My Best Friend’s Exorcism – Grady Hendrix

★★★★★

It’s the 80s, and there’s so much of it. Abby invites everyone in school to her birthday party at the roller rink, and only one person, Gretchen, shows up. Gretchen gives a disappointing present, but the two girls become best friends. We follow them through the grades, the boys, the catty friends, until a small group of them try some drugs, try to go skinny dipping, and Gretchen gets lost in the woods. She comes back with maybe some PTSD, and she gets worse before she gets better. Stops bathing. Stops changing her clothes. Stops being normal. Everyone’s worried, but the more 

Abby tries to get to the bottom of what happened and how she can help her friend, everyone turns on her instead. Why is Abby spreading lies, they ask? Why is Abby being such a bad influence? Abby is surely the reason behind Gretchen’s downward spiral, and we don’t want our daughter associating with her anymore. If it’s not Abby . . .

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Bleach Please – Edinburgh

★★★★★

Bleach Please is a new salon in New Town, Edinburgh that first caught my eye with its PINK inside and unicorn head in the window. The next thing was their stellar reviews.

I needed a haircut. Unlike my days when I worked in a salon and my hair couldn’t grow a single inch without my co-workers wanting to “play”, I only get a haircut every six months or so. I tend to keep it long, and they’re damn expensive. You get what you pay for, though, because last time I got myself a £30 haircut at a chain salon and came home needing to un-bulk and finish the haircut at home. Lucky for me, I knew how to do that (it’s harder when you can’t stand behind yourself), but I paid for the whole service, and it upset me to have to tweak it at all.

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More than This – Patrick Ness

★★★☆☆

Seth drowns and wakes up alone in an abandoned city, or the weirdest afterlife I’ve ever imagined.

Coming from a religious background myself, the idea of an afterlife is a) ever-present and b) a total mystery (and well-worth imagining). While it seems like Seth might be in Hell, it’s not explicit. For the first 40% of the book, he’s alone (except for the occasional animal, which may or may not be in his imagination), and I’ve never been so engrossed in a book in recent memory. 

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Oink – Edinburgh

★★★★★

Oink is a pulled pork sandwich, simple as that. You know a place is good when there are more people than sitting places in an establishment (or when the line to order goes out the door, as it often does on Victoria Street). For a person like me, who gets agitated (let’s all say it, “freaked out”) by crowds, I’ll suck it up and go to Oink because it’s one of the best pulled pork sandwiches I’ve ever had.

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Flash Forward Podcast

★★★☆☆

Flash Forward takes an idea we have for the future (food pills, a world without bees, California becoming its own country, etc) and explores the plausibility of it. I love the idea of imagining futuristic scenarios (who doesn’t want an animal translator?), but some of the episode topics aren’t my cup of tea (a super computer that creates the ultimate religion).

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Cecile and Marie Grace – Denise Lewis Patrick and Sarah Masters Buckley

★★★☆☆

Cecile and Marie-Grace are ten year old girls in New Orleans, 1853 — the year of the big yellow fever outbreak. The girls pull together to help where they can and build a friendship at the same time.

The story itself is fine. I don’t have any beef with the characters (except that they’re almost never together). Switching their perspectives from book to book shows the reader what life was like for a white girl and a free person of color. I didn’t honestly see much of a difference, except for some pretty hard segregation. I’m sure there was more to it than that, and it would have been interesting to learn about. It was interesting to see how primitive their knowledge of medicine and disease were in 1853. If this were just a book for middle-grade kids to read to make history fun, I’d move on and probably never thing about this series again.

But it’s by American Girl.

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The Last Black Unicorn – Tiffany Haddish

★★★★☆

I’ve gotta be honest, I didn’t know who Tiffany Haddish was until she hosted Saturday Night Live a few months ago. After a few lines of the monologue, I liked her. I felt like I knew her.

Her book is called The Last Black Unicorn, which was a huge draw for me because I loved The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. I knew when I started reading that Haddish’s Unicorn would be nothing like Beagle’s, but she had my attention.

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Lightness by Catherine Meurisse

★★★☆☆

Lightness follows one of the survivors of the Charlie Hebdo massacre and how she learns to see beauty again.

I had to read this book in small doses because of the subject matte’s gravity. While the “plot” of the book can be summed up tidily, the author pulls us into her head by showing how faulty her memory had become after the attack and by tying her past to her present. She sees the attack everywhere she goes, from the police escort that follows her in Paris, to the statues in Rome, to paintings in the Louvre. She sees her dead colleagues when she experiences things they would have enjoyed.

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The Devil and Jimmy Biscuits by Taylor Dunn

★★★★☆

Jimmy is a 15 year with some demands for the Devil (wishes, to be specific). As you might expect, ol’ Satan had his own ideas.

This story is an easy, quick read that left me smiling the whole way through. It has moments of humor, thoughtfulness, and because we’re dealing with a character as basal as Satan, it challenges ingrained ideas.

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