I’ve lumped these four together because I didn’t really like any of them (as much as that pains me, Kate McKinnon, because I do love YOU) and it’s so hard to write reviews on meh books. So I’m going to bust these out, then move onto some books I really liked.
The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures (The World of Lore #1) by Aaron Mahnke — my “Illustrated” Square
This book was SO highly rated on Goodreads, and I really did not like it, but I’m not sure that’s the book’s fault. Let me explain.
I’m not a huge fan of supernatural stories, but I do enjoy them under two very specific circumstances. 1. If the supernatural element is the whole point of the story and I am in no way expected to believe that any of it is supposed to be really real. Like a Stephen King novel. Stephen King is writing horror stories, you know it’s a horror story going in and therefore it is very easy to suspend your disbelief at the evil clown or haunted hotel or whatever. I also really enjoy novels or movies where a supernatural element is expected or hinted at, and then it turns out that there is a very rational explanation for everything. One of my favorite things is reading the scientific explanations behind miracles — I sound like a lot of fun, huh?
This book is a “nonfiction” collection of supernatural stories. And instead of it being chapters about things like vampires and werewolves which turn out to have a simple, human explanation, it instead seems to be arguing for these things being real, or at least possible. The illustrations are lovely. The research is very interesting. And I know it’s supposed to be fun. But I just couldn’t enjoy it. It was either too serious or not serious enough. And I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I disliked it so much until I read the Harry Potter History of Magic book (that I will hopefully review sometime soon). Once I finished that, I realized how much more I was expecting from Lore and how it failed in my mind. If you do like stories about goblins and fairies and imagining that those things might actually exist in the world, then you should absolutely read this and ignore my bitter ranting.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid
I knew going into it that this book was going to be strange. All of the reviews on Goodreads (and Cannonball Read) indicated that. Everyone either loved it or hated it. But it was short and seemed intriguing (Laurie Notaro liked it!) so I gave it a shot. I read the entire thing, had no clue what happened, but felt too annoyed at the end to start over and try again. So that was a bust.
“I’m thinking of ending things” brings a couple of things to mind. Ending your life? Ending your relationship? Maybe bringing an end to a lie? In this story, the unnamed narrator is driving with her boyfriend Jake to meet his parents for the first time. She’s considering “ending things”, but first they’ve got to get through this dinner. The whole book has this super on-edge feeling — like in a horror movie when you know a scare is coming but you can’t figure out when it’ll happen or where it’ll come from. Mysterious calls, parents that seem a little TOO nice, mood swings from the main character. Then they leave, drive home in a snow storm, and get stuck. And things get weird.
Like I said, I did not understand this book. Judging by the reviews on Goodreads, I am not alone — a lot of the reviews said the same thing I felt when I finished it: “I must be too dumb to understand this one”. Normally, that would spur me into trying harder to figure it out. With this one, I’m cool with letting it fly over my head.
Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett
This book I straight-up hated. All of the others here get a 2-star rating from me, but Mostly Dead Things is maybe half a star. Here’s something telling: when I placed it on hold at the library, it was about a 4 star rating on Goodreads. By the time I read it about 3 weeks later, it had dropped to 3.6.
I knew it was going to be weird, I knew it was going to be gross, but it was just so unpleasant! Jessa-Lynn inherits her father’s taxidermy shop after he commits suicide in it. Her brother is married to her best friend, with whom she is also having an affair. Her mother has decided to abandon any signs of normalcy and has begun at taking apart the taxidermied creatures in order to create sex scenes with them. Everyone in this book is drinking too much, and lying and cheating their way through life. I enjoy dark humor, but this was just…mean.
I actually found the taxidermy stuff pretty interesting at first. Jessa-Lynn reminisces about working with her father, and the love and care he had for the creatures he worked on. I’m not a fan of killing things and stuffing them, but the science behind it was interesting and the love for it seemed real. And the sex scene stuff was funny at first — like an X rated version of Jenny Lawson’s collection. But about halfway through the book, I had completely lost all respect for the characters as they completely lost all respect for life. At one point, the main character and her niece run down a flock of peacocks in their pickup truck in order to taxidermy the remains. I said screw it and shut the novel.
Heads Will Roll by Kate McKinnon, Emily Lynne
Kate McKinnon, I love you. I think you are a gorgeous, hysterical, and immensely clever individual and I have watched the GIF of you winking in Ghostbusters way more than any straight woman should. I was so excited to use my Audible credit to download your original work, Heads Will Roll. And I did listen to the whole thing! But man, this really wasn’t very good.
McKinnon voices Queen Mortuana of the Night Realm and Lynne is her raven (she used to be a princess, don’t piss off sorcerers guys). They’re determined to hunt down the Shard of Acquiescence, which will help them put down a peasant uprising according to a prophecy. They’re surrounded by incompetent generals, useless subordinates and pissed off peasants.
There’s definitely humor here, but it’s just SO overwrought. The whole point is making fun of stories like this, I get that, but the massively overblown caricatures felt more annoying than satirical. One of the funniest parts of the story is Lynne (the princess/raven) trying to date — and she ends up with a prince with a bird fetish. It goes from funny to icky to oh my god enough already. This book was like an SNL episode — stopping every scene a minute or two sooner would have resulted in something much funnier.