‘Tis the Season…

…to be reading! In celebration of the holiday season, whence it is time to gift others and spread cheer, I want to share my love for literacy with any readers who may stumble upon my blog. I will be creating bookmarks that are color-printer friendly, or that can be used as inspiration for you to handmake your own bookmarks. Whether you are in the mood to be crafty for your own reading purposes, or looking for a nice addition to your gifting, I hope that you enjoy one or more of these bookmarks.

Please let me know if there are any particular designs that speak to you, and happy holidays everyone!

Starting us off with a wonderful Neil Gaiman quote:

This Girl is Not on Fire…

Because She’s Too Pretty to Burn.

Oh yeah, I went there…

So, like, there’s this chick named Mick (short for Micaela). She’s, like, really pretty. People yearn to take her picture, and have trouble thinking of her as an actual person, because she’s too pretty and therefore pretty much made for objectification. She doesn’t like having her picture taken. She just wants to be taken seriously for her swimming and get the hell away from her mom.

Mick meets a girl. Veronica is all curves and femininity, an aspiring photographer. Veronica tricks Mick into taking an amazing photo, pressures her into allowing the picture to be shared on social media, and introduces Mick to subversive artists while herself potentially on the verge of becoming a commercial one.

Veronica know this guy named Nico. Nico is so close to Veronica he calls her “wife.” Nico is also an artist.

Three young people, none of them necessarily the picture of mental health, becoming entangled results in… Arson. Murder. Alfred-Hitchcock-movie-craziness.

I really enjoyed this one. The characters, when left to themselves and their own thoughts, are often a bit annoying. But teenagers are annoying, so this is reasonable. The plot moves along fairly quickly, and the novel is told from the three main characters’ points of view, with this rotation of voice preventing you from getting too annoyed and hurling your e-reader across the room. There is also just some batshit crazy in the plot of this novel. If you’re a plot reader, I highly recommend. Also recommend if you’re looking for a frothy, amusing read – like a pumpkin spice latte, there’s not a ton of meat to this story, but it’s definitely a fun, wild ride.

The Well-Written Book that Sucked Me In Against My Will

… or, at least, my inclination.

… Did I spend too long making this rather pointless comic? Why, yes. Yes I did.

I was a lucky recipient of Sarah Goodman’s forthcoming debut novel Eventide. I’m not quite sure why I picked up this book, dark green in hue, with an ephemeral woman in a white dress immediately after reading Sue Miller’s Monogamy (post forthcoming). Monogamy was so realistic, filled with such beautiful writing, I think I just grabbed another book because it was time to read another book, and with the assumption that regardless of what I chose, it would be a letdown. Like the book nerd equivalent of waking up when you know it’s too early and you really want to go back to bed, but you just can’t, for some reason, and so you’re like: “Fine,” but then you’re noticeably cranky all day.

I’ll get up… but I won’t be happy about it.

So there I was, already cranky with Eventide, prepared to be disappointed. But try as I might (I’m pretty stubborn, so I did try to hold on to my grumpiness, like a child), Eventide was not disappointing.

Just let. Me. Be. Miserable!

To begin with, the author, a former journalist, uses many off-the-cuff remarks in the beginning of the book that gave me pause, due to the early-twentieth century setting. But when I did my cursory Google-search fact-checking, bitch had done her homework. All of the remarks made in Chapter 1, such as the petri dish, and potential employment in a typing pool, are reasonable. The narrator’s temperament, while feeling somewhat modern, also seems appropriate for someone young and from a city for that time period. So Goodman did good on not writing something implausible or historically inaccurate in her historical fiction (one of my personal pet peeves).

Bitch did her homework

I will say, I did not much like the protagonist, and while the lack of diversity in this novel was noticeable to me, it is period appropriate. Despite not particularly liking Verity Pruitt, she was well-written. She was annoying in the way that cocky young people can be, but she was also smart and brave and someone who will do anything for the people she loves. So annoying, but also someone you can’t help but root for at least a little bit.

Yet what really makes this book stand out and kept me reading is the story. The first few chapters are necessary, well written, but ultimately, not that engaging, exposition. There are also short chapter breaks interspersed amongst the main story that provide back story and are completely unnecessary. Like, do they help tell the story? Yes. But could the story be told just as well without them? Also yes. Do they add to the atmosphere? I guess. But again, in a way that I found annoying, much like the protagonist. I think, actually, that this entire book might be a set-up for a YA series. It works as a standalone novel, but it feels as though it is written with the idea of adding to it if it gains enough of a fangirl base. About mid-way through the novel, the story picks up within the main storyline, and that is when your eyes will be glued to the page, and you’ll be flipping pages faster than you can blink.

#touche

The story is melodramatic and crazy and frightening, a roller coaster of a latter half of the novel. It has twists and mental illness and faerie folklore and family and love and magick. And I didn’t much like the protagonist, although I didn’t want her to lose, but did love the villain, whose unveiling is like a mix between a car wreck that you can’t help looking at and the glamour of [insert name of beautiful, famous person you can’t help but online stalk here], with a hint of malice. Like, I don’t want to meet the villain in real life, but I loved reading her.

Verdict: You should read this.

Fine print – Slated for release in October. If intrigued and if you can afford it, please consider pre-ordering from an indie bookstore. #shoplocal #oratleastnotamazon

TBR Treasure Hunt: Summary

2019 has been over for awhile, and this post on contemplation and reflection of my own self-imposed task of getting through my TBR list is woefully overdue. In 2019, in an attempt to actually begin getting through my TBR list, I tried to read (and post about) one book from my TBR each month. I was better at reading the books than remembering to blog about them.

Let’s talk stats.

At the beginning of this quest, initiated in March 2019, my TBR list had 60 books on it.

In 2019, I read the following 10 books from my TBR list:

  1. The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories – Short stories that play on the darker side of fairy tales, which adults told around a campfire with the kids in bed. These stories have influenced the likes of Neil Gaiman and other reputable literary darlings, but are not always 100% on point. 3 out of 5 stars
  2. Truly, Devious – At the elite Ellingham Academy, Stevie is getting the opportunity to pursue her passion of solving a cold-case mystery involving the very school she has recently joined. Then, her peers start getting murdered, and the pressure to figure out who is Truly, Devious becomes even more pressing… 5 out of 5 stars
  3. The Winters – Inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, this novel is a more modern setting and interpretation of the famed gothic novel. 4 out of 5 stars
  4. The Girl Who Knew Too Much – A mystery novel set in a small town close to Hollywood that fails to deliver on its’ promise of glamor, intrigue, and an interesting murderer. 2 out of 5 stars
  5. The Rest of the Story – Another of Sarah Dessen’s tales of the summer that changed everything, this novel is a bit more sophisticated, featuring a character who is the offspring of someone from both sides of the tracks who is learning about who she is and what matters to her. 5 out of 5 stars
  6. My True Love Gave to Me: 12 Holiday Stories – Stephanie Perkins’ nose for romance has resulted in this delightful anthology of YA romance stories from established authors that gives you a warm, butterfly-filled stomach, even in the midst of winter chill. 5 out of 5 stars
  7. A Study in Charlotte – Jamie Watson doesn’t much care to go to some stuffy prep school in America, but of course, parents don’t always give teens a choice, do they? At first sight of Charlotte Holmes, great-great-great granddaughter of Jamie’s great-great-great grandfather’s best friend, Jamie is intrigued. Then crimes alluding to the mysteries their great-great-great grandparents solved together, and Dr. Watson wrote of, begin occurring, and the pair have to begin working together to find out who is targeting them and why. 5 out of 5 stars
  8. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Evelyn Hugo, the rich and famous and mysterious and glamorous actress, has granted magazine writer Monique Grant the privilege of hearing the story of her life – the real story – and writing a memoir on the rich and interesting material. For some reason. The well-read reader will likely figure out why Evelyn has chosen Monique far before the dim-witted and somewhat unlikable human standing in for a tape recorder does, and the ending of the novel was far too predictable and boring for the glamorous Evelyn Hugo around whose life it predominantly focuses. 4 out of 5 stars
  9. We Sold Our Souls – Horror novel following Kris Pulaski’s disgusting and visceral journey to face her enemy-and-onetime-best-friend Terry Hunt. Once upon a time, they were in a decent heavy metal band, before Terry stole their music to start a solo career that catapulted him to stardom. The world sees Kris as an insane conspiracy theorist who can’t congratulate her friend on his success, but Kris knows what really happened… 3 out of 5 stars
  10. The Raven Boys – Four boys who go to Aglionby, the private school primarily attended by the rich, are on a quest to find Glendower, a mythological Welsh king who is sleeping and will grant a wish to whomever awakens him. When they meet Blue Sargent, a girl raised in a house of psychics who is herself a psychic conduit and magnifier, their search heats up. But they’re not the only ones who want to find Glendower… And so begins the first well-written book in a YA fantasy series. 4 out of 5 stars

My TBR is currently sitting at 112 books:

In summation:

Overall, this has been fun! I like decreasing, and then increasing, and then decreasing my TBR pile, and will continue to do so, though I am not going to even bother pretending I will post blog posts about each of them. I was also pleasantly surprised to see that, in general, I did enjoy the books on my TBR. My self-confidence in my ability to know what I like is bolstered. How does your TBR fare? Do you have any specific recommendations that I should add to that Sisyphean TBR list?

Plain Bad Mediocrity

Brookhants, a property housing a boarding school that was last peopled with students in the early 20th century, is haunted. Parents stopped feeling comfortable sending their girls there after the mysterious deaths of several of the students, as well as members of the faculty. The terrible deaths surrounding the property, as well as the unconventional lifestyles and love interests that people the property’s tragedy, made for a fascinating, bestselling read when literary talent Merritt Emmons had her non-fiction book featuring the mystery published as a precocious teen, and are now in the works to become a (hopefully) blockbuster, (at the least) expensive movie featuring the famous and beautiful Harper Harper and her B-list co-star Audrey Wells. … what could go wrong?

If I were to draft a book wishlist, a book description fairly similar to the synopsis of Plain Bad Heroines would be on it. As a fan of thrillers/horror since elementary school, as well as enough of a follower to read shit because Emma Roberts’ book cult suggested it, it’s almost like Emily M. Danforth’s novel was crafted specifically for me. Sprinkle in characters that challenge heternormativity, and an intelligent, rich mentor character who met Truman Capote, and I have got to fucking read this book.

Give me ALL the books!

Unfortunately, although the plot and characters are interesting, this book was not as enjoyable as I was hoping.

Plain Bad Heroines is an interesting conundrum of a novel, in that it has really forced me to evaluate what I desire from the books that I read. Objectively, I consider the plot to be interesting. It has two primary timelines – one occurring in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century, the other occurring more recently, in the early twenty-first century – and both timelines include interesting plots and have an approximate equal weighting. Objectively, I consider the characters to be interesting. There were characters I liked more than others, but the majority of the characters are either fairly well fleshed out, or appropriately rely on stereotypes that allow the reader to quickly understand them. I will say, not all of the characters really grow or change, but given that this novel is in large part a thriller/horror novel, I think that is okay. When you think about a lot of famous horror movies, the main character struggling to survive is often a static character, who may become traumatized, but has not really changed at his or her core, and has instead shown how his or her character has allowed him or her to remain alive. So, given that I agree that the plot and characters in the novel are fairly well done, what, exactly, was my problem with the novel?

That is an excellent question.

I’m going to try. Also, way to call bullshit on my stalling tactics.

Right.

I think the missing element for me with this novel was writing style. There were moments, brief glimpses, where the prose style was enjoyable to me. However, for the most part, the writing of this novel felt a bit plain. It was not that the sentences were even necessarily poorly crafted, they just didn’t appeal to me. The information that should have been conveyed was conveyed, it was just done in a way that felt too simple, that drew too straight a line from point A to point C. In essence, I think that this novel shows craft and shows writing, but just does not do so in a way that is in accord with my artistic sensibilities. I would not be at all surprised to discover I am in the minority in my feelings while reading this novel. At the same time, my honest, true feelings are that the writing style takes an interesting idea peopled with interesting characters and fails to elevate the story, leaving the book instead one more mediocre novel populating store bookshelves starting October 20th.

Ugh – I wanted to like this so much more than I did!

Did you read it, or are you planning to do so? If so, what did you think or what is most interesting/intriguing/appealing to you?

Buy a Book, Support Physical Bookstores, Maybe win $250

My title pretty much says it all, so I will keep this post brief. Publishing house Sourcebooks is hosting a contest where if you order or preorder certain of their books at an actual, physical bookstore, you can turn in proof of purchase in their site (or send a postcard) and thereby be entered into a contest to win a $250 gift card to your favorite bookstore. Books include The 71/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, The Last Flight, the first novel in the Phryne Fisher mystery series, and The Phantom of the Opera, amongst others.

Here is a link to the contest summary and list of books, with the summary including the link to submit your information to be entered into the contest.

I am personally eyeing Sulari Gentill’s After She Wrote Him, which sounds right up my alley, and has about 3.8 stars on Goodreads, so seems promising. If you do enter, please let me know which book you chose in the comments below, and good luck in the contest!

Although, really, there doesn’t seem much to lose in this contest, which will, at the least, result in supporting brick-and-mortar bookstores and a new book.

“Classic” Literature

I recently read this article about Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, which both meshes with my personal feelings on an excursion to John Adam’s Montpelier plantation last summer, and made me go, “Great! Now I don’t have to feel bad about not particularly liking this novel and not having finished it.”

“Story of the Old South” – where only white people problems matter…

I know it is ridiculous, but I feel bad when I don’t like a work that is considered classic fiction. Even though this marker is probably thrust upon a book simply by being considered “good” or “meaningful” by a large number of people, and people have a variety of different backgrounds, and the fact that I am not white and don’t have a penis probably means I’m coming from a different place than those who decided this book was “classic.” Even though using the term “classic” probably began as a misuse of a word that denoted Rome and Greece during what is considered the Classical era, since Hellenistic culture has greatly influenced Western culture, and was considered the high quality standard against which other things should be judged for a long time.

“Classic”

It is in the reading of classics that I can be somewhat of a sheep. I am more than willing to give a “classic” novel the benefit of the doubt. In fact, I will exceed benefit of the doubt and stray into self-doubt. By this, I mean that I will sometimes try to convince myself that I actually do like them when I decidedly do not. After all, if I do not like this novel that is considered one of the greatest written (in English, by Western society), then am I, in fact, a stupid reader?

Another novel that I don’t particularly like is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I think it’s really cool that this woman made a name for herself and is one of the founders of modern horror fiction. I know that Frankenstein is the name of the Doctor, and not the “monster” himself. I get the whole “society made him act monstrous, who is the REAL monster?” concept. But at the end of the day, I am not a fan. I think I may just not really be a fan of horror, in general. I also don’t care for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, to the extent that I actually prefer Francis Ford Coppola’s movie to the novel. (Yes, I have been told this movie is not a very good movie. Do I still enjoy it? Yes. Yes, I do.)

Does anyone else feel this love-embarrassment relationship with classic novels? What is a “classic” novel that you hated? Or conversely, what is a “classic” novel that you loved?

R. Eric Thomas Gets It

I am slowly wading my way through R. Eric Thomas’s essay Here For It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America, which is fucking amazing and which I highly recommend for both its’ comedic talent and poignant moments. Reading his essays is finding someone I want to buy a drink, so I can have a smart, funny conversation and become friends and have someone help me ponder the craziness that is currently American politics.

Also, I’m pretty sure R. Eric Thomas is pyschic, because his essay “Flames, at the Side of My Face” (which you should read, if you haven’t, because did I tell you he was fucking amazing yet? the ending to this one is ridiculous and funny and adorable) says in one succinct sentence what I think a lot of us are currently feeling:

… see what I mean about the poignant moments?

What have you been reading that is helping you get through quarantine?