Reviews in this post:
- The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird
- Horror Hotel by Victoria Fulton & Faith McClaren
- Devil House by John Darnielle
- The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay and Disaster by Sarah Krasnostein
🔪The End of Men
Doubleday Canada | 2021
Filed Under: I cannot handle this right now
Listen, I’ll be completely honest with you – I requested this off of NetGalley purely because of the title. I didn’t even care what it was about just as long as the title held up.
And it did.
But damn, this was boring as hell. Maybe it’s because I read this – a novel about a pandemic – during an actual pandemic and my pandemic fatigue is through the roof at this point, but I couldn’t get into this at all. It was a sluggish chore to finish which comes with no payoff aside from “Hey! We’re getting through a pandemic!” Yeah, me fucking too.
Told from the perspective of dozens of female POVs, this is about a virus striking just after the world has settled back into a post-COVID normal. The new virus attacks only male DNA. Men are dying at rates the world cannot keep up with, so everything grinds to a halt. Like, you don’t realize just how many men are electricians, and how many women are not, until all the men are dead.
While I like the idea of society reforming into a matriarchial structure, this shit was too sad to find any pleasure in.
My biggest issue is that there are way too many POVs. Like, a stupid amount. It makes connecting to any one character impossible. Some women only get a chapter or two and are never heard from again once we consume their tragedy and heartbreak.
It started to read like the only purpose of this novel was to be pandemic torture porn.
And honestly, since 2020, my mental health is precariously right on the fucking edge every day, so reading sad pandemic trauma for the sake of it was not for me. Maybe others will find it cathartic.
There were good bones here – a plot idea that could have made a suspenseful and dark novel. Conspiracy theories from MRAs, the idea of government incentives to have children, the urgency to find a vaccine, how a woman dates again in a world where more than half the male population has died out – the author could have gotten deep into it with these forgotten threads if the execution had been more focused. But it was kind of all over the place.
This feels like a first draft and nothing in the plot is fully expounded upon, so really it reads like a waste of a good idea.
The vibe for this one:
Book source: NetGalley in exchange for a review
VICTORIA FULTON, FAITH MCCLAREN
Underlined | 2022
Filed Under: Giving this hotel zero stars on Trip Advisor
This novel is basically a
plagiarized fictionalized version of The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel, but more annoying. Like, if you watched that docu-series on Netflix and didn’t want to slap the amateur detectives the whole time, we’re not the same.
The authors of this novel apparently said they came up with the idea after a publisher tweet asked for the most commercial horror novel someone could come up with. So like, they wrote this because we’re all dumb-dumbs who will consume the most basic shit. But hey, maybe they’re right because I did read this. I just didn’t really like it.
Four teenagers check into the Hearst Hotel to film their ghost-hunting Youtube show, and one of them is a medium. They intend to find out what happened to Eileen Warren, a young woman who died at the Hearst a few years prior under very mysterious circumstances. I’m pretty sure I actually did see this on an episode of Ghost Adventures because we all know Zak Bagans has no issue exploiting shit, just like the characters in this novel. And probably Elisa Lam’s family might be owed some kind of compensation for how heavily it takes from her life and death.
This novel is boring, easy and cliché. It’s not scary, but it tries and there is some gore. The pacing is odd – it’s so fast, but there is no space to develop any real atmosphere or detail. The main characters are fucking awful examples of Gen Z – vapid and ignorant and obsessed with being famous for nothing.
“It’s weird to think about a pee break when a woman’s dead body is lying on the ground right next to my Converse.”
“A bolt of heat runs through me when his eyes drop to my lips. The feeling almost makes me forget we’re hunting a killer and running out of time.”
Just end me, my god.
Also, the teens are from Las Vegas but are disgusted by people smoking weed? You’ve never seen anything worse if fucking Vegas?
It’s bad. Sorry.
The vibe for this one:
MCD | 2022
Filed Under: Challenge Accepted: Make porn store sword murders boring
This might be the worst thing I’ve read this year. *checks notes* …Okay, second worst.
First of all, this is not horror and it feels like we’re being a bit tricked into thinking it is.
Second, the plot Inceptions itself. It’s a story within a theme within a story. Gage Chandler achieved literary success with his first book – a true-crime account of a murder that took place in his hometown. Now, he’s being offered the opportunity to move into the “Devil House” – a porn store that was the site of satanic sword murders back in the 80s – and write a new book about it.
So you get a little of the Devil House, but then the narrative switches and you’re brought into the first novel Gage wrote about the hometown murder where a high school teacher killed two of her students. Neither story has anything to do with each other, other than Chandler investigating both of them, and I found the switching between the two to be a mess. Both stories were competing with each other so hard that it was barely readable.
There’s even a section in here about a mythical something or other written in old English, so have fun with that.
If you’re going for the audiobook, beware that it’s fucking awful. It’s read by the author and he’s got this Christopher Walken meets William Shatner thing going on in his delivery that was distracting as hell. Considering I could barely get through the narrative as it was, the constant staccato didn’t help.
I get that this is supposed to be some high-concept metafiction novel for all the intellectuals out there, but fuckkkkk I am definitely not one. It’s a unique approach to true crime and the writers who do it, but the only thing I liked about this was the cover art. It’s overindulgent, overwritten and as slow as a creeper in a porn store browsing the bins of porno DVDs in the back.
The vibe for this one:
🔪The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay and Disaster
St. Martin’s Press | 2018
Filed Under: Hoarding skeletons in your closet
I did like this, but a lot of it seems like maybe it’s bullshit. But then, maybe I don’t care.
The subject, Sandra Pankhurst, is a trans-woman with a wild life story. Suspiciously wild some might say, James Frey. To her credit, Sandra does admit her memory is absolute shit from all the drugs (the many many drugs) and years of abuse and trauma. One could forgive a fuzzy recollection, but at the same time Sandra becomes an unreliable narrator in her own biography, and as a reader, that’s an odd vibe to get used to.
“One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.”
It’s all wishy-washy on if Sandra is a good person because she did a lot of fucked up, some may say selfish, things in her quest to find herself – but, the author clearly has a raging crush and does the bare fucking minimum to keep her bias off of the page. But then, should she have to even if some of it is bullshit?
Maybe the point is no one is perfect and you just take people as they are in the present, without holding their past against them. I’m sure Sandra doesn’t give a fuck how people judge her based on this book. Her attitude is very much accepting of having made mistakes and big fuck ups, especially with her family, but she keeps going and doesn’t seem to care whether anyone is going with her.
Between abandoning her family, her horrific upbringing, her dramatic and traumatic attempts to get her life together and then everything afterwards including an “illegal” marriage and a disease that will eventually kill her, Sandra’s life makes this book a hell of a ride.
If you’re strictly looking for true-crime on what it’s like being a crime scene and hoarder cleaner, look elsewhere, because this goes off the fucking rails. But like, not in a bad way really. This is so much more than you are probably expecting.
The vibe for this one: