Bite Sized Reviews

October 17, 2017

Not all the books I read go into reviews, for varying reasons. Because I didn’t finish them; because it would be too much work and I’m feeling lazy; because they’re just not worth it. More often than not, though, those reasons have to do with the Content Review portion, and not with my thoughts (unless it was just so bland I didn’t have any thoughts). So, I thought I’d try out a new feature: bite sized reviews. Titles that didn’t make it into normal full-info reviews, and my thoughts on them. 

These Children Who Come At You With Knives, by Jim Knipfel.

The best comparison that comes to mind is Douglas Adams gone wrong. If you’ve read the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – or any of his books, really – you’re familiar with the random chaotic humor and odd juxtapositions. I think these ‘fairytales’ were aiming for something of the sort, but it’s a much cruder humor, and not nearly as effective. In the end, though, the Hitchhiker’s Guide has bleak, cynical undertones, despite the humor. It says quietly there’s nobody Out There after all, and it doesn’t really matter what you do, because everything is chance and nothing cares.

It seems that the author of These Children Who Come at You With Knives drank from the same bitter cup, but what he gives us is an even more vitriolic between-the-lines message. These stories snarl if there’s anything Out There it hates you, and it doesn’t really matter what you do because you’re human, a broken ugly creature, and there’s no way out of the hatred and cruelty – and if you are silly enough to believe in goodness, you’ll be devoured alive.

100% do not recommend to anyone. Depressing, deeply cynical, and often crude and grotesque.

 

Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore.

The only reason this didn’t get a normal review is because it isn’t fiction! And yet it’s much more engrossing of a story than some (perhaps even much) of the YA I’ve read. Set over a handful of decades in the first half of the 1900s, Radium Girls is the painful, fascinating, outraging story of hundreds of girls and young women crippled and killed by the radium they painted watches with in their daily jobs. In the beginning, radium was actually thought to be good for you and nobody realized just how dangerous it was. But then the women and teenagers begin developing strange complaints…

And yet it’s not primarily a story about the progression of our knowledge of radium and its uses and effects, although that’s a large part. I’d say it’s even more a story about corporate greed, corruption, and outright evil. As the timeline progresses through the book, and more and more workers have spent years working in these factories, it goes from a handful of confusing complaints to a multitude of deaths and clearly connected illness. These women are literally falling apart, radium eating so deeply into their bones that they break on any provocation, huge tumors appearing, many of them living in constant pain. Doctors and scientists are finally able to concur: this is directly related to their work. To the radium we can detect in them.

And the companies shut them down. Repress the reports. Far from closing down the factories, they don’t even implement safety measures, such as changing the policy of painters lip-pointing the radium-dipped brushes. Oh, there’s an option for that at one point; but nobody explains to the painters why. And the workers, paid by the piece, unsurprisingly choose to continue with the faster, easier method.

Yes, it’s sickening to read about just how corrupt humens can be, how far they can go. Read this book anyway. The strength and courage of the women who fight long-drawn out court battles not just for themselves, but hundreds of painters exposed to the deadly material every day, is the counteract to the cruelty of the men essentially responsible for murder. They had been issued a death-sentence, then silenced and hidden, and they fought all the way to their deathbeds. These women deserve to be remembered. 

 

The Anatomical Shape of a Heart, by Jenn Bennett.

He was a walking figure study in beautiful lines and lean muscle, with miles of dark lashes, and cheekbones that looked strong enough to hold up his entire body.

I… uh… does anyone know what this means? If you have an explanation, or better yet a diagram with labels, of what a face with “cheekbones strong enough to hold up a body” looks like, please enlighten me. Are we talking super thick, bulky cheekbones? Perhaps strangely prominent, supportive, cheekbones?

Wait, why do we even care about his cheekbones?

Argh. With stuff like this right near the beginning, this romance wasn’t looking hopeful, but the premise sounded so good I kept going hoping it would get better. (Spoiler alert: it gets worse. A whole lot worse.) Mostly, it was the “anatomical art student MC” line that had me interested, but even that got boring fast when it turns out A) Bex is sneaking around behind her mother’s back to draw cadavers, because her art just has so much potential and her mother doesn’t see it, poor oppressed Bex, and B), Bex is going to whine about what a weirdo she is and how her art just sets her apart and she doesn’t have any friends and on and on throughout the book.

Luckily, she gains a new friend right at the beginning of the book: Jack. Rich, handsome (Or is he? What does his face even look like?), criminal – but, y’know, in a cool way, because he’s a famous graffiti artist – and perfect. No, wait, can’t have that. He has a painful past in the form of a mentally-ill sister, who will give him excellent excuses both for vandalizing and for mysterious, non-communicative behavior later. All better now.

There’s a little bit of romancing that’s actually okay, and then we meet Jack’s friends. Why on earth would we need to know all of their awkward, strange, untoward sexual histories?

That’s about where I noped out, but I did skim the rest – and no, there was no great redemption. An flat, stale story with contrived plot twists and seriously dubious characters, that left a bad taste in my mouth.

 

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