: Historical, Mystery, Fantasy, Adventure
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: BEA
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“Tell no one what I’ve given you.”

Until he got that cryptic warning, Christopher Rowe was happy, learning how to solve complex codes and puzzles and creating powerful medicines, potions, and weapons as an apprentice to Master Benedict Blackthorn—with maybe an explosion or two along the way.

But when a mysterious cult begins to prey on London’s apothecaries, the trail of murders grows closer and closer to Blackthorn’s shop. With time running out, Christopher must use every skill he’s learned to discover the key to a terrible secret with the power to tear the world apart.

Add this to the list of middle grade novels that I find perfectly acceptable but not particularly interesting to me. For middle grade readers who are into chemistry and explosions, The Blackthorn Key will be a fast-paced romp.

For me, who’s not much into those things and reads for strong characters, The Blackthorn Key fell a bit flat. The fast pace and mini cliffhangers at the end of many of the chapters made it a quick enough read, but it wasn’t a total hit for me. The historical setting was nice, though not thoroughly convincing. My main reaction to this book is a shrug.

Size Doesn’t Matter (7): Mini Reviews from a Lazy BloggerTiny Little Thing by Beatriz Williams
Narrator: Kathleen McInerney
Length: 11 hrs, 24 mins
Series: Schuyler Sisters #2
Published by Penguin Audio on June 23, 2015
Genres: Historical, Romance
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
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In the summer of 1966, Christina Hardcastle—“Tiny” to her illustrious family—stands on the brink of a breathtaking future. Of the three Schuyler sisters, she’s the one raised to marry a man destined for leadership, and with her elegance and impeccable style, she presents a perfect camera-ready image in the dawning age of television politics. Together she and her husband, Frank, make the ultimate power couple: intelligent, rich, and impossibly attractive. It seems nothing can stop Frank from rising to national office, and he’s got his sights set on a senate seat in November.

But as the season gets underway at the family estate on Cape Cod, three unwelcome visitors appear in Tiny’s perfect life: her volatile sister Pepper, an envelope containing incriminating photograph, and the intimidating figure of Frank’s cousin Vietnam-war hero Caspian, who knows more about Tiny’s rich inner life than anyone else. As she struggles to maintain the glossy façade on which the Hardcastle family’s ambitions are built, Tiny begins to suspect that Frank is hiding a reckless entanglement of his own…one that may unravel both her own ordered life and her husband’s promising career.

I completely adore Beatriz Williams audiobooks. Her stories of upper crust, historical life match perfectly with Kathleen McInerney’s narration. This is my second one and they’ve both been perfection.

The audiobook is definitely the format for me. I doubt I’d enjoy them quite so much in print, since they run to melodrama in a way that generally isn’t my favorite. Like, this book is a love triangle between cousins and infidelity and family backstabbing and indecision. It works but also any time I stepped back to think about it, I’d be skeptical.

Special awesomeness about Tiny Little Thing: the heroine’s name is Christina and her pet (a dog) is named Percy. BEST EVER. I should maybe buy a copy just for that. :-p


One response to “Size Doesn’t Matter (7): Mini Reviews from a Lazy Blogger”

  1. The Blackthorn Key has such a pretty cover! Too bad it wasn’t great. I haven’t read any Beatriz Williams but I like the sort of historical fiction she writes in theory. And Modern Romance sounds interesting (I love Ansari from P&R) too, but I doubt I’ll make time for it the way my TBR is shaping up. I love your mini reviews btw 🙂

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