CREEP CON is a difficult book to rate. On the one hand, this is a book about two non-white female lea ♥ || Twitter || ♥ || Facebook || ♥ || Instagram || ♥
CREEP CON is a difficult book to rate. On the one hand, this is a book about two non-white female leads (Jamaican and Filipino) who are into nerdy things (anime and comic books). On the other hand, this is a book about terrible choices that tries to combat rape myths and fails, because it depicts rape as the result of bad choices.
Mariam is the only child of her overprotective Filipino mother. They moved from Fort Mac to Calgary because one night, Mariam and her old friend, Rose, were walking home one night, and Rose was raped. Since they never caught the rapist, Mariam's mom decided the best thing to do was move. What annoyed me was that later on, Mariam hypothesizes that the rapist might not have bothered to rape Rose if she hadn't looked so feminine, which is her rationale for feeling more comfortable in male cosplay outfits.
Anyway, at her new school, Mariam falls into insta-friendship with Tya, a Jamaican otaku, after they bond over their sonic screwdriver pens. Tya isn't really into comics and Mariam isn't really into anime, but after spending time together they find some mutual interests & plan on going to Otaku Fest together. Mariam even meets a cute boy at a comic book store who wants to go, too.
However, when Tya has to go to a last-minute wedding, she has to bow out of the con, and wants Mariam to go in the costume she made for herself - a skimpy, midriff-baring outfit that Mariam knows her mom won't approve of. Her mom probably won't even let her go if she knows Tya isn't there, so Mariam lies to her mother about who she's going with & what she's going to be dressed as.
At Otafest, she meets a group of boys who are dressed up as the Ouran Host Club, which is a happy coincidence because she has a spare Haruhi costume with her. The next day, she agrees to hang out with them so their retinue is complete, and has fun role-playing with them and participating in the photoshoot. But then the leader, Rick, starts to get too invasive as he takes his role too seriously.
I can appreciate what CREEP CON was trying to do, but it didn't really work.
(1) It suggests what you wear is responsible for sexual assault. When Tya is first wearing the costume she later gives to Mariam, Mariam says that it makes her look like a prostitute. She also makes that icky speculation that it's what Rose was wearing that caused the rapist to choose her to rape.
(2) It glosses over the male-oriented sexual assault that happens in this book. A guy dressed as Grey Fullbuster gets really upset when a girl tries to yank open his pants. Event security comes, and pulls the girl off him to kick out, and takes down Grey's statement, but Creepy Rick just says that the guy should appreciate the attention, and that crying "abuse!" only is taken seriously if you're a girl.
(He is sadly right in some cases--male rape and male sexual abuse sometimes aren't taken as seriously as they should be, especially not when the perpetrator is a woman, and they're often asked "why didn't you fight back?" with the same frequency that women are asked what they were wearing--but honestly, I don't get why Mariam didn't just ditch his ass right then and there, because DICK.)
I did like the love interest--I forget his name, but he cosplayed as America from Axis Powers Hetalia, which is awesome--but even he becomes an instrument in this rape plot, diving in last minute to save Mariam from the Evil Male (thereby getting the girl himself).
(3) There's kind of a suggestion here that most of the people at these cons are creeps. I don't like that. A few bad apples can spoil the bunch, as they say. Most geeks are quite nice, and protective of one another. It was sad to see what happened to that Grey Fullbuster character, as well as Mariam.
I kind of waffled over what to rate this, because I've said many times that I want to see more geeky protagonists in books, and I appreciated how on fleek the references were. But CREEP CON--even the name smacks of inherent sexism--just had too many issues for me to set aside.
I would consider reading another book by this author, though. Especially if her next work was longer--and geeky. I think many of the problems here stemmed from the fact that the book was too short for the plot to really be fleshed out to its full potential.
THE ART OF BEING NORMAL is a difficult book to review. First, I love that more books these days are a ♥ || Twitter || ♥ || Facebook || ♥ || Instagram || ♥
THE ART OF BEING NORMAL is a difficult book to review. First, I love that more books these days are attempting to be diverse and inclusive. And THE ART OF BEING NORMAL tries, it really does. It is about a transgender boy named David who desperately wants to be the girl he feels like he is inside. Everyone, including his parents, thinks that he's gay, and he's bullied by the douchey jocks at his school. All that changes when a new boy named Leo enters the school. Leo is from the poor side of town, and rumors abound that he's been kicked out of his old school for attacking a teacher. But David is intrigued by his strong, silent facade; he's so sure that this boy has secrets of his own - and he's right, only not in the way he thinks.
While reading THE ART OF BEING NORMAL, I thought back to another LGBT YA book I read recently, called BOY MEETS BOY. One of the problems I had with BOY MEETS BOY is the insta-love, and the fact that the romance in the book seemed too neatly arranged. I don't like the concept of soulmates, not in het romance, and not in queer romances, and yet both THE ART OF BEING NORMAL and BOY MEETS BOY fall into the trap of introducing that perfect someone right off the bat, when more relationships, especially LGBT ones, tend to be more like the one between Alicia and Leo: awkward, full of misunderstandings and doubt, and questioning about what your sexuality actually entails.
(Both books also fall into the trap of an unrealistic, bombastic ending that seems like it was written with a 90s teen movie in mind right before end-credits.)
I wanted to like David and Leo, and I sort of did, but they annoyed me, too. David annoyed me by the way that he took his family for granted, and Leo annoyed me because of the way that he treated his family like crap. Someone said that his journey to find his real father had a FAULT IN OUR STARS aspect to it, and I can see that. It was The Epic Quest of Finding Some Character Development. I was hoping for more fleshed out characterization, I think, rather than characters defined just by the fact that they're queer. That's my biggest problem with diverse books; the fact that they are diverse seems like it's supposed to compensate for sub-par storytelling. But diversity shouldn't be about settling. That's one thing that consistently infuriates me. I read all these lackluster attempts that either sexualize or tokenize their "minority" main characters, when I feel like they should be empowered, more than the sum of their parts, more than just an exotic backdrop for some second-rate storyline.
I'll be honest. I almost DNFed THE ART OF BEING NORMAL. And then after I finished it, I waffled about what to rate it. Because on the one hand, it gets a lot of the facts right about what it's like to be trans, and it doesn't shrink back from showing how badly they can be treated by both peers and authority figures (even if the cruelty is simply looking away while the abuse happens). So even though THE ART OF BEING NORMAL wasn't a top read for me, I am glad it was published, because anything that helps spread awareness of the LGBT+ community is A-OK by me. I just wish that these "diverse" books had slightly better storytelling to back them.
Growing up, Clare Campbell had a rough life. Her older brother has severe schizophrenia that causes h ♥ || Twitter || ♥ || Facebook || ♥ || Instagram || ♥
Growing up, Clare Campbell had a rough life. Her older brother has severe schizophrenia that causes him to have violent outbursts. As a child, she was often shunted to the side so her parents could focus on his needs first and foremost. And to top that off, she has a number of dark secrets that make her hometown of Clarkeston, Maine less than savory.
When her parents are murdered by someone who is mentally ill, Clare is forced to come back to Maine for the first time in the better part of a decade. She's also reunited with her brother, whom she now has power of attorney over following her parents' deaths.
As weird as it feels to be back, Clare can't help but notice that things are somewhat...stranger than she remembered. Almost sinister. People are having mental breakdowns left and right. The local psychiatric ward is full. And the government has quietly insinuated itself right into the heart of Clarkeson.
Whispers of quarantine, prions, and infectious disease soon have Clare on edge, and with good reason, too. Because she and her brother are right in the middle of this blow-up, and there's nobody around to save them.
I love a good plague story, and this one was damned good. I don't know if you guys are familiar with prions, but they're scary little fuckers. These misfolded proteins are the microscopic terrorists responsible for bovine spongiform encephalitis, or Kreutzfeld-Jacobs disease, or mad cow. For non-fiction reading on prions, I heartily recommend THE FAMILY THAT COULDN'T SLEEP--assuming you're okay with the idea of every cheeseburger you've ever eaten becoming a ticking time bomb of neural degeneration and inevitable death, that is.
A CURE FOR MADNESS started in one direction and then took a totally different, genre-swapping tack. Which was okay, actually. The genre it switched to is a favorite of mine, as evidenced by some of my top-rated books. And while part of me is a bit disappointed that this wasn't a Gillian Flynn-esque family psychodrama after all, I think it was a pretty good story overall...except for that ending, which I wasn't happy with. It felt too cheery, too hastily tacked-on. I got the impression that the author intended to end this story a different way but then had a change of heart, which is a bit disappointing because I'd donned my big girl panties and was fully prepared to cry.
I should note that I wasn't particularly pleased with the way mental illness was handled in this book. I don't really like sensationalized mental illness. Most people with schizophrenia aren't violent. I think McIsaac tried to show that people with the disease aren't violent for the sake of violence, but are actually trying to defend themselves (and their loved ones, sometimes) from their delusions, but I'm not sure that lesson really sank in as effectively as it might have. But this is a minor qualm, because unlike some stories, I do feel that McIsaac made an effort to research what she was writing about. (And also, certain artistic licenses might be warranted, as you will see if you read this book...)
FUTURE SHOCK is proof that you shouldn't write off an author based on one book (or series). Example: ♥ || Twitter || ♥ || Facebook || ♥ || Instagram || ♥
FUTURE SHOCK is proof that you shouldn't write off an author based on one book (or series). Example: I disliked this author's "More Than..." series so much that I almost deleted this book from my reader without even opening it based on that fact alone.
But surprise, surprise, this was actually a decent read.
Elena has spent her whole life in and out of foster homes. Her only claim to fame is her eidetic memory, which can't even get her a job at a McDonald's knock-off. Then one day, she's approached by scientists working at a firm called Aether who propose a very chilling experiment to her and a couple other kids: go into the future, observe, and bring back technology--and they'll be made richer beyond their wildest dreams.
As anyone who's ever read a single time-travel book knows, traveling into the future never bodes well. Especially not when there are scientists involved who are lucratively or personally involved in the situation. And FUTURE SHOCK definitely has a creepy, scientists-are-evil vibe to it. I kept thinking about Phillip K. Dick. And that movie, Paycheck, with Ben Afleck.
FUTURE SHOCK is actually surprisingly creepy at parts, and at times reminded me of the Fear Street books I used to read and devour as a teen. I thought the countdown that was introduced at one point really did a good job of driving the pace and picking up the tension.
The reasons this book isn't getting a higher rating are as follows:
1. The opening was reallly slow.
2. There's an unnecessary romance, which doesn't even go that far but is necessary because this is YA and all YA must have romances now apparently. And then there's this almost-sex scene that suddenly cuts off abruptly because they can't because reasons (which was good, because it looked like they were going to attempt it unprotected--boooo).
3. The ending was a pile of suck. It can be summed up as follows: "Whodunnit? No, seriously, whodunnit? Maybe shedunnit! Maybe hedunnit! OH LOOK OVER THERE! MORE CLUES! LOL JK THOSE AREN'T THE REAL CLUES. LOOK HARDER."
4. Elene really didn't have much in the way of personality. All that mattered was that she had tattoos (Divergent-y bird tattoos), was hot, and Mexican (meaning she likes Mexican food, and occasionally uses words like Papa and Mama when she remembers that she's Mexican).
Liz has a secret fantasy to be a submissive in a BDSM scene, but she's not sure whether this is just ♥ || Twitter || ♥ || Facebook || ♥ || Instagram || ♥
Liz has a secret fantasy to be a submissive in a BDSM scene, but she's not sure whether this is just a sexual fantasy that she wants to read about in ebooks or if she actually wants to participate herself. Her friend, Connie, an active participant in the scene herself, decides that the best way to know for sure is to take her to a Dom auction. She and her Dominant husband have the perfect man in mind and are willing to chip in to help her bid.
SUBMISSIVE SEDUCTIONS starts out as an incredibly sexy read, with some of the hottest scenes I've ever read in a book of this genre. Then...things happened. One of those things was personal preference -- I don't find any kind of butt stuff sexy. And I'm not talking spankings or anything like that. I'm talking actual, bona fide butt stuff. If you like reading about butt stuff, I'm not judging (I like reading dub-con), but yeah, it's in here. It's there.
My other qualms are less personal, more inherently problematic. First, Liz starts off very judgmental, saying things like "unlike the others, Master Gareth was someone I would feel comfortable going out to supper with, or bringing home to meet my mom" (16), and at first I thought that 'the others' referred to the Doms as a group, but then I wondered if it maybe referred to the whole club in general? In any case, it's kind of close-minded of her. Especially since the Dom arrangement was only for one night, it's not like she's shopping for husbands here.
At first, I really liked Gareth. He sounded very sexy and the scenes with Liz were, again, hot. He's also a professor and when he's not BDSMing his way around, he wears glasses. Hot.
But right when Liz and Gareth agree to meet for coffee to see if they're going to continue their arrangement, there's a two month skip. It literally goes from "Hey, let's have coffee" to "HEY WE'VE BEEN IN A RELATIONSHIP FOR TWO MONTHS NOW." And I'm sitting over here like, "Wat." I found that frustrating, since the developing part of a romance is usually one of my favorite parts if done well, and I was especially looking forward to seeing them test each other's limits.
Then we get a scene where the author confuses the word 'perineum' with the word 'premium':
[I] licked a swipe along the back of his balls and along his premium (92).
But Liz is frustrated because even though she and Gareth have been dating for two months, they haven't had sex. Actual, penetrative sex. Which is a little weird, but some people like to wait for a bit. Not Liz, though, and apparently she is NOT OKAY with people who do. To make matters worse, Gareth's wife died relatively recently, and Liz thinks he isn't getting over her fast enough. It never occurs to her that he might still be grieving; she assumes he's afraid of commitment.
I'd been completely oblivious to the fact that he'd still been grieving. I thought he'd simply been too scared to move on (113).
Then there's this weird scene where Liz takes Gareth IKEA shopping and has him assemble the furniture. While he's busy with that, she changes into Domme garb, starts calling herself Mistress Elizabeth, and basically starts...acting like a Dom. Because she thinks he could use a break from being in control. But actually, it's a scheme on Liz's part to force him to sleep with her. Because she thinks if she's commanding enough, he'll have sex with her. Otherwise she'll break up with him!
Then she accidentally says I love you, scaring Gareth into using his safe word. She goes to a bar to sulk, and gets hit on by a Dom. She's tempted but says no, and right when the man is about to leave, Gareth sees him, gets pissy, and says, "You better move your ass. If I see you even looking at my girl again, I'll fuck you up so hard you'll wish I'd killed you" (111). DUDE. What gives you the fucking right? Who goes around spouting bullshit like that who isn't a high school bro or a deranged psycho?
That was when I decided that I'd probably had enough of this story. The weird sex, the abuse of D/s roles for personal reasons & personal gain, and the increasingly erratic and inconsistent characterization just became too much for me. Which is too bad, because like I said, it started great.
After the disaster that was NOVEMBER 9, I wasn't quite sure where to begin with my next read of Colleen Hoover's work. I received tons of suggestions, mostly of her older work, like SLAMMED or MAYBE SOMEDAY, but HOPELESS was another one that also cropped up a lot, probably because you could argue that it is the book that cemented Hoover's fame.
Sometimes, you read an author, and it's hard for you to like their work because you don't like them as a person. For me, I have the opposite problem with Hoover. I want to like her work, because she seems like a lovely person. I don't think I've ever seen her post anything cruel or negative. She's supportive of fans and critics alike, and is constantly giving, giving, giving. I admire the empire she's built around her books, but more than that, I admire the fact that she is such a positive role model for writers, especially indie authors, who have somewhat of a bad name.
I want to like her books, and for a while, I was certain that I would. HOPELESS starts off pretty well. Sky Davis is an interesting character. Her repeated assertions that she "is not a slut" are irritating, as are her mixed signals about being sex positive and what being a slut really are, but she's an interesting character, and I liked her friendship with Six. Unfortunately, Six leaves pretty early on in the book, and in her stead, we're left with Holder, who comes from the Edward Cullen school of love interests--the "I'm stalking you for your own good/watching you sleep because you're so beautiful and you don't even know it" school of love interests. Oh, goody.
Now, I think Holder would have irritated me more if I hadn't read NOVEMBER 9 first, and been introduced to the asshole that is Ben. Ben made me want to torch my laptop and throw the blazing mess into a galaxy far, far away. Holder was merely creepy and off-putting. I was skeptical that his only redeeming attribute seemed to be his six-pack, especially when it is revealed that he beat the crap out of a gay kid, and the MC doesn't seem nearly as bothered by this as she should be. It's also a bit disturbing that he remembers her address after glancing at her driver's license for only a couple seconds, and it's disturbing that he repeatedly sneaks into her bedroom despite Sky's mother's "no boys" rule, and that he never listens to Sky's "nos" because he knows that she doesn't really mean it. And this is something that Sky likes about him! Um, no. You're doing something wrong here. Unless you're playing one of those sexy adult games where "no" is replaced by another word you agree upon prior to sexy adult game times, no always means no. Don't say "no" if you don't mean "no", and if someone says "no", for the love of God, stop whatever you're doing because no always means no.
Slut-shaming plays a key role in this book, and I was kind of...skeptical, again, of how other girls treated Sky. Yes, she lets boys in through her room and makes out with them, but she never sleeps with them. And yet, somehow this brands her as a slut. And girls at her school all instantly hate her on sight, and tape nasty notes to her locker every day, and fill her locker with money and make comments about "stripper poles." I'm sorry, but where is the principal in all of this mess? Why is he or she letting this harassment happen on school grounds? You would also think that as a victim to this harassment, Sky would be more sympathetic to other women, but instead this creates an internalized us vs. them mentality, where the outrage seems to be that she is mistaken for "one of those girls."
Another issue I had was how the relationship between Holder and Sky plays out. It's abusive. Sky hits him--a lot. And this is one of the consequences of believing that women are the weaker sex; women hitting men doesn't seem threatening or dangerous, because women are weak and can't do any real damage. Holder braves her abuse, and the implication seems to be that this is a just and noble thing to do, and cathartic to Sky, but I didn't buy it, because it is abuse. Good, solid relationships aren't resolved by hitting, no matter what your gender is. I found it kind of upsetting how prevalent it was.
Likewise, I didn't like the way that sex was broached in this book. Holder wasn't an overbearing asshole, at least, not as bad as the kinds I've seen in otherNAs, but man, towards the end, he choose some really bad times to have sex. There are two moments during which Sky undergoes horrible trauma, and literally immediately afterwards, they have sex. I think there are some moments where it is totally inappropriate to have sex with someone, even if they consent to it, because their mental states might be so fragile that they really aren't in a condition to consent, and in my opinion, both these instances were examples of situations where the character really was not in a mental state for consent. Also, in the beginning, Six implies that there is something wrong with people who do not feel sexual arousal, and this is simply not true. Some people, like demisexuals or asexuals, may not feel much or any sexual arousal at all. This is simply how they are, and there is nothing wrong with them. They are not in need of fixing. They simply do not want to have sex. And this is OK.
Really quickly, other peeves of mine were: the drama seemed totally over the top, and so much of it could have been resolved by communication. Sky's naivete seemed unbelievable. With a friend as worldly as Six, you'd think she'd know what LOL means, or what an e-reader is. I mean, hasn't she been to a store before? They sell Kindles and Nooks in stores. I didn't like how Holder would get mad and start punching or hitting things and having all these freak-outs. I didn't like how Holder said that suicide was "brave." I didn't really like how mental illness in general was approached in this book.
Things I did like: Breckin, Six, and Karen. Breckin was an interesting character. So was Six (although what happened to her? she kind of dropped off the face of the earth at the end). I wasn't sure about Karen at first, but she really grew on me, and by the end of the book, I realized how strong she really was. It's too bad the book wasn't about her and her story because I think she was a much more compelling character than Sky, with so much more mystery and depth.
In sum, I did not like HOPELESS, but I did not hate it, either. Instead it made me sad, because there was a good story hiding in here somewhere...it just did not quite make it. However, reading HOPELESS gave me hope (ha) that one day, I will find a Colleen Hoover book I actually like.
In the future, Earth is a hyper-ethical, hyper-economically-conscious, socialist paradise, where ever ♥ || Twitter || ♥ || Facebook || ♥ || Instagram || ♥
In the future, Earth is a hyper-ethical, hyper-economically-conscious, socialist paradise, where everyone has Enough and thinks long and hard about their social/environmental/economic footprints. Jordan Kincaid, schoolteacher, is a bit bored by this progressive paradise, but it doesn't really matter because he's in love. Except later that night he catches his girlfriend cheating on him, and then after a fight breaks out, the likes of which hasn't been seen in months, he's presented with a choice: he can go to jail, or he can go to Mars. Tough choice, right? Jordan and his friend Leonard go to Mars, only to find it's not what they expected.
Rather than the party planet where anything goes, they find themselves on a spaceship where everyone is separated by class and there are restrictions on what they can and cannot order in flight. This makes Jordan lose his shit, because for the first time, Enough is not...well, enough. Suddenly, nothing is fair, even, or equal. It's only when his rich friend, Dave, who's heir to the Martian developing committee, intervenes, that he gets treated to the high life to which he is accustomed. For the rest of the flight, while people in "coach" get sick, die, or choke to death on celery, he has sex with his friend's sister, Crystal, does drugs, and consumes exorbitant quantities of expensive food and alcohol.
Mars turns out to be a total dump. There are the rich, trendy people who are obsessed with making sure they fit into the latest "trend announcements"--and then there are the poor and the destitute, who barely manage to eke out a living and are completely at the mercy of David and his family (too bad they have none). Jordan takes one look at the hovel he's going to share with a dozen other men, and throws another hissy, causing Crystal to take mercy on him, and letting him live (rent-free) with the Waters. Unfortunately, one day, while clubbing, David is blown up, and suddenly Leonard and Jordan find themselves hopelessly enmeshed in the violent class war happening between rich...and poor.
I'm not quite sure how I feel about this book. It kind of takes the reductio ad absurdum approach to things like the 99%. I've read bizarro social parodies like this before, like Dave Eggers's THE CIRCLE and that guy whose name I can't spell's SUPER SAD TRUE LOVE STORY. I always have mixed feelings about books like those, because they always have weird sex scenes in them (seriously, it's like a rule), the humor causes a disconnect between what's going on in the story and any actual character development and depth, and sometimes the satire takes cheap hits in an attempt for even cheaper laughs. KEEP MARS WEIRD IS NO EXCEPTION.
If you like weird books, especially bizarro fiction, and if you liked SUPER SAD TRUE LOVE STORY, I think you will really enjoy this book. It has a lot to offer, and does manage to be entertaining. It didn't really resonate with me, sadly, so I lost interest about 3/4 of the way through the book, although I craved closure enough to keep reading until the end. I'm not sure if I would read more of this author's works, but I don't regret reading the one I have, either, so that's something.
LORD OF SIN is the first book in a spin-off series of Hunter's popular Seducers series. The cheesetac ♥ || Twitter || ♥ || Facebook || ♥ || Instagram || ♥
LORD OF SIN is the first book in a spin-off series of Hunter's popular Seducers series. The cheesetacular blurb is so wallpaper regency that I cannot, but this is yet another instance where the blurb provided fails to do the story proper justice.
Ewan McLean is an established rake well known for his orgies, debauched gatherings, many mistresses, and collection of erotic art. The last thing he wants is a title, but when his uncle kicks the bucket and his two cousins inconveniently off themselves in an avalanche, he ends up inheriting the title Earl of Lyndale (a title some pundits cleverly twist into Earl of Sindale--ha).
Before he died, the old Earl made Ewan give his deathbed promise that he would ensure the next earl would make things right with a man that he had wronged. Since fate deemed Ewan the next Earl, that means the responsibility falls into his hands.
The man he wronged was named Cameron, and lives in Scotland, so Ewan and his manservant, Michael, make the journey to the highlands where he encounters the sexy Bodisha, dressed in trousers like a man, in the process of dueling with the man she caught in a compromising position with her sister. Ewan interrupts the duel, gathers up all the Cameron sisters together, and finds out that their father has died, basically leaving them all without protection.
Ewan decides that he will be their protector (and the fact that he finds Bride attractive certainly doesn't hurt), something that Bride protests about vehemently. This results in lots of arguments, and some exposition that reveals that he and Bride have more in common than a reluctant but mutual attraction. What isn't mentioned in the story--and which I, personally, found fascinating--is that a huge portion of this story revolves around a mystery involving art and money forgeries.
I actually liked LORD OF SIN. It was a fun, quick read (which says something, because at 400 pages, this isn't really a short book). I do think it was longer than it had to be. Many of the arguments and sex scenes between Bride and Ewan were highly repetitive. I also expected kinkier scenes from a man who collected erotic art, hosted orgies, and possessed both a sex swing and a mirror hanging above his bed. But alas, it was all so very bland and vanilla, when there were so many possibilities. Also, the sex swing was never used for sex. Boo.
People who enjoy regency romances will probably enjoy this, particularly if they're fans of argumentative heroines. I'd recommend this to fans of Julia Quinn, especially.
This is actually the second Grumpy Cat book I've read. The first was this eponymous bit of whimsy, which my brother gifted me for Christmas last year. That book was funny, but not as funny as some of the Grumpy memes flying around out there. And to be honest, after my initial burst of excitement at seeing Grumpy Cat appear on Netgalley, I did think to myself that it seemed odd, building a comic series around...well, a meme.
GRUMPY CAT is a collection of short stories about Grumpy Cat and her brother, Pokey. Most of the stories involve Pokey wanting to have adventures and play with Dog, and Grumpy being an unwilling participant and/or evil genius.
Grumpy's personality is interesting. The artist portr2 ayed her like Mandy, from Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy. She's very sarcastic and mean-spirited, but there are also moments where you question whether she's as bad and as mean as she seems.
I guess my feelings about GRUMPY CAT is that it's merely okay. I'm not mad at it, but I won't be racing out to the bookstore to buy a copy when it comes out, either. It's an obvious attempt to cash in on the popularity of Grumpy Cat, and while that's not a bad thing in and of itself, I was kind of sad that the stories in here weren't as clever or as entertaining as I thought they could have been.
I'm that nightmarish person who reads series out of order. I know, I know, it's blasphemous. But I ca ♥ || Twitter || ♥ || Facebook || ♥ || Instagram || ♥
I'm that nightmarish person who reads series out of order. I know, I know, it's blasphemous. But I can't afford to buy all the books I read new, so I kind of got into the habit of just reading books in a series in the order that I was able to obtain them, which usually isn't in chronological order...
I've only read book #2 in the Women of the Otherworld series. I really like Armstrong's writing style, though. She's compelling and edgy, and lends a new spin to the urban fantasy/paranormal romance genre, despite it being as oversaturated as it is.
DRIVEN is a short novella that takes place in the same universe. The evil Malcolm who terrorized their pack as leader once upon a time is now back, and he wants to be a part of the Pack again. At the same time, someone is targeting Cains for bloody and violent murders. Loyalties are tested, and suspicions are everywhere, and Malcolm just won't shut his damn mouth.
I liked how Armstrong addressed the pack hierarchy. It was interesting to see Elena's motives for doing everything that she did. Sometimes, I felt that things were almost overexplained but for the most part, I quite enjoyed seeing how wolves thought, and how it impacted their decisions. So much dominance. So much saving face. So much I am alpha, hear me roar!
The story itself was a bit of a let-down. Even though there's a really horrible revelation at the end, most of this story felt like fluff, especially the parts about Elena's children, Logan and Kate, who were too precious for me to like. The bulk of the on-screen conflict comes from Malcolm acting like a petty asshole, ogling women to make them uncomfortable, tossing off stupid and petty insults to anyone within a hearing radius, and then sulking around like a spoiled child when he doesn't get his way. I was like, "Seriously? This is the dude you're all afraid of? He's a total weenie."
Maybe I missed something in the other books in this series that I haven't read, yet...
I don't know. The narrative felt really superficial and disconnected, and I couldn't figure out whether that was because of Elena's character or because this story just wasn't as well thought-out as the other books I've read by this author. There was serious emotional depth in her other books, but not so with this one. Even that horror I mentioned felt kind of...glanced over. And then there's some fade-to-black sex scenes that feel really passionless and don't add anything. All told, DRIVEN kind of feels like filler, with some horrible stuff thrown in for shock value and added interest. Not really my cuppa...
If you were to sit me down and tell me to read a 300 page book about weddings, I would probably laugh ♥ || Twitter || ♥ || Facebook || ♥ || Instagram || ♥
If you were to sit me down and tell me to read a 300 page book about weddings, I would probably laugh in your face. "What is the need?" I would ask. "I'm not getting married! Hell, I've never even been engaged. What purpose could this possibly serve, when I don't even find the thought of itentertaining?"
Somehow, Lucy Knisley found a way.
At its heart, SOMETHING NEW is Lucy's story about her marriage; it's how she met her husband, their tumultuous on-again, off-again relationship preceding the engagement, and the glorious but nightmarish celebration that was the wedding itself. In between, she offers bits of advice--how to save money on rings, decorations and party favors that you can make for cheap, and the pros and cons of having a wedding planner.
What saves this from being pure fluff are actually the side-stories. In addition to the more usual trite and cliche sentiments, Lucy discusses a lot of really important issues. She discusses the conflicts in identity that can arise when you identify as a bisexual individual who ultimately ends up in a 'heterosexual' relationship. She talks about her identification with feminism, and how she felt cognitive dissonance about this because of her desire to have kids, because so many people on both sides of the fence are adamant that you can't have your cake and eat it, too. She also talks about the give and take; that as an artist, there's always going to be this urge to devote yourself solely to the craft, but that being in a relationship with someone you love can be worth the sacrifice, because it can make you a better person & keep you from being lonely (if you're in the right relationship, obviously), as well as providing you with more inspiration for your craft.
I found myself really enjoying what she had to say about her various anecdotes, and I enjoyed the random asides about wedding traditions from other countries (or the histories behind certain wedding traditions we still have today--like carrying the bride over the threshold is apparently supposed to protect her from demons). When I looked through her list of published works on Goodreads, I realized that she's actually the author of another graphic novel I want to read: RELISH.
Lucy Knisley has a really honest and straight-forward way of telling her stories that is quite appealing. I like her art style (she has the cutest way of drawing cats), and I think it adds to her narratives rather than distracting or detracting from it. Also, I love happy endings.
When I was a little kid, my mother would read to me and my brother from D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths. It's a beautiful book and works well as a collection of bedtime stories. The cruelties and jealousies and triumphs of the Greek gods and goddesses rivaled my other all-time favorite as a kid: the Ancient Egyptian pantheon. I love Greek mythology, you guys. Love it, love it, love it, love iiiit.
So when I saw that First Second was creating a series of books based on Greek mythology, each showcasing the best stories about each god and goddess, I squeed. That's what I'm talking about! Unfortunately, I'm a bit late to the game. This is book eight in the series; I've missed 1-7.
Apollo was never one of my favorite gods. I don't know why. I think it's because in the Jerry Springer show that is the Greeks, he's one of the least crazy. And considering some of the shit this dude pulls, that's saying something. Apollo thinks nothing of having his sister kill one of his mortal lovers with an arrow for her infidelity. He skins a satyr alive for his hubris after the satyr loses to him in a music contest. He gets into a huge fight with the giant python that chased his mom.
This dude is cray.
And yet...is he cray enough?
Like other people, I wasn't too fan of the muses narrating each story. I felt like they were too distracting. I kept thinking of the muses from Hercules, and that got me thinking about Hercules, and when Apollo started fighting with the python, "Zero to Hero" started playing in my head, and it all went downhill from there. But yeah, the muses definitely detracted from the overall storytelling experience...especially the one told in interpretive dance. Um, no.
I was also disappointed because they left out one of my favorite Apollo stories--the story of Apollo and Cassandra. Apollo is often treated as this smiley, cheerfully bisexual god in retellings, but he's actually kind of an asshole. And the Cassandra one is just another example of one of his dick moves.
Now that Valentine's Day is coming up (read: a month & a half away), stores are clearing out the ♥ || Twitter || ♥ || Facebook || ♥ || Instagram || ♥
Now that Valentine's Day is coming up (read: a month & a half away), stores are clearing out the Christmas stuff, and replacing the space with hearts and cards and pink and red and cute stuff. I was going shopping today and noticed a new display of V-day and love-themed children's books, and the sparkly cover of HUG YOU, KISS YOU, LOVE YOU caught my eye.
Joyce Wan is a popular children's book author. I think her second most recent title is called WE BELONG TOGETHER (and I'm dying to get my hands on it because it's probably the cutest thing since sliced bread with a chibi face on it).
HUG YOU, KISS YOU, LOVE YOU shows a whole bunch of adult animals with their babies, and all the ways that they express their love, from hugging to cleaning. There's baby seals, baby bears...it's disgustingly cute. I have no words for how disgustingly, nauseatingly cute this was.
Why isn't Joyce Wan designing stationery and sticker sets? I would totally buy notebooks and pencils with her characters on them. Usually, I have to go to Daiso for that shit.
Joyce Wan, if you're reading this, please seriously consider merchandising your books! And then kindly send me a box of free swag for giving you this awesome idea. ;)
I'm so happy that the Peanuts comics are being re-released by Andrews McMeel. I grew up with these co ♥ || Twitter || ♥ || Facebook || ♥ || Instagram || ♥
I'm so happy that the Peanuts comics are being re-released by Andrews McMeel. I grew up with these comics, and so did my dad, and with the new movie that just came out, an entire new generation is being exposed to Charlie Brown & Snoopy.
I've read most of these comics before in another collection that I had (and destroyed--sadly) when I was a little girl. But there were still a couple that were new to me! This is a mostly winter-themed collection: so migration, snow, being sick, and falling leaves are all recurring themes.
I'm not quite sure what else to say here. This was a cute fun, filler read, and it was just the thing to get me through the heavier reads that I've got on my e-reader right now. Definitely recommended!
I'm a sucker for YA mystery stories--and when you throw Youtube celebrity gone wrong & a cover mo ♥ || Twitter || ♥ || Facebook || ♥ || Instagram || ♥
I'm a sucker for YA mystery stories--and when you throw Youtube celebrity gone wrong & a cover model who looks like Lana Del Rey...well, let's face it: I never even had a chance.
I'd never heard of Anne Greenwood Brown before, but I am passingly familiar with Heather Anastasiu, although I've never actually read any of her work before (she is the author of the GLITCH series, which I've been dying to get my hands on). So GIRL LAST SEEN was going to be a sample of two first-time authors for me, smooshed into one collaborative effort.
GIRL LAST SEEN is about two teenage girls named Lauren and Kadence, both of them on the verge of Youtube celebrity as an indie pop effort. But then Lauren gets a serious throat infection that damages her vocal chords, and Kady, never one to let fate stick her with the short shift, decides to go solo.
To add insult to injury, both girls are on bad footing already because, according to Kadence, Lauren tried to steal her boyfriend Mason out of jealousy. The band that brought them together looks like it's going to be the very thing that ends up driving them apart--until Kadence goes missing.
Obviously, girl with a grudge = prime suspect, and as the hours march by and Kadence still doesn't turn up, the cops start looking around for someone with a motive. Lauren receives hate, suspicion, and outright condemnation from both her town and from her ex-fans online, and she realizes that if she wants to get out of this situation, she's going to have to do what every young adult heroine has done in this situation since the very dawn of time: fuck adults, and figure out that shit herself!
Accompanying her on this search is her ex-childhood friend, Jude. Jude also wants revenge, because he feels like Lauren betrayed him. And man, is he one creepy dude. This is a guy who thinks nothing of following two girls around, videotaping them, and keeping down records of the hits their Youtube videos get. At the very end of the book, we find out he's guilty of something even worse; and this killed any sort of redemption his story arc allowed for, because that's serious Psycho behavior.
That afternoon I wanted to go in her living room and start throwing all the ceramic figurines her mom had arranged so carefully on their mantelpiece. I wanted to see them shatter and then stomp on the tiny pieces until they were sharp shards lost in the soft carpet so they'd all cut up their feet (45).
I'm turned on, happy in her misfortune, then deeply ashamed, then just sad for both her and me (47).
I'm sorry to say that he is, indeed, a love interest.
The other men in this book are no better.
Girl fights are supposed to be hot, but this one didn't do anything for me (33).
"Oh man, that fight was epic....Too bad there wasn't mud and a wrestling ring, because then it would have been totally HOT." He arches his back and rubs down his chest slowly, then makes his voice high-pitched and breathy. "Oh Lauren, you've been such a naughty girl, stealing my boyfriend like that. Come here and let me SPANK you" (72).
I did like the mystery aspect of the story, but the multiple POV narrative didn't really work for me. I didn't understand the need for Mason's POV, for example. Maybe he was supposed to be the quintessential nice guy. Maybe he was supposed to be yet another suspect. Maybe it was to provide set-up for the end. Whatever the reason, it didn't really work; I thought he was a really watery character, and that the book would have been better off without his narrative.
My technical problems with GIRL LAST SEEN can basically be summed up as follows:
1. As with CORRUPT, I felt like the boy with the grievance was too quick to forgive (and also an idiot who didn't bother confronting his alleged friend first), and that the girl was way too tolerant of creepy & potentially psychotic behavior coming from said boy.
2. As with SUICIDE NOTES FOR BEAUTIFUL GIRLS, this book also features inept cops and an equally inept teen protagonist who must take criminal investigation into her own hands. There's also a marked lack of adult presence (excluding bad adults), and a marked lack of consequences.
3. This book actually has a very similar plot to another book that I've read, and unfortunately for GIRL LAST SEEN, this other book did it a lot better. I will not say which book, because i don't want to spoil anything, but let's just say that the similarities were enough that I correctly guessed what would happen about 100 pages into this story.
GIRL LAST SEEN is not a horrible book, though. It didn't make me angry. I was able to read it all the way through to the end. I liked the use of Youtube celebrity and professional jealousy in this book. I appreciated the edginess of the plot (even if it was borrowed from another book). I think with a tighter narrative, a more likeable (or believable) male lead, and better motive, this could have been really amazing. But I'm a finicky old lady. I'm sure teens will find this way more compelling.
If you've been following me for a while, you probably know how I feel about most Youtube comedians. T ♥ || Twitter || ♥ || Facebook || ♥ || Instagram || ♥
If you've been following me for a while, you probably know how I feel about most Youtube comedians. The tl;dr version of it is, I'm not a fan. When I saw YOUTUBE FAMOUS on Netgalley, I was interested; I was hoping for an analysis & history of Youtube celebrity and its future.
But this book is neither of those things. Instead, YOUTUBE FAMOUS is an endorsement of Youtube celebrities, replete with gratuitous amounts of lip service. The first couple chapters have how-to guides on how to become a Youtube celebrity yourself, although this disappears after a couple chapters as though the author ran out of ideas.
Some of the passages really grated on my nerves. Like this one:
"In a way, [Zoella] is the perfect role model: she doesn't drink, smoke or take drugs. She doesn't swear. She's clean-cut, pretty and well turned out, 'nice' in every way" (12).
Why does pretty and nice make her a good role model? I mean, I'm not a fan of Zoella, but you could at least say that she's good at managing her money and has good business sense. Why do her looks come into it at all? Why does it matter that she's well turned out? This is such a 1950s sentiment!
Then there's this:
Some negative press arose when it was announced [Zoella's] book had a ghostwriter. Because she was inexperienced, Penguin Books had suggested this would assist the 'narrative flow.' Zoe insists the story was all her own idea and she just needed a little bit of help (15).
What about all the authors who succeed without the help of ghostwriters? Also, from what I recall, much of the controversy revolved around the idea that initially the ghostwriter was not credited as a co-author, being thanked passingly in the acknowledgements instead. Not that she had a ghost-writer. Some people thought that was a little shady and unfair to the person who helped write the book. Which is understandable, don't you think? You can read more about this, along with Tweets and statements from Zoella herself, in this Telegraph article.
Then there's blatant misunderstanding of what being Youtube Famous actually entails. This really shows up in the Alfie Deyes segment:
Alfie isn't a manufactured product like those stars who sign a contract and immediately have press officers to tell them what to do and say and stylists guiding them what to wear. He's a self-made man who was in the right place at the right time to cash in on an audience that was out there waiting for him on the internet (32).
Actually, Youtube Celebrities are manufactured products. They carefully tailor their appearances and their material to appeal to their audiences. CollegeHumor has a great video parodying this phenomenon called Every Youtube Video Ever that is an uncomfortably accurate portrayal of everything that is wrong with Youtube videos. It's actually part of a series of videos; there's one about beauty and fashion vloggers called Every Beauty Vlogger Ever (which employs the phrase "exploiting the authenticity of Youtube") & one about gamer vloggers called Every Youtube Gamer Ever. I kept thinking about all three videos while reading this--they're so accurate it hurts.
That's what it's all about: Alfie and his fans having fun together. Alfie's putting his arms around you from deep in cyberspace (34).
Please excuse me while I vomit. Exploiting the authenticity of Youtube, indeed.
We see the same hypocrisy in the analysis of PewDiePie. The author has this quote:
[PewDiePie] is no hype merchant. He provides honest reviews as the game happens; there's no obvious marketing and he's not trying to sell you anything (38).
Again, kind of ironic since earlier on, Matheson basically implies that PewDiePie is single-handedly responsible for the success of Skate 3 and Flappy Bird. I'm not a game blogger, so I can't speak for how that industry operates, but as a book blogger, I do receive copies of books to review (such as this one). And if you negatively review a book or a publisher, you are less likely to receive books from that author or publisher in the future. So even if you aren't being fiscally compensated, there is some external motivation to review positively & look like you're having a good time doing so.
PewDiePie might not selling games, but he's definitely selling views--high powered Youtube Celebs get paid by hosting advertisements--and he recently just published a book, which also brings in money. (And guess what? I read and reviewed that book, and did not like it.)
As with many other Youtube celebrities, PDP was also held responsible for a highly publicized gaffe: [PewDiePie] caused controversy in 2012 with his 'rape jokes'....then he recanted (2012). I actually hadn't heard of this incident, so I won't comment on it further. However, later on in this same page, the author then says that PewDiePie is aware of his responsibilities. Which is just bizarre, because not only does this closely follow the mention of his rape jokes, it precedes this quote from the guy: "...I never set out to be a role model; I just want to invite them to come over to my place" (39). That doesn't really sound like the statement of a guy who understands his responsibilities. (And responsibilities as what? A public figure? A Youtuber? A video game spokesperson? A human being? This statement is frustratingly vague, given the context.)
Then with Jenna Marbles, the author once again launches into the good role model praise:
With her 'no shame' attitude and confidence in her own weird personality, in many ways [Jenna Marbles is] a really good role model for young and impressionable girls (44).
Oh really? You just mentioned that Jenna Marbles did a video about putting on makeup while drunk. What if an impressionable girl thinks, "Oh! That's funny! I should post drunk videos, too!" and she happens to be underage, and the video gets her into trouble? I'm not saying that Jenna should be held responsible for what her fans do after watching her videos, but the content of the videos in and of themselves would seem to suggest that she isn't a good role model--if only because some of her satire and parody videos aren't always immediately clear that they're satire and parody videos.
Plus, I thought we established with Zoe Sugg earlier that a good role model didn't drink. Which is it?
Apart from NigaHiga, I'd never heard of any of the Youtube celebrities mentioned from here on out. But I had to include these quotes from the Louis Cole passages:
[Louis Cole] even had a series which saw him eating roadkill (66).
This is mentioned so blithely. And it stops there. What happened? Did he get sick? Did anyone say, "Hey man, that's a stupid idea, you probably shouldn't eat rotting animal carcasses that've been run over by God knows how many cars?"
Once again, we have some apologist sentiments from the author:
[S]ome parents may be averse to their children aping such extreme thrill-seekers....With over 1.1 million subscribers and more than 100 million channel views, he's got a responsibility to members of the public who live vicariously through his crazy exploits (70).
What is this? The Jackass version of Spiderman? "Some people are born to stupidity. Some people have stupidity thrust upon them?" Responsibility, my ass. That is the total opposite of what that word means.
Overall, I was very irritated by this book. YOUTUBE FAMOUS reminded me why I find the Youtube celebrity culture so harmful. Maybe this makes me an old lady, but I feel like the lack of filter on some of these shows is dangerous precisely because their audiences are so young and impressionable and many of them are watching it with no social or moral framework because the topics being discussed -- race, sex, gender -- are things that might not be being discussed by parents & in classrooms.
P.S. I was a little surprised that Shane Dawson wasn't included in this list.
When I was a little kid, one of my favorite books was THE MOUNTAINS OF TIBET. It's a book with beautiful illustrations that talks about reincarnation. Basically, an old man dies after living a rich and long life with his family, and then encounters a benevolent entity who lets him choose what he wants to be in his next life, starting with which galaxy he wants to live in, and ending with what animal he wants to be. It's quite lovely.
THE EGG has a similar idea. I don't want to give too much away, because this is a very, very short story, but it does involve life & life after death, and concludes with a very startling and revolutionary premise that I don't think I've ever seen done before in quite this way. However, because I've read THE MOUNTAINS OF TIBET, I can't give this a high rating because I think MOUNTAINS covers it so much better. I'm sorry.
Going back to THE EGG, I can see why people liked it. I can also see why people didn't like it. Yes, it was a bit sappy, and yes, it was entirely too short. Maybe it was even a bit self-congratulatory, too. But it wasn't badly done, and I admire Weir's creativity.
*tugs at his sleeve*
Are you going to write another brilliantly written full-length novel, Mr. Weir?
Buzzfeed has a great video about what it's like to be intersex. I strongly encourage you to watch it, because it provides excellent definitions of what it means to be intersex, and also describes some of the problems members of that community face.
To be honest, I didn't really know much about transgender and intersex individuals until about three or four years ago. I've learned more about the LGBT+ community from books and social media than I ever did from my gender studies class. (Granted, I took gender studies about four years ago, and society's collective knowledge about sexuality has changed so much since then.) The best book I've read on the subject was ANNABEL by Kathleen Winter, which is about an intersex individual named Wayne who is forced by his conservative family to present as masculine after cosmetically altering surgery, but secretly has a feminine side he talks to like an imaginary friend, called Annabel.
A PROPER LADY is about an intersex individual named Dani, and a girl named Melanie. When Dani was young, their parents raised them as a girl, but secretly, they wanted to present as male and marry Melanie when they grew up. When the parents found out, they took Dani away. Now, years later, Dani is back, presenting as a gorgeous, highly feminine female, and engaged to a boy named Ethan, much to Melanie's distress.
Ethan wants to have children, but Dani can't have kids, because they don't have a uterus. They make a plan to ask Melanie to be their surrogate (which is, disgustingly, planned out in advance by everyone (including Melanie's mother) except Melanie, owner of said uterus). Dani decides to use the sperm from their testes in lieu of Ethan's, and draws up a contract that basically excludes Ethan from custody in case any legal battles ensue from the arrangement (and they don't inform Ethan of this).
One of Dani's conflicts over the course of the novel is whether they should alter their body to conform to gender norms. Even though Ethan insists that he's okay with Dani's body, they want to make their body normal. They debate about cutting off part of the clitoris (because theirs is longer than normal, protruding about an inch, like a small penis). Instead, they settle for deepening the vaginal cavity, and their first time sleeping with Ethan is highly unpleasant and not sexually satisfying. Afterwards, they refer to themselves as "a leaky repository for semen" (87).
As Melanie's pregnancy progresses, Dani finds themself with a growing attraction to her, rekindled from their childhood. But Melanie sends tons of mixed signals. She says that Dani should be with Ethan, but then pouts and sulks when they are. When Dani makes their first reappearance, she feels betrayed because they aren't presenting as a boy. She knows that Dani is attracted to her, and is struggling with their gender, but says things like, "I'm not gonna marry a girl, Dani. Not even you" (136), even though she allows Dani to kiss her and touch her in sexual ways.
The effect that this has on Dani is troubling: When I suggested we marry, [Melanie] replied that I needed to be a boy for that. After all, it took a man and a woman to make babies (161).
No, it doesn't! Plenty of gay men and women can marry and have children.
And on the very same page, we're treated to this line:
Melanie didn't care that I was intersex (161).
Um, clearly she does. A true friend wouldn't hold a potential relationship over someone's head when they are making such a life-changing choice. I mean, she refers to Dani's consideration of cosmetic surgery as "cutting off body parts" and tells them not to do it, but then says that she won't start a relationship with Dani unless they're male. Can she not see how that's seriously fucked up?
Towards the end, additional plot devices get thrown into the mix, including a family with cancer and a car crash. I skimmed most of the end, because I was starting to get really frustrated. I love that the author was trying to write about intersex characters (there are two in here), and I can appreciate what they were trying to do by writing about the medical procedures that go into cosmetic alterations and the serious considerations that go into deciding what gender to present as, but at the same time, I felt like it was done very badly in A PROPER YOUNG LADY. I thought both characters were extraordinarily selfish, especially Melanie, and that Dani's mother was a lying hypocrite.
I would not recommend this book. If you're interested in learning more about intersex characters, watch the Buzzfeed video and then read the Kathleen Winter book instead.
Jezebel recently posted a controversial article called "You're Not 'Adulting', You're Acting Your Fucking Age." I couldn't help but think about that article when I saw ADULTHOOD IS A MYTH pop up on Netgalley. I've seen a lot of people in their twenties, early and late, struggle to find themselves after they graduated college. The economy is bad, and every week there's a new article talking about how millennials have higher stress levels and are more depressed than any previous generation. So yeah, I get it; sometimes the simple act of buying your groceries or going to the bank or paying your bills can be an accomplishment, especially if you're depressed or exhausted. I don't think that's anything to scoff at.
ADULTHOOD IS A MYTH is a series of anecdotes told in the style of HYPERBOLE AND A HALF. Andersen has many jokes in here that are sure to appeal to women in their twenties and thirties, that could be summed up as a series of questions: "Don't cramps suck?" "Aren't you tired of people telling you that you should have kids?" "Isn't talking to new people in strange contexts stressful?" "Wouldn't you rather be in your pajamas right now?" etc.
I liked the drawing style a lot. After reading several of these types of novels, all of them apparently trying to capitalize on the popularity of HYPERBOLE, I have to say that I'm really becoming a fan of these minimalist styles. I think it allows the artists to exaggerate facial expressions, almost to comedic effect, while also allowing the reader to better focus on the story without the distraction of fancy doodles. It's an interesting reading dynamic, but yeah, I think I'm really starting to like it.
I'd recommend ADULTHOOD IS A MYTH to anyone who likes Allie Brosh or Jenny Lawson (FURIOUSLY HAPPY). This is a fun little collection that really spoke to me on an emotional level with its cutting satire of what it's like to be one of those harried millennials.
Hmm. Maybe it's just me, but it seems arrogant to refer to yourself as a "phenomenon" of anything.
This is not my first Camilla d'Errico experience. I received an ARC of one of her art books about three years ago. It was called HELMETGIRLS. I remember feeling ambivalent; I liked the style but not the content. The endless naked girls with helmets and tentacles on their heads were both monotonous and disconcerting--exactly how old were these girls? Why did they look so sexual? These were no wide-eyed children from Precious Moments; some of the pictures were almost erotic, and I couldn't understand why. I want to clarify that these were not pornographic images, but they made me feel uncomfortable in the way that manga and anime sometimes do. The age-defying characters in anime have a habit of looking underage, even when they aren't, and when you throw tentacles & nudity into the mix, it can be...kind of ugh.
POP PAINTING isn't an art book, although it does showcase some of the author's art. Instead, POP PAINTING is a work that endeavors to be several things at once. It defines what "pop surrealism" is. It introduces the reader to the author's work. It discusses how to care for art supplies, what to paint on, some different mediums, and then, eventually, how to paint. The helpfulness of the "how to paint" part may be somewhat limited because the artist uses a very specific kind of paints that I'd never heard of before: water-soluble oil paints by the brand, Duo.
Usually, when I look at art, it's the finished product. I've seen works in progress before because my sister is an artist (and a fairly talented one at that), but she usually tried to hide them from us until they were finished, so those moments were few and far between. So I have to say, this was a nice "behind the scenes" sneak peek for people like me, who haven't taken art classes and who don't really make a habit (or a career) of painting or drawing.
I'm not really sure how I feel about her tone. She sounds very chatty and casual, but also like she's trying to be overly friendly. You know how some Deviant Art artists talk to their fans? They use lots of emoji and slang and try to sound kind of like a kawaii anime character? That was the vibe I got from Camilla d'Errico, which was a little weird for me, because I used to know people who talked like that and I really did not like them, which was unfortunate because that's not really her fault.
d'Errico talks about her style changed over the years and that was actually what prompted me to go on Goodreads and look up the book of hers I'd reviewed. She mentions that she thought her style was very monotonous and that was exactly my thought--all her girls did look the same. Her style has really changed over the last three years, mostly for the better. I loved the retro My Little Pony painting she did. I also think her line painting technique is really cool. She paints with black acrylics in a way that looks like really thick, really enhanced pen drawing. Her bragging about this cost some points with me, but I guess when you're that good, it's hard not to rub other people's faces in it.
The book closes with a helpful passage that discusses the differences between painting for fun and painting for money (it really is helpful; she brings up excellent points--and these points hold true for authors, as well). She also talks about how to handle criticism. Her technique is to ignore it. She gives the whole "different strokes for different folks" speech, and says that you just have to keep trying until you find someone who likes it (whether this is a client, or a gallery, or a critic, what have you). I 80% agree with this. I think to some extent, yes, it is a matter of taste. But I also think some people are just bad, and this "different strokes" business just gives these people a sense of false hope that allows them to be deluded in their failure, which is not helpful to anyone (particularly if said person hopes to make a career out of their work). Also, sometimes criticism can be helpful. Art is a constantly evolving process, and can sometimes be shaped for the better from input by one's critics.
Overall, I thought POP PAINTING was an interesting read. I love her new style, I think it's so much better than the old, and I liked seeing the processes behind it. Her "how to" still needs work (in addition to the casual tone, there were also several typos), but it was helpful, and I think any aspiring painter would find this a useful tome to have in their repertoire. I hope Camilla d'Errico chooses to upload more of her art books to Netgalley for review, as I would really enjoy seeing her style develop even further over the years, as she explores different subjects & different mediums.
I'm rating this 2 stars because I think my average rating for books this year hovered around the two-point-something mark, and this seems to be aboutI'm rating this 2 stars because I think my average rating for books this year hovered around the two-point-something mark, and this seems to be about books, anyway. If I were rating this based on you fine and lovely people, it would be an easy five stars.
My year in books was pretty educational, if not always enjoyable. Unlike others, I will not be posting lists of the best and worst books because I feel like my reviews tend to be very situation-specific. I seek out books that I know will work for me at a given time, which is why I'm loath to re-read books I enjoyed (I'm always afraid I won't like them as much during the next go-round). If you are curious, search my five-star reviews--anything I gave that rating to is awesome and definitely worth reading. Instead of posting actual lists of books, I'd like to briefly discuss the year as a whole.
I've read a lot of really popular and hyped up books this year (more than other years), which was fun because I got to get caught up in the hype. I didn't like most of them, but it's still fun to be part of a movement. I am glad that new adult fiction is on the wane--at least, on the wane from where it stood circa 2012. The new adult titles that are selling now are changing, and starting to break free from the formulaic mold that constrained the genre in previous years. I like that there are more LGBT+ books and more books featuring POC, although I think that these types of books also need more development, because people are marketing them by their key words alone, and many of the ones that I read were total cliches except for the fact that they featured LGBT+ characters and POC. Don't get me wrong: I think it's wonderful that people are finally writing characters that aren't white, cis, and hetero, but at the same time, that isn't enough. We don't just need diversity: we need compelling, rich, and thought-provoking stories that have diversity in them. I think to say otherwise is demeaning, like, "Oh, but this is good enough." No, it's not. It's a start, but that shouldn't be the end of our aspirations. Fly high, and reach for the stars.
Speaking of stars, I'm tired of Youtube star memoirs. These must stop. They are almost unanimously terrible.
I love that there is a resurgence of science fiction novels that aren't dystopians. I love that space opera is becoming more common again. I really liked THE MARTIAN, and I'm hoping that this will result in a slew of well-written sci-fi with good, hard science in the tradition of Carl Sagan's CONTACT. I'm not as keen on the fantasy novels coming out. I think too many of them are trying to copy Brandon Sanderson, George R. R. Martin, or, in the case of young adult novels, Tamora Pierce. I'm annoyed that the Sword of Shanara series is being made into a TV series because that in and of itself was highly derivative of LoTR, and with P2P being what it is, I just know it's going to result in some terrible fanfiction that's going to be repackaged, marketed, and sold with changed names and slightly tweaked world building.
I think people are finally starting to realize, however, that being derivative doesn't sell, and it doesn't get you acclaim. The best books are books that read as honest portrayals of life as it is (or in the case of speculative fiction, as it could be). YA novels are finally starting to realize that they don't have to dumb down their fiction to satisfy teens. Pop science is making a comeback, thanks to sites like "I Fing Love Science", which say that it's okay to be smart. Fiction is getting geekier. Smut is getting smarter. And genre-fiction as a whole is becoming more diverse. Even though 2015 was not a particularly good year for me rating-wise, it is definitely a year of change, and could very well prove to be a tipping point for future years to come.
So as 2015 comes to a close, I would like to say that I am grateful for all the books I have read, good or bad, because they have allowed me to connect with others--either through a mutual love, or a mutual dislike--over my greatest passion in this world: books. Here's to the new year, and all the new books we'll read in 2016. Thanks for sharing these moments with me....more
I've been so caught up in reading my hundreds (yes, hundreds) of e-galleys and e-ARCs that I've been ♥ || Twitter || ♥ || Facebook || ♥ || Instagram || ♥
I've been so caught up in reading my hundreds (yes, hundreds) of e-galleys and e-ARCs that I've been shirking my responsibilities to my physical books. Including this one.
A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING is a dual-POV story about Nao, a sixteen-year-old Japanese girl in Tokyo, and Ruth, a middle-aged failed writer who lives with her Eocene botany hobbyist hubby in Canada. One day, Ruth finds a Hello Kitty lunch box washed up in some debris on the beach, and finds that it contains the watch of a suicide bomber from WWII...and Nao's secret journal.
Nao's father lost his job in Sunnyvale and his options in the Dot-Com crash, forcing them to move back to Japan. She is the victim of ijime, or bullying, which is so severe that it has driven her to desperate extremes. She has decided that she is going to kill herself. But first, as her final act, she is going to write the story of her great-grandmother, a 105-year-old Buddhist nun.
The story goes back and forth, and while Ruth's is fairly static (and fairly annoying), Nao's is dynamic, and has narrations not just from her, but also from her grandfather, Haruki #1, the suicide bomber who owned the watch, and whose story is no less heart-wrenching.
I can't say too much more about this story without spoilers, but towards the second half, things get very strange--especially in the last quarter, where A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING bridges the gap between science and magic realism. I think if this had been told in even a slightly different way, I might have laughed it off as silly, but it was vague enough that it worked here. I liked that.
A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING is a slow book to start, and Nao's POV is so much more engaging than Ruth's. Even when I did not like Nao--and she did do many hateful, selfish things--she was still a compelling, and sympathetic, protagonist. I found myself aching at the plights of her and her father, and how neither of them could communicate with the other about their problems. Like Ruth, I was invested in knowing their stories, and making sure that everything turned out in the end.
Ruth was not a likable protagonist, though. Her POV falls into the trap so many other dual POV, dual timeline stories involving women do these days: the middle-aged woman finds some secret that involves her in a tangential way, and rushes to solve the secret, thereby solving her own midlife crisis in the process. Because the secret is really an allegory for her own problems, you see!
While A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING was a bit more subtle an approach, Ruth did not grow on me much at all, and I found her scenes with her husband as they oohed and aahhhed over the journal very boring. I've seen several people saying that Ruth's portion should have been cut or eliminated from this book entirely, and I can definitely relate to that. Ruth's POV was the slimy, undercooked vegetables that I had to eat in order to get to the delicious, amazing dessert that was Nao's POV.
Also, I should warn you that there is some seriously messed up and depressing stuff that happens in A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING. Had I not already read and been traumatized by Hanya Yanagihara's A LITTLE LIFE, I might have said that this was the most disturbing and depressing thing that I'd in years. And speaking of years, this is already the third book that I've finished in 2016! Woohoo!
There's an episode of American Dad that parodies James Bond movies. In it, a villain called Tearjerke ♥ || Twitter || ♥ || Facebook || ♥ || Instagram || ♥
There's an episode of American Dad that parodies James Bond movies. In it, a villain called Tearjerker (Roger) conspires to make the whole world cry themselves to death by creating an emotionally manipulative film that employs pretty much every trope that Hollywood loves to use to make a "tragic" movie. Well, that movie looks like a freaking afternoon special compared to this book. In fact, I'm almost starting to suspect Hanya Yanagihara might be a supervillain herself.
A LITTLE LIFE starts out with four friends in their mid-twenties, embarking on their future career paths and mired in uncertainty. There's JB, the aspiring artist. Malcolm, the aspiring architect. Willem, the aspiring actor. And Jude, the aspiring lawyer. All of them have their own problems, but uncertainty and a strong desire to succeed against the odds bind them all together.
After a while, though, it becomes clear that three of the characters are actually satellite characters: the focus eventually settles on Jude. Oh, Jude. What can I say about Jude? He is probably the most broken character I have ever come across in fiction. His low self-esteem and sense of self-worth are heart-breaking. His self-harming is graphic and disturbing. For a while, the author holds his past above our heads, hinting at it periodically, begging the question: "What the hell happened to this man to make him think like this, make him act like this?"
I almost wish I didn't learn the answer.
This book is full of child abuse, physical abuse, torture, rape, and graphic depictions of self-harm. At one point, for example, Jude actually sets part of his skin on fire. He's been raped so many times, by so many men, that he actually has some STDs that don't seem to be going away (HIV?), and the physical torture he experienced damaged his legs permanently and later results in amputation. I was at the part where, as a middle-aged man, he's in the hospital from a bone infection, and is making the choice about whether to keep his legs or have them surgically removed. That was when I started feeling light-headed and had to stop reading.
The writing in this book is amazing, and all of the characterization is brilliantly done. I especially loved the relationships between the characters, and how they interacted because it all felt so real. Too real, sometimes, in the horrible instances. And while I loved the relationship between Willem and Jude, and how it showcased the way that sexuality and attraction really are far more fluid than most people give them credit for, I hated, hated how Jude treated Willem. Even though I understood why, it still broke my heart, and I even hated the author a bit for making me hate Jude, especially in light of everything he'd gone through. This is probably the mark of a brilliant writer, but at the same time, it was a miserable experience for me, and resulted in me putting the book down to think things over.
The problem with A LITTLE LIFE is that it's just so horrible and so emotionally wrenching that it almost becomes unpalatable. It's like misery porn. The suffering seemed, to me, to be so needlessly gratuitous that I really didn't see the point, except to make us halt in our tracks and say, "Oh, Jude, that poor man. There but for the grace of God go we." Which is horrible. It's horrible seeing a person reduced to all the horrible events that have happened in their lives, but that's basically what Jude was. He didn't evolve much; he was reduced to a tragedy, which he lived out over and over and over.
I get why A LITTLE LIFE is receiving so much praise and acclaim. My friend listed Hanya Yanagihara in her book in her list of the most influential people in publishing in 2015, and it's obvious why. This is an epic, an incredible character study. But it's also depressing as fuck, and it was making me feel terrible, so I'm going to put it down and back away now.
When I read the blurb for this book, I rolled my eyes. It sounds like 90% of other new adult plot syn ♥ || Twitter || ♥ || Facebook || ♥ || Instagram || ♥
When I read the blurb for this book, I rolled my eyes. It sounds like 90% of other new adult plot synopses out there: "bad boy falls for good girl! people don't like it! oh noez!" I forget why I applied for AGAINST THE WALL on Netgalley. I *think* it was because I'd just read a slew of good new adult books and was feeling perversely optimistic. How else to explain the 20+ NA titles on my e-reader? Well, maybe the joke was on me, because AGAINST THE WALL was actually really good.
Eric Hernandez went to prison after killing someone from a rival gang. After getting out on parole, he finds that it's really difficult to continue on with life post-incarceration. He ends up living with Noah, the cop brother of the girl he used to love, who grudgingly pulls some strings to get him a job at a tattoo parlor.
Meghan Young is the daughter of an oppressive preacher. She and her brother moved out, and she feels relief about that, but her life's still a mess. She's dating an abusive asshole named Chip & her feelings are all tied up in knots about Eric. He was the first guy she slept with, and he let her think that she was just another notch in his bedpost for the last 3 years.
I really liked the sexual tension between Meghan and Eric. They do end up having unprotected sex at some point, but Meghan's reaction was more, "Oh no, we were so stupid!" rather than "Oh boy, that was even hotter than the safe kind!" I thought she handled it responsibly. I also really liked the other women in this story. Eric does toy with this other girl, Noemi, but he ends up taking responsibility in the end, and for a side character with only a couple appearances, I thought she had a lot of depth. And I loved, loved, loved Kelsea's character. Like Meghan, she's a student at the college, but she's an activist, and organizes slut walks (which were done really well in this book). I liked how social media was used in this book; it made everything feel very current and realistic.
Eric's life in the tattoo parlor was fascinating. I liked Matthew and Tank and Gina, and all the other artists. I liked the kids he worked with on the mural. I liked that his art really was a passion, and not just some contrived character twist to make him seem more sympathetic than he really was. Sorenson did not shrink away from the fact that Eric had done bad things, and I thought it was really interesting how she pointed out how similar Chip and Eric were in many ways. Both were rough men who frequently sank to violence; the only differences between them were intent and consent.
Eric and Meghan actually end up getting pushed together because of the slut walk. Kelsea's dad, Matthew, orders him to act as a bodyguard of sorts, to keep watch over the girls and make sure that they don't get hurt by some of the nasty creeps who stalk their slut walk campaign (4chan is actually mentioned in this book!). When the violence and antagonism against them escalates, Eric finds himself inextricably involved, fighting between his desire for her and the knowledge that he should let sleeping dogs lie rather than enmesh her in his old gang rivalries.
I think my one qualm is that we never really find out who was stalking Meghan and Kelsea and sending them all those threatening messages...unless it was the same man who ends up briefly kidnapping Meghan towards the end? Was that what was happening here? It wasn't clear. Since it made up a fairly large chunk of the plot, I would have appreciated more closure.
But yes, overall, AGAINST THE WALL is a very well written contribution to the new adult library. The characters are complex, Mexican culture is portrayed in a way that doesn't smack of appropriation (she mentions the myth of the two volcanoes! I loved that myth!), the sex scenes are hot and well written, and I felt like unprotected sex was actually dealt with responsibly for once. Plus, there's the additional bonuses of a great supporting cast and positive female friendships.
I'm not going to lie: a huge reason I wanted to read DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE was because of the interview Holly gave with Buzzfeed News. She seemed coherent and logical, and I thought she had some interesting views on feminism and sexuality. Plus, I've always been curious what drives women to want to be Playboy bunnies, or to be a part of the male-centered culture that surrounds it, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to see that side of the tale, as well. This book, I hoped, would be a more in-depth look at some of the ideas she hinted at in the interview.
I was especially impressed by the prologue of her memoir:
Around the turn of the millennium, it became fashionable for women to appear stupid--to get by solely on their looks and to be concerned only with fame and materialism. Some of the effects of that moment in the zeitgeist still linger today (8).
A Playboy bunny who knows the word 'zeitgeist'? That certainly throws a wrench in the stereotype of all Playmates being dumb blondes. I was actually in high school when this standard of beauty was in full swing, and let me tell you: as a pale, brunette, nerdy girl who was unwilling (or more likely, unable in my case) to hide the fact that she was interested in nerdy things, this was social death. I went through a period at that time where I would only wear loose clothes or men's clothes because anything tight, I felt, would give people a better way to judge me and my body. I'd wear sweatshirts in the summer to hide my arms and my chest, even when the temperature reached 90+ degrees. I found it infuriating that most boys at that time, when asked, thought intelligence was a bad thing, and were under the belief that glasses made a girl ugly-looking. The blonde and busty stereotype was a physical manifestation of everything that I knew I would never be, and I think a lot of women like me felt that way--and still feel like way. In fact, I think this is part of the reason slut-shaming is so rampant in YA novels; I think women in my age group are still reliving this sense of inadequacy, so they create a "straw man" version of the girls who taunted and tormented them (either implicitly or explicitly) with their perfect bodies in high school, giving them a very stigmatic flaw: sluttiness.
Madison talks about how her fascination with Playboy stemmed from a very young age. She was fascinated by Golden Age Hollywood and pin-up culture, and especially Marilyn Monroe, and to her the life of a Playboy Playmate meant riding this same line between sensational and scandalous. She also talks about being poor and on the verge of being homeless. She wanted to be an actress, and thought for some reason that the best way to go about doing this was to become one of Hugh Hefner's Playmates, so she sought out opportunities to become involved with Playboy with relentless zeal. The way she writes, Holly makes it seem like becoming one of Hugh Hefner's girlfriends was inevitable.
At first, it seems like paradise. She gets to live in a mansion. She has a budget for clothes and makeup. Hugh is willing to foot the bill for any cosmetic enhancements (she ends up taking him up on this and getting a nose job; she paid for her boob job herself). She gets to go to parties and hobnob with celebrities. Clubbing is a weekly event (also footed by Hugh). And according to the other girls, she doesn't even have to sleep with him! It's a party girl's dream...NOT!
According to Holly, not having to sleep with Hugh was a big fat lie. She claims that he would have these big orgies with all the girls, sometimes plying them with the Quaaludes he so charmingly called "thigh openers." She does not go into sexually explicit detail, but implies that the act is so unpleasant that many of the women would try to lure new women into the house for the sole reason of giving Hugh another choice of partner besides themselves. She also notes, several times, that she's surprised a man of Hugh's stature and wealth would go for such trashy women. She comments on the cheapness of the clothing he has them wear, the fact that the necklaces he gave them had cubic zirconia instead of diamonds (and were handed out like candy, apparently), and later on, notes that he doesn't even own the mansion he lives in; instead, he rents out the rooms he uses, cramming the girls together in rooms like sardines in an apparent attempt to save money (Holly slept in his walk in closet). Also, the fighting--the non-stop fighting. These women are catty and determined.
I don't find it surprising that women who put a premium on their looks are going to be aggressive. I think you have to be, especially since in careers like this, beauty tends to have a very short shelf life. By the time you hit your late twenties in this industry, you're already considered old by many people. But for whatever reason, this comes as a surprise to Holly, who finds herself at odds with many of Hef's other girlfriends because of numerous petty jealousies. When she became Hugh's main girlfriend, some of them decided to suck up for survivalist reasons, but the hostility increased even more, and she found herself under the microscope as far as Hef's scrutinies went, getting called "old, hard, and cheap" when she decided to cut her hair in a bob and wear bright red lipstick.
By this point, I was thinking that DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE wasn't much different from countless other "tell all" memoirs written by someone who wants to give their rags to riches rise to celebrity, but also complain about how everything went wrong. I sympathized with Holly's body dysmorphia and depression, but it was like watching a horror movie, too. I wanted to shout, "Don't go in there! Just leave!" I couldn't understand why she stayed with Hugh for years, even though she knew it was making her miserable. She keeps talking about her fear of being poor and a failure, and how she was only using this position to become an actress, but that didn't make much sense. Plenty of women become actresses without being kept mistresses, and she had a family who loved her (and were completely confused and upset about her decision to do this to herself, it seemed).
The last major contribution she made to Hef's household was the reality TV show, Girls Next Door. By her account, it was heavily scripted; they were assigned roles they had to live up to, and her role, ironically, was the one who loved Hugh. She did the show with two other girls, Kendra and Bridget. Bridget became one of her BFFs, but Kendra ended up becoming yet another jealous hater in Holly's book, causing Holly to seek out work at a burlesque establishment called Peepshow.
Looking back to the prologue, it seems to be about another book entirely because DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE wasn't really a book about learning to love yourself and feminism. It was a book about using and being used and an endless line of bad choices. As soon as she leaves Hef, she ends up in a rebound relationship with a man named Criss Angel, who also treats her badly. After they break up, she seems very bitter, which is understandable. But she also feels the need to text him about how much better she is, and then acts surprised when his girlfriend tells her to cut it out. This "I'm so much better than you" mentality is also present in her satisfaction at Girls Next Door tanking once she leaves and Peepshow folding shortly after her decision to quit following her pregnancy. It's present in her glee at Peepshow's insuring her $7,000 boob job for $1,000,000 and then depersonalizing her body as a "good investment." It's present in the way that she looks down on the other women in the Playboy mansion (they're just using Hugh, I was the only one who actually cared about him in the beginning--are you kidding me? You said yourself you were doing this for an acting career). She also seems to be a habitual subtweeter, saying that she doesn't go in for drama or escalation, but then providing instances were she does just that by posting ambiguous comments in response to things that people have said that annoyed her. I felt like this exchange with Kendra, for example, is especially telling:
K: Girl, I don't have a problem with you. I just don't like it when people think we are friends.
H: Do you even have a clue how rude that sounds, what you just said?
K: WHO ARE YOU????? I DON'T EVEN KNOW YOU! WE WERE NEVER FRIENDS. IT WAS ALL JUST WORK!
H: Wow, I'm sorry I was stupid enough to think we were really friends. Have a nice life (279).
Wow, passive-aggressive, much?
The book literally ends with her getting married and having a baby. Her new husband is awesome and giving birth was fun. Yes. Fun. "Anyone who's pushed out a baby will hate me for saying this, but I actually enjoyed giving birth. I chose to have an epidural and the entire delivery took only two hours" (285). She then makes the questionable decision to name her child "Rainbow Aurora", which kind of makes her sound like she's a lost member of the My Little Pony tribe. At the end of the book she makes a last-ditch effort to circle back around to her original prologue, saying that having babies and marriage isn't for everyone and you should learn to love yourself before starting a family, but I really wasn't convinced that Holly managed to do just that. I think she was really scarred by her experiences and this memoir came off, to me, as a really bitter reflection of that. The constant oneupsmanship and self-congratulatory tone, mired in seeming dislike of pretty much everyone else who wasn't Bridget, really made this a difficult read. It seemed like this was written more out of a desire to have the last word than it was to spread any sort of message about feminism or self-love.
As far as gossipy memoirs go, it was fairly entertaining, and I do think it serves as a cautionary tale if that's what she was intending. However, DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE lacks depth, and I think it sends a lot of mixed messages about what it means to be a confident woman. If she had kept more in line with the tone she presented in her Buzzfeed interview, this could have been a much better read, but instead I think she went the more cathartic but ultimately detrimental route. Too bad.
Remember how well Prohibition went? Really well, right? It totally got rid of alcohol and in no way c ♥ || Twitter || ♥ || Facebook || ♥ || Instagram || ♥
Remember how well Prohibition went? Really well, right? It totally got rid of alcohol and in no way caused the mafia to seize power and cash in the absence of legal competition? Yeah, that's pretty much how the War on Drugs is affecting multiple global economies. So, um, go us. We fucked up and created a 400 billion dollar empire for crime. *waves tiny U.S. flag* AMURRICA.
I applied for GANGSTER WARLORDS on Netgalley because I actually have a work in progress that's about the mafia, and since I know absolutely nothing about drugs or crime or how an actual mafia works, I thought this might be a good book to research that. Plus, I'm an inherently curious individual. I like knowing how things work, and why, because I think it's important to know what's going on in the big wide world around us.
Grillo really does his research. He does not shirk from going to some of the most dangerous places in the world, and interviewing some of the most dangerous men in the world. He actually sits down and talks with some of these gang members, and they actually tell him their stories. I have to say, that takes guts.
And speaking of guts, there are a lot of literal guts in here. Some of the people mentioned in this book are not nice. One woman refused to smuggle cocaine and got raped and then shot in the vagina. One of the gangs in this book has a hazing ceremony where they chop up their (human) kills and eat them. There are prisons where people are hacked apart with chainsaws, governments that are in cahoots with crime lords, and innocent victims who just...disappear. Into a barrel. Full of acid.
With books like these, I think "enjoy" is the wrong word. It's painful, honestly, to hear about situations like this--many of which were a first time thing for me. As independent nations, we're so focused on our domestic problems that we tend to ignore what's going on with our neighbors. But the drug problem is an international problem with no quick fix & that's really tedious to read about...
Most of my friends fell firmly into one of two camps: they either really hated CAPTIVE IN THE DARK, o ♥ || Twitter || ♥ || Facebook || ♥ || Instagram || ♥
Most of my friends fell firmly into one of two camps: they either really hated CAPTIVE IN THE DARK, or they loved it. It's a bizarre story, and quite dark. Caleb was sexually and physically abused as a young boy. Now, as a grown man, he's joined the ranks of the abusers himself, participating in the sex trade in order to get revenge. His plan is to kidnap a young American virgin, break her, and then sell her in order to get close to the man he wants to kill.
It's the All-American Love Story...not.
I actually don't mind reading about dub-con and non-con if it is written well and isn't romanticized. CAPTIVE IN THE DARK is fairly well written for an independently published book, although it does feature some awkward syntax I wouldn't use myself, and at one point the author uses "waive" when they should have used "wave", so this may be damning with faint praise.
I don't think Caleb was portrayed particularly well. Even though this book isn't being marketed as a romance, it does follow the arc of a romantic story line. I felt that his backstory was a cheap attempt to garner pity for him without doing any of the legwork. I also felt that all the other men in this story--the bloodythirsty assassins, the hick rapists--were written with the attempt of making Caleb look more attractive by comparison. I'm sorry, but when a man kidnaps a woman, anally rapes her, and finds her tears sexually arousing, he is not allowed to be a romantic hero. Not a traditional one, anyway, and not without one hell of a motherfucking redemption arc (or some serious depravity on the heroine's part).
I also didn't like how quickly Olivia gave in, or how so much of the focus on her giving in was submitting sexually. Capitulation is not the same as affection; it's about survival. I also found it disturbing how this book, like so many others, took the "he's attractive, so it's okay" approach. Good looks do not absolve you from depraved, sociopathic actions. In fact, you could argue that manipulating people into doing horrible things with your looks actually makes you worse. When she did fight, she resorted to petty, childish insults. I get that she was supposed to be quite young (eighteen I think) and scared, but I would have liked to have seen a character who was more resourceful or resilient, because that would have been more interesting to read about.
Despite my reservations, I quite liked the story until the second half, when Olivia escapes. Then everything goes to shit. I didn't like any of the new characters introduced, nor did I like how the storyline essentially became dependent on revealing as many twists as possible. The happily for now ending had me rolling my eyes, because, oh, look, I guess this is a romance, after all.
This captive erotica was a bust for me. I've now read this, and COMFORT FOOD, and so far I don't really get the hype. I did hear HER MASTER'S COURTESAN is better, so I may try that next.
Surprisingly, I haven't read a lot of these captive erotica novels before, although they were very popular in the wake of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY's success. For a while, it seemed as though everyone was competing to see who could write the most twisted and dysfunctional relationship.
COMFORT FOOD is about self-help guru Emily Vargas. She wakes up after being drugged, finding herself blindfolded and tied up in a cell. Her captor knows how much human contact plays a part in her life and psyche, and withholds that, using as leverage to ensure her compliance and her submission.
Emily gives in pretty quickly, which I suppose makes sense from a survivalist standpoint, but I personally like seeing female characters with more backbone. This apologist mindset makes her POV very tedious, because we get a lot of lines like these: "He was a beautiful monster." "I leaned into his touch, hating myself." "I hated him, but I wanted his approval, more than anything." I'm paraphrasing here, but there are many, many lines in the book that are very similar to these, and they happen a lot earlier than you would expect, & she only makes a few token efforts at escape and resistance.
The sex scenes themselves are mostly written in third person. The first time this happened, I found it incredibly jarring, since it was an abrupt change from Emily's first-person narrative. Then I realized that this was probably an attempt on the author's part to show how Emily dissociated from the sex and her desire for it, because of how it eroded at her sense of autonomy and agency. Cognitive dissonance, yo. Michelle Knight did something similar in her memoir of being taken captive, where she referred to her captor and abuser as "The Dude."
If you're reading this book to be titillated, don't. The sex is not erotic at all (and I don't really think it's intended to be), and the third-person shifts make it seem depersonalized and clinical. Also, and this is just a personal preference here, I just don't find anal sex fun to read about. The way it's written, it always seems gross and weird and painful. The moment the words "burning" and "ripping" appear in conjunction with a sexual act, I'm done. That's all. Just, nope. A thousand times, nope.
The best part of this book was probably the journal written from her captor's point of view. It was surprisingly compelling, and kind of reminded me of John Fowles's book, THE COLLECTOR. One of the problems I have with dark erotica is authors trying to make the bad guys sympathetic by making them victims of abuse themselves. I think this is a very cheap and manipulative way to attempt to garner sympathy for one's characters. Yes, some victims of abuse grow up to become abusers themselves, but that's not the only reason people abuse. I thought Thomas did a good job making this abuser human without trying to apologize for him. He was completely unrepentant.
COMFORT FOOD wasn't as bad as I'd feared, but it wasn't as good as I'd hoped. It falls into that odd part of book limbo where you find yourself with something that you know could have been good, but didn't particularly like, either. I'm incredibly grateful to my friend HJ for lending this book to me to read on Kindle, and I'm only sorry that I didn't enjoy it as much as she did. I have to say that it sure was great to finally read the book that everyone else was telling me about, though! Thanks!