Oh hey, it’s me. It’s been a while.
Traditionally, I would have posted this list way back in January with a Happy New Year message, but it feels kind of awkward now since I’m so late and have essentially been MIA for the last six months. All I can say is, shit on a cracker, what a fucking year 2023 has been so far, book friends!
I won’t get into it deeply, but there was a death in my family and I just wasn’t able to find the motivation to read, let alone write about reading. But I think I’m coming around and getting my shit together. And also, fuck cancer!
What can I say about 2022 now that it’s April and I smoke a lot of weed so my memory is questionable at best? Really nothing, I’ve moved on and forgotten almost everything. 2023 has so far been so emotionally fraught for me, that 2022 is like a distant, hazy dream. To be fair, that haze may be weed smoke.
It’s a good thing I keep my book logs organized even in the worst of times or this list may not even be happening, honestly.
I managed to read 80 books last year, which is a record for me, but it was all very so-so, very meh, very “why is everything I’m reading so average?” There actually isn’t a lot that I totally HATED. I think that’s a sign of improvement… Unfortunately.
So, while this list has traditionally been reserved for all the utterly disappointing, rage-inducing or straight-up garbage reads that passed by my eyeballs, for 2022 it looks like it’s going be a little less of that and a little more of like borderline garbage.
Of course, I have my favourite reads, but that’s a different post. Dark and light. Ebb and flow. Good and bad. If I’ve learned anything lately, it’s that everything can’t be good all the time. The universe just doesn’t let it happen. Give and take. It’s all about keeping that fucking balance.
Let’s check the scale, shall we?
🔪Devil House by John Darnielle
Filed Under: This is not horror!
What the Fuck It’s About: Gage Chandler is descended from kings. That’s what his mother always told him.
Now, he is a true crime writer, with one grisly success–and movie adaptation–to his name, along with a series of subsequent lesser efforts that have paid the bills but not much more. But now he is being offered the chance for the big break: To move into the house–what the locals call “The Devil House”–in which a briefly notorious pair of murders occurred, apparently the work of disaffected 1980s teens. He begins his research with diligence and enthusiasm, but soon the story leads him into a puzzle he never expected–back into his own work and what it means, back to the very core of what he does and who he is.
My Fucking Thoughts: 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 discount porno DVDs in the back.
🔪We Were Mothers by Katie Sise
Rating: ⭐ (DNF @ 32%)
Filed Under: A novel that was not meant for me as a woman or a reader.
What the Fuck It’s About: A scandalous revelation is about to devastate a picturesque town where the houses are immaculate and the neighbourhoods are tightly knit. Devoted mother Cora O’Connell has found the journal of her friend Laurel’s daughter—a beautiful college student who lives next door—revealing an illicit encounter. Hours later, Laurel makes a shattering discovery of her own: her daughter has vanished without a trace. Over the course of one weekend, the crises of two close families are about to trigger a chain reaction that will expose a far more disturbing web of secrets. Now everything is at stake as they’re forced to confront the lies they have told in order to survive.
My Fucking Thoughts: Hard to read. Mothers complaining, mothers lamenting, mothers pining for sex and omg where did my sex life go and that neighbour is making my vagina tingle and then the kids are crying and barfing and demanding and we have to have a birthday party for twins and and and… I just couldn’t do it. Potentially something sinister and life-altering was brewing between one of the women’s husbands and the teenage babysitter, but that little crumb of mystery was not enough for me to willingly put myself through reading these fucking characters for one more second. This reads like it wanted to be Big Little Lies, but it’s just no way on par.
🔪Butter Witch (Torrent Witches, #1) by Tess Lake
Filed Under: Palgarism? Theft? It’s one of those.
What the Fuck It’s About: The International Butter Festival has come to town! When Harlow Torrent, part-time journalist and full-time Slip witch stumbles upon a dead body, frozen and drained of blood, she’s pulled into a murder mystery.
Someone has murdered one of the Butter Festival competitors. Was it Zero Bend, punk sculptor extraordinaire with a history of violence? Perhaps Fusion Swan, a sleazy agent playing the publicity game when his clients meet their untimely end.
Between trying to run her struggling online newspaper, dealing with her highly caffeinated cousins Molly and Luce, fending off three meddling witch mothers who will do anything to get their daughters married off (including drugging food with magic potions) and great Aunt Cass who appears to be running an underground laboratory of some kind, Harlow barely has time to breathe, let alone solve a murder.
Romance certainly isn’t on the cards either but the hot scruffy guy new to town seems to have other ideas…
My Fucking Thoughts: Uninspired. Witches should be cool not fucking annoying.
🔪 Hotel Horror by Victoria Fulton & Faith McClaren
Filed Under: The spirits are telling me, “meh.”
What the Fuck It’s About: When the YouTube-famous Ghost Gang—Chrissy, Chase, Emma, and Kiki—visit a haunted LA hotel notorious for tragedy to secretly film after dark, they expect it to be just like their previous paranormal hunting. Spooky enough to attract subscribers—and ultimately harmless.
But when they stumble upon something unexpected in the former room of a gruesome serial killer, they quickly realize that they’re in over their heads.
Sometimes, it’s the dead who need our help—and the living we should fear.
Underlined is a line of totally addictive romance, thriller, and horror paperback original titles coming to you fast and furious each month. Enjoy everything you want to read the way you want to read it.
My Fucking Thoughts: 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. Also, they are from Las Vegas but are disgusted by people smoking weed? You’ve never seen anything worse in fucking Vegas? It’s bad. Sorry.
🔪 The Fire Theif (Dark Paradise Mystery, #1) by Debra Bokur
Filed Under: Saying aloha (hello and goodbye) to an engaging plot.
What the Fuck It’s About: Under a promising morning sky, police captain Walter Alaka’i makes a tragic discovery: the body of a teenage surfer bobbing among the lava rocks of Maui’s southeastern shore. It appears to be an ill-fated accident, but closer inspection reveals something far more sinister than the results of a savage wave gone wrong. Now that Alaka’i is looking at a homicide, he solicits the help of his niece, Detective Kali Māhoe.
The granddaughter of one of Hawaii’s most respected spiritual leaders, and on the transcendent path to becoming a kahu herself, Kali sees evidence of a strange ritual murder. The suspicion is reinforced by a rash of sightings of a noppera-bō–a faceless and malicious spirit many believe to be more than superstition. When a grisly sacrifice is left on the doorstep of a local, and another body washes ashore, Kali fears that the deadly secret ceremonies on Maui are just beginning.
To uncover a motive and find the killer, Kali leans on her skills in logic and detection. But she must also draw on her own personal history with the uncanny legends of the islands. Now, as the skies above Maui grow darker, and as she balances reason and superstition, Kali can only wonder: Who’ll be the next to die? And who–or what–is she even on the trail of?
My Fucking Thoughts: The murder took a backseat to stolen solar panels. I wish I was lying. I don’t fucking get it.
🔪 The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird
Filed Under: My pandemic fatigue is through the roof at this point.
What the Fuck It’s About: Only men are affected by the virus; only women have the power to save us all.
The year is 2025, and a mysterious virus has broken out in Scotland–a lethal illness that seems to affect only men. When Dr. Amanda MacLean reports this phenomenon, she is dismissed as hysterical. By the time her warning is heeded, it is too late. The virus becomes a global pandemic–and a political one. The victims are all men. The world becomes alien–a women’s world.
What follows is the immersive account of the women who have been left to deal with the virus’s consequences, told through first-person narratives. Dr. MacLean; Catherine, a social historian determined to document the human stories behind the male plague; intelligence analyst Dawn, tasked with helping the government forge a new society; and Elizabeth, one of many scientists desperately working to develop a vaccine. Through these women and others, we see the uncountable ways the absence of men has changed society, from the personal–the loss of husbands and sons–to the political–the changes in the workforce, fertility and the meaning of family.
My Fucking Thoughts: 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.
🔪 Cuckoo by Sophie Draper
Filed Under: Get that fucking Pear Drum out of my face!
What the Fuck It’s About: When her stepmother dies unexpectedly, Caro returns to her childhood home in Derbyshire. She hadn’t seen Elizabeth in years, but the remote farmhouse offers refuge from a bad relationship, and a chance to start again.
But going through Elizabeth’s belongings unearths memories Caro would rather stay buried. In particular, the story her stepmother would tell her, about two little girls and the terrible thing they do.
As heavy snow traps Caro in the village, where her neighbours stare and whisper, Caro is forced to question why Elizabeth hated her so much, and what she was hiding. But does she really want to uncover the truth?
My Fucking Thoughts: This was boring and slow and vague. The ending was clever and all the pieces fell into place, but the pacing didn’t pick up until the 80% mark and by then it was too late for redemption.
🔪 The Girls by Emma Cline
Filed Under: Making cults boring is a choice, I guess.
What the Fuck It’s About: Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.
My Fucking Thoughts: This was slow and felt unoriginal as it totally flaked on the twisted inspiration. The overly wordy prose is trying too hard and there are so many unnecessary moments of masturbation & sex that it started to seem like they were standing in for actual plot points
Look at that! I wrote a real post for my book blog… about books that maybe you don’t want to read now. Yes. My work here is done.
Stay safe. Be Kind. But, take no shit.
Later, Booknerds ✌️🔪