Glowing Comparison

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I was checking out Goodreads, as I am wont to do (especially when I have work for my actual job that almost pays me a living wage), when I came across this review for my short story “Let Down My Hair:”

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A comparison to Practical Magic? I’m flattered beyond belief right now.

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Over the moon right now

Magic – It’s All Childish Whimsy until all of the Rape

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Warning: This blog post is going to be chock full of spoilers. Not just full. Chock full.

I recently discovered that Netflix had a new series available to binge: Syfy’s The Magicians. Based on the brief synopsis, it sounded like a Harry Potter knock-off, but potentially interesting, and so I clicked “Play.”

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The series started pretty much as expected. Quentin Coldwater doesn’t feel like he fits in anywhere. This feeling could be correct, and it also might have something to do with the fact that he would rather read children’s literature than partake in the party occurring in his own apartment.

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His best friend on whom he’s secretly had a long and unreciprocated crush is Julia (in the sequinned mini-skirt above), who is well-adjusted, has her shit together, and plans to soon attend Yale graduate school. Quentin isn’t sure where he’s going to go to graduate school, until both he and Julia are unexpectedly pulled onto a magical campus to apply for Brakebills, the magical university they didn’t know existed until they were sitting in a classroom to take a written exam for it.

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Welcome to Brakebills

Quentin is delighted to discover that he can do magic, and that he is accepted.

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Julia is devastated to discover that magic is real, but she didn’t pass the examination to get into Brakebills.

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Sorry, Julia

At first, the series is fairly entertaining, despite the fact that the first few episodes are filled with exposition. There are some scary moments, and Julia is losing her shit, but overall, you feel that Quentin and the other first-year students have found a place where they can fit in and flourish. Except, even in the beginning, there are these forebodings of what will come, such as when Elliot tells Quentin where magic comes from.

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Are you fucking kidding me?

At first, I brushed these off. Julia had to learn that she’s not necessarily perfect at everything, and the characters are a bit melodramatic and goth. I can deal. And then, episode 9 happened…

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In this episode, the series takes a hard left turn, wherein those lovable ol’ collegiate kids (Quentin & co.) discover that the children’s books Quentin likes reading about a magical place called Fillmore were written by an awful man who adopted orphans, and then proceeded to drug and rape them. Specifically, Christopher Plover (the author), molested Martin Chadwick, one of the inspirations for the Fillmore book series. Christopher Plover’s sister, on the other hand, is so mortified that someone might find out that her brother is gay/molesting children, that she is very severe on the children, drugging them, hitting them, and putting them in “the silent room.” I honestly don’t even remember what this episode added to the series other than abject horror and unnecessary child abuse, but do want to point out one important aspect that seems to have been misinterpreted. Martin and his sister Jane both used to gain access to Fillmore, but lately, Fillmore has not been allowing Martin in (way to completely abandon a boy who needs magic more than anyone; I know Fillmore’s a place and not a person, but if it was a person, it would be not just a dick, but a bag of them…), and Martin has asked his sister to hunt down a magical animal to request an object (which turns out to be a button) that will allow the person in possession of it to travel to Fillmore. It is unclear how aware Jane is of what is being done to her brother, but she does as he asks. The characters in the show, and some people in the blogosphere have commented that Martin requested this button so that he could get back into Fillmore. But I don’t think that’s actually true. When Jane is successful, and shows the button to Martin, he is adamant that it should be kept secret from Plover (which Jane doesn’t understand, insinuating that she is unaware of how awful Plover truly is), and furthermore, he gives it to their younger brother, George, who it sounds like has not gone to Fillory on his own. Martin gives the button to George, and tells him to hide it so no one else can find it. So Martin doesn’t want the button for himself; he wants it for his brother. Martin has already been experiencing the abuse, and it sucks, but most important to him is that George never has to experience it, if possible. I feel like this is an important distinction, because while Martin definitely could be selfish and keep the button for himself to try to avoid the pictures and rape, he is strong enough to forego the easy way to escape his situation for the sake of someone else. This nobility also makes the scene in which Plover’s sister discovers George spying and fucking kills him that much more terrible. Martin did what he could to save his brother, only for his brother to die just as salvation seemed assured. Furthermore, when Ms. Plover hides her brother’s body, she unwittingly takes the magical button with him, thereby removing Martin’s chance of escape by means that his brother is no longer able to use.

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Honestly, after the ninth episode, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue watching, to see where the story was going. The problem with the ninth episode was that it felt… wrong. Not just in the, this story included awful things happening to kids, way – in the this story seems like it might have included unnecessary awful-ness to children, in a way that will do little to nothing to contribute to the story, and if the story essentially ignores what occurred, then it’s kind of assenting to a way of glorifying the portrayal of such violence. I gave it some thought. I remembered the redeeming moment of the episode, for me, which is when Alice points out that while it may be too late to save these kids from what was done to them, they can do something to figure out how to stop the children from having to relive the awful things done to them, which is occurring every night. I read some blog posts about the episode, and the series, and found that it seemed that a lot of people seemed to really like it, and that other watchers did not seem to find the episode overly gratuitous. So I decided to continue watching the series, to see if the episode and first season was appropriately resolved.

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This decision was a mistake. 😦

Quentin and Co. pretty much didn’t seem fucked up by what they had witnessed. They had, like, a two-minute conversation or something, concurred with Elliott that there was no point in trying to help the children (which is like agreeing to not help Sisyphus when you had the chance; Elliott’s a fucking asshole), and skipping away to focus on saving themselves and having sex.

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Elliott’s a dick

Now, I have no problem with sex. But The Magicians handles it all wrong. Almost everyone who has sex is so fucking serious about it, it sucks all the fun out of it. Hearing Alice and Quentin talk about having sex with each other could be shown in sex education courses to convince kids: “Don’t bother; it’s too freakin’ annoying having these conversations to justify it.”

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Forget about trying to scare kids from having sex with the threat of pregnancy – just make them watch Alice and Quentin talk about it. #soboring

Then, while the show refused to save the ghost children from living torture and death over and over again, it does make a very odd connection. You realize it in episode 13, where you discover that Julia was raped by a trickster god and now she’s a master magician. And the moth monster, whom everyone assumed for the unsubstantiated reason that he was a terrible person is Christopher Plover, turns out to be Martin. Thus, the disturbing connection that the show is making is that rape will cause the magician to become very powerful, which ties in to Elliott’s statement that magic comes from pain, but also just feels fucked up for the sake of being fucked up. Like, congratulations, your rape scenes are shocking and gross, and now I have come to the conclusion that everyone in charge of this show is a disgusting person. Sometimes, violence and abuse are necessary to the story being told. But in the case of this series? Both just feel tacked on. It’s not edgy, it’s not cool, it’s just sick.

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So me, personally? I don’t plan on watching season 2. Have you seen this series? Were you able to watch the entire thing? Did you have the same visceral reactions I did, or do you disagree?

Series photos obtained from the Syfy website.
Cat facepalm photo By Cat image: barbostick from Chicago Facepalm image: Joe Loong [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Wrong way sign By LincolnGroup11 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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.

free glitter text and family website at FamilyLobby.com

You should read this book.

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… & you should, too!

Models are Terrifying

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I have watched Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon two times now, and the movie still mesmerizes me.

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For those who haven’t yet seen it, here is the synopsis:

When aspiring model Jesse moves to Los Angeles, her youth and vitality are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will take any means necessary to get what she has.

The movie is a smorgasbord of images, juxtaposed with haunting music to create a thriller/horror film, in the vein of Rosemary’s Baby and The Ring. It is frightening by virtue of the creation of atmosphere; you feel that something is wrong, even during a seemingly innocent discussion at a party.

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This horror movie is not purely meant to scare; the idea of beauty interweaves throughout the film. What is beauty? How important is it? Can it be manufactured? It’s not exactly rocket science to use models in an analysis of the concept of beauty, but I would argue that this discussion is done well.

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There are just enough ideas presented; Refn is not going to spoon feed you this movie. The viewer cannot just sit idly and watch this movie, but is forced to think about what is being presented, to actively participate. Refn’s refusal to dumb down his movie by forcing words into a character’s mouths to tell you exactly what he thinks and exactly why he created this film probably explains the divided opinions about this movie. A little more than half of critics and viewers seem to like this movie, with a myriad of others writing that it is “vapid” and “empty.” I would argue that it is not the film that is vapid and empty, although the movie may appear to be so if you do not actually watch it (which includes thinking about what you are seeing, not just gluing your eyeballs to the screen).

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The choice of Elle Fanning to play the naivete, Jesse, at first perplexed me. Elle is, undeniably, pretty. But a supermodel? I’m still not entirely convinced.

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I do, however, see that she presents herself almost as a blank slate, very well. I am sure that Elle is a wonderful person, but she generally comes across as… not very intelligent, in the roles I have seen her in lately. In Maleficent, she seems like a beautiful, happy little idiot. It’s hardly surprising that she falls into an eternal slumber by voluntarily stabbing herself with a needle that’s not even proffering a fun experience, like heroine.

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In The Neon Demon, it’s not quite clear if Jesse is a “doe in the headlights” or simply a “blank slate.” Is she keeping her thoughts to herself, or does she really not have any? And what does it mean that photographers and fashion designers cannot get enough of her?

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I find this movie absolutely fascinating, and keep turning it over in my mind. Have you seen it? What were your thoughts?

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*Images and synopsis were obtained at imdb.com.

Hello 2017 + Reading Goal

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I have signed up to take the 2017 Goodreads reading challenge – my goal? 60 books during the year.

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It’s not significantly more books than I read last year, but I am hoping to focus a bit more on my writing this year. Plus, it’s more than 1 book per week, so I feel that the goal is achievable without being lazy.

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Goals: let’s get a touchdown

Are you on Goodreads? How many books are you aiming to read this year? Or what are some of your other resolutions for 2017? I would love to read your goals in the comments!

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!

Happy Holidays!

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Despite the dearth of my posting this month, I really love and appreciate all readers who stumble across this blog. Thank you for reading, and I hope that you are having a lovely holiday!

xmas