May 2016 Reading Wrapup | Part I

9 May

After the amazing end of April, I continued on the “reading lots of arcs” trend. While I did read a lot this week, I felt like somehow my progress was slowing down. Probably because while the number is still high, I read quite a few shorter things: 4 books of poetry and a graphic novel. But hey, reading is reading, and one of my (unofficial) goals this year was to read more diversely in terms of format. So, I definitely accomplished that this week!

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The Girls, by Emma Cline. Read May 1st. This book was really a case of “it’s not you, it’s me.” I think most people are going to love this, and I get all the hype surrounding it. The writing is amazing, and it’s infinitely quotable. Emma Cline captures the experience of being a teenage girl so, so well. Everything Evie, our main character, feels was so eerily familiar to me. The way your youth becomes all about presenting yourself, trying on different identities and seeing what people make of you. The way you’re shaped not by how you feel about yourself, but by how others see you.

This book is really two things: a book about a fictionalized Manson family and a book about being a young teenage girl. The two meld together well but I found myself wanting more from both, like the balance between them is so even we don’t get enough depth from either end. Evie spends a lot of time working on her feminine presentation, sexualizing herself from a young age as she’s been socialized to do. There’s some great moments where the extend of sexual abuse and assault that 99% of girls go through (the guy flashing you in the movies, a drunk trying to stick his hand down your pants, mom’s boyfriend being really inappropriate, a terrifying moment in a car with a stranger) is really put into focus. Most of us have experienced it, and there’s a tendency to push it away and laugh about it and say, “oh, that’s just life, it wasn’t anything serious!” when it so greatly shapes how we view ourselves. The sexualization of girls is fed by the violence and pressure around them, but also conflates those experiences. It’s a fascinating dynamic, but this book discusses it just enough to whet your appetite without going in-depth. I wanted more on these topics, which were handled so well but tapered off before I felt the discussion was finished.

The titular Girls are part of a sanitized Manson family. It’s the Mansons without the racism and with way less violence and murder. This is an odd choice, because for so many parts this could almost be a true crime novel. The characters are directly related to the actual Manson family, and so are almost all of the events surrounding them. And while we get tons of creepy cult moments, it’s just much cleaner than reality was. It was an odd choice to remove Helter Skelter and the race war (and yet not have any black characters, smh) but keep in everything else. Except there’s only one murder here (well, 4 people die, but there’s one murderous event), where the real life Mansons killed many times. It’s just… strange editorial decisions that I don’t really understand. In my mind, I’d like it either 100% true to reality OR vastly different and just inspired by reality. My brain got stuck up on all the similarities and differences here, which I found a little distracting.

My favorite part, by far, was the friendship between Evie and Suzanne, the main Manson girl. You know I love toxic, passionate female friendships and we get an amazing one here, along with a discussion of sexual fluidity (though, like before, this is really not gone into enough for me–I wanted more self reflection!). All in all, I’m torn. Parts of this book were magnificent and parts left me wanting.

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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My Best Friend’s Exorcism, by Grady Hendrix. Finished May 2nd. I read Hendrix’s Horrorstor earlier this year and enjoyed it but didn’t love it, so my expectations weren’t super high for this. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised!

I’m not sure if it’s common with readers or just a particular quirk of mine, but whenever I read a book about exorcism I spend the majority of the time trying to guess if it’s a “real” possession or just plain old madness. I never quite believe it’s a devil inside of someone, no matter how strange it gets. I think most books either play it too “obviously it’s just a crazy person” or go so overboard with the demon stuff I kind of lose interest. Few books walk that line really well, which is why exorcism horror is a genre I rarely read. When it’s done well, though, it’s brilliant, like A Head Full of Ghosts.

Given my high rating for this I’m assuming you can guess how it fares in the is-it-a-demon curve. It’s an interesting book: I guess, technically, it’s young adult. It’s about a group of teen girls, and while it’s about demons and shit it’s mostly about friendship. But it doesn’t have any of the obnoxious YA tropes that have recently put me off the genre (insta-love, love triangles, everyone’s an orphan, “special magical girl,” etc). It’s YA as it should be: a story about young people that doesn’t feel dumbed down for the audience.

I am a particular sucker for books that center on female friendship, and that’s really the core here. Gretchen and Abby have a wonderful, realistic teen relationship with all of the ups and downs that come with it. And, of course, the possession works as a metaphor for diverging personalities and the angst of losing a close friend. It’s also got some great gross-out moments (vomit, worms, dead birds, everything you could want) along with some really emotional moments centered around violence (the bathtub, sob). And while it takes over 80% of the book to get to the exorcism, what an exorcism it is. Emotionally charged and comedic while being quite dark and hard to read.

This is horror based firmly in reality. A lot of the issues the girls deal with (eating disorders, sexual violence, the ignorance of adults) are realistically what real teens face. Of course there’s an added layer of threat here, but none of the “teen drama” feels overplayed or out of touch (though this is a book that takes place in the 80′s). Definitely recommended if a blend of female friendship and horror is up your alley.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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Last Sext, by Melissa Broder. Finished May 3rd. Poetry is a tricky thing to review. Reading it is so deeply personal, and a great poem for one person is not an objectively great poem for another. For example: I hate Emily Dickenson. I don’t think she is a bad poet, but nothing she’s written has moved me at all. I find her very dry. And a lot of people find her one of the best poets to ever write. So when I say I loved and adored Last Sext what I mean is that it spoke to my soul in a way few collections of poetry do.

This is a raw, visceral collection. The bones of Melissa Broder are splayed open. It’s dark, twisted, and lyrical. There are moments of quiet self-reflection, but more loud and explosive moments of violence (against others, against the self, against god). Gender, self identity, sex, death, and god are the main themes: all things that are pretty much universal, but she handles them in a way that felt so unique. At times the lines are so personal and exposed you almost want to look away, until you realize you identify so strongly with them it brings tears to your eyes.

This is not an easy reading collection. There are many changes in tense, pronoun, subject… pretty much any linguistic comfort is turned on its head. There’s lots of vomit and drowning and death. The language is at times crude, not for shock value but to highlight the raw grossness of the human experience. The whole book is a struggle, and it reads like one. Nothing is clean or neatly wrapped up. Emotions are not displayed in little glass boxes for the reader to go “oh, yes, I’ve felt that.” They sweep you up like the thematic ocean that runs through many of the poems, and it’s easy to get lost in them. If you like darker, more experimental poetry with a depressing twist I would definitely recommend giving this a go, but if you like the more traditional it probably isn’t for you.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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History, by David O’Hanlon. Finished May 3rd. As I said, I find it very difficult to review poetry. Either it speaks to me or it doesn’t. And for the things that don’t, it’s really hard to say “objectively, here are all the issues with it.” It’s just a matter of taste. With a novel you can point to characterization or plot holes and say “this is why I didn’t like it.” With poetry? Yeah… hard to pinpoint why, exactly, I found this kind of middle-of-the-road.

I think mostly it’s thematic. I like my poetry either dark and surreal or very descriptive. This is a more homey, cozy set of poems. Even when the poems tackle ancient Greek myths or works of literature, it still feels comforting and somehow familiar (though not derivative). And wholly based in real, prosaic life. The language is nice, but it’s more choppy (without being surreal) than I generally prefer. I don’t think this is a bad collection by any means, it’s just not really for me.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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White Sand Vol 1, by Brandon Sanderson. Finished May 4th. This has pretty much everything you’d expect in a Brandon Sanderson work, only it’s accompanied by beautiful illustrations. And I do mean beautiful: the art here is just gorgeous, really evocative and does a great job creating a unique alien world. And while this is a desert planet, it’s not like your usual scifi desert world. Sure, there’s giant beasts under the sand, but in this world the earth is in perpetual day and the sand is a conduit for magic.

Of course there’s a cool magic system: it involves manipulating the sand itself, everything from using it to move around to transmuting it to water. So far we haven’t seen a ton of how it works, so it’s not as complex as, say, Mistborn’s magic, but it’s interesting and I’m looking forward to seeing how it’s used in the next volumes. Especially since our main hero, Kenton, is a novice and will be discovering his powers right along with the audience. Speaking of Kenton, I found him the least-interesting of the characters, but that’s almost always true with Sanderson novels. I’d pick pretty much any character in Alloy of Law over Wax and Vin is okay, but I’d hang with Sazed over her any day.

There are of course other Brandon Sanderson traits in full effect. We have some really great characters (Khriss and Aark were my favorites), and this is also one of his more diverse books. All of the people who live on the Darkside of the planet (which I REALLY hope we see in vol 2 or 3) are black. There are tons of interweaving plotlines that have already started to come together in interesting ways. We’ve got lots of magic-driven fights. And while there are no big twists (yet, I expect many later on) there is a particularly brutal plot shift that happens towards the beginning. I hadn’t read the synopsis so it came as a bit of a shock to me!

If you like Sanderson, you’re going to like this. Don’t expect as much character development or complex magic as his written works, because that’s not something you’ll get a ton of in a visual format, but it has all of his flare. Plus any Cosmere fan has to be DYING to find out what the deal with Khriss is.

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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Your Glass Head Against the Brick Parade of Now Whats, by Sam Pink. Read May 4th. This was my one non-arc read of the week. I’m a huge Sam Pink fan, and Rontel single-handedly cured me of of fear of tarantulas. Not spiders in general, they still terrify me. But tarantulas? No big deal thanks to our lord & savior Sam Pink. And I was obviously on a bit of a poetry kick, so when I found out I Pink had written a collection? Oh hell yeah. Also I had a bunch of Amazon credit saved up from shipping things slow as hell and I felt like burning them.

Anyway, I don’t even know what to say about this. It’s so perfect. If you’ve ever been depressed and not known where your life was going, but gotten to that point where it’s kind of funny? You know, you’re all “wow life can’t really be THIS bad” and your depression is all, “haha, guess what, I’m gonna make it worse!” And you laugh and cry at the same time because how even? That’s Sam Pink in a nutshell. He’s a national treasure.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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Whispers in the Mist, by Lisa Alber. Finished May 5th. To start off, this is the second book in a series but you definitely can start with it (or read it as a stand-alone). While there’s some mention of the previous book and we obviously get character and relationship-related spoilers, not an inch of the mystery from Kilmoon is talked about. So the ending (and the case, really) of the first book are kept totally in the dark! Which I appreciate, because I tend to read mystery novels out of order based on the plot summary (and let’s be honest, the cover. It’s spooky woods! of course I need to read it!).

The location is really the star of this novel. It’s set in a sleepy town in Ireland, and there’s a lot of folklore elements to the mystery. People are convinced it’s the Grey Man, a spirit who lives in the mist, who is murdering ‘Lost Boys.’ There’s also a sparrow-as-psychopomp theme running throughout that I found really intriguing.

It’s hard to pinpoint what I didn’t love about this. Not that I disliked it, but I ended up feeling kind of lukewarm. I loved the setting and the atmosphere. The characters (especially Gemma, Alan, and the dog Bijou) were really well rendered. There were many different plot threads that came together beautifully, and I was actually surprised by the very final reveal. But. But. I guessed the bad guy about 50 pages in (I really think it was too obvious, and not a case of having read too many mysteries because it’s not my usual genre), and the plot relies on amnesia in a key witness. A plot trend I’m pretty darn tired of, even if it was trauma-induced here and made a lot of sense. Or, you know, more sense than it does in most thriller/mystery books.

While individual elements here were great and I think there’s a lot of potential in this series, it never quite came together for me. However, I will say that it’s miles better than most mystery series out there. Good characters, quite decent writing, and a really wonderful setting. I’d definitely be willing to pick up the next book.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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Reward for Winter, by Di Slaney. Finished May 7th. This is a hard book to pin down. It’s part poetry, part flash fiction. It’s non-fiction with an edge of the fantastical. Lyrical but realistic. A lot of contrasting elements that wouldn’t seem to fit together, but they do–and beautifully.

I tend to like my poetry pretty description-dense. Give me 20 pages of descriptions of mountains and trees and goats. And this slim collection, which is divided into 3 very separate parts, really delivers on that. The first section centers on Di Slaney’s farm, the animals and the chores and the day-to-day reality of it. It’s earthy and homey and beautifully written. I mean, there are goats and cats. What more could I want?

The second section, my favorite, is about the life and times of a single chicken. That may not sound interesting but man, Slaney made it work. Plus it’s passively educational, teaching me all kinds of chicken-related tidbits without feeling like a school lesson. I could read a massive volume that was just her embodying different animals. The life of a cow. The life of a pig. Yeah, bring it on.

The third, and my least-favorite, was about some of the history of her farm & village. It was actually pretty interesting and covers some unusual historical events (a king hiding in a box, witch trials, forbidden love in the middle ages), but for some reason it just didn’t speak to me like the first two sections. I suppose it’s because these poems are much less personal, and telling a story rather than dealing with emotions.

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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The Sunlight Pilgrims, by Jenni Fagan. Finished May 7th. This beautiful little book is, technically, science fiction. It takes place in the very near future and after reading it you might get a little nervous about the state of the world. The main event here is the melting of the polar icecaps, which starts to plunge earth into a new ice age. This, however, is really background noise to the main story, which focuses on a few lost souls in a trailer park in Scotland. They’re dealing with the incredibly cold weather, but also with their own twisted lives.

We have Dylan, a refugee from London who just lost his mother and grandmother in a 6-month period, and also the cinema both women devoted their lives to. There’s Stella, a teenage trans girl who is struggling with her body and classmates, waging a war of acceptance in a small and insular town. There’s Constance, Stella’s mother, who accepts her daughter with open arms but worries endlessly about her future. And she also is in a, shall we say, non-traditional romance with two men that causes the other townies to look down on her a bit.

In a way, this is a family drama. It’s also about the importance of identity. Stella is an amazingly rendered character, and Jenni Fagan captures the day to day struggles of a trans girl so so well. I loved every second of being in her head, even if it was incredibly painful at times. I think this is a great example of dysphoria and a good place for people who want to understand the trans experience to start, because Stella is wonderfully relateable.

The apocalyptic aspect plays out slowly, with days growing steadily colder and colder in the background. We get snippets of news from around the globe, but this book is not heavy on the science aspect at all. Not that that’s a bad thing: not every scifi book needs to be hard and dense. It’s more like Station Eleven, where the event just serves as a backdrop to study human nature.

Until the very end, this was a 5-star read for me. I honestly have no problem with open-ended or ambiguous endings (and I did like how this ended), but there was an important plot thread left totally hanging. I was really frustrated that there was no closure, or even mention, of it at the end. It just kind of faded away and the characters never even got to talk about it, and given how character-driven this is I was kind of desperate to see it play out.

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

Reading Challenge Progress

119/175 Books

14/33 Series Books

40/50 TBR Books

17/15 Different Countries

[arcs provided by Netgalley in exchanged for an honest review]

April 2016 Reading Wrapup: Part II

1 May

I know I said that April would be the month of no new books (aka only reading what I already own, both physical and digital copies). But I ended up getting a lot of ARCs in the middle of the month, which are obviously top priority. So I decided to devote some time to reading them, which goes against my initial goals. But hey, what can I say, I was distracted by shiny new things. I also (finally) did Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon on Saturday, leading to a LOT more books read than what I would usually tackle. Like, way way more–I read 6 books in that one chunk of time. So let’s get started!

[...]

April 2016 Reading Wrapup: Part I

22 Apr

April is my birthday month, which gives me 1) an excuse to buy books I probably shouldn’t and 2) an excuse to read way more than any human should. So April started off with a real bang, and a reading pace that I definitely won’t be able to sustain the whole month! This month I resolved to only read books that I already own (both physical and digital) with no new purchases/downloads, and it’s been going really well so far… though the second half of April will be different for some very good reasons, which I’ll get to when that part goes up.

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Summertime All The Cats Are Bored, by Philippe Georget. Finished April 1st. Let’s be honest, I picked this up because of the absolutely amazing name. I saw it on the shelf at B&N and it was love at first look. It’s a noir, but a very different noir: our main detective is a homebody who doesn’t want any promotions, no one at the station really wants to do a ton of work, people make actual mistakes, there are no red herrings, and the main detective is not some crazy super-genius–the police force actually works together to solve it! It’s definitely a breath of fresh air in the mystery genre. The mystery itself isn’t really the highlight: the characters and the intricacies of the language take the forefront here.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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Dream Houses, by Genevieve Valentine. Finished April 1st. I have a thing for space horror set in alien and/or abandoned space ships. It’s a very small subgenre, but man, when it’s good… magic happens. Like in Dream Houses, which is about a woman on board a ship ferrying goods from one star to another. She wakes up very early to find that the crew has been murdered, and the ship is… shall we say… not entirely sane. It’s so gorgeous. Lyrical, haunting, creepy, evocative. I loved every second of this.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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Tram 83, by Fiston Mwanza Mujila. Finished April 2nd. Read for the Man Booker International longlist. I’d like to point out that I read, like, 6 books off of it and not a single one made the shortlist. Not even Man Tiger! My luck, guys, is horrible. I know I rated this book pretty lowly but it’s really on me, not the book. It’s just very… masculine? 2 guys in a club talking about women in a super objectifying way (there’s lots of child prostitution here that’s scarily normalized), there’s very little plot. It’s just nothing I like in a book and I wouldn’t have read it if it wasn’t on the longlist, so I feel kind of bad trashing it. Because the writing was very inventive and cool, but I didn’t like any of the content.

Lipstick Rating 2 Full

 

 

 

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The Silent History, by Eli Horowitz. Finished April 5th. World War Z meets disability. This is about a silent plague that sweeps the world: children are suddenly born unable to talk or even understand language. It’s told in snippets from many different people (everything from parents to scientists to stray people obsessed with the Silents). I don’t know if everyone will love this, but my brother is autistic so this hit really close to home and felt very important. The Silent children are a clear metaphor for both autism and deafness, and really highlight the messed-up way that our society treats disability. It’s a hard read, but wonderfully told with an absolutely spectacular ending.

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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The Mad Ship, by Robin Hobb. Finished April 7th. I love fantasy, but I don’t tend to read high/traditional fantasy because it’s usually either too Tolkien or too grimdarkedgy for me. These books? Perfect high fantasy. Everything I’d ever want from the genre. A cool world where the worldbuilding is shown, not told. Really fantastic and diverse characters that you get SO attached to. An intricate and complex plot. Cool beasties. Lovely writing. It’s just amazing! I can’t say a single thing about the plot without spoiling the first book (and possibly some of the first trilogy), but if you like fantasy and you haven’t read Hobb…. what are you doing?? Get on that asap.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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Wolf Winter, by Cecilia Ekback. Finished April 8th. This is a magical little book. It’s part historical fiction, part mystery, part magical realism. Taking place in Lapland in 1717, it features an isolated community hit by a brutal winter in the midst of a murderer running around. It’s everything I wanted from White Hunger. The writing is so lush, I was lost in the descriptions of the woods and countryside. It felt so claustrophobic, and is one of those books that induce a little bit of anxiety. Plus, witches! I read this shortly after seeing The Witch and it has a similar vibe (goats! witches! isolated houses!) so it was really the perfect time for me to devour this.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, by Helen Oyeyemi. Finished April 9th. I had so many issues with Boy, Snow, Bird, but there was no denying that Oyeyemi’s writing is absolute magic. So I was really excited to pick this up, especially because most of the stories are fairytale inspired. It’s a little bit Angela Carter, but mostly wholly unique. Each story is a glittering little gem of inventiveness. I loved some more than others, as is always the case with story collections, but it’s surprisingly cohesive: there’s lots of character overlap and the theme of keys runs through every one. I think this is a really good place to start with Oyeyemi: bite-sized chunks of her unique and spectacular style.

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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The North Water, by Ian McGuire. Finished April 10th. This is a super-hyped book, and I’m… kind of confused why? It was okay. It was, mainly, disgusting. Just so many scenes of violence and illness in graphic, graphic detail. I’m not at all squeamish but some of these were really hard to read for me. High ick factor. I was expecting more atmosphere: guys stuck in an arctic environment on a whaling boat! But it’s more about the bad dude on the ship and murder and maiming and rape and people getting teeth embedded in their arms and cutting open stomachs to let out pus. Well written, but a little over the top for me personally.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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Eileen, by Otessa Moshfeg. Finished April 10th. This is such an interesting book. It’s a character study first and foremost, with little in the way of plot. Eileen is a very disturbed and strange girl, and we spend the book in her very odd head. The third act is drastically different, but very cleverly so. I think for what this was, it was pretty much perfect. It’s just not the kind of thing I really enjoy? I mean, I love character-driven books and sometimes character studies, but the thriller-combo with that was a little odd for me. Enjoyed it, didn’t love it.

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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The Book Collector, by Alice Thompson. Finished April 10th. This book got a lot of hype around the same time as The Dumb House (which I loved) so of course I wanted to pick it up immediately but it took a while for me to find a copy. And the hype train didn’t lie! This little fable about a woman who marries a mysterious bookseller is just fantastic. Like “The Yellow Wallpaper” x Angela Carter, with more murder. Our narrator gets postpartum psychosis and the real draw of the book is how much we can rely on her narration. Some things are clearly fiction, but how much is the truth? Very creepy and short little read.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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Collected Stories, by William Faulkner. Finished April 11th. I started this way back in the beginning of March and read roughly a story a day. I have such mixed feelings about it: there were a few stories I genuinely loved (“Two Soldiers,” “Hair,” “A Courtship,” “Crevasse,” “Golden Land,” “Beyond,” “The Leg,” and “Carcassonne”) but many I found boring or downright disliked. There’s just a LOT of racism and sexism that I found it hard to overlook even if it was just part of the time when he wrote. Also a lot of war/”the glory of the South” stuff that’s just not for me. I am happy that I read it, but very few felt worth the high effort you have to put into untangling these stories.

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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The Islanders, by Christopher Priest. Finished April 12th. This book is compared to Murakami and David Mitchell, but I think it’s more Invisible Cities meets Abarat. It’s a blurry line between magical realism and fantasy and this book walks it finely. It’s about a group of islands (a HUGE group of islands) and the different people and cities that populate it. Each island that we focus on gets its own chapter, some short and some very long, with a few overlapping characters who appear on many of them. There’s many plot elements: a murder mystery, the history of a famous author, etc. But it’s not a plot-driven book. It’s about the evocative descriptions and the magical quality of the islands. If you liked Invisible Cities I think you’ll love this too.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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Crow, by Ted Hughes. Finished April 13th. I read this “in preparation” for another book but I love crows so I probably would have read it anyway. Everything in here is just amazing, I was highlighting practically every line. There’s just so much: grief, pain, and sorrow mixed with mythology and folktales about my second-favorite animal, the crow. And what a character Crow is. In turns devious, coy, vicious, tricky, and sweet, Crow is really just wonderful to read about (if a little painful). You can feel Hughes’ grief soaking off the pages. It’s funny: I’m not usually into poetry but when I find something I love I’m pretty passionate about it.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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Grief Is The Thing With Feathers, by Max Porter. Finished April 13th. This is the book that I read Crow for! It’s about a Hughes scholar whose wife dies, and Crow comes to take care of him and his two sons. No joke. It’s… it’s just amazing. Crow is SO accurate to the poems, and his chapters were so perfect and amazing. This book is like evil magical realism: it’s so dark and twisty and grief-laden, a rough read at points but suffused with enough magic to not make it a real downer. Highly, highly recommended–but read Crow first.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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The Vegetarian, by Han Kang. Finished April 15th. So, I dnf’d this book last month because I found a section of it really triggering–something I don’t usually experience with books. But it made the Man Booker International shortlist and no other book I attempted did, so I felt obliged to pick it up again. And, um, I’m not super happy I did. Once you get over the rape sections, it’s just… I don’t even know. Trying SO hard to be ~bizarre~ and ~weird~ and ~whimsical~ and ~dark.~ I mean, the writing was good so I can’t knock it down too far, but the plot went nowhere I was expecting (in a bad way) and while I did enjoy the second section, the first was horrible for me and the third was weirdly dull.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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Look to Windward, by Iain M. Banks. Finished April 17th. After the incredibly disappointing Inversions, I was hesitant to pick up the next Culture book. I shouldn’t have been, because this is by far my favorite of the series (yes, more than Excession!). It shouts out to the first book, which I enjoyed because there’s barely any overlap between the series, and takes us to so many places: a strange caste-based society, one of the Culture’s magical orbitals, and a very, very unique and strange world where a scientist lives on a giant blimp-like sentient beast. It tackles some really serious questions about war and humanity while giving us a really engaging plotline. It also has probably my favorite Culture character: Kabe, the philosophical alien who plots along through the book and gives us some truly hilarious scenes. This was everything I want in science fiction.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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Ship of Destiny, by Robin Hobb. Finished April 20th. The last Liveship Traders book stabbed me right in the heart. I laughed, I cried, I cried some more and cursed Hobb for making me feel such feelings. Most of all, I was shocked about how neatly all the disparate threads were drawn together. Her craftsmanship is masterful: like Peter Hamilton, there is a LOT going on in this series and you think “hmm, there’s no way this will all be nice and neat at the end.” But it is! All the threads, from the strange serpent chapters to Malta’s unexpected transformation (a character I started out loathing and ended up loving) come together brilliantly. But this book is a rough read: harder even than some of the most brutal moments of Farseer. My heart may never recover.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

 

Reading Challenge Progress

97/175 Books

14/33 Series Books

34/50 TBR Books

17/15 Different Countries

March 2016 Reading Wrapup

7 Apr

Another month, another late wrapup! It’s a trend, I tell you. But hey, some people did their February wrapups just a few days ago, so I don’t feel that bad about it. Actually I do, so let’s just pretend this is totally on time!

March was an amazing reading month for me, my best ever. However, until I actually looked at my stats at the end of the month I felt like it was going rather slowly. Odd, right? It’s probably because my nightime reading (which is all on Kindle) was kind of slow due to some chunkers. But my daytime reading, which is physical books (and a new addition to my reading routine) more than made up for that. Since this is a long one hit the jump to get started!

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Review: One Day Soon Time Will Have No Place Left To Hide, by Christian Kiefer

14 Mar

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Last year I read Christian Kiefer’s The Animals, which made it onto my list of favorite books. After that emotional rollercoaster I was of course looking forward to any new books from him, but the blurb for One Day Soon Time Will Have No Place Left To Hide would have grabbed me no matter who wrote it. It is about an installation artist named Frank Poole and his wife Caitlin who are attempting to turn an entire subdivision into an art piece. Painted all white, sealed away, and left to remain perfect forever. It is told in a rather unusual format: it is a scene-by-scene description of a documentary, and you know how I feel about strange book formatting. I just can’t resist it!

I am a pretty fast reader, but this book took me several days to get through. I’d read 50 pages, put it down to think, and that was it for the day: definitely unusual for me, but this is not a book you devour in one sitting (though its length, 193 pages, definitely makes that possible). It’s a slow, thoughtful read, which is funny because the pace of the documentary is actually quite quick. It’s also a beautiful book: the cover is matte white and the words are glossy, which of course fits with the all-white subdivision theme. I’d take a picture of my copy but it’s a mess: post-it notes sticking out of dozens of different locations.

One Day Soon reminded me from the very beginning of one of my all-time favorite novels, House of Leaves. The inscription reads:

Let us be clear. The time you spend reading these words will not be returned.

Ominous right from the start! I’d hardly call it a horror novel but there is a huge sense of unease through the book. We bounce from the subdivision project to Frank and Caitlin talking about their past to cut-up images of American life. Endless descriptions of identical houses, stores, malls. Which brings to mind another of my favorite books, Invisible Cities, a text that is merely descriptions of cities (but also so much more).

Buildings and landscapes without beauty. But is this not America?

On the surface there seems to be a critique of the same-ness of American life, of how a Starbucks looks identical no matter where in the country you are. And that’s certainly one angle of it: how same-ness makes us feel, shapes our actions. But Frank’s intention is not to draw attention to that corporate mentality, but to preserve something perfect. All of his installations (and we get to see many of them over the course of the “film”) are about saving a moment in time, a perfect moment that can never go wrong or move forward into uncertainty because it is behind glass and protected. Protected from time. Which of course plays directly into the name of the novel, which is also the name of Frank’s subdivision installation.

While the story itself is compelling and thoughtful, I found the real allure of the book to be the way it’s told. The documentary format allows us to travel to places a traditional narrative would not let us, flashing between past and present with dizzying speed. It is narrated mostly in the second person, with the narrator (who seems to be the documentary itself at times) using “we” and “you” to create a sense of intimacy–and also unease.

Perhaps Frank is not present now. Perhaps there is no interviewer and no film and no web of text to scrim over this illusion. Perhaps there is not even you.

This is the kind of weird meta horror I live for in books. Seriously, this book felt like it was written just for me: we even get a sly nod to Majer from The Animals (“a grizzly stands to look out through the glass”). It’s quirky, unusual, strange, and packs an emotional wallop.  I could go on for pages and pages about how much I love it, but I’m sure that would get a little dull after a while so I will end with this: if you like strange fiction, read this book.

One Day Soon Time Will Have No Place Left To Hide will be released on March 22nd, and you can order a copy here.

[ARC provided by the publisher, all ideas and thoughts are my own]

February 2016 Wrapup: Part II

5 Mar

The first half of February was an absolutely amazing stretch of reading for me, but things slowed down towards the second half. This is probably because I put off my series reading and had to squeeze in a lot of big books in the last two weeks of the month (and didn’t even finish one of them until March!). So let’s dive right in.

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The Dumb House, by John Burnside. Finished February 17th. This is a super hyped book that it took me ages to read, mostly because I had to get a physical copy (I read mainly ebooks), and I wanted the UK cover because I’m picky. But finally! I can’t say that it was everything I expected because it was so much more than I expected. It’s billed as a story about a man obsessed with language who decides to raise children in absolute silence to see if they develop speech. Creepy, right? But that doesn’t actually happen until the last third of the book, and the first two might actually be more unsettling and disturbing. It’s like Lolita x Oedipus Rex x American Psycho. Just chilling, beautifully written, and disturbing in the best way. I loved this even more than I was expecting, which was surprising cause my expectations were already sky-high.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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Death on the Nile, by Agatha Christie. Finished February 17th. I read And Then There Were None and Murder On The Orient Express last year, my first Christies. And I enjoyed them thoroughly. So why not read another? Sadly, I just didn’t feel the same way about this one. It’s kind of hard to get past the rampant racism, but even so I just didn’t find it very compelling. The mystery was neat, and I love how it was wrapped up (clever as always), but it took SO long to get to the murder and I felt like a lot of the buildup was unnecessary. There was a lot of interaction between characters but not much character development: I didn’t feel like I really knew anyone. Okay, but nothing special.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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The Supernatural Enhancements, by Edgard Cantero. Finished February 19th. Another book I’ve been wanting for ages but had to get in a physical copy because of the strange formatting. This book is told in letters, notes, film footage, telegrams, cryptograms, and more. It’s about a ~spooky house~ which is, like, my #1 book buzzword because of House of Leaves. This actually is less about a haunted house (though trust me, there’s a haunted house) and more about secret societies. It’s like a really creepy National Treasure–secrets upon secrets and clues that lead to nothing but dozens of other clues. It’s a very inventive, clever book that’s told in the kind of quirky way that I love.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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Royal Assassin, by Robin Hobb. Finished February 20th. Book 2 of the Farseer Trilogy, and by far my favorite! I just love these books. There’s something magical about them. They’re slow, character-driven fantasy and if that’s your jam, read them! Right now! The characters are so rich and complex, the world is really great, the worldbuilding is so subtle and fantastic, it’s dark without being ~wow grimdark so edgy.~ This was my favorite of the three probably because of Nighteyes, the world’s best wolf. Plus, so much happens! These books have a strange quality where they feel slow and meandering but at the same time a TON of stuff happens. So it’s both slow and fast paced? Hard to explain, but executed so well. Hobb is really a master of the craft.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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Girls on Fire, by Robin Wasserman . Finished February 22nd. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what I found lacking in this book. On the surface, it was great. I love the “destructive, consuming female friendship” trope, the writing is really gorgeous at places (though not consistently so), the plot was definitely a page-turner, I loved how complex all the characters were. But. I’m not sure how real they felt. On the one hand, they’re wonderfully fleshed out and feel like real people when we’re in their heads. On the other, they do things that make no sense with what we know about them. I felt a big dissonance between their inner monologues/personalities and actions, with Hannah/Dex in particular (but towards the end this happened with Lacey and Nikki too). It’s a little *too* unbelievable, and verges on Lifetime movie drama when you get to the climax. It really took me out of the book: I was like, “really? There’s no way this is happening.” But not at all in a good, surprised kind of way.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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Felines of New York, by Jim Tews. Finished February 23rd. This was a total impulse purchase. I was at B&N, I saw cats, I saw New York, I was sold. This is, of course, a riff on Humans of New York. But with cats. Basically hilarious quotes with pictures of amazing cats. What more could I want? It was really funny, much funnier than I was expecting, and of course there were so many cute kitties. A+ cat humor.

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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Bats of the Republic, by  Zachary Thomas Dodson. Finished February 25th. THIS BOOK. I have so many emotions, guys. So. Many. Emotions. This might be my favorite book of the year so far. It’s so hard to describe: it takes place in two timelines, one in frontier-era America and one in a dystopian/post-apocalyptic (? maybe) America 300 years later. Both storylines revolve around an unopened letter (which is actually in the physical book, but you can’t open it until the end). It’s told through letters, illustrations, phone conversations, and actual narrative. It’s an “illuminated novel” and in full color, which means basically every page is gorgeous. It’s so meta and recursive and weird. There’s literally a book in the book that looks like it was just scanned in. It’s… it’s perfect. If you like weird, quirky, meta, clever reads, PICK THIS UP. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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Lovecraft Country, by Matt Ruff. Finished February 25th. Lovecraft is one of my favorite authors, and I have struggled for years with his rampant racism. On one hand, he was a product of his times. On the other, racism of that level is never excusable. But at the same time, his incredible xenophobia is what crafted his amazing world: the fear of the other drives almost every one of his stories. So how to come to terms with this? Enter Lovecraft Country, a book that takes Lovecraftian elements and mixes them with a cast of black characters in Jim Crow-era America. What’s scarier than Cthulhu? Cops who want to shoot you because of your skin color, that’s what. This is a really clever, inventive book that takes two very different kind of horrors and melds them together perfectly. I do think it was a little light on the horror aspects, and I wish there was more of a focus on crazy monsters (it was more Lovecraft’s cults and weird houses), but I really enjoyed this. A very different and important take on Lovecraftian fiction.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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Excession, by Iain Banks. Finished February 27th. I decided to take a brief break from Farseer to tackle the 5th Culture book. And, finally, it gave me what I had been wanting from the beginning! A truly varied, large cast of characters. Strong horror elements. Philosophical questions. Twists and turns. A detailed look at weird aliens. Main female characters. Space mystery. Plus we got so much of what is, to me, the heart of the Culture novels: the droids and Minds. Who are just… oh my god, I never thought I’d love robots so much. This was so close to 5 stars for me (I felt the two different plot “strands” didn’t meet up neatly enough at the end, which knocked it to 4 1/2) but this made me very excited to read the remaining 5 books.

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

I also got 90% into the last Farseer book, but alas, I couldn’t actually wrap it up until March!

Reading Challenge Progress

50/175 Books

7/33 Series Books

15/50 TBR Books

12/15 Different Countries

February 2016 Wrapup: Part I

16 Feb

Ah, February, the month of love! And reading a lot of books. I don’t know why this year has gotten off to such a good start, but I’ve been a reading fiend! And I haven’t just been reading a lot of books, I’ve been reading a lot of good books. My goals this year (focusing on my TBR, series, and authors from many countries) have me tackling things that I almost always love. I mean, if a book has been on my TBR for 1 year+ and survived all my purges, I’m probably going to like it. And that’s definitely been the case so far!

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The Bands of Mourning, by Brandon Sanderson. Finished Feb 1st. After finishing Shadows of Self last month, I absolutely had to read the next Wax & Wayne book. At first I was kind of skeptical about this series. I am sorry for doubting you, Lord of Fantasy Brandon Sanderson. This book is just… amazing. The plot goes in really weird places I was never expecting. The character development is ridiculously good. I can’t say anything about the plot without spoiling 5 other books but it’s safe to say that I am going to die waiting another year for the final installment.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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Mistborn: Secret History, by Brandon Sanderson. Finished Feb 2nd. A surprise Mistborn book! This one takes place during the first trilogy, and gives us a peek at what was going on behind all the big events. I have mixed feelings about it: on one hand, I loved all the Cosmere mythos we got and I loved the characters. On the second, it kind of spoiled some of the mystery and I almost liked it better before I knew what happened “behind the curtain.” But I still liked reading it? Very confusing!

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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Shadows For Silence In The Forest Of Hell, by Brandon Sanderson. Finished Feb 3rd. I was really on a Cosmere kick at the beginning of February. This is one of Sanderson’s novellas that doesn’t directly tie into any of his book series, but it does contain bits and pieces of Cosmere info. I feel like Sanderson is not at his best in short format: there’s not enough time for character development or his signature twists (though we do get some of both). I liked this, but didn’t love it. The world was amazing though and I’d love to see a full-length novel set in the Forest.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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The Suicide of Claire Bishop, by Carmiel Banasky. Finished Feb 4th. This book is hard to describe. It has two plotlines. One is about a woman named Claire in the 1950′s (and onward) who has a portrait painted of her but the artist paints Claire committing suicide. The second plot is about a schizophrenic man named West in the present time who becomes obsessed with Claire’s portrait and is convinced that the artist who painted it is also a (young) woman he knows. Claire’s story takes place over decades and just gets more and more bleak. West’s takes place over a week or so and his madness becomes more and more pronounced, coinciding with Claire’s downward spiral. It’s a strange, beautiful novel with the lightest touch of magical realism and a heavy focus on personality, identity, and madness.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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Our Endless Numbered Days, by Claire Fuller. Finished Feb 5th. A girl is kidnapped by her father who takes her out to a cabin in the middle of nowhere and tells her the world has ended. It’s a horror/survival novel which is right up my alley. I love bleak, depressing stories! I love horror! I love the woods! The writing here was gorgeous and lush, and while I had a few issues (mainly I felt like it was way too short) I was just in love with it. Though I will admit that I only picked this up because the title is an Iron & Wine lyric (and also because of the hype).

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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Into The Forest, by Mark Z Danielewski. Finished Feb 5th. THESE GODDAMN BOOKS. I am so wrapped up in this strange little world, even though I have basically no idea what is going on. I love all of it, even the incomprehensible bits. If you like weird, experimental, postmodern fiction this is a must. Also if you like cats. Potentially very creepy and evil but cute cats.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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The Meursault Investigation, by Kamel Daoud. Finished Feb 5th. I hate The Stranger. “Oh, woe is me, I’m so ~tortured~ and filled with ennui that I have to kill a guy to feel anything!” Lol no thank you. So this book, which is about the unnamed man who was murdered (and set in a universe where The Stranger was published as nonfiction, so clever) was everything I ever wanted. It’s philosophical, clever, witty, deep, moving, and at times shocking. I’d recommend this to anyone who has read The Stranger, whether you love it or hate it. It’s an excellent companion novel/counterpoint.

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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The Thing Itself, by Adam Roberts. Finished Feb 7th. Have you ever felt like a book was written just for you? The Thing Itself starts out with a The Thing/At The Mountains Of Madness sequence with scientists in Antarctica when ~strange things~ start to happen. After that it skips back and forward in time, giving us many different perspectives though the main storyline centers on one of the scientists. And it involves philosophy and sentient computers and so many references you could get lost chasing them all down. It’s hilarious and sad, with a very strong focus on the “what ifs” that science fiction is such a good platform for. Plus it tackles the Fermi Paradox. What’s not to love?

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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The Fifty Year Sword, by Mark Z Danielewski. Finished Feb 8th. I have this weird quirk when it comes to authors I love. I have trouble reading all their books, and tend to pick one to “set aside” and read “later.” Later usually = never, because I have this strange fear of running out of their books. I actually got this book in the original pressing of only 1,000, not the re-release. I have had it for AGES. But I read House of Leaves and Only Revolutions and Danielewski used to publish so slowly that I was terrified there would be no more, and I would have already read this–my last book of his. But with The Familiar, which is going to have 25 (!!) more volumes, enough to last me many years, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I have to read this. So I finally did! If you like Danielewski, you will like this. It seems like most people don’t, and that’s understandable, but I love weird, experimental, and creepy books. So of course I adore him. I actually think this is his most accessible text: sure, the format is a little strange, but you don’t need to dissect it to understand what is happening and the core story is really straightforward. Plus, pretty pictures. It might be a good introduction if you’re put off by the density of HoL, the strangeness of The Familiar, or the downright bizarre journey of OR.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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The Way Inn, by Will Wiles. Finished Feb 8th. This has been on my TBR for ages, and I never paid much attention to it. But there is a reference to it in The Thing Itself, so of course I bumped it right up to the top! It’s the kind of book I love (for the most part). A quirky book where there’s a ~spooky hotel~ that’s bigger on the inside. It also has some nice discussions about the same-ness of modern life. It gets very strange, but for some reason the ending fell a little flat for me. It was weird but not as weird as I wanted? If that makes sense. I loved the first 2/3rds but I do wish the author had pushed the envelope a little bit more towards the end section.

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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Demon Theory, by Stephen Graham Jones. Finished Feb 10th. If you like House of Leaves and The Raw Shark Texts, this book is always the next one recommended. And those are two of my favorite books (top 10 favorite, serious business) yet I never read Demon Theory? What is wrong with me, seriously. This book is about a trilogy of horror films: or rather, it’s a scene for scene description of a trilogy of horror films. It’s super meta and I freaking love horror movies. And books centered on fake media. And footnotes. And did I mention horror movies? This book was just… perfection. Everything I want.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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The Strange Library, by Haruki Murakami. Finished Feb 11th. There are only a few Murakami books that I haven’t read, and I am trying to get over my “leave one book unread per author” thing and tackle the remaining ones. This is a short story, really a children’s tale, with some gorgeous illustrations. Like many of his shorts it’s… really weird. And it has the Sheep Man! It was a little too short with not enough explanation for me to really love it, but it was an enjoyable read.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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Assassin’s Apprentice, by Robin Hobb. Finished Feb 13th. My first series book of the year! Unlike last year, I’m not set on reading each series straight through so I took a short break from Culture to read the first Realm of the Enderlings book. So how do I describe this? It’s a fantasy, but it’s majorly focused on the characters. There’s worldbuilding, but it’s not “hey here is how things work!” It’s subtle and you learn so much just from character interactions. The plot is very much in the background. The magic is fresh but also feels very classic. I see already why people are so crazy about this series. If you like character-driven fantasy and slow burn plot, you absolutely have to pick these up.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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American Housewife, by Helen Ellis. Finished Feb 13th. This was a real impulse read for me. The description kind of sounds like Desperate Housewives but with more murder, so I was all about it. And it was! Kind of. This is a collection of clever little short stories that very much work as satire on modern life in America. It’s absolutely hilarious in a grimdark sort of way. You know, if you think people possibly getting eaten by mutant housecats and a reality show about dumpster diving are hilarious. Highly recommended for people who like comic darkness and short stories.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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Dare Me, by Stella Rhys. Finished Feb 14th. I have been really sick for the past few days and reading got really difficult. I picked up the next Culture book and read the same page 5 times (!!) before I accepted that I needed to read something stupid if I was going to read. So, for Valentine’s Day, a romance! The blurb sells this as the story of two kids who played twisted truth or dare. That’s, like, 3 scenes in the book. It’s really your stereotypical romance/erotica with a ~so rich so handsome so perfect~ dude and a ~mysterious past gorgeous SO TORTURED~ girl who the universe just keeps trying to keep apart. It’s dull and predictable and the girl’s “mystery past” was so freaking stupid I wanted to die. But, um, it could have been even worse? And hey, this is only the fourth below-3-stars book I’ve read this year, so it’s hard to be mad about that!

Lipstick Rating 2 Full

 

 

 

 

Reading Challenge Progress

41/175 Books

5/36 Series Books

11/50 TBR Books

11/15 Different Countries

 

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…