Sunday, December 10, 2023

The Leftover Woman by Jean Kwok


I found this in a Little Free Library and decided to pick it up on a whim since it was a Goodreads Choice Award. I wasn't sure how I would feel about it when I first picked it up, but it ended up being kind of like if SUCH A FUN AGE were written by Harlan Coben. So, basically an intimate dissection of privilege, racism, generational pain, and culture shock-- with thriller elements!

There are two narrators in this book: Jasmine and Rebecca. Jasmine has come here from China illegally and is struggling to support herself while seeking the daughter who was stolen from her years ago. Rebecca is a white woman who works at a publishing firm that used to be her father's. She's trying to acquire the hottest new book written by a woman of color, but there are dark secrets dogging her past.

I liked how the two stories intertwined. I guessed most of the twists but I really liked how the author did them and I think this would translate well to the screen. My only qualm is that the last act felt rushed and a little messy, but the ending made me tear up.

4 out of 5 stars

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Kill for Love by Laura Picklesimer


DNF @ 52%

I really tried to stick with this one because the writing style is very good. This is basically a gender-swapped AMERICAN PSYCHO, with a shallow and sociopathic sorority girl as the killer. One day, she decides that she just really wants to kill the guys in her life, and embarks upon a stabby, slashy spree.

One thing I didn't see anyone talking about is that the heroine has an ED, and calorie restriction and purging feature pretty heavily as themes in this book. I feel this is supposed to be juxtaposed against her feral appetite for killing and savagery, as well as the consumerist LA culture she lives in. If you're reading deeply into this book, I think you could say that Tiffany is a violent rebellion against the patriarchy and the societal standards that said patriarchy has imposed upon women. 

I probably would have liked this more if I hadn't read so many other female serial killer-fronted books that took this concept and ran with it slightly better. Would recommend this to people who enjoyed books such as SWEETPEA, HOW TO KILL MEN AND GET AWAY WITH IT, and BOY PARTS.

2 out of 5 stars

The Woman in the Dark by Vanessa Savage


I made a TikTok recently where I was talking about two of my favorite gothic romances, and in the video I said that one of my favorite microtropes is, "Is the house really haunted, or are they just crazy?" THE WOMAN IN THE DARK is that microtrope, only without the romance. Well, there's hints of romance. But it's fucked up.

This is my first book by this author and I thought it was really well done. She nailed the intensely psychological element. This is paced like a movie and had me gripping the pages (metaphorically, since it was an ebook) with white knuckled hands. I will say that you should be careful reading this going in, though. It portrays emotional and physical abuse quite gruesomely, and also has on-page rape.

I wasn't sure where the author was going with this book until the very end, although I had my suspicions. It was pretty well done, I thought, although the ending felt a little rushed and kind of surreal.

I still liked it, though.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Thursday, December 7, 2023

The End of Everything by Megan Abbott


So I almost DNFed this in the beginning because I wasn't sure that I liked the writing style, but once I got used to the ornate and flowery prose and the slow beginning, I couldn't put this book down. THE END OF EVERYTHING is quietly devastating and absolutely heartbreaking to read. It's a coming of age story about grooming, girlhood, toxic masculinity, and the viciousness of first friendships. For almost the entire book, dread sat like a hot coal in the pit of my gut, and I feared so much for these poor, poor girls.

I don't want to say too much, but basically this book is set in a small town in the 1980s. Lizzie is friends with two sisters, Evie and Dusty, but Evie is her best friend. Dusty, the older sister, fills Lizzie with awe, because she's older and beautiful and in a way, aspirational. But Evie is her ride or die, and she spends as much time at the Verver household that she does at her own.

Then one day, Evie goes missing and everyone suspects it was an older man. A pervert with a taste for young girls. Lizzie decides to look into her best friend's disappearance, but the closer she gets to the Verver family, the darker and more convoluted the evil truth becomes.

I'm a little shocked that the ratings for this book are so low. I have to figure it's either the writing style (fair) or because people didn't understand that all of these girls are unreliable narrators. I see the same problem in books like LOLITA or MY DARK VANESSA, where if you don't have media literacy and take everything those narrators are saying at face value, you could read those books and think that they're actually defending the abuse of children. But that is REALLY not the case here. I feel like THE END OF EVERYTHING is a cautionary tale more than anything: not against girls needing to be more careful because fuck victim blaming, but about the desperate need for society to protect girls who, in their innocence, might conflate abuse with love.

God, this was heartbreaking. I feel like I need a hug. That ending. Woof.

4 to 4.5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

A Certain Hunger by Chelsea G. Summers


DNF @ 15%

Not for me. I went into this expecting something like GIRL, EATING and instead I got something that felt like BIG SWISS. The author manages to capture the pretensions that a sociopathic food critic might have, but I realized I don't actually want to read 200+ pages of that.

2 out of 5 stars

Icebreaker by Hannah Grace


Ngl, I'm kinda shocked that this has like two pages of one-star reviews after you get through the first page of mostly four stars and fives. They are seething, too. For a while, that and all of the TikTok hype kind of put me off the book. That, and I don't like sports. Eek. But when this went on sale, I picked it up out of morbid curiosity and because I thought the sample was really intriguing... and to my surprise, I really liked it.

ICEBREAKER is about a figure skater and a hockey player who end up having to skate together after (1) someone damages one of their college's two rinks and (2) Anastasia's skating partner is injured because of someone on Nate's team, resulting in him being benched. 

This is really cute and REALLY smutty. I'd say the plot-to-smut ratio is 50/50 which is about as high as you can get without being erotica (more smut-focused). The sex scenes are hot (minus the cooing), although this is geared towards people that have a size kink, I think. I am in no way shocked that the Ali Hazelwoodinos love this book. Anastasia and Olive are probably in the same "OMG, Will He Fit?" bowling league.

So many people have reviewed this book already so here are some shorthand notes:

-I LOVED the focus on therapy and mental health. It is so amazing to see a new adult book be so positive about getting help for yourself and talking through things and self-searching.

-Nate is a wonderful love interest. Golden retriever in the streets, sex Daddy in the sheets. We stan.

-The friend circle of both the FMC and the MMC were so cute. I loved all of them.

-Fuck Aaron, like seriously. I was praying for a bus to run him over the whole time.

-This really didn't need to be 400+ pages. I ended up getting really bored in the middle. I'm so, so sorry to say this but if a book affects the pacing of the story and the reader's engagement, it's probably too long. (And that's not the only thing that's too long, hehe.)

-Loved the portrayal of emotional abuse in this book. It felt real and not at all sensationalized. It also eventually gets called out.

-I thought it was great that the hero had severe migraines, as well as several on-page episodes. I mean, not great, migraines suck, but representation is important. And I especially liked seeing a vulnerability like that in a hero who is very clearly strong. Give me all the men with relatable issues.

-It was so refreshing to see a fuckgirl heroine who was having one night stands and living her best life and actually stayed friends with her ex-fuckbuddy (who was also a doll?). Consent and sexual agency both played such a premium role in this book. It was absolutely fabulous.

-Stassie is a terrible, terrible nickname.

-Why did the MMC and FMC have sex while the hero was dressed as Gru? Dickspicable.

I was going to give this a three, but as I was listing all of this out, I remembered how much I loved the beginning and how much fun I had talking about this book, so I think I'm going to round up.

Also, I simp these boys so I'm almost certainly going to be reading the other books.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Bad Sign: A Short Taboo Hitchhiker Romance by Kate Rivenhall


I'd seen a TikTok about this novella and I was really curious because the summary was so vague. Basically, a woman is driving through the rain with her abusive husband in the car, and they happen upon a hitchhiker with his hood pulled down. Maire, the woman, doesn't want to stop because she thinks that he could be dangerous. She's right.

I don't want to say too much about this book because I don't want to spoil what happens, but it made me like a story that has a taboo in it that I normally avoid, which is pretty amazing. My jaw dropped at two of the twists. I would only recommend this to the darkest of dark romance readers since it basically covers all the bases, but I felt like it handled its content pretty well. There are some interesting discussions that could be had about this book, like how coming from a broken home causes you to depend on people you shouldn't, how trauma bonding through a shared and painful history can transcend social mores, and even how one can be so blinded by one's own so-called moral righteousness that it can cause a person to be more compassionate to a stranger than they would their own wife, just to keep up appearances.

So yeah, I liked this book. The ending was great. Pay attention to the trigger warnings and note the "taboo" label, but definitely read this if you're looking for something different and super dark. My only wish is that it was longer. I feel like a full length novel about all of these characters would have been really interesting. There's an epic and fucked-up saga in here that's screaming and begging to get out.

Disclaimer: I'm friends with the author on socials but she didn't ask me to read this.

3.5 to 4 out of 5 stars