Audiobook Review: The Guest Room

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Image via Goodreads

Rating: 3 out of 5

I have to admit that I was surprised that my fellow book club babes felt so negatively toward Chris Bohjalian’s The Guest Room. I was already a fan of the author after reading The Sandcastle Girls, his heartbreaking historical fiction novel about the Armenian Genocide. Honestly, there are so few Armenians left in existence, let alone Armenian writers, which compels me to appreciate the creative folks who share my heritage.

So even though some of the ladies at book club agreed with my 3-star rating, I was much more sympathetic about liking this story. However, since I recognize my own cultural bias, I wanted to share a plot summary written by my friend Kat, because it’s absolutely hilarious. She actually re-enacted this description during our meetup this week, and it’s safe to say that her sassy summaries will be a regular feature hereafter:

So basically you got a 40ish older brother (Mr. No Backbone) who throws a bachelor party for his immature womanizing 30ish baby brother at his home (*cough* damn fool *cough*), of which he shares with his devoted wife and 9-year-old daughter.

Said baby brother and even more hounddog groomsmen decide to hire strippers of which they pay extra to have sex (i.e. tag team) and guest what, oh, the strippers were sex slaves who took that very opportunity to kill their bodyguards/ captors right there in the house.

So now the strippers are on the run (literally 10 blocks down the street… They so smart 😐), the house is a crime scene, the older brother’s marriage and family are falling apart (🙄), and there is a whole lot of media coverage & legal heat on all the groomsmen (ya damn skippy 😏).

I couldn’t get jiggy with this because the characters were utterly stupid, and it was like as the story went on, the author kept dumbing everyone down for cheap thrills and sad attempts at creating suspense. Uh no! This gets 3 stars if I’m being nice, and a 2.5 if I’m keeping it real. Read at your own risk, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I have to agree with Kat that you question the judgment of the characters throughout the novel, correcting their decisions in your mind as a desperate attempt to prevent this bachelor-party-gone-wrong from getting even worse.

However, I pitied Richard, the relatively innocent bystander dealing with the aftermath of his brother’s mistakes, and Alexandra, who never asked to be abducted from her family in Armenia and forced to live as a sex slave. Having the POVs shift between these two protagonists, as well as to Richard’s wife and daughter, allows you to get in the minds of everyone affected and form your own conclusions about how you would feel and act in the same situation.

My only major complaint with The Guest Room was that it had too much feeling and not enough acting. Bohjalian is wonderful at writing inner turmoil, but this was not the sexy thriller my book club and I had been hoping for. As Kat concluded, read at your own risk, but as long as you know what kind of story you’re getting yourself into, I thought that it was enjoyable.

My final words of wisdom if you plan on adding this to your to-read list: definitely get the print version! Unfortunately, the audiobook is terrible with accents, and Alexandra sounds like an awful stereotype of a foreign bimbo. The Guest Room is a story with a ton of potential that didn’t quite deliver, and the poorly executed audiobook is another testament to that.

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NaNoWriMo Results & My Monthly Book Club Recap!

I’m back, and it feels so good!

Time flies when you’re writing a novel, so let me share my results from this year’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month to those of you who haven’t been paying attention!)

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It’s the attempt that counts! 🙂

As the chart above proves, I started off strong during the first two weeks of November, falling behind on weekdays but catching up on the weekends. However, I completely burnt out the last half of the month, writing only a little over 3,000 words during that time.

I may have completed NaNoWriMo with only half of the writing goal, but I’m still so proud of those 25,000 words. That equates to about 80 double-spaced pages, so it’s nothing to scoff at! And since I continued my novel from last year, if you add in my progress from 2014, I have 45,000 words / 140 pages finished in total!

It’s crazy to think that I’m practically halfway to completing the first draft of my manuscript, and even though I did not technically “win” NaNo, I still consider the experience a success, because I’m more motivated than ever to see this book to its end! I’m currently taking a breather from writing, since I don’t want to risk burning out again, but my goal is to complete my first draft and start the editing process next year. Who knows, I may be on my way to publication by December 2016! Wish me luck!

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Yep, you’re looking at five empty wine bottles!

In other news, the real-life Book Club Babes met this week to discuss Something About You, a romance novel by Julie James. Because I was busy with NaNo, we selected a book that I had already read, so I was curious to hear whether they liked my recommendation.

The ladies thought this was a fun, light-hearted read, giving it a solid 4 out of 5 stars. One of my friends in the group is an associate attorney, so it was reassuring to hear that James portrayed the world of law and order with accuracy (not surprising, given that the author was a former lawyer herself). Many loved the book so much that they’re now interested in reading more of James’ U.S. Attorney series, so another win for the original Book Club Babe!

However, I shouldn’t jinx myself, because it’s quite possible the whole club will quit after reading our selection for December. After a long period of indecision, the group voted to try out Chuck Palahniuk’s Beautiful You. Many of us were Fight Club fans, but I fear that this book’s sexually graphic subject matter will be too offensive.

Beautiful You isn’t rated very highly on Goodreads and Amazon, but as an out-and-proud feminist, I’m still intrigued by how Palahniuk will fare writing about a society in which men are obsolete and women are addicted to their sex toys. Whether we love the book or hate it, it will be sure to incite some heated discussion next month! And if you’ve already read this novel, let me know what you thought about it in the comments!

Book Club Gone Wild!

It's not a book club without tons of food and booze!

It’s not a book club without tons of food and booze!

Last night, the real-life Book Club Babes discussed our selection for October: Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance. “Discussed,” however, is too tame a term to explain the ruckus we started. Even a security guard stopped by a couple times to check on us! Beware to all the men out there who have ever dated any one of these amazing ladies, because no intimate detail was off-limits!

As we shared our thoughts about the book, I informally polled the group to see whether we were, in fact, a microcosm of Ansari’s research findings. Of the nine women who attended, including myself, six of us were single or casually dating, two were in relationships, and one was married. All but the one who was already hitched had tried online dating to some degree, whether with free apps like Tinder or paid subscriptions to eHarmony.

I found it insightful to hear about their dating experiences, from where they met their romantic partners (random encounters happened more often than expected) to how they prefer to communicate (texting in the beginning, then graduating to talking on the phone once it turns serious).

We all agreed that although the digital world has provided us with more romantic prospects, it has certainly complicated the dating process. Our parents never had to debate whether to cyber-stalk a potential date (yes) or if sexting was considering cheating (also, yes).

With no subject deemed TMI, we channeled our frustrations of the often dismal dating scene into riotous laughter. If you’re a straight man, trust me when I say that every mistake you make with women will go viral. Every failed pick-up line, sexist comment, and unsolicited dick pic will be forwarded to all her friends and ridiculed over copious glasses of wine. I know this, because it made for last night’s excellent entertainment!

Because I’m taking a hiatus from reading to focus on NaNoWriMo this month, the Book Club Babes will be reading a book I’ve already read. After agreeing that they wanted something lighthearted but with a thrilling twist, I recommended Something About You by Julie James, because it appeals to both romance novel enthusiasts and “Law and Order” fans. I have a feeling that its steamy subject matter will bring out the wild side in this book club again next month! Stay tuned!

Another Successful Book Club Meetup!

On Thursday, a bunch of us ladies congregated for our monthly book club, in which we discussed  The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. This novel had so many characters and plot elements that we spent hours sharing our opinions and related personal experiences. By the time I remembered to take some photos of us in the outdoors common area, it was already dark!

Overall, I’d say the majority of the group really enjoyed the book, rating it about a 4/5. Some women were so enamored with Moriarty’s writing that they had already purchased other works of hers, including What Alice Forgot.

In case you were thinking of selecting this novel for your own book club, here were a few of the questions we posed to the group:

  • Is secrecy ever justifiable in a romantic relationship?
  • Would you turn a loved one into the police if he/she committed a heinous crime?
  • Was justice served in the end of the story?
  • What did the Berlin Wall symbolize in this book?

Our next selection for September is The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. After several glasses of wine, it wasn’t difficult at all for me to convince the club to pick this recommendation of mine. I didn’t even have to share the summary–they wanted to follow the theme of the title and go into the book blindly!

I’m so excited to read this novel, since I’ve already purchased my tickets to attend Atwood’s upcoming book signing. I’ve only read The Handmaid’s Tale and The Penelopiad so far, and I’m looking forward to adding more novels of hers to my list!

What other stories would make good book club picks?

Book Review: The Husband’s Secret

Image via Goodreads

Rating: 4 out of 5

On Thursday evening, my book club will discuss The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. This bestselling 2013 novel intrigued us due to its promise of scandal, and it certainly delivered–just not in the way I expected.

Set in Australia (which is interesting in itself, since it was the first time I read about Easter during autumn), the story features three women, each dealing with serious family drama.

Cecilia discovers a letter from her husband meant to be read by her after his death–except he’s very much alive. Tess is also faced with spousal conflict after learning that her husband is having an affair with her cousin. Lastly, Rachel is still grieving the loss of her teenage daughter decades after her unexplained murder.

I thought that The Husband’s Secret would be about a big reveal, but surprisingly, it’s not difficult to connect the dots of how these families are intertwined. That said, it’s still entertaining to watch the plot progress. The characters are not likable at all times, but they’re realistic and multi-dimensional. Moriarty does an apt job putting the reader in their shoes; even the tough subject of homicide is transformed from something that you think you’d never experience to just another dirty little secret of suburbia.

Naturally, I can’t give away too many details since I don’t want to spoil the book, but I will say that if you’re a scaredy cat like me, you don’t have to worry. Moriarty is no Gillian Flynn writing super suspenseful thrillers; instead, her strength is demonstrating how mundane the controversy can be. Events unfold, and life goes on. You can torture yourself with what could have or should have happened, or you can embrace the butterfly effect of chaos.

My favorite part about having a book club is reading stories outside of my comfort zone. The Husband’s Secret is not a total 180 from my typical picks, but it was a nice change from the novels I normally add to my to-read list. I’m looking forward to hearing what the other members thought of this book!

First Book Club Meetup was a Success!

On Monday night, about a dozen of us young, female professionals met to discuss our first book club selection, Uganda Be Kidding Me by Chelsea Handler.

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That’s one good-looking group of ladies!

We had a fabulous time drinking wine, eating hors d’oeuvres, and making fast friends. Many of the members were transplants to California from the Midwest or East Coast, so it was interesting to learn about everyone’s backgrounds.

As for the book, I’m glad that we went with Chelsea Handler, because she’s controversial enough to divide an audience. While most thought that she was quite hilarious, many found her too obnoxious and mean-spirited.

On one hand, Handler represents the typical, annoying American tourist who drinks too much and refuses to learn about other cultures. She takes great pleasure in playing pranks on her friends and making everyone else around her extremely uncomfortable. On the other hand, if she was well-behaved and stone-cold sober, her travels would not be nearly as entertaining.

We spiritedly discussed everything from Handler’s obsession with little people to her flying her dogs on a private jet while her assistants fly coach. We even debated whether listening to the audiobook was better because it was a more personal experience or worse because you’re forced to hear Handler’s voice for hours.

Despite the divisive personality of the comedian, the general consensus was that Uganda Be Kidding Me was worth a 3.5 out of 5 rating. I think it was an excellent way to open a new book club, because it was fun and easy to read, all while inspiring us to drink copious amounts of wine! We salute you, Chelsea!

Our book selection for August is The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty, author of What Alice Forgot. This 2013 novel was a NYT bestseller and an Amazon Book of the Month, so I’m excited to give it a try. We voted on this choice for its promise of scandal and intrigue, so if you’ve already read it, let me know what you thought of it in the comments!

The First Book Club Babes Selection: Uganda Be Kidding Me

I know that I’ve been late to inform you of the first Book Club Babes selection for this month, so here’s a quick update. For July, my real-life book club will be reading Chelsea Handler’s Uganda Be Kidding Me!

After listening to everyone’s preferences, it was decided that our first book should be fun, lighthearted, and easy to read. A small group of eight women attended the selection committee meeting and narrowed down all our recommendations to the comedic memoir genre.

Our original choice was Amy Poehler’s Yes Please, but since a few people had recently finished the book, we went with Chelsea Handler as our runner-up. I was the only one in the meeting who had read this book, so I’m excited to share the laughs with everyone!

It’s been several months since I first posted my review in the beginning of March, so to celebrate our kickoff book club pick, I’ve reblogged my thoughts on the audiobook version below. Feel free to add this memoir to your reading list this month if you’d like to virtually follow our book club experience!

Enjoy!

Image via Goodreads

Rating: 4 out of 5

Chelsea Handler knocks it out of the park again with her latest comedic memoir, Uganda Be Kidding Me. Published in March of last year, the book retells Handler’s traveling escapades in the past few years, including a ski trip at the private Yellowstone Club in Montana and a brief stint in Montenegro.

The majority of the memoir, however, covers her African safari trip with her close friends. A self-labeled ‘professional alcoholic,’ they spend their time guzzling cocktails and hitting on their South African guide named Rex.

“There’s a difference between being a class act and being classy. Peeing off the side of a jeep doesn’t mean you’re not classy, it just means you’re a free spirit with a small bladder.” – Chelsea Handler

Many readers will hate Handler for being the typical ugly American tourist, who keeps asking where the tigers are in the bush and complaining about her bit of vacation weight gain.

And yes, I admit that she is outrageous and abrasive. I’ve seen her talk show “Chelsea Lately” and read her other books, My Horizontal Life and Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea, so I know her particular brand of humor well. She is the exact opposite of politically correct, making wise cracks at every minority imaginable–little people, blacks, Asians, and the LBGT, among others.

Sometimes I just have to rock myself back and forth and say, “You’ve offended so many people at this point. Don’t try to keep track now, girl.”

The reason why I enjoy her despite her offensiveness is that she’s also self-deprecating. She has been famous long enough to know just how dependent she is on her countless assistants. It may be humble-bragging when she declares that she doesn’t pack her own suitcases or make her own margaritas, but it also goes to show that you can be a hot mess no matter how much money you make.

Case in point: Last weekend I was visiting my family and had to try to keep quiet late one night in my old bedroom, because I was laughing so hard listening to Handler share her embarrassing story of when she shit herself in her swimsuit while kayaking in the Bahamas. The joke builds and builds on itself until she sneaks into a guest house in the wee hours of the morning, only to drunkenly open the front door for someone without her bikini bottoms on. It had me giggling like a crazy person and was easily the most hilarious portion of the book.

Ultimately, Chelsea Handler is the woman you’d want at a party, because she’s unapologetic about who she is, and she definitely knows how to have fun. She also loves her dogs dearly and never, ever wants children, so I have a feeling we would make fast friends. She may not be the best role model, but I think she’s better than that, because she’s real.