What.

I'm usually sarcastic and sometimes a grumpy grumperson. I also review books from NetGalley from time to time. I try to write at least a tiny blurb about everything I read. 

The Sister Pact

The Sister Pact - Stacie Ramey

Allie and Leah have a special bond as sisters coping with their parent's constant fighting and eventual separation. When the girls are around 13 and 15, they make a promise to each other: if life ever gets bad enough that one of them wants to end it, she must discuss it with the other. If they can't come up with a solution, they'll end it together. So when Leah commits suicide (two?) years later, Allie is shocked and hurt, not only because Leah didn't confide in her, but because she didn't take Allie with her. 

 

Leah's suicide essentially destroys Allie's life, but not in the way I expected. I assumed the book would be about how Allie grieves, then picks up the pieces after her beloved sister kills herself. Instead, it's about how Allie falls apart mostly because she feels betrayed. She doesn't understand how Leah could possibly have done it without her. This bothers me because if I was in Allie's situation, of course I would be upset, but I would also assume my sister didn't tell me because she loves me and didn't want me to kill myself too. When someone finally presents this possibility towards the end of the book, Allie is basically like "omg could it really be that Leah just loved me and didn't want me to die!?" Wow, what a concept. I really feel like anyone with half a brain would come to that conclusion on his or her own. My sister has never killed herself though, so maybe I don't know how it is. Maybe when something like that happens, you lose your ability to think even a tiny bit logically forever until someone says "hey, you should stop being dumb." I guess if that's how it works, then this story is very realistic. 

 

The way Allie deals with her grief/anger/sadness was a bit strange to me too. She didn't want to take meds for depression because she claimed the meds changed her too much, but she was all too happy to be a Xanax zombie or to take random pill from a guy she barely knows. I guess it's okay to take pills that make you feel different as long as they also get you high! 

 

In addition to dealing with Leah's betrayal of their pact, Allie struggles to understand why Leah committed suicide in the first place. Her quest for truth is a short one, as she quickly discovers that Leah had a secret boyfriend who sheds some light on her depression. After all the drama and drugs, the reason for Leah's suicide felt like an afterthought. Leah killed herself because... 

 

One of the girls on the dance team at school took a picture of Leah smoking marijuana. Smoking weed is bad, m'kay? It gets you kicked off the dance team. Leah asks her dad if she can live with him because she wants to transfer to a different school so she can be on their dance team. Her dad says no because he's currently living with his much younger girlfriend and she doesn't want Leah there. On top of this, her boyfriend is cheating on her, but she doesn't actually care about that because she has a secret boyfriend of her own who makes her super happy - but not as happy as a dance team!

(show spoiler)

 
The copy I read was an ARC, and the book doesn't release until November, so I imagine there's still time to fix some of the grammatical errors and won't hold those against the book. However, I really didn't like the author's use of the word 'starstuck,' and I think that either she doesn't know what it means, or her characters don't. There are 8 separate instances in which Allie is referred to as starstruck by either Leah or a boy. People who are starstruck are, according to Merriam-Webster, "feeling or showing great interest in and admiration for famous people," and other dictionaries give very similar definitions. Leah and Allie's guy friends are not famous, they're just regular people. Just one mention of Allie being starstruck by Leah wouldn't have bothered me so much, but after 8 times, this was all I could think of:


There were even a couple sentences about it that were nearly identical. The first time, in chapter 3: "My sister made me a little starstruck. She never minded, as long as it was her star I was following." The second time, in chapter 5: "Always starstruck, that's me. Leah didn't mind as long as it was her star I was following." I suppose there's a chance this won't be a problem in the retail release of the book, but it really bugged me so I had to mention it.

 

This book made me question my preference for YA books. It made me wonder if maybe I'm too old for them now, or I'm too out of touch. But then I thought of some of the fantastic YA books I've read as a 20-something adult and realized that while I do sometimes roll my eyes at some of the "dumb teenager" stuff, I've read and enjoyed so many of them that it can't be me. I didn't like this book, not because I'm too old for it, but because I just didn't like it.

 

***I received an ARC of The Sister Pact from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review***

 

 

 

 

A Million Miles Away

A Million Miles Away - Lara Avery

When Kelsey’s identical twin sister Michelle (hey, that’s my name!) dies in a car accident, she struggles to find a way to deal with it. Michelle’s boyfriend, Peter, has been fighting in Afghanistan completely unaware of her death. Kelsey wants to tell him, but when she finally gets in touch with him on Skype, he thinks she’s Michelle, and before she knows it, Kelsey is pretending to be her dead twin. Lara Avery’s A Million Miles Away is a story of both love and loss, and how not to handle them.

 

I was so excited to receive this book from Netgalley. The description on the site really drew me in and I got started on it right away even though I was already in the middle of another book. I read it in just one night, which is usually a sign of a book I really like, but ultimately, A Million Miles Away did not impress me.

 

Michelle was only a living character for a small part in the beginning of the story. She was a great student, dreamy and artistic, and also… a slut? That word was never actually used, but it was definitely implied (and I’m not sure it was intentional). She’d had so many boys around that her family had no idea what was going on. Her parents didn’t even know they needed to tell her boyfriend Peter about her death.

 

Kelsey, the exact opposite of her twin in every way (of course), had been introduced to Peter but didn’t think of him until weeks after Michelle’s death. During their first Skype call, he’s so happy to see “Michelle” that Kelsey doesn’t have the heart to tell him about the car accident, but vows to tell him next time. And so goes the story: Kelsey pretends to be her twin, promises herself she’ll tell the truth, keeps pretending, promises to tell the truth... 

secretly flies to France to meet Peter and tell him the truth, keeps pretending.

(show spoiler)

I felt sorry for Kelsey and I understand that pretending to be Michelle gave her comfort, but she took it so far that it was hard to like her.

 

The entire plot was extremely predictable. Knowing from the description that Michelle was going to die, I also knew how everything was going to turn out as soon as Peter mistook Kelsey for Michelle when they met. I feel like with such a unique situation, it would have been easy for Avery to branch off of the cookie-cutter boy-meets-girl path, but she chose not to, and the book suffers for it.

 

***I received a copy of A Million Miles Away from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review***

Orphan Train

Orphan Train - Christina Baker Kline

When Molly, a troubled teen who has spent her life in the foster system, steals a book and is forced to make up for it by helping an old woman clean out her attic (yeah, that makes sense), she has no idea the ways in which it will affect her life. Vivian shares with Molly tales of her heartbreaking childhood, and through these stories, a great friendship is formed.

 

The book switches back and forth between present-day and the 1920s – 40s, which covers Vivian’s experience as an orphaned Irish immigrant. Vivian’s story was very interesting, but Molly’s left a lot to be desired. Just as you’re sucked into the most exciting parts of the past, you’re shoved back into the story of how Molly is dealing with her stereotypically terrible foster parents. The difference is so great, it’s as if Orphan Train was written by two different people – one who can write engaging historical fiction and another who is only capable of writing uninteresting fluff.

 

But even Vivian’s story had some major flaws. The most glaring is a big decision Vivian makes during her early adult years. Her childhood is illustrated well, but when she becomes an adult, the story’s pace unfortunately quickens and it feels as if she is a different person. I don’t want to spoil anything by detailing Vivian’s decision, but I felt like I’d come to know and understand her and then she did something I thought was so out of character, it kind of threw me for a loop. A bad loop, not a fun loop.

 

The book is worth a read if you are a big fan of historical fiction or you have great interest in the trains that carried orphaned children to new homes where they were often mistreated. Otherwise, your time is best spent reading something else.

Source: http://bookishbean.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/orphan-train

Notes from Ghost Town

Notes from Ghost Town - Kate Ellison

When I finished this book, I had all sorts of things to say, but my boyfriend was using the computer monitor all day and I didn't feel like using my phone to type a whole review so I decided to wait and now I can't really remember what I wanted to say. I should have at least taken some notes or something. Here's what I can remember:

 

At the start of the book, 16-year-old Olivia realizes she is in love with her best friend Stern. They kiss once, then Stern rushes off because he's worried it was a mistake. Olivia heads off to art school and doesn't return until months later, after Stern is murdered. Of course, Olivia is devastated, and the whole situation is made worse by the fact that her own mother is accused of the crime. Her mother suffers from schizophrenia, which is genetic, and Olivia is terrified that she will inherit the illness because she went mysteriously colorblind after her kiss with Stern, and especially because Stern's ghost visits her with a message: her mother is not the killer.

 

The story really picks up here, with Olivia trying to prove to herself that she is not crazy by searching for evidence of her mother's innocence. I enjoyed the mystery surrounding Stern's death even though I found it to be a bit predictable - I guessed who the real murderer was almost as soon as he/she was introduced, but not the motive. Even though I'd had it half-figured out, I think the ending was a bit too abrupt, like Olivia spent all this time trying to figure everything out and then BAM! Problem solved.

 

One thing I thought was odd is that Olivia, as the narrator, was constantly describing the way things smelled. Walking up to someone's house, she smelled sweet acacia. One of her friends smelled like plum and sandalwood. On her way to a party she smelled plumeria and the ocean. It happened so often, I started to wonder if it was there for a specific reason. Was the author trying to show how Olivia's senses changed to compensate after she went colorblind? Could Olivia pick up on the scent of sweet acacia easier now that all she could see were shades of gray, or was she always that good with her nose? Her mother smelled of plumeria, so I feel like it would make sense for Olivia to pick up on that scent and mention it, but other than that, the frequent scent descriptions just seemed strange.

 

 

The Story of an Hour

The Story of an Hour (Tale Blazers) - Kate Chopin

I am severely disappointed in my high school English teachers for not introducing me to Kate Chopin. Why did I have to read Great Expectations while others get to read this awesome short story and/or The Awakening? Not fair. I read this one in about 5 minutes but I easily could have written a lengthy essay about it in English class. Instead, I struggled to write about The Grapes of Wrath and was forced to make up lies about how my life compares to the lives of its characters. Ugh.

 

Anyway, The Story of an Hour is a (very) short story about a woman who finds out that her husband has died in a railroad accident. Her sister and friend are very gentle when they tell her, as they are worried (for good reason) that she will be devastated. And she is! Until she locks herself in a room and begins to feel something that is probably more common than we think - something most people would never admit to feeling. Freedom. She envisions her future and in it, she is independent, able to make choices that affect no one but herself.

 

I can certainly identify with these feelings. While I would never wish my boyfriend of nearly 10 years would die, and I would be absolutely beside myself with grief if he did, I understand that I would have a small sense of freedom and independence in the back of my mind. I've never been alone, never truly on my own, and I've often wondered what it would feel like. How my day-to-day decisions might change when I know my own happiness is all that matters. It's selfish, but it's also quite human, and I like that this is one classic in which I could actually find a bit of myself.

 

The end of the story is fantastic. I didn't expect it at all, though I suppose I should have. I'm not going to spoil it. The story is free to read on several websites (Google it) and is shorter than a standard news article. Take 5 minutes and read it for yourself.

 

The Death of Bees

The Death of Bees - Lisa O'Donnell

I nearly gave this book 4 stars but then I remembered how quickly it drew me in, and I thought about how terrible I felt any time I had to put it down to do something else (like eat or sleep). A book I never want to put down deserves the full 5 stars, I think.

 

It kind of sounds like the book is about sisters who murdered their terrible parents and tried to hide the bodies (similar to the bathtub girls), but very early on you learn they are not murderers, they just don't want anyone to know their parents have died because they don't want to be separated by social services. 

 

This story of two neglected girls and their attempt to hide their parent's death is told from three different perspectives: 15 year old Marnie, her 12 year old sister Nelly, and their elderly neighbor Lennie. The perspective changes often, sometimes with each page turn, but each narrator has a very distinct voice so it's not at all confusing. I think Marnie's chapters were my favorite, they were written very well - she sounds exactly as I imagine a smart 15-year-old in her situation would sound. 

 

I had a few issues with some of the Scottish/British slang used (mostly by Marnie) and my kindle's built-in dictionaries were no help half the time. Fortunately, the slang wasn't used too often and I was able to figure out what each word probably meant.

 

The book was definitely dark and gruesome. Actually, for anyone concerned about it, the goriest part is in the first 30 or so pages, so as long as you can handle that, the rest of the book is fine as far as that goes, but still quite dark. Though honestly, if you expect this book to be light and fluffy after reading its description, there is something seriously wrong with you.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) - Mindy Kaling

Up until a few weeks ago, I didn't consider myself a fan of Mindy Kaling. That's not to say I didn't like her - I liked her character on The Office (Kelly Kapoor) and I knew she wrote some episodes of the show so she must be pretty funny and awesome - I just didn't know much about her and I'd never taken the time to learn more. 

 

After hesitantly trying and then loving and binge-watching The Mindy Project on Hulu this month, I decided it was time to get to know Mindy Kaling, and I'm glad I did.

 

I have read books by the following comediennes: Chelsea Handler, Sarah Silverman, and now, Mindy Kaling. I realize it's not at all fair for me to assume Mindy's book would be anything like Handler's (a lot of sex/relationship stuff) or Silverman's (poop was a pretty hot topic) but I did. When I read the other two books I laughed out loud quite a few times, always at some story about how stupid they were. But when I laughed out loud while reading Mindy Kaling's book, it was because the humor was smart, witty, or a perfect observation about something ridiculous. I really enjoyed that difference, which I didn't even realize was something I wanted. 

 

I love the way she writes. It's not pretentious and she doesn't try too hard. It feels very conversational, like we're just hanging out with a group of friends.Two of my favorite quotes from the book that made me laugh the most:

 

When listing types of women in romantic comedies, Kaling writes (about "The Klutz"), "Despite being five foot nine and weighing 110 pounds, she is basically like a drunk buffalo who has never been part of human society."

 

When detailing a revenge fantasy in which her husband is murdered and she decides to beef up in order to avenge his death, "Even in my revenge fantasy where all I do is exercise, I can still do only twenty-five pull-ups. Pull-ups are tough, no joke."

 

I really feel like Mindy is a pretty normal person. While I don't enjoy shopping nearly as much as she does (well, I guess I might enjoy it if I actually had money to spend), I feel like we have a lot in common. Many of her opinions mirror mine so well it makes me sad that there isn't even the smallest chance we will ever become friends. 

Twlight

Twilight - Stephenie Meyer, Stephenie Meyer

I tried to read this book back when it first came out but couldn't get through it. In 2011, my best(?) friend convinced me to read the rest of it and let her know what I think. So I guess this is dedicated to her!

 

First, let me get this out of the way: I wasn't a fan of the story but I was even less a fan of the writing. Even if I had enjoyed the story, I wouldn't have been able to look past the way it was written. I felt like I was reading extremely bad fan fiction.

 

So, wow. Bella is super annoying. Honestly, how many times does need to tell us she hates rain? When there's a sunny day: oh gosh what is that blinding light? I'm so confused! Oh! It's the sun, I hardly recognized it because we've just had a week of rain! And why is she so upset that there are boys at her new school that have a crush on her? What teenage girl is like "OMG I can't believe boys like me, this is awful" unless she is a lesbian? Oh, and Edward, with his "Stay away from me, I'm dangerous. Never mind, let's be friends, but also stay away from me. I'm in love with you, GET AWAY!!!" crap is so obnoxious.

 

I am not the kind of person who needs every story to be totally believable, but I am really weirded out by 100+ year-old Edward's love for Bella. I know this happens in other YA vampire stories too, so it's not entirely Meyer's fault, but I think it's strange. I can understand vampires wanting to feed on young people because their blood is fresh or something, but why do they truly, madly, deeply fall in love with teenagers? And why do the teenagers love them back? It doesn't matter that you have a crush on a vampire that looks like a teenager if his mind is older than your grandparents. A regular old person falling in love with a teenager is creepy, why does this rule not apply to vampires as well? I'd never date an old vampire, and I'd feel like a total creeper if I was the vampire in that situation. Plus, teenagers are stupid. I know, because I was one. If I was hundreds of years old, finding someone my age would obviously be very difficult, but I'd at least look for someone who isn't an idiot. I mean, I probably wouldn't go for a wrinkly old lady, but I'd definitely want to be with someone who doesn't have to ask her parents every time she wants to leave the house. "Oh, sorry, old-as-shit vampire, I can't go out tonight, I'm grounded!"

 

Anyway, despite the age difference, Bella and Edward are obsessed with each other and it's awkward and too mushy. For reasons unknown (maybe short-term memory loss?) Bella is amazed by Edward was every time she sees him. She describes his absolute perfection way too many times. At some points, I felt like I was reading what can I can only describe as wholesome erotica. It's as if Meyer really wanted to make it dirty, but something was holding her back so she wrote about Edward's rock-solid abs instead of his giant penis.

 

I won't be reading the rest of the series, so let me guess the ending: Bella ends up a beautiful, sparkly vampire despite the fact that blood makes her faint and her special vampire power is extreme clumsiness. THE END.

Still Missing

Still Missing - Chevy Stevens

As a general rule, I try to write a book’s review very soon after I read it. I imagine most people do the same thing, because it’s easier to remember how a book made you feel if you only finished it 15 minutes ago. I wish I’d stuck to that rule with Still Missing, but I didn’t, because I am a lamewad. So, okay, I don’t remember exactly if I cried or not while I read it, but I do remember enjoying it, and that counts for something!

 

Annie is a 30-something year-old woman who recently escaped from a man who kidnapped and held her against her will in a remote cabin for a year.  Her kidnapper was a man with some pretty crazy mommy-issues and some messed up worldviews. He forced Annie to follow strict rules that dictated her wardrobe, chores, mealtimes, and even when she was allowed to use the bathroom or drink water. I don’t do super well when it comes to talking about rape, but yes, that happened too.

 

Each chapter or section is representative of one of Annie’s therapy sessions, starting with her greeting her therapist and following along as she talks about the horrors she endured in the cabin. But as much as the book is about what happened at the cabin, it’s about Annie’s life after the cabin. As the story of her recovery progresses, Annie just can’t catch a break, and she finds that the nightmare isn’t quite over.

 

Throughout the book, I found myself struggling to like Annie. She was uncaring, selfish, bitchy, and she acted like she was the only person who had ever been kidnapped. I felt bad for her, but I had a pretty hard time liking her and I think that’s what Chevy Stevens wanted when she created Annie. If I’m right, then wow… Stevens did an amazing job. I imagine anyone would behave the way Annie did if they’d been through what she went through because it’s a perfectly human response. Annie’s attitude shows that she’s been hardened by the experience, and it makes her feel real. I mean, what woman would emerge from a year in captivity with a mile on her face and a spring in her step?

 

The time Annie spent in the cabin was a bit formulaic, but I don’t blame Stevens. There are a lot of books about this type of situation and there are only so many things that can happen to a woman being held against her will.  Overall, it was a very good book that stands apart from others like it because it addressed Annie’s recovery and added a nice big surprise at the end.

Source: http://bookishbean.wordpress.com/2013/05/20/still-missing-chevy-stevens

Witch Piss

Witch Piss - Sam Pink

Witch Piss is about a guy who strikes up a conversation with a homeless man that leads to many days spent hanging out with several homeless people in the streets of Chicago. It's written in first person and the writing was so natural and realistic, I feel like Sam Pink actually spent time with homeless dudes. Actually... he might have. I'd be more surprised if he didn't.

 

The people the unnamed main character (possibly Sam himself?) talked to were often drunk, high, and/or missing teeth. They didn't speak with correct grammar, they pronounced words incorrectly, and sometimes they made absolutely no sense. Pink did a great job of writing the dialogue as if you were standing there listening to the people talk. I also liked that the main character always bought the homeless people food and beer. He was very sincere and generous, just a normal(ish) dude hanging out with and showing kindness to the type of people the rest of us usually try to ignore.

 

I liked this one a lot, but not as much as Sam Pink's other stuff because there weren't as many of his own thoughts. Like, it was mostly conversations he had with people rather than the stuff going on in his head. Still a great read though.

The Turn of the Screw

The Turn of the Screw - Henry James

I love ghost stories and so I thought I would enjoy this one but I was so, so very wrong. I wanted to be creeped out but couldn't get past how incredibly boring it was. There were some ghosts, or maybe there were no ghosts and the governess was just crazy, but I don't really care either way.

Go Eat Worms!

Go Eat Worms! - R.L. Stine I'm reading all 62 Goosebumps books this year because I wasn't allowed to read them when I was a kid. I decided not to rate or review them because I didn't think it'd be fair since I'm 27 and obviously wouldn't find them scary or super exciting, but I have to say that this is the worst one I've read so far.

I'm not sure if I would have been spooked by Goosebumps when I was a child, but I know I would have thought Go Eat Worms was incredibly lame. The main character and his sister just argue the whole time, and the main "scary" part is just a paragraph or so in the last few pages of the book. It was so boring, I can't imagine how this one keeps any kid's attention.

The Child Thief

The Child Thief - Brom

The Child Thief  is a dark, modern retelling of Peter Pan with a bit of Celtic mythology thrown in, and it’s amazing. As with anything, it has a few faults, but I liked the rest of it so much that I can’t even remember them. It’s always so much easier to write a review about a book I don’t like, so this is going to be very difficult for me.

 

I’m a sucker for fairy tale retellings, especially when they’re completely different from the Disney versions I grew up watching. One of my favorite things to do after I read a book like this is check reviews on Goodreads. I think the amount of people who write angry reviews because the retelling isn’t as fluffy as the Disney version is hilarious. Is that mean? It probably is. Oh well.

 

In Brom’s version of the story, Peter (Pan) enters our world to lure abused and troubled children into Avalon, a magical land in which he promises there are many adventures to be had. Peter’s stolen children are called “Devils,” and they don’t quite have the fun times Peter promised. Instead, they’re forced to become warriors because Avalon it isn’t a lush paradise; it’s a terrible place where a violent war has been waging for many years.

 

I was never really a fan of the Peter Pan story as I heard/watched it growing up, but this book has changed opinion. It was very well written and there was never a dull moment. I loved it and I can't wait to read more of Brom's work.

Beautiful Creatures

Beautiful Creatures - Margaret Stohl, Kami Garcia

I just found out that Beautiful Creatures was made into a movie so I figured I'd write a bit of a review, but then I realized that even though I only read it a month ago, I couldn't remember much of it. I had to go look through reviews on Goodreads to figure out what I can only assume I blocked from memory.

 

Here's a quick summary: Typical popular guy Ethan meets and quickly falls for typical strange outcast Lena. Somewhere along the line, Ethan finds out that Lena isn't a normal strange girl, but a paranormal strange girl, a Caster (basically a witch). Normally, Casters can choose to be light (good), or dark (bad), but Lena's family is cursed. On her 16th birthday, fate or something will decide for her whether she's good or evil, and there's no in-between.

 

As you can imagine, Lena is terrified that she'll be "claimed" as a Dark Caster, which would totally suck because she's a nice girl who wants to be good. I feel for her, I really do. But she spends nearly every moment crying about it and it got to the point where I just didn't care. I just wanted the claiming to happen already. Like, yeah, she may turn evil, but at least she'll shut up about it.

 

While Lena is freaking out about her 16th birthday, Ethan is freaking out about how horrible the south is. Every classmate and parent was a judgmental asshole, with the exception of his best friend (and even he was pretty dumb). Everyone was nosy, opinionated, and... southern. Apparently, those things go hand in hand.

 

In the midst of all their freaking out is a bunch of magic crap I can't remember clearly. Something about a locket that transports them back to a time when Ethan's great, great, whatever uncle and Lena's... someone from her family.. were in love, but they couldn't be together. Ethan and Lena watch their ancestors try and fail to be together. Sucks to be them.

 

Anyway, the writing was alright and even though the whole Caster idea was new to me, everything else seemed stale. Popular boy, unhappy with his popularity and his shallow classmates, falls for outcast girl and becomes an outcast himself because his popular friends just don't understand. Ugh.

 

And... 

when Lena's 16th birthday finally rolls around, nothing happens. The idea that she'll instead be claimed when she's 17 is thrown in as the book ends. I read somewhere that there are going to be 5 books in this series. Will Lena find out if she's evil or not in the next book, or the one after that, or ever? I don't care!

(show spoiler)

 

Source: http://bookishbean.wordpress.com/2013/02/14/beautiful-creatures-kami-garcia

The Rag, Issue 5: Winter/Spring 2013

The Rag, Issue 5: Winter/Spring 2013 - Seth Porter, Dan Reilly, Ronda Rutherford

In mid-June, the editor of an electronic literary magazine called The Rag sent me a message on Goodreads, asking if I’d read and review the latest issue. He said the mag was gritty and transgressive, and that he’d read some of my “thoughtful literary reviews” and thought I’d enjoy it. I didn’t get the message until this month because I hadn’t bothered with Goodreads since May, but I was super stoked (and a little confused) that an editor of a lit mag (however unknown) liked my reviews so I asked him if he was still interested and he sent it along.

 

Of course, after he sent me the mobi for my kindle, I looked over some of the Goodreads reviews from other readers and found that this editor had sent the exact same message to everyone he contacted. He’s read some of everyone’s “thoughtful literary reviews,”  and I don’t know why I was surprised that we all got the same message, but I was. Really, I was more surprised that he said liked my reviews (especially since I only have a few on Goodreads and most of them are barely reviews at all), so even though this realization bummed me out a little, it also provided an explanation, so I was kind of okay with it.

Even though I wish he would have left that fake flattery out of his message, I figured I might as well read the mag since I said I would. And now I’m going to review it, not because I told him I would, but because it’s one of a very few amount of books/other publications I have ever refused to finish and I should probably document such a rare thing.

 

The first half of the magazine is… okay, I guess. I thought there would be a lot of variety in a magazine full of stories composed by a dozen or so people, but I guess not! The magazine has a central theme: the blurred lines between right and wrong and what causes good people to go bad. Maybe that’s why the authors’ writing styles all felt so similar to me, but I think it’s actually because they were all trying so hard to be profound that everything just mushed together.

 

The first story is the only one I could stand. It’s about a woman who has fallen in love with a dead man, or, more accurately, a dead man’s body. And yeah, she totally has sex with it. Obviously, that is illegal, but she defends her love of that dead dude in a very interesting and almost convincing way that makes it all seem a lot less icky than it actually is. I guess when you throw true love in the mix, lines get a bit blurrier. I mean, she’s happy, and the guy isn’t happy OR sad, and no one is being hurt. His body can rot in the ground, or she can have sex with it because she (somehow) loves it. I can say it’s nearly acceptable because it’s (hopefully) fictional, but this story did not change me. If tomorrow I heard an actual news story about a woman who stole a dead body because she loved it and she wanted to hump it in a cabin in the woods, I would be like “GTFO, that is beyond disgusting.”

 

Anyway, yeah. Blurred lines and whatnot. I didn’t necessarily enjoy the rest of what I read, but I didn’t hate it either, so that was cool. But then I got to the worst story ever.

There are a great deal of people who care about animals as much as they care about other humans, if not more. I am one of those people. A few weeks ago, I watched a video in which a short series of events led to an innocent dog being shot by police officers. This was actually in the video. It happened so quickly, I didn’t have time to stop the video. I saw the dog get shot and I saw it laying on the street, twitching. I cried for hours. I had nightmares. If I’d known what the video was, I never would have watched it. Never. That’s how I feel about Zeke Stargazing.

 

A wife and mother of three children is bed-ridden and decides to get a puppy to keep her company while everyone’s away during the day. She names him Zeke, and he’s cute or whatever but then he eats her foot while she’s asleep. She doesn’t blame him though because he’s just a teething puppy, and after a short stay in the hospital she’s back in bed with her little pup. Soon, it’s Christmas Eve, and two of her children decide to murder Zeke, wrap him up, and give him to her as a Christmas present. Not because Zeke ate her foot, but for some other reason I don’t know. Maybe they are psychopaths. Probably.

 

The kids might not have actually planned to kill Zeke, but I stopped reading when I realized what they were going to do and I skimmed through enough to know that the dog died. Hey, I’m okay with violence and death and whatever. I can do the “grittier, transgressive side.” I’ve read books where helpless babies die and it’s sad but it’s also just a book so it’s not the end of the world, but bring a pet into it and I just can’t do it. I can’t. If an animal dies naturally or is killed out of necessity or hunted by another animal, I get that. But the torture and outright murder of an animal is too much for me.

 

After stopping at that story, I couldn’t bring myself to continue. I imagine the remaining stories/poems aren’t quite the stuff of nightmares, but I don’t care to find out. I’ve deleted the mag from my kindle and I guess I could say I’m sorry I didn’t read the whole thing, but I’d be lying just like the editor guy who said he liked my reviews, and homey don’t play that game.

Little Star

Little Star: A Novel - John Ajvide Lindqvist

I read and really liked Let the Right One In last year, so I knew I had to check out at least one more of Lindqvist’s books. He’s been described as “Sweden’s answer to Stephen King” (it’s right there on the book cover!), and I’d say that’s pretty accurate. I like!

Little Star opens with Lennart, a sad old man who was once part of a semi-popular Swedish band. He’s off looking for mushrooms in the forest because maybe it’s not normal to buy mushrooms at the store in 1990′s Sweden. Or maybe he really likes chanterelles and hedgehog mushrooms. Either way, instead of bringing home a nice big basket of mushrooms for his wife Laila to cook or something, he brings home a live baby girl that he found in a plastic bag in a shallow grave. She’s only a few months old, but she’s very quiet aside from when she “sings,” which, until she’s old enough to talk is basically just holding a note. But it’s a perfect note, and Lennart decides to keep her so he can teach her more about music and help her to further develop that perfect singing voice. It sounds kind of nice — Lennart has saved this baby from certain death. It’s not actually nice at all though, because he keeps her a secret and locks her in his cellar to protect her from being poisoned by the terrible pop music everyone else listens to. Laila tries to convince Lennart to provide the girl with a normal life, but he refuses. He wants her to be a blank slate so her music will always be his idea of perfect. Lennart’s son, a grown man named Jerry, discovers the girl and names her Theres. He calls Theres his sister and visits her often, but seems pretty okay with the fact that she’s being kept in a cellar.

 

For a while, the book is just… super weird. Theres is a strange kid. At first, I thought maybe she had Austism, as her behavior seemed to suggest it. Actually, I thought the book wasn’t going to be anything more than this little girl locked in a cellar and her new “family” finding out she’s Autistic and trying to deal with it while still keeping everything a secret. Maybe there’d be a bit about Theres experiencing the real world for the first time and freaking out or something. I was totally wrong!

 

At 13, Theres goes to live with Jerry, and that’s around the time things went from weird to crazy. Despite the fact that she’s still very strange, emotionally detached, and can’t form a proper sentence, she makes a friend, Teresa, on the internet. Teresa is overweight, has the worst self-esteem ever, and feels extremely unloved. Her friendship with Theres makes her feel special, and she clings to it no matter what. Together, Theres and Teresa convince twelve other sad and lonely girls to join their “wolf pack,” which seems more like a cult than a group of friends. The girls obsess over Theres like she has them all under some sort of spell. They treat her like something fragile they have to protect, someone who could do no wrong (even though she totally did some major wrong and they knew about it). She tells the wolf pack to do some insane stuff and they do it, hardly any questions asked. If you are not squeamish, please read this book so you can know about the insane stuff!

 

Little Star isn’t scary in a supernatural way. There are no monsters, no one is possessed by a murderous ghost or turns into a werewolf once a month. Theres does seem supernatural at times, but she’s probably just weird because she was raised in a cellar by an old man obsessed with music. Nah, this book is scary in a much worse way. It’s scary because even though a lot of the crazy stuff seems a little over the top, it almost feels like it could happen. If I read a vampire book, for example, it can be creepy, sure, but it’s also about a vampire, which is something that doesn’t exist. I’m not scared by it. I can put it down when I’m finished and go about my day without wondering what would happen if I saw a vampire, how I would react, what I would say or do. But books that have nothing to do with magic or magical creatures stay with me longer, especially when they’re of the horror genre. These books are about people, and people exist. Nothing is more terrifying than people. Lonely people, evil people, confused people. All real, and all capable of terrible things. I could step outside and meet an evil dude right now. I probably already know a maniac or two. I hope I don’t, though!

 

I think Lindqvist is my favorite foreign author. He references some famous Swedish people and events I don’t know anything about, but he does it sparingly and I never feel confused or out of the loop. He’s probably a favorite author in general, actually. I just love the way he keeps things so mysterious. He doesn’t offer an explanation for everything, you just have to come up with theories yourself, which is not always easy. I like!

Source: http://bookishbean.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/little-star-john-ajvide-lindqvist