Note: some of our members have reported that not all read dates are showing on this page. While we work on making sure they correctly display on this page, you can still view your dates on your review or on the book page.
I finished my Halloween Reading Challenge! FINALLY!
SHORECLIFF is a strange little book. The cover is deceiving, because that old skool gown and misty castle would have you thinking that this is a wallpaper Victorian about some governess who might be in love with a murderer, etc. But no. SHORECLIFF is set in the 1960s (Twiggy is mentioned).
Anita and Charles inherit a crumbly old mansion when one of his relatives kicks it, much to the dismay of some of his other relations, including his cousin and foster sister, Pat. One of the clauses of the will states that Pat gets to continue to live with them, even though the house and the bulk of the fortune goes to them.
Once there, Charles gets the idea to write a book about his ancestress, Amanda Shore, who, according to legend, murdered her husband and then went to France, where she had a beauty treatment that coated her entire face in enamel. This part was confusing to me, because the words the author used made it sound like the enamel was injected into her face, but I suspect that - since this would have been happening in the 1860s (100 years ago, from "today", i.e. the 1960s, according to the cover) - the enamel treatment was actually referring to lead enamel, the popular makeup of the day.
Anyway, Charles starts acting weird and Anita starts seeing what looks like the ghost of Amanda looming around the house. Charles accuses her of sabotage. Anita accuses him of being in love with Amanda and Pat, by turns, and claims that Amanda is coming to get her revenge, etc. Their marriage suffers. There's a psychic who appears and makes ominous comments that for some reason most people seem to take seriously. More stuff happens, then there's a Scooby-Doo style unmasking.
I read this book while drinking wine, and went through two glasses over the course of this book. Wine did not improve the logic of this storyline or the characters' actions (although it actually was a lovely compliment to that dry, sweet, "old book smell"). I see that this author also wrote some novelizations of the vampire soap, Dark Shadows, which helps explain the expositional dialogue and unnecessary melodrama. It was pretty bad. Still, it was not the worst gothic novel I have read - that dubious honor goes to MISTRESS OF THE MOOR. #IRegretNothing
Far too often, YA novels lauded for their 'strong female characters' have me throwing the book across the room in frustration and asking, loudly and rhetorically, "IN WHAT UNIVERSE?"
Not THE IMMORTAL RULES.
Allison Sekemoto is a human living in a city ruled by vampires. A wall separates them from zombies ("rabids") roaming just outside the city limits. There are two kinds of humans in Allie's world: those that go willingly as feudal slaves and get fed in exchange for the tithes of their blood, and those who live off the grid, forced to scavenge in the ruins of civilization for food, shelter, and comfort. Allie was a member of the latter group, until a terrible accident results in her near-death, and she's forced to become what she hates in order to survive.
It's difficult to say too much more without spoiling anything, and this is a book that really should be read knowing as little as possible. In a way, it's a lot like ANGELFALL, in the sense that it's a post-apocalyptic world filled with paranormal characters, and a butt-kicking Asian girl who wields a sword. I actually like THE IMMORTAL RULES a lot better, though, as Allie is far more likable, the world-building is much more consistent, and the love interests - Ezekiel and, I suspect, Kanin - are much nicer, and more interesting, than the angel dude was in ANGELFALL.
I really can't wait to read the next book (which I own- what would I do if I didn't? Cry, probably). I'm really, really trying hard to be rational and explain my love for this book without spoiling the story or screaming nonsensically in all caps, and it's SO HARD, oh my god. The heroes and villains were handled with equal care, and the world was convincingly grim. I read this pretty much in a single sitting, putting it down only to eat, drink, and occasionally rest my eyes. This is such a good story and if you're a fan of dystopian novels like THE HUNGER GAMES or vampires, you should read this.
I needed to read a "rock star" romance for this romance reading challenge I'm doing, and I figured what better way of accomplishing that than to revisit the first vintage novel I ever read? Jackie Collins's ROCK STAR. You know you're getting into something good from the very moment you crack open the cover and see the author's full cover 80s glamor shot, looking like the world's greatest bad-ass with teased hair and a denim jean jacket. RIP, Jackie Collins.
I read ROCK STAR for the first time almost ten years ago and it holds up pretty well. This book is an epic that is nearly 500 pages long that takes place mostly in the late 70s, early 80s. It is about three rock stars. There's Rafaella, who is a quarter black, a quarter French, a quarter English, a quarter American, and an amazing lounge singer. Born to wealth, she suffered many tragedies, including the death of her father, and rose to fame after having her heart broken for the second time. There's Bobby Mondella, a black soul singer, who started out life overweight and impoverished and later became a best-seller and international sex symbol, only to lose his sight in a terrible accident. Lastly, there's Kris Phoenix, the ultimate stereotype of the 80s rocker, cast in the mold of Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen. He sleeps around, and talks like a Valley Girl, but he's 100% all about that rock life.
The thing that these three stars have in common is a creepy European dude named Marcus Citroen and his wife, Nova Citroen. Both of them are 100% about that creep life, and have invested mind, body, and soul into these stars for their own personal means. Now, in 1987, all of them are about to come together in a final showdown at the Citroens's benefit concern. Only, things are about to be explosive, because there's this random group of criminals planning a heist to end all heists, too.
ROCK STAR is so over-the-top, so 80s, that it's absolutely amazing. It's the ultimate sleazy adventure. Everyone wears too much makeup. Everyone does cocaine. Everyone's a shallow jerk. The characters play musical beds. The word 'b*tched' is used as an actual dialogue tag. Even the written-out phonetic accents and racial stereotypes are done so unapologetically that it's almost not offensive. Almost. Is this book dated? Oh, God yes. The only thing more dated would be a guy wearing silver parachute pants and a mullet, dancing around in the street with a giant boombox to "In Your Eyes" by Peter Gabriel while his Chrysler idles in the street. On the other hand, it's pure fun, and written just smartly enough that you won't be filled with morning-after regret the next day.
I was wary about picking this one up because two reviewers I almost always agree with, Heather and Khanh, both gave this a pretty negative review. Also, it's steampunk and YA - two genres I often have issues with. Paired together? It seemed like too much. But THEN I found out that this was a Phantom of the Opera retelling and I was like, "Dude, I love that shiz."
But did I really love that shiz? After all, I think we all remember what happened when I tried to read ROSEBLOOD.
OF METAL AND WISHES has a pretty cool concept. It's set in this industrial universe, chopped up into districts that serve out various functions. Wen, the main character, is the daughter of the doctor/surgeon who works inside a slaughterhouse.
The workers are a different race than Wen's people, called "the Noor" and are dehumanized, called animals and barbarians by the people in the more prestigious roles. But Wen quickly finds sympathy with them because one of them, Melik, is hawt. He's not the "phantom," though. That role belongs to a mysterious figure called "Ghost" who haunts the slaughterhouse, answering the wishes of those who leave offerings at his shrine. Ghost allegedly died in a factory accident years ago, and while some laugh off those claims, mysterious things happen in the factory. Dangerous things. Deadly things.
I'm still laughing about The Phantom of the Slaughterhouse. I'm trying to decide if that's better or worse than The Phantom of the Rave. Probably worse, because neon lights and strobes can be pretty freaky, but it's hard to take a phantom seriously when he's trying to push his way through a bunch of swinging meat carcasses while still trying to look intimidating (note: this did not actually happen, but oh man, it would have been hilarious if it did - like Adam Levine in Animals).
OF METAL AND WISHES tries to tackle racism and rape culture but it fails at both because of some really bad mixed messages. Wen has all kinds of bad things to say about women who sell their bodies, and the men who take them up on that offer, but from her position of privilege it comes off as incredibly insensitive. Especially when she is put into that position later, multiple times (virtually all the men in this book are creeps). She holds herself to a different standard because she is "pure": as if being virginal somehow makes you less deserving of abuse and sexual harassment, which is an absolutely terrible mindset to have.
The racism, likewise, also feels very awkward. Wen comes across as very superior and sanctimonious, and when she feels betrayed by Melik, she's quick to resort to her old, racist beliefs as a means of channeling her rage. Which is realistic in a sense - people often show their true, racist colors when they're angry. But it just seemed to underscore the fact that Wen saw Melik - and the Noor - as being beneath her, and I never really got a sense that she had changed much as a person, even at the end of the book. She was still selfish and awful and judgemental.
Perhaps that could have been forgivable if the story had been better, but it wasn't. The pacing was very slow. The world-building was original, and reminded me of the grim, caste-segregated steampunk stories that Paolo Bacigalupi is well-known for, but Sarah Fine did not flesh out the world enough, and it felt more like a backdrop than a well-developed world. What a shame that was, because a dark and dangerous factory and creepy mechanical spiders could have served as the setting for a modern day Jungle, a la Sinclair Lewis. But this ended up feeling like yet another cliche, wallpaper YA forbidden love story masquerading as a dystopian.
I snagged a copy of this ARC because the title made me laugh and I loved the paradox of the snappy, sarcastic title against the baby pink cover. "Mean" can sometimes be funny, as evidenced by the movie Mean Girls, and sometimes we all need a reality check. I was expecting something tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic, witty. Your best-frenemy-for-ever as she channels her inner-Dorothy Parker while sipping on mimosas at your favorite cafe.
Instead I got... something else.
First, I understand why people are not totally on board with "positivity." It gets a bum-rap in the media, and its advocates are portrayed as irresponsible hippies or culturally appropriating phonies with no drive, who spend all their time smoking pot or meditating. This is NOT an accurate representation, however, and while this book appears to have been created to take cheap shots at self-help books like The Secret, and pop psychology books like Flow, it operates on the assumption that "happy" people are delusional people who aren't grounded in reality.
YOU'RE NOT THAT GREAT is bitter and misanthropic. It encourages unhappiness, seems to suggest that you should wallow in it, and angst, hate, despise, sulk, and seethe freely. There were some passages I agreed with - the part about accepting the anxiety of your future and using that anxiety to propel yourself into action when it comes to accomplishing as much as you can before your own inevitable demise, for example. Death is uncomfortable but it happens to us all, and in a way, it's the driving force behind creativity and insight, because if we lived forever, we might all just become a bunch of dull, indolent vampires passing the days away in an endless malaise.
The part about the author's mother getting cancer and her recovery was also quite touching, and portrayed - bitingly real - insights about the pain of recovery and how much of it relies on luck as much as fortitude, and how difficult it is to be brave in suffering. Although that was the point of no return for me as well - when I realized that I wasn't getting Dorothy Parker so much as Ernest Hemingway.
And you know, I get it. I used to side-eye happy people too. I thought they were a bunch of fake, cultish people eating up their own lies like it was the most delicious thing they had ever tasted. And to some extent, Elan Gale has a point: being mindlessly, foolishly happy isn't a good way to live your life. That was one of the cautionary aspects of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World; unhappiness keeps society from stagnating; it can trigger change; it keeps pleasure from becoming a dull, drugged haze. But true positivity isn't about that - it's about learning to accept yourself, flaws and all, minimizing stress, and embarking upon the endless, and yes, sometimes futile, struggle of self-betterment.
I couldn't really get on board with this book. But maybe darker souls than I will find it funny.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
Wow! This has been a fantastic month for feminist reads for me. I read about five times more than normal and all of them, with one glaring exception, have been excellent. THE LITTLE BOOK OF FEMINIST SAINTS is a fun little book packing a surprising amount of feminists and strong/progressive women. Each woman gets her own mini section, with an abbreviated bio presented vignette-style, and, of course, a stylized portrait.
THE LITTLE BOOK OF FEMINIST SAINTS is actually a very similar concept to this other book I literally just read called DEAD FEMINISTS: HISTORIC HEROINES IN LIVING COLOR. Like LITTLE BOOK, DEAD FEMINIST also features a number of women, divided into sections, with mini bios and stylized art. The art style and presentation are different but there is a lot of overlap - Frida Kahlo, Virginia Woolf, Rachel Carson, Shirley Chisholm, and Sappho to name a few.
THE LITTLE BOOK OF FEMINIST SAINTS features many more women, however. Some of my favorites were Venus and Serena Williams, Anne Frank, the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, Michelle Obama, Oprah, and Hillary Clinton (obviously). I learned about a few new women, too, like the artist Yayoi Kusama (her aesthetic is amazing and now I'm dying to see one of her exhibits, because it is so insta-worthy) and the performer and French resistance agent, Josephine Baker.
This is a great book with some unexpected additions. Perfect for the modern feminist's coffee table.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
DEAD FEMINISTS combines three of my favorite things - art, history, and feminism. This creative effort uses the art of the letterpress to create gorgeous, vintage-inspired broadsides featuring literal and also figurative portraits of the women contained herein. Sometimes, books about famous feminist figures start to look an awful lot like trivia night at the local bar: you see the same faces, over and over again, and it gets old, fast. Not DEAD FEMINISTS, though! They have a pretty broad interpretation of what makes a feminist, and took care to include a number of women of color, including the former queen of Hawaii and Sadako of the 1,000 paper cranes.
I'd give this a four-star rating for the art work alone. I was at a museum recently that featured a collection of vintage protest and activist posters, and the broadsides of these artists reminded me of that style. They alter each poster so it incorporates symbols of each respective woman's culture, zeitgeist, and ideals, to great effect. All the posters were beautiful and except for one or two that I wasn't really keen on, I'd want copies of each for myself.
Here's a pic I snapped of a vintage poster. The style is reminiscent of what you can expect to see here:
Luckily for me, the explanations of the style choices and the brief biographies of the women were just as engaging. It's so clear that a lot of work was poured into this little book, and it really pays off! Plus, after each project, the authors contributed to a charity that was specific to each woman's cause, that they thought she would appreciate. How cool is that? (Uber.)
Definitely a must for artists and feminists alike!
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
Now that I've gotten your attention - no, seriously, your clothes really are trying to murder you, and they've got a rap-sheet about a mile long.
KILLER FASHION is about deadly garments - and also deadly cosmetics, deadly wigs, deadly hair dye... it takes the word "garments" and stretches it a little far. But anyway, KILLER FASHION is about things you can wear (but probably shouldn't) that are actually deadly, or...err, potentially deadly?
Some of these things are obviously bad, like the mercury that used to be in the felt of hats, which is why hatters were called "mad hatters." Or the lead that used to be in makeup. Or the ammonia and bleach(!) concoction that Jean Harlow allegedly used to get her signature platinum blonde look.
Others are... kind of lame. Like, bras - because the underwire can cause you to be shocked by lightning (seriously?). Or heels - because you might trip and fall. Or neck-ties... because some psychopath might grab you by your tie and strangle you with it. In those instances, I wouldn't say it's the clothing that's deadly - it's the weather, the carelessness, and the innate psychotic behavior in certain human beings that are contributing to one's demise.
Also, these "killer" fashion objects are arranged in alphabetical order, but certain letters are skipped. That felt lazy to me (almost as lazy as writing about deadly lightning conducting bras, hmm?). I noticed you skipped Q - you could have done qipao, which has a spot of dark history during the Qing dynasty. There was also no "P", I believe, and you could have totally done "piercings" for that, which can be incredibly dangerous if done poorly, especially if done near arteries as in the tongue. Likewise, skinny jeans (I can't remember if there was a "J") cause nerve damage if worn too tightly. This is just off the top of my head, people.
I wanted to like KILLER FASHION more than I did, but it felt like a forced and half-assed effort. The poetry in here made the book feel young (how old is the intended audience for this book?), and the collection of "deadly" clothing assembled could have been, well, deadlier. I learned some new facts, which I'm always grateful for, but this collection really fell short of my expectations.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
When I was in high school, I was bullied online by several students I went to school with. It was in the early 2000s, when the internet was still a vast wilderness, and many people could say that they didn't "use the Internet" and not be given a look, like, "What, why not? What are you trying to hide?" These students said pretty much every awful kind of thing you can say to someone - vague threats, specific threats, encouragement to commit suicide, transphobic insults, homophobic insults, ad hominem attacks, slurs. They said things the types of things that go viral today, and would result in a suspension - at least. But my school simply shrugged its shoulders and said it was online, there was nothing they could do. The students got away with it.
SHAME NATION talks about many incidences of bad behavior online. Some occurred on a large scale, some on a small scale. Some involve famous people, others people who could be your next-door neighbor. The types of behavior are pretty broad in scope - trolling, abusive memes, online stalking, extortion, revenge porn, online harassment, etc. Scheff discusses the subjects in detail, with tips on reputation management, how to be safe online, how to recognize and deal with online harassment when it happens to you, and the various forms it can take. Sometimes books like these can be preachy or laughably out of date, but SHAME NATION was neither. If anything, Scheff shows just how "gray" the internet is when it comes to the mob mentality of vigilante justice/injustice, and how quickly witch hunts can develop.
Speaking as someone who has experience with this firsthand, a lot of this really hit home. I never fully understood why the students who picked on me went after me the way they did. Probably because I was a weird, insecure kid and an easy target, and it was a way of compensating for their own feelings of teenage weirdness and inadequacy. That's something SHAME NATION talks a lot about - how many trolls are often harboring deep, internal conflicts of their own, and trolling is an easy outlet to subvert some of that distress in a sadistic, but cathartic release. Obviously, I came out of it all right, but for many years, I had trouble trusting people. I blew off many people who wanted to befriend me and be nice to me because I assumed that their overtures of kindness were "traps."
Overall, I think this is a really useful book. I wish they taught this stuff in schools. The parts especially about maintaining your online reputation and not posting offensive or mean things, racy or controversial photos, and leaving a positive digital footprint. With digital technology becoming more and more integrated into our every day lives, it's more important than ever to be mindful about online behavior - especially since many colleges and potential employers are looking at these things to see what people are up to. The parts about bullying and standing up to bullying are also valuable, and I thought the case studies added that personal touch to show how real people (and not just statistics) are affected by that decision to click "post" or "upload."
I did have a feel qualms about some of the advice listed in here - I'm wondering if one of the authors is a marketer, because sometimes the tips for reputation management (linking to your personal blog on news article comments, for example) seemed a bit too promotional. I also don't think it's a good idea to always call people out by name, since some people enjoy the attention, and also, more broadly speaking, because one violation of privacy does not always cancel out another, and leading witch hunts against trolls just creates a culture of witch hunts - and does anyone really want that?
If there's a takeaway message here, I think it's that online harassment often feels insignificant to the perpetrator and to onlookers, because they are many steps removed from that hate, and also separated from it by a screen. But to the victim of the harassment, it feels immediate, real - in some ways, worse, because I think for many people (at least for me) their online persona is really the core of who they are, when they are freed from the confines of their social hierarchy, and so those attacks can sometimes be even more painful, even more personal, even more devastating. I see a lot of trolls protesting the deletion of their attacks as a suppression of freedom of speech, but bullying and harassment don't fall under freedom of speech because it's basically a form of assault or an incite to riot, and your first amendment rights (or the equivalent of them in your country) do not grant you the right to hurt people or commit acts of violence against people, physical, emotional, or psychological.
And really, how much do you lose out of your day by taking a few seconds to rethink your words before posting and thinking about the consequences of your actions and who might be hurt by your words? Those few seconds might have saved me years of misery; they might save someone else's life.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
This is one of those books that tries to be many things and ends up failing at all of them, simultaneously. Part police procedural, part dark erotica, PRETTY STOLEN DOLLS aspires to be CAPTIVE IN THE DARK and KISS THE GIRLS, but it's got too much romance to be a straight up thriller and it's too disturbing to be a romance. Also, all of you saying that "Benny" is hot... umm, wtf. It never ceases to amaze me how much creepiness people are willing to tolerate from "heroes"/love interests as long as they have abs...
Jade was kidnapped when she was a young teenager by this doll-making serial killer named "Benny." Benny kept her and her sister in cells, along with other girls, which he liked to dress and put makeup on. Jade was the only one he never dressed up. He kept her naked, and filthy, in a cell, where he repeatedly subjected her to sexual assault. During these moments, his abs are sometimes mentioned, and we get to hear about how attractive he is. The first time it happened, it seemed to come out of nowhere! Ugh.
Eight years later, Jade is a cop and - through some incredible and gross oversight on the part of her superiors - is handling the Benny case while looking for her sister. Too bad she has zero sense and by her own admission is using confirmation bias to treat every missing persons case as a possible link to Benny. She's so determined that she'll ignore direct orders from above and even resort to a bit of vigilante justice, because what's abusing the justice system if it means absolving your personal demons? The stupid was strong in this one. I literally couldn't suspend my disbelief at all. Pretty sure that if you have a personal stake in a police case, you're not supposed to be anywhere near it.
"Benny" is pretty creepy and elements of the relationship between him and Jade is done pretty well. Her PTSD is evident, and permeates her waking and dreaming hours, especially when she's getting intimate with someone else. The problem is that I didn't understand the need for Jade to have not one, but two romantic partners (Bo and Dillon). Neither of them were very interesting and the sex scenes were gross (not gross as in disturbing, but gross as in badly written). Do we really need to know how "big" Dillon is - multiple times? Dillon also struck me as an insensitive mackerel. He pursues a relationship with his colleague with very aggressive sexual overtures that border (or probably are) workplace harassment despite knowing that she's damaged. That's not cool, dude.
I did think that a lot of the disturbing stuff in here was done for shock horror. It felt pointless, just thrown in there for lolz, and reminded me of some of those pulp horror novels from the 70s where it become a gore-off between authors to see who could write the most sex-packed, f'd up material. When I looked up the second author on this book, K. Webster, some of the over-the-top-ness made sense. Apparently she's notorious for those kinds of literary stunts. I've never heard of Ker Dukey before this book, so I don't know what her writing is like when it's removed from Webster's, but yeah, the last act of the book really escalates, and it's not really foreshadowed at all - so be forewarned.
Also - that cliffhanger ends mid-scene, so if you're sticking with this book, as I did, expecting some sort of resolution, brace yourself for disappointment. This is a blatant "TBC..."-type ending that cuts off abruptly right as Benny and Jade are about to meet once more. I guess I was hoping to see Jade get some sort of closure after seeing bad stuff happen to her for almost 200+ pages.
I can't recommend this book. It isn't very good and I've read other books in this genre (THE COLLECTOR, THE BUTTERFLY COLLECTOR, THE KILLING MOON, SKIN AND BLOND) that were so much better. Give this one a miss and read any of those instead.