Tag Archives: Erotica

July 2017 Wrapup: Part I

23 Jul

Time for my only-slightly-late July part I wrapup! This month has been so brutally hot and I just don’t feel like I have the brain strength for anything too serious, so there were a lot of fluffy reads this month. Sometimes I feel guilty when I don’t read any “serious literature” for a while but that is silly, right? Reading should be fun, and if I want to read trashy YA I should be okay with that. My relationship with guilt and reading is a work in progress, but I am really trying!

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Rawblood, by Catroina Ward. Finished July 3rd. This book was probably the biggest surprise for me this year. It’s been on my TBR for quite a while, but I only had a vague idea of what it was about (“Gothic haunted house” basically) and I will admit I mostly added it because of the cool cover(s) and title. But man, this blew me away.

The setup for this seems like a classic Gothic novel. We have a huge, creepy house (Rawblood) and the family that lives there seems to be cursed. They all die young, and seem to suffer from some sort of genetic madness. Been there done that, right? But Rawblood takes off in strange, wild directions. The storytelling itself is incredibly layered: we have a core main character Iris, who seems to be the last of her line, but the narrative is non-linear and follows a ton of different characters. Each section raises a question that is answered in the next, which is clever because we flip back and forth in time pretty rapidly. We’ll go from Iris as a child to 50 years in the past to 25 years in the past to Iris a year after we met her. Through these narratives the true story of Rawblood and its history are unveiled and the conclusion is truly shocking.

I loved basically everything about this. The writing was great, it felt very Victorian without coming across as trying too hard or old-fashioned. The plot was absolutely riveting and such a cool twist on the Woman in White/haunted family tropes. The characters were great: some of them are only with the reader for 20 or so pages, but they are all memorable and interesting. Really a near-perfect Gothic tale.

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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New Boy, by Tracy Chevalier*. Finished July 4th. So far there have been 5 releases in the Hogarth Shakespeare line, and this is the 3rd that I have read. I really enjoyed my first two (Vinegar Girl, which is a Taming of the Shrew retelling; and Hag-Seed, a Tempest retelling). This is a take on Othello, only the characters are middle schoolers in the 70′s and it takes place over a very short time period.

This is one of those novels that manages to be about children without falling into annoying young adult tropes. It’s a dark book, obviously, especially since it focuses on the racism that Othello (Osei here) experiences. Having to read about such a young kid being taunted and tormented for his race was pretty rough at times, especially since it is very clear the other children are just mimicking the behavior of authority figures.

While the setting is totally new, this is probably the most true-to-the-play Hogarth I’ve read so far. The plot is near-identical, which is not a criticism but after the breakneck weirdness of Hag-Seed it was a sharp change of pace. It also doesn’t push the story as far as I thought it could: Othello has a violent end, and it is softened quite a bit here. I get why the decision was made (this is about kids, after all), but I do think it would have been more impactful and interesting to stick a little closer to the traditional ending.

While this is my least-favorite Hogarth book so far, I still really enjoyed it (which just goes to show how quality this project is!). The characters were very well fleshed out for such a short read, and I found them all to be quite relateable, even the “bad” ones. Even though I knew where the story was going I found myself riveted: New Boy is a real page-turner.

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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The Shock of the Fall, by Nathan Filer. Finished July 4th. This was such a hyped book that I was almost afraid to pick it up. Every review is about how it ripped their heart to shreds and they cried for ages. I love books that hurt the reader, but I tend to get nervous when everyone else feels that way. Like, “what if I don’t think this is sad? What if I’m some sort of horrible emotionless monster?!” Sometimes I get a bit dramatic about books, it’s true.

I should not have been nervous, because this book is SO SAD. It’s about a schizophrenic man whose disabled brother died as a child in front of him and the impact that had on his life. Considering that my family has a long history of mental illness AND I also have a disabled brother, some of The Shock of the Fall was almost too close to home. It just hurt my soul, guys, and I loved it.

This wasn’t quite A Little Life level of heartbreak, but it was so effectively bleak and emotional. Your heart aches for everyone in the story: poor Matt locked away in a mental institution, his parents who never quite get over their grief, doomed and unbearably sweet Simon. The narrative just builds up this intense sense of nostalgia and grief: Matt’s storytelling flits from childish and repetitive to heartbreakingly self-aware. It’s just a really tragic story.

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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Lady Midnight, by Cassandra Clare. Finished July 8th. I realize that I have probably never talked about a Cassie Clare book on this blog. I have a love-hate relationship with her: I love to hate her books. They’re just… they’re really trashy and kind of stupid but I love them?? Especially because I read them with my mom and we trash them together. Mother-daughter bonding at its finest!

I have read 3.5 out of the 6 Mortal Instruments books and all 3 of the Infernal Devices. And while the world is great, there are always huge issues. Like Clare’s constant, incessant description of peoples’ eye color and the fact that all her books are exactly the same. In many ways, Lady Midnight is an improvement for her. But in others, it’s… the exact same book once again. Sure, she gender-swapped her two “main” roles so we now have a sassy lead girl (Emma) instead of a sassy lead guy (Jace/Will), and the boy (Julian) is relegated to love interest (Clary/Tessa). The plot is basically the same too: there’s sexual tension between the two leads that is ~forbidden~ for some reason, there’s ancient magic afoot, a “surprise” villain reveal, the grownups are literally never around and/or they’re incompetent, the tension between Shadowhunters and Downworlders is on full display… I could go on.

But, as I said, this is better than her previous books! The characters are a lot more tolerable, and we have a bona fide autistic character who is done so well. There’s a love triangle, but it seems like it might end the way I always want them to (everyone should just bone). And it seems like it’s setting up for a pretty epic trilogy. I mean, it’s still 3 stars because her writing is not good let’s be honest, but I genuinely enjoyed this.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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Strange Heart Beating, by Eli Goldstone. Finished July 9th. This was a novel with a lot of potential that just didn’t quite become what I wanted it to. The premise is just so fascinating: a woman named Leda drowns after a swan capsizes her boat, and her husband goes on a journey to discover her past. It’s a fun play on the Leda & the Swan myth, plus I love the whole “family secrets, person isn’t who you thought they were” trope.

The writing here is beautiful, very lyrical and poetic. But there is SUCH a distance between the reader and the main character. It made it hard to care about anything that was happening, because it was like watching a play in a football stadium. I had to squint to see the characters’ emotions. It kind of reads like a drunk guy trying to re-create an event when he clearly doesn’t actually know what happened. Characters would do things that made no sense to me, and we’d never get any explanation.

I don’t mind distanced narratives. I don’t mind character motives that you have to suss out for yourself. I don’t mind oblivious narrators. But all 3 of these things together in a less-than-compelling narrative? It doesn’t make for an engaging read. I did absolutely adore the reading and it wasn’t a bad book, but I just wanted so much more from it.

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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Lord of Shadows, by Cassandra Clare. Finished July 11th. So I picked up Lord of Shadows basically right after finishing Lady Midnight. And it was even better than the first one! It starts out with some tropes I REALLY hate (like ~just kidding the enemy you killed in the first book was alive whole time~), but in a shocking twist Clare didn’t follow her usual formula and mixed things up in an unexpected way. I was like, “yes Cassie yes spread those wings.”

We get a bunch of things here I’ve wanted the entire time I’ve been reading this series, like a better explanation of the magic system and finally a trip into Faerie. I still do think Clare is holding back a bit in terms of rough things happening to her characters, but this was such a fun romp. I am getting quite attached to the characters (aside from our leads, Emma and Julian, who I find kind of boring: but this is normal with her stuff, side characters are always better) and am honestly excited for the final book in the trilogy.

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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The Red, by Tiffany Reisz. Finished July 14th. I almost squealed when I heard that this book was really coming out. It has been mentioned before quite a few times in Reisz’ Original Sinners series because the main character, Nora, wrote it. Yes, a book in a book that is now a real book! What more could I want?

While I really miss the OS gang and how dark Reisz got with them, this was a really nice replacement. And not just because I can pretend Nora wrote it: this book is weird and really out there. It’s romance/erotica with some verrry strange and fringe elements, so if you’re sensitive to like basically any weird fetish this probably isn’t for you. The premise is that a gallery owner, Mona, is going out of business but a man offers to save the gallery if she agrees to spend 1 night a month with him for a full year. Mona is a girl who likes to live dangerously so she says “hell yeah that sounds safe sane and consensual!”

Mona has to re-create famous erotic paintings with her patron, which is such an unusual and interesting concept. Things get very weird very fast: the first one is pretty normal (“Olympia”), but the second (“The Slave Market”) almost had me questioning what I was reading. And it just descends into some pretty surreal things from there. Like giant Minotaurs and human sacrifices and ghosts. So be warned, if you open up this book you’re in for a wild ride.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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Final Girls, by Riley Sager. Finished July 15th. This is a book that had so much potential. The idea of a real life Final Girls club is just awesome: as a big horror movie fan, I found this concept instantly appealing. However, it’s really being marketed as this intense action romp where the Final Girls are hunted down one by one, and it is decidedly not that. By the way, if someone wants to write a book where that is the actual plot, I am behind you 100%.

First of all, there are only 3 Final Girls in this book, which is… not a lot. Certainly not enough for a bloody horror adventure. The focus is almost entirely on our main girl, Quincy, who conveniently has amnesia about her own Final Girl experience. Throughout the noel there are snippets of what happened that night, but 90% of it is teenagers getting drunk and squabbling with each other and agonizing over losing their virginity. So, like the setup to a horror movie, only it’s almost all of the content instead of the opening 20 minutes. Sadly, these kind-of-boring snippets are the most action-packed of the novel, because most of it is just Quincy like hanging out with another girl.

Lisa, one of the Final Girls, has died, and the two remaining ones come together to deal with their loss. Quincey and Sam form a weird sisterhood based on trauma, and while this part was quite slow I actually enjoyed it. I’m a sucker for toxic female friendships and this one was great. Shoplifting, vigilantism in Central Park, drugs, lies, and secrets. Of course the book starts off as being one thing (horror movie), switches to this female friendship section, and then takes a hard right into over-the-top drama in the last 15%. There are basically 5 characters here so no matter who the final ‘big bad’ is, it’s not going to be a surprise. I mean, not many options. And the actual conclusion was just ridiculous. Like, too ridiculous for even a cheesy horror movie (unless it was straight to video!).

The writing was fine and I found the characters engaging so I can’t really give this lower than 2.5 stars, but this was a huge disappointment.

Lipstick Rating 2 And 1 Half

 

 

 

Reading Challenge Goals

Books Read: 117/200

Goal Books: 110

Impulse Reads: 7

[Books marked with a * were provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own]

Reading Wrapup: Febraury 2017 Part II

2 Mar

And here we are, with part 2! Next month I’ll be more timely, I swear.

February was an okay reading month. Not nearly as bad as January, but not quite up to my 2016 stats of 20+ books a month. This could also be because it’s a shorter month: I finished off two books on March 1st, and any other month those would have counted. So I’m trying to look on the positive: 15 books a month isn’t bad at all, and I didn’t have any impulse reads!

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Hurt People. by Cote Smith. Finished February 13th. I picked this up impulsively from the library and let’s be real, it was because of the cover. It’s also described as a dark coming of age tale, a genre I really enjoy when done right. And hey, it fulfilled a Read Harder challenge (debut novel) so it was easy to justify.

This book is so heartbreaking. It’s about two young brothers whose parents have just been through a contentious divorce. Over one summer they are basically left to their own devices while their mother goes to work, and they end up meeting a mysterious older boy at the neighborhood pool. This doesn’t sound like the most compelling summary, but trust me, it works brilliantly. Because it’s clear something really bad is going to happen (and you know what it is fairly early on), but our story is told through the eyes of the younger brother. So the reader can see all these pieces falling into place, but his innocence keeps him blind to the danger all around him.

This is a quiet story. There’s no big action scenes, and the “shocking” event at the end is one you intentionally see coming a mile away. It’s more about people and life and the struggle to just get from one day to the next, and how small actions can have huge consequences. If slow, character-driven coming of age stories (with dark elements–go into this with a strong stomach, people) are your thing, give this underrated read a shot!

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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The Waste Lands, by Stephen King. Finished February 16th. Book 3 in the Dark Tower series, and my favorite so far. Probably will be my favorite of all of them, because I can’t imagine anything topping this. You know how I said The Gunslinger and The Drawing of The Three felt like two different books? This combines all the aspects of the previous additions to spectacular effect.

This is King at his most epic, and also his most devilish. I have a new favorite King villain (yes, Blaine has trumped even Flagg and Pennywise for me). The world is SO compelling: the more we see of it, the more I want answers. Usually with fantasy it’s the opposite, and that cloak of mystery needs to stay on or it gets dull. With this series, every piece of new information that is slowly fed to the reader just makes it better. Of course I don’t think even King knew where he was going when he wrote these, but man am I strapped in for the ride.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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The Good People, by Hannah Kent. Finished February 18th. I read Burial Rites in 2015 and, like everyone else, totally loved it. It’s kind of shocking to think that was her first novel. So I was highly anticipating her follow up, even if the plot didn’t sound quite as interesting. It takes place in Ireland in 1825. Nora has lost her daughter and husband in the same year, and is left alone with land to take care of and her possibly disabled grandson. She hires a maid, and ends up going to a sort of witch-woman who can talk to fairies (the “good people”) for help.

Doesn’t sound as intriguing as “the last woman executed in Iceland” but as you’d expect from Kent, it packs a punch. It’s also based on a true case, but one that is obscure. Tip: don’t look it up before reading, because I think it’s better to not know what direction the story is going in.

Like Burial Rites, the atmosphere is the star here. You can feel the poverty and despair of the characters, the chill Irish air and the growing desperation as winter gets darker and bleaker. I don’t think the plot or characters are quite as tight as BR, but it’s an amazingly fast-paced read given that most of it is literally just women in cottages sitting and talking. There is a compulsive quality to it: you’re so desperate to know what happens, and the tension gets incredibly high. It wasn’t the book I expected, but I am not at all disappointed.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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Marriage Games, by CD Reiss. Finished February 21st. This book pains me. I used to be a big CD Reiss fan–sure, they were almost guilty pleasure books, but she could weave a great story and her relationships were always dynamic and interesting. But ever since the last Fiona book and her attempt to do more mainstream works (ShutterGirl and Hardball) I feel like she’s lost her touch. Remember the tragedy that was Secret Sins? Shudder.

But this looked more promising. It’s not a Drazen book (which I used to love, but now I almost dread) and it’s not light and fluffy. However… I did not enjoy it. The premise sounds at least intriguing, but the hero and heroine are so obtuse and annoying. My eyes rolled so far back into my head when we found out our ~super dreamy hero~ didn’t want to do anything degrading to his wife (even if she wanted it) because it would “ruin her in his eyes.” Toxic masculinity and Madonna/whore complex like woah! But this is never addressed as being weird or anything, it’s just… how he is. And Diana? Even after her chapters she felt like a complete mystery, in a bad way. This was just a meh read but it had so much potential I might try the follow-up.

Lipstick Rating 2 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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The Familiar Vol 4 Hades, by Mark Z Danielewski. Finished February 21st. Ahh, what is there to say about this series? We’re only on book 4 (of 26) and it might already be my all-time favorite. Danielewski can do no wrong, at least in my eyes. Which might be because we share a love of both cats and intense spookiness.

There’s nothing I can say about the plot without spoiling things. These books are both incredibly complex but also very accessible for postmodern literature. We have 9 characters, each with only slightly overlapping stories (there are 3 who are part of a family, but the others are distant–both in theme and location, we go all over the world). Each character has a different color, font, and stylistic layout. Weird things happen. It’s spooky. It’s strange. It’s wonderful. Do you like cats? Maybe read this and be both excited and confused.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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Swimming Lessons, by Claire Fuller. Finished February 28th. This month/year I am trying to read more from authors I recently found and loved. The majority of the books I read in 2016 were actually from new-to-me authors, but a lot that I’ve found in the past few years have put out new books. And I should read them! So that was a mini-goal for me in February, and I read both The Good People and this book, which is written by the same woman who did Our Endless Numbered Days. Which I ADORED.

Swimming Lessons is very, very different from Numbered Days. In fact, I wouldn’t have guessed they had the same author if I didn’t know that coming in. It’s about a family where the mother went missing over a decade ago. Our main perspective is Flora, the teenage daughter who still wants to believe that her mom is out there, though every other chapter is actually a letter the mother wrote before she went missing. These letters, tragically, are not read by her family because she hides them in books and no one ever thinks to look. By the end, you aren’t sure if she even wanted them to be found.

There are some thematic overlaps with The Book of Speculation (another book I love): a crumbling family dynamic, a house by the sea, a potentially tragic mother figure who loves to swim. But Swimming Lessons definitely takes a more mystery-driven route and focuses on “what happened.” However, I wouldn’t really recommend this if you’re just looking for a good mystery, because while it’s the driving force of the plot it also kind of takes a back seat to family interactions.

I have mixed feelings about this one. The atmosphere is great, and I adored the letter sections. But I found Flora insufferable. There’s a lot of good here, but I though Flora’s sections were kind of dull and honestly I wasn’t super intrigued by the mystery. The writing was lovely and it’s definitely a compelling book, but I came away thinking it was just okay when I really wanted to love it.

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

 

Reading Challenge Goals

Books Read: 28/200

Goal Books: 25

Impulse Reads: 3

December Reading Wrapup: Part II

4 Jan

In terms of raw numbers, the first half of December was much better than the second in terms of reading. The holidays are always a rough time for hobbies: there’s so much traveling, so many things to do, so much cooking… and no time for my usual before-bed reading. I got a little bit done, but not as much as I had hoped. Though I wrapped up almost all of my challenges on time, so that’s something to be happy about!

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The River at Night, by Erica Ferencik*. Finished December 16th. There are a few things that will get me to pick up a book no matter the reviews or author. If it has survival elements or spooky woods (and The River at Night has both), I generally don’t even bother to look up information on it. I just read that sucker. This has led me astray many times: according to my shelves, I’ve read 22 unsuccessful spooky woods books and only 10 I actually enjoyed. Thankfully, this is the latter category!

The premise is a wonderful combination of The Descent and The Ritual (which are both about as good as it gets when it comes to survival horror). Four women have been friends for decades, but they only see each other once a year on epic vacations. Beach getaways, skydiving, that sort of thing. This year they’re going white water rafting in an uninhabited part of Maine. No, none of them have ever rafted before, but these girls are desperate for adventure. Or at least their leader, Pia, is.

Most of the first half of the novel is spent setting up the characters. Sure, things happen (the adventure starts!) but it’s mostly building up all 4 women as complex and realistic figures. Their interactions, histories, and personalities feel very fleshed out and realistic. They all have obvious flaws (the divorcee, the adventure addict, the recovered alcoholic, the abused wife) but none fall into trope territory. They feel like real, average humans. Like women you went to school with or talk to at a book club. It’s a nice writing trick: they’re complex enough to hold your interest, but not over-the-top enough to take you out of the mood.

And the mood is fantastic! While this is not technically a horror novel, it has a very moody atmosphere and moments of extreme tension. After all, you know from the blurb (and tone) that the trip does not go well. This is a survival novel, after all. And there’s a lot of surviving going on. There are also some old-fashioned creepy-people-in-the-woods element as well. Stranded in an unexplored forest with potentially Deliverance-level crazies? It makes for some excellent horror moments.

Though the build to the meat of the plot is slow, it never feels like a chore getting there. The pacing is great, and you are carried along the river of these women’s relationship at the exact pace the author intends. Sure, there are some unrealistic elements in play towards the end, but that’s almost always true in survival stories (because if they were realistic, 99% of the time they’d end in “and then they all died of exposure”). But this is an immersive piece of horror masquerading as literary fiction. If you like survival horror, I’d definitely give it a shot.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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Breaking Wild, by Diane Les Becquets. Finished December 16th. After reading The River at Night I immediately wanted more survival-themed books. Maybe I should have resisted that impulse, because it’s no surprise that Breaking Wild suffered from the comparison. Then again, based on other reviews I might feel just as neutral if I’d waited.

Breaking Wild has a lot of elements I love, aside from survival. There’s a hint of grit lit (without the over-the-top sexually violent tones that plague that genre), strong female characters, and that Gone Girl “is she really who she says she is?” element to the missing woman Amy Raye. Then again, that last one might be a little too on-the-nose for me (I mean, she has the same name–Amy. Kind of trite). We also have lots of animal-based scenes, both friend and foe. Dogs and coyotes and cougars and bears and elk, oh my!

But I felt a huge distance in the narrative. Even when we are with Amy on her survival journey, watching her on the brink of death, I didn’t feel that emotional pull I want. I like being close to characters, getting in their skin and feeling their pain along with them. And I don’t mind the “unlikeable” type that Amy Raye obviously falls into: as long as I understand a character, there’s the potential to like them. But with Amy? Even after her full backstory reveal I didn’t “get” her. And the woman looking for her, Pru, felt like an unnecessary add-in at times. Her home life and backstory was a bit dull next to the excitement and shine of Amy. That might have been an intentional contrast, but that doesn’t make it a good story decision.

There’s one thing this book does amazingly well: build tension. We have alternating chapters from Amy (missing woman) and Pru (looking for missing woman), but the timelines don’t sync up. Amy’s is at a much slower pace: it takes half a dozen chapters to even get to when she goes missing. Pru is way in the future by that point, and desperately looking for Amy. And while Pru’s chapters are in the 1st person, Amy’s are in the 3rd. These combine to create a big sense of unease, because we have no clue if Amy survived or not. And her chances seem quite grim as the book goes on. It’s cleverly executed and is a nice twist to the missing woman genre.

There are definitely highs and lows here. I loved the tone and the pacing, didn’t love the characters or side plots (I don’t care about Pru’s love life or kid, author. I want to know what happens with the cougar!!). I don’t regret reading it, but it’s not a book I will think back fondly on. If you don’t mind distanced narratives, though, and like survival thrillers, this might be right up your alley.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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Bodies of Water, by V. H. Leslie. Finished December 17th. This is one of those books I finished and immediately had almost no opinion on: I didn’t hate it, I didn’t love it. I feel decidedly lukewarm on pretty much every aspect. Which is odd, because the themes (intense female friendship, bizarre antiquated cures for madness, mythology/magical realism elements, alternating past-and-present storylines, cats!!) are things I almost always love or at least can easily get involved with.

But Bodies of Water was decidedly bland. The writing was decent and had some sparks of beauty, but mostly came across as just adequate. The characters are quite flat. They have interesting backgrounds, but everything we see from their perspective makes them seem dreadfully dull. They also act in a way that drives the plot forward but makes no real-world sense. If you moved into a brand-new apartment and the ceiling started leaking, would you 1) visit your upstairs neighbor to ~investigate~ and then forget about it or 2) call the fucking super to fix it asap because it’s DRIPPING ALL OVER YOUR BED. Our girl Kirsten takes #1 because yeah, that’s logical. Their motivations don’t line up with their actions at all, and it’s a consistent issue.

I think one of the main problems was the length. It’s so short but covers two stories with deep backgrounds. There’s a LOT going on, and each story could have easily been 100+ pages. It wouldn’t fix the other issues but it would make it easier to get invested. With this novella format, by the time I finally gave a damn about the plots it was over. Something interesting happened (there’s honestly only one real ‘event’ in the book) and 10 pages later it’s the end of the book? The pacing is quite poor.

I know this was going for a traditional Gothic atmosphere, and it had a great base to work with. The plot sounds so interesting on paper, and issues of mental illness and sexuality are just begging to play out on a weird Gothic water therapy stage. Yet this was just okay in almost every way. Super forgettable.

Lipstick Rating 2 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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In Pinelight, by Thomas Rayfield. Finished December 17th. This is, without a hint of exaggeration, one of the best pieces of literary fiction I’ve ever read. Yet it has 4, count em FOUR, reviews on Goodreads! I only stumbled upon it because the spine looked intriguing while I was at the library. I am a constant whore for books that take place in spooky woods, and how spooky does that cover look? Very spooky. But misleading, because there’s no horror here and very little woods. But quite a few pine trees, thus the name.

This is a book uniquely told. The plot may seem been-there-done-that: it’s an old man telling his life story to an unnamed interviewer. His life took place entirely in a small rural town and one of the main themes is past vs present, new vs old, progress vs tradition. No new ground there, but it’s dealt with in a very interesting way. The old man’s story is told in stream-of-consciousness. And not in a neat, easy to digest format. It includes all the mess of human speech: repetition, mistakes, grammatical errors and memory flaws. He’s definitely an unreliable narrator, though it is unclear if it’s because of age or intentional deception. At first it’s hard to get more than a paragraph into it without feeling a bit mentally exhausted. But once you get into the meat of the story, the narrative flows like water. It’s so intimate, like you are right in the room with our narrator. Or even better, right in his head. The interviewer actually doesn’t get any lines, so you kind of have to guess from the context what the questions are.

While at first this seems like a simple life story with no drama, the themes and characters get more and more complex and entangled as it goes on. His wife, sister, daughter, and best friend feature prominently, but it’s not told in sequential order. You’ll hear about his wife’s death, and then go back to when he first bought his horses (another important set of characters), then go all the way back to his childhood before snapping back to another memory of his wife. You’re in the stream of his life, and it’s absolutely mesmerizing. If you told me before I read this that I’d be captivated by the life of a guy who drove a horse-and-cart delivery I’d probably have laughed in your face, but In Pinelight is pure magic.

There are some big questions lurking in the background (what happened to his missing sister, what was going on at the weird medical institute in town, who is the interviewer, why is he being questioned, what secret was his friend hiding) that peek up occasionally but generally lurk in the background. They act as ties that bind everything together, but this is in no way a mystery. The joy of reading it is in the telling, not in the answers or cohesion. And while we do get answers (in a way–it’s left up to the reader to put together the pieces), they’re not at all what makes this book shine. It’s the carefully crafted narrative that make it so amazing. If you like literary fiction, please give this a shot. It’s criminally underrated.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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Some Will Not Sleep, by Adam Nevill. Finished December 19th. I have a fraught relationship with Adam Nevill. You know how Stephen King often can’t write a good ending? Nevill is like that, only it’s the entire second half of his books. When I say that The Ritual is one of my favorite horror novels, what I mean is “the first half of The Ritual is one of my favorite horror novels and I generally pretend the second half doesn’t exist.” Same for Last Days. I felt more positive about diving into a collection of shorts because hey, they aren’t long enough to have a different first and second half, right?

Well, that’s true. But somehow I ended up with the same problem of only liking 50% of the content! Except it was whole stories I liked or hated this time, which is an improvement I guess? Some of them I absolutely adored. “The Original Occupant” is basically a prequel to The Ritual, and takes place in that amazingly creepy forest. “Mother’s Milk” is gross-out body horror at its best. “Yellow Teeth” was so unsettling. “To Forget and be Forgotten” was possibly my favorite, and had me checking behind the shower curtain late at night. “The Ancestors” is a great take on Japanese horror.

But about half of the others were huge flops for me. “Pig Thing” was overly short and predictable. “Doll Hands” seemed to be bizarre just for the sake of being bizarre. “What God Hath Wrought?” had potential but ended up being overly long and about 80% exposition. “The Age of Entitlement” was just dull. “Florrie” was boring and uneventful.

I did enjoy the end section, which had the history of all the stories (both the writing of them and the ideas themselves). Very Stephen King. But at the end of the day, I’m just so confused by Nevill. I can’t believe the same author wrote all of these stories, much like I can’t believe the same author wrote the first half and second half of The Ritual.

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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The Scent of Winter, by Tiffany Reisz. Finished December 20th. MY HEART

“It happens to me sometimes. Something comes on me that’s more animal than human. I wish there was a word for it. The only word that comes close is ‘bloodlust.’ I’d felt it that night in the woods, the first time with you.”
“When you chased me and ran me down.”
“I wasn’t chasing you, Kingsley. I was hunting you.”

This may seem sacrilegious to other Original Sinners fans, but I’ve never been a huge fan of Kingsley. I don’t hate him, but I just don’t like him as much as the other two members of the Unholy Trinity. The books that focus on him tend to be my least favorites. I mean, I still enjoy him, but I never considered myself a real fan. Until this novella. It tugged on my heartstrings, and for the first time I felt totally sold on Soren/Kingsley. The rawness of their relationship here is so authentic and bittersweet.

“Why would I think I could fall in love with a wolf and never get bitten?”

This is probably my favorite of the Christmas novellas. And while at first it doesn’t seem overtly Christmas-themed, it’s perfectly seasonal!

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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Innocents, by Cathy Coote. Finished December 21st. I have this morbid fascination with all those “it’s like Lolita!” type of novels. Lamb, The End of Alice, Tampa, et cetera. This already backfired on me once this year with All The Ugly & Wonderful Things (which romanticizes pedophilia, why) so I was a little hesitant to pick this up. The premise is a play on all those “Lolita was a seductress!” morons (I almost apologized for that but if you think Lo was anything but a victim please get out immediately). Our 16-year-old heroine, who remains unnamed, is… kind of a sociopath. And by “kind of” I mean “she fantasizes about beating and torturing her classmates.”

One day she decides that seducing her teacher is a great idea. The plot summary makes it sound like she is the hunter and he is the hunted, and indeed that seems like the direction it’s going in. But of course, it’s much more complicated than that. The title, Innocents, could apply to both of them. The teacher thinks his student is innocent, and she thinks he is innocent. There is a very strange predator/prey dynamic here where they both think they are “in charge” of the relationship and manipulating the other one.

There is no question that our heroine is very messed up. She is no innocent, abused girl… but at the same time, she is very young and unable to understand adult relationships. The things about herself that she plays up (childish appearance, carefree demeanor, sexual reluctance, innocence and naivete) are not the things a mentally well adult man are interested in that, but she is totally blind to how creepy he is. She thinks she is totally in control and so clever, but she’s set a trap for a pedophile… and nabbed one. The question becomes, which of them will get hurt first? And how badly?

This is a dark, twisty book. You should have a strong stomach if you’re going into it, and a taste for moral ambiguity. It’s certainly not as upsetting as some of the other books in this “genre” (especially because it’s set in Australia, where 16 is the age of consent… if it’s not with a teacher) but there are many stomach-churning scenes. I hope this is not Coote’s last book, because I’d love to see what she does next.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by J.K. Rowling. Finished December 25th. Sometimes you just have to go where your heart takes you. Towards the end of the month, I just really felt like reading Harry Potter. I knew I had one book to get through before the year ended but hey… sometimes you need comfort food, but in book form. Which is what this is. Not really a lot I could possibly say that’d be new: it’s one of my favorite in the series, and I loved it.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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The Hydrogen Sonata, by Iain M. Banks. Finished December 31st. It seemed fitting to have this be my last book of the year. I started the Culture series in January of 2016, and have devoured the 10 books in it over the course of 2016. Sadly, Banks passed away a few years ago so this is the last Culture book we’ll ever get. And since it’s an open world (no books follow the same characters or plot), it had pretty much endless potential.

This is very much the swan song of the Culture world. It’s about a society at the end of its life-cycle: they are done with reality, and about to go post-physical into the Sublime. The Hydrogen Sonata seems like a goodbye letter, both to the Culture world and (tragically) to life. One of the main themes is the life-tasks people in this society give themselves. It can be anything (playing a particularly difficult piece of music, traveling to a far-away place, covering your body in a specific set of tattoos), but the goal is to accomplish a difficult or obscure task before death. Since the civilization is about to leave the Real, many people are rushing to finish their life-tasks. Like oh, you know… writing a book series. Yeah, it’s a little too close to home.

While this wasn’t the most compelling book in the series or the most emotional, it was beautifully crafted. It felt much more somber than anything else in the Culture world, and a little forlorn. It was also a rough read emotionally, not necessarily because of the content (though it’s quite sad) but because of the real-world parallels to Banks’ life. Plus, you know, last book of such a terrible and tragic year.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

Reading Challenge Goals

268/175 Books

28/28 Series Books

70/50 TBR Books

27/15 Different Countries

[Books marked with a * are provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own]

September Reading Wrapup: Part I

25 Sep

September has been a seemingly endless month. I look back at the books I read early in September and say, “really, that was this month?!” It probably feels that way because my reading was very different the first few weeks of the month and the last two. For the first half, I focused on series and a few shorter reads. For the second, I’ve been reading through the National Book Award Longlist (which will be its own post in Part II!). Aside from one small book I read in between the NBA books, which will be included in this wrapup just for cohesion’s sake. So let’s get started!

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Dragon Haven, by Robin Hobb. Finished September 3rd. I finished the first book in the Rain Wild Chronicles at the end of August, and dived directly into the rest of the series. I heard pretty negative things about this series (for a Hobb book, I mean, nothing damning) but I really loved this book. So much worldbuilding takes place here, and while it’s a pretty new cast they’re well fleshed out and loveable/hateable like you expect Hobb’s people to be.

I especially loved the focus on the dragons. They’re in the background of all the previous trilogies, so to get a real, close look at how they behave? Fantastic. I’m hoping this all sets up for some dragon shennanigans in the last Fitz trilogy.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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Milk and Honey, by Rupi Kaur. Finished September 4th.

did you think I was a city
big enough for a weekend getaway
i am the town surrounding it
the one you’ve never heard of
but always pass through
there are no neon lights here
no skyscrapers or statues
but there is thunder
for i make bridges tremble
i am not street meat i am homemade jam
thick enough to cut the sweetest
thing your lips will touch
i am not police sirens
i am the crackle of a fireplace
i’d burn you and you still
couldn’t take your eyes off me
cause i’d look so beautiful doing it
you’d blush
i am not a hotel room i am home
i am not the whiskey you want
i am the water you need
don’t come here with expectations
and try to make a vacation out of me

I impulse-picked this up at The Strand because 1) signed copy, duh and 2) pretty cover. I am such a whore for a good cover. Thankfully, I loved this! I found some of the poems a bit hit-or-miss (the last section especially didn’t resonate with me at all), but the poems that did hit? Man, they were powerful and beautiful. Plus the whole book is illustrated. The art, like the poems, have an air of simplicity that I really loved.

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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Dead Souls, by J. Lincoln Fenn*. Finished September 4th. I will admit that I am a huge impulse reader, and I requested this book because the cover looked pretty and it seemed like a fun horror read. After finishing it, I would not use the word “fun” in any way to describe Dead Souls. In fact, the word “fun” probably has a restraining order and Dead Souls is not allowed to be within 100 feet of it.

This is a dark, gritty horror novel. The premise seems like a setup for a horror-comedy: a girl gets drunk at a bar and sells her soul to the devil, and then joins a support group for other “dead souls.” It’s definitely NOT a comedy, though there are a sprinkling of very dark funny moments. It’s a much more philosophical book than I expected, which perhaps the title (a mirror of Gogol’s Dead Souls, very intentionally) should have tipped me off to. There’s a lot of “what does it mean to be damned, is there any reason to be moral if you know you’re going to hell, what would you do to get your soul back, what kind of sacrifice is too big” stuff going on. This book is very much about people wrestling with the idea that they have no future, yet struggling to build one anyway.

This is also a very, very violent book. The dead souls each have to do a “favor” for the devil (named Scratch here) at some point in the future. There are hints about how dark the favors are, but at about 70% of the way we start seeing some of them in person. Imagine the murder tableaus in Hannibal amped up to 11. I actually physically recoiled from the book at one point, so it’s definitely not for anyone with a weak stomach. However, while the favors are stomach-churning, there’s not even a hint of sexual violence which I really appreciated. I think in the hands of another author this could definitely read as a over-the-top, gratuitous book, but Fenn does such a good job of balancing these moments of disgust with poignant thoughts about the human condition. And our narrator is just as revolted and appalled as we are.

I was pleasantly surprised by Dead Souls: it was nothing like what I expected, in the best way possible.

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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City of Dragons, by Robin Hobb. Finished September 6th. The third Rain Wilds book! And definitely my favorite of the four. Some old favorites re-appear, but I was more impressed by the development of our core, new cast. The story takes some interesting twists and turns but still continues to build on the dragon lore. I grew very, very fond of quite a few of the characters in this and Rapskal in particular probably rates among my favorite Elderling characters.

What I think is perhaps most impressive about Hobb’s writing is how she is able to craft characters that you love one moment yet hate the next without having them be inconsistent. In this installment, a character who I totally loathed had some amazing development and actually had me rooting for him–but it was totally believable as an arc for him.

Lipstick Rating 4 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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The Arrival of Missives, by Aliya Whiteley. Finished September 8th. What an odd little book. This is a pretty strange historical fiction/magical realism mashup that definitely was not at all what I was expecting. To be honest, I don’t think any reader would expect the direction it goes in unless they knew the plot beforehand. All you need to know is: a girl in post-WWI England falls in love with her teacher. When she confesses her love, he tells her that he has a special message to deliver…

It’s hard to describe what I liked about this. The story is totally bizarre and it’s a really weird clash of genres that almost doesn’t work, yet somehow does at the same time? Even the parts ‘grounded in reality’ seem kind of surreal: while it’s set right after World War I, some of the historical elements seem like they’re from a much older time. It’s a small, rural farming town, and without the date to ground it I’d easily believe this took place in the 1800′s (or earlier, to be honest).

Something about this book is so dreamy and compelling. It’s certainly not a page-turner, but I was so involved in the writing that I flew through this in one short sitting. If you like magical realism/new weird-style fantasy and can take a healthy dose of strange, I definitely recommend this.

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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Blood of Dragons, by Robin Hobb. Finished September 8th. I enjoyed this, but it’s probably my least favorite Robin Hobb book. It lacked the emotional wallop of her other finales, and felt oddly rushed-large chunks of time and important events were skipped over.

I was also pretty unhappy with the entire love triangle situation. I didn’t like the resolution, or what happened with Rapskal’s character. Not a lot of good development for anyone though really. And I felt like core characters from the first 3 books took a backseat for new additions we really didn’t need. Too many story lines for a too short book!

Still enjoyed the series, but it didn’t reach those Fitz/Liveship feels.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James. Finished September 14th. Henry James is overly fond of run-on sentences, and commas, but despite this-or perhaps because of it-he has produced a spooky tale, a vague horror, an unsettling ghost story for the ages.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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Secret Sins, by C.D. Reiss. Finished September 22nd. It kind of kills me to dislike a C.D. Reiss book, especially one about the Drazen girls, but this was a huge flop for me. It was missing literally everything I enjoy about her books. The characters were flat, dull, and unlikeable. There was no chemistry between our love interests. The drama was dull and predictable. I mean, it’s billed as a book where it’s impossible to guess the twist. However, under 20% of the way in I guessed it exactly and quickly dismissed my assumption as, “oh man, wouldn’t that be stupid? That’s way too stupid to be the actual twist.”

Sadly… it’s a really freaking stupid twist that kind of fucks up all the other Drazen books she’s written. Just why?! Very unhappy with this one.

LipstickRating1And1Half

 

 

 

Reading Challenge Goals

205/175 Books

24/35 Series Books

56/50 TBR Books

22/15 Different Countries

[books marked with a * were provided by netgalley in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own]

August 2016 Reading Wraupup: Part II

1 Sep

The first chunk of August was all about the Man Booker longlist, and thankfully that reading binge got me out of my kind-of-slump. In July and June I was pretty disappointed in my reading, but August was amazing! So amazing that I’m actually going to have to do 3 wrapups, because there’s just too much from the second half of the month to put in one post.

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Yon & Mu by Junji Ito. Finished August 11th.  I read this smack-dab in the middle of the Man Booker books because there’s honestly only so much srs literature I can take in a stretch. Sometimes you just need some spooky cute cats, you know? Junji Ito is by far my favorite manga author (I still have nightmares about the snail people in Uzumaki), so I was over the moon when I found out that he wrote something about cats. Cute cats! Spooky cats! This adorable little work details his interactions with his wife’s cats, and pretty accurately describes the hold those furry little monsters have on our lives. It’s surprisingly touching at times, and has a wham right in the feels ending. Junji Ito, horror master and cute cat drawer extraordinaire.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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The Last Good Knight, by Tiffany Reisz. Finished August 12th. After Something Nice, I was really craving more of Nora & co. Sadly, I’ve read all of the Original Sinners books… or have I?! Turns out there was a chunky novella I’d somehow skipped over that features Nora in her badass prime. I don’t think this had the emotional depth of the full-length books (and the Soren & Nora-based shorts) but of course I still enjoyed it. It was great to be with these characters again, and even though you know our two main characters won’t get together in the end it’s still a bit of a rollercoaster of emotions.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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Truly Madly Guiltily, by Liane Moriarty. Finished August 15th. Liane Moriarty books are like comfort food to me. If I feel like I need to “reset” my reading brain after a bunch of tough books, or things that got me in a slump, she’s one of my go-to authors (along with Stephen King). Her writing is so breezy and easy to read, but her books aren’t the light and fluffy chick lit you’d expect given the marketing. She deals with serious issues and is absolutely amazing and creating realistic characters.

That said, I didn’t love this as much as The Husband’s Secret or Big Little Lies. I think it’s because the core mystery is a little weaker than it is in those two: Truly Madly Guiltily revolves around a Bad Thing that happened at a barbecue, but it’s clear that it wasn’t, like, a murder or anything like that. So the tension is not as high as in her previous books.

Like most of Moriarty’s books, this is intensely character-driven. If you don’t like them, it’s going to fall flat for you. They definitely worked for me, especially Vid and Tiffany who I loved. Vid, come cook food for me! They’re all complex and flawed and realistic. They have distinctive though patterns so it never feels same-y to read their alternating chapters. I did find them a little less compelling than the women in The Husband’s Secret, but still wonderful as always. That’s actually kind of the theme of this review: I liked it, but not as much as her other works. I do think I would have liked it more if it was the first of hers that I read, but I hold her to a pretty high standard and TMG didn’t quiiiite reach it. I mean, I still enjoyed it and was really drawn into the plot, but it was just a tad more predictable and less exciting than what I expected.

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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The Invisible Library, by Genevieve Cogman*. Finished August 16th. It took me quite a while to get around to reading this because of one thing: it’s tagged as young adult on Goodreads. Before I actually get into the review, this is NOT a young adult book. All of the characters are clearly adults, and while it’s not an “edgy grimdark fantasy” with extreme violence or anything there’s adult content. Some creepy violence, lots of drinking, references to sex. You know, the things you don’t see in YA fantasy. It doesn’t have YA tropes like “super special girl” or “broody guy love interest” (in fact I think it plays with these tropes a bit). So if, like me, you were a bit put off by the label don’t fear!

This book is, above all else, hella fun. It’s not deep or meaningful, you won’t find intense philosophical discussions, but you’ll have a blast reading it. It’s a “fantasy kitchen sink” type book: we’ve got an all-powerful (and possibly shady) interdimensional library, a magical language, alternate worlds, dragons, vampires, Fae, werewolves, demons, robots, steampunk elements, chaos and law magic, spies, cat burglars, Victorian-style detectives, water spirits… and that’s just in this book. Since this is a series (at least 5 books atm) you can tell that a lot of this is worldbuilding for things down the line. Some of the elements (werewolves and demons in particular) don’t exactly add a lot to the plot: it’s more set dressings and a way to show how truly weird all the elements are. But I can assume that things mentioned offhand will be important down the line! Which reminds me a lot of the Dresden Files: so many different magical creatures, and with a constantly expanding mythos.

It’s hard to say that any of the elements are unique: even the all-powerful library has been done. But they’re combined in such a clever, fun, action-packed way that I never wanted for some kind of ~new unique never before seen~ monster or ability. The plot is so fast-paced and has so many elements that it feels like you’re on a rollercoaster. And the characters are definitely very fun: I especially loved Irene, our main Librarian.

This is a book for people who love books. It’s about books (and book thieving!) and it has so so many literary references: all of the librarians pick their own names, which means you’ve got about a dozen references to hunt down if you don’t instantly know what they reference. Our detective, Vale, is that charming and familiar “gentleman investigator” type. The world itself (or at least the alternate world this book takes place in) has heavy, heavy steampunk elements reminiscent of Jules Verne. Just a lot of clever references and wordplay that makes the world feel very rich.

It isn’t a perfect book–it was almost too fast-paced for me, and though it’s a deep world we didn’t get enough explanation or description to 100% satisfy me. I wanted a little more showing and a little less telling. But it was just a blast and I’ll definitely continue on with the series.

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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The Last Days of New Paris, by China Mieville. Finished August 17th. With every new release, China Mieville just further establishes why he’s my favorite author. If you’ve read any of the Bas Lag books, remember the weird nonsensical bombs? Now imagine dropping one of them on Paris during the Nazi occupation. Surrealist art comes suddenly to life, demons come up from hell, and the city is warped in all sorts of almost indescribable ways. It’s pretty classic Mieville with a historical fiction twist.

This is an incredibly interesting world: weird surrealist art running around, Nazi conspiracies, an interesting take on the French resistance, and of course actual demons are on the scene as well. It’s a strange, evocative, beautiful little book with a truly stunning ending. Plus, Mieville illustrated it!

The only criticism I have is that this book is so short! Only ~180 pages. I could read a 600 page book set in New Paris. Or a whole series. But hey, I say that about pretty much everything he writes.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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The Summer That Melted Everything, by Tiffany McDaniel. Finished August 18th.

“Don’tcha wanta live forever?”
“I’m the devil. I am already forever.”

This was an absolute cover-based impulse buy, and it’s probably my favorite book I’ve read so far in 2016. Sometimes it pays to get drawn in by good design!

The heat came with the devil. It was the summer of 1984, and while the devil had been invited, the heat had not. Heat is, after all, the devil’s name, and when’s the last time you left home without yours?

This book swept me off my feet. I was expecting an interesting magical realism-type read with perhaps some light emotional impact. What I got was one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read, with a story and characters that ripped my heart right out of my chest. I cried reading this book. A lot.

All love leads to cannibalism. I know that now. Sooner or later, our hearts will devour, if not the object of your affections, our very selves. Teeth are the heart’s miracle.

There are scenes here that are burned into my brain, quotes I will never forget. I really don’t want to talk about the plot at all–a boy who claims to be the devil comes to a small town, that’s all you need to know. This may seem like a fun, quirky book at first just based on the premise and the eccentric character names (Autopsy Bliss!), but it is a moving book that tackles some really deep societal issues. I really can’t recommend this enough, everyone should read it.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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Shrill, by Lindy West. Finished August 18th. I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. The first half was kind of a mixed bag for me, mostly because all of the chapters about life as a fat girl weren’t something I could identify with, and this is such a personal book that I really WANTED to identify with it. I also felt like some of it was a bit alienating: for example, her descriptions of all the airport-related anxiety she gets (stressed for days before, having to get there at least 2 hours early, shaking through security, getting on line to board insanely early, intense anxiety about who you will sit next to) is something I experience every time I have to fly. And she acts like this is something only fat people experience. It’s something anyone with anxiety can relate with!

But there were large chunks of this that made me want to get up and cheer. I felt like Lindy was speaking directly to me, or for me. Especially the chapters on rape jokes: this is an incredibly sensitive subject for me, and I get apoplectic when people say “oh it’s just a joke chill out.” I want to punch them in the face. And Lindy basically did punch them in the face, verbally. Thank you, Lindy, for saying everything I’ve ever felt on the subject so eloquently and beautifully.

Then there’s the chapters on the trolling she went through. As a female blogger (though on a much smaller platform) I’ve had my fair share of rabid trolls. Rape threats, people assuming I must be fat/hideous/insecure/unable to get a date because I’m ‘bitter’, threats of all sorts of weird violence, people who come after me again and again for weeks. I once had the wife of a fellow blogger leave harassing comments on EVERY POST I did, and my bosses told me to basically just deal with it and wouldn’t delete anything (and of course he didn’t get in any sort of trouble). It’s honestly terrifying. It’s the sense that your whole self has been exposed to the world without your permission, that people hate you just because of your gender (let’s be honest, 100% of the trolling I’ve gotten is because I’m a outspoken woman). I’ve sobbed over threats, ended up having shaking panic attacks while deleting 50+ horrible comments a single troll left in an hour. And everything Lindy said about the subject spoke directly to my soul. You do have to grow an incredibly tough skin, but that’s not a good thing. You shouldn’t be praised because you can ignore rape threats. That’s not a skill anyone should have, ever! And it’s a huge problem people never want to talk about.

Lindy thrusts it right into the spotlight with heartbreaking accuracy. She made me feel like I wasn’t alone in the harassment I’ve experience, and like it’s NOT my fault. I think if you’re a woman on the internet who has ever felt unsafe or unsure just because of your gender, you need to read this. It is eye-opening and amazing and Lindy West is so fucking important.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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Warp, by Lev Grossman*. Imagine Quentin Coldwater from The Magicians if he never got into Brakebills, and magic didn’t exist. Pretty depressing, right? Welcome to Warp. This is 24 hours in the life of Hollis, a young man who has no idea what direction his life is moving in and feels incredibly hopeless. A lot of his life is lived in his head: both by going over shows and stories that he likes, but also by writing his own book that mirrors his life. In a way, this is an incredibly meta book. Sure, it’s prototype Quentin, but it’s honestly a book about Lev writing The Magicians. Which is funny, because he wrote this before The Magicians, so he wrote a book about writing a book he wrote before he wrote it.

It’s hard to say that this is an enjoyable book. It’s depressing, and even the “bright spots” have an aura of sadness. Hollis meets a girl, Xanthe, and it’s really unclear how real she is: I mean, other characters have interactions with her, but how much of his perception of her is based on reality? The name alone is kind of a big clue there. And Warp is littered with sci-fi and fantasy references, so the naming is definitely intentional (and clever).

I think that if you like The Magicians, you’ll appreciate this book. It’s both Quentin’s roots and a description of life before Lev wrote Quentin into reality. Like Murakami’s early works that just got re-translated, it’s amazing to look back and see where an author has come from. On its own, Warp isn’t a great read, but it’s such a good look into Lev Grossman as a writer.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

[Books marked with an * were provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own]

July 2016 Reading Wrapup: Part II

3 Aug

I did a lot of reading in the first half of July, but I wasn’t happy with quite a few of the books I read. The second half was the opposite: I read a lot less, but was a lot more pleased with the books I did finish. I liked all of the books in this wrapup (except for the last one, which I love-hate… it’s complicated), and my motivation really picked up at the tail end of the month. So hopefully August will be chock-full of good reads!

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Super Sushi Ramen Express, by Michael Booth*. Finished July 20th. I have a passionate love for Japanese food. Probably 8 times out of 10 when I go out to eat, it’s something Japanese (ramen, sushi, an izakaya, yakitori, katsu, curry, etc) and while I love the food of most countries (except for France, sorry France) Japan is near and dear to my foodie heart. I love eating it, cooking it, looking at it, reading about it. So yeah, this book was tailor-made for me.

It’s a food memoir, and while all of the experiences are obviously filtered through Michael Booth’s perception, the focus is much more on food and the food-related travel than it is Japan as a whole and his adventures with his family. I really prefer this: if I want a memoir of someone’s life, I’ll read a regular memoir. I’m here for the food, guys! And there is SO MUCH FOOD HERE.

Booth tackles so many areas of Japanese food: from how the base ingredients are made to street/junk food to incredibly expensive restaurant meals and niche types of cooking, he really runs the gamut. It’s full of really interesting tidbits of information (my brain feels jam-packed with information after reading this), but Booth’s writing is so funny and easy to digest (haha food pun) that it’s a speedy, easy read. I actually ended up buying a few of the cookbooks he mentions in here, and this has only spurred on my love for Japanese cuisine.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea, by Yukio Mishima. Finished July 21st. I was not prepared at all for this book. I’ve read and loved Yukio Mishima’s Sea of Fertility quartet, and based on how heartbreaking they are (especially The Decay of the Angel) I probably should have steeled myself emotionally. But I thought to myself, “oh a love story with a sailor and a widow and a kind of weird son.” No. Not at all.

Actually, the first half lulls you into a false sense of security. It very much is a love story between Ryuji (the sailor) and Fusako (the widow). In the background is Noboru, her strange and precocious son who has some… issues, shall we say. The first half, aside from one (admittedly brutal but brief) scene of animal cruelty, is slow-paced and almost serene. But as I hit the halfway point I found myself feeling very uneasy. It’s not even necessarily what’s happening: sure, some of Noboru’s inner monologue is disturbing, but there’s no particularly awful moments. Yet by the end I was filled with so much dread I didn’t even want to read the last chapter.

It’s a short book, so it’s basically impossible to talk about the plot with tons of spoilers. But it is a beautiful and ultimately tragic story that will leave you with so, so many questions. By the end my main one was, is it Ryuji or Noboru who is the titular sailor who falls from grace with the sea? If you’d like a slow, uneasy story of both beauty and violence this would probably be right up your alley.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d, by Alan Bradley*. Finished July 24th. This is such a cute, cozy book–which seems like an odd thing to say about a murder mystery, but oh well. Cozy mysteries are definitely not my genres, but… let’s be honest, I requested this because it has a cat on the cover, and I am a sucker for “cat related mystery” books. While the cat is only a minor player in this mystery it’s still got a cat in it. Also an adorable possibly sociopathic kid detective!

Flavia, the 12-year-old mystery solver, is really the heart of this story. It’s wonderful being inside of her head: she’s definitely clever and precocious but there are moments of childlike innocence or confusion that make her seem very much like a real, fleshed-out human. She’s kind of like a nicer, girl version of Artemis Fowl. And while some of her actions are, uh, questionable (the scene of her examining the corpse is particularly creepy) she has a lot of heart. The side story of her sick father and her family basically abandoning her is pretty heart-wrenching.

The first 2/3rds of this book were definitely more enjoyable than the last chunk. The mystery aspect is a little lackluster, especially the final reveal, and I didn’t find myself surprised or wowed at all. But hey, it’s a cozy mystery, I honestly was not expecting a big complicated case. It did have a few nice turns that I wasn’t expecting and I certainly didn’t find it dull, but I preferred the chunks of the story that had more to do with Flavia and her relationships. I’d definitely read more in the series, especially because this one ends on a (non-mystery-related) cliffhanger.

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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Something Nice, by Tiffany Reisz. Finished July 28th. Two Tiffany Reisz books in one month?? What a time to be alive. This is a short novella that was only available to newsletter subscribers, and of course I read it literally 20 minutes after it downloaded. Because Nora is the light of my life.

This takes place a few months after The Siren, and deals primarily with the emotional fallout Nora is feeling after that crazy ending. It’s a very cathartic read and I feels like it ties up some (emotional) loose ends about Nora/Soren/Wesley that were still lingering in my head. Absolutely a must-read if you’re a fan of the Original Sinners series.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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Matter, by Iain M. Banks. Finished July 29th. I have so many conflicting emotions about this book! Probably because, at least to me, it felt like two books: one with crazy space antics and another featuring political intrigue on a low-tech world. Usually the contrast between high- and low-tech societies is something I enjoy in books (The Dreaming Void, A Fire Upon the Deep) but I am generally not a fan of Iain Banks’ more politically driven, almost-fantasy stuff: Inversions is the only Culture book I actively didn’t love, for example. I felt like the two elements didn’t work harmoniously. Even though they are plot-connected, I didn’t feel the mirroring of elements or strong contrast I feel like a low- vs high-tech plot needs.

So let’s talk about the good. I adore the worldbuilding here! So many cool concepts. Tons and tons of really interesting alien races (though tbh I could have used more info or scenes of the other ones in the Shellworld), nifty tech we haven’t seen before, the rumors of ancient alien races, and of course the Shellworld itself–one of my favorite Culture concepts. Just the idea of it was so amazing, and Banks always does such a good job of bringing his ideas to life. I felt like I could picture it all so perfectly.

The characters here, like in many Culture novels, are interesting but not particularly unique feeling. We’ve got the son who doesn’t want to be king, the son who does but is too young and in his head, the scheming overlord, the prodigal sister. I feel like characters are never Banks’ strength, though, so I expected that coming in and it didn’t bother me. Because he always makes up for it with sassy ships & drones! This time we also get a sassy human assistant, because a large chunk takes place on a tech-free world and we need some way to get those sarcastic comments in there.

The last 20% of this book is fantastic. I really felt a huge disjoint between the story aspects, though. The elements of the ending section are touched on but not really talked about until they’re suddenly in play: then it feels like the whole first half of the book (and everything in the Shellworld) were a huge waste of time because they have almost nothing to do with what’s going on. It just feels unbalanced. It could have either been much shorter (we didn’t need half of the on-Shellworld POV scenes for the plot) or the same length but with 1) more space and Culture scenes and 2) more foreshadowing or actual plot-building about the endgame elements.

So, to sum it up, I enjoyed this (like I do most Culture novels) but it’s not one of my favorites from the series. I think my order of preference goes Look to Windward > Excession > Player of Games > Use of Weapons > Matter > State of the Art > Consider Phlebas > Inversions

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne. Finished July 31st. I have too many thoughts about this book. It’s impossible to rate. I grew up on Harry Potter, went to all the midnight releases (books and movies!), and have read the series at LEAST a dozen times (and I’ve read OOTP, HBP, and GoF 20x minimum). There was no way for this book to not be massively over-hyped in my head. New Harry Potter? About a new generation of wizards?? Yeah, I was into it.

Now, I don’t think I built it up to the point that it was impossible to enjoy. Heck, I’ve read long HP fanfiction that I loved almost as much as the originals (Methods of Rationality, the first few James Potter books). So I was really just expecting a nostalgic thrill ride through childhood adventures. And… I kind of got that? There are some wonderful Hogwarts scenes that really brought the magic back for me.

Before I get to my problems, which are numerous, I’m just gonna say that I LOVE Scorpius. I don’t love that his “I will die for you” bromance with Albus turned into a weird platonic thing but that’s kind of a different issue. But yeah, Scorpius was amazing and a precious nerd baby. What a fantastic character. And I did actually enjoy a lot of the plot, which seems to be a little controversial.

My main issue is that this book is like holy character assassination Batman. Ron is a one-note idiot. Harry is a cruel jerk. Draco hasn’t changed a day (and the first half of this book erases all of his HBP/DH progression until suddenly he has one “deep meaningful speech” scene). I’m going to be honest: a lot of the character-related stuff read like bad fanfiction. It didn’t add up AT ALL with the books, and this is supposed to be 22 years of character development AFTER them. Yet everyone’s the same as book 1. Sigh.

And then… the big twist. WHY. It made me VERY ANGRY. And it’s just the tip of the plot-hole iceberg. It’s really hard to emotionally separate myself from anything officially Harry Potter because it’s such a huge part of my childhood and shaped a lot of who I am as a reader. If I view this as a fun “what if?” type of scenario that’s basically just fanfiction of the future, I think it’s decently enjoyable–though the twist is stupid as hell, it’s so nice to be in this world and with these characters again. So for me, this isn’t officially the 8th book and never will be. It’s just a play. I’m gonna keep telling myself that.

No rating because my heart is confused

So I actually did read two other books in July, but they are both up for the Man Booker (Hot Milk and The Sellout), and I’m going to binge-read the longlist and do them as a separate post.

Reading Challenge Goals

171/175 Books

20/35 Series Books

53/50 TBR Books

20/15 Different Countries

[books marked with a * were provided by netgalley in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own]

July 2016 Reading Wrapup: Part I

2 Aug

Like June before it, July was not the best reading month for me. Sure, I got through 17 books (still a bit below my average for 2016), but I read a lot of books I felt only so-so about. In fact, I hit a serious slump mid-month and had to force myself to read at all. Honestly, July is my least-favorite month of the year so I didn’t expect to get a lot accomplished, but I am really looking forward to August–where I will be reading all the Man Booker nominees and hopefully getting through quite a few of my ARCs!

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The Bourbon Thief, by Tiffany Reisz. Finished July 1st. So, this month actually started out quite well. A new release from Tiffany Reisz, the queen of my heart? Sure, it’s not an Original Sinners novel, but it’s a grim and broody standalone. I’d class this as modern gothic: it’s the torrid history of a Kentucky bourbon family that gets increasingly dark and twisty as the plot goes on.

There are two dual storylines: in modern times, a woman named Paris has just stolen a million dollar bottle of bourbon. She says it’s her birthright, and weaves for us the history of the Maddox family who made that original bottle. Of course the stories overlap, but Paris is really just a framing for the historical narrative. Which is everything you’d expect from Reisz: dark, sexy, and tragic. I thought I saw most of the twists coming but this book really plays with reader expectations. As always, totally fabulous.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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Fool’s Fate, by Robin Hobb. Finished July 7th. I spent the last 100 pages of this book crying off and on. Not full-on sobs or anything, but I don’t think my eyes were dry for even a second. This series just makes me feel SO MANY EMOTIONS. I cried when something sad happened, I cried when people said goodbye, I cried when the characters were happy. I’m way too overly attached, guys.

So, this is the 9th book in the Realm of the Elderlings so of course any amount of plot discussion would be spoilery as hell, but it was, as every Robin Hobb book seems to be, utter perfection. There are many overlaps here with, obviously, the first Farseer trilogy, but we get some nice cameos from the Liveship Traders as well! The plots of these two worlds really “collide” in an interesting fashion. And while the plot and the writing are amazing, it’s the characters who will steal your heart and make you feel things you didn’t think were possible. Always and forever I adore this series.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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Lions, by Bonnie Nadzam*. Finished July 9th. I (very) recently read Bonnie Nadzam’s first novel, Lamb, and really enjoyed it. Lamb is a tense, tight little novel with a very limited cast and a slim but well-crafted plot. Lions is the opposite in pretty much every way, as the name cleverly implies. This takes place in a modern ghost town with barely over 100 people, but the cast includes quite a few of these intrepid/desperate souls. The plot is sprawling: there are a few key “events” (a stranger comes to town, someone dies, a boy has to take on a family task–though these things are not necessarily connected), but overall it’s a rambling sort of novel.

There is no sense of linear time here. The reader feels afloat in the story: in a paragraph, we will go from a present-day event to a conversation in the past almost mid-sentence. It always takes a second to get re-oriented, though I never found it confusing. The structure did remind me a bit of Man Tiger, a book I loved for its unconventional timeline. Some of the characters seem to blur together, locations overlap in confusing ways: it’s a clever way to portray how unmoored our main cast feels both in time and in their own lives.

The plot really centers around two teens, Gordon and Leigh, who are the only young people in Lions. They become swept up in events bigger than themselves, but at the same time they are struggling to separate themselves from the town/their parents and form their own identities. It’s not really a coming of age novel, though that is definitely one of the themes explored.

Interestingly, with all the people in it this novel feels kind of empty. Not necessarily in a bad way, but it’s a lonely book. You feel like you’re on these big empty plains in the middle of nowhere with a group of people you don’t fit in with. You’re a stranger here: you never feel like “part of the town.” Just a visitor, nose pressed up against the glass, getting bits and pieces of these peoples’ stories and histories. I think the structure and tone of the book are much more effective than the plot (which I do think could have used a bit of tightening) but it definitely made an impression on me.

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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Drowned Worlds, by Jonathan Strahan*. Finished July 10th. So, funny story. When I was about 14 I started reading a book that took place on a flooded earth. My room was painted while I was reading and somehow the book got lost in the shuffle. It was so evocative and I’ve spent years unsuccessfully looking for it. Well, it turns out that book was J.G. Ballard’s The Drowned World (which of course I’ve finally picked up a new copy of), and this short story collection is inspired by that work! Only took me 13 years but I finally solved the mystery.

Short story collections are always hard to talk about, because I can’t go over every single one. This is a really evocative, dreamy collection and while of course the theme is very similar from story to story, there’s no sense of same-ness that makes it boring. I think they actually work better together than separately: I have fond memories of reading this, yet only a few stand out in my mind. The theme really holds them together and makes even the more mediocre ones fun to read.

“Dispatches from the Cradle” by Ken Liu, “Who Do You Love?” by Kathleen Ann Goonan, “Inselberg” by Nalo Hopkins, “Last Gods” by Sam J. Miller, and “The Future is Blue” by Catherynne M. Valente were the standouts for me. While these are all technically in the science fiction genre there’s such a variety (hard scifi, new weird, straight-up bizarro) that I was 100% okay with what was, to be honest, just the same premise (flooded worlds) over and over. If you like science fiction with an environmentalist twist definitely give this one a go.

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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Listen to Me, by Hannah Pittard*. Finished July 10th. I’ve read a surprising amount of road trip books this year. I can barely think of any I’ve read in the past but so far I’ve tackled I’m Thinking of Ending Things and Binary Star, both of which I’ve adored. So when I heard the summary of Listen to Me (a modern gothic thriller roadtrip novel???) I was hooked. However, I think the marketing for this is SO misleading. It’s the story of a rocky marriage, not a tense thriller.

Sure, there’s quite a bit of tension. Maggie, the wife, was violently mugged recently and has grown paranoid about, well, everything. I really liked this aspect of the novel: it portrayed PTSD in a very realistic manner. It’s not always full-on panic attacks and specific triggers. When you’re attacked like this (muggings, assaults, rapes) the world loses its sense of safety. Suddenly things you trusted and took for granted have sinister angles. Everyone is a potential predator. Every street a potential incident. Maggie’s paranoia may seem overdone but trust me, it’s quite realistic and for me at least very sympathetic.

Her husband Mark, however, is just an asshole. It’s hard to sympathies with his “oh my god my wife is so traumatized and that is very hard for ME because this is all obviously about MY COMFORT.” I think he’s supposed to be unlikeable, but it’s hard to portray a broken marriage between two people who aren’t on the same level. Like, you feel super bad for Maggie and hate Mark. You should either hate or love both of them, and the book seems a little uneven because of this.

Now, my real issue is the ending, which obviously I’m not going to spoil. But it was SUCH a letdown. There’s this huge building of tension: Mark and Maggie are fighting, there’s a huge storm in the distance, towns are losing power, even the dog is getting more and more anxious. But there’s no huge event or climax. A thing happens, and poof, that’s it. There’s no resolution to the problems (or at least a reasonable and believable resolution), there’s no big thriller-y event. I was so let down.

If you like tense stories about relationships and don’t expect a big reveal or climax, this might be a book for you. But domestic drama is usually not my forte and I wish this was marketed more towards its target audience. I think the ending is very fitting for the type of book it is, but not for the type of book readers expect it to be.

Lipstick Rating 2 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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True Crime Addict, by James Renner. Finished July 11th. This is a hard book to review. As a true crime book, it’s easily a 1-star read. Renner muddies the facts of the case, does wildly inaccurate research, and makes insane claims with no proof to back it up. But as a psychological study of a delusional sociopath? It’s truly amazing. And I’m not pulling the sociopath thing out of my ass: in one of the very first chapters, Renner informs the reader that he scored as a sociopath on a therapist-issued personality test. He’s also a lush and potentially a drug addict (also admitted by him, as he detoxes in jail), but we’re supposed to believe a word out of his mouth? Okay.

To be honest, the Maura Murray case isn’t that interesting as far as unsolved mysteries go. Here’s what we know: leading up to her disappearance, Maura was a very troubled individual. She was a kleptomaniac, she committed credit card fraud, had a breakdown at work, lied to her employer about a family member dying, was on probation, and got in 2 car accidents in a few days. If you want to believe Renner’s claims, she also had an eating disorder (I’m not going to touch the promiscuity angle because he has NO valid sources on that-a slighted ex does not count-and it has nothing to do with her being “troubled” anyway ffs). If Maura got in trouble with the law again, her credit fraud would count as a felony and she wouldn’t be able to finish nursing school. She crashes her car while drunk on a back road in the middle of nowhere during winter, denies help from 2 separate people, and goes missing 5 minutes later. She either 1) ran into the woods in order to hide from the cops and died of exposure or 2) was picked up by someone very bad. No other option makes logical sense. Renner denies #1 because they couldn’t see her footprints in the woods from a helicopter. First off, are you kidding me?? And second, even the slightest bit of wind is enough to bury prints. They searched for prints at least 12 hours after she disappeared, plenty of time for the wind to destroy them.

But Renner picks the 2 most insane theories and runs with them, ignoring all evidence that doesn’t agree with his ideas. He’s convinced there was a second car Maura was following (that no one, not the 2 people who tried to help her OR the cops, saw? lol okay). He’s also convinced that she ran away to Canada and is living there. His “evidence” for this is shaky witness testimony that they “totally saw someone who looks like an older Maura!” Sightings like this are not taken seriously because 99% of the time it’s just someone WANTING to see the victim (i.e. Maddie McCann’s “sightings” all over the damn world). None of the evidence points to this, but he’s so fucking obsessed with the idea of “solving” it that he’s blind to its faults.

This book is an utter trainwreck in terms of, well, everything. Renner mentions upwards of a dozen cold cases and solved cases that have NOTHING to do with Maura. He mentions like 5 girls who went missing “near” the area but most of them are solved, or from decades ago. He mentions random serial killer and kidnappers who, again, have nothing to do with Maura. It’s like his brain threw up on the page and we’re just running on his rambling train of thought. Interspersed with his “investigation” (I really don’t consider harassing the family nonstop and getting an army of online minions to find shit for you actual investigation, but ymmv) are random snippets of his life. It includes things like getting put in jail for assaulting a cop, ignoring his autistic son’s diagnosis, becoming convinced that said son is psychic (I’m not lying, he literally thinks his son can read minds), and going to a crackpot medium to “find Maura.” It’s… just really weird. He also thinks that life is giving him clues in the form of “fearful symmetry” (aka coincidences he reads wayyyy too much into).

So every aspect of his investigation into Maura is bullshit. It’s terrible journalism, terrible writing. But this is a fucking fascinating book. The way Renner tries to manipulate the audience, the way he presents the facts about himself but then skirts around the implications, how he glosses over his downright stalking of the family members? It makes for a riveting and disturbing read. Just don’t expect any actual closure on the Maura case.

Lipstick Rating Full

 

 

 

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The Leftovers, by Tom Perrotta. Finished July 11th. I really love Tom Perrotta. Something about his writing is just very cozy and comforting, though given the themes he tackles it really shouldn’t be. But there’s just something about his suburban settings that feel so delightfully familiar it’s like snuggling up with a cup of tea.

The Leftovers is actually a pretty grim book: there’s a Rapture-like event and the majority of the population is “left behind” to deal with a world that’s suddenly much smaller. Many people lose loved ones, everyone loses friends. This isn’t really an “end of the world” type book, though. It’s about regular people struggling with tragedy. It’s about carrying on after you think you’ve lost everything. It’s about finding a reason to live–a good reason to live. It’s about family.

I read this over the course of about 3 weeks, bit by bit, but not once did even the slightest detail fade for me. I’d go 5 days without reading it at all, pick it up in the middle of the chapter and feel like instantly I was with friends. There’s so much depth and meaning here but as always with Perrotta, it’s the characters that make it special. They’re just so realistic and flawed and you want to hug (almost) all of them.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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Case Histories, by Kate Atkinson. Finished July 14th. I am a huge fan of Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series. It’s everything I want in a mystery: amazing characters, beautiful writing, strong plot & mystery, tons of subtext and interesting themes. I have yet to find a true mystery even slightly similar (though The City & the City and Kraken also fill out the “everything I want in a mystery” list, but they’re kind of fantasy as well). You usually get either a cool mystery (He Who Fears the Wolf, any and all Agatha Christie) OR interesting characters (1st and 3rd Cormoran Strike, Gillian Flynn, Summertime All the Cats Are Bored). It’s really hard for me to find literary mysteries that are strong in all aspects of the story. So when I heard that the author of Life After Life wrote a mystery series, I assumed I would be all about that.

Well, I assumed wrong. This book didn’t have any of the things I look for in a mystery. It wasn’t even the trashy sort of fun you get from books like Heartsick. First off, I was misled into thinking that the 3 seemingly random cases at the beginning were connected. Spoiler alert: they’re not. At all. I was expecting a cool twist or… something. One gets solved (in a way I found very unsatisfying), one remains solved but also open-ended (hard to explain) and the other… isn’t a mystery? Has nothing to do with anything? Very confusing.

Our main detective was very boring. All of his character traits seemed very trite and played out, plus he was kind of sexist (and not in a Cormoran Strike “we’re playing with noir tropes” kind of way, which I find annoying as well). I did really like Amelia & Julie and the dad of the dead girl (whose name, 4 days later, I cannot remember–shows how well this book held my attention). They were interesting and sympathetic. But everyone else… bleh. There were just SO MANY characters and plots, it felt convoluted and like you never got to know anyone else.

I think this book had potential but needed a really heavy-handed editor. Take out most of the plotlines, leave us with just one of the mysteries (maybe 2 if they actually connected), trim the character list by half. I mean, obviously this book has great reviews and I seem to be mostly alone in this opinion. I think if you’re more of a mystery reader you probably would enjoy this. But it’s a genre I am insanely, overly picky about. The thing is, I really love a mystery done right, but I tend to be super critical and unable to overlook “flaws” in mystery/noir books. This one just read like a batch of all my pet peeves (weak mystery, lackluster characters, too many plots) thrown together.

Lipstick Rating 2 Full

 

 

 

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My Sister Rosa, by Justine Larbalestier. Finished July 15th. So I read a few lackluster books in a row. I was really feeling the true crime/mystery genre (due to listening to nothing but crime podcasts for 3 days tbh) and I thought to myself, “a book about a child sociopath! How could I go wrong with this.” I feel like I need to have a sit-down with myself and be like, Leah, you don’t like YA as a genre. Stop trying to make it happen for you. It’s not going to happen. (There are a few YA books I LOVE, but literally 90% of the things I read in it are 1 or 2 star reads for me). I mean, I didn’t really read YA books when I was the age they’re aimed at. If that stuff didn’t appeal to 16-year-old me, it sure as hell isn’t going to 11 years later. This is not in any way a dig at anyone who likes YA, it’s just not for me! And I need to accept that.

This is not really a book about Rosa, the tiny sociopath. It’s your usual YA coming-of-age type stuff. Guy moves to a new city, guy is insecure about his future & identity, guy makes new friends and finds love. Sure, his sister is a potential murderer, but that takes a backseat until the end of the book. And while the stuff with Rosa was good, the rest of it made me legitimately angry. Like, I wanted to throw the book I was so angry.

It’s just… it’s really fucking preachy. I adore diversity in books, and it’s something I intentionally seek out. There’s diversity here but it’s sooooo forced. Every character literally gives a lil monologue about how ~different~ they are. It’s bizarre and so unlike real life. When you have a random, everyday discussion with a gay/black/asian/agender/etc person it doesn’t start off with “I AM GAY AND LET ME TELL YOU ALL ABOUT IT AND MY GIRLFRIEND AND MY GENDER IDENTITY.” We’d even get weird monologues about diversity from random characters, like Rosa the sociopath who in real life wouldn’t care at all. Many of the side characters were basically only their “diversity” and nothing else. Aside from Leilani (one of my least favorite characters of all time, would rather read 50 Shades than a book about this bitch), they were paper thin and so tropey and it seemed like the author was trying SO HARD to be all “look, diversity, I’m so accepting, check out my cool hip characters.” Also, some of the preachier moments made no sense. Sid will only date someone who “has Jesus in their life” (we get tons and tons of paragraphs about religion and acceptance, possibly the most forced aspect) but her mom runs a non-denominational church and people of several, non-Christian religions attend it? We get a paragraphs-long speech about how a 1k tshirt is what it “actually costs” to make a shirt if you don’t use sweatshops and buying anything cheaper is unethical, and our POV character agrees? Just lots of weird, wtf moments.

In the last 10% or so the focus goes back to Rosa and I was actually invested, which is why this gets 2 and not 1 stars (just kidding, bumped down my rating a lot after thinking on it). I actually thought it was going in a really cool direction that would have saved the entire book for me, but sadly… no. I mean, honestly, for a YA book the ending was pretty brave and refreshing. It wasn’t sugary-sweet happy times everyone gets what they want. Seemed a lot more realistic and I appreciated that a lot. But I wasn’t even that satisfied with the ending and lets’ be real, 5% of good content doesn’t save the 95% that is shitty.

LipstickRating1Half

 

 

 

So, that was the first half of July! It was really a combination of Case Histories/My Sister Rosa that put me in a funk. Reading was going all right until then, but I didn’t finish another book until the 20th!

Reading Challenge Goals

164/175 Books

19/35 Series Books

53/50 TBR Books

20/15 Different Countries

[books marked with a * were provided by netgalley in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own]

June 2016 Reading Wrapup: Part II

30 Jun

The first half of June was a big case of quality over quantity. I read very few books (for me) but I adored all of them. Sadly, the second half of June ended up being the opposite. My reading really picked up and I’m finally out of my slump, but I read a lot of bad books. I did read some that I really loved, but the overall rating was so low. And I even ended the month with four 2-star books in a row! I really am glad to put June behind me because it felt like the month I just couldn’t win.

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Age of Myth, by Michael J. Sullivan*. Finished June 20th. I am always saying that I am not a fan of epic fantasy. Fantasy as a genre? Sure. But more traditional, sword-and-sorcery, men-and-elves type fantasy is not usually my jam. Though so far this year my reading might be changing my opinion on that: first the Farseer books and now this! Perhaps I don’t dislike epic fantasy as much as I think I do?

This is very much the first book in a series: a large chunk of it is spent setting up the world, the magic, the races, the history. Given that it’s the first of five that is to be expected. However, we don’t get a ton of large info-dumps that are immersion breaking. Information is doled out in casual conversation so it never feels like a textbook. And even though I feel like I understand the basics of the world there are still a lot of questions left unanswered and obviously so much more to learn in the coming books.

I think, for the first half or so, I was plodding along and enjoying the story kind of passively. I didn’t feel very invested in the plot or characters (even though I immediately appreciated Persephone, who is a 37-year-old woman whose storyline DOESN’T revolve around her being a wife or mother). But the last half of this book, especially the ending ~100 pages or so, had me so involved! There are a lot of small clues and things mentioned in passing that are integral to the ending. So many things come together neatly and cohesively in ways that I definitely wasn’t expecting. I never guessed any twists until they actually came to light, which was refreshing (I think when you read a lot it’s easy to guess twists/see patterns evolve but it definitely wasn’t an issue for me here).

While the world and magic system(s?) are interesting, it’s really the characters and their relationships that drew me in. I loved so many of them: sassy Malcolm (I’m such a sucker for smartasses), willful Persephone, strangely clever Suri, Minna (a wolf, enough said), and my favorites: Gifford and Roan, who I ship so hard. I have a real soft spot for disabled characters who are portrayed as fully fleshed out humans and aren’t fully defined by their disability, and I found Gifford to be so immediately endearing and sweet. My brother is disabled so it’s a real personal issue for me, and I’m always so thankful to see characters like Gifford.

While there are obviously a lot of things that I enjoyed about Age of Myth, I was especially impressed by how it set up an overarching plot that I assume will run through all 5 books while also giving us a solid 1-book arc that neatly wrapped up. There’s no cliffhanger, and while there are many unresolved threads I felt that the conclusion was very satisfying. The final conflict also managed to show us a lot about the characters without telling–we get to see Persephone being badass and strong rather than having other characters/the narrator simply state it as an aspect of her personality.

The mood of this book is really hard to pin down. You think at the beginning that it’s a happy, lighter fantasy: sure, bad things happen, but in kind of an abstract way. And then there’s a scene that had my stomach absolutely churning–there’s not a lot of description of what happens, but it was so unexpected and brutal that it really just took me by surprise and made me feel like no one was safe. Is this LOTR-style fantasy where everyone gets a happy ending? Are all my favorites going to die horrible deaths? I just don’t know what to expect from the next few books, which has me even more excited to read them.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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The Devourers, by Indra Das*. Finished June 21st. Sometimes books get under your skin and make you shiver in ways you can’t explain. I cannot adequately describe what I loved about The Devourers. I can tell you that the language is lush, evocative, and brilliant. I can tell you that it is a beautiful and brutal story. It’s gory and mesmerizing. I can tell you about the amazing characters, the meaningful discussions of gender and society. The rich shifter mythology (this is not a book about werewolves: it’s about shapeshifters in general, and covers tons of different myths from Norse to Indian). I can mention how everything is important: even the names of our three “werewolves” are packed full of meaning.

But none of that scratches the surface of my feelings about The Devourers. I was absolutely hypnotized by this novel. Sure, all the individual elements are perfect, and combined together it’s great. But there is something else here. Something magic. In the story, shifters have the ability to mesmerize humans while telling a story and literally transport them into whatever world they are talking about. In a sense, the book achieves that (how meta!). I just… I felt like I was living every second. I felt hurt and scared and excited and brave as our characters did. I felt shocked and elated at revelations. I felt drawn into the web of mythology as it was slowly unraveled. For a short while, it was a life I lived.

This is definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year, and I can’t recommend it enough if you like fantasy, mythology, weird fiction, werewolves/shifters, India, gender politics… basically if you like books maybe read this and be amazed.

Lipstick Rating5 Full

 

 

 

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Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, by Paul Tremblay. Finished June 23rd. I’m having a lot of trouble rating this one. I absolutely loved A Head Full of Ghosts so of course I was over the moon to read Paul Tremblay’s next book. I actually dropped something I was in the middle of reading the day this came out. There are very few authors I will do that for but AHFoG just made that much of an impression on me (and I should probably up my rating of it to 5 stars).

This is… different. I think I was tricked (by my own head mostly) into thinking Disappearance at Devil’s Rock was going the same way as AHFoG. There’s a similar kind of mood: something strange has happened, and it might be supernatural or it might be just the horrors of real life. Tons of pop-culture references, both overt and sneaky. Creepy things going on with kids. The involvement of the media. A mystery.

But Devil’s Rock is a very different book. Sure, it lulls you into a false sense of security. I thought I knew where this was going, or at least where I wanted it to go. And I was really, really wrong. And to be honest, disappointed. I LOVED the first half: so spooky, so clever, so ambiguous. But by the time we got to the first of the reveals in Tommy’s notebook? I had a sneaking suspicion this was going to go in a direction I just… didn’t care about?

I’m not saying it’s bad: I think it has a great twisty plot and a lot of people will love it. It was just so much lighter on the horror than what I expected. It just didn’t give me the shivery feelings I was expecting (or the humor–AHFoG was pretty hilarious at parts). Also the damn notebook pages are SO hard to read on the Kindle version, like goddamn, that’s some tiny-ass writing. But I really don’t think this is a book that will stick with me: I read it, I enjoyed it, but it’s not memorable in any way. And given how I feel about Tremblay’s previous novel and short stories I was super disappointed. More New Weird less twisty mysteries, please!

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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The Butterfly Garden, by Dot Hutchison*. Finished June 23rd. This is one of the worst books I’ve ever read in my life. The premise seems right up my alley: the ominous Gardener kidnaps girls, tattoos butterfly wings on their backs, and keeps them locked up in his secret garden. Like The Collector on steroids, right? No. No to everything. I have no words for how much I hated this (but I did write a quiz so you can see just how unlike humans the characters all act).

Everyone in this book, including the Gardener and his family (and the cops) are so incredibly stupid. They lack the logic to realize super simple solutions to their problems. The girls in particular are so problematic: they act dumb, catty, vain, selfish… basically all the negative traits associated with women amped to eleven. And this book was written by a woman! Which in itself is a disturbing fact.

This book tries to shock with ~gore factor~ and ~disturbing content~ but it’s so laughably implausible and strange that none of it effected me (and I am particularly sensitive to girl-being-captured horror elements). And the “twists” make no sense, add nothing to the story, and just further convolute an already muddy plot. Plus, nothing happens! How can you make a horror novel so dull? Truly, a mystery for the ages.

Lipstick Rating Half

 

 

 

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Penpal, by Dathan Auerbach. Finished June 24th. So the other night I was up late reading /r/nosleep. It was time to go to bed & read but I wanted to stay up and read those damn addictive stories. This book, which originally appeared as a story series on nosleep, was my compromise.

I think this really works better as a set of posts than it does as a book. The atmosphere is just as spooky as what I remember when I originally read these, but the flaws just seem so much more obvious. For example, the main character acts WAY older than his stated age of 6 and it’s kind of distracting. I’d also managed to block out how disappointing the ending was. This has the potential for greatness but it really needs a lot of editing.

Lipstick Rating 2 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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Lamb, by Bonnie Nadzam. Finished June 24th. I’ve read a lot of amazing literary fiction on this exact topic (Lolita, The End of Alice, Tampa). It’s a subject I’m fascinated and disgusted by, and I can’t help picking up anything with good reviews in the genre. And this is definitely a book that hurts to read: it’s far less explicit than any of the other ones I mentioned, but just as emotionally devastating. It focuses on a man who is grooming a child, and justifying it to himself in a million unsettling ways. Whether or not he actually abuses her at the end is left extremely open-ended, and it’s pretty much on the reader to decide (and is a good way to gauge if you’re an optimist or a pessimist). I still wouldn’t recommend this to anyone who is even slightly triggered by child molestation/abuse/sexualization: it’s a very disturbing book.

The writing here is amazing. Just the descriptions of the wilderness alone were enough to sell me on this, but all of David/Gary’s strange dreamlike monologues? There is a hallucinatory quality to the prose: it wraps you up and you feel trapped and horrified but unable to look away. Something as simple as buying an 11-year-old girl a coat becomes a moment of extreme terror for the reader. Is he going to hurt her? Why would he do this? Does he even know what he’s doing and why he’s doing it? Just questions running constantly through your head.

I really wanted this to be a 5-star read, and it was so close. But. But. The Linnie (his girlfriend) sub-plot. I really wish it had been totally dropped. It did lead to one scene that will be forever burned into my memory but I feel like there was an easier way to do that than the very extended scenes of her. I just didn’t care about their relationship. I get that it framed him as having adult relationships, and no previous attraction to children, but I was 100% over it by the second Linnie scene. It almost ruined the book for me, to be honest, since she comes back in so close to the conclusion and it’s very unrealistic the way it plays out. Still an amazing book, just a flawed one.

Lipstick Rating 3 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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We Could Be Beautiful, by Swan Huntley* . Finished June 25th. This is the kind of book I almost feel guilty for liking and giving such a high rating. It’s just such a breezy and light read about a total unrepentant bitch. I think this is what a lot of “hot new thing” type books want to be: the main reason I dnf’d Before the Fall was that it was about annoying rich people. The main reason I liked this book was because it was about annoying rich people. The difference here is that Catherine West, our main girl, is a pseudo-villain that you adore to hate. I loved being in her vapid, bitchy head. I loved watching her fuck up. But by the end, I was almost rooting for her. She’s the anti-hero every psychological thriller with a “bad girl” wants to be.

However, this is not a psychological thriller. There’s certainly a mystery element, and there’s that “strange guy who may not be who he says he is” and ~family secrets~ but this is definitely not a thriller of any sort. If anything, it’s a character study of a truly flawed human. And while I usually don’t like these types of books (for example, I was neutral about Eileen even though it does something very similar) but I don’t know… I just devoured this.

I do think the charm and intensity tapers of a bit towards the end. Once the mystery element is unveiled it felt almost… anticlimactic? Like I wasn’t even reading to “find out what happened” so I basically found it distracting from the main plot I was interested in aka the character development of Catherine. But when I ended the book I still felt really satisfied. I actually held off on rating it because my initial reaction was “I so want to give this 4 stars. Does it deserve 4 stars? Is it really THAT much better than 3 star books I’ve read?” And I think for a lot of people, this doesn’t have the qualities of a “good” book. The writing is hilarious but not particularly beautiful. The characters are amazing but they’re all 100% hateable. The plot is minimal. Almost nothing happens. There’s name/brand dropping out the ass. But it was just SO fun, the definition of a guilty pleasure read.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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Cam Girl, by Leah Raeder/Elliot Wake. Finished June 25th. I absolutely adore Leah Raeder/Elliot Wake’s books. He just does dark, destructive, passionate, twisted relationships like no one else. You can feel in your bones how toxic Ellis and Vada are together but you want them to be happy so bad. Add in a really decent mystery plotline and psychological thriller elements and you’ve got gold.

I didn’t enjoy this quite as much as Black Iris (which might be because I just identified with that book really strongly) but as expected I found myself so drawn into Wake’s amazingly evocative, twisty language. It’s just so raw and passionate. The scene-like descriptions of Vada’s paintings? Magic. Makes me want to read Unteachable immediately.

Lipstick Rating 4 Full

 

 

 

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The Ballroom, by Anna Hope*. Finished June 26th. This book has two main storylines, and I only really cared about one of them. I found the love story of Ella and John to be downright boring. I’m just not a romance kind of girl: there are exceptions, of course, but generally it’s something I can do without. I prefer books sans-romance, though I do have a few literary couples I am SO attached to. It’s not that I hate romance, I just don’t like storylines that revolve around it. And the main story of The Ballroom is 100% a romance. Sure, it’s historical fiction in an insane asylum, but it’s two people falling in love. Meh. I also found some things confusing about their relationship.

All of the sub-plots, though… yeah, loved ‘em. There’s a third POV character, Charles, who is a doctor at the asylum and a proponent of eugenics. I found this book frighteningly enlightening (Churchill was pro-eugenics???) and I adored Charles’ chapters. His character was just intense and creepy but almost sympathetic. I felt bad for him but also wanted to punch him in the face by the end.

I also loved many of the side-characters, like Clem. I really enjoyed that (aside from Ella, our ~super special girl~) the people here actually have mental problems. So often authors fall into the trope of “none of these poor people are crazy!” which frames actual mental illness as being something negative and horrible. Which it’s not. Here, our love interest John suffered from severe depression. His best friend is a little manic. Ella’s best friend is a self-harmer with an eating disorder. Even Ella, who is the “not crazy one” has a few extreme outbursts. It was just nice to see mental illness so humanized (which, sadly, is rare in an asylum book).

I also appreciated how this wrapped up. The prologue made it seem like things would resolve quite neatly and I was annoyed it was included until I actually got to the end. Very satisfying but not in a ~storybook romance everything is perfect~ kind of way. So 2.5 stars for the main plot, 3.5 stars for everything else.

Lipstick Rating 3 Full

 

 

 

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Valley of the Moon, by Melanie Gideon*. Finished June 27th. I enjoyed the first half of this and hated the second half. Literally had to force myself to finish it. So what went wrong?

At the beginning, this is an interesting tale of time-travel with a kind of unique twist. A group of farmers in California from 1906 get stuck out of time. A fog descends on their village, and they are unable to get through it, cutting them off from everything. In 1975, a woman discovers that she alone can travel through the fog on the full moon (well, some full moons–the nature of the fog is pretty all over the place in regards to its “rules”). It’s one of those books that uses science fiction elements to discuss a modern issue: feeling like you don’t belong in your own time, wistfulness for the past, nostalgia. I think these types of books can be very successful if they’re sufficiently literary (Never Let Me Go, The Time Traveler’s Wife) and Valley of the Moon starts out seeming like it’ll be one of those types (if not nearly as well-written).

Lux, our protagonist, hates her life. She feels unmoored and like she’s ruined her future. So Greengage, the farmer’s valley, is like paradise to her. She feels accepted there, and like she has a place. But she has a son in the present, so she can’t up and leave her life behind. She struggles the entire book with feeling pulled between two very different worlds: one she loves and belongs to, and the “real” world.

I really liked a lot of how the plot played out…. until right about the halfway mark. There’s a big event (that I thought was actually a cool choice), but it led to this book being turned into a romance. First off, the author fridges a really great female character just so two others can get together which had me fuming. Did this book need romance? Absolutely not. It had an interesting concept and a clever discussion about society, gender, and acceptance going on. Suddenly it heads into sappy, trite, chick-lit territory. Why???

After that, it’s basically a ripoff of The Time Traveler’s Wife. Similar issues are presented, but it’s very been-there-done-that. There’s none of the emotional tug I want from a story like this. I was just frustrated and annoyed. Every new event/twist made me angrier. I was so disappointed to go from really enjoying a book to hating it. Part of me was like, “where’s the end of the book I started? This is a different book. This is all wrong.”

Lipstick Rating 2 And 1 Half

 

 

 

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Brother, by Ania Ahlborn. Finished June 28th. I have such a rocky relationship with Ania Ahlborn. She wrote one of my all-time favorite horror novels (The Bird Eater) and another that I really enjoyed (Seed) along with a just-okay “fun but no substance” book (The Neighbors). Then there were two I wasn’t crazy about (Within These Walls, The Shuddering). Which, let’s be honest, is kind of putting it lightly–The Shuddering was hilariously stupid and Within These Walls delivered on none of its promises. And then her last novella, The Pretty Ones, I hated. One of the worst pieces of horror I’ve ever read. So I honestly get kind of nervous whenever I pick up a new book by her–were The Bird Eater/Seed just flukes? Survey says… quite possibly, because I did NOT like this. At all.

You know what I don’t want in my horror? Insta-love and romance. You know what I do want in horror about a crazy backwoods family? Gore and disturbing content. Guess which one I got and which one I didn’t. Yeah, there is a luuuuv story here (though admittedly a kind of twisted one). Our main protagonist, Michael, is a whiny little emo teen who talks about how HARD HIS LIFE IS and oh woe is him when he literally helps kill people?? Like Michael, there are bigger issues at hand than whether or not the girl at the record store likes you. Like your psychotic murderous family and your sister who is trying to bone you. But nope, his ~so hard life~ is what the majority of this book is about. That and all of his ~feels~.

This book promises shocking horror and gore and all that good stuff, but if you’re well-versed in the genre it’s super tame. Not scary, not disturbing. I think Momma had the potential to be a terrifying character but we see SO little of her. And not in a “the less you see of the monster the better” kind of way. We never find out what she does to the girls really, or get a satisfying explanation for why. Or, you know, how/why the dad is involved. I think there are some moments of really strong horror (like the bunny scene, shivers) but they’re so buried that they lose their effectiveness. There is no tension, no building horror. The final “reveal” is really obvious at 48% of the way in so there’s not even a shock factor for that. I think this miiiight work better as a movie, but fell crazy flat for me as a book.

Lipstick Rating 2 Full

 

 

 

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The Natural Way of Things, by Charlotte Wood. Finished June 29th. This is a book I wanted to love. It sounds like something right up my alley: a group of women are kidnapped and put in a forced labor camp. It turns out that all of them were involved in very public sex scandals and somehow are being punished for this. I mean, it sounds like a premise that would really delve into feminist ideas about womanhood and slut-shaming and consent (because several of the girls had ‘sex’ scandals about being raped/molested), about how femaleness is pinned as the source of so many wrongs in society. Also, you know, creepy prison shit in a really cool environment (the Outback).

But… it was none of these things. In fact, I think this book is ridiculously sexist. Like offensively sexist. The women here are paper-thin tropes. There is NO connection between any of them, and they turn on each other on a dime. They are judgmental and vain and whine about expensive boots while being forced to work themselves to death. They even slut-shame each other and our two POV girls both think they are both “special” and “different” aka not deserving of the treatment that these other woman obviously deserve for their “actions.” Like… what? Sure, women are not some monolith ~rah rah women power~ super sweet lovely nurturing construct. But surely, out of TEN WOMEN, you’d have one who acted like a decent human. Instead it’s like some right-wing dude’s idea of how women would act together. But the author is female! And this book is supposed to be feminist! How did this happen? I’m so confused.

The plot is all over the place. We never find out why they’re in the camp, who had the money to execute this plan, or even how it happened. The entire book is just “oh here we are in this camp” and then 300 pages of them working and whining and bitching at each other and slowly going crazy. Okay, the going crazy part was interesting, but there is NO PLOT. No character development (aside from some very forced stuff at the end). No action. Basically two big things happen in the entire book. It was so dreadfully dull. If you’re going to do a plot-less book (a style I usually enjoy) you need either strong characters or a strong theme/idea to discuss. This book has, like, none of the things you want in a book.

Except for the language. I think this was beautifully written, especially the descriptions of the environment and the animals. That’s what is saving this from a one-star read. I was just really, really frustrated with every aspect of it other than the writing. Bad characters, no plot, zero discussion of any of the myriad of issues this type of situation would bring up. Bleh. But the cover sure is nice!

Lipstick Rating 2 Full

 

 

 

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A Man Came Out of A Door in The Mountain, by Adrianne Harun. Finished June 30th. I was so desperate to like this book. I’d just read a ton of stinkers, and this had been floating around on my tbr for quite some time. Spooky woods, devil in a small town, missing girls. Sounds great! But the book gods have been oh so cruel to me this month and another “I can’t wait to read it!” book ended up being a total flop.

I feel like the book I read was totally different than the description. Yes, there is a small town in Canada with a half-white/half-native population that are constantly at odds. Yes, it touches on the very real problem of missing native girls. Yes, there’s a devil character. Yes, it’s pretty much Canadian grit-lit. Buuuuut it reads like YA for many of the chapters. At the core of the story is a group of 5 friends who are teenagers. So an inordinately large part of the book focuses on their very teen problems. Several chapters are dedicated to Leo’s problems with his physics homework. It just felt jarring. Also, one of them kind of vanishes 10% of the way in and, like, two people are all “hey where’s character x” but that’s it???

It’s a inconsistent, messy book. Very uncohesive. There are SO many plots in a very slim novel, but none of them (besides “oh god I have to do my physics homework!”) gets enough focus. The story jumps all over the place and I kept having to re-orient myself. It was very muddy going, and I often found myself feeling kind of lost (which is not something that happens to me when reading!). Characters acted bizarrely, there was no consistent characterization, new plot points bloomed out of nowhere 50% of the way into a chapter, old ones were dumped unceremoniously… it was just bad.

I did really enjoy two characters (Hana Swann and Keven Seven) but we barely see any of them. The one saving grace was those two and the little vignettes between chapters: there are bits of folklore and myth scattered through that read very evocatively. I wish the whole book was like that.

Lipstick Rating 2 Full

 

 

 

Reading Challenge Goals

155/175 Books

18/35 Series Books

51/50 TBR Books

20/15 Different Countries

[books marked with a * were provided by netgalley in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own]

May 2016 Reading Wrapup: Part II

2 Jun

The first week of May was a great one for reading. The rest of the month? Maybe not so much. In terms of number of books read nothing much has changed (in fact May was very high in that regard) but my reading was all over the place. I skimped on my goals (only one series book read, and 1/3rd of the tbr books that I did in April). I also read a lot of lackluster novels. I think this is because I am in a major reading slump that started mid-month: nothing I pick up holds my attention, and I’ve found myself bouncing from book to book without settling down. I started a bunch of books that I really should love (authors/series I adore) but couldn’t get more than 10 pages in before giving up. So I spent most of the month reading “fast” books, ones that grab you and reel you in but are totally forgettable the moment you put them down. Yeah, not the best, but at least I got something done!

Strap in, because this is a long one. I originally intended to do weekly posts for May, but I guess because of my slumpy-ness I thought I didn’t tackle that much this month. I was horribly, horribly wrong. We’ve got a lot of books coming up.

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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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