Review: My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

49112169._SY475_My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

Published: March 26, 2019 by Berkley Books

Buy this book at: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: Our love story is simple. I met a gorgeous woman. We fell in love. We had kids. We moved to the suburbs. We told each other our biggest dreams, and our darkest secrets. And then we got bored.

We look like a normal couple. We’re your neighbors, the parents of your kid’s friend, the acquaintances you keep meaning to get dinner with.

We all have secrets to keeping a marriage alive.

Ours just happens to be getting away with murder.

Rating 3 star

Review: This book left me with a rather large challenge on whether I enjoyed it or not. For the first 300 or so pages, I was enthralled with this book. I loved it. I found the narrating character a bit bland but there was enough of other stuff going on that it didn’t bother me. However, the ending soured me on the rest of the book. It was an awful ending. Period. There was nothing redeeming about the conclusion of this book and it made the rest of the experience feel like a waste of time. So ultimately I can say that I liked it, but I can’t recommend it.

That was the short version that is free of spoilers. From here on out, consider yourself warned because this is a SPOILER ZONE:

Like I mentioned the husband was a bit bland, we’ll call him Tobias for the sake of the review but that isn’t actually his name. He’s a really big idiot. Similar to the level of idiot the husband in Gone Girl is. He should have known these things. He’s assisting his wife in kidnapping and murdering women, then he hears about all about her stories of her abusive sister, he finds out she kept one of the women alive for a year torturing her, she suggests making their crimes similar to a known serial killer, she just so happens to visit somewhere that she has no reason to be and then a witness comes forward to put doubt in the police’s mind about who is committing the crimes. Yet, through all of these things, he doesn’t realize for a moment that his wife is setting him up. I knew it. Every other reader knew it. The only person who didn’t was Tobias. Because he’s an idiot. Like his wife told him, “You always focus on the wrong things.” She was right.

I also don’t know how a guy like Tobias gets involved in something like this to begin with. I was promised Dexter meets Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Tobias was neither. He could barely stomach to hear a retelling of the murder on television, let alone actually commit one that wasn’t a complete accident. He can barely handle stalking a woman without having a panic attack. A psycho he is not. A killer he is not. An idiot, he definitely is.

Throughout most of this book I was really excited to find out what happened. I knew that Tobias was being set up, but I loved theorizing about how deep the deception went. Why was she setting him up? Was she involved with the prior serial killer too? Was she trying to frame him for not just these murders but those ones too? Her sister wasn’t really the abusive psycho one right? All these questions. All these theories. And yet, the ending didn’t surprise me or satisfy me. Every single one of those theories I thought up is exactly what happened. I don’t pretend to be any sort of genius. I don’t find myself particularly more intelligent than the average reader. But how exactly did none of this manage to surprise me and yet surprises others? I really don’t understand it.

Then, in the end, Tobias just walks away with his kids. The police listen to his whole story and think “well, he says he’s innocent and since the DNA at the crime scene is weird then I guess he is really completely innocent”. No, he wasn’t. While he might not have murdered any of the women that the police knew about, he did stalk and abduct several of them. At the very least he was an accessory to his wife’s murders. But it’s all wrapped up and he just walks away in about two pages. It was crap. Then we end with him using the same Tobias ruse on a woman that he used in the murder scheme with his wife. Why? Am I supposed to believe that this timid, beta male has decided to keep killing? He wasn’t the type before, why would be be now? It made no sense.

So while the writing was delightful, Millicent was spectacular, the resolution and narrator were just awful.

Review: The Spectators by Jennifer duBois

40626949The Spectators by Jennifer duBois

Published: April 2nd, 2019 by Random House

Buy this book at: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Synopsis: A shocking crime triggers a media firestorm for a controversial talk show host in this provocative novel–a story of redemption, a nostalgic portrait of New York City, and a searing indictment of our culture of spectacle.

Talk show host Matthew Miller has made his fame by shining a spotlight on the most unlikely and bizarre secrets of society, exposing them on live television in front of millions of gawking viewers. However, the man behind The Mattie M Show remains a mystery–both to his enormous audience and to those who work alongside him every day. But when the high school students responsible for a mass shooting are found to be devoted fans, Mattie is thrust into the glare of public scrutiny, seen as the wry, detached herald of a culture going downhill and going way too far. Soon, the secrets of Mattie’s past as a brilliant young politician in a crime-ridden New York City begin to push their way to the surface.

In her most daring and multidimensional novel yet, Jennifer duBois vividly portrays the heyday of gay liberation in the seventies and the grip of the AIDS crisis in the eighties, alongside a backstage view of nineties television in an age of moral panic. DuBois explores an enigmatic man’s downfall through the perspectives of two spectators–Cel, Mattie’s skeptical publicist, and Semi, the disillusioned lover from his past.

With wit, heart, and crackling intelligence, The Spectators examines the human capacity for reinvention–and forces us to ask ourselves what we choose to look at, and why.

Rating: 2 star

Review: This book was quite a conundrum for me to read. There were some major good points and some major bad points. Ultimately, I can’t say that I liked the book because it felt like a really big missed opportunity that failed to deliver on much of what it promised.

This book is told in two points of view and multiple timelines. Each chapter is titled with the narrator and the years it covers to make it easier to follow along, until the last chapter which was very confusing. It covers a span from the 70s to the 90s and discusses a lot of serious topics. It talks about the AIDS crisis in the gay community. It covers school shootings. It covers the new freak show of our era, trash TV. It covers public reaction to all of the above. It was a very ambitious novel and didn’t quite pull it off.

**Mild Spoilers Alert**

Our first narrator is Semi, which I thought was an innuendo until the author piped in that it’s pronounced like semi-truck and then I wasn’t really sure what it was supposed to be because I have always heard that pronounced with a hard I sound. But I’m getting off point. Semi was a great narrator. He was the former lover of Mattie M, back when he was a local politician and lawyer with his eyes on the mayorship of New York. I loved hearing about his love story with Mattie and I loved hearing about his perspective on the AIDS crisis. My only complaint is that I didn’t actually learn anything about Semi as a person. He told his story through the stories of his friends, So while I enjoyed his narration, I didn’t feel like I got to know him at all since he was hiding his truth behind his friends.

Cel is the narrator for much of the portion of the book that covers the school shooting and ensuing chaos, She is the publicist for the Mattie M Show. To be quite frank, I have no idea what she was doing in this novel. She didn’t have a single ounce of personality and rarely spoke more than a fragment of a sentence at a time. Her back story was confusing so I couldn’t even get emotionally involved in that aspect of her story. I also have no idea how or why the show hired her as a publicist. She doesn’t like the job and she doesn’t even seem to know how to do the job. Most of her story is making snarky one liners at other staff of the show, complaining about her job to her friends, and watching TV in bars. She doesn’t do anything. Then at the end of the book she decides to quit her job and become a stand up comedienne? Where the fuck did that come from? She went to a comedy club one time with a reporter and implied she had been there before, but she is not funny and we are given no indication that she ever wanted to do anything like that.

The first 125 pages of the book are largely useless. If I was the editor, I’d have scrapped them entirely. It is mostly Semi talking about his friends and Cel trying to avoid doing work. We only get into the meat of what the novel is supposed to be about about at page 130 and then it started to get awesome. After that point, I was completely invested and thought the novel was making some very profound points.

What I got from the novel is that television and news events are the new blood sport of our day. Whether we’re watching a trashy reality TV show, watching a play about some emotionally charged event, or watching news coverage on a tragedy. We are not actually watching the thing. We are not actually interested in the thing itself. It doesn’t matter how it begins. It doesn’t matter how it ends. The truth doesn’t matter either. The point is that we’re watching it. As the book says toward the end, we’re an audience, watching an audience, watching an audience. I was a little stunned at how profound I found this book based on how badly it began.

Then we got to the ending and it disappointed me again. In the end, the author decides to give us the truth. Give us the truth about what’s in the letters. Give us the truth of what the play was about. Give us the truth about Mattie M and Semi. I was so disappointed that I wanted to stop reading. We just spent approximately 200 pages telling the reader that the truth of these things was irrelevant. I was just another audience, watching an audience, watching an audience. So then if these things don’t matter, why are you insisting on telling me?

Maybe, in the end, I read too much into the book. Maybe the author didn’t actually intend to make any profound and philosophical points. Maybe she didn’t think she could resist giving me the final pieces of the puzzle. But, regardless, it damaged the book for me.

 

Review: Blood of the Fae by Tom Mohan

41813744Blood of the Fae by Tom Mohan

Published: November 15, 2018 by BHC Press/Open Window

Buy this book at: Amazon| B&N

Synopsis: Liza McCarthy has never known the love she so desperately craves. The illegitimate child of a broken marriage, the identity of her father and her heritage are a well-kept secret. When she receives a call from a mysterious woman claiming her life is in danger, she manages to flee just before two men break into her home.

She soon finds herself in the tiny midwestern town of Halden’s Mill. There she is taken in by the Finns, a mysterious family who claim to guard the entrance to the fabled land of the faerie.

Liza is slowly drawn into a world of monsters, dark magic and a host of peculiar townsfolk. Now she must rethink everything she’s ever known and seek her destiny before two worlds collide with a force that could mean the end of the human race.

Rating: 3 star

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley!***

This book is proving to be a difficult one to review and decide on an appropriate rating. I finished it over 24 hours ago and am still trying to put my thoughts together. On the whole, it was an alright story. There was absolutely nothing revolutionary about it, but it’s a solid story.

Let’s start with Liza. I did not really like her as a character. I found her to be annoying for the most part. She starts off fine, a bit histrionic but who wouldn’t be freaked out by the things she is discovering about the world? After awhile she seemed far stupider than I felt she should be. The pieces were there but she just refused to put them together and instead continued with her internal narrative that “there’s no way that any of this involves me”. Literally everyone in the book is telling you that it does. Hell, your dreams are telling you that it does! The strange happenings are telling you that it does! EVERYTHING IS SCREAMING AT YOU THAT YOU ARE INVOLVED!! So while there was nothing actually wrong with the character, she grew to be infuriating. And then when we got to the end of the book, it turned out she was pretty useless and unnecessary to the plot. More on that in a minute.

The characterization of the fae was fabulous. I enjoyed seeing a more horrifying aspect of the land of fae instead of the pretty, sparkling faeries that are so common in literature. I can’t say that the book was overly scary, but the horror aspects of it were very well written and interesting.

I can’t say that I can conjure up too much emotion about the other characters since I did not feel that I got to know them at all. They were a flat and lacked qualities that would have made them more relatable and realistic characters. They were fine, but one dimensional. They also seemed to be a bit stupid at times, similar to Liza’s stupid. They acknowledge that everything happening is telling them that the old rules don’t apply. But then they run around screaming, “Oh My God! Why are the old rules not working!?”  Well, duh, you just said why just a few pages ago.

A lot of this book was difficult to read. I found myself reading the same page a few times in order to understand what was going on. I am not entirely sure what made it difficult but I had a very hard time.

On to my last point for this: The ending. Warning!!!! Spoilers:

So, the whole point of the book is that Liza is a fae princess and has to choose between two princes. One prince wants the fae to rule the world and exterminate humans. One prince wants the fae to live in a dimension completely separate from humans and allow the peaceful existence of both. In the end, Liza will choose her prince and that will decide the fate of the world. But then we get to the end and she doesn’t choose! She chooses to stab herself instead in order to not have to make a choice. And somehow this meant that her choice was for peaceful co-existence of humans and fae? I have no idea where that ending came from but I didn’t like it. Making a choice by not making a choice and then somehow that means that everything is fine. So dumb and kind of made me feel the book was pointless in the end.

At the end of the day this book was decently written with passable characters and the fae are good enough to make this book a decent read.

Review: And I Do Not Forgive You by Amber Sparks

45894105And I Do Not Forgive You by Amber Sparks

Expected Publication: February 11, 2020 by Liveright

Pre-Order this book at: Amazon| Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: Exciting fans of such writers as Kelly Link, Karen Russell, and Carmen Maria Machado with prose that shimmers and stings, Amber Sparks holds a singular role in the canon of the weird. Now, she reaches new, uncanny heights with And I Do Not Forgive You. In “Mildly Happy, With Moments of Joy,” a friend is ghosted by a simple text message; in “Everyone’s a Winner at Meadow Park,” a teen precariously coming of age in a trailer park befriends an actual ghost. At once humorous and unapologetically fierce, these stories shine an interrogating light on the adage that “history likes to lie about women”— as the subjects of “A Short and Speculative History of Lavoisier’s Wife” and “You Won’t Believe What Really Happened to the Sabine Women” (it’s true, you won’t) will attest. Blending fairy tales and myths with apocalyptic technologies, all tethered intricately by shades of rage, And I Do Not Forgive You offers a mosaic of an all-too-real world that fails to listen to its silenced goddesses.

Rating: 1 star

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Netgalley!***

The best thing that I can say about this book was that it was forgettable. The worst thing I can say about this book was that it is forgettable and pointless. The short version of this review is that these aren’t actual short stories. They are pieces of stories. Not a single one of them actually has an ending. They end, but they don’t have an ending. Even the one story that I liked just….ended with no resolution. And several of them were three paragraphs long and left me wondering what the point of even reading it was.

Add in the rampant, militant feminism that every male in the stories is a bad man, hurting women and doing terrible things and every woman needs to be avenged for the collective sins of men and I just couldn’t bear this book at all.

WARNING: Spoilers from here on out.

The one story that I enjoyed was about a couple who can’t stop thinking about the great amount of noise their upstairs neighbors make in the middle of the night. Are they moving bodies up there? Do they own ten Great Danes? Teach midnight tap dancing? Everyone who has had upstairs neighbors knows this feeling. So it was very relatable and fun. But then it was just over. The male of the couple goes upstairs to confront the neighbors about the noise and she just keeps waiting for him to come back, the end. Very abrupt and ended right in the middle of the resolution. This made it so forgettable that it took me ten minutes to remember the premise of this story when I sat down to write this review.

There were also some fact problems with this book. For example, the story about the Sabine women. I am familiar with the story and I am familiar with the varying interpretations of the story over the years. Basically soldiers from Rome invade the city of Sabine killing all the men and taking the women as war trophies to rape and force into marriage. It was a fine story but when the Roman soldiers invade Sabine the women cry out to the goddess Demeter for assistance. Why? Demeter is a fierce goddess to be sure and a great defender of women, but she’s also a Greek goddess. Five minutes on Google will tell you that Sabine was part of the Roman empire in, what is now, Italy. So why would they be crying out in anguish for a Greek goddess’ assistance? That made zero sense and took away from the story.

Also, none of the women actually have to take responsibility for their actions in these stories. Men are bad and women cannot have freedom or happiness until men are eradicated from the world. That’s the main premise of every story in the book. Even when you are living with someone who is obviously mentally ill, has proclaimed themselves a messiah and is planning a massive murder/suicide plot….just blame him for your decision to stay with him and complain that he just abandoned you for his delusions. Don’t try to intervene to get him help or anything, let him go along with his plan but bitch about it every step of the way because obviously he’s the bad guy. Where’s the accountability? Where’s the compassion to try and get someone who you love the help that they obviously need? No, he’s obviously the bad guy and the poor woman doesn’t have to take any accountability for her choices. This is just one example out of many.

Some of the stories even stretch plausibility to the breaking point to make men the bad guy. At one point a girl just randomly happens on the janitor from school abducting her friend and fights to free her. It didn’t fit the story at all and was so unexpected that I just couldn’t get there. I almost thought about abandoning the book at that point because it was nonsensical and only happened to make janitor guy a monster. Or the story about a historical woman who helped her husband achieve greatness while remaining in the darkness herself, despite being more accomplished. This should have been a fascinating story to tell. But instead we got two women joking over text messages about how religion is ridiculous and men are stupid. With almost those exact childish words. Really? I’m supposed to take these women seriously when you paint them as immature children?

At the end of the day I will have forgotten about this book by tomorrow because it was just that pointless.

“What we do is our character.”

I seem to have forgotten about this place it seems.  Little bit of an update,  Nano was successful again for me this year.  I am struggling to finish this novel with everything else I have going on.  I have started a part-time job shadow writing for a few websites.  It’s fun but not what I really am focused on doing.  I have a ton of new articles on Helium, so I will post those links too.  Be sure to read and get me those clicks! 

I am also going to make a renewed effort at getting my first Nano novel published.  But I seem to have hit a huge Catch-22.  Publishers won’t publish you without an agent.  And agents won’t take you without being published.  How in the world is anyone supposed to get anywhere?  So I have decided to look into ebook publishing and try that.  I’ll keep you all up to date on that and provide links to my book if it works out. 

New Helium Links

Reflections: People We Miss

Can Christians ever reclaim Christmas as Holy Day?

How different are Witches and Satanists?

How to survive a long distance relationship

How to successfully use a matchmaker

How low self-esteem affects a relationship

Moving on from a bad breakup

Writing an online dating profile

Whale Parasites

Humpback Whale Songs

Laws Protecting Whales

Is the Megalodon extinct?

What is cryptozoology?

The world’s most dangerous sharks

Personal life:  I am getting ready to go to England and spend two weeks with my amazing boyfriend.  I am so excited.  And I’ll be coming back with a new piece of jewelry (hint hint, wink wink)

Stef