Book Review

Book Review: Us Agains You


Fredrik Bachman does it again with a follow up to Beartown. I’ve given up trying to wipe the tears away and now I just sitting here letting it flow.

I read Beartown last year, and with my memory I was fully expecting to forget all the characters and be completely lost most of the time. However, the author does such a brilliant job of embedding his characters into your soul that I hardly had to try and remember anyone. They all jumped back to life and I remembered that a piece of my heart was reserved for these inhabitants of a small town.

Just like his characters, Bachman doesn’t pull his punches. Nothing is simple, nothing is black and white. Not everyone gets a happy ending. There’s no obvious villain because there’s no villains in real life either. Just people doing what they believe they need to do. You can’t help but feel so strongly for these people, because if you’re honest with yourself, you recognize them. You recognize yourself in them.

I’ve been going through a bit of a reading slump, however I’m pretty sure this book pulled me out of it. I’ve remembered how a really well written book can make you feel things, how much I love being absorbed by a story so well told that you don’t notice the hours slipping by. Being so invested in seeing how it all ends that you stay up much later than you should, but you know the heavy eyelids the next day is worth it.

I might be high on emotions and suffering from lack of sleep right now, but I love this book and it’s author. Thank you Fredrik Bachman for reminding me how much I love reading.

Book Review, Stephen King

Book Review: Sleeping Beauties


Rating: 5 Stars
Date Started: 20 October 2017
Date Finished: 28 October 2017
Pages: 702
Genre: Horror

There’s just something about Stephen (and I guess Owen) King’s writing that I love. I know a lot of people will say that this book dragged on too long and there was a lot of pointlessness in it, but I truly loved every single bit of it. Even the seemingly pointless bits. It added another layer to the world created in this epic that made it feel even more real. Admittedly, it was damned difficult to keep up with all the characters, but at the end of the day each one played their part.

I had an interesting experience reading this book. In general, I frown upon authors using cheap tricks to manipulate the reader’s feelings. There were a lot of things that happened in this book that I would normally consider “cheap tricks”. However let’s look at this in context. This books is making an open statement of pretty much everything that is wrong in this world today. And a lot of that is centered around abuse towards women and minorities. So while I would normally roll my eyes when an author kills a beloved character to prove a point or further the plot, when it was done in this book, it went a little deeper than the surface. Because everything that happened in this book are things that are happening for real all over the world.

I’ve had my fair share of abuse from men, yet I still consider myself lucky because it could have been worse. You hear stories often enough to make you feel like that one boyfriend you had that left a couple of bruises wasn’t the worst you could have ended up with. And hey at least you got away. Even as a mom of a beautiful son who I love with my whole heart, I found myself wondering if I would have voted to come back to this world if I had an opportunity like the women in Our Place?

Sadly, I think there will probably be Stephen King fans who don’t agree with the opinions expressed in this book. He’ll most likely lose a few readers and there might even be an attempt at a “boycot” on his books. Yes, there were cliche’s in abundance and some truly foul characters normally played by men, and this will probably piss off a lot of people and start the shouting of not all men!!! But you know what? Enough men to make this book leave me with a knot in my throat.

Getting past the underlying agenda, the story itself is actually pretty freaking good. I loved Evie and I even found myself feeling sorry for Frank while at the same time I felt like knocking his head against something hard. That’s one thing I can always say about SK’s characters. They’re so rich and unique, they feel real in a way that a lot of fictional characters don’t. I’m pretty sure in another lifetime King would’ve been a pretty decent shrink… or maybe a profiler… which probably more his style.

Bottom line, this book was a great story with a lot of relevant subtext. If you can’t handle that then don’t read it.

Audiobook Review

Audiobook Review: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue


Rating: 5 Stars
Date Started: 30 October 2017
Date Finished: 31 October 2017
Pages: 513  |   Duration: 10:45:48
Genre: Historical Fiction, Adventure, Romance, M/M

That moment when you enjoy a m/m romance about 1000 times more than you ever thought you would…

This book will definitely be going on my favorites of the year list! I listened to the audio version and I think that was the absolute best decision I could have made. The narrator was brilliant and of course I’m putty in your hands if you have a British accent. Naturally I had to find out more (stalk) him, and it turns out he’s the actor who played Tom Riddle in Harry Potter 2… also he’s gorgeous!

Other than the narrator though, I loved the writing and the flow of the book. If I had to use one word to describe it, it would be FUN! I lost count of the times I had to pause because I was giggling too much… I got a fair amount of weird looks for laughing at nothing too!

I realize that at least 60% of the things happening in this book is unrealistic and would have played out a whole different way if it had happened in real life, but I don’t think the point of this book was to be historically accurate or taken too seriously. I’d even say the whole plot was only slightly better than “meh”… I took it as a fun adventure that touched on some touchy subjects, but was mainly focused on the characters and the relationships in the book.

Talking about characters, I loved them all. Monty was a selfish and pompous ass, but OMG he was funny and witty and… vibrant. Percy was caring and sweet and you can completely understand why Monty falls in love with him, even though they’re polar opposites and besides the fact that he thinks he’s gorgeous. Felicity is a badass bitch that refuses to let society put out her flame. I mean I’m pretty sure [book:The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy|35430702] is going to be her adventure, that’s how awesome she is. She’s flawless and Monty would be completely dead without her. Honestly he really is a bit useless… but maybe just because he’s been told that so much that he started believing it? He’s fabulous though.

The other characters were also different degrees of lovable and interesting, with the pirates and Captain Scipio being my favorites… I’ve always had a fascination with pirates (even before Pirates of the Caribbean) and I really hope they feature prominently in the next book! Considering the title I think it’s a safe bet 😁


Audiobook Review

Audiobook Review: The Fireman


Let me just state, first and foremost, I really loved this book. I haven’t read that much of Joe Hill’s stuff, but I obviously know who he’s related to, and I’m a super-fan of King. Which is also why it was pretty difficult to ignore the similarities between this dystopian novel, and The Stand. They’re completely different, yet a lot alike.

The similarities though… Not only do we have a deaf boy called Nick, but we also have a guy called Harold who hated everyone in the community and kept a diary filled with his hateful thoughts. A little meta, but Hill didn’t just draw from his father’s work. Mary Poppins had a significant role, and even J.K. Rowling was dragged in. It was a little disconcerting, but to be fair, these people are pretty big in real life, and it wouldn’t be weird for me to come across conversations about them or their works. I guess that’s what made it disconcerting… it made it feel like this book is set in our world… not a fictional one.

In the Fireman, we see a dystopia where people get infected with Dragonskin (I actually prefer it’s medical name; Draco Incendia Trychophyton, which has a beautiful, almost poetic ring to it), which seems to cause whoever is infected to spontaneously combust. Understandably, there’s a panic, and all kinds of shit goes down. What’s left is split between the healthy and the infected, with the healthy paranoid about staying that way.
This, of course, brings out the worst of humanity, and you have people who embrace their own sociopathic tendencies and use the legitimate fear of others to fan the flames of hysteria. Of course, after that it’s easy to justify genocide… you know, it’s for the good of everyone else.

We follow Harper, our Mary-Sue main character who is obsessed with Mary Poppins and tries to emulate her in everything she does, who gets infected with Dragonscale pretty early on. She is also pregnant, and determined to be delivered of her baby because she’s sure he’ll be healthy. Her husband doesn’t agree, and in trying to escape him and the people who kill the infected “for the greater good”, she is found by The Fireman and taken to a community of infected people. Here, she finds out that being infected doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to combust, as long as you give the spore what it craves… Oxytocin. I immediately wondered why this is not bigger news, but of course, scared people don’t necessarily listen to reason. Especially if they have a figurehead telling them what to think and how to feel and what to do.

The funny thing is… even in this community of infected, that same mentality prevails. To be perfectly blunt, it’s more like a cult, but at first, everyone was really good and accepting. Of course, this doesn’t last, and because Harper doesn’t want to blindly go along with everyone and join the crazy, she gets ostracized. The worst, or maybe the best, thing this novel does, is make it easy to understand how it can happen. When you’re scared, you look for someone to look up to, someone who will protect you. You’ll go looking for acceptance and security, holding on to even the slightest hint of it with a fanatic zeal. If someone or something threatens that thin membrane of security, you’ll do anything to stop it from breaking through. Anything.

The Fireman is different than the rest of the affected people though. While they can only keep the dragonscale from turning them into human blowtorches, he seems to be able to control it. He doesn’t want to share how he does it though… he’s a bit of an ass actually. But also likeable. I see David Tennant in his role if there’s a movie deal in the future…

While he does his fair share of saving the day, Harper isn’t your average damsel in distress. In fact, she generally goes around saving herself and everyone else, including The Fireman. Inevitably, they fall in love, and while I liked both characters separately, I wasn’t much of a fan of the way Hill wrote their relationship. It felt kind of forced and desperate, which it might well have been. Luckily that wasn’t a huge factor and I could look the other way while they bumbled through a very unconvincing romance…

There was a lot going on in this book, and I guess it wasn’t perfect. But I very much enjoyed the story. I loved that nothing was rushed, and he took his time to get the story out there. Sure, most of the time it was pretty obvious what was going on and what would happen, but it’s always been about the journey for me. A lot of times, that’s where authors go wrong. They think they have to rush. Sure, if the story ain’t any good, rush away, but with something like this, it’s like a slow burn (excuse the pun), and if you try and force the flames too quickly, you’re more likely to smother and kill it.

More than anything else, this book made me fear for humanity, because let’s face it, this kind of mentality is alive and well, even in today’s age where there isn’t an obvious threat like disease. But if someone convinces you that there is a threat, but that they can help if you give them the power… well, people can be gullible. And horrible.

Audiobook Review

Audiobook Review: American Gods

American Gods
American Gods by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really loved this so much! What a brilliant fantasy adventure! The pacing of the story is very leisurely, not rushing to info-dump or over explain anything. Most of the time I had no idea WTF was going on, but that didn’t matter at all, because I was enjoying the journey of finding out so much!

I also loved the little side stories about coming to America. They were short but super impactful, and it explained a lot of the story without coming right out and rubbing it in your face. It was rich in history and explained about how Gods from all over came to be in America, a concept which I love!

I’m extremely relieved that it was consistently good all through! So many times I’m reading a book that starts out really, really good and then it just falls flat. Or the plot climax is ridiculous and doesn’t make sense. Not the case with American Gods. The plot made complete sense in the context of the story, and the action was exciting throughout. The characters carried the story along almost effortlessly, and they were all likable… even the “bad guys”. I can’t wait to read more about Mr. Nancy in Anansi Boys

The narrator also did a great job of cultivating an atmosphere of action, and he did a really good job… However, I was not in a million years expecting a Neil Gaiman to have very explicit sex scenes! When it happened, the narrator got really into it with heavy breathing and almost moaning with ecstasy, which left me feeling extremely uncomfortable and like I just listened to an old guy masturbate!

There was also a lot more swearing than I expected, which brought home the fact that you shouldn’t build up an image of someone (an author specifically in this case), after only a few interactions. I’ve only ever read The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Coraline, and unfairly assumed that Mr. Gaiman was a mild mannered, above board, cutesy writer. Not the case! This book was rough and gritty and completely fantastic. I’m sure it’ll stay with me for a long, long time…

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Audiobook Review

Audiobook Review: The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories
The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

In sum, I totally loved this book! It’s definitely one of my favorite reads this year, and I would gladly recommend it to everyone I come across… which I actually have been doing.

I’ve never really read much about China or it’s history, so most of the stories in here was completely new information for me. It did make me curious though, and I’ll be keeping my eyes open for more books about Asia and it’s history… though it sounds unbearably brutal 😦

The themes of family and tradition and culture really touched my heart, and the sci-fi elements just brought everything together in such a way that this was such an amazing experience.

I’ve reviewed each story separately below:

The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species
: I liked this. It was written like a “history” of bookmaking of different alien species. Very imaginative and interesting worldbuilding. As the first story in an anthology, it was a fun listen and a tantalizing taste to what’s to come.

State Change
: I really enjoyed this one! It imagines a world where your soul is manifested in a physical object, and your life is tied to this object, so if it’s damaged or if you’re too far away from it, you’ll die. It definitely made me think about what we think we know about life and how people live their lives differently and take more risks. Even though it’s a short story, Liu manages to create a world that I would love to read more about!

Perfect Match
: This futuristic story imagines a world where sharing has been taken to the next level. What’s so unnerving about it is that it’s extremely possible… and that I actually thought “Hey, that sounds pretty neat…”. I listened to it on my morning commute to work and I could not stop thinking about it the whole day! I even completely blanked on the previous two stories because I just felt so wowed by it. It’s one of those that literally make you sit back and go “huh”.

Good Hunting
: A mix between magical fantasy and steampunk. The lives of a Demon hunter and a hulijing intertwine, and as the magic is sucked out of their world they need to learn to survive without it. Lot’s of metal and fantastic ideas in this one. It kind of makes you nostalgic though, which I think is the point. Magic being replaced by technology… rings a bell?

The Literomancer
: Well that was a bummer… I mean the story was great and coming from South Africa where racism is still an issue, it hit close to home. I felt so sorry for Lucy as an outsider both with the natives as well as with the other American girls because she didn’t look down on the Chinese like they did. I was hoping for a happy ending to the story when she met Teddy and his grandpa, but damn, of course that wasn’t going to happen. War is so stupid… politics is so stupid! All it results in is death and heartbreak! Great story though…

: This wasn’t a great story imo… I didn’t get why Anna was so angry at everything her dad did. She obviously didn’t have her own kids, but even so it’s like she expected him to be perfect. It’s also such a stupid thing to hold a lifelong grudge for!

The Regular
: Sci-Fi Noir = Awesome! This was a really good crime fiction with a dash of the bionic woman! The plot was riveting and believable and the characters were extremely well developed for a short story… although I think this might count more as a novella?

The Paper Menagerie
: Holy crap this made me cry! I was listening to the audio while driving to work and had to pull over. I completely understand every single perspective of each character, and as a mother myself my biggest fear is that my son will abandon me one day. Seriously, this story hit me in the heart!

Side note: I WISH I had a paper menagerie when I was little! Screw barbies (and your stupid Star Wars Figure)!

An Advance Readers’ Picture Book of Comparative Cognition
: Didn’t feel this one… was meh.

The Waves
: Initially I loved the idea here, but then it kinda just went too far? It kind of reminded me of Interstellar, which I also loved up until 3/4 of the way through, and then it went past the stopping point and got too big/went too far. I mean I get what the author was trying to relay, but I think this would have been much better as a novel… even a series!

Mono No Aware
: Ok another favorite! Made me cry while listening in traffic! This had a similar idea to “The Waves”, but I think this was much better in scope and follow through! At this point I’m pretty sure I’m not just in love with the stories, but also with the author…

All the Flavors
: I enjoyed this story, but I couldn’t quite keep up with the different names, and listening to the audio where I couldn’t go back and refresh my memory meant I got confused a lot… also because it jumped between stories without warning… This would probably have been much better read on paper.
I really liked Logan and Lily, and I thought that her mother was just ignorant and hateful… which is true of most people back then I guess… even still now if you think about what’s currently happening in politics (building a wall??? Really???). I think this was the only non sci-fi story, and it was also the longest. But definitely interesting and worth reading.

A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel
: I’ll be honest… I fell asleep about 3/4 of the way through this one. It had a really interesting premise, but I guess it’s just not one of my favorite.

The Litigation Master and the Monkey King
: Another huge bummer. I get that history is full of violence and small people on power trips, but damn…

The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary
: I had no idea that there was even such a thing as Chinese concentration camps. I didn’t even know that the Japanese hated the Chinese that much. This story was a huge learning experience for me. I loved the premise of time travel, and the element of human error and sentimentality brought into it. I hated the politics of why things like this are kept quiet and even denied that it ever happened…

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