Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Before I Die by Jenny Downham (CBR-V #52)

Cannonball Read V: Book #52/52
Published: 2007
Pages: 336
Genre: Young Adult
 Tessa is dying from leukemia and decides to make a list of things she wants to do before she dies. She enlists of one of her friends to help her and eventually brings her neighbor into the fold as she grows closer to him. Some of the things on her list are what you'd expect from a teenager - sex, fall in love, etc. But most of the things on the list were kind of weird, such as shoplifting. Who wants to shoplift before they die? 

I had a hard time with this book. Some parts of it were very good - such as her family dealing with her illness and now her rebellion just before she dies (she stays out all night, jumps into a freezing river, joyrides without a license in her dad's car - just to name a few). The ending was also beautifully written. Even though you know what's going to happen, it doesn't make it any less emotional. 

However, I didn't care for Tessa that much. I completely understand her being angry and all of the different emotions she was going through while she was processing what was going on with her, but something about the character just made her hard to grasp. In fact, all of the characters could have stood to be fleshed out a little more - they were good, but not great. I think it's just more noticeable when it's the main character.

I also was getting a little tired of the romance crap by the end. A good chunk of the book ends up being mushy love sentiments between Tessa and her new "love of her life". Plus, all I'm thinking about is how the heck does she have the energy to have that much sex if she can barely get out of bed towards the end?? I figured he was going to kill her mid-coitus. I mean, that's great that she got to fall in love before her eventual death, but once he came into the picture the rest of the story pretty much took the back-burner.

Overall, this is a pretty solid 2.5 star book. Not terrible, but not that great either.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (CBR-V #51)

Cannonball Read V: Book #51/52
Published: 2009
Pages: 391
Genre: Young Adult/Dystopian

This is going to be a short review because this series has been reviewed to death already and this is a re-read for me. I wanted to read it again before I saw the movie since I already forgot half of what happened since I last read it several years ago. I'm not going to re-hash the plot, because if you don't already know it you've probably been living under a rock for the past two years. 

I was actually a little surprised at how much I forgot about this book. The middle books in trilogies tend to get forgotten the quickest, I think. Everyone remembers the beginning and end, but forgets the details on how they got from Point A to Point B. Although for a middle book, this one is actually quite strong. I know it got some flack for being a re-hash of the first book with a second Hunger Games, but I think it works for two reasons. One, they don't actually get to the arena and start the games until halfway through the book, and two, they make enough differences in the games to keep it fresh. For instance, the new Head Gamemaster (is that what he's called?) brings a new spin on things and I actually think the other Hunger Games tributes are stronger and more memorable characters in this book than the first.

This book lived up to a second read, although it does lose some of the thrill of reading it for the first time and not knowing what's going to happen. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (CBR-V #50)

Cannonball Read V: Book #50/52
Published: 2007
Pages: 304
Genre: Young Adult

Hannah is a high school student who committed suicide. Before she did it, she recorded 13 cassette tapes naming all of the people who contributed to her decision to end her life and why. If the people on the tapes don't pass them along to the next person the list, a second set of tapes will be made public. The book follows Hannah's classmate Clay and his experience listening to the tapes. 

I had really mixed feeling about this book. One one hand, I do get the point the author was trying to get across. You never know what is going on with someone else so try and treat people with a little decency and compassion. Unfortunately, decency and compassion aren't well-known traits among high-schoolers. 

On the other hand, I felt like Hannah was trying to justify her decision to commit suicide. Like it was okay because these were her reasons. But there is no justification for suicide. She tried to put all the blame on these other students when the blame should have been put on her obvious depression. 

I'm not trying to downplay how serious of an issue suicide is. It's terrible and awful for the people they leave behind. However, I didn't really feel that Hannah's high school experience was that abnormal. There were some rumors that spread about her and SHE made some bad decisions as well that ended up with consequences that she felt guilty about. Sounds like a pretty typical high school experience to me. 

Basically, I wish the book had focused more on the signs of suicide she was showing (change in appearance, giving away possessions, etc.) and why no one noticed. She even talked to the guidance counselor and showed some pretty disturbing signs of extreme depression. But no one thought to get her any help? The suicide probably couldn't have been prevented even if every single person on that list behaved differently. It might have been if someone had noticed Hannah's signs and gotten her real help. That was the real tragedy here. 

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (CBR-V #49)

Cannonball Read V: Book #49/52
Published: 1925
Pages: 177
Genre: Classic

On my quest to read more classics, this one was high on the list. Mostly because it's short. It's no secret that I generally don't get into the classics very well for some reason. I usually find them extremely slow and boring. The Great Gatsby started out that way, but by the end I was pleasantly surprised.

If you don't know the plot, the story is narrated by a man named Nick who moved into a small house on Long Island, NY. He notices that his neighbor always holds elaborate parties at his mansion next door, but is rarely seen himself. Eventually Nick and his neighbor, Jay Gatsby become friends and Nick finds out that Gatsby has been in love with his cousin Daisy for years. Daisy just moved back to the area with her husband. 

It was sometimes hard to keep all the relationships and extra-marital affairs in order, but once I got into the rhythm of the book I really did enjoy it. I'm also a sucker for tragic endings and I definitely didn't see the ending of this one coming. The writing was really beautiful as well.

I'd recommend this as a starter to someone who, like me, finds it hard to get into classics. It's short, easy to read, and should have enough drama and twists to keep most people interested. 

Born to Bleed by Ryan C. Thomas (CBR-V #48)

Cannonball Read V: Book #48/52
Published: 2011
Pages: 184
Genre: Horror

I loved Ryan C. Thomas' The Summer I Died and I had no idea there was a sequel until recently. I picked it up despite the mediocre reviews and unfortunately came to the same conclusion: disappointing. 

This books takes place 10 years after the horrifying events in The Summer I Died. ***SPOILERS FOR THE SUMMER I DIED*** Roger ended up surviving after watching his sister and best friend die at the hands of a maniac. ***END SPOILERS*** He's obviously still very traumatized and barely functioning after he moved to southern California to be an artist. He's out painting at a lake one day when his co-worker at the galley he works for, Victoria, and her boyfriend mysteriously vanish. After finding their car still there with blood on the ground, Roger goes all detective to track down a suspicious SUV that was there earlier and that he thinks might be the kidnappers. 

***MORE TSID SPOILERS***I loved seeing Roger come back and how he was dealing with the events from the first book. I also thought it was interesting to fast forward to 10 years later when he's 30 years old instead of it taking place weeks or months after the first book. ****END SPOILERS***

Now for the bad: I wanted to like this book, but it was just no where near the caliber of the first. The relationship between Roger and Victoria was virtually non-existent. One of the best parts about TSID was the close relationship between Roger and Tooth. 

Also the whole wolf cult thing was terrible. The "bad guys" had kidnapped Victoria to sell her to a cult of cannibals. Yes, it's as bad as it sounds. It was also completely unnecessary because the cult was never really explained that well. Crazy guy in a house in the woods who tortures people in his basement = much more believable than rich people in a wolf-worshiping cult who buy people to eat them. It was just so ridiculous that it ceased to be scary.

The ending really made me mad because it almost ruined the first book as well. In it, Roger escapes most of the torture due to constantly winning a dice game. It almost always went in his favor and caused Tooth to lose and get most of the punishment. I liked just leaving it as extreme blind luck, but in this book it's kind of explained at the very end. I won't spoil it, but it did not make me happy.

Apparently there is going to be a third book in this series as well. I just hope that the author took some of the critical reviews into consideration and makes it more like the The Summer I Died than Born to Bleed.

The Green Mile by Stephen King (CBR-V #47)

Cannonball Read V: Book #47/52
Published: 1996
Pages: 548
Genre: Mystery

Having read most of Stephen King's books, I'm not sure how I managed to never pick up The Green Mile. I've also never seen the movie (yet...working on that), so I went into this book only knowing the basic plot: It takes place on death row and there's a giant guy who may or may not have done the crime that landed him there. 

Paul Edgecomb is the narrator who is in a nursing home type place writing down this story that happened when he was a prison warden in the 1930s. He saw a lot of people die while working on death row, but John Coffey stood out to him. He was brought to the prison after being convicted of raping and murdering two little twin girls (but did he actually do it?). He's a strange man - absolutely huge, but gentle and soft-spoken and seems to never stop weeping tears. Turns out, John Coffey has some special healing abilities as well. 

I really liked this book. It was originally released as a serial in several parts, so I think that's what made the pacing so good. The characters were great and I loved how King humanized the death row inmates. The wardens weren't always the good guys and the inmates weren't always the scum. I never thought I'd start liking some of these people who were imprisoned for doing awful things. Delacroix, for example. He and his pet mouse almost made you forget the fact that he was a murderer. Then King would remind you what they did just to throw you off. 

This is a great Stephen King book for people who may not be into some of his more horror or supernatural themed books. It has a touch of the supernatural, but it's mostly a character- and emotion- driven novel. 

Duma Key by Stephen King (CBR-V #46)

Cannonball Read V: Book #46/52
Published: 2008
Pages: 700
Genre: Horror/Fantasy

Another brick of a Stephen King book. Some are completely worth wading through 1000 pages (The Stand, Under the Dome...shut up, I liked that one) and some aren't (Insomnia, The Tommyknockers). Duma Key was pretty middle of the road. Good enough to actually finish (can't say the same for those last two I mentioned up there), but not crazy good. 

Edgar decides to move to Florida after he has a bad accident at work and his wife leaves him. He made a pretty good fortune on his business, so he settles down for a nice early retirement on Duma Key. Edgar is lonely and he's still dealing with the divorce and recovering from his accident (he lost an arm and had a pretty bad head injury). He hires a young college-age kid to run his errands for him and he befriends an old lady and her caretaker down the beach. Edgar also finds out that he has a knack for painting. Then, of course, weird stuff starts happening that has to do with some traumatic stuff that happened on the island in the past. 

I liked that there were very few characters in this book. King is amazing at character development, but sometimes it seems like you need a concordance to keep up with everyone. With so few characters, you really got to know each of them. I also really liked the location. Usually King's stories are set in Maine, but I connected a little more with Florida since I lived there for a few years (and I've never been to Maine). 

I debated between 3 and 4 stars for this book (it's probably more like 3.5), but the ending got a little bogged down and stretched out at times. This probably could have been a 500 pages book vs. a 700 page book.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Dark Half by Stephen King (CBR-V #45)

Cannonball Read V: Book #45/52
Published: 1989
Pages: 469
Genre: Crime/Horror

Thad is a writer who didn't have much success until he wrote a series under a pseudonym, George Stark. After his success with the George Stark books, Thad decided to "kill" Stark and try his luck once again under his own name. Then people connected to Thad start getting murdered by someone who looks and acts suspiciously like the fictional George Stark. Is Stark a real person or just a figment of Thad's imagination? 

The Dark Half is more of a crime/mystery type book than Stephen King's usual horror. He does throw in some of his trademark supernatural elements though. As usual, King is great at creating characters, but I just couldn't get into this storyline as much as most of his books. It sort of dragged on in parts and the whole thing with the sparrows was just sort of bizarre. 

There's only a handful of Stephen King books that I haven't read yet and this was one of them. I can finally check it off my list, but it definitely wasn't my favorite. 

Call Me Cockroach by Leigh Byrne (CBR-V #44)

Cannonball Read V: Book #44/52
Published: 2013
Pages: 236
Genre: Memoir

This book is a follow-up of the excellent memoir, Call Me Tuesday by Leigh Byrne. She grew up in a very abusive home and her childhood was chronicled in her first book. The only thing I didn't like about Call Me Tuesday was the sort of abrupt ending. I wanted to know what happened to "Tuesday" (or Leigh)and how her childhood abuse effected her late teens and adult life. 

Call Me Cockroach follows her life after she leaves her home to live with her aunt. However, Tuesday ends up back in an abusive relationship by marrying a guy she barely knows at a very young age. She's also still dealing with her mother, who seems to brush all of the past abuse behind her. Her mother also only abused Tuesday and not her brothers and she never did really get answers as to why. I was also heartbroken to learn that she has little to no relationships with any of her brothers. I can't imagine how painful it would be to have your entire family basically refuse to acknowledge what she went through as a child nor offer any explanation. 

This follow-up book is basically her struggle to understand her childhood abuse. This book stands out to me because of how self-aware Leigh is. She reflects on her past with such brutal honesty. She was a victim, but she never plays the victim. She takes full responsibility for the decisions she made as an adult. Such rawness is hard to come by.

I hope that writing these two books was therapeutic to Leigh Byrne. She's a gifted writer and I truly commend her for rising above her past and wish her nothing but the best for the future.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer (CBR-V #43)

Cannonball Read V: Book #43/52
Published: 2012
Pages: 390
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy

Cinder is a cyborg - part human, part robot. She lives with her evil step-mother and two stepsisters (this is a re-imagined Cinderella after all) in New Beijing which is on the verge of a war with the Lunar people (who live on the moon). Cinder is a mechanic and she meets the prince when he asks her to fix one of his old robots. They strike up a friendship as Cinder tries both to hide and figure out who she really is. 

This story really could have went either way, but I thought it was actually pretty good. It was interesting and never got boring. The romance was never too sappy and I felt like Cinder was a strong female character on her own (i.e. didn't need a man to define her character). I also liked that she had other relationships that were focused on, such as with her dying step-sister (the nice one of the two) and her friendship with the house robot.

However, I did think the idea of setting it in China was interesting, but it probably could have been integrated into the plot a little more. I also thought the beginning was unclear on what exactly Cinder was. I spent the first several chapters thinking she was a full on robot with no human blood at all. I'm not sure if that was intentional in order to reveal her backstory as to how she became part robot or not, but it was sort of confusing at first.

There is a second book in this series that focuses on Little Red Riding Hood, but I believe that Cinder is also a character in it. So hopefully they continue her story since it didn't have a definite ending here. 

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (CBR-V #42)

Cannonball Read V: Book #42/52
Published: 2005
Pages: 576

Genre: Young Adult

Liesel Meminger is dropped off at a foster home by her mother at the onset of World War II in Germany. Her younger brother has just died and she is now dealing with her new home and new parents. Her foster father ("Papa") is a kind man who teaches Liesel to read (she's far behind the other kids in school) after she steals her first book - The Gravedigger's Handbook. 

This book was hard to get into. First, it is narrated by Death. Which is...weird. It's hard to grasp and I mostly wondered why Death cared so much about Liesel's story. It's tragic, but I'm sure Death sees thousands of tragic stories every day. It was also sort of slow and I wasn't sure where the story was heading at all. But the writing is poetic and beautiful, so I kept going.

By the end, I couldn't stop crying (and I'm not really one who cries during books/movies). This is definitely one of those books that you can't make a judgement about until you finish. The end packs a huge emotional punch and makes you realize just how much you actually came to care about these characters. 

I can see why this book is so highly rated. It's a beautiful story that will stay with you for a long time after you finish.

Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff (CBR-V #41)

Cannonball Read V: Book #41/52
Published: 2011
Pages: 384
Genre: Nonfiction/History

 Lost in Shangri-la is a non-fiction account of a group of soldiers stationed in New Guinea during World War II. In the middle of the island was a flat valley that was home to thousands of native tribes that had never seen the outside world. During a scenic tour over the valley, an American plane crashed into a mountainside, killing most of the passengers. One of the survivors was a member of the WOC (Women's Army Corps) named Margaret Hastings. She, along with the two other survivors, John McCollum (who lost his twin brother in the crash) and Kenneth Decker, have to survive in the jungle amidst possibly hostile native tribes until they can be rescued. On top of everything, they are doing all of this with horrific burns and injuries from the crash. 

A huge problem is that the valley they crashed in is impossible to land a plane on. Hiking miles and miles through rough terrain isn't an option with their injuries. They end up being stranded for weeks while rescue missions are figured out. The stranded trio ends up befriending some people in a local native tribe and I found those parts to be some of the most fascinating in the book. 

Although this is a very interesting story, I kind of felt like it would make a better article than book. It was fairly short, but got bogged down with boring details that seemed like filler (did we REALLY need that many mind-numbing details on the history of every aircraft that made an appearance in the story?). However, if you skim over those parts the survival story is a fascinating one that's worth reading.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Dust by Jacqueline Druga (CBR-V #40)

Cannonball Read V: Book #40/52
Published: 2002
Pages: 288
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic

Dust follows a group of people in the aftermath of a nuclear war. Jo has been preparing for this most of her life by stockpiling supplies into her basement and encouraging her friends to do the same. Still, she never actually expected it to happen. When the bombs hit, she takes her teenage son and her young nephew she is babysitting into the basement cellar. Her daughter, Matty, is at the school a few miles away. While waiting out the initial few weeks until she can safely go upstairs, Jo makes a list of her close friends and family and it becomes her goal to try and find them.

This book was unique in that it wasn't a YA book. I can't remember the last time I read a post-apocalyptic book that wasn't teenage based. I like YA, but this was refreshing. I also thought it was unique that it followed a woman who had prepared for this scenario. Most of the book took place in her basement or within a few blocks of her home -- no traveling across the countryside or anything. The characters were great. I liked that there was a pretty wide variety of people's reactions to the bombs. Some went psychotic, some stopped talking, some pretended nothing happened, and some simply used sarcasm to make it through the day.

One of the things I didn't like was the ambiguity of some of the characters ages. Initially, I thought Jo was in her 20s. Then she has a teenage son so she must be closer to 40, although she acts more like a 20 year old (such as leaving her children to go off with a new love interest later in the book). I'm also not sure how old her daughter Matty was. She supposedly goes to a school that has lockers (so she must be 13+ or so) but she acts more like she's 7-8 years old most of the book. I'm still confused as to why she kept drawing pictures of one guy as satan throughout the book. I kept waiting for the explanation that he did something awful to her (he found her and brought her home), but they never said anything about that.

Overall, I think it's a pretty solid book, especially if you're tired of exclusively reading YA dystopian fiction. Beware: there is a sort of cheesy love story thrown in towards the end, but it's not too bad. 

Memoirs Aren't Fairytales: A Story of Addiction by Marni Mann (CBR-V #39)

Cannonball Read V: Book #39/52
Published: 2011
Pages: 256
Genre: Fiction

First of all, this book is not an actual memoir, contrary to the title. It's the fictional account of a young girl's descent into drug addiction. Nicole was sexually assaulted her freshman year of college and decides to flee her home in Maine and make a new start in Boston with her friend Eric. They both experiment with other drugs before eventually becoming hardcore heroin addicts. 

This book is dark and ugly. If you've ever read anything by Ellen Hopkins, this book is very similar to her books (minus being written in verse form). It's just one horrible thing happening to these people after another. It's also beautifully written and you can tell the author did her homework. It was very hard to distinguish between this novel and an actual memoir. 

The characters seemed so real. The people that flow in and out of Nicole's life are just as broken as she is. There's Sunshine, the prostitute who teaches Nicole how to make some extra heroin cash and my favorite, Claire, the elderly lady who lives in the same building as Nicole and forms a peculiar friendship with her. Their relationship is so heartbreaking to watch as Nicole tries and fails again and again to get clean for Claire. 

The ending is bittersweet. Don't read this book if you're expecting a nice, wrapped up ending where everyone goes to rehab and has a happy rest of their life. There's plenty of death and heartbreak. Like the title says, memoirs aren't fairytales. 

Abandon by Blake Crouch (CBR-V #38)

Cannonball Read V: Book #38/52
Published: 2009
Pages: 452
Genre: Thriller

 Abandon is a thriller that is told in two parts. Half of the book is set in the present day and follows a group of people who on an expedition to explore the old abandoned mining town called Abandon. The other half is set in the late 1800s and tells the story of how Abandon became, well, abandoned. 

I had a really hard time getting into this book. I thought the two stories meshed well together and I really liked how they paralleled each other, but I just couldn't get into the characters. I finished this book a week ago and can't recall a single character's name. I could barely keep track of who they were while I was actually reading the book. I know there was a father/daughter duo in the present-day exploration, but I thought their rocky relationship could have been fleshed out more. 

I also thought the missing gold storyline was sort of cliche -- complete with bad guys and old west saloons. It did start getting interesting towards the end (the reasoning behind the mysterious disappearance of everyone in Abandon was original and I definitely didn't see it coming), but by that point I had zero investment in the characters and didn't really care that much.

However, I'm not one for historical fiction, so I may not be the target audience here. I don't like westerns or books set in that time period, so those sections really dragged on for me. At least the ending was decent.

Not Without My Sister by Kristina Jones, Celeste Jones, & Juliana Buhring (CBR-V #37)

Cannonball Read V: Book #37/52
Published: 2008
Pages: 432
Genre: Nonfiction/Memoir

Like other people have said, the title of this book is a little misleading. The book does follow three half-sisters who grew up in the Children of God cult. However, they are in and out of each others lives and barely know each other, much less refuse to leave without each other. The first half of the book is divided into three large chunks with the background of each sister - Celeste, Kristina, and Juliana. The second half weaved the sisters' stories together and quickly changed narrators every few pages. I found the second half was really hard to keep track of everyone because their backgrounds, childhoods, and family members were very similar. 

The content of the book itself was horrifying. All three sisters were subjected to all sorts of abuse, from sexual to emotional to physical. This particular cult is notorious for it's validation of pedophilia (they believe humans of any age should be free to express their love sexually with anyone else). It's very hard to read at times what they girls went through and how they struggled to adjust to normal society after being brainwashed their entire life. 

The book gave a great overall history of the girls' lives from childhood to adulthood, but my only complaint was that the three girls all had very similar stories. I still can't tell you which things happened to which girls - they all just sort of blurred together into one single story. I'd recommend this book if you want a more personal memoir of the Children of God cult, and The Nameless by Natalie Sauret if you want a memoir with a more in-depth background of the cult itself.

Locked Up in La Mesa by Steve Peterson & Eldon Asp (CBR-V #36)

Cannonball Read V: Book #36/52
Published: 2011
Pages: 230
Genre: Nonfiction/Memoir

In the 70's, Steve Peterson got arrested for smuggling marijuana across the Mexican border. He ended up in a notoriously bad Mexican prison for almost a year due to the large amount of pot he was smuggling. La Mesa reminded me of the South American prison in the tv show Prison Break. Inmates were sort of thrown in there and left to their own devices. Some inmates had their entire families living in there with them. A hierarchy was structured with the "leader" of the prison living in an onsite house with a jacuzzi. The inmates could buy property from him (Peterson bought a small cell with cardboard walls for a few hundred dollars) and he controlled all the buying/selling/trading that went on within the prison.

The prison system itself was really interesting, but I felt like the author was focused more on telling a bunch of random crazy stories rather than giving us a good background on the prison or even himself. You know how you go to a party and there's that one guy who dominates the conversation with his crazy stories? It's interesting at first, but after a few stories your eyes sort of glaze over and your mind starts wandering - that's sort of what this book was like. Every chapter was a different story and nothing was really cohesive besides the fact that they all took place in this prison. It was just a collection of outlandish stories. I have no doubt that they really happened, but I would have preferred a little more background and cohesiveness overall.

Another sort of nit-picky thing was the overuse of certain words or phrases. Almost every page had a sentence that ended with "...or whatever." and it got really old after about the first chapter. The whole book was a very conversational style, but maybe a little TOO informal (like I said above, it was really like listening to a guy tell you stories at a party, complete with common oral sentence fillers). But it was a quick and easy read if you're at all interested in the Mexican prison system of the 1970s, just don't expect a thought-provoking novel.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Texts From Bennett by Mac Lethal (CBR-V #35)

Cannonball Read V: Book #35/52
Published: 2013
Pages: 320
Genre: Humor/Nonfiction

**I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley. It is expected to be released on September 3, 2013.**

I don't read a lot of humor books, but I'm a fan of Mac Lethal's Tumblr blog, Texts From Bennett. The blog is a series of texts between Mac and his younger cousin, Bennett. Bennett is a wanna-be gangster (he thinks he's in the Crips gang) from Kansas City. Mac is actually a legit hip-hop artist (which I had no idea about until I read the book), but doesn't play into the rapper stereotype, much to Bennett's chagrin. 

I always wondered how Mac and Bennett's relationship was formed. They seem so different, including a fairly big age gap between the two (Bennet is a teenager and Mac is 30 in the book). That's where this book excelled. I went into it expecting a bunch of short stories and jokes at Bennett's expense and actually found a great story about two very different people becoming great friends. 

Bennett and Mac are cousins (their moms are sisters), but they didn't see each other much until Mac invited Bennett and his mom to temporarily live with him when they got kicked out of their house. Mac's Aunt Lillian is a super nice woman who unfortunately self-medicates with a prescription pill addiction and brings along her deadbeat boyfriend who she admits she only keeps around because he has a van. 

The story flows along well and Mac is a very good writer. It's not choppy like I'd expect a book based on text messages would be. I also liked that he didn't use Bennett and his friends as merely punchlines of a joke. Of course he describes the ridiculous, stereotypical way these kids dress (Bennett's sometimes-girlfriend Mercedes wears "gold hoops that are the size of a baby's head"), but you fall in love with these people. And I loved how the story shifts halfway through and has BENNETT actually helping out Mac with how to meet women (Bennett has a list).

Texts From Bennett is funny, but has a lot of heart as well. It's much more than just funny texts and a must-read for fans of the blog.