Monday, January 7, 2019

Things I've Read Recently (83)

If you're new around here, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason. Buy links include affiliate links, where I can earn a small commission if you purchase through them.

Blind Spot by Laura Ellen

Published: October 23rd, 2012 by Harcourt Children's Books
Genre: YA... well, sort of a thriller but more contemporary. I'll go into that.
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 330 plus acknowledgements
Part of a series? No.
Got via: The library
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Missing things is nothing new to sixteen-year-old Roz. She lives with macular degeneration, an eye disease that robs her of her central vision (and, it seems, her best friends). Every day, Roz has to piece together fragments to make sense of the world around her. She's always managed to get along fine without help, but when she's placed in a special needs class, Roz begins a desperate attempt to prove she's "normal" - and soon her world spins out of control.

A classmate's body floats to the surface of Alaska’s Birch River six months after the night she disappeared. The night Roz Hart had a fight with her. The night Roz can’t remember. Now only Roz's ability to piece together she missed that fateful night can clear her name... and lead to a murderer. But not only has her eyesight betrayed her, her memory has too. How can Roz discover the truth when she can't even trust herself?

Thoughts: I think for 2012 this was pretty good, but it doesn't stand up to a harsher look today. Basically I have pros and cons about this book, so let's get into those. First of all, the prose (ha, unintentional pun) is pretty good. I was a bit distracted by an 8-hour power outage and I was frustrated by certain elements of the plot so at times I wasn't as into it as I could have been, but overall it was decent.

Since this is ownvoices, I suspect the representation of Roz's disability is very authentic and personal. I don't have experience here, but that part of the book always felt very much like the author was basing a lot of this on her own experiences, and she does say as much in her acknowledgements. I really did appreciate the idea of that in a thriller because I'm always down for diverse representation in genres that aren't contemporary.

However I did have a related problem, and this is going to sound a little odd so hear me out - this book is kind of ableist. There are several other disabled characters in Roz's special needs class and that's not always handled very well. I think the characters who are physically disabled are okay, if not great, but characters with intellectual disabilities in this are... kind of inspiration porn or otherwise they have no personality besides "disabled side character". There's even a moment where Roz is very "savior"-y and it's just kind of... gross.

Also aromisic language, the music mentioned kinda got dated real fast, and my last negative thing before I get this done with - the drama was boring and a lot of the plot was cliche. If you've read one "rich hot guy dates unpopular girl and then turns out to be a jerk" book, you've got a decent idea of a lot of this one.

The thing I disliked the most was that I thought this was a thriller going in, and I think it was meant to be one, but it spent way more time on the relationship/boy drama. In the end it's more of a contemporary with suspense elements. I don't know, this just didn't work for me like I wanted it to. Very mixed feelings overall.

TWs for a lot of vomiting, drugging, bullying, an implied teacher/student relationship (turns out to be false), attempted rape, and a ton of ableism.

Okay, I actually read this one in 2017 but I was originally planning to put this in a different blog post, but I never got around to it, so this review has just been sitting around for ages. So let's stick it here so I don't go into 2019 with it still in my blog drafts lol.

Thaw by Elyse Springer

Published: April 22nd, 2017 by Riptide Publishing
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Binding: Ebook
Page Count: It says 226 on goodreads, but again, I read a kindle copy.
Part of a series? It is the second book in the "Seasons of Love" series, but the books can act as standalone books.
Got via: Luci gave it to me.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Abigail is content with her quiet life as a librarian. But when she’s invited to a high-profile charity auction, she finds herself dancing with one of the most beautiful women she’s ever met. Abby’s sure she’ll never see her again, but then Gabrielle calls and asks her on a date. And soon after, another.

Supermodel Gabrielle Levesque has a reputation as the Ice Queen—cold and untouchable—except she warms up whenever she’s with Abby. Only Abby isn’t interested in the heat between them; she’s asexual, and she’s worried that admitting as much to Gabrielle might spell the end of their blooming romance.

They’re two different women from two very different worlds, but Abby knows she can love Gabrielle. Her passion for books, travel, and theater prove there’s more to the Ice Queen than meets the eye. But they’ll have to overcome Abby’s fears—and Gabrielle’s own threatening secrets—in order to find their way to love.

Review: Let it be known Luci's talking me into this. Okay, so positives first because... I gotta have something positive in this. The main character is ace and the love interest (Gabrielle) is queer, although how she labels herself is never stated. Gabrielle is also a WOC. So those things are cool. I'll give the book that. I initially wanted to read it because I thought it had some representation that would get me a bingo square, and I'm always down for ace characters. Turns out, it didn't really work for the bingo square, and I didn't really love the ace rep.

On the ace rep front - this is a "doesn't like sex" ace rep book. The book does actually define asexuality as "not feeling sexual attraction" but it doesn't do very well separating the difference between not feeling sexual attraction and not wanting to have sex. It's generally treated as one and the same. When it's defined, too, the person doing it uses a very binary definition (using the phrase "opposite gender") which I was seriously not a fan of.

Honestly, I'm having trouble even knowing what to say. The ace rep in this just kind of made me feel bad. It wasn't really aro-friendly (Abby's mom is super aromisic and it's not really called out by Abby or the narrative) and I didn't connect to it at all. I also found the sex scene incredibly uncomfortable and somewhat coercive. Abby spends like 80% of the book saying she doesn't like sex and doesn't want to have it and then almost out of nowhere, there's a sex scene. And Abby doesn't feel good about the sex, so it's not like she liked sex once in a blue moon and this was one of the times. That doesn't leave me with a good feeling, you know? And especially not when I'm reading a romance!

Regarding the other things in the book - I didn't really love any of the characters. Gabrielle has boundary issues and some of the things she does are just... big red flags to me. Jealousy is not attractive. Abby is kind of immature, honestly, and she almost acts like a teenager, especially around her mother. I didn't really connect to the side characters, and in fact I was a little uncomfortable with how much they couldn't take a hint. Ace or not ace, sometimes your friend's sex life just isn't your business, and if they aren't responding to your joke, maybe back down.

Overall, the writing was a little clunky and didn't really draw me in. If you like this kind of trope in romance (the, "why is this hot rich person into me when I'm just a dowdy librarian" trope) and would have fun reading it because it's queer, you might like it. Honestly. But I wouldn't personally recommend it, and I had a lot of frustration with things that were included and the way some things were represented.

The Poisoner's Handbook by Deborah Blum

Published: February 18th, 2010 by Penguin Press
Genre: Adult Non-fiction
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 319 including the index, acknowledgements, author's note, reading list, and references. The part of the book where you're just reading is 278 pages.
Part of a series? No.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): A fascinating Jazz Age tale of chemistry and detection, poison and murder, The Poisoner's Handbook is a page-turning account of a forgotten era. In early twentieth-century New York, poisons offered an easy path to the perfect crime. Science had no place in the Tammany Hall-controlled coroner's office, and corruption ran rampant. However, with the appointment of chief medical examiner Charles Norris in 1918, the poison game changed forever. Together with toxicologist Alexander Gettler, the duo set the justice system on fire with their trailblazing scientific detective work, triumphing over seemingly unbeatable odds to become the pioneers of forensic chemistry and the gatekeepers of justice.

Thoughts: I read some weird books now and then for writing research. I tend to not talk about those books with you all because... well, they're odd and weird to write about, plus sometimes I'm more skimming them or reading only parts. It's just not as conducive to blogging.

However, I read this entire thing cover to cover, barring a few sections I may have skimmed a bit when the descriptions got a bit much for me. This is, after all, a book about poisoning and forensic science. It at times gets quite in depth into both the methods used to detect and learn about poisons, and the nature of that type of death. It can be rather brutal at times and if you're sensitive to that, or historical animal testing, I would not recommend you read this.

If you are interested in the beginnings of forensic science and, you know, poison, this could be right up your alley, though. As someone who doesn't read a ton of non-fiction, this was written in a very approachable manner.

A Night in Terror Tower by R. L. Stine (Goosebumps #27)

Published: January 1995 by Scholastic
Genre: MG Horror
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 129 pages, plus an excerpt from the next book, an about the author, another ad for the next book, an ad for the goosebumps calender and a list of other books in the series. Books from this time period are so great sometimes.
Part of a series? Clearly. This is also reprinted as "Classic Goosebumps #12)
Got via: Some kind of secondhand sale. Not a rejected library book! For once in my life.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): ALL LOCKED UP AND NO PLACE TO GO!

Sue and her brother, Eddie, are visiting London when they run into a little problem. They can't find their tour group. Still, there's no reason to panic. No way their tour guide would just leave them. All alone. In a gloomy old prison tower.

No way they'd get locked inside. After dark. With those eerie sounds. And a strange dark figure who wants them...dead.

Thoughts: I was one book shy of 100 in my goodreads goal so I read a Goosebumps book to get me to 100. I have no shame. Did I even take notes for this? I don't think I did at all. It's a Goosebumps book. What do I really need to say here? It's a Goosebumps book. There's not a lot to it, but it was fun and very quick, which was what I needed because it was late and sometimes odd numbers bug me.

Though I will add that this is one of my fave episodes of the Goosebumps TV show XD

Alright, I need to go make some food. What have you all been reading lately?

Peace and cookies,

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