I went from reading around 30 books a month in two languages to hardly reading any, because I lapsed into the ‘I’m gonna re-read the hundreds (if not multiple thousands) of fanfics I have on my Kindle again’ phase.

(And I have a weird relationship with fan fiction, where I have a couple of specific fandoms, two which are based on TV shows I’ve never watched a single episode of (and not going to), and another one is Star Trek, and mostly skip the porn and any lengthy angsty staff, and focus on fluff-and-comfort and weird comedy AUs.)

Problem is, there is only one kind of books I want to read, and it often feels like it’s the opposite of what ‘publishers’ and ‘public’ believe constitutes a good book.

In fact, the only books I would say fitted into the ‘what I need from a book’ the closest were self-published books with a relatively small fan base.

And what I need are the books that make my life better, that bring something positive into it. Books that are not based on the nauseatingly popular ‘angst is cool’ and ‘death, gore, suffering, and pain are even cooler’ presumptions.

I went through the phase when I read all kinds of books the world has to offer—the classics, the dead white guy hits, the award winners, the problem works—when I was a teenager. I had two good English Lit teachers in high school who also chose books meant to teach you something (Color Purple, Black Rain, 100 Years of Solitude, etc). I also did my postgrad thesis on women’s literature, including people like Tony Morrison, Joan Didion, Dorothy Alison, Loise Erdrich, and others.

And the thing is, that was more than enough. I don’t need any books that try to teach me about monsters in my life anymore. The things people call ‘profound’ and ‘raw’ and ‘deeply influential’ and ‘unsettling commentary’, with all the ‘exploring the challenges ans struggles’. I don’t need books that focus on the portrayal of horrors, pain, human problems, conflict, hatred, prejudice, drama, and all the other negative things that for some reason are considered to be a must-have for a book to be a bestseller. It’s like people think that a story is only worth telling if there’s pain or sadness in it. Like ‘good’ is not enough to be interesting.

I need books that banish and eradicate horrors, pain, human problems, conflict, hatred, prejudice, drama. Books that focus on good, happiness, love, and comfort.

And honestly, I don’t get why they are so hard to find. Why people are so obsessed with angst and drama that they think a book cannot be considered a book unless it has some hurtful drama in it.

It’s why I binge-read so many weird romances in the last year, because they felt like the closest you could come to literature made for fun and comfort, but then even the silliest comedy-romance books (in any genre) would have some ‘weird unnecessary drama’ phase around 70% into the story, like they all went through the same cookie cutter. Like someone told all writers and publishers that a book won’t sell if you don’t put some unnecessary angst and stupid drama into exact same spot in every book. And I’ve literally read hundreds of them, and found out that about 90% follow the exact same pattern.

Right now, I believe that books that don’t make my life better—and I don’t mean some “educational” and “how-to” crap, I mean the books that make me feel better, that bring me positive emotions, that make me smile, that take me somewhere where I don’t need to deal with angst, pain, and drama—are just not worth my time anymore. Why would I willingly spend my time on something that bring me negative emotions? Why do other people do?

So once again I find myself too tired of angst and drama to open any of the 100smth unread books I have piled in my apartment, and am hiding in a ton of fluffy fanfiction instead.

Skinwalker (Jane Yellowrock, #1)

Skinwalker by Faith Hunter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It really is a good feeling when you like a book much more than you expected to.
It’s well-written, complex, thought-through, unique, and fun.
I’m not really a fun of vampire themes (the whole sex-and-dominance imagery ticks me off more often than not), so when a book touches on those images, but lures me in with other good and fun qualities enough to make me ignore them, it matters heavily.
Looking forward to discovering in which directions this series goes from here on.

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Shammed

Shammed by Bernadette Franklin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

These books make me happy.
They are not for reading in overly sceptical and realistic moods, they are for reading for fun and to feel good.
I snickered on the parts regarding toilets (because washlets with glowy parts, button panels, and automatic lids are more of the norm around here even in some public restrooms), had a sad sigh on the topic of refurbishing an entire big dream house in 3 weeks for just half a million (I know people who can’t find a way/people to do it for almost 2 years already), pretended that I would’t myself run away and refuse to return to a room with a tarantula in it, wondered if 10,000 trashy romance novels would fit in my apartment even I got rid of all furniture and packed the books from floor to ceiling, like into a box … and generally had a lot of fun reading this disregarding of any realities.

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No Kitten Around: A Magical Romantic Comedy (with a Body Count)

No Kitten Around: A Magical Romantic Comedy by R.J. Blain
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sadly, this might be the only MRC(wBC) book I wasn’t able to get behind 100% so far.
My reasoning is very spoilery, read at your own risk.

(view spoiler)

For this reason, I just couldn’t get behind the character of Kennedy with all her behaviour. It’s a personal preference. Sometimes some things just really don’t agree with you. Consequently, unfortunately, it also led to me being unable to fully get behind the main characters as well, with the whole stance on love-and-hate issue. And then…the book sort of just fell apart for me.
The amount of ‘beatings’ I found excessive and boring at the same time didn’t help either.

I still think there are a lot of fun(pun) parts in this book, and the main ‘conflict’ wasn’t bad at all, but it sort of took too much of a background role to more uninteresting parts, inho.

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Level Grind (The Twenty-Sided Sorceress #1-4)

Level Grind by Annie Bellet
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had a very loopy experience when I first began reading this…because I may not be a secret sorceress, but I translate from Japanese and Russian, speak nerd, and work in gaming (and there was some other similarity I forgot by now), and for a while there I was all ‘Um… Hi, Ms Bellet, do we know each other?’ … But then of course I reached the point where the main character says she speaks all languages, and calmed down.
I think a lot of people who read this would draw some parallels with ‘Kate Daniels’ series: a sorceress, a scary-scary older sorcerer after her blood, a big alpha cat, Russian, Japanese, gory battles, shifter society, being badass and usually passing out afterwards… There are definitely some similar points, but of course these are very different books.
The stories here are on the shorter side, but are filled with action, lore, fun characters, and nerd speak.
My only real complaint is that, while the nerd elements and romance make an attempt to lighten the mood from time to time, it doesn’t really work, and the overall mood of these books is rather too grim and angsty with not enough reprieve to keep the reading experience actually enjoyable.

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Midnight Angel (Stokehurst, #1)

Midnight Angel by Lisa Kleypas
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

If I knew this story involved ‘Russians’ I don’t think I would ever have picken it up. Because people trying to write from a point of view of real cultures that they don’t belong to and not doing a good job out of it a big pet peeve of mine. Yes, the author tried to do her research. She even used some words right.
But, imho, if you’re writing about a culture you don’t belong to, the least you could do is try not sounding like you’re an absolute authority on the subject. The whole ‘all Russians are like this’, ‘this is definitely unacceptable for Russians, and when the character shows her temper ‘it must be Slavic blood’ moments and phrasing made me see red in places. It’s was just not done smartly. And no, references to Russian culture did not read authentic in this book. At most, it sounded like a mix of weird stereotypes and things one could’ve picked up about the Russian society in 90s, not Imperial Russia. Also, words that don’t exist in Russian language. (And then I started wondering, what if the parts/books about England and English are equally inauthentic and just didn’t bother me because I never studied the period/culture closely to notice the wrong details?…And it kind of spoiled the whole book for me.)
The character of Lucas is interesting, though he jumps from being strong, smart, and reasonable, to fits of rage and lust, to indifference and mild scumbaggery. Anastasia, equally jumpy from one personality to other, but hardly any different from any other English heroine. If she was supposed to be? Then the weird supernatural elements. And those, mixed with sex and the whole attempt to base the book on a foreign culture, made the whole book feel like a mess.
Yet, I do suspect, that for those who know nothing of either cultures and don’t care about how they are written, this could be an enjoyable read.

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Twice Tempted (Night Prince, #2)

Twice Tempted by Jeaniene Frost
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m very much on the fence with these books. On one hand, I enjoy how readable they are, how gripping the story is, and that there are many things that I like about the characters. I feel like this is a very well-written series.
On the other, I constantly feel like I’m closing my eyes on things that are sending alarms blaring in my head. First of all, the over-fascination with gore and torture. As we have established in the previous book, the torture is employed here mostly as a favourite pass time. It’s not necessary. They do it because at the very least they are too used to it even consider in excessive, and they might actually enjoy it. Then, there is still the issue with certain character settings and developments not really ringing/reading true. The vampires here just don’t really feel like I can believe that they were around for centuries. And, more importantly with this book, have been around each other for centuries. There are certain developments in this book specifically, where it didn’t feel believable that characters would act in a certain way if they were who we were supposed to believe them to be.
There are very glaring rifts between character settings and their actions here that just keep bothering me.
I don’t want to go too in detail with spoilers, but there were a lot of development in this book that I felt just don’t sit well with me. Side characters being thrown away left and right, main character changing in a way that makes me feel she is going to embrace her ‘dark side’ too much and then actually lose all those qualities that kept me reading these books…
I don’t know. It’s a well-written book, but it didn’t make me excited to keep reading the series… At most I’m in a ‘I’ll try the next one will just hope that it doesn’t go where I’m afraid this is going’.

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Silver Thaw (Mystic Creek, #1)

Silver Thaw by Catherine Anderson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A very standard ‘rescue story’ about a woman with a little girl trying to escape abusive marriage and meeting a man with almost unlimited kindness, money, and patience who saves her first from weather disaster and poverty, and then from her past.
While this book tries very hard to go through all the emotional and legal pitfalls that can happen in these situations, it overdoes it a little. When you chew on the same ideas and sentiments over and over again they sort of lose their sincerity, and that’s what happens here. The first half of the book is marginally better; by the last 150 pages or so it turns outright laborious and as difficult to chew through as old stale bread.
Another big problem of this book is the ‘cardboard cinderella’ image of its main character, who is simply beautiful, innocent, is a of course genius cook, and loves cleaning.
This message, that you have to be young, beautiful, perfect housewife to be a heroine of a rescue story such is this is really not a right one to send.

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