January 2016 Reading Wrapup

1 Feb

So, I’ve kind of already blown one of my bookish resolutions: two reading wrapups per month. I mean, I do have reasons: I had a family member in the hospital, stressful apartment shit to deal with, and just general crappy life situations going on. So, no time (or rather too much stress) to write that Part I and Part II. But, thankfully, it didn’t affect my reading! In fact, January was my best reading month ever. I read 26 books. 26! If I read that much every month, I’d hit over 300 books this year. Which definitely isn’t going to happen, but I’m still pretty happy with it. And since this is going to be an epically long roundup it’s under the cut, so hit the jump to get started.

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Reading Goals For 2016

9 Jan

2015 was a great reading year for me, but I’m always looking for ways to improve my reading experience! So, of course, I have a new set of goals for 2016. I know for a lot of people having a number, or really specific goals, can be stressful or ruin reading for them. But personally I find goals & challenges really motivating, so I’ve set up quite a few for this year. Not as many as last year (for example, I am not going to be doing a specific page number goal–though I will be tracking how many pages I read), but enough to keep me on track.

First off, I’ve set my book goal for 175, up from the 150 last year. I did get about 15 books past that in ’15, but I have some clunkers on my list this year so I don’t want to overdo it.

Like last year, I will be doing a series challenge. But instead of the 12 series I aimed for last year, I will be tackling 3 big ones in 2016: Iain M. Banks’s Culture, Robin Hobb’s Realms of the Enderlings, and Stephen King’s Dark Tower. These are of course subject to change if I start one of them and dislike it. Though I do have a few smaller series (3-4 books) I’d like to get to, I’m not going to put them on my list of goals but I’ll count them if I finish them!

Perhaps most importantly (for me), I’m doing a TBR challenge. My TBR is massive (170+ books), so my goal this year is to read 50 books off my TBR. This shouldn’t be an issue at all, since the books on it are all ones I want to read. Basically, I need to stop adding every new book that catches my eye to the pile and focus on what I know I want to read. Of course this leaves lots of wiggle room for new & impulse books!

From last year, I’m carrying over the big book challenge. I’ll be reading Infinite Jest, Gravity’s Rainbow, and Ulysses. My problem last year was the time commitment these books take up, but I have a solution! I do all of my reading at night before bed, but for these I’m going to devote 30 minutes to an hour during the day to reading one of them (or other hefty books). This way I can take my time without worrying about all the books I am “missing out on.”

Last but not least, I’ll be doing an around the world challenge. I want to read books written by authors from 15 different countries. To be honest, this one won’t take any extra work: between my other goals and the Man Booker International longlist coming out soon I should be set. This is more so to track how diverse my reading is. I’m also going to be attempting to read more diversely in terms of content: hopefully I’ll get to some poetry & non-fiction this year, though I’m not making that a set goal.

So that’s it for 2016! It might seem like a lot, so we’ll see if these change as the year goes on, but at the moment I’m really happy with what I have set up for the months ahead.

Makeup Goals For 2016

4 Jan

It seems like every month on this blog I get farther and farther away from my initial goal: books and makeup. The books are going stronger than ever before, but it’s no secret that I’ve dipped off the makeup front significantly. It’s not that I don’t have anything to blog about: it’s that I have too much! I get absolutely overwhelmed when coming up with post ideas. I want to swatch all my highlighters, but I have so many that I’d have to break it up into multiple posts. Do I do it by indie/drugstore/mid-high end? Powder, cream, and liquid? Maybe by color (gold, white, pink/rose, purple, peach, blue…)? And then there’s the time I’d have to dedicate to swatching 150+ highlighters (yes, I know, I have too many). And that’s just highlighter! What about blush? Eyeshadow? A collection post? Perfume comparisons by scent type? It makes me anxious just thinking about it! I get too overwhelmed to even do posts on new collections.

But this year I really want to focus on using what I have rather than acquiring new things. If I think of it as swatching for myself (aka “oh, I’d really love to have picture comparisons of all my highlighters”) it becomes a bit easier to think about! And if I think about how I’d want it organized for convenience rather than how some amorphous audience would want it, the choice is clear: by color. It’s still a huge undertaking, and I’ll probably start with smaller projects (bronzer, indie lip products, liquid lipstick), but it seems like a mountain I can climb rather than one that will kill me on the ascent.

Speaking of using up my collection, this also means cleaning out things I don’t need. Yes, decluttering! I’m never going to be one of those people who empties out 50% of their blush and gets rid of 20 palettes (the thought alone hurts my heart!) but I want to get things that I don’t use/have gone bad/don’t work for me out of my collection. Do I need that dried-out eyeliner I’ve had since I was 16? No! To start out my “I’m actually going to declutter” resolution, I’ve started with a problem area for me: mascaras.

I am a mascara hoarder. It’s embarrassing to admit how old some of the ones I regularly use are (3 years! what the hell self!). I have a bunch of untouched minis and I plan to get into rotating them out every 3 months like I’m supposed to. I’ve left myself 2 open full size (1 high end, 1 drugstore) and 4 open minis to work through for the next 3 months, mainly to acclimate myself to 1 mascara at a time rather than a different one every day. After that? They’re all getting tossed (aside from Bad Gal Plum, which is unuseable but I keep for sentimental value).

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See all that mascara? I was using ALL of that. Like, rotating every day for half a month before I repeated. That’s not good at all! I have long, thick lashes so most mascaras do a great job at giving me volume + length. It doesn’t take much. So from now on, I will have 1 drugstore full size and 1 high-end/mid-end mini open at a time (because I like to layer). That’s IT. No buying more minis before I run out of the ones in my stash, either, and they should last a full year.

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And that’s what I am keeping! Top row is opened and will get tossed in 3 months, bottom is all my unopened minis + primers. Which I am going to start using, because why not? I have them and they were free.

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Then I got a little destash-happy and cleaned out some more stuff! The face wash & moisturizer are ancient, and I’m never going to use them. They’re also organic (aka “who needs preservatives?”) and have started to smell off. Why was I hanging on to them? Who knows, but they’re gone now. Same thing for the scrub: I actually love(d) it, but I was hoarding it and now it’s gone funky. I’d rather use up things I love and have experienced & enjoyed them than let them go bad and have the product wasted. The mask burned my face pretty badly, so I don’t even know why I kept that around…

Favorite Books of 2015, And A Year In Retrospect

4 Jan

2015 is over! It’s funny, years passing didn’t used to mean a whole lot to me, but now that I’ve started doing yearly reading goals it’s an exciting time. A time to celebrate the achievements of the past year and set goals for the future! Those goals will be in another post because come on, no one wants to read 5+ pages of me rambling.

This year I met almost all of my goals. I read 191 books out of my initial goal of 150. I read 72,025 pages out of a set goal of 45,000. I got through 12 series (a total of 56 books), which was right on track with my goals for one a month! I didn’t hit my goal to get through big books I’ve been putting off (only did 1 of 4) but I’m overall very satisfied with my reading this year. I hit so many different genres, and there was a pretty good diversity in terms of author’s gender, sexuality, and home nation.

So, let’s talk about my favorites. Given the number I read there was no way I could do one of those concise, 10-book lists like many people. So I decided to sit down, comb through my list (excluding re-reads, of course), and write down every one I really loved with an idea to trim it down to about 20 at the end. Well… I made my list, and it was only 19! Yeah, I was pretty proud. Instead of adding another book I just went with my gut. So these are my top 19 favorites of 2015! In alphabetical order, because I’m not going to pick favorites. These were all fantastic.

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The Animals, by Christian Kiefer: You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll feel like your heart just got ripped out of your chest. I had basically no expectations going into this novel and it blew me away. It’s bleak and depressing but full of am amazing amount of emotional punch. I actually cried reading this: in fact, I cried reading 4 books this year (and, of course, all of them are on this list!). The Animals skirts a lot of genres, dipping its toes into grit-lit but never quite settling there because there is more… humanity and connection here than you’d expect from grit-lit. I mean, I grew emotionally attached to a bear in this book. And I’m terrified of bears.

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The Blue Fox, by Sjón: This slim little volume is part fairytale, part family drama, part survival-adventure, and part pure magic. The writing is simple but amazingly lyrical, and the plot manages to have many twists and turns given how few pages it covers. There’s a strong undercurrent of folklore and magical realism here, and while I suppose you could consider this a moral tale it’s quite twisted and emotional. The characterization manages to be incredibly well done given how little the author gives himself to work with: there’s a disabled girl here who isn’t even alive in any of the scenes, yet manages to be absolutely amazing and compelling.

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Broken Harbor, by Tana French: I honestly never thought a Tana French novel could surpass In The Woods for me (and yes, I’m working on those Dublin Murder Squad posts!). Yet somehow, Broken Harbor did. This book takes the “is there something weird/supernatural going on here?” theme that ran through ITW and shoots it into overdrive. This book is really a combo horror-mystery, and it’s spooky as hell. And the main mystery is, of course, combined with a fantastic lead detective with a… colorful home life, to say the least, with an element of madness that just amplifies the creep-factor of the main murders.

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The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro: This seems to be a very divisive book. Fans of Ishiguro’s more mainstream books like The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go generally don’t like it, and I can see why. But my favorite Ishiguro books (The Unconsoled, A Pale View of the Hills) contain a streak of strange unreality. The Buried Giant takes this and runs with it: it’s technically a fantasy book, and includes things like dragons and giants and demons. However, fans of fantasy were also disappointed because it’s not exactly a swashbuckling adventure. The story focuses on an elderly married couple and their search for their son… and also their memories. This is more a book about memory, war, and love than it is about dragons or adventure. And while it’s an Arthurian tale with characters borrowed from that world, there’s nothing epic about it. This is a slow, character-driven tale that has an absolutely heartbreaking conclusion that had me in tears. If you like unusual, slow, fairytale-like fantasy I highly, highly recommend this!

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Dead Beat, by Jim Butcher: The Dresden Files was my second-favorite series that I discovered this year, and of course one of the books was going to make it into my favorites list. It wasn’t even a debate which one: Dead Beat encompasses everything I love about the series. The characters are absolute perfection (Butters~), the fantasy aspect is great (necromancers! the Wild Hunt! the Erlking!), the story is riveting with some nice twists & turns, it advances the meta-plot, and most importantly it has the greatest action scene I’ve ever read. It’s just… if you like urban fantasy and haven’t read this, what’s wrong with you?! And if you don’t like urban fantasy, give it a shot: it’s a genre I don’t particularly enjoy, except for the Dresden Files. Which is pure magic.

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The Evolutionary Void, by Peter Hamilton: I am a longtime fan of Peter Hamilton. I devoured Pandora’s Star & Judas Unchained in my late teens, but somehow I hadn’t read the follow-up trilogy. Well, okay, I know exactly how. I bought the first book the day it came out, read it, and by the time the second one came out I forgot everything that happened. And re-reading a 800+ page book is no small feat, so eventually I gave up. This year I re-dedicated myself and read all of them in a row. What an amazing ride! I didn’t think I could love a book of his more than Pandora’s Star, but this came hella close. All of the parts come together perfectly in the finale, every stray thread wrapped up and every character proven useful to the plot. Of course characters are where Hamilton really shines and this has some great ones. But my favorite thing (aside from, you know, everything else I loved) was the incredible easter eggs from Pandora’s Star. My favorite character came back in the most perfect way imaginable. Peter Hamilton, how even are you so amazing.

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Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff: Few books inspire as much passion in me as Fates and Furies. Something about this book struck a deep chord in me: the writing is beyond gorgeous, the characters are fantastically complex, the plot unfolds in incredibly unexpected ways and it’s deliciously meta. I’m on a warpath when it comes to pushing this book on people: if you know me in person, I’ve probably tried to get you to read it. I feel all fuzzy thinking about it: it’s one of those books you could re-read a dozen times and find something new each go through. And the main theme, of what makes an event “real” and how perception affects reality, is pretty much my absolute favorite. Oh, and the book-in-a-book…. which is also present here. It’s seriously perfect, and I wouldn’t change a single thing.

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A Head Full of Ghosts, by Paul Tremblay: 2015 was not a great year for horror (unlike 2014, which was spectacular!) but I did find some great reads. Including the amazingly-meta House of Leaves-inspired A Head Full of Ghosts. It’s about a possibly-possessed girl who gets a documentary made about her, but it’s the telling of the story that is so compelling. We get the story from the “possessed” girl’s sisters, the filtered experience of a reporter, and a series of blog posts that dissect the documentary on its 10-year anniversary. There are so many references to other horror novels and movies, far more than I could ever hope to catch, but there are some pretty clever ones from my favorite horror book of all time (House of Leaves) and an absolute whammy from We Have Always Lived In The Castle. It wasn’t a perfect book, and I had a few issues with it, but my overall enjoyment and the high scare-factor (that sun room scene oh my god) overrode all the (small) negatives.

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Hyperion, by Dan Simmons: Hyperion is a book I picked up over a decade ago and never finished. Not because I didn’t enjoy it, but because the first story (The Priest’s Tale) was just 2spooky4me. I have a high scare tolerance but man… that one got me to the bone. I decided to finish the book (and series) this year and, yeah, The Priest’s Tale is just as unbearably freaky the second time around. But Hyperion is also awe-inspiring, heartbreakingly sad, tense as hell, and absolutely magical. This is everything science fiction should be: the main concept does not override the plot, but serves to provide a platform for an absolutely amazing story. While the over-arching plot is great it’s the tales from the pilgrims that make Hyperion shine. Definitely one of the all-time scifi greats, even if the sequels never quite reach its fevered pitch of intensity.

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The Incarnations, by Susan Barker: I love fiction set in Asia, and while my particular area of focus is Japan (especially when written by Japanese authors) I love China too. Or rather the idea of it: with the current censorship from the Chinese government, it’s hard to find modern fiction set in China that really feels like it’s set there, rather than the author just choosing it as an “exotic” set piece. The Incarnations is compared to David Mitchell frequently, and it deserves this high praise: it tells the story of a series of incarnations between two people over a thousand+ years of China’s history. It really feels steeped in culture, and every detail (from historical accuracy to the modern food) is well-researched. Of course none of this means anything if the story isn’t great but oh man is it compelling. It’s part historical fiction, part mystery, and totally amazing. Though all those damn dumpling descriptions will make you hungry, so have a snack ready when reading.

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A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara: This book tore me apart. It’s a devastating read, and contains pretty much every trigger imaginable (self harm, substance abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, child abuse, mental illness, suicide, and more!). It’s amazingly hard to get through, and there’s one scene where I had to physically put down my Kindle because it was too much. Yet for all this book rips your heart to shreds, it’s just… it’s perfection. I loved it so much. Even though it made me cry (multiple times). The characters are the most fleshed-out and realistic I’ve ever encountered in fiction, and while it’s uncompromisingly brutal it’s well worth the read if you have a strong stomach. One of my favorite books of all time, and probably my favorite read of the year.

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Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov: The one “big book” I wanted to read this year that I actually got through! Sure, it isn’t big in terms of length, but it’s one of the most beloved books of all time. That kind of thing makes me nervous. But I shouldn’t have been, because I loved it. I think this is the best execution of the unreliable narrator I’ve ever read: while it’s clear Humbert Humbert isn’t telling us any of the truth and constantly lies to himself or misses incredibly important details, you at times almost find yourself siding with him. Which is truly masterful writing, because it’s about a child rapist who is practically proud of his actions. It’s also downright hilarious at times, a stark contrast to how sad and tragic the overall plot is. The writing is, of course, the star: every sentence is pure poetry.

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The Magician King, by Lev Grossman: The last of the 4 books that made me cry! You’d think the first book in the series, The Magicians, would be on my list. But oh. My. Lord. This book takes everything I loved in the first (super meta, references to fantasy classics, twisted plot, characters you love and love to hate, beautiful writing & worldbuilding) and amped them up to 11. The story here is darker than The Magicians: much darker. Julia’s summoning scene was unbearable to read. But the character growth here is fantastic, and of course it’s more of one of my favorite worlds. Definitely my favorite of the trilogy, though I truly loved all of them. This was my favorite series discovery of the year.

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The Queen, by Tiffany Reisz: Tiffany Reisz is the queen of my heart. I love everything she does, but nothing comes close to the Original Sinners series. Nora is one of my all-time favorite characters, so this book was kind of bittersweet. It’s the end of the series–or at least for a while, since Reisz has since announced that it will continue at some point in the future. So it’s just goodbye for now, not goodbye forever. But man was it hard for me to say farewell to these characters and their world.

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Quicksand, by Junichiro Tanizaki: It’s kind of shocking that I love Japanese literature so much but hadn’t yet read any Junichiro Tanizaki. I certainly fixed that in 2015, and while I liked everything of his that I read Quicksand holds a special place in my heart. Like its namesake, it lures you into a sense of complacency and then you find yourself sinking into absolute madness. It seems like a simple premise: woman cheats on her husband with another woman. But the plot here gets so amazingly, dementedly complex, and it seems like every page there’s a new twist in the plot. It just gets worse and worse for the characters until we’re far into magical realism territory because it’s just so unbelievable–yet because the burn is so slow, you’re never taken out of the core story. It’s a masterfully constructed novel.

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Red Seas Under Red Skies, by Scott Lynch: Another “you ripped my heart out but I loved every second of it” novel. That seems to be a theme of the year, no? Another theme: liking the second book in a trilogy the best. This actually seems to be the least-liked Gentleman Bastards novel but I loved it so much. There’s a heist (of course), pirates, a fantastical casino, plots, sabotage, character development, world development, interesting magic, fantastic female characters, a super interesting twisty plot, and of course more Jean x Locke bromance. It’s everything that makes the series unique and interesting on hyperdrive.

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Satin Island, by Tom McCarthy: This might be the weirdest book I read this year, and it was also one of my favorites. It has no plot, and it barely has characters either. What it does have is some amazing discussion of anthropology, which I have a degree in so of course it was right up my alley! It’s really a series of interconnected stories that answer one of the big anthro questions: how does perception affect reality? What version of an event is the true story? If you like weird philosophical texts that focus on meaning and connections rather than, you know, everything else you’d expect in a book, you might love this! But probably not. I mean, it’s so weird. How did this even get published.

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When We Were Animals, by Joshua Gaylord: I really didn’t expect a young adult book to end up here. It’s a genre that has totally lost my interest, and I tend to skim over any releases that are tagged YA. But all the good reviews (and the compelling plot description) swayed me to pick up When We Were Animals and I am SO thankful I did. This book is ethereal and fantastical, an amazing twist on the coming-of-age story. It’s as wild as its premise makes it out to be, but amazingly deep and with some fantastic characters. I assume it’s YA because of the age of the main characters, because there’s nothing simplified about the writing (which is AMAZING), plot, or characters. I was so enthralled with this book, and I absolutely devoured it.

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The Wide, Carnivorous Sky, by John Langan: I know a lot of people don’t like short stories, but they might be my favorite writing medium. Especially horror & new weird short stories, which these definitely are. This book plays with the format & boundaries of the short story: there’s a play, a movie, and a classroom lecture, along with classic throwbacks to Lovecraft & Poe. The monsters are classics as well (vampires, werewolves, zombies) but the structure of each one is just so fresh and interesting. Every twist was pleasantly unexpected, and I loved every one of these stories. John Langan has quickly moved up on the list of my favorite horror authors, and I can’t wait to catch up on his other books and, of course, to read what he has coming out next!

So that’s it for 2015! As you can see, my favorites were kind of all over the place: literary fiction, fantasy, science fiction, horror, short stories, classics, romance, mystery, young adult, historical fiction, and urban fantasy all had books on the list. And 6 of them were from series I read this year, making me very happy with my decision to hit so many! So what were your favorite books of the year?

December 2015 Wrapup: Part II

1 Jan

I can hardly believe it’s the end of December, but another year has come and gone. With the holiday rush I didn’t have as much time as I usually did for reading this half of the month, and I spent a large chunk of time traveling (4 weekends in a row away from home!), but I still made a decent dent in my ever-growing digital pile of books.

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Alice, by Christina Henry. Finished December 16th. This book is not for those with weak stomachs. It is, in a way, a retelling of Alice in Wonderland: but it is much more so a totally fresh story that uses the world & characters of Alice as set pieces. Alice here is a girl freshly escaped from a mental institution, and there are particularly demented interpretations of the March Hare, the Walrus, the Caterpillar, the Cheshire Cat, and many other familiar faces. This book is absolutely jam-packed with horrific violence against women, but manages to not be exploitative or titillating at all, which is really quite a feat. It’s definitely a hard read, but the writing is beautiful and I loved this dark, violent spin on Alice. Especially Christina Henry’s take on the White Rabbit, who was my absolute favorite part of the book.

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

 

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Lisey’s Story, by Stephen King. Finished December 19th. Onward in my quest to read every Stephen King novel! I know a lot of people dislike “new” King but Revival is probably in my top 3 favorites of his works, and I’ve really enjoyed Doctor Sleep and his newer short stories so I wasn’t hesitant about diving into this. Like most of his books, Lisey’s Story felt comfortably familiar. There’s a character who is a writer, strange & surreal supernatural elements, a psychotic but very human bad guy, a very well fleshed out female main character, and of course something sad happens to an animal. I think the book is overly long, though that’s probably a criticism you can levy about most of his books (especially the more recent ones) but it held my attention all the way through. There’s a scene towards the end that’s one of the most gruesome he’s written, and given the premise (writer’s widow finds out some spooky supernatural stuff) I was not at all expecting the dark direction this turned in.

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

 

 

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Summer, by Edith Wharton. Finished December 20th. Sometimes I feel intensely guilty when I read a classic and don’t particularly enjoy it. Then I have to remember my love for many classics (Dracula, Great Expectations), and that not liking one of them doesn’t make me some kind of uneducated trollop. But man did I feel guilty for not liking this book. I mean, it’s Edith Wharton, it deals with abortion in a time where that was a forbidden topic, it’s a feminist text. And… I mean, I didn’t hate it. The language was beautiful and I got lost in Wharton’s descriptions of the countryside and mountains. But I found the main character insufferably naive but also incredibly fat-headed–not the best combo. The plot was kind of meandering, and Victorian-style romances have never been my thing, so I guess it wasn’t a shock that I found this so-so.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

 

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Poinsettia, by Tiffany Reisz. Finished December 21st. This short holiday-themed novella is part of the Original Sinners series, one of my favorite of all time, so of course I devoured it right before Christmas! It deals with one of the main characters in a time period we’ve never seen him during, which was great, along with a character who was named but never appeared on-page. It was short but sweet–or rather, bittersweet, because it deals with some surprisingly heavy topics that I wasn’t expecting. And perhaps the best part: in the intro, Reisz states that The Queen is “the eighth and final (for now, not forever)” in the series. Which means… more books in the future?! More Nora? Yes, please.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

 

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Among Others, by Jo Walton. Finished December 23rd. My dad has been asking me to read this for about a year now, and I have no idea why it took me so long. Okay, I do know why: the cover reads as total chick-lit, and the premise doesn’t sound the least bit interesting to me. But I adored this! It has a wonderful fairytale feel, but walks a thin line between “this is totally magic!” and “um, is this girl a little unhinged?” The magic system is absolutely beautiful, the fairies are suitably creepy, and the plot is just the kind of slow-paced, character-driven fantasy I adore. But the second layer to the book is what makes it great. Our main character reads a lot of scifi, so the book is sprinkled with discussions & commentary on scifi classics, along with a playful play dance along the barrier between fantasy and science fiction. If you like magical reads that make you wistful for your childhood, but still manage to remain firmly in the “adult” side of the genre, I highly highly recommend this.

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

 

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The Unnoticeables, by Robert Brockway . Finished December 26th. This short novel is a jaunty ride through the 70′s punk scene in New York combined with some splatterpunk horror-comedy centered around a particularly terrifying take on angels. The writing here is irreverently funny and really carries the book along: it reminded me strongly of Sam Pink and Peter Stenson, which is high praise. It kind of tapers off in intensity towards the end and I feel like the plot wasn’t as strong as the characters, writing, & monsters deserved, but I really enjoyed it and am definitely looking forward to whatever Brockway works on next.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

 

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Last Days, by Adam Nevill. Finished December 29th. Oh, Adam Nevill. I can’t quit you. The Ritual is one of my favorite horror novels despite HUGE flaws, and Last Days suffers a similar fate (without being anywhere near as compelling as The Ritual). The first half is strong and creepy, with a slow-burn horror. The second half is a huge, tedious info-dump. Literally dozens upon dozens of pages of one character telling another what’s “actually going on.” Along with relevant info we get a ton of irrelevant tidbits that have nothing to do with the actual plot (including about 20 pages spent describing a painting. No joke). Then, inexplicably, the ending switches into an action flick, removing all of the mystery from the supernatural element and making it almost goofy. There are soooo many issues with this book, which makes me sad because the first half of The Ritual is perfect horror. Yet it seems like Nevill is incapable of building that amount of horror again, let alone finishing a book without derailing it.

Lipstick Rating 2 Full

December 2015 Wrapup: Part I

17 Dec

It’s almost the end of the year, so in preparation for 2016 I better decide on a format. I’ve bounced from individual books to monthly to weekly, but from now on it will be twice a month updates: one for the first two weeks, one for the second two. I find that this is the most comfortable format for me, and I really just need to pick one and stick to it.

With 2015 coming to a close a lot of my attention has been focused on setting up goals for 2016 and going over my best of the year list, but of course I haven’t stopped reading! With the first half of December over I’ve officially finished my series challenge, which means I actually filled all of them but the Big Books one. Yay!

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The Night Sister, by Jennifer McMahon: Finished December 2nd. I found this book kind of confusing. It’s written and paced like a mystery/psychological thriller, but it’s actually supernatural horror? I found myself not really believing that the supernatural aspects were real until the end, and it kind of threw me for a loop. I did like a lot of the characters, and the stories set in the past are very creepy, but I found this hard to love because of the genre whiplash.

Lipstick Rating 2 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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Black Eyed Susans, by Julia Heaberlin: Finished December 4th. I am really over psychological thrillers as a genre because I’ve read, like, 5 good ones (most of them by Gillian Flynn) and just a TON of terrible ones. Yet I keep reading whatever one is popular, because apparently I hate myself. But this one wasn’t half bad! I was very unsatisfied with the ending and felt like it was super cheesy, and I hated the resolution to the mystery, but I adored the characters, plot, and writing style. It was a fast read and honestly kind of forgettable, but I did enjoy it.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

 

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The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith: Finished December 7th. This was my series for the month. It was kind of a risky pick, because I passionately hated JK Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy, but I decided to be brave and give her alter ego a try. And I enjoyed myself! I like the idea of detective/murder mysteries, but unless they’re incredibly well executed (like the Dublin Murder Squad series) they tend to leave a bad taste in my mouth. For me, this was definitely on the better end of the spectrum. I don’t like the main detective at all but I love his assistant Robin, and the mystery was decently intriguing. I didn’t even guess the bad guy!

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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Break, by C D Reiss: Finished December 7th. We all know how much of a guilty pleasure author C D Reiss is for me, especially the Songs of Perdition series. Unlike her other ones, which came out at a pretty rapid pace, there was a huge gap between books 2 and 3 in this series. And I wanted the finale so bad! I think I got my hopes up too high because Break just wasn’t as good as the first two for me. I still loved it because Fiona is amazing and perfect, but I really wanted her to end up alone–or at least realize that she could be alone and didn’t need a guy. I get it, this is romance/erotica so of COURSE she’s going to pick a dude at the end, but I want strong solo Fiona kicking ass all by herself. Still amazing, just with a little less of the magic we saw in Kick and Use.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield: Finished December 9th. This is a Gothic tale about a famous writer whose past is shrouded in mystery and the book seller who has been chosen to write her biography. If you like traditional Gothic literature, deliciously meta themes and lush writing, this will probably be right up your alley. It is as much about the telling of a story as it is an actual story: how you frame things, what pieces you leave up to the reader, how readers & listeners differ in perception. Books about books are basically my favorite thing, so of course I loved this. However, I was kept from totally adoring it: some of the spark kind of dropped off by the end. I’m not even sure what it was, but I found myself less interested at the end than I was at the beginning.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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The Silkworm, by Robert Galbraith: Finished December 12th. JK Rowling, how did I ever doubt you? This book was amazing. Like The Thirteenth Tale, it’s a totally meta book about books. While The Cuckoo’s Calling focused on celebrity, The Silkworm is framed in the publishing industry, so most of the mystery revolves around book publishing politics–and of course the content of books themselves. There’s an amazing book-in-a-book here that totally blew me away: it’s bizarre, revolting, and nothing I would have ever expected from Rowling. And the murder? So creepy! So amazing! I loved how twisted this was. However, one thing keeps it from being perfect: I HATE Strike. Literally hate him. First off, there’s the annoying and outdated noir trope of him being fat and ugly but sleeping with literal supermodels. Of course he uses these women for sex and never calls them again, lovely. He’s a total asshole who doesn’t care about anyone else: and not in an endearing way, in a “my nephew who hero-worships me isn’t worth my time because kids are annoying” kind of way. Yeah. 100% over it.

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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The Killing Lessons, by Saul Black: Finished December 12th. How do cops solve tricky cases? If you think it’s a mix of hard work, dedication, and a dash of intuition, this book is not for you. If you think it’s literally magic than boy oh boy are you going to love this! It’s so. Fucking. Stupid. Cops literally have ~magic intuition moments~ where they ~solve the case~ by going OH MY GOD, MAYBE IT’S X THING THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ANYTHING GOING ON AND I THOUGHT OF BECAUSE OF MY MAGIC COP BRAIN? Example: our detective is looking for one of the killers, who is presumably using a fake name. She sees a poster of Russel Crowe and thinks “dear lord, killer kind of looks like Russel Crowe, I bet… he’s using Crowe as his last name!” And she’s right. What? How? Does that make sense? Who WRITES this shit, let alone publishes it? This book made me so angry. Everything about it is preposterous: our main killer is completely illiterate but can drive while knowing exactly what state he’s in, oh and he can make up a fake alias and buy a house with it (??). Because we all know you don’t need to read & write to legally buy a house. A little girl escapes our killer only to find herself across a broken bridge in the house of an old crippled man who literally can’t walk and has no phones, cars, or heat. In 2014. Our main cop doesn’t eat or sleep for 5+ days and is walking around solving crimes? I CAN’T. I wish I never read this shit.

LipstickRating1Half

 

 

 

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Career of Evil, by Robert Galbraith: Finished December 14th. I think The Silkworm was just too good. It hit so many things I liked, and I really shouldn’t have expected the next book to be anything like it. Which, of course, it’s not. This time the theme is misogyny, which I think Rowling handles amazingly. There are first-person scenes from the killer which are so amazingly creepy without going into overboard-ick. The handling of Robin’s backstory is perfection. And can we just take a moment to appreciate Robin? I LOVE HER.

However, my hatred for Strike grows in every book. Here again are my old issues (sleeping with multiple incredibly hot women and treating them like dirt, being a jerk to literally everyone) but there’s a new one! At one point he knows that there is a child living with a child rapist, and he does nothing about it. Oh, and he gets mad at Robin when she tries to because hey, that’s life, sometimes kids get raped and there’s nothing he can do about it! Except, you know, call the cops and/or confront the guy. I hate Strike so much, guys. If there wasn’t amazing writing and Robin I would be out of here so fast. And if the next book is seriously going down the Strike x Robin romance path I am DONE. Please no.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

November 2015 Wrapup: Weeks 3 & 4

3 Dec

Can you believe that the new year is almost upon us? It feels like yesterday that I sat down and laid out my goals for 2015. I’ve met almost all of them, aside from that list of big books I was scared of finishing, which is… definitely not going to happen in 2015. But 2016 is another year! And anyway, there’s still a month left. November was not a shining reading month for me, and for some reason my progress on books was quite slow given my usual speed, but I still read a good number! So let’s get on to the 2nd and 3rd weeks of November.

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The Secret History, by Donna Tartt. Finished November 18th. This is one of those books that I’ve always been embarrassed to not have read. And while I had grand ideas to finish off a ton of scifi books in November, I picked this up instead of my next planned book. Reading moods are temperamental things, and I never want to force myself to read something I’m not in the mood for, so I just went with it. “Group of smart/pretentious teenagers/young adults are in a close-knit school group with ~secrets~” is a genre I love, and this is basically the ur-text for that. So, of course, I really enjoyed it.

I feel like everyone has already read this, so I probably don’t have a single new thing to add to the discussion. I find that most people either love or hate the characters, while I had a mix of both: I loved everyone but Bunny (which is funny, because he’s probably the most-loved character in the context of the book). I love how all the twists and turns are perfectly apparent when you go back and look at everyone’s actions and relationships: they are a surprise when you’re reading, but not some of those “where the hell did that come from???” twists (which I really don’t enjoy, since they stretch believability for me). I both loved and hated that pivotal scenes are told in bits and pieces, or not at all. The writing was lush and beautiful, the characters deep and twisted, and I really loved the slow, methodical pace of the plot.

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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A Deepness In The Sky, by Vernor Vinge. Finished November 22nd. Almost everyone likes this more than the first one in the series, A Fire Upon The Deep. I liked it significantly less. It had the same plot structure as AFUTD, with contrasting low- and high-tech civilizations, but… it’s just not the same. The high-tech storyline, which is really the center of the book, I might actually like better than the one in AFUTD. It contrasts two very different human societies and the clash of morals and culture was just awesome. It took a very dark turn early on, which I liked, though I found myself never really connecting to the characters.

My main issue with this book was the alien culture. Or really, the “alien” culture. These things are supposed to be huge, sentient spiders that developed on an incredibly harsh world, but their society is basically a carbon copy of 1950′s earth. They drive cars, listen to the radio, and even have military units structured just like American ones. There’s an explanation for this, but I found it really unsatisfying. And my #1 gripe: this is a science fiction book. It takes place on & around a planet whose sun goes dark every 60 years or so. That is a wickedly cool concept. And you’d think the science aspect would center around that, but instead it focuses on the on-ship and on-world tech, which I didn’t find particularly interesting. Despite my complaints I did like this book, I just didn’t love it and I thought it was a huge disappointment coming off the amazingness of the first one.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes. Finished November 23rd. After two very long books, I needed something short. This actually has the same basic premise as The Secret History (group of pretentious close-knit kids, something tragic happens, secrets are uncovered), though a large chunk of it follows what happens when these pretentious kids grow up. This is an incredibly short novel, but it packs a huge emotional punch. There are layers upon layers of meaning and secrecy that are slowly uncovered–or rather, quickly uncovered because the book is so short. But it fells long despite its brevity, probably because of the depth in the language & plot. This was a great palate-cleanser.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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Brutal Youth, by Anthony Breznican. Finished November 25th. Another group of kids at school with ~secrets~. The unintentional theme of this month! I would have enjoyed this book so much more if it wasn’t YA. I’m so over young adult as a genre that I probably wouldn’t even have read it if I knew that going in. The writing here was too simple for the relatively heavy subject matter. There was a sort of flat affect to it, which given that this is a book about heavy bullying and a lot of very dark topics like abused children and suicide, was just not fitting.

There were many things I did like: I think the story was very strong and hit some incredibly emotional notes, and the characters were well-rounded. Even the ones I hated, like Lorelai, I felt like I understood. However, some of the plot is quite predictable. There are some twisty bits that you can see coming a mile off. I do wish there was a bit more building of suspense because a lot of very tragic things happen, but there’s just not enough emotional content in the writing itself. I think this book had a lot of potential and fell into the “simplify everything!” trope that’s so rampant in YA now. With some less cartoon-evil villains and more subtle writing, this would have been amazing.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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The Children of the Sky, by Vernor Vinge. Finished November 30th. I’m really bucking the trends with this series. I loved the first book, felt kind of meh about the second, and loved this one–which most people, it seems, dislike. Unlike the first two, this book focuses solely on a low-tech world (and is a direct sequel to A Fire Upon The Deep). In fact, this is probably more of a fantasy book than a scifi one. Sure, there’s some cool tech, but this is mostly about the weird alien world. The Tines, the pack-minds from the first book, are the real focus here. This book is really heavily about alien politics, spying, betrayal, and secrecy. I love all those things! I love the Tines! I love the human characters on the Tines world. Character development here is also pretty heavy, which I found lacking from A Deepness In The Sky. This… this actually might be my favorite of the three. It would be for sure if Greenleaf was more than a super minor character (though man was I happy to see her again!).

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

Dupe Hunting: Shiro’s Cake

18 Nov

As you probably know, Shiro is discontinuing their Randomly Generated collection. It wasn’t one of their most popular overall, but unfortunately it contains one of their most beloved colors: Cake, a pearly white with a red shift. It’s a great multi-purpose product, because it’s just as good as a highlight as it is as a shadow. It’s also pretty much impossible to find a highlighter with a red shift, so Cake is a coveted product. And, after December 31st, it will be no more. So what’s a Cake-loving girl to do? Go dupe hunting! I sifted through all my shadows and found 4 shades in the same family. Anyway, let’s get on to the swatches!

[UPDATE] Apparently Cake will NOT be leaving us forever! Well, this formula will be: Caitlin will be reformulating it and adding it to the sandbox next year. She says it will be an improved version, so I can’t wait to see it!

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[all swatches applied dry over bare skin]

From top to bottom we have:

Shiro’s Cake: The original! Cake has a sheer neutral-white base and a very strong true red shift. It’s also glittery: I hadn’t worn it in a while and in my mind it was a satin finish, but there are definite sparkles going on. [Buy here]

Dawn Eyes’ Alena: Alena is superficially similar to Cake. It has a shift in the same family, but the base color is golden white instead of Cake’s pure cream. It’s also much more of a satin finish, lacking the sparkles of Cake. Personally, I find Alena a lot more wearable as a highlight color though it’s not a perfect dupe. [Buy here]

Dawn Eyes’ Early AM Vineyard: This Dawn Eyes color is a lot closer to Cake. It’s just a sparkly, and the base color is nearly identical. However, the shift is a pinky red instead of a true red.  [Buy here]

Dusk Cosmetics’ Moro: Moro is very, very close to Cake at first glance. There are a few differences: Moro has a silvery-white base that leans cool, and it’s much stronger in color than Cake. The shift is not as strong, though the color is nearly identical. It’s also about equal in glitter levels. [Buy here]

The Chequered Lily’s Snow, Glass, Apples: Snow, Glass, Apples is like a more glittery version of Cake, if you can imagine such a thing.The base is quite sheer, a feature of Cake that a lot of the other dupes are missing, though it leans a little grayer than Cake’s. The shift is also a little pinker.  [Buy here]

So there you have it! 5 almost-dupes of Cake. I think Moro is the closest to the original, though I prefer Alena for use as a highlighter. If you want something like Cake but a bit cooler, Early AM Vineyard is great, and for a more glittery version try out Snow, Glass, Apples. Sadly none of them are totally identical to the original, and I’m crossing my fingers that Shiro decides to keep it as a permanent color.

November 2015 Wrapup: Weeks 1 & 2

17 Nov

I had kind of a bumpy start to November, which is why I didn’t do a wrapup for week 1. I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted my reading to go in and felt generally kind of slump-y. Actually, I’ve been doing a lot of dual-week wrapups which you might have noticed. I’m still trying to figure out if weekly or bi-weekly is best: I’d like to stick to one format, but it really depends on how many books I finish in a week! I mean, does anyone want a weekly update if I only finish 1 or 2 books? But if I do 5 in a week, I don’t want to wait until the next one to review. It’s a conundrum. Anyway, let’s get into the reading adventures!

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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by JK Rowling. Finished November 3rd. So in the beginning of November I felt kind of lost. Most months I have a theme (like October was horror) or I pick out a series. My to-read list is intimidatingly long, so I always have something to pick from. But I don’t know what it is about November… it’s my least-favorite month, I feel the most blue, and I just didn’t know what to do with my (reading) self. So, back to comfort food, which for me is Stephen King, Harry Potter, or one of my favorite books. I went with a combo: my favorite Harry Potter! I don’t know how many times I’ve read this, so does it even count? But this time no skim reading, I took my time and felt all those good nostalgia tingles.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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Brady VS Manning, by Gary Meyers. Finished November 5th. So I’ve probably never mentioned it on this blog, but I have a passionate love of football. I’ve been watching it practically my whole life, but oddly I’ve never combined my love of books and love of football. My mom actually downloaded this one and asked me if I wanted to buddy read it and I was like, hell yes! Finally, these two areas of my life are combined!

If you don’t like football, this is not the book for you. Even if you do like football, it might not be for you. If you like reading endless stats, checking rankings on 6 different sites every week, scrolling through every article about your favorite team… then man, you are gonna love this. It’s filled with an insane amount of details, stats, and anecdotes about (of course) Brady and Manning. I love Manning and hate Brady (though baby Eli is my fave, of course) but even I felt bad for Brady while reading his backstory. This isn’t a perfect book, though: the writing is kind of dry and repetitive, and I feel like there was more about Brady than there was Manning (plus Meyers skims over the Eli/Brady rivalry). In terms of enjoyment based purely on my nerd-like love of football, this was 5 stars. Based on writing, probably 3. So I tried to round the rating out right in the middle.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff. Finished November 8th. As you can see, I was all over the place in the first week of November. People kept mentioning this book right along with A Little Life in terms of their favorites of the year and for some reason I thought “hey, I could really go for some dense and depressing literary fiction!” And that was such a good decision, because I LOVED it, and it really got me back in the mood for reading. I went into this expecting a book about marriage with two unlikeable main characters, because that is what basically every review frames it as. But that’s not what Fates & Furies is at all. It is a book about a marriage, but it is not really a book about marriage as a theme or institution. And the main characters are far from good, but they are hardly unlikeable. They’re complex and wonderfully real.

This book is really about deception, betrayal, and revenge. It’s subtle, and doesn’t really come together until the end, but it does so beautifully. There is also the question of memory, perception, and whether our actions really matter in the grand scheme of things, a theme I really adore. What makes something the “true” version of events when everyone remembers it differently? Does it even matter? I could say SO much about this book (and have!) so you can check out a more in-depth review here.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge. Finished November 12th. I wasn’t really feeling like a long fantasy series for November, so I turned to scifi! Because let’s be honest, those are the genres that most often have series. I picked this book kind of at random, but I guess not really randomly because my dad recommended it to me a few months ago right around when I read Axis. While I love most forms of science fiction, my favorites are definitely space horror and space opera: the more epic the better. So this, a super epic space opera, is right in my wheelhouse. It also has one of my favorite, and super-obscure, features: when a book combines the story of a very high-tech world with a very low-tech one (as seen in The Void trilogy and the last book in the Revelation Space series). Part of A Fire Upon The Deep takes place in an advanced civilization with crazy tech and aliens (including talking coral), while the other is on a medieval world with some of the craziest aliens I’ve ever met. I won’t spoil it, but they are just… amazing.

The world here is EPIC. You could easily set 10 books in it and still have enticing material. The premise is that the galaxy is divided into zones that limit what technology works. There’s the Unthinking Deep, which is at the center and where basically nothing works; the Slowness (where humanity started out and only basic tech functions); the Beyond, which is super high-tech; and the Transcend, where post-physical all-powerful beings dwell. The plot goes between the zones, and gives us what is essentially a light-years-long high speed chase (awesome!). I don’t want to give away much of the plot, but if you like scifi that gives you that sense of wonder, read this. You won’t regret it! Unless you do. Then you can blame me.

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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Slow Bullets, by Alastair Reynolds. Finished November 12th. As you might have guessed, November is going to be scifi month! After A Fire Upon The Deep I wanted more. I loved the Revelation Space series and there’s many Alastair Reynolds books I haven’t read, so I decided to dive into the newest one. This is actually a novella, so it’s kind of impossible to even describe the basic plot without spoilers (I would recommend not reading a synopsis before diving in). It reminded me of how much I love Reynolds: his bleak worlds, the amazing fresh ideas, his strong female characters and grey morality. I loved every single aspect of this. If you like happier, bright scifi with a sense of hope this might not be for you. But if you like a more cynical worldview, you should definitely try out Reynolds.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, by Stephen King. Finished November 15th. I was so bummed that this book didn’t come out in October (since, you know, spooky book month) and then I totally forgot about it. Oops! Better late than never. I love King and his short stories are definitely my favorite thing he does, so of course I had to read his new collection. Unlike his earlier ones, Skeleton Crew and Night Shift, this contains a mix of horror and straighter literary fiction. Of course there’s an element of the macabre in everything he touches, but this collection is definitely lighter on the horror. There are almost no monsters! I know, crazy. But it still reads like classic King.

We have a car story, quite a few dissolving marriages (including the amazing “Morality,” which is already one of my favorites of his), sad tales of aging parents, creepy evil kids (like in “Bad Little Kid” one of my favorites from the collection), stories clearly reflective of King’s addictive past and his post-accident pain, and of course a classic apocalyptic tale (“Summer Thunder” which is so brilliant and it almost made me cry, because sad animal stuff). There were, as always, a few duds (“Premium Harmony,” “The Dune,” and “Blockade Billy” didn’t really do much for me) but were more than balanced out by the good. The longer stories, like “Ur” and “Obits” were just spectacular. A really well-rounded collection.

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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The Grownup, by Gillian Flynn. Finished November 15th. Two years ago, when I did my first 52 book challenge, I devoured all of Gillian Flynn’s books (Sharp Objects was my favorite).  I’ve been waiting patiently for a new one, but with all of her movie work it seems like we might be waiting a few more years. But in between, a bit of Flynn in the form of a short story. It was actually originally published in Rouges, a short story collection, but I have such an aversion to R.R. Martin that I skipped it. Thankfully a solo version has been released.

I have mixed feelings on this. It’s got all the traits of her work: a morally ambiguous and ambitious female protagonist, manipulative people, twists and turns, and the stereotypical dark undertone we’ve come to expect. But it was WAY too short, and the various twists at the end were way too close together and felt incredibly rushed. I would have enjoyed this a lot more as a novella, with more time given to flesh out the characters & motivations. The ending was just too ambiguous, and we don’t have enough information to make an informed decision about what we “think” happened. Enjoyable enough for a short read, but also kind of disappointing.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

October 2015 Wrapup: Weeks 3 & 4

5 Nov

Sadly, spooky book month has come and gone! Even though I will probably continue reading horror into November because it’s really what I am in the mood for. I read a ton of great stuff in October, and I feel good about how much I got through even though (for the first time this year!) I didn’t read a series. I just wasn’t feeling it and didn’t want to force myself to read something I didn’t want to. So, aside from that one Kate Daniels novel at the beginning of the month, no series this month! Which I actually feel okay about.

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Burnt Black Suns, by Simon Strantza. Finished Oct 21st. So this month I was really in the mood for short stories, especially horror and new weird ones. I blame it on Cthulhurotica! People who love Laird Barron recommend this collection over and over, so I had to take a shot at it. The opening story (“On Ice”) is a wonderful Lovecraftian tale, and there’s some Ligotti inspired work here as well, but a lot of it is original in both concept and execution. “One Last Bloom,” a short novella about scientists and creepy things under the sea, was by far my favorite.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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Blackout, by Tim Curran. Finished October 22nd. This book sounds like everything you’d want in an October book. The storm of the century! Tentacles descending from the sky! A small town plagued by horror! Sadly, it falls completely flat. Sure, the core concept is really cool (and the ending is the only thing that saves it from mediocrity), but nothing else stood up. The characters were boring, the action was so expected, the plot was… kind of dull. Kind of disappointing, because the monsters were totally fantastic.

Lipstick Rating 2 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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The Children of the Old Leech, curated by Ross E. Lockhart. Finished October 23rd. I adore Laird Barron, so of course I had to read a collection inspired by this cosmos. Sadly, this was not exactly what I was expecting. None of the stories have that same spark that Barron puts in everything he touches, it’s more just stories set in his world (but lacking a lot of my favorite elements). The entire first half was, for the most part, kind of dull. But the second half was incredibly strong with a lot of great stories. It left me feeling like I really enjoyed it, but looking back it was just terribly uneven. The stories should have been in a totally different order, and I wish there had been more… pizzazz? in them. Some of the stories were 5 stars for sure, but it’s hard to rate overall because I was kind of disappointed in the experience.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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The Wide, Carnivorous Sky by John Langan. Finished October 26th. After a kind of mediocre short story collection, I read an amazing one. SO amazing. Everything about this is perfect. John Langan takes classic horror tropes, like zombies, vampires, exorcism, and werewolves, and mashes them up with super inventive story structures. There’s a play, a movie, a classroom lecture, and a second-person piece of investigative journalism. Interspersed are stories inspired by the greats, like Lovecraft and The King In Yellow. The writing in this collection is so amazing: weird, lush, and wildly innovative. I’m totally in love with this author.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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Slade House, by David Mitchell. Finished October 27th. Usually we get a David Mitchell book every 4 years, so it was weird to have one a year after The Bone Clocks. But the two are connected, so it makes sense! This is a novella about a house–kind of a haunted house (so it fits the spooky book month theme)–that appears every 9 years. And the plot is directly connected to all the magical goings-on of TBC, so the two are linked. You could technically read Slade House without having read TBC, but I wouldn’t recommend it. There are so many references (both to TBC and other Mitchell novels) that this really is not a good starting place. But if you are a Mitchell fan, this book is like candy. Intensely creepy, suffused with magical realism and great characters, along with a tight plot that brings in some great characters from other novels. I actually liked this more than The Bone Clocks: the plot was tighter and the magic system seemed more cohesive (though that’s probably because I knew all about it before I went in).

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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The Queen, by Tiffany Reisz. Finished October 28th. I have been reading the Original Sinners book series for years. The characters practically feel like extended family. And now we’ve come to the end. This book was kind of heartbreaking to read, because I knew I’d get to the end and then it would be over. I can’t mention anything about the plot because it would just be… a lot of spoilers, but it was perfect. A great end for all the characters, along with a really nice explanation of what happened before the first book kicked off. Nora, I’m going to miss you so much!

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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The Red Tree, by Caitlín R. Kiernan. Finished October 31st. It’s fitting that I spent a month reading horror and saved the creepiest book for last (though not intentionally). Caitlin Kiernan is mentioned whenever someone brings up Laird Barron, John Langan, and all those guys (who I have obviously been exploring in depth this month) so of course I just had to read her. This novel is amazing–it has a simple plot that allows the horror to really build to peak tension, and also my favorite plot device: the book-in-a-book! There’s both a found manuscript and mysterious short stories over the course of The Red Tree, which is basically my favorite thing ever. It’s so creepy and atmospheric, with moments of absolutely chilling horror.

Lipstick Rating5 Full