December 2015 Wrapup: Part II

1 Jan

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

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

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

 

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

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

 

 

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

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

 

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

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

 

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

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

 

The Unnoticeables RD 1 selects A

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

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

 

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

Lipstick Rating 2 Full

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