Do you have a feminist friend with a young daughter? I have the perfect Christmas gift idea for you - THIS BOOK.
The first book I read by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS, an excellent little feminist manifesto based on one of her TED talks (which I have seen - it was excellent, and you should definitely watch it, too). WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS is a broad perspective on why feminism is important, and how its tenets benefit society.
DEAR IJEAWELE, as the name suggests, is much more personal. It's Adichie's letter to a friend who has just given birth to a baby girl, and who wants to know how to raise her baby as a feminist in Nigeria, a somewhat patriarchal and conservative society. In DEAR IJEAWELE, Adichie gives her friend fifteen suggestions to raise her daughter in an empowering way.
While I did not enjoy DEAR IJEWAWELE as much as I did WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS, it's still a beautiful and important book. I thought Adichie gave her friend very good advice.
Here are two of my favorites:
Teach her that if you criticize X in women but do not criticize X in men, then you do not have a problem with X, you have a problem with women (17).
Feminism and femininity are not mutually exclusive. It is misogynistic to suggest that they are (23).
You could just as easily take a highlighter and quote the whole dang thing, though. It's that good, and that relevant. I look forward to seeing what other essays Adichie publishes in the near future. She has a fantastic writing style and always brings up such salient points - and I adore her for it.
Elizabeth Hoyt is an author I keep coming back to again and again. She's like Lisa Kleypas's cooler, edgier older sister: her heroes are just as hot, but she's fonder of antiheroes and perilous situations - and I mean perilous beyond the last-minute murder attempts Lisa Kleypas casually throws into the last acts of her stories for tension.
Unfortunately, Hoyt, like Kleypas, can also be somewhat uneven with regards to the quality of the stories she puts out. I've read several Hoyt novels, and while two of them were five star reads (DUKE OF SIN, THE LEOPARD PRINCE), one of them was a one star read and one of them was a DNF that I'm still not sure I'm ever going to come back to (DUKE OF PLEASURE).
DUKE OF DESIRE starts promisingly enough with a ritualistic sacrifice being run by a depraved cult: The Lords of Chaos, creepy deviants who wear animal masks and have dolphin tattoos. Iris, the object of the sacrifice, was kidnapped for this purpose because everyone thought she was the Duke of Kyle's betrothed. She is shocked when instead of meeting her end then and there, is claimed by a man in a wolf mask who wants to use her for her own purposes.
When he absconds with her in his carriage, allegedly to take her and then kill her, she seizes his pistol and shoots him, nearly killing him. Iris is shocked - yet again - to find out that behind the wolf mask is the Duke of Dyemore, a beautiful but scarred man who appears to be made from ice itself.
As it turns out, the Duke, Raphael, is determined to infiltrate the Lords of Chaos and take down their leader, the Dionysus, because of his own tragic history in the cult. He wants revenge. But now with Iris on his hands, he determines that the best course of action to save her from falling into their clutches is to marry her (okay?) and afford her his protection while continuing out his revenge.
It's clear from the beginning that Raphael has suffered terrible abuse, which makes it even more annoying when the heroine immediately and incessantly begins pestering him for sex. That sucked a lot of enjoyment out of this book for me, because it played into the stereotype that men are sex machines who can't say "no." She constantly worked to seduce him, to get him so riled up that he couldn't say "no," badgering him all the while for sex, even when he told her he didn't want to.
Flip the genders on that. Still okay?
Raphael was a wonderful, flawed, and tragic character, and the Lords of Chaos plotline was properly creepy and would have fit into a bodice ripper from the 1970s, it was so dark. But I just couldn't stand Iris, with her sexual bullying and how it was portrayed as "healing." It just felt gross to me. I was originally going to give this book three stars, but I decided to take one off, because I disliked the heroine so much that I didn't really buy their HEA - and what kind of romance is that?
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
Here's the thing: the concept is great. Frank owns a record store in the 1980s, when records are beginning to be replaced by CDs. He holds fast to his beloved records, falls in love, and his favorite music becomes the soundtrack to his pursuit of the forbidden woman, interspersed with the memories of the music from his childhood, with his tempestuous, eccentric mother.
I think Rachel Joyce wanted to write the next HIGH FIDELITY, but she doesn't have the charm or the wit of Nick Hornby. Instead, she writes what I call "hand-holding fiction." Maggie Stiefvater does this, too. The prose is lovely but often overly precious, and everything is explained to you in great detail, as if the author doesn't trust the readers enough to let them figure it out for themselves. We must always be told what a character is feeling, and why, instead of being allowed to infer that ourselves.
It's. So. Freaking. Annoying.
Another thing that really galled me about this book is the manic pixie dreamgirl element. Frank is lost, adrift, and it's the entrance of a tortured, quirkygirl that grounds him and gives him meaning. I hate the manic pixie dreamgirl trope, because in such stories the heroine becomes a means to an end: a reward to the male character for dutifully completing his character arc. As if that weren't enough, they're both pretentious AF. Frank gives her "music lessons" where he mansplains to her for hours about what musicians are good and what the records mean (kindly eff off, Frank), and Ilse is flighty and mysterious and utterly flat, apart from having a fancy accent and fancy clothes.
If you ever wondered what the little shits in John Green novels would be like in middle age, pick up this book and satisfy your curiosity, because these characters are totally the little shits in John Green novels all grown up and in the midst of a mid-life crisis.
YA has lost its edge for me lately. There are only so many wallpaper fantasy novels and "first love" romance novels that I can handle before I start to feel like I've eaten too much Halloween candy. I used to read YA exclusively but lately I've mostly limited myself to romance novels and, of course, nonfiction.
But 13 MINUTES, with its unique premise, called to me. What if a girl died for 13 minutes, only to be brought back, and couldn't remember what killed her? What if she was supposed to have been murdered? What if she remembers who did it?
If I had to describe 13 MINUTES using one of those stupid marketese "X MEETS Y"-type formats, I'd describe it as Gone Girl meets Mean Girls. It has the same razor-sharp tension and suspense as Gone Girl, with the same cutting social satire and surprisingly deep analysis of teen girl culture that made Mean Girls so hilarious, and yet so meaningful for so many women.
13 MINUTES has multiple POVs, described in interviews, text messages, diary excerpts, as well as the more traditional fixed narrative style. Natasha is the leader of the "Barbies," the beautiful and popular rich girl who nearly died. Hayley and Jenny are her two friends: Hayley is the sporty one and Jenny is the glamorous one. Both of them start acting strange when they find out that Natasha isn't actually dead. Becca is one of the outsiders, who isn't popular or unpopular. She has one good friend of her own and spends most of her time having sex and smoking pot with her older boyfriend. She used to be Natasha's friend when they were kids, but was kicked to the curb to make room for Jenny, because she was heavier, not as cool, and didn't have the correct social capital to fit in any longer.
The accident ends up bringing Becca and Natasha together again because Natasha isn't sure she can trust Jenny and Hayley. Even though Becca still has bitter feelings about Natasha, she didn't have the motive or the means to push Natasha into the frozen river - unlike Jenny and Hayley. Their relationship becomes increasingly intimate as more and more clues surface, and Becca is determined to race the clock and find Natasha's possible killer before she gets her memory back -
Before it's too late.
13 MINUTES took a while to get into because of the unusual format of the story. For the first 2/3 of the book it was a gritty but fairly straightforward YA thriller. I rolled my eyes a bit at the predictability of the storyline, but appreciated the realness of the portrayal of sex, drugs, and mental health among English teens. Even if it was a bit cliche, that realism made it extra interesting. And then, in the last 1/3 of the book everything changed and I had no idea what was going on.
Don't you love it when a book surprises you, when it completely turns you on your head? I do, too. I did NOT see that twist coming, and it turned a 3-star read into a solid 4.
If you enjoy gritty YA and good mystery/thrillers, you will enjoy this book.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
I received SLUT in a bundle of free books to review from Instafreebie a couple years ago and am only just now getting around to it. I think the romances in question were supposed to be empowering, a change from the typical alpha dude meets submissive chick and find love through sex-type storyline.
SLUT might make you do a double-take because of the title, but it's actually a surprisingly deep story. Rebecca ("Bex") used to be overweight. Her father is impersonal and her mother committed suicide, and after her mother's death, he decided to make Bex his special project so she wouldn't do the same. He forced her to have bariatric surgery (stomach staple) and then, while she was under anesthesia from the surgery, had the doctor sneak in a nose job.
Bex comes from a family of wealth and privilege, but inside she always feels like the fat girl, and she compensates for her emotional issues with sex. What makes this story more interesting than the usual "promiscuous heroine" story is her attitude towards sex: she doesn't actually like it that much - it's the pursuit that gets her off, that feeling of being wanted. The act itself just makes her feel numb, because it's utterly impersonal: there's no affection in the act.
That's something else this story does well: it really highlights the difference between sex and intimacy. Ideally, you have both - together - but you can also have intimate relationships that are platonic, and sexual relationships that are unfeeling. This book covers pretty much every combination of that, all over the spectrum, and it gave SLUT a density that many other new adult books don't have.
SLUT also tackles other topics, like bisexuality, self-esteem, love, rape culture, abuse, and age gaps. There's a lot of conversation among the characters about important things - things actual couples would actually talk about before sex or before dating. Some of these things were really insightful and had me nodding along, because it felt pitch-perfect as opposed to like totally unrealistic fantasy.
I'm giving it three stars because it's really short and I feel that development would have been better in a full-length novel. It's also rather outrageously expensive for a book that's scarcely over 100 pages - $3.99 for such a small book feels like way too much money, she said, while purchasing a $3.99 small macaron ice cream sandwich from an overpriced San Francisco bakery. But seriously, I'd like to see this author write a longer book. The short format here doesn't really do her stories justice. Also, sometimes the messages could come across as a little heavy handed. SO SWEET, by Rebekah Weatherspoon, another book in this selection, had similar problems.
If you're tired of the usual NA tropes and want something besides "girl-with-first-world-problems solves self-induced conflict by licking hawt boyfriend's abs," you'll want to give this one a try.
People love to ask that question: what would you do if you had a billion dollars? The first thing I'd do is start a scholarship in my name and then probably donate money to the local schools. The second thing I'd do is spend way too much money on ebooks that I'm not going to read. I AM SO BAD AT READING THE BOOKS I ALREADY OWN - and yet, like a magpie, I'm constantly on the lookout for more lovely, shiny books to feather my nest.
UNDER A RAGING MOON is one of those books. I snagged it from the freebie section of the Kindle store, along with a selection of other works by this author. I'd liked most of what I'd read by V.J. Chambers, with one exception - although, with this particular book, there's a catch... it's a serial. Meaning only the first book is free. Subsequent installments in the series must be paid for. I have always sneered slightly at serials - it seems like the book equivalent of a "freemium" app.
I know what you're thinking. "Nenia, you got a book for free and you're going to complain about it?"
Piper is a private detective (who is also a werewolf) currently investigating this man (who is also a werewolf) whose girlfriend died. She had a necklace, which was a family heirloom with magical Werewolfy Powers™ and the parents of the dead girlfriend want it back. Also, it's worth mentioning that werewolf man's name is Kale, like the vegetable. KALE.
Her plan to get into his house to steal the necklace is to sabotage her own car, flaunt her assets (and breastets - old joke, I know), and then finagle an invitation to spend the night in his guestroom by playing the helpless girl. Only Kale - *snort* - seems determined to resist her.
Weirdly, she's also attracted to the repairman of the tow truck, who is NOT immune to her charms, and they almost end up doing it in the front seat of his car. There's this weirdly uncomfortable, predatory vibe at first that gave me horrific flashbacks to the ONE and only Alexa Riley book I read, which involved alternative forms of payment in exchange for services rendered, and suddenly I was like, "OH GOD, THIS IS GONNA TURN INTO SOME SORT OF WEIRD BREEDING EROTICA." Because I have been down that road, and it's a dark and scary road.
But no, this was not breeding erotica.
Honestly, for what it was, there were some pretty hot scenes in here. I also liked that it appears to be set in the same universe as her other werewolf series, Cole & Dana, because I really liked THE KILLING MOON - although the shortness of the book kind of just made me wish that I was reading that book instead. But hey, it's free, and it's inoffensive. How often can you say that of a book found in the freebie section? Word of warning, though: it ends on a major cliffhanger.
The concept behind PostSecret is pretty cool. Mail in an anonymous, decorated postcard with your secret. Wait and see if it ends up on the website and rejoice in the fact that you have lessened your own burden, just a little bit.
I bought this book several years ago from a used bookstore for $1. I guess this particular version is intended for teenagers...maybe it's the way the postcards inside are written, maybe it's the bubble stickers in the back (mine still had most of them intact on the sheet, even after buying it used). When I bought this book I was only a little older than most of the people writing the cards, and I wasn't as happy with my lot in life as I am now. As I read through the postcard entries, I was astounded at how many people's secrets sounded like they could have just as easily been my own - or, if not my own, how unusual and interesting people can be behind the facades we wear for the world, and how reading something that is posted anonymously is somehow much more acceptable and less shocking than blurting it out during a conversation. I think many people are silenced by the constraints of social mores; we can't be honest because it's rude or weird, so we keep our secrets - big and small - to ourselves.
This book was published before things like the Whisper App, or the YouTube equivalent of the Burn Book from Mean Girls, "Story Time," became super popular. It shows in the photographs chosen - most of them look like they were taken with real film. Many are crafted, some elaborate, others scribbled sharpie on torn-out scraps of paper. They're all so different, and yet they form a cohesive whole. There's something beautifully symbolic about that, I think. The secrets themselves also cover a broad spectrum. Some made me laugh, like the clown who took the light-strewn xmas reindeer from his neighbor's lawn and made them "hump" and the person who anonymously mails people e.e. cummings poems. Others, like the person who felt responsible for their friend's drug overdose, or the many survivors of rape who felt like it was their fault or, worse, didn't feel like they felt at fault enough, were heartbreaking. There are contributions on all sorts of thorny topics, like suicide, depression, and sexuality. Some are hopeful, others despondent. There were a few that made my heart hurt and one or two that moved me to tears (the one about the grandmother made me so sad).
MY SECRET is a really amazing book. It made me think about myself in a different way, and also made me feel better about some of the things that were upsetting me at the time. Periodically, I'll dig it out of my "keepers" box and page through it, and each time I read it, different postcards resonate with me depending on how I'm feeling at the time. I think every high school library should have a copy of this - if only so that kids, no matter what or how they're feeling, know they're not alone.
🌟 I read this for the Yule Bingo Challenge, for the category of Snape: morally grey character. For more info on this challenge, click here. 🌟
Lots of authors want to write "dark" and "gritty," but few have the muscle to pull it off. Not Tarryn Fisher. Ever since reading MUD VEIN, I've found myself pleasantly surprised by her wide cast of flawed characters and intricately plotted stories. MUD VEIN had some weaknesses, in that it was trying too hard to be twisty and suspenseful to the point where one had to suspend one's disbelief, but the ride was thrilling and beguiling. I wanted to read more.
Like MUD VEIN, MARROW is also built around suspense and features a heroine who is not very likable but is also highly sympathetic. Margo is a girl who lives in a low-income suburb in Seattle called "the Bone." Many of the people there are involved in petty crime of some form or another. They're the types of people who slip through the cracks, who don't report crimes because the deck is stacked against them.
Margo's mother is a prostitute and resents her existence. The two of them live in a house that Margo calls "the eating house" - because it's devouring her slowly, I guess. We follow her from young girl to young woman, and as she gets older, she becomes more and more aware of the injustices that occur in the Bone, and it slowly makes her angrier and angrier - until she loses it, and decides to take matters into her own hands. Her journey is utterly fascinating. I haven't been this engrossed by a heroine since Gillian Flynn's GONE GIRL. It's got that same sort of "descent" if you know what I mean.
MARROW is definitely not for the faint of heart, but if you enjoy dark stories and tales of suspense, with anti-heroes and revenge, this will be a good story for you. It reminded me of Caroline Kepnes's YOU and Jeff Lindsay's DARKLY DREAMING DEXTER in many ways, and I think there's a lot of crossover appeal for readers who enjoyed those stories. It has that same sense of morality play meets procedural drama. I can't wait to read the rest of this author's books.
P.S. Characters from MUD VEIN appear in this book. I picked up on some of the clues early on and wasn't sure if it was meant to be a sneaky Easter Egg - but it was! And then it turned into a full-on cameo. I was so excited, I literally bounced in my chair. I love it when authors do this.
This book was a bit of a disappointment, and is probably my least favorite of the HQ manga I've read. Tamsin is a member of the nobility, and the daughter of a man who owns a rugby team. When she was a teenager, she had a crush on the star rugby player but due to a misunderstanding following her declaration, her father kicked him off the team and he (the rugby player, Alejandro) never forgave her. Now she's a successful fashion designer and is charged with making the new team uniforms - and he is a businessman who works for the other team.
Usually, if the title of the romance novel could double as a short synopsis of the book, it means that you're probably going to be dealing with an uber alpha hero and this book is no exception. Alejandro is one of those really mean heroes who seems to delight in treating the heroine like garbage, all in the name of "revenge." It was over something so petty, too. Plus, he refers to the heroine as a "virgin flower" 3-4 times over the course of this book, and it's like, dude, stahp.
I thought Tamsin was an interesting heroine, but she wasn't really that well fleshed out. She wasn't irritating or anything, though. Just a dull, standard nice-girl prototype. Honestly, it's the story (lacking) and the hero (mean) where this book loses its stars. I'm sad that I didn't like the story more because the art is completely gorgeous, and utterly wasted on this lackluster effort.
I bought this for 99-cents, so I don't feel like I was ripped off, but I wouldn't pay any more than that for it. There are better HQ manga to start with and this, sadly, isn't one of them. I'll have to make a note to avoid any other India Grey adaptations; something about her stories just feels "off."
Did you know that Harlequin manga is a thing? I didn't either, until fairly recently. The premise seems to be, take vintage "Harlequin Presents" novels that everyone has forgotten about and then regurgitate them in traditional manga form. Laughable? Yes. Fun as all get-out? OH YES. I've been collecting them whenever they go on sale because they are the Crazy Romance Lady™ version of Pokemon Cards:
I MUST READ THEM ALL.
RISKY BUSINESS is pretty mediocre in terms of storyline, with the usual amount of suspend-your-disbelief ridiculousness (sorry, Tom Cruise does not make an appearance). Rachel and Jack had a steamy one night stand and then she vanished from his life. When he spots her one day, he impulsively chases her down - to her office(!) - and finds a picture of them together on her desk. As it turns out, she recently got hired as an architect in a "family friendly" firm and told them all that she was married - to Jack - to get the job.
Her coworkers think that Jack bursting into the office is a sign of a joyful reunion between husband and wife and not what it actually is: a psychotic clash between two compulsive liars. They get invited to go on a retreat together in the mountains, where Jack proceeds to taunt and humiliate her (not in a mean alphahole way, but still pretty rude). Rachel rebuffs him at every turn and is adamant that that one night shall not be repeated... despite her obvious attraction to him. As they continue to play out the charade, they learn a lot about each other, and about some of the truths behind the lies.
I thought this book was okay. If it was a story, I'd probably give it a 2, but I liked the art. This is not as nice or as detailed as some of the other Harlequin manga I have read - the best so far is probably Naomi Watanabe's WHISPER - and that often unadorned style, especially around the eyes - almost felt like something you would see on a higher-end shounen manga. You really have to suspend your disbelief a lot, but I liked the banter between the characters, and Jack - despite his slight stalkerishness in the beginning - is a pretty decent hero. There are even some steamy scenes in here for those of you who are into that sort of thing, wink wink, nudge nudge.
You know those 90s makeover movies where the guy feels like he ought to have "first dibs" on the newly beautiful girl because he liked her when she was "ugly"? This book is basically a gender-flipped version of that, except it's between annoying brat of a heroine and a hero who has Asperger's, and she feels super possessive of him because she feels like she's the only person who treated him like he was "normal" before everyone else realized that he was just a normal, even cool guy too. You know what the problem with that is, though? You're assuming that you deserve gold stars for just treating people the way they want to be treated. And this 'heroine' right here? She wants all the gold stars.
PUDDLE JUMPING has a 4.22 average rating among my friends, so I was expecting to like it. I wasn't expecting to hate it, or have it fill me with disgust - which it did. First problem for me is that the writing style feels really amateurish and is super chatty, with tons of pointless asides from the narrator that add nothing to the plot. I was willing to roll with it in the beginning, because it's written from the POV of the 'heroine' as a child, but the problem continues - and worsens - over the course of the story. It's just bad writing.
Second problem, the treatment of the hero with Asperger's. The whole 'romance' is basically the heroine's big crusade to make the hero her big makeover project. Right away, she goes up to this other girl who's also dating a neurodivergent guy and starts asking for tips. She Googles Asperger's and is totally shocked that people with Asperger's are people, too.She gets a big stick up her bum when the hero gets a job and skips out on prom (not somewhere someone with Asperger's might want to go) to work at his new job, which he loves, and gives him a big lecture about how she is just as important as his job, and then gets his mom on his case to make sure he follows up on all their subsequent dates. At the end of the book, the hero gets an amazing opportunity to pursue his dreams abroad, and the heroine storms out of his party without congratulating him, because she had his future planned out for him and this goes against her plans. She felt like she should have been consulted first, and wants to make him stay. His mom actually has to come over and explain to this 'heroine' what a great job she did with her son, and butter her up to make her cool with it.
The constant tone of superiority and condescension hanging over this book like a cloud really put me off. At first, I wondered if I was maybe being too harsh on this book, so I kept reading, and the more I read, the less I liked. By the time I got to the end, I couldn't brush aside my qualms anymore. It had this galling "savior" tone to it, like the heroine was making it her personal mission to "humanize" the neurodivergent and it was her own personal discovery, and she expected all the awards for it. I went to look at the negative reviews for this book once I had finished and saw, to my relief, that I was not alone. Some people used the word "fetishization" and I think that's the word that was escaping me: Colton's hotness was basically used as an excuse to make him worth pursuing, in spite of what made him different, and the entire journey was one-sided and written entirely from a privileged, ableist perspective about how brave people are who bother befriending those who are different.
Thirdly, I really didn't like the slut-shaming and the way sexuality is treated in this book. It's a short book, and yet the 'heroine' is constantly making jabs at her friend, Harper. Oh, and this girl who gets chlamydia from a tanning bed is called "Chlam-face" - by the heroine, no less. Is the heroine innocent and pure? Of course. She's so innocent and pure that she's too afraid to get birth control from her parents, so she has a friend steal her some from a clinic. #InnocentAndPureFTW
For better romance novels about neurodiversity, I'd suggest K.J. Charles's AN UNSEEN ATTRACTION, and Jennifer Ashley's THE MADNESS OF LORD IAN MACKENZIE. Both are historical fiction, unfortunately, since I don't read too many contemporary romances, but I thought both did a fairly good job with this - although I will be honest that THE MADNESS (as the title might suggest) comes across as dated and shares many of the same issues as PUDDLE JUMPING.
This was a pretty terrible book. I took a nap before reviewing it so I wouldn't sound *too* cranky, but it still made me pretty irritated (as you can probably tell, haha). I wouldn't recommend it.
🌟 I read this for the Yule Bingo Challenge, for the category of Nagini: Book with betrayal. For more info on this challenge, click here. 🌟
"An art monster is someone who gives his entire life over to creation" (207)
Finally! An F/F YA romance with substance!
Zara is a teenage actress who moves to New York when she finds out she's received the role of Echo, in the play Echo and Ariston. She's instantly blown away by the glamor of New York, the opulent Aurelia Theater, and the experience and sophistication of her coworkers and fellow actors, one of them, her co-star, being a famous Hollywood A-lister trying to score more gravitas.
Hanging over the play, however, is a curse: many people working both on and off the stage have died in the Aurelia Theater. Zara is unlucky enough to see the lighting director fall to his death during her first week. The curse is an open secret among those who work in the theater and yet everyone is curiously reluctant to talk about it. As if that weren't creepy enough, the director of the play, Leopold, is super creepy and extremely menacing, with his devotion to his visions approaching something that looks a lot like insanity -
The story is told from multiple POVs, which is normally something I don't like or find too distracting, but it's done fairly seamlessly here, with one melding into the other. I was also pleasantly surprised by the large cast of characters, all of them very interesting and unique, even if they're not all likable. I loved the mystery aspect, and how each POV was used to hint at more; it never felt like the author was just trying to bolster the page count by packing the book with more people - each new POV added new information, and I was interested in what they had to say.
Lastly, the writing and the love story were just excellent. This is what Elliot Wake tried - and failed - to do with BLACK IRIS. Both have lovely passages of writing, but ECHO AFTER ECHO is never bogged down by its prose, and the actual story is never relegated to the background while the metaphors wallow in their own self-importance. The love story between Eli and Zara was just passionate enough to encapsulate the be-all and end-all of teenage passion, but not so corny that it had me rolling my eyes in disgust and going, "Really? Did you read that off a candy heart?" This is a slow burn romance between two imperfect people who sometimes hurt each other and sometimes make selfish decisions (I wanted to smack Zara at one point), but ultimately love conquers all.
The only flaw is that - sometimes - the pacing was a bit too slow, and I'd have to set the book aside and go off and do something else. I considered marking this book as did-not-finish for a while but luckily the plot picked up around 207 (when the murder mystery becomes more focal in the story line). This book is long, 400+ pages, and I'm not entirely convinced that every word was necessary.
Aside from that, I really enjoyed this book. I would read more from this author.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
There's something so satisfying about finishing a long book, and NOS4A2 is no exception. At just over 700 pages, NOS4A2 drops you into a dark and scary world, where certain objects have powers that tie into the soul, and children disappear forever into a bright and terrifyingly cheerful place called Christmasland...
While reading, I kept thinking that this book reminded me of something and then it hit me, all at once - Stephen King's IT. Like the children of IT, we follow the heroine, Vic, from a young age. We see her first interaction with Charlie Manx and how she is barely able to escape him, but hurts him in the process. We follow her to adulthood and see how the experience shaped and hardened her, and how she struggles to prepare herself for the second dark showdown that she knows, deep down, she might not survive.
I think Joe Hill registered the similarity, too, because it seemed like some Easter Eggs were tossed in there for the fans. As a child, for example, Vic's bike has magical powers, and she chooses it over a Schwinn (the bike that Bill road in IT). Later on, when she has her magical motorcycle, she says HI-YO, SILVER, which was Stuttering Bill's rallying cry, whenever he road his own somewhat magical bike. I don't think this is a coincidence; I choose to believe that this book was Joe Hill paying homage to his dad's legacy.
That isn't to say that this book doesn't stand on its own. Between Christmasland, the Gasmask Man, The House of Sleep, and Charlie Manx, I didn't sleep all that well last night. In fact, I was pretty freaked out. Sometimes horror novels are too over-the-top ridiculous, but this book does a really good job of tapping into those subconscious fears that we all have (just like IT - sorry). It's also creative and original in a way that a lot of horror novels aren't - no werewolves or monsters in here, just a very creepy man and his very creepy henchman, and an army of terrifying little children.
Also, I loved the heroine, and if there was anything I took issue with, it was the fact that Joe Hill pulled a George R.R. Martin with her and basically tortured her every chance he got. So many bad things happened to Vic in this book, and I was hoping that her ending would be much happier than it was (ditto Maggie). There's just something about a tattooed artist with a magical motorcycle, y'know?
If you enjoy horror, and especially if you enjoyed IT, you should read NOS4A2. The graphic novel is pretty good, too. I received an ARC of it from Netgalley, and that was actually what got me interested in reading the book. The artist really does a great job bringing the book to life.
I put off reading this author for the longest time because her books were often spoken of in the same breaths as other authors whose works I couldn't stand. I assumed that they were all the same, and I am kicking myself right now, because MUD VEIN was kind of awesome and I could have gotten a head start on her books years ago.
MUD VEIN is not a traditional romance. It's dark and unpleasant, with a nonlinear story line. It actually reminds me of another book I read recently called THE GHOSTWRITER, in the sense that this damaged woman shrouded in mystery is the narrator of the tale, and it's all about her journey and her tragic love story as she tries to come to terms with herself and learn how to be human again.
Senna, the heroine of MUD VEIN, wakes up one day in a house surrounded by snow, penned in by an electric fence, and supplied with enough food to last a couple months. Also trapped with her is a doctor, named Isaac. The house is filled with clues that allude to a past that she'd rather forget, and secrets that she's never told to anyone...except for Isaac. Who captured them? And how do they get free? The answers to both questions are interlinked in a surprising way.
The story is chopped up into three seconds and it looks like my friends who DNF'd this (there were a surprising amount!) decided to do so in the second part. Which I get. The second part is where it starts to get slow and really depressing. I actually liked the minutiae, though, because it was the part of the story where we get to really know Senna as a person and a lot of the clues behind her imprisonment begin to fall into place. The first part is definitely the best, though - the gradual reveals are paced perfectly evenly, and have this "Netflix Original" vibe.
So why not five stars? That slow middle section. It was sloooow. I didn't mind reading it, but it didn't keep me locked in the way the first part of the story did. I also wasn't keen on the last chapter of the book - not because it was depressing, but because one of the twists didn't really make sense and wasn't foreshadowed sufficiently or explained particularly well. I was left feeling confused, and I don't think it was because I didn't understand what was going on; I think it was bad storytelling.
Still; this was a darn good book and I read it in a single day. One of my friends recommended this author to me because she said that her stories reminded her of my stories, and I guess that means dark and twisty - which I can totally get on board with. I love dark and twisty when it's done well, and this was done very well. I have a whole bunch of this author's other books on my Kindle and can't wait to start them, because the writing in MUD VEIN has left me feeling incredibly optimistic (although the story itself did not - yeesh).
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
TAKE THE LEAD is a good book for many reasons. It's set on a Dancing with the Stars-type reality TV show. Gina is a Puerto Rican dancer who has dreamed of and prepared for "making it" her whole life. When she's paired with the wilderness survivalist star from another reality TV show, she's skeptical - until she meets Stone, and finds that beneath that strong and silent lumbersexual exterior is a good-hearted man who is determined to see this dance competition to the bitter end.
I'm a sucker for "showmance" storylines. I think it's the modern-day equivalent of the arranged marriage plots in fantasy and historical romance, which I also love. I think it harkens back to an earlier view of love, based on shared experiences and friendship, where sex comes later. TAKE THE LEAD is definitely romance of a slow-burn variety, even though both characters have instant attraction for one another. Gina doesn't want to get involved, though, and even though that's what they all say, her reasons are totally reasonable and serve as commentary on the sexist lens through which female celebrities are viewed, as well as the stereotypes of Latin American women in media.
But there was something I liked even better than the romance and the Latinx rep - and that was the freaking reality TV setting. It felt very realistic. I loved seeing the characters in the goldfish bowl, and how they dealt with that stress. I loved the descriptions of the dance costumes and the dances. I actually set the book aside - well, OK, I closed my eReader application - and went to YouTube to look up the paso doble dance after it was described in this book and holy so-you-think-you-can-dance, Batman! I don't have a graceful bone in my body, but after finishing this book I had half a mind to sign up for dance lessons at one of the local studios.
So you're probably asking yourself, "If it's so great, why only four stars, Nenia?" There's a Big Misunderstanding plot that creates some additional drama in the last act. It wasn't badly done, but I felt like it was unnecessary and made Gina look like an irrational person. And while I get that we're all irrational people who sometimes behave like jerks, it was still annoying. Also, the beginning was a bit slow, and it took me a while to warm up to the characters, and fall in love with them. (Although I did - by the end of the novel, I was totally ready to smoosh their faces and be all, NOW KISS!)
TAKE THE LEAD is one of the few romances of this year that actually lived up to the hype. It has great characters, awesome chemistry, a creative and fun setting, and an awesome cover. I'm super psyched for the sequel, which stars Gina's biffle, Natasha. Just sent that shiz to me by priority mail, ASAP. Kthxbai. But seriously, if you're a fan of authors like Alyssa Cole and Courtney Milan, you will love this book!
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
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.
This is free on Kindle for anyone who would like to read it!
The #MeToo movement started originally in 2006 but really gained steam this last year, following the allegations of sexual assault by Harvey Weinstein from a number of women. Women all over the world took to social media websites to share their stories, or simply show solidarity, with the hashtag, #MeToo.
I have a #MeToo story. I was seventeen years old and walking home from school. A bunch of men in a car followed me, shouting lewd things (I've forgotten most of them, but one of the most salient was "How much do you cost?"). I was so terrified that they were going to get out of the car and grab me that I began planning several courses of action on how to either run or fight back, all the while staring straight ahead and trying to give no sign that this was bothering me, even though I was blushing and near tears. Eventually the men went away, bored, and I went home, and cried. It was 95-degrees and I was wearing a long skirt and a tank top. I never wore either ever again.
#METOO is a collection of essays written by a variety of contributors. Most are written by women, but there are a few men contributing too, and a few of the writers are also LGBT. Most of the essays are #MeToo stories about the writers' own experiences with sexual harassment, assault, or rape. Some of the essays analyze the toxic cultures that propagate misogyny and abuse. Some analyze the psychology of the abuser. Some discuss potential solutions. One of my favorite essays, written by one of the male authors, is about how important it is for men not to co-opt the movement with secondhand outrage ("this is somebody's daughter!") or the expectation of brownie points ("I would never do this!"). He is properly scornful of such attitudes. I adored him for it.
It's not really possible to say that I enjoyed these essays, because these essays were not written with "entertainment" in mind, and that is certainly not the mindset one should be in while reading them. Some of the stories just about broke my heart. I was able to sympathize with many of the essay writers, and could appreciate many of their points. I'm giving this three stars because, as with any anthology, the collection was uneven. Some of the essays were really short - less than a page - and didn't really have enough room for compelling arguments. One of the essays was sloppily written and felt rushed (it was also the only one with a typo). One of the essays by the male authors was filled with mixed messages and quickly got on my nerves. I didn't hate any of these essays but there were more than a few that I didn't really care for.
The important thing is that this collection of essays represents a fairly broad spectrum of experiences and opinions, despite being less than 100 pages long. Even if you don't like all the essays in here, what didn't work for you might be the balm that somebody else needs, the tale that makes them sit up and realize, "This happened to me, too. I'm not alone."
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
There might not be any sex in Georgette Heyer regency romances, but man that woman can pack more drama into these puppies than Julia Quinn at her most malicious. DEVIL'S CUB is downright soap opera-ish in terms of scope and characterization.
The plot is basically this - hold onto your bonnets: Dominic/Dominique (for some reason his name is spelled two different ways here) is a marquis and a rake and a wastrel who has resolved not to marry, instead flitting about with mistresses until he tires of them. His current prospect is a girl named Sophia Challoner. Her mother, foolishly, encourages the affair, thinking that she can use her daughter's pending disgrace as a means of trapping the marquis into marriage. Sophia is more than willing to let Dominique use her. Her sister, Mary, is the only one who thinks this is stupid.
One day, Dominique accidentally sends his plans for elopement to the wrong sister (he's forced to flee the country after mortally wounding a man in a duel). Wanting to save her sister, Mary goes in Sophia's place. At first he plans to use her as well, even making a threat of rape, but Mary shoots him with a gun. For some reason, this makes them get on fairly well and Mary even confesses (privately, in her head) to loving him shortly after....!?
At the same time, there's a character named Frederick Comyn who is in love with a girl named Julianna. They're supposed to be married as well, but Julianna thinks he's too stuffy (she's Dominique's cousin) and constantly provokes him to spark a light under his seat. Instead, she ends up offending him and rather than admitting wrong, loftily declares that being with Comyn would be marrying beneath her, anyway. Comyn ends up making a marriage proposal of convenience to Mary instead, seeing as how Dominique and his proposal to Mary have upset her (?!).
Obviously, there's a happy ending but it's a rough road getting there.
Why? Because all of the characters in this book, with very few exceptions, are odious AF.
Sophia, Mary's sister, is absolutely awful and takes an unpleasant amount of glee at the thought of bad things happening to Mary, even though Mary was attempting to save her honor. She throws tantrums, cries, and insults everyone around her, when she's not acting like a vain little slip. I really could not stand her, and thought it was odd that the book ended with her just dropping out of the plot.
Mrs. Challoner, Mary and Sophia's mother, is also awful, so keen to push Sophia into the arms of the marquis despite his reputation. She's also not very nice to Mary, calling her plan and declaring that she will be impossible to wed (which is rather Mary Sue-ish since Mary receives 2 marriage proposals and is constantly getting praise for being well-spoken and pretty).
Leonie, Dominque's mother, is utterly dismissive of her son's behavior and when she finds out that he may have abducted a girl, immediately blames the victim and makes light of the situation, basically saying, "Well, it's not like he tied her down and raped her." When people call her on her son's behavior, she insults them or their children. She's a truly awful woman. I hated her.
Julianna, Dominique's cousin, is just as spoiled as Sophia. I couldn't stand her for how she treated Comyn, who is the only other character I truly liked apart from Mary. She wants him to be forceful with him so she tries to provoke him into anger to make him "man up." I'm sorry, but that's borderline emotionally abusive, in my opinion; this is exactly how cycles of abuse are perpetuated. (And, disturbingly, several characters say how Julianna could use a beating to correct her behavior.)
Dominique/Dominic the hero was also not really a favorite character of mine. He had the potential to be a good antihero but at the last minute, Heyer pulls the punch and decides to make him fall head-over-heels for Mary (?), offering her anything she wants and basically going around acting like butter wouldn't melt in his mouth. Too many romance authors want to have their cake and eat it too when it comes to alpha heroes, and it usually doesn't work. It doesn't work here.
I'm giving this book 3 stars because the story was interesting and the dialogue was witty, and Mary was a pretty good heroine (she gave as good as she got, and her properness was quite amusing). If you're new to Georgette Heyer, though, don't start with this one. She has much better books in her bibliography.
I'm side-eying the heck out of this book right now because it was a special kind of fail. First, I'm reviewing this as a feminist, and whenever I read a political book, I try to approach it with an open mind - regardless of whether it's being written from a perspective I agree with or not. In this case, I did agree with the basic premise: menstruation should not be a charged or taboo subject. It happens to 50% of the population, it really sucks for the people who experience it, let's talk about it and find ways to make the existing products for it less environmentally harmful and also suck less - especially for low-income individuals and women in other countries who don't have access to the hygienic supplies that they need at all. Totally down with that. How can you disagree?
So the fact that I agreed with this book and still didn't like it says something. What does it say? The author - in my opinion - did not write a very good book. I'd say 85% of the problem was tone. It's super ironic that she quotes Andi Zeisler's WE WERE FEMINISTS, which is a condemnation of people who commandeer the feminist movement to promote their own personal agenda, because Weiss-Wolf toots her own horn in PERIODS GONE PUBLIC a lot. We get to hear about all the projects she participates in - and yes, that's wonderful. But also not what I wanted to read about. And the way she talks about it is a bit difficult to explain, but to me it felt a little smarmy. Especially when she refers to low-income individuals as "the poor." It came across as sounding very privileged to me, which made reading this book unpleasant.
I was hoping for something more science-based/philosophical/historical, but PERIODS GONE PUBLIC is more of a collection of anecdotes and trivia. The sections about low-income individuals experiencing periods and women in developing countries experiencing periods was interesting, but Weiss-Wolf wrests control of those narratives and they feel like they're being written from a decidedly egocentric perspective. Weiss-Wolf particularly seems to like pop culture, and lists some of the celebrities she admires and credits with furthering the feminist movement. These individuals include Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Schumer, and Rupi Kaur. When I read this passage, things became clear. I thought to myself, "Ah, she's a Tumblr feminist." I call them Tumblr Feminists, but really, they're social media feminists generally, who seem to support a feminism that's bite-sized, neatly labeled, and superficially pleasing brand of feminism. It's the shiny, attractive feminism that celebrities love to embrace: sexual pride, body positivity, free pads for everyone! I feel that this applies to Weiss-Wolf, and while these things are important, there are far more pressing issues.
Now, to Weiss-Wolf's credit, she does cover some of these less savory issues and she has good taste in books (love Zeisler, love Steinhem - Rupi Kaur? Not so much - ugh, Tumblr poetry). I also like that she took the time to write about periods from a trans perspective, and how we look at menstruation frequently from a straight, cis-gendered perspective (periods = child-bearing, heteronormative experience) . It actually made me think of this video I watched on YouTube, a how-to video for trans women who wanted to create artificial periods with cornstarch and food dye so they could experience that aspect of womanhood, too. I've read a lot of articles and watched a lot of YouTube videos about periods (BuzzFeed has really tapped that well dry - I noticed they had an article about periods today, even), and a lot of what they have said was covered here by Weiss-Wolf, so maybe that was another problem - I'm burned out on periods.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
Adding this to the books-that-made -me-lose-friends shelf! I'm kind of shocked! I thought I was holding back in this review...but I guess not. ;-)
Speaking as a third-wave feminist, I will say that it's tough trying to argue your views to people who consider this a "post-sexism" era, and attempt to use that as a rationalization and a defense for some very sexist, misogynistic thinking: basically, "shut up, you've won the right to free speech and equality - now flash your tits or get back to the kitchen." Even if not phrased in such explicit terms, the mindset among these "post-sexism" individuals seems to suggest that feminists have "won" and are now demanding more than their "fair share." I said this in my review of MEN EXPLAIN THINGS TO ME, and I'll say it again now: that third-wave feminism isn't just some over-entitled mindset where women are demanding special treatment - unless you believe that equal treatment is "special" treatment. There is still a wage gap, and that wage gap is particularly bad when it comes to women of color. Women in many states still do not have access to safe abortion, either because of state-imposed limits or because it isn't covered by an insurer. Women are still hyper-sexualized in a way that men are not, in a number of venues ranging from the religious to commercial, and still largely blamed for their own assaults. Yes, things are better than they were 100, 50, 20, or even 10 years ago - but it isn't perfect, and we aren't even close to being done.
But back to the book: I love nonfiction and I love feminism, so picking up PINK THINK was a no-brainer. I'll read any feminist title I can get my hands on, because I love being informed and getting access to the popular and unpopular ideas of the movement. PINK THINK focuses on the indoctrination of girls into womanhood via pop culture and cultural norms, focusing particularly on the 1940s-1970s, when mass-production created a number of affordable products for the growing middle class but before Title IX and the Civil Rights era came into play. The result? Some very questionable products and advice that make you wonder what the hell the last generation was thinking. Obviously, as a feminist and pop culture aficionado, I thought this was bomb.
Peril cites some questionable definitions taken from "experts" that seem horribly dated (81):
Hermaphrodite: "A female bisexual"
Masturbation: "A tyrant that robs its [female] victims of the incentives and radiant energy for worthy accomplishments.... Oftentimes the remedy for this situation consists of a minor surgical operation spoken of as circumcision."
Orgasm (female): "No more essential for conception than a mink coat or a lipstick."
These definitions are so horrible that they're almost comical - until you remember that people actually thought that way, and that some to this day still do. Peril covers a number of other topics, such as toys shaped like house cleaning products so that little girls can be just like mommy; dating advice books for boys that read like some of the pick-up books of today, suggesting to boys that no does not always mean "no" and that they should press ahead as far as they can, sexually, because that means they'll only get further next time; douching with Lysol for feminine freshness (ugh!); and the idea that female sexuality is something undesirable that not only tarnishes a woman's reputation but that should also be suppressed if not being used for procreation and the begetting of offspring as seen in this excerpt from a book by Ann Landers from the 1960s:
Housework, particularly floor-scrubbing is not only good for the female figure, but it's good for the soul. And it will help take the edge off your sex appetite. Cooking, baking and sewing will prepare you for homemaking. Energy siphoned into these constructive channels will leave less energy for erotic fantasies (89).
My goodness, it's like something out of Handmaid's Tale or Stepford Wives, and I don't think it's a coincidence that both those books were written by people who were alive at a time when these products and ideas were in full rotation. And while things are changing, the damage is still there. Go to any toy department often enough and I guarantee you that you'll hear parents telling their boys, "You can't have that, that's for girls!" or "That's a boy toy, girls don't play with that!" to their girls. I've heard moms and dads scolding their children about wanting to play with everything from Weebles, to Lipsmackers, to Hot Wheels. You still see cooking and cleaning toys marketed to girls, and tool kits and action hero toys being marketed to boys - and rumor has it that at one point, a pole-dancing doll circulated the toy dept. of an unmentioned store, until it was (I imagine) very quickly recalled for an innumerable amount of reasons.
There are a lot of illustrations in this book that are great - I especially loved the pictures of vintage products, particularly the full color ones in the middle (there were not nearly enough). Kind of shocked that bodice rippers, the treatment for "hysteric" women (hint: masturbation machines), and certain fashion ads weren't even mentioned, though! But then, there's so many salient examples of sexist advice and products from these time periods that I'm sure the author was forced to pick and choose, at the risk of compiling a 1,000+ page encyclopedia of "Sexism through the ages." I wish there were more pictures of out-of-touchproducts, although if you read this book and would like to learn more on the topics presented in here, I can recommend three videos to you right off the bat: Vox's How did pink become a girly color?, Buzzfeed's Women Review Sexist Vintage Ads, and anything by Sarah Haskins via her "Target Women" series, for more modern examples.
Oy, this is disappointing. I really enjoyed Chambers's other two books, KILLING MOON and SKIN AND BLOND. Both were in genres that I'm generally highly skeptical about and the author managed to win me over with dark, tight plotting and stellar characterization. Even though I'm generally leery about assassin romances, I thought for sure that SLOW BURN couldn't be anything but good in V.J. Chambers's hands.
I was wrong.
For the first 1/3 of the book, I thought this would be good. It has the hallmarks of her other book - damaged men and broken women who don't really "fix" each other (in fact, you could argue that they even make one another worse), but their love persists despite or because of everything, resulting in train wreck drama that makes it hard to look away. SLOW BURN actually reads like a prototype of SKIN AND BLOND, which also featured a promiscuous heroine and an asexual (or, I guess, demisexual in this case) hero with serious emotional problems. Unfortunately for this book, SKIN AND BLOND is the better book and I read that one first.
Here's what I think the author was going for: something like Anne Stuart's Ice series, only with a sci-fi bent. Because the heroine, Leigh, nearly died in a car accident (too much cocaine and alcohol). Her father, who works for a super secret organization, stole a serum that not only heals but also results in increased strength and regenerative abilities. He gave it to his daughter, and she lived; but now that super secret organization is after Leigh. She hides in plain sight, going to college, and taking her father's calls once a month or so on a disposable cell phone. Only, one day he doesn't call, and a man named Griffin shows up in her life claiming that he's been inoculated with the same serum and that her father has hired him to protect her.
It's an interesting premise, even if it is a bit cheesy in an 80s action hero way. My problems stem primarily from the execution. Leigh is an idiot. I like how drug addiction and sex addiction are portrayed in this book but oh my god, it was so much better in SKIN AND BLOND, where you could tell the heroine was competent even though her life was slowly being torn apart. Here, Leigh lacks all sense. This is a girl who is told "lie low" and immediately throws a party and starts snorting cocaine. Not just once, but multiple times. I get that addiction isn't convenient and I understand why the author did it, but it was really frustrating to read - I don't like TSTL heroines, and it would have been easier to stomach if there was something to her character other than the fact that she was beautiful and unashamed of her sexuality and used that to "cure" the demisexual hero.
That's another thing I took issue with in this book: sexuality. This was present in SKIN AND BLOND, but to a much lesser extent. The "asexual" hero keeps referring to himself as broken. In this case, it's a result of sexual abuse, but I don't really like asexuality being compared to a disability: in psychologically healthy human beings, it isn't. Since Griffin was a victim of abuse, it's natural that he wouldn't want sexual contact but that's not really asexuality, that's PTSD. The hero in SKIN AND BLOND referred to himself as broken too, but in that book, it was clear that he was a true asexual (but not aromantic) and just felt frustrated at not being able to live up to the sexually active, heteronormative standards set by society, and that his "brokenness" was an expression of that sentiment. Here, it felt muddled and weird. There's also a strange line from the heroine about the movie, Boys Don't Cry, in which she refers to the trans hero of that movie as a "girl dressing up as a boy." Which, again, I'd like to give the author the benefit of the doubt here, and assume that this is her way of showing the heroine's ignorance (she was, very), but it came off as sounding very misinformed.
Lastly, the pacing. The story just felt way too jumbled and uneven. The sci-fi element ended up making this book really cheesy, and not in a good way. There was too much emphasis placed on the sex, and it detracted from the action sequences. The "grand reveals" felt cliche. It really upset me because SKIN AND BLOND, in comparison, was tight and perfectly paced, with great reveals, excellent sexual tension, and a really smart and flawed heroine, who I didn't always like but always secretly rooted for.
One of the things I like best about Chambers is that she allows her heroines to make mistakes. There are too many books out there that demand perfection from their heroines: they must be beautiful, pure, and good, held to completely different standards than the hero, from whom we're far more quick to forgive much greater flaws. Chambers, like Gillian Flynn, has a penchant for flawed heroines who often do the unforgivable while somehow managing to appear human and even relatable. She just needs to tighten her pacing and omit some of the weird, unnecessary asides from her books in the cutting room.