“Back at the hotel, Lord we got such a mess.”

heads in beds

 

I love traveling though my sad little bank account rarely allows me to do it. Travel memoirs are much more within my budget until I’m more financially solvent. So when I came across Jacob Tomsky’s memoir about what goes on behind the scenes at luxury hotels, I immediately added it to my TBR pile. While it’s not technically a travel memoir, it’s definitely travel adjacent and it was a nice light read that fueled my luxury travel fantasies.

Tomsky is a veteran of the hotel industry who started off as an eager valet shortly after graduating college. Since that time he has worked in all sections of the hotel, from valet, to front desk to housekeeping. He speaks frankly about the challenges of working in luxury customer services and the conflicts and camaraderie between himself and his fellow employees. He’s served multiple celebrities but don’t ask him to name drop.

His tips for not being “That Guest” and for getting employees to give you extras aren’t exactly groundbreaking for anyone who’s worked in the service industry. They are, in short: treat service personal like actual humans and and tip early and often. However the book is a fun engaging read especially if you enjoy “behind the scenes”memoirs.

 

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Seriously, just call the cops.

boy in the suitcase

I really wanted to like this book more than I did. But I found¬† Nina Borg, the main character in this first of Danish Mysteries to be infuriating and hard to relate to. Perhaps there is something I’m missing about Danish society and the way government employees react to foreigners, because many other people seem to think this book is excellent. But when someone like myself, who believes in a healthy mistrust of authority, is screaming “Lady, call the police and go home to your family!” it makes the book hard to enjoy.

Nina Bork works as a Red Cross Nurse and it’s clear from the jump that she takes her job Personally. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing since Nina’s patients are refugees who are often resented and disdained by Danish society. But Nina is often absent from her husband and two children. She is convinced by an estranged friend to pick up a suitcase in a storage locker which contains a small boy who is drugged but alive. She realizes quickly that there are extremely dangerous (who don’t seem to be associated with the police) people looking for this boy. I realize that calling the authorities at this point wouldn’t have made for a very exciting story. But the fact that Nina chooses to take this task on by herself, even after people start dying, made the rest of the story very difficult for me to get into.

Honestly, I can’t say that I enjoyed this book much but I’m in the minority. So…maybe pick it up?

Mentally casting the film version as I read

lies-of-locke-lamora

There’s something deeply satisfying about finishing the first in a book series and loving it. A lot of smart people whose opinions I respect love the Gentleman Bastards series. Still, I am a persnickety reader and started it with some trepidation after a much needed bread from all the horror and true crime I’d been reading for the month of October. Lies of Locke Lamora does not disappoint. It’s good enough to be a stand alone novel but still leaves potential for more stories (of which there are) without any infuriating cliffhangers.

Locke Lamora and his small but loyal gang call themselves the Gentleman Bastards. The rest of the thieving community, which is huge in the city of Camorr, believes them to be low level second story men. In fact, they are talented con men who pull of complicated scams on the cities rich and powerful nobles. Life is good for Locke and the Gentleman Bastards until they find themselves unwitting pawns in an underworld power struggle. Things go from bad to worse in short order and Locke is forced to use all of his wit and bravado to make things right.

Aside from a plot that sucks you in from the beginning, I liked ALL the characters. All of them were well written. Unlike some fantasy series, I was never forced to start skimming when certain characters appeared. They were all great. Eventually I will get my hands on the second book in the series but I am currently on a self-imposed book buying hiatus until after the holidays.

You be the Captain, and I’ll be no one.

the-girls

 

The plot of The Girls is propelled forward by a fictionalized version of the Manson Family murders of Sharon Tate and her house guests in 1969. However, if you’re looking for details and insight into the murders and The Family, I can recommend two or three other books that would be much more helpful. The Girls is more of an exploration of first love and the lengths we go to be near that person and our willingness to ignore their flaws as they become more and more apparent.

Our protagonist, Evie Boyd is 14 in the summer of 1969. She is becoming disenchanted with her suburban teenage existence and even more so with her newly divorced parents. It is at this time that she first sees Suzanne and her friends. They are grubby and frayed at the edges, but seem to move through the crowd like displaced royalty. It is Suzanne that draws Evie to this crowd, not Russell who is our literary stand-in for Charles Manson. The story is juxtaposed by Evie as an adult who seems to be living a somewhat unmoored existence. Evie is largely unaware of the more sinister undercurrents flowing at the ranch as she spends more and more time there. It’s only before the bloody and violent conclusion that she even begins to sense that something is very wrong with this group of people.

Emma Cline’s prose is lovely. She is able to capture so many aspects of girlhood and first love in ways that are sometimes uncomfortably accurate. Most women can recall abandoning themselves completely for a first love. But if that first love was one of the most notorious murderers of the 20th century? What would you do to stay in that person’s orbit?

Land of the Free, Some Restrictions Apply

the buddha in the attic

 

I could have easily read this book from cover to cover in a day if I’d had the time. Not only is only a short 149 pages but the writing flows so beautifully that I hated having to put it down and deal with my real life (I mean, more so than when I’m reading normally). The writing is lyrical and the scope is both intimate and simultaneously sweeping. The Buddha in the Attic would make excellent supplementary reading for a college or high school American History course.

Julie Otsuka chronicles the lives of Japanese immigrants to the US in the first half of the twentieth century. She focuses on the women who came to the states in the early 1900s as “picture brides” and follows them through their marriages which often came at a very young age to much older men. They work, have babies (sometimes while working) and establishing themselves in communities only to have it all taken away at the onset of the second World War. (spoiler?)

Though there is some adult content in there, I’d highly recommend this to a teen or young adult (possibly with some parental screening) it’s a beautiful glimpse of a part of American history that was forgotten until very recently.

Yes Please! Thank You!

yes please

 

My 26th review puts me at a half-Cannonball AND means I’ve now doubled the amount of books that I read last year.¬† Go me!

I’ve been trying to branch out and read some biographies of smart, badass women. I read Tina Fey’s book Bossypants earlier this year and loved it in a way very similar to the way I love this one. The reason these two are close friends is obvious. They have similarities that run deep and are very supportive of each other. The main difference is that, while I admire Tina Fey, I’m also a little intimidated by her. Amy Poehler, possibly due to our similarly lower middle class backgrounds, seems like someone I could cut loose with.

Ms. Poehler’s book consists of essays of significant events in her life, from her childhood up until her show Parks and Rec as it draws to a close. As someone who has issues with anxiety, mostly of the social kind, I’m always in awe of women who are unafraid to be their complete and total selves in public or to put a their talents out there for the entire world to see. Yes Please is funny, engaging and difficult to put down. I managed to finish it in just four days while working two jobs and getting (almost) enough sleep at night. There was a bit more name-dropping in here than I thought there would be. However there’s a stunning lack of pretension in it. Amy Poehler is surprised and grateful everyday that she gets to live her life and meet all the people she’s met. I’m grateful she shared her experience and wisdom with me.

Just gonna stand there and hear me cry, But that’s alright, because I love the way you lie

crooked little lies

If books with an unreliable narrator has taught me anything, it’s that everyone is a dirty, lying secret-keeper and that you can’t trust anyone. It’s a trope that’s been overused thanks to the success of Gone Girl and Girl on the Train (speaking of overused tropes, can we stop having titles with “girl” in them for awhile?) and Crooked Little Lies isn’t a particularly groundbreaking addition to the genre. But the characters are compelling and the action moves quickly (getting a book read in under a week is a rarity for me with my schedule) making it a relatively light read for a book that centers on a missing person.

The story centers around the disappearance of Bo Laughlin, a generally harmless mentally ill man who wanders the small town of Hardy’s Walk. Sissel wisely keeps Bo’s exact psychiatric diagnosis vague. Our protagonists are Annie, Bo’s step sister and Lauren, our unreliable narrator and one of the last people to see Bo before he goes missing. Lauren is a more sympathetic character than our more famous narrators. Unlike Amy Dunne, who is an unrepentant sociopath or Rachel Watson, who is a falling down drunk, Lauren suffered a fall from a bell tower while working for the architectural salvage business she shares with her husband and suffered a traumatic brain injury. She subsequently suffered an addiction to Oxycontin as a result of the pain she suffered from her head injury. Though she is now sober, her memory is unreliable at best. It’s difficult not to sympathize with someone who, despite her best intentions, simply can’t remember things she did despite being awake and sober at the time.

I have to say, I pretty much pegged who the worst of the lying secret keepers was pretty early on. But it still made for an interesting read and a nice break from some of the heavier subjects I’d been delving into recently. If you’ve run out of beach reads for the summer, I’d pick this one up.

I am the one hiding under your bed, Teeth ground sharp and eyes glowing red

the night stalker

For those that don’t know, Richard Ramirez, aka The Night Stalker was a serial killer and rapist who terrorized the greater Los Angeles and San Francisco area from April of 1984 until August of 1985. His trial would be the most expensive in California history until the O.J. Simpson trial. I say “terrorized” in the truest sense of the word. He invaded houses in the dead of night; killing, raping and robbing people when they were at their most vulnerable. He left houses ransacked, covered in blood and occasionally Satanic symbols. Sales of firearms, guard dogs and and security systems skyrocketed. Locksmiths could not keep up with the work load. He was the closest thing to the boogie man to be found in real life.

Philip Carlo begins with Ramirez’s shocking crimes in part one. In the second part, he reviews the killer’s troubled family history and upbringing, which make Richard’s bloody crimes seem almost inevitable. He then discusses his capture, trial and life in prison where he would eventually marry one of his many admirers. Carlo seemed to have pretty unprecedented access to Ramirez, and while this gives him some pretty intimate knowledge of the killer, his sense of smugness about this tends to be readily apparent in the final chapters.

If you are a weirdo murder buff like me, this the book to read about Richard Ramirez. You learn a great deal about all the major players in this case: Ramirez and his family, the detectives who hunted him and his many victims and their loved ones. It’s as thorough a true crime book as you will find.

“But are they the right sort of peo…” zzzzz

a room with a vew

 

I should start out by saying I am NOT a fan of Jane Austen or the whole “comedy of manners” oeuvre. The only book in that genre that I’ve ever really liked is The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton which takes a decidedly darker turn than Austen or Forster. Needless to say that this book, while only about 150 pages long felt like a slog through a War and Peace sized book. But instead of the Napoleonic wars, I got some silly girl’s search for a husband.

I think my main complaint about this book is that I just couldn’t be bothered to care about any of the main characters. The ones that weren’t downright awful were shallowly written. Our protagonist, Lucy Honeychurch, was raised to be a proper girl with a proper husband but seems to long for something more and sees beauty and things that aren’t conventionally beautiful. That’s nice but we don’t get anything beyond that. Her love interest, George Emerson is a middle class (gasp!) young man who seems sad and feels out of place in society. I suppose it’s a spoiler to say they both find their way to each other in the end despite the relatively minor obstacles put in their way but it seems pretty obvious from the beginning that the book was heading there.

Perhaps if you’re into a more Austen-y type read, this is a book for you but it was definitely not my Edwardian cup of tea.

I’m breakin’ through, I’m bendin’ spoons, I’m keepin’ flowers in full bloom

stiff

 

This book was book club read and it really wasn’t something I would have picked up on my own. Ultimately I’m glad I did. I’m not particularly sentimental about my remains so I’ve always said I’d either be cremated or donate my remains to science. Being less than halfway through my life (if the women in my family are any indication, I may live to be over a century) I didn’t think much about it beyond that. Reading Mary Roach’s book is a detailed an engaging account of our lives after death and some of the strangest things humans have done with the remains of their fellow man throughout history

Though this should go without saying, one should probably avoid reading this if they’ve recently lost a loved one. My grandmother passed while I was reading this book and while I’m not typically squeamish I found the chapter on embalming and prepping a body for a funeral rather unsettling. Otherwise it was a great read about a subject most people would rather avoid speaking about. What I found most interesting was the many uses for human cadavers. The most obvious would be in anatomy labs, but they are useful in the study of forensics, auto safety and investigating the causes of plane crashes (to name a few). If you can get past the idea of your loved one’s remains being hit in the head with a hammer or left to rot in a field, the idea that they are aiding mankind after death is pretty cool (at least I think so).

The biggest hurdle in reading this book is getting past your squeamishness about human remains. Once you can do that, it’s really fascinating. It also gave me some really great advice in dealing with a loved one’s funeral arrangements: regardless of their wishes, you are the one that has to live with it. So maybe have the memorial even if they didn’t want one. Funerals are for the living.