This was a buddy read with my friend Carmen, and if you want to read her review, you can do so here.
I've only read three of Paolo Bacigalupi's books, but from what I've seen they have a pretty consistent formula: (global concern) gone awry + violence + corruption + bigotry + horror. SHIP BREAKER was about global warming gone awry. THE WINDUP GIRL was about genetically modified organisms gone awry. THE WATER KNIFE is about droughts gone awry.
The titular water knife in this book actually refers to men (and women) who enforce water rights by any means necessary, usually through violence, torture, or rape. They blow up dams, make trouble-makers disappear, and steal back water for the rights-holders as long as they have the money to pay for it. Angel is a water knife, and a damned good one. He's employed by a woman called Catherine Case, Queen of Las Vegas, who wants him to investigate a potential lead in Las Vegas that could potentially score millions.
The other characters in this book are Lucy, a journalist who is popular in the underground for capturing the terrible ways the droughts and the water knives have affected the poor. When a close friend of hers dies chasing down the same lead that Angel is, she catches the eye of some very dangerous men who will do anything to silence her. There is also Maria and Sarah. Maria is a refugee from Texas who barely scrapes by, and is doing everything she can to avoid being a prostitute like her friend Sarah, although the men who rule her city are slowly taking away her choices one by one.
Gradually, their paths start to connect, sometimes predictably, but sometimes far more surprisingly.
I liked the idea behind this book, although it scares me, too, because California is currently in the middle of one of the most severe droughts on record, and as in this book, I see privileged or ignorant people blithely ignoring that fact. Every time it rains, some idiot inevitably posts, "The drought's over!" and I want to shout, "DROUGHTS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY, YOU BUFFOON!" This is a reality that I could see happening down the road all too clearly. Bacigalupi is really good at world building. Everything is very intricate, and he does hierarchies and charts the way power flows through it very, very well.
My problems with this book were actually the violence, both physical and sexual, that happen in this book. It fit the world building and there was usually a point to it, but he really went into detail, and that made it a very difficult read for me. There was one scene towards the end involving Maria that just seemed to have been done for shock value, and that made me really angry. I also didn't like how the women received disproportionate amounts of violence compared to the men, or the one man who actually did receive a lot of physical torture was gay. Maybe that was supposed to be realistic, too, but it didn't sit well with me at all.
Another mistake Bacigalupi makes is that he tries--unsuccessfully--to put romance in here. I don't think there's a lot of room for romance in this world, especially not the way he did it. The circumstances were all wrong. The romance happens quite soon after one of the characters is tortured, and call me crazy, but I can't imagine that she was in the mood after going through what she went through, if not mentally then certainly physically! And the romance couldn't have been that convincing because there's betrayal after betrayal later on, which makes me feel that they didn't care about each other much at all in the end, and that's very disheartening.
He kind of turned all my favorite characters into assholes, actually. I get that nobody's perfect, that you can't be, in a world like this, but it also sucks not having someone to root for. The ending of this book was ridiculous and knocked what was going to be a three-star rating to a two-star rating because I couldn't help but think that the author maybe couldn't figure out how he wanted to end it, so he decided to go with a Mexican standoff.
I still have PUMP SIX, and will be reading that eventually, but THE WATER KNIFE is the weakest of Bacigalupi's books that I've read. It had a good beginning, but the ending was very poor, and there were a lot of parts that could have--and probably should have--been cut. Also, don't be fooled by that YA looking cover like I was. This book is definitely NOT YA and probably shouldn't be read by anyone under 17 because of the graphic and disturbing content.
Some people say that after a life-threatening event, they learn to enjoy life more. That they stop taking everything for granted.
Sometimes I felt like punching those people (5%).
My luck with new adult fiction has been spotty at best. Still; once in a while, I am pleasantly surprised. This book came highly recommended to me by several reviewers I trust, so when it showed up for free on Amazon, I said, "Why the fuck not? Let's go for it! Bring it ooooooooon."
This turned out to be a very wise decision.
THE YEAR WE FELL DOWN is about Corey Callahan and Adam Hartley and their burgeoning romance as they go from friends to lovers. After a hockey-related injury that leaves her paralyzed from the waist down, Corey has to readjust to living life in a wheelchair. Bowen really goes into gritty detail with this--having to deal with people saying things like "shake a leg" or "step right up"; physical therapy sessions; the necessity of handicap-friendly transportation, wheelchair ramps, and elevators; and things like catheters and whether sex is possible.
Adam is her neighbor from across the hall and it's pretty much attraction at first sight as far as Corey is concerned. He also has problems walking, but his situation is much more temporary: after fooling around while drunk on the ice, he ended up breaking his leg in two places and now has to be on crutches while wearing a cast, pre-surgery. Adam and Corey bond first over their shared frustration with being partially incapacitated, and then, later, over hockey, video games, and being down to earth in a school filled with rich kids. The only problem is that Adam is seeing one of these rich kids, a jet-setting girl named Stacia, who's gorgeous and wealthy--
And, of course, has the use of both her legs.
I actually really liked this story a lot more than I thought I would, but there were still a number of things that bothered me. Firstly, there was a lot of needless slut-shaming. Several times, Corey makes derisive remarks about "puck bunnies" or girls who like the idea of dating hockey players but not the actual sport.
"Just don't expect me to squeal like a puck bunny when you take the ice. And I'm not wearing a tight-fitting jersey with your number on it" (80%).
I couldn't help but find this insulting, since, being a girl who has absolutely zero interest in sports, this is probably how I would show support for someone who I was dating if they participated in one. THE YEAR WE FELL also tended to portray these sexualized women in a very negative light, implying that they were inferior for making use of their looks and sexuality to date the players.
Secondly, Corey has a "hope fairy" that is remarkably similar to Anastasia Steele's "inner goddess" from FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. The first time this happened, I blinked, thinking it was an odd metaphor, but trying to roll with it. When I realized it was a recurring descriptor, and that the hope fairy was going to be anthropomorphized, I did a big eye roll, followed by a facepalm.
My hope fairy reappeared, wearing black lace lingerie, and a pout on her face (46%).
My hope fairy, dressed in a bikini, did a quick little cheer with silver pom poms (62%).
The hope fairy flung herself face down on the desk and then proceeded to beat her tiny fists on the surface in frustration (66%).
Thirdly, I really didn't like how Adam treated Corey. Even though he's attracted to Stacia, he takes advantage of Corey's feelings. For her birthday, he gives her a vibrator and tells her to figure out if she can bring herself to orgasm! Um, that's totally inappropriate. A bit later, after his girlfriend comes back from her trip abroad, she ends up staying out late with friends instead of coming home to Adam, so he goes over to Corey's dorm with a bottle of champagne. They drink it all, and then, inebriated, Adam decides that he's going to help Corey figure out how much sensation she has below the waist. They engage in mutual masturbation. While drunk. And he's in a relationship! Um, what???
Eventually Adam does do the right thing, but I really hated Adam for doing that to Corey and Stacia. I thought he was terrible, and could never really bring myself to like him as much after that. Plus, he and Stacia have this weird arrangement where he lets her sleep around with whomever she wants when she travels. I don't understand this? That didn't seem very realistic to me. Who agrees to that?
The female friendships in this book are good, though. I loved Corey's relationships with Dana and Allison, and thought they were very supportive and well done. I also liked the sports references; they weren't technical enough that a non-sporty person like me would be totally lost, and really conveyed a sense of loss on Corey's part. Honestly, my heart ached for her. She was a wonderful character who had terrible things happen, and was realistically depressed at times but still chose to persevere.
Even though THE YEAR WE FELL DOWN had problems, it really was a good story and I read it in a single sitting while snuggled up in bed and trying not to cough out my entire lung. If you're looking for a new adult book with actual body to it, and decently fleshed out characters, this would be a good place to start. Even though I wasn't a fan of Bridger, I'm definitely considering picking up book two.
I am not sure what I just read. And I don't mean that in a literal sense, because in that sense, I totally understand what I just read: GENA/FINN is about two young women who are both fangirls of a buddy cop show "Up Below" (reminiscent of Supernatural in terms of the dynamic of the two heroes and the effusiveness of its fanbase). They meet over the message boards and form a friendship that maybe, possibly becomes less-than-platonic. Like I said, I get it.
No, what confused me was the execution of this idea, especially in the last 1/3 of the book, and some of the executive decisions that were made about the girls' sexuality. And, above all, why that ending? Seriously, why that ending? I do not understand.
So...regarding the story-telling itself, I thought it felt very natural and organic (at least until that last 1/3). Normally, I'm not a fan of stories told in mixed media, especially not in emails and instant messaging and blog posts. It feels a little too high school. Like: "Oh my God, we are on AIM! We are such adults for figuring this out! Now let's talk shit and get into shenanigans!" But it worked here. I liked Gena's blog posts and fan fiction excerpts, especially. I really liked her voice, and her enthusiasm. She seemed like somebody who I might want to be friends with, myself. So it was easy to see why Finn, with her problems, wanted to reach out to someone like that and connect.
(Note: some spoilers are going to follow from here on out. Nothing too major, I don't think, although I am going to be discussing the ending, because that was one of my peeves.)
Gena is an eighteen-year-old girl who goes to a prestigious and exclusive boarding school, and is in the process of applying to colleges. Her relationships mostly consist of one-night stands, and when the boys get persistent, she starts being nasty to them for being too clingy. She has some mental health issues, and they come into play later on in the story (that damning last 1/3 I keep referring to, actually). Finn, on the other hand, has already graduated, and applying to (and getting rejected by) menial jobs in order to make ends meet. She lives with her boyfriend of several years, and they're practically engaged (which Finn feels highly ambivalent about). Both girls love "Up Below."
I couldn't decide how I felt about GENA/FINN, so I decided to sleep on it...literally. The last 1/3 bothered me a lot, for many, many reasons. There was a shift in tone, which took the fun, natural feel of the first 2/3 of the book away and left GENA/FINN feeling much darker and angsty. That annoyed me. Gena doesn't narrate as much anymore, suddenly, and when she does, it's "woe is me" misery poetry from the school of Ellen Hopkins. I don't like Ellen Hopkins, or Finn (who pretty much took over the narrative at that point), so that annoyed me. Finn decides that she just can't handle being in love with two people, and compensates for that by lying, hiding things from her fiance and Gena, taking plane flights to stay with Gena in her dorm (which I don't think most colleges would even allow--God knows, mine wouldn't) while she tries to figure out her feelings. Then she strings both of them along, while whining about how "she didn't do anything wrong" and how "she wants both of them, why won't anyone understand"? Oh, people understand. That's called emotional cheating, you bitch, and you're taking advantage of two people because you're too selfish to make a choice.
So yeah, that annoyed me, too.
I was also frustrated by the authors' choice to use Gena's tragedy as a way to get Finn back into Gena's life. While Gena is vulnerable and "woe is me", Finn takes on all of Gena's emotional and medical burdens, even though she is not really financially equipped to handle it. Rather than asking, "What are you doing? We can't afford this? Sorry, babe, but she has to go back to her real family," Charlie, who has been the voice of reason until this point, says absolutely nothing, and, instead, seems to find Gena incredibly endearing despite the fact that she was almost responsible for Finn leaving him. Maybe he thought that if he was mean to Gena, he would have pushed Finn away further, but I can't really imagine anyone reacting the way that he did in this situation, especially given how upset and hurt he was when Finn did other, similarly thoughtless things earlier on.
Finally, I was frustrated by the ending. Despite Gena neglecting her own health and suffering a massive breakdown, and despite Finn doing whatever the hell it was that she wanted, and never mind who got hurt, both girls get a happily-ever-after platonic friendship that ends in your typical heteronormative way, with Finn deciding that she's going to marry her husband after all, and Gena (it is implied) going back to her own strung-along male love interest, who's been there for her all along. This would not have upset me, except that GENA/FINN is being marketed as "LGBT" and I saw the author herself commenting that this is about bisexual women. I love that there are more diverse books out there, but at the same time, it is a little frustrating that a book claiming to be about bisexuality would end in a way that could be interpreted as a redemption arc, with the women realizing that relationships with other women only lead to tragedy, and it's much better to be with men, instead.
I'm not saying that I think that's what the authors were going for here, but it is disappointing nonetheless. I almost wish that Charlie hadn't been included at all (because I really hate cheating in romance novels; it makes it almost impossible for me to root for the couple, unless the person that they're cheating on is a totally emotionally or physically abusive cad), because he was a nice guy and genuinely seemed to care about Finn, and, later on, Gena, and it made me sad to see Finn treat him the way he did. I also really loved Gena, and I was sad to see her character take the plunge that it did towards the end. Why must mental illness always be portrayed as this big, dramatic thing?
Despite all of my reservations, I really did enjoy GENA/FINN and I think the authors did a decent job writing it, especially in the first 2/3 of the book, but it did have a lot of problems and odd plot choices that kept it from getting a higher rating by me. I'll be interested to see what other people think when the book comes out in April.
P.S. This is being marketed as young adult, but it really should be categorized as "new adult" in my opinion, since the ages of the characters are late teens and early twenties, and they deal with a lot of issues that might be difficult for younger teens to fully conceptualize (like rent payments, living on your own, and health insurance).
This book has what is possibly one of the best first lines in a book ever.
Our female protagonist has given over 20,000 hand-jobs. She works at an establishment that has Tarot/crystal ball consultations in the front room, and soft-core sex work in the back. Because the owner of the establishment likes her, and because her carpal tunnel syndrome makes her sound like a cement mixer when she's jacking people off, she gets promoted to working in the front, as a psychic.
And that's when the trouble starts.
Enter Susan Burke, a woman who is troubled about her family, specifically her step-son. She wants our protagonist to come to her house and do a spiritual cleansing because she thinks it's haunted.
One thing you have to know about Gillian Flynn is that she is a master at writing female antiheroes. You get all these wonderfully psychotic or disturbed or troubled women who don't fit the mold of a typical heroine. Gillian Flynn is also the Queen of twists. She'll take you by the hand, tell you she's taking you to the bathroom, don't worry, and then leaves you in an oubliette full of cobras.
I guess if I have one complaint about THE GROWNUP, it's that it's too damn short! I've been waiting for years for another Flynn novel, and this is all I get? This is a morsel. Instead of tiding me over, it has given me a craving for more...more...MORE!
This book should be called HOLLYWOOD DIRTBAG (pun credit goes to Mia). It's been a while since I've read a "romance" novel with a male lead who is this offensive and misogynistic. I mean, when the female lead does not fall into a dead faint at his feet upon meeting him, his first thought is literally Maybe she's gay (89). Because there is no other reason she wouldn't go for that shit. None. Riiiiiiiiiight.
I'm going to tell you now, this is going to be a very negative review, so if you are absolutely head over heels in love with this book & don't think you could stand to see the author criticized, you probably shouldn't read it.
Likewise, if you plan on reading this book and don't want to be spoiled, you probably shouldn't read this review, because there are going to be lots of spoilers. Many of the things I took issue with in this book are spoilers, and I want this to be a very thorough review about why I didn't like this book. While blunt and to the point, "I hated it" is not super helpful when it comes to making an informed decision on whether or not to buy a book.
So, moving on.
After reading and enjoying a titillating seventy-two-page work of nonfiction about Coke shareholders who became millionaires and billionaires and all decided to live in the same town in Georgia, movie star Cole Masten thinks it would be amazing to make a movie about this phenomenon called The Fortune Bottle.
He's also having problems with his wife, Nadia, who is cheating on him. Masten catches them in the act of cheating and puts the guy in a hospital by bashing him over the head with a heavy statue. Obviously, Cheaty McCheaterpants does not take kindly to this and serves him with divorce papers. The media goes into a feeding frenzy--Codia is no more. (And yes, they are actually called Codia.)
On the other hand, we have Summer Jenkins, who is being treated as a pariah for something she did after she caught her own then-fiance cheating on her. The most important thing to know about Summer is that she is Not Like Every Other Girl.
Cole Masten was the epitome of walking sex and had every woman in town drooling over his arrival.
Every woman but me, that is (12).
This is very important.
He was Cole Masten, for God's sake! She should be yanking down her bathing suit and bending over, not putting her hands on her hips and standing up to him (97).
* * *
"Girls in Los Angeles screw, kidnap, and kill for something like this."
I smiled at the image, a hundred big-breasted bottle blondes in different compromising positions, hands outstretched for a role that seemed undeservingly before me (106).
* * *
God, this was stupid. Any other blonde in LA would be on her knees unzipping his jeans for this role (107).
* * *
Being inside her had been completely different than Nadia...than anyone else (191).
* * *
"Do you know how many girls would kill for me to call them?" (251)
* * *
This was the second time in four weeks that I was shaving for this man. Like, REALLY shaving, in places that a good girl didn't allow to see the light of day (313).
* * *
Very, very Important.
So yeah, back to the book. When Cole meets Summer (who has conveniently become BFFs with his flamboyantly gay location scout), he decides that she would be perfect for the role of the main character in Fortune Bottle because of her hot-headedness and Southern Charm.
He finds the fact that Summer hates him utterly adorable and uses this as an opportunity to sexually harass her as much as possible. Like forcing a kiss on her in front of her friend. Or watching her sleep while having an erection and then, when she wakes up, forcing her down on the bed and telling her to "shut up." (I am not joking--this is how they have sex for the first time.) It is worth noting that Summer does not actually consent to this. She tries to hide herself and is obviously shocked and mortified, but then decides to roll with it anyway because that disco stick is a magic trick.
Also, she is allergic to condoms. No, not a latex allergy. She just doesn't use them. Doesn't keep them around. Has never even touched one(!). Seriously, she's never touched a condom before. And when she and Cole fuck, she refers to it as "bare and beautiful" (189). How about condomless and chlamydia-ridden? Or, sack-out and syphilitic? You know, since we're alliterating here.
Once they actually start filming Fortune Bottle, Cole starts ad-libbing a lot. To the point where the directors actually decide to make Fortune Bottle a romance, because they are digging the sexual tension between Cole & Summer. In fact, the movie basically becomes one giant ad-lib, a vehicle for Summer and Cole to act out their issues with each other using their characters as mediums. Which a) is kind of sick and unhealthy and b) I have difficulty believing any director worth his salt would actually allow because what Cole did was definitely sexual harassment and there are laws.
They have sex again, later on, and post-orgasm, decide that they love each other.
Also, Cole contemplates a new line of business.
God he could bottle her juices and become a billionaire (328).
Once again, no condoms.
I went to the bathroom and felt a moment of panic when the evidence of his orgasm came out. Right. Another unprotected experience. Good thing I had just finished my period, my window of fertility not open yet (329).
She takes him shopping at Walmart and they wear paper bags over their heads to conceal their identities. Because this is a sure way not to draw attention to themselves.
But just in case you didn't think this was funny the first time, the book ends with married Cole and Summer shopping at Walmart with their friends, all wearing paper bags over their heads. That is literally how this book ends. The characters shopping at Walmart, with paper bags over their heads.
Other random peeves:
☹ We have this moment of idiocy: "I never wear sunscreen." I scooped up some water and drizzled it over my thighs (77).
☹ Brad DeLuca from BLINDFOLDED INNOCENCE made a cameo...a big cameo...which was annoying, because I hated BLINDFOLDED INNOCENCE and I especially hated Brad, because that book had the same amount of hypocritical slut-shaming spurred on by the same misogynistic asshole hero.
☹ Summer also gives Cole a pet chick as a housewarming gift because...I don't know, then he'll have to take care of it and that's the ultimate revenge! Mwa ha ha. Also it's cute and fluffy and damaging to his masculinity. Or I don't know, something like that. Anyway the chick becomes a mascot-slash-running gag and eventually Cole becomes the chick equivalent of a "dog mom" even referring to himself at one point as its "parent."
☹ The thing that's alluded at constantly? The thing that made Summer a pariah among the town? It's actually warranted. She poisoned everyone at her wedding reception with ipecac because her husband-to-be cheated on her with a bridesmaid. Ipecac is actually a poison that used to be used to induce vomiting when other poisons were ingested. However, it is no longer used as such because it is too dangerous and can prevent other treatments/antidotes from working. If I remember correctly, Summer used half a cup of ipecac per dessert and not only would this probably be enough to poison her guests, but I'm also not even sure how she would obtain this much poison because even when it was administered back in 1965 you could only get an ounce without prescription, and the two remaining manufacturers of it closed up shop in 2010.
☹ When the Fortune Bottle becomes a hit, everyone thinks that this wedding prank is so awesome. SO AWESOME! It makes Summer beloved. They start calling it a "Summer Jenkins" and another jilted bridesmaid immediately went out and decided to do the exact same thing
☹ Pretty much every Southern stereotype and Californian stereotype you can think of are jammed into this book. Torre got California wrong. First off, this is the first time I've ever seen someone referred to with "California pale skin" (93). Most Californians are tan. Summer mockingly derides Cole for not knowing real heat when she tells us that eggs can fry on the pavement in Georgia. Guess what? They do in California too. And it's not totally unheard of for temperatures to go into the 100s. I've been in a heatwave where temperatures reached 112 degrees. We probably could have fried a whole roast on the pavement that day. It was like living in an oven.
There were probably more things about this book that bothered me, but these were just the main ones. I'm sick, and cranky, and I didn't like this book, so now I'm posting my review so I can return this e-book to my library and get my infected mitts on the copy of THE GROWNUP I just put on hold.
I made it to about page 100 or so before giving up.
Some people really like zombies. I don't--at all. However, I really liked the idea of a bunch of high school students coming together to work on a screen play. I mean, I write. I know the struggles of coming up with a story that people not only like, but that will also sell. So my empathy engines were fully charged & rearing to go.
The problem is that Justin and Bobby and Gabe don't really act like high school students. They act like middle school students. Very young middle school students. Who are slackers.
It's hard to read a story about characters who don't really do anything. These characters are all slackers, and despite the fact that they are supposed to be making a movie, they do pretty much everything they can to half-ass it or put it off. It was annoying.
I also thought the dialogue in this book was painful. Wooden, juvenile, and boring. In my status updates for this book, I quoted a passage about littering that really showcased my problems with the narration of this story.
I applied for AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE on a whim because of the gorgeous cover. Something about the disaffected woman in curlers and retro makeup just spoke to me. I had no idea what the book was actually going to be about, except that it was probably going to involve housewives and they were probably going to be disaffected and possibly desperate, as well.
1. What I Do All Day - ☆☆
This story could have easily been called "The Middle Aged Basic Girl's Manifesto." It was essentially a list of basic activities pop culture expects middle aged white women to do, delivered in snide, grocery list format. Not particularly entertaining, although I awarded extra points for the author's observance.
2. The Wainscoting War - ☆☆
This short story, which is told entirely in emails between two female characters who are at war over the decorating in a duplex, had a lot of possibility. However, I don't think it was executed very well, and in the second half of the book, it got rather nasty and unpleasant, and not in a comical way, even though I think that is what the author was going for. Unnecessary animal deaths killed it further.
Also, I wasn't actually sure what wainscoting was, so I looked it up. Well, what do you know? I learned something new today.
3. Dumpster Diving with the Stars - ☆☆☆½
I think this is my favorite story of the bunch. Dumpster Diving is a reality TV show/game show about celebrities who try to compete for the best deals at garage sales, auction houses, and salvaging. The main character is a dried up author who ends up teaming up with a Playboy Bunny.
4. Southern Lady Code - ☆☆
This is literally just the author translating two-faced Southern lady doublespeak. Probably only humorous if you like Celia Rivenbark. I don't.
5. "Hello! Welcome to Book Club" - ☆☆☆
At first I thought this would be my first four star rating of this short story collection. Narrated in first person and addressed to us, the reader, "Hello!" contains some very jagged observations about books, book reviewing, and book stereotypes that are cringe-worthy but also somewhat on point. But then it ends with a very bizarre twist that causes the whole idea of the story to fall apart as credibility flies out the window. It was at this point that I found myself noting the author was terrible at endings.
6. The Fitter - ☆☆☆
Decent. It's about a man who is excellent at fitting things into other things. I thought this was going to be a sexual story, but instead of fitting his thing into other things, he channels his talent into finding the perfect bras for women. His talent has made him rich and wildly popular with women. His only employee is his wife, who is also the narrator for this story. This was another story I might have liked except for the ending, which was way too depressing. Also yay for gross boob descriptions.
7. How to Be a Grown-Ass Lady - ☆½
"The Middle Aged Basic Girl's Manifesto: Part II."
8. How to Be a Patron of the Arts - ☆☆☆☆
Okay, you know what? I changed my mind: I think this is actually my favorite story of the collection. I really liked the narrator's journey from artist to patron, and how she quietly accepted the fact that she was no longer willing--or able--to create. This is a concept that would translate well to novel format, and I have to admit, I was sad to see the story end. It was a good ending, too.
9. Dead Doormen - ☆
I think the crazy housewife bit has been done to death, don't you?
10. Pageant Protection - ☆☆½
This story read a bit like revenge fantasy as written by someone who really, really hates the TV show, Toddlers and Tiaras, and wanted to write an alternate ending in which CPS comes and takes all the children away from their mothers and delivers them to Sarah Lawrence to be raised by feminists.
Spoiler alert: that is not what happens.
11. Take It from Cats - ☆
Another one of those really brief, page-long interludes. I felt like these interludes were very lazy, and this one was especially so. I have seen lolcat memes that have told better stories than this one.
12. My Novel Is Brought to You By the Good People at Tampax - ☆
I didn't like this story, either. It was way too strange. I am not sure if it was trying to be witty, or funny, or what, but it failed on all accounts.
AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE has a handful of good stories tossed in among the bad ones, but it is a very sub-par collection and not really a very inspiring or intriguing sampler of the author's work. Those one-page long laundry lists of what it means to be a woman were very lazy writing, and I was not pleased that they were recurring.
"Some people are made stronger by loss. Others are broken by it" (65).
Jennifer McMahon is one of my go-to authors for suspense. The first book of hers I've ever read was PROMISE NOT TO TELL, and the most recent before this one was THE WINTER PEOPLE. She's the author I suggest to people who want to read more books like Gillian Flynn's. The prevailing themes of her works? Bad things happening to young girls, majorly disturbed families, dark secrets, and real life horrors that straddle supernatural elements.
As soon as I started THE NIGHT SISTER, however, I realized that there were going to be some problems.
First off, THE NIGHT SISTER has three--that's right, three--separate timelines. One in the late 60s, one in the late 80s, and one in the here and now (well, semi-here and now--2013).
There are also a ton of POV swaps. The 1960s narrations are told either by Rose, or, in epistolary format by Rose's pretty older sister, Sylvie. The 1980s narrations are done by Piper, the best friend of Rose's daughter, Amy. And the 2013 POVs are done by middle aged Piper and Jason, who was in love with Amy back when they were all young. Oh, and just so you know? Jason's a total creep.
Which brings me to my next qualm. There isn't really any decent character in here to root for. They're all pretty horrible. Jason was slimy and skeevy, but Rose was annoying. I wanted to punch her in the face, she was so selfish. And Amy--was odd. There were some weird homoerotic moments between her and Piper that didn't really seem to serve any purpose at all except for shock value.
I said before that in McMahon's storylines, she frequently straddles the supernatural. And sometimes there's some kind of Pan's Labyrinth/Life of Pi revelation where the character struggles to come to terms with whether they prefer the fantasy or the horrible reality, because what is real? This is especially true with DON'T BREATHE A WORD and THE WINTER PEOPLE.
In THE NIGHT SISTER there are two separate incidences of horror that seem to be unrelated. There is Sylvie's disappearance in the 1960s and her sister Rose's ensuing madness, and then there is Amy's grim and brutal slaughtering of her entire family, with only her young daughter, Lou, being left unscathed. The only clue is a slip of paper, one that says "29 rooms."
The only thing that really kept me reading was a desire to find out how the two disparate storylines were linked, and what really happened to Amy's family and Sylvie. And then I found out what happened, and realized that this book sadly suffers from what I call "The Langoliers Effect."
The Langoliers effect is something that I coined, named after Stephen King's infamous 1995 movie, The Langoliers. It refers to a horror story that actually suffers from too much exposition, thereby ruining the suspense and rendering everything that came before the reveal corny, cheesy, or trite. Until McMahon's big reveal in THE NIGHT SISTER, I was trucking along somewhat steadily, motivated to finish because I was sure she had some brilliant twist that would bring the whole story full circle. But when the big reveal came, I blinked, did a double take, and thought:
"ARE YOU KIDDING ME?"
I held out hope for another chapter that my fears were wrong--they had to be wrong--but alas, they were not. The Langoliers Effect was already firmly in place. There was no turning back now from the CGI corniness of it all. Which is why I am giving a McMahon book less than three stars for the first time ever. I'm very saddened to do this, because her other stories are great.
I'd heard that Banks was an excellent contributor to the space opera genre. I'd also heard that his works were brutal. Having been reared on both Star Trek and Stephen King novels, this seemed like it would be a match made in heaven. That's the funny thing about expectations, though; they don't always pan out.
My first work of Banks's, SURFACE DETAIL, was very good. It had some slower moments, because it was a very chunky book, but the world-building was good and it featured a cast of interesting, if morally grey, characters.
Initially, CONSIDER PHLEBAS starts out with a bang. Our main character, Horza, is chained in a septic tank to drown in the filthy leavings of the powerful Gerontology happily feasting in the room above. Against all odds, he escapes.
Horza is searching for a "Mind", which seems to be a sentient ship or computer, that managed to escape to a dead planet being guarded by beings called the Dra'Zon, which have evolved past the need for ordinary bodies and collect dead planets the way kids collect Pokemon cards or marbles. In his quest to find it, and stick it to the Culture, he ends up running across a band of SPACE PIRATES who are led by a drunkenly sociopathic man named Kraiklyn.
What follows is:
-a fight to the death for space on the ship (dee dee deee deee deee deee dee dee dee deeeeee deeeeee).
-a game called Damage, which is like if you combined Texas Hold 'Em and the Hunger Games
-a cult that takes communion waaaaaaaay too seriously
-lots of stuff blowing up
Once Horza ends up on Vavatch for the second (or was it the third?) time, though, I thought the story began to fall apart. There was too much looking around and talking, and not much action. The first half of the book had some very vivid and memorable scenes, but the second half dragged. Stupid decisions were made. Many stupid decisions were made. The villain manages to get free using the oldest trick in the book. The ending was kind of cruel, like a giant middle finger raised to the reader.
(Cruel is kind of this book's key word, though.)
I have read a number of reviews for this book speaking in its favor and also against, and I can see where both groups are coming from. Banks paints a vivid and nightmarish world, and populates it with vivid and nightmarish characters and some very interesting ideas (I love the idea of a war between religious immortals and machines), but at the same time, he also makes a number of very poor plotting and writing decisions that detract from his creative world-building quite severely.
Since the Culture series appears to be a mixed bag, I probably will continue reading, even though I didn't really care for this book all that much. I have PLAYER OF GAMES ready to go on my e-reader, which I'm really excited about, because it seems like it's going to focus more on the death games aspect, and that was one of my favorite parts of this book. We'll see!
I usually hate the "Thing X meets Thing Y" way of describing a something, but the best way to describe the Last Man series is Streetfighter meets The Hunger Games, and yes, it really is as awesome as that sounds.
I got into the Last Man series on Netgalley, which turned out to be a really amazing thing, because it's something I never would have picked up while left to my own devices.
Book #1 is very much high fantasy, with a fighting competition involving a combination of physical skill and magic. The order of things is disrupted when an outsider, Richard Aldana, steps onto the scene and starts pwning serious noobage. His partner is a little boy named Adrian Velba, and at first we're led to believe Richard sides with him out of pity, but that is not the only reason...
The fantasy element continues into Book #2, although we get more background on all the characters, and it's heavily implied that Richard comes from a world like ours and somehow got into this one through reasons unknown. And then it's implied that Adrian's mom, who did the busy with Richard, might actually have been to this world, too, and kept it hidden from everyone...for reasons unknown.
In Book #3, things get really weird. Richard, we learn, is on the run from something...possibly something involving organized crime. Adrian and Marianne Velba chase him down, ending up in this truly awful crime world called Nillopolis where prostitution and drugs are the major money-makers, and the cops are super creepy and rape suspects in lieu of interrogating them and torture people in jail.
Book #4 leads to yet another world jump, this time in a world that is definitely recognizable as our own. We're introduced to Milo Zotis, a sociopathic businessman who is as cool as a cucumber. We're also introduced to one of Richard's old flings, Tomie, who is actually quite interesting (she's the blue-haired beauty on the French cover). There's an insidious drug that rots you on the inside and out, oh, and a fighting competition that's like MMA, that, of course, Richard, Marianne, and Adrian all get involved in...along with someone else. Yup, there's more familiar characters popping up, too.
I had my doubts after Book #3, because it was an entire clusterfuck of crazy. I shouldn't have worried. Book #4 really made some great developments on the twists from Book #3, and it developed some of the characters, and raised even further questions that have got me all hyped up for Book #5 (which I couldn't help but notice is on Netgalley at this very moment! YAHSSS!!!!).
The Last Man series is strange, but addicting. Sometimes it's cheesy, but at this point I'm fairly invested in the characters and want to see what happens next. Especially since we still don't know the identity of Adrian's dad, or why everyone is after that cup...
I just about peed myself in excitement when I found out I'd been approved for this ARC. I'd read the first one before, and it was a surprise--I thought I was looking at a collection of independent movies and their artwork. Boy, was I surprised and pleased when I realized that what I was looking at was original artwork done in the "indie" movie poster style for classic and celebrated films!
ALTERNATIVE MOVIE POSTERS II is more of the same as its predecessor, except most of the really popular films were already done, so this one has more horror movies and more B-movies than the first one. Also, more repeats. Wizard of Oz and Ghostbusters were done several times!
I liked this book. I mean, how could you not? Unless you hate movies or hate art, there is no way you could dislike this book. It has all kinds of styles for all kinds of movies, ranging from comic book style (THEY DID THE INCREDIBLES IN THE STYLE OF THE GOLDEN AGE COMICS!!!!), to Swedish pop, to 70s album covers, to Japanese chibis, to 8bit. I didn't like it as much as the first one, but it was still good, and I'd love to have it on my coffee table.
Thank you so much for approving me! THIS BOOK WAS THE SHIT!
SUICIDE NOTES FROM BEAUTIFUL GIRLS was incredibly irritating. It irritated me for the same reasons that Cat Clarke's UNDONE did and Leah Raeder's BLACK IRIS did. It trivializes and sensationalizes rape and suicide. It villanizes people--especially women--who are LGBT+ and have mental health problems. And, perhaps most damning, it suggests that you can do terrible things to people in the name of getting what you want.
Isn't that just lovely.
The big shame is, SNfBG starts out promisingly enough. June is devastated when she finds out her best friend committed suicide. She didn't do it in a quiet way, either--she locked herself up in a shed and lit it up. Kaboom.
But this being a YA thriller, the cops are total idiots who take everything at face value and don't bother looking deeper to see if maybe the in-your-face girl with her hands in all kinds of unsavory pies might not have killed herself, but been murdered instead. Detective skills? What are those? The only thing cops are good for in YA is for hassling teens who are just trying to have a good time. So the cops investigated nothing which means that Junie must INVESTIGATE.
Don't worry, guys! Inspector Dip is on the case!
I'm a sucker for books like these, even if the reasons for the girls being killed in these types of books are usually offputting and lame. I think it's the mystery aspect I love; there's something about a focal mystery that the entire story revolves around. I love seeing all the pieces fall into place.
I also like stories about women who do "bad" things. Traditionally, female heroines have to be so much more in order to be considered strong female protagonists, but I think it's interesting to see what happens when women go against the mold. Female antiheroes are my weakness.
But with SUICIDE NOTES FROM BEAUTIFUL GIRLS, I didn't get that. I got a character-driven story with bad characters that tried to keep people reading with shock value and increasingly inane twists. I got one an incredibly and troublingly psychotic character who would stop at nothing to get what they wanted, whether it was lying, hurting others, or doing criminal and morally bankrupt things. I got an insipid main character with no background who was so naive and passive that I wanted to smack her just to get the ball moving. Oh, yes, and I got quotes like these:
"He looks like a date rapist, but one who'd only stop raping you because his dick wouldn't stay hard" (65).
June stared at Delia's lips--shiny with mango gloss. You couldn't usually just look at a mouth and tell whether they got kissed much. But the thing was, with Delia's you kind of could (75).
"Remember a million years ago when I used to say I wish [my stepfather]'d rape me so my mother would leave him?" (123)
"I mean, all he did was hit on you a bunch. And...who can blame him, right?" (171)
And then there's that ending. I mean, I could have still given this book a two star rating if it weren't for that ending. That ending went against everything that I had been led to believe about June's character. It showed a disgusting lack of consequences. And, moreover, seemed cheap. Like the author couldn't figure out how to end it, so was like, "HEY! JUST USE YOUR IMAGINATION! WHEEEEEEE!!!!" Meanwhile, I'm standing there, like, "What happens next?"
I mean, where does your life go from that point on?
But what else would you expect from a book where teenage drug lords have their own sinister caves of evil where they throw parties in which everyone wears tuxedoes or prom dresses? Or where apparently it's really easy to acquire canisters of nitrous and steal people's insulin? Or where cops just apparently walk around blindfolded because OH HEY, CRIMINAL ACTIVITY? LOLWUT?
I was disgusted at the way this book contributed to stigma against LGBT+ women, especially women who are sexually autonomous and suffer from mental health problems. I was annoyed at how manic behavior was sensationalized, criminal behavior romanticized, rape was trivialized, and suicidality idealized. This is a book that tries to use key words to resonate with its readers. There's no humanity.
Also, I have done my best to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, so all that stuff I mentioned? That's not even the important stuff. That's just icing.
Effie and Heath were kidnapped and held in a basement by a sick man. This man drugged and poisoned them both repeatedly, and forced Heath to have sex with much older women. Down there, in the dark, drugged and abused, they clung to each other, and forged a deep and twisted connection that lasted to adulthood.
Both Effie and Heath like rough sex, and if it hurts, so much the better. They are addicted to each other, and yet deep down, Effie is afraid that being with Heath like this is keeping her from moving on from what happened in her life. She's paranoid, especially when it comes to food, and doesn't trust anything she hasn't prepared herself causing many to think that she's anorexic.
Effie's mother still treats her with kid gloves, because she feels responsible for what happened, and Effie holds her accountable for that too (at least partially). Effie's also having a side affair with the cop who found her down in that basement, and she's been sleeping him since long before she was of consenting age. Their relationship is twisted as well.
With all this going on, you wouldn't think that Effie would have much of a normal life. But she does. She paints paintings people shell out thousands of dollars for (most of which relate to her time in the basement in some way). She has a little girl, Polly, who has to deal with the gossip about her mother in school, but somehow manages to be popular in spite of that. She goes to Mommy Margarita nights and tries an internet dating site to find a normal partner--and yet...none of that works.
She needs closure.
One thing I really like about Megan Hart's works--and I'm sure I've said this before--is that she tries to be original and edgy. Reading this was like reading Gillian Flynn's DARK PLACES if it were written by Jodi Picoult, with dashes of Jaycee Dugard and Michelle Knight. I'm not actually a fan of Jodi Picoult, so that isn't a compliment. In fact, the Lifetime drama was one of the things that put me off this book. I'm not saying that I don't like a character with issues, but I do think that sometimes these issues can be portrayed in a very melodramatic, soap opera-y way, and that was done here.
In fact, HOLD ME CLOSE, because of its multiple converging timelines, reads like two books smooshed together. There's the story about two children trapped, like flowers in a basement (see what I did there). Then there's the story about the two fucked up adults who aren't so good at adulting. I don't think it was an entirely successful mesh. Also, Effie really annoyed me as a character with the way she strung along all the men in her life. I get why she did it, because she was damaged and had trust issues, but it just didn't really make me happy. Especially since she had double standards about it: she thought that she could sleep around but Heath had to wait for her chastely in the wings.
I still think Hart's earlier books are better, but this was a vast improvement over the last two.
P.S. The author put Halestorm on her book playlist! <3 Lzzy Hale!
I've been working my steadily through the Mistborn series, and just completed the first trilogy. This second trilogy, which starts with THE ALLOY OF LAW, takes place three hundred years after THE HERO OF AGES's end. Scadriel is on the cusp of technological advancements in electricity and steam power, with the end result being something like nineteenth century London.
That's right. This is a steampunk novel.
Some people go nuts for steampunk. Me, I can take it or leave it. And since this book takes place 300 years after HERO, I spend a huge portion of the novel trying to figure out how everything had changed, who was descended from whom, and how the magic system had changed (because it had--for the confusing! WHAT THE HELL IS A TWINBORN? WHATWHATWHAT).
Waxillium, our main character, is a Twinborn, which means he has feruchemical and allomantic powers. He has a major case of the sads because he watched his enemy kill his lover right in front of his eyes, and it's made him doubt everything that he stands for.
When his uncle dies, Wax ends up taking over his old estate, and is pushed (or Pushed? heh heh heh) into polite society along with his rather boorish but cleverly disguised friend, Wayne. He's all set to be engaged to this horridly pragmatic woman named Steris, but things don't go quite as planned. Women get kidnapped, trains get robbed, buildings blow up, and people just won't stay dead.
The characterization in ALLOY felt much more superficial to me than previous books. Part of that, I think, is that I had three 500+ page books to flesh out the characters of the previous set, and Wax and Wade, and Marasi and Steris, and all the others are newbies to the game, and haven't had the same amount of time to set their stage. Plus, this was very short for a Mistborn novel--under 400 pages, even! Not a whole lot of time to get the reader acquainted to a very different kind of world.
Once I got a better idea of the characters, and made the jump from a medieval fantasy world to a steampunk world, I started to like the world a bit better. There were some interesting scenes in here, including one with a time-stopping bubble (I don't remember that from previous books), but so far, I think my favorite part of the series is the first trilogy. Win me over, Sanderson. Win me over.
P.S. If this book becomes a movie, someone commission Two Steps from Hell to do the soundtrack.
Have you ever liked a book just because you felt sorry for it, because you knew, you knew, that in the right hands, it could have been so much better? That's how I feel about BURNING MIDNIGHT. It had an original concept that struggled under the weight of its own execution. It could have been so much better.
BURNING MIDNIGHT takes place in modern day Earth (one of the beefs I actually had with the concept). Our main character is a rube named Sully, who had the chance to be a millionaire, except he was an idiot who didn't get what he was promised in writing and ended up getting conned as a result.
What did he get conned out of?
Spheres are special. They are little colored beads that are always hidden (but why? and by whom? are questions that nobody around here seems to ask until--suddenly--it's Important). And when you dig them up and burn them (which somehow seems to involve absorbing the sphere into your head?), they give you special super powers, whether it's whitening and straightening your teeth (Ruby Red), or giving you high IQ (Mustard, I think?), or letting you forget bad stuff (Plum).
Like Pokemon cards, some are rarer than others, and people are willing to pay big money for these sons of bitches. Rubey McRube can only deal in the small fish now, but the rarity 9s can go for multi-million dollars. And if you're asking yourself whether these spheres are giving the economy a major whollop, you can go ahead and stop right there, because the answer is yes.
The spheres have created an entire new caste system. People who can afford to buy and burn the spheres can make themselves smarter, more attractive, more talented, more everything.
Meanwhile, our main character, Sully, is just like:
Except that he's not, because he is now famous for being scammed.
One day, at his little boy's sphere stand, Sully meets a girl named Hunter. He likes her immediately, and falls in love with her shortly after that, but that's not what's important (at least not at first). No, what's important is that Hunter also buys and sells spheres and she's good at it, too.
Eventually, she and Sully come up with a plan that might pay off big.
BUT AT WHAT COST?
Like I said, the concept behind this book is great. The names were winceworthy (Cream? Chocolate? Mustard? Ruby Red? SERIOUSLY? Are these magical artifacts or scattered crayons from a 64-pack of Crayolas?), but the concept behind them was great.
I hated the characters, though. Sully was such an idiot. I mean, he gets scammed, and doesn't seem to learn his lesson once. He's always yapping about his plans for his big scores to anyone who will listen, and then seems--wait for it--surprised when things go wrong.
His romance with Hunter was likewise cringe-worthy. It borderlines on stalkish. Buying expensive presents just weeks after meeting her? Clearly Christian Grey Jr. over here things he's Rico Suave. Also, the book manages to cut in a dig at girlie girls, because we're too busy simpering to do anything intelligent, I guess. Thanks for that solid, bro. Me and my sparkly nail polish salute you.
And then, there's the setting. Maybe if the spheres had been introduced over the course of the novel instead of being the status quo? I mean, here's the thing. This book wanted to be several things. It wanted to be super hero fiction. It wanted to be a Judd Apatow story. It wanted to be an M. Night Shyamalan story. It wanted to be a reboot of Ready Player One.
It wanted to be so many things. I think it overexerted its wee little self.
In fact, I almost think that the book might have been better if the spheres had been set in a more classical fantasy setting, like Brandon Sanderson. (And no, I am not just saying that because I am obsessed with Sanderson. Go away.) Or if the spheres had been explained better, and been more ingrained into the world building like Ready Player One. Part of fantasy and science-fiction is escapism, and McIntosh kept dropping brand names, products, and celebrities like it's hot.
What that did, instead of making me think "oh, he's so with it," is, goddammit, not another reference that won't be relevant in five years, can we please get back to the spheres and the storyline? Okay, thank you. It was really annoying. And maybe that sounds petty, and maybe it is, but seriously, it literally pulled me out of the story, because I had to register what the pop cultural reference was, and how it fit the situation instead of focusing on the world-building and the plot.
And it doesn't help that a lot of the sphere hunting scenes are like:
Also, there's this gross scene where--for no reason relevant to the plot--this one lady maybe-maybe-not-jokes about setting her 13-year-old niece up with the 16-year-old protagonist before showing him her picture to ogle.
BURNING MIDNIGHT wasn't a bad book by any means, but it was also very mediocre. Apart from the concept, there isn't a whole lot to make this book stand out from the various other books in its genre. I think the comparisons to FIFTH WAVE and MAZE RUNNER in the blurb are actually quite damning, because those books were also quite mediocre, in my opinion.
I do think this will be popular with teens, but at the same time, it could have been so much more. And even though I did enjoy reading BURNING MIDNIGHT, I can't help but feel disappointed.
P.S. Be very careful if you're looking at reviews of this book. Some people are using tags THAT GIVE AWAY MAJOR SPOILERS. D:<
If the idea of paying $10.99 to read a high school kid's Tumblr page sounds appealing to you, you should definitely buy this book.
My luck with Youtuber books has not been good. All of them seem very juvenile. I HATE MYSELFIE was short-sighted and mean-spirited. YOU DESERVE A DRINK had decent stories and ideas, but the writing was absolutely terrible. Given their target audiences, I can see why the authors and publishers might want to "dumb down" these books, but it seems like such a mistake.
THIS BOOK LOVES YOU was no exception.
Surprisingly, I actually did like the pictures. Some of them were quite creative and artistic. Not sure if that was PewDiePie or someone he commissioned, but I really liked the ones that were manipulated or featured graphic design techniques. I love pop art.
The quotes, on the other hand, were not so great. You've probably heard of Demotivators. They are pop-culture's response to those sappy motivational posters that pepper workplaces and classrooms. THIS BOOK LOVES YOU is basically a collection of demotivators, accompanied by art and many, many, many gratuitous pictures of PewDiePie himself posing like this is Facebook circa 2007.
Some of the quotes were funny but many were not. Some of them were just mean. There were several that were borderline racially insensitive, sexist, or that were ableist or anti-body-image in some way. Also, I don't get what is up with ducks. Is he obsessed with them or something? Does he keep them as pets? On every other page, there were pictures of ducks. It was odd.
I don't think I'm in the target demographic for this book. I may have found the quotes in here funny or insightful when I was fourteen, but as a twenty-six-year-old woman, I've moved on past a lot of these things. I do think that sometimes society can be too PC but on the other hand, I don't think that meanness, even if it is in jest, is the best way to challenge those norms.
I had previously only read one other book by Lavinia Kent and that was MASTERING THE MARQUESS. I couldn't tell you how it ended, since my ARC of it expired before I could finish the story. I did enjoy it and based on what I had read would probably have given it 4 or 5 stars depending on the ending, but because I didn't finish it, I didn't rate it.
(Ragequit DNFs are the only exception to this rule.)
Since I had enjoyed the first book in this series, I thought I'd give the author another try. With a series name like Bound and Determined, I thought I would be in for a good old BDSM time.
Ruby is the madam of a whorehouse, but her real name is Emma. When she's not whoring, or managing her whores, she is the bastard son of a noble. Her grandfather wants to make a match for her, but Ruby is like, "NOOOO, I DON'T WANT TO BE MARRIED." So her evil grandfather tells her that if she doesn't take a husband, he will disown her for her ingratitude.
Derek is the man who Ruby is sleeping with. He's supposed to be the love interest, but I am loath to call him this because he has next to no redeeming traits. Their first sexual encounter is interesting; Ruby forces him to submit to her, which was kind of hot, because you don't see many female domme stories, especially not in historical fiction. But this is misleading, because in the next sexual encounter they initiate, they engage in some oriental fetishism: Derek gets to be the sultan and Ruby plays a dancing girl from his harem. Cringing ensues.
I didn't really like either of these characters. Ruby is immature and whiny, and it was hard to sympathize with her when she manufactured so many of her own problems. I also thought Derek was controlling and emotionally manipulative, and when I found out that he was actually engaged to another woman throughout all of this emotional cheating, my rage-o-meter grew to a steady boil. When Ruby shamed the other woman, saying that she obviously didn't appreciate Derek, and wasn't that good-looking, blah blah blah, my rage-o-meter broke, scattering liquid mercury everywhere.
What the hell, characters?
Also, let's not forget that Derek at one point claims that he finds Ruby's tears sexually stimulating.
There had never been a more erotic sight [than her tears], a vision that hardened his cock faster, that threatened to have him come in his trousers before they even touched (81).
The uncomfortable rapey undertones continue when homosexuality also becomes fair game. Derek casually reveals that he was raped by some of his fellow sailors when he was a young boy, although he engaged in a bit of anal sex himself when he was at sea and there were no women around.
Naturally, he chooses to tell her this right after they have anal sex for the first time.
That's about as sexy as this line:
And speaking of lines, we are also exposed to this truly sexy passage (pun semi-intended):
His fingers slipped into the crack, dipping low to catch her honey, spreading it, spreading her (149).
Although even that number can't hold a candle to this:
"Pinch yourself. Make those juicy berries grow long and swollen; prepare them for my touch" (79).
The writing in RAVISHING RUBY was exceptionally bad in general, though. Apart from some truly terrible (and repetitive) sex scenes, there were many grammatical errors and typos, including the word "naval" being used in lieu of naval, and this totally incorrect pluralization of "scarf."
"You can put the scarfs on again if you wish" (83).
I don't have much time for reading any more so I no longer force myself to finish books I hate, but RAVISHING RUBY was so terrible that I felt compelled to post a review for the good of the public. Even if you enjoyed MASTERING, I suggest approaching this book with caution.
This book literally just consists of black and white photographs of celebrities--especially celebrities from Hollywood's golden age--holding, drinking, or otherwise interacting with coffee both off and on the set.
Once again, Netgalley has managed to stun me with a book geared towards an oddly specific topic.
Of course, I absolutely had to apply for it!
HOLLYWOOD CAFE lives up to its promise in most ways. The blurb on Goodreads says that it goes up to the 1980s but really, only one (possibly 2?) photograph is actually set in the 80s. The vast majority take place during the 40s, 50s, and 60s.
I really like vintage fashion, so a huge part of the fun was looking at the clothes, makeup, and hair of the actors and seeing what changed and what stayed the same. I think there was something incredibly elegant about these various eras, and looking at them made me nostalgic for a time I wasn't even born in. Obviously, it helps that men like Clark Cable were the leads at this time. Phwoooar!
HOLLYWOOD CAFE also has movie trivia peppered throughout the pages and as I went through, I found myself compiling a to-watch list. I think HOLLYWOOD CAFE will be an instant hit with hipsters, fans of old movies, fans of vintage clothing, and theater and art majors. It's inspiring and fun and quirky, and I'm really surprised more of my friends aren't already reading this.
Wow, Elend? Is that you? I had no idea you were so attractive.
When I was in high school, I became obsessed with a game. The game was Sword of Mana for the Gameboy Advance, a game that was originally part of the Final Fantasy universe, although these elements were removed for its re-release. I loved it. I played it so fanatically that I had to replace the batteries of my brother's GA about three or four times in as many weeks. It had a very dark and compelling storyline and an interesting universe, theology, and magic system. It was a game that was not only fun to play but also could (and did) inspire badly-written fanfiction (*cringe, cringe*).
As I worked my way through the Mistborn series, I realized that it had many elements of what drew me into Sword--an interesting magic system, "good" main characters that inspire sympathy even if at times you get frustrated with them for resembling special snowflakes, complex and interesting villains, a huge cast of interesting supporting characters, and interesting non-human creatures that can be disgusting, terrifying, or even endearing.
I'm going to begin by saying that I really did not like the beginning of this book. At the end of book two, something happens to Elend that changes him fundamentally as a character, and I was having difficulty coming to terms with that. I have a friend who is also a Sanderson fanatic and we hashed this out a couple days ago, because both of us loved the series but had difficulty accepting Elend's new abilities because it just seemed so, well, bad fanfiction.
I'M LOOKING AT YOU, SAZED.
And that killed me, because the beginning of THE HERO OF THE AGES was so dark. So dark, you guys. Like, oh my God. And that darkness is a prevalent theme of this book (for reasons), and it's hinted at in previous books, but even knowing and suspecting what I knew and suspected, I was in no way prepared for any of the horror revolving around the Steel Inquisitors, the koloss, or--
Oh, God, that stuff is the stuff of nightmares. I really hope this series makes it to the big screen because as cool as it would be to see Coin Shooting in action, or watch Vin propel herself up into the air (I think the fighting would be highly reminiscent of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, except, you know, with magic), seeing twelve-foot tall Steel Inquisitors IRL is something you will not forget.
I don't really think the action in this book picks up until about 300-400 pages in, which is something that usually pisses me off about a book and makes me want to discard it, because who the hell has time for that kind of investment? I don't! However I did enjoy MISTBORN and WELL OF ASCENSION, and trusted sources had assured me that while this book would initially be very frustrating for me, I would find the ride worth it in the end. And since this person is one of two people who has yet to lead me astray in recommendations, I took his word for it.
And yes, having finished the book, I get it.
The characterization is still not really my favorite thing about this book, but there is just so much going for this series that I can't really knock it too much. The world building is great, and I really love the idea of the kandra and allomancy especially, but the best thing about the series is how consistently Sanderson builds the universe. I imagine his study is probably plastered with lists and maps and charts, because literally everything ties back to the previous works in some way, and vice versa. The only other book series I have seen do this with any sort of talent are His Dark Materials and HP.
Perhaps I liked the characters more than I cared to admit, too, because there were several moments when my heart hurt and I felt my eyes tearing up. A lot happened.
That ending, for example, could have been incredibly sappy, but it wasn't.
I have heard that the series was initially supposed to end here, but Sanderson decided to continue it in several other sets of trilogies. Ordinarily I would not approve of this (for my disapproval is legion), but in this instance, I think it actually works. The next trilogy takes place 300 years into the future, and it will be interesting to see where the world takes off from this big resolution.
This is going to be an interesting review. Mainly because I am so tired right now I can scarcely keep my eyes open. I had a great (but long) day that turned into a stressful (and still long) evening, so coherency and I are not the best of friends right now.
But yes. This book. A lot of people hate it. And I can see why. Gary Shteyngart is not a friend to people who want to read stories about likeable people acting responsibly. This is the anthem of the disillusioned and oft delusional middle-aged hipster, high on 1984 and Fox News.
Lenny Abramov is a Russian Jew who works for a subsidiary branch of a powerful firm. Basically, he interviews candidates in order to see if they are worth experimenting on for immortality. He's currently on sabbatical in Italy and it's here that he meets Eunice Park, a young Korean-American from an upwardly mobile family that's currently on a downward trend.
The super sad love story of the title comes into play when their relationship buds and then flowers. Some people just aren't meant for each other, and Euny and Lenny seem like prime examples of that belief. The age gap between them is one thing, but there's also a culture gap and a gap of ideology. Euny is the embodiment of the now culture--spending, savvy, beautiful, and heavily plugged in to social media. Lenny, on the other hand, is clueless and a bit technophobic,
I think one of the best things about this book is the setting. This is fascist America, in the midst of huge political turmoil and economic crisis. China owns our asses (and our economy) now. Uncle Sam has gone the way of Big Brother. Credit scores are public knowledge and people upload and post sex videos to boost their social media ratings (in this case, Fuckability.
SUPER SAD takes a while to get rolling, and it's kind of dystopian light. It really made me think of THE CIRCLE, except THE CIRCLE was a bit more detailed and nefarious whereas this book just made me think about all its lost possibilities.
I received a copy of this book for review via Goodreads years ago. I'm sorry it took until now to read the book--but hey! I READ IT.
THE DORITO EFFECT is about processed food and its relevance to nutrition, diet, and obesity. The center of Schatzker's argument is basically that, as meat and produce becomes overprocessed, it loses nutrition because the focus is on quantity (mass production and mass farming), rather than quality, and a lot of the factors that result in nutrition get nixed out in favor of speedier maturation. The second part of his argument is that more money is being poured into bad food to make it more flavorful via salts, sugars, fats, and artificial and natural flavorings. Because so much of our food has gotten blander, we rely increasingly on flavorings.
I find books like these very interesting because I'm an example of one of the detrimental effects of processed food. I'm allergic specifically to genetically modified corn. Organic and non-GMO corn are both okay for me, but if I eat GMO I spend two hours vomiting and then another six with flu-like aches and fatigue. Because of this, I can't eat a lot of processed food, and I no longer crave it because I've developed a taste aversion to so much of it because I associate it with being sick.
I really liked THE DORITO EFFECT because it approached processed food from a novel angle that made sense. I also liked the fact that he compared processed food to addictive substances like drugs. Food can be a drug, I think, for the wrong people. It all depends on how your brain is wired. A corollary to this argument that Schatzker provided was interesting--and one that, until now, I hadn't heard. He posited that one of the reasons we might not gorge ourselves to sickness on things like produce is because some plants produce mildly toxic substances as a by-product of consumption. We might have an internal detection system that shuts off our hunger when we come close to eating too much. I thought that was interesting, and it made sense to me.
I also agree that there are different kinds of satiety. Wholesome food definitely leads to a sense of being full that doesn't make you feel bloated or sick. I was actually just thinking about that the other day, when I ate fast food for the first time in a couple months. I ate too much too fast and felt a little sick from all the greasy food. On the other hand, a few weeks ago, my boyfriend cooked me a pasta dinner and I also ended up eating too much of that, but then I didn't get a bellyache from being full.
I suppose my one complaint was that some of the things Schatzker said in this book led me to suspect that he has some very negative feelings about obese people. The downside to saying that some people have more sophisticated palates is that you're saying other people have...well, not so sophisticated palates. There seemed to be a lot of self-congratulating behavior in this book as the author lauded himself for seeking out healthy food and publicly scorning less healthy or nutritious options. I don't know, it felt judgmental. Especially with the comparison to drug addiction. People are autonomous to some degree when it comes to dieting and weight loss but there are also some factors that are beyond people's control.
Something else to consider is that eating better does cost more. There's an afterword in which the author discusses how to eat better, how aged the chicken you buy should be, and a list of chemicals and artificial flavorings you should avoid. I suppose that's helpful, but these grassroots revivals are insanely pricey and not everyone is going to be able to afford that or have the time to do the kind of research he suggests. For example, he says that even organic poultry isn't necessarily safe, and that we should look into the facilities and perhaps buy from local farmers' markets.
The takeaway message here is that processed food isn't healthy just because it's regarded as safe to eat by the FDA. Moderation is key. A lot of people aren't incorporating enough variety in their diets, and over-production has resulted in a dumbing-down of produce as genes responsible for flavor and nutrition have been overlooked in favor of genes involved in mass-production and fast growth. Honestly, though, I think making any changes in your diet for the better will have positive effect. Eating less processed food, having more vegetables in your diet, and being a bit more conscious about where your meat comes from and how it's raised are all good things, and if you are able to do any of these things in any small amount when making meals, then you're on the right track.
Very thought-provoking book. It really made me think about the food industry.
There have been a lot of books coming out over the last couple years that deal with sexual harassment and rape. On the one hand, I'm very happy that people are speaking out against such a serious issue. On the other hand, it really underscores just how big a problem rape is in our society even despite various advances in how we view gender constructs and sexuality, and that is troubling.
TAKE IT AS A COMPLIMENT is a series of short stories, all illustrated, from men and women sharing their stories of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and sexual abuse. Their stories are heartbreaking. I could feel my emotions catching in my chest as each narrator shared their story in devastatingly simple and hard-hitting terms.
One man was raped during a blind date. A woman had (unwanted) anal sex forced upon her by a boyfriend. One woman was taking the bus at night and had a man follow her all the way down the street. The stories range from mild to severe, but all of them are equally disturbing, and all of them have done harm.
TAKE IT AS A COMPLIMENT is an important book because it illustrates the importance of consent and respect in any kind of relationship. People should be able to feel safe when they walk down the street at night, and they should be able to trust that friends, family, and significant others won't take advantage of their trust when things don't go their way. Our bodies are our own, and to take away that ownership of someone, to rob them of agency and autonomy, is sick and depraved. What makes this book even more tragic is how young some of the victims were. One girl was only nine.
As I was reading this, I found myself thinking about some of the unpleasant situations I've found myself in over the years. One stood out among the rest.
When I was in high school, I would walk home from school. I lived in a desert climate. In June, it started to get very hot, often over 100 degrees. I was wearing an ankle-length skirt in my favorite color and a tank top. About halfway, these men started following me in a car at a slow pace. They were Latino, and quite a bit older than I was, and they were all calling horrible things to me in Spanish. I understood every word and it was terrifying, what they were saying. For the first time in my young life, I found myself wondering if I was going to make it home safely.
I ignored them. Isn't that what you're supposed to do? Because engaging people is the same as encouraging them? So I ignored the things they were saying, even as my squared shoulders stiffened and I found myself flushing with mortification and terror, and I quickly came up with a plan. If they stopped and came after me, I was going to run up to the first house I saw that had a car parked in a driveway. I was already fingering my cell phone, ready to call 911.
And then...what? What if I didn't make it? What if they were faster than me?
What if they didn't care?
Luckily, I didn't have to find out. The men got tired of me ignoring them and, laughing, drove away. I walked home looking over my shoulder the whole way, feeling scared and sick. When my mom got home, I cried when I told her. I never wore my favorite skirt again.
The other day I was watching an episode of Jane the Virgin (my current obsession--you should definitely watch it). Jane was at a writing workshop in order to develop her talent, and when all the participants exchanged stories, Jane belatedly realized that the expectation of the workshop was that only positive feedback was allowed. Jane's critical (but still mostly positive) feedback was read aloud, and the entire workshop, including the teacher, turned on her as the woman whose story she read cried.
There is an expectation that artists conduct themselves with aggressive, unequivocal positivity. Thanking fans, owing success to other people, name-dropping, humble bragging...this is what art has become. As a writer struggling to make it, I deal with this pretty much every day, and as somebody who refuses to play by these rules, I receive flack for it pretty much every day.
I love Sara Bareilles's music, and I was hoping that her memoir, with its beautiful, vintage-inspired cover, would give me insight into the woman behind the lyrics. She tried to bare her soul, I think. I mean, the words are her own, and she can write, and sometimes she can even spin a decent story, but it was all coated in sugar to make it easier to swallow. This insipid sweetness quickly became cloying as I realized that SOUNDS LIKE ME was less a heartfelt memoir than the agenda of pretty much any famous artist to date: "I'm a good person! Buy my stuff!"
I think that Bareilles really tried to be heartfelt. I believe that she cried while reliving some of these experiences. But at the same time, I also think that she has a desperate need to be liked and to please the people with whom she credits her success, so she also did a lot of things I really didn't like. There are, for example, long passages about working with famous artists who are so awesome and so nice you guys, like Taylor Swift, who is probably queen of the "I'm a good person! Buy my stuff!" approach. She jokingly compares herself to Oprah. She talks about how her music "saved" the life of one of her fans. And I believe that, for this fan, Sara's music could have led to a revelation, but at the same time, the way I read the book, it felt like Sara's music was also being portrayed as "healing."
And I really, really did not like that.
The problem with memoirs like these is that they just aren't interesting, and that there are dozens of other memoirs like this. They all have a very similar approach: the idyllic childhood peppered with the strife of normal people: divorce, body image issues, not fitting in. However, these issues are downplayed, with the implicit suggestion being that fame was the vehicle with which they overcame and eventually transcended these mortal foibles. Then there's the inspiring rise to fame, the name dropping, the thanksgiving, the accolades, and the wearing descriptions of The Process.
I believe Sara is probably a genuine nice person, and perhaps she is someone who I would even like to be friends with. But at the same time, nice--at least, the nice being pushed in this memoir--just isn't interesting, and it didn't really let me get to know the person behind the music any better than I already did. I felt like I'd probably get a better grasp on who she is as a person by listening to "Hold My Heart" or "Brave" than I did by reading this drivel, and that is not really a good feeling.
I swear to you, the 80s are coming back. Earlier this week, I reviewed a Saved by the Bell graphic-novel, and now I've found myself with JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS. I figured they must be releasing this graphic-novel to coincide with something, so I looked it up and, lo! and behold: there's a movie coming out on October 23, 2015, with the graphic novel itself slated to come out just a week after. I'm such a clever girl.
I didn't watch the original TV series so I can't really say how this compares. I did research it a bit before writing my review, and like most cartoons from the 1980s pre-reboot, it seems like it's a bit edgier than its modern incarnation. JEM the original had a lot of derring-do to appeal to a broader audience.
JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS is a fluffy, feel-good story about four sisters living together who want to be a band. A popular punk rock band called the Misfits put out a contest looking for a band to compete against in a battle of the bands, but Jerrica is too performance shy to make a proper video. Then one day a hologram appears in her father's audience, calling herself Synergy. He intended to give this technology to Jerrica to use, and ends up bequeathing it to her posthumously.
Jerrica activates the hologram with a pair of starburst earrings, which she uses to transform herself into Jem and get over her stagefright. Around this part is where it starts to deviate from the TV show. Most of the focus of JEM is about relationships. The creators made an executive decision to include a lesbian character, Kimber, and she ends up starting a relationship with a girl from the Misfit band that is actually really adorable. I have to say that it is very refreshing to see an LGBT relationship in a book geared towards young girls, so this is a change that was quite nice.
Another thing I liked, which wasn't necessarily part of the story, is that all of the girls from both bands have a wide variety of body types, ranging from svelte to curvy to heavy. And all of them have body confidence, and there is never any weight-shaming (at least none that I remember).
The storyline itself wasn't anything to write home about; it's a classic case of two sets of female rivals trying to outdo each other in increasingly escalated situations, some verging on the dangerous. If you're at all familiar with shoujo manga, you've seen this before. And even if you aren't, you've seen the Disney channel, right? Actually, now that I've watched the trailer for the new Jem movie, I have to say that it looks like it's taking the Hannah Montana route, except with four girls instead of one. Maybe with a dash of Josie and the Pussycats (2001) (a movie that I quite like).
JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS is a much better reboot than SAVED BY THE BELL. The changes made here actually make sense, and I really liked what the creators were trying to do. I also liked that these changes were relatively subtle, and that I was not beaten over the head with them. It made the changes feel more natural. The book does end on a wicked cliffhanger, though. Something to keep in mind, maybe?
Videogames are becoming an integral part of pop culture, which is funny because they used to be a part of the counterculture. But isn't that what happens? When the counterculture becomes popular enough, it's assimilated into our pop cultural "Borg", and just like that the underdog becomes the spoiled lapdog we all take for granted.
I, for one, was terribly excited to see HOW TO TALK ABOUT VIDEOGAMES on Netgalley because I'm somewhat of a pop culture junkie. I like learning about how the various media and technology we take for granted now came to be, and the paths the founders took that brought them to success (or failure).
HOW TO TALK ABOUT VIDEOGAMES isn't a linear history so much as a collection of essays that talk about various facets of game culture and why they are relevant. He talks about app games at length, which was welcome because app games are often overlooked or ignored by snobby purists who prefer to focus solely on console games. Bully and Grandtheft Auto are mentioned, and so are artsy games like Proteus and Flower, bizarre games like Goat Simulator, classics like Tetris, and popular games like Bioshock, Metal Gear Solid.
I found most of the essays engaging. My eyes glazed over a bit on the essay about sports games and Madden and EA, because I don't really care about sports, but he did make some interesting points about how sports games being treated with respect benefits both the sports games and the sports they are playing homage to, in some sort of Gestalt logic coup about their being a part of pop culture (or something like that--like I said, eyes were glazing over, and I only got the basic argument of what he was saying). He brings up an interesting account of a possible racist moment in Scribblenauts (which you can probably look up. Just add the word "sambo" to your search and see what happens).
HOW TO TALK ABOUT VIDEOGAMES would have gotten a much higher rating from me if not for the last essay and the epilogue that followed it. The essay in question was a criticism of Going Home, an exploration game developed by some of the same people who helped create Bioshock. His main criticism is one that I actually agree with in principle: stories should not get "brownie points" for what they are trying to achieve; the medium in which they tell these stories is what ought to count. The controversy in question comes from the fact that Going Home has a lesbian protagonist and a huge part of the game storyline is her coming out and figuring out her sexuality. Bogost takes issue with the apparently unequivocal praise this book has received, claiming that embracing the book for being LGBT cheapens the game industry and story-telling in general.
Here's where he lost me. He compares this cheap storytelling to young adult books and graphic novels. His argument seems to be that graphic novels and young adult books are low-brow works that aren't as mature as other, more sophisticated forms of storytelling, and their emergence in pop culture has damaged storytelling or, as he puts it so charmingly:
the modest, subtle pleasures of the literary arts [are] melting under Iron Man's turbines, impaled by Katniss Everdeen's arrow (195).
Are comic books and young adult books high literature? No. But that doesn't mean that they are without merit, nor does it mean that they are causing "the literary arts" to suffer. However, Bogost seems to have an idea that many gamers are illiterate bumpkins, because he makes a rather snide and nasty comment that Bioshock players almost certainly wouldn't know who Jeanette Winterson is.
The epilogue left an even worse taste in my mouth. As he wraps up this videogame manifesto, he starts making comments comparing gaming and the purchase of videogames to what he calls "unseemly" enterprises: liquor stores and sex shops. First off, what the actual fuck. Sex shops and liquor stores are not unseemly in and of themselves. In fact, some of them are quite nice. Second off, why is gaming unseemly? Why are we using puritanical moral compasses to gauge said unseemliness? Why are you trying to make playing videogames out to be a bad thing after spending almost 200 pages writing out a fairly balanced edict that weighs both the pros and the cons?
Videogames in a bookstore are different from video games [sic] in a videogame store. In a bookstore--even a mall store of questionable cultural virtue--they become on kind of media alongside others...[t]he bookstore cuts the lewdness of games just as the pub cuts the decadence of drinking (197).
Apparently buying videogames in a bookstore makes you a better person.
Then there's this whiny comment he makes, about knowing that this book wasn't going to sell a lot of copies because nobody wants to read about video games (because all gamers are illiterate bumpkins?) and that books about video games aren't marketable. He finishes with this thought:
you can't sell a trade book on games like you can sell one on social media or even on Star Wars, because games are considered to have no audience (200).
ON WHAT PLANET DO YOU LIVE?
Games are considered to have no audience. Fucking really? If you've ever been on Tumblr or Twitter or any social media site of any kind, you would know that this is simply not true. There is a HUGE audience for games and gaming, and a lot of those gamers are interconnected. Many of them are quite intelligent and very literate, and I can think of a number of them who would happily purchase a book about gaming and game culture and the history of video games just because of the sheer novelty reading about their subculture would provide. In fact, there's a number of books about games that have achieved modest success. Exhibits (a), (b), (c), (d), (e), (f), (g), etc.
Maybe the reason gamers aren't buying your books in droves isn't because there's no market or interest in it. Maybe it's because they've read your articles elsewhere and have decided that you're kind of a pedantic asshat who enjoys insulting them a little too much. That's certainly the impression that I've gotten from reading this book in full. Now I've got to wash out the bad taste in my mouth...
TWISTED was a really shocking book. It was about three sisters living in the Ukraine who turn to prostituting themselves in Eastern Europe for quick cash. But there are hidden costs in everything, and Julia discovers several of them as she immerses herself in this dark world, battered by readily available drugs, addiction, sexual abuse, and clients who are interested in the darkest spectrum of sex.
I was really impressed by the quality of the writing and story-telling in TWISTED. It's good for indie. Very good. When I found out that there was going to be a sequel to that book, I was excited for that as well. For the first time, I understood people's excitement when they read a trashy book; for me, TWISTED was incredibly "trashy" but good enough that I didn't feel the need to justify myself. The writing and story spoke for themselves.
In CRAVED, the sequel, Julia ends up in sex work yet again, this time in South Africa, working as a stripper. CRAVED is quite similar to TWISTED in terms of the unraveling of the plot: Julia goes in expecting easy money and finds out that the work is not as easy as she expected. She deals with the racism and culture shock of her new home on a daily basis. Clients do not understand (or pretend not to understand) the rules of the premises, forcing her to get a bouncer or the club owner to intervene. Her appearance is subject to ruthless scrutiny, and for the first time, she considers making permanent modifications to her body.
I feel like this book delved deeper into the lives of Julia's family. We find out more about her mother and father, and her sisters, Natalia and Lena. Many of the things we find out about them are unpleasant, and I really did not like Natalia and Lena by the time the story was over. Even Julia, who I rooted for in the previous book, lost favor with me. She seemed so cold and mercenary in this book, whereas I kind of liked her plucky sarcasm in book one. I'm not sure if this was intentional on the author's part: if her coldness is a result of her hardening from working in the sex industry, and her psychological coping mechanism for dealing with the rape and abuse she experienced before.
Oh, and if you are one of the people who was put off by the graphic sex and violence in book one, book two is much more toned down by comparison. The most disturbing things in this book are some drug use, attempted rape, and a pedophile. Which is still more disturbing than you may like, but I was able to stomach this relatively easily, whereas book one actually had me walking away several times.
Overall, CRAVED was an okay book. There were more odd phrases in this book than the first one, and some of them were clunky enough to draw me out of the story. I also feel like the plot mirrored the first book too closely, and didn't really engage me as much as the first. Possibly because stripping just isn't as interesting as prostitution and clients with weird/disgusting fetishes. CRAVED certainly wasn't terrible, but it wasn't the sequel I was hoping for either. Definitely a case of middle book syndrome. Hopefully book three will be better.
Somehow I missed the words "graphic novel" on the cover when I applied for this anthology. How exciting!
I'm going to be honest. Almost everything I know about Japanese mythology comes from either Inuyasha and Takashi Shimizu movies. But I love folklore and mythology of all kinds, and when I saw THE FACELESS GHOST on Netgalley, I jumped.
THE FACELESS GHOST is a lot like that SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK anthology that made us all pee ourselves in grade school, except with Japanese demons, ghosts, and goblins. Some of the stories are creepy. Some of them are scary. Some of them are disturbing. And one, a story about a samebito, was actually quite sweet and charming.
This would make a fantastic gift for anyone who is interested in Japanese culture and folklore. The art style is reminiscent of the manga style, and compliments the stories. It was fun seeing how the various tales corresponded to other fairy tales I had read before. I think there are a lot of cross-similarities in folklore across cultures, and one of the things I love most is seeing what changes and what stays the same.
Well, this was a surprise. After disliking my first introduction to Šejić's work, I randomly found myself reading SUNSTONE, and--surprise, surprise--actually found myself enjoying it. I know a BDSM graphic-novel about two lesbians sounds like it's going to be pure exploitation, but the story was actually quite funny and cute, and managed to accurately capture a lot of the angst that revolves around starting a new relationship and acting out your deepest, darkest sexual fantasies with someone. Well, I thought so.
My problem with SUNSTONE was that it seemed a little too flip. Sometimes the dialogue was too colloquial, as graphic-novels are sometimes wont to do, and all the slang kind of made me side-eye the book. Was this a speed-date? Was this book desperately trying to woo me in under five minutes? What the heck, book? What?
Also, lesbian love stories don't really do anything for me. I appreciate them--especially if they aren't exploitative--but it's not something that I would go out of my way to seek out.
SUNSTONE VOLUME 2, however, surprised me yet again. Suddenly, we have all these new characters: Chris, Cassie, Marion, Anne. Alan gets more of a back story in this book, which was exciting, because he was one of my favorite characters from book one and I was sad that he didn't have a bigger role in that storyline. He has a much bigger role here. Just FYI.
The story also gets a lot darker. Book one was about exploring your sexuality and finding appropriate outlets and partners for it, while also being psychologically healthy. Book two builds on that, but also shows how and why two people with the same fetish might not always work out, and also emphasizes the need for physical safety and being safe, sane, and consensual. The lesson is a painful one (although not as horrific as it could have been--I admit, I was a step away from biting off my nails).
I'm really starting to enjoy this series. Šejić has clearly found his niche, and SUNSTONE does a wonderful job giving the BDSM community a much-needed human touch. I know I'm going to have to put another quarter in my FIFTY SHADES OF GREY jar for making this reference, but I have to say that those books and others like it have seriously poisoned society's ideas about what BDSM actually is and how one goes about doing it. FSoG put BDSM into the mainstream and brought it to light, and created an interest and a market for other books and movies like it, so in that sense it did do something useful, but I also feel like it has also given people a very warped and potentially harmful concept of what an actual D/s relationship looks like, and how it should be carried out.