Book Reviews

Pobody’s Nerfect

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I was graciously provided with an advanced reader’s copy of Sophie Kinsella’s recently released My (not so) Perfect Life via Netgalley.

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Here is the synopsis from Penguin Random House:

Everywhere Katie Brenner looks, someone else is living the life she longs for, particularly her boss, Demeter Farlowe. Demeter is brilliant and creative, lives with her perfect family in a posh townhouse, and wears the coolest clothes. Katie’s life, meanwhile, is a daily struggle—from her dismal rental to her oddball flatmates to the tense office politics she’s trying to negotiate. No wonder Katie takes refuge in not-quite-true Instagram posts, especially as she’s desperate to make her dad proud.

Then, just as she’s finding her feet—not to mention a possible new romance—the worst happens. Demeter fires Katie. Shattered but determined to stay positive, Katie retreats to her family’s farm in Somerset to help them set up a vacation business. London has never seemed so far away—until Demeter unexpectedly turns up as a guest. Secrets are spilled and relationships rejiggered, and as the stakes for Katie’s future get higher, she must question her own assumptions about what makes for a truly meaningful life.

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Full confession: I am one of those few people who was actually not a fan of Confessions of a Shopaholic.

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*sigh* … I know

Yet I liked My Not So Perfect Life. It was not exactly written in the way that I would have liked – there were some cringeworthy moments, and some moments where the writing was a bit over the top. But there were also moments that made me giggle, and overall, I felt a strong connection to the story.

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I’m going I let you guys in on a little secret: I am not perfect. I would love to be, but I’m not.

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Katie works in marketing, a job that demands creative thinking, grueling hours, and can feel pretty thankless. This description likely sounds familiar to anyone who works a white-collar job.

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I would actually highly recommend this novel for work-book clubs, because it could facilitate discussion regarding many aspects of work-life relationships:

  • Work-life balance
  • Relationships with co-workers
  • The importance of hard work
  • Being true to yourself
  • Perception vs. reality
  • Teamwork
  • Goals, and how to achieve them

Sophie Kinsella creates characters who are believable and relatable, and if you are feeling overwhelmed, trying to find your place in the world, or looking for the next book for your book club, then you might enjoy My (not so) Perfect Life.

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2:1 – Two Books I Didn’t Finish that weren’t Completely Awful

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I recently received, and tried to read, a couple of ARCs from Netgalley.

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One of these was James William Brown’s My Last Lament,

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the other, Alyssa Maxwell’s A Pinch of Poison.

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I was unable to finish either of them, not necessarily because they were bad – they just weren’t for me.

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James William Brown’s tale is epistolary, a format I generally dislike. You meet Aliki, a lamenter, which is basically a person who professionally laments. You can read about them in Classical Greek works – at the funeral, you’ve got your coffin, your pallbearers, and your grieving women, who cry/scratch their faces/pull out their hair (aka, lament). Aliki has been approached by one of those young, ambitious educational people, who are seeking a PhD and need juicy subject matter to force themselves to write their thesis about. This chick wants to know about lamenting, and has provided Aliki with a tape recorder, since initial meetings were not very forthcoming (and also, it’s a tape recorder, which must be wicked cheap these days since everyone can just record on their smart phones now). But Aliki doesn’t want to talk about lamenting. She wants to lament on behalf of herself, on behalf of her village, which she witnessed nearly torn asunder by the awful World War II.

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That is, unfortunately, all that I know. I did not get very far in this novel, because while the tape recording makes sense (a woman who makes her living by vocalizing grief will, of course, choose an oral, rather than written, method, to vocalize her own), I just generally don’t like epistolary novels. And this one was no exception. I am a fan of the subject matter, and think that if you do not have the intense hatred for epistolary novels that I do, you should most definitely give it a try.

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Alyssa Maxwell’s story is a mystery, set in the early twentieth century, and is the second book of a series in which a “lady” named Phoebe and her “maid” Eva since mysteries and talk about the plight of women. Phoebe’s all “Oh no, I’m supposed to find a husband and take care of the house, but all I really want to do is put myself in danger, get my maid in trouble, and flirt poorly with this guy I will obviously get married to and take care of his house later.” Eva’s like “I’m totes fine with being a maid. I’m good at it. I fucking LOVE it. But really, secretly, I don’t love it, which is why I’m trying to Sherlock Holmes my way through some local murders with my mistress, hoping that this will somehow get me out of my servants role. Also, I’m going to pretend I don’t like this constable guy, even though I’m obviously totally into him and I’m going to marry him and take care of his house and lose my role of lady’s maid that way.” Also, there are annoying schoolgirls, the headmistress dies, and I don’t really care who committed the murder. A mediocre mystery. But some people like those.

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Are YOU in the mood for a mediocre mystery?

Those are two books that I could not finish recently. What about you? Did you pick something up, hoping to love, or at least like, it, and become sorely disappointed? Let me know the last book you Could. Not. Finish. below!

Tape recorder image: J.smith at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The Wicked Boy

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So… I actually read The Wicked Boy, written by Kate Summerscale, last year, meant to review it, and completely spaced.

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#whoops

The Wicked Boy was released in July 2016, and is a nonfiction account of an actual matricide perpetuated in Victorian London. 13-year-old Robert Coombes stabbed his mother while his father was out at sea. Summerscale carefully researched this account, and writes the details in a competent and fairly interesting manner. Did Robert have conspirators? If so, how involved were they? Why would Robert have committed the crime that he did? What happened after the murder was discovered? All aspects considered within this book.

However.

When I picked this book up, I was expecting a fictional narrative. And this work, while interesting, does not provide me with the closure that a novel could have given. In a fiction work you can come up with a specific reason – Robert was protecting his brother, for instance – for the crime. In a non-fiction, research book, no definitives can be given. While this lack of closure is because the crime actually occurred, and people are messy, as are their motivations for doing things. Going into the book with that expectation, however, resulted in my feeling sorely disappointed when it was not furnished. As such, my main criticism of the novel is not a criticism against the author; it is, instead, a warning for readers. If you’re not generally a non-fiction fan, there’s a good chance you won’t like this book.

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Expectations can make or break an experience

My other quibble with this book, is that I felt that last several chapters were unnecessary. Because Summerscale cannot provide resolution regarding the murder, she attempts to provide it by exploring the life that Robert Coombes lived afterwards, which *spoiler alert!*seems to indicate that he was able to come to terms with whatever motivations led to the matricide, and become a productive citizen. While I feel that I understand what she was trying to accomplish – maybe people can change! If provided with the appropriate tools and opportunities – it didn’t quite work for me. Perhaps if the last few chapters had been condensed, it would have worked for me. But the way it’s currently written, the ending drags on, and I certainly don’t care as much about the resolution as the author herself.

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Overall, this book was… okay. I think that true crime buffs, and non-fiction readers interested in information about England in the Victorian era will find it interesting. Intrigued and wishing it were a novel? Give it a pass. Researching middle-class crime in the Victorian era? Give it a read.

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Will you like it? Like so much in life, it depends.

Have you read this book? What were your thoughts? I would love to read them!

Fighting for Your Right to Be Who You Are

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Okay, I know the title makes it appear that this is a political post, but bear with me. I am not going to discuss our current political climate; I am going to review Walker Long’s upcoming work, Swapship Troopers:

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Swapship Troopers is available for pre-order on Amazon, slated for release on Thursday, January 19. I had the privilege of reading an advanced copy of this work, and in a snapshot, guys: I highly recommend.

Swapship Troopers is a satiric take on Robert A. Heinlein’s work Starship Troopers. Private Quantrill is in the marine corps, putting his life on the line in the war against Bugs. These aren’t your regular, disgusting creepy crawlies. These bugs are gigantic alien species who can easily render even the most skilled fighters lifeless in a matter of seconds.

In addition to having their lives on the line, there is also the question of whether or not they’re doing much living. In the midst of war, there is one thing, in particular, that people tend to miss: la petite mort.

Luckily for these soldiers, there are some genetically altering drugs that allow for some fun times…

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This work is fun. You don’t have to have already read Starship Troopers in order to enjoy it (although you might enjoy the work more if you have read it; I actually cannot comment on that, since I haven’t). Yet, this book is not simply an erotic fiction; it is a piece of fiction that happens to contain erotic scenes. Due to the opportunity at first thrust upon him, and later provided to him, Quantrill learns about himself, while simultaneously having to deal with the preconceptions and expectations that come with the very idea, as well as embodiment of womanhood.

I was impressed with the manner in which Long portrayed the developing romance and Quantrill’s self-awareness, which add an element of sweetness to the story. This sweetness is juxtaposed with the brutality of the war being fought, as well as steamy sex scenes.

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#steamy

I really liked this novella. Have you read it? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Countdown to Good Writing

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I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of Paul Auster’s 4 3 2 1, and it. Was. Amazing.

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Look for this book on Jan. 31!

Archie Ferguson, born in NYC, is a normal boy with athletic and literary inclinations. This novel examines four ways in which his life might have occurred, if certain key moments in his life had or had not happened. There are certain desires and activities that remain the same regardless of the circumstances, but they generally manifest in different ways.

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It’s kind of like Sliding Doors, but on crack, and not primarily focused on romance.

Archie – in all four variants – is real. He has normal thoughts, he has flaws, he is smart yet sometimes foolish, and so easy to like as a character.

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As likable as a Keanu meme

In addition to the regular trials and tribulations of being a kid and teenager, Ferguson and his loved ones also experience the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, and the turmoil and momentous moments of the time are interesting, and currently feel topical. Political dissent, and people arguing over whether or not others are treating them as equals? Definitely problems that our society is currently facing.

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You should read this book.

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… & you should, too!

2016: My Reading List

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You know how you get that notification and e-mail from Goodreads, telling you to look back at what you’ve read for the year? When I clicked this link, I was told I read 7 books in 2016. This undoubtedly proves that I am using the site incorrectly, and is also patently untrue. So I’ve decided to create my own list of books that I read in 2016, because I don’t fucking need Goodreads to do it for me.

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1. A World Without Princes

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Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 stars

One-line review: While not as charming as its’ predecessor, Chainani continues to amuse with his unique twisting of fairy tale tropes.

2. How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life

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Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 stars

One-line review: This slightly ridiculous plot follows protagonist Abby Randolphe turn her life around through a mix of luck, epiphany, and effort.

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3. Howl’s Moving Castle

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Goodreads rating: 5 out of 5 stars

One-line review: A well-known and well-loved story, this fairy-tale retelling is filled with magic and well worth reading.

4. The Glimpses of the Moon

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Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 stars

One-line review: Follow newlyweds Nick and Susy as they struggle with that age-old question: Is love really all you need? because being poor is awful.

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5. Love in the Time of Global Warming

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Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 stars

One-line review: A re-telling of the Odyssey, this book has interesting ideas and sounds promising, but is missing Block’s poetry.

6. Inherent Vice

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Goodreads rating: 5 out of 5 stars

One-line review: A mystery novel with an unorthodox detective that takes place in the ’60s, this book is fantastic.

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7. Immaculate

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Goodreads rating: 2 out of 5 stars

One-line review: This book is poorly written religious propaganda. It was so bad, I considered writing a parody of it about Leda, but… didn’t have the time.

8. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

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Goodreads rating: 5 out of 5 stars

One-line review: Flavia de Luce is the shit, and if you have not read this novel yet, you should do so now.

9. The Island of Excess Love

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Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 stars

One-line review: This re-telling of the Aeneid is not very good; I do not recommend reading it.

10. The Evolution of Mara Dyer

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Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 stars

One-line review: This sequel is not as good as the first in the series; however, it is a decent book.

11. The Retribution of Mara Dyer

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Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 stars

One-line review: The conclusion to the Mara Dyer trilogy, I was personally not satisfied with this ending, which felt a bit like a cheat.

12. Holding Court

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Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 stars

One-line review: This mystery novel is as fun to attend as a renaissance faire; join the psychic teenage protagonist as she agonizes over whether or not a cute guy wants to date her, and solves a murder.

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13. Landline

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Goodreads rating: 5 out of 5 stars

One-line review: Georgie, cool, funny television writer, is married to Neal, nerdy, funny artist, but that marriage might be in trouble; when she discovers that the landline telephone at her parents’ house allows her to speak with her husband in the past (and pre-marriage), the subsequent conversations allow her to gain a deeper understanding of her relationship and her priorities.

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14. Britt-Marie was Here

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Goodreads rating: 5 out of 5 stars

One-line review: Britt-Marie is compulsively clean, and rejoining the workforce after a few decades.. this novel is wonderful, and you should read it.

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15. Alias Grace

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Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 stars

One-line review: Grace Marks was imprisoned at a young age, accused of being an accomplice in the grim murder of her employer and his mistress; whether or not she is guilty in this fictionalized (but well-researched) account provides for a fascinating feminist read.

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16. I Almost Forgot About You

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Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 stars

One-line review: Dr. Georgia Young is not quite as young, anymore; yet the middle-aged woman is determined to turn her life into one with which she is happy in this inspiring and heartwarming read from Terry McMillan.

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17. June

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Goodreads rating: 5 out of 5 stars

One-line review: When famous film stars come to a small town in Ohio to shoot a big-budget film, shit gets crazy…

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18. Forever

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Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 stars

One-line review: Teenage love is real and raw in this classic YA novel by Judy Blume; it’s a bit dated, but the feelings and the sex are timeless teenage relationship fodder.

19. Good Bones and Simple Murders

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Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 stars

One-line review: A collection of short stories, prominently featuring feminist and creative subject matters, some of which are great, some of which were not quite my bag.

20. The Accidental Alchemist

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Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 stars

One-line review: Mediocre mystery that spends more time discussing vegan cooking than the plot.

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21. Tell the Wind and Fire

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Goodreads rating: 5 out of 5 stars

One-line review: A YA re-telling of A Tale of Two Cities that was an amazing read.

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22. Rich and Pretty

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Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 stars

One-line review: One girl is really pretty, one girl is really rich, they’re best friends, and the writing is fairly good, although the story meanders – a lot.

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23. The Monsters of Templeton

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Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 stars

One-line review: Willie Upton returns home, lost and pregnant. While struggling to figure out what to do about her life, she invests her energy into discovering the truth about her family’s history, in the process unearthing some unsavory secrets and a town curse.

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24. Fates and Furies

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Goodreads rating: 5 out of 5 stars

One-line review: Marriage is a crazy thing, and perspective affects the manner in which the relationship is perceived; this novel is amazing.

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25. Under the Greenwood Tree

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Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 stars

One-line review: One of Thomas Hardy’s pastoral romances; this work is a great analysis of a small English town.

26. Educating his Bride

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Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 stars

One-line review: When a young college student gets married to one of her professors, she embarks into the real world — learning what it is to be an adult, to be in a relationship, and to be okay with sex.

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27. I’m Just a Person

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Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 stars

One-line review: Not the best idea for a mother’s day read, but Tig is an interesting individual who shows strength and resilience in the face of a year when everything seemed to go wrong; this read is inspiring and highly recommended.

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28. My Best Friend’s Exorcism

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Goodreads rating: 5 out of 5 stars

One-line review: This book is like a montage of ’80s horror movies, with a heart, and BFF’s forever; highly recommend!

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29. Crisanta Knight: Protagonist Bound

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Goodreads rating: 2 out of 5 stars

One-line review: Crisanta Knight is the daughter of Cinderella, and she’s really annoying; this book is for those readers who really want to read a fairy-tale inspired series and don’t really care about the quality of the writing.

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30. Furiously Happy

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Goodreads rating: 5 out of 5 stars

One-line review: This short story anthology contains stories that are both touching and hilarious, and deal with mental illness.

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31. We Love You, Charlie Freeman

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Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 stars

One-line review: The Freeman family is taking part in a study to teach sign language to a chimpanzee; this novel deals with many difficult experiences in a way that is probing, and really makes you care about the characters.

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32. Killing Monica

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Goodreads rating: 2 out of 5 stars

One-line review: A group of women in Manhattan meet, giggle, gossip, but from the amount of vapidity and lack of soul displayed, this novel would have fared better had it veered into a horror novel (which, with a title like “Killing Monica” you might be expecting, but such expectations will leave you sorely disappointed).

33. The Postman Always Rings Twice

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Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 stars

One-line review: Pulp noir fiction that is entertaining, with realistic characters and which I highly recommend.

34. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

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Goodreads rating: 2 out of 5 stars

One-line review: Leonard is an abused, down-on-his luck teen who has trouble interacting with people, and has decided to commit suicide; this book was supposed to make you feel for Leonard in the way that you feel for Willy Loman, but it doesn’t work.

35. Kisses from Hell

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Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 stars

One-line review: This collection of YA short stories all feature a supernatural element, and vary widely in the degree of quality displayed by the authors.

36. Saint Anything

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Goodreads rating: 5 out of 5 stars

One-line review: Sydney has a brother who is so much larger-than-life, she tends to get lost in the shadow of his spotlight; when he is arrested for a drunk driving incident in which he accidentally maims a teenage boy, Sydney’s parents continue to ignore her while putting more restrictions on her life that cause more problems than solutions.

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37. The Light of Paris

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Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 stars

One-line review: To live a loveless life, or take a chance on being a destitute artist; that is the question in this fairly enjoyable read.

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38. Audrey, Wait!

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Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 stars

One-line review: When Audrey breaks up with her musician boyfriend, he writes a song about it — that becomes a hit; very enjoyable YA fluff.

39. Teen Spirit

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Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 stars

One-line review: Desperate with grief, Julie enlists the help of her friend to attempt to contact her deceased grandmother via ouija board; this action unleashes her friend’s dark secret, and sends them on a supernaturally tinged adventure.

40. Dora’s Box

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Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 stars

One-line review: When she loses her work-study job at the university, Dora is at her wits’ end, until she realizes the significance of a box she inherited from her grandmother; good read for plot readers, although the characters are kind of annoying.

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41. Defending Taylor

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Goodreads rating: 2 out of 5 stars

One-line review: Soccer, politics, and bad writing.

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42. The Sunflower Cottage Breakfast Club

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Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 stars

One-line review: Overly sweet romance about a woman who’s good at her job and just needs “a good man” (which I’m pretty sure is romance-speak for huge dick) to help her understand what she’s been missing in her life; also, there’s, like, family drama and shit.

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43. The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters

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Goodreads rating: 2 out of 5 stars

One-line review: Those who suffer from insomnia should borrow this book from the library, since reading it is far more likely to induce narcolepsy than counting sheep.

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44. Lucy and Andy Neanderthal

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Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 stars

One-line review: This graphic novel is intended for a younger audience; it was cute, enjoyable, and age appropriate.

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45. Emily

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Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 stars

One-line review: 3 short stories by a famed Japanese author, these stories were interesting, but I’m not sure the translation does them justice.

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46. L.A. Candy

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Goodreads rating: 2 out of 5 stars

One-line review: As vapid and pointless as a reality TV show, which is sort of what this novel is about; I do not recommend.

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47. Funny Girl

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Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 stars

One-line review: It may be a fiction, but this novel still provides an inspiring story of a woman who breaks boundaries and proves that women can be funny as well as beautiful.

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48. Mrs. Caliban

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Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 stars

One-line review: The lizard-man walks into Mrs. Caliban’s kitchen, and the reader is forced to determine whether or not this sixties housewife is sane or not, in this award-winning novella.

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49. Wintergirls

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Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 stars

One-line review: Lia is a wintergirl; she doesn’t want to eat, and when she doesn’t, she doesn’t feel… So. Well. Done.

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50. The Glass-Blowers

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Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 stars

One-line review: The Duval family, skilled in the art of glass-blowing, live through the reign of Louis XVI, the tumult of the revolution… well, many of them… in this interesting historical fiction novel.

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51. Shattered Glass Shards

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Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 stars

One-line review: This novel reads like a fan fiction – a writer who novelizes a thinly veiled version of her last relationship becomes a bestselling author, which includes a movie deal… with her ex slated to play the part of the manipulative male lead.

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52. Off the Page

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Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 stars

One-line review: The idea is interesting; the story is a bit bland.

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53. The Wicked Boy

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Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 stars

One-line review: Summerscale researched and wrote about a fascinating case wherein a young boy murdered his mother.

Blog post to come!

54. Odd Girl Out

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Goodreads rating: 5 out of 5 stars

One-line review: This novel is wonderful; explore the meaning of love with Elizabeth Jane Howard’s exquisite writing.

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55. Kiss Me Kill Me

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Goodreads rating: 2 out of 5 stars

One-line review: I could barely even finish this book, which is legitimately a story about a girl who thinks she killed the boy she had a crush on because she kissed him… Yeah…

56. Smoke and Mirrors

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Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 stars

One-line review: This short story anthology by Neil Gaiman varies widely in quality – there are a couple of stories that are very, very good, and many mediocre ones, as well as poem-stories that, frankly, did not appeal to me very much.

57. Someone Else’s Summer

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Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 stars

One-line review: An annoying little cheerleader with no imagination decides to perform her recently deceased sister’s “summer to-do list” in order to, like, find herself or something.

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58. Beautiful Ruins

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Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 stars

One-line review: This book likely does not hold any deep truths for you to learn about yourself (although I think Walter tries, that aspect of his story didn’t quite work, for me); however, the story is generally interesting and well-written.

Currently reading, and plan to finish in 2016: 4 3 2 1

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This book is so, so, so, so good. Will be on sale in January 2017, and blog post to come.

So, there you are. A little more than a book each week, which, for those who have trouble with math, is slightly more than the 7 that Goodreads says I read.

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In all seriousness, I generally like Goodreads, and keep harping on this difference because I find it hilarious.

Have you read any of these books? What was your reading like in 2016? Please share your thoughts, your links, etc., in the comments!

Less Interesting than Pretty Little Liars #bookreview

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I recently received and read an ARC of Rachel Bateman’s Someone Else’s Summer from Netgalley:

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I have mixed feelings about this novel. I actually really liked the plotline, though it was fairly predictable. Someone Else’s Summer follows Anna, the effortlessly beautiful, popular high school cheerleader who realizes upon the death of her sister that she has potentially lost touch with a reality that her dead sister Storm understood intimately. She discovers her sister’s list, meant to be accomplished during the summer after Storm graduates and before beginning college, until the car crash on graduation night that prematurely took her life.

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Beauty, death, road trip… it’s like an episode of a TV show on ABC family.

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Except that unlike the earnest beauties of questionable intelligence becoming embroiled in drama and solving mysteries on a popular cable network, this novel features an earnest beauty who is fucking annoying as hell.

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Give me an “A!” Give me an “N!” Give me an “N-O-Y-I-tkN-G!!”

Overall, it was difficult to feel sympathetic for Anna. And it was difficult to see why her love interest, literally obvious from the first page of the novel, was in love with her, other than her beauty.

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… which brings us to the same question as this movie: is this girl just the equivalent of a dessert to [love . If I were to sum up the interest]?
In addition to featuring an aggravating, unsympathetic protagonist, I was also not particularly a fan of the writing style. There were moments, glimpses in the writing, of the book that I had been hoping this one would be. However, overall, the writing is not quite as polished as it should be. This novel reads as a draft, that should have been further edited.

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This YA novel is okay. If I were to sum it up in one word, it would be “meh.” I like the idea of the novel, just not its’ execution. Unfortunately, I do not recommend.

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#dontrecommend

Have you read Someone Else’s Summer? Or are you planning to? Please share your thoughts in the comments!