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BOOK REVIEW: Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

BOOK REVIEW: Charm and Strange by Stephanie KuehnCharm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Synopsis:

Who is Andrew Winston Winters? No one really knows. Least of all himself. He is part Win, a lonely teenager exiled to a remote boarding school in the wake of a family tragedy. The guy who shuts the whole world out, no matter the cost, because his darkest fear is of himself ...of the wolfish predator within. But he's also part Drew, the angry boy with violent impulses that control him. The boy who, one fateful summer, was part of something so terrible it came close to destroying him. A deftly woven, elegant, unnerving psychological thriller about a boy at war with himself. Charm and Strange is a masterful exploration of one of the greatest taboos.


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Wow. This is going to be a hard one to talk about. I mean, how do you explain a book that’s shrouded in mystery? We don’t know what’s real, what’s imagined, what happened…we are completely in the dark until all the pieces slowly start to fit together. Indeed this is a journey that I don’t see everyone loving, but, for me, it was absolute perfection.

There are wants and needs in this world, I think. There are hopes and guarantees. There are the things that are true and the things we need to believe in. And I’ve seen enough in my life to know I don’t believe in much.

Win’s story is utterly devastating. Whether it’s his past or his present-it doesn’t matter-his life is a sad one. We get glimpses of his past as a ten year old child, always craving positive affirmation from those surrounding him. We can already see he is somewhat tainted in the way he sees the world, which, again, is tragic, and we know something isn’t right. And I’m not just talking about the creatures…..

What is there to say when what’s inside of me is unspeakable?

More and more we begin to see his flinching responses and urges to glare and defend, but we aren’t sure why. And no, this isn’t spoilery or giving too much up-we see in the first two chapters that something, whether it’s easy to figure out or not (thanks a lot Goodreads users, for real), I had quite an easy time seeing what was coming. That’s not to say I knew everything, but I guessed the main issue at hand, as I’m sure many of you will, too. But, and I couldn’t say this any more perfectly than my wonderful blog buddy, Anna, did-It doesn’t matter if you’ve seen spoilers galore, Win’s journey stands on it’s own. From the moment you pick up this story, you know it’s going to be special-You just can’t figure out why.

I don’t want to die and I don’t think I can live.

Win was a character that I will likely not forget for a long time. I can’t explain the essence of Win without possibly spoiling the plot, but I can say that, without a doubt, I fell in love with him. His voice was one of a kind. His struggles, his loneliness, his self-deprecation….It was painful. And the whole time I felt his pain along with him. His stomach issues, his longing to belong as a child slowly slipping away as he becomes a teenager no longer wishing to fit in, but to push everyone away. I mean, it’s just so difficult to read…yet you just can’t stop.

How can the same God that created all this beauty have created me?

Like many books lately I am a tad disappointed in my lack of time to read. Reading in twenty minute intervals with my eyes barely staying open hardly bodes well for a shorter story and, like usual, it effected the flow of the story. This has been happening more frequently than I can handle and it’s starting to really aggravate me. I get that life happens, but come on….this was just a short little book and good lord it annoyed me how little I could get done at once. All I can say is that, while the beginning 50% was disjointed for me (as it’s supposed to be as to keep the reader on their toes, but I was even more disjointed with lack of time (See the bigger dilemma here?)), I got to finish the last 50% in one bug chunk and it made all the difference.

From what I can tell, morality is a word. Nothing more. There’re the things people do when others are watching and the things we do when they aren’t.

So, you know, I stand by what I’ve said. This story is wonderful and weird and it lets you go places rarely seen in such a light, but it is certainly not for everyone-not by a long shot. I think that, while this author is clever and unique, she isn’t ever going to be a favorite of mine. I loved this story-I did-but something about her writing makes me side-eye her frequently. And I really do think I’d have rated this 5 if I’d have had the time to enjoy it. But after the monstrosity that is Delicate Monsters and now this one, I think it’s safe to say she isn’t easy to relate to (book wise). Anywho, that being said and slung to the side, I’d love for everyone to give this one a try. Win’s story is unforgettable-you just have to open your mind.

 

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Awwww look how cute the cover issssss….

Said no one ever.

Anna you know me so welllll >.<

BOOK REVIEW: Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn

BOOK REVIEW: Delicate Monsters by Stephanie KuehnDelicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Synopsis:

From the Morris-Award winning author of Charm & Strange, comes a twisted and haunting tale about three teens uncovering dark secrets and even darker truths about themselves.

When nearly killing a classmate gets seventeen-year-old Sadie Su kicked out of her third boarding school in four years, she returns to her family’s California vineyard estate. Here, she’s meant to stay out of trouble. Here, she’s meant to do a lot of things. But it’s hard. She’s bored. And when Sadie’s bored, the only thing she likes is trouble.

Emerson Tate’s a poor boy living in a rich town, with his widowed mother and strange, haunted little brother. All he wants his senior year is to play basketball and make something happen with the girl of his dreams. That’s why Emerson’s not happy Sadie’s back. An old childhood friend, she knows his worst secrets. The things he longs to forget. The things she won’t ever let him.

Haunted is a good word for fifteen-year-old Miles Tate. Miles can see the future, after all. And he knows his vision of tragic violence at his school will come true, because his visions always do. That’s what he tells the new girl in town. The one who listens to him. The one who recognizes the darkness in his past.

But can Miles stop the violence? Or has the future already been written? Maybe tragedy is his destiny. Maybe it’s all of theirs.

Oh how I disliked this.


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Be good. Be patient.
It whispered,
You’re going to shine.
It whispered,
Just you wait and see.

If not for the fact that this was an ARC I would have left my review from above, but since it is in fact an ARC, I feel I owe everyone an explanation. I think there were multiple reasons I didn’t like this book. For starters, one of our main characters, Sadie, had no sense of remorse. And, while that’s fine in a a lot of stories with me, for some reason it rubbed me the wrong way this time. It’s not so much that I hated her-I didn’t. No, I very rarely fault a character for being who they are. I think it’s more that all she wanted was demoralization of character and chaos…and I guess I just wasn’t in the mood for that.

But that’s not even really a blip on the radar for me. She was actually my favorite character (if it’s possible to have one) aside from Miles. If it had only been a story centered around Sadie, I truly believe I might have given this a 3 or 4-maybe. It’s somewhat interesting to be inside the mind of someone so well and truly messed up in the head. But, on top of psycho Sadie we have, oh Lord what’s the word? We have….let’s just say secretive Emerson, to play coy. He was the reason I was repulsed and I just couldn’t find anything about him to like. So, on top of all of his idiosyncrasies and his lack of protectiveness for his sick brother, we had Sadie and a hardly lucid Miles.

I can’t say much lest I give the plot away, but let me be clear: I don’t mind a messed up story every now and again, but this story was very clearly not written in any way, shape, or form for me. I had nothing and no one to connect to, and the degradation of both humans and animals alike in this story (okay, let’s face it, MOSTLY animals) was too much. I am an animal lover and when multiple animal situations arise in a horror-type story, I don’t take kindly to it-especially when there’s no need.

Maybe none of this would have bothered me if the plot was interesting at all, but as it was, it did. One thing I absolutely have to say before I end this mini-review is a bit of praise for this author: I absolutely adored her writing style. It was very addicting and I could see loving her other works if only because of her writing. I have been advised from one of my best friends for months that Charm and Strange is absolutely amazing and I would fall in love with the main character, and I just haven’t had the time to pick it up. But after seeing the wonderful writing in this story, I’m even more excited to read it, now (I’m pushing aside the bizarre and disturbing incidences from this novel to move forward).

Perhaps any other time this would have worked for me, minus the animal things. Or perhaps not. I just have to take it as it is and realize that not every thriller will be a four star for me, no matter my prior winning streak. So, I’ll take this as it is, and I’ll tell people that they might even like it. If you are one that likes to read something outside the box that will both horrify and surprise you, this is likely the book for you. If not, then you’d likely be taking a large chance you won’t like it if you decide to read it. Either way, it’s just not for me.

*ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

 

BOOK REVIEW – Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

BOOK REVIEW – Charm and Strange by Stephanie KuehnCharm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

No one really knows who Andrew Winston Winters is. Least of all himself. He is part Win, a lonely teenager exiled to a remote boarding school in the wake of a family tragedy. The guy who shuts the whole world out, no matter the cost, because his darkest fear is of himself ...of the wolfish predator within. But he's also part Drew, the angry boy with violent impulses that control him. The boy who, one fateful summer, was part of something so terrible it came close to destroying him. A deftly woven, elegant, unnerving psychological thriller about a boy at war with himself. Charm and Strange is a masterful exploration of one of the greatest taboos.

Note that I’m not usually the biggest fan of books that hold the truth too long but damn, I enjoyed this one way too much to complain.


How to cook an incredible and dark mindfuck?

TAKE an unreliable narrator who I *cough* loved? Am I bad? I mean, to say that the guy is pretty fucked-up is an understatement – even at 10, if I dare to say it. But still, *take a huge breath* I absolutely enjoyed following him and trying to understand his actions – I’m not even talking about his thoughts, otherwise I’d be going round and round in circles, and you don’t want to see that, am I right?

AM I RIGHT?

That’s what I thought.

“From what I can tell, morality is a word. Nothing more. There’s the things people do when others are watching and the things we do when they aren’t.”

What can I say? I find myself in awe of writers who are able to make me CARE deeply about tortured and slightly evil souls, and I can’t deny that here I rooted for Drew since page one, despite his obvious flaws and his batshit crazy behavior at times.

PUT HIM on the layer of several storylines, let’s say, two, settled at 2 different times :
– when Drew was 10 and lived with his family.
– and nowadays, when he attends a boarding school at 16. What? I’m not going to comment on this.

Both storylines bring more and more questions to fulfill this psychological mystery which is Win’s life, and won’t let you indifferent.

ADD A FEW PINCHES of vague sentences like “I know what you’re going through lately”, “I’m such a dangerous person”, “I saw what you did!” and also a lot of “what are you talking about?”, “Is it bad if I like you still?”, “Screw real life I just want to know what happens” ← those are mine.

MIX it all well with a powerful and addictive writing, which blends poetic and sharp sentences in a master way, and haunted me from the beginning to the end.

SEASON with paranormal mental hospital coming of age elements. What? There : I don’t know! Happy now?

FRY the mixture with several awful characters, a creepy and disturbing plot and some crazy feelings – and underneath, the violence lurking. Always, always this violence we can’t outrun.

Congratulations! You’ve been mindfucked pretty well.

You’re welcome.

Warning : Don’t get fooled by my review, this book deals with pretty heavy subjects. And it does it masterfully. Hence the 5 stars rating.

“I am of the sea.
I am of instability.
I am of harsh, choppy waves roiling with all the up-ness, down-ness, top-ness, bottom-ness, contained within my being.
I am of charm and strange.”

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