Reviews: 4/1 – 4/8

A Perilous Path
by Sherrilyn Ifill, Loretta Lynch, Bryan Stevenson, Anthony C. Thompson

This is a transcription of what was a very interesting conversation on race, equality, and the law. It talked about where the inequalities come from, how they’re in our laws (especially after the gutting of the Voting Rights Act), and how we can use the law to fight against them. It’s a really fascinating (and quick) read that I definitely recommend to people looking to be more active in civil rights.

The Silent Companions
by Laura Purcell

A spooky ghost book, to be sure, but I found it dragged a bit to much for me to get really into it. There are three timelines going on at once: the present, the past, and the far past. Jumping between them became taxing when I just wanted to follow one storyline over another. Still, it’s atmospheric and Gothic, and you can never go wrong with sinister figurines.

The Astonishing Color of After
by Emily X. R. Pan

I really didn’t expect to enjoy this book as much as I did, but it’s a very touching story on family, love, and loss. This is surprisingly bigger than you think it is, but it keeps you reading so it doesn’t feel like a drag. Our lead is very identifiable and there’s an element of magic running through the story that keeps things interesting. I definitely recommend reading it, but I can’t guarantee you won’t cry. I did, and I’m not an easy crier.

Groucho Marx, Master Detective
by Ron Goulart

I just found out about this series the day before I requested it from the library. I don’t even remember how I found it now, but I’m so glad I did. We go back to the 1930s when studios ran Hollywood and the Marx Brothers had just come off of some of their most popular movies. Groucho is about to do a radio show in which he plays a bumbling detective, only to have a murder fall into his lap like a cheap date. The writing style fits perfectly with the patter of the Marx Brothers, and our second lead, the writer of said radio show, can keep up with Groucho like the best of them.

The murder mystery is solid (with two bodies by the time we’re through) and the book moves fast, really keeping your attention with each passing chapter. There’s six books in the series and if anyone can find me copies of them I will be forever grateful to you (my library has exactly 0 copies of book number two ;__; ).

People Like Us
by Dana Mele

Oh boy, it’s another scholarship kid at a boarding house murder mystery. I seem to be tripping over these in my quest to read every mystery ever. This was all right, though. The mystery is delectable and twisty enough to keep your attention and the chapters don’t drag on, so the pace is quick (though not as quick as GM,MD above). While I am getting tired of this setting (oh, the scholarship girl makes friends with the bitchy clique, now she’s One Of Them but not really because scholarship) and the general plot (revenge against Them), it didn’t stop the book from being readable. I recommend it if you like these kinds of books, or are looking for a fast thriller.

Aru Shah and the End of Time
by Roshani Chokshi

Ugh, this was so good. Aru is too adorable for words. When Aru accidentally awakens the being known as The Sleeper, which sets off the process for the end of the world, she and a new friend must journey to the realm of the Gods to find the weapons to defeat the Sleeper. Layered with Hindu legends (and sporting a very full and very helpful glossary), Aru Shah is a story about becoming who you were meant to be, even if you don’t feel special. Aru’s confidence in herself is inspiring, and even when she has doubt, she’s got a friend to bring her right back up. The friendship between Aru and Mini is perfect; they complement each other so well, with Aru’s confidence and imagination, and Mini’s smarts and preparedness.

I really can’t recommend this enough if you’re in the market for a diverse middle grade read. Sometimes it was painful, because we all remember being twelve and the middle school torment that entailed, but the book is full of heart. I can’t wait for the next book in the series, although it won’t be out until ;___; next year.

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Reviews: 3/19-3/31

Let Me Lie
by Clare Mackintosh

I won’t lie, I had a hard time getting through this. Once the major twist was revealed, it was pretty easy to solve the overall mystery, so I ended up skimming the second half of the book. It’s a slow build, which isn’t bad, but just wasn’t what I was looking for at the time.

I Am, I Am, I Am
by Maggie O’Farrell

This was a really interesting collection of near death experiences as a memoir. Her experiences showed things I’ve encountered in my own life: doctors who don’t believe in women’s illnesses, the constant pain and changes that come from having a chronic illness. Her stories were heartbreaking and inspiring, because no matter what, she’s still here and so are we.

by Yrsa Daley-Ward

I finally read this collection after having it for months because I am lazy af lost it for a while and finally found it after my cat knocked over the book stack it was in. The poems are very powerful and I definitely recommend it.

Truly, Devious
by Maureen Johnson

I got this back in January and never finished it, so in a fit of pique late one night I dragged it back out and finished it. I enjoyed the flashback crime the most, I won’t lie. I’m not a huge fan of high school activities anyway (even when I was in high school, I didn’t give a damn about high school) so the story kind of dragged for me when it wasn’t about the original crime. But as soon as things started getting hairy for the modern story, I was back into it.

I recommend it, even though it ends on a cliffhanger with ABSOLUTELY FUCKING NOTHING resolved. Here’s hoping the next book comes out soon and solves at least one of the crimes.

Was the Cat in the Hat Black?
by Philip Nel

This was an interesting read. On one hand, he does a good job of showing how societal racism has affected children’s books and their creation. On the other, one whole chapter seemed to be “how many times can I use the n-word and still be believed that it makes me uncomfortable, but it’s totally necessary for the book”. I wasn’t buying that, especially not from a white guy. It’s also so damn academic he says the same things about five times in each chapter, a thing I really can’t stand about academic writing.

Do I recommend this? I’m not sure. On one hand, it is very informative, but on the other, it’s everything above.

The Snowy Day
by Ezra Jack Keats

A frankly adorable children’s book about a young boy experiencing a snow day. The art is bright and colorful and the character of Peter is simply adorable (I know, I used adorable twice, but he pokes the snow on the branches with a stick and it falls on his head and if that’s not adorable, I don’t know what is). What made this book remarkable was that it was the first children’s book to feature a black child as the lead without making him a stereotype. Peter is simply the everychild experiencing his snowy day. The story still holds up and is sure to delight children today.

by Junji Ito

This was a collection of horror shorts by one of the masters of the horror manga, Junji Ito. The art is terrifying and so are the stories. I think my favorite was one about a song that is only sung by the recently dead. It was also the least viscerally terrifying, so that may have something to do with it. One of the most memorable is about a man who lives with the minds of his ancestors attached to him, and another about a monster of a model and her bloody endings.

Trust No Aunty
by Maria Qamar

This was hilarious and insightful. I love learning about other cultures and this one was a great into to the world of the aunties, related or otherwise. (As someone who once had a Filipino aunty, I very much feel the “You’re so skinny, you need more food, MARRY MY SON, YES” of the various aunties.) She also has some great recipes in here you can make on the cheap, so definitely check those out. Her art pops and is full of color and very expressive. It’s no wonder she has such a following.

A Poem for Peter
by Andrea Davis Pinkney

This was written in response to The Snowy Day as a poem to little Peter. The poem tells about the creator, Ezra Jack Keats, and his life growing up a poor immigrant boy in the 20s-30s New York. The illustrations match his style very well, and show him growing as an artist through his life up until he created The Snowy Day.

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Reviews: 3/12-3-18

Goldie Vance Vol. 2
by Hope Larson

The second volume of Goldie Vance was just as cute as the first, but with more character growth. When Goldie inadvertently hurts her best friend’s feelings, she has to not only solve a mystery, but also has to grow up a little to make amends with her friend. It’s a solid mystery with an actual villainous antagonist and good supporting characters. I really hope to see some more Goldie and gang. There’s still a lot more to be done with them.

A Song for Quiet
by Cassandra Khaw

Although it follows Hammers on Bone, this John Persons novel spends its time following Deacon James, a bluesman, as he tries to flee from Persons. Deacon has something in his head, something that brings out a terrible kind of music. There are demons after him trying to get what’s in his head, as well as gods ready to destroy the world. The story is tragic, but heartwarming, with a sacrifice to save not just the world, but a girl on her own. I really enjoyed this and definitely recommend it to readers of cosmic horror.

by M. A. Bennett

Ancient British boarding school + secret society + huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ = murder.

That’s basically the plot. Three nobodies from school are invited to a weekend of huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ with the clique called the Medievals, a group of extremely wealthy students from old families. Things start to go wrong when accidents begin happening to the trio and it’s up to them to figure out what’s going on and how to stop it.

It’s a quick read, but a good one. It’s not so much edge-of-your-seat thrills as it is solid pacing, but it’s enough to hold interest and keep one reading till the end.

The Hunger
by Alma Katsu

I can’t recommend this one enough. I apparently never shared my TRUE UNBRIDLED JOY from reading Ararat by Christopher Golden, but that’s basically what The Hunger is, but with bonus Donner Party. There’s something stalking the Donner party, a string of bad luck that quickly turns deadly as they struggle on towards California. Tensions are high, even at the beginning, and they only get worse as the journey continues. There’s a girl who hears the voices of the dead, a woman who may or may not be a witch, an actual queer character who doesn’t die, and, of course, something very very hungry watching them.

I’m usually hesitant about adding supernatural elements to historical settings (one day I’ll write my rant about supernatural in the world wars and how that worldbuilding never works), but it really works here because it feels built in to the world around it. There are myths pertaining to these demons along with warnings and stories from those who’ve seen them. I highly recommend reading it by section with breaks in between so it can really settle into your head. But remember, what’s out there is hungry and it’s waiting for food.

The Veldt
by Ray Bradbury

This is a short story about a family who have every possible comfort in their technologically advanced home, only to realize that they’ve made little monsters out of their children. It’s a warning about becoming too reliant on technology as well as a warning about parenting (as in, you really ought to do it instead of letting something else do it for you). It’s worth a read, especially if you’re wondering where to get into Bradbury and don’t want to start in on a novel. He wrote many short stories and I recommend you start there.

Doubt Vol. 1
by Yoshiki Tonogai

This is a horror manga about a phone game that becomes real when six teens are kidnapped and locked into an abandoned building. Someone begins killing them off one by one, just like in the game, and it’s up to them to find out who’s behind it and how to survive. It’s a really good start with enough tension to keep you reading and wanting for the next volume.

Everyone’s an Aliebn When You’re an Aliebn Too
by Jomny Sun

This was cute af. A little alien comes down to learn about being human, but all he meets are forest animals and trees and flowers and Nothing. Little by little, they teach him about life on Earth each in their own way. His alien colleagues find this all baffling and routinely leave him back on Earth to study more. It’s a fast and inspiring read, and there’s something for everybody in it. I definitely recommend it.

This is Just My Face Try Not To Stare
by Gabourey Sidibe

I’ve never laughed so hard when reading a memoir, but I certainly did with this one. Her humor shines through even in the difficult parts. Her life is fascinating and full, and, while she’s never one to call herself normal, it’s refreshing just how normal she is; she’s just as weird and quirky as the rest of us. Heck, she used to write NSYNC fanfic! (Reminds me of my high school days.)

I definitely recommend it if you like celebrity memoirs or just want a good laugh with someone who feels like a friend.

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Reviews: 3/5-3/11

Clue:  The Graphic Novel
by Paul Allor

I had heard about this comic before it came out when they talked about how the first issue would have three different endings.  I figured I would wait until the trade came out to read it and I’m glad I did.  Getting all three of the first endings gave a better setting overall.  I really enjoyed what they did with the characters, reinventing them and adding new ones made the comic really work.  It’s a fully self-contained story, which is good to see.  I really enjoyed it and solving the mystery along with the comic.

The Girl From the Well
by Rin Chupeco

This was a very interesting take on the “girl in the well” story of Okiku, where she’s a vengeful spirit taking out child murderers.  She starts protecting a teenager who has a spirit bound into him.  We follow Okiku and the boy’s cousin as they try to solve the mysteries of his binding.  It’s a good horror story, slow-paced, but compulsively readable.  Some of the descriptions of Okiku’s kills are a bit gruesome, but not anything worse than any typical horror story.  I recommend it especially for those looking to get a feel of Chupeco’s writing, particularly if you’re interested in The Bone Witch or the upcoming The Heart Forger.

Down the River Unto the Sea
by Walter Mosley

I really enjoyed this one.  The relationship between our main character and his teenage daughter was really good, a solid relationship with respect on both their sides.  The mysteries are solid and keep you guessing, and every character has their own life and feels like a real person.  I could picture every scene and characters within them, which I always take to be a good sign.  There was a little too much “oh poor cops” for my taste (like cops need any sympathy), but overall it was a solid book and I’d recommend it for the mystery.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark
by Michelle McNamara

This was a tough read.  A readable one, but tough because of the subject matter.  The focus is on finding the Golden State Killer, another name for the East Area Rapist who ran wild during the late seventies and on.  There’s a ton of information in here, both on his crimes and on the steps taken by police trying to stop him.  I recommend reading this one in spurts, with something lighthearted in between just to keep from burning out.  The memoir parts of the story are really poignant and especially so is the afterward by her husband.  I recommend this for true crime fans.

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Reviews: 3/1-3/4

Goldie Vance Vol. 1
Hope Larson

This comic is so cute! Goldie is adorably chipper and determined, and her detective skills are sharp as a knife. In this first volume, we meet our cast of characters, each one clearly fleshed out. There’s secret espionage, car races, flirting (such cute flirting), and mystery solving. The art is just adorable and bright as anything. The writing is solid and made me want more instantly.

I definitely recommend this if you like mysteries, ’50s era style, strong and smart WOC, or just a good comic series overall.

Hammers on Bone
by Cassandra Khaw

It all starts when a boy comes to private detective Persons asking him to kill his stepfather. And so begins a mystery of monstrous (literally) proportions. John Persons isn’t human, not really, but he’s holding onto this body for a while and he’s not too keen on losing it anytime soon.

The book is written in classic noir first person, and a somewhat untrustworthy first person at that. There’s more than one monster roaming around London, and the descriptions of it are borderline disgusting, but appropriate. There’s a darkness surrounding everything in this book, which works well for the tone, a grimy sort of filth that layers over the setting and the words. It’s very well written and although there are some phrases I wish weren’t used, they’re in keeping with the overall voice of the character. I definitely recommend this for those who like their horror to be a little different.

The Prince and the Dressmaker
by Jen Wang

This was just adorable, and sad, and then happy again (which is typical for any queer story, I’ve noticed). The prince has a secret he hides from the world and that is that sometimes, he likes to wear dresses. They make him feel powerful and self-assured. He hires a girl to be his private seamstress and she makes him a very stunning collection of dresses. Their relationship is so cute, first being friends building to an eventual kiss.

The story is equally about the prince as it is the seamstress, whose work gets her recognized by a budding department store fashion manager and the most famous designer in the city. When it all comes to a head, it does so dramatically, making everything seem lost in that moment. But the story ends happy, which is the greatest way a story like this can end.

I definitely recommend it for the story, but the art is also amazing. The dress designs are stunning, and the little bonus in the end of the book that shows the behind-the-scenes work is delightful. If you’re looking for a happy queer story, this is the one.

Texts from Jane Eyre
by Mallory Ortberg

Oh my god, I’ve never laughed this hard at a book. Mallory takes us from Medea through Fight Club in text messages between the main characters of each story. One of my favorites (because I’m lowkey obsessed with this play right now) was the continuing saga of Hamlet, the dramatic “STAY OUT OF MY ROOM, MOM” of Shakespeare’s canon.

Mallory not only brings us fictional characters, but also creates texts for some famous literary figures, including Thoreau, Shelley, William Carlos Williams, and Lord Byron. The great thing about this book is that, even if you don’t really know the story you’re reading, you can still appreciate the texts as they are. But for the ones you do know, they’re a laugh riot.

I definitely recommend this book for anyone looking for a literary laugh, and especially to read now before her upcoming book, The Merry Spinster, comes out on the 13th.

Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein
by Lita Judge

This is an interesting book, as it’s mostly told in a kind of free verse set against some very stirring paintings. It tells the story of Mary Shelley, starting from her at fourteen and going until Frankenstein’s creation and commercial success. It shows Mary as a girl adrift from the world, longing for a connection with her mother, which eventually leads to her love for Percy Shelley. It doesn’t shy away from his awfulness in the least, for which I was truly glad (Percy Shelley: kind of a dick). The art on each page is very striking, a great counterpoint to the words on the pages. When things are going well, the art is sharp and luscious. When things get tragic, the art blurs and darkens with the mood.

The book is about three hundred pages, but it’s a very fast read. I’d definitely recommend it for those who like art and biographies. This may not be the most detailed, but it’s well researched and is certainly an experience worth having.

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Reviews: 2/26-2/28

The French Girl
by Lexie Elliott

You go to France for one week and end up being haunted by a dead girl ten years later. What a boner, man.

That’s basically the plot of the book right there, although there’s more investigating and A LOT more relationship building and destroying in between. Overall it was a solid mystery and while it may have had a realistic happy ending, it was not a closure filled one, which is a little :/ if you know what I mean. Still, it was a decent mystery with a decent ending and that’s as good as I’m gonna get.

How Did It Begin?
by R. Brasch

I read the original 1965 copy of this book, which was fascinating as it had things like “we can guess the moon is a brown-darkish color” like omg we hadn’t even been on the moon yet!!! Sorry, these things make my little history nerd heart happy.

It’s a book about different customs, sayings, and phrases and their possible origins. There are often several the book will tell you and let you decide which one you like the story for. It was a very interesting book and I’d love to get my hands on a newer copy to see what’s been updated and added.

Ten Dead Comedians
by Fred Van Lente

Don’t even read this review, just drop what you’re doing and read this. Go to your library, go to Amazon, just get this damn book. It’s hands down the funniest murder mystery I’ve ever read.

The plot is literally And Then There Were None, but with more graphic deaths and more comedians. It ends as all good comedies do, with a laugh. It’s got comedians of all kinds: stand-ups, TV hosts, prop comics, insult comics, a Larry the Cable Guy expy, you name it. It’s actually really fun to try and figure out who the characters are a mix of.

The mystery is solid and well written. It honestly keeps you guessing the entire time until the reveal. And what a reveal it is. Seriously, though, I cannot recommend this book enough and if — WHEN — any of you read it, please come talk to me so I can gush with you.

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Reviews: 2/19-2/25

Black Fortunes
by Shomari Wills

This was a fascinating look into history from the ending of slavery through the early 1900s. It covers six people who became the first Black millionaires. We follow along the story of Robert Reed Church, who built Beale Street from the ground up. Then to Mary Pleasant, who helped grow a bustling San Francisco. It also doesn’t shy away from the racism they faced, being rich and Black in a very openly racist time (we delude ourselves now in thinking it’s less overt than it was then).

I highly recommend it to anyone interested in American history and Black history. It’s a very easy read that flows well into each story.

Meet Cute
by a whole slew of authors

Meet Cute is simply adorable. Every time I finished a story, I had to close the book and *squee* a while before starting the next one. I think I liked almost every one of them except one (the Click date one was one of my top faves). And, we ought to get down to what I didn’t like about it.

I’d look up the name of the story, but I’m a little too lazy to do that. Anyway, it’s the story where a trans girl meets a closeted lesbian and they begin a tentative, but sweet relationship. EXCEPT. Closet lesbian is from a family/church who thinks our trans gal shouldn’t be allowed changing rights to change in the girls locker room. And somehow this is all blown over because she’s secretly gay so it’s all OK. I hate this trope with a passion, this idea that people aren’t really hateful, they’re just closeted and need someone to convince them to come out. Having her really honestly be OK with trans girl and only following her family’s orders doesn’t fix the actual damage done, nor does it make any sense for her to be instantly forgiven.

Anyway, that’s what pissed off this queer. It wasn’t enough to make me hate the rest of the stories, since they are all by different writers, but it’s still bugging me now, so that’s fair warning. If you skip it, you’ll really lose nothing.

The Sea Beast Takes a Lover
by Michael Andreasen

I don’t even know what to say about this collection. In a good way. Each story is so vastly different from the other, it’s hard to give an overall thought on the book except for get this book. I guarantee there’ll be at least one story you’ll love, probably more. Each story plays with your expectation of what the setting is: an old ship had a big-screen TV and a sailor who listens to hip-hop; a king lives out of a motel; saints suddenly appear in an old Victorian mansion; a girl goes through life headless. The list goes on.

One of my favorite stories was the Saints in the Parlor, not only for the creative naming of the saints, but for the sheer humanity placed into each one. These saints were people and still are people, even in their holiness with their relics they possess. The final story, Blunderbuss, questions the validity of time travel while a time machine wreaks havoc among a field trip of third graders. It’s a fitting end to a book full of questions.

I thank Dutton Books for the advanced readers copy. All opinions are my honest own.

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Reviews: 2/12-2/18

The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore
by Kim Fu

I finally finished this book after a bit of struggling. I have difficult times with books that jump around in time periods, because inevitably I find one storyline more involving and interesting than the other. In this case, the plot of what happened on the island was what pulled me along to read it first, and then go back and read the chapters about the lives of the girls later.

Still, the writing was solid and readable. I recommend it to those who enjoy life stories and adventures.

by Sherri Smith

This was kind of a hard book to read. It deals with the suicide of our main character’s best friend. Memories of her are interspliced with the main narrative as the main character tries to prove that her friend was murdered instead. Writing-wise, it’s actually an easy read, chapters blend into one another very well and keep you reading. There’s just a lot going on. I recommend it for fans of YA and who don’t mind reading about heavy topics.

We Were Liars
by E. Lockhart

Bro, this shit made me cry, and I’m not a crier, like, ever. We meet the three cousins and one friend at the start of their foursome friendship. There’s romantic love blooming and suspense building. I picked this up from my library because I kept seeing people recommend it, and boy howdy, was it worth it. At first there’s a lot to get through reading about how rich they are (I mean, their families own a freaking island), but the story gets better the more it focuses on the relationships between the four main characters.

Our main lead is involved in something that makes her block out memories of her fifteenth summer on the island. When I found out what it was and what was really going on, I burst into tears. It’s so tragic yet sweet at the same time. There’s a good reason the blurb tells you to lie about how it ends. It’s such powerful twist.

Universal Harvester
by John Darnielle

I don’t even know how to sum this up and I just finished reading it. It has a very House of Leaves eeriness about it, along with its own particular cadence. It feels very Midwestern, sprawling, yet small, focused, yet worldly. I definitely recommend it if you like having your mind lowkey fucked while you’re reading. It’s a trip.

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Book Reviews: 2/5-2/11

The Vagina Monologues
by Eve Ensler

I found this an interesting book, with some of the stories being heartbreaking as equally as others were inspiring. Of course, it’s very cis centered, but considering what it’s really focused on (i.e. the reclaiming of the vulva/vagina as an acceptable body part, one that deserves to be talked about without censorship), I think it’s ultimate message is a good one. It’s a very short book, so it’s an easy read that way, although some of the stories just make you want to cry the way these women have been shamed against their own bodies. I think it’s a worthwhile read, although I’d love to see an update that features trans men and intersex people as well.

King Zeno
by Nathaniel Rich

This was an odd book for me. It has three major storylines that all end up converging into one rather dramatic ending. The first plot line deals with our detective character as he tries to recover from WWI and his act of self-preservation that may have sacrificed the lives of others. You’ll know this because he constantly harps on it throughout every single paragraph as he (badly) does his job. The second plot follows Zeno, a young Jazz player whose scrapes with the law come to a head one night when his pal and partner is arrested for robbery. The third line is about a mafia family run now by the widow and her large and largely incompetent son. There’s also an ax murderer running around. And the 1918 Spanish flu hits town.

It’s very complicated.

The prose gets easily bogged down by repetition and the CONSTANT WHINING of our police detective. There’s tons of interpersonal subplots that get far too much time considering there’s a literal ax murderer running rampant in New Orleans killing grocers. Body parts keep showing up in the new canal being dug. Jazz is building in popularity.

There’s not as much “period typical” racism as I would’ve expected (the author being a white guy) so that was a plus, although there’s still plenty of it around. The plots don’t so much weave together as they crash wildly into each other and mug the others. Overall, I still enjoyed it. It’s more of a popcorn read if you skim read it (which you might have to just to get through the CONSTANT WHINING).

Force of Nature
by Jane Harper

Ah, this was a breath of fresh air after King Zeno. A straightforward murder mystery with one of my new favorite detectives, Aaron Falk. After The Dry, I knew I had to read Harper’s next novel, Force of Nature. The Dry was just that good. Force of Nature did not disappoint.

We follow five women on an easy trail hike through the Australian bush who get lost after their first day and return missing a member of their party. Interwoven between the current investigation for the missing woman is the story of the party, how they interacted and how they got lost. It’s an absolute page-turner that I only stopped because I knew I had to sleep; I would’ve read straight through if I could have.

I can’t wait for Jane Harper’s next book, which I’m sure will be just as satisfying and mysterious as her previous two.

The Disaster Artist
by Greg Sestero

What is there to say about The Room that hasn’t been said already? A total cinematic catastrophe? A film nope? Everything that’s wrong with making a movie? Well, it turns out that the making of The Room was just as terrible as what got caught on screen.

The book alternates chapters between making the actual movie and how Greg and Tommy met and formed their strange friendship. When I just wanted to focus on the chapters dealing with the movie, this became frustrating, but it was a very interesting peek into the life of a very… interesting man.

I couldn’t recommend this more if you love terrible movies like I do. Understanding just how many takes it was until they got the “Oh hi Mark” scene finished is just amazing. It’s also interesting getting a brief look into the possible back story of one of today’s most secretive celebrities (because, let’s be real, by now everyone knows Tommy Wiseau). The only side-effect I must warn you about: you will feel compelled to watch The Room anew just to see all the things you read about in their full horrible splendor.

That’s my current reads for this week. Stay tuned for next week! (or, this week…)

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Books I Won’t Be Finishing: Dark in Death

I’m going to start a new series here of books I don’t finish. Some of these could be because I didn’t like the writing style or found the book too boring, too bogged down with insignificant details.

And then there are books like Dark in Death.

On the face of it, this is right up my alley. Someone is going around killing people based on a book series. Sure, great, that’s why I picked it up. If you, like me, knew nothing of the In Death series, you may be surprised to know this all takes place in the not too distant future. La la la

Unfortunately, it’s 10 minutes past the future and cops are still using the t slur to talk about possible trans people. So, we’re no longer calling movies movies, but vids, we don’t have phones, we have ‘links, but we’re still using t****y in casual conversation. No, this isn’t called out, yes, it’s used twice in as many pages.

And that’s why I’m not finishing this book.

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Reviews: 2/1-2/4

The Bad Beginning
by Lemony Snicket

I read this for the Read Harder challenge from Book Riot. I never read A Series of Unfortunate Events when I was a kid, because it never looked interesting (and by the time it came out, I was reading well above it, age-wise). Well, I can honestly say that, had I never read it, I would not have been missing out on anything.

Mary Rose, a play in three acts
by J. M. Barrie

I really enjoyed this ghost story. It’s written by the man who wrote Peter Pan (if you didn’t recognize the name), and it’s a very smart tale of a girl who used to live in this house, Mary Rose. She’s a sweet innocent thing who once disappeared on an island for twenty days, only to reappear as if nothing had happened. I don’t want to tell you too much, because I really think it’s something y’all should read. It was written in 1924, so be prepared for gender politics of the time in the way Mary Rose and her husband interact, but otherwise it’s an absolutely fascinating story.

I read it because there’s a new book coming out in April (called, of course, Mary Rose) that’s a modern retelling of the play. I urge you to read the play first if the new book sounds interesting to you (I got my copy through my library exchange, so you might have good luck there).

Cast No Shadow
by Nick Tapalansky

This is a cute comic about a boy who has no shadow and a ghost he meets and falls in love with. The art style is just adorable, and there’s a good range of body types on display, which is always a huge plus in my book. Every character looked and acted distinct.

Though he has no outward shadow, his is trapped inside, waiting to come out and wreak the havoc our main character won’t. In a really cool scene near the end, the shadow calls up the shadows of the dead to terrorize the town.

I thought it was a really cute story and it was definitely worth the time it took to read it.

Dia de Los Muertos
by Roseanne Thong

This is a really cute children’s book explaining the celebrations of Dia de Los Muertos. The art is just the cutest thing, and the text has Spanish used for terms relating to the festivities, with a glossary in the back. I just checked it out from the library to see it, and I definitely recommend it for young ones.

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Reviews: 1/29-1/31

The Last Black Unicorn
by Tiffany Haddish

I went into this book really prepared to enjoy it. The last few memoirs I’ve read have been fun and informative. And while there were some good parts (I especially loved her talking about how she found comedy, and it was heartbreaking reading about what happened to her mom), I can’t get over the chapter on Roscoe.

There’s nothing funny about making fun of disabled people. We’re not the punchline to your joke, no matter how good your supposed intentions are. The whole chapter made me supremely uncomfortable, especially because I know we were supposed to be laughing, or at the very least enjoying ourselves. The whole rest of the book was tainted by that one chapter.

Bad Cat
by Jim Edgar

This is a little book I picked up at Goodwill because it’s 244 pictures of cats with captions. A handful of these weren’t good (too many sex jokes), but it’s 244 pictures of cats, how could I go wrong for a dollar? It’s the last book I read in January, so that was a nice ending to a busy month.

Overall, I’ve read twenty-five books this past month alone. I’ve got at least thirteen to pick up at the library tomorrow. With four ARCs on top of that, my February is looking to be very, um, booked.

I’ll see myself out now.

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The State of the Fleet: January 2018

Reading Slump

I’ve been having one of those weeks where every book I pick up doesn’t hold my attention for more than a few minutes at a time. There’s got to be a way through this, but it’s not happening right now. It’s not that the books are bad; most of them are ones I really want to read. Somehow it’s just not the right time for them.

What do you do when you hit a reading slump? Do you have any tricks that you know of to get you out of it?

Writing Slump

I’m sort of in a slump in general, apparently, and that’s been showing with my writing. After all the writing I did from half-September through November, taking December off, coming back to it in January has been exceedingly difficult. I’m out of ideas, so I’m taking prompts, but even the prompts aren’t really helping (I have one Yu-Gi-Oh! prompt left that I’ve taken a stab at writing, but it just feels so flat). I’ve been reusing work to pretend I’ve hit my writing goals. It should be OK because I’m taking care of myself, but I miss how productive I was.

Anyone else have this kind of slump? What do you do to get you back into writing? Do you use old WIP that you haven’t finished, or do you try something new?

Half Reviews

Being in this reading slump, I’ve started a number of book without actually finishing them. So I thought I’d mention two that I’m in the middle of and can’t seem to get back into.

Truly, Devious
I’m really a fan of this one, the way it cuts between the current story line and the kidnapping that took place in the past. It’s got a good mystery that I’d love to see more of. Where I’m stuck is that, while the switch is neat, I’d rather be reading the kidnapping plot over the school one, which means I’m dragging between chapters until we get to the mystery. There’s so much to learn about the past characters, who they are, why they’re there, what they’re hiding. That’s what I want to read about.

The Woman in the Window
I said this was the Hitchcock rip-off, and in some sense it still is (it’s literally Rear Window with agoraphobia instead of a broken leg), but it’s doing a better job than I’d hoped with bringing our main character to life. I hate the phrase “she has flaws” because that’s been so overused it’s become a pastiche of itself, but she is a well-rounded character who feels like a real person.

Speaking of Flaws

I really hate how a character “having flaws” has become a shorthand for “is a realistic character”. It’s one of those things you see all the time, ranging from “this character drinks a bit too much” to “this character is actually an asshole”. Flaws are not a character trait. There’s also something very artificial about it, as if we’re talking about robots that don’t work. Characters shouldn’t be looked at like that. You’re trying to make a human; its foibles aren’t flaws, they’re character traits.

There’s so much advice out there about not letting your character seem too perfect, but that’s not a standard, either. You can’t measure someone on a scale of flawed to perfect. That defeats the point of making a character. One person might seem too perfect to some reader while another reader thinks that’s exactly how a person acts. Flaws are not a catch-all term for a character faults.

There’s something ableist about the term “flaws” as well, as if we’re all one fault short of being not human. Imagine saying a disabled person was “flawed” because of their disability. I mean, that shit right there is fucked up.


Aside from the slumps, I’m actually doing pretty well healthwise. I’m still not eating nearly as much as I should be, but I am making an effort to eat more calorie dense foods. I’ve been consistent about eating breakfast, so that’s been good for me. I’m not getting nauseous in the mornings anymore.

Painwise I’m doing really well. I’m still in pain, but it’s at a much lower level than it used to be. It used to be my days would stay at an 8 or 9 on a 10-point pain scale. Now they’re down in the 5-6 range. The only problem is that the pain is just constant, which means I’m always at a certain low level of pain no matter what I’m doing. It’s very tiring.

That about wraps this up. Let me know if you have any tips for the above questions. I’d love to hear your solutions.

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Reviews: 1/22-1/28

The Black Painting
by Neil Olson

I really enjoyed this book. It starts with a body, which is always the best way to start a book. The main mystery, however, is locating the missing painting that seems to cause death and destruction whenever it’s seen. We follow two characters: Teresa, a granddaughter of the deceased; and Dave, the private investigator who investigated the theft of the painting years before.

It’s a very subtle book, with general unease filling it out instead of thrills a minute, but it’s a book that keeps you reading and wanting to read it until the end. Definitely recommended.

Adulthood is a Myth
by Sarah Andersen

A collection of comics from “Sarah’s Scribbles” that deals with adulthood, people, and not wanting anything to do with either of those things. The comics are short and pithy and will definitely make you laugh. (My personal favorite was one with her cat being, well, less than protective.)

Swearing is Good for You: The Amazing Science of Bad Language
by Emma Byrne

I fucking love this book. It’s a really fascinating study into what makes us swear, how we swear, and why we swear. It’s also a very quick read. The author mostly talks about British English, which has far more varied swears than we have in American English (thanks, Protestant Puritan values!), but does talk about AE, too. Note: there’s an amazing little side note description of the differences between a tosser, a wanker, and a twat that is highly valuable and should be remembered for everyday use.

The book covers the social aspects of swearing, the neurological aspects of swearing, a brief chapter on Tourette’s Syndrome (in a chapter called, Why This Shouldn’t Be a Chapter) that does an impressive job explaining what TS is and how we can all be more aware and compassionate about it (hint: swearing makes up very little of it), a chapter on chimpanzees and their ability to form language including swearing, a chapter on swearing in the workplace, and a chapter on gender and swearing (yep, it’s about like you figured, men hate women swearing).

It’s just a fascinating little book that I know will be going onto my shelves for future reference. I recommend it to fucking everybody.

Button, Button
by Richard Matheson

A collection of short stories, Button, Button features twelve stories written over a period from 1950 to 1970. Each one is different in tone and structure in a way most short story collections (and authors) fail to achieve. The titular short story itself is only eleven pages long, but packs into itself a keen uneasiness that is so familiar of Matheson’s work.

One of my personal favorites was The Creeping Terror, or A Touch of Grapefruit, that details the growth of Los Angeles as it slowly takes over the country one citrus tree at a time. It’s a particularly amusing piece amongst the general uncanniness of his typical stories. (My favorite part being the footnotes he gives from scientific journals and newspapers, particularly one by a Fritz Felix DerKatt on the new phenomenon of “Beach Seeking” in his article “Das Beachen Seeken”.)

I picked this up at a Goodwill for a buck and it was money well spent, let me tell you. I definitely recommend this collection to anyone looking to get into Matheson.

Hell Hound
by Ken Greenhall

Well, well, this is an odd little book. It deals with a murderous bull terrier named Baxter who plots his own upward mobility by pushing his first owner down the stairs, then moving in with the young couple across the street. When their affection for him is upstaged by the arrival of their baby, the dog makes another “accidental” death occur which sends him to the home of a thirteen year old Nazi boy.

The book is kinda banana nut crazy, flipping between point of views within paragraphs and sometimes in the next sentence. We get the inner thoughts of most every character, and find that many of them are rather despicable, Baxter the dog especially. It is interesting from a technical standpoint how the book is broken down between parts, chapters, and sections, which makes for a very easy read. The content itself is the hardest to deal with.

I’d have to read another one of his books before I’d give a strong opinion as to whether I like the author or not, but the book is certainly interesting, and one I’d recommend if you want to read a short ’80s horror novel.

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Mini Reviews: 1/15-1/21

The Company of Demons
by Michael Jordan

In what seemed to be the A plot, we have a serial killer returned after thirty years. In what becomes the A plot, our protagonist gets charged with a murder and has to clear himself. And then the original A plot comes back for a second round and ends… well, it just ends. No closure.

It’s not, strictly speaking, a bad book. In fact, I rated it four stars for the serial killer plot, but it loses in being so obviously written by a white guy. He can’t seem to help himself from hitting on the woman who comes to him as a client, even though he has a wife and daughter. This turns into a major plot point in the book, which is about as exciting as it sounds. This whole subplot that takes over the serial killer plot really kills the book’s flow.

I’d still recommend it for the serial killer plot, as that’s pretty unique and is actually based on the real Torso Murders of Cleveland.

The Premonition
by Chris Bohjalian

This is a set up to the novel The Sleepwalker. It focuses on the eldest daughter finding her mom sleepwalking, and covers meeting some new neighbors. It’s actually more interesting than I make it sound, but there’s no easy way to sum it up. In any case, it’s a good prelude to the novel and gives a little more background into the characters, so I recommend reading it before you read The Sleepwalker (or read it if you’ve already read The Sleepwalker).

Over the Garden Wall Vol. 3

Continuing the search for the Hero Frog, our intrepid adventurers get closer to Frog Town. Sara is a character in these stories, so that’s exciting if you, like me, always wanted to see more of her interacting with Wirt.

Each story is super cute and the art is always a charm, no matter what issue you read. I highly recommend this series for all ages.

Murder in the Dark
by Margaret Atwood

Murder in the Dark is a “collection of short stories and prose poems”, according to the book itself. This was my first experience with Atwood’s writing in total, so I was interested in digging in. I didn’t actually know what I was getting into when I bought it. I won’t lie, I had hoped it was a murder mystery.

As it stands, it’s an interesting assortment of stories. Each is only one to a few pages long (the whole collection is only 62 pages). One set of stories centers around a trip to Mexico, the stories people tell when they come home, the discomfort they leave by being tourists in a place that doesn’t belong to them. It’s interesting.

If you like Atwood, I recommend it. If you’re not, I’m not sure it’ll make you a fan, but it wasn’t a waste of a read.

Sleep No More
by P. D. James

Boy, I can’t recommend this one enough. Six short stories of murder, each one nicely crafted to give you that eerie feeling that you know a dark secret you shouldn’t. Sometimes you follow the murderer, sometimes you follow someone involved in it. In each case, the characters are fleshed out by the text and each individualized. There’s no bleed between the stories, so each one has to stand on its own, and they sure do.

Definitely check this one out if you’re into solid murder mysteries.

Stillhouse Lake
by Rachel Caine

I won’t lie, I half read this book while watching something else. I could only take so much repetitive paranoia and stress from the main character. The writing wasn’t bad, but the story just dragged on and on. There was a decent twist as to who the villain was, with some good clues planted just right so you could figure it out yourself. However, it’s set up for a sequel (out now, Killman Creek), which is apparently set up for another sequel. How long can this go on? As long as the author can stretch it, I guess.

by Tom Gauld

Mooncop is a story about the sole cop on the moon. We follow him as the moon’s inhabitants leave to go back to Earth, until there’s only two people left on the moon. It’s a solid meditation on dreams and the way capitalism crushes those with changes that serve no one. It’s a quick read, but a good one. I definitely recommend it.

You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack
by Tom Gauld

A collection of comics done for The Guardian, they focus on literature, life, the classics, and the future. There are some really great ones in there, and I definitely recommend it if you like your humor subtle and wry.

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