Book Review: In The Valley of the Sun by Andy Davidson

In the Valley of the Sun: A NovelIn the Valley of the Sun: A Novel by Andy Davidson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The best way to describe this book is a mixture of Thomas Harris and Stephen King. I think that if you’re a fan of those writers, you’ll love this book.

However, I am not the biggest fan of either writer, because I’m not a very big fan of the horror genre. I read this book for my book club, since the author is the husband of a former professor of mine and my book club is run by another former professor. So, while it isn’t a book I would have chosen for myself, I read it, and even though I do really think that fans of horror will love this book, I have to review it as it was for me.

To begin with, I will say, as far as positives go, being the kind of book that’s a fast read, never boring, and keeps you interested is definitely a plus. I had to slog my way through the last book I read, and this one was 100 pages longer and took me not even half the time to read. The writing style reminds me a lot of Thomas Harris, and while I wasn’t in love with either book, I did enjoy Silence of the Lambs and Red Dragon. The content, however, feels very Stephen King. Very western meets horror.

The negatives are pretty straightforward: I just didn’t care. I didn’t really feel like any of the characters were real enough to care what happened to them. There’s so much backstory alluded to that is intended to give them dimensions, but I still just felt like it wasn’t enough. It kind of felt like how on scary movies, you find out the cop has just had a baby and then he dies. The information only exists to make us give half a crap about them, but it never works for me. We learn some stuff about Travis and his past, but not enough to really explain anything except why he’s killing women, and even that’s only stuff that’s really alluded to, not stuff that’s made a big deal of. Which I’m sure is the intention, not to drag us down with unnecessary backstory, but for me, it just means I don’t really care about him or why he kills women. The same goes for Rue. We have so little information on Rue and no reason to care one way or the other about her. Annabelle and Sandy have a bit more going for them, which again, I think is probably the intent, but even then, it’s one of those “I don’t want them to die because they’re good people” things, not because I CARE about them.

And when it comes to Reader, was he really necessary? I liked him, probably more than anybody else, but if he was removed entirely from the story, it would still work out the exact same way, which to me makes me wonder why he’s there other than to give someone else to kinda-sorta root for even though he has no point in being there. It kind of reminds me of the thing about the director’s wife in Silence of the Lambs. What even was that storyline supposed to do for us in regards to the rest of the story? So while I liked Reader and enjoyed his parts probably more than I did any others, I still just don’t really care about him in the grand scheme of things.

However, please do remember, as I said in the beginning of this review, I’m not a fan of the horror genre. These things probably all work if you are a fan of the genre, but I’m not. I like a good mystery, which this doesn’t really have. I love a good romance, which this definitely doesn’t have. I like a good suspense, which, still, this really doesn’t have since we saw what was coming each time it came. Basically, my point is, I think this works very well as a straight-up horror genre novel, which is exactly why it doesn’t work for me.

I give it 3*s because I liked the pacing and the writing style, and because I feel bad giving it a 2* when I know the only reason I didn’t like it is because I don’t like this genre. If you are a fan, by all means, read it! It’s probably one you’ll love, love, love.

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Book Review: Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman

Call Me by Your NameCall Me by Your Name by André Aciman

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Call Me By Your Name is a meandering, stream of conscious, babbling mess of purple prose that, on writing style alone, I absolutely do not like. It may work well for others, but for me, I was turned off within 20 pages by the writing style. I don’t like first person (with some exceptions), I don’t like rambling prose that includes an ENTIRE PAGE that is only one paragraph that jumps topics four times without changing paragraphs, and I do not like the overuse of flowery language. Throughout the book, the writing style drove me crazy, including the 40-page epilogue that has no reason to even exist. I wanted to like this book so much, so even though I didn’t like the writing style straight off, I stuck with it because of all the positive reviews on the content.

Turns out, the content is just as ill-suited for my tastes as the writing style.

However, while I have issues with these things, I was still sticking with the story, because no way could a story so highly praised not get better. The main character is clearly disturbed. I had some random person even argue with me that I ‘didn’t get it, all teens are this dramatic’, but this boy straight up contemplates how he kind of wishes the love interest would die so that he could no longer be obsessed, since death is final, and muses about how he could kill him or at least cripple him so he always knows where he’s at. Yes, he doesn’t intend to do those things, but I promise you, nobody thinks those things, even vaguely, unless they have some issues. Also, this kid has what seems like the makings of a rape fantasy. There are a few lines where he fantasizes about the love interest coming into his room while he’s sleeping and ‘taking him’ and the actual line was, “I’ll say ‘please don’t hurt me’, but I’ll mean ‘hurt me all you want'” which is pretty alarming to read.

I completely lost any faith in the reviews I read before this when it came to A) fucking a peach and saying it ‘looks like a rape victim’ and then someone EATING the goddamn peach, or B) couples shitting.

You heard me right. Couples shitting. Dude took a shit, said “Don’t flush, I want to see it” and then took his turn taking a shit while the love interest rubbed his belly…. I read a review of this book that talked about ‘the small intimacies will stick with me forever’ and all I can think is “NOTHING SAYS TRUE LOVE LIKE TAKING SHITS TOGETHER!!!”

I wanted to make this review professional and serious, but honestly, did I get trolled? Was this a troll copy of this book? They admired each other’s bowel movements. I just… What the actual fuck?

This book was just not good and I’m really disappointed. I got very excited about highly-praised queer content, and this was just the biggest letdown ever. I don’t like this book at all. It’s one of the worst books I’ve ever read, and I wanted SO BADLY to love it.

Put it this way: Before this, the worst books I’ve ever read without giving up were The Scarlett Letter and A Separate Peace, the most boring books I’ve read in my life. This now takes top spot for worst book I’ve ever read all the way to the end in my life, and the only reason I read it to the end was that it was like a car crash; I had to know what happened and how it could possibly get worse.

I’ve never once said, “Don’t bother reading this”… but seriously guys. Don’t bother reading this.

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Thoughts On Book Formatting

I had a curious incident today that brought about an interesting question that I posed to Twitter, which you can vote on below if you have Twitter:

The past few weeks, I’ve been trying to read the famous non-fiction novel In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. It’s always been touted as ‘the book that will get you into reading non-fiction’ and I finally got the kick to the ass to make time to read it from a coworker mentioning that exact statement. So, first thing I did after work was head to the local library and pick up the copy they had on the shelf…

And I’ve really been struggling to read it. It isn’t that the content isn’t interesting. It’s just that, as I read, I feel like I’m reading and reading and not getting anywhere. I find myself not wanting to pick the book up again and because of that, I’ve now had this book the two-week period and I’ve only read 32 pages of the copy I have. I’ve slogged through those pages and skipped reading on my lunch break, as I usually do, because I just don’t want to pick it up and read it. Naturally, this disappointed me, because I’ve really been looking forward to this book and I know it’s praised endlessly. However, something very interesting happened today.

I live in a town that does not have a Barnes and Noble (or indeed any book store that isn’t a Christian bookseller) so I don’t often go to Barnes and Noble, but today I went to Macon to see a movie that is limited-release and therefore not available at the local 8-screen AMC. Afterwards, my family was driving up to eat at Chili’s, another establishment my town does not yet have that we all enjoy. Chili’s in Macon is located in an outdoor mall/shopping center/whatever you call it that is a block down from Barnes and Noble, so while my movie got out before 5 and my family wasn’t going to be there until about 7, I decided to go to Barnes and Noble, and after browsing a while, I decided to pick up a copy of In Cold Blood and sit and use my time to try and get through a bit more of it in hopes I can get to something that will keep me sucked in.

Imagine my surprise when the copy I picked up somehow magically kept me interested the entire time without a single moment of that feeling of ‘slogging through’ the book! The format was a more modern font and a smaller amount of text per page, and I really didn’t think it made THAT much of a difference when the content was good. I sat there on the floor in the travel section (the least frequented section) and read twenty pages without any hesitation. I didn’t even pick up my phone when it dinged a text message from my mom. When I got home tonight, I tried picking up the copy I have and, to my consternation, I found that I once again am struggling. I know I prefer certain formats, but this is kind of ridiculous, I would have thought, until it actually happened to me.

I don’t have a photo of the copy I had at the store, and I can’t remember what font it was, but this one I’m reading is very ‘news-print’ in that it’s Times New Roman that is Justified to the edges, which I feel isn’t as common in books anymore? Perhaps it is and I just haven’t paid attention, but it’s just a very interesting phenomenon. I’m now curious as to whether other books I’ve tried to read in the past suffered from the format when I wouldn’t expect it to.

So, yeah, that’s today’s interesting experience. How about you guys? Have you ever noticed this? I asked the question above regarding whether format matters much to you, so feel free to vote there and comment here with your opinions or experiences!

 

Book Review: Wake Me Up Inside by Cardeno C.

Wake Me Up Inside (Mates #1)Wake Me Up Inside by Cardeno C.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another dip into the Kindle Basically Porn But With A Story pool, and I really liked this one! I loved the world building! The characters were good, the setting was somewhat interesting. I really enjoyed this as a light, easy read, even though it was like 50% erotica, so it wasn’t really as long of a story as it is a book.

I think that I will read the rest of the books in this collection because, even if it’s a shitload of unnecessary sex (again, I know that’s the genre, I’m just not INTO the genre) I’m very interested in this universe and I want to see more of it.

(Also, Kudos on the most emo title of all times. Bravo!)

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Book Review: Drawn IN by Sean Ashcroft

Drawn In (The Family Jules Book 1)Drawn In by Sean Ashcroft

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was my first foray into the “Random Gay Kindle Romance Novella” genre, and it was pretty much what I expected. I really did enjoy this adorable story and am glad I read it, however, I’m also glad I got it on Kindle Unlimited.

While I love the story and absolutely appreciate ‘incidental gay’ writing, as you would expect from ‘random kindle novella’, it’s pretty average quality. The beginning is very ‘the fuck, dude???’ because it’s entirely unbelievable. There is no way that neither of them heard about each other’s tragic lives if they’re from a small town where one of their moms runs a grocery store and they were childhood friends. I hear, “Hey, didn’t you go to school with a girl named X? Her dad died this week” about people I went to the same middle school of 15 years ago. It is kinda weird of Jude not hearing about one of his old friends dying, but it’s absolutely impossible that Owen didn’t hear about Jude’s parents.

Even if you account for Owen not communicating with his family very much, that’s not something that would escape being learned about at some point in a year.

However, the weird, out of place, thrown together beginning didn’t take too much away from a sweet, happy little story about pretty likable characters. All in all, it was a light, enjoyable read.

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Book Review: Murder on Black Swan Lane by Andrea Penrose

Murder on Black Swan Lane (A Wrexford & Sloane Mystery, #1)Murder on Black Swan Lane by Andrea Penrose

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Murder on Black Swan Lane is far from what I expected and I’m pretty glad about that. What I expected was a fun little mystery, and instead what I got was interesting characters that I got pretty attached to pretty quickly.

While the mystery was a little more abstract than what I wanted initially, I find that I don’t care at all. Wrexford was an interesting guy, but the real draw for this book was Charlotte and the two boys! I found myself growing more and more attached to her and, in particular, her relationship with Raven and Hawk. When I thought something bad was going to happen to them I was beside myself!

I see that this is a #1 so I have high hopes for more of the mystery of Charlotte’s past to be revealed in later books. I will absolutely be buying the next one whenever it may come out!

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Book Review: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and VirtueThe Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It has been a long time since I read a book that I gave 5*s and far longer since I read a Young Adult novel that I enjoyed this much. I’m not really a big fan of YA and I’m a huuuuge hater of 1st Person POV, and yet I genuinely loved this book and it is both.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue tells the story of Monty (Henry Montague) and his best friend Percy (a biracial son of a family friend) leaving on their Grand Tour, along with Monty’s sister, Felicity, who they are taking to drop off at Finishing School, and exactly how badly wrong things can go when the leader of your merry band of misfits is a bit of a spoiled troublemaker.

Without spoilers, I can say that, though a lot of people have commented in their reviews (because unbeknownst to me, everybody seems to be reading this book lately; I just picked it up at random at the library) that they don’t really like Monty very much, I really got attached to him from the start. His story screams, “acting out because he’s so messed up internally he has no other way to express himself” and that whole ‘tortured hero’ vibe works well. Except, even better, the real ‘hero’ of this story is Felicity! Oh how I love Felicity! Percy broke my heart in every way except for how steadfast and loyal to Monty he was. I was so scared, knowing queer fiction like I do, that this would end in Percy going to his original destination and Monty never seeing him again, and I was terrified of the coming sad ending, because it’s soooo clear throughout the whole book that they’re in love with each other and each think their love is unrequited.

I have never read a more enjoyable M/M queer romance, especially in the YA genre. This was one that was such a page-turner. The last book I tried to read, I spent 2 weeks and only managed 70 pages of forcing myself to read a few pages at a time because it was so boring (I gave up at that point), but this book? Oh man, I read all 500+ pages in just under a week. It’s an easy read, it’s a quick read, and I was so engrossed in the story I didn’t want to put it down. I absolutely loved this story’s tone, the pace, the characters, the adventure, the history, all of it!

I’m a big fan of queer romance and historical fiction so a historical queer romance is really right up my alley. It’s hard to find a good historical romance that isn’t all rapey and especially a queer one. This story is delightful and I adore a good happy ending!

Read it! You won’t regret it.

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