Alex ➸ Reads to Live

Alex ➸ Reads to Live

Challenge Participant

My name is Alex. Reviewer of weird books, hater of romance, knitter of yarn, eater of pizza.

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.

4 Stars
A Magical Journey and Coloring Book The Time Garden (Paperback) - Common - Daria Song

I will be honest with you - I didn't color the whole book. I spend far, far too long on coloring to color the whole book and review it in a reasonable amount of time.


I did enjoy the illustrations, and the way they were cohesive and told a story. I didn't care for the illustrations being on both sides of the paper. Personally I prefer colored pencil, but if I did feel the need to use marker, I'm careless enough that it probably would bleed through (even this nice paper!) The fact that you can color the book cover and address it "to" someone as a gift is very nice.


These adult coloring books are a dime a dozen now, really. The local Barnes & Noble has a whole table full of them and they all look pretty much the same. I can even get a cheapo Soap Opera Digest sized, crappy paper version for a couple bucks at the supermarket. For an artist, I can say the novelty of coloring something I didn't have to draw myself wore off pretty quickly and just made me want to draw again! It did do its job though - it kept me occupied while I listened to an audiobook of another book I probably should've reviewed by now, it had lovely artwork, and it calmed me down in a very stressful time.


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review Video
5 Stars
The Rest of Us Just Live Here - Patrick Ness

Gyrating Teen Justin Timberlake is my feeling about this book.


If you were looking for a real review, here is my full review as I posted it on goodreads: "THIS BOOK MET ALL OF MY EXPECTATIONS AND THAT BOTH THRILLS AND WORRIES ME".


Read the synopsis. If it sounds like a thing you would enjoy, I will tell you that I had a big stupid idiot smile on my face for almost the entire time I was reading. Especially when it took potshots at the rest of YA.


I am very tired of reading books about a Chosen One, and have in fact wanted a book specifically not about a Chosen One for a very long time. See: above music video for how THE REST OF US lived up to my expectations.


Disclaimer: My review has in no way been influenced by the amount of Nyquil I've had to take in order to not die.

Reading progress update: I've read 4%.
The Man Who Spoke Snakish - Christopher Moseley, Andrus Kivirähk

"Then my mother and the castrated bear burned my father’s body, and the bear fled deep into the forest, vowing to my mother that they would never meet again."


I am so fucking about this weird and creepy stuff that you're lucky this isn't in all caps.

I am at work right now (shh, don't tell! ) but I have been wondering since I decided to do the Book Birthday post (Pub Birthday? Hm.) if there is an easier way to find books solely by publishing year. I've been struck by a need to read the last century. The only thing I can think of is the NYT bestseller list, but who remembers the bestseller from 1927? Not I. I  reckon I would end up with mostly romance and James Patterson that way! I'm sure this has been done before, like the Read the World challenge I keep meaning to try.  And now I'm rambling because I'm procrastinating and I'm not sorry.

22 Books for 22 Years

Last Friday was my 22nd birthday. I'm going to share my favorite books from each of the last 22 years based on the year they were published according to GoodReads, some are probably off! I will not be repeating authors, as badly as I want to, because otherwise this would be a list of K. A. Applegate and J. K. Rowling because I am a weak creature made mostly of cheese and nostalgia.


1993: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

1994: Julie by Jean Craighead George

1995: Raptor Red by Robert T. Bakker

1996: Falling Up by Shel Silverstein

1997: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J. K. Rowling (runner-up: The Andalite Chronicles by K. A. Applegate)

1998: Uzumaki by Junji Ito

1999: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket (runner-up: Battle Royale by Koushun Takami)

2000: The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman (I liked the Mulefa!)

2001: Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

2002: Feed by M. T. Anderson

2003: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon 

2004: Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett

2005: Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

2006: The End by Lemony Snicket (Rule one: The Doctor lies. Runner-up: The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect by Roger Williams)

2007: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (This was unintentional cheating - I haven't read much published in '07.)

2008: House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones

2009: The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

2010: Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris (runner-up: Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel)

2011: The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

2012: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (runner-up: Fortune's Rising by Sara King)

2013: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

2014: Pickles and Ponies by Laura May

2015: The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins


I finally have internet! And I've been reading Calvin and Hobbes, which I don't think I ever read as a kid. It's so good, but I don't care for the Spaceman Spiff strips.

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