These are just some of the things people told me while I was suffering from depression. As though I were purposely making it my life's goal to not only be as miserable as possible, but to extend that state of mind to everyone else around me by way of association. Because getting over it is so easy.
To this day, Allie Brosh's Depression Comic remains the most on-the-ball portrayal of depression that I have ever seen, ever. If you haven't read her book, you should. I was lucky enough to receive an advance reader copy of it, and it was amazing.
I DON'T HAVE A HAPPY PLACE is also pretty on-point.
Kim Korson suffers from dysthymia, which is a clinical term for mild depression. I DON'T HAVE A HAPPY PLACE chronicles her bitter worldview in a series of slice-of-life anecdotes, from watching her babysitter die as a child to becoming pregnant to being convinced that Vermont is filled with blood-thirsty catamounts that want her and her children dead.
In some memoirs about mental illness, the memoirist in question feels the need to really beat the dead horse. They need to tell you, over and over, that they have a problem, and instead of letting you figure that out, they must pontificate (at great length) precisely what this problem is, and how they came to find out what it is (often with uncited medical jargon and very personal details).
Kim Korson does not do this. She gives a name to her disorder once; the rest of the time, it lurks in the background like grim scenery, setting the mood but not overpowering her writing. This was really refreshing, and actually made this memoir more powerful. I was surprised by how relatable some of her experiences were. In some cases, it could have been me writing this book; it was that personal.
One of the best points she makes about depression is, suitably enough, the most glaringly ironic and dramatically cruel aspects of this disorder: the complete and overpowering guilt of depression.
Yes, there is guilt. Why?
You feel guilty for feeling so terrible.
Paraphrased, Korson says that her family was normal, they weren't sexually or physically abusive. She wasn't the victim of some horrible childhood tragedy that would make people understand or apologize for her behavior on her behalf. There was no actual, physical reason for her unhappiness, so she felt guilty for feeling so terrible when she had so much to be grateful for.
Guys, I relate to that so hard.
At my worst moments as a teenager, I couldn't understand what was wrong with me, or why I should feel like crap all the time when I wasn't destitute, or unloved. I couldn't understand why I couldn't feel so happy. I couldn't understand why I wasn't normal. (I was convinced that everyone else was just as miserable as I was secretly and was just a hell of a lot better at faking it; and I couldn't understand why I couldn't do that, either.)
Korson doesn't mention seeking treatment. She seems content in her unhappiness, because it is what she knows, and she has accepted that bitterness as a way of life. Which is an option, I guess. My depression wasn't mild, and I had to do something about it, but Korson shows that acceptance can be a viable option for some as well. Which I never really thought about and found an interesting choice.
Overall, I DON'T HAVE A HAPPY PLACE is a pretty good read. A lot of memoirs about depression are dramatic and filled with wild tales of drug abuse and suicide attempts, but Korson's isn't. She's at the mild end of the spectrum, and I have to say that, lack of sensationalism aside, it's pretty cool to see someone putting the "normal" in abnormal psychology.
Beer snobs. Coffee snobs. Obsolete media snobs. Man-children. Wannabe band members. Scene hipsters circa 2007. There's even one about book bloggers.
I found out that I might be a hipster.
No, seriously, I have photographic evidence.
(Old picture is old.)
But seriously, this book made me think. And it made me realize just how many hipsters I have in my acquaintance. There were like five or ten people who immediately came to mind as I was reading this book, because they could have been the models off whom these animals were based. I mean, there's a freaking gastropub near my house where the dudes wear waistcoats, for crying out loud.
On a serious note: there are some things in this book that I think people might take offense to. It pokes fun at feminists (well, a certain kind of feminist) and makes some digs at trans pronouns (mostly at people who use trans pronouns to sound enlightened) but some people might see that as transphobic. So if you take offense easily, you might want to avoid this book on principle.
Cherry Adair is a pretty well-known name in the romantic suspense genre. I wouldn't know. I don't read much romantic suspense, because the few that I've read mostly seem biased towards the romance and the 'suspense' is a mere afterthought.
I'd never read Cherry Adair before, though, and since her books (particularly the T-FLAC series) came so highly rated by trusted friends of mine, I thought I'd give BLUSH the old college try. Hey, it was free from Netgalley; it doesn't get much better than that.
I wish I could say the same for this book.
BLUSH was a hot mess. Everything I don't like about the romance genre was neatly encapsulated within these two-hundred-something pages. Weird names for genitals? TSTL heroine? Cock-brained hero? Insta-love? Slut-shaming?
Girl. Girl, please.
Our TSTL MC, Amelia (Mia) Wentworth is on the run for her life. As the CEO of a multibillion dollar cosmetics company, Blush, this shouldn't be too surprising: for the right people, she's worth far more dead than alive. Especially since she's planning a controversial business move that will cause her to be the sole owner of the company (i.e. buying out all the share-holders). But several assassination attempts later, and she's hiding in a small cabin in the middle of a Louisiana bayou.
This sounded fantastic in the summary, but the sad thing is, the MC doesn't take these threats on her life very seriously. She's hiding out, yes, but treating it more like a fun vacation -- to hell with lying low. She's taking pole dancing classes, pumping gas at the station, and, oh, yes, hiring male prostitutes to have sex with.
That's how come the man who's being paid to kill her dumb ass gets to literally waltz in right through her front door. Mia assumes that he's the gigolo she ordered and lets him come right in. (heh, come.)
This assassin is the love interest.
Now, I am a huge fan of love interests who are assassins (as you may know -- *wink*), but I did not like the way it was done in this book. Because he takes one look at her hot body and decides he's going to roll with it before he kills her. Which, okay, could work if it was done in the right way. But it wasn't. Adair wants her assassin to be a Nice Guy, even as he's taking advantage of this woman who he is essentially going to kill in cold blood anyway. And you can't do that. You can't have it both ways. But Adair tries, oh, God, how she tries, and it is absolutely awful.
Also his name -- Cruz Barcelona. It sounds like the travel campaign for a European company. "Cruise Barcelona! See the sights!" There was no going back after my brain made that connection.
So TSTL lets Fake Gigolo into her bayou hideout and they have sex. Without a condom. Even though she thinks he's a prostitute. Spoiler alert: he doesn't kill her.
A few days later, FG returns, except now he's got a dog. He tells her -- SURPRISE! -- he wasn't a male prostitute after all. He's a handyman. And even though he lied (or intentionally deceived her) the first time around, TSTL totally accepts this without asking any questions whatsoever.
And remember, she is on the run for her life, from scary, suspicious men.
As FG wangsts about having to kill his new lay, they have tons of freaky monkey-sex. Oh, and they cover some tropes that are very popular in romance right now, such as joking about how he might very well be an axe-murderer come to kill her:
"If you were a psychopathic serial killer we wouldn't be having this conversation right now, would we?"
"Maybe I'm on my meds and haven't snapped and started my killing spree yet". (41)
At one point, he even describes how he would strangle her to her, while they're in bed together. He lets her think that he's talking about auto-erotic asphyxiation, but as he's talking about this, he's musing about how he could actually strangle her in her bed to death and then leave.
I will say that Adair wrote some scenes that were genuinely sexy. But there were some descriptions and dialogue that were just plain odd.
"You may be cool and calm, Mia, but your nipples haven't gotten that memo" (79).
The book tries too hard to be cutesy, like chick-lit, but given the serious subject matter (the female MC has people trying to assassinate her, and might also be keeping sweatshops full of underage Chinese laborers), this doesn't work. And the fact that FG is often thinking about all the ways he could kill her while they do it just make it even more stomach-churning.
Oh, and in an attempt to make FG seem like a good guy, a very badly done abusive boyfriend trope is introduced into the story. And yes, FG is involved and breaks it up, and delivers his pronouncement on what he thinks about the type of men who hit women. (Because killing them is so much better?)
But let's get back to the odd descriptions and writing aspects of this book. There are constant analogies and metaphors that were so bizarre they kept yanking me out of the story because I kept laughing (or trying to picture that bizarre image in my head). Adair also uses some very strange words for things. At one point, the MC refers to her goosebumps as "goosies." FG keeps saying "fuckit" as one word, instead of "fuck it." And he refers to his erection as a "cockstand."
This one was especially odd, because until now I've only seen it used in historical romances. I'm 80% pretty sure it's an archaic term and it was jarring to see it used here (like if TSTL had suddenly started referring to her privates as a "cunny" or referred to sex as "tupping").
I just could not get on board with BLUSH. I didn't like FG. I thought the MC was an idiot and should have been killed (seriously-- FG should have taken that 7.5 million dollar kill fee and run). I didn't like how wearing makeup was portrayed as a bad thing in this book, especially since the freaking MC owns a freaking makeup business. What the actual fuck. I didn't like the writing, or the sex scenes. I didn't like the ending. I thought the climax was anticlimactic. I hated the stupidity.
And I despised that ending. Babies? Marriage? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
Hopper is a new student at a prestigious academy, although she isn't very happy about it. Her mother is one of her teachers, the campus is set in a haunted house run by a creepy janitor, and none of the students seem to like her at all.
When Hopper encounters a cute but strange looking bird, her suspicion that something is wrong cements, and with the help of a boy named Eni, she endeavors to uncover some of Stately Academy's more enigmatic secrets.
There have been a lot of books about geeky things coming out. I really like that. Geek culture is cool, and is a largely untapped resource. SECRET CODERS explores the more technical aspect of geek culture...coding and programming.
Even though SECRET CODERS is intended for a younger audience, it's still fun--especially if you like tomboy characters. SECRET CODERS is also interactive: there are pauses in the narrative for the reader to try and figure out basic programming theory alongside the characters, which I thought was cute.
That cliffhanger, though.
Gene Luen Yang works on great projects. I don't think I've read anything he's worked on that I didn't like. SECRET CODERS was no exception. This would be great for kids. Especially girls who are interested in math and computer science.
“So often, I read romance novels and say to myself, ‘Wow, this woman is so busy being
I want to read this because of this:
(quote from Netgalley blurb)
“So often, I read romance novels and say to myself, ‘Wow, this woman is so busy being in love/having sex, how is she managing to hold down a job?’ I wanted to write a book where the heroine has a life, and falling in love has to fit into that,” observes Kait.
A teenage girl named M. Savage wakes up in a room full of coffins with no memory of who she is, and no knowledge of where she is. And she's not alone. With her are a bunch of other young men and women who are equally befuddled by their chilling predicament.
In the back of the book, the author requests that reviewers don't give spoilers. Which is unfortunate, because so many of my problems with this book are spoiler-related in nature.
But that's the problem with cryptic books like this. Being cryptic can only engage a reader for so long. If you want to maintain a reader's interest, you have to feed them clues and give them something to go on. ALIVE doesn't do that. It takes the carrot-and-stick approach to the twist, basically baiting the reader, and saying, "You want to find out what happens? LOL read to the very end of the book where I'll dump the twist on you out of nowhere!"
I've read only one other book by Sigler, and that was INFECTED. INFECTED had many similar flaws, such as hackneyed writing and long, pointless passages describing tedious activities that seemed to be included in the book just to fluff up the plot. INFECTED was more reliant on shock horror, however, whereas ALIVE, being a YA book, did not have the cheap benefit of gore to bolster reader engagement.
I have to say that I'm a little confused about who this book is really aimed at. The main characters are twelve, but look like teenagers and act like they're middle-aged (when they're not using words and phrases like "the poops" and "grownups" -- then they sound about six). The protagonists in ALIVE basically act the way kids act in books written by middle-aged people who don't know the first thing about kids. I.e. not like any kids you have ever met, or ever will meet.
There is also a bizarre fixation with boobs in this book. Seriously, they are mentioned a lot.
Another issue I had with this book was the main character. Even though the book is narrated in first person, she wasn't a very interesting character, and I found that by the end of the book, I still didn't really know who she was as a person. She is very much a Mary Sue. People want to follow her, even though she isn't a very good leader. She claims that she's not as pretty as the other obviously pretty (and more sexualized) female characters, and yet male characters are obviously attracted to her.
After a while, it got very annoying being in Em Savage's head.
Finally, ALIVE shares a lot of traits with LORD OF THE FLIES, and not necessarily the obvious ones. I can't really say more than that without being spoilery, but it's not going to be as exciting as you think. The blurb comparing this book to HUNGER GAMES on Netgalley is a definite case of false comparisons, as ALIVE has about as much in common with HUNGER GAMES as a coddled lap-pug has to a vicious attack dog (ALIVE being the pug, of course).
Overall, I have to say that this book was a pretty big disappointment for me. I'd hoped that Sigler's style would have evolved somewhat, but this seemed more like a backslide.
So. THE VINES by Christopher Rice is about evil plants. These are of the "I want you dead" variety, and there's a definite Audrey II vibe here, except without the personality and the potty mouth (very unfortunate). The plants are tied into a curse rooted in racial injustice and voodoo, and the curse connects to several of the main characters: Caitlin, a rich but unattractive woman with a cheating husband; Blake, her gay best friend who has a dark trauma in his past; and Nova, the black daughter of Caitlin's help, who is in college and very, very quick to play the race card.
If these sound like stereotypes...well, they are. I actually liked Blake's character a lot, but Caitlin and Nova I could take or leave. The race angle was very awkward and uncomfortable and for the longest time I couldn't figure out where Rice was going with it (he was going somewhere with it--it just took forever to get there). Caitlin, I could understand, but felt less sympathy for. She was a bitch.
Honestly, I think I would have liked THE VINES more if it had a tighter plot, and more complicated characters with actual dimension. But to me, they were just cardboard cutouts with all the reality of paper dolls, and I wasn't too invested in their well-being. I also spent a pretty large portion of the novel bored. TV takes forever to get moving, and once I figured out it was pure revenge fantasy, I was like, "Oh, okay," and settled in for a pretty par for the course execution. (This is not a spoiler, just so you know. The Goodreads summary mentions "vengeance" and the "terrible price'" it costs.
Actually, the "terrible price" was another aspect of this book I quite liked. I wish it had been played up more, because all too often, when an author writes a book about revenge fantasies, the character doesn't suffer repercussions from the act (this was one of my issues with BLACK IRIS). But Rice definitely thinks revenge has consequences, despite its almost irresistible appeal, and I really liked that. I don't know if any of you watch anime, but the idea is similar to that of Jigoku Shoujo.
I did make it to the end, though, and I think the last 10% of the book is actually the best. Probably because it's narrated from Blake's POV instead of Caitlin's, and, like I said, I liked Blake a lot. I think I might read another book by Rice. I like Southern Gothics steeped in drama, and it seems like that's a theme for him. THE VINES, though, was a bit of a miss.
"Do not be so quick to dismiss the responsibilities of your life, for they march in hand with your privileges" (34).
I am a sucker for books about Tudor England. I hoard them, and even though so many of them are terrible, or little better than wallpaper historicals, I scarf them like ill-gotten chocolates and only experience remorse and self-loathing when they are gone.
THE VIRGIN'S DAUGHTER had an irresistible hook, though: what if Queen Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen, had a daughter?
Andersen takes that topic, and runs with it: and to be honest, I had a little trouble keeping up with her, because she makes it all so believable, so interesting, that I kept wanting to stop and look around at this amazing world she'd crafted.
TVD is set in the middle of Elizabeth's reign, during Mary Stuart's imprisonment in England. Elizabeth has learned of something called The Nightingale Plot, a plot whose purpose is to free Mary and make her queen once more--even if Elizabeth must die.
My reaction, on finding out what this book was about, can be summed up thusly:
The two main characters in this book are Lucette Courtenay and Princess Anabel (Anne Isabel).
Lucette Courtenay is actually the Queen's niece, but was adopted and raised by the Courtenay family. Her sisters, Pippa and Charlotte, and brothers, Stephan and Christopher, also have roles to play in the storyline, and are all very well fleshed-out. I actually ran to Wikipedia to look them up and see if they existed, but apparently they do not, which made me sad.
Princess Anabel is the daughter of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. She is just as strong and clever as her mother, but also vulnerable and passionate, too. She does not play as large a role as Lucette, but has some of the best lines in the book.
She did not want a marriage of balanced equals, always pushing against one another for the advantage. Better to marry a man who would owe everything to her, for then at least there would be a chance of personal affection--or at least a good imitation of it (102).
"I am the daughter of the two cleverest, wariest monarchs of the last hundred years, and though I may have instincts, I will always consider carefully before making my choice" (157).
When Elizabeth finds out about the Nightingale plot, she has it investigated and learns that one of the chief conspirators seems to be coming from Blanclair, the household of one of the Courtenays' oldest friends in France, the LeClercs. Her intelligencer suspects it is one of the sons, Julien or Nicolas.
Stephan is sent to Queen Mary's household to ingratiate himself with the Scots Queen. Lucette, on the other hand, is sent off to Blainclair to spy. Because she is a woman, both the Queen and the intelligencer know that she is less likely to be taken seriously and therefore more of a threat. She is determined to do whatever it takes to get information, even to seduce the brothers, to save her queen.
My reaction at this point resembles something like this:
The two brothers are as different as night and day. Nicolas is a reclusive widower with a young son named Felix. Julien is an aloof and brooding womanizer. Both brothers fall for Lucette, but neither of them is what he appears to be: they both have dark secrets, and both of these secrets are dangerous.
Sometimes romance in books like these threatens to overtake the plot or lead to out-of-character decisions. Instead, the romance added even more tension to what was already a very tense plot, and added another dimension of feels to the writing.
"I want to be undone by you. I want to be the one to come to pieces in your arms, to forget there is anything in this world but the two of us" (196).
My reaction, at this point, looks something like this:
I started to suspect from the brilliant characterization and wonderful writing that this book would at least be a four-star read. But when the sexual tension led to some rather steamy things, and Laura Andersen delivered some choice wtfuckery that wouldn't be out of place in one of those golden age bodice rippers (castration!), and when that epic showdown towards the end happened and made me realize that even I didn't know how this story would end, I realized it might be a five-star read.
And it was. THE VIRGIN'S DAUGHTER was an excellent work of alternate history that takes one of history's most famous queens and makes her even more interesting and awesome. There is scheming, girl power, court intrigue, betrayal, dark secrets, and even romance.
I haven't read any of the other Tudor Legacy books, but THE VIRGIN'S DAUGHTER works as a standalone. I really want to read the other books now, though. Like, really, really badly. Even if they're only half as awesome as this book is, I'm sure they're great. Because this was awesome.
Seriously, why aren't you reading this yet? Oh, right. Because it doesn't come out until May 19th. Well, bookmark your calendars and place your pre-orders, then. BECAUSE THIS IS AWESOME.
Hello blurb from Suzanne Collins, author of the Hunger Games!
I feel like after the success of the HUNGER GAMES series, people took that T.S. Eliot poem to heart and started asking themselves, "How can we make the world end with bangs and whimpers, and all that jazz?" The authors found a way.
And one of them wrote this book.
THE ELEVENTH PLAGUE, as you might imagine, has the world ending from a plague. I BET YOU WEREN'T EXPECTING THAT! But it is true, my friends. The world got into a war with China, and after we nuked them, China was like, HOW DO YOU LIKE THESE APPLES? Except instead of apples, it was a super flu called P11H3.
Stephen Quinn is a scavenger who trades the remains of humanity along with his dad. His abusive grandpa used to travel with them, too, but then he died, and Stephen is sad but also kind of relieved because yay! No more beatings! Which was an odd twist to this already very grim book. I mean, this is a Scholastic imprint, and those are usually marketed to very young children, and biological warfare and abusive grandpas is pretty gritty for the kiddies.
You know what else is gritty? A narrator who's such an asshole, he borders on antihero.
I spent most of the novel wanting to punch Stephen in his little scowly face. He's so mean. He treats his dad like a child, and steals and thinks only in terms of "what can I get for this?" which makes sense, because he is a scavenger/trader and his life depends on it. But it doesn't make him a likable character, and it's hard to root for a character you don't like.
Anyway, one day Stephen and his dad run into slavers (guess what they do?) and are chased right off a cliff face into a gorge. Stephen's dad goes into a coma and then he runs into more people who he thinks are slavers, and they hit him unconscious with a gun. When he wakes up, he's on his way to a place called Settler's Landing, a post-apocalyptic community that reminded me of the Mayor's city in Walking Dead (oooooh, foreshadowing).
Stephen's greedy little eyes get all big at all the things there are to steal. Oh boy! Medicine! Weapons! Books! And he's also mad, because how come these people deserve all this shit? On the other hand, this is civilized society -- something he's never experienced -- and Thanksgivings, baseball, and blueberry pie all have their appeal. Plus, there's this girl (of course there's a girl) who is also an outsider (of course) because she's Chinese, and they are the Enemy! (Okay, seriously, people. Did the Japanese internment camps of WWII teach you nothing?)
This girl, whose name is Jenny, also has a bone to pick with society (i.e. Society) and after becoming dysfunctional friendos, she has an idea to get back at the people who made them feel like Outsiders.
What a puzzler this book was. The world building was kind of half-assed, and I feel like Hirsch left the option open for a sequel, but maybe changed his mind, so now there's just this very vague and frustrating book that could have been more than it was. I've read so many apocalyptic books, it's kind of hard to impress me anymore, and there's just way too many copycats or clingers-on in this book.
Also Stephen -- he was such a jerk. I really hated his character, and he doesn't really come very far in terms of development. I'd even go so far as to say that he's a Gary Stu, because despite being a total asshole, and treating people like shit, and stealing, everyone welcomes him into the community and wants to be his bff even though he waves around a knife at every opportunity. Ha, no thanks, psycho.
Are there any 90s children who didn't grow up reading the Goosebumps books? If there are, I haven't met them.
In addition to the Goosebumps books, Stine wrote a middle grade/teen-targeted series called the Fear Street series. They were horror/psychological novels, and while some of them were quite twisted, for the most part they weren't too scary. Fear Street was horror with a signed permission slip from Mom.
When I found out that R.L. Stine was writing a reprise, I was really excited. There's a new Goosebumps movie coming out starring Jack Black and now another one of my childhood favorites is coming back? Nostalgia Jackpot!
DON'T STAY UP LATE was kind of lame.
The thing I liked about the Fear Street series is that most of them weren't supernatural (and the ones that were were like L.J. Smith's NIGHT WORLD series...diet urban fantasy, very fun). They were about teenagers going crazy and murdering each other for petty (or not so petty) vendettas.
In DON'T STAY UP LATE, Lisa is a teenage girl. One day she sneaks out to have dinner with her friends. Her parents find out, drive down there, and take her home...but on the way back, they get into an accident and her father dies in the car crash.
After the crash, Lisa keeps having these hallucinations. Scary demons running around, breaking into homes, and possibly committing murder. She sees them so clearly, but nobody else does, not even her friends, and her psychiatrist is making thinly veiled threats to send her to an institution. 51-50, bitch.
To help ground Lisa, her psychiatrist suggests that she babysit a little boy who lives on Fear Street with his mom. But there are all kinds of stories about what happens on Fear Street...and Lisa can't help but wonder if Fear Street might just provide a focus point for her "personal demons" (did you see what I did there? Did you?).
DON'T STAY UP LATE took a lot of time to get started. The set-up was a significant portion of the book, and left the book feeling "beginning heavy" in terms of pacing.
I also feel like this reboot falls in ambiguous category. Fear Street was pretty clearly teen, and most of the books hold up well. Goosebumps was obviously for children, and most of the books hold up less well, because they are more fanciful, more in line with a child's line of thought. Fear Street Relaunch, based on this book, is a bizarre blend of the two that (I think) attempts to appeal to both age groups, but will really end up isolating them because the characters are teens doing teen things and aren't very childlike, and yet the writing itself is very juvenile, and very childlike.
I didn't really like that.
I also didn't like the twist. I've been reading a lot of psychological thrillers with mindfuck endings, so maybe I set the book up for failure that way, but even so, the ending was pretty lame.
Also, it feels so weird to me to see R.L. Stine mentioning iPhones and "swiping" and Facetime. I still remember how inconvenient it was traveling anywhere without cell phones. God forbid if you deviated from the plan and got separated from your group. That was part of what made the original Fear Street books so scary, in my opinion. That sense of isolation. 21st technology just makes everything much less scary.
5 TO 1 is set in 2054, Koyanagar, India. Men outnumber women five to one, and women are a valuable commodity. But they are no longer treated as second-class citizens. In Koyanagar, women rule, because they provide children, and men scrape and serve for a chance to leave behind their lives of poverty and debasement.
In a weird cross between The Hunger Games and the Bachelorette, five men compete for the opportunity to become a husband.
Sudasa, however, is not enjoying her challenge. Especially when she finds out that her grandmother, the president of Koyanagar, may have done some subtle manipulations to influence the outcome.
When I found out that parts of this story were written in verse, I lost some enthusiasm for this book. I really don't like poetry, especially not free verse. Something about it is so pretentious.
Bodger has a way with words, though, and luckily, Kiran's POV is not written in verse. It was interesting comparing the two characters, seeing how similar they were in spite of the differences between their stations. Sudasa is a bird in a gilded cage, and Kiran is a dirty chicken trussed up for the chopping block. But both of them are unhappy, and might just be each other's salvation.
I also have to say that it was nice to read a book set in a foreign country with foreign characters that didn't smack of appropriation.
5 TO 1 is a pretty good book. Not a great one, and not particularly memorable, but okay.
A year ago, I was approved to read Asa Akira's memoir on Netgalley. The book was called PORN - A LOVE STORY. Akira's memoir was fantastic because it deconstructed so many taboos and stereotypes and presented a lot of really interesting, relevant, and, yes, dangerous questions about sex, women, and feminism that often get ignored in mainstream media.
Questions like: what is it like working in the adult entertainment industry? Does sleeping with the same sex necessarily mean that you're gay? Is porn star interchangeable with slut? And, perhaps most relevant of all: why is so society so uncomfortable with a woman taking charge of her own sexual gratification, especially in a non-monogamous, non-binary context?
I bring up Asa Akira's memoir because THE COMPANION CONTRACT touched upon a lot of the same issues, and it did so with the same amount of succinct nonchalance. I can't help but wonder if Solace Ames was even inspired by Asa Akira's memoir and films when creating the character of Amy Mendoza, because their stories and personalities were so similar.
It was uncanny.
Amy Mendoza works in porn, although she wants to quit. Not because she feels any shame, but because she knows she's getting older, and out of her prime, and she wants to leave before the industry leaves an indelible mark on her. One night, she goes to a party with her lesbian friend, Chiho, and encounters an albino Colombian named Emanuel, whose supernatural appearance freaks out her friend (who is high on drugs).
Emanuel recognizes her and makes Amy an interesting proposition. He is the lead guitarist of the band Avert, whose singer, Miles Davis, just got out of rehab again. He wants to pay her to be a "sober companion" to Miles, distracting him from the temptations of drugs with sex, providing emotional (and sexual) support, while also keeping an eye on him.
After a lengthy interview, Amy accepts. There are a lot of perks. Obviously, getting paid to fuck a hot rock star is one of them. But she also gets to live in a beautiful beach house with the band (and a crazy ocelot(!) named Gabriel). She gets to go to their parties, their rehearsals. And she gets to spend a lot of time around Emanuel, too, with whom she feels a very intense connection.
There were so many things about this book that I loved.
Amy is Japanese-Filipino. Emanuel is a Colombian albino. Xiomara is Colombian. There are two bisexual characters, a lesbian character, and a transgender character (MtF). Sexism and racism are discussed a lot, as well as the consequences, but not in a way that sounds preachy.
With a female lead who is active in the porn industry, it would be difficult to write a book that didn't have any sex. This book has a lot of sex, in a lot of different ways. I loved how the D/s relationship in this book was played out, and how the author showed the difference between submission in the bedroom versus constant submission in all life choices a la "you must obey me in all ways, Ms. Steele." Emanuel was very respectful about boundaries and made sure they stayed clear-cut.
Ames also shows the darker side to the porn industry (again without being preachy -- and many of her points mirrored those of Asa Akira in her memoir). She shows safe sex, even without condoms (STD tests! Printed out and shared with the participating parties! yes!). She shows how open relationships do not equal infidelity, if there is consent. She shows how fluid sexuality is, and how labels can sometimes do more harm than good when it comes to choosing sexual partners.
And the sex is not only hot, but well written. There is some good dirty talk in here.
This is a story about rock stars, and there are a lot of those. Too many, IMHO, not that you care. But Ames manages to bring something fresh to the genre. The sexuality, the drug addiction, and the struggles to maintain a normal life in addition to the fame life really gave THE COMPANION CONTRACT a real "behind the music" feel that so many of these other books lack. THE COMPANION CONTRACT is actually a pretty dark story, about broken people with gritty issues who try to resolve them in the best way for them (even if it isn't the most PC, or the most tasteful).
Two of my friends who normally abhor erotic novels gave this book a very high rating, and after reading it for myself I can see why. Easily. Ames fearlessly tackles subjects that would send most writers running for the hills, and she does it in a way that is not only authentic, but also interesting. I came into THE COMPANION CONTRACT fully set up for disappointment, and instead I found a very good character driven novel about what it means to find happiness, love, and sexual gratification (and not necessarily in any particular order).