July 2015 Wrapup: Week 1

8 Jul

The first week of July was simultaneously a great and terrible one for reading. I was out of town for the majority of it and actually had to, you know, interact with people instead of sitting around and reading, so I didn’t get much done. Only 2 books, in fact! But one of them was absolutely, amazingly fantastic.

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Three Moments of an Explosion, by China Mieville: Finished July 3rd. When I was 17, my dad brought home a copy of Perdido Street Station. Since then, I’ve been the world’s biggest China Mieville fangirl. I’ve read all of his books multiple times (except for King Rat), and The Scar is my #1 favorite book of all time. Thankfully, he produces books pretty frequently: once every 1-2 years. That is, until her started working on Dial H with DC. We haven’t had a Mieville book since Railsea in 2012, and let me tell you I was seriously dying over the drought. My hype for this book was unreal.

Thankfully, it delivered. Mieville’s characteristic imagination runs deep here, and each story has an amazing core concept that could spawn an entire novel. Flying icebergs, movie trailers, carved bones, secret card-playing societies, aliens hidden in ash… there’s a lot going on. I’ve always been fond of short stories, and all of these (with the exception of one, “The Dusty Hat,” which I didn’t feel very compelled by) were mesmerizing. The open-ending format that seemed to run through almost all of them reminded me strongly of Murakami’s story stories–if you like things nice, tight, and explained, this probably isn’t the book for you, but if you love wild imagination and evocative concepts, read this right now!

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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Armada, by Ernest Cline: Finished July 5th. I adored Ready Player One. Sure, it’s not the deepest or most thought-out scifi, but it’s an incredible, undeniably fun romp through a world I very much want to live in (Oasis, not the near-apocalyptic future America). So of course my hopes were high for Armada: it was billed as RPO, but with video game references instead of the 80′s pop culture theme.

Sadly, it did not deliver. Maybe I was too hopeful going into it, but none of the magic of RPO was here. Sure, there was a geeky plot and tons and tons of references. But while the references and in-jokes made RPO a better book, they kind of bog things down in Armada. And the fictional concept (the video games Armada and Terra Firma) are not nearly as interesting to read about as Oasis. The characters are a lot less interesting, and include a super obnoxious manic pixie dream girl and ~insta-love.~ The plot is very contrived and reads like a bad 80′s scifi movie. Maybe this was the intention, but this was so trope-tastic I felt like I knew everything that was going to happen. And the ending? Awful. Granted, it was still a fun read, but… I didn’t love it. I’m not even sure if I liked it. I’m really conflicted over how to rate this one: I can’t give it a low rating just because it’s not as good as RPO, but I’m not sure if I can separate the two in my head.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

June 2015 Wrapup: Weeks 3 & 4

1 Jul

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.

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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.

Lipstick Rating 2 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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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!

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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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.

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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.”

Lipstick Rating Half

 

 

 

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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.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

 

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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.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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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.

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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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.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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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.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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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.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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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?!).

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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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.

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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!

June 2015 Wrapup: Week 2

17 Jun

The second week of June was a fantastic reading week for me. I got through six books, which is pretty good for me since my usual is 4 to 5. I mean, one of them was really short, but it still counts! I’m also having a great time not having to read a series: it’s funny, I’m very happy with my series progress this year and I’ve loved (almost) all the ones I’ve read, but it can be really draining to have such a strict reading list. So playing it fast-and-loose in June has been pretty freeing… though I am going to read a series this month, it’s only 3 books so I’ll probably tag that on in the last week.

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The Devil You Know, by Trish Doller: Finished June 8th. This is one of those “summer reads” type of books. I usually skip them, because they tend to be gimmick-over-substance, but this was marketed as a psychological thriller and there’s woods on the cover. So I had to read it. It’s about the world’s stupidest teenage girl, who goes on an impromptu roadtrip with two boys she’s know for TWO DAYS. Yeah, great decision. That’s gonna work out well.

This is not a terrible book. The romance aspect is done quite well: you really feel the attraction between the characters. And it definitely has a great lazy summer vibe. But the “twist” and mystery aspect is so easy to figure out, it’s kind of a chore to read once you’ve figured it out. I didn’t absolutely hate this, but I didn’t really enjoy it either. Mostly because of how freaking stupid the main girl is.

Lipstick Rating 2 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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A Head Full Of Ghosts, by Paul Tremblay: Finished June 9th. I tend to roll my eyes whenever I see a comparison to House of Leaves because let’s be honest, few things come even close. But this… yeah, it deserves the nod. A Head Full of Ghosts is a multi-layered story that, like HoL, revolves around a piece of fictional media: a “reality” show called The Possession that’s about the exorcism of a mentally ill 14-year-old girl named Marjorie. There are 3 layers in this novel: the core one is Merry, Marjorie’s sister, recounting her experiences. Then we have Merry’s discussions with a reporter about her life during the filming, and finally, a series of blog posts deconstructing the actual show. The blog posts are particularly self-referential because they sweetly mock the insanely high-octane snark, look-at-my-witty-personality schtick that so many bloggers parade around (and grows tiring after about 3 lines–we get it, you’re so clever, just write).

This is a decidedly meta book. There are references everywhere: many of them are in the blog posts, and are highly overt and outright mentioned. But others are more subtle: while we get a House of Leaves shoutout there are several more subtle ones (a doctor named Navidson, a description of the house that mirrors The Five and a Half Minute Hallway). There’s a nice nod to Laird Barron. The Haunting of Hill House is mentioned numerous times but the more influential Shirley Jackson work is clearly We Have Always Lived In The Castle (which happens to be my favorite of hers!). Of course it’s nowhere near as meta as House of Leaves but provides a more accessible, thriller-y take on the book-in-a-book trope. Which happens to basically be my favorite thing ever.

This was a five-star book for me for the first half, which was full of insanely creepy scenes (the sunroom, Marjorie at the dinner table, oh my god) but I feel like it kind of fell off halfway through. There were less “Marjorie acting totally bonkers” scenes and more of a focus on the filming and family dynamics, and the horror aspect took a nosedive. Plus I saw the ending coming a mile away: if I hadn’t, and the horror had kept up the breakneck pace, this would have been totally amazing. As it is, just very amazing. Seriously loved this.

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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Needful Things, by Stephen King: Finished June 12th. Whenever I can’t think of what I want to read, I turn to King. I have a rather informal goal this year to read as many of his books as I can: I’ve read what seems like an insane amount, but I’m only about halfway through his catalog. I’ve already gone through a few of his books this year, and I can’t believe I overlooked this one for so long: a story about a creepy store that sells you your heart’s desire, in exchange for a prank? Right up my alley.

Like many of King’s works, this is a sprawling book that paints a full picture of a town. There are a dozen “main” characters with POV chapters, and so many interweaving storylines. I don’t think the pure horror element is as high as in some of his other works, but this is one of those books that really transports you to a different world. I felt like I was living in Castle Rock the entire time, which is high praise.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

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The Scared Lies of Minnow Bly, by Stephanie Oakes: Finished June 13th. I think I got swept up in the hype around this book. The reviews out for it are absolute raves, and hey, it’s about a cult! And a girl who actually gets her hands cut off. You know, I read that in the description but thought it MUST be figurative. A girl getting her hands cut off is pretty intense for young adult. But indeed, we get a disabled protagonist! Which is fantastic.

I think this book suffers because of its genre. Young Adult keeps it from ever really taking off into the darker aspects of our heroine’s backstory: or rather, the cult life isn’t really fleshed out enough. I mean yeah, her hands are cut off in a very gruesome scene, but the rest of the book doesn’t keep up the tension. There’s also, of course, a romance (plagued by tropes that really hold it down). This does tackle some issues like racism, sexism, religious fervor, and disability really well. I loved the characters, but I wanted MORE. More backstory. More flashbacks. A bit more fleshing out of Minnow’s character. I really wish this was written as an adult book–which is how I feel about almost every YA, except for The Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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Day Four, by Sarah Lotz: Finished June 14th. I think I actually enjoyed this a little more than The Three. The writing is more polished, and there’s less of the dead weight that plagued The Three. It’s not as drawn-out, and the plot feels a lot tighter. Speaking of the plot: it’s about a cruise ship that loses power for several days, and no one comes to save them. Creepy things happen, and it’s got some nice survival-horror elements. The plot isn’t quite as compelling as The Three, but it has a great cast and lots of tension. It’s really the ending, which mimics The Three‘s found-document form, which shines brightest. Kind of reminded me of an SCP file. Honestly, I’m hoping for a third book in the “series”–mostly because of that ending, which tied into the first one SO well.

These are not really “direct” sequels, so if you are expecting a followup to the events of The Three you’re probably going to be disappointed. And it’s really not clear how they are connected (aside from being set in the same world) until the ending chapters. But for what it is, this was really fantastic.

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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The Blue Fox, by Sjón: Finished June 14th. This is an incredibly short, lyrical read revolving around a man hunting a blue fox. There’s a concurrent storyline about another man whose assistant, a mentally disabled woman who he rescued from a shipwreck, has died and he has to plan her funeral. Okay, that doesn’t make it sound too exciting, but it’s really the writing her that shines. It is short, concise, and absolutely gorgeous. The description is so lush and evocative, and the two stories do indeed tie together in a really unexpected way.

This felt like more of an experience than a simple book read. There were also some clever mythological references, which of course I enjoyed! If you enjoy poetic prose, I can’t recommend this enough.

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

 

Well, that was it for week 2! On to tackle another pile of books…

June 2015 Wrapup: Week 1

11 Jun

May has come and gone, which means a brand-new reading month! For some reason a new month feels like a fresh start: I make a new list of books I want to read, catalog all the upcoming titles I’m just dying to get my hands on, and pick out my series for the month. And I have to say, while I enjoy the Dresden Files I am very happy to be taking a month-long break from them: I think two back-to-back 8-book Dresden months would have driven me right over the edge. So what’s my series for June? Probably Spin, though I don’t plan on starting until mid-month. I’m a little series’d out, so this week (and the next) was basically a free-for-all!

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Echo, by E.K Blair: Finished June 2nd. This is the second book in a series. I absolutely adored the first one, Bang, though honestly I did not think it needed a sequel at all. It had a wham ending, not a cliffhanger one. But apparently we are getting two (WHY) more books, and I kept my hopes high because man Bang was just… amazing. This one, though, made me want to flip over tables. It basically takes everything good about the first one (great chemistry, a tragic but tastefully done backstory, a well-done representation of how trauma changes a person, a super kickass female lead) and tears it to shreds. Then sets those shreds on fire, dumps them in napalm, and makes you watch. I can’t reveal why I disliked this without some major spoilers for both this and book one, but let’s just say… I really, REALLY wish I hadn’t read it, because it’s awful. And it’s spoiling my fond memories of Bang.

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The Water Knife, by Paolo Bacigalupi: Finished June 4th. I have been waiting so long for this book. The Windup Girl is one of my absolute favorites, but I don’t like Bacigalupi’s YA stuff so it’s been torture waiting for another adult book from him. And while this is a great book, it’s hard to separate it from my (very strong) feelings about The Windup Girl. Both deal with near-future, near-apocalyptic and frighteningly realistic shortages (food in TWG, water in TWK), both have morally questionable but amazingly fleshed-out characters, both have deliciously twisted endings, both make me think that tomorrow is probably going to be the end of the world. But while TWG was wet and damp and hot, TWK is dry and hot. They’re similar, but totally opposites in tone.

This is a great book. But it’s not The Windup Girl, obviously. I mean, that shouldn’t be an issue. But I just love that book so damn much. I think it’s going to take me some distance to really appreciate this book as its own thing, and not my fevered hope for more Windup Girl feels. As it is… I feel thirsty just thinking about The Water Knife. Which says a lot, I think.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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The Heir, by Kiera Cass: Finished June 5th. So, I hate The Selection series. But I love-hate it: it’s so amazingly bad. Just read my review of the first one. It’s like a bad movie: I can’t stop watching. So of course I had to pick up the sequel series! And… I have a confession. I liked it. Don’t get me wrong, this is no fine literature (in fact it’s not even written that well, though Cass’ writing is vastly improved) but it’s a fun guilty pleasure. Mostly because of the heroine, Eadlyn. Literally 99% of the reviews for this are bashing her, which troubles me. She has flaws: she is vain, self-centered, egotistical, and a little bitchy. Qualities we see in “drool-worthy” male characters all the time (COUGH Jace COUGH). But when a female character is at all negative in ways that can’t be spun as positive, great, she’s a bitch. This is… so problematic I could write a book on it, so let’s just look at why Eadlyn is a kickass role model.

Eadlyn doesn’t care about boys at all. She knows that having a family is not the be-all-end-all thing a woman can achieve. She does not shame other women for acting like women. She sees fashion and makeup as an empowering and progressive tools, not something to be looked down upon. She understands that sexual gratification does not need to be all about your “one true wuvvv” and that saving your first kiss etc is complete bullshit–a woman’s value has nothing to do with how “pure” she is. She makes a TON of mistakes, but is able to understand what she did wrong and actually tries to fix her errors (the underhanded comment about her maid is a great example-she rethinks the conversation, sees what she did wrong, goes back and explains herself/apologizes and tries not to do it again). She is a strong female character without being physically strong or having “one special talent” (*cough*singing*cough*) like every other freaking YA protagonist.

There are lots of issues in this book, but it had an actual, not-perfect strong female character who wasn’t a cut-and-paste Mary Sue. Which shocked me in a very good way.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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Rolling In The Deep, by Mira Grant: Finished June 6th. Like all of Mira Grant’s works, this was a fun little slice of horror. There are some things she is very good at: setting up a scene, creating characters you instantly feel sympathetic towards (I loved the human mermaid crew), building tension. But I always find myself liking but not loving her works.

This is probably because it is so, so scientifically inaccurate. This really is a personal pet peeve for me: I like hard scifi, I like accurate details, and there were a bunch of things that suck out here as just… not how the ocean works. Anglerfish don’t prey on humans, sharks can’t withstand pressure on the ocean floor near trenches, Mertensian mimicry is totally different from aggressive mimicry, and let’s not forget about the importance of ocean pressure/the bends (things can’t magically rise up off the ocean floor without going splat). But hey, this is a personal quibble for me. Putting that aside, this was pretty fun… though too short, I think. The buildup was great, but the actual action happened a bit too swiftly and I would have liked a little more explanation about the “mermaids.” The ending, though, was killer.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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Normal, by Graeme Cameron: Finished June 7th. This friggin book, guys. I think the author looked at serial killer things that are popular right now (Hannibal, You) and mashed them up in a rather haphazard way. This is a book about a serial killer, from his perspective, and it’s SO BORING. Also it makes no sense: this guy kills in different ways for no set reason (strangulation, shooting with a bow & arrow, sometimes he eats them, etc), he both keeps women captive (but does nothing to them… as serial killers often do?) and hunts and kills women right away. That’s not… how it works. At all. Cameron obviously did ZERO research on psychopaths, and it shows. I mean, our hero falls in love and makes friends. Obviously true sociopath behavior??

The plot is also all over the place. It makes little sense, is full of handy coincidences, and has zero suspense. It’s a mess. Not even an entertaining mess. At least it was a fast read?

Lipstick Rating 2 Full

May 2015 Wrapup: Week 4

4 Jun

I’m super behind on this one, huh? I mean, it’s June. Like, almost-the-second-week-of-June. But I had BEA/BookCon last weekend (which I will post about eventually!) and then I got sick. Plus I’ve fallen desperately behind on makeup posts, so I’ve been hemming and hawing over that little dilemma. I could just, you know, work on some posts, but agonizing over it seems like a better option to my brain. Anyway, yeah. Week 4 of May, done! Finished my reading goals for the month! Halfway through Dresden, finally got to another one of the classics/giant monsters on my list. It was a good week!

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Death Masks, by Jim Butcher: Finished May 25th. This is the 5th book in the series, and for me it was when things really picked up and got serious. I did enjoy Summer Knight, the 4th book, more than any of the others, but until Death Masks the series was still “fun light guilty pleasure” to me. I mean, don’t get me wrong, they’re still not super serious literary fantasy, but Butcher ups the amp in Death Masks. More plot, more worldbuilding: we’re introduced to my favorite “group” so far, a pack of humans who worship/are vessels for fallen angels. I mean, how fun right? Who doesn’t want to read about crazy demon cults? Speaking of which, I have read a very high number of demon-centric books this year. Odd.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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Blood Rites, by Jim Butcher: Finished May 27th. Throughout the first 5 books, small threads have been teased at a steady but very slow pace. Obviously mentioning them at all would be a huge spoiler but let’s just say that this book is the one where the meta-plot (or one of them, at least) finally starts coming together. Secrets unveiled! Backstories finally fleshed out! Succubi running amok on the set of a porno! I have to say, I’m of mixed minds about the humor in these books. On one hand, they’re totally hilarious and I love Harry (and Bob, especially Bob). But on the other side, this series is never going to be a “wham” one for me because I tend to view them as light and fluffy, even when things are serious. Like brain candy. There are certainly some emotional scenes here, and they were quite effective, but still… the lighter tone sets these apart from the other series I’ve read this year. Which is a good thing (nobody wants only serious all the time), but it also has reminded me of why I usually don’t like urban fantasy. It tends to be a lighter, popcorn genre: Dresden is probably going to be my only real foray into it.

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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Dead Beat, by Jim Butcher: Finished May 28th. The only bad thing about reading all of these back-to-back is that I get a bit confused about what happened in each book. They’ve blurred together. I’m looking at the summary thinking “um, which one is this?” And then I remember, this is the one with the polka. And Sue. So far, this has been my favorite: the plot is only loosely connected to the meta-plot (which, funnily enough, has been my favorite thing so far) but oh my god is it hilarious. But also, somehow, a lot darker in tone. Something that happened about 2 (3?) books back is really starting to eat away at Harry. So things are both a lot darker and a lot more hilarious. Which is exactly what I want in an urban fantasy. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll ride around on a zombie t-rex.

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

 

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Proven Guilty, by Jim Butcher: Finished May 30th. For me, this was a step back for the series, and very much a filler book. The thing is, I’m sure people could say that about Dead Beat, but I just HATED the main side-character from Proven Guilty. I didn’t care about the plot. The main monsters were cool, and I liked that the fairies eventually got involved, but I found myself skimming this one. It reminded me of the earlier books (especially Harry’s bizarre sexual fixation on Molly–who is friggin seventeen), mostly fluff without substance. And particularly light on the humor. Then again, I might also be Dresden’d out: reading 8 of the books in one month was a pretty intense journey. I’m actually going to take June off and read another series, then finish Dresden in July.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

My goal this year is to read 150 books (I went past that last year, but this year I have some behemoths on the list so I’m giving myself wiggle room). Funnily enough, I hit book 75, halfway through my goal, with Proven Guilty–which is roughly halfway through the Dresden series. My plan for next month is to go light and pick maybe a trilogy, and then catch up on the books I had to pass over in May. Danielewski, Barker, and Bacigalupi, oh my!

May 2015 Wrapup: Week 3

24 May

Another week, another pile of books I’ve worked through! I’ll be honest, this week got off to a slow start for me (missed 2 whole days of reading due to various reasons) and I didn’t accomplish nearly as much as I wanted to. I was hoping to finish off one or two of the Dresden books, but those got pushed to next week. I did, however, FINALLY start tackling my list of books I’ve been putting off. It’s pretty short, but intimidating: Lolita, Infinite Jest, Gravity’s Rainbow, and Ulysses. Of course I picked the easiest first, though I’m hoping to finish IJ in June so halfway through the year, I’ll be halfway done with the list! Hopefully…

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The Devil’s Detective by  Simon Kurt Unsworth: Finished May 20th. I was instantly drawn to the name of this one, but before reading the summary I braced myself for yet another boring detective novel with a cool name that has nothing to do with the plot. Thankfully, The Devil’s Detective is about a detective… in hell! He works for demons! He solves murders! He escorts angels around! It’s everything I always wanted and more.

Though this is indeed a detective novel, I’d also hesitantly shelve it as splatterpunk. It’s heavy on the gore and other revolting details of hell: I mean, it’s hell after all. But basically, don’t read this if you are squeamish. If you like demons, devils, mythology, angels, hellish mysteries, plant monsters? Read this. Read it right now. It’s an absolutely brilliant take on what a modern hell would be, and features an amazing cast of characters. The core mystery is not that mysterious, but the atmosphere is amazing, the writing is gorgeous, and the ending… it’s perfection.

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov: Finished May 22nd. There’s little I can say about this that has not already been said a hundred times. Twisted, lyrical, unforgettable. I mean, it’s Lolita. Though honestly, I was expecting it to be more… horrific? Not to underplay the abuse element, of course, but given the fact that this is a banned book and all I thought it would be more explicitly vile (instead of emotionally vile). Possibly because last year I read The End of Alice and Tampa, books with the same thing but with a more nauseatingly graphic tilt. And I loved all 3 of them.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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Never Never Part Two, by Colleen Hoover and Tarryn Fisher: Finished May 23rd. I honestly don’t know why I am torturing myself by reading this. I really, really didn’t like the first “part.” Also, this isn’t a serial book, it’s a book they cut up into three sections to draw out hype. Ugh. Honestly, I loved Hopeless, but I become more and more frustrated with Colleen Hoover every time I read a new book of hers.

There’s nothing I can say about the plot (“plot”) without spoiling the first part, but I can say that we get some answers. Well, like one answer. The big mystery is still left untouched for the most part. The thing is… no matter how much I hate this damn thing, I know I’m going to read part 3. I just have to know what happens! It’s like a curse.

Lipstick Rating 2 Full

 

 

 

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The Hellbound Heart, by Clive Barker: Finished May 23rd. Read in preparation for The Scarlet Gospels, which I am SO excited about and hopefully will get to next week (if I can keep up with my Dresden reading). This had a nostalgic glow for me that really vanished on the re-read. Now, I love Clive Barker (and his short story “In The Hills, The Cities” is my favorite story of all time), but this left me feeling a little disappointed. Maybe because what everyone thinks of when they think of The Hellbound Heart/Hellraiser is the Cenobites, who are only in like 10% of this. No joke.

The rest is the story of the humans who have become wrapped up Lemarchand’s box and the horrible world of the Order of the Gash. Which sounds interesting but… the three main characters (not counting Frank, I love Frank) were very flat and one-dimensional. Sweet, doofy husband. Clumsy girl with crush on said doofy guy. Cold-hearted bitch out to kill anyone who gets in her way. It didn’t feel original or inventive, in sharp contrast to the wildly inventive and original world of the Cenobites. But hey, The Scarlet Gospels is focused almost entirely on Cenobite-world, so at least we have that to look forward to.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

May 2015 Wrapup: Week 2

18 May

Week 2 of May has come and gone! In fact, I’m a little behind on this: I mean, better than the months-behind I was only a short while ago, but it still counts! I had some computer issues this past week that caused this to get pushed back a bit, but I’m back on track now.

Week 2 of May was decent: better than week 1 for sure. I read one less book,  but enjoyed all of them a lot more.

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Fool Moon, by Jim Butcher: Finished May 10th. There’s a theme this week (and probably this whole month). I’m actually on-track to read half the Dresden Files series in May, which is pretty awesome! This was a definite improvement over Storm Front: the pacing was more solid, and I adored the depth of the werewolf mythology. There were at least 4 different kinds: 5, if you count Terra West, who I am convinced is a Skinwalker.

While I’m early on in the series, I’d like to address an issue that seems to pop up in a lot of reviews: Harry Dresden is a bit of a misogynist. For some reason, people seem to think this makes Jim Butcher a misogynist. I think Harry’s hypocrisy comes through loud and clear: it’s not intended for us to think “wow, women sure are dumb and need saving!” but rather “man, Harry sure can be a moron.” Author intent and author belief are not one and the same.

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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Grave Peril, by Jim Butcher: Finished May 13th. I’ve heard, over and over, that this series is a slow trek uphill in terms of quality and it hits its stride around the middle. However, I liked Fool Moon more than Grave Peril: maybe because I’m a slut for mythology, and the werewolf stuff in FM was amazing, whereas the ghost aspect of GP didn’t really bring anything new to the table. GP also brings us new characters (Michael & Lea), but unlike those in FM (Tera and Billy & the werewolves) I only liked one. I’ll admit that while everyone seems to love Michael, and even I admit that the idea of the Knights is very cool, I’m not a fan. Though the dialogue we get from Harry because of his “zomg no cursing! God is listening!” deal is pretty great.

Lea (short for Leanan Sidhe, one of my all time favorite fae), though… man, this gives us a great taste of the next book. Which is so much better. I feel like Grave Peril pretty much just exists to set up things for the future.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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All The Rage, by Courtney Summers: Finished May 13th. This is the highest rating I’ve given a book this month. Before you go diving in, there is a HUGE trigger warning for rape. It’s at the core of this book, and while this is a young adult novel it’s brutal: it does not shy away from the realities of being a survivor, from the trauma and the horror of just trying to live your life after being broken like that. But this is an amazingly important and beautifully written book. It manages to be tasteful while also being brutally honest: it is real and dreamlike, horrible but amazing. If you feel like you are in a place where this would not trigger you in a harmful way, I suggest you read it. I really wish everyone would: it really gets to the core of what that act of violence really, truly means.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

 

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Summer Knight, by Jim Butcher: Finished May 16th. FAERIES! Definitely my favorite so far, and I can see why so many people say that this is where the series gets “serious.” There’s a lot of heavy mythology and worldbuilding like the previous books, along with the witty dialogue and action scenes you’d expect (although confession, I don’t love action scenes and tend to skim them) but here we finally get… serious character development! A look at the White Council! Serious peeks into Harry’s past! Lots of things that were hinted at in books 1-3 are actually brought to the table here.

And man, let’s just talk about how Butcher handles the Fae. He doesn’t go for cute/sexy, like so many people, but makes them truly alien and unpredictable. Or at least for the most part: I guessed the “bad guy” pretty easily based on how unpredictable the whole thing was (though that’s not really a fault, exactly). I loved all the courts, and I know that the Queens are seriously important in the rest of the books so I am really looking forward to that.

A last note: I really enjoy this series, but I don’t love it. I’m really hoping I do (since I’ve basically committed myself to 16+ books), but at this point I am 1/4 of the way through and the “I LOVE THIS SO MUCH!” has yet to kick in. They’re still just light, enjoyable reads for me. I’m hoping for more wham-moments and real character depth in the future.

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

150 Book Challenge: April 2015 Wrapup

13 May

I know I have already started posting updates for May, but I kind of missed a month in between that and March, didn’t I? And once I finish this, I’ll be all caught up! Except for, you know, February and most of January… but oh well! April was my birthday month, but sadly not the greatest of reading months. I accomplished a decent amount (14 books finished), but aside from the main series I picked and a few outliers, there was nothing particularly spectacular. I’m really selling you on reading this post, huh? Like the March roundup, this is going to be a long one, so you can find all the details after the jump!

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May 2015 Wrapup: Week 1

9 May

Can you believe the first week in May is already over? It seems like it flew right on by! I had what I can only describe as a mediocre reading week: 5 books, but they ranged from “just okay” to “terrible.” So let’s jump right in!

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Vanishing Girls, by Lauren Oliver: Finished May 1st. I like Lauren Oliver, and I feel like she has come far as a writer. Her last two books, Panic and Rooms, were head and shoulders above the Delirium trilogy. Sadly, the streak did not continue. Vanishing Girls is about, you guessed it, some girls who vanish! Actually, it’s mainly about two sisters (Dara and Nick, once again with the quirky names) who used to be very close, but were in a horrific car accident several months ago that broke their friendship. A young girl in town goes missing, and the “smart” sister (the other is, surprise, the “slutty” one) gets drawn into it.

Before I get into my main issue with this book, I’d like to discuss a common and unfortunate trope in young adult/new adult. Young women are so often shamed in books for wearing makeup, like it somehow makes them less of a woman or it marks them as insecure/a slut. Dara, the “bad” sister, wears a lot of makeup. Her sister points this out CONSTANTLY, more than any other trait. Dara drinks, does drugs, but we’re more likely to hear about her false lashes than any actual transgressions. Nick also makes sure to tell us if older women are wearing makeup, because god forbid someone over 40 wear lipstick. It’s an odd conundrum: makeup is bad on young people, bad on old people. “Real girls” wear nothing but chapstick and mascara. I mean, this is a makeup & book blog so I’m sure you all know how I feel about this trope. It’s bad, it shames girls for something totally normal, and it deserves to die. I was so disappointed to see Lauren Oliver relying on it so heavily.

But that’s not the main issue here. The main issue… is that the plot of this book is totally and completely stolen from another book. Spoilers for both, because if you’ve read one the twist for the other is going to be revealed: Vanishing Girls is plot-point for plot-point a version of Nocte (only with two sisters instead of a sister/brother). I hated Nocte, hated the plot, so of course even if Vanishing Girls was unique I wouldn’t like it. It’s contrived and unoriginal, and I really wish I’d skipped this because I’m not sure how to feel about the whole thing. I really  hope it’s coincidence (that two books published a year apart in the same genre have identical plots?).

LipstickRating1Full

 

 

 

 

 

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Suicide Forest, by Jeremy Bates: Finished May 3rd. Aokigahara is a real location in Japan. It’s dubbed the Suicide Forest because every year, hundreds of people head there to die (mostly by hanging). Intensely creepy, right? So a horror novel set there has to be good. Well, no, obviously not. But I’ll be honest: if I see a horror novel that takes place in the woods, I’m reading it. I’ve been chasing the feeling of The Ritual for a long time, but no woods book comes anywhere close. I need to give up this hunt: nothing will ever be like The Ritual, the most perfectly terrifying woods-themed horror of all time. Go read it.

So anyway, Suicide Forest. It’s your typical “people go camping, spooky stuff happens” type of book. There’s little in the way of actual scares, and the characters are awful. They’re basically walking horror movie tropes (“the jock” “the nerdy guy” “the comic relief” etc), and they act in ways that are just beyond irrational. This book is also filled to the gills with misinformation. I won’t touch on the woefully innacurate portrayal of Japanese culture because that would fill a very long post, but there’s really basic stuff here that is flat-out wrong. Things like Japan having the highest suicide rate in 1st world countries (wrong: Japan is 7th), fire ants being the #1 predator to kill humans (wrong: humans are the #1 killer of humans. For non-human animals, it’s snakes), India having a much higher rate of violence and sexual assault towards women than America (so wrong, and stats are very easy to find online). It’s like the author tried to write a book without doing any research.

This was almost saved by the reveal of what’s actually happening, but honestly nothing could save it from mediocrity. I’ve learned my lesson when it comes to “books with spooky forest covers.” Until the next time I pick one up, that is.

Lipstick Rating 2 Full

 

 

 

 

 

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Storm Front, by Jim Butcher: Finished May 6th. My series for this month is the Dresden Files (though it is over 14 books long, so it may be my May-June series). I’ve heard that it does not get really good until book 3 (or 4, or 6, depending on who you ask) so I was not expecting much from this. And indeed, it is nothing really spectacular. Your run of the mill urban fantasy in terms of plot, and the pacing is all over the place.

But one thing does shine through: the characters. I love me some witty banter, and it’s here in droves. The foundation was set for some really awesome future worldbuilding, so while I didn’t love this book I am looking forward to continuing the series.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

 

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Within These Walls, by Ania Ahlborn: Finished May 7th. Imagine that you are reading a book about a carnival. Or at least, it’s supposed to be a book about a carnival–it says so right on the back! Through the whole thing characters are constantly talking about the carnival. They discuss the rides and when they are going to go. We get the history of the carnival. But not once does anyone actually visit said carnival: in fact, the carnival closes down before the book even ends!

That was pretty much what it felt like to read Within These Walls. Ania Ahlborn is an odd author: I adore some of her books, but she wrote one that was so painfully bad (The Shuddering) that I cringe thinking of it. This book falls into the “oh god why” category. It’s unoriginal, not at all scary, and has “twists” you can see coming from a mile away. Add in mediocre characters and stiff, un-atmospheric writing and you’ve got kind of a mess.

There’s one high point: some very interesting things are done with names. Names we are born with, nicknames, names we chose for ourselves… this was such a great thread, and I wish more of the book had been dedicated to it rather than “ooh spooky serial killer!”

Lipstick Rating 2 Full

 

 

 

 

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Trigger Warning, by Neil Gaiman: Finished May 8th.  think if you’re going to use something as loaded as “trigger warning” as a title and then mention very specifically that it’s full of “disturbances” it should probably be, well… disturbing. Or so one would think. I admit that I have a pretty high tolerance for what I’d classify as disturbing (I’m thinking Angel Dust Apocalypse and Blake Butler here), but there is really nothing disturbing here. Like, not even a little. Okay, there’s one dead cat, but that’s a personal thing for me–cat dies? I’m gonna cry. But this cat was dead for a long time, so… yeah. Not scary. Maybe a little creepy.

I also find Gaiman, as a person, incredibly pretentious. The entire introduction is filled with enough name-dropping to kill a horse. It’s hard to separate those feelings from the actual writing, though his pretentiousness definitely seeps through. The stories are a total mixed bag: some good, some bad, some awkward, and a very few great ones. In fact, I only really enjoyed one story: “Black Dog”, which is a sequel of sorts to American Gods. Which is odd, because I didn’t particularly like American Gods, but here we are. There’s a retelling of Sleeping Beauty that shines with creativity, and there are bits and pieces in other stories that truly are great (especially a set of 12 mini-vignettes based on the months of the calendar). But overall I just was not a fan of this at all, especially the stories where he tried to veer into the New Weird genre and missed… a lot.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

150 Book Challenge: March 2015 Wrapup

7 May

I haven’t been doing well with my goal of actually reviewing every book I read, have I? No. Not at all. I set a pretty reasonable goal for myself, but when you read a book every 1 or 2 days (and sometimes 2 in 1 day) it’s nearly impossible to keep up with that volume of reviews in full format. So, I’ve decided to take a hint from Booktube and switch to roundups! Monthly at the moment, possibly weekly after April because that seems more reasonable length-wise.

Because this is going to be rather lengthy it’s after the jump, so hit it and let’s get started!

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