REVIEW: And The Hippos Were Boiled…

The lives of the Beat Poets are something I’ve been in love with for ages. I just can’t resist the romanticized tragedies of their lives and the film Kill Your Darlings, certainly made me love them even more and tossed me headfirst into reading everything I could find about Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, and – of course – Lucien Carr. When I learned that Kerouac and Burroughs wrote a fictional retelling of when Carr killed David Kammerer, I was all over that. I was even more excited when the fancy second-hand book store in my neighbourhood had a first edition copy of that same book.

And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks is the story of Will Dennison and Mike Ryko, the two narrators written by Burroughs and Kerouac respectively, as they go about their bohemian lives in New York and deal with their friends’ troubles. When one of their friends, Phillip Tourian, decides he is desperate to get away from the affections of Ramsay Allen, he and Ryko make a plan to ship out with the war relief and run away to Paris. For those who know what happened in the true story, I don’t need to remind you that this plan doesn’t exactly work out.

What I wanted from this was Kill Your Darlings. I was hoping for more about the murder, more scrambling during the aftermath. I was really hoping for a fun insiders look at what happened even if it was only a functionalization. Sadly what I got was a bunch of drunken youths for 80% of the book and then maybe twenty pages at the end involved the murder.

The writing style was interesting to see because this was written many years before Burroughs and Kerouac truly became famous but published only in more recent years. Knowing how the two authors came to write, it was kind of cool to see how they grew and developed as writers. Honestly though, the best part about this book was the afterword by James W. Grauerholz, who broke down more of the history behind the events of Kammerer’s death. I’m sad to say I was disappointed in it, but I think that might result in being too connected to the original story.

Ginsberg and Carr honestly mean so much to me, so – again – I think that had something to do it with. Either way, I’m happy to have read it and learn even just a little bit more from the afterword.

Books to Read on Valentine’s Day

Today is Valentine’s Day and, love it or hate it, there’s a lot going on today. I definitely fall into the later category myself. So whether you’re up for romance or in the mood to avoid it at all costs, I’ve come up with a list of books to read for either category.

Bring on the love!

Here’s a list of my top 5 favourite romance/romantic novels to read today.

5. One Day In December by Josie Silver
[ goodreads | review ]
Yeah, okay, this one is more of a yuletide centric book, but the love story crosses over ten years and that’s what makes it a great read for any time of the year. Definitely for fans of Love, Actually and also for those who want a real love story with a feel good ending

4. The Matchmaker’s List by Sonya Lalli
[ goodreads | review ]
This debut novel is about the difficulties of finding love when you’re both looking and not looking for it. It’s about culture pressure and the important of being yourself no matter what any one else tells you to be. A great read for those looking for a romance novel that’s not 100% about the romance.

3. When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri
[ goodreads | review ]
Who doesn’t want some f/f contemporary on Valentine’s Day? A story of self-discovery in sexuality with some humor and delightfully witty banter, this is a fun queer read about hard working women who also just want to have fun and be happy.

2. A Date With Darcy (Bookish Boyfriends #1) by Tiffany Schmidt
[ goodreads | review ]
A YA retelling of Pride & Prejudice but with a bit of a twist. Despite having a 15-year-old protagonist, this book is definitely a relatable one to all ages and has strong feminist notes about being more than your partner and remembering that your opinion counts, especially when it involves the word “No.” Fluffy with a hint of drama to keep things interesting, this one caught me by surprise when I read it and loved it to pieces.

1. Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman 
[ goodreads | review ]
Allow me to scream to the high heavens once again about how the book is almost always better than the movie. This phenomenal novel is a queer romance and a coming of age story all in one. Heartbreaking and beautiful as well, this book takes you to Italy and forces you to feel all of Elio’s vivid emotions to the fullest extent. You can’t go wrong with this book.

Down with Valentine’s Day!

And here are my top 5 books that are very much against this Hallmark Holiday.

5. The Real Lolita by Sarah Weinman
[ goodreads ]
This is an incredible look at the birth of the novel Lolita and the very real and very traumatic events that happened to young Sally Horner. Despite how mezmerising and misleading Nabokov’s novel is, Weinman dissects just how horrible men like Frank La Salle (or his fictional counterpart, Humbert Humbert) truly are.

4. Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler 
[ goodreads | review ]
An eerie narrative of why eccentric, Min, broke up with her popular boyfriend, Ed. This is a YA novel but written in such a memorably bizarre fashion that almost gives away Handler’s alter ego (as he is more commonly known as Lemony Snicket). A great break-up story with a twist.

3. The Lamb Will Slaughter The Lion by Margaret Killjoy
[ goodreads | review ]
A Tor.com novella of magic and horror that brings out of the dark side of people and what they will do for power when it should belong to no one. Since it is a novella, this is a great book to bang out quickly and so atmospherically pleasing, you’ll completely forget it’s Valentine’s Day in the real world.

2. The Moth Diaries by Rachel Klein
[ goodreads ]
Boarding school + mental illness representation + potentially vampires = this wonderful book that also has f/f undertones. Incredibly spooky (and so much better than the movie adaptation of it), this book is well suited to those who want a creep factor on Valentine’s Day.

1. All Systems Red (Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells
[ goodreads | review ]
If you’ve been keeping up with my blog recently, you’ll know I’m obsessed with this series. Want to forget about the real world and bond with someone fiction who also doesn’t care for humans? Murderbot is definitely for you. This novella series is so much fun you won’t want to put it down.


And there you have it! My list of books to read to either join in on or hide from Valentine’s Day. Personally, I plan to spend my evening binge watching some true crime documentaries (for anyone wondering, I’m eyeballing the Paradise Lost trilogy) since I’m not a fan of today.

Do you like Valentine’s Day? What are your plans for tonight? Let me know in the comments!


r.j. richardson (2)
click here to support

REVIEW: Bookish Boyfriends

I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review


I requested this book when I saw it on NetGalley because I thought it sounded like a fluffy piece of mindless reading in which a high school girl dates her way through the boys of classic literature. Instead, what I got was a brilliant and feminist piece of fiction that, while still fluffy and sweet, kept me seriously entertained.

The Story

For the first time in many years, Merri is attending a co-ed school. Her friends are always teasing her about having her nose constantly stuck in a book and how trashy all of her “book boyfriends” are. As she gets settled in the school, she is met with condescension from upperclassmen students from the get go but slowly makes her way into a social circle she feels welcome in.

And then she means Monroe, a popular boy who actually wants to date her! Merri is over the moon, but Monroe is not at all who she thought I was.

 

The Characters

Merri is basically most of the book lover community in high school. She’s so sweet and is constantly getting herself completely lost in her books, but it also gives her a naivety about the world as she thinks ever romance should be like it is in fiction.

Eliza is Merri’s best friend, a super genius with famous super genius parents, she acts as the rational side of Merri’s life. She is severe and a little cold, but it’s because she is someone who won’t tolerate anyone’s nonsense. Eliza is what makes things feminist as she reminds Merri about what relationships are and reminds her that her body and her life belong to no one else but her.

I would really love to discuss Monroe but I don’t want to spoil anything in this fantastic novel, so I’m not going to. Just know that the way he is written is absolutely perfect.

The Issues [ spoilers ]

Once again this is a book I have no issues with. It surprisingly dealt with a number of issues I wish I had known when I started dating seriously. Monroe is the perfect example of a guy who seems super sweet and romantic but is honestly an egomaniac with control issues. Merri obviously falls head-over-heels for him and ignores the doubts she has – as well as doubts her friends have – about the kind of person Monroe is. With the help of Eliza, she begins to re-realize that her choices matter too and her boundaries should be respected just as she respects Monroe’s boundaries when it comes to not discussing his family. He’s someone who has no regard for the girls he is interested in – note that I’m fairly certain Monroe is in 12th grade while Merri is only in 10th – and his lack of respecting boundaries is incredibly uncomfortable which is why he is such a well written villain.

Conclusion ★★★★★

This is a book that I can see as being “under-rated” while also hoping it does very well. It’s cute, funny, and quick to read, but also has the potential to help young girls (or boys if they read this genre of story) how to spot a potentially dangerous or toxic relationship. It’s a great hidden-retelling and I can’t wait for Tiffany to release the sequel in the next year or so. I highly recommend this book.

P.S.

When I received this ARC in February the title was simply Bookish Boyfriends and had a completely different cover! I just want to add that now that the book is Bookish Boyfriends Book 1: A Date With Darcy. I personally preferred the original title, but either way, this is still a very cute read and I still look forward to the sequel.


35888335

Author: Tiffany Schmidt
Published:  May 1st 2018
Pages: 272
Publisher: Amulet Paperbacks
ISBN: 9781419728600

Synopsis: The first of two books in an intended paperback original series about a girl whose classic literary crushes manifest in real life. Merrilee Campbell, 16, thinks boys are better in books, chivalry is dead, and there’d be nothing more romantic than having just one guy woo her like the heroes in classic stories. She’s about to get the chance to test these daydreams when she, her best friend, Eliza, and her younger sister, Rory, transfer into Reginald R. Hero High, where all their fantasies come true—often with surprising consequences.

REVIEW: Lock & Mori MIND GAMES

It’s taken me some time to sit on this one since I have a lot of significant issues with it.

In the sequel to Petty’s Lock & MoriMind Games revolves around the aftermath of the first book in a way that this review can’t really be done without spoilers, so stop reading now if you want to read it the book yourself.

18883163In the aftermath, Mori is constantly on edge from her violent altercation with her serial killer of a father. She has been betrayed by Lock, as well, which has all but shattered her resolve. She and her brothers still live at home, awaiting their mother’s friend to act as their “aunt” and guardian while the investigation into Mori’s own murder attempt tries to find its footing.

To begin with, I hate blackmail stories. I think that they are either boring or unnecessarily upsetting in content, so I do my best to avoid them as much as possible. I enjoyed reading the first Lock & Mori book so much that I was willing to tolerate the blackmail plot. However, it fell into the “unnecessarily upsetting” category as the majority of the book is Mori being endlessly harassed by people who think she was the murderer and is setting up her father, news crews who have no shame stalking children, or by the police themselves. Given that Mori is only sixteen and her brothers are significantly younger than her, the harassment by grown ass adults really bothered me. It’s bad enough that their father is an abuser and a serial killer, the last thing these children should be going through is the stress of aggressive reporters and cops who failed to do anything about their abuse.

Aside from that, I was also disappointed in how Mori didn’t get the chance to really be Moriarty like she did in the previous book. I am aware that this is really only “inspired” by Sherlock Holmes and at the end of the day has nothing to do with it’s namesake, but at the same time I wanted more from Mori. To counter that, though, Petty did a wonderful job at writing the fear in our lead protagonist. After all she has been through, Mori flinches and panics when in similar physical situations as when her father tried to murder her.

Other than all of this, nothing else really happened until the ending.

Oh, the ending… I am so confused about how on Earth the next book is going to go. The ending was such a jumbled mess of a reveal that, to me, didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Their “aunt” – whose name I honestly can’t even remember – has very bizarre motivations that I don’t think were properly fleshed out at all, resulting in a messy conclusion/cliff-hanger.

Will I read the next book? Probably. I will honestly admit that I am invested enough in Mori’s story that I do want to know what happens to her. I just really hope that the third (and final?) book in this series is tighter than this one.

 

REVIEW: Lock & Mori

Alright, so Lock & Mori is a modern day, high school retelling of Sir ACD’s Holmes stories, but the best part about it is that is an entirely new mystery and therefore not really a retelling at all.

24885790When I first started the book, I was hesitant. I grew up with Holmes and have devoured practically every adaptation since I was six, so when I saw another modern day genderbent version, I wasn’t about to get my hopes up. My problem with the genderbending of Holmes characters is that it is typically Holmes or Watson that get switched around for the pure sake of heteronormativity which urks me for a number of reasons. Finding out that Moriarty was the one who was now female and that the novel was being told from her perspective had me a little more curious than usual for this type of story.

Diving into I wasn’t impressed, but was curious enough to keep going and to spot other characters from the canon. I was looking for clues within the story to find out which canon story it was based on and nit picking the crap out of Mori’s behaviour. But then things got dark and I was hooked. You see, Mori comes from a home of terrible abuse made all the worse by the fact her father, James Moriarty Sr, is a police officer. I often find abuse victims as misrepresented in the books I’ve read where the issue comes across, but Petty gets it right. Mori is independent, intelligent, and strong but still she struggles with social interactions and is constantly working to cover up her father’s abuse so as not to arouse suspicion from the wrong people and therefore lose her brothers.

There are times where what I like to call the “real” Moriarty is shown in Mori as she is wooed by her own violent thoughts and we can see the mastermind that she truly is.

Sherlock “Lock” Holmes is a wonderful version of the classic character and accurately displays traits that a young Holmes would exhibit. He is brilliant and determined to show off his vast knowledge, but he has limitations. This is not the Holmes of the original stories. This is not a full-formed man who has been studying the details of countless subjects for years. This is a Holmes who is still learning and still developing his powers of brilliant deduction.

There is romantic tension shared by Lock and Mori, but it was written so well and so wonderfully that even though the purpose of the novel is to find a serial murderer, it didn’t feel out of place in the story, nor was it the wrong direction for the characters. Both of them are young and impulsive and it worked for their relationship and interactions in general.

When it comes to the mystery itself, I felt that it was balanced out equally with the backstory and the personal interaction plots and by the time I was closing in on the end, I was stressing out on how it was all going to end. The tension was built in precisely the right way so that it tugs your stomach into knots before you are even aware of being so entirely invested in the story.

For this next part of my review I’m going to discuss major spoilers and more about Mori’s abuse.

To double back on myself for a moment, I wanted to discuss the specifics of Mori’s abuse. The poor thing has been watching her father – who she has never been particularly close to anyway – beat the ever-loving crap out of her younger brothers. He calls her a whore. He calls her useless. He calls her a whole array of the worst things a parent could say to their child but still she stands before him and takes it for the sake of her brothers. When he beats her for the first time, it’s to the point where her face is so swollen she can’t mask it all with only make-up. And still she stands before him. I think that Mori is an incredibly important character whether you care about Holmes or not because of her strength and her determination to protect her brothers and show them that they are still loved.

At the same time, Mori thinks of all the ways things could go wrong. She covers her brothers’ injuries so teachers won’t ask questions. She stops calling the police since they only send her dad’s friends. She puts plans into place and quickly comes up with clever lies to keep her brothers’ safe and her dad from being entirely found out. Because at the end of the day, James Moriarty Sr is still her father.

Petty is able to show readers how victims of abuse, even the ones who want to stand up for themselves, are still constantly thinking of the repercussions. If they ran away, Mori and her three brothers would be homeless and unable to support themselves. If she turned him in, they would be forever seen as the children of a serial murderer. It isn’t until that she sees a way out that will benefit the lot of them that she is ready to take action and kill the man who is ruining their lives. Even if it means sacrificing herself.

Which is why it is so understandable why Mori doesn’t trust Lock anymore. He broke his promise and called the police to turn in her father. He didn’t trust her to handle things on her own and now her revenge will never be truly obtained. Her freedom will never be granted.

I honestly can’t wait to get into book two and see how Mori is able to deal with the the conclusion of his book. For something that I picked up on a whim, I am addicted.