Grace grew up in a fundamentalist Christian home. Her dad quotes scripture at her daily, and even made her sign a celibacy contract. Growing up, she and her family went door to door trying to get converts. She is a sheltered girl with an oppressive father and doesn't know much about anything, let alone S-E-X.
One day, at a school assembly, she sees a guest lecturer from a nearby college named Michael. They lock eyes in the auditorium and it's attraction at first sight. It isn't long before their first kiss and then, their first time. Michael says he's in love with her. That he wants to marry her. It's everything that Grace ever wanted.
I'm trying to figure out where I stand with this book. It tried to combine so many tropes into one volume: the wild best friend, the rich girl fallen from grace, teen motherhood, abortions, religious nuts, student-teacher relationships, quirky pixie-dreamboys, mawwiage. I think I might have been able to tolerate some of them, but in an overwhelming melting pot like this? Maybe not.
Like others, I also didn't like Michael at all. He struck me as incredibly condescending and not very smart. Since he was a professor, I was hoping for more enlightening insights into the literature that he allegedly taught, but mostly he just quoted them and seemed to think that this made him brill. He was also very clueless. Telling Grace to "dress nice" for one of his parties and then getting mad that she didn't understand that this was code for "black-tie." Making condescending comments about how wine is an acquired taste (although what's this about chardonnay being strong-tasting? a chardonnay is no cabernet or a zinfandel). And then there's this incredibly bullshit about how it's okay to have sex without condoms because he can just pull out. Um...where did you get your doctorate again?
HOW IT'S DONE has some great points about unbalanced relationships, and I like how Grace struggled to find her footing with a man who was so clearly not her equal, and how Michael abused this inequality to his advantage. This was very realistic, and often isn't shown in books about student-teacher relationships, which often try to take the more romantic way out.
The problem was that there was just so much side drama. Especially Liv. I honestly did not see why Grace was friends with this girl. In the beginning she seemed cool, but then it all regressed into the "my best friend is a slut" stereotype that I hate so much. Liv was a terrible person by the end of the book, and all of her peripheral issues where just too...much. Plus, the way abortion is brought up in this book is incredibly vague. I'm guessing the author didn't want to offend anyone by taking a concrete stance, but the result just makes it awkward. Also: the dead baby exhibit. o.o
I probably would have rated this higher if I were in high school & still starry-eyed and naive. But now that I know how the world works (at least, a bit more than I did when I was eighteen), I can't give this a super high rating. It is well-written and has some interesting--even valuable--ideas, but as a whole, is incredibly flawed. I have no regrets about reading it, but I wouldn't read it again.
THE TOKYO ZODIAC MURDERS is one creepy story. It's about a murder by the same name that happened in pre-WWII Japan. The story opens with the last testament of a man named Umezawa, artist and psychopath, who wants to create the perfect woman...by chopping up the bodies of his daughters and nieces. Each of them possess different astrological signs which are, in turn, responsible for governing different parts of the body. This recombined whole, which he calls Azoth, will be the perfect woman.
However, things go wrong. Umezawa is killed, along with his wife, and all of the young women he planned on using for Azoth. Forty years later, and still nobody has been able to solve the mystery, which has elevated it to cult status in pop culture.
The story is narrated by Kazumi, a hapless but intelligent man who is forced to play Dr. Watson to his brilliant friend Kiyoshi's detective skills. After getting in trouble with the police for obtaining a piece of critical evidence under dubious means, they find themselves with a very scant timeline: just a week to solve the case. But Kiyoshi remains confident...
This story was incredibly violent and fucked-up, especially that prologue. I have to say, though, that it hooks its claws into you and doesn't let go. The pacing of TTZM is also really well done. I loved the gradual unraveling of the mystery, and the reliance on clues to set the pace. Apparently, THE TOKYO ZODIAC MURDERS falls under the honkaku genre of mysteries in Japan, which means it focuses on...guess what...plotting and clues instead of deception and deus-ex-machinas.
Readers are encouraged to solve the mystery before the characters. In fact, Shimada includes two notes at climactic moments, urging you to solve the case because the clues are right there. It made me feel like Shimada was a Japanese Steve on an episode of Blue's Clues, urging me to FIND THE CLUE.
One of my friends warned me that the ending was a bit weird, and I'll definitely agree with that. It was. I didn't understand the motivation myself, but the plotting was genius. And who doesn't like a locked-room mystery? This was something straight out of the Crimson Room series...
Atsumi is a high school girl who looks like she's ten. Atsushi is a ten-year-old who looks like he's in college. They're siblings, and they're total opposites. Get ready to laugh!
Sometimes you read a book, and you just know it's going to offend people. RECORDER AND RANDSELL is one of those books. Their appearances raise some very uncomfortable issues, and this book goes about them in the wrong way.
Example 1: Atsushi has a little girlfriend in his class. When he walks around with her, he is repeatedly arrested by the police because they think he's an adult man making off with a child. The first time this happened, I laughed a little on the inside. I felt guilty about it, but I was amused. But then this happens 20 more times. (Seriously.)
Example 2: Atsushi has a very uncomfortable relationship with adult women. They all want to bang him--even though he's a child. His teacher, especially, often finds herself very flustered in his presence because of how attractive he is (*shudder*) and there are some unpleasant scenes involving the two of them in some...um...awkward moments that have her getting all hot and bothered.
First off, EW.
Second off, WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH U.
Example 3: Atsumi is often sexualized in the panels, which veers into the uncomfortable territory of school girl porn. There's one "cover art" scene featuring her and her brother. Atsushi is dressed up as santa and Atsushi is in the gift he's unwrapping--naked, except for some strategically placed ribbon.
Example 4: Atsushi is also sexualized. He is constantly taking off his shirt (to reveal a very muscular chest, of course), much to the dismay of the women around him. He has an unemployed neighbor who lends him clothes and at one point, he's dressed in a very low-cut shirt that reveals most of his chest, tight pants, and an ID necklace. Atsumi tells him to take it off because he looks "too good."
The sexualization and fetishization in this manga made me very uncomfortable, and so did the way that it made light of child sexual abuse and sexual predators.
Just in case all that weren't enough, RECORDER AND RANDSELL forces you to read the panels in an odd order: left to right, down from the leftmost panel, then up to the top right panel and down again. It gave me such a headache on my e-reader, scrolling up and down constantly.
ARKHAM MANOR is a really weird book. Bruce Wayne "loses" the family fortune, and his mansion defaults to the city. Since Arkham was destroyed, they need a new place to house inmates and Wayne Manor is redesigned as the new Arkham.
Batman decides to investigate Arkham by becoming a John Doe (Jack Something), and living in his own house as an inmate while investigating sketchy behavior. His disguise is laughable. It literally consists of a mustache.
The upside to ARKHAM is that, usually, in most comic books, only a handful of Batman villains are featured--but this one has tons. Not just the typical ones, like The Joker or Harley, but weird ones, like Mr. Zsasz, Clayface, Dr. Crane, and Victor Freeze.
I'm a little confused by the character roster on the Goodreads website, though, because it says that Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, Black Mask, and Killer Croc were in here, but I didn't remember seeing them...?
Anyway, yeah, ARKHAM MANOR was weird. It was an interesting storyline, but also very violent and not super emotional. With Batman stories, I usually expect to see a lot of really meaningful insights about what it means to be a hero who has to do bad things to people, but here Batman seemed to revel in hurting people, even gloated about it. It was kind of icky.
P.S. Thank you, DC, for giving me an ARC of this, along with so many other comic books. I'm actually super excited about that, because DC never used to approve me for anything, but now I almost always get approved. This makes me happy; I love comics. So thank you!
I must be an Epic because my super power is wanting this book. The wanting is powerful enough to destroy entire civilizations. There's only one way toI must be an Epic because my super power is wanting this book. The wanting is powerful enough to destroy entire civilizations. There's only one way to stop me:
You look at that cover and tell me this book isn't trying to capitalize off the success of Ernest Cline's ARMADA and READY PLAYER ONE and the upcoming Spielberg movie. Okay, now tell me that without lying through your teeth.
I've always been fascinated by books about cyberpunk and virtual reality and video games. As a gamer, it was always really exciting to see my interests expressed in fiction. Video game themed books used to be few and far in between, but ever since gamer culture went mainstream, there has been a slow but steady increase in the output of video game-themed sci-fi, most notably READY PLAYER ONE. And as with most success stories, people are shamelessly trying to capitalize on it by pandering, pandering, pandering!! In fact, if trend-hopping was a restaurant, it would be called PANDERING EXPRESS. (*crickets chirp*)
Come on, guys. Not even a chuckle?
As with most anthologies, PRESS START TO PLAY is very uneven. Some of the stories are fantastic, and some are dull as dishwater. There were a couple that were so off the wall that I wondered why they had been included in the anthology at all, since their relevance to gaming was so peripheral. Because of this uneven quality in content, I like to review anthologies differently: each story gets its own star rating and the rating of the book itself is an actual average of all the individual stories' ratings, rounded up. Needlessly complicated? I SHOULD HOPE SO!!!
1. God Mode by Daniel H. Wilson - ★★
I've read Wilson's other works, and something about his writing just rubs me the wrong way, like Charles Stross and Max Brooks. I think it's because they try too hard. They want to be meta, and intellectual, and relevant...but they also want to geek out over their favorite thing and have everyone praise them for how good they are at geeking out over that thing. GOD MODE had a pseudo-intellectual vibe that was really hard to get over and tried too hard to be meta.
2. NPC by Charles Yu - ★★
I think it was a big mistake on the editor's part having two such similar stories back to back. This story was really confusing. I was never quite clear what was going on. There were elements of determinism and AI here, I think, but there were also elements of Groundhog's Day, as well. This story didn't know what it wanted to be, and that caused it to fail.
3. Respawn by Hiroshi Sakurazaka - ★★★
RESPAWN had elements of GOD MODE in it, which was another mistake, I think, because of how the stories bleed together if you read the anthology over a long period of time. I thought this author's name was familiar, and it turns out that this is because he's the author of ALL YOU NEED IS KILL: that book that was trending recently on Goodreads a couple months ago. This story is interesting: it asks the question, what if every time you died, you became someone else? Apart from the whole concept of respawning, however, it has nothing to do with virtual reality or video games, and this is one of those stories that made me question why it was included in the anthology.
4. Desert Walk by S.R. Mastrantone - ★★★★
I actually really liked this one! Desert Walk is a game by the same name, for the Sega. Since its release was cancelled, the only copies that exist are the demo copies that accidentally contained the full game. The main character buys one for an arm and a leg and finds it compelling, despite the fact that the game literally consists of just walking through a desert. Then she finds something weird that she brings up with the reclusive game designer, who ends up reacting in a rather shocking way to the questions that the main character asks her. DESERT WALK has a creepy Point Horror vibe to it that's reminiscent of the creepy books imprinted by Scholastic that I devoured as a young teen.
5. Rat Catcher's Yellows by Charlie Jane Anders - ★★★★
This story gets bonus points for revolving around a lesbian couple, because FUCK YEAH! DIVERSITY! Anyway, the main character's partner is suffering from a degenerative neurological disorder. She buys her a video game because she hopes it will have a therapeutic effect on her partner...and it does...in a way. The video game is about a fantasy Renaissance world populated entirely by cats, and, much to the MC's surprise, her partner ends up becoming a prodigy in the world, quickly rising in the ranks for her innovative game play and decision making. I think this book could have been an easy five if it were a full length novel because it offered so many possibilities for future development. Also, I really, really want to play that video game. Because reasons.
6. 1Up by Holly Black - ★★★★★
Holly Black has always been hit or miss with me. Loved DOLL BONES, but thought her fairy stories were crap. This one was a winner, though. A group of internet friends meet up in person to go to one of their friends' funeral. But the circumstances are suspicious, and on his home computer they find a text-based game inviting them to play a game that mirrors the life of their dead friend.
7. Survival Horror by Seannan McGuire - ★★★
McGuire is another author who is hit-or-miss with me. I didn't like NEWSFLESH, but I loved PARASITE. Recently, I acquired a copy of ROSEMARY AND RUE so it will be interesting to see where I fall on that side of the fence. R&R is relevant here because with SURVIVAL HORROR, McGuire takes the paranormal approach: a half-incubus ends up getting a magical attack on his forums...a video game that wants him dead. He and his cousin have to solve the game before time runs out and it kills him. This is a premise that could have been really good provided that A) it actually had time to develop (too much world building going on at once) and B) the ending weren't such a cop-out (SUCH A COP-OUT, OH MY GOD WHAT IS THIS, MIDDLE GRADE?).
8. Real by Django Wexler - ★★★★
This was a pretty cool concept. It's about a phone game that lets you see demons. You know, one of those paranormal conspiracy games centered around jump scares? It had a modern gothic/conspiracy vibe to it, like NIGHT FILM or HOUSE OF LEAVES and I really enjoyed it, although, again, I think this is one of those books that also could have worked better as a full-length book.
9. Outliers by Nicole Feldringer - ★
Basically, Sim Earth, except with government conspiracies and a boring MC.
10. end game by Chris Avellone - ★★
This one pissed me off, because it could have been really good if it were fleshed out and a bit more clear. I don't know why authors think that "mystery" equals "be really vague about what's happening at all times" because it doesn't. And sometimes, it's really fucking annoying. Especially when you're trying to figure out what the fuck is going on. This is another story that revolves around text-based games (and I'm going to take a really quick time-out and say how surprising I thought that was, because presumably this is being targeted to the audience that READY PLAYER ONE catered to, which is a bit too young to understand what a text-based game is. Hell, they probably think it's something they play on their phones). It's creepy and got good atmosphere, but the POV keeps changing (WHY?) and like I said, it's way too vague to really elicit any kind of emotions.
11. Save Me Plz by David Barr Kirtley - ★
This one was irritating. It's kind of a validation for people who play video games all day, and reads like an uncomfortable revenge fantasy about girlfriends who don't like their boyfriends playing video games. Kind of like, HA HA! NOW YOU WILL BE MY ELF QUEEN SLUT FOR ALL ETERNITY WHO'S LAUGHING NOW BITCH? I'm not. Ew.
12. Relive Box by T.C. Boyle - ★★★
This story had a really great concept. It's about a piece of technology that hooks into your brain and lets you relive moments--any moment--from your life, again and again. The man narrating is addicted to his own past, even at the cost of his job and his daughter. I think it's really fascinating but it doesn't belong in this anthology because it doesn't deal with video games. If anything, I think RELIVE BOX belongs in a collection of stories paying homage to Philip K. Dick because it deals with that same sort of "what is reality?"/"the future will destroy us" theme he's so famous for.
13. Roguelike by Marc Laidlaw - ★★★
ANOTHER TEXT-BASED GAME. This one captures how frustrating it can be for a player to have to play out levels over and over and over again to achieve success. The actual story is very short, and most of the content is white space. I'm giving it three stars which is really more than it deserves because it didn't really scream "effort!" to me, but the ending did make me laugh very hard.
14. All of the People in Your Party Have Died by Robin Wasserman - ★
This story also has a lesbian couple and deals tangentially with Oregon Trail. However the story itself was boring and scarcely dealt with video games at all. It read like a story written by someone who has never played a video game in her life and hoped that nobody would notice it in her writing.
15. Recoil! by Micky Neilson - ★★
An Average Joe sneaks into a gaming facility in order to test-drive a new release only to get mixed up in a terrorist plot. It's actually better than it sounds, but it's very cheesy, and deals more with VR than with actual video games, and therefore wasn't (in my opinion) a good contribution to this anthology. Also, I saw that ending coming a mile away. One of my favorite Goosebumps novels as a child had the same twist.
16. Anda's Game by Cory Doctorow - ★
You know, this story actually wasn't bad, but I HAVE READ IT FOUR TIMES NOW BECAUSE DOCTOROW KEEPS SUBMITTING IT FOR PUBLICATION. Doctorow submitted Anda's Game to the FUTURE GAMES anthology, and also to THE STARRY RIFT anthology. Anda appears yet again in Doctorow's graphic novel, IN REAL LIFE, which takes ANDA'S GAME and expands it into a full-length graphic novel (to be honest, its best incarnation yet). Did he think no one would notice? Clearly, Cory Doctorow doesn't know how many books I read.
17. Coma Kings by Jessica Barber - ★
Another story that didn't really deal with video games. It could have been omitted from this collection and I don't think anyone would have noticed or felt bad about that.
18. Stats by Marguerite K. Bennett - ★★
An uncomfortable revenge fantasy that, while it deals with many relevant issues (classism, racism, ableism, sexism), doesn't really provide the reader with enough framework for the story. Instead, we're slammed with all these issues without really going into why they're a problem in the first place, instead, just focusing on the ugliness that results from them as a byproduct (presumably for shock value). Even though I'm tired of reading ANDA'S GAME every time I open up a fucking sci-fi anthology, I have to say that Doctorow has a solid grip on economics, and uses games as an excellent way to provide metaphor for how minorities are exploited by big business. STATS could have been a good story if it was developed more, but as it was, I found it left a bad taste in my mouth.
19. Please Continue by Chris Kluwe - ★
I think this story wanted to be a video game-themed version of Baz Luhrmann's "Sunscreen." It did not succeed. Also, in an anthology that's supposed to be celebrating video games, it seems off-putting to have a story preaching about how harmful they are instead.
20. Creation Screen by Rhianna Pratchett - ★★★★
Another story that takes the "video games are harmful" route, but instead of condemning them, seems to suggest moderation is better. Also, she puts forth an interesting suggestion: what if our game characters could feel? I loved the descriptions in this story. I'm guessing Pratchett either played WoW or Runescape (or both) or knew someone who did, because some of the descriptions could have come right out of that game. This was fabulous.
21. The Fresh Prince of Gamma World by Austin Grossman - ★★
Another text-based game premise. This one is weird. It kind of takes a post-apocalyptic premise in text-based form, but nothing really happens.
22. Gamer's End by Yoon Ha Lee - ★
Another pun based off ENDER'S GAME? Really? This story is a bizarre mishmash of ENDER and a small-press manhwa I got from Netgalley as an arc called CORE SCRAMBLE. I thought it was boring, but I've never been a fan of military sci-fi.
23. The Clockwork Soldier by Ken Liu - ★★★★★
This story is easily the best in the entire lot, and I'm sad it's buried all the way in the back where people are less likely to read it. It's an amazing story set in a dystopian future where people are arguing about whether or not androids have rights/feelings/etc. The main advocate for android rights is actually the son of a politician who is very much against them. Advocate boy is stirring up a lot of crap and a bounty hunter, Alex, has been paid to take him out, but before she does, he manages to persuade her to play a text-based video game he's created that basically acts as his platform. It's beautifully told, and I want this to be a full length novel so, so badly. That, or a movie by Hayao Miyazaki because it has so many of those themes. THIS NEEDS TO HAPPEN.
24. Killswitch by Catherynne M. Valente - ★★★★★
This is another fantastic story. It's about a creepy and obscure video game that is supposed to parallel acts of cruelty in the mining industry in Eastern Europe during the communism period. The game is full of ghosts who haunt the mines and machinery, and features two main characters: one a ghost, the other human and corporeal. It was a lot like REAL by Django Wexler, but better done.
25. Twarrior by Andy Weir - ★★★★
Hey, it's that guy who wrote THE MARTIAN! This story was very, very short (painfully short) but funny. I laughed very hard. He has a fantastic sense of humor. I only wish it were longer.
26. Select Character by Hugh Howey - ★★
This is about the wife of a man who plays video games. One day he finds out she likes one of his Grand Theft Auto-esque video games and then he's like, "OH! LET ME WATCH YOU PLAY! HOW ADOWABLE! A WOMAN PLAYING VIDEO GAMES!" It's very icky. I got really pissed off at him, especially when he started backseat gaming. DO YOU KNOW HOW FUCKING ANNOYING IT IS TO HAVE SOMEONE SITTING NEXT TO YOU AND TELLING YOU YOU'RE PLAYING WRONG? The ending to this story was also really weird. Even though we never really know for sure, I'm guessing it has the same twist as Micky Neilson's RECOIL! Not impressed.
PRESS START TO PLAY features some real talent, but it also features a lot of really mediocre writing. Like, OH HEY! VIDEO GAMES! DONE! I got the impression that this was sped along for publication to make sure it was released around the same time as Pixels and ARMADA. I also feel like about half the stories in this anthology should have been culled to make it tighter and more relevant. The bad stories and the stories that weren't about video games should not have been included from a reader standpoint. And some of the stories were way too similar.
A lot of graphic-novels have come out this year that really capture what it means to be a "generational" in the throes of existential angst. THE WORRIER'S GUIDE TO LIFE, POORLY DRAWN LINES, and now HEART AND BRAIN, all made me sit up and say, "Hey! I do those things! Hey! I think that way! HEY! HEY!"
HEART AND BRAIN is about the heart and brain of a blue Yeti that looks a little bit like "kitty" from Monsters Inc. Brain is the logical one who spends all his time worrying, getting stuff done, and being realistic (which means, in his terms, pessimistic). Heart, on the other hand, is carefree--to the point of utter irresponsibility--and spends all of his free time impulse shopping, binge eating, and chasing butterflies, much to brain's distress.
I love the way Heart & Brain are anthropomorphized. I liked their arguments and the fact that some of their discussions were surprisingly deep. Anyone who has ever struggled to balance responsibility with fun will "get" this book.
Plus, it has a blurb from Matthew Inman (The Oatmeal) on the back!
On the other hand, he's also entered the pop lexicon of fame with such memes as "You Don't Say?" and "Nicolas Cage's Face on Things." As unpopular as people claim he is, he would not be so prevalent if people didn't find him at least a little endearing.
NATIONAL TREASURE is a mini pop-cultural treatise written by Lindsay Gibb that takes the stance that Cage is actually an unappreciated genius. His broad filmography doesn't indicate questionable taste, she claims, but an extremely creative mind that challenges itself constantly with new roles and ideas.
NATIONAL TREASURE discusses Nicolas Cage's acting methods, delves into his personality a bit, and analyzes some of his more famous movies (good & bad--but mostly good). There's also a chapter on Nicolas Cage memes, and their relevance to pop culture, and how he seems to have embraced them.
I haven't seen a lot of the movies mentioned in here, but I did enjoy Gibb's narrative. She has a compelling voice, and the way she commends Cage is inspiring. I kind of wanted to see some of these movies by the time I'd finished with the book, especially Vampire's Kiss, which sounds fascinating (and is also the movie that the You Don't Say meme came from).
Anyone who enjoys pop culture or Nicolas Cage will enjoy this book. I have to say that I'm becoming a huge fan of these Pop Classics books being put out by ECW Press. They're the movie and TV show equivalent of the popular 33⅓ Series about music and its significance to pop culture.
Sometimes in collecting, there is a force of enthusiasm that toes the line between passion and insanity. Insanity is trampling Walmart employees when you spot one of them holding the object of your desire in their hands. Insanity is spending your life savings on "collectors' items" in the hopes that they will quadruple in value over your lifetime, just in time for your retirement. Insanity is hurting yourself--or others--while questing for your collection.
The author of DOLL JUNK is an example of how to be a collector without being totally off-putting and crazy.
I loved DOLL JUNK. It reminded me of a doll-themed version of John Whitenight's UNDER GLASS (another cool art book about collectible Victorian-era paraphernalia). John Whitenight was super passionate about his collecting, and even though some of the pieces were precious enough that they were kept in museums or in private collections, some of the stuff was from his own stash.
Varricchio is enthusiastic about her knock-off Barbie collections and it shows. She provides descriptions of every outfit, bits of trivia (I wish she did this more, honestly), and every now and then exhibits some very dry wit that had me smiling to myself (I wish she'd done this more, too). I wasn't quite sure if these items were taken from Varicchio's own collection or the collections of friends. Sometimes she explicitly says that the items were difficult for her to track down, but this doesn't happen very often except in cases where the items are rare and she is expressing pride.
As it says in the title and on the cover, the focus here is on fashions and dolls from the 70s and 80s. Some of those knock-off dolls have truly frightening faces, but there were a couple that were quite pretty, as well. The same goes for fashions. Fashion dolls are interesting because in addition to reflecting the fashions of a period, they also depict an idealized fashion that encapsulates both the aspirations of and the expectations for women (example: there is now a president elect Barbie).
Because of this, I think it's difficult to say that these clothes actually reflected the time periods they were made in. Some of the outfits were truly heinous; and the effect is glorious. Loud floral and geometric dresses and pantsuits dominate the 70s line-ups, whereas in the 80s most of them look like rip-offs of Michael Jackson and Jem and the Holograms. I died when I saw that the male doll outfits of this era each had a single fashion glove in the packaging. A-hee-hee!
DOLL JUNK was near and dear to my inner-child's Barbie-loving heart. I had a lot of Barbies, and my mother really spoiled me. Every time she went to a garage sale, she would look for Barbies and Barbie accessories, and if they were in good condition and not too expensive she would usually buy them for me. In addition to the more usual Barbie canon, I also had a lot of the rip-off clothes, too, although I didn't mind them. They tended to be interesting (read: gloriously hideous/tacky).
Anyone who played with Barbies as a kid will probably be interested in this book. It doesn't just focus on American/English knock-offs, either. Germany is probably the biggest focus, surprisingly, but it also mentions Italy, Thailand, and Mexico, and a couple other countries I forgot.
Creepy dolls and hideous period fashions. It's pretty much a win/win.
Reza Farazmand has just my sense of humor--quirky, bizarre, and a little dark.
POORLY DRAWN LINES is what would happen if you crossed Gary Larson & xkcd, and then interspersed excerpts from Jack Handy.
Here's a quote:
"Son, always hope for the best and prepare for the worst. I got you this confetti. And a gun" (76).
bdan2 hi :)
erica87 your profile says you're into model boats
erica87 model boats and cocaine
bdan2 "models, boats, and cocaine"
erica87 nm (169)
I've been on a streak of really bad books, and this was just the refreshing change I needed to get me off to a fresh start. I absolutely loved this to pieces. The illustrations were cute, the panels were hilarious, and the short-stories made me chuckle. Farazmand has a fantastic sense of comedic timing and is just as good as rendering the simple into the hilarious as The Oatmeal.
I don't have much money to my name, but I would consider buying this in hard copy along with Allie Brosh's HYPERBOLE AND A HALF. Brilliant artists deserve to be supported!
I read and loved another book by this author. It was called MAKE YOU MINE, from her Nine Circles series. And it was good. Shockingly, surprisingly good. Good enough that I devoured it in a day and immediately applied for the sequel on Netgalley and cried a little when I didn't get approved.
What I did get approved for was this. NEVER REFUSE A SHEIKH. The guy on the cover looks distinctly un-sheikh-like, but whatever. MAKE YOU MINE was awesome, so surely this book, my first sheik romance, would be awesome as well.
NEVER REFUSE A SHEIKH is a really short book--under 100 pages long--and even though I suspect that it partly responsible for some of its problems, it was also its saving grace because there was no way I'd have finished if this was a full-length work.
Princess Safira was spirited away when her royal parents were attacked. She's been waiting in hiding, under guard, all this time--until Sheikh Altair comes to collect her and make her his bride.
There isn't a whole lot to say. She's a virgin, obviously. And the two idiots fall in love way too soon, despite the fact that Altair is an asshole and Safira, in keeping with the theme, is an idiot.
Do they use protection when they have sex?
Of course not.
Also there's this REALLY IRRITATING THING that happens, that kind of ruined what remained of the story for me.
Do you want to know what it is?
...Are you sure?
WARNING: MAJOR SPOILER
Altair is the man responsible for her parents' murders. They were casualties in his anger against someone else--but hey, it got him the throne and the girl. Also, the girl doesn't even get mad. Keep in mind that until she met Altair, she was devastated over her loss and angry about being kept a prisoner, but when Altair confesses, she's just like, "THAT'S OK. SHIT HAPPENS BRO-DAWG."
What makes this even more infuriating is that this happens right after they have sex for the first time.
But you want to know what does make the heroine mad?
When they have sex and she wakes up and he isn't there.
So let's get this straight:
Killing parents? Ok.
Booty call? Not ok.
Also, I found it very Mary Sue-ish that the female MC has blue eyes. I know Middle Eastern women can have green or blue-ish eyes, but it isn't common, and everyone makes such a big deal about them in this book, and I don't know...it just felt like cultural white-washing to me.
I also took issue with the fact that bridenapping was portrayed as this romantic, desirable thing that the heroine has always secretly wanted. It's actually quite horrid.
You know, I didn't go into this book expecting to hate it. I actually wanted to like it. Even though my ratings for Atria's books tend to be quite low, they keep approving me on Netgalley. And I actually really liked the last book of theirs I read: TRUST NO ONE.
But A TASTE OF PLEASURE was terrible. Remember that time I took one for the team and reviewed E.L. James's GREY and it was the worst book I've read all year? I've since revised my opinion.
A TASTE OF PLEASURE is the worst book I've read all year.
I suspected trouble was brewing when I realized that the main character's name was London and her house was named La Chateau d'Amour.
My niggling suspicions deepened when London loses her virginity with a boy who then immediately dumps her for some rich girl his parents want to marry, and London then embarks on a series of really poorly written affairs with literally every single good-looking guy she meets.
Just look at some of these sex scenes.
She opened her legs to a new touch and moaned as the surge of water touched her virgin parts followed by his talented fingers (14).
He watched her squirm in her seat and he welcomed the challenge to fill her delights and satisfy his bulging desire(17).
He fondled her breasts, as their tongues played tag with each other(26).
Her arousal zone swelled at his touch (26).
Note: "arousal zone(s)" is used several times in this book in lieu of "erogenous zones." So is "hot spot(s)."
"I'm rubbing myself as I think of your wetness and how tight you are. I so long to be inside of you again, to feel your wetness on me, with your silky walls hugging me..." (29)
His pleasure rod grew rock hard and he grabbed at her (32).
He was rapacious and almost barbaric as he hiked her skirt up to expose her fiery sex that awaited him (79).
He penetrated her fiercely, then took it out, reaching around to touch her swollen, aching button. He massaged her and filled her with his finger at the same time. Holding her tight, he pushed deep inside her again, filling her with his hardness (84).
His hardness rubbed itself inside her wetness... (86)
She eased underneath him to indulge herself in his bulge (90).
Note: INDULGE THE BULGE!!!
He went down to her passion pit and licked it wildly... (94)
Jen strapped on a dildo and went back to London, sticking it in her mouth and then rubbing it between her legs and all over her passion pit (125).
* * *
The writing in this book is absolutely terrible. I know I sound like I'm being mean when I say that this reads like it was written by a fifteen-year-old girl, but it does. The language is very basic. The sex scenes are awkward, with the most bizarre euphemisms for cock and dick that I have ever seen (I mean, seriously: "pleasure rod," "passion pit"?). There are typos everywhere (especially with quotation marks) and at one point, the main character watches a movie called "The Lady with the Dragon Tattoo."
Sexual abuse is also used and abused in this book. We're told that the heroine was sexually abused by her uncle when she was four years old, but the way that it is brought up in this book is kind of...icky and unpleasant. We're told that her mother beat her with a spatula because she caught London masturbating when she was eight-years-old, and then her uncle told her that masturbating is only wrong if she does it for her own pleasure, but not when he does it for her. Um, ew?
I couldn't tell if this "grooming" was introduced to suggest that promiscuous women are actually damaged victims of sexual abuse, or if it was meant to indicate that the heroine was sexually precocious and maybe even brought some of these repeated incidences of abuse upon herself. Because even her lovers treat her ill. The main love interest, Deacon, jilts her twice--first after taking her virginity and then again, after she arranges a threesome for his benefit (he ditches her for her friend). It's also worth noting that Deacon is a married man London is having an affair with.
There's also a charmer named Rick (I think it was Rick) who informs London that his wife has terminal cancer and is currently in the ICU. When London reacts with disgust, he's like, "No, it's okay, baby, she's in a coma--she won't know." What the actual fuck.
Oh, and let's not forget about Steve, whose ideas about BDSM make Fifty Shades of Grey look like a sensitivity training manual. He wants London to be his sex slave, and his scenes with London left a bitter, appalled taste in the back of my throat because he reads more like a serial killer than a Dom.
And lastly, there is actual rape in this book. Deacon has anal intercourse with London even though she says, repeatedly, "NO." When is it okay to not listen to someone saying "no" if you're having sex? If you've got a prearranged safe word that you both consented on before having sex. So basically, what Deacon did was rape. The fact that London was aroused by it in the end is no matter.
It was rape.
I am honestly sickened and disgusted by the content of this book, and cannot believe it was published by a mainstream publishing house, because the content is truly heinous and unprofessional and bad. What is even more disgusting is that the fact that this was given a green light at all indicates that there is a market for this kind of bullcrap in the literary 'verse.
PARADISE RULES is trying to be THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER of the 21st century and it does not succeed.
I feel bad for saying this, because Gleacher raises some pretty important issues in his book--issues that are not often raised in young adult books, especially not young adult books aimed at boys--but the way that these topics are approached is done so with a voice that carries a lot of really mixed signals.
Gates is seventeen-year-old and living in a midwestern town that doubles as a WASP nest. His mother is crazy, and has a live-in therapist named Alicia who lounges around in her lingerie all day and fucks Gates(!). Gates feels guilty about this, and his guilt keeps him from being able to have sex with his girlfriend, Mel, who he is actually really crazy about.
He works at a golf club-cum-country club where his Chinese boss, Mr. Lu (who is like a really racist Mr. Miyagi and the embodiment of negative 1930s "chinaman" stereotypes) encourages (read: blackmails) him to play golf against men for money. Gates is really good at golf, and has a really rare putter that his mother reputedly got at a yard sale for $3. His thing is to pretend he's bad and then con men out of their dough. His official job is a "caddy" where he has the nickname Fun Buns because all the creepy pedophile men try to grope his ass. Yeah, um...
So, there isn't much plot to this book. Mostly there's a bunch of "will he?" threads that we, the reader, unravel gradually as we read through the book. Will Gates and Mel ever have sex? Will Gates ever tell anyone that his mother's therapist is molesting him? Will we ever learn the secret of what happened to Gates's father? And so on, and so forth.
There is a lot of child abuse and statutory rape and attempted statutory rape in this book, and that made reading PARADISE RULES a really uncomfortable read. I think this subject is important and ought to be addressed, especially since men are often ignored when it comes to writing about the victims about rape even though many of them are victims, as well, not just perpetrators.
What made me uncomfortable was the fact that Gates was the victim of so much of this abuse. His girlfriend's mother and father both try to molest him. Excuses are duly provided for them: Mr. Vanleer is gay and uncomfortable about this because he fears judgment. Mrs. Vanleer feels unattractive and is undergoing a midlife crisis fueled by her being threatened by her young and pretty daughter's coming of age. You know what, though? In spite of all these neat little excuses...
ATTEMPTED CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE IS NOT OKAY.
The thread with Alicia made me the most upset because it's so frequent. She has sex with Gates several times in this book, and it's written out, and it's graphic, and it's so painful because even though Gates loathes himself for sleeping with Alicia he has convinced himself that on some level he needs this. His psyche has been so warped by this grooming that he is unable to have sex with girls his own age because he feels so corrupted, a tainting agent; he feels that this abuse is all that he deserves because he's too filthy to be with anyone else.
The fact that Alicia is a psychologist makes this even more damning, because she knows what effect she's having on him. She repeatedly tells him that his mother is so unstable that if he confides in her that his psychologist had sex with him, she will be so devastated that she will commit suicide. Every time he comes close to telling someone, Alicia tells him that doing so will make him responsible for the death of his mother. She tells him that, despite lounging around in negligees all day, he basically asked for it, and that he came on to her. At one point, after a bout of angry sex fueled by Gates's own self-hatred and hatred of his psychologist, Alicia accuses him of raping her.
At the end, we find out that Alicia--in addition to being his mother's psychologist--was also his mother's lover. And when Gates finally gets the courage to tell his mom what's been going on this whole time, she slaps him and asks him how he could do this to them (them being, of course, her and Alicia). What the actual fuck, book? What the actual fuck?
I'm not actually sure what the point of all this was. It reads like a poor attempt to reverse LOLITA in terms of gender stereotypes. In fact, I recently tried to read a gender-swapped retelling of LOLITA (LOLITO), but it was so similar to this book in terms of tone and content that I put it down. By that point, I'd realized that I wasn't enjoying this book and I didn't wish to go through a rehash.
Like PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, I felt like there was an emotional disconnect between what was going on in the story and how the characters reacted to it. PARADISE is better than PERKS, but the way that the topics are treated are just as unsuccessful because they lack seriousness. I felt like this book was conforming to a lot of the stereotypes about male rape victims (they brought it on themselves/they couldn't say no/they're "lucky"/etc.) instead of debunking them.
I also was not really a fan of the writing style. It was too reminiscent of Bret Easton Ellis. You know, trashy, disaffected, materialistic, and superficial. All of that and a bag of potato chips.
I'm rounding up because this book did acknowledge the trauma of rape and sexual abuse for men. Especially vulnerable men in their teens who are taken advantage of by an authority figure(s).
I love conspiracy plots in books and movies. I just recently watched this techno-thriller from 2003 starring Ben Affleck, called Paycheck. It's cheesy as all get-out, but has some pretty cool ideas and since I saw it in theaters as a high school freshman, I've got a bit of a soft spot for it in my heart.
TRUST NO ONE is the ultimate conspiracy: what if you're a mystery writer with Alzheimer's and the plots of your murder mysteries start to blend and meld with your actual memories? What if people start to tell you that you actually did kill someone? How the hell would you know?
Jerry Grey gained fame and infamy under his pen name, Henry Cutter, a mass-market paperback mystery author of critical acclaim. Then, at age forty-nine, he was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's. He can no longer write. He can't even remember what he had for breakfast most days.
And he is starting to wonder if he's killed someone.
The story is told in alternating chapters. One is Jerry on a day-to-day basis as he lives his confusing and frightening life in the mental void his disease has created. The other is told through journal entries, excerpts from what he's called "The Madness Journal." Originally, he started the madness journal to help him remember things that he knew he was going to forget, but as the book progresses, it takes on a sharp, paranoid flavor. Everyone around him is a suspect. Everyone.
The first half of this book is very strong, but I felt that the second half was much weaker. I'm not sure if this was intentional and meant to reflect Jerry falling apart, but I don't think so. That ending, you guys. That ending was the worst. I'd read over three hundred pages of this novel, holding my breath as I waited for the ending that would change everything, and ended up with something that made me scream, "ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?" and mentally throw the book across the room.
Seriously, that has got to be one of the most frustrating, infuriating endings I have ever read.
Seems like all the cool kids are graphic-novelizing their best-sellers, and Patricia Briggs is no exception.
Warning: contains series spoilers.
I buddy read the first couple books in the Mercy Thompson series with Louisa a while back. I liked them, but I didn't like-like them. I think the problem is that so many paranormal books seem derivative because it's really hard to deviate from the acceptable canon of vampires, werewolves, and witches; they're so popular that information about them is readily available, even to the laziest researchers possible, so it becomes a self-feeding hype train.
Mercy Thompson is better than most, and I liked the books, even though they had their flaws. The graphic-novel takes place later in the series--much later than I'd managed to read through. Mercy Thompson is now Mercy Hauptman--she and Adam finally managed to tie the knot--and Jesse, Adam's daughter, is now her beloved stepdaughter.
The plot is this. Mercy and the wolves find some dead bodies that are missing their fingers and toes. She suspects it is the work of fae, and this actually ends up tying into some interesting folklore which I'm not sure the author made up or not. (I looked it up, hoping to find some of the mythology she used, but my search garnered no results. Still, it's a cool idea--especially if she did make it up.)
When I found out Jesse was pretty much the main character in this graphic-novel, I got my side-eye ready and rearing to go, because as soon as you introduce children into a series (Jackie Chan's Adventures, Indiana Jones, I'm side-eying you), it becomes super, uber annoying.
But Jesse was actually a good (heh) character. I liked her punk look (even though making someone punk or goth is a pretty cheap and cliche way to mark them as an outcast), I liked her relationship with her father and Mercy, I liked the struggle she had with dealing with her father being an alpha werewolf and all, and the stigma that this caused with her classmates.
I suppose my one beef with this book is that the ending was a little convenient, which kind of ties into the whole "children are annoying" thing I have going on; when children are involved, the series usually becomes less dark, because nobody wants to see children die. (Warning: children die in this graphic-novel. In very unpleasant ways. Also, a cat. D:) But since the story has the feel of a Brothers Grimm fairytale, I guess it's only fair that it gets resolved like one too.
Last night I came home completely exhausted. My feet hurt, I'd worked a full shift, & I had been dealing with some very odd and demanding customers, including one who insisted that there was a difference between carpets and rugs (which there is, technically, although the two are generally used interchangeably) & that nothing we had in stock was suitable for anything except, apparently, for using as bathmats. Anyway, I was completely tired and didn't feel like starting anything major, so I decided to read A DECADE OF FRENCH FASHION. I was worried that it would be dry, but figured that at least it would help put me to sleep. Imagine my surprise when I realized that very little text was involved; it was a book of beautiful vintage fashion sketches.
My favorite dresses were mostly the 1920s evening gowns, the kinds that looked like flapper dresses. The suits, not so much. In fact, that seemed to be a general rule of thumb for me as I flipped through these fashions. Evening gowns were gorgeous, garden party dresses were gorgeous (oh my God, serious dress lust), but everything else was kind of boxy and unattractive.
I think the problem was that these styles promoted a more androgynous, tomboyish look and these fashions look best on women with a certain face-shape and body-type. I fully believe that everyone has the right to dress the way they want, but with my body type and rather square jaw, I can't get by wearing masculine looking suits--even if they have feminine details like bows and pleats.
I know I have a lot of friends who love history and vintage stuff, and I think that you guys will really enjoy this book. It talks about the names for the details (official, fashiony major names that I already forgot because I know almost nothing about fashion), the materials used, and whether these details were "unusual." Reading this book made me want to write a period piece, with Ayn Randian morals, with beautiful people acting like total selfish douchebags who justify their actions with philosophy.