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 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.

currently reading;

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Forest of a Thousand Lanterns – I’m loving this so far. It’s about the rise of an evil queen and she’s honestly so enjoyably unlikeable, haha. The main character, Xifeng, has been told all her life that she’s going to be the Empress one day. Her aunt’s abusive, but can access dark magic that involves blood and sacrifice. Her boyfriend, Wei, adores her, hates her aunt, and wants a simple life with a wife and a good living. Xifeng wants more, though. She wants what her aunt says she deserves. She wants to be the Empress. She wants magic and power. I’m about 1/3 of the way through it and find her intriguing, though deeply troubled.

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Adrift – This one is awesome, I just need to actually spend more time with it. I keep getting distracted by other books that I’m going through this one slower than I otherwise would. But it’s great. The premise is a tour group in outer space are left stranded after an unknown attacker destroys every other ship in the area. The who or why isn’t clear yet, but it reminds me of Firefly and The Expanse. Can’t wait to see how this ends.

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The White City – Set in a dystopian London besieged by endless winter, this story follows Hera after her brother is arrested. I only just started it, but it’s really intriguing and I’m curious to see where it goes.

 

What’s everyone else reading?

Review Round Up: Three Novellas/Short Stories

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The Butcher of Anderson Station (The Expanse #0.5) by James S.A. Corey

“Because why matters, Colonel. Why always matters. Whatever your story is, I know how it ends. It ends with you, here, talking to me.”

I am a huge fan of the television show (which I only started a week ago and am almost done with because it is awesome) so I wanted to try the books and see if I liked them. I picked the very first in the order, even if it isn’t technically the starting point and I really liked the writing!

The storyline of Anderson Station is so tragic and highlights the casualties of war and all the innocents caught in the crossfire. Fred is a very interesting character. He and Dawes play off each other well. Can’t wait to start Leviathan Wakes! I need more of Captain Jim and his crew!

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The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin

I cannot describe it at all. It is possible that it does not exist. But they seemed to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas.

This is a hard one to stomach even if it is so short. I went into it not knowing the premise, so for the first part of the story I was intrigued, and then I was furious, and then I just sort of sat there and went whoa. I feel like if you know anything about the premise, it ruins the surprise, and since it is only a few pages long, I won’t go into much detail. Simply put, I definitely recommend this, even for the emotional and philosophical gut punch you will receive. Very thought-provoking and days later I’m still thinking about it.

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Marked: A Possessive Vampire Romance by Dawn Jansen

Let me stay here, underground, where it is quiet and dark. Let me sustain myself on the blood of rats and be at peace.

This short story follows Ada and Lucien, a human historian and a vampire hiding underground, respectively. Ada’s exploring the tunnels in New York for research when she runs into Lucien and accidentally pepper sprays herself in the face in surprise. But Lucien’s even more surprised, cos, you know, Ada looks like his dead lover Claire.

I stumbled a bit with how quickly they fell for each other. I kind of get Lucien’s obsession – it reminded me of Stefan and Damon finding Elena in The Vampire Diaries — but I thought Ada fell a bit quick for the lad. I think if I met someone in a tunnel and freaked out, I wouldn’t be flirting. You do you, girl, but I agree with Laura, the roommate: She told me it doesn’t matter how hot he is, there’s no way I’m going back there. BRING THAT GOOD ADVICE, LAURA. Honestly, I struggled with how consumingly Ada fell for Lucien. I don’t care if it’s gonna get me killed, if I don’t see Lucien again, I might as well be dead. Girl. GIRL. VALUE YOURSELF. Like, at least ascertain that he is not, in fact, a murderer before kissing him.

I found the vampire lore that was hinted at to be quite cool! The idea of vampires living underground because of hunters makes for an intriguing backstory. I would have loved more of a backstory on Lucien’s turn. Lord Gaston only got a brief reference and I’m desperately curious about the vampiric world building and how covens work in this. In fact, Lucien and Claire’s whole backstory went by so quickly, but teased at so much intrigue! If the author wants to write a prequel, I vote for Claire and Lucien bossing it up across Europe in the 1700s.

Overall there’s a lot to like here, but I’m a fan of the slow burn so I do wish it’d been a bit longer and given us more of a build up and backstory.

I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

all reviews cross-posted to goodreads 🙂

Review: Il était une seconde fois (2018)

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‘Relationships are all the same, but no one experiences them the same way.’

Il était une seconde fois, or Twice Upon a Time, centres around Vincent and Louise. It’s told out of order, switching back and forth between the past and the present. I did notice it switching from full screen to wide screen as well, so I think that was an intentional method to differentiate between the past and the present. If you don’t pay attention to that, though, it’s easy to get lost. The changes happen without warning.

**contains spoilers**

The series starts off with Vincent basically a drunken mess who’s spiralling into depression and destruction after the end of his relationship with Louise. Over the course of the series, you find out that Vincent and Louise met one night in a pub and instantly hit it off. They agree neither wants a relationship but their chemistry is undeniable and they get into a relationship despite Louise having an unfinished relationship with James, and Vincent still seeing the mother of his son.

One day, a postman leaves a box, ‘the cube’, with Vincent. It’s quite literally just a box. When he’s trying to figure out what it does, he realises the box doesn’t have a back and comes out on the other side nine months in the past with his relationship still intact.

In both timelines, Louise struggles with opening up to Vincent after a traumatic event in her last relationship has left her reeling. It’s revealed later that she was having an affair with a married man and when the wife found out, she jumped in front of a train with Louise there, riddling her with guilt for the rest of her life. 

Madly in love with Louise and wanting to fix their relationship, he goes back and forth between the past with Louise and the present with his son, not wanting to lose either. His inability to pick one leads to both sides missing him and wondering where he’s been for days on end. Louise tolerates it for a time, listening to his ‘story’ about time travel and viewing it as something like method acting for writers. The only person who believes Vincent is his brother, a man struggling with schizophrenia.

In the present, the postman who left the cube keeps stalking him to get the box back, asking Vincent if he can search his house, his car, and generally just being weird. There are a few others who keep up the weirdness and trying to figure out who wants what and why is difficult. The background of the cube is never really explained outside of his brother making a few ideas about light and photons. And there are background figures trying to get the cube back from Vincent, too, but other than a few lines, these characters aren’t delved into. It leaves you with quite a few questions, although I think the point of the series was to make an existential statement rather than a scientific drama.

Overall the series is quite interesting, and Gaspard Ulliel and Freya Mavor have amazing chemistry and their acting is perfection, but I do wish it’d been a few episodes longer, told a little less convolutedly, and the science fiction/time travel explained more.