Friday, December 31, 2010

I'm Dreaming of a Black Christmas by Lewis Black

I have awesome memories of Christmas from when I was a child. I don't think that I ever actually believed in Santa Claus, but it was fun to pretend. It was so easy to get into the spirit back then. Christmas carols were warm reminders of the season. My mom always used to drive us around different neighborhoods to look at Christmas lights. As I've gotten older, I haven't gotten into Christmas as much. I appreciate the meaning behind the holiday, but everything seems like a big to-do and kind of a hassle. This year, as I was driving home from my oh-so-glamorous bookstore job (Probably one of the reasons for my malaise- retail holiday times), I drove past some light displays that made me feel like a kid again.

In that spirit, I was going to watch all of the eighty million holiday special episodes out there, recap them and come up with some sort of holiday moral for all of them. I was going to read holiday books and it was going to be spectacular. Then I got lazy. I ended up watching the Chrismukkah episodes of The O.C. and...that's about it. I also read this book, Lewis Black's I'm Dreaming of a Black Christmas.

It doesn't make much sense that I would read this book while in the thralls of my Great Christmas Revival (That Never Happened). It was partially in my fervor to grab anything remotely Christmas-related (Actually, that was my excuse for the Gossip Girl book I reviewed before this one) and also because I love anyone from The Daily Show and especially humor books from anyone from The Daily Show. I thought I might get someone to commiserate with over the occasional suckiness of Christmas. There was some of that, but also a celebration of the holiday that just cannot be denied.

In the book, Lewis Black explains why he logically shouldn't be celebrating Christmas, the most obvious being that he is Jewish. He gives some of the good things about Christmas (Gathering with friends, indulgent and yummy food, making donations to charities as penance for being a not-so-good person sometimes) and some of the bad things (High prices before Christmas, difficulties of choosing gifts). Along the way, he tells stories of his childhood, his obsession with clothes shopping, and gives reasons why he is happy to be single, especially around the holidays. It didn't give me a great big holiday-induced fever, but I'm Dreaming of a Black Christmas was funny enough to make me laugh. It's nice to know that other people have just as complicated a relationship with Christmas as I do.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Gossip Girl: I Will Always Love You by Cecily von Ziegesar

I know I wasn't going to read any more Gossip Girl books, but I saw this book on my library's epub offerings and I just couldn't help myself. So much happens in this book and I really loved every dirty second. I'll break the plots down for you:

We start out with Blair with her Yale boyfriend, Serena single, Dan and Vanessa together. Blair ditches Yale boyfriend because his family won't let her come on vacation with them ("No ring, no bring") and immediately hooks up with Nate. Nate has been sailing the high seas with his mentor Chips. Now that Nate has returned, all of the Upper East Side ladies are lining up. After all, nothing says hot like an unmotivated stoner. Serena becomes jealous because of the great connection between her and Nate. She has been filming the sequel to her dumb Breakfast at Tiffany's remake, but walks off the set to declare her love for Nate. He can't decide between the two girls. It's a full-on cat fight with the girls, and then Nate decides he just can't take it and leaves to go to farm college (More on that later).

Dan and Vanessa are together despite living on opposite coasts. Dan has had enough of college out West and transfers East without telling Vanessa. They are all set to be playing hipster house together in the Brooklyn Humphrey apartment when Dan catches Vanessa in bed with her former TA.

Now, random relationship generator!

Blair gets back together with Yale boyfriend. Serena stays single. Their relationship is still rocky. Nate returns from farm college after Chips dies of cancer. Farm college had been doing him good, but he becomes distraught at Chip's death and hits the booze and wacky tobacky some more. Then he becomes convinced that he is meant to be with Blair and totally ruins her relationship with Yale boyfriend.

Dan writes a dumb poem for a school assignment that's just a random collection of lines from poems he wrote in high school about Serena. S reads the poem after it's inevitably published in the New Yorker. They end up getting together.

In the meantime, Blair gets together with the one and only Chuck Bass. Let me just straight out say that I totally love Chuck Bass. This isn't the old nancy boy Chuck Bass, either. Chuck has spent time at farm college and it changed him for the better. Unfortunately, his monkey succumbed to a snake bite the first day. Now, Chuck is conscientious, sweet, and loving. Blair and Chuck together totally blew my mind and made me make little squeeing noises of excitement.

Then, of course, Nate comes back into the picture. Farm college is only two years, so he has to transfer soon. While touring Brown, he encounters one Jenny Humphrey. She gets Dan to drive him back to the city, but on the way they encounter a snowstorm. So Dan, Nate, Jenny, and Serena (Along for the ride) stop at the Waldorf's summer house for shelter. Unfortunately, the house isn't empty because Blair and Chuck are spending the holidays with her gay dads.

The kids have some intense moments. All three girls are lusting after Nate. There's a scene where they're all going to go up in the attic and "visit" Nate. Blair and Serena actually catch each other on the way, but Little J makes her way up. In the morning, B and S confront each other and cause a little strife in their actual relationships. Blair explains to Chuck how crazy Nate makes her. Chuck understands, and I breathe a sigh of relief because I love them. Dan is pretty much a pissy brat as usual. Nate runs away to his boat (In the words of the great Summer Roberts, girls, you don't cry over bitches on boats) and takes Jenny with him.

So, Jenny and Nate are together and all nauseating and stuff. Blair breaks up with Chuck because the relationship is moving too quickly. I feel as though someone killed my pet unicorn and butchered it in front of me. Serena breaks up with Dan because he is a complete waste of space, or because he is going to Iowa for poetry school and doesn't want her to go, one of those. Vanessa breaks up with her RA because he thinks she was cheating on him and also she wants Dan again. Jenny kicks Nate to the curb because their relationship bores her. In the end, it's Nate, Serena, and Blair at Chuck's New Year's party. It looks like more of the same, but Blair and Serena end up ditching Nate (Yay, finally!) for a trip to Europe together.

I know it seems as though the characters in the Gossip Girl series are shallow, horrible people. Really, they are, but that's actually part of the fun. Gossip Girl is the web stalker who watches over everyone like some sort of Big Brother-guardian angel hybrid. The people are horrible, but they have their redeeming qualities. Serena the vapid blonde who coasts by on her looks actually reads philosophy books for fun. Blair seems kind of fun when she isn't completely insane. My only complaint is that we never got to see who was Gossip Girl. Well, like she said on the show, Gossip Girl is everyone, XOXO.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Soul Enchilada by David Macinnis Gill

If Soul Enchilada is to be believed, there are demons all over the place. All they do is make deals with us mortals, trading souls for cars and basketball championships. It's an interesting theology, to say the least.

Bug Smoot, our heroine, didn't make a deal. The deal was made by her grandfather, his soul for a vintage Chevy. Now, the demon Beezlebub (Beals) has come to collect but grandpa, despite being dead, is MIA. As cosigner (A legal technicality), Bug now stands to lose the car, and her own soul, if she can't produce her grandfather.

Thankfully, Bug gets help from Pesto, former classmate and car wash worker by day. At night, he works for the International Supernatural Immigration Service. With the help of ISIS, Pesto's witch mother, and a lawyer with a specialty in these sorts of contracts, Bug might actually have a chance of keeping her soul after all.

Honestly, this book is a little weird. What do you expect when the title is Soul Enchilada? Bug's sucky life made it easier to appreciate my sucky life. She just graduated high school and barely scraped by living in a decrepit apartment while delivering pizzas. Her grandfather's Chevy was the one bright spot and it's repossessed by a demon.

Bug Smoot was a likable character, full of chutzpah. She put up a tough front, but had a lot of vulnerability. I genuinely found myself caring about her, even feeling better after she finally got food to eat when she was going hungry. Bug and Pesto together was also incredibly adorable. Soul Enchilada is cute, funny, a little romantic, and a bit supernatural. What more can I say, it's a good book.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Vixen by Jillian Larkin

This is the story of three girls. One is engaged to be married at an incredibly young age and rebels to try to experience more of life before she is trapped forever. The second is trying to escape her wild past and create a new reputation among strangers. The third wants to get out from behind her friend's shadow. The twist is that these girls are not facing problems in today's environment of women's liberation, texting, and all those other things the kids are into these days. They live in the Roaring Twenties, full of its oppression, flappers, and Prohibition.

Gloria is engaged to Sebastian. As a sort of last hurrah, she starts sneaking out to a speakeasy and she bobs her hair to fit in with the other flappers. By day she is a regular high society schoolgirl, but she soon gets a gig as lead singer for the speakeasy's band. Then she finds herself falling for the black piano player, and it's going to be nearly impossible for Gloria to settle down to humdrum married life.

Clara is Gloria's cousin from Pennsylvania. She plays the part of a simple country girl, but that's just to hide the truth: Clara lived a fast-paced, flapper life in New York. She got into some sort of trouble and returned home to her parents. Now she plays the helpful cousin and niece, but she knows much more than she is letting on. Clara catches the eye of family friend Marcus, a notorious playboy who actually genuinely falls for her. Unfortunately, there are still secrets that Clara is keeping hidden that could ruin her new reputation and possibly her romance.

Finally, Lorraine is petty, jealous, and a bit of a lush. She envies Gloria for being engaged, for getting attention from all the boys, for being a better flapper than her, and the list goes on and on. Honestly, it's difficult to like Lorraine. She has a couple moments, but for the most part she's just a huge rhymes-with-witch.

Vixen was a really fun read, full of fun and juicy society stuff and awesome vintage fashion. A part of me is jealous of the girls in this book, but then I remember that I get to vote and I feel better. It's part of (yet another) Teen series. The first book is really very good, so I'll be among those waiting for the next in the series.

P.S. I got Vixen for participating in the Barnes & Noble book club. It's being released December 14, which I just now realized is today.