Review: Over the Top – A Raw Journey to Self-Love by Jonathan Van Ness

“You know those plants that are always trying to find the light? Maybe they were planted in a location that didn’t necessarily facilitate growth, but inexplicably they make a circuitous route to not only survive but bloom into a beautiful plant. That was me—my whole life.”

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★★★★★

HarperOne | 2019

Opening Queen: Raw and unapologetic

Main Yasss Honey!: A radiant human

Fabulous Truthy-ness: Fiercedom and realness.


Let’s take a break from doom, gloom, death and viruses to cloak ourselves in the bright and shining warmth that is Jonathan Van Ness. This isn’t what I usually read, but this felt like the perfect time for it. Also, I love Queer Eye, because duh.

His memoir, Over the Top, is an optimistic telling of a life that has been full of struggles, wrong turns, bad decisions and amazing turnarounds.

If you don’t watch Queer Eye (WHY THO?!), maybe you have no interest in Van Ness or his journey from a small, bigoted little town to Netflix, where he’s become, in my opinion, a beacon of joy, self-acceptance, love and honesty. I mean, really, he just makes the world a better place, and that’s a fact.

can you believe fab 5 GIF by Queer Eye

But, if you do watch Queer Eye (because you have TASTE) then you definitely want to read this autobiography. It will bring you so much more understanding and appreciation for the man behind the hair and personality.

Continue reading “Review: Over the Top – A Raw Journey to Self-Love by Jonathan Van Ness”

Review: Campfire by Shawn Sarles

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★½

Jimmy Patterson | 2018

Opening Hook: Never invite mountain men to a family gathering

Main Character: Hormones and BEST FRIENDS FOREVER

Plot Twisty-ness: Let the bodies hit the floor…because you won’t care.


Okay, okay. I know what you’re going to say. But WAIT. I know this book is a James Patterson publication. And I know the forward is written by him. With that information in mind, you may be tempted to say that I’ve already broken my New Years’ resolution to not read any Patterson, but I disagree!

I’m calling this Patterson adjacent. It’s close, but it’s not on the target.

Also, I had no idea he had anything to do with this book until it was too late, soooo…

I’m leaving this up to the judges to decide.

JUDGES?

Judges’ ruling finds…it’s not a violation! It is NOT a violation! The crowd goes wild…

Oh, the judges are me? Go figure.

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Now that we’ve taken care of that, onto my review for this raging dumpster campfire.

Continue reading “Review: Campfire by Shawn Sarles”

Review: Man of the Year by Caroline Louise Walker

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★★½

Gallery Books | 2019

Opening Hook: Stroke your ego more than three times, you’re just playing with yourself.

Main Character: Douchebag of the Year

Plot Twisty-ness: Straight fall from the roof.


I didn’t really love this. It’s kind of boring??? There were moments of intrigue and it’s unlike anything I’ve read recently, but it really didn’t live up to the hype I saw online for it.

Now before you decide to add some salty comment to let me know I’m a bitch, just remember that 1. I already know that, and 2. My reviews aren’t personal indictments against other readers. I’m just saying that, for me, Man of the Year by Caroline Louise Walker was just alright. It was meh. I liked it a reasonable amount for a thing that was just okay.

Certainly, my opinion is going to fall way below all of the THIS IS THE MOST MAGNIFICENT BOOK TO EVER BOOK reviews that are posted. I’m going to land somewhere in the “most okay-est thing to ever mediocre” category.

My expectation was that this was going to be more of a sinister thriller with a cunning anti-hero at the helm of the POV, but it just ended up being a character study about an unlikable, mostly boring narcissist, his untrustworthy family and shallow relationships. But that’s very on-trend for the last couple of years, isn’t it?

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Review: Oak Avenue by Brandi Reeds

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★★★½

Amazon Originals | 2018

Opening Hook: HGTV meets Shutter.

Main Character: No one wants to raise a baby with ghosts.

Plot Twisty-ness: Creepy but on uppers.


I did it! Here it is! My last review of the Dark Corners collection! It also happens to technically be my first read of 2020, so that means I’m caught up on all of my 2019 reviews. It’s New Year’s miracle!

Alright, for real I never thought I’d say this, but I’m kind of disappointed that this isn’t a full-length novel…because it was too fast. *gasp, horror, shock* I KNOW. Am I taking crazy pills? Seriously, I never thought “the plot moved too quickly” would be a complaint I would ever have in my life. My feelings about this story have totally caught me off guard.

what is wrong new girl GIF

I liked this and I liked Brandi Reeds writing style, but my rating reflects what didn’t work for me. Though the creepy atmosphere is set immediately, the plot was too rushed and stilted to fit the short-story criteria.

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Review: Hannah-Beast by Jennifer McMahon

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★★★★★

Amazon Original Stories | 2018

Opening Hook: A bad costume choice.

Main Character: Should have used a smaller knife.

Plot Twisty-ness: Mean Girls meets Urban Legend


Of all the books in the Dark Corners collection, this was my absolute favourite. The whole structure of it is just so perfect, I can’t say enough. I’ve read Jennifer McMahon before and didn’t really care for her writing from that experience, but this short story is a fucking firecracker and I adored it.

It would be the perfect creepy Halloween read, so put it on your TBR for October!

Told between past and present, this is a story about mean girls, the actions that haunt you and how urban legends are created.

The vibe of it is perfect – an otherwise rational adult succumbing to fears of what is in the dark as her mind runs wild with memories of the past.

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Review: Twelve Nights at Rotter House by J.W. Ocker

“Where else was I fundamentally wrong about life and the universe and how everything worked? Is life a cycle of us realizing how stupid we are over and over again until we die?”

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★★★½

November 2019 | Turner

Opening Hook: Eric Andre screaming “let me in!”

Main Character: 100% that skeptic.

Plot Twisty-ness: A total three-way.


While I love horror as a genre in any form, I admit I don’t read as much of it as I would like. And when I do read it, I find I’m disappointed that things aren’t as scary or twisted as I want them to be. Maybe my expectations are just too high. I’m 100% that book bitch. But I am making an concerted effort to read more horror until I find my lane in the genre.

That said, for me, Twelve Nights at Rotter House is on the slow-burner end of the horror spectrum. For much of the middle of the book, I wondered if anything really scary was ever going to happen; I could feel my typical disappointment start to brew. There are some disembodied screams, unexplained noises, figures that disappear, and of course the quintessential dumbwaiter that never reveals anything good, but none of it was really getting my heart rate up.

The main character of Felix was a little overwrought in how skeptical he was of everything, and his extreme rationalizing created a slower atmosphere for me. Scary moments were consistently downplayed, sucking the spooky guts out of the story and lending itself to my question of if anything truly scary was going to happen because any time I thought something creepy was afoot, Felix came in and just Debbie Downer’ed all over the place.

break up lol GIF by What We Do in the Shadows

He’s a dream killer, is what he is.

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Review: I Know You Know by Gilly Macmillan

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★★½

William Morrow | 2018

Opening Hook: Putting a cold case in the microwave.

Main Character: When bad men do evil in sweater vests.

Plot Twisty-ness: The reader gets Punk’d.


It’s such a bummer to read a book by an author you hear nothing but praise for, only to walk away from that reading experience thinking your time has been thoroughly wasted. All I have in my head is like why? And like don’t? And like why again?

When I’m reading a new-to-me author, I seem to have a habit of choosing the one book that makes all the fans go, “That one’s not their best…THESE OTHER ONES THOUGH!!”

Sure. Okay.

I’m not done with Macmillan just yet because I’m not a completely horrible person & also I think I spent real human dollars on another of her books and it’s currently sitting on my bookshelves… but this book is getting a big UGH from me.

Cody Swift has one of the hottest true crime podcasts around, Time to Tell. It focuses on his search for what really happened to his two childhood best friends twenty-years earlier when they were killed and the intellectually-disabled target of their bullying, Sidney Noyce, is convicted of their murders.

In the present day, Sidney Noyce (think Brendan Dassey, but slower,) has taken his own life in prison and then a new body is discovered at the same site the two boys’ were found decades before. Cody uses the renewed spotlight on the case to sell his podcast with the goal of finding the real killer.

I love the idea, but the execution is severely lacking for me as a reader.

Schitts Creek Comedy GIF by CBC
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Review: Evil – The Science Behind Humanity’s Dark Side by Julia Shaw

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★★

Abrams Press | 2019

Opening Thesis: Evil is just a misunderstanding.

Main Evil: Apparently pedophiles aren’t that bad?

Thesis Conclusion: Shockingly shallow.


I really wanted to like this and I’m having a hard time with the rating, because I didn’t like this, and frankly parts of it are so off-putting I want to toss it out a window.

But it’s not a bad book either in terms of writing quality.

My biggest problem really comes down to the fact that this book is not about the science behind humanity’s dark side, as the cover suggests.

I wanted to learn about the brain, human chemistry, nature vs nurture; I wanted case studies and scientific journals and theories and experiments. What I got was the author explaining why evil is subjective and nothing is really bad because all humans fuck up. The overall theme boils down to “rethinking evil.”

While that may be a provocative topic to tackle, I wouldn’t have necessarily started the book with the argument that we should reconsider labelling Hitler as evil.

There is actually very little science-backed study and explanation in this book. She invokes the Milgram Experiment to discuss the banality of evil, and then uses the Stanford Prison Experiment to explore group-think, but never mentions the many issues with that study that led to it being discredited. Shaw doesn’t do a very good job at tying the referenced studies to the points she’s trying to make; they are loosely thrown together and barely make a correlation.

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Review: Miao Dao (Dark Corners Collection) by Joyce Carol Oates

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★★

Amazon Original Stories | 2018

Opening Hook: Boobs are hilarious.

Main Character: Ride or Die for cats.

Plot Twisty-ness: Unpredictably weird.


Yeahhhhhhhhhhhh…

I don’t know what the fuck this is, but it’s weird and awkward and I do not like Oates’ writing style at all.

Usually, I’m pretty chill about writing styles and can adapt to mostly everything, but Oates writes like she wishes everything was poetry and I’m sorry, but some shit just isn’t poetic. Like a stepdad sexually harassing his 14-year-old stepdaughter and the lasting effects that can have on a person.

I was really hoping this short story was going to be some Carrie kind of shit, but with killer cats. Unfortunately, it’s following the same footsteps as The Tangled Woods, where the horrors are the real-life issues we face in a messed up society, instead of escapist horror.

I think I’m finding that I’m not the kind of person who likes “reality horror.” I much prefer monsters and crazed slasher killers over sexual abuse and institutionalized racism. I read as an escape, not to be reminded about how much humans fucking suck.

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Review: Fifty Fifty (Detective Harriet Blue, #2) by James Patterson & Candice Fox

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★★★

Little, Brown & Company | 2018

Opening Hook: Stop writing down your murder plots.

Main Character: Drywall is not safe around her.

Plot Twisty-ness: Patented Patterson Predictability.


I’ve gone and done it again *said in Kevin Spacey John Doe voice* (if you don’t understand that reference, please leave, watch Se7en and then come back.)

Alright?! OKAY? I admit it! That makes that twice this year I’ve broken my New Year’s resolution to not read any Patterson at all.

I’m weak! I have issues. I need a 12-step program for letting shit go; for being okay with not knowing. It’s really my worst quality as a human being. My mental health agrees.

But whatever. It’s done. I read it. So here’s the review.

CONTENT! *does jazz hands*

While I didn’t necessarily think this book was anything amazing, I have to say, I can see Candice Fox all over the writing in this book and that makes it infinitely better than most Patterson publications. The chapters are still short, the content shallow and a lot of moments are overly dramatic, but the actual prose felt more mature, unlike what I’d typically classify Patterson writing as. Read: juvenile.

Continue reading “Review: Fifty Fifty (Detective Harriet Blue, #2) by James Patterson & Candice Fox”