Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Sweet Chief

I haven't posted any this week, honestly because I've been a bit down.  Unexpectedly, last week, our baby Chief got very sick.  Within a few days we learned he had a very large mass in his stomach and that he was in such poor condition that he wouldn't survive treatment.  He was approaching six years old, which is advanced in Great Dane years, and because he was suffering we decided to go ahead and put him to sleep.

I don't write this to be all sad and weepy, although we have had plenty of those moments since Friday afternoon.  But what I really want to say is that my friends and family amaze me with their love.  Luke and I don't have kids, and although we know it's not the same as children, we pour out all that love on our pets.  When I posted on social media about having to put Chief down, I was overwhelmed by the love and support from, largely, my parent friends.  Not that my non-parent friends weren't equally amazing, but let's face it, we're in our thirties, religious, and live in the South, so our non-parent friends are few and far between.  But the response from my friends who aren't dog people or even pet people was so touching.  It's kind of revolutionized the way I think about my sensitivity surrounding pets and being a parent.  It's totally convicting to realize that the majority of the chip on my shoulder is completely non-existent anywhere but in my mind.

All of that to say, thank you friends, for being so loving and caring and recognizing our loss as a real loss.  Thank you for calling, texting, emailing, Facebooking, and sending notes.  Luke and I both read each and every one and feel so loved.  Thank you for caring about something that may seem smaller or less important for no other reason than that you love us.  And thank you for giving me a reason to change my own judgments about how pet people are perceived.  We love you and thank you for loving us (and our pets) back.










Thursday, October 22, 2015

Audiobook Mini-Reviews: Forensics, People I Want to Punch in the Throat, Tales from the Back Row, and Untwine

From Goodreads:
The dead talk—to the right listener. They can tell us all about themselves: where they came from, how they lived, how they died, and, of course, who killed them. Forensic scientists can unlock the mysteries of the past and help serve justice using the messages left by a corpse, a crime scene, or the faintest of human traces. Forensics draws on interviews with some of these top-level professionals, ground-breaking research, and McDermid’s own original interviews and firsthand experience on scene with top forensic scientists.
 As a crime writer, McDermid has done lots of research on forensic investigation and the changing landscape of technology used in solving crimes.  In this book she covers both the history of forensics as well as modern innovations and changes in the way we use science to determine guilt or innocence. The book is well-researched and McDermid relies heavily on interviews with the leading professionals in the field as well as her own research.  The book's narrator is Scottish (I believe), as is the author, and there were a few moments where I had trouble understanding and had to replay passages to make sure I got what the author was trying to convey.  Otherwise, I have no complaints and enjoyed the read enough that I made sure to order a copy for the library to support my school's Criminal Justice program.

Jen Mann doesn’t have a filter, which sometimes gets her in trouble with her neighbors, her fellow PTA moms, and that one woman who tried to sell her sex toys at a home shopping party. Known for her hilariously acerbic observations on her blog, People I Want to Punch in the Throat, Mann now brings her sharp wit to bear on suburban life, marriage, and motherhood in this laugh-out-loud collection of essays. From the politics of joining a play group, to the thrill of mothers’ night out at the gun range, to the rewards of your most meaningful relationship (the one you have with your cleaning lady), nothing is sacred or off-limits. 
Jen Mann can, in my opinion, go ahead and join the ranks of all the other funny Jen's out there blogging and authoring books (namely Jen Lancaster and Jenny Lawson).  She's hilarious, her book is hilarious, and even as a non-mom I could find a lot of humor in her tales of motherhood and dealing with suburban life.  I was completely happy with the narration, which was spot on for the tone of the essays.  I've got an ARC of her upcoming holiday book and can't wait to read it.  Expect a review of that one soon.

In Tales from the Back Row, Cosmopolitan.com editor Amy Odell takes readers behind the stage of New York's hottest fashion shows to meet the world's most influential models, designers, celebrities, editors, and photographers.

But first, she has to push her way through the crowds outside, where we see the lengths people go to be noticed by the lurking paparazzi, and weave her way through the packed venue, from the very back row to the front. And as Amy climbs the ladder (with tips about how you can, too), she introduces an industry powered by larger-than-life characters.
A high fashion memoir from someone who has a regular person outlook on the world of fashion but an insider's knowledge?  Yes, please!  If you've met me or seen pictures of me, you know fashion is not a personal love of mine as far as my own clothing is concerned.  I'd much rather spend my money on books and art supplies than on upscale clothing, shoes, and purses.  But I'm also still a woman and while I'm not as particular about my personal wardrobe, I do have an interest in fashion as a thing to look at and I'm not averse to reading the occasional fashion blog or looking at pictures of pretty people wearing pretty clothes.  What drew me to this book was that Odell writes from both perspectives.  She loves fashion, she loves clothing, and she's passionate about it - but she also realizes the craze extent it goes to among celebrities and fashion insiders and isn't afraid to laugh at it.  There's loads to love here, from celebrity gossip to blog tales to the less glamorous aspects of the industry.   
 
Sixteen-year-old Giselle Boyer and her identical twin, Isabelle, are as close as sisters can be. They are each other’s strongest source of support even as their family life seems to be unraveling and their parents are considering divorce. Then the Boyers have a tragic encounter that will shatter everyone’s world forever.

Giselle wakes up in a hospital room, injured and unable to speak or move. She doesn’t know what’s happened to her sister, to her family, to herself. Trapped in the prison of her own body, Giselle must revisit her past in order to understand how the people closest to her—her friends, her parents, and above all, Isabelle—have shaped and defined her. Will she allow her love for her family and friends to buoy her and lead her on the path to recovery? Or will she remain lost in a painful spiral of longing and regret?
The only work of fiction in this set of reviews, but it was a doozy.  After reading the plot summary, I had a few doubts about this one - it sounds a lot like another If I Stay.  And while I liked If I Stay, I was so pleased to find Untwine very different.  I've asked friends before what books they would consider to be the YA equivalent of literary fiction, and I'm definitely adding this one to the list.  There were so many elements to love here: a diverse cast of characters, a focus on relationships and character development as opposed to cheap drama, and an intense examination of trauma from a teen perspective.  I'll definitely be reading more by this author. 


 Thanks to both my local public library and to NetGalley for providing me with copies of these titles to review.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Essay Mini-Reviews: Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat? and Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy

From Goodreads:
From identity theft to the hazards of bicycling to college reunions and eating on the beach, Lisa and Francesca tackle the quirks, absurdities, and wonders of everyday life with wit and warmth. As Lisa says, "More and more, especially in the summertime when I'm sitting on the beach, I'm learning not to sweat it. To go back to the child that I used to be. To see myself through the loving eyes of my parents. To eat on the beach. And not to worry about whether every little thing makes me look fat. In fact, not to worry at all."
Meh.  I think I'm learning that this type of short humorous essay just doesn't do it for me the way it used to.  I'm either too young or not young enough - I can't really figure it out.  But I felt the same kind of disinterest that I felt while reading Jen Lancaster's more recent books or when trying to pick up some of Laurie Notaro's recent releases.  I want them to be amazing and I feel like their writing in the past has been amazing - but for some reason it falls just short of funny to me now.  These are very short essays and I feel like maybe they came from a blog or newspaper column (Scottoline mentions writing for a column).  I looked to try to see if the essays are collected from another source, but didn't find any mention of that.  Regardless, I just didn't find it nearly as funny as I had hoped.  I love humor, but this collection just didn't work for me.

 From Goodreads:
Have you ever wished there were an advice columnist for writers, but one who didn’t take things so damned seriously? This unique writing guide pairs questions sent in by top contemporary essayists with hilariously witty answers and essays from acclaimed author Dinty W. Moore. Phillip Lopate asks for advice on writing about your ex without sounding like an ass, Julianna Baggott worries that to be a great writer you must drink like a fish, and Roxane Gay asks whether it’s kosher to write about writing.

Taking advantage of all the tools available to today’s personal essayist—egregious puns, embarrassing anecdotes,  and cocktail napkins—Professor Moore answers these questions, and more, demystifying the world of nonfiction once and for all. With a tip of the hat to history’s most infamous essay—Montaigne’s “Of Cannibals”—this book provides rollicking relief for writers in distress.
Unfortunately this one garnered another "meh."  I loved the idea of an essayists answering questions about writing from some of my favorite writers (Roxane Gay, Cheryl Strayed) and the first half of the book moved at a good pace and was funny and enjoyable.  Somewhere around the middle, I feel like Moore ran out of good material.  There's a long essay that's just a collection of Facebook posts between writers that weren't particularly clever or interesting or funny.  It's a fairly short book, so I  feel like it should have kept my interest throughout, but I just got tired of Moore's sense of humor and felt like he ran out of good stuff by the end of the book.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with copies of these two to review.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Book Review: Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

From Goodreads:
More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia's teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that's cruelly ripped open when Claire's husband is killed.

The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it.
Writing
I've enjoyed what I've read of Slaughter's Will Trent series, so I was thrilled to see that she had a stand alone novel coming out.  Stand alones tend to appeal to me more than series, although detective thrillers like Slaughter's can really be read as stand alones, I suppose.  Anyway, this one lives up to what I expected from Slaughter - it's twisty and intriguing and full of characters that have nuance.  The dialogue is believable and there's definitely some grit to it, which is how I like crime novels.  No complaints here when it comes to the writing,

Entertainment Value
As with most crime fiction, the entertainment value is what draws me in.  I'm not looking for a literary masterpiece, although Slaughter certainly writes with skill.  I'm looking to be sucked in and, hopefully, surprised by the outcome.  Entertainment is crucial to me in crime fiction - I'm all about the plot, and I think Slaughter really delivers with this one.  She's certainly chosen plot elements that appeal to me: family secrets, sister relationships, and kidnappings.  Not only do I have no complaints about the writing, I also have raves aplenty about the entertainment value.  It's one that I found on my mind when I wasn't reading and it kept me up past my bedtime, which, for me, is the equivalent of two thumbs up.

Overall
It's a yes for fans of crime fiction, and a must read for fans of Slaughter's Will Trent and Grant County series.  Sexual violence is a plot element, so avoid if that's an issue for you.  Otherwise I think this makes for a perfect fall night, cozy fireside read.

Thanks to TLC for having me on the tour!  Click here to see links to the rest of the tour stops.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Memoir Mini-Reviews: You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) and Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome

Hello, Reader Friends!  We've reached the time of the year when I realize that holy moly it's almost over.  I've got a month and a half or so left of actual review time before I start my December Best of Extravaganza.  This means I have approximately sixty billion backlogged reviews to get through before then.  Time to break out my planner, buckle down, and start serving up some regular doses of mini-reviews.

From Goodreads:
The Internet isn’t all cat videos. There’s also Felicia Day—violinist, filmmaker, Internet entrepreneur, compulsive gamer, hoagie specialist, and former lonely homeschooled girl who overcame her isolated childhood to become the ruler of a new world…or at least semi-influential in the world of Internet Geeks and Goodreads book clubs...
Felicia’s short-ish life and her rags-to-riches rise to Internet fame launched her career as one of the most influential creators in new media. Now, Felicia’s strange world is filled with thoughts on creativity, video games, and a dash of mild feminist activism—just like her memoir.
Hilarious and inspirational, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) is proof that everyone should embrace what makes them different and be brave enough to share it with the world, because anything is possible now—even for a digital misfit. 
Prior to reading this, I was familiar with Felicia Day as a geek hero and presence in general internet and nerd culture, but hadn't seen her show (The Guild) or followed her career.  I do love me some good internet talk though, especially internet-relating-to-women-and-feminism talk, so I knew I'd need to read this one.  She's as funny and quirky as I hoped she would be (in a very down-to-earth, someone you might really know way, not a manic pixie dream girl way) and I was able to identify with a lot of what she wrote about her life (yay homeschool!).

She's honest about her struggles with anxiety and social pressure, which I appreciate, but she maintains a strength and individuality that doesn't descend into self-pity.  I found her to be completely inspiring and likable, and enjoyed her writing enough that I binged The Guild over the weekend (also recommended).  This is a must read for any woman who enjoys geekdom and the internet and pop culture in general and for men who want to better understand issues women face online and in the world...and for anyone who just wants to read a laugh out loud celebrity memoir.


From Goodreads:
Reba Riley's twenty-ninth birthday was not a good time to undertake a spiritual quest, but when chronic illness prompted her to focus on one thing she could fix - her whopping case of Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome - she undertook a challenge: Visit thirty religions before her thirtieth birthday. This was transformation by spiritual shock therapy. Reba would find peace and healing ... if the search didn't kill her first. 

During her spiritual sojourn without leaving home, Reba: Danced the disco in a Buddhist temple; Went to church in virtual reality, a movie theater, a drive-in bar, and a basement; Was interrogated about her sex life by Amish grandmothers; Got audited by Scientologists, mobbed by NPR junkies, and killed (almost); Fasted for thirty days without food - or wine, dammit!; Washed her lady parts in a mosque bathroom; Learned to meditate with an Urban Monk, sucked mud in a sweat lodge with a Suburban Shaman, and snuck into Yom Kippur with a fake grandpa; Discovered she didn't have to choose religion to choose God ... or good. For everyone who has ever needed healing of body or soul, this poignant, funny memoir reminds us all that transformation is possible, brokenness can be beautiful, and sometimes we have to get lost to get found.
Having grown up in a fairly conservative evangelical family with missionary parents, it's kind of remarkable that I made it to adulthood before I had my first real church-related traumas.  Churches are full of people and unfortunately people aren't perfect.  If you've spent your entire life in a church and never been hurt by church people, I'd be shocked.  People mess up and hurt other people, but it's especially hard to deal with in a setting where the expectations are based around Christ...so perfection.

I never lost my faith the way the author of this book did, but I did lose my faith in the church body and in a lot of the rules that governed my world and went along with my faith.  Having only returned to church (and a very different kind of church from my Baptist roots) in the last two years, I knew I wanted to read this the moment I read the title.  

Riley knows she needs help and wants to heal from her church traumas, but doesn't know where to start, so she takes on a year long project of sampling thirty religious traditions.  Her ending does involve healing and a return to faith, although in a very different form from that in which she was raised.  I could identify with so much of this book and enjoyed it on a spiritual level and on an entertainment level.  Not only did I learn from it, I also laughed frequently.  Riley is hilarious and her take on religion and faith is irreverant at times, but ultimately respectful as well.  I highly recommend it to anyone struggling with issues of faith or hurt stemming from organized religion.

A major thank you to my local public library for providing me with these titles - if either appeal I suggest you check your own library for availability!  Nothing better than free books, my friends!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Comics Friday: Batman Mini-Reviews

From Goodreads:
When catastrophe strikes Arkham Asylum, where will Gotham City house the world's most dangerous criminals, and when inmates are found murdered, what is Batman prepared to do in search of justice? Arkham's madness comes home in ARKHAM MANOR! 
What I learned this week in reading these two comics is that the Batman universe is intensely complex and I was totally right to be afraid that I'd be lost trying to get started in it.  Apparently there are all kinds of Batman off-shoots that are hard to understand for a Batman newbie like myself.  In this particular Batman world, Bruce Wayne has lost his family fortune and the city turns Wayne Manor into the new Arkham Asylum.  Someone starts killing inmates and Batman goes undercover as a patient in order to try to find the killer.

This one wasn't bad at all.  I had to look it up on some comics wikis to try to figure out the backstory (I never did figure out how or why Bruce Wayne had been kicked out of Wayne Manor), but I found enough information to get me started on this new series.  A lot of familiar Batman faces that I expected to see, including some surprise appearances that I wasn't expecting.  The story itself was well done and I wanted to finish to see where the characters would wind up.  From what I can tell this is a complete series, although it looks like there's another book set in this same Batverse (I made that one up myself) but written by a different author.  I didn't like it enough to really pursue reading more of the same, but it was a good enough diversion and I didn't have any complaints.

From Goodreads:
The Joker is dead. Arkham City is closed. As a new day begins, Bruce Wayne finds himself in devastating pain, recovering from his injuries and questioning whether his role as Batman is still necessary to the city's survival. But as the sun rises in Gotham City, dangerous new threats emerge from the shadows...and the Arkham Knight is just beginning.
This one, on the other hand - I have complaints aplenty and they are forthcoming.  First of all, this is written in conjunction with a video game.  Had I been paying attention and realized that, I never would have requested it for review.  Full blame goes to me for not realizing that this is not something that I'm going to enjoy.  I have zero interest in most video games and anything that is a novelized video game is just...ugh.  So Arkham Knight and I got off on the wrong foot when I looked it up on a Batman wiki and learned that it's a video game novelization.

I could have forgiven it for its video game ties, however, if it had been any good.  Unfortunately I didn't like the art or the writing.  The art looked sloppy to me, but it's possible that it was due to the fact that I was viewing it in ebook format (although I haven't had similar issues with other DC ebooks).  Even if the art wasn't an issue, the writing was just awful.  Terrible one-liners abound on pretty much every page.  Some of the dialogue is so bad it wouldn't be out of place in a spoof or parody.  The story itself isn't that interesting and felt like it jumped all over the place - probably fun for a video game, but disconcerting in a storyline that only lasts a bit over 100 pages.

My overall recommendation to those like me who are just getting started with serialized comics is to stick with the basics.  While I enjoyed Arkham Manor enough, I still went into it feeling lost and confused.  And the video game spinoff is just not at all my thing.  I think I need to go back to the classic collections and work my way through those before getting in over my head and starting off confused.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with copies to review.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

What I Read in September


Basically the big Golden family happening of September (which led to me basically doing not much of anything else in September) is that we added a new member to our little family.  I introduced him in his own post, but just in case you missed it...

Pompom!  Named for my favorite Homestar Runner character, naturally.  Because of Pompom, I am now spending 90% of my free time laying on the couch or my bed getting snuggles.



He's becoming more and more playful, but his favorite thing is still laying on my face while I try to read.  He's met his big brothers but isn't quite a fan yet.  The puppies are terrified of him and do their best to always avoid eye contact.  He hasn't spit at them recently, so we're making baby steps towards friendship.
This is Pompom's preferred state of affairs and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't thrilled about it.  Lounging under a blanket is also my preferred state of being, but I do need to get back on track with my yoga.  It's just so hard to move a purring kitten off your face in order to exercise.  It has, however, meant lots of time for reading.  Here's what I read in September:


Title
Author
People I Want to Punch in the Throat
Jen Mann
Those Girls
Chevy Stephens
Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
Sara Hepola
Tales from the Back Row
Amy Odell
We Believe the Children
Richard Beck
You're Never Weird on the Internet
Felicia Day
Upcycle Your Wardrobe
Mia Fuhrer
Lovable Livable Home
Sherry and John Petersik
Arkham Manor, Volume I
Gerry Duggan
Searching for Sunday
Rachel Held Evans
Is Shame Necessary
Jennifer Jacquet
Belzhar
Meg Wolitzer
Alice
Christina Henry
Chopsticks
Jessica Anthony
Total books read in September: 14
Total books read in 2015: 157

Total pages read in September:3552
Total pages read in 2015: 44,832 

What did you read in September?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Book Review: The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks

From Goodreads:
Brooks takes on one of literature’s richest and most enigmatic figures: a man who shimmers between history and legend. Peeling away the myth to bring David to life in Second Iron Age Israel, Brooks traces the arc of his journey from obscurity to fame, from shepherd to soldier, from hero to traitor, from beloved king to murderous despot and into his remorseful and diminished dotage.

The Secret Chord provides new context for some of the best-known episodes of David’s life while also focusing on others, even more remarkable and emotionally intense, that have been neglected.  We see David through the eyes of those who love him or fear him—from the prophet Natan, voice of his conscience, to his wives Mikhal, Avigail, and Batsheva, and finally to Solomon, the late-born son who redeems his Lear-like old age. Brooks has an uncanny ability to hear and transform characters from history, and this beautifully written, unvarnished saga of faith, desire, family, ambition, betrayal, and power will enthrall her many fans
Writing
Geraldine Brooks writes a fictionalized account of David.  Do I need to say more here?  It is, obviously, beautiful.  It's hard to review the writing merits of a writer like Brooks - what can I possibly say to critique a Pulitzer Prize winner?  And the answer is, not much, because she doesn't leave much room for critiques.  It's just beautifully written.  The characters are so well done - "leap of the page" is a cliche, but that's what they do.  I found this so easy to picture in my mind and it brought a new element to my imagining of daily life in David's time as well as life in the court of David.

Entertainment Value
Despite how much I appreciate the quality of the writing, I was somewhat disappointed in how much I enjoyed the book.  I had imagined I wouldn't be able to put it down, but instead I found it something of a chore to read.  This is not necessarily, or even probably, a problem on Brooks' part as an author, but is more about how I come to the story.

David is one of my favorite Bible characters and one I can identify with.  He is depressed, he makes mistakes, he continues to mess up, and he continues to come back to God and have a passionate and personal relationship with him.  The story is so close to my heart.  I was looking forward to seeing him portrayed with all of his flaws and mistakes, but I felt like we got all of the flaws with none of the redemption.

It really bothered me how the David of this book has such a small interest in God.  He isn't passionate about God, just about himself.  All of his rough edges are shown and fully exploited (the David of this novel is a brutal rapist, not just an adulterer).  And while those things may be historically accurate (could Bathsheba have possibly consented when asked by her King for sex?), when taken out of the context of David's repentance and humility and devotion to God, it just makes him a monster.  Rather than an ambiguous character, he becomes a villain.

I struggled (and honestly still find myself struggling) with my feelings about this, as there are times in the David story when he is a villain.  But one of the reasons I find his story so personally touching is because of his redemptive relationship with God.  And if you take that away, it makes the story very hard to read.

Overall
I didn't love it the way I thought it would, but man has it inspired a lot of thought.  I HIGHLY recommend this as a book club read - I think, particularly among those who are invested in the story already, that it would make for a great discussion.  I'd love to discuss it with any other readers who have read it.  While I wasn't a huge fan of the book and found it hard to read (and somewhat slow) at times, it has really made me think about both Brooks' David and the David of the Bible and why I care so much about his story.  This is not a safe or sanitized version of the story, so if you're not willing to see beloved characters do and say some nasty things, maybe skip it.  Sex and profanity and violence are frequent, but for me that brought the story to life in a way that I hadn't pictured it before.

Thanks to Viking for providing me with a copy of this gorgeous book (check out that cover!) to review.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Book Review: Alice by Christina Henry

From Goodreads:
In a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City, there stands a hospital with cinderblock walls which echo the screams of the poor souls inside.

In the hospital, there is a woman. Her hair, once blond, hangs in tangles down her back. She doesn’t remember why she’s in such a terrible place. Just a tea party long ago, and long ears, and blood…

Then, one night, a fire at the hospital gives the woman a chance to escape, tumbling out of the hole that imprisoned her, leaving her free to uncover the truth about what happened to her all those years ago.

Only something else has escaped with her. Something dark. Something powerful.

And to find the truth, she will have to track this beast to the very heart of the Old City, where the rabbit waits for his Alice.
Writing
I tend to be a bit wary of retellings.  It's not that I actively avoid them, it's just that I'm very selective about putting time into a story I already know.  I want to know that it's going to be new and original and, especially in the case of fairy tales, not just a swoony romance that goes exactly as I know it goes because I've seen the Disney movie.  So.   I initially skimmed right past this when I saw it on NetGalley.  It wasn't until I read a review in Library Journal that I was really motivated to try it.  I saw the description as dark and gory and I couldn't pass that up.  I also liked the idea of Alice in a mental hospital.  It seemed something other than a typical retelling.

Which is where the writing review comes in.  This is incredibly well done.  It's probably the first straight up horror retelling of a children's story I've read and I loved it.  This is not a happy story and it does not have adorable and whimsical characters.  It's dark and sinister and, although it has the characters from Alice in Wonderland, it is most certainly not the story of Alice in Wonderland.  It's something completely new.  Even the characters are, I think, loosely enough inspired that they're completely new creations.  This story is all Christina Henry's and she does a great job with it.

Entertainment Value
I couldn't stop reading.  In fact, I stayed late at work in order to finish because I couldn't bring myself to leave the building without knowing what would happen to Alice and Hatcher.  That said, this is incredibly dark and definitely not for every reader.  If you like horror, if you like the original Grimm stories, if you want to be creeped out, this is a great one to read.

The biggest questionable element to me is the amount of sexual violence contained in the story.  We don't see graphic rapes, but rape plays a MAJOR role in the story line and the fact that, in the Old City the crime bosses deal in women as opposed to drugs or weapons is made very clear.  So while we aren't in the mind of a character who is being raped, we hear about many characters who have been raped.  Because of that, it comes with a huge trigger warning from me.

That said, I think what redeemed the amount of sexual violence for me was that it is so clearly evil in the eyes of the author and the reader.  It isn't for a second eroticized or meant to be titillating.  It's portrayed as cruel and evil.  You don't read this and wonder if the author means for the reader to be aroused by any of it (George R.R. Martin, I'm looking at you).  I also loved the way Hatcher's character treats women who have been victimized and his refusal to continue to victimize them in any way.  For me, that aspect made the trauma described readable.  But it might not for other readers.

Overall
I highly recommend this with the caveat that it's for mature audiences (definitely not YA) and I'd classify it as horror as opposed to a fairy tale retelling.  It's gory and disturbing, but also completely engrossing and original, particularly in its characterization.  It's also going to become a series, which I'll certainly be following as it continues.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a copy to review.