Top Ten Tuesday: Beach Reads For People That Aren’t Into Contemporaries

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish wherein each week bloggers list out their Top Ten. Now, I know that when it comes to beach reads, everyone’s mind goes to contemporary romances – you know, the ones usually set in summer, maybe on a vacation or something. But I am not a person who likes the genre so much, so when it comes to ‘beach reads’ for me, I lean more towards horror standalones (what can I say? I’m weird like that). There’s nothing like a chilling novel in the middle of the heat. Maybe check out some of these books?

Shallow GravesShallow Graves by Kali Wallace

An urban fantasy about paranormal creatures blended into our very society, the story is told from the point of view of a girl who can see if a person has a murderous past. There is a cult involved, and it has a foreboding feel to it.

Wink Poppy MidnightWink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke

One part weird, one part whimsy, one part confusion and one part ingenuity, this novel will stun and surprise you, as well as make you question things. To be honest, I wasn’t sure in the end if I really understood the why of the characters, but I think I like it for it.

Welcome to Night ValeWelcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink, Jeffrey Cranor

Night Vale doesn’t even try to be like a normal American town. There are hooded figures in the dog park, angels that aren’t acknowledged, mysterious lights in the desert and a radio host who talks as if this is all is the epitome of a normal town. Night Vale is reminiscent of Twin Peaks, so fans of that show will love to travel to this mysterious town in the middle of the desert.

DevouredDevoured by Amanda Marrone

Sometimes you need dark retellings of a classic fairytale to complement a hot sunny day, so dive into this Snow White-ish ghost story that is set in modern times.

GenesisGenesis by Bernard Beckett

Considering this is technically a short story, it would also be a pretty fast read. This is not exactly horror, but this speculative science fiction will leave you feeling cold by the end.

Prom Nights from HellProm Nights from Hell (Anthology)

What’s better that one chilling short story? Why, an anthology of horror-themed stories, of course!

RelicRelic by Gretchen McNeil

Seriously read this book in daylight – it is very scary. Maybe read it on a beach? (On second thought, considering the theme of the book, maybe not)

What do you love to read in summer? What do you consider as ‘beach reads’? Tell me in the comments below 😉

 

Book Blogger Hop: May 19-25

Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer

This week’s question is:

What do you do with books you no longer want? Do you donate them? Do you take them to a half-price bookstore? Does a friend or family member benefit?

Answer:

I donate them or sell them off in a half-price store, depending on which happens first.

 

ARC Review: Grit

GritGrit by Gillian French
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Seventeen-year-old Darcy Prentiss has long held the title of “town slut.” She knows how to have a good time, sure, but she isn’t doing anything all the guys haven’t done. But when you’re a girl with a reputation, every little thing that happens seems to keep people whispering—especially when your ex-best friend goes missing.

But if anyone were to look closer at Darcy, they’d realize there’s a lot more going on beneath the surface. Staying out late, hooking up, and telling lies is what Darcy does to forget. Forget about the mysterious disappearance of her friend. Forget about the dark secret she and her cousin Nell share. Forget about that hazy Fourth of July night. So when someone in town anonymously nominates Darcy to be in the running for Bay Festival Princess—a cruel act only someone with a score to settle would make—all of the things that Darcy wants to keep hidden threaten to erupt in ways she wasn’t prepared to handle…and isn’t sure if she can.

Going into this book, I thought it was a mystery and perhaps that expectation dampened my experience a bit. Grit is about a girl in a small town that is filled with secrets, but does not want to admit it. Like her cousin who seems like the epitome of Good Girl, or the people who cheat their way into money, or secrets that make a person disappear. Darcy hates her town, and can’t wait to get away from it, but life is difficult and unlike her cousin, she cannot set aside money for her future. So she lives for the parties, the small pleasures and working hard and earning money for herself.

Most of the book takes place during the summer before her senior year, with her working as a farmhand in the fields, raking berries and competing against the town’s resident dudebro for a name on the leader-board. Besides the mystery of the events of a year ago that led to a girl’s disappearance and assumed murder, the plot is sort of aimless. If this was a coming of age story, I did not see much in the way of character development, except perhaps Darcy finally realizing that some secrets are not hers to keep. She may make bad decisions but she owns up to them in the end, and confronts people who need to be confronted. In a way, she is fierce, but it takes her time to stand up.

The writing is impressive but there are problems with pacing. The first half is too slow for my liking and I was further dismayed that it was going to focus on day-to-day minutae than solving the mystery. There are elements of racism and otherness depicted in the novel, mostly surrounding the disappearance. Most of the town people suspect the migrant workers who come during harvest season to be responsible; this issue is called out by one character, too. There’s also slut-shaming and mention of statutory rape, the former not resolved much and the latter was resolved but as a after note. Overall, it is a good read but not the kind I was hoping for.

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ARC Review: User

UserUser by Devin Grayson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Originally published as a groundbreaking three-part Vertigo miniseries, User explores sexual identity and online role-playing in the text-based MUDs of the nineties.

Whether or not you are a gaming fan (I am not), this book is an experience to read through. Set in the 90s, this story about a young woman named Mel who discovers the whole world of MUDs (think MMORPG in text form) and initially drowns in the delight of that experience. In real life, she is the elder daughter, who is helpless to save her younger sister, but in that virtual world, she is a bisexual French knight in a medieval fantasy. It makes her feel more alive than her life, that she has a purpose over there, a cause to fight for and gets to be the knight in shining armor. It also speaks to her gender fluidity in a way.

At first, I had thought that the book would be a cautionary tale about losing yourself in your online persona. It happens to most of us – we prefer the virtual or online world than our reality, because there we can be something we are not. We can hide behind a strong personality, but this book takes a step further and shows that you can learn from what you built up as a persona. Mel eventually learns to emulate her character and be as valiant in real life as she is in the game, to take risks and be actionable than just living through life passively. She saves her sister from her abuser, and for herself, she finds a new relationship with someone who is as passionate as she about the game. (Side note: It does not, however, linger on the consequences of her getting lost in the virtual world, like her losing her job and her leaving her sister behind initially. Which, yeah, she is a flawed character and has to grow, but I felt wrong that she did not apologize for it)

As for the artwork, it is amazing. There are two styles – the real and the virtual. The real is done in exquisite detail, and you can see some amazing artwork in the lineart – expressions, body language, setting, as well as some beautiful shading even in the greyscale-ish rendering of her life. As for the virtual, it seems more rudimentary in lineart (to emulate the gaming atmosphere) but is vibrant in coloring. Both, however, have markedly impressive amounts of work and detail put into them – the best one I’ve seen since Monstress #1.

Overall, a feast for the eyes and an interesting story as well.

Content warning: The novel contains some sexual scenes, and mention of rape.

Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Image Comics, via Edelweiss.

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ARC Review: Seeking Mansfield

Seeking MansfieldSeeking Mansfield by Kate Watson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sixteen-year-old Finley Price has perfected two things: how to direct a world-class production, and how to fly way, way under the radar. The only person who ever seems to notice Finley is her best friend and godparents’ son, Oliver Bertram. Since Finley moved in with her godparents after the death of her father, she and Oliver have grown close. If Finley could just take Oliver’s constant encouragement to heart and step out of the shadows, she’d finally chase her dream of joining the prestigious Mansfield Theater. But when teen movie stars Emma and Harlan Crawford move across the street from the Bertram’s, they shake up Finley and Oliver’s stable friendship. As Emma and Oliver grow closer, Finley realizes that Harlan Os attention is shifting to her. She discovers she might have feelings for him too. Or, is she only interested in Harlan because Oliver is taken? Finley doesn’t want to be won, and she doesn’t want to see Oliver with anyone else. To claim Oliver’s heart -and keep her own- she’ll have to find the courage to do what she fears most: step into the spotlight.

I would like to preface the review with the fact that I haven’t read the original Mansfield Park but I am familiar with the plotline. Now, Seeking Mansfield is a modern retelling of Mansfield Park, and on the whole I was very much impressed with it. It takes the storyline of MP and gives us Finley, a parental abuse survivor who is living with her godparents and throughout the book, learns what it means to stand up for herself and where to allow people to support you. It retains much of the original storyline, and involves a complicated love rhombus or something, and is a good retelling.

Finley’s situation with her godparents is such that she feels indebted to them, and always thinks first of their comforts than her own. Now, with the exception of their daughter and the aunt, they are all good to her and protective about her. But the aunt – yeesh! She is a terrible woman, and constantly makes Finley feel like an orphan. The star siblings, Emma and Harlan are snobbish but charming, but kind of controlling, which Oliver and Fin, respectively, take some time to understand. Both of them have feelings for each other but run’s into the respective siblings’ arms because they think it is a safer choice. In case of Finley, specifically, Harlan brings out a different, more confident side of her, but ultimately she can’t take his betrayal. The story delves into relationships and how they change a person, and to what extent leaning on someone is healthy, and when protectiveness becomes suffocating.

The writing is fluid, and shifts well enough between the two perspectives of Finley and Oliver. The author also spends good amount of time building up the relationships and showing how it worked and how it did not. It touches upon PTSD, addiction, and morality in relationships, as well as how intense family can be. Recommended, especially, for contemporary fans and Austenites alike.

Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Flux, via Netgalley.

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