Review: There’s Someone Inside Your House

There’s Someone Inside Your House  [Buy Hardcover or ebook]
Stephanie Perkins
Genre: Slasher horror, Young Adult

First off, there is a trans dude who is never misgendered and survives the book. There. That’s the only real spoiler I’ll give because that’s the most vitally important one. Now then, the rest of the book.

I really enjoyed this book. Like, I’m gonna recommend it to everyone looking for a new Halloween read. The main plot is simple: there is a serial killer going around and slaughtering high school students. But the characters were fantastic and complex. Everybody read differently, there was no mistaking one character for another, and even the murdered characters got their moments of being people, which made their killings all more tragic.

Big warning: If you don’t like depictions of gore, this is super not for you. Every kill is brutal and specific.

I really liked the descriptions of the small Nebraska town they lived in, how everyone knew everyone else, which makes some of the interconnectedness heartbreaking. But, let’s focus on the main reason I love this book: Makani.

Makani is our protagonist and she is fantastic. She’s biracial: Black and Native Hawai’ian. She’s got some dark secret that she’s hiding, but nobody in Nebraska knows about it. What makes her such an interesting character, though, isn’t her dark secret. It’s that she’s written as fully human. She’s a good granddaughter, and sometimes she’s not. She fucks up sometimes, but fixes her mistakes honestly. She’s got shitty parents, but an amazing grandmother (Grandmother Young is by far one of my top favorite characters in the book). She’s a good person, and she makes the book so easy to read because of it.

I can’t get too in detail because, really, this is a book that’s best going into knowing nothing, or almost nothing, about. I will say the balance of somber and humor was perfect, even getting me to actually laugh out loud at some places. I super recommend it and I hope somebody reads it because otherwise I’m just gonna be over here flailing by myself.

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Review: The Cottingley Secret

The Cottingley Secret  [Buy Paperback or ebook]
Hazel Gaynor
Genre: Historical, Women’s Fiction

The Cottingley Secret tells two interconnected stories: that of Francis, the nine year-old girl behind the famous fairy photographs; and that of Olivia Kavanagh, a modern women in Ireland faced with the task of putting her grandparents affairs in order while trying to get her life the way she wants it. The novel alternates between written passages left by Francis and what’s happening with Olivia in real time. It’s a fairly neat trick, as what Olivia reads inspires her to make changes in her own life, but it does get a bit tiring after a while. I found myself willing the author to stay in one time period for more than a handful of sections.

The story of Francis makes for a very good read, although it’s hard at first to realize this was written by an adult Francis looking back, and not by her nine year-old self. Once that was figured out, the word choices made more sense. But even still, the wonder of the child seeing fairies each time was clear and easily felt. It was also a good look into life on the home front during the first World War, exploring new technologies invented as well as the domestic problems that come with half of the population being gone.

I found myself invested in both stories equally, which made it all the worse for being split up so. Olivia’s story ended up feeling very repetitive as she went back and forth over whether she should marry her fiancé or if she shouldn’t, her anguish over not being able to biologically have kids (because, again, adoption is somehow never an option in these stories), and her decisions over the bookshop left to her by her grandfather. There is a romance, for those looking, between Olivia and a writer named Ross, both introduced originally by his daughter Iris. But it ends with a maybe, which, to be honest, was very refreshing to me. Happy endings aren’t finished with weddings and forever decisions, but with maybes and hopes.

One note: the fiancé is shown to be controlling, self-important, egotistical, and not very concerned with her outside of how it affects him, which made me wonder why they were even together in the first place. It’s hand-waved away with about a sentence of explanation, but really, when she realized marrying him would make her “Olivia Oliver”, she should’ve called it off right then.

Overall, I like the book. I read it through Once Upon a Book Club, so I got to open little gifts as I read, which maybe helped get me through it a little more than if I’d just had it on my own, but you never know. It’s a pretty quick read, great for a book club or if you’re just looking for something light and fun.

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Review: Courage is Contagious

Courage Is Contagious: And Other Reasons to Be Grateful for Michelle Obama [Pre-Order Hardcover or ebook]
Edited by Nick Haramis
Genre: Non-fiction, Essays

I received an advance uncorrected proof from Random House Publishing. The opinions expressed here are surely my honest own.

I cried. That’s my lede. I straight up cried during some of these essays because yes, all of this. Michelle Obama is such an inspiration and reading so many different people talk about how she inspires them just hit so poignantly. From Chimamanda Full Name to Janet Mock to two eighth graders telling their stories of what she means to them, this book is full of amazing feeling and energy.

Of course, not every essay is a stunner. The foreword by Lena Dunham is a joke, what with her, again, making everything all about herself, with a dose of cutting down other women and bonus ableism for good measure. And Gloria Steinem’s essay ends with a call to be color- and gender-blind, a sentiment that has no place in a discussion about a proud Black woman.

But, really, when you get down to it, two out of about fifteen (the number of total essays in the proof; there are still at least two more to come) is pretty good for a book of only 128 pages. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to everyone. Every single person who finally felt like they had a voice in the White House, every person who learned what it was to have an actually caring First Family, and every single person who discovered that they could do their best, even when their best means just surviving. Everyone should get this book.

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Double Review: Basic Witches and Gone To Dust (with bonus mini-review)

Basic Witches [buy here or here]
Jaya Saxena and Jess Zimmerman
Self-Help

Basic Witches is at heart a self-help book, but less of the “woo-woo let me teach you my ways” and more of the “here’s some things that might help, also you are the best you you are,” which I have to say is way more refreshing to read.

I don’t really have a lot to say about this book other than that I liked it. It’s one that I think you really have to read for yourself to see if it fits you. One thing I really liked was that it didn’t delve too much into “The Divine Feminine” like so many other witch books do; they used “she/her” as the main pronouns, but acknowledged genderqueer and non-binary people. They also mentioned in their section about sex that it’s perfectly OK to not have or want sex, which is a huge A+.

I will recommend you at least check it out from your library, or look for it in a bookstore (if y’all still have those; we sadly do not), because the cover is damn pretty. Like damn, damn, dammity, damn, damn pretty. When it catches the light, the gold on it literally glows like fire, and if that’s not the coolest shit then get out of my face.

TL;DR: Read if if you want some neat spells or just want to know that you’re not weird for being you, but definitely look at it because, again, damn pretty.

Gone to Dust [buy here or here]
Matt Goldman
Mystery

I really loved the premise of this one. A murder is committed and the entire house is covered in a thick layer of vacuum dust, rendering DNA sampling nearly impossible. That’s the kind of story I’d come up with, so I was super on board before I even began.

The writing is better than average for a male writer, with only two unnecessary, though thankfully brief and not dwelled upon, sex scenes. Our protagonist, Nils Shapiro, has a healthy friendship with his male friends and actually does very well at being not a dick to the women he meets. I may be selling this short like this; I really did enjoy his character, but you know me, master of the hard sell.

The book was well plotted and paced. Except for one frankly bizarre subplot about Islamic militants among refugees was, honestly, really fucking odd and out of place and racist. It was legit only used as a plot point for the FBI to come down and stop the investigation for about five chapters before it was resolved anyway.

One thing that did make my Southern Californian heart melt was the constant descriptions of what roads led where, and how he got where he was going. I’m not kidding about this. Every single time he got into the car, we got a street-by-street rundown of his route anywhere. This is literally how we talk in SoCal, and I can’t figure out if this is also how they do in Minnesota or if Goldman’s lived out here long enough we’ve corrupted him.

Overall, I’d recommend it, bullshit subplot aside. It’s a pretty compelling read, and there are enough twists in it to keep you entertained, but none that really come out of nowhere once they’re explained. Nils is a pretty likable narrator among so very many awful ones. Also, no dead queers, so that’s A+, good job.

TL;DR: Good, I’d definitely read the next if there’s a series, but watch out for random subplots.

OK, big reviews are done, now what do I do? What else have I read?

Whobert Whover, Owl Detective [buy here or here]
Writing: Jason Gallaher
Illustrations: Jess Pauwels
Children’s Mystery

It’s a really cute book, y’all. I love reading children’s books because there’s something refreshing in seeing storytelling done in only a handful of pages. That, and I want to write my own someday, too, so they’re great inspiration.

Whobert Whover is swooping over the trees one day when suddenly he spies Perry the Possum lying still on the ground. Lying /very/ still. Whobert is determined to solve the mystery!

The illustrations are adorable and the writing is so cute. When accused of soaking Perry in his sickening slime, Freddie the frog points out that he’s not slimy before even answering the charges against him. Whobert is so energetic in his quest to solve the crime that it doesn’t occur to him to let people answer his own questions.

I super recommend checking it out if you like quick examples of children’s books or really like cute illustration.

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Review: The Grip of It by Jac Jemc

Title:  The Grip of It [PRINT; EBOOK]
Author:  Jac Jemc
Rating:  Recommended

Julie and James have moved into an old house, away from the city and its problems and temptations.  Right away they begin to encounter strange things, but easily pass them off as forgetfulness and the stress of moving in.  Then Julie becomes covered in unknown bruises and James begins dreaming he’s awake.

It’s a book that’s both hard and easy to spoil.  Even if you already know what’s coming, it’s the journey there that sets the tone.

Continue reading

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Catch-Up Reviews

Hoo boy, it has been way too long since I’ve done a little set of reviews, especially considering when the last one was and how many dang books I’ve read since then.  These will be just short thoughts, with a couple of books probably getting full reviews later.

Library Books

OK, so, first thing:  I vastly overestimated my ability to read books in a timely manner.  Most of the books listed from last time (which was posted in June??? oh sweet jimmy jams) ended up returned unread as I had more coming in and was not feeling them.  I’ll get to them eventually, but, ah, not for a while yet.

Anyway, on to the books!

The Killers by Ernest fuck off Hemingway

You might be able to tell that I really hate Hemingway.  I only read this because it was included in a list of great film noir based on books.  Let me just say now, the movie is way better than the story.

Knife Creek by Paul Doiron

  • Incredibly good
  • Like, 10th in series or something
  • Picked it up without knowing anything and followed fine
  • Need to find the rest to read them all
  • Author offers signed hardback pack and I NEED

Final Girls by Mira Grant (aka Seanan McGuire)

  • Different
  • Wasn’t really a fan
  • Short enough I could finish it fine
  • Would probably not check out again

Security by Gina Wohlsdorf

  • Cool from a logistics perspective
  • Watching where everyone is and how things lead to others
  • Narrator was annoying
  • Wouldn’t buy, but didn’t feel I wasted time

The Field of Cloth and Gold by Magnus Mills

  • The bitter satire I’ve been missing
  • So very British, in a good way
  • Looking forward to reading more from him

The No.2 Feline Detective Agency by Mandy Morton

  • THIS piece of shit
  • Will post full (Goodreads) review (but with swears)
  • So racist
  • It’s cats, how do you fuck that up
  • So very British, in a bad way

Ragdoll by Daniel Cole

  • Holy shit, this was my jam
  • Totally thought about this plot before, tho
  • Just saying
  • Loved all the characters of the team
  • Heart-wrenching yet so damn fun
  • I can’t wait for the next one
  • (why tf did the paperback screw up the cover)

I Am What I Ate and I’m Frightened by Bill Cosby

  • Nice short afternoon read
  • Listen, I still make “Why is there air” jokes, I can’t stop

Revenge by Yoko Ogawa

  • Oh my god this was my everything
  • I desperately need to own this
  • Eleven short stories and every one ties into the others
  • Just fucking beautiful

My Books

I actually did read some of my own books, go me!

Illness as Metaphor by Susan Sontag

  • Very good
  • A bit rambling at times, but coherent
  • Still very relevant, esp to chronically ill me
  • Great historical reference

Medea trans. by Rex Warner

  • Anyone who doesn’t come out loving Medea is a fool and a liar
  • BAMF
  • Seriously, she’s like my #lifegoals
  • Really great translation, very easy to follow

Shit, I’ve actually read a lot.  Go me.

Current Library Books

These are all the ones I’ve checked out as of now.  We’ll see what I make it through.

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

  • Really enjoyed Part 1
  • Returned because I really need to start reading my own books
  • Will definitely check out again, if not buy

Dead on Arrival by Matt Richtel

  • “Eleanor listened to the wheels unfold–a sound that reminded her of a baby’s hum.”
  • What the fuck is a baby’s hum?
  • Does it not know the words?
  • So anyway, your honor, that’s when Death of the Author became accurate
  • Hard pass on the rest of the book

And all the rest I haven’t started yet.

Burning Your Boats by Angela Carter

Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber

The Ready-Made Thief by Augustus Rose

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

The Cemetery Boys by Heather Brewer

That’s it for this quick update!  I’ll be making a longer review about The No. 2 Racist Feline Book probably around next week, because the end of this week is busy with, shall we say,

Long Beach, here we come!


You can see the longer review before everyone else by following me on Patreon!  Just a dollar helps a ton and allows me to make more content.  Plus, I’m always open for commissions, and always happy for tips.  And let me know if there’s any book (or movie) that you’d like to see reviewed here.  Thanks!

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What Love?

You can claim love, but you weren’t loving me when you went to the polls

You say Jesus has taught you love, but you didn’t love God’s people when you stepped into that booth

You tell me I should love when you backed the candidate supported by the kkk and who’s appointing Nazis by the day

You didn’t love me

You didn’t even think about me

You voted for the man who says my people are rapists

For the man who says we’re drug runners

For the man with the audacity to say we’ve gotta pay for a wall to keep us from our own homes

You voted for the conquerors who took our land from under us and then have the gall to say we don’t belong here

The soil that you stand on is my people’s

The ground that you farm is my right

You want to flush us out like desert rats when we built your cities with bricks from our ovens and taught you how to get water from a cactus

You’re worried about illegal immigrants but who changed our country’s borders with our blood?

“Go back to Mexico”?  Bitch, we ain’t never left

But you buy your brand new model home and sneer at us in the homes our great-grandparents were born in

You didn’t love me

You didn’t love my family

You didn’t love the man you made a home with

Or did our color trick you into thinking we’re your White?

Did our loss of our native tongue to centuries of assimilation fool you?

Did you look at our lost traditions, forcefully beaten from us, and think they’d be pretty to wear on Halloween?

Where is your love?

Because I’m not seeing it

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Mini Reviews

I’ve been borrowing a ridiculous amount of books from the library considering how many books I have and continue to get at home.  But!, I am nothing if not horribly unrealistic about my reading speed, so let’s do this.

Library Books

Seed by Ania Ahlborn

  • Loved it
  • Good old-fashioned demon story
  • Things go VERY BAD VERY FAST but honestly, it’s perfect and super tragic and fucked up
  • Demons don’t fuck around, y’all

Final thoughts

  • Definitely checking out her other books

 

The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton

  • Super cute
  • My precious warrior child
  • Diverse bodies and warriors, double A+

Final thoughts

  • Adorable, do recommend

 

Crazy Is My Superpower by AJ Mendez Brooks

  • Never heard of her before, but incredibly interesting
  • Very easy read, like a conversation
  • omg fellow bipolar pal, what a good
  • Sometimes heavy, but always with an undercurrent of humor

Final thoughts

  • Learned so much about wrestling, well done
  • Very worthwhile read

 

Snowblind by Christopher Golden

  • Loved Ararat, so checked this out
  • A little disappointed
  • Cool premise, but kinda saw twists coming
  • Ice demons and ghost possession, A+

Final thoughts

  • ngl, I skimmed the end
  • Enjoyable if you’re not me extreme genre-savvy

 

The Dinner by Herman Koch

  • Super fucked up
  • Kinda Pretty racist, guess who dies
  • Psychologically interesting watching people justify themselves
  • YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO RELATE TO THEM, HOLY SHIT, REVIEWERS

Final thoughts

  • Why do men have deep thoughts when peeing?
  • Nobody should be that fascinated by their penis, c’mon
  • Have others of his books, but wouldn’t reread this

 

The Party by Robyn Harding

  • Tried so much to be a different type of novel
  • P good at showing rich people’s lives/justifications/faux problems
  • Ending kinda fell flat

Final thoughts

  • Not particularly moved to check out her other books
  • Needed more murder or comeuppance

 

Own Books

The Boy in the Earth by Fuminori Nakamura

  • Psychological mysterious thought-wandering
  • That’s not a criticism
  • I genuinely liked the book
  • Slow-paced, which helped follow the flow
  • Way more satisfying than White psych-novels

Final thoughts

  • Very glad to own this, will definitely reread

 

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

  • It’s Cruel Is The Night but with teenagers and less death
  • Great twisty mystery with solid characters
  • My baby queer child
  • Everybody grows so much and they’re all good people
  • Fantastic dénouement

Final thoughts

  • omg so good, everybody read it and gush with me

 

Approaching Ice; Interpretive Work; Once Removed by Elizabeth Bradfield

  • Three solid collections of poetry
  • Nature-filled and super queer
  • Approaching Ice is historical about the Arctic expeditions
  • Romance and living together and relationships and nature and ugh

Final thoughts

  • Poetry I genuinely like, well done, A+

 

The Sybil by Pär Lagerkvist

  • Philosophical novel about god/God
  • Like a fucking religious experience oh my god
  • This is the cover of the book I have, jesus fuck
  • I mean, look at that, omg
  • Fucking staring into your soul, jfc

Final thoughts

  • Read it in one sitting from about 10-1 in the morning and lose your gd mind

 

Current Library Books

I have, checked out for me:

  • Ring by Koji Suzuki– Working way through, on first renewal
  • Ophelia by Lisa Klein–Retelling of Hamlet from Ophelia’s POV
  • Summer House With Swimming Pool by Herman Koch–Likely similar to The Dinner
  • Grief Cottage by Gail Godwin–New ghost story that my body is so ready for
  • Goodnight, Sweet Prince by David Dickinson–First in a series of Victoriana mysteries
  • The Grim Sleeper by Christine Pelisek–True crime about LA serial killer
  • Rag Doll by Daniel Cole–Murder mystery I found legit two days after I thought of the plot

After this, I really need to start reading the books I own, especially since I have Magpie Murders to read.

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Quick Book Thoughts

It’s been forever since I posted something here, but during this absence, I’ve read quite a few books that don’t really need full reviews.  So here’s some quick book thoughts.

Behind Her Eyes, a.k.a., Fear the Queer 2017.  Spoilers, but like, don’t even bother reading it, it’s actual trash:

The ending is literally “predatory murderous gay man kills women to get straight guy”.  Oh, and he plots to kill a child.  Because you know that’s what we queers are all about!  I use he pronouns because as soon as the “twist” comes, that’s how the book refers to him and how his internal thoughts refer to him, regardless of the rest of the book.  The alternative is that, of course, trans people (especially trans women) can’t be trusted and are all “really” men.  There’s so much shit to unpack in this bullshit, but let’s just remember this shit got published to widespread acclaim in 2017.

The Ice Twins, a.k.a., “mentally ill women cannot be told their own diagnoses nor be trusted with children.”

Honestly, this book is so shit, I don’t even know how to describe it, but the main conflict is an actually Idiot Plot (i.e., a plot that can only work if every character is an idiot).  Husband and wife refuse to talk to each other.  Husband keeps vital mental health info from wife (including contact from her doctor, which violates so many patient confidentiality laws, I can’t even).  Wife is slut-shamed in narrative and then, “gone crazy”, dies.  And that’s considered a happy ending.

The Couple Next Door, a.k.a., mentally ill women are violent murderers.  Are you seeing a pattern here?

The main plot is actually a pretty good kidnapping-gone-wrong story, pretty tight and legitimately twisty.  Unfortunately, it’s bogged down by clunky, samey dialogue; repetitive narration; incredibly ableist views on mental illness while pretending to be fair; and, of course, the ending.  Along with a fundamental misunderstanding of DID, the very last chapter is “lol, see, we could’ve had a happy ending, but then wife blacks out and murder someone *insert smug smiling emoji*”.

I don’t know what it is about mysteries lately, but there’s a big trend of writing a last chapter that completely ruins the rest of the book.  Also, a word to the wise:  a twist cannot be a random thing tacked on at the end.  It has to make sense within the story.  It has to be believable.  Sure, you might not want your reader to see it coming, but a reader has to be able to go back and see where the twist started; a twist must be rooted in something in the rest of your book.

I have read some good books, believe it or not.

I just finished Ararat by Christopher Golden and it was amazing.  The book literally feels like the plot, climbing up the mountain in exuberance and racing down in terror.  This has a plot twist done right, one I twigged to early in the book, but was still gobsmacked when it came.  If you like tightly paced, but not rushed mysteries, very well done characters, and LEGIT DEMONS HOLY SHIT, I cannot recommend it enough.

Currently, I’m reading The Boy in the Earth.  I’m getting from the library The Road Out of Hell, about a true series of murders that took place in Mira Loma back in the ’20s-’30s.  Plus, I just received One of Us is Lying, which is like The Breakfast Club, but with murder.  And, soonish, I need to read Murder in Matera, and do a legit review.

BOOKS!

What are you reading?  Let me know in the comments.  And, if there’s any book you’d like me to read so I’ll review it, rant about it, or just fan with you, let me know, too.

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Falstaff by Harold Bloom — A Love Letter to Life

Title:  Falstaff:  Give Me Life (Shakespeare’s Personalities)
Author:  Harold Bloom
Publisher:  Scribner
Rec:  So highly!
Pre-order on Amazon, Kindle, Barnes & Noble, or Simon & Schuster

I received a digital copy of this book from NetGalley.  What follows is my honest review.

I was introduced to Shakespeare the way most of us were:  through terrible high school English classes that sucked all the joy and dick jokes out of them.  While I’m sure the dick jokes would’ve helped pass the time, I’ve come to the conclusion that teenage me would still have never enjoyed it.  Shakespeare’s something I’ve had to grow into (occasionally kicking and screaming).

I’m so happy I have.  Between MST3k’s episode of Hamlet and Good Tickle-Brain’s scene-by-scene Macbeth and King Lear, comedy has led me to love the tragedies, so it makes some sense that the tragedy of the history plays would lead me to love the joy of Sir John Falstaff.

I say all of this to set the scene, so when I say that this is the most enjoyable nonfiction book I’ve ever read and that the sheer love Bloom has for Falstaff comes through in every line, you know that this is said by a complete n00b to Shakespeare.  If this book had been required reading in high school (or college, for that matter), my descent in to Shakespeare would’ve began years ago.

Falstaff: Give Me Life is the first in the Shakespeare’s Personalities series, short books that focus on one character and how they connect with our world and theirs.  With Bloom’s insight and energy, these books are perfect for all fans, new and old alike.

I had no experience with the character of Falstaff, except for the vague awareness that his character was drunk and bawdy — known more for his vices than his virtues — but within the first pages of Falstaff, Bloom proves that there’s much enough depth and complexity (and, in course of events, tragedy) in Sir John to rival any of the more popular Great characters of Shakespeare.  He compares Sir John with Hamlet in what is possibly my favorite sentence from the book:

But Hamlet is death’s ambassador while Falstaff is the embassy of life.

Falstaff is almost Dionysian in his embrace of life and all its pleasures, though with none of the distemper of the gods.  He has seen the horrors of life and has chosen to focus on the joys of it.  When we throw off the blinders of Western Christian society, we embrace his so-called vices for what they are:  freedom.   How can living to excess be a greater sin than the scheming and hypocrisy of kings?  “…The essence of Falstaffianism [is]:  do not moralize,” says Bloom, and I can think of no better fitting statement.

I can’t even explain how much I love this book, when my head screams, “Poetry!” and my soul cries, “Life!”  I’ve never been so enamored with a character, or more delighted by a scholar than with Harold Bloom’s Falstaff.   I cannot recommend it enough.  Legit, I want to buy it for all my friends and vague acquaintances so they can discuss this with me.

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Everything I Never Told You — It’s Like a Punch in the Gut, but Great

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Title:  Everything I Never Told You
Author:  Celeste Ng
Rec?  So yes.  Get this book.

I read this for the “Read a Debut Novel” part of the Read Harder Book Challenge, thinking, like I do with most books, that I’ll be intrigued and entertained, and then move on to the next book.

Oh god, I was so wrong.  I’ve never finished a library book and immediately ordered it to own, but by golly, I did here.

Ru Freeman wrote, of the story, “It is impossible to resist grieving alongside each one of these…characters” and that is wholly accurate.  From the first two sentences — “Lydia is dead.  But they don’t know this yet.” — that leads into the uneasy normalcy of the morning, you become part of this family.  You don’t know them yet, but you will, deeply and intensely, sharing things no one else knows, not even the family.  And soon, it’s not just Lydia’s death you grieve, but the small deaths they  keep to themselves:  a dream, a family, a connection.

Celeste Ng uses point-of-view shifts to an effect I’ve never seen before, not just between breaks, but between paragraphs, in the middle of a fight, letting us peer into the thoughts and misunderstandings of each character.  Best of all, the book sings for it.  Not once was the flow broken or the narrative jumbled with each different shift; instead it swelled and swept, molding the past and present together in a way unparalleled.

I do not cry, as a rule, yet several times I found myself setting the book down because my vision blurred with tears, sometimes along with the characters, sometimes to be the tears they could not shed.  The craving to be different, the ache to fit in, the wish to be recognized, the desire to understand, and the overwhelming burden of being made into someone you’re not; each one hits with a visceral impact.

The story of a mixed-race, wholly American family, from the 1950s through the ’70s, with the burden that comes from others’ views and expectations, resonates sharply today.  Even when you’re not the only mixed family in town, that unwanted attention is still there, an underlying tension that simmers beneath every personal conflict.

I cannot recommend this book enough.  My only wish is that I had read it when it came out, so I could have enjoyed this sooner.  I look forward to Celeste Ng’s writing future (and yes, I have just preordered her new book) and everything she has to give us.

(Also, I must put in a final word to say that casual queer character with no overwhelming baggage made my heart sing.  This book was just everything.)

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The Read Harder Challenge

After reading over 200 books and stories last year (why, I’ll never know), I’ve decided to cut it back this year, with a goal of only 50.  Even if I read over that number (which I very likely will as my current reread of Yu-Gi-Oh! will about finish it), I’m not changing my goal.  This will be me seeing how much I like reading for enjoyment, not because I feel obligated to.

That said, I just came across Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge.

I’ve always been interested in doing book challenges throughout a year (much in the same way I’m interested in joining a book club or doing live NaNo nights; it sounds fun, but I have no means or true opportunity to do them), so imagine my delight at finding one that actually covers books I’m genuinely likely to read.

Below the cut is the list, for reference.  I’ll likely update it with what book I’m reading as I go on, and make a final post with everything once the list is done.

Come join along with me!  We can be our own little book club.

Continue reading

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State of the Fleet:  New Year’s Edition

It has been a long, long while since I’ve updated here (don’t count the book tag, that’s even been sitting for months) and while a lot hasn’t actually happened, a lot has happened.  (If you follow me on twitter, you’ve probably seen most of this news already.)

The Bad

I’ve been trying to get a diagnosis for my rheumatoid arthritis, only to discover doctors really hate the idea of patients understanding their own symptoms.  I could read of a list of what my symptoms are, point by point, and they’d still lecture me on “googling symptoms” and “well, the blood tests don’t show”.  Fun Fact:  A lot of RA patients don’t show positive blood work, and a sudden positive tends to mean it’s become more severe.  So I guess I’ll just wait until my hands start warping and I can’t walk at all before a doctor might deign to believe me!

This has not been a good year for me and doctors.

I called for an occupational therapist (whose literal job is helping people cope in daily lives in minimal pain) only to be told that’s not what I need.  Fun Fact:  The Kaiser website gives the same definition as in my parenthetical.  So, the doctors don’t read their own site, apparently.

I saw a mental health therapist for the first time in months (a new one because my last never listened to me) only to be not listened to again.  Apparently I put off “unblinking idiot” vibes or something.

Pals, a question:  Have your therapists been all social workers, or a different degree?
I am still unemployed and my Autocorrect just tried to play me there and unable to sell anything to raise money.  This has added to my stress and pain as I’ve scrounged for what money I can get to pay bills, and has overall been terrible.  If anyone can spread word or knows someone who wants something (commission, craft, random things I’m selling), please send them HERE.

My computer has started blue screening on me and I have this terrible fear it will die this year, which means I need to start backing things up and making lists of what programs I have.  I am not pleased with this development.

Friends:  I am in pain all the time.  I cannot stand for long.  Walking takes so much out of me.  I’m losing concentration, I can’t focus, I can’t write hardly at all.  I spend most of my time sleeping, and even that’s not good because I’m in so much pain I can’t rest.  I keep saying how if I was a person to cry I would, but the truth is I’ve gone long past the point of crying.  I’ve taken to rewatching things I’ve all but memorized because when my focus goes, I at least don’t kick myself for getting distracted.  This year has been too much.

And some motherfucker hit my damn car!

Literally, 4 days before my license test, some dipshit hit my door in so far, the window can’t go down.  Not a big problem?  It wouldn’t be if the test didn’t require my fucking window to go down.  So, once again, I’m stuck with no license and no idea when my door will get fixed.

I’ve been losing weight this past year and it’s been very troubling.  I’ve been in the same diet I was in college, namely, not eating anything for almost a day.  Between the pain and the… well, to be honest, most of my problems would lessen without the pain, so we’ll just say because of the pain, it’s been hard for me to get up and get food.  I’ve had no appetite, and frequently only eat once I’m getting dizzy and shaky.  Not good.

And, of course, there was the shitstain that was 2016 overall, so….

That pretty much wraps up the bad, so onward to

The Good

I won’t lie.  I can’t remember much of anything that happened last year before about December, so here’s barely-there highlights from what I think was this last year.

I went on a date!  With a super cute girl who is awesome and who thinks I’m beautiful which is hilarious.  😘

I found some very good people and blogs in the RA community, the Health At Every Size community, and the Death Positive community.  They have been immensely helpful to me in coping with my pain and symptoms, motivating me to improve my eating ability and strength — mentally, I’ve reached such a better place with food, even if it is a daily struggle — and given me a place of understanding and kinship over something I genuinely thought nobody else understood.
I’ve been listening to a lot of good artists and really branching out in my musical tastes, which has been very exciting.

I didn’t write much this year, but–  Wait a minute.  I wrote and published at least two fics, started easily 25 more, made tons of notes for potential original work, wrote a story a day for half of May, started actually using this blog, did book reviews and sales posts, talked a lot about stories I’d like to see and see done differently, and actually started on a new Batfic in the last few days of the year.

I’ve written a shit ton.  I just haven’t finished our posted most of it.  Wow.

I’ve been very active on twitter, making some new friends and talking a lot with old friends.  While I still tend to isolate myself and feel isolated, I’ve been better about it this year, I think.

I read 217 books and short stories this year.  Never again.  My eyes dazzle.

I cut a lot of negativity out of my life, from unfollowing and blocking people, to making sure my Tumblr Savior is hella updated, I am prepared.

And, of course, I got a kitty!  Chatty was left all alone in our back patio after his mom and siblings disappeared, so I talked to him when he meowed and eventually got him into the house.  He’s now 8 months old and is a giant, omg.  But he’s very sweet, even if he does go wild sometimes.

The Odd

I joined up NaNo and didn’t write a damn word.  Where’s my badge?

I now own enough nail polish to poison someone, yet it’s still not enough motivation to start wearing any.

I have so many snacks to eat.  So many.

The new Pokémon games aren’t really that deep.  That said, I’m still convinced the player character is just a Ditto in disguise.

We didn’t go to Vegas this year.  This has been surprisingly upsetting.  I dream slot machines.

I have enough journals to decorate a small portion of my wall.

I have enough posters to wallpaper my walls.

I bought short boxes, and I still need more.

I bought so many good books!  I ran out of shelf space 5 months ago.

Looking for a good tattoo artist around me is really fucking difficult.

I really want to get a bachelor’s in mortuary science.

The Star Wars Holiday Special is my favorite Star Wars movie, hands down.

Whizzo the clown’s catchphrase is possibly the motto of my generation:  “Well, now I’ve got that to worry about.”

I’ve got all these online classes signed up for and not a single bit of energy to do them.  :/

A small cat is like a small child, except you can lock it in the bathroom when you’re angry at it and nobody says a word.

That’s about it for now, folks.  I’ll be back later with a post of resolutions, because this looks long enough as it is.

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The Rapid Fire Book Tag

Apparently this is how we do LJ memes here on WordPress.

Anyway, Read Diverse Books did it, and since they left a general free-for-all tag, why the hell not?  Besides, I love doing random things instead of the important things I need to do.

eBooks or physical books?

I’m an even split between the two.  Lately I’ve been reading more ebooks because I always have my tablet with me, but if I really love a book, or if it’s a certain type of book, I’ll get a physical copy.  I actually prefer physical, but I now have more books than space, so….

Updated from November, when I started, I’m now solidly back on physical books what with the ungodly haul you’ll see below.

Paperback or hardback?

Paperback.  The only time I buy hardcover is if there’s something special about it (Silmarilian with bonus map), if I have the others in a series in hardcover (there is nothing worse than getting a mixed set of a series), or if I just NEED a book now.  Otherwise, paperbacks save so much room.

Online or in-store book shopping?

Online always.  Mostly because there aren’t actually any bookstores near me (and I don’t shop at B&N).  When Borders was around, I shopped about once a month (there was one down the street from my college).  I love second-hand bookstores, but most have closed around me, so Amazon and online second-hand it is.

Trilogies or series?

Neither?  If depends on what the book is.  Like, a mystery series is fine if it’s just the same characters with maybe some mentions of previous cases.  I honestly just don’t have the patience to get into multiple-book things.

Heroes or villains?

Heroes, always.  I find villains generally boring.  Or maybe it’s because in every modern book the villain is so generically bad.

But most of all, I like heroes because I like the fucking hero.  I’m so sick of “good is boring” authors who think they have to torture their lead or give them some dark secret, when no, a person can be a hero just because they’re a good fucking person.

A book you want everyone to read?

And completely spitting in the face of what I just finished saying, Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz.  It’s a villain story done well with a twist that doesn’t matter if it’s spoiled or not because it just adds a layer to the read.

I super recommend listening to the audiobook either while reading it or before (though when I listened to it after, it was just another layer of joy), because there are certain clues that you only hear from listening (if you understand what the narrator’s doing).

I could talk about this book for days.

Recommend an underrated book.

I guess I can’t recommend what I just did, but, um, I don’t really know of any underrated books?  I can recommend unread books, I guess, or books that aren’t common anymore….

I know!  Agatha Christie’s Harley Quin series.  They’re really enjoyable, they’re short, hints of magic, and basically unknown to most readers, so hell yeah, read them.  The Mysterious Mr. Quin (available in ebook) has all but two stories, which are collected in The Love Detectives (which contains a couple other books Mr. Satterthwaite is a character in, though without Mr. Quin).

The last book you finished?

Laura by Vera Caspary.  Nice ’40s noir with some great twists and fantastic characters.

Used books, yes or no?

Absolutely.  As someone with a hobby (read: obsession) with old and unknown books, I couldn’t get them without being second-hand.  Also, I’m broke af.  Amazon is literally the only way new books are affordable to me; I only buy new books if it’s something or someone I’m really trying to support or need to read now.  Get your knickers in a twist.

Top three favorite genres?

Mystery/detective (an important distinction, not thrillers)

Ghost stories

Old solvey-puzzle mysteries

I’ve found that I’m less into different genres today as I used to, mostly because things like fantasy and sci-fi have all their books so similar, and so fucking depressing.  I don’t want to read the next 12,000 dystopias and no, your dark deconstruction of fantasy isn’t actually that clever at all.  I’m so fucking jaded.

LIKE MYSTERY HAS ANYTHING TO FUCKING SPEAK ON, THOUGH, FUCK.  If I have to read one more goddamned women-torturing “psychological thriller” with a woman who falls apart over a goddamn sandwich choice as a lead, I’m going to puke a fat one, I swear to god!  Everybody’s got a goddamn “dark and troubled past” and every investigation “threatens to spill terrifying secrets” like how are you fucking functioning at this point as a human?

Do you think anyone’s ever told these authors that most people, yes even most protags, have fairly standard and stable lives?  Because I’m starting to be concerned.

Weirdest thing you used as a bookmark?

An entire 8-1/2 x 11 piece of paper for a pocket book.

Borrow or buy?

I was buying everything that looked good, but as that’s not only filling up my room, depleting my money, and has come to bite me, I’m so into borrowing.  I’m constantly recommending ebooks to the county library and I’ve started going through my wish lists and searching for them in the library main catalogue to see if I like it before I buy it.

I mean, look at this shit:

That’s 14 books from the library.  This is how I roll now.  And it’s wonderful, except that it will take me a long time to get back into a mood to read.

Characters or plot?

Depends on the book.  Character-driven character pieces are actually my jam.  Nothing could happen at all in a book but examining people and characters and I’d be thrilled.  When that’s combined with a good STEADY plot (say, in a mystery), I’m extra stoked.

Long or short book?

Short, always.  My preferred length is 100 pages.  250 is pushing it for me.  When I get books that turn out to be 300-odd pages, I start to deliberate how much I’m REALLY interested in the book.  Anything over that and forget it.

This is why I’m all about short stories.

Long or short chapters?

Short chapters are great.  Easy to get through, easy to take a break from, easy to keep going.  Long chapters, like long books, drag me down.

Name the first three books you think of.

Laura, Inheritance, The Wooden Horse.

Books that make you laugh or cry?

As in which do I prefer?  Laugh, always.  Or if not, give me chills. I don’t read tragic books because there’s enough of that around anyway.

Our world or fictional worlds?

Our world, historically, or in its best sense.  I’ve not been reading other worlds much.

Do you ever judge a book by its cover?

Absolutely.  And I’ll buy editions based on covers, including buying the same book again.

Audiobooks: yes or no?

Yes, but I have trouble listening to them.  I can’t do anything else if I’m to concentrate on the reading, but then I get bored and my mind wanders and suddenly I’ve missed half a chapter.  BUT, I can listen to them while reading the book (I did this with Moriarty and it was amazing).

Book to movie or book to TV adaptation?

Old TV adaptations of books and generally older movie adaptations.  I haven’t seen many film adaptations now and TV adaptations of books seem to drag on.

Oh!  The Joan Hickson Miss Marple series is A+, do highly recommend.

A movie or TV adaptation you preferred to the book?

Ngl, Game of Thrones is a lot more watchable than the books are readable.

So, the Poirot adaptation of Cards on the Table changed up a lot (including killing the wrong person at one point, which I’m still bitter about), but it added some illicit queerness and I am all for that (and I am always for queer murderers, I can’t lie).

Series or standalone?

I super prefer standalones, because I’ve been burned by buying the second of a trilogy thinking it was the first.  Plus, I don’t have to deal with ongoing storylines.  I’m always here for one-and-dones.
Well, three months later, that’s finally finished.  That was fun, actually.  I’ll have to find more like this (or cross-post my own).  I’d love to see anyone who wants to do it, uh, do it.

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Horrorstör: You’ll Never Be Happy In IKEA Again

I just finished this book, so you’re getting sort of a review.

Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix (kindle edition) is a horror story in the guise of a knock-off IKEA-type store catalogue.  It’s also fucking creepy.  And great.

Focusing on and following the employees of Orsk–“Have a question?  Just Orsk!”–as they try to uncover the mysterious happenings overnight in the labyrinthine store, the story shifts from mildly unnerving to full-on terror in a matter of pages.  Each chapter begins with a piece of furniture from the Orsk catalogue, each one important to the story.  There’s always a cheerful Orsk slogan or two within the chapters to remind you that, yes, Orsk may be a cheap knock-off of IKEA, but dammit, you will love Orsk!

You will love Orsk.

Warnings

I won’t lie, the story gets a little bit gore-tastic with some finger trauma and eye-horror, so go in prepared, but don’t let that stop you.  The gore, thankfully, isn’t the focus of the story; it’s more the bloody frosting on a horrifying maze of sheet cake.

General Thoughts

This is definitely something you sit down and read all at once.  I read in it about three/four hours, but if you’re not a word-sifter like me, you could finish it quicker.  Not too quick, though; that’d spoil the fun of it.

This really reminded me of House of Leaves (albeit way fucking shorter, thank god) and in a very good way.  Although the nameless, faceless horror gets both a name and a face, he isn’t the main horror, which is horrifying in itself when you think about it.  There’s a good variety of characters and they all feel real, which is nice for modern horror; usually there’s so much focus on the gore and the scare, authors forget the characters are the point.

Also, it ends with my favorite horror ending ever, so A+, very good.

Final Thoughts

Fucking

Fucking

Fucking

buy it

buy it

buy it

And I heartily recommend the paperback version so you get the full catalogue feel.

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