Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sherry and Narcotics

In a full-blown bout of book bitchery I left this novel on my shelves for far too long. I received an ARC, it's got an ugly (in my opinion!) cover, I made assumptions based on the title.

I'm an ass. I admit it.

Somehow I FINALLY got over myself and picked up Nina-Marie Gardner's first novel, Sherry and Narcotics, while I was reading Sarah Addison Allen's, The Peach Keeper. Whoa, what a move on the part of the universe. Addison is sweet, Gardner salty. Addison sentimental, Gardner balls-to-the-wall raw. It was a perfect pairing and Gardner actually came out the fresher breath of air in this situation.

Mary is an American newly out of graduate school and living illegally in London. She works online editing college entrance essays for international students bound for Harvard and the like. She's also a raging alcoholic, totally in denial. Her father has died, her relationship with her mother is distant and cold, and she ends up corresponding with a dreamy poet via e-mail and text messages. They end up meeting and starting an affair and the proverbial "train wreck" begins.

Nicole from Linus's Blanket describes Gardner's writing as "ridiculously addictive," and I'm going to have to hunt Nicole down and figure out how she snatched that description straight out of my brain! There's just no other way to put it.  In the early pages of the book I was slightly annoyed with Gardner for writing what seems to be a highly biographical novel about a torrid affair and addiction (per some interviews I read), but two chapters in I was totally onboard for the train wreck.

Gardner's strength is in writing the addict's life and conveying it as perfectly normal. At first, as I was reading through Mary's adventures with wine, I thought she was probably drinking a bit much, but she seemed to keep it indoors and function pretty well. But by the end of this book, she's a sad sack. She wears rose-colored (wine-colored?) glasses throughout her relationship with the poet and leaves the reader wondering how in heckfire she ever thought THIS and THAT were good ideas! I'll say it again -- train wreck!

Overall, I liked Mary, and I could relate to her on some level, as I think any college girl with low self-esteem has done some pretty stupid relationship things. Mary's dilemma was amped up by her addiction to a level I'm certainly glad I've never experienced. As for the poet in her life, I wanted to kick him in the crotch.

I have to hand it to Gardner, she sucked me right into her prose, and I never looked back. This novel is marketed as "chick lit noir" on some of the materials I received, and while I'm resistant to that label, it's an interesting one for certain. I still struggle with the term "chick lit" all around as it seems unnecessarily dismissive and condescending. This novel is representative of a darker "young woman with relationship" novel, though I'd be terribly remiss to stick any labels on it. Whatever one chooses to call it, it's an involving, provocative novel. I will happily read more of Gardner any day.

Thanks to Meryl Zegarek Publications for thinking of me for this review opportunity!


  1. I almost didn't read this one either. I am totally with you that the cover doesn't exactly inspire confidence. I was just gong to read a few pages before I tossed it, but as we can see, that never happened.

  2. OMG, I'm embarrassed to say I've put it off because of the cover as well. It's just not very enticing is it? I'm really glad to hear you enjoyed it and I'll be looking forward to reading it.

  3. Heh. I am so guilty of judging books by their cover and by their labels (and oftentimes, by their popularity, which sounds a bit silly). I like the way you describe Gardner as salty - wouldn't mind a good salty read one of these days. Will have to check this one out.

  4. That is a TRULY horrible cover. I would be tempted not to pick it up because of it. No, I wouldn't pick it up because of it. But, since it's YOU and I trust YOU and not the cover, I'll hunt it down. :)

  5. I dismissed this book when I got it too, but you and Nicole have convinced me I should read it.

  6. I cracked up at "chick lit noir" -- I don't like noir and I don't like chick lit but putting them together is rather irresistible!

  7. I gotta agree with you on the cover. It's just flat out ugly.

  8. Ooh, that sounds right up my alley! Must go check it out.

  9. Nicole, I'm glad I'm not the only one with a serious cover aversion. What a surprise, though. Seriously good quality writing.

    Iliana, jump on the cover haters' train!

    Olduvai, I'm a complete and utter hype hater (usually). It generally turns me off of books if there's too much floating around. Definitely a good salty read. Give it a go! :)

    Heather, want my copy? I barely keep anything anymore. As much as I love it, realistically, I don't think I'll re-read. There may be a couple of Greyson's chew marks on the edges, but otherwise a pretty decent copy. :D

    Yayyy, Kathy! I hope you like it as much as we did!

    Jenny, it certainly helps! I don't care for either as freestanding genres either. This one was a winner, though!

    Amen, Jill! Publishing companies should hire us to weed out the stinker covers.

    Enjoy, Jen!

  10. Girl, you know I'll take it. And you know I don't mind baby G chew marks. Many of my books have the same look! lol

  11. Ugh to the cover. Definitely wouldn't have picked it up either. Though gotta say, the premise sounds just a little too depressing for me. The fact that you wanted to kick the poet in the balls indicates that I probably would as well, and reading about characters I hate just FRUSTRATES the hell out of me!

  12. I was sent this one for review as well and honestly didn't think that it was going to be my type of book. I'm more than intrigued now and am planning on picking it up sometime soon. Great review!

  13. Awesome!!! I'll drop it in the mail to you sooner than later, Heatheroo!

    Kari, surprisingly, not so depressing! The poet was likable at times, but I saw his douchebaggery comig a mile away!

    Yayyy! I hope you like it, Samantha!


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