Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Ask Me About My Uterus [review]


Ask Me About My Uterus by Abby Norman
Published by Nation Books on March 6, 2018
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
3.74 (as of 03/11/2018)
cw: assault, eating disorders, attempted suicide, domestic abuse

Spoiler-free Review of an eARC Provided by the Publisher and Netgalley

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

For any woman who has experienced illness, chronic pain, or endometriosis comes an inspiring memoir advocating for recognition of women’s health issues

In the fall of 2010, Abby Norman’s strong dancer’s body dropped forty pounds and gray hairs began to sprout from her temples. She was repeatedly hospitalized in excruciating pain, but the doctors insisted it was a urinary tract infection and sent her home with antibiotics. Unable to get out of bed, much less attend class, Norman dropped out of college and embarked on what would become a years-long journey to discover what was wrong with her. It wasn’t until she took matters into her own hands–securing a job in a hospital and educating herself over lunchtime reading in the medical library–that she found an accurate diagnosis of endometriosis.

In Ask Me About My Uterus, Norman describes what it was like to have her pain dismissed, to be told it was all in her head, only to be taken seriously when she was accompanied by a boyfriend who confirmed that her sexual performance was, indeed, compromised. Putting her own trials into a broader historical, sociocultural, and political context, Norman shows that women’s bodies have long been the battleground of a never-ending war for power, control, medical knowledge, and truth. It’s time to refute the belief that being a woman is a preexisting condition.


It’s kind of strange: when I enter into conversations with medical professionals outside of the office, they ask where I went to medical school. When I was in the office as a patient, however, I just got asked if I ‘Googled a lot’ before coming into the office.

I knew I had to request this the moment I saw it on Netgalley. The incredibly gorgeous cover drew me in right away and the blurb cemented my decision to give it a try. And I am so, so glad that I did. This memoir follows Abby Norman in her experiences with endometriosis. I don’t know about y’all, but I knew next to nothing about endo before reading this. I had no idea what a difficult, debilitating disease it was or how little is known about it by modern medicine. To say that this book is extremely educational feels like an understatement.

Was being sick making her depressed or was depression making her sick? How many of us have asked the same question, or ask it almost daily as we slog forward in time? It’s the ouroboros of pain from which we cannot escape, no matter how hard we try, unequivocally felt by us and questioned by everyone else — until we, too, are forced to doubt the veracity of our reality.

Abby specifies right from the start that this book is meant to be a jumping-off point for readers, and not their sole source of information regarding endometriosis. She makes it clear that this is her story, and not meant to speak for anyone else. This explanation includes acknowledging that she comes from a place of relative privilege and urging the reader to seek out more diverse experiences. She also points out that calling endometriosis a women’s disease is a misnomer, as both trans men and cis men can suffer from it.

If history had been told by women, would we not be so in the dark about a disease that has, theoretically, always existed?

Her own experiences are downright heartbreaking to read. When symptoms begin to appear, Abby ignores them as long as possible before going to the hospital, something I can certainly relate to. Her voice is repeatedly silenced by medical professionals, mostly male, who downplay the severity of what she is going through. She is able to intertwine her own story with facts and figures, as well as historical parallels.

First-person accounts by women throughout history are limited by a peculiar social paradox: menstruation is both mundane and wildly taboo.

Abby’s voice comes through strong and clear in her writing and I found this book difficult to put down. She is a strong, sympathetic character and you’re forced to keep turning the pages in the hopes that things will get better. This book feels like a vitally important read, not only because of the information relayed, but also because it is relayed in such a way that the reader can’t help but take it all in. This is not a dry piece of nonfiction, but the compelling story of a woman fighting for her diagnosis.

(All quotes have been taken from an uncorrected proof and may have been changed in the final publication.)

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Merry Spinster [review]


The Merry Spinster by Daniel Mallory Ortberg
To be published by Holt McDougal on March 13, 2018
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5
Goodreads avg: 
cw: domestic abuse,

Spoiler-free Review of an eARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley.

Goodreads | IndieBound 

From [Daniel] Mallory Ortberg comes a collection of darkly mischievous stories based on classic fairy tales. Adapted from [his] beloved “Children’s Stories Made Horrific” series, “The Merry Spinster” takes up the trademark wit that endeared Ortberg to readers of both The Toast and [his] best-selling debut Texts From Jane Eyre. The feature become among the most popular on the site, with each entry bringing in tens of thousands of views, as the stories proved a perfect vehicle for Ortberg’s eye for deconstruction and destabilization. Sinister and inviting, familiar and alien all at the same time, The Merry Spinster updates traditional children’s stories and fairy tales with elements of psychological horror, emotional clarity, and a keen sense of feminist mischief.

Readers of The Toast will instantly recognize Ortberg’s boisterous good humor and uber-nerd swagger: those new to Ortberg’s oeuvre will delight in [his] unique spin on fiction, where something a bit mischievous and unsettling is always at work just beneath the surface.

Unfalteringly faithful to its beloved source material, The Merry Spinster also illuminates the unsuspected, and frequently, alarming emotional complexities at play in the stories we tell ourselves, and each other, as we tuck ourselves in for the night.

Bed time will never be the same.

I know that retellings are getting old for some people, but Daniel really does a magnificent job with this collection. As with any short story compilation, some fell a little short for me, but overall I was highly impressed with what he had done. All of the stories here are inspired by “fairytales” of some kind, but they aren’t necessarily what you’ll be expecting. They’re the perfect blend of creepy and thoughtful.

“Someday, I think,” she said, her voice muffled under the tub, “I would like to meet someone I have not caused any pain.”

My rating for each story:

The Daughter Cells ⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Thankless Child ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Fear Not: An Incident Log ⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Six Boy-Coffins ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Rabbit ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Merry Spinster ⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Wedding Party ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Mr. Toad ⭐️⭐️
Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters ⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Frog’s Princess ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Good Fences Make Good Neighbors ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

She was beginning to learn the danger of silence, and that someone who wishes to hear a yes will not go out of his way to listen for a no.

In total, these scores averaged out to 3.36, which I’ve rounded up to a 3.5. I thought they were very well-written, and was particularly excited to see a lot of gender non-conformity in the stories. Gendered pronouns and titles were essentially meaningless in some of the stories, which was an interesting and much appreciated route to take. I’d definitely recommend this collection to anyone interested.

She was reluctant to offer any of her children, even Beauty, to something so monstrous and polite but she was even more reluctant to be shot, and mothers have given their children to monsters before.

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(Cover and blurb [pronouns edited by me] courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Sometimes I Lie [review]


Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney
US Edition to be published by Flatiron Books on March 13, 2018
258 pages.
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
goodreads avg:
fat-shaming, sexual assault, rape

Spoiler-free Review of an ARC provided to me by Flatiron books.

Goodreads IndieBound |  Author’s Website

My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:
1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie.

Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it’s the truth?

This was an incredibly well-done novel that had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. Even though the unreliable narrator is made clear from the very start, I still had a very difficult time piecing together what was true and what wasn’t. Amber’s character is extremely compelling and it’s difficult not to trust her.

A lot of people would think I have a dream job, but nightmares are dreams too.

The novel is split up by time periods: the coma, the week before the coma, and childhood. The chapters are carefully crafted so that just enough anticipation builds up before the time period changes and the reader is left wondering what happened. This method really works with the story, allowing us to piece together just enough for the plot to move forward while still wanting more.

There is always a moment before an accident when you know you are going to get hurt, but there is nothing you can do to protect yourself.

There were so many twists that I felt were truly surprising, I had a couple of literal jaw-dropping moments while reading. The end felt a tad rushed and I didn’t quite agree with how everything went down, but overall it was a highly enjoyable read. I’d definitely recommend this to anyone interested in a good thriller.

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(Cover and blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Sea Beast Takes a Lover [review]


The Sea Beast Takes a Lover by Michael Andreasen
Expected publication by Dutton Books on February 27, 2018
240 pages.
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
goodreads avg: 
cw: see review

Spoiler-free Review of an eARC provided by NetGalley.



Bewitching and playful, with its feet only slightly tethered to the world we know, The Sea Beast Takes a Lover explores hope, love, and loss across a series of surreal landscapes and wild metamorphoses. Just because Jenny was born without a head doesn’t mean she isn’t still annoying to her older brother, and just because the Man of the Future’s carefully planned extramarital affair ends in alien abduction and network fame doesn’t mean he can’t still pine for his absent wife. Romping through the fantastic with big-hearted ease, these stories cut to the core of what it means to navigate family, faith, and longing, whether in the form of a lovesick kraken slowly dragging a ship of sailors into the sea, a small town euthanizing its grandfathers in a time-honored ritual, or a third-grade field trip learning that time travel is even more wondrous–and more perilous–than they might imagine.

Andreasen’s stories are simultaneously daring and deeply familiar, unfolding in wildly inventive worlds that convey our common yearning for connection and understanding. With a captivating new voice from an incredible author, The Sea Beast Takes a Lover uses the supernatural and extraordinary to expose us at our most human.

From the instant I saw the cover, I knew I just HAD to read this book. It had already been on my TBR when I stumbled across it on Netgalley and slammed the request button reflexively. I love bizarro short stories, I love cephalopods, and I love anything with an octopus on the cover.

Unfortunately, these stories just didn’t mesh well with me. It wasn’t a bad read, it just wasn’t anything over-the-top outstanding. If you’re interested, I’d say give it a shot regardless. Michael Andreasen is a talented writer and I’m intrigued to see what else he comes out with!

Below I’ve rated and provided content warnings for each of the individual stories.

Our Fathers at Sea ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Bodies in Space ⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Sea Beast Takes a Lover ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The King’s Teacups at Rest ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
He is the Rainstorm and the Sandstorm, Hallelujah, Hallelujah ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Rockabye, Rocketboy ⭐️⭐️ 
(cw porn, pedophilia, stalking)
The Saints in the Parlor ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Andy, Lord of Ruin ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 
(cw animal abuse/animal death)
Jenny ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 
(cw assault)
Rite of Baptism ⭐️⭐️
Blunderbuss ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Avg: 3.36 rounded down to 3

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(Covers and blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

This Love Story Will Self-Destruct [review]


This Love Story Will Self-Destruct by Leslie Cohen
Published by Gallery Books on January 23, 2018
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

This is the classic tale of boy meets girl: Girl…goes home with someone else.

Meet Eve. She’s a dreamer, a feeler, a careening well of sensitivities who can’t quite keep her feet on the ground, or steer clear of trouble. She’s a laugher, a crier, a quirky and quick-witted bleeding-heart-worrier.

Meet Ben. He’s an engineer, an expert at leveling floors who likes order, structure, and straight lines. He doesn’t opine, he doesn’t ruminate, he doesn’t simmer until he boils over.

So naturally, when the two first cross paths, sparks don’t exactly fly. But then they meet again. And again. And then, finally, they find themselves with a deep yet fragile connection that will change the course of their relationship—possibly forever.

Follow Eve and Ben as they navigate their twenties on a winding journey through first jobs, first dates, and first breakups; through first reunions, first betrayals and, maybe, first love. This is When Harry Met Sally reimagined; a charming tale told from two unapologetically original points of view. With an acerbic edge and heartwarming humor, debut novelist Leslie Cohen takes us on a tour of what life looks like when it doesn’t go according to plan, and explores the complexity, chaos, and comedy in finding a relationship built to last.

I’m really glad I ended up picking this up. It was a nice, mostly light-hearted read that offset the thriller I had also been working my way through. From the moment I began, I just loved the voice that Leslie Cohen uses in her writing. I genuinely had trouble believing that this was a debut  novel, as her talent makes you believe you’re reading the work of an established and highly-lauded author.

Does an apartment still exist once you no longer live there?

I loved Ben and Eve both, and found them relatable in their own ways. I can understand Eve’s compulsion to destroy something before it can destroy itself, and I found Ben’s firmly-rooted logic to be soothing. They both felt like such real people. I also loved the way that Leslie wrote New York City, even though I’m pretty unfamiliar with it myself.

I was in that state of intoxication where you become very direct, very to the point. You tell people how you feel. You grab things that you want.

The story itself was great, and anyone who hates instalove will probably enjoy this book. Ben and Eve meet again, and again, and again over the years, before their relationship finally develops into something more. To me, this is a more realistic kind of love. Sometimes the people you love just drop out of the sky, but more often than not, I think they sneak their way in.

[…] we were in that weird in-between period when you’ve hooked up once or twice but you don’t want to hold hands or even make bodily contact in real life because everything is very unclear.

Overall, this was a lovely book and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for Leslie’s future work.

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Immortalists [review]


The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons on January 9, 2018
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
cw: homophobia, suicide, depictions of OCD/anxiety, animal cruelty

Spoiler-free review of an ARC provided by the publisher as part of a Goodreads giveaway.

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

If you were told the date of your death, how would it shape your present?

It’s 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.

Their prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in ’80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11, hoping to control fate; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.

I am sitting down to write this review over a week after finishing The Immortalists and realizing I wrote myself very few notes to refer to, so I’m going to have to go off of what stands out to me the most from this book. I remember being struck by the writing right away. I found myself pulled into the story, having no idea where it would go. I tend to add books to my TBR and then completely forget what drew me to them. I avoid re-reading the blurb directly before diving in so that I have no expectations. What I’m saying is, I went into this book almost completely cold.

When Klara peels a dollar from inside someone’s ear or turns a ball into a lemon, she hopes not to deceive but to impart a different kind of knowledge, an expanded sense of possibility.

I found the format very interesting. Without giving anything away, I’ll just say that you gain insight into the perspectives and motivations of each sibling in turn. I will say a little about my feelings regarding each character. I thought Simon’s section was precious and sad, I had a lot of emotions while reading it. Klara was maybe my favorite sibling, I felt really strongly for her and wished that I could reach into the book and save her from what was going on. Daniel’s section was the weakest, in my opinion, and I found it hardest to relate to him. I felt very strongly for Varya as well; it seemed to me that she and Klara were separate sides of the same coin and I related very solidly to different aspects of each of them.

Years later, a different therapist asked her exactly what she was afraid of. Varya was initially stumped, not because she didn’t know what she was afraid of but because it was harder to think of what she wasn’t.

Most of my experience reading the book involved me poring over the pages, trying to figure out what would happen next. There are a lot of surprises, and a lot of unanswered questions. If you want everything tied up neatly with a bow at the end, this may not be the book for you. Like I said above, Daniel’s section felt the most difficult to relate to. The book faltered a little for me there, which is mainly why it didn’t end up being a five-star read for me. Other than that, though, The Immortalists was kind of a masterpiece.

I recommend this book to people interested in familial relations, existential crises, and heartbreaking stories.

Other people speak of the ecstasy to be found in sex and the more complicated joy of parenthood, but for Varya, there is no greater pleasure than relief — the relief of realizing that what she fears does not exist. Even so, it’s temporary: a blustery, wind-swept pleasure, hysterical as laughter — What was I thinking? — followed by the slow erosion of that certainty, the creeping in of doubt, which requires another check in the rear view mirror, another shower, another doorknob cleaned.


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(Blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Tempests and Slaughter [review]


Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers on February 6, 2018
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:

Spoiler-free review of an ARC provided by the publisher via Goodreads giveaway.

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

Arram. Varice. Ozorne. In the first book in the Numair Chronicles, three student mages are bound by fate . . . fated for trouble.

Arram Draper is a boy on the path to becoming one of the realm’s most powerful mages. The youngest student in his class at the Imperial University of Carthak, he has a Gift with unlimited potential for greatness–and for attracting danger. At his side are his two best friends: Varice, a clever girl with an often-overlooked talent, and Ozorne, the “leftover prince” with secret ambitions. Together, these three friends forge a bond that will one day shape kingdoms. And as Ozorne gets closer to the throne and Varice gets closer to Arram’s heart, Arram begins to realize that one day soon he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie. 

In the Numair Chronicles, readers will be rewarded with the never-before-told story of how Numair Salmalín came to Tortall. Newcomers will discover an unforgettable fantasy adventure where a kingdom’s future rests on the shoulders of a talented young man with a knack for making vicious enemies.

I have been a Tamora Pierce fan for as long as I can remember. My first read by her was Wild Magic and I’ve adored just about everything I’ve read by her since (for some reason I can’t get into the Circle of Magic series, but I guess that’s a personal problem). When I saw that Tempests and Slaughter, the first in a series detailing the youth of Arram Draper (later known as Numair), I almost died of excitement.

I was lucky enough to win an ARC through a Goodreads giveaway, which I practically inhaled. It was wonderful to get to see a different side of Numair and to see his beginnings. I loved finding the characters who I knew would continue to play a role in his future, and who I recognized from the other Tamora Pierce books I’ve read.

In my opinion, this does lean a little more towards MG than YA, mainly due to Arram’s age at the outset of the book (around 11, if I remember correctly). While I’m not usually a MG reader, I love the world and characters that Tamora Pierce constructs and didn’t have much of an issue with it. In fact, when I finished it, I pined over the fact that I would have to wait for a sequel and almost immediately picked up Wild Magic to reread.

Tamora Pierce fans will love dipping back into the world they’ve already grown to love, and I recommend Tempests and Slaughter wholeheartedly.

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(Cover and blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Text Me When You Get Home [review]


Text Me When You Get Home by Kayleen Schaefer
To be published by Dutton on February 6, 2018
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:

Spoiler-free review of an eARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley.

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

From Girls to Parks and Recreation to Bridesmaids, the female friendship has taken an undeniable front seat in pop culture. Text Me When You Get Home is a personal and sociological perspective – and ultimately a celebration – of the evolution of the modern female friendship.

Kayleen Schaefer has experienced (and occasionally, narrowly survived) most every iteration of the modern female friendship. First there was the mean girl cliques of the ’90s; then the teenage friendships that revolved around constant discussion of romantic interests and which slowly morphed into Sex and the City spin-offs; the disheartening loneliness of “I’m not like other girls” friendships with only men; the discovery of a platonic soul mate; and finally, the overwhelming love of a supportive female squad (#squad).

And over the course of these friendships, Schaefer made a startling discovery: girls make the best friends. And she isn’t the only one to realize this. Through interviews with friends, mothers, authors, celebrities, businesswomen, doctors, screenwriters, and historians (a list that includes Judy Blume, Megan Abbott, The Fug Girls, and Kay Cannon), Schaefer shows a remarkable portrait of what female friendships can help modern women accomplish in their social, personal, and work lives.

A validation of female friendship unlike any that’s ever existed before, this book is a mix of historical research, the author’s own personal experience, and conversations about friendships across the country. Everything Schaefer uncovers leads to – and makes the case for – the eventual conclusion that these ties among women are making us (both as individuals and as society as a whole) stronger than ever before.

I was stoked when I saw this book on NetGalley, a feminist book about how important female friendships are? It was right up my alley. Unfortunately, I ended up being somewhat disappointed by the content. Overall, the book is well-written and makes a lot of important points. But these points are surrounded by a meandering narrative that ultimately seemed without purpose.

This is because women who say, “Text me when you get home,” aren’t just asking for reassurance that you’ve made it to your bed unharmed. It’s not only about safety. It’s about solidarity. It’s about knowing how unsettling it can feel when you’ve been surrounded by friends and then are suddenly by yourself again.

There were also a couple of points made that I didn’t agree with. First and foremost was the idea that a woman could not have a man as a best friend, “it just doesn’t work that way.” I disagree wholeheartedly. While I see where the author is coming from, I have several male best friends who I’m just as close to as my non-male best friends. There’s nothing I don’t feel comfortable sharing with them, and while they may not have gone through all the same experiences as me, they’re still my best friends.

For something so widely believed, the idea that girls are mean is relatively new.

The majority of the book is anecdotal, with references to pop culture. There’s a bit of historical research mixed in and very little, if any, current research. It’s the author talking about her friendships with women, and interviewing other women about their friendships. All these stories seem to come from a very limited subset of women — upper-middle class straight women. At least, that was the vibe I got. I didn’t mark down details about every single woman she interviewed, but this seemed to be the pattern I saw.

There were a few other things that gave me some serious “yikes” vibes. The author made jokes about strokes, and put in jokes about stalking quotes from an interviewee. There was also one line that really irritated me. The author is talking about a pair of best friends, one straight and one gay. She shared that the friends would go to gay bars together, which is fine, but that “Susanna liked being the only straight girl.” Being queer myself, I’m pretty sick of straight women co-opting gay spaces as their own and I found this inclusion completely unnecessary.

Additionally, the author shared that she didn’t really care about feminism at all until Trump was elected. I think this goes to show the kind of privilege she has lived with, and that she isn’t really qualified to speak for women at large. I was surprised that she even admitted to this, but I think that just means that she doesn’t see any issue with it.

I will note again that I am reading an unfinished copy, so it would be interesting to know if any of these things were left out of the final copy.

Overall, Text Me When You Get Home was an enjoyable read. It was nice reading about relationships between women, but I didn’t feel like I was learning anything. I would be interested in seeing a book written about relationships between women that goes more in depth than this one, and that discusses women from different backgrounds. I won’t tell anyone not to read this book, but I think it’s good to go into it not expecting it to be a gamechanger.

All quotes have been taken from an unfinished copy and may be changed prior to publication.

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(Cover and blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

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Ready Player One [review]


Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Published by Crown Publishers on August 16, 2011
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
cw: transphobia

Spoiler-free Review 

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website


In the year 2045, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

Obviously, Ready Player One is one of the most hyped books at the moment. While it was published in 2011, the movie releases in just a few short weeks. Since I’d never read it, I figured now was the perfect time to. I’ve seen many conflicting reviews from many people I trust, and wasn’t sure what to expect when going into it.

At the beginning, I found the story fun and endearing. The world Cline had created was interesting, as was the way OASIS had taken over as the both dominant means of interaction between people and the most common form of escapism. I found Wade (aka Parzival) to be a bit of a cringey, although fairly realistic, character and enjoyed becoming immersed in his day-to-day life.

Anyone with a penchant for 80s nostalgia will love the pop culture references in this book, as they hit hard and heavy. Even though a lot of the stuff referenced was over my head, I still enjoyed following Wade as he solved the puzzles — and I thought the DnD-related bits were great. There were also a lot of humorous moments peppered throughout the book, which were nice.

There were also some not-so-great aspects. For one, I felt very uncomfortable with a lot of the ways Wade spoke about and to his love interest. He joked about cyberstalking her, and actually did cyberstalk her, which I don’t consider to be a funny topic. During one conversation where they talk about how he only knows her through OASIS and has no idea what her real-life identity is, he makes a comment about how as long as she’s a “female human who hasn’t had a sex-change operation,” he still wants to date her. Glad to know transphobia is alive and well in 2045 (/sarcasm).

Avoiding specific spoilers, there is one point during which Wade puts the integrity of the hunt over the actual lives of actual human beings, which kind of ruins his integrity as an empathetic human being in my eyes. The second half of the book as a whole kind of made me lose interest. Things continually drop into Wade’s lap in increasingly unbelievable ways, until it hits a point where the stakes don’t really feel like they matter anymore. No matter how dire things become, as a reader you just kind of assume he’ll figure it out and don’t really care how, because the solution will just turn out to be absurd anyway. For me, it ruined any suspension of disbelief I had and was a large part of why this didn’t receive a higher rating from me.

Clearly Ready Player One is a much-beloved book with a large fanbase. I definitely think it was worth reading, and I definitely expect a lot of the people going into it to like it. It just didn’t hit expectations for me and really does read like a debut novel, particularly in the second half. I’m interested to see what Cline does in the future and will certainly pick up other books by him. If you think Ready Player One sounds like it’s in your wheelhouse, I would recommend you give it a shot.

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(Cover and blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Annihilation [review]


Annihilation (Southern Reach #1) by Jeff VanderMeer
Published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux on February 4, 2014
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:

Spoiler-free Review

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Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.

This is the twelfth expedition.

Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.

When I saw the first trailer for the Annihilation movie several months ago, I immediately added the book to my TBR-ASAP shelf on Goodreads without even reading through the description. I put in a hold at the library, waited patiently, and then devoured the book immediately after checking it out.

The effect of this cannot be understood without being there. The beauty of it cannot be understood, either, and when you see beauty in desolation it changes something inside you. Desolation tries to colonize you.

It’s been a while since a book has hooked me so strongly from the first page, but Annihilation did just that. The writing was just gorgeous, and I was instantly pulled into the world of Area X that VanderMeer had created. From the outset, I didn’t want to put it down, but I forced myself to work my way through slowly and to savor every page.

But there is a limit to thinking about even a small piece of something monumental. You still see the shadow of the whole rearing up behind you, and you become lost in your thoughts in part from the panic of realizing the size of that imagined leviathan.

I adored the narrator and loved the style in which the book was written: a journal penned carefully by the biologist, detailing her experiences on the expedition. The reader’s awareness of Area X, and the events taking place within it, relies completely on what the biologist is willing to share. I loved that she could be a bit of an unreliable narrator, and that she was able to outright admit to intentionally manipulating the reader with what she shared.

But soon enough I banished this nonsense; some questions will ruin you if you are denied the answer long enough.

If you’re the type of reader who wants all of their questions answered, this book isn’t for you. There is no omniscient narrator to share the secrets of Area X with us. There is only the biologist and what she knows, or what she thinks she knows.

I can say without a doubt that Annihilation is now one of my all-time favorite books, and will certainly be on my top 10 list at the end of 2018. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the Southern Reach trilogy has in store for me.

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(Blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)