If you’re wondering why I’m doing the last two weeks of June together instead of individually, it’s because I read an embarassingly low amount (for me) in week 3 and it really wasn’t worth a whole post of its own. Especially because one of them I only read so I could see how bad it was. I know, I know–that probably seems like a huge waste of reading time, but sometimes I just have to hate-read something so I can get all the jokes people make about it.
Tiny Pretty Things, by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton: Finished June 16th. I read this because it’s marketed as Black Swan x Pretty Little Liars: a movie I love combined with one of my favorite guilty pleasures? Yes please! But my hopes were so high. It was lacking the things I liked about both, and the PLL comparison is SO off base. I think my favorite thing about PLL is the solid female friendships: this book is about girls in ballet school who are out to ruin each other. And not regular bullying: no, these girls are out for blood. And while that can be fun if you’re in the mood for it, I’ve recently grown hyper-critical of the girl-on-girl hate that occurs in YA. Personally, I find it very unhealthy and a terrible example to set to young women about how real-life women interact. We don’t all hate each other, YA authors.
I did really like some of the characters, but overall Tiny Pretty Things felt very disjointed to me. There are 3 main POVs: two of the girls have obviously intersecting plots, but the third has a totally different one with a different set of characters, and only some overlap. It also tried to tackle WAY too many issues (mental illness, eating disorders, racism, sexuality, gender, addiction) but I think because there was so much crammed in there, none of them felt successfully dealt with. There’s also a HUGE cliffhanger when I’m pretty sure this could all have been resolved in one book. I’m definitely suffering from “what happened I need to know!” syndrome but I don’t think I’ll be continuing this series.
Everything’s Eventual, by Stephen King: Finished June 19th. My quest of “read as much Stephen King this year as humanly possible” is going pretty well! After the long, drawn-out tension of Needful Things I really needed something of his a bit shorter, so I turned to one of the story collections I haven’t read. I picked this one over the others because it contains “1408,” which I’ve been meaning to read for ages.
As always, I loved this. It wasn’t quite as good for me as Night Shift or Skeleton Crew, but it had more than enough fantastic stories. “The Man in Black” was my favorite, and it still gives me the shivers to think about. Though I must admit something: I actually… skipped one. I never do this with story collections! Ever! But I couldn’t focus on “The Death of Jack Hamilton” so I just flipped to the next one. Oh, the shame!
In A Dark, Dark Wood, by Ruth Ware: Finished June 20th. What is it with me and books with spooky woods on the cover? I seriously have a compulsive need to read them. I see one, think “oh that looks spooky!” and hope that it will be like The Ritual. This book isn’t even horror! It’s one of those dime-a-dozen psychological thrillers that have become the bane of my existence. I can’t even explain why I thought reading this would be a good idea. It’s the cover! Damn you, spooky woods!
Anyway, this was terrible. Like, really unbearably bad. It’s about… okay, honestly, it’s so boring I don’t even want to write the plot. Girls have a hen party (which is what they call bachelorette parties in the UK, TIL) and stuff goes ~awry~. There’s murder (maybe) and intrigue (no, just kidding) and a totally contrived “mystery” you can figure out by page 25. I didn’t care about any of the characters. I didn’t care about discovering what happened. I just wanted it to be over.
Grey, by E.L. James: Finished June 22nd. Yes, we have arrived at the hate-read. See, these books are impossibly bad, but I feel like you can’t critique something unless you’ve actually read it. Which is why I read the first one. The next three? Car crash syndrome: I couldn’t look away, I wanted to see how bad it got. Also, Jenny Trout’s readalong kept me sane. I mean, these books are hilariously bad. They’re so, so funny.
But this one… first of all, why does it even exist. Second, it’s WORSE than the original trilogy. Can it happen, you wonder? Can anything be worse than the “inner goddess?” Oh yes. Indeed it can. By 30% of the way in I was thinking “why am I doing this to myself?!” I mean this took me 3 days to read. Which is a LONG time for me, given the “content.” It was horrible. Not “so bad it’s good” but “so bad I regret even looking at the cover, why do I do these things to myself.”
Spin, by Robert Charles Wilson: Finished June 25th. It was getting pretty late in the month, so I thought to myself “oh shit, I have to actually read a series.” My non-series freedom made me a little light-headed, I guess, and I forgot that I am not totally skipping goals for this month. Just, you know, not reading 8 books in a series for June.
I am SO glad I picked this one. This is pretty much the perfect science fiction book. There’s an interesting and well thought out plot that both references the old and brings a whole lot of new. The writing is beautiful, a lot more poetic than what we usually see in the genre. And the characters are fantastic–even though I did not like all of them (Diane in particular), they were all incredibly well fleshed out and felt so realistic. Love love loved.
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, by Tennessee Williams: Finished June 25th. So “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” was referenced several times in In A Dark, Dark Wood (for no reason, there were no thematic or plot tie-ins) and I realized I’ve never read it. Since “Streetcar Named Desire” is one of my favorite books I thought wow, I should read that. And I did. A thrilling tale, right?
I can’t say that I liked this as much as “Streetcar,” but I did very much enjoy it. Williams has a way of fleshing out characters in only a line or two: by the end of the play, which is under 150 pages long, you feel like you intimately know everyone. And you’re also suffused with despair for the world, because his outlook on life was pretty damn bleak.
Axis, by Robert Charles Wilson: Finished June 26th. I think this series suffers from Hyperion Syndrome. The first book was utter perfection, and how do you follow that up? It’s hard to put together a series where every book feels like a fully fleshed-out, necessary piece, and Axis definitely suffers from being the second book. While it had some very cool concepts (the Ashfall in particular was wow-worthy), the characters lacked the depth that they had in Spin. There was less action, less plot, and it felt a bit more contrived in places. I’m making it sound awful, huh? It was actually good, it just felt like a roadstop on the way to the end of the overarching plot.
The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams: Finished June 26th. I downloaded a book of three of Tennessee William’s plays in order to read “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” so I thought, might as well read the other one! Because the third is “Streetcar” and I’ve read that like 4 times already. But I’ll probably read it again before July is up–I mean, the book is just sitting at 2/3rds finished on my Kindle. Can’t have that.
I’ve realized something about Williams, or at least how I relate to his work. I adore every female character, even though they are drastically different. Blanche, Maggie, Laura. I love them. But the male characters, especially the ones “opposite” the women (Stanley, Brick, Tom), I really dislike. I mean, maybe Stanley not so much (and he’s the worst of the three, objectively!) but I REALLY did not like Tom in this. But Laura, though. I almost cried when her animal broke.
Maldeamores, by Mara White: Read June 27th. This is one of those books where everyone on my Goodreads feed was going “wow, best book ever, GOAT, read it!” so I did. I mean, it’s been a while since I read something in the genre (Grey does not count, thank you very much) and who doesn’t love a good taboo theme? Because this is about cousins who fall in love. Les Cousins Dangereux.
Except there was just a LOT of angst for being cousins. In most states, you can marry your cousin. There’s very little chance of any genetic problems your kids might have. It’s not quite the FORBIDDEN LOVE that our two characters, Belen and Lucky, think it is (even though we get a kind of explanation for this later on). I also found myself harping on tiny details (dear Mara White: Lolita is not erotica) that, I mean… this is not a serious read. Sometimes I need to chill out when reading and stop thinking so hard about it. But tiny things (like Belen’s therapist recommending she sleep with girls to get over her cousin?? What??) really pulled me out. The chemistry, though, was great, and I liked this more than my little review is letting on.
Vortex, by Robert Charles Wilson: Finished June 28th. Finally, the end of the series! I say finally like I didn’t read all 3 of them in half a week. After Axis my expectations for the end were tempered, and I wasn’t going into this with super high hopes that it would blow me away. Well, it wasn’t quite as good as Spin, but I loved it.
It’s hard to talk about the plot because, well, spoilers, but this book is sliced into present-and-future in a VERY inventive way. The future story had me so hooked, and it threw in some fantastically inventive scifi ideas that I felt were very lacking in Axis. I also liked the tail end better than the rest, so this series ended on a high note for me. Though Spin was really the shining light here, Vortex was a more than decent follow-up.
Amber To Ashes, by Gail McHugh: Finished June 28th. More forbidden love! I thought I would really love this, since it is about a girl (Amber) who is in love with two men (Brock and Ryder). I expected, based on the blurb, an actual poly relationship. But nope, this was more of the bullshit alpha male GET YER PAWS OFF MAH WOMAN crap we constantly get in romance/erotica/chic-lit/YA/NA. It’s exhausting. I am SO tired of the jealous, controlling guy being seen as ~true love~. I will admit that neither of them are nearly as bad as other characters in the genre (no abuse, they’re both quite loving and care about her) BUT they also perpetuate the “I can fix you, broken woman” narrative that’s quite harmful. See, I was a young girl who went through a lot of trauma and I bought into that narrative. That a guy could “fix” me. Could put my pieces back together. It never works out well. And I hate books that push that narrative, because it’s demeaning. Amber can put HERSELF back together, thank you very much.
Okay, let’s talk about Amber. Because I LOVED her. Amber was spunky, quirky without being annoying, smart but made mistakes, and tried so hard not to let her past define her. I also love that she slept around a lot and was not once slut-shamed. Yay! And there’s a second plotline going on that’s actually quite serious, and it brought some depth. But I just… I really hated the two guys. I want Amber to be with none of them. But Gail’s writing is gorgeous and Amber is my bae so I will, of course, read the next one. While I ship Amber with herself. Or anyone besides Brock and Ryder (and their STUPID NAMES, why do guys always have such cheesy names in these books?!).
Wolf Border, by Sarah Hall: Finished June 30th. There are wolves in this book. That was literally all I needed to know to get me to read it. I think that’s a little misleading, though, because while there are wolves IN the book it is not ABOUT them. They serve as a background, a mini-story tying into the other thematic elements of Wolf Border.
It’s hard to say what this book is “really” about. It’s about a woman (Rachel) in her late 30′s who works in wolf conservation, and comes to England to supervise a project involving (yup) wolves. But it’s more about Rachel’s relationships (with family, lovers, friends, co-workers) than it is about her job, or the wolves. They run in the background of the book, and we get peeks of them but they really just serve as a theme-reinforcer. Which is not a bad thing: it’s done brilliantly and Hall’s writing is lovely. But this is a really slow-paced book that dragged a bit too much for me to really love it.
And that is it for June! I got a LOT of reading done in the last week, you may have noticed. My aunt has a cabin up in the (not so spooky) woods, and I went up there the last weekend in June. And read. A lot. I’m pretty pleased with June’s progress overall: I read some books I loved, I finished a series. But I really need to get started on Infinite Jest!