Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Memory Police [review]

The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa, transl. by Stephen Snyder
Published by Pantheon in August 13, 2019 (originally 1994)
my rating: 3 stars
Goodreads avg:
3.75 (as of 2022-05-25)
Spoiler-free review
Goodreads

I wish I had gotten along with this more, but it was a little flatter than I expected. It was reminiscent to me of 1984 in some ways, although I wouldn’t draw a tight comparison between the two. I thought the titular Memory Police would play a more pivotal role in this, but it felt like they only existed to add stakes to the story. I just felt a lot of “why?” reading this. I could draw connections to colonialism and the erasure of cultures, or the oppression of afab bodies, but it didn’t feel like a fully formed commentary was there. I was largely bored by this and although some aspects were compelling, I felt let down.


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Build Your House Around My Body [review]

Build Your House Around My Body by Violet Kupersmith
Published by Random House in July 6, 2021
my rating: 3 stars
Goodreads avg:
3.87 (as of 2022-05-23)
Spoiler-free review
Goodreads

I’m still not sure whether I read this book or whether it was all a fever dream that I imagined. Build Your House Around My Body spans decades and follows an ever-changing cast of characters through a dark, fantastical story. The ‘main’ character, Winnie, is a Vietnamese-American woman attempting to find herself in Vietnam while slipping deeper and deeper into a depressive spiral.

While I appreciated this story overall, I found myself swinging between bored, confused, and intrigued. Sadly, too much of my time was spent waiting to get to the end of the story rather than appreciating the journey itself. This novel is often difficult to follow, although I was impressed by the way Kupersmith was able to connect the characters to each other. There were many instances where I found myself highlighting lines that would have meant little-to-nothing in another book, but that gave me an ‘aha!’ moment in seeing another connection.

I would recommend this with the caveat that if you don’t like sweeping storylines that take their time to intersect and become clear, this is probably not the book for you. It does have a lot of interesting commentary on colonialism and bodily autonomy, but I struggled to untangle this from the story itself.


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Convenience Store Woman [review]

This post contains affiliate links; if you use these links to make a purchase, I may earn a commission. Thanks for reading!

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata transl. by Ginny Tapley Takemori
Published by Grove Press in August 2019 (originally 2016)
my rating: 3.5 stars
Goodreads avg:
3.72 (as of 2022-05-18)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads | Bookshop

This short novel (or is it technically a novella? I never know) is a pleasantly written examination of societal expectations. It’s set in Japan so while expectations are a little bit different than what I’m used to seeing in my area of the US, I think this is a book everyone can relate to in some way. Keiko has been working at the same convenience store for 18 years and at 36 has friends and family who are concerned about her apparent lack of ambition regarding both her career and romance. Our narrator, on the other hand, is happy with her life. She understands the flow of the convenience store, is able to predict its needs the way one might do with a lover or a child. She doesn’t see the need to expand her horizon, and doesn’t understand why others may be so concerned with it.

This really felt like the perfect length to me; we had plenty of time to understand Keiko’s life, routine, and mindset before the obligatory conflict and subsequent disaster set in. I liked the humor in this and found it easy to get through. It did make me think a lot about how we judge people for not hitting certain ‘milestones’ whether it’s what they want or not. I loved how she was so happy with herself and her life and didn’t understand why that wasn’t good enough for others.

I thought this was great at doing what it was meant to do, but it was just missing something for me, which is why my rating is a little lower. I did enjoy it overall, though, and will be recommending it! Additionally, it is not explicitly stated but I found it heavily implied that Keiko is autistic and aroace. She faces a lot of critique and discrimination for this, so I would make sure you’re in the right headspace to read this if that’s something that could be difficult for you to read!


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Olga Dies Dreaming [review]

This post contains affiliate links; if you use these links to make a purchase, I may earn a commission. Thanks for reading!

Olga Dies Dreaming by Xóchitl González
Published by Flatiron Books on January 4, 2022
my rating: 3 stars
Goodreads avg:
4.03 (as of 2022-05-18)
Spoilers at bottom of review

Goodreads | Bookshop

I liked how complex and easy to root for these characters were, even as they waded through gray areas of morality and made mistake after mistake. Olga is a wedding planner for the elite and her brother Prieto is a congressman. Both of them are of Puerto Rican descent, born and raised in Brooklyn. This novel explores their personal lives as well as the impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria on Puerto Rico itself. 

Olga and Prieto are both middle aged and still dealing with being abandoned (and subsequently emotionally abused) by their mother, although in different ways. Prieto has hidden himself behind a mask that is beginning to crack and Olga has avoided any kind of emotional connections. Prieto begins to question the way he’s been doing things, while Olga meets the odd-yet-endearing Matteo.

This is an interesting examination of familial trauma, race, and gentrification that works in a lot of ways but ultimately tried to hit too many topics. One of my biggest issues was that the ending felt far too neat for me, like González needed to tie everything up in a bow. I felt like we went from realistic literary fiction to a run-of-the-mill romance novel in the 11th hour; it just didn’t fit the tone of everything that preceded it.


Overall, I did enjoy this though, it just ended up knocked down a few pegs for me. Everything from here on is spoiler territory, as there are some aspects of the ending that rubbed me the wrong way. Content warning for discussion of rape ahead. The first is that the ‘third act breakup’ is preceded by Olga being raped and having a complete mental breakdown. It honestly felt like the assault was just a tool to get to this conflict, and could have been replaced by anything else. When she finally tells Matteo, he’s like ‘wow that sucks and it’s not your fault, but you can’t ignore me when you’re upset.’ Like?? Maybe cut her a little more slack dude, she was literally just raped. 

Secondly, one of the unrealistic aspects of the ending is that Matteo just happens to be rich so he can say, ‘oh don’t worry about getting a job, we can just be together and money doesn’t matter!’ How is he rich? He’s a landlord. It’s okay, though! He’s a good landlord! He’s fighting gentrification! By being a landlord! Especially coming right after the ‘sorry you were raped but don’t ignore me’ conversation, this just left a bad taste in my mouth. Matteo is supposed to be a good guy, we’re supposed to be happy. I wasn’t.

Like I said above, this is still a good book. I still recommend it. I just couldn’t love it and have trouble looking past its faults.


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Bookworm Blogging, Monthly Wrap-Ups

April 2022 Wrap-Up

April went by in a flash! I have finals this week and then I’m done with classes for my master’s… forever. I still have to do an internship and a final research project but, no more classes! I took a local job for the summer to have a little break and plan to finish my master’s in the fall. It’s kind of surreal knowing I’m almost there. My sister and I got to go to Nashville this month, and the weather up here is finally starting to look up. As I’m typing this it’s cold and rainy, but it’s been steadily getting warmer out! I can’t wait for the summer and to have more days off to read.

Books Read:

  • The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. DNF, review.
  • The Crown of Gilded Bones by Jennifer L. Armentrout. 3.5 stars.
  • The War of Two Queens by Jennifer L. Armentrout. 3.5 stars, series review.
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell. 4 stars.
  • The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller. 4.5 stars, review.
  • Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber. DNF.
  • The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey. 4 stars.
  • Milk Fed by Melissa Broder. 4.5 stars, review.
  • In the Quick by Kate Hope Day. 2.5 stars, review.
  • A Universe of Wishes edited by Dhonielle Clayton. DNF.
  • Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer. DNF.
  • Be Not Far from Me by Mindy McGinnis. 4 stars, RTC.

Books read: 8 books (+ 4 DNF)
Average rating: 3.81 stars

Other Media:

  • Movies:
  • TV Shows:
    • RuPaul’s Drag Race, Season 14 Eps 13-16
    • Manhunter, Season 1 Ep 2
    • Criminal Minds, Season 7 Eps 11-12
    • The Dropout, Season 1 Ep 8
    • The Ultimatum, Season 1
    • Our Flag Means Death, Season 1 Eps 1-4
    • Barry, Season 3 Ep 1

Short Reads/Watches:

My Month in Photos:

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Milk Fed [review]

This post contains affiliate links; if you use these links to make a purchase, I may earn a commission. Thanks for reading!

Milk Fed by Melissa Broder
Published by Scribner on February 2, 2021
my rating: 4.5 stars
Goodreads avg:
3.59 (as of 2022-04-23)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads | Bookshop

The Pisces was my top book of 2018, so I had high expectations for Broder’s sophomore novel. While I didn’t love this quite as much, I still devoured it. While The Pisces felt like a deep exploration of depression to me, Milk Fed is an exploration of disordered eating. Rachel, the narrator, is a Jewish woman who was raised by an overly critical mother and who uses food restriction as a religion, spending all her time thinking about eating.

I found the portrayal of binge eating in this incredibly spot-on, and thought Rachel’s changing relationship with her body — and Miriam’s — was interesting. I think there are going to be some varying views on the fat representation here and I’m not positive where I fall. Miriam never felt like a fully-formed character to me, but I think that was part of the point: Rachel coveted her in an unhealthy way, obsessing over Miriam’s body the way she obsessed over her own.

Much like The Pisces, I’m not sure who I would recommend this to. It certainly won’t please everyone, but if you’re able to let go and trust Broder I think you’re in for a good ride.


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Movie Reviews, Not Books

Letterboxd Gems XI

Hi everyone! Time for another edition of Letterboxd Gems. As a reminder: every so often I’ll post particularly funny or entertaining Letterboxd reviews from movies I’ve seen recently. If you’ve never heard of Letterboxd, it’s like Goodreads but for movies (feel free to add me if you’d like!) and there are plenty of interesting reviews. I’ll usually sift through them after seeing a film, which is how I got the idea to share them! A lot of these reviews will have spoilers, so feel free to skip through only to films you’ve already seen if you’d like to avoid being spoiled.


Ammonite [2020]

why does ammonite feel like somebody watched an earlier cut of ammonite and wrote unfinished fanfiction about it

sapphical

draw me like one of your fossils

exmichina

no chemistry just geology

yazzjames

The Night House [2020]

Adding half star for having a character’s phone be on a charger while they sleep instead of just keeping it disconnected on the night stand like a sociopath.

brianwcollins

for a moment i thought she’s gonna fuck the ghost like tori spelling in scary movie 2

nadinessie

jump scares should be illegal honestly

suspirliam

My Girl [1991]

I did this to myself and now I have to accept the consequences.

sunset99

I remember the buzz about this movie. A childhood throwback that is the bee’s knees.

spinal_trap

me after watching the bee movie (2007): protect all bees, even the ones who fall in love with humans

me after watching this: fuck bees. they can all choke, especially you, barry b. benson

willhunting

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Paper Palace [review]

This post contains affiliate links; if you use these links to make a purchase, I may earn a commission. Thanks for reading!

The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller
Published by Riverhead Books on January 6, 2021
my rating: 4.5 stars
Goodreads avg:
3.88 (as of 2022-04-17)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads | Bookshop


And I thought: now there is no turning back. No more regrets for what I haven’t done. Now only regrets for what I have done. I love him, I hate myself; I love myself, I hate him. This is the end of a long story.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the blurb: Elle awakens at her family’s summer home the morning after sleeping with her childhood best friend and over the next 24 hours has to decide whether she wants to leave her husband. What I didn’t expect was for this to span decades, generations. While the story itself does take place over only a single day, much of it is filled in with flashbacks that slowly fill in the context until we understand more fully what Elle’s decision truly entails.

I caution readers to take care before picking this up, and to look up the content warnings. Both Elle’s history and her mother’s contain child sexual abuse and rape as well as parental abuse and neglect. I found the reading experience intense and graphic, but not needlessly so. Heller skillfully shows the aftermath of trauma and how tightly it manages to grip you.

The writing in this is truly beautiful, I marveled at the author’s way with words and was shocked to discover this was her debut novel. I cared so deeply for Elle and Jonas and was genuinely invested in their lives both together and apart. I know reading about cheating can be a dealbreaker for some people and while I don’t think cheating is a good thing, love can be complex and I think this was handled realistically and gracefully. Elle is torn between the life she thinks she should have with the husband she truly loves and the life she truly should have had with the man she has been connected to for decades. This isn’t a simple or easy choice and Heller didn’t paint it as such. I also found it interesting that many readers found the conclusion open-ended, I was positive I knew what she had chosen so other reviews surprised me!

My one issue is with a reveal that freed Elle in a way I felt she should have been freed from the start. I can’t go any deeper without spoilers but I will say that while I had no issue with the reveal itself, I didn’t particularly love Elle’s reaction to it.

All in all, I found this to be a beautiful yet devastating novel that will stick with me for years to come. I really look forward to what Heller puts out next and am glad this was selected for the Women’s Prize Longlist, which is what prompted me to read it.

click for content warnings.


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Blood and Ash Series #1-4 (review)

This review WILL be filled with spoilers, as I read all 4 books in one whirlwind and want to discuss them in more detail.

  • From Blood and Ash, 5 stars
  • A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire, 5 stars
  • The Crown of Gilded Bones, 3.5 stars
  • The War of Two Queens, 3.5 stars

I picked this series up because I had heard that there was some drama around the 4th book — specifically drama around a triad that developed. I’m polyamorous and always looking for more rep, so I was intrigued. I couldn’t have imagined that I’d tear through all 4 books (none of them less than 600 pages) in less than 2 weeks. I fell deeply in love with the world and the people JLA created and adored this even more than the ACOTAR series.

The first book follows Poppy, the Maiden — a young woman who is Chosen by the gods and who is not to be looked at, touched, or spoken to. She leads a solitary life interacting with almost no one but her guards and her closest friend, her lady in wait. And the duke and duchess who watch over her. And then Hawke steps into the picture. If you like bad boy romances, you’ll love Hawke. I could not put this book down, loving the relationships between the characters (particularly between Poppy and Hawke).

I was truly shocked by the twists in this. Obviously the Ascended were awful and were doing very suspect things, but I could never have guessed that they were vampires (this series calls them vamprys) taking children to feed on. I had guessed that Hawke was an Atlantian after the scene under the willow tree and eventually also guessed that he was ‘The Dark One.’ And that ENDING! I lowkey love the cliffhangers these books end on, and the first was probably the best.

The second book picks up exactly where the first leaves off and I loved this one just as much. Seeing Poppy develop herself and her powers was great and I loved seeing more of her and Casteel (formerly Hawke). I did get annoyed at times when they were SO CLOSE to talking about their feelings and then didn’t, or didn’t understand each other. But they figured it out in the end. Meeting more of the wolven and the Atlantians was so nice, too. I got very [eyes emoji] about Poppy/Kieran/Cas.

The third book is where I began to tire a bit. Things start to go off the rails and it feels like there’s almost too much going on. Poppy is Ascended, but she’s not. She’s a deity? She’s a god? Who knows! I was shocked that the triad didn’t develop during this book tbh. There is a LOT of [eyes emoji] happening between them. I felt like Poppy was getting a little OP and was confused about how much we were going back and forth on her heritage and who she was.

Book four made my dreams come true, but other than that I was underwhelmed again. It was exhausting reading what I felt like was the same interaction over and over again between Isbeth and Poppy, Isbeth and Cas, Cas and Callum, etc. Poppy is truly OP at this point and just cannot control her temper. There were more shocking reveals that had me throwing my hands up, I can only take so many twists and back and forths before they start to bore me. The end was total chaos.

I’m just glad I finally got my triad, which has been steadily building since book 2. Kieran and Poppy’s interactions in this book made my heart all bubbly and happy. I really hope that their relationship develops more, because right now it definitely feels a little lopsided. I know Poppy and Cas are heartmates, but I’d like things to feel a little more equal. I am intrigued to see where things go, because JLA definitely left it a little vague. I really do hope book 5 is full of threesomes that are a little less chaotic than the one in this book.

Anyway, yeah I loved this series and I’m excited to read more from JLA (and more of this series). But for now, I’m looking forward to picking up some books that won’t keep me up until 2am every night.


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Bookworm Blogging, Monthly Wrap-Ups

March 2022 Wrap-Up

March was good! My birthday was at the beginning of the month and my sister threw a really nice party for me. I got REALLY into the JLA Blood & Ash series, which has taken up several late nights for me. I got a new job at a home goods store. I am so close to being done with classes for grad school (although I still have some other things to finish up before I get my degree). I’m looking forward to this summer!

Books Read:

  • A Libertarian Walks into a Bear by Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling 2.5 stars, review.
  • Near the Bone by Christina Henry. 5 stars, review.
  • Human Acts by Han Kang. 3.5 stars, goodreads.
  • The Changeling by Victor LaValle. 4 stars, goodreads.
  • Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon. DNF, goodreads.
  • Why Fish Don’t Exist by Lulu Miller. 5 stars, RTC.
  • My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh. 3 stars, review.
  • Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl. 4 stars, RTC.
  • From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L Armentrout. 5 stars, RTC.
  • A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire by Jennifer L Armentrout. 5 stars, RTC.
  • Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben. 2 stars, review.

Books read: 10 books (+ 1 DNF)
Average rating: 3.9 stars (nice!)

Other Media:

  • Movies:
  • TV Shows:
    • Love Is Blind, Season 2 Eps 10-11
    • RuPaul’s Drag Race, Season 14 Eps 9-12
    • Monster Factory, Ep 9-10
    • Chris Chan: A Comprehensive History, Eps 1-2 (rewatch)
    • Attach on Titan, Season 3 Ep 8
    • RuPaul’s Drag Race Untucked, Season 14 Eps 2-3, 5, 8-12
    • The Dropout, Season 1 Eps 1-7
    • Criminal Minds, Season 7 Eps 6-10
    • Worst Roommate Ever, Season 1
    • iZombie, Season 1 Eps 1-3 (rewatch)
    • Catching Killers, Season 1 Ep 1

Short Reads/Watches:

My Month in Photos:

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