Monday, September 30, 2013

VENOM


Review of VENOM by FIONA PAUL
(first in THE SECRETS OF THE ETERNAL ROSE trilogy, review based on an advance reading copy)

I found this book engaging right from the start and its hold on me never lessoned. VENOM opens with a funeral. Cass actually seems rather bored and oddly casual about the death of her friend, but I couldn’t tell if that’s meant to exemplify her personality, the time period, or her efforts to distance herself from negative emotions. Odd or not, it didn’t detract from the story. VENOM has an excellent voice that makes this feel like Cass is my friend, telling me her amazing story, rather than a character in a book.

VENOM also defies easy categorization. It fits into numerous genres - young adult, romance, mystery, historical, suspense, etc - but using any one label overly simplifies the book. The combination works well: the author is trying to tell us a certain story, not mold her story into a certain genre.

As an interesting side note, Fiona Paul is actually a pseudonym owned by the publisher. The author’s real name is Paula Stokes and she has some books coming out soon under her own name. I’m already on the lookout for them!

VENOM sets a fairly fast pace and the story never dulls. Specifics depend on each book, but usually I find my attention waxing and waning during a novel. Even with some of my favorites, there might be a chapter I would cut or a less interesting chunk here or there. VENOM not only held my attention from beginning to end, but did so steadily. Paul/Stokes displays impressively tight writing and plotting!

Cass’s fixation with marriage jumped out at me as an interesting theme. She’s more man and marriage focused than I usually like in a character, but in this case I found that fact telling of the times. She knows she will be married off to someone and there’s not much she can do to reverse that fact, so she fantasizes that at the very least it be someone she wants.

I did have to suspend my doubts about Cass and Falco. Personally, I wouldn’t follow a possible murderer to shady places alone in the middle of the night because he’s cute. Yet even this didn’t bother me as much as I would have expected, since Cass’s motivation is so painfully obvious: she wants some adventure and some control over her own life. I hope she finds even more of both in book two!

Friday, September 27, 2013

HENRIETTE MANTEL

 
Interview with HENRIETTE MANTEL

In NO KIDDING, comedy writer Henriette Mantel tackles the topic of actually not having kids. This fascinating collection features a star-studded group of contributors—including Margaret Cho, Wendy Liebman, Laurie Graff, and other accomplished, funny women—writing about why they opted out of motherhood. Whether their reasons have to do with courage, apathy, monetary considerations, health issues, or something else entirely, the essays featured in the pages of NO KIDDING honestly (and humorously) delve into the minds of women who have chosen what they would call a more sane path.

What are you reading right now?

THE ABOUNDING RIVER.

What first sparked your interest in writing?

I couldn't draw what I was thinking so I decided to write it. I liked to tell people what I was thinking about.  

What do you love the most about writing? The least?  

I can't remember who said it but "The best part of writing is having written."

The least? Starting up. 

Tell us a little about your writing process.  

I have to have a deadline, even if it's with myself or else I procrastinate too much. I write best from 6am-11am. I only write after 4pm if I am forced to do so.

I just start. Then I edit all the garbage I wrote before my consciousness kicked in.  

What are your passions?  

Oh boy. I love the land I grew up on in Vermont. I like to paint walls. If I could I would do yoga 5 times a day. 

What inspires you?  

Inequity, inequality, underdogs being shit on. My cats. My depression. 

How was NO KIDDING born?  

I had a boyfriend with a kid that I was attached to and that is what my essay was about. She made me think about how I never wanted a kid and what having a kid would entail. Then I was watching some of my comic friends read from a book of essays about having kids and all their experiences and I said to my friend Lew, "Yea well what about ME?" and he said, "Well, write one." so I did. 

You edited the collection as well as contributed your own essay. Was either role - editor or writer - more fun than the other?  

I'm not going to say editing wasn't fun but...dealing with 35 personalities, mostly women comics was interesting to say the least. I'm proud of my essay, but when I wrote it I wanted to write something "not funny.” Then after it got published, I thought…wow, that was a definite odd choice for me. 

How did you decide who else would contribute?

I called some friends and it snowballed. I basically asked anyone I spoke to for 3 months straight. 

Did you know without a doubt what you would write about in your own essay or did you have a few topics from which you narrowed it down?  

I wrote my essay before I sold the book. 

Was it difficult writing about something so personal?  

Being a (former) stand-up I'm used to spilling my heart out.  But yes, it's a little different on paper. It's all so real

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Just write with wild abandon and don't stop. Don't give up. Keep writing. And rewriting. And rewriting....

Is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself?

When I was in 7th grade I won the Vermont Forestry Essay. The topic was "What Vermont Forests Mean to Me"... I will never forget how many times I wrote it over and over so it was perfect. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

INHERITANCE


Review of INHERITANCE by MALINDA LO
(second in the ADAPTATION duology, review based on an advance reading copy)

I enjoyed Lo's first book in this series, ADAPTATION, far more than I expected I would. This time I anticipated liking INHERITANCE, but again Lo outdid herself and I positively adored this book. Its only major flaw is that it ended. I mean that both as a joke and quite seriously, because I really could have spent books more with these characters.

Along those lines, it took me no time at all to reinvest in the characters and their problems. In my review of ADAPTATION, I said the story's definitely character-focused more than premise-focused and that fact shines through with how strongly and immediately I reconnected with Reese and her entire surrounding cast, not to mention how reluctant I felt seeing the novel reach its conclusion.
I should also mention that Lo addressed and satisfied all my nitpicky concerns from ADAPTATION. I mentioned that a few scientific points didn't make much sense to me in the first book and, while INHERITANCE still isn't what I would call hard science fiction, Lo acknowledges and explains all those potential logic lapses.

When reviewing ADAPTATION, I also wrote about how Lo explores sexuality with an openness I wish could be found in more books. She's best known for writing gay characters, but the exploration I'm referring to encompasses far more than that. In the last book, Reese knows she has the option not to date anyone, something of which many fictional and nonfictional people alike don't seem to be aware as they struggle choosing from potential suitors. I don't want to be too specific with INHERITANCE for spoiler reasons, but Lo also lays out romantic options for Reese that many books and people wouldn't even consider. It made me love these characters all the more for how maturely they handled their love lives, too. Complicated doesn’t have to equal melodramatic. Again, my only criticism is that Lo opened doors so rarely seen in fiction, especially YA, that I wished we could spend more time seeing how everything plays out with these characters rather than shutting those doors and simply crossing our fingers for them.
INHERITANCE wraps up the ADAPTATION duology, but if Lo ever returns to these characters, or even this world, again in the future, I for one will snatch that book right up! (Well, I’ll snatch up any Malinda Lo book for that matter!)

Friday, September 20, 2013

UNTOLD


Review of UNTOLD by SARAH REES BRENNAN
(second in THE LYNBURN LEGACY series, review based on an advance reading copy)

I loved book one in this series, so I eagerly started UNTOLD the moment I received my copy. I confess it took me a while to reinvest in the story. The scarecrow opening felt a little too bizarre and random for my tastes and the exact same tone that I found hilarious in the first book struck me as snarky in UNTOLD. It took me a while to put my finger on why the same tone would appeal to me in one book and then bother me in the second, but then I realized that the first book ended in a very dramatic, traumatic showdown and cliffhanger. What nettled me wasn’t the constant joking around, but using the humor to avoid actually addressing the emotional issues.

Nevertheless, that same tone won me over again after enough jokes made me laugh aloud. For two examples: One character thinks she may have kissed a different guy than she meant to in a darkened room. When explaining this to a friend, she defends that it happens and her friend responds, “In Shakespearean comedies, all the time.” Earlier than that, Kami makes one of her snarky quips at the sorceress Lillian who “shut her eyes briefly, as if she hoped when she opened them she would behold a world in which people never said such ridiculous things.” So it wasn’t that I didn’t like the humor, only that I occasionally wished Kami and everyone else would pause their joking and be serious for a moment.

UNTOLD contains too much romance drama for my taste, not a big surprise after the ending of UNSPOKEN. Still, much of the drama could be completely avoided if characters simply communicated. I’m not calling that unrealistic. I often feel silly critiquing this trend, because it frequently happens in real life. Nevertheless, when it’s so obvious to you as the reader what each person is thinking and that all they need to do to fix their problem(s) is tell each other what they’re thinking, it’s wearisome. I realized after finishing the novel that this may be a bit of a middle book thing. While it’s far too harsh to say UNTOLD suffers from middle book syndrome - as Brennan has a way of making everything enjoyable (despite all my nitpicky complaints, the story had my full attention) - I do suspect the back and forth romance is really a type of filler. In regards to the sorcerer conflict, not much changes from the start of UNTOLD to the finish. (Then again I read on tumblr that Brennan’s style is known as: Book One - Set Up, Book Two - Make Out, Book Three - Defeat Evil.)

Jared’s far too moody. I really wish someone would grab him, shake him, and say, “Get over yourself and grow up.” Granted, he’s young (and smack in the middle of extreme, fantastical circumstances), but I still enjoy YA stories with more mature characters. Kami’s certainly mature while still seeming believable for her own age. I only hope that Jared has some significant character development in the final book. A lot of his moping and sacrifices feel completely unnecessary and avoidable.

While UNSPOKEN followed Kami’s perspective exclusively (correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s what I recall), Brennan slides into some other characters’ viewpoints periodically in UNTOLD. Perhaps I’m being silly, but it feels like cheating. There are suggestions in writing but no firm rules; you can write the story the way you want. In my mind, though, when you choose a perspective you accept the inevitable challenge of when you want to show what another character is doing or thinking but the viewpoint character isn’t there or doesn’t know. It seemed to me that we only slipped into a different viewpoint when Brennan really wants to show her readers something Kami doesn’t know.

I thought I guessed the big twist at the end (and I did), but then Brennan piles on twist after twist after that and I suspect the one I predicted was more along the lines of a decoy. As might be expected after the ending of UNSPOKEN, be forewarned that UNTOLD ends in another cliffhanger. I’ve expressed my annoyances with cliffhanger endings many a time on this blog. UNSPOKEN’s ending snuggled into a safe zone that satisfied me while still being a cliffhanger, but at the ending of UNTOLD I wasn’t thinking about the characters’ motivations as much as the author’s and that detracted from my emotional connection.

I feel like I’ve been rather hard on UNTOLD in my review, so I’ll repeat that even when something annoyed me I still enjoyed the book. And for that matter, I raised my expectations for this book perhaps unreasonably high because I revered the first so much. I’m crossing my fingers that a lot of what bothered me can be attributed to this being the middle book in a trilogy and that the final volume will earn my adoration as much as UNSPOKEN.

Monday, September 16, 2013

THE CHAOS OF STARS


Review of THE CHAOS OF STARS by KIERSTEN WHITE
(review based on an advance reading copy)

I might not have read this book had it not been for adoring quotes from not one but two of my favorite authors (Holly Black and Laini Taylor) on the back. With so many potential reads out there, I often narrow down what will most appeal by taste. (Example: I like fiction, but if you pluck any fiction book off the shelves and any fantasy book of the shelves I’m more likely to enjoy the fantasy. Hence, I read more fantasy than mainstream fiction.) I’ve never been specifically into Egyptian mythology and the vague description on the back doesn’t do this book justice. Those author endorsements are what got me reading and I’m glad I did, because THE CHAOS OF THE STARS is one delicious treat of a read!

Isadora lives with the Egyptian Gods. Actually they’re her family. Isis is her mother and Osiris her father. To say they have a complicated family history is an understatement, but it’s a particular revelation that primarily fuels Isadora’s resentment of her parents. They, along with much of the family, are immortal. Her father has even been murdered, but Iris brought him back to life. So Isadora assumed she would be immortal, too, until age thirteen her parents presented her with her tomb and she realizes that for all their power they have no intention of keeping her eternally alive. In fact, she’s their power source. Gods fade without worship, so Isis has a new child every twenty years and raises them to worship her and the rest of the immortal family so that they won’t be forgotten. From that point on Isadora feels like a child wanted for all the wrong reasons and not truly loved.

Even before all this intriguing information popped up, the book had me with a natural, engaging voice. In fact, the wry, humorous tone’s probably this novel’s greatest strength. The juxtaposition of the mundane against the epic, of Gods in their domestic almost-normal-but-really-not life, gave me endless amounts of entertainment. There’s quite a few hilarious lines in here, too. I often wanted to read them aloud to those near me, but - especially given this family’s twisty complicated history - many don’t make much sense out of context.

As you may have deduced, this book is far more about family than mythology. Convinced of her parents’ selfish motivations and artificial affection, Isadora snatches up a chance to move across seas and live with one of her many older, also mortal siblings. Add in possibly prophetic dreams warning of some unclear danger and a romance for a girl with trust issues and THE CHAOS OF THE STARS had my complete attention.

Being a reviewer, I can sometimes overanalyze a good story, but my only quibbles here are minor. First, there’s far too much eye rolling in my opinion. Second, I wished (as I often do) that the romance didn’t take up quite so much focus. The second quibble barely counts, though, because - while I might have adjusted the proportions of the different plot threads - I still liked the romance.

The ending also feels the slightest bit rushed. There’s the climax and then the book promptly ends without any of the more traditional winding down period. (In other words, there’s pretty much no dénouement.) That said, the end still satisfies and I figure the abruptness has to do with Isadora’s family being so complicated that they’ll never untangle all those knots!

Friday, September 13, 2013

SLEEPING BEAUTY'S DAUGHTERS


Review of SLEEPING BEAUTY’S DAUGHTERS by DIANE ZAHLER
(review based on an advance reading copy)

As one could probably guess, SLEEPING BEAUTY’S DAUGHTERS twists a certain classic fairy tale. I did an entire post once about retold fairy tales: some people adore them and others detest them. As for me, I love skilled retellings, but there needs to be a new angle or theme or character or something to make reading a familiar framework worthwhile.

This one wasn’t quite as retold as I had hoped, utilizing a common fairy tale twist method (plainly stated in the title): we follow Sleeping Beauty’s daughters as her curse returns to plague them. In general, the book is a patchwork of recognizable elements without much that’s distinctly new.

The plotting and magic system both feel rather loose, with the primary goal being moving the story forward. I had so many unanswered questions about how the curse, among other things, worked. The story is indeed very fast paced, which makes it an easy read, but the pace occasionally feels contrived, the victories too easy or coincidental. The focus remains on helping Aurora and Luna towards the next adventure more than exploring the why and how of whatever happened most recently.

As I say, though, there needs to be at least one factor that distinguishes a retold fairy tale from its mother work. To be fair I would say SLEEPING BEAUTY’S DAUGHTERS has more unique factors than only one (a natural voice and strong writing for two others), but it’s the main characters - said daughters Aurora and Luna - who elevated this story for me. Their sibling relationship echoes with believability and their concern for each other made me care more than I might have about either one of them as an individual. Categorization aside (fantasy, young adult, fairy tale retelling, etc.) this is primarily a simple, sweet tale about sisters.

Monday, September 9, 2013

THRONE OF JADE


Review of THRONE OF JADE by NAOMI NOVIK
(second in the TEMERAIRE series)

It’s been a long time since I read the first book in this series, over a year I dare say. Nevertheless, it took me no effort and few pages to reinvest in this story and these characters.

I do admit to some difficulty keeping straight all the different characters - and especially their ranks - but that’s standard for this series rather than a symptom of how long I waited between books. I often think of character importance in tiers, because main characters and secondary characters still doesn’t seem complex enough to capture all the shades of grey in between. Using my tier system, all of the first tier (main) characters in THRONE OF JADE always remain clear and distinct in my mind. Most of the second tier, too - characters who certainly aren’t the lead of this story but play major roles and have plenty of “on page” time. It’s getting into third tier and beyond when I can’t keep track of all the various names coming and going throughout this story. Bottom line, though: the cast list might be too much to memorize, but characters stand out as and when necessary.

The story can feel somewhat slow. It’s all very atmospheric, delving into the nuts and bolts of both the fantasy world and the historical time period, with plenty of detail on setting (primarily maritime and then China in THRONE OF JADE) thrown in. Novik’s approach will definitely appeal to certain tastes more than others, but she’s undoubtedly given these books a distinct voice.

I did have two minor befuddlements with the pace. First, the story opens with a dramatic setup: China attempting to reclaim the dragon Temeraire from his human partner, the Englishman William Laurence. I felt every bit of their indignation and anxiety and couldn’t wait to see how this clash develops. However, I expected that would be the first conflict of many and it’s actually the entire plot of THRONE OF JADE. Second, once the book hits the climax the leisurely pace jolts into a sprint and then wraps up abruptly. What makes the book feel weighted oddly is how these last few chapters feel overstuffed with developments, twists, and important information compared to the rest of the novel.

As with HIS MAJESTY’S DRAGON, I still consider this series’ biggest strength the incredibly likable main characters. THRONE OF JADE then layers on a thought-provoking twist with the politics. There’s some moral ambiguity here, but most readers - myself included - will instinctually side with Temeraire and Lawrence. As far as I’m concerned, every other element about this series orbits around the focal point of their superbly imagined relationship.

Friday, September 6, 2013

PAULA STOKES

 
Interview with PAULA STOKES

Paula Stokes writes under the pseudonym Fiona Paul and lives in St. Louis, MO where she's managed to persuade fancy universities to award her degrees in psychology and nursing. Between her studies, she traveled around five continents and spent time living in Thailand and South Korea (which is probably why she finds the idea of wearing shoes in the house a little weird).

In addition to writing, Paula is somewhat obsessive about coffee, music, and adventure sports. Her future goals include swimming with great white sharks and writing a whole slew of novels, not necessarily in that order.

What are you reading right now?
 
WITHER by Lauren de Stefano

What first sparked your interest in writing? 

I've always loved to write, ever since I was a kid. I guess reading sparked my interest since I remember being twelve years old and thinking that writing a Sweet Valley High book would be the coolest thing ever.

What do you love the most about writing? The least?

Most: I was always the kid with my head in the clouds. I used to walk down the street daydreaming about stuff. When I listened to music, my brain was always concocting music videos. Writing is indulging my fantasies, being able to embrace them as meaningful work and turn them into stories worthy of being shared with others, instead of chiding myself for wasting time. Also, I really like interacting with readers and bloggers

Least: Before I got a deal, all I wanted was a deal. It didn't matter how or with whom or for how much. I just wanted my books on shelves. If I could do that, then I had "made it." But after I had that, I realized books on shelves means nothing as far as job security or a future in writing. Even awards and reviews don't matter. The only thing that really paves a way for a long-term writing career is sales numbers, something that often feels out of an author's control. It is motivating, but terrifying, to always have in the back of my head "This might be the last book I ever sell." 
 
Tell us a little about your writing process.

My process is flexible depending on what I'm writing, but generally I start with at least a rough outline and I always work on multiple projects simultaneously. That way if one book isn't flowing, I can still be productive by working on something else. I draft fairly quickly but revise slowly. I probably revise 3 or 4 times before a manuscript is even ready for beta reading. I generally write every day because my writer-brain never shuts off, and if I don't let it write then it just gets revenge by coming up with new story ideas.

What inspires you?

Everything inspires me - music, books, weird internet stories, snippets of conversations overheard on the train, people who surprise me in a good way, snails on the sidewalk, the way waves hit rocks. I am very big into nature.

Why young adult?

Just like setting, POV, etc., I think the age range of your book is dictated by the story. If you try and force an adult storyline into a YA book or vice versa, the results won't be optimal. Most of my ideas are YA ideas, probably because I think the problems encountered by teens are more interesting than adult problems. Also, in YA it seems a lot more acceptable to hop genres. After writing the historicals, I wrote a contemporary romance - THE ART OF LAINEY - and then a noir murder mystery - LIARS, INC. - (writing as Paula Stokes). What I just finished is another completely different type of story. Writing is hard work and I want to write the books I'm really passionate about. Right now, those seem to be falling into several different categories.

How was VENOM born?

VENOM was a collaborative project with the book development company, Paper Lantern Lit. I was invited to submit to them after working with one of the co-founders in an online class. When I was selected, the idea for a historical murder mystery was already in place. We developed the outline for each book together, pitching ideas back and forth until all parties were satisfied.

Did VENOM require a lot of research?

VENOM required an insane amount of research. In addition to myself, I had help from a Paper Lantern Lit intern and a Renaissance expert. I am sure that combined we spent at least three times as much time researching as I did writing. And yet we still missed a few things! Certain liberties were taken for the sake of story, but a few anachronistic words slipped through, and I'm sorry if those detract from anyone's reading experience.

I talk in more detail about research here if anyone wants to read more.  


Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Read. Read more. Write a little something every day. Channel envy to make you work harder. Cry when you need to. Vent when you need to (but not online!). Write the book you want to read, trends be damned. Don't be in a hurry. Don't give up. Don't take reviews personally. Don't get sucked into internet drama. Don't judge yourself against other writers. Don't forget to live.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself?

The name Fiona Paul is a pen name owned by Paper Lantern Lit. I have my own stories coming out through HarperTeen starting in 2014 under my name, Paula Stokes. The first book, THE ART OF LAINEY, comes out a couple of months after STARLING. Whereas the Venom books are historical, third person, past-tense, description-heavy stories, my first two Paula Stokes books are first person, present-tense, faster on pace and lighter on description books. If you liked VENOM, give them a try. If you didn't like VENOM, maybe also give them a try. The books really could not be more different.

Monday, September 2, 2013

MWF SEEKING BFF


Review of MWF SEEKING BFF: MY YEARLONG SEARCH FOR A NEW BEST FRIEND by RACHEL BERTSCHE
(review based on an advance reading copy)

The premise of Bertsche’s memoir immediately appealed to me. After marrying and moving, she found herself short on friends and struggling to make new ones. It struck her how much our society generally emphasizes romance over friendship, but she wanted more close relationships than that with her husband. I, too, have noticed, commented on, and debated this prioritizing of relationships, so I snatched up this memoir, eager to hear another woman’s take on the subject. 

Indeed, MWF SEEKING BFF branches off into numerous other discussions, each of which could fill entire books of their own. Bertsche resolves to go on a new “friend-date” once a week for a year. That right there already touches on some debate topics, such as whether Bertsche’s efforts are proactive and admirable or defy what many people view as the organic art of friend-making. Also, the term “friend-date” ties in with Bertsche’s point that we have an entire dating vocabulary, but few similar words for making friends. She often talks about “picking up” or “hitting on” a new friend and otherwise uses terminology that we might associate more with a search for a romantic partner, which proves both amusing and thought-provoking.

I don’t read very many memoirs and always feel a little odd about reviewing them. Since I mostly read fiction, I’m usually dissecting a made-up character. True, your criticism of a character could offend the author, but it’s still not the same as criticizing a narrator who is a living, breathing person. (Don’t worry; I’m certainly not about to say I found Rachel Bertsche “unbelievable.”) I go for honesty in my reviews, so even though I feel a little mean writing it, near the start of the book I did keep thinking, “Well, I see why she’s having trouble making friends.” For starters, her loneliness has reached a desperation peak that probably shows in her behavior as much as she tries acting casual. For the first round of friend-dates, she seems somewhat clingy. She overanalyzes both her own and her date’s every word and action and from the moment she first meets someone new she’s asking herself, “Could this be my new best friend?” I’m convinced that kind of fixation and intense attention to detail pops up in subtle ways that can unnerve the other person. Also, for all that she talks about how badly she wants new friends, she’s quick to dismiss women based on shallow factors who (at least from the information provided) seemed perfectly lovely to me. Usually the deal-breaker is some difference between them that I consider only as divisive as you make it.

I also had trouble getting into the book at first, because Bertsche makes a lot of generalized observations about how men, women, and relationships (whether romantic ones or friendships) work that I disagree with, and yet she states these opinions like obvious fact. Most of them are minor enough not to be worth mentioning, but the point is that every time the memoir sucked me in one of these petty statements would rub me the wrong way and throw me back out. As just one example, she talks about how every straight woman needs a gay best friend, which subscribes to a “minorities are collectibles” subtext that always bugs me.

Before you brush off this book, though, hear me out. In a novel the protagonist needs to grow and change and become a slightly (or very) different person by the end than they were at the beginning. I think the same is true of a memoir. Who wants to read something along the lines of “I decided to push myself out of my comfort zone to become a better person, but then realized I had been perfect all along and should never try something different again”? Bertsche definitely grows and learns from this experience. She picks up on a lot of things that I might have pointed out to her had we been friends (like how she’s passing over some great people for silly reasons). She also becomes increasingly outgoing, friendly, and “experimental” in her methods for meeting new people.

Earlier criticisms aside, I must emphasize how incredibly brave I think Bertsche is for putting herself out there like this. As she is first to point out, admitting you’re having trouble making friends is kind of a big social no no. In many eyes, it’s admitting you’re a pathetic loser. One of her unusual methods for meeting people is writing an article about her situation (recently moved and no current friend connections in the area to lead to more friends) and the amount of feedback she gets takes her by surprise. She receives numerous responses along the lines of “Me, too!” and “I thought I was the only one!” However, she admits that for every positive response, she received a negative one as well, which is exactly the risk with showing vulnerability and sharing with strangers as well as exactly why so few people do it. Her book challenges this status quo, urging people to be more open and honest when they’re in “friend lows” and more proactive about finding new ones.

I loved the premise of this memoir. I felt a little apathetic around the beginning when I thought Bertsche too fast turning away potential friends, but once she starts opening up and taking more chances I enjoyed the book more and more with each page. Also, as Bertsche becomes more outgoing, the memoir in turn becomes funnier - because she’s doing things she wouldn’t normally do and meeting people she wouldn’t normally meet. Some of them certainly might not be good potential friends for her…but they make an excellent story to tell a future friend! By the end, this memoir developed into a very inspiring and uplifting tale with more than one important lesson tucked between the laughs.