A Different Kind of Book Review: The Hypothetical Girl by Elizabeth Cohen #MondayBlogs #bookreview

Hello, friends and fellow readers. I have another book review hosted by my favorite imaginary cousins. This time they are discussing a collection of short stories titled The Hypothetical Girl, written by Elizabeth Cohen and published by Other Press.

I’ve known Elizabeth (virtually because we’ve never met) for a few years now. She was introduced to me by one of my own cousins. I loved these stories in The Hypothetical Girl, finding each story to be almost like a novel in its depth and complexity. I hope you enjoy the review and, even more, hope that you’ll go ahead and pick up your own copy.

***

Melissa gazed at the softcover book on the kitchen table. Her cousins, Mary and Maggie, were moving about, shadows at her periphery. They would be a small group tonight for their occasional book club meeting. Just the three of them. “Just as well,” Melissa thought as she picked up the book and leafed through its pages.

She liked the feel of the book, the cover a bit more substantial than the usual paperback, the cover design eye-catching in its simplicity. The Hypothetical Girl, a collection of short stories by Elizabeth Cohen, had been a challenging but rewarding read for Melissa. She was interested to know how her cousins felt about it.

Mary set a large plate of iced vanilla scones in the middle of the table and promptly took one. While she bit into it, Maggie set tall mugs of hot sweet tea around.

Maggie sat down and looked across the table at Melissa. “So, I really enjoyed reading short stories this time. Especially this collection. What a wonderful imagination Elizabeth Cohen has! She takes ordinary people and puts them in extraordinary circumstances, some totally born from the imagination, like with … ” Maggie paused here as she took the book from Melissa. “With “People Who Live Far, Far Away.” I mean, who would believe that a guy you met online is a yak farmer from Iceland. It’s possible, but–”

Melissa grabbed the book back from Maggie, startling her cousin. For some reason, she wanted to hold it. “And she has a poetic voice,” Melissa added. She began again to browse through the book, wondering where to begin.

“I loved the story, “Death by Free Verse.” Quite a tour de force, don’t you think? It has laugh-at-loud humor, poetry, a poignant story, and then the ending! Ha! She ends with a limerick, a twist on the character that you should have seen coming but didn’t.” Mary was grateful for Cohen’s humor, in full abundance in some stories, subtle in others.

Melissa nodded. Yes, that story, early in the collection was fun to read but deceptive because some of the later stories were darker.

“Did either of you go online and check out some of these websites mentioned in the stories. Of course, I assumed they weren’t real, but I couldn’t resist trying a couple of them. I mean, flirtypants.com? You’d think someone would have bought that domain name. I’m just glad I’m not on the dating scene anymore. Good grief. I can’t imagine trying to find a soul mate through an online dating.” Mary froze and then turned back to her scone, her cheeks blushing as she realized her faux pas. She could feel the glares of Maggie and Melissa.

“Yes, Mary, how fortunate you are,” Melissa said, her voice a sliver of ice. She took a sip of her hot tea and counted in her head to ten. She wasn’t sure about Maggie, but she was tired of having her marital status as “widow.” And yet she couldn’t blame Mary. “And lucky for you we like Randy and approve of him.” She caught Mary’s eye and winked. Mary blinked in response.

Melissa decided to let her cousin off the hook. “Mary has a point. It seems that even with the internet, it’s not easy to find someone to love, much less someone to love you in return. But what I found really intriguing about these stories is that it’s not all about finding one’s soul mate. In the process of seeking love or even just community, these characters all have a lot to learn about themselves.

“One story, “The Opposite of Love,” moved me more than the others.  Rita isn’t looking for a mate really. Here she is diagnosed with cancer, the same time as getting the job of her dreams. That’s bad enough, but she also has a mother who is always comparing her to her cheerier, more upbeat sister, making her feel worse about herself.” Melissa paused. That was the part of the story that pained her the most, provoking memories of her own mother critically comparing her to her two cousins. Why couldn’t she be more outgoing like Mary? Why wasn’t she as sweet and patient as Maggie? Why did she always sulk when all her mother was trying to do was help her improve herself?

“Oh, that story got to me, too,” Mary said, breaking into Melissa’s thoughts. “Frankly, I think the mother was a bitch. I mean, I think she loved Rita, but she went about it the wrong way, making Rita’s cancer more about her than her own daughter.”

“It made my heart ache that the only solace she seemed to get was from a online community of cancer patients and survivors. You know, it’s one of those stories that you keep thinking about. Like, how Rita’s ex-boyfriend had once told her that the opposite of love wasn’t hate, it was indifference. I got such a chill when I read those lines.” Maggie reached for another scone. Talking about sad things always made her hungry.

“I did too. And I think it’s the stories where the author is really reaching, really trying to describe something, a feeling, a void, it’s those stories that have stayed with me. Like “The Opposite of Love.” Like the title story, “The Hypothetical Girl.” You know, I felt that way once. In the story, Emily starts disappearing after her divorce. She becomes more and more invisible, at least to herself. But I felt like I was disappearing while I was married, living there in San Diego, alone so much while he went on one tour after another, as if he didn’t want to be with me, or just didn’t know I was there anymore.”

For a few moments, the cousins, bound by their years of growing up together, almost like sisters, closed their eyes and let Melissa just breathe. Mary and Maggie still did not know all that had happened while Melissa lived on the other side of the U.S. with her quiet, stern military husband. He had often seemed indifferent to her. The opposite of love is indifference. And indifference can drive some people crazy.

Melissa leaned forward and grabbed her first scone of the evening. She smiled at her cousins, wanting to relieve them of worry. “This collection has fifteen stories in it. I don’t think we can cover them all tonight.”

“Well, my favorite is “Stupid Humans.” I mean, a love story about a polar bear and a deer who met on thosestupidhumans.com?” Maggie shook her head and laughed softly. “It’s a funny but sad story. It’s a clever story about climate change, about how these two animals are kept apart because they’re losing their habitat and they’re starving and don’t have the energy to … to … ”

“To text each other. Yes, a sad story but funny when you try to visualize a polar bear and a deer texting each other.” Melissa drained her mug of tea and got up to make some more.

“So … ?” Mary drew out her question. There was so much more to say and think about The Hypothetical Girl. Whether it’s Chloe giving the man she met online a second look and thus a second chance, or Alana deciding to keep her virtual love at bay, behind the computer screen where they were be both safe from heartbreak. Or Al, whose true love is a little girl because with her, his life is complete, he is a father.

“So? Limerence. I learned a new word, and I was an English major.” Maggie heard Melissa laugh behind her.

Mary was just swallowing the dregs of her tea. She coughed. “Ah, yes, Larry and limerence. It’s like, once you know what’s wrong with you, then you can finally heal yourself.”

“And wasn’t that a relief. I really thought Larry was going to end up as a train wreck.” Melissa sat down and waited for the kettle to whistle. “And that’s the other thing about these stories, or actually this author. She writes from the points of view of so many different characters. Men, women, mothers, children, fathers-to-be.”

“Polar bears. Deer.” Maggie laughs along with her cousins. “Indeed, I felt I was entering an entire, unique world with each story. Each one had a novel’s worth of complexity.”

Melissa and Mary murmured their agreement. The kettle whistled. Mary got up and moved the kettle off the burner. Melissa grabbed the mugs. Maggie opened the book and leafed through until she found what she wanted, from the story “Limerence”: “There is power in a story made of words and language.” She raised one eyebrow and thought to herself, “there is power in these fifteen stories of words and language.”

***

Thank you for reading this far, fellow book lover. Now go forth and get yourself a copy of The Hypothetical Girl.

 

 

Occasional Soulmates free through Sunday!

Here’s your chance for a great FREE read: Occasional Soulmates by Kevin Brennan is FREE to download this weekend only! Get yourself a copy for a guilty pleasure or gift it to friends. It has all the ingredients of a page-turner: love, sex, humor, San Francisco, grief, mystery, secrets, San Francisco … okay, I love San Francisco and I loved this book. Now go get yourself a copy!

WHAT THE HELL

Small Soulmates Cover

Right on schedule, the Amazon freebie has kicked in, and you can now download Occasional Soulmates for free. The deal runs through Sunday evening.

If you have a spare mo or two, let your readerly friends know about it via Twitter, Facebook, email, sky writing, semaphore, Morse code, secret languages, or even telephone. They need to read this book! Your mom needs to read this book.

If you never thought a dude could write chick lit, Occasional Soulmates will prove you wrong.

Just sayin’.

Grab your copy today, and help move some virtual paper by spreadin’ the word for me.

As always, much obliged!

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Reblog: Hope

I can think of no one who inspires me more to embrace life, to find joy when I’m at my lowest, to know that when I can’t change the circumstance, I can still change my perspective. Through her example, she has taught me that even though I’ve gone through some rough times, I’ve gained more than I lost, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Read her post and see why she inspires so and notice how in both of her photos, she is absolutely gorgeous.

You know Kevin Brennan has this novel …

kind of like chick lit but so much better because it turns chick lit on its head.  Check out Kevin’s post:  Have I mentioned lately that I have a book to peddle?.

If you need more encouragement, check out my reviews of Occasional Soulmates.

My standard, Amazon-style review.

My different (and favorite) kind of review.

Final day for the Occasional Soulmates 99 cent countdown deal!

Snooze and you lose! Today is the last day to get Kevin Brennan’s Occasional Soulmates for only 99 cents! But if you’re really savvy, you’ll buy the paperback which allows you to have the Kindle version for free. Then you can give the paperback as a gift to your best friend and keep the Kindle version for yourself. A win-win!

WHAT THE HELL

Blue gorilla

That’s right. If you’ve been fence-sitting on this thing, today’s the day you have to act. Occasional Soulmates is 99 cents until midnight PST.

It’s been a successful promotion, but only thanks to EReader News Today. On its own, a Kindle Countdown Deal doesn’t attract much attention, it seems to me; you need an outside push to ensure that lots of eyeballs see it. Luckily ENT isn’t terribly expensive, like a lot of them, but it’s effective.

To ignite one last flash of interest, I’m reposting here Cinthia Ritchie’s interview with me earlier this week on her blog. Hope you like it. Tell your friends. And, as always, thanks for your support on social media throughout this promotion.

—–

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Occasional Soulmates? Did it pop inside your head suddenly or was it a slow tease?

A: It was a pretty…

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A Different Kind of Book Review: Occasional Soulmates by Kevin Brennan.

Dear Reader, here is another in my unplanned series of book reviews.  I hope you enjoy this commercial break.  Did you know that currently the ebook version of Occasional Soulmates by Kevin Brennan, the subject of this review, is available for just 99 cents.  If you’ve been on the fence about getting yourself a copy, well, here’s your chance to get it cheap.  And if the price alone isn’t enough to sway you, then I do hope the following “different kind of book review” will knock you right off the fence and onto Amazon’s page for Occasional Soulmates

a occasional soulmates

******

Sarah stuffed the manila folders into her messenger bag. She rubbed her eyes. She was tired of reading dark, gruesome material: coroner reports, Sheriff Cooley’s statement of Misty’s battered body, arrest records. She needed a break. Something that would take her away from the seedy world of small-time drugs and cheap sex. She reached back into her bag and pulled out a paperback that Michael had given her. It had seemed funny to him that the woman in the novel was named Sarah and that she was looking for love in all the wrong places. He’d tried to hide his smirk when he said this to her, and Sarah, in turn, fumed to herself. (more…)

Occasional Soulmates — 99 cents for one week starting… Now!

Sister, brother, can you spare a dollar? In return, Kevin Brennan can give you hours of pleasure. Read his post to see how.

WHAT THE HELL

Here we go. My first Kindle Countdown. As the man in the video says, I need a dollar.

Actually 99 cents. From hundreds of people. This week.

Go. Now. Spread the word across the land.

Kevin Brennan needs a dollar.

Occasional Soulmates — 99 cents.

PS —

Here are a few things that cost 99 cents:

ChapStick
A bottle of water
A can of Spam
A couple of stamps
False eyelashes
A whoopee cushion
A tomato
A can of Fancy Feast

You get the picture. Skip one of those and buy a book today instead. Mine!

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A Different Kind of Book Review: Dawning by Olivia Stocum aka Chapter 9 of Clemency, A Novel in Progress

Dear Reader, I’m taking a short break from my novel in progress to present another in my unplanned series, A Different Kind of Book Review.  It all goes into my NaNoWriMo word count, but not necessarily into my final draft of Clemency.  Then again … .  Well, read on, Dear Reader, and I hope you enjoy.

Chapter 8 is here.

******

Dawning

Misty handed the tattered paperback to Lorene Jeffers, the prison librarian, and pulled the mug of hot chocolate to her.  Somehow Lorene had contrived to set aside an hour each week to sit with Misty and go over books she was reading.  They even allowed her to make hot chocolate, although it was the packaged kind made with water.  Misty didn’t care.  It still seemed like a luxury to her.

Lorene tapped the cover of the paperback. “So what did you think?  Did you like Dawning?” (more…)

Yo, heads up

At the risk of offending somebody: Here’s your chance to get Occasional Soulmates really really cheap! Now, I bought the paperback and, as Kevin notes in his post, his picture on the back cover was well worth the $$. But, seriously, folks, the novel is a great read and the Kindle ebook is definitely a steal (pun intended) at 99 cents. That said, the paperback is prettier and more fun to read than an ebook.

Photo on 9-22-14 at 7.24 PM

But, I know, I know, ebooks are more convenient so go ahead and buy the ebook version. Of course, if ebooks are more convenient, then that means you’ll have no excuse not to write a (5-star … no pressure here) book review. Really, please write a book review. Check out the ones already there for inspiration 🙂 Now, go and BUY the book. Have a nice day!

WHAT THE HELL

IMG_1217Just so you know… Mañana I’ll be starting a Kindle Countdown deal for Occasional Soulmates, wherein you and everyone you know or ever have known may purchase this lovely little ebook for a mere 99 cents. You knew it was coming. All self-publishers must resort to the 99 cent deal, or, even worse, the giveaway, and now is the first of (we don’t know how) many for OS.

Help propel this novel into the top umpty-thousand on the bestseller list. Grab your copy tomorrow!

Oh, and don’t forget to post a brief review too. I’m stuck at eight. Where reviews are concerned, eight is definitely not enough.

Don’t forget, if you’re a print lover, Occasional Soulmates is available as a paperback. It has my picture on the back. That alone is worth $9.99.

The deal runs from the 15th through the 21st. Spread the word.

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Goodreads giveaway ends soon!

Don’t miss your opportunity to win a copy of Occasional Soulmates! Giveaway ends on November 5. My recommendation is that you buy this entertaining novel (which, by the way, happens to be based in my favorite city) NOW and then you don’t have to wait 🙂

WHAT THE HELL

Occasional Soulmates and Godzilla

Just a reminder that I’m running a Goodreads giveaway for Occasional Soulmates, but it ends on November 5, so now’s your chance to join the fun. If you haven’t purchased the book yet (and come on, you know you haven’t!), step up and put your name in the hat. You have a 1 in 30 shot at winning a copy.

But if you don’t win… you have to promise to buy the book when the giveaway is over.

And by the bye, if you have read the book, I’d dearly appreciate a brief review on Amazon. I’m holding at seven right now and hoping for ten before too long so it looks like more than just my family has read this puppy!

The giveaway ends in a week.

(Photo by Eric Baker. Run for your lives!)

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