Alex ➸ Reads to Live

Alex ➸ Reads to Live

Challenge Participant

My name is Alex. I'm a twenty-something white girl from the midwest with a hardcore fiction addiction. Unbound by genre. I like weird books with no romance, and I abuse commas.

This blog is on hold until further notice. I have to take care of my mental health at the moment. I will still be reviewing on Goodreads, and will crosspost here when I have the energy to read much more than childrens novels.


As noted on my review policy page since the beginning of the month, I will not be responding to snide author emails during this time.

Year Wrap-Up: 2015 in Books

Happy New Year everyone!


According to Goodreads I read 80 books this year. Not counting my DNFs, I read 76 books this year. So, the estimate of 20,198 pages is likely off anyways! Regardless, this is the highest number I've achieved so far, not counting my re-reads of Animorphs on a roughly yearly basis.


Now for some juicy stats, pulled from GR because BookLikes has such a user-unfriendly, piss-me-off interface. These are adjusted as I went and knocked some plain unmemorable books down a star or two. If I have forgotten that I read a book in under a year, it's probably not even worth three stars.


Books read: 76

Average rating for the year: 3.4 stars

5 star ratings: 13

4 star ratings: 24

3 star ratings: 20

2 star ratings: 13

1 star ratings: 5

No rating: 1

DNF: 4


Most mainstream: If I Stay by Gayle Forman  (421,986 ratings)

Most obscure: Shadow on the Eclipse by J. A. Self (2 ratings)

Longest: The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort (528 pages)

Shortest: The Body-Snatcher by Robert Louis Stevenson (22 pages)

Worst: Come now, it's hardly past Christmas. I couldn't.


Best read of 2015:

The Man Who Spoke Snakish by Andrus Kivirähk


Only because calling The Call of Cthulhu my best read would be cheating. Both of them continue to creep around my nightmares.


Honorable mentions:

Pickles and Ponies by Laura May

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness




This is the year that I finally started officially DNFing books and it has been a revolution! I have two shelves for this on Goodreads: DNF for good, and DNF for now. One for books I cannot bother to finish, and one for books I am too lazy/disinterested in at the moment to finish but intend to pick up again at a later date. It's often I pick up a good book, get 20 pages in and go "No, I'm not ready for this right now. Maybe later."


At some point this year I passed the year mark for starting to review on this blog, though since I tend not to spoil or post a synopsis, there are some that would say that I don't review at all. I have in fact come across some snide comments on my feed to this effect, though I'm not quite enough of a narcissist to assume they're about my shit reviews. I don't like to spell out what happens (which is often just rewording the synopsis from the book jacket anyways) particularly on GR because it is quite literally right there for you to read if you wish to. Whatever you want to think of it, I like sharing how books make me feel. In my opinion that is the most important part of a book.


In closing, Anna Karenina still glares at me from my desk. It has been over a year with her looming over me like a great Russian cinderblock. I pray 2016 is the year I finally knock her out for good. I tire of her.


I wish you all a blessed new year!


The novella I reviewed today, Magic of the Gargoyles, is apparently free on Amazon today. I don't know how long it's free for, but it's cute and totally worth a read. So if you happened to be intrigued, it's free!

3 Stars
Magic of the Gargoyles by Rebecca Chastain
Magic of the Gargoyles: An Elemental Fantasy Novella - Rebecca Chastain

I liked this alright. It's quite short (being a novella), ringing in at just under 80 pages. It's quite well-written, though the constant, heavy descriptions of magic use were exhausting at times. Every time Mika - whose name it took me half the novella to learn because this is first person - uses her magic it is described in excruciating detail of threads and weaving and whatnot. There are books like Harry Potter, which basically say "magic happened and it was quite difficult," and there are books like Eragon which wax poetic about how the magic happened. Note that the use of Eragon here is not at all related to the plot of this novella, which is not Star Wars in Middle Earth.

The plot is quite good, though it seems to be middle grade. Or at least, it had that feeling to me, as there weren't any real consequences for the protagonist. In fact, I think this storyline would work really well with some neat illustrations for the MG crowd! It is dark at times, but no more dark than Legend of Korra, which was allegedly a show for children.

Unfortunately, fantasy worlds with guns are not something I can get behind without suspending literally all belief. It's like walking into a Michael Bay film - you go for the explosions, and try your hardest to pretend there is a plot (again, do not confuse this with criticism of the novella's plot). This goes double due to the amount of focus Mika has to put into using magic at all. If magic seemed to be instinctual and reactive, then guns wouldn't seem out of the question. As it stands, the danger doesn't seem real, because there are no consequences for anything. The Joker dangles Batman off a cliff but doesn't drop him because without Batman he has nothing else to do. You know the protagonist won't get shot because the story isn't over yet. Guns, in my opinion, work far better as a tension device in films, and even then it's iffy when nobody ever gets shot. They feel more like set dressing than what they are, which is a hair trigger death.

Double marks for not ending on a cliffhanger. It's gotten to the point where a cliffhanger will make me set a series aside nine times out of ten. It's cheap.

In all, I did like this, though I do strongly feel that this would work better for a middle grade audience due to the utter lack of consequence. Then again, I like my characters amoral and my plots bleak. If you are one for a happy ending, this novella will delight you to no end, and don't let me Grinch all over your happiness.

Solid 3/5.

Thank you to the author, who provided a review e-copy to me in exchange for an honest review.

On separating the art from the artist.

My social anxiety demon has been squished temporarily, so I have a question to pose to y'all! My New Year's resolution is to not be so terrified of comments. So, here goes.


Are there any authors that you really enjoy as a person even though you hate their books?


I don't think this is something I've ever heard my friends express about books in particular, or really anyone else. Maybe that's because the era of the super-present author is a pretty new thing? You know, Twitter and all that.


For me, it would be Emery Lord and Maggie Stiefvater. Offending books were Open Road Summer and Shiver, respectively. Both of them are super witty and hilarious on Twitter (and I totally stalk Maggie's tumblr because damn the woman can really draw) but I just about tore my hair out reading their novels. I feel so bad about it but I just cannot do romance. At all. I try, I hate it, I feel bad about hating it, and hide from YA for a month or two while I cleanse my brain-palate.


But! To be fair, I did read the paranormal romance book in high school on the word of a Twihard friend who is no longer allowed to rec me books. I have The Scorpio Races on my Kindle and will give it a go once I have some time!


I also couldn't stand Malala Yousafzai's memoir, but I solely place the blame on the translator. Malala is a gift to this earth but oh my god, no.


Please do share yours so I don't feel so alone. D:

1.5 Stars
The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort
The Wolf of Wall Street - Jordan Belfort

This could've been cut in half and still retained its masturbatory air. It's Jordan Belfort wanking about how many drugs he's done, women he's cheated on his (now ex) wife with, how many times he's fucked his (now ex) wife and the feelings she gave his TOTALLY BIG PENIS GUYS, IT'S HUGE I JUST HAD TO SHOW PEOPLE BECAUSE MY PENIS IS BIG EVEN THOUGH I AM SHORT JUST LOOK!!! He also likes to reiterate every few chapters about how he's totally not a bigot, okay, it just slips out and then a moment later the slurs go flying.

He could've at least paid for a ghost writer, and then some. At least DiCaprio was almost charming. Oh yeah, DiCaprio's Belfort was toned down. Jesus. If this was written as though Belfort felt even a shred of real remorse, I wouldn't be so annoyed and bored. There was little of the actual Stratton Oakmont years, far less than even the film, which is the entire reason I picked up this book in the first place. It's just a midlife crisis in book form. This memoir is Belfort having a five hundred page-long wank about how great he was at stocks and women and drugs, because Jordan Belfort is absolutely the sort of man to think of women as a prize to be won.  He was, and continues to be, gross. Look no further for proof that Wall Street is evil, or at the very least shot through with it.


Was it worth the twenty hours I spent listening to it?


4 Stars
After Dad by Ralph Cohen (or: ow my heart, and how dare you)
After Dad - Ralph Cohen

This was an unexpected love for me. As someone who doesn't have a father (and doesn't miss him), I wasn't expecting to relate to this as much as I did. It's as much a coming of age tale as it is a novel about loss. The story is told by his children (Margot, Jenny, and Toby) and their mother, Ruth. It's funny one moment, then it'll turn on a dime and punch you in the heart without warning. It's set in the 1960's and it feels like it... or at least what I've come to see as the '60s through the lens of the media, and Mad Men.


I didn't care about much about Toby and Ruth at all. Both of them were unseen for most of the novel, which made it difficult for me to connect with their story. Toby in particular had a disconnect from reality that made his chapters difficult to read, though objectively they should be the saddest. I wouldn't say their stories were uninteresting, far from it actually, but seeing them so infrequently made it hard for me to care about them. In POV novels there are characters whose chapters I will skip, and I was sorely tempted to skip these two, though I'm glad I didn't.


Margot and Jenny's stories both struck a chord with me. Being a young woman as I am, there are things that we grow through when we're growing up that seem to be almost universal experiences. There are things that happen that change you, and both Jenny and Margot experience their share of horrible things and horrible people. (See: my reading status updates that consist entirely of "fuck Gerald")


I won't spoil it. You know the dad dies, but I'm not giving away anything more than that. If you've read my reviews before, you know that I am firmly against spoilers of any variety. I'll say this, though: This is the sort of novel that is going to hang around with me for a while. A couple of times I had to set it down for a day or two to gather myself. It's been haunting me when I've been too busy to read it, and this is a sad ghost I'd like to shake.


Disclaimer: I received a review copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

3.5 Stars
How To Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell
How to Train Your Dragon - Cressida Cowell

This was cute! I do wish there were more lady vikings, since the only one you see in the book is Hiccup's mother. Bit frustrating. I listened to the David Tennant narrated audiobook and that definitely added a lot to the story. It's very different from the film (the vikings in the book do not kill the dragons, they 'tame' them and use them for hunting) and I think the film might be better. I will probably check out a couple of the sequels just to see where the similarities lie.

1.5 Stars
Damned by Chuck Palahniuk
Damned - Chuck Palahniuk

Dear Satan,

It's me, Alex. Please take this terrible book away. I may be a random twenty-something girl on the internet, but I know what "bad" means. I also know that opening every chapter like this makes a reader want to throw the book against a wall.


2 stars instead of 1 just because I was actually able to finish this and I'm just going to pat myself on the back. This may be because I just needed an audiobook to listen to at work. Like Beautiful You, this reads a lot like a jaded college kid who can write rather well but hates women (esp. teenage girls) and likes to whinge about how terrible this generation is. A good way for me to not give a shit about your book is to basically take the piss out of teenagers, and teenage girls in particular.


Call it satire if you want, but it reeks of #2edgy4u and has zero depth. It's shock for shock's sake. There's absolutely no purpose beyond "look how vulgar I can make this! Shocking! Twist!" Cunnilingus on a demon? Ooooookaaaay. This was basically 7 hours of making fun of teenage girls and religion with shoehorned Shocking Imagery such as ripping off the mustache of Hitler and using slurs... and I'm just so so so so glad it's over.


When you make Big Plot Twists your whole schtick you become a joke (see: M. Night Shyamalan) and I just spend the entire book/movie trying to guess the big reveal. I guessed it. I hoped I was wrong. I was very disappointed in how often you're beat over the head with 'subtle hints.' Whether the twist is real or not, it's done to death. 


I enjoyed Choke, Fight Club, and what I read of Rant before I lost my copy. Either I'm getting tired of Palahniuk! Super! Shocking! Twists! or nothing he's written in this decade is for me.

Reading progress update: I've listened 263 out of 445 minutes.
Damned - Chuck Palahniuk

Work has been slow for me, so I though "Hey, I'll borrow an audiobook from the library online at work today and listen to it! I'll get almost the whole thing done by the end of the day! Genius!"


Scrolled scrolled scrolled. Placed a hold on Cinder, but I wanted a book now. I saw Damned and I was like alright, I was digging Rant before I lost it, Choke was A+, Beautiful You was trash... so maybe? Its book birthday is my birthday, what the hell, right? Borrowed it. Meh, not great, but it's something to listen to! Until The Incident.


I then had the painfully uncomfortable experience of my boss coming to my cubicle to chat while the reader was in the middle of the scene where Madison shoves a man's slavering decapitated head into the clitoral hood of a 450-foot-tall demon woman so she can have the demon carry her to Hell HQ.


It hasn't gotten any better. Palahniuk is really hit or miss for me, and it's mostly his newer stuff I don't like. If the shock for shock's sake were backed up by a plot that didn't feel super generic then I might not be so indifferent. 

I'm going to cross my fingers and hope that leaving my email open in a tab at all times will shame me into responding to the 84 (84!) review requests that have piled up. Looks like 2016 is shaping up to be Year of the Indie for me.


If you happen to be one of the people that has emailed me, oh my god I am so sorry.



I MEAN RESPONDING TO EMAILS. Not watching Korean variety shows. That would be terrible.

3 Stars
Slade House by David Mitchell
Slade House: A Novel - David Mitchell

I am a huge fan of David Mitchell the comedian. I was not aware that David Mitchell the author even existed until comedian David Mitchell made a joke about being "not the author." Youtuber Dan Brown has a similar issue with being confused for Dan Brown, author of Angels & Demons (among other things). For me, David Mitchell has been one of those authors that people say lots of nice things about, the sort of author that wins lots of awards; I know his books, I know his name, but I have never had any drive to pick up one of his books and purchase it.


I think words inspired by Mary Berry would do the best job of describing my feelings for this book: It'd be a good bake if it wasn't so raw in the middle.


Slade House started off really strong for me. I like books that are a bit fucky, a bit flowery, that take liberty with "the proper format" for writing. Trailing off in the middle of sentences and so on. The end of each part, however... It's like if Stephen King wrote an episode of the last season of Charmed. Well-written, neat, but a bit cheesy, a bit dodgy, a bit borderline unbelievable. Bit crap really, even if you like the thing anyways.


There's something about people using brother and sister as Proper Nouns that has always bothered me. It just seems so ridiculously unrealistic. Maybe in times past it was common or natural, but it's awkward and clunky. It just seems forced every time I hear it. A bit like the exposition. (Ey!)


The writing style kept me going long past where I normally would've given up. It's good enough that I kept reading even though I was rolling my eyes. (And I'll give it this - it's short! I like short!) The way syllables of words are emphasized where we would usually emphasize them in speech, instead of the whole word when it isn't the entire word that one would normally stress. I really do take comfort in the little things. Like the end of the book having a page about the typesetting. Gets me every time.


As I am strictly spoiler-free (unless absolutely necessary for complaining purposes) I do think you should go into this blind, if you pick this up at all. Blurbs lie. When the book is good, the blurb spoils half the plot; when the book is bad, the blurb does its best to try and distract from that fact by going "but it's like Twilight meets Game of Thrones! Isn't that an interesting idea?!"


If anything it's given me the motivation I've needed to pick up Cloud Atlas, mostly so I can stop being harassed over never having read Cloud Atlas.


Disclaimer: I received this book free from LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.

November Hiatus

I will be gone for the month of November because this year I intend to finish NaNoWriMo for the first time. This will be my fifth year attempting (I think) and I have never finished. I also procrastinate at any possible opportunity! I'll still be reading - and I did just start the Wheel of Time series - but I need to save all my writing for NaNo and drastically cut down on the amount of time-wasting I do online, at least for November. ;)


I'll see you all on the other side! I'm leaving my word counter at the bottom of this post, and it also links to my NaNo page in case anyone else is participating and would like to be writing buddies, or maybe just bug me to not be a quitter! I'll also be whining on Twitter probably. I don't think I can control that. Trust me, this is for your benefit - now you won't have to read me going "This is SO HARD" every day!



Reblogged from Alex ➸ Reads to Live
November Hiatus

I will be gone for the month of November because this year I intend to finish NaNoWriMo for the first time. This will be my fifth year attempting (I think) and I have never finished. I also procrastinate at any possible opportunity! I'll still be reading - and I did just start the Wheel of Time series - but I need to save all my writing for NaNo and drastically cut down on the amount of time-wasting I do online, at least for November. ;)


I'll see you all on the other side! I'm leaving my word counter at the bottom of this post, and it also links to my NaNo page in case anyone else is participating and would like to be writing buddies, or maybe just bug me to not be a quitter! I'll also be whining on Twitter probably. I don't think I can control that. Trust me, this is for your benefit - now you won't have to read me going "This is SO HARD" every day!



4 Stars
The Adventures of Miss Petitfour by Anne Michaels (Illustrated by Emma Block)
The Adventures of Miss Petitfour - Anne Michaels

Publish date: November 3, 2015 by Tundra Books


This is a very cute story, one that reminds me a lot of Amelia Bedelia, who I loved growing up, and I would put these Adventures in roughly the same reading age as Amelia Bedelia. Miss Petitfour has lots of silly adventures, but is not silly herself, which sets the ladies apart; if anything the cats are quite silly. It's definitely a book full of fun tales, and should teach children new words, particularly "digression," of which there are many.


The artwork alone is beautiful - the illustrations definitely add to the quirky, almost-twee atmosphere of the adventures. The book design, the illustrations, all set the scene for a series of charming stories about a flying lady and her cute anthropomorphized cats. The turns of phrase alone will warm the heart.


Disclaimer: I received a free review e-galley from NetGalley. This has in no way influenced my review.

5 Stars
The Man Who Spoke Snakish by Andrus Kivirähk
The Man Who Spoke Snakish - Christopher Moseley, Andrus Kivirähk

Published: November 3, 2015 by Grove Press, Black Cat (English)
Originally published as Mees, kes teadis ussisõnu in 2007 by Eesti Keele Sihtasutus


This is the strangest, bleakest novel I have ever read in my life. The world is a fantastical version of Estonia where wolves are milked and ridden, women have trysts with bears, there's a louse the size of a goat, and some folks can talk to snakes. Or, rather, those who live in the forest can still speak the language of snakes - Snakish - which the rest of the world has forgotten. Leemet is not exactly a likable character. In fact, nobody is likable, except maybe Ints the adder.


It's definitely unique, gorgeous, and well-written - and well-translated. It doesn't hold any punches. Don't be shocked to turn the page and find someone dead or maimed or missing. For example, only a few pages in Leemet's father is decapitated by the bear his wife is cheating on him with. That alone should set the tone pretty well.


If you don't care for unlikable main characters, anti-religious messages, or the death of humans and animals, maybe give this a pass. There is sex and murder and whatnot, but none of it is indulgent, it just happens. Given the weird bluntness of this, and how unexpected it was for me, this might be my favorite read of the year.


Disclaimer: I received a free e-ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way affected my opinion of this book.