Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi [review]

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If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi by Neel Patel
To be published by Flatiron Books on July 10th 2018
224 
pages.
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg: 
4.08 (as of 2018-06-27)
cw: homophobia; sex; infidelity; racism; drunk driving; sexual assault/csa
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

In eleven sharp, surprising stories, Neel Patel gives voice to our most deeply held stereotypes and then slowly undermines them. His characters, almost all of who are first-generation Indian Americans, subvert our expectations that they will sit quietly by. We meet two brothers caught in an elaborate web of envy and loathing; a young gay man who becomes involved with an older man whose secret he could never guess; three women who almost gleefully throw off the pleasant agreeability society asks of them; and, in the final pair of linked stories, a young couple struggling against the devastating force of community gossip. 

If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi examines the collisions of old world and new world, small town and big city, traditional beliefs (like arranged marriage) and modern rituals (like Facebook stalking). Ranging across the country, Patel’s stories — empathetic, provocative, twisting, and wryly funny — introduce a bold new literary voice, one that feels more timely than ever.

We lived through the lives of our future selves, passing our remaining days in a fugue.

My rating for each story:

god of destruction  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
hare rama, hare krishna ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
hey, loser ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
just a friend ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
if you see me, don’t say hi ⭐️⭐️⭐️
the taj mahal ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
the other language ⭐️⭐️⭐️
these things happen ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
an arrangement ⭐️⭐️⭐️
world famous ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5
radha, krishna ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I should have felt guilty. I should have felt ashamed. I felt everything but.

My average rating was 3.86 stars, rounded up to 4. This was a beautiful collection of short stories. It only took me about two and a half hours to read through them all and I found myself thinking about them a lot in between sessions. In fact, several of the stories have stuck pretty hard with me since finishing the book.

There are a lot of characters with grey morality; you can understand their actions, but at the same time you know that they’re not necessarily doing the right thing. I found this to be really effective, as I was constantly torn with how I felt about them. There were only a couple characters who I outright disliked and even then, I still felt sympathetic towards them.

I definitely recommend getting your hands on a copy of this if you can.

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(Cover and blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

I’m Not Missing [review]

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I’m Not Missing by Carrie Fountain
To be published by Flatiron Books on July 10, 2018
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
4.00 (as of 2018-06-14)
cw: underage drinking, consensual sex, sexual assault
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

When Miranda Black’s mother abandoned her, she took everything—the sun, moon, and stars—and Miranda found shelter in her friendship with Syd, who wore her own motherlessness like a badge of honor: Our mothers abandoned us. We won’t go begging for scraps.

When Syd runs away suddenly and inexplicably in the middle of their senior year, Miranda is abandoned once again, left to untangle the questions of why Syd left, where she is—and if she’s even a friend worth saving. Her only clue is Syd’s discarded pink leopard print cell phone and a single text contained there from the mysterious HIM. Along the way, forced to step out from Syd’s enormous shadow, Miranda finds herself stumbling into first love with Nick Allison of all people and learning what it means to be truly seen, to be finally not missing in her own life.

I’m Not Missing is a beautiful contemporary YA romance that also tackles a handful of serious topics. From the beginning, I found it to be a compelling read and worked my way through it pretty quickly. I started it while I was on vacation and finished it soon after returning home. This will definitely make a nice summery beach read!

I really liked the main character, Miranda, because I related to her a lot. I’ve always been a bit of a hopeless romantic and her endless fawning over her crush reminded me of myself in high school and college. It seemed to me like a really accurate portrayal of teenage romance. Miranda also had her own unique quirks, like reading a book of saints every night before bed and reciting the Gettysburg Address when nervous. The book also demonstrated a really nice relationship between Miranda and her father. Miranda is latina and her father is white, so the story also delves a bit into how that has impacted Miranda’s life. The romance itself was cute and I enjoyed it. The love interest, Nick, was a nice boy and treated Miranda well. The author also wrote in a lot of affirmative consent, which I thought was fantastic.

Miranda’s best friend, Syd, is an interesting character because we get to see her in so many different lights. Before Syd runs away, Miranda holds her in such high regard. She seems to rely on Syd in a plethora of ways and thinks that Syd always knows what to do. After Syd leaves, this begins to change. Miranda is able to take a step back and to see Syd as she truly is. She’s also able to rely on herself more and to grow more independent as a person, making her own decisions instead of depending on others to make them for her.

Overall, this was a really great story and I loved reading it. I’d recommend it to all YA contemporary readers, in particular to folks who enjoy books that hit some serious issues alongside the fluff.

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Winter People [review]

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The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
Published by Random House Audio on February 11, 2014 
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5
Goodreads avg:
3.77 (as of 2018-06-19)
cw: child death, grief, gore, underage drinking/drug use

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

 

West Hall, Vermont, has always been a town of strange disappearances and old legends. The most mysterious is that of Sara Harrison Shea, who, in 1908, was found dead in the field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter.

Now, in present day, nineteen-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara’s farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister. Alice has always insisted that they live off the grid, a decision that has weighty consequences when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished. In her search for clues, she is startled to find a copy of Sara Harrison Shea’s diary hidden beneath the floorboards of her mother’s bedroom. As Ruthie gets sucked into the historical mystery, she discovers that she’s not the only person looking for someone that they’ve lost. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself.

 

Much like A Head Full of Ghosts, The Winter People is another audiobook I happened to pick up that I found myself completely enthralled by. My new methodology for finding audiobooks is to sort my TBR by random and to go down the list until I find a book that a) is available on audiobook and b) has a narrator that I like. I listen to the sample and if I like it, I download it and take off. It seems to be working fairly well for me.

The Winter People doesn’t fit neatly into any box. It’s a bit of horror, a bit of fantasy, a bit of historical fiction, and a bit of thriller. It actually has two narrators, as it switches not only between past and present but also between POVs within each time period. It’s hard to nail down, and the reader can’t even be entirely sure what’s happening until close to the end. I will say that it does a pretty good job of answering all your questions, though, so if you hate ambiguous endings you’ll probably like this one.

There are a fair amount of characters, but Jennifer McMahon does a good job of giving them all their own unique voices (well, the narrators probably help there too). I never really found myself mixing them up, and felt like they were all distinctly different people. My favorite is probably Sara Harrison Shea herself, in part because her narrator was unbelievably good. Both of the narrators were great, in fact. I also loved the setting. I have a soft spot in my heart for books set in New England, particularly when I know a lot of the places mentioned. This book took place mainly in Vermont, with a few flashbacks to scenes in Boston.

My biggest (and only, really) issue with this book was the ending. There was a scene that I was positive was the end and I was almost entirely satisfied with where it left off — but then it continued. In my opinion, this kind of caused the book to fizzle out and made for an awkward finish. It meandered just a bit too long. I also felt like things weren’t wrapped up entirely well. There were reasons given for everything that happened, but some of them felt so artificial. Like, it felt like the author couldn’t come up with an organic way to incorporate some stuff into the story but decided to keep it in anyway. Those minor reasons were why I knocked off half a star, they kind of pulled me out of the story I was until that point so invested in.

Overall, I thought this was an incredible read. Halfway through, I started adding more Jennifer McMahon books to my TBR and will definitely prioritize picking up something else by her. I highly recommend anyone with any interest pick this up. If you enjoy horror stories, particularly those with a historical setting, you’re going to love The Winter People.

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Providence [review]

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Providence by Caroline Kepnes
To be published by Lenny on June 19, 2018 
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
3.54 (as of 2018-06-07)
cw: animal death, ableism, domestic abuse, cancer

Spoiler-free Review
An advanced copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

From the acclaimed author of YOU comes a novel that is part love story, part detective story, and part supernatural thriller.

Growing up as best friends in small-town New Hampshire, Jon and Chloe are the only ones who truly understand each other and their intense connection. But just when Jon is ready to confess the depth of his feelings, he’s kidnapped by his substitute teacher, a discredited scientist who is obsessed with H.P. Lovecraft and has a plot to save humanity.

After four years in captivity, Jon finally escapes, only to discover that he now has an uncontrollable power that endangers anyone he has intense feelings for. He runs away to Providence to protect Chloe while he searches for answers. Across town from Jon, Detective Charles “Eggs” DeBenedictus is fascinated by a series of strange deaths–young, healthy people whose hearts just . . . stop. Convinced these deaths are a series of connected, vigilante killings, he jeopardizes his job and already strained marriage to uncover the truth. 

With heart, insight, and a keen eye on human frailty, Kepnes whisks us on a journey through New England and crashes these characters’ lives together in the most unexpected ways, exploring the complex relationship between the powerful and the powerless, love and identity, self-preservation and self-destruction, and how the lines are often blurred between the two

 

I requested this title on Netgalley mainly because I saw that the main characters were from New Hampshire. I always want to read books that take place at least in part in places that I’ve lived. The plot also looked interesting, so I gave it a shot. I’m really glad I did because this ended up being a very good read.

People who live to know a sicko are very eager to tell you their story. There’s a pride, a sense of having survived something.

Caroline Kepnes is a great writer. This is the first work of hers that I’ve read, but immediately after finishing this, I added You to my TBR. She does a fantastic job of pulling the reader right into the story and creates interesting characters that you can really relate to. I really liked both Claire and Jon, as well as the relationship between them and how it changed over time. I also loved the Lovecraft references. I haven’t read much Lovecraft myself, but am really drawn to Lovecraftian stories.

When I die, if there is a place called hell, I will go there.

I did think, however, that the characters could have been given a little more complexity. Jon and Claire are both overwhelmingly “good” people and don’t really have any flaws (at least, none that they can control). I also didn’t really enjoy the addition of Eggs into the story. I understood how he functioned as far as the plot went, but felt like he didn’t add much to the story as a character. Maybe it’s just because I didn’t like him. He was constantly lying to his wife and essentially pretended that his autistic son didn’t exist. By the end there is some redemption, but I still really don’t think he deserved to be treated so well.

I hit the road, New Hampshire bound, I’m a typical Rhodie in the sense that I think we’re the best. In Massachusetts, you have all these sweet-toothed Massholes stuffing their face with ice cream covered in jimmies, all puffed up with self-righteousness they get out of that little rock down in Plymouth. Never mind Maine; try being a woman in that state, let me know how it works out. Vermont has the worst Italian food I ever had in my life. And New Hampshire, all you gotta know is that they take pride in rocks, granite, tax-free shopping, and bottle rockets, their handles of grain alcohol so they can go home and light themselves on fire.

Otherwise, this was a fantastic read. I almost missed my train stop multiple times while reading and I kept getting so sucked in that I wasn’t sure how I could put the book down. I may end up grabbing a physical copy of this for myself, but at the very least I will certainly recommend this book to others. This will be good for fans of thrillers, contemporary sci-fi pieces, and/or the writings of Lovecraft.

I settle on a little pink dress but then I remember Carrig’s family, the wall of them, why are you so dressed up? That should be the state fucking slogan of New Hampshire.

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Art of Escaping [review]

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The Art of Escaping by Erin Callahan
To be published by Amberjack Publishing on June 19, 2018
320 
pages.
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg: 
4.25 (as of 03/11/2018)
cw: statutory rape, ableism, homophobic slurs, alcoholism, depression

Spoiler-free Review of an eARC Provided by the Publisher via NetGalley

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

Seventeen-year-old Mattie is hiding her obsession with Harry Houdini and Dorothy Dietrich from everyone, including her best friend Stella. When Stella takes off to boarding school for the summer, all of Mattie’s anxieties bubble to the surface, leaving her feeling adrift. To distract herself, she seeks out Miyu, the reclusive daughter of a world-renowned escape artist whose life and career were snuffed out by a tragic plane crash.

With Miyu’s help, Mattie secretly transforms herself into a burgeoning escapologist and performance artist. Away from the curious eyes of her peers, she thrives in her new world of lock picking, straitjackets, and aquarium escapes. But when Will, a popular varsity athlete from her high school, discovers her act at an underground venue, she fears that her double life is about to be exposed. But instead of outing her, Will tells Mattie something he’s never told anyone before and the two of them find out that not all secrets can remain secret forever.

Told through the perspectives of the witty main characters, this funny and fresh debut explores the power of stage personas and secret spaces, and speaks to the uncanny ways in which friendships transform us.

This ended up being a relatively cute contemporary read that I worked my way through pretty quickly. The writing was good, the plot itself was very original, and the characters were well-developed. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t love it, and I think that’s because I didn’t feel invested enough in the story itself. At no point did I feel any concern that things wouldn’t turn out okay.

Maybe I’m just too distanced from high school now, but Mattie’s problems just… didn’t feel like real problems to me. She’s training to be an escapologist — a death-defying badass — but she’s terrified that people will find out and post something mean about her on LifeScape (this world’s version of Facebook). I feel like a story that focused more around her struggling through the training itself and less around her fears of exposure would have been more compelling for me.

There were actually more things (Mattie’s training aside) that didn’t feel fully fleshed out to me. Near the beginning, Mattie randomly has a nightmare about… LifeScape. This struck me as bizarre, but what struck me as more bizarre was that these (allegedly regular) nightmares didn’t come up again. Sure, her fear of being ridiculed on LifeScape came up a few more times, but it seemed more like an afterthought than anything else. I’m hoping this ends up more fully developed or pulled altogether from the finished copy.

The implication that Mattie’s secret double life and Will’s sexuality were on a similar level of potential life-destruction also made me uncomfortable. This is touched upon, but placing them side-by-side and making Mattie’s problems the main focus really felt to me like it was inadvertently minimizing the very real issue of coming out. I don’t think this was intentional by the author at all, but that was still the impact that I personally felt.

It also really caught me off guard and really upset me that Mattie is constantly disgusted by her brother’s inability to do anything when the narrative makes it clear that he is depressed and an alcoholic. To be fair, the author did note that the final copy clears up some ableist language, but I’m not sure how thoroughly this part of the plot was changed — the implication is that Mattie thinks she can inspire her brother to pull himself together, or something? When it seems like he really needs help and everyone is just… letting him languish.

Besides that, there were a few other things that made me cringe. Mattie sleeps with her older brother’s drunken friend — but she was 16 or 17 at the time, and he was in his mid-twenties. She also has hella “not like other girl” vibes. I think it’s fine to be different and quirky, but this treads dangerously on “I’m better than other girls because I do alternative things” territory. There are a couple other things, but mentioning them would be spoilers and I’m going to avoid that for now.

Overall, it was a fun, enjoyable read, but I worry about some of the content and hope things were cleaned up for the final copy.

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Horns [review]

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Horns by Joe Hill
Published by William Morrow on March 1, 2010 (originally 2009)
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
3.92 (as of 2018-06-05)
cw: homophobia, racism, rape, pedophilia, torture, pretty much anything you could think of

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

Ignatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke up the next morning with a thunderous hangover, a raging headache . . . and a pair of horns growing from his temples.

At first Ig thought the horns were a hallucination, the product of a mind damaged by rage and grief. He had spent the last year in a lonely, private purgatory, following the death of his beloved, Merrin Williams, who was raped and murdered under inexplicable circumstances. A mental breakdown would have been the most natural thing in the world. But there was nothing natural about the horns, which were all too real.

Once the righteous Ig had enjoyed the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned musician and younger brother of a rising late-night TV star, he had security, wealth, and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more—he had Merrin and a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.

But Merrin’s death damned all that. The only suspect in the crime, Ig was never charged or tried. And he was never cleared. In the court of public opinion in Gideon, New Hampshire, Ig is and always will be guilty because his rich and connected parents pulled strings to make the investigation go away. Nothing Ig can do, nothing he can say, matters. Everyone, it seems, including God, has abandoned him. Everyone, that is, but the devil inside. 

 

Y’all I had NO idea what to expect going into this one. I got this as a gift in a recent exchange and had been meaning to read it for a while (I’m hoping to get through all of Joe Hill’s work within the next year or two). I hadn’t reread the blurb and hadn’t even seen the trailers for the movie, so didn’t really know what the plot would be, just that it involved, well, horns. Let me say right away that this book is not for the light-hearted. There are some… pretty messed up things going on. People do and say the most heinous things you can think of. So, keep that in mind if you’re thinking about picking this one up.

He threw the bible into the trumpet case as well. There had to be something in there, some useful tips for his situation, a homeopathic remedy you could apply when you came down with a bad case of the devil.

That said, this is incredibly well-written and compelling story about a man trying to solve the murder of the woman that he loves. He runs into a few snags — namely the fact that he’s the main suspect. Oh, and the horns growing out of his head. Which do come with a few side-effects that I don’t want to spoil for you. I liked how the story was layered, switching back and forth between past and present. In some books this ends up being jarring, but Joe Hill does it well here. He knew how to time it and used it to slowly bring the full story to light.

If you were in a boat and did not save a drowning man, you would burn in Hell for certain; yet God, in His wisdom, feels no need to use his power to save anyone from a single moment of suffering, and in spite of his inaction He is celebrated and revered. Show me the moral logic in it. You can’t. There is none. Only the devil operates with any reason, promising to punish those who wanted to make earth itself Hell for those who dare to love and feel.

If you’re a Joe Hill fan, you’ll probably like Horns. This was one I just couldn’t put down and I finished the last portion in a two-hour binge. I’d also recommend it for fans of horrors, thrillers, and mysteries, as it contains a little of each. The horror isn’t as much outright scary as it is unsettling, but I’d say that’s the most appropriate category to place it in.

She was innocent. All snakes were, of course.

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

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Unwifeable [review]

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Unwifeable by Mandy Stadtmiller
Published by Gallery Books on April 3, 2018
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
3.78 (as of 2018-05-29)
cw: alcoholism, drug use, sex, kink, statutory rape, incest, animal death

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

From the popular, “candid and bold, tender and tough” (Cheryl Strayed) dating columnist for New York magazine and the New York Post comes a whirlwind and “gutsy” (Courtney Love) memoir recounting countless failed romances and blackout nights, told with Mandy Stadtmiller’s unflinching candor and brilliant wit.

My story is not unique. Single girl comes to New York; New York eats her alive. But what does stand out is my discovery that you can essentially live a life that appears to be a textbook manual for everything one can do wrong to find love—and still find Mr. Right.

Mandy Stadtmiller came to Manhattan in 2005, newly divorced, thirty years old, with a job at the New York Post, ready to conquer the city and the industry in one fell swoop. Like a “real-life Carrie Bradshaw” (so called by Jenny McCarthy), she proceeded to chronicle her fearless attempts for nearly a decade in the Post, New York magazine, and xoJane.

But underneath the glitz and glamour of her new life, there is a darker side threatening to surface. She goes through countless failed high-profile hookups in the New York comedy and writing scene. There are soon too many nights she can’t remember, and the blind spots start to add up. She begins to realize that falling in love won’t fix her—she needs to fix herself first.

Unwifeable is a New York fairytale brought to life—Sex and the City on acid. With hysterical insight, unabashed sexuality, and unprecedented levels of raw, honest pain, Unwifeable is a “blisteringly candid” (Sarah Hepola, New York Times bestselling author of Blackout) book that you can’t help but respond and relate to—perfect for fans of Amy Schumer and Chelsea Handler.

This was a really difficult read for me. It felt like rubbernecking, like witnessing someone else’s painful life-changing crash and not looking away even though you know you should. This memoir was unbelievably candidly honest, peeling back the layers none of us want to see. It was awkward and filled with secondhand embarrassment, it was graphic and showy, I had no idea how to feel about it and I honestly still don’t.

I never played games at all with men. Ever. Unless the game was to act like the kind of nightmare who hysterically cries at the drop of a hat and replies on a man for all manner of self-validation, self-worth, and approval to fill that giant gaping hole inside.

This memoir details Mandy’s life in New York City and her experiences with alcoholism — and addiction of all kinds. It details her relationships with men, most of which crash and burn. It’s hard for me to evaluate how to feel about this, because I know in general people tend to be much harder on women when it comes to being frank about raunchy behavior. The thing is, I just don’t love reading about raunchy behavior.

As an adult, I can have all the alcohol I want, anytime I want. Which, when you have no boundaries, is a dangerous combination.

It would feel more like someone’s life journey if it weren’t for the incessant name dropping. She lists maybe every celebrity she’s ever had an encounter with, and makes sure to emphasize the particularly unsavory encounters. This makes it feel more showy than anything else and it’s hard to take her accounts more seriously than a continued cry for attention. I don’t know Mandy and I’m not going to pretend to know anything about Mandy, but she talks a lot about how oversharing in her writing has done her so much harm in her past, and I guess it’s hard for me to understand how this isn’t just a continuation of that.

Is it fun? I don’t know. Is self-harm fun? You be the judge.

Regardless, this is a pretty worthwhile read. Mandy is an incredibly good writer, and it’s easy to cruise through this book — if you don’t have to keep putting it down every time a particularly embarrassing scene pops up. I think a lot of good topics are discussed, I just wish there had been more of an emphasis on recovery than detailing every dirty encounter she ever had.

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(Blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

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Borne [review]

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Borne by Jeff VanderMeer
Published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux on April 25, 2017
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
3.91 (as of 2018-05-26)

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

In a ruined, nameless city of the future, a woman named Rachel, who makes her living as a scavenger, finds a creature she names “Borne” entangled in the fur of Mord, a gigantic, despotic bear. Mord once prowled the corridors of the biotech organization known as the Company, which lies at the outskirts of the city, until he was experimented on, grew large, learned to fly and broke free. Driven insane by his torture at the Company, Mord terrorizes the city even as he provides sustenance for scavengers like Rachel.

At first, Borne looks like nothing at all—just a green lump that might be a Company discard. The Company, although severely damaged, is rumoured to still make creatures and send them to distant places that have not yet suffered Collapse.

Borne somehow reminds Rachel of the island nation of her birth, now long lost to rising seas. She feels an attachment she resents; attachments are traps, and in this world any weakness can kill you. Yet when she takes Borne to her subterranean sanctuary, the Balcony Cliffs, Rachel convinces her lover, Wick, not to render Borne down to raw genetic material for the drugs he sells—she cannot break that bond.

Wick is a special kind of supplier, because the drug dealers in the city don’t sell the usual things. They sell tiny creatures that can be swallowed or stuck in the ear, and that release powerful memories of other people’s happier times or pull out forgotten memories from the user’s own mind—or just produce beautiful visions that provide escape from the barren, craterous landscapes of the city.

Against his better judgment, out of affection for Rachel or perhaps some other impulse, Wick respects her decision. Rachel, meanwhile, despite her loyalty to Wick, knows he has kept secrets from her. Searching his apartment, she finds a burnt, unreadable journal titled “Mord,” a cryptic reference to the Magician (a rival drug dealer) and evidence that Wick has planned the layout of the Balcony Cliffs to match the blueprint of the Company building. What is he hiding? Why won’t he tell her about what happened when he worked for the Company?

I had started reading Borne for the Reddit /r/books book club. I had been intending to read it anyway, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I first read VanderMeer when I picked up Annihilation in January, and then Authority in March, and I really enjoyed his writing style. I was impressed by how he was able to pull readers into such bizarre environments and weave such strange tales.

The first half of the book went by pretty quickly for me. There wasn’t much of an introduction to the world itself and as a reader you found yourself thrust into it pretty quickly. It’s a confusing environment — decimated city, giant flying bear, you get the idea — and it’s difficult to orient yourself, but VanderMeer does a pretty good job of immersing you within it and revealing the context slowly.

The pacing was a bit off and I sort of lost interest in the second half of the book, which caused me to finish it a lot slower than I had intended. I became a bit too confused and it was hard to be invested in the story when I didn’t understand what was going on. I really didn’t understand the cause and effect of certain events, so I spent more time trying to figure out what had happened than I spent reacting to them emotionally.

The end pulled things together pretty well, but I had already been lost for long enough that it didn’t redeem things for me. I was disappointed because it didn’t really feel comparable to the first two thirds of the Southern Reach trilogy to me, but I think I also wasn’t in the mindspace to read this kind of book right now, so take that with a grain of salt.

I definitely recommend this for other lovers of VanderMeer and sci-fi lovers in general, but it just didn’t do it for me this time around.

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Summer Children [review]

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The Summer Children (The Collector #3) by Dot Hutchison
To be published by Thomas & Mercer on May 21, 2018
302 
pages.
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
4.25 (as of 2018-05-21)
cw: sexual assault, pedophilia, domestic abuse, drug use, pretty much everything related to that

Spoiler-free Review of an ARC Provided by the Publisher

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

When Agent Mercedes Ramirez finds an abused young boy on her porch, covered in blood and clutching a teddy bear, she has no idea that this is just the beginning. He tells her a chilling tale: an angel killed his parents and then brought him here so Mercedes could keep him safe.

His parents weren’t just murdered. It was a slaughter—a rage kill like no one on the Crimes Against Children team had seen before. But they’re going to see it again. An avenging angel is meting out savage justice, and she’s far from through.

One by one, more children arrive at Mercedes’s door with the same horror story. Each one a traumatized survivor of an abusive home. Each one chafing at Mercedes’s own scars from the past. And each one taking its toll on her life and career.

Now, as the investigation draws her deeper into the dark, Mercedes is beginning to fear that if this case doesn’t destroy her, her memories might.

 

(My review for The Roses of May (The Collector #2) can be found here.)

As with The Roses of May, I avoided reading any kind of plot summary beforehand, because I was positive I would like whatever Dot had in mind for the third installment of the series. I was so excited when I realized we finally get a book centering around the POV of Mercedes, who until now has been more of a side character. Mercedes is a queer latinx woman who, it is revealed, has dealt firsthand with abuse in her past.

If you were afraid of something in the light, wasn’t it just good sense to be more afraid of it in the dark?

Again, as with the last book, this could be read as a standalone, but I highly recommend reading the entire series in order to provide a better context for everything going on and so you won’t have to worry about spoiling the first two for yourself. A lot of the character interactions probably won’t make sense without the background.

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who was scared of angels.

Then she met one, and she wasn’t afraid anymore.

My only issue with this book is really the interpersonal relationships between the characters. I think a significant amount of people took issue with this in the last book and while it didn’t bother me at the time, it stuck out to me a lot more with this one. It got to the point where it kind of ruined my suspension of disbelief. Obviously I don’t know much about the inner workings of the FBI, and within the story the characters do emphasize that this isn’t necessarily normal, but the kinds of relationships you see here just seem kind of unprofessional and unrealistic.

Besides that, I did find the book highly enjoyable (although that’s a weird word for this kind of story) and a quick read. I haven’t looked at any reviews yet, so I’m not sure what criticisms are out there, but I’m sure some people will accuse this of being “torture porn” and I can’t really fault them for that, but it’s kind of the theme of these books. I’ll also add that while I originally rated the second book highly, I do think it would fall more flat for me on a second read. I think that this one comes far closer to the first book in terms of quality, although I still prefer the first.

If you enjoyed the first two books in this series, then I definitely recommend The Summer Children!

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Mini-Review Compilation #6

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Emergency Contact
cw: alcoholism, racism, sexual assault, parental neglect.

This was exactly the kind of fluffy contemporary romance I’ve been needing in my life. Watching Penny and Sam’s romance blossom via text was heartwarming and anxiety-inducing and so, so relatable. I loved both of the MCs so much and literally could not put this book down. Unfortunately, I tore through it so fast that I didn’t really take enough notes for a proper review and all I can do is gush about how cute and wonderful it was. The writing was excellent and I enjoyed the plot. There were serious topics, which were all good to see and which were handed well, in my opinion. I loved loved loved this book and cannot recommend it enough if you’re looking for a cute NA contemporary.

Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Quiet Rumours: An Anarcha-Feminist Reader

I’m pretty new to anarchism and political theory in general, so this was my first foray into a book dedicated to the subject. I found it really informative and a good jumping-off point, it helped me to compile a list of further reading materials. It was sort of loosely put together and probably could have used a little more context for each of the essays/pamphlets and seemed a bit outdated, so that’s why I knocked off one star. I definitely plan to check out some more AK Press releases, though!

Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐

13261812

Gone Girl
cw sexual assault, domestic abuse, many many many things

I almost DNFed this, but everyone told me to hang in there. I hated both of the MCs, but things really picked up after a plot twist about halfway through. It was worth reading, but I still didn’t end up loving it. [SPOILERS] I can appreciate unlikable characters, but I can’t get behind anything that reinforces the stereotype that women lie about being raped and/or abused just to punish or get back at men. A small thing, but Amy also states as fact that she doesn’t get catcalled at all after the gains weight and there’s no way that would be true and is really telling of what the author thinks of fat women. [/SPOILERS] Yeah, anyway I didn’t really find this very special and thought it was fine.

Rating:⭐⭐⭐

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(All covers courtesy of Goodreads.)