Review: The Incest Diary

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Review for "The Incest Diary" by Anonymous (2017)

Rating: none
—– Trigger Warning——

This is a very, very disturbing book.

The New York Times is very accurate when it called reading this book “a dive into the abyss.” This is almost correct. Reading this book was like a jump off of a cliff, hitting every single rock on the way down. There’s no way I enjoyed reading this, so I’m not giving this book a rating.

The writer of “The Incest Diary” is an anonymous woman who describes, in very frank detail, being raped by her father starting at age 3. The sexual abuse continues throughout her childhood until she begins, in a sadistic way, to crave his abuse. He exerts a perverted sense of control over her until she’s in her 20s and finally stops letting him dominate her. By all accounts, her mother was well aware of the fact that the author’s father was raping her and did nothing. There is also physical and emotional abuse inflicted by both her father and her mother, as well as multiple times in the narrative in which she told other people about it, but nobody does anything. It’s infuriating.

But that’s not the worst of it. There’s a jarring sense throughout this book that the author’s frank descriptions are not for the purpose of story-telling, but to titillate and eroticize her experience. While I can understand that prolonged sexual abuse can cause confusion and mixed emotions, words like ‘cock,’ ‘dick,’ and ‘pussy’ to describe the incest just made this book come off as training manual for people who do this sick shit with children. It’s a revolting thought, but it permeates this book.

Given the title, one might ask why I read it in the first place, knowing what it would entail. Honestly, I read this book because it was sitting in the library and I have to admit that it intrigued me. We hear about sexual abuse every day–in memoirs, on the news, in #metoo posts on Twitter–yet we don’t really want to hear their stories, do we? As a reviewer of books I am compelled to explore the human experience, and sometimes parts of that experience are cruel, dark, and scary. I think of myself as an intellectual who transcends fear of dark places.

Needless to say, I don’t recommend this book unless you have nerves of steel.

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Review: Ultraluminous

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Review for “Ultraluminous” by Katherine Faw (to be published on 5 December 2017)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I like Katherine Faw. I also liked this book.

No one in this short novel has a real name, including the narrator. Everyone she meets assumes she is Russian, so there are a series of Russian-influenced pseudonyms here (Katya, Karina, Katinka) that substitute for her identity. The narrator works as a prostitute, specializing in high end clients and girlfriend-experience type encounters. On constant rotation are her experiences with such clients such as “the junk bond guy,” “the calf’s brain guy,” “the art guy,” and “the guy who buys me things.” There is also “the ex-Army Ranger,” a man that she never charges, and “the Sheik,” a man she worked for in Dubai.

Not only does the narrator not tell you her name, she never reveals her thoughts either. We only witness her actions, a bizarre series of ‘patterns’ that the narrator adheres to like clockwork. In addition to her clients, she loves trips to Duane Reade for sushi, getting waxed, snorting heroin, trips to Duane Reade for sushi, getting waxed, snorting heroin…and so on. The sex and drug encounters are blunt and matter of fact, she simply moves from one event to the next. The silence between the printed words makes this story interestingly ambiguous until it comes into clear focus at the end.

Four stars. Read if only if you’re looking for an adventure or an experimental type story.

[A free, digital copy of this book was provided by NetGalley and the publisher, MCD, in exchange for an honest review.]

Review: The End We Start From

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Review for "The End We Start From" by Megan Hunter (2017)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Hmm…

I’ve had a few hours to digest this one and honestly I’m not quite sure what to tell you about it. At 160 pages, “The End We Start From” is a very short, almost novella-like dystopian novel told in quiet, sparse paragraphs.

In the beginning (or is it the end?) of this very short novel, an unnamed young mother’s water breaks and she gives birth to a son, Z. The water levels around London are rising and Britain is mostly under water. The narrator and her husband, R, move from their home to stay with his parents in the mountains until food becomes scarce there and then they move again, this time to a makeshift camp with other disaster refugees. Baby Z grows, and the narrator’s husband R eventually leaves the family at the camp to investigate other living prospects. During their separation, the narrator continues to observe life around her, make friends, and bond with her baby, Z.

I think I like the concept of this book more than its actual execution. There’s a lot of interesting things juxtaposed here that I could go on and on about: birth, death, the deterioration of civilized society, the creation of new life. There’s also references to the book of Genesis all throughout which fit quite nicely with those ideas. I just don’t care too much for the writing style, it was too sparse for me. The sense of detachment here was also a problem; the constant use of characters’ initials instead of their names made it hard to remember who was who and vexed me to no end. Too much was left unsaid, I wanted more.

Despite my misgivings, I’m not sorry I read this book. There’s a very unique narration style here that definitely bears notice and may tickle the fancy of others. 3 stars for me, but I invite others to make their own judgment call.

[A free digital copy of this book was provided by NetGalley and Grove Atlantic in exchange for an honest review.]

Review: She Rides Shotgun

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Review for “She Rides Shotgun” by Jordan Harper (2017)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I was about ready to give up on Jordan Harper after I read and loathed his short story collection, “Love and Other Wounds.” Glad I didn’t.

Anyway, “She Rides Shotgun” is a dark story about a father who has just got out of a California prison and run afoul of a vicious prison gang, leading to a ‘green light’ being placed on him, his daughter Polly, and his daughter’s mother. Unable to protect Polly’s mother, he takes his daughter on the run. Fighting for their lives and keeping away from the eyes of the law, eventually his daughter becomes involved in his criminal schemes. I won’t give away the book, but needless to say, I found myself cheering for these two (somehow) until the end. The writing is sparse but beautiful and manages to keep you interested.

Four stars, decent debut novel.

Review: Getting Off: One Woman’s Journey Through Sex and Porn Addiction

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Review for "Getting Off: One Woman's Journey Through Sex and Porn Addiction" by Erica Garza (to be published on 16 January 2018)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Often times when we hear about sex addiction, it is a taboo subject. It is also a narrative that is usually dominated by men. “Getting Off” is one of the few books about this topic that I’ve read that’s written by a woman, and shows the wide range of emotions and dysfunctions that goes along with this affliction.

Garza’s struggle with sex addiction begins when she is twelve and continues long into her adulthood. She has a brilliant writing style–raw, at times funny, and painfully honest in its detail. Once I started reading this book I didn’t put it down and finished it in a manner of hours. As you can guess from the subject matter, it is quite x-rated in certain scenes, so it’s not for the puritanical or faint of heart. If you can move beyond this, however, you will find this an enlightening and enjoyable read.

[A free digital copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Scribner, and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Review: There’s Someone Inside Your House

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Review for "There's Someone Inside Your House" by Stephanie Perkins (2017)

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Whew Lawd this was bad

First off, I love YA thriller/horror. If you spent your high school days reading R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike, then you know what I’m talking about. So when this book came out, I was on it faster than a speeding ticket.

This is my first Stephanie Perkins novel. From my understanding she mostly writes YA romance and this was her first foray into horror. After reading this drivel, it’s my determination is that she should probably stick to writing romance.

The run-down: Makani Young, the main character, is sent to live with her grandmother in a small Nebraska town following her parents’ divorce and a mysterious incident in her Hawaii hometown that’s not revealed until the end of the book. She has eyes for Ollie, a pink-haired emo kid, and they make like rabbits for most of the book. Oh yeah, meanwhile there’s a psycho running around killing members of the high school student body for reasons unknown.

So where do I begin? For the whole “Who will be next?” hook, this book had only about 5 deaths and still turned out to be 99.9% romance. The book pivots between Makani and Ollie’s relationship and the killer’s next victim, which we follow in a brief chapter as it happens. We’re never told why the killer is picking people off, and his identity is fully revealed at about 60% into the book. What happens after this? Nothing. For me, it’s was a hazy blur of wtf moments and skipped pages.

And Makani and Ollie…what a mess. For a romance writer, the author manages to make their relationship strictly about lust and nothing else. Despite all the physical fun these two are having, it’s mindlessly boring. Even an old pervert like me started flipping pages after awhile. On to the next slashing please…

I was expected more blood and gore here. Two stars.