Jam Tomorrow. Jam Yesterday. But Never Jam Today.

Hell Is A Convenience Store at 3AM

Save Yourself - Kelly Braffet


Who made God’s washing machine?
Who made the pointy things that stuck in God’s feet?

Let’s draw comparisons as a jump off point for this one. This book was like that movie Love Actually without the Wet Wet Wet Christmas and with every character living out their own personal versions of hell, taking a trajectory without any conceivable escape. I think I was expecting something along the lines of R-rated Courtney Summers or Hannah Harrington but ended up feeling like I read an exploded, novelization of Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun. Which is all sorts of fucked up, intense, discordant and crazy and will hopefully put off those who get offended by cheating (between siblings no less), statutory rape, underaged sex, bullying, animal cruelty (those poor lobsters!), cults and high school violence. But you, yes you with an appreciation for all things taboo, miserable and dysfunctional characters, you and Chris Cornell will have a field day with this one.

Save Yourself is about two families living in the polar opposites of a town that sounds suspiciously like those TV/movie towns where law enforcement exists in the periphery, and only comes in when the protagonists have already made a mess of themselves. So yes, hell.

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Squirrels As A Metaphor In Romance: Nope.

I Want It That Way - Ann Aguirre


Not all love stories end happily. Sometimes they just end.

I’m a little confused right now so bear with me as I try to process this book. 

This is my first Ann Aguirre book. I’ve first heard of her Razorland series and while that seems to be widely loved by my friends, it’s not named after a Backstreet Boys song so… New Adult it is and hello Ann Aguirre, it’s nice to meet you. 

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I'm Not Beautiful Therefore I'm Awesome

The Young World - Chris Weitz

DNF at 60%

I have seen the future, and it is bacon.

You people with that library of unused, witty snarky gifs will have a field day with this one.

You know whose writing style Chris Weitz reminds me of? Victoria Scott. And know that despite not being able to finish this, I mean no disrespect to either authors in drawing that comparison. I only mean to attempt an intelligent guess on which reader group this book may appeal to. Which is a good thing, because I believe there is an audience for this book. I may have even once belonged in that gallery, which may be the reason why I stuck around longer than I really intended because I kept waiting for my mood to change. 

Maybe if I added a spoonful AND A HALF of sugar in my tea this morning, or if I took the long way to work instead of my shortcut, or if I DIDN’T wear my favourite boots today, maybe I’d look at this a different way and actually laugh when it means for me to laugh. 

But it’s been a week, man. And I’ve only grown steadily grumpier and grumpier. I mean, that effort must have counted for something, right?

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The Middle Zone

The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt


We don’t get to choose our own hearts. We can’t make ourselves want what’s good for us and what’s good for other people. We don’t get to choose the people we are.

I am literally cringing at my screen writing this review because this book has fricking won the Pulitzer. It’s like throwing the penny that bought my glazed thoughts after finishing this and throwing it at the ocean. Which is in some ways quite liberating.

The only reason I’m rounding this to a 4 and not a 5 is because I feel I’d be misrepresenting the extent of my grasp of what this eloquently ponderous book delivered. At 771-pages, this doorstopper was as sprawling as it was personal and it feels like the answer to all my whining about texture and depth and complexity and heart. There’s so many things to be pedantic about and Donna Tartt generously indulges you to think on them. Invites you to stand in the middle zone: “the space where mind strikes reality and beauty comes to being”. So I’m going to call this ridiculous notion of a rating leaving space for the re-read and instead contemplate on how The Goldfinch could easily be anyone’s The Goldfinch.

I wish it was MY Goldfinch but I have a sinking feeling that it’s Sidney Sheldon and Judith McNaught for me. 

For shame.

I wish they aren’t and I wish I am not ashamed of that admission either, but as Theo says, we can’t escape who we are.

I am not a literary fiction reader and I am not the kind of person who cries over a painting. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit a handful of museums in Europe and I can’t help but feel like a pretentious little twat, standing in the midst of all that history and art, entertaining myself with frat-boy humor.

I feel art is an isolationist medium, just one more element to stratify people further apart. It’s the very issue I had with the last thriller I read where Middle Eastern extremists set about to target The Louvre and The David, which, outside the actual body count, I could only fathom to strike terror in the hearts of art history majors and hipsters. 

But this. This made me care. This made me understand the complex power of art through prose that is simultaneously melodious and grungy, depicting the life and times of one Theo Decker: an archive of failures and secrets; sadness and survival; disappointment and nihilist hope. It stems from a rare picture of a bird, the heartbreak that came along with Theo obtaining it and the course his life took in the aftermath. And the series of aftermaths that came along the aftermath. 

It was depressing and uplifting, made of moments of barely restrained tension and indulgent philosophical lulls with characters so intensely created in their detail as emissaries of viewpoints that are equally valid and necessary to be heard.

And if the hearty discussion, the flammable emotions and opinions, favourable or not, this book stoked among it’s readers could not be the best witness to its empirical triumph as a piece of literature, then I don’t know what is.

Go get a copy and shun social life for a couple of days. Before you’ve read enough reviews you’ve practically read the book itself. Before a movie gets made. Before I manage to talk myself into talking specifics about this book.

Run. Don’t walk.

Don't Forget the Cannoli

The Wolf: A Novel - Lorenzo Carcaterra



Sometimes you need to live beyond the reach of the law to bring down those who walked its edges.

Well I am a big fan of The Godfather (who isn’t?) so when I read the blurb and a few of the early reviews for this, I was pretty intrigued by the idea of different criminal organizations coming together to bring terrorists to their own brand of justice. The thought of The Yakuza, The Triads, The Greek Mob and La Cosa Nostra coming together to plot against The Russians, The Mexican Cartel and Middle Eastern Fundamentalists… that’s some seriously amazing Happy Hour.

And them going to the mattresses against each other? It’s like pot and kettle-related hostilities over water boiling talents. Fun times. 

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But Where's The Bear?

The Good Girl - Mary Kubica

The cover and title typography says “I’m smart and edgy! See that reverse ‘R’? It probably means something related to why the blonde chick wants you to keep quiet. Don’t you want to know why?” And you know I’m all over the smart and edgy with the hint of smart, edgy mindfuck.

The blurb says “An addictively suspenseful and tautly written thriller” among other things and who cares if my computer is telling me ‘addictively’ isn’t a word? Fuck you, New Oxford American Dictionary! A rich, pretty girl gets abducted by a stalker into a cabin in Winterfell, Minnesota to extort money from her rich daddy judge! I gave 5-fucking-stars to The Dark Duet! I am so going to enjoy the Stockholm out of this motherclucker! You don’t know me! 

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There's A Shoe in My Freezer

Since You've Been Gone - Anouska Knight


”Some poor beggars go their whole lives not knowing what love feels like. We might never find it again, but at least we know what to look for.”

I really thought I’ve reached the zenith of my contemporary fiction book slump with this one. That point where there’s no other option but read with that forced jaunt of optimism. Because the alternative is learning a new way to say how disappointed you have been or how it was good.. until it went bad or, my personal favourite, how I liked certain aspects in the story but not enough to stave off the persistent wrinkle between my brows as I read along. 

Save for the Kelly Clarkson ear worm I’ve had since starting this, my feelings towards this book roughly follows the same downward spiral it’s been taking so fondly these past few weeks with the majority of my reading choices. I was actually prepared to be embarrassed for liking such a cliched, predictable story early on, only to end up with the embarrassed and none of the liking by the end.

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These Girls Are (Not) On Fi-yah..

The Fire Wish - Amber Lough

I’m going to try and be fair here, because I’ve truly read worse in this genre and I really appreciated the crash course in jinni mythology embedded within the plot. Because what kind of reader raised by Disney would not be drawn to a story like this? And for a while this had the novelty of an under explored mythology going for it. The lush and decadent world building was like an exotic recipe of something familiar made entirely different by the culture, customs and history. But at it’s core this had an unnecessarily convoluted plot delivered by characters who were as interesting as the inside of my eyelids.


For those planning to read this one...


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For When You're Feeling So Happy It's Offensive

Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West - Blaine Harden


”Tibetans have the Dalai Lama and Richard Gere, (the) Burmese have Aung San Suu Kyi, (the) Darfurians have Mia Farrow and George Clooney. North Koreans have no one like that.

Actually North Koreans have imgur, Dennis Rodman and Ken Jeong in Stevie Wonder glasses.

A couple of months back, Petra recommended this book to me after posting this link from imgur. I’m the least literate person I know when it comes to world politics but human depravity is always fascinating even within the harrowing context of non-fiction. And should you bother to check that link, I’m pretty certain you’d be just as compelled to make time for this book. To actually sit down and take a pause from complaining about the Starbucks barista never getting your name right or needing to charge your smartphone when it’s not even lunch time yet. 

Shin Dong-hyuk is a political prisoner born and raised in Camp 14, serving a sentence on behalf of the forefathers he’s never met. Within the concentration camp he is raised not as a person but as a cog in the Juche ideology; with a moral code comprising of ten laws, each involving someone getting shot if not observed. His story is a succession of snitching, scavenging and stealing in order to escape his perpetual state of starvation. Often these would lead into violence, incarceration and more violence that were simultaneously compelling, horrifying and astonishing that a part of me had to doubt the veracity of his story. But at the same time, the explicitness feels beyond the grasp of any stretch of imagination.

Excellent source material for aspiring dystopian writers out there, by the way. I couldn’t have dreamed this scenario if I tried.

I liked that Harden strove to link Shin’s story with the bigger events happening in the country as a whole, though these aspects could’ve been integrated better. How events in the global scale trickles from history to government to the very basic unit of this oppressed society: the man, the machine. 

However, there were redundant lapses and some pacing issues with regards to Shin’s backstory that often sent me into a numb lull from the unrelenting violence and portrayals of hunger. In some ways this helped me in finishing the other book I was reading because for a stretch, I could only read a chapter of this at a time.The first half a bit of a struggle to read through in one sitting but I was thoroughly engrossed with the second, after Shin has escaped from camp as he tries to assimilate in normal society. I can almost see the tearjerking historical fiction book this could inspire but I quite liked the ragged edges and halted progression this took in terms of Shin’s evolution. Because that’s what I had to constantly remind myself: he’s a real person and not a character.

I appreciate that Harden managed to cramp as much world politics as he could (I particularly liked that this addressed South Korea’s perspective from where it stands) in this one. Enough to make this casual reader curious about the rest of the story, about the Kim dynasty and what sparked this collective, for lack of a better term, insanity.

I wish I could end with something clever, something to encourage people to stop liking those Facebook posts to end world hunger, an inspiring passage or a quote. Unfortunately I’m left with none. 

Because as much as this was a book about hope, survival and the strength of the human spirit, it was also about the monsters that we all could be under much different circumstances.

How Very 1% of You

The Geography of You and Me - Jennifer E. Smith


The point wasn’t the distance. It was the homecoming.

God, I just love that sentiment.

And I truly felt that this had a lot of beautiful moments and heartfelt intentions that just got lost in that thick bog of mediocrity with a droning narrative, a climax-less plot, a pair of charmless protagonists and the non-existent chemistry between them. In yet another exercise in frustration, this wasn’t offensively bad, but the stilted potential just shoves the disappointment obnoxiously THERE. Front and center. In. Your. Face.

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Hashtag LoveHate

Into the Shadows -  Carolyn Crane

"There are so many layers to our fucked up layer cake, I don't know how to untangle it," she said.
"You don't untangle a cake, baby," he said. "You eat it."



For all the love I have for Carolyn Crane's Disillusionists Trilogy, I'm a little ashamed to admit this is my first of hers outside that series. While this didn't necessarily disappoint, I'm hard pressed to call the high points winning over the lows. It was good in the sense that the things I didn't agree with didn't make me want to quit but still left an aftertaste that wasn't all that pleasant.

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Don't Let Me Get Me

The Panopticon - Jenni Fagan


I’m just a girl with a shark’s heart.


I don’t necessarily know what that means (can anyone really trust urbandictionary nowadays?) or if I actually understood what Anais was talking about half the time but if there’s one thing I’m certain, my cuss vocabulary expanded a few pages more thanks to this book. And ming-fucking-mong is a new favorite.

Sometimes, you can just tell from the cover/title combo. Hard as we may try to not judge books by their covers, we do. And this book looks pretty intimidating. Any of The Panopticon’s edition appears to promise a lobotomy in the form of distressing accounts, evocative, visceral prose and hours of guessing and second guessing whether you’re understanding things right and what it says about you. 

And since I’m staring so intensely at my screen right now it would’ve called the authorities if it could, I think this delivered on those promises, maybe more. It varies for every reader of course, but Fagan managed to satisfy some latent fragments in my personality. Unfortunately it also left gaping holes of dissatisfaction from my end. Because this was not an easy adventure, structurally and thematically, to get into and the emotional payoff tepid, murky and this side of confusing. So overall...

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An Unnecessarily Convoluted Decepticon Plot

Hold Me Tight - Talia Quinn


”This job is changing you.”
“Is that good or bad?”
“Change is like new clothes. It all looks good on the rack, but then it takes a while to figure out if you made the right choice. It’s got to feel good on you, right?”

This book is a shining example of cliche done ALMOST right. And it’s been a while since I enjoyed a predictable, contemporary romance book that I can ALMOST turn a blind eye over the things that didn’t work for me except this forced me to do something I’ve never done since fourscore and four years ago… I made a table.

I had to. It was practically impossible to keep track of who knows what and the implications of their actions. I was fully prepared to bust out my mad tabular skillz for a high fantasy book, perhaps a detailed historical… definitely not a book about childhood friends who became young adult lovers, broken up then reunited eleven years after in a corporate setting. 

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Tense. Taut. Science.

The Forever Man: A Near-Future Thriller - Pierre Ouellette


”Most of us spend our lives waiting for something. The last thing we wait for is to die.”

The thing with being a rabid consumer of all things pop culture is that it takes a bit of effort not to get distracted whenever you recognise the similarities. And while these are probably largely unintentional on the part of the author, any scene or exchange feels palpably reminiscent from a different book, any character seems like an amalgam of this movie hero and another’s protagonist. This didn’t necessarily prevent me from enjoying this book, but it did get a little exhausting. 

The plot operates with some of the elements in Gattaca andElysium with shades of Neal Shusterman’s Unwind series in the latter half. Every time Thomas Zed walks in, I get a mental picture of Mr. Burns from The Simpsons without fail. And since this is “hard” science fiction (a sub-genre I just learned), I had to tap back into my old Molecular Biology lessons. Because Ouellette knows kung-fu. Science Kung-fu.

So yes, exhausting. 

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Relative Disappointment

Lex and Lu - J. Santiago

He’d met the love of his life at age eight.

This will make very little sense, I promise.

I really, REALLY want to give this a three. Because there's a lot to appreciate about a book serving a predictable, schmaltzy storyline (which I'm a sucker for) with the visible effort to avoid the go-to pitfalls of this cliche-infested genre. The love triangle, the slut shaming, the insta-love were all thankfully missing from this novel.

But I just can't. 

At it’s core Lex and Lu had the usual suspects and familiar ingredients of a Marchetta contemporary: two families intertwined, childhood friends to lovers to distant strangers, the second chances they are given, the devastating secret, the meddling parents, the secondary love story between the heroine’s sister, Willa and the hero’s brother, Pete. Hell, somebody even dies. 

Except everyone’s an asshole to Lex and he does a very good job at being an asshole back.

And everyone’s telling me Lu’s this intellectual brainiac because she has a doctorate on something something psychology and uses big words like ‘antiquated’ in regular conversations.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

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Blue - Lisa Glass

This is my third surf-themed contemporary romance read so far and I really have no explanation why I keep picking them up. Maybe its my non-tanning, sedentary Asian ass' way of living vicariously through the pages. Or maybe it's my inexplicable attraction towards the blonde, bodacious (somebody needs to kill that word. Yesterday.) half-naked men (or just droopy pretty male nipples, really) in their covers. I also have an unhealthy love for Garlic-flavored SPAM for which I also have no excuses for, but I'm pretty sure one has something to do with the other. In my previous attempts at this very specific, very alien genre, I can't say my unnameable expectations had ever been met and this book unfortunately continues with that tradition.

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