TRASH is one of the most disturbing memoirs in a while, and is a perfect example of how reading memoirs -- especially personal ones -- can sometimes feel voyeuristic. One Goodreads user, whose name I cannot remember at the moment sadly, refers to these types of books as "misery memoirs." They are memoirs of abuse or squalor, and the sole purpose of the books seems to be to shock (even if that isn't the actual purpose). In TRASH, Britney Fuller describes what her life was like living with a semi-abusive hoarder.
Having finished the book, all I can say is: holy fucking shit.
The hoarding that went on in the Fuller household is truly disgusting. What makes it even more disgusting is that Britney's mother was a chef -- considering her mother's personal habits, she shouldn't have been allowed anywhere near food being prepared for the public's consumption.
What, exactly, happened in this book? Welllllll...
Britney's mother was obese and had a lot of sores from the unsanitary conditions of the house. She got naked the moment she got home from work and sat around and wandered around in the nude. Even when she was on her period (and no, she didn't use pads or tampons). When Britney was "bad", Britney's mother made her scrub her period blood from the floor and the bathroom.
Britney's mother also didn't feel the need to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. She would pee her bed, rather than get up. She did this so often that the sheets were soaked with urine every day, which she then made her daughter wash. Her mattress actually had an indent from all the peeing. When Britney fractured her hip at one point, the pee-divot was deep enough that when Britney lay on her mother's bed, it actually elevated her leg. (Shudder.)
Rats and mice lived in the house, and also birds at one point. There was so much mold that Britney had bacterial bronchitis six times while living with her mother, coughing up bloody phlegm and actually throwing up and passing out several times.
Britney's mother also filled her car with trash. She volunteered at a church, and fed the kids in the church snacks which she kept in this same car. Ew! At one point, Britney has to borrow the car for work, and cleans it out with the help of her boyfriend. They find rotting food and fruit flies that have been living in the car for so long, in the darkness, that they have become albino. (Fruit flies have short lifespans and breed quickly, so genetic mutations so up quickly, making them ideal for study.)
It was Britney's job to clean up after her mother, and if she didn't do a satisfactory job, she was punished. I think her mother had a lot of issues that weren't really touched upon in this book. I would guess she had OCD (hoarding is a type of OCD -- it's also the hardest variety to treat), and at least one type of mood disorder, just based on the symptoms, but it's hard to tell because this is only Britney's side of the story and she's obviously (and understandably) not unbiased.
I devoured this book in just under a day. Britney's life was so awful that it was like a train wreck, I couldn't look away -- I had to find out what was going to happen next, and how she was going to get out of this mess (would she get out of this mess?). The squalor was awful, and so was her mother's abuse, but Britney was also having a lot of trouble fitting in at school, and as someone who was bullied, I could really relate to her sense of loneliness and isolation.
One thing that did upset me was how much pressure Britney put on her boyfriend, Adam. She decided that he was going to be her knight in shining armor, to the point where she wouldn't let him go to Utah to pursue his dreams because it was his job to spirit her away from her mother. They had a big fight, with Britney pressuring him to call off his trip and stay with her. I hate to say it, but this really made me angry. Considering how fucked up her family was, it's pretty amazing that Adam didn't just turn and run. Boxing him into a corner like that seemed really wrong. I mean, I get that she was desperate and didn't have a lot of options, and I can't even put myself into her shoes and imagine what it would be like to be afraid to come home, but I could understand what it would be like to have someone decide that you're meant to be their saving grace (because this has happened to me), and I just cringed all over. Because love cannot be one's salvation, contrary to what the new adult books these days would have you believe. Only you can fix your problems. Sometimes you need the help of others, but you have to take the initiative to get the help, however possible. Other people can't make you feel whole if you're broken inside, and using love -- or attraction -- as a cure is tantamount to sticking a broken vase back together with Scotch tape.
Apart with this one issue, I really enjoyed this book. Well...enjoyed is probably the wrong word. I found this book fascinating. Even if it was a misery memoir, and even if my main reaction after reading it was, "Thank God I don't have to put up with this shit -- literally!" (No, seriously, literally.)
A year ago, I was approved for HYPERBOLE AND A HALF on Netgalley. It was one of the best, most honest memoirs that I have ever read. There was so much I could relate to. Allie Brosh has such a raw and honest style of writing, made better by her simple yet hilarious cartoons, and to this date, I think that her famous depression comic is the most accurate portrayal of the disorder.
When I saw Bruce Kaplan's memoir, I WAS A CHILD, on Netgalley, almost a year later, my first thought was, "Oh, here it comes, the copycats begin." Because I WAS A CHILD looked like a blatant attempt to piggyback on the success of Allie Brosh's memoir. But sometimes I have been pleasantly surprised by books, and HYPERBOLE was so good that I was left in a book funk for a while after finishing it, so I read this with hope.
I WAS A CHILD was a terrible book. The cover is misleading; it makes you think that this is going to be a graphic novel. It isn't. Kaplan opens each section with a few sentences and then has one doodle accompanying it. The doodles are about as elaborate as what you would see in a Shel Silverstein poem except considerably less charming and detailed. I really didn't care for them.
Kaplan's memoir itself reads like a guy on a first date trying to make his mundane and trivial life sound epic and interesting. He's eloquent, I guess, but that's the only thing he has going for him. Towards the end, when Kaplan writes about growing up in the fifties, the memoir gets a little better, but I wasn't won over. Even at the end, when he talks about his parents both succumbing to cancer, Kaplan sounded so detached. Maybe that was grief, but even so, he wasn't someone I could relate to. Everything about this just seemed so calculated and impersonal.
Plus, I hate to say it, but he seems like a strange and not very nice person.
Here are some quotes:
We had a hamster who we named Hampy. One day, she somehow gave birth to baby hamsters and we clamored around her tank, looking at them. Then we watched in horror as Hampy ate all her babies. My mother told us it was because we scared Hampy.
I felt we were too much for Hampy, just as we were too much for her (20).
That is literally the exact same thing, only restated. I think he meant to say, "just as she was too much for us."
Everything in our house was repaired with Scotch tape. If a paint chip was coming off, it was taped down. If there was a tear in the lamp shade, a piece of tape was put on it.I felt held together by Scotch tape, and still do (33).
Oh, please. What is this, 2005? Go listen to some Smile Empty Soul.
I loved crawlspaces under people's houses, and still do. I wish I could crawl under your house right now (96).
That's very creepy.
I just read this quote to my dad, and he said, "We have a slab. Good luck with that."
There was an annual school fair at Tuscan. Every year, I won a goldfish. It was always very exciting to carry it home in its bag and then very sad when you flushed it down the toilet a few weeks later (156).
How many times do you have to kill something before you realize you're not fit to take care of it?
I tend to be leery of women's fiction. They always seem to be marketed as the book equivalent of Lifetime movies. In Megan Hart's case, this is a pretty apt comparison -- there is nothing particularly intellectually stimulating about Hart's books; they are the literary equivalent of snarfing down a bag of chocolates. Unlike 99.9% of the crap out there, however, Megan Hart is actually a good writer. I received a copy of one of her newer books, FLYING, from Netgalley, and quite enjoyed it! The character depth and cracktastic storyline made a very tired cliche exciting. When another Megan Hart book appeared on Netgalley, I applied for it immediately. Surely, this one would be even better!
Now, I understood from the get-go that the books were going to be totally different in tone. FLYING was erotica with drama. LOVELY WILD is -- *shudder* -- women's fiction; fiction with pseudo-literary aspirations, but too chick-litty to be mainstream, basically. Think Jodi Picoult on her period.
LOVELY WILD is about the Calder family. Ryan is a psychologist. Mari is a stay-at-home mom. They have two children, Kendra and Ethan. Just your typical, run-of-the-mill perfect family. Except not really. Because Mari was a feral child who suffered extreme abuse and neglect; for a while, she couldn't even speak, and she fought dogs for food. Calder's father adopted Mari into his household, which made it really awk when he and Mari started hooking up. Calder's (now-ex)-wife never forgave Mari for tearing the family apart, and thinks there's something ungodly about hooking up with your step-sister-slash-father's-patient, and on this, I think that she is probably not wrong.
Anyway, lots of unethical things happen in this book. Because Ryan sleeps with one of his patients, and then she commits suicide. Now he's facing a huge malpractice suit, and will probably lose his license. But it's okay, because he has an idea of how to make big bucks -- by selling his wife's story without her knowledge. Ryan thinks that this is totally okay, because silence, to him, is the same thing as tacit agreement, even if he fails to enlighten her on the subject. And while he does tell her that he's facing a malpractice suit and money is tight, he doesn't bother educating her on the severity of their financial situation, nor does he tell her that he's losing his job because he couldn't keep his ween in his pants. Ryan also takes money from his wife's accounts (ladies, this is why you shouldn't tell the hubs your pin) because he figures she'd totally be cool with it, after all, what is money?
I spent 90% of the book wanting something terrible to happen to Ryan. He is a terrible excuse for a human being and I don't really understand why the author made him so horrible, because he doesn't suffer any real consequences for his actions. I mean, Good God! When he buys and then moves the family into the house where his wife was abused as a child, he is surprised and annoyed when his wife starts suffering trigger attacks. No wonder the yutz is losing his medical license. FFS.
There is a mystery about Mari's origins, and it's a total mindfuck...sort of. The thing is, it takes so long to get to the grand reveal that I'm not entirely sure that it's worth it. Most of the book is Ryan being a douche, Mari hoarding and eating Hostess snack cakes, Kendra having teen drama, and constant hinting on Megan Hart's part that Something is going to happen Soon...but she never really shows when it's going to happen. I don't really like the carrot and the stick trick. It seems cheap.
The feral child angle really made this book unique. I learned about feral children in my developmental psychology classes (Jeannie is the most famous, I think. There's also the boy who was raised as a dog, and the wild boy of Aveyron). It's fascinating and terrible what happens when the normal process of psychological development in children is disrupted by a lack of nuturance. Hart obviously did her research because this part of the book could have been extremely painful, but I thought it was executed rather well.
Ironically, it's the emotional stuff and the relationships that really made me dislike LOVELY WILD. I didn't care for Mari, or her kids, or Ryan. I mean, I despised Ryan, but Mari annoyed me enough in her own way that I found it hard to feel sorry for her, she just wasn't an empathetic character. The ending was pretty anticlimactic, too. So after all that, you're just going to pretend to be Joe Normal? Really? That doesn't seem like a very realistic reaction to what they learned about their family...
THE SHORT SECOND LIFE OF BREE TANNER is an imperfect book. Bree is not a compelling character. She is a device employed by the author to shed more light on the established canon characters, in the guise of new material.
Bree was introduced briefly at the end of ECLIPSE. After the big vampire/werewolf/evil vampire battle, one of Victoria's vampires surrendered and the Cullens briefly entertained the idea of taking her under their wing, and introducing her to their ways.
But then the Volturi came along, and did their rule enforcement thing, and killed the vampire. And that vampire was Bree.
In TSSLoBT, Meyer gives Bree her own book. Well, novella. Basically, Bree is in vampire boot camp, with Riley being as vague as possible, lying to the vampire trainees about everything under the sun (including the sun itself). Bree suspects that Riley is maybe not as shit-free as he claims, but as a fledgling she's pretty dependent on him, and it's a little terrifying to think that your maker might have Sinister Plans for you. Bree also has a sort-of romance with co-trainee-vampire, Diego. Their romance is poorly done and one of the worse parts of the book. BFFs, are you serious? Their banter was painful.
The best part of the book is probably the last thirty pages, which makes me think that this would have worked better as a thirty-page short story that she could have put up for free on her website or something, instead of bloating it out, and trying to make a(n ill-fated) love story out of it.
THE SHORT SECOND LIFE OF BREE TANNER, as others have said, really highlights a lot of the issues with the TWILIGHTverse world-building.
For example, vampires apparently sparkle because the sun reflects off their skin. (But why?)
Vampires have venom instead of blood/saliva/semen. (But then how are babies made?)
Vampire gifts are really rare -- 1/50. Since there are seven Cullens, plus Bella, the probability of them all having special talents is 1/50 x 1/50 x 1/50 x 1/50 x 1/50 x 1/50 x 1/50 (+ Bella = x 1/50).
Do you know what the possibility of that is?
One in seven-hundred and eighty-one billion, two-hundred and fifty million.
Talk about your special snowflakes.
I also found it weird, how vampire "taste" is explained. So Bree and co. feed off "dregs", which are basically prostitutes, pimps, and the homeless (or teen runaways). Apparently, they are all on drugs, so humans who don't do drugs taste better. Which I guess would make sense. But then, Bella apparently smells excellent to all the vampires, which puzzled me. Does that mean that there's something else added to the mix? Because I thought she was supposed to be irresistible only to Edward. What makes her smell so sweet? Is it the fact that she's a virgin? But surely there would be some virgin teenage runaways who don't do drugs.... It's all very confusing, and really says a lot about how Meyer views the lower classes (drug-addled sluts, clearly).
It was weird in general reading a Stephenie Meyer book that was under 500 pages. I actually like her style of writing, and it was nice to revisit the book series. It's sad that she doesn't write anymore. Maybe she's happy she no longer needs to. Maybe she's pissed off that people keep publishing (and cashing in on) fanfiction based on her work -- I know I would find that upsetting, as well.
Overall, THE SHORT SECOND LIFE was a disappointment. Definitely one of her worst books (although a sight better than the monstrosity that was BREAKING DAWN). It passed the evening, and now I think I'll pass the buck (I mean book) along to my sister. See what she thinks.
I would call myself a girl gamer, but I'm afraid I'm pretty stereotypical -- I like the cutesy sim and platformer games. Harvest Moon, Animal Crossing, the Mario games, Yoshi Story, Chibi Robo, Pokemon...these are all games I own and love. I suspect a lot of people would probably laugh and sneer and say, "Of course, typical girl games." But whatevs. They're cute, and fun, and I like them. I like more "male"-targeted games, too, like shooter games, RPGs, and I'm just getting into the Zelda (fucking Ocarina, y u so hard?!) series, but sims and cutesy platformers have always been my favorites.
I stopped buying handheld consoles with the Gameboy Color, so I'm pretty limited in terms of the games I own. But I've been thinking about getting a DS for a couple years now, and THE ART OF 5TH CELL has given me a push in that direction. The games it features--Drawn to Life, and, of course, Scribblenauts--look right up my alley.
I like behind the scenes concepts, and the artist has a really great voice when he discusses his art and the process behind his work. He doesn't come across as pretentious at all; instead, he seems like a really cool, geeky guy who loves what he does and is lucky enough to be able to do it for a living. His art is great, and quite versatile, and a couple endearing typos on his blueprints (like 'guages' instead of 'gauges') made me warm to him that much more.
It's kind of surprising, the different kinds of games 5th Cell put out. For example, there's a phone game called Run Roo Run that looks an awful lot like Angry Birds. Then there's a first-person shooter game with futuristic guys in space suits and high-tech guns called Hybrid. And then there's the puzzle adventure games, DtL and Scribble, and, lastly, the RPG with anime-style characters, Lock's Quest (I'm getting a steampunk Tales of Symphonia vibe).
THE ART OF 5TH CELL works well as a standalone. Even if you haven't played any of the games, the art is still pretty impressive. I never really thought about the backgrounds of a game, but they do add a lot to the atmosphere of a game (and a level) and often go ignored. It's interesting to see the schematics behind what often goes unappreciated in game design. It's also a commercial success, in my opinion. THE ART OF 5TH CELL is basically a 168-page advert for 5th Cell's games, featuring a sneak peek of up-and-coming games by the company at the very end. It's fluff, but fun, and would make a great addition to any gamer's coffee table. And on that note, my thumb is starting to itch for an A-button to press.
Yuki is pretty much the epitome of the Japanese schoolgirl stereotype -- tiny and petite, pretty and popular, and a little too free with her emotions. When she's not being groped by perverts and filmed by other perverts (who later turn out to be love interests), she's caring for people and filling her eyes up with earnest tears.
There's a bit of a love triangle. Chiba, her best friend, is in love with her, and so is Matsubara, the creeper she befriends on the train who video-records her with his phone. (Later, he claims that he did it because he wanted to get to know her better. Uh-huh...)
The thing about Matsubara is that he might also be Spirit, a serial-killer wannabe who slaughters cats (the bastard!) and biology lab frogs that are slated for dissection (why?). The killings are eerily similar to another set that happened seven years ago, culminating in the death of a boy named Tsuji. (I just tried to spell culminating with a 'K.') Is it the same person? Or a copycat? Is Matsubara a killer as well as a lonely pervert?
DUN, DUN, DUN.
I haven't been on Netgalley in a while, so GOOD-BYE GEIST was my first foray back into internet crackdom. As far as hits go, it gave me a non-existent buzz. Don't get me wrong; as an indie author myself, I can really appreciate attempts to showcase indie work, and that's what Gen Manga does. They publish indie manga (doujinshi) that isn't available anywhere else, translate it, and then publish it directly to the masses without the use of an intermediary. It's a great idea, and I've read some pretty interesting work from them. Artists struggle even more than writers, because the effort put into their creative output really exceeds the pay-off, unless you are both extremely talented and lucky.
But GOOD-BYE GEIST was a miss for me. The cat deaths really put me off. I love cats, and Yukiko, one of the victim cats, looked a lot like my own pet cat, Yang. And like Yukiko, Yang was also abused and has trust issues, so the whole time Yukiko was in the plot, I was thinking about my poor itty bitty kitty, and, well... I WAS NOT HAPPY, OKAY?
The use of "sexual violation" for titillation was a bit trashy and circumspect, too. And I feel like "sexual violation" is a bit...sensationalist for what actually happens. It suggests sexual violence, when all that happened (unless I missed something) was a grope. (Although the groper does at one point shove an umbrella under her skirt, and into her panties--so maybe that's what they were referring to? I don't think it's actually shown in the panels, but the characters were discussing it at one point and I was like, DA FUQ.) There doesn't seem to be much point to it either, except to provide a way for Matsubara to take an interest in Yuki, which isn't cool. I don't really like the two-opposite-sexed-characters-meet-and-bond-over-thrwarted-sexual-abuse trope. It suggests (to me) that women need men to help save them from being raped... which is a disturbing message to send.
Another thing that annoyed me was the fact that the identity of Spirit is never revealed. There's a flashback at the end that is maybe supposed to provide background to the mystery, but if the killer was revealed, I never figured it out. (I was kind of suspecting Yuki or Chiba, but hey, your guess is as good as mine.) That lack of closure was irritating. I feel like making it through a book entitles you to something. Leaving the reader hanging, that's just bad manners. And that's the problem with this book: GOOD-BYE GEIST is too nebulous, and uses violence and sex to keep the reader turning the pages.
First off: I am not dead. I am just working about 40-50 hours a week. I haven't been reading or writing, and life is just really stressful right now. Really stressful.
Disclaimer: I have never found the 60s inspirational, nostalgic, or fascinating. I think hippies are stupid. I think 60s music is overhyped, discordant, and, for the most part, terrible. And, with very few exceptions, I am not a fan of the art. Andy Warhol is (sort of) one of those exceptions. To me, though, Warhol is less a genius than the embodiment of tasteless kitsch. Like, I would happily hang a print of a Campbells soup can in my kitchen, for example, because it (to me) has a country kitchen vibe to it. But I would not pay $1,000,000 for his work. No, no, I would not.
(My favorite pop artist is actually Wesselman.)
But Andy Warhol's designs are pretty cool. They definitely have an appeal that spreads from the lowest common denominator to the self-professed highbrows. So I guess in that sense maybe he is a genius. A marketing genius. I may hate E.L. James, for example, but nobody can argue that the woman fails at being a pimp for her wares. The success of FSoG continues to baffle me--especially since it started out as fanfiction. And in that sense, she and Warhol are also similar because most of his designs were ripped from other things--brands, silk screens, photographs. He didn't even do most of his silk-screening himself.
But, like I said, he's an interesting guy. I had no idea he had so many health problems, and his homosexuality in an unforgiving era--especially with disfigurements that made him an outcast among men looking for arm candy--made him a more sympathetic figure than he otherwise might have been. So I stuck it out, hoping that I would learn something, and maybe even become touched. But I've been reading POP at work for several weeks now and about 100 pages from the end (it's a long book) I decided to call it quits.
POP is a biography of Andy Warhol but, like most biographies, it is not content to confine itself to the life of the person it is about. Rather, POP aspires to be a sweeping portrait of the zeitgeist of the late 50s to the mid-60s. At this, I have to say it fails. The tone is uneven -- sometimes it reads like a trashy gossip mag; at others, like a dry and incredibly dull history textbook.
Another thing that irritated me is the color plates in the center of the book. I was really excited to see reproductions of Mr. Warhol's art, but no. Only a few of the plates are actually of his work. Most of them are artists who were inspired by Warhol, or contemporaries of Warhol. They were very stingy with the artwork in my opinion. I don't know if that's because they couldn't get the rights to it, or if they just decided to cheap out, but it really damaged the value of this book to me, because now I can't say, "Well, the book was terrible, but at least it had great art."
It takes a lot of talent to make a book about an influential figure unreadable, so I guess in that sense the people who edited and wrote this book are geniuses as well.
A GOOD AND USEFUL HURT is a puzzling book. For starters, I can't even remember where I obtained it. I'm usually pretty good about remembering how I get my books. For example, just looking around at some of the titles in my room -- I won SUPER SAD TRUE LOVE STORY in a Goodreads giveaway. I got FOREVER AMBER at a thrift store. I bought the Saint-Germain series at a shop in San Jose, while on a trip with a friend. And I got THE EIGHT at a FoL sale after remembering how much I loved the first copy that I bought and read several years before (also at a FoL sale). But this one ... this one is a mystery. Maybe it just crawled into my room?
At first, I liked A GOOD AND USEFUL HURT. It has an indie feel to it, in the sense that the writing is a little awkward, and the MC is kind of Gary-Stu-ish -- but it's good indie, and deals with some interesting topics. If your tastes run anything like mine, you're probably bored to death of the tattoo schtick. I know I'm tired of middle-class pussy boys trying to be all, "Look at me, I'm badasss because I've got tribal tattoos and wear Axe Gold Temptation!"
No, A GOOD AND USEFUL HURT is worth reading if only because it shows that all kinds of people can get tattoos ... whether because they're into BDSM, or want to remember an important life event, or want to re-own their body after some kind of trauma or abuse. Or just because, you know, they feel like it. That's a good message to send, I think. Tattoos really aren't a Big Deal, and neither are piercings. They're only stupid if you do it to look cool or be a bad-ass, because that means you haven't thought about this decision beyond the superficial aspects. Never a good idea.
So. The message. I liked it.
Now, this review is going to contain spoilers, because a lot of the things I didn't like the book will contain plot information that will spoil the 'mystery.' Or at the very least, the suspense.
If you do not want this to happen, you shouldn't read any further.
Seriously, do not do it.
Also, this book also contains spoilers for Dean Koontz's ODD THOMAS, so if you have any vested interest in reading that series, maybe you should also back away.
Okay, so Mike, our main (slightly Stuish) character, is a tattoo artist. I think he's the mouthpiece for the author, because there's a lot of proselytizing about accepting people for who they are, especially when it comes to tattoos, and getting over racial and sexual prejudices, and just a lot of paragraphs devoted to this opining that really have nothing to do with the plot.
The plot is that there is this creepy psycho man named Phil who likes raping and dismembering and killing women (in that order). Especially if they have tattoos. There's also this plot where all these people keep coming to Mike, asking him to tattoo their dead loved ones' ashes into their bodies. Which is a little creepy, but I didn't mind that too much because it was an interesting thought, and people have done weirder things in grief. (Or even not grief. I seem to recall a certain celebrity pair who wore each other's blood around their necks in little vials.)
Meanwhile, Phil has hired a sassy new piercer named Deb who basically takes no shit. Deb kind of reminded me of this girl I knew in college. We weren't really friends, but we hung out sometimes, and she was really wild and crazy and just really happy with her life. Like, she had this persona, and you could tell that she was totally happy with it, and life was this giant adventure to her, even the bad stuff. She's the kind of person you envy, because you can't keep up with, and sometimes you call her fake because you just can't believe that anyone could really be so out there. That is Deb.
I liked Deb.
And then she died.
At first, I could not believe it. Because on the back of the book, it says, "And when the life of a serial killer tragically collides with the lives in the tattoo shop, Mike and Deb will stop at nothing in their quest of revenge..." So no way could Deb die, because the two of them are in this together.
Because it turns out that tattooing the ashes of your loved one into your skin gives you the ability to communicate with them telepathically. That's how come Mike has been getting all these weird customers. Word on the grapevine is that Mike's tattoos are magic. And his first hoodoo client, Doc, has the brilliant idea that if they collect the ashes of the serial killer's previous victims and tattoo them into Mike, they'll collect enough info to find out and get revenge upon the serial killer. Oh, and since Mike tattooed Deb's ashes into his arm, he sees Ghost Deb.
Odd Thomas, much?
Except, with Odd Thomas, there was a depth to the relationship that was tangible. When I saw the movie Odd Thomas, even though I knew what happened, even though I was emotionally prepared for what happened ... I wasn't. And when the grim reveal happens, I sobbed like a baby and went through like a whole roll of TP. Even now, I'm starting to tear up -- because it was so EMOTIONAL.
That wasn't here, partially because Deb gets so little air time, just when you're finally starting to like her and get a feel for her, she's gone -- and that was a really bad tactical move on the author's part.
And then there's how the girls get revenge on the serial killer. It is probably one of the most grizzly scenes ever. They Freddy Krueger his ass Hannibal Lecter style, and the clinical dispassion with which it is written makes the scene even more unpleasant than if it had been labored over. Especially when one of the transitions involves the main characters going HEY LET'S GET SUSHI. Yeah, that's what I want to think about. A guy getting skinned alive before having his balls chopped up and then transitioning to raw, skinless fish. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THAT IMAGE.
(At least it wasn't carpaccio?)
The last 140 pages really killed my enjoyment of the book. For a while, I was like, "Okay, this isn't perfect, but it's interesting and I like the way their relationship is progressing." And then Deb was dead, and the torture starts and I'm just like ... what was the point of this? It wasn't even satisfying ending-wise, because Mike ends up all alone at his friend's wedding, and the serial killer gets tortured to death, and the cops are just like, "Hmm, that's odd that he has strangle marks even though nobody ever touched him ... oh well!" (Hashtag -- worst cops ever.) It was a big downer, basically.
I was really hoping that this could be a small press book I could recommend in good faith to people, but alas ... nope. Even my friend who is interested in tattoos and piercings probably wouldn't like it, because of all the darkness in the book, and the lack of redemption. (I mean you could argue that Mike allowed the women to be at peace, but still. He ended up alone, and kept having all the women in his life die. How fucking depressing is that? Not something I want to be reading for fun.)
So overall, I think I'll give this book 1.5 stars.
(There was also this one chapter where the book randomly switches into first person. No idea why.)
I actually finished reading ANNABEL yesterday, but I wanted to think about the book. At the end of a long workday, I don't really have the brain power to ponder weighty topics before bed, and this book deals with an intersex (i.e. hermaphrodite) character.
Wayne was born with an ovary, a testicle, a penis, and a uterus. He is a true hermaphrodite, and his state at birth shocks everyone. Because of the length of his penis, he qualifies as being able to be raised as a boy, which is what his father, Treadway, wants. His mother, Jacinta, wants Wayne to grow up intact, but Treadway insists on his way, so Wayne's vagina is sewed up, his penis is lengthened, he is given pills to take, and is labeled as a boy.
But Wayne is not gender typical. He likes to build things and fish, but he also likes to sing and dance, and isn't put off by the idea of wearing makeup or girl clothes. His father doesn't approve and pushes him to be masculine, as though overcompensating for his son's perceived shortcomings. Some reviewers said he was made out to be a villain, but considering that this takes place in rural Canada with trappers and men who participate in the machismo culture that comes with it, I found his father to be surprisingly liberal. Except for one moment of cruelty, which he regretted immediately (and did not involve abuse), Treadway tried really hard to be understanding -- even though it was so clearly obvious that he didn't understand, and never would be able to understand, because Wayne's unique situation was so out of his universe. Which is why, I think, he started trying to run away from his problems: to escape.
There are a lot of triggers in this book. There is a very unpleasant scene during Wayne's entrance to puberty where his abdomen bloats, and we learn that his abdomen is filled with blood that couldn't escape because his vagina was sewed up. Apparently, he got himself pregnant, because he has both parts and they are in such close proximity to one another, and when the doctors removed the blood, they found a fetus lodged in his Fallopian tubes (ew). I kind of wish this scene hadn't been included because not only is it gross, it also has the feel of an urban legend ... and not in a good way.
Another thing that bothered me about ANNABEL is its reliance on stereotypes. For example, in elementary school, Wayne runs into a gay pedophile who likes pretty boys and comes onto him. Wayne is also raped by a group of boys who think he's too pretty, and who have heard about his various sex change operations and want to test the merchandise. These scenes were cringeworthy and even though I understand why the author included them -- because intersex and trans men and women receive far more discrimination than LGB members, and are more likely to be sexually abused (at least according to this thing I read that I can't remember) -- it was still very upsetting and detracted, rather than added, to the storyline for me.
Overall, I liked ANNABEL. I liked the idea of Wayne's shadow self. It reminded me of this nonfiction book I read, which was called THE BOY WHO WAS RAISED AS A GIRL. It features a boy with the opposite problem: a botched circumcision left him with a nub of a penis, and the doctors figured, "Oh, hey, obviously the penis makes the man (which happened in ANNABEL), so let's just raise him as a girl. He'll be fine." But the boy -- he was a boy -- wasn't fine. He didn't like dresses, and he wanted to play with boy toys and do sports. During puberty, he was attracted to girls, not boys, and the conflict between what he felt inside and what his parents and society and his doctors were telling him about his outsides, really fucked him up. He actually ended up committing suicide.
It just goes to show that we can't help how we're born. Whether we're male, female, or somewhere in between, the only one who ought to decide what label, if any, we're provided with is us. Because who knows us better than we know ourselves? I also think that in vague cases, like in this book and the one in TBWWRAAG, parents and doctors ought to wait until puberty, to see what happens when the natural hormones kick in and also to see what the child wants when they are in a position to decide for themselves.
When I fifteen, it was 2005, and people were posting serialized stories on Quizilla. Terrible, unoriginal stories about beautiful emo girls who cut their wrists and wore Converse sneakers with their prom dresses and dirty gray hoodies, and ended up sucked into some paranormal brouhaha where they immediately became the object of lust for every straight male creature for miles.
Francesa Lia Block clearly revels in that type of girl, and has never graduated from writing this kind of protagonist.
Charlotte is an especially annoying character because she's like a female Edward Cullen. She doesn't want to be a vampire. She has a house that looks like a palace, and an entire closet crammed full of designer clothes (which, considering how little she claims to appreciate them, she sure as hell spends a ton of time describing), and a perfect figure (skinny as hell with huge boobs and a great badonkadonk), and spends all her time listening to Goldfrapp, Ladytron, and Portishead.
--but she's not happy.
And why? Because she's not human. She wants to sweat, she wants to have zits, she wants to gush menses and get pregnant. She wants to be a real girl. She wants to have feelings and be in love.
And I'm just like, WUT THE FUCK IS THIS.
Charlotte (not suprisingly) has only one friend, a girl named Emily. Charlotte is friends with Emily because other girls tend to hate her when they find out how much awesome stuff she has, and how much boys enjoy ogling her perfect figure, but Emily doesn't seem to devote all that much thought to Team Envy, for which Charlotte is grateful enough to bestow the gift of friendship.
Emily was raped by one of her mom's boyfriends, and this is supposed to be the explanation for why she randomly commits suicide partway through the book. But while she's alive, Charlotte is jealous of Emily because she has a boyfriend who worships the ground she walks on, and this is what being human is about, too. Also, Emily's boyfriend, Jared, reminds Charlotte of the brother she had incestuous feelings for, and how they used to dance together and swim naked together.
You know, fun, wholesome, sibling activities.
Unfortunately, he died of the fever.
Anyway, after Emily dies, Charlotte immediately tries to put the moves on Jared, who initially tells her to fuck off. She stalks him, and catches him spraying perfume on his dead girlfriend's bra and cuddling up to it while naked. Then he tells her that he knows she was following him, and that he wanted to have sex with her the moment he saw her, and fuck Emily.
And I'm just like, WUT THE FUCK IS THIS.
Charlotte then tells him her story, about how she and the vampire who turned her, William, traveled the world--Hiroshima during the bombing (right afterwards, they have BDSM sex, very sympathetic); New York during 9/11; Woodstock during the Summer of Love; the AIDS scare during the 1980s (she talks about how beautiful the young dying men look, fuck you, Charlotte); Hollywood during the golden age, etc. etc. And is Charlotte careful to describe all her outfits in each of these passages?
OF COURSE SHE IS.
Anyway, William returns and Charlotte starts to turn human again, and oh, whoops, apparently Emily isn't dead, she's a vampire. Because Charlotte wanted to be human again and so William was all like, "Okay, let's trade," and now Emily is like, "Muahahaha I'm taking Jared back now, and oh by the way, I hated you all along bitch!" And Charlotte is like, "NO I LOVE HIM EVEN THOUGH I'VE ONLY KNOWN HIM FOR LIKE TWO WEEKS," and sics the police on them by saying, "OMG! THEY'VE GOT A BOMB!" And then Jared and Charlotte end up tentatively ever after.
And I'm just like, WUT THE FUCK IS THIS.
I have to admit that the idea of a vampire becoming human again is an intriguing idea, but the execution of this book was terrible. Charlotte had no character development. I wasn't convinced that she was anything special--she's like countless other Mary Sues, and we're supposed to identify with her less as a person than as the embodiment of our fantasized "ideal self"--because who doesn't want a closet full of designer clothes they can actually fit and everyone being jealous of you and hot guys throwing themselves at you? And then the fact that Charlotte doesn't want these things is supposed to make her a complicated, better person who transcends materialism in favor of humanity?
I CALL BULLSHIT.
A) Because materialism obviously did matter to her and
B) I hardly consider falling in love with a human selfless, especially since
C) He was her friend's boyfriend and she was barely cold in the grave before she moved in
When my friend found out I was starting a new job she sent me a cute little care package, of which this book was part. I also got some Monster High pens and a pair of crazy cat lady leggings that I absolutely canNOT wait to wear...I just have to figure out which of my dresses will go with them. :)
Anyway, this book. karen, a GR buddy of mine, as the perfect shelf for this book: creepy dolls. A lot of the dolls in this book are very creepy, which begs the question: why give an inspirational book such creepy pictures? Were the editors trying to be ironic? (Because they do give the context a morbid--even sinister--undertone.) Or just creepy-funny?
Before I got my new phone, you would have had to just take my word for it, or buy a copy of your own. But now I have a cell phone with internet(!) so I can exhibit all the evidence you need!
And when love finds you, it will come in the form of a creepy, two-headed doll.
Also, because we fuck birds.
By hollowing out your head and letting birds shit inside you.
I don't even know.
But it was an interesting book, with interesting pictures, and I'm happy to share it with you.
I blame my book club. No—actually, I AM grateful for my book club; because of them, I am forced to pick up books that I would never in a million years read on my own (so I guess they are technically to blame). And sometimes I enjoy them, which is an unexpected delight. I did not, however, enjoy THE CIRCLE. I didn't hate it—although I hated parts of it—but it was inherently readable (albeit pretentious). My feelings towards THE CIRCLE are more complex than that, and as of this paragraph, I really have no idea what I'm going to rate the book. (You'll find out when I do—at the end of this review.)
THE CIRCLE is a cross between STEPFORD WIVES, THE FIRM, and 1984. It plops a naive twenty-four-year-old post-college grad into this UBER corporation that's a monstrous blend of Google, Twitter, Amazon, and Facebook, and it seems like the answer to all of life's unpleasant foibles. The only cost is your privacy. But you know what they say about things that are too good to be true...
Recently, I just got a new phone with INTERNET! I've never had a phone with 4G before. Until my junior year of college, I had one of those flip-phones that's built like a little tank, and then I had a sliding phone that was also built like a tank (it survived a 2 1/2 story fall—don't ask). Anyway, new phone. I really needed a phone with internet because I am constantly getting messages and comments from readers, so it's nice to be able to field business-related questions when I'm out (and I'm often out). When I started adding apps, I was really surprised by how invasive some were: demanding access to my location, my camera and microphone, my full name, etc. It's like, okay, really? You need to know where I am AT ALL TIMES in order to let me post status updates? CREEPY EX-BOYFRIEND, MUCH? THE CIRCLE takes that a step further, creating a system that promises efficiency and connectivity—at the cost of NO PRIVACY WHATSOEVER. Nothing gets deleted, everything is seen.
I like the concept a lot and I think that if this book had been written by a different author, or if Eggers had fallen out of love with his own writing long enough to actually flesh out the characters he'd created, this could have been a very good book. As it stands now, THE CIRCLE has a lot of problems, the chief one being Mae. It is obvious from the way that she is written that we are supposed to find her likable (except maybe in the last third of the book—at least, I hope not); but I found her to be anything but: she was stupid and selfish, and didn't have much in the way of personality. I'll go into more detail on this later, but for now I am just going to touch briefly on some of her actions that really upset me. The way she treats her sick father is pretty repulsive: he asks her to leave when he soils himself during a stroke because he doesn't want her to see him in his sorry state and Mae promptly throws a major bitch fit about how unappreciated she is—yeah, no. She gets into this weird love triangle with two highly unsavory men (at least, I found them unsavory): one of them sneaks around and sleeps in a cave and may or may not be a corporate spy. The other is a needy, slimy scumbag who videos her giving him a handjob (without her permission, obvs); he then proceeds to upload the video to their work place's cloud storage for posterity—because information is valuable! And must be shared! Mae complains to her friend-slash-boss, Annie, who tells Mae that the Circle has a no delete policy when it comes to information because it is valuable! And must be shared! And Mae just accepts this, shrugs it off, and continues her carousing with the schmuck. Mae's behavior in the last third of the book were a total dealbreaker. By this time, I not only DIDN'T identify her as a woman, I couldn't identify with her as a human BEING, either. It was as if Eggers had reduced her to a sociopathic stereotype, a vessel with which he would carry out his shocking (i.e. Fizzled-out) ending. It was like a bad episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE.
And speaking of bad, check out some of these sex scenes:
She backed away, looking at him, at his shirt hiked up, his crotch exposed. She could think only of a campfire, one small log, all of it doused in milk (204).
"We consummated" (227).
He lay beneath her for a minute or two, letting Mae rise and fall, looking up at her with the wonderment of a boy at the zoo. Then his eyes closed, and he went into paroxysms, emitting a brief squeal before grunting his arrival (383)
Another thing that bothered me about THE CIRCLE is that it reads like a thinly-veiled grievance being aired at length, soapbox-style. Various characters (Kalder, Mercer) pop in to condemn various facets of social media and those who use it, through the use of tired arguments:
-if people were forced to use their real names on message boards, there would be no arguments or negativity
Overnight, all comment boards became civil, all posters held accountable. The trolls, who had more or less overtaken the internet, were driven back into the darkness (22).
-reviewers and social media bloggers aren't contributing any information of value; also they're dorks (yes, they are actually referred to as dorks)
"It's people talking about each other behind their backs. That's the vast majority of this social media, all these reviews, all these comments. Your tools have elevated gossip, hearsay, and conjecture to the level of valid, mainstream communication. And besides that, it's fucking dorky" (133)
Even more annoying is the fact that Mae never has any real argument for this. Whenever Mercer gets up on his soap box, she usually responds by calling him "fat" or "the Sasquatch," or bandying about that helpful catch-all term, "Fuck you." The weight- and appearance-shaming bend really upset me, because (a) it didn't raise any good debate in this book--to make THE CIRCLE really convincing, I feel like the main character should have experienced some conflict, way more than she actually did, because change is scary, and (b) it underscored my suspicions that this book was actually Eggers speaking out to his critics, against his critics, reducing them to straw men.
-people only post reviews/commentary to stir shit up; they are not valid opinions
"No once's forcing you to do this. You willingly tie yourself these leashes. And you willingly become utterly socially autistic" (262)
-social media users are needy and neurotic, and quick to take offense; all they do is nag and try to ingratiate themselves and then get hurt feelings; they are pathetic and deserve to be mocked
"You comment on things, and that substitutes for doing them" (262).
Here, I couldn't help but be reminded of one of the fallback responses of authors when they criticize their reviewers: if you didn't like the book, why don't you try writing one?
-and so on
I couldn't help but feel that Eggers was condemning his own critics through this book. THE CIRCLE had a very condescending, sanctimonious, embittered feel to it that made it very abrasive and unpleasant to read.
Eggers also takes great pains to show us how great Mae is...at everything. She shoots to the top of the company instantly; she's great at lying passively while the men have sex with her; she has a perfect figure. In short, Mae falls into what I call “the female character fallacy”: you can't have a female character without somehow rationalizing her presence; she can't be an ordinary human being, no, she has to be extraordinary to be of note. Mae never seemed like an ordinary human being, like someone I could relate with. She seemed utterly devoid of personality, and so did the other characters in the book. They were just puppets that danced to Eggers's strings, cavorting about in this purple-prosed mess that read like an intellectual circle jerk (sorry—but obvious pun). In fact, that's what this book SHOULD be called: THE CIRCLE JERK.
Because there is nothing really to make this book stand out among others of its genre, apart from the novelty of its premise. It is poorly executed, poorly written, and has a vague ending that doesn't really give a conclusion or a concrete message. So what, is Eggers saying that our technology is driving us into a downward spiral from which there is no escape? How depressing is that? But that would assume that he CARED enough to actually have this book contain a message, and it didn't: “part three” was a mere four pages or so, rushed and vague, that raises more questions than it answered. It was like a big 'fuck you' to the reader—assuming you made it through all 508 pages. All that build up and no conclusion? Are you for cereal? Part of what made THE FIRM and STEPFORD WIVES so scary was because the possibilities they offered seemed so great on the surface. The Circle starts out interesting and maybe a little intriguing, but quickly devolves into a portrait of unrealistic evil that was so hilariously take-over-the-world-y that it was hard to take the book seriously. The totalitarian grip of information technology on our society is so ingrained that you don't need to tweak much to make our reliance on it terrifying.
The title--and the cover--of this book made me think that GENIUS AND HEROIN was going to be an in-depth analysis of famous, brilliant heroin (and other drug) users throughout history that researched some of the links between brilliance and mental illness. On this note, the book is highly misleading.
Yes, GENIUS AND HEROIN does feature famous people who died of drug overdose who also happened to be brilliant... and yet, it also features people who died of heart attacks, in car accidents, or even by suicide or murder. The people featured in this morbid encyclopedia range in profession to regent, writer, and obscure silent film star.
Part of the problem with GENIUS AND HEROIN is that it is packaged as something it is not. The misleading title is one thing; but it extends to the content, too. The illustrations often have nothing (or little) to do with the text they're placed alongside. The quotes are anachronistic and sometimes irrelevant, as well -- for example, you might find a quote from Voltaire in Ivan the Terrible's passage, or Christopher Morley in Diogene's (in fact, that's exactly what happens).
Each famous person ("genius," I guess) has 1-2 pages (often less) outlining what they were known for and how they died. It gets very tedious after a while. I suppose this is one of those books that isn't meant to be read in an entire sitting, but I don't have a lot of time to read anymore, and when I read a book, I want something that I can devour greedily, not choke on with only tons of effort.
How serious are these problems? If this were an article written by a prestigious newsgroup, people would be accusing them of resorting to click-bait, and questioning whether they have moved out of their golden age and into a slow decline.
I've won so many Quirk books, and they have all been engaging and unique. Even if I did not like them, I could still appreciate them on behalf of those who would -- there is just something about these zany, intelligent, quirky books that is so endearing.
KID PRESIDENTS is a children's/middle grade nonfiction book that contains trivia about the various presidents. Most of it, I didn't know. Like, I had no idea Jimmy Carter collected arrowheads, nor that he had amassed close to a thousand of them (and the oldest one was apparently 12,000 years old). I knew that Barack Obama lived in Indonesia because I have read his autobiography, but this book paints him in a way that is more relatable to a child -- being overweight, getting teased for being different, etc. Also, he had a monkey as a pet. Even Ulysses S. Grant comes into a new light. We know him as the leading general of the Civil War, but he was also something of a horse whisperer and brooked no cruelty against animals.
KID PRESIDENTS was a bit "young" for me, but I managed to read through it pretty quickly all the same. The facts were interesting, and while some presidents were ignored in favor of more famous or more interesting presidents, they all receive at least one fact to their credit.
I think this book would be a good classroom or library resource. Back when I was a kid, we always had to write biographies or oral reports about a hero/president/historical figure. KID PRESIDENTS would be great to use in such a biography because of its esoteric facts.
THE EYEBALL COLLECTOR is a pretty neat book. I actually bought it for $1 at a Dollar Store because I thought the cover was cool. Usually, I'm wary about books like these because juvenile fantasy can be just that...juvenile. Never have I been more wrong!
I was telling my friend that this would make an awesome Tim Burton movie because Urbs Umida has the dark, gloomy atmosphere of Corpse Bride & The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Hector Fitzbaudly is the son of an esteemed wine merchant and butterfly hobbyist. He has lived in modest luxury his whole life, although he has been fascinated by the seedy side across the river, even getting mugged one day while slumming it up. Hector gets more acquainted with the wrong side of the river than he might lie, though, when an opportunistic conman named Trupin blackmails his father and then sells his story to the Diurnal Journal, anyway, for a tidy sum of money. What an asshole!
Hector swears revenge, and we follow him from a boys' home, to the castle of Lord and Lady Mandible. Because Truepin has remade himself as a foreign baron & is hanging around with the Mandibles who are, for lack of a better word, creepy.
The writing in this book is great. The fantasy element...maybe not so fantastic, although it is interesting. Urbs Umida seems to be an alternate England where fantastic beasts rove the woods, & everyone is just a bit more morbid than the actual Victorians were (which says a lot because -- hair jewelry and taxidermy were pretty much all the rage back in Queen Victoria's time).
One thing I really liked was how dark and atmospheric THE EYEBALL COLLECTOR was. The evil people in this book really are evil. There are paintings done in blood, a cloak of living butterflies, the bad guys kill animals for fun (this is how you know that they are really evil), and some centaur-like creature gets turned into a chair and it is morbid as fuck.
I gave this book to one of my friends who is really into Goth culture. I think she'll enjoy this book -- at least, I hope she will. If you like Victorian-era/Steampunk/mannerpunk fiction, or are into Goth culture as well, you should read this book. I'm definitely going to be keeping an eye out for more books in the Tales of the Sinister City series.
Oh, and don't be alarmed that this book is #3 in the series. It was meant to work as a standalone. The author has this adorable author's note where she says that she meant her books as "paraquels" or books that can be read in parallel with one another & have recurring characters, but that aren't dependent on the previous books. That's a really neat idea. :)
One of my good friends swears by R. Lee Smith, & kept pushing me to read her as well. Somehow I never really got around to it, so said friend ended up lending me to Scholomance to read on my Kindle. I was wary but intrigued—a school for demons, a sociopathic woman looking to get her best friend back? I shouldn't have questioned her judgment. This is, after all, the same woman who pushed me to read BLACK ICE.
THE SCHOLOMANCE is like a cross between THE HUNGER GAMES, DIVERGENT, and HARRY POTTER, except geared to adults...morbid adults, who don't mind a lot of gore and a lot of angry, gross, insectoid/reptilian demon sex. Because there is a lot of that in this book. Oh, boy.
(Ki)Mara Warner has always been different—as beautiful and as cold as ice, she has never cared about any person before except for her childhood friend, Connie Vitelli. Connie was fascinated by Mara's psychic abilities and it led to an obsession that took her to a magic school situated in Romania. After she left, nobody ever heard from her again...except for Mara, when she receives a letter from Connie that basically says, “I was wrong, please come get me.”
The demon school is only open on Halloween, and so Mara books a flight and finds herself in Romania. In order to get to the school, one must climb an impossibly high mountain, and it is actually encouraged for students to kill one another because they are, in essence, weeding out the weak from the strong.
I don't often find books that really have a great Machiavellian system, but SCHOLOMANCE does. I loved the complex interactions between all the demons. I loved how their morality completely transcended those of humans, and how they were not afraid or guilty to flaunt that in front of Mara just for funzies.
I loved the magic system, and the completely novel take on psychics. Mara's Panic Room, and the energy and health monitors and the Mindstorm were all incredibly inventive and so realistic.
And the gore and violence—it wasn't there just to shock (although I'm sure that was part of it); it contributes to, rather than takes away from, the story. Some of the passages made me wince and cringe, but I couldn't stop reading because I had to know what would happen next. Would Mara find Connie? Would she be murdered by her jealous classmates, or by the demons she was so intent on fucking with? Who would she choose in her bizarre little love triangle? Horuseps, or Kazuul?
God, this book...it was amazing, and beautiful, and dark, and I loved it, even though the damn thing had to be close to 1,000 pages. And the ending was surprisingly poignant....more
I took a lot of issues with ACROSS THE GREAT BARRIER. Actually, they were the same issues I had with THIRTEENTH CHILD, but since that was the first book in the series I was a little more lenient because kicking off a new book series can be hard. For example, in my own fantasy series, a lot of people have said that the first book is the weakest and the series gets a lot stronger as the books go on. I was hoping that would be the case here, but nope; ACROSS THE GREAT BARRIER is pretty much exactly the same as the first book in terms of plot, formula, and pacing -- in fact, it actually moves slower. It took 300 pages for anything significant or interesting to happen, and this book is 340 pages.
You guys are lucky I didn't have access to a computer while I was reading this because my status updates would have gone something like these: OMG THIS IS SO BORING. Or, OMG I WANT TO KILL EFF. Or, MOTHERFUCKER. WHAT THE FUCK. I HATE EVERYTHING. SHITFUCK.
Eff activated her Mary Sue powers in the last book to solve a problem, and now everyone is praising her for it. Her twin brother, Lan, who is a double-seventh son, is super jealous because he's always gotten the praise and not her. However, he does suggest kindly that she should consider applying to college because pretty much any one of the universities would take her while her glowing accomplishment is still fresh in everyone's mind.
Eff's response: "Waaaaah, I'm not special enuff. I want to stay hoooooome! I'm not worthy!!!!"
My response: ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW.
Most of this book consists of Eff whining about people thinking she's too awesome/not awesome enough, or that she's not good at Arvupan magic. She refuses to go to university because she doesn't think she's worthy, and yet when she meets a boy who's been studying Aphrikan magic all his life, she's mad at him because he's younger than she is and better than her.
It didn't sit right that a boy two years younger than me was so much better at world-sensing, even if he'd probably been learning Aphrikan magic his whole life long (192).
Fuck you, Eff.
When a guy shows interest in Eff romantically, she turns him down because she doesn't think he's her one and only. And while I don't believe in settling for less, I also think that it's equally stupid to turn down a good match because you don't think it's a good match because there is no whirlwind of passion. It seemed like the author was attempting to portray Eff as a strong female character for turning down a relationship, but I don't think Eff is a strong female character. She's inconsistently characterized, has zero self-esteem (when she's not being arrogant as fuck), and she lets all kinds of opportunities pass her by. She doesn't take an active role in her fate, she's a passive observer.
Another scene that pissed me off was when Eff brought back a mysterious stone creature. When she and one of the professors she was interning with from her father's college go on an expedition to the woods, they find this trove of petrified creatures that look incredibly life-like. Eff takes home a statue as a souvenir, bragging about how flawless it is, and how if the professor hadn't already taken this other specimen she'd found, he would have taken that one instead. She visits her brother's university and shows him the bird, but then yanks it back when he wants to study it. Because fuck science! It's a souvenir, dammit! (And it's not like she couldn't just as easily have gotten another one.)
Also, the plot arc is exactly the same as the previous book. Eff has insecurity issues for 80% of the book. Eff goes on an expedition to the woods. Eff discovers something is not right in the woods. Eff uses her special snowflake powers to save the day. Everyone praises Eff.
ACROSS THE GREAT BARRIER was an interesting idea, but terribly slow and anticlimactic. I had no emotional connection to any of the characters (Miss Ochiba isn't in this one D:), & it has lots of build-up with little pay-off. I ended up skimming huge parts of the book because it didn't bring anything new to the table. It was like a total rehashing of THIRTEENTH CHILD.
This is another one of those books that literally everyone else seems to like except me. The moment I saw the average rating, 4.21, I knew foul play was afoot, because 4-point-something ratings usually mean that the book in question is a total smutfest with a brutish alpha male whose sole attractiveness lies in the bulginess of his muscles and the epic proportions of his mighty peen.
BUT some of my friends really liked this book, and I loved that the title and cover were total throwbacks to the bodice rippers of the 1980s. And I actually like PNR (sometimes). I thought, "Hey! Maybe everyone's right! Maybe this book will be good!"
I WAS WRONG.
First, I would like to start by saying that rape in fiction does not necessarily bother me. What bothers me is when it is romanticized or when the heroine reacts to it inappropriately. You can write the most graphic rape scene in the world & as long as it is suitably horrifying, I'll be like, "Okay, good job" as long as the rest of the book is good. Note: this does not happen in this back.
My thoughts while reading this book were basically:
Please stop. Please. I can't take anymore. D:
And the book was just like:
TROLOLOLOLO HAVE SOME MORE RAEP
In A HUNGER LIKE NO OTHER, rape is equated with courtship. Lachlain pounces on the female character in public, rips her clothes off, and starts ogling her in public. In the rain. He then basically holds her hostage in her apartment, demands that she showers with him, comes close to raping her in the shower (but he is satisfied by her jerking him off instead), threatens to rape her about 100 more times after that, almost burns her alive, destroys the whole apartment while she's sleeping to threaten her some more, forces oral sex on her while she's sleeping, and then rapes her while she's running away from him & oh, when he does it, he's in beast form, so he's even bigger than normal, and Emma is like NOOOOOO I'M SCURRED but then she decides she likes it so yay! it's not rape after all.
All this basically comprises the first three quarters of the book.
The first quarter of A HUNGER LIKE NO OTHER is easily the worst, because that's when Lachlain is saying that he can't decide whether he's going to kill her or not, so he wants to rape her first to test the merchandise and see if she's worthy of being his mate. He also steals her credit card to go on a shopping spree, forces her to wear sexy undies which he then says make him lose all control and make him want to rape her more (victim blaming: I love it), & oh yes, tells her that she can't wear her normal clothes anymore because he doesn't want men ogling her. Also there's this weird thing in the beginning where he's like, "You can only wear red because you're a vampire and I don't like that." This pretty much goes nowhere, and does nothing except to show what a crazy control freak he is.
Oh, & let's not even go into the Outlander brogue. All the dinnas & cannaes & lasses you don't want!
Emma isn't much better. As far as heroine's go, she's pretty spineless. She cries when she kills moths. She's a spoiled rich girl who has expensive clothes and lives in a nice apartment and has long, butt-length blonde hair. She's majoring in pop-culture. She's a seventy-year-old virgin. Oh, & she doesn't know she's beautiful. BECAUSE TINY, PETITE BLONDE WOMEN WITH LONG GORGEOUS HAIR AND HUGE BOOBS ARE SO UGLY U GAIZ OMG. YOU NEVER SEE THEM IN MOVIES. OR MAGAZINES. OR ON TV. OH WAIT--YES YOU FUCKING DO.
Oh and guess what. Guess what? Her orgasms summon lightning. DAFUQ.
Maybe she's a Thundercat.
And oh boy, is her body traitorous. She lets Lachlain treat her like crap because he's hot. She enables his ill-treatment of her, lying to her caretakers about where she is & who she's with, even when Lachlain announces that they'll be going to Scotland because SOUL MATES BITCHEZ!
Obviously, Lachlain's wolf pack is less than pleased, and there's this one Lykae who has been pining after Lachlain all this time who's named Cassandra. The two of them get into a catfight while the males lul and make jokes like, "Where's the Jell-O?" Emma talks about how much she wants to tear this bitch's eyes out, calls her a skank, and Cassandra responds in equal terms, being all like, "LOL YOU CAN'T HAVE BABIES! LOL YOU'RE INFERTILE. LOL NOBODY HERE LIKES U!
I found the world-building very scattered. Since the bulk of the book is about Emma and Lachlain's abusive relationship, not much attention is paid to the actual development of the world of Lore. From what I gather there are --
AND THEY ALL HATE EACH OTHER. Except when they rape fuck each other.
Apparently the series does get better and more feminist-friendly as it goes on. While that may be, A HUNGER LIKE NO OTHER was a terrible read & I would not recommend it to anyone looking for a romance novel with genuine emotional connection between the h & the H.
Prudence wears glasses(!) and writes sensationalist Gothic mystery novels(!!). I wanted to like THE DEVIL EARL for those reasons alone, and when we were introduced to her sexy and dangerous neighbor, the Earl of Ravenscar, master of Wolfinger, I wanted to love this book. Seriously, it had the formula for everything I love in fiction -- smart heroines, dangerous alpha heroes, mysteries, Gothic atmosphere, danger, sex...come on, book, let me love you!
Book: LOL, nope.
Prudence Lancaster is, by her own admission, on the shelf. She writes books and embraces the single life while her younger and prettier sister, Phoebe, courts men and trouble with equal gusto. One of these men is James Penhurst, the younger brother of the current Earl of Ravenscar. Prudence is almost as excited as her sister about this because she has an unhealthy obsession with the Wolfinger manor, and her neighbors' twisted and sordid history.
When Prudence actually meets the so-called Devil Earl, she is shocked by how good-looking he is, and how much his manner affects her. Sebastian Penhurst feels the same way. A debaucher in his youth, he still feels the heavy weight of his family's evil deeds. But he can't quite suppress his feelings for Prudence; she intrigues him, infuriates him, and excites him, all in equal measure.
Then James Penhurst goes missing and everyone assumes that Sebastian Penhurst offed his younger sib with a kind of, "Oh, the Devil Earl strikes again!" sort of ennui. But Prudence is convinced of his innocence and decides to help solve the mystery of the Missing Brother -- while fucking Sebastian's brains out, of course.
THE DEVIL EARL started off really well, but about halfway through it completely fizzled out. The ending was a speeding train of wtfuckery with increasingly ridiculous plot twists. I'm not going to say too much about what these twists are (there were a lot), but half of them involved pirates. You know you're in dire straits when you have to fall back on pirates to create some drama.
I was surprised that there were actual sex scenes in this book and not the more typical fade-to-black type things that tend to grace these historicals. The foreplay scenes in the beginning were pretty sexy but the actual sex itself...not so much. And on that note, I'm almost positive E.L. James read this book. She had to've. Prudence said "Oh my!" more times than I cared to count, especially when Sebastian aroused her (which, unfortunately, was a lot, this being a romance novel & all).
She wriggled, but he held her fast and kissed her. There. "Oh, my!" Prudence whispered, as awareness shot through her, obliterating all else. Sebastian. Hot. Wet. There. With his mouth! (191).
Compare that to this one from Fifty Shades Darker:
Oh my. He kisses me… there.
With his mouth! There! OMG SO EXCITING!!!!!
What was that editor doing? Sleeping on the job? About half those "oh mys" should have been struck.
Maybe her editor was George Takei. Although if here editor was George Takei, we probably would have at least gotten the consolation prize of some hot man on man action. OH MYYYYYY!!!!
It's all straight up in here. And Sebastian actually cries when they have sex, because it's so beautiful! How did she know what he'd been wanting for Christmas all this time? A virginity, of his very own!
Sebastian managed to slide in and out, over and over, until her maidenhead gave way gently before him. She opened her eyes wide then, surprised at the breach, but she shed no tears. He was the one who felt pressure behind his lids, because of her precious gift to him (197).
It's a very white Christmas after all.
I was also upset by the fact that Prudence wasn't recognized as pretty until Sebastian decided to take her glasses away. It would have been a lot better if he thought Prudence was pretty with her glasses. Instead, there was a lot of emphasis on, "Well, she's got glasses, but she's also super skinny, and has great T&A, and super tiny feets, so I suppose this one flaw can be overlooked."
Yeah, thanks for doing me that solid.
Now that I've finished the book, I kind of wish the story had been about Sebastian's wicked ancestors -- pirating, gambling, duels, beating people, raping local peasant girls, imprisoning his wife in a tower and then stabbing one another to death. That sounds like an awesome story. Like something that could have been one of the greats when it comes to bodice rippers. Instead, I got a wallpaper historical with a dash of Gothic flavoring (but oh my! not too much!).
Netgalley approved me for books #1-3 in the series, which is super exciting because now I get to read them all at once & not suffer through cliff-hangers like the people who actually had to wait. Oh, and by the way, the cliffhanger at the end of this book? It is a mean mother of a cliffhanger, & I suggest having book #3 on hand before starting or you might just become a murderer too.
Jasper Dent is the son of Billy Dent, a serial killer with about five or six monikers who is probably just as evil and devious as Ted Bundy. In the last book, Jazz accidentally helped his father escape from a maximum security prison and now Billy is free in New York, with millions and millions of victims to "prospect."
So it's totally not like I'm biased or anything. *cough*
Jazz is pretty emotionally exhausted at this point, the poor kid. I mean, he helped his dad escape to murder more people, & he feels partially responsible for the murders the Impressionist (another serial killer) caused in book #1, even though he helped capture him. And word gets around because pretty soon the NYPD come a-callin' and are all, "Hey, we have ANOTHER serial killer on our hands. This one's called the Hat-Dog killer & he cuts off peens, gouges out eyes, & puts guts into KFC buckets. PLEASE HELP US CATCH HIM, K?" So Jazz goes to New York and more wtfuckery transpires.
There is character development in this book, and I loved the depth of Jazz's angst. I suspect he is a sociopath as well, but a nonviolent one, in spite of what his dear old da would like to believe. Connie wants to take their relationship to the next level but Jazz is terrified of sex because for his father sex and killing went hand in glove, and Jazz is so brainwashed he thinks it might unlock his inner-killer.
We also meet Jazz's Aunt Samantha, Billy's older sister. Jazz's friend Howie decides that she is his love interest, and I have to say, I was pretty squicked out by all the descriptions of Howie talking about how much he wanted to bone this older woman because Howie is 17 & Samantha is, what, 40-something? I have no problems with May-December romances where the woman is older, but Howie is seventeen and that is just too young, which made it very creepy for me. Especially since the author seemed to find it hilarious. I am sorry, but that is not funny. I hope they don't end up together.
One thing I really didn't like about GAME was all the POV swaps. They really bogged down the story. There were some scenes with Howie and Aunt Samantha that could have been cut. I also feel that some of the Connie-fighting-with-her-family scenes could have been cut as well. The first 200 pages of GAME moved really slowly, and it wasn't until the last 100 that things really began to pick up. The last 100 pages I finished in about an hour because I literally could not put the book down (or, I guess, close the window, since I was reading this on my comp. But w/e).
That twist. It was pretty great. I was not expecting that. I was not.
Although I would have liked for some of my questions to be answered. My friend Myrika was laughing at me on Gchat because she sped through books 1-3 after I told her how much I liked book #1 and I was pestering her with theories, until finally she was all, WANT ME TO TELL YOU HOW IT ENDS?" And I was like, "NOOOOOOOOOO." But apparently it's really grim stuff & I'm going to be traumatized for life after finishing book #3. And this is coming from a woman who writes stories so dark that they make mine look like sunny walks in the park, so that fucking tells you something.
Seriously, though, HOLY MOTHER OF CLIFFHANGERS, BATMAN.
That's just cruel. I bet when this was first published, Mr. Lyga got a lot of angry fanmail.
First, I would just like to say that I am incredibly disturbed that this book was published by an imprint of Scholastic, which markets to preteens and children. BREAKING BUTTERFLIES contains some ideas that are, frankly, harmful and dangerous.
***MAJOR SPOILERS TO COME***
The book opens with a story about the two protags' parents. There were two girls named Sarah and Leigh. Sarah is a shy loser who is completely blindsided by the amazing and beautiful Leigh. They become best friends, and decide that when they grow up, Leigh will have a boy named Cadence and Sarah will have a girl named Sphinx, and their children will be married, and then the two of them will be grandmothers together. Pinkie swear?
They end up doing just that, and Sphinx (Sphinxie) and Cadence become friends. Except there's something not quite right about Cadence. When he's just five years old, he smashes a butterfly in his hands, making Sphynxie cry. Sphynxie's father doesn't trust Cadence after that, but the two mommies are like, "No, he's just a little boy, he doesn't know what he did was wrong." But then, a few years later, Sphinxie and Cadence are left unsupervised, and Cadence informs Sphinxie that she is "his" and slashes her in the face with a knife, almost gouging out her eye. Sphinxie's father goes, "I told you so." Sphinxie gets stitches, and Leigh's mother whisks Cadence off to England, because apparently England is a cure for sociopathy.
Now Sphinxie is a teenager and one day she finds her mother in the kitchen talking on the phone. It turns out that Cadence has terminal leukemia. Terminal, because his mother, Leigh, has decided that she doesn't want him to have to go through chemotherapy because there's a chance that it might not work, and she doesn't want him to barf. Because mothers totally think, "Oh, gee! There's a pretty big chance this cure won't help my baby, whom I love very much. Might as well just let him die au naturel, then!" that is totally what any loving mother would do in this situation.
Sphinxie decides that she has to see him though, because he was her best friend when they were kids! She owes it to him! Never mind that he cut her in the face with a knife and almost gouged out one of her eyes, they're still best friends. Obviously, Sphinxie's father is not cool with this but Sphinxie insists, so her mother decides that one week probably won't hurt.
So they go to England.
Cadence is sickly looking but Sphinxie is totally attracted to him. Because he's so hot! He practically sparkles, just like Edward Cullen (you may think I'm exaggerating; I am not. I lost count of how many times Sphinxie says Cadence "shines"). He paints. He plays piano sadly. He's good at chess.
He's also a sociopath.
Cadence still believes Sphinxie is his. He tells her that according to their mothers' little legend, they are destined to be married and have children. He gets mad at her for putting concealer on the scar on her face, because he wants everyone to see his mark on her. He gets angry for no reason, and when Sphinxie goes into his super-sekrit painting study without asking his permission, he explodes when he finds out, threatens her, and then pushes her to the floor, causing her to scream.
The two moms rush in and Cadence is SO SORRY OMG I DIDN'T MEAN IT, and Sphinxie feels bad because she shouldn't have trespassed in his sekrit space and also, he is dying, so mulligan.
When the week draws to a close, Sphinxie's mom is relieved to be going home, but guess what? Sphinxie doesn't want to go home. She wants to stay with Cadence until he dies, because he's so lonely and cares about her so much and he needs her and she has to do this for him because that is the not-selfish thing to do. Because when someone is abusing you, it's because they need you, or possibly because they're dying of cancer. Because apparently cancer is a free pass to be evil as you please.
More fuckery happens.
Cadence, Sphinxie, and Leigh go to a pet store. Cadence looks at a little budgie and decides he wants it. Later, he tries to kill it in front of his mom and Sphinxie. When Sphinxie makes him let it go, Cadence attacks her, and they fall into a glass table and get impaled with shards of glass. "Don't call an ambulance!" Sphinxie says, even though she's got a shard of glass sticking through her palm. "I'm fine!" So in a bid for worst mother of the year, Leigh says OK, and she drives Cadence to the hospital, and he gets some medicine and everything is okay.
Except Sphinxie tells her parents what happened.
"WHAT THE FUCK?" say her parents. "COME HOME IMMEDIATELY!"
"I can't," says Sphinxie. "I need to stay here for him. Can't you see how badly he needs me?"
By this point, I'm thinking, no way can this possibly get any worse. I mean, we're already glorifying an abusive relationship -- and this is a physically and emotionally abusive relationship that makes books like TWILIGHT and, I hate to say it, FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, look like Disney.
But Cadence has another WTF ace up his sleeve. "Guess what?" he says, "I'm going to die soon, and I want you to die with me, because I'm not going to live long enough for us to be married and have babies, so I bought you a knife, and when I tell you to I want you to kill yourself with us and together we shall be dead and still and it will be art. Because suicide pacts are romantic."
Sphinxie is horrified, but she also likes the idea of being a marble statue. Especially when Cadence tells her that they can be holding hands when they die. She starts thinking about this seriously. She cares about Cadence so much, can she really live without him? And he wants this so much, why should he die alone? She doesn't tell anyone this because she knows that if she does, even Worst Mother of the Year will probably send her packing because that's pretty fucked up.
Although...Cadence later tells Sphinxie that his mother knew he was a sociopath all along, because the psychologists diagnosed him as one. But Leigh didn't tell Sphinxie's mom because she knew that Sarah wouldn't bring Sphinxie to England if she knew that her BFF's son was a murderous sociopath. Denial. Not just a river somewhere in Egypt.
Sphinxie's father, the only rational human being in this book, has had enough, though, and she and her mother end up booking a flight. Which makes Sphinxie angry. How dare they take away her right to kill herself! Maybe she ought to kill herself anyway, because it's not like Cadence is taking away any of her rights! After all, he has cancer and he needs her here so much and she loves him.
At the end of the book Cadence gets really sick, and Sphinxie tells her parents she's not coming home until Cadence is dead, and good sense goes out the window because Cadence has cancer, so they say, "Okay, sweetie, you can stay with the dying sociopath. We'll come up for the funeral and then take you home." Then Cadence and decides it's suicide pact time. He kills that poor little bird and tells Sphinxie it's her turn next. But Sphinxie decides she doesn't want to die, although she does tell Cadence that she loves him. And then Cadence dies and she cries.
But it's okay, because she has eggs in her uterus! She will have a baby one day! And then she will tell her baby the story about her tragic love affair with the beautiful shiny special sociopath.
I am not kidding.
Let's go over what we've learned here today, shall we?
1. Cancer is a magical thing that allows you to be as cruel and terrible as you want.
2. If a guy cuts your face with a knife, it means he loves you so much he wants to mark you as his.
3. If a guy asks you to do a suicide pact with him, it is romantic and artistic and not creepy as fuck.
4. As a woman, your primary objective in life is making babies. And planning weddings.
5. If a person you love turns on you, it is selfish to run away as fast as you can.
6. Lying about whether someone is hurting you/planning to hurt you is perfectly healthy.
7. If a man plays piano, is good at chess, and paints pretty pictures, he can't be a sociopath.
8. This was a love story, and not society's cry for help.
I am...I don't even have words. How did this book get published? And why is it being marketed to impressionable teen girls?
The closest he will ever come to happiness is when he's hurting her. Will she let him? A beautiful and twisted story of first love and innocence lost--written when the author was just eighteen.
Doesn't the man on the cover look like Gilbert Gottfried?!
(I would pay money to hear Gilbert Gottfried narrate the audiobook. Oh the lolz I could have.)
Menage isn't one of my kinks, although I do think it can really add spice to a sex scene if done well. I have read a handful of good menage, and a lot of really bad menage, so even though I am a relative newcomer to the erotica genre, I'm starting to get a feel for what I like and what I don't like.
Gretchen is a nanny for the Baumgartners: rich, WASPy people with a Florida beach house. They don't let the fact that they have two young children get in the way of their polyamory, and Gretchen often lies awake at night, listening to them have sex and talk about their old conquests, and wishing she could join in.
I do not envy the therapy bills those children will be getting when they relive all this as adults. Because I'm sure if Gretchen hears them going at it, the children do, too....
Gretchen is blonde, and yes, the carpets match the drapes -- Kitt makes a point of drilling this in several times, as it is absolutely crucial to know how beautiful her natural pubes are. So beautiful, in fact, that the Baumgartners later tell her that she must stop shaving and let her blonde wonder pubes grow back, so that they can be admired by all.
Gretchen likes to have sex with men and women, although she asserts that she "likes men too much" to become a lesbian. Despite this, she has a girlfriend named Ronnie. One day, she comes home and finds her girlfriend having sex with another man in their bed. Rather than confronting them, she stays and she watches, and wishes that she could join in. Then she leaves.
When Gretchen returns to the Baumgartners', she breaks apart, though, and tells the couple how sad she is. They take her out to a party, where she wears a low cut dress, and both Mr. and Mrs. Baum ogle her cleavage very lustfully. Gretchen ends up going home with some random dude, who she has sex with without using a condom. She accidentally calls out Mr. Baumgartners' name while they have sex. And guess who is watching Gretchen and Mystery Man do it? That's right! Mr. Baumgartner!
Gretchen ends up talking to Ronnie and they have an emotional discussion about Ronnie's cheating. HAHA! Just kidding. Actually, Ronnie says that the guy she cheated on Gretchen with (Vincent) asked her to marry him. Then she has sex with Gretchen. Because nothing says "I love you" like having unprotected sex with your ex when you're about to be engaged.
After they have sex, Ronnie talks about how much fun it was to boink the Baumgartners. Then she makes Gretchen drop her off at her cockholded fiance's house, with the implication that she never wants to see Gretchen again after this. Okay?
Gretchen spies on the Baumgartners having sex a few more times. Then Mr. Baumgartner takes sexy pictures of Gretchen while she strips for him. Then he and she both masturbate, although he tells her that his wife said that she isn't allowed to touch her, and Gretchen begs him to do it anyway.
The couple weigh the pros and cons of boinking Gretchen and then Mrs. Baumgartner and Gretchen consummate the relationship on the beach. Then they have sex. And then they have more sex. And then they have more sex. And it is all terrible, and there are no condoms in sight, and won't somebody please think of the children?
Even though Mr. and Mrs. Baumgartner are busy enough that they require a nanny to take care of the children they already do have, they have applied for a foster child, which they plan to adopt. This is why they were initially hesitant to boink Gretchen -- they know that they will be monitored very closely by CPS to make sure that they are taking care of the child well. But since this is a work of erotic fiction, good parenting can be damned so long as there's sex involved!
I have no words to describe this book. It is terrible, but I've come to expect that from erotica as a whole. It is a sad fact of life when good fiction becomes the exception, and not the rule, in a genre.