I recently received, and tried to read, a couple of ARCs from Netgalley.
One of these was James William Brown’s My Last Lament,
the other, Alyssa Maxwell’s A Pinch of Poison.
I was unable to finish either of them, not necessarily because they were bad – they just weren’t for me.
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.
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.
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.
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
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:”
A comparison to Practical Magic? I’m flattered beyond belief right now.
I received an ARC of Rosemary Rey’s novel Stained Glass Shards via Netgalley.
This novel is a romance/erotica that switches viewpoints between former long-time lovers Griffin and Elyce, who had a 50-Shades-of-Fucked-Up-Even-Though-That-Isn’t-A-Saying relationship until Elyce abruptly grew a backbone and ended it.
Griffin is a movie star. Insanely good-looking, great actor, went to school in Boston with Elyce, which is where they met and became friends-with-benefits.
Elyce is the gal who secretly wanted Griffin to fall in love with her and marry her, but didn’t think it was within the realm of possibility until she realized, well, fuck, if he’s not into it I should dump his ass and find someone who is. So she breaks up with him, and writes a thinly-veiled fictionalization of their relationship which becomes a bestseller. That is optioned for movie rights, and furthermore, is actively picked up to be made into a movie. I think you see where this is going…
This novel was not quite my cup of tea. Rey’s writing is a bit too literal to me, reading a bit woodenly. Also, Elyce kind of got on my nerves.
BUT I also thought Rey did a great job of taking a storyline that was starting to read like a fan fic, and delve into the relationship a bit more. The stained glass metaphor was painfully drawn out, but I get why it’s in the book. Rey is dealing with appearance vs. reality, and her characters actively grow and change. Perspective is a major component of this book, which I loved.
I would recommend if you are in the mood for some sexy fluff. I don’t recommend as a romance, but I do recommend if you want to escape a bit.
Have you read Stained Glass Shards? What did you think? Who was your favorite character?
I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of Mrs. Caliban from Netgalley.
Mrs. Caliban is a novella, originally published in 1982. The novel follows Dorothy, a depressed housewife whose children have died and whose husband is unfaithful, as she potentially meets a large sea monster. As we all know, sea monsters are sexy.
Unless there is no sea monster at all.
Narrated in a matter-of-fact manner that in no way dissuades from the notion that there is a good chance the protagonist is mentally ill, this novella forces the reader to wonder what the reality of the novel is. The problems – the tangled soap opera that is Dorothy’s life, the death, the specifics of the infidelity, are clear to the reader before being officially revealed in the novella. To be honest, it is unclear to me if the work is written that way on purpose or not.
Personally, I get the impression that this novella is written with some intent, yet that some of what might be construed as literary purposefulness is actually poor writing. Dorothy is described almost mechanically, yet she is not an emotionless robot, as it is clear she is no longer medicating herself to be an emotionless vacuum, and also an emotionless person would not deal with her husband’s shit as long as she has, or even be interested in saving or having sexy times with a lizard.
I feel that this novella is interesting, conceptually, but that the concept is not quite pulled off. If you are looking for a short read, and you like the story or idea more than the writing and characterization, give it a try. Otherwise, you might want to pass.
I recently received an ARC of the graphic novel Lucy and Andy Neanderthal,
which is now available in print!
Let me preface this review by mentioning that this is only the second or third graphic novel I have ever read, and it is obviously aimed at a young audience. Per Goodreads, this novel is aimed for “Young Readers.” However, given these circumstances, I thought this graphic novel was fairly amusing, informative, and overall, would recommend.
Jeffrey Brown has obviously done his homework. The novel is divided into chapters, which start with a brief, comic vignette, followed by a scientific breakdown of the fact or fiction lying beneath that vignette, as relayed by two goofy scientists.
This book is not only young reader-friendly, it is also designed to spark a love for learning in the young mind. One of my favorite things about this graphic novel is that it ended by explaining that while neanderthals are cool, one of the coolest things about them is that what we know about them is constantly expanding, and as our knowledge grows, some of the current theories are refined and/or debunked. It was a great way to point out that life is about learning, a lesson that, hopefully, young readers will take to heart.
My only complaint, which may very well not be legitimate, since I am not a connoisseur of graphic novels, is that I am not certain this work is a graphic novel. While the vignettes do weave together in a way to tell a story, this work feels more like a collection of short comics, rather like an Archie digest, than a novel told through a medium of art and words.
I also have to say, this work is definitely written for a younger crowd, and I can only recommend to those who enjoy reading middle grade. Not that that caveat is saying anything negative, since the work was written explicitly for younger readers. Overall, though, it made me laugh a few times, the artwork is fun and well done, and you might learn a thing or two.
I recently received an ARC of The Sunflower Cottage Breakfast Club by Lynsey James.
This novel is a chick-lit book from the UK, part of a series James writes that occur in Luna Bay. The cover is adorable:
The story, meanwhile? … perhaps too adorable.
The beginning is strong. Good writing, strong and funny protagonist. Emily Reed is having one of those days that snowballs – just when she thinks it can’t get any worse, something worse happens to prove her wrong. The icing on the cake? Family secrets come out that make her question everything, including her identity.
Desperate to escape her office, where a poor salesgirl has trumped her to a promotion by becoming intimate with the boss, Emily escapes to Luna Bay, which offers her some work (because who doesn’t want to work for her crooked boss instead of taking a real vacation?) and the possibility of gaining closure regarding the family secrets that have recently come to light.
Somewhere in the middle, the protagonist turns into a wish-washy mess who constantly has to tell the reader what she’s usually like, because her actions throughout the rest of the novel are going to run counter to these statements.
The love story that weaves throughout much of the novel is first, predictable…
… and then, overly adorable.
The ending, unfortunately, does not redeem the muddling middle.
As I mentioned previously, this book is part of a series. It is possible that the first novel in this series, The Broken Hearts Book Club, is considerably better. I actually haven’t read it, but often, the first book in a series is the best book in a series. But I do not recommend The Sunflower Cottage Breakfast Club.
Have you read either of these novels? What are your thoughts? Please share in the comments!
This book comes out on May 17th!
It has horror, and it is funny!
Eighties mentions make it retro,
Help you go back in time…
We got the read!
We got the read!
We got the read!
Yeah, you’ve gotta read…
[Author’s note: Lyrics to be read to the ’80s classic “We’ve Got the Beat” by the Go-Gos]
[Author’s note 2: These lyrics are the sole creation of author Bambi Quim, and therefore are not actually quoting anyone.]
My Best Friend’s Exorcism, by Grady Hendrix, comes out Tuesday, May 17th. And you should read it.
An homage to the ’80s, in general, as well as horror movies, in particular, My Best Friend’s Exorcism is funny, whimsical, and wonderful. Narrated by Abby Rivers, the story details her friendship with Gretchen Lang, which began in fourth grade at a roller disco party, spending a particular amount of time detailing the trial of that friendship in high school, when Gretchen is possessed.
If you are a John Hughes fan (ignoring She’s Having a Baby, which is just awful), if you know who Tiffany, Flock of Seagulls, and Duran Duran are, if you understand the difference between ’80s Madonna and ’90s Madonna (and have maybe even seen Desperately Seeking Susan), or can sing along with the undeniably fabulous rap scene from Teen Witch, you not only should read this book. You need to read this book.
I adored this book, guys. The writing is fairly decent, but it is the references, the slang, and the warm feelings created by evoking an earlier time and an authentic friendship between Abby and Gretchen that makes this book a must-read.
So now that you all know you need to read this book, tell me your favorite ’80s movie, music, or book, in the comments! Then, schedule your Tuesday to make sure you can snag a copy of My Best Friend’s Exorcism.