Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Recently Read: The Female of the Species (Read This Book Please)

Author: Mindy McGinnis
Genre: Young Adult- Contemporary
Publication Date: 2016
Page Count: 352
Rating: 5/5

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Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.

While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways. Goodreads

This book will stick with me forever. I went into this book totally blind to the plot, (I knew it was a contemporary that dealt with sexual assault and that was it) and I was floored. This book is so dark and captivating. I couldn't stop reading, and I had no idea how it was going to end. This book is full of so much violence and rage and it's so hard to read but impossible to look away.

This book deals with so much in such a brutally honest way. The main issue this book examines is violence against women. The things that happen in this book are horrible and real and horrible because they are real. The idea of rape cultural and the dangers of ignoring the small contributors, like the 'one-off rape joke' a friend makes or the sexist graffiti in the school bathrooms, are laid out so honestly in this novel. This novel does not let you look away from the reality of the fear of living as a female and it left an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach for the entire novel.

This novel and its characters are so complex. I enjoyed that this novel was told from three different perspectives (two female, one male) but the other two perspectives were just meant as another way for us to get to know Alex and the way other people see her. Alex is one of the most complicated characters I have come across in a YA contemporary and maybe even YA in general. She is capable of such violence and yet is so human. The two other perspectives are Peekay, (PK for Preacher's kid) who befriends Alex, and Jack, your typical popular YA male, who develops a relationship with Alex. I enjoyed both of these characters and found them likeable and fully developed, but Alex is the real star of the show.

I have a pretty low tolerance for violence. I do not enjoy action movies, I can't stomach war movies at all, and I struggle to understand humanity's tendency for violence. So while I was uncomfortable and shocked by the violence Alex was capable of, I had to ask myself why. Why would I be shocked at violence coming from a seventeen year old girl when I know the violence she has seen and been subject to? Alex's sister was raped and murdered- brutally murdered-;she sees violence towards women in her life outside of school (spend two seconds reading the news or social media and you can find at least as many cases of violence against women) AND she has seen the same violence her sister faced threatened on her friends. It's a sad reality when violence against women is not shocking, but a retaliation of violence is. Obviously, Alex is more a symbol for revenge and justice for violence against women, and the reaction I have had to her character will keep me thinking for ages.

This book deals with something that women deal with everyday, and Alex's existence forces us to ask how we can seek justice for these wrongs. This question is huge, impossible, and heartbreaking to think about, but it's there. I would love to say that this novel contains the solution to this problem, but it doesn't, as no novel ever could. All I know, is that I am so glad that this novel exists and that I have read it.

While this long post has been more a reaction to the novel rather than a review of it, I'm here to tell you to read this novel. You will have a strong reaction to it and it will make you think. It is dark, well-written, and captivating.

All we can do is continue to work everyday to end gender based violence in any way that we can.

If you liked this book, please check out Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Just Added to my TBR (16): (Weird Reads)

If you have been reading anything I've been putting out lately, you will have caught on to my craving for weird and creepy reads lately. I've rounded up the last three creepy reads I've added to my Goodreads TBR.

Just Added (15)
Just Added (14)

Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link

Summary from Goodreads:

The nine stories in Link's second collection are the spitting image of those in her acclaimed debut, Stranger Things Happen: effervescent blends of quirky humor and pathos that transform stock themes of genre fiction into the stuff of delicate lyrical fantasy. In "Stone Animals," a house's haunting takes the unusual form of hordes of rabbits that camp out nightly on the front lawn. This proves just one of several benign but inexplicable phenomena that begin to pull apart the family newly moved into the house as surely as a more sinister supernatural influence might. The title story beautifully captures the unpredictable potential of teenage lives through its account of a group of adolescent schoolfriends whose experiences subtly parallel events in a surreal TV fantasy series. Zombies serve as the focus for a young man's anxieties about his future in "Some Zombie Contingency Plans" and offer suggestive counterpoint to the lives of two convenience store clerks who serve them in "The Hortlak." Not only does Link find fresh perspectives from which to explore familiar premises, she also forges ingenious connections between disparate images and narrative approaches to suggest a convincing alternate logic that shapes the worlds of her highly original fantasies.

Why I added It: Short stories can be a great way to get your creepy fix (think The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits but in book form) and I saw this book on quite a few recommendation lists for creepy reads. Plus I love that cover! 

Alice and the Fly by James Rice
Summary from Goodreads:

A spellbinding debut novel by an exceptional new young British talent.

This is a book about phobias and obsessions, isolation and dark corners. It's about families, friendships, and carefully preserved secrets. But above everything else it's about love. Finding love - in any of its forms - and nurturing it.

Miss Hayes has a new theory. She thinks my condition's caused by some traumatic incident from my past I keep deep-rooted in my mind. As soon as I come clean I'll flood out all these tears and it'll all be ok and I won't be scared of Them anymore. The truth is I can't think of any single traumatic childhood incident to tell her. I mean, there are plenty of bad memories - Herb's death, or the time I bit the hole in my tongue, or Finners Island, out on the boat with Sarah - but none of these are what caused the phobia. I've always had it. It's Them. I'm just scared of Them. It's that simple.
 


Why I added it: I saw this one over on Mixed Margins' post about her top five books of 2017 so far, and it sounded perfectly weird and delightful. 

The Red Parts by Maggie Nelson 

Summary from Goodreads:
One day in March 1969, twenty-three- year-old Jane Mixer was on her way home to tell her parents she was getting married. She had arranged for a ride through the campus bulletin board at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where she was one of a handful of pioneering women students at the law school. Her body was found the following morning just inside the gates of a small cemetery fourteen miles away, shot twice in the head and strangled. Six other young women were murdered around the same time, and it was assumed they had all been victims of alleged serial killer John Collins, who was convicted of one of these crimes not long after. Jane Mixer's death was long considered to be one of the infamous Michigan Murders, as they had come to be known. But officially, Jane's murder remained unsolved, and Maggie Nelson grew up haunted by the possibility that the killer of her mother's sister was still at large.

In an instance of remarkable serendipity, more than three decades later, a 2004 DNA match led to the arrest of a new suspect for Jane's murder at precisely the same time that Nelson was set to publish a book of poetry about her aunt's life and death - a book she had been working on for years, and which assumed her aunt's case to be closed forever.

The Red Parts chronicles the uncanny series of events that led to Nelson's interest in her aunt's death, the reopening of the case, the bizarre and brutal trial that ensued, and the effects these events had on the disparate group of people they brought together. But The Red Parts is much more than a "true crime" record of a murder, investigation, and trial. For into this story Nelson has woven a spare, poetic account of a girlhood and early adulthood haunted by loss, mortality, mystery, and betrayal, as well as a subtle but blistering look at the personal and political consequences of our cultural fixation on dead (white) women.

The result is a stark, fiercely intelligent, and beautifully written memoir that poses vital questions about America's complex relationship to spectacles of violence and suffering, and that scrupulously explores the limits and possibilities of honesty, grief, empathy, and justice.

Why I added it: This basically sounds like a cross of the last two documentaries I have watched and loved on Netflix: Packed in a Trunk and The Keepers. (Read more about these documentaries here.) It has the family mystery and detective work of Packed in a Trunk and the true-crime mystery element of The Keepers. Bonus: I live in Michigan and have never read a book about true-crime; I'm very intrigued!


Monday, July 17, 2017

Recently Read: The Women Who Got Away (Mini-Review)

Author: John Updike
Genre: Classic Short Stories
Page Count: 108
Rating: 3/5
Add on Goodreads 



The Women Who Got Away is a collection of short stories by John Updike complied into this Penguin Great Loves edition. I picked up quite a few of these on Book depository a year-or-so ago because I loved the concept and the beautiful pocket size designs and I thought it was about time I actually read them.

This collection included five short stories by Updike that fit the theme of the title, women who got away. All five stories are told by a (usually) nameless male narrator lamenting on his mistress that has gotten away. I picked this up because A&P by Updike( you can read it here; it's very short) is one of my favorite short stories of all time, and one that I have studied and written papers on many times before, so I was looking to read more of his works. This was a quick read that I really enjoyed! I'm now interested in picking up some of Updike's longer fiction, but I'm not sure where to start. 

Despite these stories having very similar narrators and themes, the stories were not monotonous or boring. Updike is able to create such real and complex characters in such a short amount of words that even the shortest of his stories feel complete and complex. Updike writes about the mundane and the everyday, but he is able to capture humanity and emotion so well, that it feels like you are witness to intimate details and private moments in someone else's life. I would say that the title story was my favorite, but I enjoyed the other four stories as well. While I don't think these stories are Updike's best work, I do think this would serve as a good introduction to Updike's writing style if you are interested in jumping into his works. I would recommend starting with A&P before these stories though.  

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Recently Read: When the Moon was Ours

Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Genre: Young Adult- Magical Realism
Page Count: 288
Publication Date: 2016
Rating: 3.5/5

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Miel and Sam are inseparable best friends. Perhaps this is because neither of them really feel like they fit in completely. Roses grow out of Miel's wrists, and have grown there since she fell out of the water tower and into town. Sam is hiding a huge secret about what's under his clothes, and Miel is the only one besides his mom who knows. When the mysterious, and somewhat magical, Bonner sisters decide they want Miel's roses for themselves, everything in Miel's and Sam's worlds must shift.

I knew pretty much nothing going into this book. I read the synopsis on Goodreads and then requested if from my library. By the time it came in, I remembered nothing about the plot so I just jumped in, and I'm glad I did. 

The writing is beautiful. The magical elements of the novel blend in seamlessly with the small-town atmosphere that McLemore creates. The existence of Miel's roses was so easy to accept and created a beautiful layer of magic in the novel. I also loved the diverse representation in the novel. Sam is a transgender boy whose family is from Pakistan and Miel is Latina. The after-note mentions that the author's husband is a transgender man, which is really great to know. It's great to see diverse characters in any novel, but particularly in genres where they don't often appear such as magical realism or fantasy. 

While the writing was beautiful, I had some issues with the plot. We seemed to be building and building up to something the whole novel, but I didn't really get the sense that that something ever happened. The end of the novel was good, but it felt quiet compared to all of the tension we were building in the novel. 

I loved Miel and Sam and their relationship with one another. Both characters grew together and independently, and I enjoyed their character arcs. The Bonner sisters were fascinating; they reminded me of The Virgin Suicides sisters, and I would have LOVED more on them, or something from their p.o.v. Perhaps this is why I felt a little unsatisfied with the ending; I wanted more from and about the Bonner sisters and the part they played in the plot. I was left with a lot of questions regarding the Bonner sisters. 

I used this novel to mark off the 'romance with a trans main character' square on my Diversity Bingo board and would recommend this novel if you're looking for a book that fits that bill or if you're a fan of magical realism. This book has a lovely reading experience, as the atmosphere is so magical and hazzy. I'll be checking out McLemore in the future! 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Book Outlet Haul!

I treated myself to a Book Outlet order the other day, as their recent change to free shipping on orders of thirty-five dollars or more to the U.S. sucked me in. It's so easy to load a chart full of books on there, and I managed to pick up some book I've been eyeing for quite a while now. Here's a look at what I picked up!

 

She is not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick and The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Adieh 
Sedgwick is one of my all-time favorite authors, but his back log of books can be difficult to find in the U.S. so I always scoop his novels up when I find them. This one is about a teenage girl who is blind, and that's all I want to know.  I read The Wrath and the Dawn on audiobook last winter and really enjoyed it even though the romance was a bit odd and cheesy; it was so entertaining. I'm eager to see how the story wraps up, and these books are designed beautifully.

 

N or M by Agatha Christie and The Lottery by Shirley Jackson 
I have been devouring Christie's novels this year; they are so fast paced and quick to read. I've read one other Tommy and Tuppence mystery and enjoyed it, so I picked up this cute edition when I saw it. I featured The Lottery in my creepy TBR post and mentioned how I'm craving all of the creepy reads lately. This one is sure to deliver. I haven't read any Jackson yet, so short stories are the perfect place to start.

 Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll illustrated by Camille Rose Garcia
Garcia's work is stunning. She has a few illustrated editions of fairy tales out, that I have been eyeing for ages. I couldn't pass up the beautiful hardcover of this one when it was like five bucks! Here's one of my favorite illustrations I saw as I flipped through.

 

I Shall not be Moved by Maya Angelou and My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
Angelou is my idol. I love and respect her work and her outlook on life so much. I have read almost all of her autobiography series and a few of her poems, and it's safe to say she is one of the best American writers in history. This is a collection of her poems. Surprisingly, I do not own any of Angeou's works in physical copies, so I'm always on the look-out for them. My Brilliant Friend and Elena Ferrante are two of the most talked about topics in the book world right now, and I finally bought book one. I found book two for fifty cents in a library sale and snatched it up before I even had book one, because these books are rather expensive in the States, and I'm glad to have found book one for a bargain as well.

That's all for my Bookoutlet purchases! I always end up with a cart full when I browse that site!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Creepy TBR!

I have been in the mood to consume everything slightly weird, creepy, and supernatural lately. Movies, T.V., books, you name it. I thought I would highlight some of the creepy and weird reading material on my TBR. Let me know if you have read any of these or have any recommendations. 

Paper Girls vol. 1 by Brain K. Vaughn, Cliff Chiang, and Matthew Wilson
From Goodreads:
In the early hours after Halloween of 1988, four 12-year-old newspaper delivery girls uncover the most important story of all time. Suburban drama and otherworldly mysteries collide in this smash-hit series about nostalgia, first jobs, and the last days of childhood.

This series is giving me Stranger Things vibes, but with a group of female pre-teens! I love, love the 80s style color pallet, and can't wait to breeze through this series. 

The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
From Goodreads:
The Lottery, one of the most terrifying stories written in this century, created a sensation when it was first published in The New Yorker. "Power and haunting," and "nights of unrest" were typical reader responses. This collection, the only one to appear during Shirley Jackson's lifetime, unites "The Lottery:" with twenty-four equally unusual stories. Together they demonstrate Jackson's remarkable range--from the hilarious to the truly horrible--and power as a storyteller. 

Jackson is essential creepy reading, but I have yet to dive into her works. I picked up this short story collection on Book Outlet, and plan to use it as an introduction to her works. I know I'm going to love her work. 

The Birds and Other Stories by Daphne Du Maurier
From Goodreads:
A classic of alienation and horror, The Birds was immortalized by Hitchcock in his celebrated film. The five other chilling stories in this collection echo a sense of dislocation and mock man's dominance over the natural world. The mountain paradise of 'Monte Verità' promises immortality, but at a terrible price; a neglected wife haunts her husband in the form of an apple tree; a professional photographer steps out from behind the camera and into his subject's life; a date with a cinema usherette leads to a walk in the cemetery; and a jealous father finds a remedy when three's a crowd . . .

I have yet to read any of Du Maurier's works, despite hearing nothing but amazing things about her works. I'm thinking I will start with this short story collection as I have been in the mood for creepy short stories lately, and I know she won't let me down. I have seen and loved Hitchcock's adaptation of The Birds so I am excited to read the source material. 

The Dumb House by John Burnside
In Persian myth, it is said that Akbar the Great once built a palace which he filled with newborn children, attended only by mutes, in order to learn whether language is innate or acquired. As the year passed and the children grew into their silent and difficult world, this palace became known as the Gang Mahal, or Dumb House. In his first novel, John Burnside explores the possibilities inherent in a modern-day repetition of Akbar`s investigations. Following the death of his mother, the unnamed narrator creates a twisted variant of the Dumb House, finally using his own children as subjects in a bizarre experiment. When the children develop a musical language of their own, however, their gaoler is the one who is excluded, and he extracts an appalling revenge. 

I really don't know much about this one other than it is supposed to be unnerving and disturbing. The synopsis sounds like an absolute wild ride.  

Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote 
From Goodreads:
Published when Truman Capote was only twenty-three years old, Other Voices, Other Rooms is a literary touchstone of the mid-twentieth century. In this semiautobiographical coming-of-age novel, thirteen-year-old Joel Knox, after losing his mother, is sent from New Orleans to live with the father who abandoned him at birth. But when Joel arrives at Skully’s Landing, the decaying mansion in rural Alabama, his father is nowhere to be found. Instead, Joel meets his morose stepmother, Amy, eccentric cousin Randolph, and a defiant little girl named Idabel, who soon offers Joel the love and approval he seeks.

Another novel that I don't know much about, but that gives off some creepy vibes. I think there is more to the mansion than meets the eye in this one. I have read Breakfast at Tiffanys and other short stories by Capote and was a bit surprised at how weird some of his short stories got. This is his debut novel and I'm really looking forward to it. 

A Love Like Blood by Marcus Sedgwick 
From Goodreads:
 In 1944, just days after the liberation of Paris, Charles Jackson sees something horrific: a man, apparently drinking the blood of a murdered woman. Terrified, he does nothing, telling himself afterwards that worse things happen in wars. Seven years later he returns to the city - and sees the same man dining in the company of a fascinating young woman. When they leave the restaurant, Charles decides to follow... A Love Like Blood is a dark, compelling thriller about how a man's life can change in a moment; about where the desire for truth - and for revenge - can lead; about love and fear and hatred. And it is also about the question of blood.

Sedgwick is one of my all-time-favorite authors. He constantly blows me away with his YA fiction. He is a master of time and the universe and using the inexplicable in our actual word to send a shiver down my spine. This will be the first adult book by him that I read, but I recommend his novels so highly if you are in the mood for a creepy read! 

I have so many more creepy books on my TBR that I might have to make a part two! Leave me some recommendations for your favorite creepy reads! 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Recently Read: The Uninvited

Author: Cat Winters
Genre: Adult- Historical Fiction- Paranormal
Publication Date: 2015
Page Count: 343
Rating: 4/5

Add on Goodreads

Also by Cat Winters:
The Cure for Dreaming
In the Shadow of Blackbirds 

Ivy is twenty five years old and feels she must serve as the protectors of her brothers, but the world is making that difficult for her. In 1918, WWI and the Spanish Flu are taking lives at staggering rates, and the whole country is in turmoil. One day, Ivy sees the ghost of her grandmother and knows that death is near; soon the word comes that her brother has been killed in the war. Ivy sets out from her home to explore what is left of the world she shut herself off from in order to protect her brothers, but the Uninvited, spirits of the dead, haunt her no matter where she goes.  

Cat Winters is an auto-buy author for me. She is the Queen of eerie historical fiction. Her novels mix historical fact and paranormal elements flawlessly. She is great at building an atmosphere in her novels and making the paranormal so believable and natural in her novels. This is her first adult novel, so it has a slightly different feel than her young adult novels that I have read, but the historical atmosphere and unnerving paranormal elements are still there and done so well.

This is Cat Winters' second novel that takes place in 1918, so it a time period she is comfortable with. The time period is accurate and well researched. I liked that this novel was targeted as an adult novel, as I enjoyed the slightly older protagonist and the more mature romance, but I think this is a novel that would cross-over very easily and appeal to YA readers. 

One thing I did miss in this novel was the visuals that accompanied Winters' two previous novels that I have read. Both The Cure for Dreaming and In the Shadow of Blackbirds have real and eerie black and white photos and other visual medias from the time period of the book. This novel didn't have any sort of visual, which was fine, but it was a signature elements that I missed from Winters. I didn't notice this absence until after I had finished the book, and was wondering why I felt slightly less enthusiastic about this novel compared to her others, and I think this could be part of the reason. 

I really enjoyed the paranormal element of this novel, and the mysterious element weaved into the plot. I enjoyed the characters, and the plot was engaging and entertaining, but it just fell a little flat for a five star rating from me. I preferred Winters' other 1918 novel In the Shadow of Blackbirds over this one but still enjoyed the heck out of this novel. 

I have a couple Winters' novels to get caught up on, and she has a new release coming up in October of this year, and I can't wait to get into them. If you enjoy historical fiction, paranormal fiction, or both; Winters is a must read!