“Everybody’s interested in me.” “Not him.” Jeff Stern, the host and roommate, tossed in a thousand dollars’ worth of chips. “Ain’t that right, Lane?” ““Everybody’s interested in me.” “Not him.” Jeff Stern, the host and roommate, tossed in a thousand dollars’ worth of chips. “Ain’t that right, Lane?” “Are you gay? Is he gay?” Lane moved the queen of hearts next to the king of hearts. Shifted the jack next to the queen. Wanted to push the boob job with mouth onto the floor.”
I actually hated this book. I'm not even trying to be dramatic - I HATED it.
Even though Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series was a little cliche and more than a little repetitive after a while, I confess to quite enjoying it. Especially the earlier books. So when I heard that she'd moved away from vampires and turned to Southern family drama for her latest series, I was ready to settle into an entertaining - if not mind-blowing - read.
But not only was this book one big cheesy cliche after another, I just despised the characters, found the sexual chemistry completely absent, and was a little uncomfortable - almost offended - in parts.
Firstly, though, how many times do I have to read this story?:
A rich, gorgeous and arrogant guy has fake-boobed, dyed-haired "bimbos" throwing themselves at him, but he is uninterested and too good for these dehumanized women. Yes, that's right - dehumanized into descriptions of their clothes and plastic surgery. Or referred to like this:
"Lane sat back and addressed the fool that had brought the chatty accessory."
Yeah, that chatty accessory is indeed a woman.
This rich dude, however, only wants a nice girl - a Mary Sue who doesn't wear make-up or have surgical enhancements:
“Her face was free of makeup, the skin tanned and glowing, the bone structure reminding him that good genetics were better than a hundred thousand dollars’ of plastic surgery.”
Plus, Lane - the guy in question - is pretty much a rude dick to everyone he doesn't want to fuck. Is it supposed to be sexy when he talks down to and rudely dismisses the staff in his family home? He also has a wife who is a racist piece of shit, which is used to justify him threatening to beat her:
“Don’t be ridiculous. Besides, she’s black— ” Lane grabbed Chantal’s arm and yanked her up close. “Don’t you ever talk about her with that kind of attitude. I’ve never hit a woman before, but I guarantee I will beat the shit out of you if you disrespect her.”
I honestly don't even know how to feel about that exchange. Should I hate her for being racist? Or hate him for being abusive? In truth, I just couldn't stand either of them.
The whole story is supposed to be about Lane meeting his old flame - Lizzie - after years apart. They could not be together because he is heir to a huge Bourbon empire and she's one of the gardeners. But now she's back and old emotions resurface (etc., etc.) and both of them must try to resist the pull of their pasts.
Now, I admit that there's something really sexy about old lovers with unsolved angst meeting up again. But Ward manages to drain every bit of excitement out of it. There is no build-up, no tension; even the supposed obstacles feel contrived and unrealistic.
This isn't unique to Ward's work, though. It seems to be the modern thing - happening in almost every NA romance I read. Does no one want a slow build of chemistry and tension anymore? Do readers only want instant gratification? Erections popping up and juices flowing as soon as they set eyes on one another? Am I one of a small few who is turned off by this?
Maybe. I don't know. I only know that this book was a mess. And it didn't even manage to be entertaining....more
Sophie Kinsella used to be such a guilty pleasure author for me. I haven't read one of her books in years but I always enjoyed reading about the hilarSophie Kinsella used to be such a guilty pleasure author for me. I haven't read one of her books in years but I always enjoyed reading about the hilarious, ridiculous and unfortunate situations her shopaholic protagonist found herself in.
Finding Audrey, though, could be Kinsella's strongest work to date. It's funny, sweet, heartwarming but also - I felt - an honest look at a teenage girl living with social anxiety.
“They talk about “body language,” as if we all speak it the same. But everyone has their own dialect. For me right now, for example, swiveling my body right away and staring rigidly at the corner means, “I like you.” Because I didn’t run away and shut myself in the bathroom. I just hope he realizes that.”
One of my favourite things about this book is that it's about one of those families - loud, crazy, often torn apart by arguments, but ultimately very close and loving towards one another. The dynamics Kinsella creates between the members of Audrey's family make this book very funny (and sometimes touching too).
Audrey's mother is a neurotic Daily Mail fan who constantly tries to improve her family's lifestyle after reading articles like "The Eight Signs Your Child is Addicted to Computer Games". She's comical, infuriating, but still lovable. Audrey's Dad reluctantly tries to enforce the rules his wife establishes, but he really just wants to keep the peace and watch Downton Abbey. Audrey's older brother Frank is obsessed with a game called LOC (similar to World of Warcraft) and this causes many hilarious arguments with his mum. And then there's Audrey.
Audrey is suffering from a severe anxiety disorder. She can hardly bear to leave the house and gets upset whenever Frank's gamer friends come around. However, she does begin to establish a way of communicating through paper notes with one of Frank's friends - Linus. Who, by the way, is so freaking adorable.
One of my main concerns when I started this book was that it would turn into another "love cures mental illness" tale. I hate that damaging and untrue message. But, though Linus offers support and friendship to Audrey, the author doesn't allow that message to seep through. Kinsella shows recovery from mental illness as a long process of two steps forward and one step back. Even at the novel's close, Audrey has not been miraculously cured.
I liked that. I liked that the book was a good balance of light-hearted silly humour and hard realism. It was really effective.
Oh okay, you I-told-you-so people. You were right. This book is so much fun that I baked cookies and listened to unfortunate nineties pop music.
No, rOh okay, you I-told-you-so people. You were right. This book is so much fun that I baked cookies and listened to unfortunate nineties pop music.
And I seriously didn't want to read this. I mean, why would I? I don't particularly like cutesy romances, LGBT or not. The cover is kinda sucky and not attractive. The title is an inside joke that only makes sense after reading the book. And, let's be honest, it's always easier to convince me to read books with phrases like "mind-bending twist", "dark secrets" and "twisted characters". The word "cute" doesn't draw me in.
But I finally took a chance on it and I concede - this book is wonderful. Just so so entertaining from start to finish. I actually snorted aloud (like the sexy beast I am) at some of the hilarious scenes between Simon and his friends. Simon is that perfect mix of delightfully weird and totally normal - he makes us laugh and roll our eyes, but we secretly recognize many of the things he thinks.
I giggled so much at scenes like this:
I take a sip of my beer, and it’s - I mean, it’s just astonishingly disgusting. I don’t think I was expecting it to taste like ice cream, but holy fucking hell. People lie and get fake IDs and sneak into bars, and for this? I honestly think I’d rather make out with Bieber. The dog. Or Justin. Anyway, it really makes you worry about all the hype surrounding sex.
A few minutes later...
“Simon, how much did you drink?” asks Leah. I’m twisting the ends of her hair. Leah’s hair is so pretty, and it smells exactly like French toast. Except that’s Abby. Leah smells like almonds. “One beer.” One most excellent, most delicious beer. “One beer. I can’t even begin to express how ridiculous you are.”
I know this sounds extremely lame - but this book genuinely made me happy. It doesn't hesitate to portray the reality of homophobia in a high school in the South, but it's ultimately such an uplifting story about friendship, family and the sweetest romance I may ever have read.
You can read hundreds, perhaps thousands, of books about the difficulties of dealing with your sexuality and coming out - like the dark and powerful More Happy Than Not - and these are very important, but it was so refreshing to see a warm, fuzzy gay romance where the protagonist is supported by his friends and family.
I fell asleep at my desk, having spent the last day teaching myself about curses and searching for Ryzhkova. The National Archives were lacking in sh
I fell asleep at my desk, having spent the last day teaching myself about curses and searching for Ryzhkova. The National Archives were lacking in ship manifests pre-1800, but allowed me to track bibliographies that led to the New York Public Library’s archives and manifests from 1600 on...
This is a book about a whiny narrator doing research. And also about tarot cards.
The Book of Speculation is a strange novel and, really, that's its greatest merit. Many different - flat and lifeless - characters have their own weird stories overlapping in this book and behind it all is the story of Simon Watson's family and the curse that may take the lives of all its women.
The book seems to promise dark family secrets, books, carnivals and magic - a blend which sounds like paradise for most readers. In truth, though, it was very slow and dull. It's one of those stories that is strongest in the very beginning when setting up the mystery; it propels the reader along by a need to discover the answers and nothing more.
The middle section of the book (about 80% of it) should have been made up of compelling drama, excitement, interesting discoveries and fascinating flashbacks to the past. Instead, it's about the boring character of Simon Watson - stealing books from the library and conducting tedious research into why the women of his family might be cursed to die on July 24.
The flashback - or, more accurately, the book Simon receives - starts off in a more interesting way. It features the story of two young lovers who are also carnival acts - Amos is a former wild boy and now reads tarot cards, Evangeline is a "mermaid" because she can hold her breath for a long time. My favourite bit (indeed, the only part I really liked) was the start of Amos's story as a mute boy from the wilderness, taken in and given a home at the carnival.
But eventually this became as tedious as the present day story. There is something a little fascinating about tarot cards, but this book drained every bit of excitement out of them. From endless mentions of cards and card-reading, to Amos using the cards to communicate with Evangeline, I just grew so tired of the book's plotlessness and boring conversations.
The Book of Speculation is being compared to two other popular books - The Night Circus and Water for Elephants. I haven't read the first, but I would say the latter is far more engaging than this book. Gruen's writing has an easy flow to it that Swyler lacks. It was so very easy for me to put this book aside every few minutes.
Delia knew something someone didn’t want her to know, that’s for damn sure. And she threatened to tell. So whose secret was it? And what were they wiDelia knew something someone didn’t want her to know, that’s for damn sure. And she threatened to tell. So whose secret was it? And what were they willing to do to make her keep it?
Lovely cover, intriguing title, nothing new or special for the most part, until a cheap twist comes flying in towards the end.
This book was all kinds of messy. Typical bitchy high-school drama that tries to follow in the footsteps of Gone Girl, but ends up being laughably cheesy, rather than an interesting psychological thriller. Plus, it seems like a mistake to market this as "Gone Girl meets Thirteen Reasons Why" when that makes it really easy to see the "twist" coming.
I've read multiple variations of the "girl commits suicide but - oh my - it might not really be a suicide and now the best friend must solve this murder case without consulting the police" story. Do they ever work? Not that I can remember. Mostly because I have little patience for stupid people and there's something inherently stupid about finding evidence that someone might have been murdered and launching your own investigation.
This one, however, is particularly sensational. June and Delia used to be friends but "something happened". June gets a voice mail from Delia the day of her alleged suicide, and then Delia's ex-boyfriend turns up and announces that she didn't kill herself. So June throws herself into a private investigation that gets more and more unbelievable as it progresses.
The plot goes a little crazy - from drugs to cheating to pregnancy to abortion to rape - and June's characterization is a little off. Her first discovery is that *gasp* Delia is involved with a drug dealer. June's initial reaction implies that she is terrified and clueless at the thought of drugs (I mean, like, marijuana's that herb they put in tacos, right?) Then, all of a sudden, she's infiltrating the drug dealer's lair (okay, going to his house, but remember - this is a dramatic book).
Some people were surprised by the ending, but I think so much gives it away. There's too many clues in the marketing, for a start. And not only is it easy to guess, but I think it weakens the story even further. Delia's somewhat complex character dissolves into just one more cliche.
When a book becomes one of the most-read books of the week/month on Goodreads but maintains a barely respectable average rating of 3.6, there are usuaWhen a book becomes one of the most-read books of the week/month on Goodreads but maintains a barely respectable average rating of 3.6, there are usually one of two reasons for it:
1) The book is an objectively well-written, pretentious masterpiece that everyone thinks they should read but no one really likes.
Or 2) Some marketing guru thought it would be a good idea to - wrongly - pitch the book as the next Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Gone Girl... etc.
In this case, it's the second reason. Luckiest Girl Alive is Gone Girl's boring, less clever, younger sister. It's a tale devoid of emotional connection of any kind, introducing a narrator who establishes herself as a cold-hearted bitch on the first page and continues to seal the title of "unlikable narrator" by analyzing, judging and hating every woman she has ever known.
I really, really hate it when people say this, so I'm sorry, but I think so much about this book was a case of "trying too hard". I know, I know, what the fuck does that mean?? Well, here it means that the author created a villainous caricature, rather than a complex character. Authors like Gillian Flynn write women who ruminate on human behaviour, who dissect the world around them with a nihilistic flair; Knoll tries to do the same, but it's too forced.
Amy Dunne is so great because there's grains of truth in her insanity (we know all about the "cool girl"); Ani FaNelli, on the other hand, is just mindlessly ranting to demonstrate her own inner crazy-bitchness. When Amy Dunne offered some insight into the way people behave, I found myself nodding and understanding exactly what she meant; when Ani FaNelli bitchily finds fault with everyone around her, I was rolling my eyes.
Plus, it was freaking boring. We're promised all these secrets and revenge but, frankly, I never cared. Ani is so annoying and her inner narrative so very tedious. She spends way too much time pulling apart what other women are wearing - I honestly do not give a flying fuck if that bag is Chanel or if those leather pants are real - and making judgments based upon it; judgements that I suppose are to indicate how observant and twistedly insightful our protagonist is.
There is no emotion in this book. It deals with serious issues like rape and even they are glossed over with nary an emotion in sight. The glaring problem was that I never felt a reason to care about anything. Not the characters. Not the story. Such a dull read.