After coming off the high of reading the Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes, I jumped at the opportunity to read her upcoming short fiction – and a little nonfiction – collection. While I knew her work was dark, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. To be honest, this collection fell extremely short of my expectations. Though I think that may be partially my fault to begin with.

To start, I was unaware of how dark her work generally was. There was a dark theme to the Shining Girls, a time-traveling serial killer; but I thought that had more to do with the plot than the author’s style. I was wrong. I probably should have read another of her books before attempting to pick up this collection. Then I would have known Beukes just has a very dark style in all of her work. Definitely not something I could read all of the time.

All that being sad, I did enjoy quite a few of the pieces in the collection.

Slipping: We are dropped into a world that is not explained in the slightest. There seems to be some sort of race/exhibition going on that is showcasing different medical marvels or advances. I honestly could have read a full-length novel on this subject. Personally, I would have loved to see more world-building to explain why things were going on or even what was going on in the first place. I can understand why there wasn’t any though, you are very limited when it comes to short-length fiction. This being at the beginning of the collection gave me hope for what was to come.

Confirm/Ignore: This felt like Catfish to me, and I loved that. People only show a portion of themselves online, you are left to decide what is real and what is fake. The reason shows like Catfish are addicting is because people are fascinated by others who decide to have a fake persona online. Showing this from the perspective of the person making the fake accounts and weaving themselves in a group of friends, from multiple sides, was just addicting. I wanted so much more. This was one of the shorter pieces of fiction in the collection which made me very sad. I wanted to know what happened next, were they caught in their second fake profile or did they continue undetected?

Ghost Girl: While not as unique as Slipping, this was one of the more original takes on a ghost story. A little girl, killed in a mundane manner, who haunts a boy who can’t complete his big project for class. The fact that the girl died in such a normal way brought the story to a more realistic level, though it feels silly to say that when concerning ghosts. I liked that she didn’t die in some tragic manner that the boy had to help her get over, that made the story less about her and more about her helping him get past his road blocks. Another piece that I could have read more of, the dynamic between the two characters was entertaining.

After reading the Shining Girls, I had numerous expectations for this collection and just found myself underwhelmed. It was not what I expected at all. There were some gems within the collection that I re-read, just to remind myself why I enjoyed reading the author’s works. But overall, not something I would recommend to others. I just found it be dark for the sake of being dark and graphic for the sake of shock. To me, those tactics need to have meaning. Doing them just for a reaction is a cheap ploy that doesn’t sit well with me. All that being said, I do plan to read the Broken Monsters at some point. I think I will enjoy her novel-length work more.

Note: Do your research before you read something, especially if you are new to an established author. You will end up upsetting yourself. Definite warning for Lauren Beukes’ writing, its extremely graphic and dark. If you can’t handle that, like me, then I would not suggest this for you.


Royal Scandal

A prince in hiding, exiled from his home. A matriarchal society. A life-long friendship turned into a fake marriage. All to return home after ten years away. Plus that cover, I’m always a sucker for a good cover. Don’t look at me with that tone of voice. I know I’m not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I’m going to do it anyways.

Royal Scandal hooked me with that premise. I normally wouldn’t go for a contemporary romance. I tend to stick with historical romance whenever I’m in the mood for some love. But I thought I would give this one a shot when I saw it up on Netgalley. Sadly for me, it was another disappointing read in a row. No wonder I’m feeling so slumpy near the end of the year, I haven’t read anything spectacular to end off 2016.

The book opens with Colin and Della meeting for the first time, shorting after he and his family have arrived in the United States after being exiled from their kingdom. He seems like the traditional British prat who doesn’t really pay attention to anyone but himself. In the process, he pisses Della off and has to make amends. This beings their life-long friendship, which we never really see. After that one interaction, we fast-forward ten years. To their “fully-formed” friendship and obvious sexual tension between them. I found all of their interactions with each other to feel incredibly forced, nothing about it felt real. Then their friendship suddenly becomes a fake relationship which turns into them having sex anytime they are able. Literally nothing else changes about the way that they interact with each other, now they just have sex.

A matriarchal kingdom sounded amazing. Except that it doesn’t really explain why it is that way. Then they immediately try to make Colin the king, completely jilting his sister because the government in charge doesn’t like the idea of women continuing to rule them. So there went that ideal quickly. The kingdom they are from, whose name escapes me, is just a rip-off of Britain. I think Della points it out when they first visit. Everyone behaves and speaks just like the British, so much that Colin just pretends he was British the entire time he was in the United States. Their government is run in a similar manner. But they made a point to say that they were nothing like Britain multiple times without actually trying to distinguish themselves at all. This was a really good opportunity for the book that was completely squandered by poor world-building.

The politics of their exile are ridiculous. As soon as things get questioned, the whole story-line just falls apart. Also, there is never a real emotional response to why he was exiled in the first place or what happened to his parents. This just added to the experience of fakeness throughout it all.

We almost never see his siblings, except for the youngest ones which he pretends are his kids. Colin’s siblings only show up to advance the plot or cause conflict between each other. No one speaks to each other like siblings would. Especially not those that lost their parents in a traumatic way and then had their whole lives ripped away from them. A situation like exile to a foreign country should have brought them closer together instead of making them feel like acquaintances. To be honest, it didn’t feel like any of the characters really knew each other in this book. The way they interacted and talked about each other felt incredibly forced or fake the entire time.

I’m not going to even talk about that cop-out of a plot twist. I saw it coming from a mile away.

All that being said, don’t think I completely hated this. I know it may seem like it. But it was just disappointing that everything intriguing about the premise came out fake. It all felt like a sham. However, I’m curious about the next book in the series. I’m hopeful that her story will be better now that the author will have more time to build the relationships between the established characters and they are no longer in hiding from the world. I think if I had read this with normal expectations instead of the high ones I went in with, I would have enjoyed it more. I just expected a lot out of my first contemporary romance in a long time. Overall, I gave Royal Scandal 2/5 stars but I look forward to the next installment of the series.