Undiscovered Gyrl by Allison Burnett

undiscovered gyrlTitle:  Undiscovered Gyrl

Author:  Allison Burnett

Paperback: 293 pages (ARC)

ISBN:  9780307473127

From the back cover:

Only on the internet can you have so many friends and be so lonely.

  • We’re all famous in our own minds.
  • Complete honesty is a complete lie.
  • What’s worse than keeping a shameful secret?
  • All sex has consequences, most of them dire.
  • Don’t read my life.  Go live your own!

“Imagine an 18-year-old Lolita, updated to the 21st century, blogging her own provocative adventures.  By turns charming and crude, disturbingly reckless and achingly tender, Undiscovered Gyrl seduces…  Shot through with teenage yearning for ‘true love,’ each page vibrates with the quicksilver spirit of youth.  As we follow the narrator on her ever-darkening journey, questions arise about voyeurism and identity in an age of cyber-anonymity.  Allison Burnett’s masterful page-turner lingers long after the last page.” -Rachel Resnick, author of Love Junkie

When I saw the banner for this Undiscovered Gyrl by Allison Burnett in Shelf Awareness, I was hyper-excited to get my hands on the book, and when I got a positive reply to my email requesting a copy to review, I couldn’t contain myself.  It looked interesting and like one of those books you just can’t put down, especially for someone nosey… like me.

So, how did the book hold up to my anticipation?

Honestly, I was surprised by the book.  It’s set up as a blog-to-book, and in it you watch as the narrator (the definition of the “unreliable narrator” to be sure) grows as a blogger, and disintegrates in some ways as a person.  The idea of being able to be completely open in the anonymity is, at first, a relief and exciting thing for her, later it seems to be something that pushes her to more extreme and outrageous behavior… if for no other reason than to get a reaction from her readers.

Personally, there are parts of this that scare the hell out of me.  I have a 16 and 15-year-old, neither of which are really that into blogging and stuff… now.  Maggie, on the other hand, is 10 and a bit extroverted.  “Katie” tells about her mother and her boyfriend’s fighting, her dad and his girlfriend’s abusive relationship, and how she pits everyone against each other to get what she wants.  She continually tells her readers that there is NOTHING sexual behind her boss’s generosity, but relays stories about him in such a way as to leave it almost obvious.  She degrades herself over “Dan,” her college instructor on-the-side, and you can’t help but feel pity for her… she so wants to be loved, she’s willing to turn herself into that girl who waits desperately for his girlfriend to go away so she can devour the scraps. 

With Undiscovered Gyrl, Allison Burnett reveals a very real picture of the modern teenage life.  Unable to read and comprehend a book a year unless assigned by a teacher, but reads and responds to 20 emails, IMs and text messages a second.  She couldn’t fathom doing homework without the TV on, CD blaring and the Google open on the computer.  It makes me glad I’ve not given any of my kids a cell phone.  They don’t have TVs in their bedrooms, even.  We just got a second computer last June, so maybe mine will be safe…

Here’s the thing:  Undiscovered Gyrl is very graphic and I even learned a few sex-things from reading it.  I never knew what a “box job” was before this book.  But it’s not porn, per se, and it all goes into the story for a purpose.  It is shocking… at least for me, an over-30-parent.  “Katie” isn’t totally unsympathetic, yet says things at times that make me want to slap the snot out of her.  She’s so stupid and I just want to grab her up and say, “Wake up!  You’re throwing your life away!”  But, if there’s one thing I got out of this book it’s this:  The fact it came from an adult would render it meaningless all together.

I give Undiscovered Gyrl by Allison Burnett 5 out of 5 stars… it did NOT disappoint.

Here’s a video made for the book:

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

Title:  The 19th Wife

Author:  David Ebershoff

Hardcover:  507 pages

Date Published:  2008

Publisher:  Random House

ISBN:  9781400063970

Twenty minutes later we were outside the Chevron, eating a sack of microwaved burritos.  ‘Now I know who you are,” said Johnny.  “But remind me:  why’d you get kicked out?”

“I was caught alone with one of my stepsisters.  What about you?”

“I was listening to the Killers.  It wasn’t even my disc, it was my brother’s.  But they caught me.  I don’t even like the Killers.”

That wasn’t the real reason.  They get rid of the boys to take away the competition.  With no boys around, the old men have the girls to themselves.

-The 19th Wifeby David Ebershoff, page 96

In The 19th Wife, David Ebershoff switches back and forth from the story of Ann Eliza Young, 19th wife of Brigham Young and his only EX, and the mystery behind the murder of Jordan’s father.   Jordan’s mother, wife number 19,  sits in jail, accused of shooting her polygamist husband, insists she is innocent.  Jordan believes her and sets about to discover the truth, which ends up being a lot more convoluted than he thought possible.

One of the interesting things about this book is how the two seemingly unrelated stories of the two 19th wives were used to not only display how such a lifestyle can be possible in the 21st century but how such a belief system came to be.  It gives the history behind the “Revelation” of plural marriage through the eyes a Sister Wife, and how the practice affected the whole family.

How this book affected me:

I couldn’t help but get angry again and again while reading it.  For one, it boggles my brain how any woman with half the sense God gave a house plant would tolerate such a practice.  I don’t mean that I don’t understand it on an intellectual level, the book does an excellent job of showing how it was a progressive thing, but at a heart level I can’t believe (it scares me to think it possible) that a woman would say, “Why yes, you have my permission to objectify me and treat me like livestock.  Then, when my daughters are older, you can passel them out to their uncles and other men three times their age to be chattel.  It sounds like a lovely set up!” 

No, I learned the history of it, that a man decided to use his position as a leader to cover up his own leachery by saying, “God said” then made his followers eternal salvation contigent upon their following along because if everyone’s doing it then it’s not as bad.  Then the powers that were discovered that if they kept the women breeding their numbers and voting power would be formidable.  Also, the idea of the man being king of his castle and serviced and waited upon by as many women as he wants, doing whatever he wants, would bring in flocks of them in a time when men were the only ones with legislative powers.

To be honest, I haven’t finished this book yet, I’m not even halfway through.  But I will continue to read it because it’s very compelling and well-written.  I want to know how 5 will fare… Why did she lie about not being there the night her step father was killed?  Will Queenie get caught? or will she escape the Firsts?  Did Jordan’s mom do it? Will she be found guilty?  What’s the lawyer’s, Mr. Heber’s, real angle and why does he seem to want her to be guilty?  Is there really unrest within the Firsts? And how did Ann Eliza become the 19th wife of Brigham Young?  I can’t put it down… I wish life would leave me be to read it, though.

Well written, intriguing and, best of all, inspires conversations and further study, The 19th Wifeby David Ebershoff is an excellent book.  I give it 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

*****************************************************************************************

And NOW for the good stuff…. 

How would you like to win a copy of The 19th Wife? 

To enter, leave a comment telling me you’d like a chance to win :-)  Contest ends 11:59 pm, June 23, with the winner announced at the beginning of next week’s Viral Video Wednesday post (June 24th).

 

Tweet, blog and email about this contest for an extra entry each.

Katka by Stephen R. Meier

Title:  Katka

Author:  Stephen R. Meier

Paperback:  107 pages

Date Published:  2008

Publisher:  booksurge

ISBN:  9781439216330

“Gavin why are you here in Prague?”  Katka asked as they were walking along one of the cobblestone streets.
The question seemed to be one that Gavin didn’t like answering, and one that caused a bit of duress.
“I just wanted to get away for awhile,” he finally answered.
“From?”
“Life.”
It was the way he said it.
“Is everything okay?”
“Yeah, just every now and then you need to take a step back and reevaluate things.”
She just listened.
“I just couldn’t stay there.”
Thinking about it made Gavin angry, very angry.  He had done everything by the book, had gone to college, gotten a degree and a job right out of University.  One complete with benefits, a matching 401k, everything.  Perhaps it was a life that he never really wanted, but still, his parents had been so proud.  He never saw it coming.
Sometimes life just isn’t fair.
“Why Prague?’
“To find you,” Gavin answered with a smile.
They both laughed.
“No, my buddy Pat lives out here and told me to come out and that I could work at his bar.  He’s been out here for awhile now and loves it, so I figured why not.”
“Do you like it?”
“I love it, especially right at this moment.”
It was cheesy, but the right thing to say at the time.
Katka loved it.
They stopped walking and turned to one another.
They stared deep into one another’s eyes.
“You’re absolutely stunning,” he said pushing a piece of hair out of her face.
She blushed.
They they kissed.  The kind of kiss that moves mountains, creates dreams.
Writes a fairy tale.

-Katka by Stephen R. Meier, pages19-20

First of all, I want to get all the unpleasantness out of the way.  I did not like this book.  At all.  I was in pain for most of the (thank gawd it was only) 107 pages.  It wasn’t as bad as The Gun Runner’s Daughter (worst book ever), but it was bad.  I give Katka by Stephen R. Meier 1 out of 5 stars.

Now, having said that, let me explain.  First off, I feel bad for not liking the book.  Meier spent 7+ years trying to get this story out there, and it’s definitely a labor of love for him.  I truly wanted to like this book, as the description sounded very intriguing.

Katka by Stephen Meier is a gritty, edgy novel of greed, love, and swindles gone very wrong.  When Gavin and his girlfriend team with her best friend Simona to pull a phony mail order bride scam in the Czech Republic, Gavin gets in way over his head in the high-stakes and dangerous business of selling wives.  When Gavin talks Katka, his girlfriend, into becoming part of the merchandise, planning to bait-n-switch the client in the end, things go awry and Katka disappears with the client.  Partnering with the jealous and volatile Simona, Gavin begins to lament this risky life he has chosen, but finds the money is something he can’t walk away from. Gavin’s doubts grow; the con begins to consume him, and he finds himself thinking of Katka, the fate he dealt her, and whether he can undo the biggest mistake of his life.  Written with staccato grit and streetwise savvy, Katka reads like a Quentin Tarantino movie.  Stephen Meier’s work will leave you begging for more.

So where did it go wrong?  The writing, mostly.  I think part of the book’s problem is that, originally, it was written as a screenplay and later adapted into a novella.  Nearly all of the book is written in short, punchy sentences, as demonstrated by the quote.  There are no indentations for paragraphs, and the grammatical and spelling errors were too abundant to overlook.  I was tempted to send the book flying when I came across “Gavin striked Dale across the face” on page 77 (just 30 pages more, you can do it!  I said to calm myself).

Also, the book’s timeline is disjointed with seemingly random flashbacks and bunny trails of side-thoughts.  Meier gives no lead ins to the changes and, by the time the story returned to original scene, I couldn’t remember what the heck was even going on.  It was all too irritating and confusing.

Adding to all that was the gratuitous sex and violence, and the overuse of the ‘F’ word that seemed more like, “Hey, I’m a tough guy because I say the F word a lot.”  I did expect sex and swearing, given the subject matter, but where it appears often appears out of place and contrived. 

Then there were the characters, most seemed mildly schizophrenic, behaving one way in one setting then flipping it in another.  I don’t think Gavin used the F word more than five times in the whole book when he was alone with Katka, which is why I thought maybe it was an attempt to butch him up.  The majority of them were underdeveloped, flat, and didn’t inspire me to empathy.  The novella is too short for the amount of characters used to be properly developed and for all the sub-plots to receive the needed attention to make sense.

HAVING SAID ALL THAT…..

There are glimpses of potential good in this novella.  It would be a really good starting place for a novel; it felt more like reading a concept for a novel.  It does have a feel, toward the end, of the movie Indecent Proposal.  I think it could be a great novel, but it needs a lot more work.  AND, a better editor (maybe a woman editor would help smooth out the edges?).

As it is, I think it would appeal to guys in their late teens to late twenties.  It has a feel of a dime store novel and of the old 8-pager… the pulp-fiction porno.

Here are a few other reviews of Katka, some people even liked it.

Chicago Center for Literature and Photography- rated it 7.3 out of 10 and said, “it’s not much more than just a basic pulp-fiction tale, nothing more and nothing less than a typical film-noir B-picture put out by Hollywood in the 1920s and ’30s, updated in this case for modern sensibilities and cultural references.”

The Faerie Drink Review  gave Katka a 4 out of 5.  You can also read Devyn’s interview with Stephen Meier here.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Long and short of it…  I really did not like Katka, and after reading the interview, I feel bad for saying it.  Meier seems like a decent guy, who was inspired by real life events to write the story, and has been on a seven-year journey to finally see his baby born… and I’m pooping on it *sigh*  BUT… it’s not the kind of bad that I’d say, “Don’t read this,” because obviously some people do like it.  Also, I would love to read Meier’s next book, Teaching Pandas to Swim, though he probably won’t invite me to read it.

*now I feel guilty… off to buy 10 copies of Katka….*

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

Title: The Lace Reader

Author: Brunonia Barry

Hardback: 391 pages

Publish Date: 2006

Publisher: HarperCollins

ISBN: 9780061624766

My name is Towner Whitney.  No, that’s not exactly true.  My real first name is Sophya.  Never believe me.  I lie all the time.

I am a crazy woman… That last part is true.

My little brother, Beezer, who is kinder than I, says the craziness is genetic.  We’re from five generations of crazy, he says, as if it were a badge he’s proud to wear, though he admits that I may have taken it to a new level.

…My mother, May, for example, is a walking contradiction in terms.  A dedicated recluse who (with the exception of her arrests) hasn’t left her home on Yellow Dog Island for the better part of twenty years, May has nevertheless managed to revive a ling-defunct lace-making industry and to make herself famous in the process.  She has gained considerable notoriety for rescuing abused women and children and turning their lives around, giving the women a place in her lace-making business and home-educating their children.  All this from a raging agoraphobic who gave one of her own children to her barren half sister, Emma, in a fit of generosity because, as she said at the time, there was a need, and besides, she had been blessed with a matching set.

-The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry, pages 3-4

In Brunonia Barry’s The Lace Reader, Towner Whitney lets the reader know from the start that she is an untrustworthy narrator.  Hospitalized after having suffered from depression and hallucinations at the age of 17, she has memory gaps caused from the shock-therapy she’d received as part of treatment.  She tells of her family’s gift of fortunetelling by reading lace, of her mother’s “generosity” in giving her twin sister to her Aunt Emma when they were born, and of the subsequent abuse her sister received from her adoptive father, Cal Boynton.

After being gone from Salem, Mass. for over a decade, Towner finds herself back in her Great Aunt Eva’s house, after Eva has gone missing.  Visions of past happenings, as well as psychic dreams and visits from Eva’s ghost, fill Towner’s present.  She struggles with second-guessing herself as to whether she is going crazy again or if she is really experiencing the surreal events.  The disappearance of Angela Rickey, the girlfriend of Towner’s ex-Uncle, now the Reverend Cal, sets final events into motion that bring everything to a head with some surprising twists that will keep you guessing until the very end.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To be honest, I have mixed feelings about The Lace Reader.  For the most part, my issues aren’t really with the book itself, but with how it’s affected me after reading it.  Some of the things in the story hits very close to home, and, combined with the bad sinus and chest cold I have, has caused me to have a few nightmares. 

I really enjoyed and appreciated how Barry presented the way reading taught, how having this particular talent affects a person’s everyday life and the way they interact with people, and the way it is talked (or not talked) about within the family.  I’ve never heard of lace reading, though the principal is easy enough to understand.  I prefer tarot cards, but I’ve also read tea leaves, and all these are is a focal point to allow the vision to present itself.  I grew up in a family of “gifted” people, and I myself struggled with the question of sanity.  On page 320, Barry describes this perfectly:

You walk that line… between the real world and the world of the possible.

Towner says that this isn’t a line, but a crack into which she fell long ago.

The Lace Readerby Brunonia Barry is definitely a book meant to be read at an easy pace.  If you rush through it, you will miss a lot of the nuances.  I think I would have to say I liked it;  it is a haunting story.  I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 494 other followers