Mini-Reviews: The Kitchen, Paper Girls Vol. 6, and Emily the Strange

The Kitchen by Ollie Masters
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 1, 2015
Source: Borrowed

New York City, late 1970s. Times Square is a haven for sex and drugs. The city teeters on the verge of bankruptcy, while blackouts can strike at any moment. This is the world of THE KITCHEN.

The Irish gangs of Hell’s Kitchen rule the neighborhood, bringing terror to the streets and doing the dirty work for the Italian Mafia. Jimmy Brennan and his crew were the hardest bastards in the Kitchen, but after they’re all put in prison, their wives—Kath, Raven and Angie—decide to keep running their rackets. And once they get a taste of the fast life and easy money, it won’t be easy to stop.

THE KITCHEN takes one of the most popular genres in entertainment and, like The Sopranos, reimagines it for a new generation to present a classic gangster story told from a fresh point of view.

Written by talented newcomer Ollie Masters with stunning art by Ming Doyle (Mara) and killer covers by Becky Cloonan (GOTHAM ACADEMY, Killjoys, DEMO), THE KITCHEN is not to be missed.

Collects THE KITCHEN #1-8.

I hadn’t heard of The Kitchen before searching for books that I hadn’t already read that were becoming movies, but it was available on Hoopla and it sounded interesting enough. This graphic novel takes a very simple concept — what if a bunch of mobsters went to prison and their wives took over — and attempts to turn it into a story about gender roles.

I can’t really say that it succeeds, because there’s little difference between the husbands and wives. The women, understandably, want to be taken seriously, but their way of being taken seriously is basically just being very, very violent. Mob stories in general aren’t my favorite, and this one just didn’t have enough outside of the standard grisly murder scenes to keep my interest.

I can see how this could be expanded into a decent movie, but as a graphic novel, it left me disappointed.

#ps19: a book becoming a movie in 2019


Paper Girls, Vol. 6 by Brian K. Vaughan
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
Source: Borrowed

THE END IS HERE!

After surviving adventures in their past, present and future, the Paper Girls of 1988 embark on one last journey, a five-part epic that includes the emotional double-sized series finale. Featuring a new wraparound cover from Eisner Award-winning co-creator CLIFF CHIANG, which can be combined with the covers of all five previous volumes to form one complete mega-image!

Collects PAPER GIRLS #26-30

Paper Girls has been kind of hit or miss for me, wavering between “um, it’s fine” and “wow, that was actually pretty good,” depending on the volume. I was pretty excited when I saw that the final volume was out. I’d definitely been missing Vaughan’s work.

The final volume definitely falls into the “um, it’s fine” category. A lot happens and, honestly, it’s a little confusing. But as usual, the characters are great and the art is amazing. This isn’t my favorite of Vaughan’s work, but I’m glad I read it.


Emily the Strange by Rob Reger
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: November 19, 2002
Source: Borrowed
Emily the Strange is not your ordinary thirteen-year-old girl — she’s got a razor-sharp wit as dark as her jet-black hair, a posse of moody black cats and famous friends in very odd places! She’s got a broodingly unique way of experiencing the world, and you’re invited along for the ride. Legions of fans worldwide have joined forces to make Emily a pop-culture phenomenon.

I’ve seen Emily the Strange stuff for years without really knowing what it was all about. I needed a book that someone was reading in a movie or on a TV show, and this was on the Gilmore Girls book list, so I went for it.

I am confused.

Because there’s no story.

That can be okay depending on how it’s done. I mean, graphic novels can just be a collection of short stories. But I want it to at least tell me something, not just show me an edgy teenage girl doing edgy things. I guess the title is accurate because I was lost, the story was dark, and it was incredibly boring.

#ps19: a book you see someone reading on TV or in a movie


Have you read any of these books? What’s the best graphic novel you’ve read recently?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds

Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: March 5, 2019
Source: Borrowed

Jack Ellison King. King of Almost.

He almost made valedictorian.

He almost made varsity.

He almost got the girl . . .

When Jack and Kate meet at a party, bonding until sunrise over their mutual love of Froot Loops and their favorite flicks, Jack knows he’s falling—hard. Soon she’s meeting his best friends, Jillian and Franny, and Kate wins them over as easily as she did Jack. Jack’s curse of almost is finally over.

But this love story is . . . complicated. It is an almost happily ever after. Because Kate dies. And their story should end there. Yet Kate’s death sends Jack back to the beginning, the moment they first meet, and Kate’s there again. Beautiful, radiant Kate. Healthy, happy, and charming as ever. Jack isn’t sure if he’s losing his mind. Still, if he has a chance to prevent Kate’s death, he’ll take it. Even if that means believing in time travel. However, Jack will learn that his actions are not without consequences. And when one choice turns deadly for someone else close to him, he has to figure out what he’s willing to do—and let go—to save the people he loves.

I’d been interested in reading Opposite of Always ever since I saw it on a list of 2019 debuts, and I was pretty excited when I saw that the audiobook was available through my library. After reading it, you could say I’m angry angry, because this book was some nonsense.

Look, I understand that you need to suspend some disbelief in a lot of novels. I also understand that you need to suspend a lot of disbelief when it comes to time travel novels. But this book? There is not enough disbelief in the entire world for me to suspend and have this book make any sense.

But I’ll get there.

First I want to talk about everything else.

I guess I’m going to start with what seems to be a trend in YA literature these days — romantic relationships between high school and college students. I know that it happens all the time, both in real life and in fiction, but for me, there’s no way around it. It’s creepy. Even if it’s just a one-year difference in age, there is a huge difference in maturity between someone who lives with their parents and someone who is in college, living in a dorm, away from home.

The second thing I want to talk about is the pacing. This book is 464 pages. That is insanely long for a YA contemporary. It’s also about twice as long as it needs to be since so much of the book is repetitive. And I was bored the entire way through. It’s just one irrelevant thing after another happening, and even when relevant things happen, they don’t make sense.

And now we get to my third point — the blatant medical inaccuracies in this book.So, you really expect me to believe that a doctor has the cure for sickle cell anemia just hidden away in his office and the FDA hasn’t come looking for it? You really expect me to believe that a doctor would violate HIPAA just because he feels bad for some random kid who has an emotional investment in a college student’s case? You really expect me to believe that this doctor happily takes calls from this random kid to discuss the specifics of his super secret super expensive sickle cell treatment? That’s not how medicine works, and the way that Kate describes the financial piece of her treatments? That’s not how insurance works. As the former billing manager of a medical office and someone who now literally works for a major insurance company, I think I’d know. I just read the author’s bio and saw that he’s actually a registered nurse and I am even more upset, because he should know better.

So back to what I said at the beginning about suspending disbelief.

I’m not sure what’s going on with the random time travel in YA books recently, but I, for one, am sick of it. What was the point of it in this book? Jack repeats the same three months over and over again so that he, the high school student, can try to save Kate’s life. Because, yes, the high school student is clearly going to save Kate when a bunch of trained physicians could not.

I feel like, if you want to write a book like this, with the love interest being very sick and on the verge of dying, you have to be very careful to not come across as a rip-off of hundreds of similar books that have come before you. Personally, when I see the words “because Kate dies” in a synopsis, I’m already rolling my eyes. This particular plot has been done so many times that it’s going to be hard to make it unique. Similarly, the “living the same day over and over until you get it right” thing has been done to death. There was nothing particularly new or interesting about the time loops in this book, so it really just came across like the author knew that books about sick kids, books about time travel, and YA contemporary romance are selling well, so he decided to combine them all together to make a surefire hit.

Also…When Kate’s dad lectures Jack that he needs to break up with Kate because she’s dying, I did two things. First, I rolled my eyes, because how many times has a YA dad told his daughter’s boyfriend to break up with her because he just didn’t like their relationship? But, second, it kind of came across like, “Yeah, Kate’s dying. Let’s take away this one piece of happiness she has while she’s still on this planet.” Like, honestly. Where is the logic here?

All in all, I felt that this book played out very stereotypically. Everything that happened was predictable, even the twists. The fantastical time-travel aspect kind of comes out of nowhere and isn’t particularly well-done. The book is overly long and I just couldn’t bring myself to care about the characters or what happened to them. There was a ton of odd dialogue and weird choices, like Jack’s best friend’s father being referred to as “the coupon.” (What??)

I was excited about this one, but now I’m just disappointed.


Have you read Opposite of Always? Do you know of any books that did these tropes well?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: June 5, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Once upon a time, back at Darrow-Harker School, Beatrice Hartley and her five best friends were the cool kids, the beautiful ones. Then the shocking death of Jim – their creative genius and Beatrice’s boyfriend – changed everything.

One year after graduation, Beatrice is returning to Wincroft – the seaside estate where they spent so many nights sharing secrets, crushes, plans to change the world – hoping she’ll get to the bottom of the dark questions gnawing at her about Jim’s death.

But as the night plays out in a haze of stilted jokes and unfathomable silence, Beatrice senses she’s never going to know what really happened.

Then a mysterious man knocks on the door. Blithely, he announces the impossible: time for them has become stuck, snagged on a splinter that can only be removed if the former friends make the harshest of decisions.

Now Beatrice has one last shot at answers… and at life.

And so begins the Neverworld Wake. 

Let me tell you something: I’m really sick of reading books that I’ve already read. And Neverworld Wake? I’ve read it several times. This book is a haphazard conglomeration of a lot of trends, but it especially reminded me of a few very popular YA books:

It would be fine if this book offered something new or interesting, but it doesn’t. We have the days repeating over and over again like in Before I Fall. We have the murder mystery with nobody wanting to share what they know like in One of Us Is Lying. We have the mysterious super rich children like in We Were Liars. Neverworld Wake borrows so many tropes and yet it somehow manages to do absolutely nothing.

The concept of the book is fine — Beatrice is hanging out with her old friends when a man knocks on the door and tells them that they have to decide who will live and who will die. Crazy, right? They brush it off and go on with their lives, but then they find that they’re living the same day over and over again. As the day repeats itself again and again, they try to find their way out of the Neverworld and solve the murder of Beatrice’s high school boyfriend.

The problem is that the book tries to do a lot of things and doesn’t end up doing any of them well. The writing itself is awkward, filled with ridiculous similes like “swirls of blond hair like sugar garnishes on thirty-four-dollar desserts” and metaphors like “we are all anthologies.” Like, I get what the author is trying to say, but writing like that just comes across as pretentious and unnecessary. Half the pages of this book could have probably been cut if they’d just gotten rid of all the unnecessary comparisons.

There are also continuity issues. You see, there’s a different between an unreliable narrator and forgetting what the heck you’re supposed to be writing. Neverworld Wake finds that line, crosses it, and keeps running. You can’t brush off a huge inconsistency in the plot as an unreliable narrator and just expect me to accept it. It doesn’t work like that.

I was so, so disappointed at the end of this book for multiple reasons, but one of those reasons IS A HUGE SPOILER, so click here if you want to find out what it was!So, basically, we follow these five characters for about three hundred pages as they try to piece together what happened to Beatrice’s beloved (or was he?? we may never know) boyfriend on the night that he died. They break into a police station to try to examine case files. They interrogate his family at gunpoint. They uncover a conspiracy to hide a totally unrelated murder from years before. Despite all of this detective work, at the end of the book, we find out that EVERYBODY ALREADY KNEW HOW JIM DIED BECAUSE EVERYBODY WAS SOMEHOW INVOLVED IN HIS DEATH. What a waste of my time. It’s been days since I finished this and I’m still mad.

This book was clearly not for me. I’ve heard good things about Pessl’s other books, so I might give her another try at some point. For now, though, I’m just going to move on to something that’s the polar opposite of this book.


Have you read Neverworld Wake? What’s a book that did an unreliable narrator well?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju [SPOILERS]

Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
Source: Borrowed

Perpetually awkward Nima Kumara-Clark is bored with her insular community of Bridgeton, in love with her straight girlfriend, and trying to move past her mother’s unexpected departure. After a bewildering encounter at a local festival, Nima finds herself suddenly immersed in the drag scene on the other side of town.

Macho drag kings, magical queens, new love interests, and surprising allies propel Nima both painfully and hilariously closer to a self she never knew she could be—one that can confidently express and accept love. But she’ll have to learn to accept lost love to get there.

Like many people, I was drawn to Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens because it sounded like it would be a great celebration of diversity and inclusion. At a 3.81 average on Goodreads, it’s not doing amazing, but it’s a pretty solid average. And I can see why people have enjoyed this book. It’s about acceptance, both of yourself and those around you. It features multiple characters coming to terms with aspects of their lives that they can’t change, from the way their parents act to their gender identities.

And I want to make it clear that I think that all of that is great. I think those are really important themes for young adult books and I think it’s even more great that this book features characters of color and introduces teens to the drag community in a really positive way. My problems with this book are in its subtler messages.

Everything from this point on may include spoilers, so proceed with caution.

Alright, so there were a few things about this book that really bothered me.

The one I’ll start with left me thinking, “wait, did that actually just happen?!” Some context: I am in my late 20s. Aside from relatives and conversations in a professional context, I have not associated with any high schoolers in almost a decade. When I was in high school, I thought I was basically an adult. I was not, and the actual adults around me knew that. In this book, Nima is seventeen years old. She befriends, and later that same night has a sleepover with, a thirty-five year old woman. Deirdre is portrayed as this really benevolent maternal figure, bestowing advice upon Nima and her friends and giving them a place to stay when they need it. I want to clarify that Deirdre doesn’t do anything illegal throughout the course of the book. But what thirty-five-year-old woman wants to go home with a seventeen-year-old girl? What thirty-five-year-old woman thinks it’s appropriate to crash on said seventeen-year-old’s couch? What parent wakes up to this and thinks, “Yeah, this is normal, let’s make pancakes?” It just felt icky and gross and set off every alarm in my mind.

The second thing I want to bring up is the message that it’s okay to be a terrible person just because you’re going through some stuff. We all know that teenagers can be terrible. I probably had my fair share of terrible days when I was a teenager. But there are some characters in this book, Gordon in particular, who are terrible about 98% of the time. And yes, Gordon is going through some stuff. He’s struggling with his gender identity (a plot point that is never really resolved, by the way) and seems to live with an abusive father (another point that is never really resolved). He’s angry at everything, he lashes out, he makes fun of people to make himself feel better, he constantly cracks jokes about Nima being a lesbian, and he’s just all-around that guy you would have avoided in high school. And yet, once Nima finds out that he’s struggling with his gender identity (he’s never referred to as trans, so I’m not really sure how to describe it other than that), all is forgiven. Gordon is allowed to be a terrible person. At one point, after she’s been hanging out with Gordon for a bit, one of Nima’s friends asks her if he’s still a terrible person. She says yes. Gordon is never really called out for his behavior, other than an offhand comment from Nima asking him to stop calling her names.

The third thing is the age difference between Nima and Winnow. It’s not nearly as dramatic as the age difference between Nima and Deirdre, but it’s still icky. As I said, Nima is seventeen. She’s in high school. Winnow is a girl that Nima meets at a drag show and falls in love with, completely forgetting her previous crush, Ginny, who she’d been constantly pining over up until that point. (More on Ginny later.) Winnow is also twenty-one years old. I have no problem with an age difference between consenting adults, but a seventeen-year-old who is still in high school should not be trying to hook up with a twenty-one-year-old who has their own apartment. Or, at least, that twenty-one-year-old should not entertain those efforts, invite the seventeen-year-old to a party, provide them with alcohol, and try to kiss them. Nima is so clearly uncomfortable hanging out with Winnow’s friends, and yet she continually tries to be cool to win Winnow’s affection. Winnow doesn’t do anything overtly creepy, and she does try her best to make sure that Nima feels included, but Nima is so out of her comfort zone that she can’t even articulate what’s wrong to Winnow and just ends up getting drunk a lot. There’s such a difference in the level of maturity between Nima and Winnow that I wondered how on earth those two thought they’d make a good couple.

The fourth thing is the book’s message that if you’re a good person, you’ll forgive everything that anybody does to you with no questions asked. I’ve talked about a lot of the more questionable aspects of this book and a few of the pretty questionable things the characters do. One of the messages of the book seems to be that the good people in your life will allow you to do bad things with no repercussions. Now, I’m a pretty forgiving person. I tend to put up with more than I probably should from the people in my life. (I’m working on that, though.) But the characters in this book are just on a different level. Get super drunk and throw up on someone you’ve just met? No big deal, they’ll just take you home with them! Make out with a girl you don’t even have feelings for just because? Totally fine, you can still be friends! Make fun of someone for no other reason than they’re gay? As long as you have your own issues, it’s all good. It’s portrayed as totally reasonable to just blindly forgive people, because that’s what good people do, and that is a toxic mentality to present to teenagers, the target demographic of this book. I am here to tell you that if someone makes you mad or does bad things to you, you do not have to forgive them. If you want to forgive them, you can, but you should not force yourself to get over things because it’s “the right thing to do.”

A subpoint here is Ginny, a straight girl who knows that Nima has a crush on her. As the book opens, Nima is crushing hard. She knows that Ginny doesn’t like girls but she also knows that her crush on Ginny isn’t going anywhere. She attempts to ask Ginny out and is promptly shut down in the nicest way possible, because Ginny is described as being the nicest person possible. Nima’s crush on Ginny mostly disappears after she meets Winnow, but makes a brief reappearance during an odd scene in which Nima is trying on clothes and requires Ginny’s assistance with a shirt that gets stuck. All of a sudden, Nima and Ginny are full-on making out in the dressing room… until Ginny abruptly pulls away, talking about how she got carried away and isn’t into girls and was just experimenting. I’m sorry, how is that supposed to be okay? Why is Ginny’s behavior never called out?

The last thing is not so much a problematic aspect, but just an annoying one: the fact that Nima falls into that typical YA trope of “beautiful girl who doesn’t know she’s beautiful.” Nima constantly mentions how she’s so unattractive, nobody could ever want her, so on and so forth, and yet every single person who meets her refers to her as “adorable.” It made me roll my eyes every time!

All in all, I wanted to love this book for its diversity and its message of acceptance, but I had too many issues with the actual content to rate it any higher than one star. I’m really disappointed in a lot of things that happen in this book and just hope that any teenagers who read it will question its more problematic aspects.


Have you read Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens? Do we agree or did you love it?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: One More Thing by BJ Novak

One More Thing by BJ Novak
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: February 4, 2014
Source: Borrowed

From an actor, writer, and director of the hit TV comedy The Office (US version): a story collection that was “workshopped” at comedy clubs and bookstores on both coasts.

B.J. Novak’s One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories is an endlessly entertaining, surprisingly sensitive, and startlingly original debut collection that signals the arrival of a welcome new voice in American fiction.

Across a dazzling range of subjects, themes, tones, and narrative voices, Novak’s assured prose and expansive imagination introduce readers to people, places, and premises that are hilarious, insightful, provocative, and moving-often at the same time.

In One More Thing, a boy wins a $100,000 prize in a box of Frosted Flakes – only to discover that claiming the winnings may unravel his family. A woman sets out to seduce motivational speaker Tony Robbins – turning for help to the famed motivator himself. A school principal unveils a bold plan to permanently abolish arithmetic. An acclaimed ambulance driver seeks the courage to follow his heart and throw it all away to be a singer-songwriter. Author John Grisham contemplates a monumental typo. A new arrival in heaven, overwhelmed by infinite options, procrastinates over his long-ago promise to visit his grandmother. We meet a vengeance-minded hare, obsessed with scoring a rematch against the tortoise who ruined his life; and post-college friends who debate how to stage an intervention in the era of Facebook. We learn why wearing a red t-shirt every day is the key to finding love; how February got its name; and why the stock market is sometimes just… down.

Finding inspiration in questions from the nature of perfection to the icing on carrot cake, from the deeply familiar to the intoxicatingly imaginative, One More Thing finds its heart in the most human of phenomena: love, fear, family, ambition, and the inner stirring for the one elusive element that might make a person complete. The stories in this collection are like nothing else, but they have one thing in common: they share the playful humor, deep heart, inquisitive mind, and altogether electrifying spirit of a writer with a fierce devotion to the entertainment of the reader.

If there’s one thing I’m skeptical of, it’s actors getting published. Sometimes it works out pretty well, but most of the time I’m just left disappointed. In the case of One More Thing, I don’t even know how to feel. Like I wasted my time? Kind of offended? Entirely unamused?

The thing is, I think BJ Novak is a good actor. I love The Office. I know he can write because he’s one of the writers on that show. And what he writes on that show is funny. What’s he’s written here is just trying too hard. It’s written like he thinks he’s smart and everyone else is dumb.

There are so many short stories in this collection that I feel like I can’t really go into any depth on any of them. They’ve all blended together in my mind to the point that only two stand out. One good, one bad.

The good? The one about the boy who wins the Frosted Flakes sweepstakes. I did not see that ending coming and thought that it was a really well-written story. The bad? The one about the teacher insisting that the N-word should be used more.

Once I figured out that each story sets a scene and ends in the way you’d least expect, it was much less interesting. The stories became very formulaic and it seemed like Novak was trying so hard to be edgy that he just came off as pretentious.

I think I’ll just stick with watching The Office and ignore whatever else he writes.

#ps19: a book recommended written by a celebrity you admire


Have you read One More Thing? What’s your opinion on actors getting published?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: The Secret Language of Cats by Susanne Schotz

The Secret Language of Cats by Susanne Schotz
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: November 6, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Have you ever wondered what your cat is saying?

Cats do not meow randomly, nor do they growl or hiss because they have nothing better to do. Cat sounds have a purpose, and they can carry important messages, whether for us or other cats.

Susanne Schotz is hard at work on breaking the cat code. She is a professor at Lund University in Sweden, where a long-standing research program is proving that cats do actually use vocal communication–with each other and with their human caretakers. Understanding the vocal strategies used in human-cat communication will have profound implications for how we communicate with our pets, and has the potential to improve the relationship between animals and humans within several fields, including animal therapy, veterinary medicine and animal sheltering.

In The Secret Language of Cats, Schotz offers a crash course in the phonetic study of cat sounds. She introduces us to the full range of feline vocalizations and explains what they can mean in different situations, and she gives practical tips to help us understand our cats better.
 

I’ll be honest here and say that the only reason I checked this out from the library was that cute kitten on the cover. I mean, I do have an interest in linguistics (I did major in it in college, after all) and I do love cats, but nonfiction about felines isn’t really my thing. Quite honestly, after I picked this up and remarked on the cuteness of the cover, I should have just put it back down, because this book was some nonsense.

The thing is, if you’ve owned cats for any portion of your life, or been close with anyone who has owned cats, or even just spent like two minutes with a cat one time, nothing in this book will come as a surprise to you. I mean, was it fun to see the various noises a cat can make transcribed using IPA? Sure, I guess. Was I happy that cats weren’t hooked up to any crazy machinery to make this book happen? Yes. But was there a point to this book? Not really.

Because aside from the transcription of cat noises into IPA, the majority of this book is just the author saying, “My cat makes this noise in this context and if you want to go to my blog, you can listen to a recording.” The book is also incredibly repetitive, stating over and over and over and over that cats make hissing and growling noises when they’re mad and chirps and purrs when they’re happy.

Overall, the book feels more like observances that will be common sense to any cat owner mixed with a lot of phonetic observations. I’d hardly call any of this a revelation, and I’d hardly call anything that the author discusses in this book a “language” since it has no known rules. For a nonfiction book, this was at least a rather quick read, but more than anything else, I’m just disappointed.

#ps19: a book by an author whose first and last names start with the same letter


Have you read The Secret Language of Cats? What’s the last book that seriously disappointed you? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Little Birds by Anaïs Nin

Little Birds by Anaïs Nin
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: 1979
Source: Purchased

Evocative and superbly erotic, Little Birds is a powerful journey into the mysterious world of sex and sensuality. From the beach towns of Normandy to the streets of New Orleans, these thirteen vignettes introduce us to a covetous French painter, a sleepless wanderer of the night, a guitar-playing gypsy, and a host of others who yearn for and dive into the turbulent depths of romantic experience. 

Oh dear. When I found this book in the “old and unusual” section of my library’s used bookstore, I thought it would be something at least moderately entertaining. I guess it was, but more in an infuriating way than anything else. I think this is the least sexy erotica I’ve ever read in my life.

What follows is a brief summary of all thirteen short stories in this collection.

Click at your own risk. 1. Little Birds, a.k.a. “I take the food money my wife leaves me and spend it on pretty birds so I can lure underage girls to my apartment and then flash them.”
Probably the most disturbing of all the stories, this one features a “loving husband” who takes the money his wife earns working at the circus to buy colorful birds. Keep in mind that he’s supposed to be buying food with this money. He creates a whole menagerie in his apartment and eventually lures in some underage girls from the school across the street. Unsurprisingly, he exposes himself to them and they run away, traumatized. In what universe is this sexy?

2. The Woman on the Dunes, a.k.a. “One time I had sex on the beach and then this woman told me about how she got raped at a hanging.”
This one started off well enough, and then we had to get into this really detailed account of the woman attending a hanging and getting raped in the crowd, simultaneously aroused and horrified. It was just very, very odd.

3. Lina, a.k.a. “So boring that I literally forgot what it was about.”
Like… I read this yesterday and I don’t even remember what it was about.

4. Two Sisters, a.k.a. “My sister and I were molested by our brothers while growing up and now I just want to have sex with her husband.”
One of the bigger “yikes” stories in this collection, this one features everyone cheating on everyone with some molestation thrown in for no real reason. I really fail to see the point of this one.

5. Sirocco, a.k.a. “The first of multiple stories where the woman has to listen to her husband having sex with someone else in the next room.”
Not sure what’s supposed to be sexy about this, but at least it’s short.

6. The Maja, a.k.a. “I don’t want to have sex with my wife but I do want to have sex with a painting of her.”
I don’t even know what else to say.

7. A Model, a.k.a. “Everybody wants to have sex with a model, the longest and also most boring story in this collection.”
There’s a whole lot going on in this one — a woman who wants to model but doesn’t want to have random sex with men calling themselves artists (this is somehow a problem), a very misplaced aside about having sex with women in the jungle, and then another misplaced aside about a horseback riding injury possibly breaking her clitoris.

8. The Queen, a.k.a. “Let’s talk about a prostitute dripping semen at a ball.”
This is another one that’s just… not possibly sexy in any possible way.

9. Hilda and Rango, a.k.a. “He’s so manly that even his penis is strong.”
If you enjoy hearing about “charcoal eyes” and “wild hair” while a “strong penis” pounds into someone, you’ll probably enjoy this one.

10. The Chanchiquito, a.k.a. “Fantasies about bestiality.”
Just disturbing, honestly.

11. Saffron, a.k.a. “The super, extremely, no-doubt-about-it racist one.”
A woman wonders why her husband wants to have sex with the servants instead of her and then learns that it’s because he likes the way their skin smells like saffron. This whole story is one cringe after another, but the worst is possibly when the bride’s body is described as several different racial stereotypes.

12. Mandra, a.k.a. “Sex with my married friends.”
Basically, this woman goes around having sex with all of her married friends or just staring at them naked while the husbands are in the other room.

13. Runaway, a.k.a. “Taking advantage of a homeless underage girl.”
Why yes, I would love to read about this innocent underage girl being taken in by two older men who take advantage of her. Thank you.


I expected at least a smidgen more sexiness from these erotic short stories. What little sexiness it actually had was killed by the pedophilia and racism. Definitely not recommended.

#mmd19: a book published before you were born


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