Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden I did enjoy this book, I really did. But I have a lot more complaints than praise. There's always going to be a certain degree of "ugh" about a white guy from Tennessee thinking they're qualified to write about being a Japanese geisha because they took some Japanese history courses in university. I'm never going to fully support stories about women, about minority races, about foreign cultures told by the ultimate majority - a white, well educated, American man. It happens far too often, and is often skewed in such a way to benefit (or gloss over the inherent privilege, or the inherent abuse inflicted by) the white-american-male. Not to mention it silences ACTUAL women, ACTUAL members of these minority groups and prohibits them from telling their own stories. Do you think an actual geisha trying to write her real memoirs would be as well received and commercially popular as Arthur Golden's fictionalized version?? No. It probably wouldn't even get a major publisher.

My feelings on white men co-opting the stories of minorities for their own financial (or artistic in this case, the book received much praise) obviously affected my reading experience and was hard to look past and enjoy the book. I'm aware the narrative is first person, but anytime geishas or the Japanese were referred to as "we", I became hyper aware that a guy from Tennessee wrote this. When talking about WWII and it's effect on the Japanese geisha districts (and Japan in general), atrocities committed by America were so largely glossed over. America was barely mentioned as the enemy. Hiroshima was mentioned in a sentence. Yet post-American invasion, the American soldiers were described as "nice" (they're not) and not at all people who "killed and raped" the Japanese (they were). When the protagonist Sayuri attends a party with American soldiers, she's shocked by how personable and way more fun than Japanese men they were, and how they all got along so wonderfully despite their language barrier. That just reeks of bullshit to me. Of romanticized bullshit by a white, male American with no real gauge of how vile America is regarding foreign policy or all the irredeemable shit they pulled on Japan during WWII.

Besides my political aversion to pretty much everything this book is, it's an ok read. A decent story. It's not actually incredibly well written. The abundant similes sprinkled generously throughout as an attempt at depth and eloquence were actually kind of dumb and heavy handed. The plot itself was scattered and met a really slapdash end. The actual exploration of geisha life was superficial at best, and character development was... not great (Sayuri was basically a Mary Sue, and even when her flaws and mistakes were pointed out to her, they were written off as more revealing of the negative character traits of those pointing them out to her). It's an ok light read, but quite clearly Arthur Golden showing off everything he knows about Japan and a conversation he had with a former geisha one time.

I've done a bit of trashing of Arthur Golden in this... am I not abiding by GR's new review policies?? Who knows?
The Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith A fairly straightforward mystery. I hadn't pieced together the end until I read it, but I'm usually pretty bad at those things. Overall, I think I enjoyed it much more than The Casual Vacancy (and I'm one of the few who actually really liked that book). The character's aren't much, but there's a lot to expand on and they're likeable enough. I'd read the sequel, but I'm thinking any hopes of one are dashed now that Rowling has been exposed as the author.
The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood You have a flashback. Then the story. Then the story-within-the-story. Then a novel-within-the-novel. Then the story-within-the-the-story-within-the-novel-within-the-novel. Then you have some newspaper articles and letters stringing it all together. The Blind Assassin is truly a feat in crafting and structuring a novel. Atwood strings you along with more questions than answers, dangling the pay-off far in the distance in such a way only Atwood could.
With all the praise I could give right now, I was genuinely considering giving The Blind Assassin three stars up until the last ~100 pages. There are about half a dozen (maybe hyperbole, maybe accurate) being told here and I felt that the central story wasn't the one I was most interested it. I felt that I just... didn't get it. I still feel that way. But by the end, I had invested so much, wondered so much, and pulled as much of this book apart as I could that I can't deny The Blind Assassin is 100% effective. And I don't think I could really ever give an Atwood novel less than 4 stars just based on how much I feel for them.
It's wont be one of my favourites like I've come to expect from Atwood. The story and characters just didn't have that emotional pull. It was like a story I've heard a million times told in a more beautiful and elegant manner.

Also that cover art is just gorgeous I want it blown up and framed.
The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield I bought this book from a bargain books rack mainly because the casting for the BBC movie is A++ (Olivia Colman, Vanessa Redgrave, SOPHIE TURNER). I really didn't expect it to be such an enjoyable read. It does miss the mark a bit, to be something truly special. It's good, but it never really goes over the edge into great territory despite it's potential. There are just so many missed opportunities that'll keep it in the "light reads you can probably find at any given airport/drugstore/walmart" category. Taking it for what it is - a fun, light, contemporary gothic mystery - it's a quite good book. It piqued my interest in Setterfield's upcoming novel, making it my first (largely premature) christmas gift wishlist entry.
Our Mutual Friend - Charles Dickens, Adrian Poole I figured the rest of my Dickens reading would be a consistent 2 stars, but I blanked out after about two chapters and just kept turning pages. I probably wouldn't even know the basic story if I didn't read the wikipedia plot summary.
At Swim Two Boys - Jamie O'Neill Harrowing and heartbreaking. I'll probably gush about this book in the future, and eventually upgrade it to my favourites shelf. But I still don't believe I can reasonably give it more than 4 stars. I was so focused on the main characters, the main plotline, that I probably didn't pay as much attention to the peripheral characters and historical context as I should have. It could be difficult and quite frustrating to read, with an in-and-out stream of consciousness style and Irish dialect. But it's worth the struggle for the tragic love story at it's core.
Nicholas Nickleby - Charles Dickens, Mark Ford Read a few Dickens and you've read them all. The same characters, the same circumstance, the same stories.
Artemis Fowl - Eoin Colfer It was above average as far as fantasy series for younger readers go, but I think I may have read it about 10 years too late to really be compelled to read further into the series. It's a solid start to a series though, I can completely see it being grouped in with Narnia/HP/His Dark Materials etc as quintessential middle grade fantasy.
Tono-Bungay - Patrick Parrinder, H.G. Wells, Edward Mendelson ok 100% honest i couldn't even tell you what happened, i was basically just turning pages.
Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse #1) - Charlaine Harris Two small southern town supernatural romances consecutively (this and beautiful creatures before it), and Dead Until Dark is the hands down winner. That probably just furthers my theory that I've officially "outgrown", so to speak, YA lit because I can't stop picturing the characters as kids whose silly love lives hold no value to me . I'd rather read about vampire sex.

I won't pretend this is miles above fantasy/supernatural YA romance lit. The kinda bad writing is pretty on par with it, the characterization leaves something to be desired, and the plotline is just as over-the-top border on ridiculous as any YA lit. But if you can put those things aside, you've got a nice little fun read about sex and vampires and murder mysteries. That same argument can be applied to most YA lit, of course, but the lack of YA-ness of Dead Until Dark is why I actually enjoyed it. After a succession of books about the one girl who's not like the rest, the slutty cheerleader foils, the sexy-bad-boy-cardboard-cut-of-a-human inexplicably in love with the empty vessel girl, the parents who just don't understand, reading a book where the length of other girls skirts and how much clothes the main character wears in comparison is not an issue was really refreshing. I guess what I'm getting at is I still like the over the top, trashy, campy, messy supernatural romances, it's just the insecure teenager-ness of it all that's turned me from the genre and led me to kind of enjoy this book.

Critically speaking, this book isn't much. It's a bit of a mess. Sookie is pretty empty-vessely. She cries a lot, has a power that sets her apart from everyone else, and things *just happen* to her. Bill's not really the *sexy bad boy* (I think that's Eric???), he's a decent guy, trying to adapt, trying to figure out why Sookie doesn't like him creeping around her house because girls like a century ago would have loved that. He's a bit like Edward Cullen without all the death threats and if Edward Cullen was absent for like half the book. The slew of supporting characters remind me a bit of a modern Jane Austen novel, with them all being a bit like caricatures of human beings (an overprotective boss, and older many times married best friend/co-worker, a promiscuous kinda underachieving brother, a flamboyant makeup wearing gay cook). Naturally, the leads fall in love in about 15 minutes. Drama ensues. Nobody really deals with that drama the way normal human beings do. Everybody has a super power.

But I liked it. I feel the same way I think most people feel about True Blood at this point. It's a bit terrible but I'm ok with that. I'm probably going to read the next few books in the series. My search for a light, fun series to read may not have been in vain after all.
1Q84 - Jay Rubin, Philip Gabriel, Haruki Murakami So very long, but wonderfully paced and completely engrossing. But there were a few elements of the story and things I could do without. I understand completely why it's one of Murakami's more divisive works, and why people think it's just a pile of nothing.
The Passion - Jeanette Winterson quite a different experience than my first attempt to read it for a second semester university course. i could barely get past the first part then, this time i found it so beautiful and touching. i was left emotional in the end, which is a pretty big feat for me. [cold as ice by foreigner plays softly in the background]
Beautiful Creatures - Margaret Stohl, Kami Garcia Earlier this year, I had an inexplicable urge to read all the huge paranormal/fantasy YA books that were being adapted (this was before the release of The Host and Beautiful Creatures films). I got epubs of some of them(City of Bones, Divergent, The Host, Beautiful Creatures) with the intention to read them, if only for the 'informed hater' status. Based entirely on premise and what I've heard about the books from other people, Beautiful Creatures seemed the least likely to offend my sensibilities and inspire hatred. I was dead wrong. If I could give negative stars, it would be here. I didn't even feel that much hatred at the plagiarized, incestuous, fanfic ripoff that is City of Bones.

The sheer volume of stupid fuckery in Beautiful Creatures made it impossible to contain myself, prompting me to use a wordpad document to make comments (/complete rants) while reading. I intended on c+p that as a review, but I was so burned out by the time I got halfway through that I couldn't even bring myself to open wordpad anymore. There were only so many times I could type "HOLY SHIT STOP" when Ethan repeatedly called all girls who weren't Lena stupid sluttly cheerleaders or some ambiguously racist language and mannerisms were applied to Amma. Instead, I'll just summarize.

This book is trash. Absolute trash. So vilely misogynistic. As a book told from the PoV of a male character, it could not be more obvious that it was written by women carrying a lot of bitterness and insecurity from their high school days. Ethan was a complete teen girl outcast masturbatory fantasy. A teen boy who thought all the blonde cheerleaders were vapid sluts in miniskirts and all the boys who liked them were superficial horndogs. A teen boy who preferred the girl in converse (TRUST THE CONVERSE THING WAS BROUGHT UP A LOT) who carried around books (TRUST AGAIN IT WAS REPEATEDLY POINTED OUT THAT THE CHEERLEADERS NEVER HELD BOOKS). He's not even a Gary-Stu or self-insert, just a complete childish fantasy who needs to point out how terrible every other girl in the world is to justify how ~~~absolutely amazing and perfect Lena is. Lena, of course, being a completely personality-less cardboard cutout of a girl who walks into school with black hair, jeans and copy of To Kill A Mockingbird - a wonderful contrast to all the clone like blonde cheerleader sluts - that naturally our hero immediately falls madly in love with despite her complete lack of substance or personality.

Ethan reduces every single girl in his high school to their appearance, creating a binary consisting of two distinct categories: cool girls not like everyone else with black hair and converse (read: Lena and only Lena) & bleach blonde cheerleader sluts with handbags and miniskirts. And the life lesson here is not to judge people by their appearance. Seriously. Like an entire paragraph about how that is a bad thing to do. Followed by another paragraph about Lena's converse, Ethan's Transformer shirt, and the cheerleaders miniskirts.

I think my search for a nice, fluffy, entertaining light read is in vain.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes -  Arthur Conan Doyle There were a few good stories, and overall the Holmes' series benefits from the short story format, but it's still so tedious.
Tik-Tok of Oz (Books of Wonder) - L. Frank Baum These books get more and more tedious and repetitive...
The Island of Dr. Moreau - H.G. Wells, Patrick Parrinder, Steve Maclean, Margaret Atwood It seems I'm really not into H.G. Wells. I'll read Tono Bungay just to have it read, then I think I'm done with the author.

Currently reading

Jonathan Franzen
Witches Abroad (Discworld, #12)
Terry Pratchett