hauls

November Book Haul

Hey guys! It’s time to run down all the books I bought or hauled this November. And I bought… around 2% of them? I mean, as of writing this, I borrowed a grand total of one book this month and plan to buy it. This was the first month where I started seriously using #arcsfortrade online, and so most of my haul comes from that source.

I’m also still using Romie @RomieWeDeserveLove‘s great idea for rep indicators – the 🏳️‍🌈 means lgbtq rep, ☀️ means major characters of color, and 🌸 means mental illness, disability, abuse, or trauma rep.

— Arcs I Received and Read —

Jane Unlimited by Kristin Cashore 🏳️‍🌈
received Nov. 18, new release
thanks to Julianna on #arcsfortrade for the trade!

A past-months read! Jane Unlimited is a masterpiece of creative storytelling and one of the coolest books I’ve read this whole year. Also, my new go-to sapphic suspense recommendation.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust 🏳️‍🌈🌸
received Nov. 15, new release
thanks to Melanie on #arcsfortrade for the trade!

Another past-months read! I feel like this could be a full five upon reread. It’s full of such well-developed characters and focuses on a relationship between a stepmother and her stepdaughter. Basically, it’s my shit. I loved it.

Finding Yvonne by Brandy Colbert ☀️
received Nov 5, releases Aug. 18
thanks to Little Brown publishing and Kepler’s for the arc!

For once, not a past months read! I have no idea how I felt about this. It’s a slice-of-life story about a girl who gets pregnant, and while it’s very well-done for what it is, I’m just not sure slice-of-life is ever my favorite.

Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles ☀️🌸
received Nov 5, releases Mar 18
thanks to Little Brown publishing and Kepler’s for the arc!

Finished this in a day! It’s more slice-of-life-ish and lacking in a concrete arc, which isn’t my favorite, but this book was lovely. The theme work was amazing.

— Arcs I Received and Did Not Read —

Invictus by Ryan Graudin
received Nov 1, new release
thanks to CAhnBooks on #arcsfortrade for the trade!

This is about time travel and found family. That is all I know. But. Everyone seems to love it so much. And it seems like my absolute shit.

The Midnight Dance by Nikki Katz
received Nov 3, new release
thanks to Julianna on #arcsfortrade for the trade!

It’s a thriller about dance and I am obviously here for that. Come on, guys. You know me too well to know this isn’t my absolute shit. Also, it sounds like just the kind of vaguely-obscure-yet-universally-adored book people love.

Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft
received Nov 2, releases Jan 16
thanks to Orbit publishing for the netgalley e-arc!

This has been highly recommended by my forever friend @MelToTheAny. Also, the premise of books based off the tower of Babel sounds amazing!

The Island Will Sink by Briohny Doyle
received Nov 2, new release
thanks to Lifted Brow publishing for the netgalley e-arc!

This was an improv request because I felt like reading it randomly? Essentially, though, this is a short environmentalist dystopia book.

Love and Other Carnivorous Plants by Florence Gonzales 🏳️‍🌈🌸
received Nov 5, releases May 18
thanks to Little Brown publishing and Kepler’s for the arc!

This is “darkly humorous.” It is also about mental illness. It is also sapphic as hell. I am very very here for this concept.

Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner
received Nov 5, releases Jan 18
thanks to Disney-Hyperion publishing and Kepler’s for the arc!

I’m reading this for Amie Kaufman. And for space. And for the hate-to-love trope. And because it’s free.

Reign the Earth by A.C. Gaughen
received Nov 19, releases Jan 30
thanks to Katie on #arcsfortrade for the trade!

I’ve seen several great reviews of this by bloggers I know and trust, including the lovely Joss. All I know is it’s character-driven fantasy.

 

— Physical Books I Received and Did Not Read —

Into the Drowning Deep by Seanan McGuire / Mira Grant 🏳️‍🌈🌸
received Nov 2 / 16, releases Nov 14
thanks to Orbit publishing for the netgalley e-arc and Melanie for the physical!

I’ve had this on anticipated releases lists for months now. Yes, this is the bi girls and demonic mermaids book, and yes, I’m desperate to read it. Right now.

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review

five thousand plot twists — The Hanging Girl by Eileen Cook

The Hanging Girl by Eileen Cook — ★★★ — new release

There are three types of thrillers. There is the big ending twist, where a book of buildup leads up to one whodunit revelation that either blows your mind or makes you want to throw things. There is the obvious-twist-but-ability-to-guess-it-doesn’t-really-matter-because-that’s-not-the-point thriller. And then there is the “so many twists, you cannot possibly guess all of them, and you get a cookie for guessing one.”

That’s the category occupied by The Hanging Girl. And how.

I am not exaggerating when I say the entire book flips on its head around three times. If you guess even a fifth of the plot twists, you’ve done the impossible. And with so many twists, it is really difficult to guess the final outcome. I doubt you will, and even if you do, I highly doubt you will guess the how and why.

I’ve seen plenty of reviewers mention a few moments they found weak, and I have to say I’m not sure I noticed. Maybe I’m just less analytical than some. But I think the real reason behind my lack of notice comes from just how wrapped up I was in this story. Here’s the thing: you are meant to enjoy this book, not analyze it. You are meant to find a kind of dark pleasure in the morally-shitty characters while also finding yourself lost in the dark atmosphere of the book. I don’t think this is a book you’re necessarily meant to question or think is the greatest thing ever holy shit; it’s a thriller you’re meant to race through and hang on every word. And you know what? I loved it.

I don’t agree that this is a weak or thin thriller, though – far from it. The narrative around poverty and what it can drive people to do is well-handled without being heavy-handed. I also loved how the book made a clear connection between being marginalized and being less-than-elite; the fact that many people in non-privileged positions are queer and nonwhite is something I see erased a lot in fiction emphasizing class, and it was good that the book made it clear.

There’s also a heavy focus on our lead character, Skye, who I absolutely adored. While I can’t say I’d actually like her in real life, as a fictional character, she’s written brilliantly. Her actions feel so highly motivated that I never found it hard to empathize with her. Even her decisions towards the ending felt real to me.

I honestly have very few complaints about this book; while I think the meta-narrative of the book is not pro-slutshaming, there are several moments of slutshaming that do go somewhat unchecked. There were also a few characters I thought had more potential: Drew and Paige are both incredibly intriguing characters and deserved much more development than they actually got. All that being said, though, this was a super interesting and entertaining read. I shot through it in only a few hours and I expect many will do the same.

Uncategorized

low-rated books I adore

Hey guys! Today’s post was brought to you by Lala @BooksandLala, who recently did this video. When I looked through my Goodreads ratings, I discovered that I have exactly 15 books rated a three or above on goodreads that have an average rating of 3.5 or lower. So NOW IT’S TIME TO DEFEND MYSELF. Let’s get started.

15.  Where Futures End by Parker Peevyhouse – ★★★★★

And we’re starting off with a bang, aka a super super weird book! This book is such a trip, but it blew my mind on such an exceptional level. And GUYS. I COULD NOT PUT THIS DOWN. And will I ever forget that pitch-perfect ending? No. No, I will not.

14. Suicide Notes for Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten – ★★★★

Oh look, it’s the fucked up female friendships aesthetic. My favorite. And one that will recur a lot as the ratings descend (and descend, and descend…) Despite a couple of weird twists, I found this book super compelling, with two complex leads and a creepy tone.

13. You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott – ★★★★★

People hate girl antiheroes. People also dislike Megan Abbott’s writing style, for some reason. Result: people hate this. Whatever. It’s one of my favorite books. Screw goodreads ratings.

12. Jane Unlimited by Kristin Cashore – ★★★★★

I have such a strong penchant for weirdass books. This book is basically a masterpiece of creative storytelling and it is so gorgeous.

11. Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell – ★★★.5

Despite a forced romance and some easy plot points, I found this book super compelling, with some interesting thematics and a complex lead. Yes, there are plot holes. And yet I found myself so pulled along I barely noticed.

10. The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow – ★★★★★

Ah, yes, the book everyone hates because it’s slow and ignores because it’s subversive. Anyway, I love my bi dystopia.

9. Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart – ★★★★★

This book has low ratings, apparently, and I genuinely do not get it. Yes, this book is predictable. BUT IT’S SO COMPELLING AND THE LEADS ARE SO COMPLEX AND. WHY IS IT SO LOW.

Also, let’s be real: the low rating probably has a lot to do with the fact that Genuine Fraud is nothing like We Were Liars and people got disappointed.

Oh, and would you look at that. It’s the fucked up female friendships aesthetic.

8. This Darkness Mine by Mindy McGinnis – ★★★★

Oh yes, this book. Which I totally knew would be here. You want to talk female antiheroes everyone hates but I love? Look no further.

7. Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke – ★★★

For some reason, this is the only three star book among the fifteen. Granted, I give out threes quite rarely, but I’m interested in that? This book would definitely fall into my penchant for weird books, though. Weird writing style, weird characters, just… weird.

6. That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston – ★★★★

THE FIRST 35% IS BORING. I KNOW. I THOUGHT IT WAS BORING TOO. But the rest? SO MUCH BETTER. The worldbuilding and writing are so interesting.

5. Mirror in the Sky by Aditi Khorana – ★★★★

Ah, yes. That one book I genuinely almost permanently DNFed and ended up adoring so much. The reason I occasionally reconsider my DNFs now. The first half is boring as all shit, but the second half of this book is next-level brilliant. Definitely stick with it.

4. Don’t You Trust Me by Patrice Kindl – ★★★.5

Ahhhhhhh, yes. The infamous weirdass antihero book. Don’t really have much to say about this, but it’s super twisted and not good enough to get a ton of five-stars.

3. Lucky Girl by Amanda Maciel – ★★★★

Two things here: one, Amanda Maciel tends to write incredibly unlikeable characters.  And two, this book is all over the place. But it’s all over the place on purpose. This is a slow-burn character development story and it fucking rocks.

2. Dare Me by Megan Abbott – ★★★★.5

The ORIGINAL “fucked up female friendships aesthetic”. Dare Me is a weird and definitely polarizing book, but it’s worth reading for the aesthetic and the strength of the characters if this sounds like your thing.

1. Little Wrecks by Meredith Miller – ★★★.5

I’m sort of surprised this is my lowest-rated book of all. This one is a very slow-burning, oddly written, messed-up-friendships read. THE FOURTH ONE. I guess people just really hate my favorite aesthetic?

Hope you guys enjoyed this random and weird post! CONCLUSIONS: I love all the ladies and lady friendships you hate. As my bio states.

review

it’s a METAPHOR, Hazel Grace — Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Marie Machado

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Marie Machado — ★★★, new release

“I choose this life,” the prostitute says to the social worker. “I do. Please put your energy into helping girls who aren’t here by choice.” She is so right. She is murdered anyway.

Strange, visceral, but altogether, just too confusing for me.

I would recommend this to those who loved the metaphorical side of Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women. (Before you ask, I was not one of those people.) Because these stories… well, you’re not going to enjoy them unless you getthem, at least partially.

And to be quite honest, some of my disappointment was just plain too-high expectations. The Husband Stitch was the only Machado I’d read before, and I adored it. I expected something even better. It is the only five I gave within this collection.

I feel like some asshole on twitter is going to find this book and decide to call everyone who didn’t get this a typical straight feminist or whatever, so to clarify: I’m a huge lesbian and the women kissing were not the confusing part. I really appreciated how unapologetically queer this collection is, and would definitely recommend it in my stack of great queer fiction.

The Husband Stitch – ★★★★★
I read this twice earlier due to Melanie‘s awesome recommendation. This is a story about being consumed, losing your own agency, and how much you can give before you break. One thing is clear, though; it’s worth the read.There were a few metaphors here I only understood on the second and third reads due to sheer exhaustion, which is really upsetting – I feel like this would be my fave story ever otherwise. You can read this story here.

Inventory – ★★★.5
A story of a woman’s sex life as a plague destroys her world. Honestly, I don’t even know what this was. Okay, I do; it’s an exploration of how sex alone can reflect an environment. There’s this sort of raw quality to it, but I can’t say it ever really got under my skin, and the character work could’ve been far stronger.

Mothers – ★★★★
No summary. Uhhh… somebody please explain what the hell this story’s ending means? Because I honest to god do not understand. I think I kind of loved it, though. Maybe worth a reread.

Especially Heinous – ★★★.5
This is a slightly-too-long rundown of a series of Law and Order: SVU episodes. Using the real titles, Machado makes up an intriguing plot full of supernatural elements and twists. The ending of this worked perfectly for me, but the story itself was too long; twelve seasons is a lot of episodes and apparently, a lot of repetition. I got the point about dead prostitutes 30 pages in and at points it just kept going. Have to admit, though, that several of the episode descriptions will stay with me.

Real Women Have Bodies – ★★★★
This story is one of women who become translucent over time. I really appreciated it; the detail is visceral and the emotion raw. It is far more metaphorical than I tend to prefer, though.

Eight Bites – ★★★.5
An exploration of disordered eating and fatphobia in society especially among women! and yet I also just didn’t fucking understand 75% of this, so?

The Resident – ★★★
This one is about confronting your past and all it comes with. The thematic conclusions are good, but unfortunately, I felt it was a bit overly long.

Difficult at Parties – ★★.5
I 👏 didn’t 👏 understand 👏 this 👏 at 👏 all 👏 what 👏 does 👏 it 👏 mean 👏

VERDICT: Recommended tentatively, to those who enjoy metaphors (you’re a rare breed) and feminism (a less rare breed).

review

wow, YA is nailing abuse narratives — The Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd Jones

The Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd Jones — ★★ — new release

“This was how normal people survived their own fairy tales. They became their own kind of monster.”

my heart actually still exists but I’m going to sell it to a demon because I no longer truly have it. this was SO. CATHARTIC.

There are books that make you cry of sadness, and then there are books that make you cry with a sense of beauty. A sense that no matter how terrible things get, everything will eventually get better. Books that you emotionally connect to. And this book… wow. The Hearts We Sold is one of the best explorations of abuse and self-hate I’ve ever read.

Our lead, Dee, is an abuse survivor trying to hang on to college when she finds out she’s lost her scholarship. It is this ultimatum that leads her to sell her soul to a demon. Her arc primarily focuses around her history of abuse and her self-hatred: her feeling that everything is her fault, and that she deserves nothing. The thesis of the importance of finding family beyond your blood, and not putting up with blood when they’ll give you nothing – it’s so important to me. And wow, Lloyd-Jones captured how it feels to come from a bad household really, really well; the only other book I’ve read that captured this topic so well was Heather Demetrios’ Bad Romance. While I definitely think this one could be triggering, it’s definitely not torture porn about how much abuse sucks meant to cause tears. This book is a totally different beast.

“This must be why the demon took their hearts. Because it was the only way a human might survive this—by hollowing themselves out.”

What struck me about this book was the sympathy given to every character’s struggle within the narrative. Lloyd-Jones strays very far from making moral judgments about character action, even when certain side characters do things that are undeniably terrible, leading to a sense of amorality for every character. The side characters are each given their own narrative agency and development, and while some might not be likeable – Cora especially is not a character I’d consider likable – all are developed enough that they become hard to hate. Also, found family trope. So much found family trope.

Oh, and speaking of side characters, I adored the queer rep in here. This is one of the only YA books I’ve ever read with a relationship between a lesbian, the iconic Gemma, and a trans girl, my new book girlfriend Riley, which is lowkey sad. While I’m not trans, I personally thought Riley’s character was really well-written – she’s not a tragic trope and she’s not written in a fetishistic way at all. I also liked that several of the characters were people of color and a few had chronic illnesses or disabilities; the casual diversity is lovely to see.

While there is a romance here, there are two points in its favor: 1) it’s not the focus, and 2) James is so fleshed-out and well-written that it is impossible not to love him. The relationship between Dee and James is built so well, without too much focus towards the beginning and a focus on a slow-burn instead. I adored it, and you all know how picky I am with my book couples.

In terms of plot, though, I do think some readers may be disappointed. This is primarily a subtle story, rather than one full of action, and your enjoyment will primarily depend on how much you connect to these characters. While I do adore the worldbuilding – come on, demons everywhere making deals? – I think this story could’ve had a much smaller amount of worldbuilding and I still would’ve loved it just as much. The demon vibe is amazing, but the plot itself isn’t necessarily the focus. And I do feel quite a bit of this book was mostly buildup. It’s one of those lovely books that’s more of a beautiful buildup to a stunning final conclusion than an I-loved-this-from-page-one-couldn’t-put-it-down story.

And speaking of endings— that ending. This story’s ending was one of my favorite things I’ve read this year. It’s two pages of solid crying. It’s a perfect balance of sad and happy. It’s exactly why I LOVE emotional catharsis so much.

Basically, this is a really impactful emotional arc I’m sure will be a new fave for many. I can’t even put my finger on exactly what about it hit me so much, but this book came very, very close to making me cry. This was a buddyread with the buddyread-luck squad Melanie and Destiny, and considering we all gave it a three or above, we’ll all hopefully be looking out for more by this author. I know I plan to follow Lloyd-Jones in the future.

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the end-of-the-year book tag

Hello, oh lovely blog readers. I… have not done a book tag in a really long time. Apparently. But I was tagged for this by both Destiny @HowlingLibraries and Chelsea @SpotlightOnStories, and it looks really cool, so here we are!

Are there any books you started this year that you need to finish?

Usually I only DNF books before page 100, and usually if I do DNF, it’s permanent. I have a shelf of three old DNFs I got 200 pages into that I think I might possibly enjoy enough to three-star if I finished them, but who knows if I’ll ever actually get through them – and I doubt I will before the end of the year. Those are The Love That Split The World, My Lady Jane, and Tiger Lily.

In terms of more current ones, I was slogging through (but definitely enjoying) Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore. I ended up adoring it and five-starring and evangelizing, so there’s that.

Do you have an autumnal book to transition into the end of the year?

Ooooh, probably just any of the thrillers I’m reading right around now?

Is there a new release you’re still waiting for?

Actually, not really! I have arcs of most of the 2017 releases I was excited for, and while there are plenty I could name for 2018, 2017 releases are pretty much done for me.

What are three books you want to read before the end of the year?

Oooooh, tricky. Aside from my arcs, I want to finish the Diviners by Libba Bray, Nevernight by Jay Kristoff, and Black Iris by Elliot Wake.

Is there a book you think could still shock you and become your favourite book of the year?

There are so many books I think could become new faves, honestly. Sean David Hutchinson’s new book? Or maybe the Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed? I don’t know. It could be anything, really.

Have you already started making reading plans for 2018?

Yes. Honestly, plan #1  is to focus on reading books I really want to read and not based off peer pressure or FOMO. That’s my goal and my focus from now on.

I also want to finish (or donate) every single book I currently own, which shouldn’t be too hard.

book chat

problems with diverse books: recognizing nuance and mixed rep

Okay, here’s the issue: a lot of media with problematic elements also has elements that help minority groups.

See, this isn’t an isolated thing. I have quite literally seen ownvoices books get called out for being discriminatory towards those groups while the author was in that group. One example is Dreadnought by April Daniels. I saw one reviewer call this premise “inherently transphobic”, despite this book being written… by a trans author. It’s totally valid to dislike or even think the book was transphobic, but disliking something is not the same as calling it trash. This is also a weird case because the author has at this point has said a couple of racist things on twitter and hasn’t really apologized :/ But the point still stands: calling out ownvoices book you have not read, or indeed decrying any ownvoices book as “unreadable trash” because of its portrayal of that specific group is a bad move.

Of course, everyone is perfectly allowed to dislike an ownvoices book or point out issues with the rep; I’ve disliked plenty of books because I didn’t love their handling of things. But decrying books as trash because the representation is mixed, or one-starring ownvoices books without reading, has incredibly gross connotations. It is also absolutely okay to mention triggering or gross elements to any book. But saying ownvoices lgbtq+ books that get published are unreadable trash because they have homophobic elements means lgbtq+ kids get waaaaaaay less rep.

I know people know this, but it’s okay to like things with problematic elementsMost media has problematic elements! I have done problematic things! You have done problematic things! We can’t just decry any media with issues as trash that everyone unproblematic hates when it does have good sides. That’s… I mean, it’s not going to go good places. We live in a problematic society, and unfortunately, this is the result.

Saying that someone is trash for liking a book that contains a gross trope isn’t… right. Disagreeing with them, debating with them? Absolutely fine. Saying they’re automatically trash? Um, nope. They probably didn’t notice. Is that good? No, not really. Should we talk about it? Fuck yes. Does that make this person trash? Nah.

okay, what is she even saying anymore // tldr

Of course, that doesn’t mean we should ignore gross things. I think the main thing is that we need to stop saying a book is either fabulous or irredeemable trash that no one should read or they are trash. You can love a thing and think the thing has some great rep, but still acknowledge that many have problems with the thing. And you still shouldn’t ignore that some people believe your favorite things are problematic. At the very least, think through the complaints and discuss them in your review.

My point here is that we can recognize nuance in books that have issue and disagree with each other about them. That doesn’t mean we should ignore problematic tropes, but I feel like we, as a community, have to first acknowledge that something’s rep of a certain group can have both good and bad elements.

I am not saying “homophobic portrayals are fine because at least there’s added diversity!” But I am saying that to me, mixed rep is better than no rep.