Bookworm Blogging, Monthly Wrap-Ups

May 2019 Wrap-Up

Books Read:

  • Normal People by Sally Rooney. 5 stars, review.
  • Your Tarot Court by Ethony Dawn. 4 stars, review.
  • Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi. 5 stars, review.
  • Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. 5 stars, review.
  • The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. 3 stars, review.
  • The Vanishing Season by Dot Hutchison. 2 stars, review.
  • Delay, Don’t Deny by Gin Stephens. 4 stars, review.

Books read: 7
Average rating: 4 stars

Other Media:

  • John Wick [2014]. 3.5 stars. Fun shooty guns.
  • John Wick: Chapter 2 [2017]. 3.5 stars. Yeah, I got into John Wick this month.
  • John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum [2019]. 3 stars. YEAH, I got into John Wick this month. 😂
  • Detective Pikachu [2019]. 3.5 stars. Not an objectively good movie, but loads of fun as a Pokemon fan!
  • Game of Thrones, Season 8. I don’t even want to discuss it.
  • Law & Order: SVU, Season 14 Ep 7 – Season 15 Ep 17. Hmm maybe sharing how much SVU I’m watching will motivate me to watch less, HA.
  • Killing Eve, Season 1 Ep 1. This has come highly recommended so I’m excited to watch it!
  • The Bachelorette, Season 15 Eps 1-3. There’s a bar in Somerville that airs this weekly, so I got caught up and went with my friend. It’s my first season of any Bach show and it is… quite interesting. 😂

Notable Posts by Others:

My Month in Photos:

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Vanishing Season [review]

The Vanishing Season (The Collector #4) by Dot Hutchison
Published by Thomas & Mercer on May 21, 2019
my rating: ★★
Goodreads avg: 
4.27 (as of 2019-05-28)
disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. All of the opinions presented below are my own.

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website


A recent abduction becomes an unexpected link to a decades-long spree of unspeakable crimes.

Eight-year-old Brooklyn Mercer has gone missing. And as accustomed as FBI agents Eliza Sterling and Brandon Eddison are to such harrowing cases, this one has struck a nerve. It marks the anniversary of the disappearance of Eddison’s own little sister. Disturbing, too, is the girl’s resemblance to Eliza – so uncanny they could be mother and daughter. 

With Eddison’s unsettled past rising again with rage and pain, Eliza is determined to solve this case at any cost. But the closer she looks, the more reluctant she is to divulge to her increasingly shaken partner what she finds. Brooklyn isn’t the only girl of her exact description to go missing. She’s just the latest in a frightening pattern going back decades in cities throughout the entire country. 

In a race against time, Eliza’s determined to bring Brooklyn home and somehow find the link to the cold case that has haunted Eddison – and the entire Crimes Against Children team – since its inception.


First and foremost, I need to give my thanks to Rachel who has been with me for every step of this journey (I also reread her review of The Summer Children and realized it said everything I was trying to say below, but better). By which I mean she has put up with my endless livetexting of this godforsaken novel and my incredulity whilst reading it. Which comes across as rude, but I’m not sure I would have made it through without someone to vent to.

While writing negative reviews can be freeing in a way, I’ve been dreading writing this one. I absolutely adored Dot Hutchison’s first novel in this series. The Butterfly Garden was everything I wanted in a thriller, and I was absolutely blown away by it. I could not put it down! Shortly thereafter I read The Roses of May and while my review was glowing, my star rating slowly dropped the more thought I gave to it. The Summer Children peaked in quality a bit more, but the depth of focus given to the agents’ relationships, which many had critiqued in The Roses of May, finally began to irk me. The Vanishing Season takes it to a whole other level.

The problem with these books is that they force you to completely suspend your disbelief regarding professionalism and appropriate workplace behavior. There’s a time and a place for cutesy stuff like this, but FBI agents actively working a case ain’t it. It’s to the point where I hesitate to call this a thriller, or a mystery. While the last two books at least had some sense of danger and urgency, The Vanishing Season is honestly nothing but fanservice. The tonal shift is enough to give you whiplash.

I’m not saying that books need to mirror reality perfectly and most thrillers do require you to suspend your disbelief a bit, but it would take some serious mental gymnastics to think that a law enforcement team could actually function like this without crashing and burning, or at least getting a serious talking-to from an internal affairs department. I lost track of all the things I could not believe were happening. Agent cuddle parties. They all live next to each other! Always joking about the boy being outnumbered by LOL GIRLS (realistic but annoying). Her boss kisses her on the CHEEK? Literally everyone talks about the MC looking like an 8-year-old girl constantly and I’m seriously done with women being infantilized.

Aside from that, the excess of unnecessary detail was… overwhelming. I wish I had highlighted examples as I came across them because there were so many. In instances where a sentence or two would have conveyed a process just fine, a full page is used instead. There was so much infodumping that I just didn’t understand, and it came across as the epitome of telling instead of showing.

It sucks because between all the stuff I didn’t like, there was so much promise. The crime of the week could have been so much more interesting had it been expanded on, but it became more of a background to everyone’s personal problems. There was a really interesting exploration of realizing one had been abused that would have hit so much harder if it hadn’t been crammed together with a dozen other things. I feel like this book just tried to do everything at once and ended up shooting itself in the foot because of it. It’s a bummer because we all know Dot Hutchison is an incredible writer; The Butterfly Garden was kind of a masterpiece imo. The rest of the series was just an entirely different kind of writing.

So, unfortunately this really wasn’t for me and I can’t say I recommend it in its current state — I can only hope that some additional edits were made between the ARC and the finished copy. I guess if you’re obsessed with the characters and want to see them spend all their time goofing around or having Serious Emotional Moments together, this is the book for you. If you’re looking for an actual thriller/mystery, keep looking.


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Book Tags, Bookworm Blogging

T10T: Books Published in the Last 10 Years

ttt-new

Top Ten Tuesday was originally put together by The Broke and the Bookish and has been taken over by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is favorite books released in the last 10 years — with 1 book per year!

2010 – Sex at Dawn

There are a lot of criticisms out there for this one, but I found it to be an interesting history of human sexuality. And quite validating as a polyamorous queer woman! Review.

2011 – Wool

I’m not sure what the actual publication date is for Wool, but we’ll go with 2011. I just LOVE this sci-fi novel; I read it for the first time around 2012 or 2013 and then re-read it again this past winter. It holds up on a re-read and I cannot recommend it enough.

2012 – The Raven Boys

Aaa, I can’t believe it’s been so long since The Raven Cycle began! Review.

2013 – Vampires in the Lemon Grove

Ah, I adored this when I first read it! I’ve actually been meaning to re-read it sometime soon.

2014 – Annihilation

Wow, 2014 was a tough one, but I AM gonna have to go with Annihilation. Review.

2015 – A Head Full of Ghosts

I really loved the A Head Full of Ghosts audiobook and can’t wait to get a physical version to re-read and compare it to! Review.

2016 – The Fireman

Something else I’ve been intending to re-read! A nice mix of sci-fi and horror in this one.

2017 – Strange Weather

Uh oh, Joe Hill two years in a row! This is why he’s become an auto-buy author for me. Review.

2018 – The Pisces

This one was easy peasy. 😉 I love The Pisces so, so, so much. Review.

2019 – Red, White & Royal Blue

I wasn’t sure whether or not to include 2019 since we’re not even halfway through, but figured it would be fun to see what my top book was so far! Is anyone surprised by this one? Review.


What have been your favs of the last 10 years? Link to your T10T in the comments so I can see!

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Book Tags, Bookworm Blogging

The “I Should Have Read That Book” Tag

Shouts to Ally for tagging me in this! Please check out her blog, she has a lot of good posts. 🙂 I am one of the biggest perpetrators of “I should have” or “I’ve been meaning to” when it comes to books, so I love this.


Rules

  • Thank the person who tagged you and link back to their post
  • Link to the creator’s blog (booksnest.co.uk) in your post
  • Answer the questions below
  • Tag 10 others to take part
  • ENJOY THE TAG!

A book that a certain friend is always telling you to read.
My sister keeps telling me to read Where You’ll Find Me and she has a copy annnnd we live together so I have no excuse as to why it’s taken me so long.

A book that’s been on your TBR forever and yet you still haven’t picked it up.
Bad Feminist is literally the book that’s been on my TBR the longest, and I haven’t read it because I want to buy a copy but at this point I should just use the library, ha.

A book in a series you’ve started, but haven’t gotten around to finishing yet.
I loooved Sleeping Giants, so I really needed to get to Waking Gods.

A classic you’ve always liked the sound of, but never actually read.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier!

A popular book that it seems everyone but you has read.
Throne of Glass, I feel like it’s such a popular series and I haven’t read any of them!

A book that inspired a film/TV adaptation that you really love, but you just haven’t read it yet.
I really enjoyed The Shining film but I haven’t read the book yet!

A book you see all over Instagram [Twitter] but haven’t picked up yet.
These Witches Don’t Burn has been everywhere lately and I wanna read it so bad but haven’t yet!


I just tagged a ton of people the other day, so I tag anyone who would like to do this!

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Silence of the Girls [review]

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
Published by Doubleday Books on September 4, 2018
my rating: ★★.5
Goodreads avg:
3.88 (as of 2019-05-22)
Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

The ancient city of Troy has withstood a decade under siege of the powerful Greek army, which continues to wage bloody war over a stolen woman—Helen. In the Greek camp, another woman—Briseis—watches and waits for the war’s outcome. She was queen of one of Troy’s neighboring kingdoms, until Achilles, Greece’s greatest warrior, sacked her city and murdered her husband and brothers. Briseis becomes Achilles’s concubine, a prize of battle, and must adjust quickly in order to survive a radically different life, as one of the many conquered women who serve the Greek army. 

When Agamemnon, the brutal political leader of the Greek forces, demands Briseis for himself, she finds herself caught between the two most powerful of the Greeks. Achilles refuses to fight in protest, and the Greeks begin to lose ground to their Trojan opponents. Keenly observant and coolly unflinching about the daily horrors of war, Briseis finds herself in an unprecedented position, able to observe the two men driving the Greek army in what will become their final confrontation, deciding the fate not only of Briseis’s people but also of the ancient world at large.

Briseis is just one among thousands of women living behind the scenes in this war—the slaves and prostitutes, the nurses, the women who lay out the dead—all of them erased by history. With breathtaking historical detail and luminous prose, Pat Barker brings the teeming world of the Greek camp to vivid life. She offers nuanced, complex portraits of characters and stories familiar from mythology, which, seen from Briseis’s perspective, are rife with newfound revelations. Barker’s latest builds on her decades-long study of war and its impact on individual lives—and it is nothing short of magnificent.


I didn’t feel like anything that might have a name.

I had quite high hopes for The Silence of the Girls, which unfortunately just weren’t met. The best way to describe my reading experience is resounding apathy. Feeling apathetic whilst reading about a woman taken into slavery during war seems wrong, but here we are. I’d attribute this to a few things: the fact that I hadn’t read The Iliad before, the standoffish way I felt the story was narrated, and the fact that the POVs were not limited to Briseis, or even only to women.

I mentioned my lukewarm reading experience to Rachel, who noted that she wasn’t sure how much this book would hold for someone who wasn’t very familiar with The Iliad. While I knew bits and pieces of the story, my knowledge was really limited to its portrayal in The Song of Achilles as well as whatever I had picked up through osmosis throughout my life. As such, this was less of a retelling for me and more, well, a telling. On its own, I’m not sure the story stands as well as it would if I had more of a background with its greater context.

So we spent the nights curled up like spiders at the centre of our webs. Only we weren’t the spiders; we were the flies.

Briseis herself is quite terse throughout her narration. While she slips into emotional points, I found myself feeling untouched for most of the book. I’m certain others may disagree with me here, and I definitely think that this is quite a subjective opinion on my part. And I understand how this can be demonstrative of what she’s gone through — trauma can make or break us, and it’s clear that the Trojan women must put up walls in order to make it through the war without breaking entirely. I just wish I could’ve seen this in a way that didn’t make me feel distant from her as well.

Lastly, I was really drawn to this story as giving a voice to women traditionally silenced. So much of the focus of history is on the heroism of men and very little is on the women who they have been supported by, or who they trod on. And yet more than once the point of view is handed to Achilles, the very man who is actively oppressing Briseis. Whatever reason this may have been for, I didn’t feel that it enhanced the story for me. Quite the opposite, the first time it happened I felt jerked out of whatever immersion I was experiencing and had to reread a bit to ensure it was really happening. Each time thereafter it felt out of place and I couldn’t help but wonder what it would have been like had the book kept its focus on Briseis, or at least stuck to the perspectives of the women.

Now he can see what he’s been trying to do: to bargain with grief. Behind all this frenetic activity there’s been the hope that if he keeps his promises there’ll be no more pain. But he’s beginning to understand that grief doesn’t strike bargains.

Criticisms aside, I can see why others enjoyed this. I can certainly see why it was included on the Women’s Prize shortlist. I wish that my experience with it had been better, but alas. While it wasn’t quite my cup of tea, I do recommend trying it out if it seems to interest you. Particularly if you have more of a history with Greek mythology than I do! Hopefully my next pick off the Women’s Prize list treats me a bit better.


More Women’s Prize 2019 Longlist reviews:
The Pisces
Ghost Wall
Ordinary People
Circe
Lost Children Archive
Praise Song for the Butterflies
An American Marriage
My Sister, the Serial Killer
Normal People
Freshwater
The Silence of the Girls

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Book Awards, Book Tags

Mystery Blogger Award

Meeghan was kind enough to nominate me for the Mystery Blogger Award. Go check out her blog, she has some great posts!

What’s the Mystery Blogger Award?

“It’s an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging, and they do it with so much love and passion.”

Okoto enigma

Rules

  1. Put the award logo/image on your blog
  2. List the rules
  3. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog
  4. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well
  5. Answer the 5 questions you were asked
  6. Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
  7. You have to nominate 10 – 20 people
  8. Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog
  9. Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify)
  10. Share a link to your best post(s)

Questions

  1. If you had to describe yourself in three characters, which ones would they be?
    Ooooh, that’s a tough one… Probably Lucy from The Pisces, Daine from The Immortals series, and umm I’m blanking on a third!
  2. What’s one of your fave songs? (and share the clip if it’s got one!)
    Right now one of my favs is Rich Life by Eric Nally!
  3. What’s your go-to book recommendation?
    House of Leaves!
    But with the caveat that it’s somewhat intense and definitely a commitment. I’ve also been recommending Ask Me About My Uterus incessantly since I read it.
  4. List three things you are either grateful for, or that you like about yourself.
    I like my eyes, my makeup skills, and my sense of humor! 🙂
  5. [Bonus/funny question] If you could take any animal and make it the size of another animal, what would you choose, and why?
    Omg I want a snow leopard the size of a housecat so I can have it as a pet but also not get mauled!

About Me

  1. I’d eventually like to move to the southern US (I hate winter!).
  2. At one point I had four (4) cats living together under one roof.
  3. I used to be an avid horseback rider.

Nominating

  1. Ally
  2. Hannah
  3. Destiny
  4. Wendy
  5. Rachel
  6. Callum
  7. Emily
  8. Naty
  9. Becky
  10. Hannah

My Questions

  1. What’s the best movie you’ve seen recently?
  2. How often do you make music playlists?
  3. What’s the last book you were gifted?
  4. What are you looking forward to right now?
  5. [weird question] If you could switch places with one actor in any scene in any movie/TV show, which would it be?

Best Blog Posts

Here are just some of my recent favs! 🙂


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Book Tags, Not Books

My Blog’s Searches

A couple months ago, Ally made this really fun post (inspired by Kaleena) about looking at her blog’s search terms. I love to look through my search terms from time to time, so I decided to make a post about it as well! I’ll group related searches together just for simplicity’s sake, and I won’t include searches that are just “[book] review” unless there are more than expected for a single book.


“sarah suoerfan stuff you should know”
I have no idea what this means??

“merry spinster thankless child”
“the merry spinster review the wedding party”
“a merry spinster the thankless child”
“the merry spinster the wedding party”
“ortberg thankless child”
I don’t know how so many people ended up at my blog searching for this, but I hope they enjoyed my review.

“stefan merrill block”
“oliver loving review”
“”oliver loving” “stefan merrill block””
This is also another book/author that has given me some traffic for ??? unclear reasons.

“we have always lived in the castle characters”
Ah, one of my fav books! Unfortunately I do not provide a list of characters.

“sarah foley black lives matter”
I have gotten curious and also searched this, but I don’t know who or what they’re looking for!

“ghost wall spoiler”
Pretty sure there are no spoilers in my review. Sorry, stranger!

“bad man by dathan auerbach explained”
I wish I knew what they wanted explained, because I’d be happy to help.

“sarah foley short story”
Whomst is she?

“the winter people sara”
Kind of, I guess?

“tbr gems”
Vague yet specific. Sorry I don’t have this for you!

“the wild girls by pat murphy real life comparison”
I do Not know what this means.

“seven deaths of evelyn hardcastle spolier”
“seven deaths of hardcastle review”
No spoliers here.


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Red, White & Royal Blue [review]

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Published by St. Martin’s Griffin on May 14, 2019
my rating: ★★★★★
Goodreads avg: 
4.50 (as of 2019-05-14)
disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. All of the opinions presented below are my own. All quotes have been taken from the advanced copy and are subject to change upon publication.

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

A big-hearted romantic comedy in which the First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends…

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?


I put this on my TBR when I saw it on Reads Rainbow’s Enemies to Lovers rec list (PS pls follow their blog, Charlotte and Anna share some wonderful stuff and are always beefing up my to-read list!). I was #BLESSED with a review copy from Netgalley and have spent the last week and a half getting my heart destroyed by this book.

Straight people, he thinks, probably don’t spend this much time convincing themselves they’re straight.

RW&RB is a skillful combination of both the “enemies to lovers” and “fake relationship” tropes, although the fake relationship is a fake friendship rather than fake dating. The main character, Alex, is a bisexual biracial angel who falls in love with the (extremely gay) Prince Henry of Wales after plenty of angst and a lot of drama. I will admit it’s a little instalove-y, if that’s something that bothers you. Luckily it’s not something I mind and I found their relationship so, so precious!

[…] Henry, who knows him. Henry who’s seen him in glasses and tolerates him at his most annoying and still kissed him like he wanted him, singularly, not the idea of him.

The side characters are equally wonderful and McQuiston does an incredible job of fleshing them out. The two we see the most are Alex’s older sister June and his best-friend-sort-of-ex Nora who is openly queer, although I don’t think she uses any particular label on-page. There are several other queer side characters, including a trans woman and a pansexual character. I love that this book kind of demonstrates how we gays tend to stick together, since I’d say a good 95% of my friends have identified as lgbtqia.

He rolls onto his side and listens, trails the back of his hand across the pillow next to him and imagines Henry lying opposite in his own bed, two parentheses enclosing 3,700 miles.

Besides containing a truly unbelievably cute romance, this book explores discovering your sexuality, politics, and mental health. Alex and Henry have very different feelings about their lives in the public eye, and the expectations set upon them as the children of leaders conflict with what they’d prefer to do with themselves. Henry also deals with depression, which is touched on but isn’t the focus of the story.

“Ugh! Men!” she groans. “No emotional vocabulary. I can’t believe our ancestors survived centuries of wars and plagues and genocide just to wind up with your sorry ass.”

Overall, I just loved this book more than I can even convey. I cried several times reading it and am positive I’ll return to it in the future. It’s fluffy, it’s steamy, it’s political, and it is quite honestly PERFECT. Casey McQuiston is heading straight to my insta-read author list.


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Freshwater [review]

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
Published by Grove Press on February 13, 2018
my rating: ★★★★★
Goodreads avg:
4.00 (as of 2019-05-09)
Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

An extraordinary debut novel, Freshwater explores the surreal experience of having a fractured self. It centers around a young Nigerian woman, Ada, who develops separate selves within her as a result of being born “with one foot on the other side.” Unsettling, heartwrenching, dark, and powerful, Freshwater is a sharp evocation of a rare way of experiencing the world, one that illuminates how we all construct our identities.

Ada begins her life in the south of Nigeria as a troubled baby and a source of deep concern to her family. Her parents, Saul and Saachi, successfully prayed her into existence, but as she grows into a volatile and splintered child, it becomes clear that something went terribly awry. When Ada comes of age and moves to America for college, the group of selves within her grows in power and agency. A traumatic assault leads to a crystallization of her alternate selves: Asụghara and Saint Vincent. As Ada fades into the background of her own mind and these selves–now protective, now hedonistic–move into control, Ada’s life spirals in a dark and dangerous direction.

Narrated by the various selves within Ada and based in the author’s realities, Freshwater dazzles with ferocious energy and serpentine grace, heralding the arrival of a fierce new literary voice.


I finished this after the Women’s Prize shortlist is released and all I can say is: it’s a damn travesty that this book didn’t make the cut. It was initially interesting to see that it was longlisted — Akwaeke Emezi is nonbinary, which the judges were not aware of until after they had decided upon the list. Emezi gave their okay for the book’s inclusion regardless and fans were glad to see it gain further recognition. But for the judges to leave off this masterpiece in favor of the combination they did… I won’t get into it, but it sure doesn’t make any sense.

The first madness was that we were born, that they stuffed a god into a bag of skin.

I actually received a Netgalley ARC of this in January 2018, which I far too quickly DNFed in a “I’m not sure I Get this, maybe later” scenario. Maybe for the best, since I don’t know that I would have fully appreciated this novel without the growth my literary tastes have experienced over the last year. While I’m still not sure I was able to fully appreciate it — there were doubtless many things I missed — this is one of the most impactful books I have ever read and I’m sure I’ll never forget it.

The boy made Ada a gibbering thing in a corner — this is the truth, but he would never get her again. I had arrived, flesh from flesh, true blood from true blood. I was the wildness under the skin, the skin into a weapon, the weapon over the flesh. I was here. No one would ever touch her again.

Freshwater is an exploration of many things, but at the forefront lie trauma, gender identity, and spirituality. It’s hard to explore the plot too deeply without spoilers, but I’ll say that this is one of the best portrayals of trauma that I’ve ever read. The entire book requires endless trigger warnings and it’s quite an intense experience, but I found it so rewarding. If you’re in the space where you can pick this up, I cannot recommend it enough.


More Women’s Prize 2019 Longlist reviews:
The Pisces
Ghost Wall
Ordinary People
Circe
Lost Children Archive
Praise Song for the Butterflies
An American Marriage
My Sister, the Serial Killer
Normal People
Freshwater
The Silence of the Girls

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Normal People [review]

Normal People by Sally Rooney
Published by Hogarth on April 16, 2019 (originally 2018)
my rating: ★★★★★
Goodreads avg:
4.08 (as of 2019-05-09)
Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school soccer team while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her housekeeping job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers—one they are determined to conceal.

A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years in college, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. Then, as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.

Sally Rooney brings her brilliant psychological acuity and perfectly spare prose to a story that explores the subtleties of class, the electricity of first love, and the complex entanglements of family and friendship.


While I knew from the start that this book would be different than anything I had experienced before, I had no idea how much I would love it. Normal People tells the story of Connell and Marianne, two very different people who somehow just keep meeting. It begins while they’re in secondary school and spans the course of their university careers. At its heart, this is the story of two people whose lives cannot untangle.

Even in memory she will find this moment unbearably intense, and she’s aware of this now, while it’s happening.

While their relationship is often not quite healthy, I really rooted for them to be together. Sally Rooney writes in such a way that you can understand them both even while condemning their actions. Oftentimes their conflicts are the result of miscommunications that could have easily been avoided by pressing one another further rather than making assumptions. Deep down, they both care quite deeply about each other and none of the hurt is intentional.

Is the world such an evil place, that love should be indistinguishable from the basest and most abusive forms of violence?

I found myself repeatedly caught up in the depth of emotion I felt while reading this. Sometimes I would have to put it down for a moment, breathless, as I contemplated the characters and their situations and the parallels I was able to draw to my own life. I nearly wept at the closing page, but at the same time felt buoyed by its message. I’d say I thought my reaction to this was just me, but everyone else in my Women’s Prize group also gave the book 5 stars.

Life offers up these moments of joy, despite everything.

Sally Rooney is really something else. I was worried my expectations for her were a bit too high, but she still managed more than I could have even hoped for. I have a copy of Conversations With Friends sitting on my shelf at work that I cannot wait to dig into. If you were thinking about picking up Normal People, I cannot recommend it highly enough.


More Women’s Prize 2019 Longlist reviews:
The Pisces
Ghost Wall
Ordinary People
Circe
Lost Children Archive
Praise Song for the Butterflies
An American Marriage
My Sister, the Serial Killer
Normal People
Freshwater
The Silence of the Girls

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