This book really, really, really wants to be the next CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME. It even says so in the summary. (By the way, doing this is a really bad idea. It creates raised expectations that aren't fair to you. Or the original book. Such comparisons must be earned--not branded.)
My expectations were not met.
IN A CAT'S EYE does not have the well-researched, psychological angle of CURIOUS INCIDENT.
What it does have is a boring male character who is just...boring. The dialog is awful. It's like listening to two Furbies talk. (You remember Furbies, right? God, I feel so old right now...)
I honestly don't get the comparison to CATCHER IN THE RYE. This book doesn't have any literary merit. It's easily as pretentious as most literature, but without the street cred.
I kind of get the feeling that the author just picked random books from the best-seller list and slapped them into his summary as a feel-good comparison, hoping they'd help him to sell more books...
All the people on my flist, and all the people on their flists, were hyping up this book like there's no tomorrow. And that's cool for the author--I'm sure she's excited to see so much squee for her book--but bad for me, the Picky and Unregenerate Reader.
Let me start by saying that this book does not have BDSM. I'm sorry, but rough sex does not constitute BDSM. The kinkiest thing they do is buttsecks. (And the unapologetic asshole uses hair conditioner as lube on her...er...unapologetic asshole.)
So yeah, if you were looking forward to BDSM, prepare yourself for disappointment.
I knew from page one that I would not like Theresa Drazen. Her narrative voice just rubbed me the wrong way. Plus, she has so many annoying nicknames. "Tinkerbell"? "Tee Dray"? I'm just going to call her "Too Dumb," because that's what she is.
Reasons to f ollow.
So anyway, Too Dumb meets Italian Stereotype at a bar. She's got toilet paper stuck to her shoe. He informs her of this. She goes back to the restroom in a swooning stupor, thinking to herself that his hand on hers felt like sex. (Uhh...no comment.)
Too Dumb has a sister, Too Drunk. Too Dumb finds a guy disrespecting Too Drunk and gets mad. Italian Stereotype proceeds to beat the living shit out of Random Douchebag on the hood of a Porsche, and then makes Random Douchebag lick up Too Drunk's vomit from the hood. Ew.
While this is going on, Too Dumb orgasms to herself over Italian Stereotype, marveling how someone can look so breathtakingly beautiful while pummeling someone on a car. I, on the other hand, would be screaming my head off and calling the cops, but maybe that's why I'm still single. I'm not letting all these Christian Grey lookalikes give me the runaround and treat me like shit.
Italian Stereotype hits on Too Dumb, and she turns him down. He gives her a business card and they go out to dinner. Too Dumb jokes about the guy he beat up, because when you see a guy beat someone up and make him eat vomit, you aren't revolted, no, you're turned on and use it as a bonding thing. Of course. Italian Stereotype propositions Too Dumb, who immediately runs to the nearest cash wrap to get herself all wrapped up like a little present so he can tear off her bow.
Here's what happens next:
-Italian Stereotype tells her that "he will hurt her to keep her safe." Uh-huh.
-Butt sex. Italian Stereotype uses hair conditioner as lube. He calls his Saint Christopher medal his protection. Because Saint Christopher totally gives a shit about whether or not you get AIDS.
-The word "my pucker" is used to describe Too Dumb's butthole.
-I laugh. A lot.
-Italian Stereotype sings an ass-fucking song while he fucks her in the ass. It goes, "...in your ass, Contessa, si, si, si..." NO, I am not joking. Page 134, bitches.
-I laugh. Some more.
-Italian Stereotype says a whole bunch of really misogynistic things that are supposed to show us how he is a Rebel without a Cause. (Does being in the mafia count as a cause? Hmm...)
-Cheating Boyfriend, AKA Too Dumb's ex, who also happens to be the District Attorney, tries to use Too Dumb to find out Top Sekrit Infoz on Italian Stereotype's 'legitimate businesses.'
-Italian Stereotype castrates some people, & chokes them with their own genitals.
-Too Dumb listens to this and then sets out to look for Italian Stereotype. Not to tell him off, but to fuck him some moar. More threats for her own good. More misogyny. She tells Italian Stereotype to fuck her while she's scared. Some panties get ripped.
(Are Panty-Rippers the new Bodice Rippers, or something?)
-Sex, sex, sex.
-Deus ex machina.
I will say this, though. It was better written than most erotica out there. But that doesn't do much in the way of redemption for this Fifty Shades of Awful.
I will never understand the hype. Never. Sorry. :(
Oh, baby. You just threaten me so good.
I love it when you're psychotic.
Tell me how many men you'll kill for me. It makes me feel like such a special snowflake.
Oh, yeah, awkward and physically implausible sex. GIVE IT TO ME IN THE PUCKER.
Each chapter opens up with a PSA-type letter reminiscent of Ted L. Nancy's Letters from a Nut series. I loved these letters; they made me smile with their blunt satire of American culture.
It is then followed by a funny anecdote that is pretty typical as far as comedic female memoirs go, except with a distinctly Korean flavor which sets it apart and keeps it from being too bland. She writes out her mother and father's accents phonetically & I could almost hear their voices in my head.
I'm not sure why this book has such a low rating. I found Choi's anecdotes both funny and charming. She's pretty much a Korean version of me. I got to drool over dried cuttlefish, reminisce over family trips without air conditioning gone horribly, horribly wrong, and laugh over parental expectations regarding a) college, b) career paths, c) marriage, and d) children.
It takes a lot of talent to be able to turn the ordinary into laugh-out-loud extraordinary. Fans of Chelsea Handler, Tina Fey, and the like will probably really enjoy SHUT UP, YOU'RE WELCOME. I certainly did!
Goodreads doesn't have a summary up yet, so here's the one from Netgalley:
In France, Alain Robbe-Grillet's final novel was sold in shrink-wrap, labeled with a sticker warning readers that this perverse fairy tale might offend certain sensibilities. It tells the story of Gigi, also known as Djinn, who is being schooled by her father to be a perfect slave and mistress. Running the gamut of unacceptable subject matter from incest to torture, this book abounds with vignettes that explore taboos and their representation in fiction, from the Brothers Grimm to the Marquis de Sade. It is titillating and disgusting, the work of a dirty old man or brilliant agent provocateur -- or both.
I applied for A SENTIMENTAL NOVEL because it sounded controversial. I don't really enjoy books of this nature, but hey- it was free, newly translated, & I figured it could be entertaining.
I made the mistake of reading the preface where I learned several things about the author that really disturbed me, & indicated that I might have many reasons not to like this novel. For starters, A SENTIMENTAL NOVEL is about sadism. Not the vanilla kind of sadism that has become so popular in NA romances (handcuffs? please), but, like, screaming, Nightmare on Elm Street run-to-mommy type sadism. The type that Marquis de Sade was famous for.
We all have limits. I can't stand seeing human beings tortured. Robbe-Grillet does not share that problem. The female characters in this book experience HORRIBLE ACTS OF TORTURE, like being whipped on their crotches as they pee, having their vaginas sawed open, and, oh, yes, getting red hot irons being put on their breasts. Doesn't that sound fun? NO? I DON'T THINK SO EITHER.
What makes it more disturbing is that all the female characters are underage. Obviously, no one should have to endure stuff like this, but the fact that these are children experiencing such things makes it way worse. A baby is tortured too, and the narrator observes that you can tell it's a female baby because of the "precociously sexy" expressions it makes. That made me even angrier and more disgusted, because it gave words to the theme that had heretofore been implicit: that the women in this story had done something to deserve these punishments, & were nothing more than objects.
I thought I'd give this a try because it was different, but I just can't do it. I can't believe that there are people in the world who find stuff like this erotic. It's horrific and inhuman. & it perpetuates rape culture in a way that is nightmarish in the extreme. Nobody deserves...this. Nobody.
I haven't played the Plants vs. Zombies games, but I love art! Especially cute cartoon art. What really wooed me was the adorable little sunflower on the cover, and the things that look like green Bellsprouts. How could I resist?
Even if you haven't played the games (speaking as someone who hasn't), you can still enjoy this book. THE ART OF PLANTS VS. ZOMBIES has gorgeous illustrations, concepts, sketches, and splash panels. I think my favorites were the Chinese illustrations. Those ideograms look so cute in bubble letters.
The layout is kind of similar to one of the Brian Froud books. There are pictures of all the different kinds of zombies and plants, done in various styles and mediums. Then there are comments in the margins from the zombies about how awesome they are, and how the zombies will never lose to the lame loser plants.
There are also pictures of some of the levels, and theme-based pictures based on popular games or movies that reminded me of the schematics of ALTERNATIVE MOVIE POSTERS: FILM ART FROM THE UNDERGROUND (my review of which, you can read HERE).
Basically, this is a fun, cute book of art that can be enjoyed by anyone, but especially those who like zombies and/or the Plants vs. Zombies games. I think it says something that I don't like zombies at all, but yet was still able to enjoy this book. :)
LUNGS FULL OF NOISE was a frustrating read for me- it perfectly encapsulates all the reasons of why I get so irritated with anthologies. Don't get me wrong; I love anthologies. They're the equivalent of the free-samples tables at Costco. But at the same time, I fear that short stories can make the author lazy. Like, "Oh, it's only 20-50 pages. I don't have to try as hard," when, really, the shortness of space means you have to try three times as hard to woo the reader with a satisfying beginning and a good ending with 1/10 of the space of a novel.
But hey, that's just me.
Another frustration I have with anthologies is that there is, inevitably, one story (or a small group of stories) that outshine all the rest, causing the whole to suffer by comparison. That was definitely the case with LUNGS FULL OF NOISE. (Cool title, by the way.) Some of the stories were awesome, & made me want to know more, more, more! And others, I skimmed entirely because they were Blahsville.
LUNGS FULL OF NOISE opens strong with MARIPOSA GIRLS and BIBI FROM JUPITER, stories about figure skaters who drill metal into their feet, and a college freshman with an androgynous roommate who also happens to be a transfer student from Jupiter. BLUE SKY WHITE was interesting, kind of like a post-apocalyptic novel in the style of Saramago's BLINDNESS. I liked it, but I wasn't in love with it the way I was with the first two stories. THE WHITE WINGS OF MOTHS starts off weak, but picks up speed by the second half of the story. Unfortunately by the time I finally got a feel for the main character and her motivations, I'd reached the end of the story. (This is a recurring theme with this author- she starts out slowly, almost dragging, and just when you finally start to grasp where she's going, the story ends. It's quite frustrating.) QUIET CAMP was interesting but poorly executed. BEAN STALK was dull, & uninspired. I skimmed the next three stories, but really enjoyed DYE JOB. In fact, I think it might have been my favorite out of the collection. I drank up every word greedily & thought to myself, "Hey, I might just give this book four stars, after all!" But then it ended on a weak note with SO MANY WINGS and I thought, "Damn. So much for that."
I think Tessa Mellas has a lot of talent & I can see why she won so many awards. This is obviously an experimental effort. The styles were so different. I think she wanted to try her hand at everything, but she probably would have been better off sticking with something more cohesive. I, as a reader, found the overall effect very disorienting and not in a good way. I love her way with words. I love how each word she chooses seems deliberate. Mellas is a ponderous writer, & I think she could do amazing things with a full-length novel. This collection as it stands, however, was disappointing.
So as you may or may not know, my book, Terrorscape, was banned by Amazon (during Banned Book Week, no less). I have a blog p...moreEDIT: LOOK WHAT LOU MADE!
So as you may or may not know, my book, Terrorscape, was banned by Amazon (during Banned Book Week, no less). I have a blog post about it, which you can read HERE.
I was talking to my mom about this and she wanted to know why the book got banned.
"I don't think I should tell you, Mom."
"Oh, yes," she said. "I think you should."
So I told her, and she was like, "What, that's all?" (She actually said something else- but I decided to use what she said as the premise of this storyline, so I can't say anymore. It would be telling.)
This isn't going to be a full-length novel. It's going to be the epilogue you guys were asking for. And it's going to be the story my mom suggested.
The story of a girl pushed too far.
You wanted banned? Oh, man. You're gonna get all the banned you can handle.
So, disclosure time. Turns out the author is, like, the cousin of one of my best friends of all time. Small world, huh? I didn't know this when I applied for the ARC on Netgalley; I've never met the guy, and this freaky-deaky six degrees of separation has no bearing on my rating OR my review. There.
Mark-fucking-Watney. Where do I even begin? I mean, talk about your tortured characters. I sometimes feel bad about the strife I put my characters through. Well, Andy Weir takes the cake.
Mark Watney was part of a six crew mission to Mars when something went Horribly Wrong (and things going Horribly Wrong is a recurring theme for this book). Because of a glitch in his bio suit, his crew thinks he's dead, and they leave him stranded on Mars, all alone, with limited supplies.
Now this is probably the worst thing I can imagine. I'd be peeing myself. But Mark takes it with good humor and immediately starts trying to figure out how he can live long enough to survive. Because NASA has a plan that can save him, it's just gonna take time.
Time Mark really doesn't have....
I love how sciencey this is. In terms of survival stories, it's a lot like Apollo 13. I was just blown away by how well-researched this book was. This makes THE MARTIAN stand out apart from all this science-fiction-fantasy stuff. Not that there's anything wrong with SFF, but it's nice to see sci-fi that errs on the more science part of sci-fi, like CONTACT. Or MOON.
Mark Watney is such a likable protagonist. I was rooting for him from the start, and the more I got to know him as a character, the more I really didn't fucking want him to die. There would be moments when things would get so intense I'd either have to set the computer aside so I could start hyperventilating or else skim through the passages to make sure that nothing bad would happen.
(This was in vain, by the way. SOMETHING BAD ALWAYS HAPPENED.)
The other five members of the crew were pretty awesome too. I liked how Mark got to know them better through the books, movies, and music that they left behind on the Mars habitat. This would make a great movie. I watched MOON pretty recently and I think Sam Rockwell would make a fantastic Mark Watney. This is just such a great book about survival, and it says some wonderful things about how tragedy and hope can bridge gaps across cultures and rivalries.
I'm glad I can tell my friend in all honesty that I liked her cousin's book. :)
Graphic-novels don't just have to be all pulp and superheroes. They can also be a medium...moreYou can read more reviews at my blog, The Armchair Librarian.
Graphic-novels don't just have to be all pulp and superheroes. They can also be a medium for artists to tell a story with drawings and artwork and impressive color schemes. THE UNDERTAKING OF LILY CHEN is one of these latter, and oh, what a beautiful job it does of telling the story.
THE UNDERTAKING OF LILY CHEN deals with a superstition that still plagues rural China - that of the "ghost bride". When Deshi accidentally kills his older brother, Wei, his parents are furious, and demand that he find a bride for the funeral, so that Wei will not have to be alone in the afterlife. A ghost bride. Unfortunately, because of China's one-child policy and a preference for sons, fresh female corpses are in short supply.
Enter Lily Chen.
Lily is the daughter of a peasant family who is about to get evicted off their land. She's caught the eye of the landlord, however, and her family wants to marry her off to the creep. When she encounters Deshi, who seems wealthier and has experienced much of the city life and its comforts, she runs off with him in the hopes of making it big and gaining her independence.
Meanwhile, Deshi continues to search for female corpses- in morgues, cemeteries, funeral parlors, and shrines. As he continues to come up short, time and time again, he must decide how far he is willing to go to honor his parents' wishes, because there is only one suitable bride around...Lily.
I loved this book. I couldn't put it down. It had such an intriguing premise, and was so dark and spooky. The watercolors really add to the overall effect, making the panels themselves seem ghostly. It's funny, because the drawings are quite childish and remind me of the almost deformed-looking characters you used to see on Saturday morning cartoons, like Teacher's Pet, or Pepper Ann, but the story is so dark and so obviously adult that there's a bit of a disconnect.
THE UNDERTAKING OF LILY CHEN played with my heart. It made me bite my nails and fear what was going to happen next, but it also made it impossible to look away.
Note: I am friends with the author on Goodreads, and was gifted a copy by a mutual friend...moreYou can read more reviews at my blog, The Armchair Librarian.
Note: I am friends with the author on Goodreads, and was gifted a copy by a mutual friend of ours for a fair and impartial review, but that has not impacted my rating.
Reading this book reminded me of the early psych studies. You know, the ones like Milgram's "obedience" studies, or Zimbardo's infamous "Stanford prison" experiment. The ones so cruel that they border on sadistic, and you're left wondering, "Just what the fuck was the purpose of that?" That's what reading this book is like.
It's difficult to give a summary without spoiling anything. The main character is a lower-middle-class cop in England named Joe McNeil. He's a bit of a wreck, and has been ever since his girlfriend, Kit, went missing. He's convinced she's still alive but everyone else, even her father, has given up hope. He's become a bit bent, getting into drugs, alcohol, and even fights, but because of his good record he's still kept around.
One day he's called to a gruesome murder scene. There's a young woman there who the paramedics pronounce dead, but as with Kit, McNeil is convinced that she is not. He gives her CPR and she comes back to life like a bruised Snow White- only this one isn't as pure as snow. She might very well be evil. She's certainly crazy. This is the enigmatic Nell, and she knows things.
Things like...whether Kit is still alive.
Things like...who really committed those murders.
Things like...whether Joe McNeil himself is in danger.
Part of the fun of reading this book is figuring out what the fuck is going on. I entertained about ten or twenty various theories while reading this book, all of them wrong (one was close, and I was proud of myself for even getting that far- but what can I say. I've read a lot of books. It's hard to completely take me off guard). Everything does make sense at the end, though. It's just hard to wrap your brain around it. I'm still a little confused....
One thing that really impressed me was the quality of this book. It's indie but reads really well- clean formatting, beautifully edited, great storyline. I'm sad this book doesn't have more reviews than it does; the author is quite talented, and I'm definitely interested in reading more of her stuff.
Thanks again, Jahy, for providing me with a copy. And thanks to Ms. Morton for writing such an engaging story!
The book starts out with a girl named Hillary tied up to a cot in a strange room. She doesn't remember anything about her past, only that she has terrible nightmares - and that the doctor who is taking care of her has questionable professionalism (gloves? who needs 'em? and so what if you enjoy inserting your patient's catheter just a little *too* much).
Dr. Dumbass and his wife clearly take lessons from Nurse Ratched in their bedside manner. At first I felt sorry for Hillary but she proved what a psycho she could be early on in the book, and I didn't trust her. I kind of stopped feeling sorry for her, too, although I've been told that the second book will make me feel differently. At least, in the first half. The second half will make me want to puke.
What a fun rollercoaster ride of fuckery that will turn out to be!
I'll be honest (well, aren't I always?) Reading HILLARY was not fun for me. I'm kind of a horror-phobe. I've never seen SAW, or any of those other new horror movies, and I don't like violent video games. However, a lot of my friends were reading this book and the author seemed nice and the book was free, and I thought I'd give it a try.
The first half of the book is, with the exception of one horrible scene, diet-WTF. I was confused, and annoyed with Hillary and Dr. Dumbass & co. Then, halfway through the book, things get NASTY. (Incidentally, my mom got me a hamburger for dinner. Um, no spoilers or anything, but while reading this book, I suggest becoming a vegetarian for the day.) Like, if Patrick Bateman from American Psycho was Jigsaw, and happened to live on Shutter Island with a whole bunch of live-in victims.
There are a number of errors I noticed while reading this book, by the way. For example, dialogue tags that are misplaced (one character is talking, but the dialogue tags make it look like there are two or three people in the convo), typos (Bellefluer instead of Bellefleur, etc.), and awkward sentence structure. Sometimes the word "yelled" or "screamed" would appear five or six times per page.
I received all three books in the author's trilogy during a promotion. I'll probably read books 2 and 3 eventually, but first I think I could use a break.
FIERCE is a misnomer. The title of this book should be "Wuss."
I really need to stop getting suckered in by these hot shirtless guy covers. They always, always end badly for me. I also need to stop getting suckered into new adult books. But there are decent ones out there and you know what they say: hope springs eternal. You know what else they say- two things are infinite: the expansion of the universe and human stupidity, and the former is debatable.
I didn't like FIERCE.
I didn't like Autumn, who's one of those cookie-cutter NA heroines who doesn't have anything going for her except virginity and an exceptional hatred of other women.
I didn't like Hunter, who's basically like Travis Maddox except...I don't know. Less dedicated about being an asshole, maybe.
I didn't like the nasty bitchery, the weight-shaming, appearance-shaming, nerd- geek- and slut-shaming. It's like these authors think that we young adults can't talk about anything other than boys and how ugly that girl looks with her fake tan. Wrong! Wrong, wrong, wrong.
I didn't like how everyone- EVERYONE- in this book cries. ALL THE FUCKING TIME.
I didn't like how college is portrayed pretty much exactly like high school. It's not. There are no fucking popular kids and cliques in college. People are too busy studying to worry about that shit.
Sometimes books mysteriously appear in my room, which, incidentally, looks like a special...moreYou can read more reviews at my blog, The Armchair Librarian.
Sometimes books mysteriously appear in my room, which, incidentally, looks like a special edition of Hoarders: Mad Librarian edition. If a book doesn't look familiar, there's a good chance it came from my mother, who has similar problems when it comes to stockpiling books. Last summer, I helped her clean out the garage and received about three large stacks of literary fiction; RESTLESS by William Boyd was just one of many, and I'm just now getting around to reading it.
RESTLESS is a spy thriller that takes place in two alternating timelines: 1970s and WWII. Our narrator is this annoying Englishwoman named Ruth who is a single mother with a five-year-old son who is the product of an adulterous affair she had in college. Okay. Anyway, Ruth is freaking out because her mother, Sally, appears to be going mad. She's convinced that Someone Is Out to Get Her, which is never a good sign.
Except...it turns out she might be right. Because Sally Gilmartin isn't the all-round Good Old-Fashioned English Lady she pretends to be, but a half-Russian spy whose real name is Eva Delectorskaya! She's writing out a memoir of her life, which she delivers to her daughter chapter by chapter, just in case she's killed. Which doesn't make sense, because she doesn't say who she thinks is going to kill her until the very freaking end, and obviously if someone were going to kill you, you wouldn't want to waste any time fingering them (no, not that way!). But I guess that wouldn't make a very compelling - or long - story. "Once upon a time, there was a spy. This is him. Now he's dead."
I started out liking RESTLESS a lot more than I did. I was never too keen about Ruth but Sally/Eva was a very compelling character. I loved her budding romance with Romer, her resourcefulness, how bad-ass she was. Things kind of got sketchy in the second half of the book, though. Also, it's a spy thriller so there is violence. For example, there's this pretty gruesome scene where someone gets a pencil shoved into their eye (and then a windshield wiper D:). Ewwww.
My problem with RESTLESS is that it goes on for too long. The romance between Hamid and Ruth is far too contrived; she treats him like shit. I also didn't like a lot of the nasty things that were said about women. For example, at one point Ruth refers to single mothers as "sluts." Um, no. There were jokes about women of color being slutty too at one point, and that was teeth-gratingly annoying, too. Maybe that's the author trying to stay to the times, or maybe it's because he's sexist- I don't know. But I know I didn't like it, and that was enough to cause me to dock a star from my enjoyment factor.
RESTLESS isn't badly written but it tries too hard to be erudite while at the same time trying to appeal to men with slideshow action scenes and to women with contrived romance.
It fails on all three counts. But it isn't a bad story.
Maybe it's the writer in me, but whenever I read an ambiguous summary where it's not quit...moreYou can read more reviews at my blog, The Armchair Librarian.
Maybe it's the writer in me, but whenever I read an ambiguous summary where it's not quite clear what the causes were behind something bad happening to one of the characters, I immediately assume it was attempted murder(!)!!
There was no attempted murder in THE ART OF FALLING, though. Just an incredibly selfish - and stupid - protagonist.
THE ART OF FALLING is a debut effort, and it shows. It's like when parents dress up their little kid in big people clothes and force him or her to perform for the "benefit" of the adults (i.e. captive audience). This kid has no business spelling words like antidisestablishmentarianism or reciting the periodic table. The spectacle is embarrassing for all parties concerned.
I got the impression that the author was trying quite hard to be erudite, channeling the stylistic choices of other established authors in this genre, like Gillian Flynn or Janet Fitch. Penelope Sparrow (oh God, that name -that name; it screams to me, "I am an unrepentant Mary Sue!") definitely fits into the crazy lady with crazy family and equally crazy goals in life stereotype, but she's the odd one out in this party because most of her problems, she's created herself and not had foisted upon her.
Let's get something straight here. Mental illness- it's a serious issue. It really makes me angry when mental illness is portrayed as some kind of conflict that the character must overcome, because mental illness is not a plot device. It cannot be resolved in a single "Eureka!" moment, like solving a math problem. Penelope Sparrow (*cringe*) has a very serious problem, but it is never specifically addressed in the book. Nobody encourages her to seek treatment, even though at one point her mother could have - and should have - phoned in for a 51-50.
It is clear that she is a danger to herself or others. She constantly makes poor decisions, and she never learns from her mistakes. She tried to commit suicide, for God's sake! It's like everyone, including her mother, forgot that. Plus, she has an eating disorder, which is kind of brushed off as a necessary side-effect of being a dancer. No. Just. No. I'm sorry, but when you go entire days without eating anything, when you starve yourself to the point that eating a slice of pizza gives you a stomachache from having something so substantial in your belly, when you starve yourself deliberately just to feel the euphoria that comes from your body's own debilitating weakness, you have a problem.
But this is never really addressed in the book.
Her reasons for the suicide attempt also really made me angry. I mean, I get it, sort of. It ties into her own complex about her appearance and about her weight, but it was also more than that. It made me think about Twilight- New Moon, specifically- and how our culture basically advocates doing stupid things for men (or boys). I just watched the movie ENDLESS LOVE, and it was like seeing the world through new eyes when I watched it without letting myself feel any of the emotions I was so clearly supposed to. During one point of the story, the female character who is being slut-shamed does the same exact thing that the male love interest did to her early on in the story for the benefit of the female love interest. But when the male love interest did it, it was sweet, whereas when the slut-shamed character does it, we're obviously supposed to go, "You evil bitch!"
I felt like when we find out why Penelope did what she did, we were supposed to go, "Ahh, that makes sense." But it doesn't. Not really. She is surrounded by characters who have their own problems- in some case, nearly identical problems- but she chose the worst option. The selfish option. The fact that she completely lucked out by surviving fourteen stories with only a broken arm never seems to occur to her, and she refuses to see it as an almost divine second chance. I got tired of her lecturing the other characters about their problems while refusing to delve further into her own. The things she says to her overweight mother are revolting. The things she says to her friend with cystic fibrosis are cringe-worthy. At one point in the book she as much as admits that she finds her dying friend's life so fascinating, she wants to move in with her to witness this spectacle firsthand. She says even worse things to her dying friend's mother, to the point where I nearly threw the book down in disgust. And don't even get me started on want she did to Marty.
I wanted to like THE ART OF FALLING, I really did. But it took a great premise and turned it into something completely unlikable. I know it's a debut effort, and that with debut efforts you want to be daring and attention-catching, but this was a really cheap way of doing it. Mental and physical illnesses are very serious, and because of the stigmas they face in society, need to be accorded with the respect and dignity that is their due.
Clara Mattingly is one half of a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde-type duo. But her life isn't...moreYou can read more reviews at my blog, The Armchair Librarian.
Clara Mattingly is one half of a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde-type duo. But her life isn't as glamorous as the Lifetime movies would have you believe. Now she is sentenced to life without parole in an all-women jail, and her lover has committed suicide in prison. Every day, she relives that horrible night that resulted in her incarceration, and the many factors that led up to that turning point.
I applied for INSIDE THESE WALLS because you don't read many books set in a jail, especially not from the point of view of a woman. (Okay, maybe you can find more of them now that ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK is so popular.) And I'm always on the lookout for the next Gillian Flynn, because I love me some of those fucked-up literary crimebusters.
INSIDE THESE WALLS satisfied me on those counts. It handles several very taboo and horrible subjects with compassion and grace, as stereotypical as that sounds. There were so many ways this book could have gone badly, and it didn't head towards any of those routes.
Clara is a great antihero. You want to root for her, even though you suspect she did something very terrible. She is charming and artistic, and there is a quiet innocence to her that prison still hasn't quite managed to erase. Her talks with the people who come into her life - Janny, Penelope, Annemarie, the reporter, her sort-of-boyfriends - all add successive layers to the story, and every minor character had life breathed into them from their first appearance on the pages. I got teary-eyed towards the end. INSIDE THESE WALLS deals with weighty subjects. Things like rape and incest.
Oh, God, it has been a long time since I've read a book that showed just how traumatic rape is, and how lasting, so successfully. Even better, this book also showed how it is possible to heal. I think she did a wonderful job treating the subject with the delicacy that it deserved, so kudos to Coleman.
I know a lot of people didn't like the ending because it was too neat, but you know what? I'm game. It was well-written, it made sense, and damned if this cast of miserable characters didn't deserve their happy endings by the time those last few pages rolled around. I spend a lot of my time biting my nails and fretting over the kitty (there's a kitty! it's orange! and it's name is Clementine!), and whether it would be okay. Especially during those last few pages. If the kitty died, I told myself I was going to have to buy a new laptop because this one was going to get chucked out the window. But it was okay, the kitty didn't die. (Minor spoiler - but trust me, you'll thank me, and so will your nails.)
This was a wonderful book and it made me teary and feely and sad and hopeful and all sorts of things and it was an experience; I'm glad I read it, even though I had to take long breaks because of how many feels it made me feel. I definitely recommend it to fans of Gillian Flynn. Just make sure you have tissues handy - and that your own kitty is next to you, so you can cuddle him/her extra tight.
The book has two alternating timelines - one features Jerome has a young, rich playboy/motivational speaker. The other, has a middle-aged, rich advertiser. In both timelines, he has the distinct (and dubious) privilege of being one of the most unpleasant, misogynistic, disgusting, hate-filled, loathsome excuses of a male narrator that I have ever seen in my twenty years of reading.
Much of this book reads like hypersexual fanfiction of AMERICAN PSYCHO. Despite its literary pretensions, 80% of this book is smut. Imagine if you told an adolescent boy to sit down with his friends and write erotica. (Note: for the sake of literature, do not tell an adolescent boy to sit down with his friends and write erotica.) This would be the result.
"If I was one of those Hentai octopus monsters with like 20 tentacle penises, I'd fill every hole with tentacle penises and pump her with semen until she explodes (209).
I look at my pink toro sashimi, the most expensive cut of sushi at this restaurant. It is the color of pomegranate sorbet, and, in my imagination, Maddie's nipples, her pussy, and her asshole (11).
Her asshole is the color of pomegranate sorbet (76).
The sex in this book is so unsexy, and yet it is repeated so much throughout that I couldn't help but wonder whether it was meant to shock or titillate. Or is AND THEN RUN the product of Fifty Shades of Rape Culture that has become embedded into our society? Is it okay to treat a woman like a sex object without a mind or a soul as long as you're adverbily attractive?
I want to kill my enemies. I don't want to apologize to them, or to women, or to anyone. I want to conquer my foes and take their women as my chattel, and make them do every porn thing I can think of (44).
I am not Casanova. I am no seducer. I am a raw, primal warrior. I am like Achilles claiming Briseis after killing her guards, or Og the caveman claiming Ug the cavewoman after killing a saber tooth tiger and some rival cave warriors (56).
There is nothing on earth that I want more than to live in a primal fantasy world and rule over Madison through her libido. I absolutely, definitely do not want to be "better" than that. The only way to get anything better would be if I could rule over like 10 women through their libidos, or just through fear, and also fight people to the death (and win) like every day (89).
I was born for sex, and I was built for killing (89).
Jerome is a womanizer with fantasies of polygamy. He keeps between 3-5 girlfriends at a time, lying to others about the seriousness of his relationships with the women.
"I would say that if a man has inherently polygamist desires, and he does monogamy in response to social pressure, then his soul has been neutered" (205).
One of the things I actually did like about this book is his weird anarchist views. Jerome has some truly funny observations about society and societal norms. I think his motivational speeches and his media manipulations were some of the best passages in the book, and I thoroughly enjoyed them.
But then, everything came back full circle to these weird, twisted sex fantasies.
He forces his girlfriends to have anal sex with him and threesomes, and rapes them or threatens them with physical violence when they do not comply. 99% of these encounters end up with the women crying. They plead for him to pick one of them and put the matter at rest once and for all. Jerome refuses, gets angry at the women for trying to force him into their "monogamist fantasies", ignores their calls or kicks them out of bed, and eventually the women always come crawling back, because he's sooooo rich and sexy, you guys.
At one point, one of the women actually apologies to him for getting upset about him raping her.
""I'm sorry I raped you," I mumble.
"If you hadn't, I would never have forgiven you," she replies (198).
Here's where the similarity to AMERICAN PSYCHO comes in. Jerome's friends, Paul and Aris, are enablers. They know their friend is an asshole- and possibly a murderer- but they don't do a thing about it. Rather, they seem to admire their friend for having the balls to do what they secretly want to do themselves, but are forbidden from doing legally, socially, etc. In that sense, I feel that AND THEN RUN is misandrinistic and misogynistic. Why?
Because it paints men as objectifiers and women as objects.
It gets worse, though. Jerome gets so frustrated with his American girlfriends that he decides to go to Cambodia and score some underage pussy.
[I]t might be interesting to buy a girl from Kenya or Cameroon or Cambodia. Or better yet, kill her village and take her as my prisoner. And her sister (251).
He ends up purchasing two child brides, ages 13 and 15. He sends them to an expensive hospital on the pretense that they were raped to make sure that they are really virgins. Then he has sex with both of them- at the same time.
That's right, you guys. Jerome Esterson is a pedophile.
I suddenly feel like I'm being ripped off in my own relationships. Why in the fuck am I settling for twenty-four year olds when I prefer fifteen year olds? (213)
"I plan to do the thirty-five year olds in the form of two twelve year olds and one eleven, obviously" (316).
Here's more quotes from Prince Charming.
The movie Shallow Hal is playing. That's the movie where a guy gets hypnotized so that he only sees inner (i.e. nonexistent) beauty. Making us satisfied with monogamy isn't enough. Now they need to make us satisfied with monogamy with disgustingly fat girls (179).
He thinks fat girls are gross! At one point, while picking up a chick at a bar, he makes a comment and she thinks he's calling her fat. He's like, if you were fat, I wouldn't be talking to you, because that would be gross. And she thinks he's soooo funny, because he's soooooo good-looking!
Maybe there is such a thing as true love. Or stupidity. Or maybe they are the same thing (276).
Women equate our desire for multiple women to their desire for multiple men. Which they have. But it's not like ours. Not just because it's harder for a guy to do it. As they say, if one key can open many locks, it's the master key, but if a lock gets opened by many keys, then it's a shitty lock (279).
Between the slut-shaming, fat-shaming, pedophilia, rape, misandry, misogyny, and pointless violence (he isn't a serial killer. He's a guy who loses his temper and kills people), I could not get on board with this book.
What was this book meant to be? A work of literature? Or a depraved sexual fantasy?
The ambiguity does not benefit the work.
Quotes were taken from an ARC and may or may not appear in your edition.
I really struggled with how to rate MY SINGAPORE LOVER. The writing isn't horrible...moreYou can read more of my reviews at my blog, The Armchair Librarian.
I really struggled with how to rate MY SINGAPORE LOVER. The writing isn't horrible so much as pretentious; it's a bit like reading fortune cookie fortunes set into dialogue.
At first I thought I might give this book a three-star rating. But the more I read, the less I liked, and that rating devolved into a two-star, and then, ultimately, a one-star rating.
I don't even hate this book as much as I normally hate the books that I give one-star ratings to, but I didn't like MY SINGAPORE LOVER, either, and the more I meditated on why I didn't like the book, the more I realized it was a racist, grandiose piece of crap.
First, let's talk about the female main character. She's blonde-haired and blue-eyed, so of course everyone in the book is fascinated by her "exotic" Aryan good looks.
She's also completely self-absorbed and a materialistic whiner, to boot. She spends most of the book talking about how beautiful she is, and how this has always gotten her everything she's ever wanted since she was young. There's some rationalization - "Why shouldn't I have affairs with whomever I want?" "My Father cheated on my Mother, so it's okay that I do the same with other married men" "It's the men's choice to sleep with me despite being married, I am guiltless, I'm having a good time and so is he, it's love, dammit, blah blah blah," and so on - but you can't really successfully rationalize selfish behavior. Basically Sara is a bitch who doesn't care about anyone but herself.
There's a lot of designer name-dropping. She buys expensive things because they make her look even more beautiful and special, and cause people to pay more attention to her. She treats her coworkers like crap, ditching them as soon as better employment opportunities come along.
I think what disturbed me the most about MY SINGAPORE LOVER is the fetishization of Asian men and women. There's a lot of really anti-feminist sentiments in this book, such as that Western women are responsible for the lack of interest that men hold in them because they've become too focused on having careers and being independent. There's lots of talk about how Asian women are feminine (not feminist), submissive, family-oriented, petite, beautiful, and docile.
Also, it seems like everyone in this book is having an affair. Chapman kind of makes it seem like Singapore is some sex-crazed society, like turn of the century Paris, where libertines and their debauchery are, if not encouraged, then tacitly accepted. Has this woman even been to Singapore? I'm thinking not, if she said that adultery is more accepted in Singapore than it is in Western countries (which she does, in fact, say). ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME? Singapore is so strict. I highly doubt that they would encourage affairs, especially public ones. That was very annoying.
I skimmed the book all the way to the end, but by the last eighty pages I was getting really fed up with Sara's selfish behavior, and all the attempts to make Asian people seem like some "exotic" taste. Sara at one point brags that people tell her she acts Asian, and I think she compares herself to a geisha at some point. She really doesn't. She acts like a half-grown hipster who's not ready for adulthood, and who leaches off the emotional happiness of others rather than making a commitment to happiness herself.
Etched on me is an unapologetic story about how hard it can be to be a girl. Lesley Hollo...moreYou can read more reviews at my blog, The Armchair Librarian.
Etched on me is an unapologetic story about how hard it can be to be a girl. Lesley Holloway is just sixteen-years-old, but already she's had more crap flung at her than most people have to deal with in a lifetime.
✓ Her father has raped her since she was sixteen, and her mother knew but never did anything.
✓ She then had to face him in court, without maternal support.
✓ At sixteen, she is living on her own while attending an elite private school. But she has PTSD and ends up trying to commit suicide.
✓ She goes to a mental institution where she starts a relationship with a young woman, but her father's abuse makes it difficult for the two of them to connect.
✓ Naturally, as soon as Lesley does get comfortable, they're discovered and that gets both of them kicked out.
✓ Her one consensual heterosexual encounter results in pregnancy.
✓ CPS wants to take her baby away.
Obviously there is more to ETCHED ON ME than all this, and really, the details I've mentioned barely scrape the surface. Lesley is a troubled teen by anyone's standards, but she has a lovely support group. I loved Miss and her husband, and Imogen, and the lawyer, Bradford.
What's troubling is how cruelly many people treated her - the other girls in the private school, the sneering doctor who wasn't going to give her any anesthetic because since she was in for self-harm he figured she'd be all right with pain, the condescending social workers, the hardened inpatient nurses...it just goes to show how sometimes the people who are supposed to help can hurt the most.
This is not an easy read, and contains many potential triggers. Nothing is sugar-coated or glossed over; the down and dirty of the hardships teen girls face every day somewhere in the world are revealed in their full hideousness. What with new adult novels glamorizing the hard-knock life, I think ETCHED ON ME does a great job of showing that no, this is not romantic, and that a lifetime of abuse can't be solved by finding love: it's a problem, and one that needs fixing.
A DEATH-STRUCK YEAR takes place during the Spanish influenza of 1918. Cleo...moreYou can read more of my reviews, faster, at my blog, The Armchair Librarian.
A DEATH-STRUCK YEAR takes place during the Spanish influenza of 1918. Cleo Berry is a seventeen-year-old girl living in a boarding school in Portland, Oregon. The news is full of death and sickness from the big cities on the East Coast, but Cleo is sure that they'll be safe in Oregon...at least, she is, until a local military base comes down with the sickness and is forced to impose a quarantine.
Suddenly, Portland is stricken with the influenza and since Cleo's only family is away, she's all alone in the middle of a nightmare.
One thing I really liked about A DEATH-STRUCK YEAR is how the influenza brings out the best and the worst in people. You have the Red Cross and their citizen and military volunteers, who put their own lives at risk just to keep people safe. And then you have family members who abandon their spouses and kids, or looters who still from the sick or deceased.
A DEATH-STRUCK YEAR also seems to be well-researched. One of the things that sets apart pandemic flus from regular influenzas is the age group affected. Normal flus tend to kill the very old or the very young. But with the pandemic flus, children and adolescents are the most susceptible. (I actually learned about this in another book I was approved for by Netgalley, called SEVEN MODERN PLAGUES - I definitely recommend it as further reading.)
Cleo is a likable character, and even though I thought it was a bit idiotic the way she went about doing things - like leaving without telling anyone where she was, or spending all her time around sick people when her brother's wife is about to have a new baby - it was hard not to respect or like her.
I have a confession to make. I actually haven't seen this movie. Not that that's a shocke...moreYou can read more reviews at my blog, The Armchair Librarian.
I have a confession to make. I actually haven't seen this movie. Not that that's a shocker. Name any 100 must-see movies and it's likely I haven't seen about 80% of them or more. And I have weird taste in movies - I may be the only person I know who prefers Batman and Robin to The Dark Knight, didn't think Glitter deserved all the bashing, thinly-veiled autobiography or no, and who is over eight and still enjoys watching Space Jam.
Even though I am not an active participant in it, I enjoy reading about pop culture. I was really excited to see that a new essay collection about pop culture was being launched on Netgalley (called "Pop Classics"), because most of these sorts of essays are written about music and I've never understood the hooplah about getting all up in arms about music. It's fucking music. You listen to it. You can't do that if you're too busy prattling about it's many (questionable) merits. At least with movies and TV shows there's something solid to talk about, and there's the benefit of visuals.
In IT DOESN'T SUCK, Nayman discusses Showgirls in detail, parsing each scene and its merits that may have been overlooked when the movie first came out. First he talks about director Paul Verhoeven's career, his controversial Dutch movies (including one called Spetters, which has a homosexual gang-rape scene), and his American efforts, such as RoboCop, and Basic Instincts. Verhoeven is a director that doesn't appear to have over-the-top in his mental lexicon, and his movies have become somewhat notorious for sexual and physical violence, offensive stereotypes, and gore.
It's also interesting that Verhoeven and Eszterhas didn't get along - in fact, according to IT DOESN'T SUCK, they hated each other. (There is some evidence that on the set of Basic Instincts, Sharon Stone didn't like Verhoeven either - he allegedly told her that during the infamous crotch shot scene, the lighting would be a lot darker than it actually was; she was outraged to see that her naughty parts were fully visible in the movie. So there you go. I'd be pissed too.)
My brother, who is a movie film buff, told me that Showgirls is part of the reason NC-17 ratings are practically unheard of now. It was an experiment to try and make a mainstream movie with a non-mainstream rating - and it backfired, horribly. Movie critics tore the movie a new hole, and Elizabeth Berkley had to lie low for a while and now seems to pretend that the movie doesn't exist.
As a writer, I can understand that. You want to experiment - but sometimes experiments don't work, and you're forced to make a decision: do you want to keep trying and get better, despite the fact that nobody seems to be in your corner? or do you want to go back to what you know, even though you'd like to move on from it? or do you want to just call it quits? I think Nayman did a great job sympathetically discussing Berkley's dichotomous motivations: on the one hand, she is an inexperienced girl doing her first "adult" movie, but on the other hand, she's supposed to take all those childhood dance classes and turn them into something erotic and hard and cheap.
Even though I'm not a big fan of the so-called cult classic, Nayman made his sale. I kind of do want to watch this movie now. It's the same reason I read bodice-rippers: they're so misogynistic and cheesy and over-the-top that you can actually learn something from them (namely, that they're misogynistic, and cheesy, and over-the-top and make us feel like feminism is a lot like standing in quicksand and doing the macarena). Showgirls is a horrible, graphic, offensive movie, but it also shines a light on just how badly women are treated. The rape scene towards the end just goes to show how the victims of sexual assault often aren't the people who are allegedly "asking for it", and that the "she was asking for it" defense is total bullshit anyway, because everyone has their limits, and the real perpetrators aren't the people who have the limits, but the ones who are incapable of respecting them.
I think the fact that all the most horrible scenes take place behind closed doors in private rooms is telling - oh, and I loved the symbolism with the mirrors, too. IT DOESN'T SUCK is a great book that makes you think - just be prepared to do a lot of running back and forth from Google.
Beatriz gets paid $400/mo. to blog about sex toys and manuals. She gets all this cool fre...moreYou can read more reviews at my blog, The Armchair Librarian.
Beatriz gets paid $400/mo. to blog about sex toys and manuals. She gets all this cool free stuff to try and then publishes her findings on her blog. When one of her cobloggers has a medical emergency, Bea is forced to take an assignment with her to her foster sister's wedding - a book called THE MANUAL. It's a guide to sex for the gen-Y market...but unfortunately, she needs a partner first.
Also attending the wedding is a guy named Ben, who is one of Henry's best men. Bea had a thing for him in college, but he turned her down when she offered to sleep with him and she's never really gotten over that burn. Neither has he - it turns out he did it for reasons that she didn't know about, that haunt him to this day.
Anyway, their friends, Claudia and Henry, end up pairing them together for Bea's assignment and they have lots of sex. That's a given, since this is erotica. However a review I read of this book pre-release talked about how MISBEHAVING had one of the healthiest outlooks on sex that the reviewer had ever seen in an erotica book. I would have to agree. The dialogue flows naturally and is informative, but also has humor. It's sexy because it's exactly the kind of relationship one would hope to have with one's own partner, and I loved that.
I also really liked Bea. It's awesome that she's Salvadoran. What she says about her childhood really touched me, and I agree with her in the sense that Americans have a lot of freedom that they don't take advantage of, especially sexual freedoms. It's bizarre, like she said, that as a first world country we still have so much guilt over sex - and that sometimes that guilt makes us too embarrassed to ask the questions we need to have answered to ensure safe, sane, and consensual sex.
She doesn't have any shame about her body, and she isn't afraid to use communication to fix things that don't feel good. The snippets from her blog were well done, and not at all cheesy. I could see these things being said on an actual sex blog. I also liked how the other characters respected and even admired Bea's work, and that there was NO SLUT-SHAMING or any negative perception towards the female character who felt confident about sex and having as much of it as safely as she pleased.
Also - Keaton was hilarious. Did I mention that this is a loose homage to Shakespeare's MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING? Because it totally is, and Keaton has the commentator thing down pat.
The one thing I didn't like about this book was Henry. He was an idiot and a jerk. What he said after that gross misunderstanding was almost exactly like what Bea's ex said, after she dumped him - that he wanted her to get rid of her sex toys because "he should be man enough for her." The Henry situation made me really annoyed and I was surprised that Claudia was so quick to take him back after he texted her that he wanted the wedding off. What a dick. He should've been made to suffer.
Overall though, I really enjoyed this. I've been reviewing some stinkers lately when it comes to erotica, and have been bemoaning my frustration with the genre to pretty much anyone who will listen (not many). MISBEHAVING is proof that there are some good ones out there.
A note of warning: This book is under 100 pages (at least in the copy I received for review), so be careful what you pay for it. It is a novelette.