Book Review: What Kind of Girl

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Goodreads

Why did it take me so long to reach the last straw?

This is an absolutely beautiful, gut-punching book. 4.5/5 rounded up. The only reason it’s not a full five stars is because there were a few bits that I felt went on for too long, but overall I thought it was wonderfully well done.

I need you to say that you’ll love me whether I change the world or not.

It’s rare for me to find a book that writes anxiety well. Few enough do, but this one definitely makes the list. I’m utterly impressed with Sheinmel’s writing and understanding of anxiety. Fair play.

I lie awake, going over every single word I said that day (and lucky for me, I have a really good memory so I can usually remember exactly what was said), wondering whom I might have offended, what I might have done wrong, what terrible thing will come back to haunt me …

The story itself focuses on Maya and Junie, two girls struggling with a variety of problems. Maya’s boyfriend has been abusing her for months, but the final straw comes when he slaps her so hard across the face that it leaves a bruise, and Maya goes into her principal’s office and tells her what’s been happening. The problem is, everyone loves Mike. Instantly, some people believe her; inevitably, many don’t.

Junie on the other hand, is struggling with OCD and cutting, and desperately frets over her relationship with her girlfriend Tess. The story unfolds over just one week and how Maya’s confession changes everything for both girls and at their school.

My favourite characters were Maya and Hiram, the so-called ‘loser stoner’ who is also the only one to stand up to Mike. Hiram was just lovely. The point that’s emphasised over and over again by Maya is that he asks, he waits, he listens. Hiram is also the only person to notice how Mike’s treating Maya before the confession comes.

Hiram listens to me. Junie listens.
They do more than listen – they ask.

This is one of those books that gets it, I think. The struggles victims go through when it comes to bringing their stories forward. The doubt and vitriol they face. Even Maya’s own best friend doubts her at points. Maya herself doubts, doubts, doubts. But the book address these emotions with raw honesty and compassion.

Totally, totally recommend.

Mini Reviews Roundup

 

The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat by Brooke Bolander

Now, the King’s subjects knew all about this particular forest, and avoided it like the plague, and if the Prince had thought to ask them they could have easily told him why this was so. If you know a blessed thing about royalty, however, you’ll have already guessed that he had bothered doing no such thing.

What an absolute delight this was! This is a humorous short story about three raptors and a princess against an awful prince.

An Angry Earth by Michael Poeltl

A world like ours is alive. We share it with the plants, animals, fish and insects. We share it. Every living thing is important to sustaining life as we know it …

I’d liken this story to The Wump World, which is one of my all time favourite books, and the one that made me an environmentalist before I could even spell the word. Impressing upon everyone the fragility of our world and the damage that’s being wrought by thoughtless greed is so, so important.

Bonus points for the use of the library in the story. Everyone should be encouraged to go and dig through their tomes to find information. The drawings, too, were very well done.

Definitely recommend.

Ponies by Kij Johnson

This one honestly broke my heart and really horrified me. I mean, I think that was the point. And if you like horror stories that are trying to teach a lesson, this one might be for you, but it’s certainly not for the faint of heart.

Mini Review Round Up: Tor Shorts

Cold Wind by Nicola Griffith: It was one of the most pernicious fallacies, common the world over: old ways are best. But old ways can outlast their usefulness. Old ways can live on pointlessly in worlds that have no room for them.

A good dark fantasy tale about predator and prey.

These Deathless Bones by Cassandra Khaw: Bones do not lie.

Well, that disturbed me on EVERY. POSSIBLE. LEVEL.

A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers by Alyssa Wong: If I could knit you a crown of potential futures like the daisies you braided together for me when we were young, I would.

This had a really interesting premise and the prose was lovely, though I do wish there was a bit more detail.

Worth Her Weight in Gold by Sarah Gailey: Winslow Remington Houndstooth, creator of the best and rarest breed of hippo in the United States of America, notorious outlaw, handsomest heartbreaker in the American South.

I liked the hippo, but I wish there was a bit more to the story.

Into the Gray by Margaret Killjoy: I only led the foul men with filth on their tongues, the rich men who contrived to rule other men. I only led the men with hatred in their hearts and iron in their hands.

A quick, engrossing story about a thief, the mermaid she’s in love with, and the men they lure to the water’s edge.

A Forest, or a Tree by Tegan Moore: There was something awful, May thought, awful in the original sense of the word, about looking up.

The cover totally caught my eye, but I felt like the story itself needed more.

The Eighth-Grade History Class Visits the Hebrew Home for the Aging by Harry Turtledove: “We had to wear yellow stars on our clothes, with Jood on them. That’s Jew in Dutch,” Anne said. “We couldn’t use trams. We had to give up our bicycles. We weren’t allowed to ride in cars. We had to shop late in the afternoon, when there was next to nothing left to buy. We couldn’t even visit Christians in their houses or apartments. We couldn’t go out at all from eight at night to six in the morning. We had to go to only Jewish schools and Jewish barbers and Jewish beauty parlors. We couldn’t use public swimming pools or tennis courts or sports fields or—well, anything.”

This story is an alternate WWII history tale that hit me like a punch. It’s such an important read. Let us never forget the past. Let us never forget what was done to innocent people who deserved life. But this story does something beautiful – rather than painting a grim future, this gives us such a lovely change to the past. In the best, most heartbreaking way. It follows an elderly woman recounting to school kids about how she and her family survived. And the twist will make you cry. I know I did.

This is one of those stories you really wish was real (and perhaps a heartbreaking side-effect of alternative history – all the things that should have been). You know that feeling of joy you get when you reach the end of Inglourious Basterds and just start cheering? It’s that sort of closure.

Selfies by Lavie Tidhar: In some cultures they believe that every photo takes away a little bit of your soul.

I wish there’d been a bit more in terms of detail and explanation, but overall I liked it.

A Kiss With Teeth by Max Gladstone: He wants to be her monster.

I really liked the way this story played out.

The Girlfriend’s Guide to Gods by Maria Dahvana Headley: You stand at the mouth of your own cave, looking out over your own kingdom. You step off the cliff when you feel like it, and you spread your wings and soar.

This was just awesome.

Lullaby for a Lost World by Aliette de Bodard: You do not rest. You cannot forgive. You are not safe—you never were.

This really reminded me of The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. The overall tone is quite depressing, though the writing was good. It’s really, really bleak though. 😦

The City Born Great by N.K. Jemisin: What good does it do to be valuable, if nobody values you?

Well, that was just badass.

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**I really recommend Tor’s original fiction section. There are some truly good ones there!**

Mini Reviews: The Possession (2012) & It (2017)

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I’ve been on something of an Exorcist themed kick after watching the television show. I’m currently reading the book for the first time, which I’m really enjoying so far, but I’m also checking out movies of the like. The Possession was pretty good!

The Possession tells the story of Clyde and Stephanie, who are recently divorced and sharing custody of their kids, Emily and Hannah. When Clyde brings their daughters to a yard sale, Emily picks up an old wooden box with Hebrew writing on it. Little does she know the box is haunted by a dybbuk. Emily begins to act stranger and stranger — moths gather in her room, raw meat is consumed, she gets more and more withdrawn. Clyde realises something isn’t right with his daughter and sets out to help her.

What I really appreciated about this movie was that the characters turned to a Hasidic Jew for help with the exorcism, which is something I haven’t come across much in exorcism plots before. Instead of Latin, there’s Hebrew. It was really nice to see and I liked the different take on an exorcism. Apparently it’s based on a true story as well. CREEPY.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan was, as usual, wonderful in this. Really, the whole cast was great. The actress who played Emily (Natasha Calis) did an especially brilliant job!

I’d definitely recommend this to fans of horror!

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I followed my watch of The Possession with It. I don’t even think I could attempt to review It with anything coherent because Pennywise is going to be haunting my dreams for eternity. But it was definitely all levels of YIKES. Really well acted, though. Very impressed! I really did forget the entire plot outside of evil clown. The only thing I did remember was the sink scene and the new version is the stuff of nightmares.

Thanks, Stephen King, I won’t be sleeping for a month.

Mini Review Round-Up | LGBT Romance

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When Red Cried Wolf (Happily Ever Asher #1) by Nash Summers | lgbt, short story

His roommate, Morgan, had been like an elusive baby deer, skittering off into the woods at the first sign of human life. Asher usually made sure not to make direct eye contact or any sudden movements around him for fear of scaring him off.

I thought this was a cute start to the trilogy and it definitely left me wanting more, but Asher was a bit too much at times. Dude needed to chill about how much he loves love, haha. Morgan was my favourite and I’m excited to see how their relationship develops in the next two.

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His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light by Mimi Mondal | lgbt, short story

And then there was an arm around my waist, holding me upright again, there was a hand wiping dust, blood, and tears from my eyes. It was Shehzad Marid—ever loving, ever loyal, always on my side in my hour of need.

This was a really good short story about a trapeze master and his jinni. Available online here.

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Lovers (Voyeur #2) by Fiona Cole | lgbt, romance

“I miss you. You won’t touch me, or kiss me, or sit with me, or hold me. Nothing. And I fucking miss you.”

I haven’t read the first one in the series and I’m not sure I’m bothered to read the rest of it, but I did enjoy this one. It follows Jake, Jackson and Carina in a love ménage à trois that becomes increasingly complicated due to Jake and Jackson’s past and their intense friendship.

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Variations on an Apple by Yoon Ha Lee | lgbt, short story

It smelled of diesel hearts and drudgery and overcrowded colonies; of battery acid gone bad and bromides and foundered courtships. Intoxicating, yes, but in the way of verses etched unwanted upon the spirit’s cracked windows. 

The imagery and descriptions in this are gorgeous. Available online here.

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The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere by John Chu | lgbt, short story

This is the man who seconds ago risked going insane in order to feel soul-rending pain for fun. How can he suddenly look so vulnerable?

This was so random and quite good, if a bit too abrupt. I feel like I needed more information and development on the rain and on the sister. I’ve rarely hated a character so much who appears so briefly, but I wanted that addressed more in depth because she was horrible. Available online here.

Review: Made in Heaven (2019)

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I absolutely adored Made in Heaven.

Made in Heaven follows Karan Mehra and Tara Khanna as they manage their wedding planning business which shares a name with the title of the show. It’s a dark take on the wedding industry in India and the show pulls no punches with showing how grim things can get. From scheming parents to blackmail and bridezillas, each episode shows a different wedding for the company while the characters navigate their complicated personal lives.

Karan is gay at a time when it’s illegal in India and his storyline follows his struggles with being who he is and loving who he wants when it risks jail time. Arjun Mathur was absolutely amazing as Karan, I was in awe. His mother is abusive and homophobic, although thankfully his father and brother are wonderfully accepting. His backstory totally broke my heart (there are a lot of flashbacks to explain the characters’ motivations and secrets) and I really hope we see more of Nawab, a man from his past, in season two. Their complicated relationship requires more screen time!

Tara, on the other hand, is married to Adil, who’s cheating on her with her best friend, Faiza, and constantly belittles her upbringing. He’s far richer than her and reminds her of it when they fight. NOT A GOOD LOOK, ADIL. Adil and Faiza really frustrated me throughout the entire season, but otherwise I adored the entire cast. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to them in season two, honestly. Sobhita Dhulipala stole every scene she was in and made you really empathise with Tara despite the character’s sometimes questionable choices. She’s a new to me actress and she’s definitely a new favourite. She really reminds me of Deepika Padukone, actually.

There’s also Kabir Basrai and Jaspreet Kaur, who work for Made in Heaven and are dealing with complications of their own. Kabir often narrates videos of the weddings and they’re always wonderful observations and really tug at your heart. In particular, the storyline where a woman discovers that her fiancé’s family blackmailed her parents into paying a dowry culminates in a powerful moment where the girl walks out of the wedding. Kabir’s closing refrain was so powerful:

‘That’s all it took to shatter centuries of patriarchy. One tiny moment of courage. […] Our women don’t deserve this. Our women are better than this. And if they only believed that.’

SO MANY EMOTIONS. Honestly, the show makes so many good points about politics and religion. I’m so excited for season two!

Review: The Exorcist (2016)

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‘There are rules in place for a reason. We maintain purity, we don’t harm the innocent, we put duty before self.’

The Exorcist stressed me out. And grossed me out. And freaked me out. But oh holy moley, it was amazing and I loved it. I came at this show never having read the books (yes, there’s two!) or watched the movies (there are a lot!), so I really didn’t know what to expect. I just saw Alfonso Herrera and went, ‘Sounds awesome.’ Ben Daniels being in it was even better.

**spoilers for both seasons**

‘There’s this tall guy and he’s got a black jacket and short hair and a moustache, but not like a porn ’stache. Like a good ’stache.’

The show follows Father Tomás and Father Marcus, Catholic priests and exorcists. It also picks up where the movie left off, which again I haven’t seen, but the main girl Regan MacNeil who was the kid possessed in the movie/book is the mother of the girl possessed in the show (she’s played by the fabulous Geena Davis!).

Tomás is the priest of a poor, struggling parish and he starts having dreams of Marcus performing exorcisms. This leads him to Marcus after some time, and together they try and help the poor MacNeil family that just keeps getting possessed. Poor, poor family. As you can imagine, pretty much everything goes wrong throughout the first season as Marcus and Tomás try to help Casey Rance, Regan’s daughter.

Season two follows the priests’ encounters not just with more possession — this time in a group home run by Andy Kim (played by the amazing John Cho) — as well as people faking possession to get attention. That latter case really hits you hard. And it hits Marcus especially hard. As a result, he becomes deeply protective of the girl who was abused, and I love their interactions throughout season two. In fact, all of the kids in the show are fantastic actors. John Cho also freaking wrecked me in season two and was thoroughly phenomenal. His acting is amazing, I cannot stress this enough.

‘You’re not an apprentice anymore, Tomás. You’re an exorcist. And I’m proud to stand beside you, brother.’

I loved Marcus and Tomás. They both have their own personal obstacles that they’re dealing with in addition to all the exorcisms, and as characters they’re both so wonderful and believable. And I’m not gonna lie, Marcus and Tomás have mad chemistry and their relationship is hands down the best aspect of the show. Marcus is also revealed to be bisexual, which is something we see so little of on television and I totally cheered. 

‘I don’t want to lose you.’
‘Then bring me back.’

Unfortunately, The Exorcist was cancelled after season two, but the creator revealed that season three would have revolved around Tomás finding his way back to Marcus, who was consumed with guilt after the events of season two and went off on his own. I would have loved to see more of this show, but it ends right at that place where you want more but you’re not totally lost not to have it. I generally hate unresolved cliffhangers, but it works for this one and isn’t too frustrating. As a result, I can totally recommend it and I’m definitely going to be rewatching it. I also really want to read the book now, which I’ve since done a little research on and find myself rather intrigued by. I had no idea the writer was once most famous for his comedy work.

Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable, if very frightening series.

‘You said I have nothing. You are wrong. I have love, I have hope, and I have faith. These things are not weaknesses. They make me what I am.’
‘And what’s that?’
‘An exorcist.’