Summer Reading List: Big Asses, The Tenth Circle, and a Little Bit of Sweet Valley


Before we begin with the books, I just hafta say one thing:


Harry, Harry, Harry!  While it still sort of pisses me off that you came out the hottie prince (I was totes #teamwills as a teenager back before hashtags were even a thing), you ARE in fact the hottie prince.  And if you're going to be stripping down in Vegas and being an embarrassment to the throne all the while endearing yourselves to everyone else in the world, you could have at least had the decency to strip down next month WHEN I AM THERE. 

Also, this little race you had with Ryan Lochte?  Totally could've waited another month.  Totally.  Seriously, why don't you guys rematch in September then we can all retire to your penthouse and play strip billiards while you charm us all with your accent.  Kthanksbye.

Bright Lights, Big Ass: A Self-Indulgent, Surly, Ex-Sorority Girl's Guide to Why it Often Sucks in the City, or Who Are These Idiots and Why do They Live Next Door to Me by Jen Lancaster - Okay, people, you know I totally have a girl crush on Ms. Lancaster.  I loved Such a Pretty Fat and Bitter is the New BlackLoved them.  This one though?  Ya'll.  I couldn't even finish it.  Parts of it were funny but most of it was just . . . painful . . . to read.  Like, I feel like she should give me the WEEK I wasted just TRYING to navigate my way through this thing.

Normally, in a book review, I would reserve the second paragraph for telling you a synopsis of the book.  Here's the problem with Big Ass: I have NO IDEA WHAT IT WAS ABOUT.  Presumeably, according to the descriptions you see on Amazon and Good Reads, it's supposed to be about Ms. Lancaster's (she's totes Ms. Lancaster and not BFF Jen Jen after this book) life in the city.  Only.  It was just her . . . I don't even know . . . whining and complaining and carrying on and hating everyone.

Lancaster got off on the wrong foot with me in the very first chapter when she describes an interview for a temp job.  Her interviewer was very Texan and kept saying "y'all" when talking to Jen and only to Jenn.  Hi.  I'm from the south.  I have lived in Texas.  I'm 32 years old and have never EVER heard someone use "y'all" in the singular.  It just does not happen.  Nitpicky?  Yes.  But it bugged me.

As I got further in the book . . . oh, this is painful to write.  Not only does Lancaster ADMIT to reading Ann Coulter but she actually admits to wanting to have a sleepover with this horrible woman.  I'm not fickle enough to let something like that be the only reason I quit reading a book.  I "like" Lancaster's Facebook page so I arrrdy done knew she was pretty conservative.  I love a whole lot of conservative people -- I may not agree with their political views but that's okay.  We're still cool.  But when you openly admit - in a book, that gets published, read by thousands! - that you want to have a sleepover with Ann Coulter.  Bitch, please.  We gotta rethink this relationship.  The book as a whole - or at least what I read of it (a little more than half) comes across as so bitchy and snobby that it was impossible to read.  Do yourself a favor and skip this one.

The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult - This book received some pretty horrible reviews on Good Reads.    This was my first ever Jodi Picoult book and I'm thinking, if it received bad reviews, then her other books must be truly bad ass.  On a scale of five, I would give this one a three and a half.  It was dark and depressing and I wanted to stab someone with the way it ended.  But.  It caught and kept my attention.  I wanted to know what happened.  And that alone is the mark of a pretty darn good book.  In my opinion anyway.

The Tenth Circle tells us the story of the Stone family.  Dad Daniel grew up as the only white kid in a native Eskimo village in Alaska.  His rough childhood followed him into adulthood but remained something he kept hidden from his wife and daughter.  His wife, Laura, is a college professor participating in some, shall we say, extra cirricular activities with one of her students.  Daughter Trixie is 14, recently dumped by her first love, a cutter, and the book centers around the fact that she was raped at a party.  Yeah.  Not exactly a light little beach read, eh?

I could tick off a whole bunch of problems with the book.  Picoult doesn't delve deeply at all into Laura Stone's affair.  It's almost as if it shouldn't have even been included in the book.  Trixie Stone is very hard to feel sorry for as a victim and, as much as I didn't want to, there were times in the story where I almost sympathized with her rapist (a 16-year-old boy).  And maybe I'm just naive and things have changed a lot - a lot, a lot - in the decades since I was a 14-year-old girl - but the sexuality present in the book just seemed over the top.  I'm sure it's probably naitivite on my part but, as the mother of a baby girl and step mother of a girl not much younger that those in the book, I sincerely hope not.

All in all, this was a decent read.  I hated the ending but the story as a whole kept my attention and definitely made me want to pick up other Picoult novels.

The Sweet Life by Francine Pascal - Francine Pascal hates Elizabeth Wakefield.  And maybe Annie Whitman too.  I was always more of a Jessica fan (seriously, could Elizabeth have BEEN more of a goody-goody [I said that in my best Chandl-ah Bing voice]) but even I was totally put off with how old Francine just took a great big shit on Elizabeth's life.
The Sweet Life catches up with the Wakefields and an assortment of other Sweet Valley-ins three years after Sweet Valley Confidential.  Jessica and Todd, the parents of a toddler, are on the verge of divorce.  A rape scandal has Bruce Patman's career - and relationship with Elizabeth - in tatters.  Lila and Ken and Steven and Aaron have approxomately four chapters each devoted to them in the entire serial -- seemingly to give us a tiny glimpse of what's going on with them but not enough to develop a real storyline.  Oh, and Annie Whitman?  She's still Easy Annie.
There's not much to say without giving away the story and, if you're a Sweet Valley fan, then you're not going want me to do that.  It's cheesy.  It's campy.  You'll want to call Francine Pascal all kinds of colorful names once you reach the final chapter.  Pascal has said there won't be a continuation of the story but she definitely leaves room - and a lot of it - for a follow-up.  I'm not sure if I love Pascal for bringing the characters I loved so much back to me or if I hate her for what she did to them. 
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