Sunday, April 16, 2017 / No comments

Library Books Haul! Vol. 3


It's that wonderful time again.... that time when I review the books I've recently checked out and read (or didn't read. Dun dun duuuuun!) from my local library. I'll talk about the ones I liked, the ones I disliked, and all of the other books in between! And of course, I'll be rating them from 1 to 5 on my own weird, ever changing rating scale (this library books haul edition features scales of tapeworms, puppets, and more! But did you expect anything less weird from me? I mean, honestly, you should know better by now). Read on to see what I thought of this round of books!

My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

Quirk Books
Read or Returned? Read

My Thoughts: Out of allll of the books on this list, this one is quite possibly my favorite book that I've read in a very, very long time. I first saw this book at a local bookstore and I loved the concept of the design of the book: it was hardcover and made to look like an 80's high school yearbook, with stereotypical teenage "let's keep in touch over the summer" and student's names scrawled along the inside front and back covers. It was incredibly clever, plus I adored the name of the book: My Best Friend's Exorcism. I mean, c'mon! It sounded like it had the potential to have a biting wit as well as being a scary read. But I resisted my temptation to buy the book and decided to get a copy from the library (damn my penny pinching ways!). Thank jeebus for the library though, because I checked out the book and instantly regretted not buying it on the spot! The book was exactly what I wished it would be and more: demons, 80's music, exorcisms, 80's hair, the power of friendship, and a whole lot of horror/disturbing imagery mixed with some clever wit and observations (at times. At other times it was downright horrifying). But I especially loved the tale of friendship that Grady Hendrix weaved and it made me hope that one day if I was ever possessed by a demon (god forbid, but honestly you just never know where life is going to lead you), that the power of my current friendships would be enough to save me (hear that friends? This. Is. On. YOU!!!)

PS. Also, just FYI, I bought the book. I mean, once you fall in love with a book, you kind of have to buy it, right? So right now it's sitting on my bookshelf with all of it's new horror novel friends. Awww.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 giant tape worms via smoothie. DON'T ASK, just read the book!

The Motion of Puppets by Keith Donohue

Picador
Read or Returned? Read

My Thoughts: This was a random find at the library in their "new" book section (under "horror"/"supernatural," obviously. Where else do you think I go? Paranormal romance? Please!) and I immediately was attracted to the cover. It was dark, it was ominous, and it had a dangling marionette on the cover- done, sold, checked out, YES. (I freaking love puppets. They both simultaneously fill me with joy and yet terrify me. For some reason that's a winning combination in my book) But when I actually sat down to read it, I was disappointed almost immediately. While the book is short (almost more like a novella), where I thought it would be more creepy and twisted, it was more.... just bland.

Let me explain: a man and his slightly younger wife (this comes up in the book several times, don't blame me for mentioning it! Also, I've forgotten their names already and am too lazy to look them up) move to Quebec where the wife is a dancer/acrobat in a local show. The wife is enthralled by an ancient puppet in the window of a seemingly always closed old toy store in their neighborhood and needs to stop and gaze at it every time she and her husband pass by it. But one night, after a late night performance, the man's wife doesn't return home. She's disappeared without a trace and the police, of course, are blaming the husband. But somehow the man just knows in the back of his head that that mysterious old toy shop has something do with it. The book's views changes from the man's to his wife's, and while the book was incredibly well written, I had a hard time getting into it despite the fact that PUPPETS COME ALIVE IN THE BOOK!!! (Which I was all about!) I mean, really, you'd think that would completely make the book, but it just didn't.

I guess I wanted a bit more twisted, dark reason behind these living puppets, a history of this magic, ritual, or whatever you want to call it. Instead you just get a man searching for his lost wife, who's been turned into a puppet, along with a bunch of other lost souls turned puppets and it ends up just being a monotonous journey to uncover the truth (which really isn't much). The ending of the story has a slightly dark, almost disturbing ending that I actually really liked and didn't see coming, but it honestly came a little too late to save this book.

(And I wanted so much to like this book! We need more horror novels about creepy and malicious puppets!!)

My Rating: 2 out of 5 human souls that now reside in puppets (one of the puppets is a marionette, of course)

Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix

Quirk Books
Read or Returned? Read

My Thoughts: This is Grady Hendrix's second appearance on the list and for good reason! This is his homage to the (in)famous Ikea stores and their reasonably priced put-it-together-yourself furntiure. In fact, much how My Best Friend's Exorcism was designed to look like a high school yearbook, Horrorstor has been cleverly made to look like an Ikea-esque catalog, with ads, coupons, and, of course, wonderful illustrations of the very modern, stark, and quite practical and economical furniture that Orsk (the fictional store in question. The store's cutesy catchphrase for when you need help? "Just Orsk!") has to offer. Told from a stuck in life and disgruntled employee's point of view, something is amiss in the Orsk superstore. Weird smells, mysterious stains, random noises at night, but nothing is ever stolen. Is someone breaking in at night? Do they have a rat problem? Before they report anything to corporate, the store wants to do their own investigation, so a bunch of employees stay late (a fun mix of very different types of people/employees, from the very devoted, to the very young and flippant) and the whatever is walking and disturbing the Orsk's massive maze of a store's floors at night finally comes out of the walls (you'll wish they hadn't). It's a hilarious and incredibly tongue-in-cheek satire and ode to the retail industry, the Ikea phenomena and its devoted consumer base that's seemingly taken over the world. While not quite on the same high flying level as My Best Friend's Exorcism, Horrorstor is still a good time, filled with humor, some intense gory scenes, and honestly some pretty scary moments. You'll read it all in one sitting (I did) and probably make other people wonder why you're reading an Ikea catalog so intensely. (Obviously they're not looking very hard at the cover!)

My Rating: 4 out of 5 practical and reasonably priced sofa sectionals that do NOT convert into torture devices (again, just read the books)

The Circle by Dave Eggers

Knopf
Read or Returned? Read

My Thoughts: Is this book a fun satire of modern technological life or a cautionary tale about this generation and it's constant need and demand to know and receive knowledge via the internet and social media? You be the judge, but despite the very mixed reviews of The Circle, I took it more as a satire with a very light cautionary message about the overwhelming and sometimes all consuming influence of social media, all blended up into a very enjoyable and gripping read.

The book is about a young college grad Mae, who gets hired to work at a tech company called The Circle, who pretty much runs the internet (think Google), make computers, phones, and other technology (think Apple), and has a giant location on the west coast where they all work, live, get massages, try out new gadgets, and work on innovative new things like medicine, technology, world peace, yada yada (think Google and Apple again). The point of the Circle is to connect all us, and for each and every one of its Circle users to have every last bit of information available at their finger tips; from news sources, entertainment, or even from each other. In a way, total transparency. Everyone's experiences are your experiences and vice versa. Mae swiftly rises up the Circle's success ladder and becomes the new spokes model for the Circle's new campaign to basically live stream her entire day, so she can showcase the Circle and others can tune in and comment whenever they want. But her delve into the inner Circle (haha, get it? I'll go home) makes Mae discover that all may not be what it seem and maybe the ideals of the Circle are not at all truly altruistic.

Personally, I thought the satire of the book, with all of the gadgets and features that the Circle offers mimicked the social media world that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and more have created to a tee. As entertaining as the book was, it really did make me think about how I use social media and what it actually represents to others, and to myself. I thought The Circle was thought provoking in an educated but absorbing way and I could not put it down (except for the times I had to to take a breath and process what just went down. A LOT goes down, people!). If you're an avid reader and social media user, you might want to give this a read. Or you know, you can just read it before the movie with Tom Hanks and Emma Watson comes out so you can compare and contrast the book vs. movie (which is always a good time! But everyone knows the book is always better than the movie! Usually.)

My Rating: 4 out of 5 deep sea sharks that will literally eat everything and everyone in their paths (Jaws who?)


The Tumbling Turner Sisters by Juliette Fay

Gallery Books
Read or Returned? Read

My Thoughts: This is a historical fiction book set during the aftermath of World War I, about a family of sisters (the Turner's, in case you didn't get that from the title!), who forced by their overbearing mother turned stage mother (a totally natural transition for an overbearing mom), become an acrobatic act to make ends meet in their family and tour the vaudeville scene. Not only is it endorsed by Sara Gruen (author of Water for Elephants, a spectacular book that everyone should read, in my humble opinion), which is a total check in the pro column for reasons to read this book, but it also features a lovely and realistic story of sisters. Much like the March sisters from Little Women, the Turner sisters, who are all completely different from one another, from their personalities, to their hopes and dreams of the future and their careers, but are supportive as sisters and united as a family, which shows some very volatile moments, but also some sweet and tender ones as well. There really is nothing else like a historical fiction novel to sweep you up and transport you to another time and place, and The Tumbling Turner Sisters does that and makes you part of the Turner family, familial and backstage drama included. Plus, I love a good novel about showbiz with some added romance thrown in and the book has all of that and more!

My Rating: 4 out of 5 jars of vaudevillian era greasepaint (cake it on, people!)

Yesternight by Cat Winters

William Morrow Paperbacks
Read or Returned? Read

My Thoughts: Don't get me wrong: I love Cat Winters. Her first YA book, In the Shadow of Blackbirds, was haunting and heartbreaking, and visually stunning, a story of two young lovers torn apart too soon and unjustly as well, with WWI era photos woven through the book. Her second YA book. A Cure for Dreaming, a story about suffragettes and hypnotism (not my cup of tea. The hypnotism, not the fight of the suffragettes. We should all be thanking those brave ladies who came before us!) wasn't the greatest sophomore effort in the world, but I was still on the Cat Winters train. And her first adult novel, The Uninvited, was an understated paranormal drama with a poignant love story and a jaw dropping and devastating reveal. So I was very much looking forward to Yesternight (such a lovely name for a book! I can't fault Cat Winters on that) but as I eagerly started, the feeling waned. To put it bluntly, the book was so disappointing!

Yesternight revolves around reincarnation, which I'll admit is not a common subject usually, but to me it wasn't enthralling or even vaguely interesting. The book started out with a vaguely ominous tone, but swiftly changed to a rather dull mystery and love story. There was a big revelation that Winters sets up that should hold some emotional weight, but sadly just falls very flat, leaving you just saying, "oh. Okay. Makes sense." While the book (like all of Cat Winters' books) was very well written and a good, if not all that creepy, twist finally appeared at the end to make the story come full circle, the characters really weren't enough to carry the story and the tone didn't seem at all consistent and just wasn't compelling. I'm still a fan of Cat Winters, but I'm hoping her next book will be a winner, something more on par with In the Shadow of Blackbirds and The Uninvited. Fingers crossed!

My Rating: 2 out of 5 very mundane past lives

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

Blue Rider Press
Read or Returned? Read

My Thoughts: This was the very first book of Carrie Fisher's that I've read and I thought it was superb introduction to her work. I'm not the biggest Star Wars fan (please, don't hurt me!), so while the book was beautifully and hilariously written, I didn't get too much out of her Star Wars anecdotes, as interesting as they were (again, please don't come for me Star Wars fans! I've seen all the movies and liked them- well, the original three, don't get me started on the prequels) most of her stories didn't do to much for me. But I loved her writing style and her wit, so I'm actually interested in checking out more of her work (I've heard that Postcards From the Edge is brilliant) and am a little disappointed in myself for not having read any of her books before her untimely death. RIP Carrie Fisher, you are missed. xo

My Rating: 3 out of 5 Princess Leia cinnamon roll hair buns

The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman

W.W. Norton & Company
Read or Returned? Read

My Thoughts: This is the true and courageous story of a zookeeper and his wife of the Warsaw Zoo (with their young son) in 1930's Poland who helped hide Jews in their zoo for the underground during the Nazi regime. While I initially went into the book thinking it was a fictionalized novel of the events, when it fact it is a nonfiction account of the life of Antonina Zabinski, the zookeeper's wife of the book's title. But despite that and the fact that I usually have to be a in nonfiction mood to read nonfiction (it's hard to explain but I'm usually more into fiction or fictionalized accounts of historical events aka historical fiction), I loved hearing about the true accounts and stories from the 1930's world of the Warsaw Zoo and the animals that resided there (including the ones that lived in the Zabinski's house with them!) and the strength and courage that comes with taking in people who were in danger and putting her own life and her family's in danger as well. Antonina and her husband Dr. Jan Zabinski were true war heroes and I love the fact that their lives are being told by Diane Ackerman, who despite writing nonfiction, can make day to day life of zoo upkeep riveting, with her fantastic and picturesque descriptions, and is able to shed light on these brave individuals of WWII who we may not even know about without her important book. A definite must read for those interested in the unnamed everyday heroes of World War II that are rarely given recognition for their bravery and fortitude and the fact that they've saved countless lives.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 adorable yet actually very dangerous lion cubs


I wrote a lot these books this week! I guess I just had a lot to say about them! 😮 Have you read any of these books? Did you like any of them? Was I too harsh abut a few of the ones listed? (I just get so passionate about books, guys! Also, did you notice I keep saying that books I didn't like were at least "well written?" Haha, it's true though!) Let me know in the comments, fellow bookworms 📚

-Emily


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