Hot Milk~ Book Review

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So I’ve come across this trend in the lit-fic genre. A disgruntled twenty something year old girl experiencing an identity crisis: Who is she? What is love? People…why can’t I relate to them? Nobody gets me.

This listless twenty something year old girl either goes on a trip, has a bunch of unnecessary meaningless sex, has some weird/nonexistent relationship with her parents, has a mental illness that is never really addressed, or is dealing with the typical woes of what it means to evolve into womanhood. All in the same fashion.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a listless twenty year old manic pixie dream girl without the wish fulfillment! It’s just terribly over done and I’ve already read four books like it.

I love reading about women going through shit. I love unpacking trauma (it helps me understand and navigate my own personal demons).

BUT BUT BUT

It’s really hard to be invested in whiny ‘white’ girl problems. At least Hot Milk felt really vapid and juvenile and whiny and oh my god the protagonist just couldn’t get a grip. Maybe there was some underlying point that I just didn’t get. This book just wasn’t for me at all. Someone out there related to it.

I’m going through it too. Post-grad struggling underpaid twenty something year old girl who makes tons of bad decisions­– that’s me. But Hot Milk felt like it was more so trying to copy what it feels like to be a confused young woman versus actually speaking to me. Sweetbitter, with its flaws, spoke to me. Tess had no personality but Stephanie Danler perfectly encapsulated what it is like to be young and clueless. While I disliked Tess, the story was evidently personal to Danler in her writing.

Is there a book equivalent to Oscar baiting? That’s what the entire story felt like. One fake deep moment after another.

I think this is ultimately why I just couldn’t relate to Eve Babitz. Conventionally attractive white woman living it up in LA doing tons of drugs and becoming entangled in messy relationships. That’s not my reality.

Depression and trauma are real things. It felt like Levy didn’t quite understand either of two. Sofia just does a bunch of dumb shit and I didn’t feel like she overcame anything. Mental illness shouldn’t be used to be ‘whimsical’ nor to add to your fake deepness (neither is the random tense changing to symbolize Sofia’s lost track of time). I want this trend to stop. Being depressed isn’t dream like. It’s an illness. Movies do it too. It’s simply a band-aid to hide the fact that a writer has no imagination. Will I read a book by Deborah Levy again? MAYBE. If I’m sold on the synopsis. Otherwise, this book was a miss for me. I was more interested in Gomez and his cat than Sofia and her neurotic mother.

TLDR; You might like this book. If you’re into women staring off into space and contemplating their existence in their world, then sure go for it! Personally this wasn’t my speed and I’m glad to have read it because now I will avoid books like this. I have a better understanding of my taste as a reader. The writing isn’t bad so I couldn’t give it one star. I gave it two.

Keep in mind that opinions are like assholes and I simply have a gaping asshole.

You can follow me at…

goodreads: frootbatte (I read a lot of books I haven’t posted reviews for)

twitter: caligulaswhorse (Brand spanking new)

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Does Jane Austen lack soul?

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What is the soul? Is it our capacity to feel things or the parameter of our existence? Art needs soul. In order to make art one must have a soul.

For the sake of being transparent, I’m going to start off by saying that I’m not a huge fan of Jane Austen. While I understand her place in the literary canon, I find a lot of her writing to be boring– long winded chicken clucking to be completely honest.

For a while I thought it was my inability to enjoy the heavy handedness of the classics. As much as I love reading, the wordiness of Dickens, Austen, and the like have been a huge turn off for me. It’s hard to admit, because it makes me feel dumb. I recall attempting  A Tale of Two Cities and spacing out in the middle of a passage because the train of ‘superfluous’ words stunted my imagination.

But this all changed when I picked up Jane Eyre for the second time as an adult.

I attempted Jane Eyre in high school but I wasn’t a well rounded reader in my adolescence. At the time, my go to books were cheap paper-back romance novels and Jodi Piccoult Wal-Mart dramas.

This time around, two months ago, Jane Eyre spoke to me. The language floated off the page and I devoured all of it. Wordiness and all. Jane Eyre easily became one of my favorite books.

And I had to re-evaluate my prejudice towards classics. What about Jane Eyre was so easy for me digest versus Austen’s Emma.

After weeks of staring off into space trying to solve this riddle, the concept of the soul struck me.

Jane Eyre had a lot of soul about it. The female soul to be specific. Charlotte Brontë effortlessly expressed female fragility and emotional turmoil. Jane feels things deeply. Jane talks about her feelings. Well, she inner monologues about her feelings. This is absent from Austen’s work. I enjoyed Emma but it’s missing vulnerability.

Now I’m not going to say that Austen lacks spirit. She definitely has a lot of it. If she didn’t she wouldn’t be such a polarizing figure in our pop-culture today.

And honestly, there’s no point in criticizing a dead woman’s work. It’s not like Austen can evolve as a writer now from this irrelevant critique.

So this is just my own think piece. Personal self reflection I suppose. I don’t want to make this about putting two female writers against each other. They were different types of story tellers to be fair.

Jane experiences so much personal growth. She does retain the small flaws she had as a child, but overall she overcomes her spitefulness. And she’s honest. I found myself crying whenever she dealt with strife. When she finally tells Mr. Rochester how she feels, it’s so raw. Primitive, beautiful, and raw. Jane Eyre has a humanness to it that even today’s writers can’t seem to grasp. To bring back to my point regarding the soul, Jane Eyre is deeply spiritual.

I think the closest we can get to a modern literary fiction that shares a likeness with Jane Eyre is Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Unbridled emotion bursting with a sense of morality. I think this is what makes a good female protagonist. I think this is what Austen is missing in her works, what a lot of books in general are missing.

I read Jane Eyre immediately after I finished Emma for the sole purpose to compare and contrast them, but I realized that it’s not fair to either writers. They are in completely different lanes. What they do have in common is their easiness to understand. The concepts are easily accessible to any type reader with the patience for classics.

What was the point in this post? Not sure but it was on my mind and I felt like posting it somewhere.

Before you light the torches, strike your gavels and sentence me to reader jail, this is just my opinion. It can evolve.

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler(Book Review)

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Bildungsroman:

A literary genre that follows the moral growth of a protagonist from youth to their adulthood. Basically the fancy schmancy way to say a “coming of age” story.

But bildungsroman sounds more nifty and smart.

 

Being the uneducated slug that I am, I first discovered this word while reading a New York Times article that interviews Stephanie Danler. The writer of this very bitter, very melodramatic book. Sweetbitter.

First I’m going to talk about the positives. Because I’m trying to be less of a troll and more of an optimist about the books I’ve read this year so far.

The writing is amazing. There are passages that really had me beside myself. Danler is a word wizard.

I really loved the take on food. She used words I had never thought of using to describe food before, but that’s just because I’m uncultured. Someone else might say otherwise. This isn’t a typical chick-lit. It’s sort of dark and doesn’t have any whimsical aspects about it.

What I don’t like about the book.

Tess is a hot ass mess. She’s very unlikable because not only is she a dunderhead, but she kinda has no personality. Everyone around her is more interesting.  Pretentious, but leaps and bounds more interesting. 300 plus pages and that dumpster-fire of an ending, I still have no idea of who Tess is.

Maybe that was the point of the story? Tess’s story ends so abruptly and chaotic. And I could go further into depth about this but I don’t like spoilery reviews. Tess made a lot of dumb decisions.

Tess is an unlikable female character and with hindsight that’s a great thing. I think as far as Tess as an individual, that’s the only thing about her that’s cool. She’s unlikeable but I think Danler could have given her more depth. Tess’s personality only shines when she’s reacting to people and her environment. Everything about Tess is contingent upon other people. That was my biggest problem.

And the weird love triangle. Mess. The last thing about this story that was so nettlesome was that there wasn’t a plot.

As I was reading a lot of the reviews I saw how people were glowing about how great it was that they could relate to Tess and her friends while working in the food industry.

I’ve been a server before and I didn’t do drugs or sleep with my coworkers. I mean I saw everyone else doing it, so maybe it is really a thing for the chefs, waitresses, and bartenders to bone each other.

I’m also a nihilistic ass-hat so I’m the outlier.

3/5 Stars

I would recommend this book as a vacay read. I wouldn’t say its light in content, but it’s easy to read. If you’re into profound prose and reading about food and waitresses, then this is your thing. It’s not a long book either. I most certainly would buy another book by Danler.

 

Animals~ Emma Jane Unsworth (Book Review)

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This isn’t chick-lit. I knew it wouldn’t be when I read the first page. The first passage is such a punch in the throat. I knew I’d be in for a wild ride. Animals is the book all women past the age of 25 should read. Most stories that are centered around a female protag, she’s usually very young and experiencing many things for the first time.

But what happens when you’ve got a lot of nicks on your bedpost and all of that experience turns into bad habits? What happens when she finally loses herself?

Emma Jane Unsworth has given us an answer, dear world.

This book touches the fabric of adulthood and needles the fuck out it. We all like to pretend that we have our shit together in our late 20s but do we really?

Laura has a toxic friend named Tyler who might as well be her soul mate. They get into all kinds of trouble but Laura has found the man of her dreams who wants her to ditch her party life. By society’s standards, Laura and Tyler are too old for the shit that they get into but I think it’s refreshing to read about older girls living it up and not conforming to the expectations of femininity.

Love, marriage, and kids shouldn’t be the end all of our lives. Neither three are the shining beacons of success.

Unsworth’s writing is blunt, vulgar, honest, and confident. Animals is just hilariously brilliant in its truth telling about the thoughts we women have.

I don’t really know how to label this book. It could be literary but I feel like it doesn’t beat around the bush enough to fit that niche. It’s definitely not a romance nor a drama. It doesn’t fit anywhere. Unsworth has carved her own path and I can’t wait to pick up more of her books.

I would love to see this as a movie or a TV show.

What I didn’t like about this book is sometimes things got too chaotic and Laura is a bit of an unreliable narrator. When she blacks out, the reader blacks out with her. When things are happening to fast for her, the reader feels just as disoriented. Now that’s not necessarily bad. I really felt like I was in Laura’s head but I did get lost as bit. It can become a bit redundant in the middle portion of the book.

The ending was by far the best thing about this story. Laura really has personal growth throughout the book and it really shows on the last page. I think it’s debatable that Tyler had a bit of a change too.

TLDR: If you like reading about unconventional women doing drugs, being sweaty and watching people taking alcohol up the ass then this is the book for you.

Also I’ve read a couple of books that I haven’t written reviews for just yet. Hopefully I will get around to them. I’m currently reading Sweetbitter.

A Curious Beginning~ Book Review

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This book could’ve been an easy five stars BUT the author did not SINK THE SHIP. Instead, she tortured me for 300+ pages with their cat and mouse and while I enjoy a slow burn THIS IS WAS DELICIOUSLY AGONIZING.  I’ve never been so mad at an ending but I get that it was intentional. The Curious Beginning is the first installment of the Veronica Speedwell mysteries. While it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, you definitely will want to go pick up the second book to see what mess Veronica and Stoker will get themselves into.

Veronica Speedwell is a spinster of sorts and after the death of her aunt, and criminal breaks into her house and threatens her life. She is then saved by a baron who opens a window to an adventure she never thought she needed.

I loved this book so much. The characters have so much chemistry and Veronica, while brilliant and hilarious, is a flawed character. She’s very hasty and brazen, while these are good qualities, I can see that later being a huge problem. The banter alone could’ve sustained me. To hell with the plot. The plot actually was background noise to me. The whole time I just wanted Veronica and Stoker to kiss. Deanna Raybourn is a master at wit and her writing, at first was a little verbose, but it all came together eventually.

I’m usually hesitant with books that start off with the heroin and hero annoying each other. That dynamic can become toxic really quick and unbelievable but that wasn’t this kind of story. Stoker and Veronica are endeared by each other from the beginning even though they bicker. It’s light hearted and Stoker comes to accept Veronica for who she is. He doesn’t force her to compromise her personality he just lets her be bold and crass. I could not have asked for better in a couple. Usually it’s the other way around in romance. Brooding guy reminds the girl how much she annoys him and cuts at her self esteem a bit by being emotionally vacant.  Nope. Not this time around and I must thank Mrs. Raybourn for that.

TLDR; This book sets up for a greater story and the romance takes a back seat. Again, I love slow burns but I don’t like it when my feelings are played with for an entire book only to have to wait for the second one. THAT’S JUST MY PERSONAL OPINION someone else might enjoy it.

If you are expecting the ship to bump butts, you might have to wait.

4.5/5

Juliet by Anne Fortier REVIEW

FullSizeRender (54)Juliet was a cute, simple, fun, and light read. Anne Fortier’s writing is lyrical but not pretentious. Jules is a very likeable protagonist, heroine but it takes a long ass time before she falls for hero. Overall, this book was safe. I wouldn’t know who to recommend this book to. It’s not exactly romantic? The romance takes a back seat.

What really hurt this book, I believe was the time jump. I didn’t care about Romeo or Guilietta’s romance because we all know how that story ends. When Alessandro and Jules finally end up, it’s honestly all I wanted to read about. I wanted them to both solve a mystery together and get into tons of shenanigans. That didn’t happen.

Perhaps I’m not very taken by this book because it was a random pick up for .99. I went into this book blind. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. Awkward is probably the best way to call the middle portion of the book. Jules spends 40% of the story fumbling around. Nothing really happens until the last 50 pages of the book.

I couldn’t exactly believe the whole past lives lovers aspect of the story. I didn’t make sense to me. Were they reincarnated? There’s no traces of magical realism to make this point in the plot sellable. It didn’t feel magical and everyone just sort of believed it? Everyone went along with this destined lovers idea….

Janet is hyper critical of it all but…..she soon believes it too.

Juliet is mindless fun. It’s a nice airplane read. It wasn’t by any means amazing or life changing. I would most def read a sequel to it just because I love Jules and Alessandro. Their banter was sweet and the chemistry was there from jump.

TLDR; If you just want something easy to read, this is the book for you. It drags in the middle but once things pick up it never stops. The story starts off strong and Jules seeps cuteness.

The Devil of Nanking~ Book Review

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Haunting. Terrifying. Beautifully strange and amazing. Mo Hayder has become my new favorite author. The Devil of Nanking is electrifying from start to finish. From the very first page the gore never stops. This book made me feel like I needed a nice hot shower. In a good way. The narration was disturbingly delicious, the plot never waned, and I loved how morally ambiguous the characters are.

No one in this book is a good person necessarily and I loved this the most. Every character, even the unimportant ones, have interesting layers to their personality and why they do the things that they do.

Grey, one of the protagonists is noticeably off her rocker and I cannot stress how much I love reading about warped characters. Especially from their perspective. I enjoyed Lolita for the same reason.

Chongming, survivor of the Nanking massacre and the catalyst for this story is also very interesting. I can’t talk too much about his character without spoiling the plot. Actually, it’s pretty hard to give this book a review without dropping a spoiler. Which I won’t do so I will say this. If you’re into Gillian Flynn and Haruki Murakami then this is right up your alley.

TLDR; It’s bloody, strange, and eerie. The Devil of Nanking is an experience. It’s beyond the realm of simple story telling.

goodreads: frootbatte

twitter: caligulazhorse

Why The Coldest Girl In Coldtown sucks and what is exactly happening to the paranormal YA genre…..?

Wow and I thought I would never encounter another book that would fill me with so much rage. I allowed myself to gorge on this stupid shit show. It wasn’t the writing. The writing was fine. A bit awkward at times but it sufficed which is why I didn’t give this book one star.

Holly Black, I’ve heard, is supposedly fantastic. So I stepped outside of the norm and allowed myself to read this YA. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown lacks so much spirit and sincerity. Depth and heart are clearly missing from every facet. It makes the gorgeous prose meaningless. The words in this book are simply words. This book had to have simply been a shot at the money making machine that is paranormal YA. I love vampires. I truly do but I think pop culture and how our society interprets their myth has destroyed the magic. Vampires just aren’t cool anymore.

MAYBE had I read this when I was fourteen I might feel differently (doubt it). Tana lacked so much tone. Gavriel was dull. Aidan was a try hard bad boy. The only good thing I loved about this book was Valentina. I loved the inclusivity of a transwoman.

There were times when I thought it would get better but nothing interesting happens up till page 300. The way Black writes gore and violence is superb and I would love to have that translated into an adult book. Paranormal YA in general is so lacking. It’s almost as if the writers are purposely dumbing down their writing.

Let me tell you future paranormal YA writers and published writers that wish to explore the realm; you don’t have to water down the story. Your plot can be complex and meaningful. Teenagers want to read things that challenge them. Or if you’re really out of touch with the demographic, then don’t bother at all. Paranormal YA deserves just as much hard work as any adult fantasy genre.

It’s a shame to me that writers don’t feel like they have to try hard and be thoughtful when putting together a YA paranormal story. I’m not saying Black didn’t try. She probably tried her damned hardest. I wouldn’t know because I haven’t read anything else by her. I intend to and maybe I can return to this post later and give a better review on what went wrong with this book. I think publishing companies should be held accountable too. Stop allowing paranormal YA to become over saturated with sub par work.

Contemporary YA is amazing so why shouldn’t fantasy/paranormal? Do better YA writers…..

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown could’ve really gone there. It could’ve really been smart but it was just a meshed version of True Blood and Interview With a Vampire squished up into a convoluted mess. This could’ve been really original and of its own. 2/5 stars.

I read The Diabolic before this but I don’t plan on reading anymore niche YA for a long time.

TLDR; If Twilight was your jam, then this might be up your alley. While it isn’t the most original book, I see how it could be entertaining for someone who seeks it’s genre. The gore is a bit shocking for YA, but I enjoyed that aspect of it. The vampires in this book do actually do vampire things and that’s always enjoyable.

goodreads: @frootbatte

The Night Circus (A beautiful snooze fest) A Review

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The Night Circus, like The Bees, was more of an experience than pure entertainment. The writing is lyrical but sometimes kind of awkward, the shifting perspectives doesn’t really give the reader a chance to become attached to any of the characters, but I was pleased.

When I first started the book, I was a little anxious. This book is incredibly slow and I get that all of the world building was necessary. Every chapter was contingent upon another so I wouldn’t go as far as to say that this book was blah blah blah and dull. Every detail is intentional and perhaps, had I been looking for that type of story, this book would’ve worked out better for me. It was hard to rate this book because it was good, but it took way too long to get to the meat of it all. I struggled between three or four stars, but I went ahead and gave it 4.5/5.

This book is beautifully campy. The romance doesn’t really happen until like 250 pages in which I think worked. Marco and Celia don’t have insta-love but the gaps in time made it come off that way. I don’t think the reader got enough insight into why Marco and Celia love each other outside of their bond. Which is a forced connection.

My biggest problem with the book is the confusing magic system and the overall dramatic idea of the ‘duel’ between Celia and Marco. Erin Morgenstern does a good job at with-holding information because a lot of stuff that happens is downright convoluted. And I think that was an intentional decision she made. To keep the story just as vague and mysterious as the circus itself. That could just be me excusing very vague writing and bad storytelling, but I will give Morgenstern the benefit of the doubt.

I gave the book 4.5 because it is her debut novel and I would like to read future published works by her. The overall story was very imaginative and different from anything I’ve ever read. Next to Laline Paull’s The Bees.

TLDR; This book is worth it if you’re into a prose and complex detail. Also if you simply enjoy books about circuses. When the romance does develop its amazingly well done, if you ignore how Marco treats Isobel (but that’s a spoiler I won’t get into).

I can’t give a full review without spoilers so check this book out for yourself! I encourage.

Goodreads: @frootbatte