Review: Peach

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Review for "Peach" by Emma Glass (to be published on 23 January 2018)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Thick stick sticky sticking wet ragged wool winding round the wounds, stitching the sliced skin together as I walk, scraping my mittened hand against the wool.

“Peach” is a very short, very violent, and very dark little book. It’s more novella than a novel at less than 150 pages, with a highly artistic, experimental writing style. Some sentences are short, while other sentences run on and on. Some character’s names aren’t capitalized. There’s no punctuation when anyone speaks. And when there’s emphasis (for instance, a character is shouting or thinking aloud), the author uses sTiCkY cApS (uhhh, yeah). Eimear McBride’s “A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing” quickly comes to mind in comparison (the style of which I didn’t care for either) but this book sounded interesting enough to try, so I did.

The beginning of this book is a very visceral one–you’re immediately thrust into the aftermath of a young girl’s brutal sexual assault. Shocked and horrified, Peach manages to compose herself enough to walk home and clean herself up. Her parents, way too occupied with one another and a new baby, do not seem to notice at all that she has come home bloody and bruised. The imagery in this section is physically painful and absolutely heartbreaking.

In response, Peach chooses to keep her ordeal a secret. She attempts to retain a sense of normalcy by going to school and finding comfort in her boyfriend, Green. It’s all too much, though. Her attacker begins to stalk her and the memories and smells of that night become deeply unsettling for Peach, who begins to have violent fantasies.

At about 60% in, the narration became so muddled (stream of consciousness, other goobledegook) that I honestly can’t tell you what happened. The writing style of this book was so confusing that I couldn’t tell between Peach’s thoughts and reality or what was even really happening in the story. And the end (or, let’s say, what I interpreted as the events that occurred at end) was just plain weird. Ewww.

I’m going to give this book 3 stars. In the end, the writing style just wasn’t my cup of tea. I’d recommend this to readers who aren’t afraid of experimental writing, artistic slants, surrealist material.

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

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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: 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.

Review: The Weight of This World

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Review for "The Weight of This World" by David Joy (2017)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This is my second David Joy read, the first having been “Where All Light Tends to Go.” I read that one, gave it 3 stars. This one is slightly better, though not by much.

This book literally begins with a bang–with shocking act of violence committed by young Aiden McCall’s father upon his mother. Without parents, he is sent to a group home that he quickly runs away from. Aiden finds a friend in Thad Broom, a brooding, often violent boy with his own problems. The two boys grow up in the same home together, though Thad eventually leaves to join the Army and fight in Afghanistan. Thad returns from combat injured and hopeless, a shell of a man. Aiden, without his friend for six years, doesn’t fare much better: he’s unemployed, bitter, and a part-time drunk. He hopes to escape from their miserable lives and move away, but Thad will not hear of it. In the meantime both Thad and Aiden do drugs (mostly methamphetamine) to get through their days.

In the middle of the drama is April, Thad’s mother. She lives with secrets of her own, and also wants to move on and, in her words, “get off the mountain.” She is swept into the subsequent drama when Aiden and Thad’s drug dealer accidentally kills himself and leaves all three with a large stash of drugs and cash. What follows after this point in the book is a really dark and violent cycle of revenge, suffering, and just plain bad decision-making.

None of the characters in this book are likable, but I think in the end their likability is completely irrelevant to the reason why I gave this book three and a half stars. I can see that the author is perhaps meditating on the power of fate over free will, though as a reader after a while I was just plain tired of the characters and their ensuing Stupidity Olympics. You realize that these people don’t want to better themselves and they simply want to be miserable, end of story. I tried to feel some kind of empathy (nope!) for their choices, maybe even some kind of compassion for these characters but there’s none (absolutely none!) to be found. Three-quarters into this, I just got tired of reading and plodded my way to the end. Needless to say, I was glad when it was over.

Despite my rating, I would recommend this book. Though the violence is not for the faint of heart, but the author’s writing is not that bad and this novel does, in many ways, still manage to hold your attention.

Review: Life as We Knew It (Last Survivors, #1)

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Review for "Life as We Knew It" by Susan Beth Pfeffer (2006)

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
Dumbest. Apocalypse. Ever.

I’m not a one star kinda gal unless I hated the book. Needless to say, I really really really hated this book.

First off, I love dystopian lit. This one rang a bell because it’s two of my favorite things: dystopian and YA. So I read it. And man, that’s where the problems began.

NOTE: Spoilers abound & I don’t care…

Part of the thrill of reading dystopian fiction is reveling in the fact that it COULD happen–you just never know where or when. Another part of the game is that the scenario presented has to be scientifically sound, even on a basic level. Not so with this book, because there ain’t no way in hell any of this shit in this book could actually happen. In this one, the moon is knocked off course by an asteroid (which, strangely, no one sees coming), which brings it closer to Earth. The tides fall out of whack, bringing massive tsunamis that kill most of the population in low lying and coastal areas.

Then there’s mosquitoes (huh? why?) that threaten the population with malaria, massive earthquakes around the world, and finally Yellowstone volcanoes, seemingly triggered by the gravitational chaos. There’s a little bit of ash, it’s dark early, and it’s cold out. Umm…excuse me…WHAT? A massive eruption in Yellowstone would spell death by burning ash and darkness for much of America within WEEKS. Not just a slight temperature change like it’s an early winter. And it certainly would not involve characters strolling around in their Pennsylvania hometown, going to the library and ice skating like there’s nothing going on.

And oh…the characters. Miranda is a 16-year-old high schooler whose diary makes up this book. She whines about not seeing her friends and being unable to eat as many chocolate chip cookies as she wants while the end of the world is going on. Her mother rails against the government and her daughter seeing boys. Somewhere in the middle of all the earthquakes and the electricity going out, the family still manages to send her little brother to baseball camp. Another one of Miranda’s friends is a religious psycho-nut who doesn’t want to eat because God will take care of her. As a matter of fact, nearly everyone in this book who holds Christian beliefs is portrayed as a delusional weirdo. Not that I care about the author’s personal beliefs about organized religion, but all the proselytizing didn’t help the narrative. At all.

There’s other improbable scenarios. There are no police, yet Miranda takes it on herself to wander around her hometown alone, going swimming and ice skating, seemingly unbothered. When the power comes on intermittently, the internet (somehow) works also. Services such as the post office and the library are still open, yet we’re told there is no gas. A deadly flu epidemic kills most of the people in the town and several members of Miranda’s family fall ill, but miraculously Miranda never falls sick and no one dies. When the family runs out of food at the end, Miranda spends her last bit of energy going to city hall and learning about all of the food shortages and crop failures out in the world–and then receives a bag of food that city hall has been giving out every Monday. How is this possible? If there is a shortage of crops, where does this food come from in a land of no gas?? The final abasement here is when the power comes on at the end of the book–despite the fact that we’re told most of the country is either dead and/or lying under ash. 

And the story just plain sucks. Page after page in the middle of the book is nothingness, just play by play details of the family’s life in their sunroom, having conversations about food and books and what not. Yawn.

Apparently there are three other books in this series, however, I won’t be reading them. I don’t recommend this, I’d stay far away from this book.