Sunday, December 3, 2023

Sweetpea by C.J. Skuse


SWEETPEA is one of many female serial killer books that's come out recently but of the ones I've read so far, it's my favorite. Picture HOW TO KILL MEN AND GET AWAY WITH IT or AMERICAN PSYCHO, except narrated by a grown-up Georgia Nicholson-turned-card-carrying-psychopath who works as a newspaper assistant editor and hates her job only slightly less than she hates everyone else.

As you can imagine, this book is pretty violent. Rhiannon thinks of herself as a vigilante because at first her victims are rapists and abusers. She has rules for masking in public, which she refers to as The Act, but it's pretty clear she has little regard for human life. Every chapter opens with a list of people she'd like to murder, alongside a list of their "crimes." And it's interesting that, to someone like Rhiannon, bagging your groceries wrong warrants the same punishment as child abuse.

I would also caution readers who don't like intentionally unlikable characters not to read this book. In true fashion with someone who has no empathy, Rhiannon is very superficial and makes very cruel fat-shaming, bigoted, and ablelist remarks, including a few minor slurs (like the R-word). I think it fits the character, but not everyone may agree.

This would have been a five in the beginning, but I think the book was too long and the last 20% of the book got weird. The fortune-telling and the talking fetus were just a bit much, you know? It felt a little like the author was in a rush to wrap things up, and so the ending felt a little choppy. I still really liked this book though and I think I saw the author saying on Instagram that it might become a TV series, and that makes me happy because the pacing of this would be perfect for a TV series.

3.5 to 4 out of 5 stars

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Prince of Wolves by Susan Krinard


DNF @ 10%

Susan Krinard is one of my favorite authors but this one is quite a departure from her Fane series. I didn't like the hero. People who like Christine Feehan's Carpathians series will probably like this, as Luke fits more into that sort of dated alpha male archetype.

2 out of 5 stars

Still Missing by Chevy Stevens


I just finished this book and I swear my jaw is still unhinged from that twist. First and foremost, though, this book needs to have a solid page of trigger warnings because it is one of the most psychologically intense books I've picked up in a while, and the first half basically sucked my soul into a black and desolate void. DON'T pick this up if you cannot read about on-page rapes or you're feeling depressed and miserable, because this book will make you feel so much worse.

That said, it's brilliant. The first person narrative feels so raw, and Annie is a survivor in every sense of the word. While on Threads, we were talking about strong female protagonists and how some authors like to shit on weak or traumatized female characters in order to boost able-bodied and emotionally stoic women who kick butt, possess sexual agency, and mostly have their shit together. And that's all well and good, but while reading this book, I kept thinking about this comment someone left on my thread, about how sometimes survival itself is strength. And that's this book. Strength in survival.

STILL MISSING is a lot like ROOM by Emma Donoghue or Roxane Gay's UNTAMED STATE. It shows the psychic aftermath of abuse, but also has a woman regaining her sexual agency after trauma (with a pretty hot scene) and some genuinely shocking and memorable twists. I don't want to say more, because less is more going in, however I will say that there is infanticide, mentions of child sexual abuse, and also animal deaths (graphic and upsetting ones). I will definitely be checking out more from this author but I probably won't ever read this one again. I  sure won't forget it, though.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Friday, December 1, 2023

Morbidly Yours by Ivy Fairbanks


MORBIDLY YOURS is a profoundly romantic book that manages to tackle friends-to-lovers (one of the hardest tropes to do well, in my opinion), grief, death anxiety, enrichment of life, self-advocacy, and interesting and nuanced relationships, all with equal mastery.

Callum is a mortician who is going to lose his funeral home if he doesn't get married because of a stipulation in his grandfather's will. Lark, on the other hand, is a grieving widow who has come to Ireland to work as an animation director in Galway. When they meet, it's a clash of personalities at first, but they quickly end up getting to know each other better than they expected because they're neighbors.

This book was pure perfection. I'm going to overlook the cruelty of Ms. Fairbanks making me fall in love with a man who doesn't exist. I loved the way that the OW and OM ended up being delightful people who furthered the story in interesting and unexpected way. I liked how Callum wasn't traditionally masculine, and that he had a stutter. He's also demisexual and I thought that rep was handled beautifully.

I am absolutely seething with jealousy that this was a debut effort. It is so good, and I will absolutely read whatever this author puts out there next. There aren't a lot of romances that feel so real, that you can just totally lose yourself in the story because they feel like your friends, but this is one of them.

5 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

The Silent Woman by Minka Kent


I call books like these FULTs, or fucked up lady thrillers, and the requirement is basically that the female narrator hasn't got her shit together and there's a Suspicious Hot Guy (SHG) who might or might not be the villain. FULTs are the best kinds of thrillers and you absolutely cannot change my mind.

I found THE SILENT WOMAN in a Little Free Library and loved the cover and thought the summary sounded amazing. It actually sounded a lot like Freida McFadden's THE WIFE UPSTAIRS, and there are a ton of similarities, but I think this is because they're both clearly inspired by Jane Eyre. The twists and some of the core elements are different enough that they don't feel exactly the same.

If you're familiar with stories like Jane Eyre and Rebecca, you know the score. A woman marries a charming and rich man only to find out that he has baggage in the form of an ex-wife who's still kind of in the picture. I liked that Jade was a biographer and met her husband through her work. She felt fleshed out and competent and nice. Don't get me wrong, I love messy ladies, but I like nice ladies, too.

I don't want to say too much more because I don't want to spoil any of the twists, but if you enjoy books written by authors like May Cobb, Lindsay Marcott, or Emily Carpenter, you're probably going to enjoy this.

4.5 to 5 out of 5 stars

Food as metaphor in R.F. Kuang's YELLOWFACE

 So I just read YELLOWFACE by R.F. Kuang and it was the type of book that you can't stop thinking about once you put it down. And one of the things that I found most fascinating about it, that I didn't see too many people talking about, is the theme of metaphorical and literal consumption, specifically revolving around food.

Just in case you don't know what YELLOWFACE is about, I'll fill you in. YELLOWFACE is about a white woman who steals her dead Asian friend's manuscript for a book about Chinese laborers in World War I and then passes it off as her own. She "edits" the work (making it more palatable for the largely white publishing community and high profile reviewing community), and basically devours it, turning it into a product that she considers more "hers" than Athena's.

She consumes this untold story about Asian suffering and pain and, in turn, makes it easy to consume for her (white) audience. It becomes a best-seller because stories about minority pain that uphold and uplift the (white) status quo almost always do well. But what is really interesting while all of this is going on is how this woman reacts in every scene where she is presented with Chinese food.

Food is often how someone is introduced to a new culture. Food is prepared in the home and passed down from generations. Food is tied with family, home, tradition, and love. And Chinese food has a very rich and storied history, especially American Chinese food (check out Jennifer 8 Lee's THE FORTUNE COOKIE CHRONICLES, if you want to learn about the history of some popular American Chinese dishes). And June, the antiheroine of this book, cannot stomach Chinese food.

On an Asian panel she is invited to, that's devoted to Asian excellence and showcasing diversity, it makes her nauseous. When she goes to a hole in the wall Chinese restaurant run by two Chinese immigrants supporting their family, June once again feels ill. And when she goes to her mother's house, and her mother tries to feed her takeout, once again, June balks. To me, I feel like this is supposed to symbolize that June is only willing to accept the parts of Chinese culture that she can profit from (pain, specifically), but the parts of it that are tied into actual tradition, excellence, and joy, she has no interest in and literally recoils from.

Food, in YELLOWFACE, is the symbolic manifestation of June's unwillingness to look at or confront her own secret disdain for Chinese people and their culture, even as she profits from it by consuming the other parts.

At least that's how I interpreted it.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Bittersweet in the Hollow by Kate Pearsall


This is a pretty solid Southern Gothic. There's elements of Practical Magic and dabs and dashes of Roanoke Girls, but it's got too much Sarah Addison Allen in it to be truly creepy. What it ends up being is a pretty teen-friendly novel about first love and quiet scares that verges on but doesn't quite succeed at being horrifying.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!

3 out of 5 stars