NetGalley Review: Little Darlings

This highly readable debut from author Melanie Golding is a clever and creepy reinterpretation of classic folk- and fairy-tales. An elegant melding of crime fiction, fantasy, and horror, it tells the story of a young, isolated mother convinced that her newborn twin baby boys have been switched with “changelings” by a malevolent fairy creature. She is dismissed as unhinged by local law enforcement, except for a rogue police officer convinced there is more to the story than meets the eye.

Every sentence is infused with suspense and dread. The visceral imagery conjured straight from the darkest fairy tales will keep readers trying to decide who is telling the truth until the final page. I also thoroughly enjoyed the inclusion of excerpts from fairytales and folktales from around the world, providing context for readers who may not be as familiar with some of the lore alluded to in the novel.

Many thanks to Crooked Lane Books and Melanie Golding, as well as NetGalley, who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Expected publication: April 30, 2019

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2018: So long, and thanks for all fish (literally)

Hello hello you gorgeous gleaming diamond-encrusted Fabergé eggs. Yes, it’s that time of year again, god help us. Another list. I’m sure you’re as sick of these wrap-ups and rankings as I am, but hey, sometimes you have to do stuff you don’t want to, like decide on a wedding reception playlist with your antagonistic and hard-headed fiance… right, Al?

Perfectly said, as always.

So as we shed the rotting skin of 2018 and strut fresh-faced and socksure into the new year, let’s take a look back at my most highly-rated reads over the past 12 months.

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

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Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

Kachka: A Return to Russian Cooking by Bonnie Frumkin Morales

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Yes, it’s a cookbook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

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Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.

So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. 

A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

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In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of long-held secrets and the ferocious pull of motherhood-and the danger of believing that planning and following the rules can avert disaster, or heartbreak.

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead

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“Astonish Me” is the irresistible story of Joan, a ballerina whose life has been shaped by her relationship with the world-famous dancer Arslan Ruskov, whom she helps defect from the Soviet Union to the United States. While Arslan’s career takes off in New York, Joan’s slowly declines, ending when she becomes pregnant and decides to marry her longtime admirer, a PhD student named Jacob. As the years pass, Joan settles into her new life in California, teaching dance and watching her son, Harry, become a ballet prodigy himself. But when Harry’s success brings him into close contact with Arslan, explosive secrets are revealed that shatter the delicate balance Joan has struck between her past and present.
In graceful, inimitable prose, Shipstead draws us into an extraordinary world, and the lives of her vivid and tempestuous characters. Filled with intrigue, brilliant satire, and emotional nuance, “Astonish Me” is a superlative follow-up to Shipstead’s superb debut.

Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak

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Peri, a married, wealthy, beautiful Turkish woman, is on her way to a dinner party at a seaside mansion in Istanbul when a beggar snatches her handbag. As she wrestles to get it back, a photograph falls to the ground — an old polaroid of three young women and their university professor. A relic from a past — and a love — Peri had tried desperately to forget.

Three Daughters of Eve is set over an evening in contemporary Istanbul, as Peri arrives at the party and navigates the tensions that simmer in this crossroads country between East and West, religious and secular, rich and poor. Over the course of the dinner, and amidst an opulence that is surely ill-begotten, terrorist attacks occur across the city. Competing in Peri’s mind however are the memories invoked by her almost-lost polaroid, of the time years earlier when she was sent abroad for the first time, to attend Oxford University. As a young woman there, she had become friends with the charming, adventurous Shirin, a fully assimilated Iranian girl, and Mona, a devout Egyptian-American. Their arguments about Islam and feminism find focus in the charismatic but controversial Professor Azur, who teaches divinity, but in unorthodox ways. As the terrorist attacks come ever closer, Peri is moved to recall the scandal that tore them all apart.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

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When Elsie married handsome young heir Rupert Bainbridge, she believed she was destined for a life of luxury. But with her husband dead just weeks after their marriage, her new servants resentful, and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie has only her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. Inside her new home lies a locked door, beyond which is a painted wooden figure–a silent companion–that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself. The residents of The Bridge are terrified of the figure, but Elsie tries to shrug this off as simple superstition–that is, until she notices the figure’s eyes following her.

A Victorian ghost story that evokes a most unsettling kind of fear, this is a tale that creeps its way through the consciousness in ways you least expect–much like the silent companions themselves.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

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Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. In this deft exploration of love, loyalty, race, justice, and both Black masculinity and Black womanhood in 21st century America, Jones achieves that most-elusive of all literary goals: the Great American Novel. 

 

 

 

Circe by Madeline Miller

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In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

Making Up (London Celebrities #3) by Lucy Parker

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Once upon a time, circus artist Trix Lane was the best around. Her spark vanished with her confidence, though, and reclaiming either has proved…difficult. So when the star of The Festival of Masks is nixed and Trix is unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight, it’s exactly the push she needs. But the joy over her sudden elevation in status is cut short by a new hire on the makeup team.

Leo Magasiva: disgraced wizard of special effects. He of the beautiful voice and impressive beard. Complete dickhead and—in an unexpected twist—an enragingly good kisser. 

To Leo, something about Trix is…different. Lovely. Beautiful, even though the pint-size, pink-haired former bane of his existence still spends most of her waking hours working to annoy him. They’ve barely been able to spend two minutes together for years, and now he can’t get enough of her. On stage. At home. In his bed.

When it comes to commitment, Trix has been there, done that, never wants to do it again. Leo’s this close to the job of a lifetime, which would take him away from London—and from Trix. Their past is a constant barrier between them.

It seems hopeless. Utterly impossible. And yet…

The Ensemble by Aja Gabel

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Brit is the second violinist, a beautiful and quiet orphan; the viola is Henry, a prodigy who’s always had it easy; the cellist is Daniel, the oldest, the angry skeptic who sleeps around; and on first violin is Jana, their flinty, resilient leader. Together, they are the Van Ness String Quartet.

In The Ensemble, each character picks up the melody, from the group’s youthful rocky start through to adulthood. As they navigate devastating failures and wild success, heartbreak and marriage, triumph and loss, betrayal and enduring loyalty, they are always tied together—by career, by the intensity of their art, by the secrets they carry together, and by choosing each other over and over again.

Following these four unforgettable characters, Aja Gabel’s debut novel gives a behind-the-scenes look into the highly competitive, mysterious world of high-level musicians. The story of Brit and Henry and Daniel and Jana, The Ensemble is a heart-skipping portrait of ambition, friendship, and the tenderness of youth.

The Wife by Meg Wolitzer

“The moment I decided to leave him, the moment I thought, enough, we were thirty-five thousand feet above the ocean, hurtling forward but giving the illusion of stillness and tranquility. Just like our marriage.” So opens Meg Wolitzer’s compelling and provocative novel The Wife, as Joan Castleman sits beside her husband on their flight to Helsinki. Joan’s husband, Joseph Castleman, is “one of those men who own the world…who has no idea how to take care of himself or anyone else, and who derives much of his style from the Dylan Thomas Handbook of Personal Hygiene and Etiquette.” He is also one of America’s preeminent novelists, about to receive a prestigious international award to honor his accomplishments, and Joan, who has spent forty years subjugating her own literary talents to fan the flames of his career, has finally decided to stop.

From this gripping opening, Wolitzer flashes back fifty years to 1950s Smith College and Greenwich Village — the beginning of the Castleman relationship — and follows the course of the famous marriage that has brought them to this breaking point, culminating in a shocking ending that outs a carefully kept secret.

Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

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Meet Hanna.

She’s the sweet-but-silent angel in the adoring eyes of her Daddy. He’s the only person who understands her, and all Hanna wants is to live happily ever after with him. But Mommy stands in her way, and she’ll try any trick she can think of to get rid of her. Ideally for good.

Meet Suzette.

She loves her daughter, really, but after years of expulsions and strained home schooling, her precarious health and sanity are weakening day by day. As Hanna’s tricks become increasingly sophisticated, and Suzette’s husband remains blind to the failing family dynamics, Suzette starts to fear that there’s something seriously wrong, and that maybe home isn’t the best place for their baby girl after all.

The Anna Karenina Fix: Life Lessons from Russian Literature by Viv Groskop

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Viv Groskop has discovered the meaning of life in Russian literature. As she knows from personal experience, everything that has ever happened in life has already happened in these novels: from not being sure what to do with your life (Anna Karenina) to being in love with someone who doesn’t love you back enough (A Month in the Country by Turgenev) or being socially anxious about your appearance (all of Chekhov’s work). This is a literary self-help memoir, with examples from the author’s own life that reflect the lessons of literature, only in a much less poetic way than Tolstoy probably intended, and with an emphasis on being excessively paranoid about having an emerging moustache on your upper lip, just like Natasha in War and Peace.

 

A Double Life by Flynn Berry

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Claire is a hardworking doctor leading a simple, quiet life in London. She is also the daughter of the most notorious murder suspect in the country, though no one knows it. 

Nearly thirty years ago, while Claire and her brother slept upstairs, a brutal crime was committed in her family’s townhouse. The next morning, her father’s car was found abandoned near the English Channel, with bloodstains on the front seat. Her mother insisted she’d seen him in the house that night, but his powerful, privileged friends maintained his innocence. The first lord accused of murder in more than a century, he has been missing ever since. 

When the police tell Claire they’ve found him, her carefully calibrated existence begins to fracture. She doesn’t know if she’s the daughter of a murderer or a wronged man, but Claire will soon learn how far she’ll go to finally find the truth.

Loosely inspired by one of the most notorious unsolved crimes of the 20th century – the Lord Lucan case – A Double Life is at once a riveting page-turner and a moving reflection on women and violence, trauma and memory, and class and privilege.

That seems like a lot of books, but it’s only the ones I rated 4+ stars on Goodreads. And I did manage to hit my reading goal of 123 books. But to be honest, I don’t feel any satisfaction with that number. Because the truth is… I didn’t read well this year. I rushed through books, discarded them too quickly, read more than one at a time. I didn’t make time for reading, didn’t prioritize it the way I have in the past. And I feel that I have suffered for it. Yes, yes, there were many valid reasons – the new job, the engagement, a suddenly active social life – but there is no denying that part of it was just laziness. I was on my phone more than ever, and the screen time has messed with my attention span and, let’s be honest, my intelligence as well.

So my 2019 reading resolution is this: read better. I will still set a numerical goal for myself, but mostly I want to be more mindful in my reading. What I’m reading, when, how. No more hasty dnfs, no more multiple books on the go, no more reading with a screen in arm’s reach.

And I also kinda want to smash my phone.

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The mood for 2019 is read books, punch Nazis, and love yourself. See you in 2019, kroshkas. Stay shiny.

– xo, R

Nonfiction Benediction: The Return

Good evening, my scrumptious lebkuchens. How are your delicious lives? I for one am glad that November is about to end. It’s been a hell of a month (but isn’t it always?). I completed my probationary period at  November, you ruthless son a bitch, I will be glad to see the back of you. Between Nanowrimo and work and wedding planning, I barely have two brain cells left to rub together.

This week, I’m reviewing Sons of Cain: A History of Serial Killers From the Stone Age to the Present, by Peter Vronsky

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Cover Talk

Not too shabby. I approve.

The Summary Heist

From the author of Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters comes an in-depth examination of sexual serial killers throughout human history, how they evolved, and why we are drawn to their horrifying crimes.

Before the term was coined in 1981, there were no “serial killers.” There were only “monsters”–killers society first understood as werewolves, vampires, ghouls and witches or, later, Hitchcockian psychos.

In Sons of Cain–a book that fills the gap between dry academic studies and sensationalized true crime–investigative historian Peter Vronsky examines our understanding of serial killing from its prehistoric anthropological evolutionary dimensions in the pre-civilization era (c. 15,000 BC) to today. Delving further back into human history and deeper into the human psyche than Serial Killers–Vronsky’s 2004 book, which has been called “the definitive history of the phenomenon of serial murder”–he focuses strictly on sexual serial killers: thrill killers who engage in murder, rape, torture, cannibalism and necrophilia, as opposed to for-profit serial killers, including hit men, or “political” serial killers, like terrorists or genocidal murderers.

These sexual serial killers differ from all other serial killers in their motives and their foundations. They are uniquely human and–as popular culture has demonstrated–uniquely fascinating.

Robyn Says

Okay so this book was kind of underwhelming for me… but I am very picky when it comes to serial killers (don’t ask). From the synopsis, I was expecting a rich study of serial killers throughout history. It kiiiiiiiiiinda delivered – the first few chapters were really great, examining possible evolutionary causes for the phenomenon of serial killers. I would have liked more on that subject, but the author moved pretty quickly into your standard list of serial killers, organized more or less chronologically. It was a good overview, but if you’ve read other books on serial killers, you won’t find anything new.

Still, if you’re just dipping your toe into the true crime genre, this is a very good place to start.

Verdict

Not bad. Read it, because why not.

Best Lines

“It was only in the mid-1970s, after Ted Bundy started abducting and killing middle-class white college girls at schools, shopping malls, ski chalets, national parks and public beaches, that the media suddenly began paying close attention.”

FUCK YOU CORROSIVE HEGEMONIC BLINDERS

Fancasting couch

Oh HELL to the nah.

Book Boyfriend material

Um

Rating

6.5 out of 10 clones of 14-year-old me, obsessed with all things related to true crime, What a weirdo you were, 14-year-old me. And guess what, you still are.

ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT

You know what really bothers me though? The Zodiac. We can put a man on the moon, we should  be able to catch that cryptic fucker. NASA, GET ON THIS.

-xo, R

Closer, my pretty

Hey hey, book-dragons, how’s life? I am currently at my wit’s end (where else), and the cause is, unsurprisingly, the entire wedding industry (and also the Catholic Church but let’s not get into that). I won’t bore you with the details, but a gentle word of advice to my as-yet-unmarried readers… FUCKING ELOPE FOR FUCK’S SAKE, DO NOT DO THE BIG THING, CITY HALL IS THE WAY TO GO, PLEASE HEED THE ADVICE OF ONE WHO IS ALREADY LOST TO THE POUFY WHITE DRESS AND ALL THAT IT SYMBOLIZES.

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Anyway. On the bright side, I am reading more, if only to distract myself from the nuptial nightmare that threatens to overwhelm my every waking moment… and sleeping moment, for that matter. (I dream of centrepieces. Avalanches of centrepieces that rain down in furious floral torrents, burying me in a mountain of roses and fairy lights and wire-edged ribbons. HELP ME.)

This week, I’m reviewing Come Closer, a novella by Sara Gran, which I found on one of those Halloween booklists that pop up all over the bookish side of the internet around the middle of October.

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Cover Talk

Meh. Not good enough, but not terrible. Could have gone so much creepier. But the font is good.

The Summary Heist

If everything in Amanda’s life is so perfect, then why the mood swings, the obscene thoughts, the urge to harm the people she loves? What are those tapping sounds in the walls? And who’s that woman following her? The mystery behind what’s happening to Amanda in Come Closer is so frightening that it “ought to carry a warning to…readers.”

Robyn Says

Aw yeah now THAT’S what I’m talking about. This was short and well-written and terrifying, it is literally horror-lit perfection. I actually wish this was a full-length novel, because the demonic mythos is on point in this one. The characters are great, the scares are creepy af, the story was familiar but fresh, and the ending had me wanting more. SO GOOD.

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I would love for Gran to write a sequel, or something that builds on the story in this book. Please give me more terrifying demons. THAT IS ALL I NEED FROM A HORROR STORY. Nothing is scarier, NOTHING.

Verdict

Read it, it’s awesome. You will definitely need a night light after you finish, though.

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Best Lines

“Instead I walked towards the man, meeting him halfway. “Just miss a train?” I heard myself ask. He shrugged. I could not believe I was engaging this man in conversation. He was disgusting up close, with mottled, pitted skin and a shaggy grown out haircut. “I hate that,” I said. “Especially at night. Especially at night when you’re waiting for a train and there’s someone there. And you never know. I mean, in the city you just never know who you’re dealing with. They might have a knife, or a gun, or whatever. They might, I don’t know, be the kind of person who hates men who hang out in train stations, waiting for women. She might be the kind of person who takes men like that and rips them limb from fucking limb with her bare hands.” The man left the station without a word, and the train took me home safe and sound.”

GUYS THIS BOOK THO.

Fancasting couch

Amanda – Carey Mulligan

Naamah – evil Carey Mulligan

Ed, the husband – Ed Helms, because why no

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The dog – A dog

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Book Boyfriend material

NO ONE, this book is a demonic feminist utopia. I will take the dog, though.

Rating

10 out of 10 ruthless female demons hell-bent on liberating from your stifling patriarchy-mandated domestic existence.

ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT

Now that I think about it… demonic possession might actually explain the bridezilla phenomenon. I mean think about it – a marriage-obsessed demon whose only purpose is to sow terror and discord in the world. What better vessel than a bride quietly suffocating beneath the pressures of the North American wedding industry? It all makes perfect sense. I’m on to something, I tell ya!

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-xo, R

The Mediocre Gatsby

I’m in a foul mood, crumpets. No spirit for a preamble. Time to savage a book.

Today, it’s Amor Towles’s Rules of Civility  – which is yet another of my library’s book club picks.

Cover Talk

We haven’t even opened the book and already I feel like I’m in West Egg. Or is it East Egg? I have no idea.

The Summary Heist

On the last night of 1937, twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent is in a second-rate Greenwich Village jazz bar with her boardinghouse roommate stretching three dollars as far as it will go when Tinker Grey, a handsome banker with royal blue eyes and a tempered smile, happens to sit at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a yearlong journey from a Wall Street secretarial pool toward the upper echelons of New York society and the executive suites of Condé Nast–rarefied environs where she will have little to rely upon other than a bracing wit and her own brand of cool nerve. 

Wooed in turn by a shy, principled multi-millionaire and an irrepressible Upper East Side ne’er-do-well, befriended by a single-minded widow who is ahead of her time, and challenged by an imperious mentor, Katey experiences firsthand the poise secured by wealth and station and the failed aspirations that reside just below the surface. Even as she waits for circumstances to bring Tinker back into her life, she begins to realize how our most promising choices inevitably lay the groundwork for our regrets.

Robyn Says

Omfg.

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Guys, I tried. I really did. And this book almost defeated me. I tried hardcover. I tried paperback. I even bought the goddamn ebook ff. I tried reading at home. At work. In the bath. In bed. In the morning. At night. On the treadmill. And I just could not get into it.

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But this is not a book I could DNF. So I did what I vowed I would never do.

I got an audiobook. YES I KNOW WHAT THE ACTUAL EFF.

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Audiobooks. *full-body cringe* See my previous post for more on that.

I will say that while this strategy worked, as unpleasant as the experience was, I still think audiobooks are trash, fight me.

And this books. Jesus Hamilton Christmas. I don’t even know guys. I just don’t know. I mean, if this was a gif review, I’d post this:

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But it’s not a gif review goddammit and I actually have to provide words. SIGH. Saddle up, bitches.

The characters were all flat, hollow, unlikable Fitzgerald rejects (except for Wallace). I hated the narrator/protagonist, I hated her stupid viper pal Eve, I hated her Matthew-Crawley-esque milksop crush Tinker (fuck you, Tinker, you hear me? FUCK YOU), I hated the old bish and I hated the side bishes and I really fucking hated the SHITTY handling of minor POC characters (sidenote – this is where audiobooks go from ugh to HECK NO; pro-tip don’t have your white female narrator attempt a “negro” (which also… like ???) accent). I hated the meandering style of writing that aimed for depth but ended up sounding like it was written by someone who would use “blood-orange” to describe a garment (so pretentious) and I hated the motherfucking story that wasn’t really a story but more like a series of events that happened and there were no lessons or revelations or insights, and then the characters were like ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ and the readers were like 「(°ヘ°) and I was like (ꐦ ಠ皿ಠ ) so yeah. NOT MY FAVOURITE BOOK, GUYS.

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Verdict

Don’t read it. Just read all of Fitzgerald and actually FEEL something.

Best Lines

“That’s the problem with living in New York. You’ve got no New York to run away to.”

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Fancasting couch

Katy – the physical manifestation of pretentious

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ugh.

Eve – some blonde

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Ok fine it’s Jean Arthur.

Tinker – this blond bitch

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NO.

Ann Grandyn – middle-aged Lauren Bacall, which this character does not deserve but I needed some goddamn snacks in this fancasting couch, ok?

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Noice.

Wallace – Michael Shannon

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SPEAKING OF SNACKS *fans self* *spontaneously combusts* *worth it*

Book Boyfriend material

WALLIS OBVIOUSLY

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Rating

2 out of 10 stereotyped minor POC characters, who are too good for your Gatsby knock-off anyway.

ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT

In the end, wasn’t the real East Egg inside us all along? Or is it West Egg…

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-xo, R

In Which I am Schooled

Guten Abend meine leckeren kandierten Nüsse. (Yes, I just called you my delicious candied nuts because I LOVE YOU that’s why). How goes it? All well and good in your cozy den of iniquity?

Today, I will share with you a brief anecdote that just goes to show you that even your most hardened prejudices, your most firmly-held opinions, can change.

LIFE COMES AT YOU FAST, and if you need proof… I am listening to an audiobook! (?) Me! An audiobook! Right??? I am as confused at you, and yes, a little frightened.

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So as you might remember, I am running my branch’s book club, and believe it or not, I am struggling with some of the books that I myself picked (oh, the irony). Surprisingly, it is Amor Towles’s Rules of Civility that was giving the hardest time. I just couldn’t get into it. Which is weird, considering I loved his most recent book, A Gentleman in Moscow. So after doing that thing where you read one line over and over again until your eyes start to blur and realizing this was one book I couldn’t actually DNF, I decided to cave and yes, try the audiobook.

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I know. Listen, I hate audiobooks. HATE THEM. The way the readers do the voices…. *full body cringe* … and there’s something disquieting about the way hearing an actual human person reading a story influences my perception of it. Their interpretation of tone and inflection in character’s speech, their accent, their gender – these things colour the story too much for me. I need to read it with my own eyes and hear the words in my own internal narrator’s voice.

But I couldn’t see any other way to get through this book, and with the book club meeting approaching and me no farther than page 7, I checked out the audiobook on CD and popped it into my car’s player, determined to make use of my hellish daily commute. (And yes, ha ha, my car is old, get over it)

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Welly welly welly.

Guess who’s four CDs deep into the book and reading ahead in the paperback copy?

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Yeah, I still don’t like it… but I will admit, hearing the story – this story, as least – pulled me in.

So the moral of the story is that I ‘read’ an audiobook, and my ears did not start bleeding, I even kinda got into it. People are complicated, we’re all onions, and we are never too old to be surprised.

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But now… back to my paperbacks.

– xo, R

 

 

Grand High

Hey hey, welcome to another edition of Less Than Sober Blogging. Tonight’s drink is the tears of my enemies on ice… jk, it’s vodka coolers cuz I’m a basic bish and A LOT OF THEM.

I guess I should tell you why I’m Less Than Sober, right? I mean, the actual reason, not the vodka coolers (yum).

I am in a bit of a fucking funk, to be honest, dear readers, and since I know that the only people who read this terrible blog are my anonymous internet pals and also my mom (hi mom) I feel like I can tell you the TRUTH. The TRUTH is that I didn’t realize getting engaged would be so stressful. I am in the early stages of wedding planning and I already want to throw myself off the tallest 12-tiered wedding cake I can find. My dudes, I want a marriage, not a wedding. And although I think G would, like me, actually prefer to do a quick city hall ceremony, some people are not pleased by that… and for some reason, that is something we (?) have to think about. Even though it is our wedding. Paid for with our money. Planned on my time, causing my stress.

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Anyway, good thing is, there are still books to be read, and vodka coolers to be chugged with wanton disregard for tomorrow’s responsibilities, and words to be smithed (smithed? smithied?) in the frigid darkness of my gelid bedroom.

And I ramble on… TO THE REWIEW!

Today, it’s Roald Dahl’s The Witches and yes you can bet your goddamn square-toed feet that there will be gifs as far as the eye can see.

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Cover Talk

*Cries in nostalgia*

The Summary Heist

‘A REAL WITCH is easily the most dangerous of all the living creatures on earth.’

That’s a pretty horrifying thought. More horrifying still is that real witches don’t even look like witches. They don’t ride around on broomsticks. They don’t even wear black cloaks and hats. They are vile, despicable, scheming harridans who disguise themselves as nice, ordinary ladies.

So how can you tell when you’re face to face with one? Read this story and you’ll find out all you need to know. You’ll also meet a real hero, a wise old grandmother and the most gruesome, grotesque gang of witches imaginable.

Robyn Says

I was raised with this story. I knew it before I knew it. The movie was my childhood favourite, watched over and over and over again, the fraying VHS tape an early demonstration of the destructive potential of whole-hearted love. I watched so often I could probably recite every line of the film from memory. I watched it so often that by the time I learned to read, the book was one of the first I sought out, and thus was one of the first I read on my own.

Because it’s fucking awesome.

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Dahl is a goddamn genius, you don’t need me to tell you that. But I do recommend that if you haven’t read this book since you were a kid, READ IT AGAIN because it is a whole new kind of awesome when you read it as an (alleged) adult.

This book is dark and hilarious and scary and narratively creative and also weirdly empowering. One of the best parts was that the witch mythology is timeless and familiar, but also uniquely Dahl’s as well – the square-footed, bald witches with overly-large nostrils is so quintessentially absurd and terrifying that only old Roald could  have dreamed it up.

I’m too tipsy to be insightful right now but this kind of savagery reminds me of the old fairy tales. And I’m not even talking about the old Grimm’s, though those are so much darker than the watered-down Disnified dishwater we get these days. I’m talking old old school. Ancient school. Red Riding Hood and the Wolf. Bluebeard and his wives. Baba Yaga and her creepy fucking chicken-legged house. Stories that make feel that iron-tasting fear. That’s the kind of terror you get from this story, if you look past the gross-out humour and the silly songs and the Quentin Blake doodles.

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Also, can I just say, the Grand High Witch tho. I mean, I know I’m supposed to be afraid of her but goddamn YAS QUEEN. WERK GIRL. WE STAN A PATRIARCHY-REJECTING FEMINIST HBIC.

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I could say more but I’m drunk and really do I need to say more though? It’s Halloween, man, read the damn book and see for yourself.

Verdict

READ IT. So good. Makes me want to hunt children and maybe even get short bangs again (yeah I said it, deal with it, G, you coiffure-dictating despot)

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Best Lines

“It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like, so long as somebody loves you.”

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Fancasting couch

The Boy

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Bruno

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Grandmama

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The Grand High Witch

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😍 😍 😍

Book Boyfriend material

Get your mind out of the gutter, this is a children’s book.

Rating

10 out of 10 cigar-smoking grannies. This book is so freaking good, guys.

ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT

Hey. How are you? No, no, really. Are you good? And not just in the ‘are you happy’ sense. I mean, are you good? Are you trying your best?  Are you kind? Do you do unto others as you would have them do unto you? If Anubis had a go at it, would your heart weigh less than Ma’at’s feather? I look at you all, and it breaks my heart, because I know we are scared and struggling and hurt, but good god almighty, my darlings, you have still got to try. There is enough cruelty in this world already, and fuck I am sooooo drunk, guys, but I feel like I am also in that seeing-things-a-sober-bitch-wouldn’t phase of drunkness, and I just wanna say say, if you need to be a blade, be a blade, but remember that not every problem is a Gordian knot waiting to be hacked to bits. Have you ever tried slicing a marshmallow? Im-fucking-possible. So what I’m saying is some of us are marshmallows and some of us are butter and all of us are knives when we need to be, and G why you gotta be so mean sometimes, man? Anyway, be nice but also be a Grand High Witch when you need to, cuz no one is gonna conquer the world for you, O Cruel One. You gotta do that all on your lonesome.

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NEXT TIME ON THE READING ROBYN: a sober blogger/librarian will review a mediocre/terrible work of literary fiction. Fascinating.

-xo, R