Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Mini-Review Compilation #14

Praise Song for the Butterflies

This is a difficult book to review; it feels wrong to give it a number and talk about it as “good” or “not good.” The story follows the life of a girl named Abeo, who is born into a relatively privileged West African family. After bad luck befalls them, Abeo is brought to a shrine and is left in ritual servitude. Praise Song for the Butterflies is quite simplistically written, but its matter-of-fact tone makes the horrors within all the more appalling. Unfortunately, it also holds the characters at arms length and makes it difficult to empathize with them on anything more than an artificial level. While the story is important and eye-opening I didn’t find it to be a meaningful literary experience. I’d recommend it to anyone interested, if you can stomach the content.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐.5

An American Marriage
[spoilers below]

I’ve struggled for days to write this review. An American Marriage is well-written and engaging and while I appreciate what Tayari Jones did with this book, I just felt so frustrated reading it. Roy, the husband in the couple at the center of the story, treats his wife Celestial like little more than property and at one point even tells her he could rape her if he wanted to. I felt like he was irredeemably awful at times to the point where I wanted to put down the book and not pick it up again. I wish I had loved this more and it certainly wasn’t bad, but it also isn’t something that I see sticking with me.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

The Lovely and the Lost
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.

I blew through this book, which I requested from NetGalley on a whim. It follows a girl named Kira who trains search and rescue dogs with her adoptive family. Kira herself has a mysterious past that slowly comes further to light as the story progresses. While there were a couple of moments that seemed a little overdramatic and pulled me out of the story, I found this to be wildly compelling otherwise. The characters were all distinct in their own ways and I loved seeing their relationships play out on the page. The plot kept me interested, and I didn’t predict the twist at the end. Overall a really good read, and I’ll definitely be checking out more of Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ work.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Facebook

Advertisements
Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Lost Children Archive [review]

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
Published by Knopf Publishing Group on February 12, 2019
my rating: ★★★★
Goodreads avg:
3.96 (as of 2019-04-16)
Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

From the two-time NBCC Finalist, a fiercely imaginative novel about a family’s summer road trip across America–a journey that, with breathtaking imagery, spare lyricism, and profound humanity, probes the nature of justice and equality in America today.

A mother and father set out with their kids from New York to Arizona. In their used Volvo–and with their ten-year-old son trying out his new Polaroid camera–the family is heading for the Apacheria: the region the Apaches once called home, and where the ghosts of Geronimo and Cochise might still linger. The father, a sound documentarist, hopes to gather an “inventory of echoes” from this historic, mythic place. The mother, a radio journalist, becomes consumed by the news she hears on the car radio, about the thousands of children trying to reach America but getting stranded at the southern border, held in detention centers, or being sent back to their homelands, to an unknown fate.

But as the family drives farther west–through Virginia to Tennessee, across Oklahoma and Texas–we sense they are on the brink of a crisis of their own. A fissure is growing between the parents, one the children can feel beneath their feet. They are led, inexorably, to a grand, unforgettable adventure–both in the harsh desert landscape and within the chambers of their own imaginations.

Told through the voices of the mother and her son, as well as through a stunning tapestry of collected texts and images–including prior stories of migration and displacement–Lost Children Archive is a story of how we document our experiences, and how we remember the things that matter to us the most. Blending the personal and the political with astonishing empathy, it is a powerful, wholly original work of fiction: exquisite, provocative, and deeply moving. 


I can easily see a lot of people hating this book. In fact, I can see myself hating this book. It’s dense and it’s work to get through. This is yet another one I would almost definitely not have finished if I wasn’t reading it for the Women’s Prize. The writing style isn’t my thing and it’s immediate from the start that layout of the book itself is atypical, for lack of a better word. It’s a “family story” and a “road trip book,” both of which I also tend to stay away from. There are plenty of reasons why I shouldn’t have enjoyed this book, but somehow I did.

The thing about living with someone is that even though you see them every day and can predict all their gestures in a conversation, even when you can read intentions behind their actions and calculate their responses to circumstances fairly accurately, even when you are sure there’s not a single crease in them left unexplored, even then, one day the other can suddenly become a stranger.

There are so many layers to this, and I know I didn’t fully understand all of it. The main character and her husband are sound archivists, which right away makes for a bit of an intriguing tone. It explains the unusual formatting and lets our narrator examine things in a light we may not be accustomed to. It also helps to incorporate the underlying theme of the novel: illegal immigration in the United States.

No one thinks of those children as consequences of a historical war that goes back decades. Everyone keeps asking: which war, where? Why are they here? Why did they come to the United States? What will we do with them? No one is asking: why did they flee their homes?

The narrator and her husband meet while working on a project to record all of the languages being spoken in New York City. The narrator herself was born in Mexico and becomes obsessed with the children crossing the border, hoping to join their family on the other side. Once the language project is complete, she decides to make her next project about giving voices to these lost children. Meanwhile, her husband’s next project is on the other side of history: he has become deeply obsessed with the history of the Apache tribes of Native Americans.

[…] reading others’ words, inhabiting their minds for a while, has always been an entry point to my own thoughts.

I found myself becoming deeply emotionally connected to the narrator throughout the first half of the book, until the focus shifts to the son. From there, I became more enthralled with the plot itself. I found the switch interesting; I went from somber introspection to a more dreamlike reading experience. I enjoyed both parts of the book and felt like they really balanced each other out.

Hard to explain why two complete strangers may suddenly decide to share an unbeautified portrait of their lives. But perhaps also easy to explain, because two people alone in a bar at two in the morning are probably there to try to figure out the exact narrative they need to tell themselves before they go back to wherever they’ll sleep that night.

There are so many deep themes to this that I wish I could discuss in detail, but just can’t grasp strongly enough to wrangle into a coherent analysis. I really wish I had read this in a lit class in college, I know I would have gotten so much more out of it. Regardless, I’ll probably be reading whatever pieces I can find on this, so if you happen to see something interesting please send it my way!

Once he even recorded our voices talking in the backseat of the car, and then played them for Ma when they thought we were both sleeping and not listening. And it was strange to listen to our own voices around us, like we were there but also not there. I felt like we’d disappeared, thought, what if we are not actually sitting back here but only being remembered by them?

All in all, while this was a challenging reading experience for me, I really felt it was worth it. Luiselli succeeded in making me think deeply while consuming her work, and I hope to return to it in the future — perhaps with a better context to place it in. I recommend picking this up if you’re looking for some slower moving literary fiction to make your brain work.


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

Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Facebook

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Circe [review]

Circe by Madeline Miller
Published by Little, Brown and Company on April 10, 2018
my rating: ★★★.5
Goodreads avg:
4.32 (as of 2019-04-03)
Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.


Circe had already been on my TBR since I really liked The Song of Achilles, but I had seen lukewarm praise by friends and decided not to prioritize it. Its place on the Women’s Prize longlist is what skyrocketed it to the top of my list. I can see to some extent why it’s so well-loved: Madeline Miller manages to create a feminist retelling of Circe’s place in history. Miller’s prose is lovely, as expected, and it’s quite an easy read.

I had no right to claim him, I knew it. But in a solitary life, there are rare moments when another soul dips towards yours, as stars once a year brush the earth. Such a constellation was he to me.

Unfortunately, I just found there to be something missing. With The Song of Achilles, Miller really managed to tug at the heartstrings in a way that I didn’t experience again in Circe. Part of this may have been due to the length of the story, which takes place over thousands of years and which necessitates large gaps in time. It’s difficult for me to pinpoint anything else, though. There’s nothing I can point to as causing my neutrality, I just… wasn’t quite as invested in the story as I would’ve liked.

I did not care. I thought: give me the blade. Some things are worth spilling blood for.

Overall, though, Circe is a worthwhile read. Miller is a great writer and I don’t regret picking this up. It seems by and large to satisfy audiences, so I’m definitely in the minority with my rating.


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

Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Facebook

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Ordinary People [review]

Ordinary People by Diana Evans
Published by Liveright on September 11, 2018
my rating: ★★★★
Goodreads avg:
3.32 (as of 2019-03-24)
Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

Diana Evans, author of the prize-winning 26a, returns with an intimate portrait of London, an exploration of modern relationships and black identity, and that mid-life moment when a gap emerges between who we think we are and who we are becoming.

Melissa and Michael, a couple of thirteen years, have taken up residence in a crooked house in the south of the city, a new baby making them a family of four. Feeling defined solely by motherhood, Melissa’s need to reclaim her identity is spilling into resentment at her partner and a growing fear that something unnatural is living in their home. Her solace in her Nigerian mother’s stews and spells only infuriates Michael, who desperately misses the excitement of their lives before children.

Further south, in the suburbs, Damian and Stephanie enter a year of marital disquiet. Damian’s Trinidadian political activist father has died, and he finds himself adrift and hungering for the city–just as his admiration for Stephanie’s wholesome aspirations and white middle class upbringing begin to feel more like a trap than an escape. With the election of Barack Obama posing a distant perfection to which modern couples might aspire, these two ordinary partnerships collide and conjoin in a building chaos born from their extraordinary desires.

Ordinary People is an intimate, immersive study of identity and parenthood, sex and grief, friendship and aging, and the fragile architecture of love. With its distinctive prose and addictive soundtrack, it is the story of our lives, and those moments that threaten to unravel us.


I barely know where to begin with this review! Ordinary People is my first official (aka intentional) Women’s Prize Longlist read. I chose to start with it for one simple reason: it was available at the library. I truly didn’t know what to expect, as I went in without reading the blurb or any reviews — daring, I know. What I got was a quietly beautiful examination of love and relationships.

Before Melissa met Michael, her attitude towards men was one of indifference. They were strange and hungry beings. They had strange bodies. They wanted things.

The writing took a bit for me to adjust to, as it’s not my usual fare. It had a rather meandering approach that was somewhat dreamy in nature. There was a lot of gazing into the past, explaining how the characters got to be where they are now. It took me for a bit of a turn; I’d expect a brief sidebar, maybe a paragraph or two of background regarding the situation at hand, and would instead get a deep dive that seemed irrelevant in some ways. As I got used to it, I found these histories relaxing, a reprieve from the conflicts the present day versions of these characters were dealing with.

“Do you think, sometimes,” she asked Simon, “that people who like each other are not meant to touch each other?”

The book centers around two black couples: Michael and Melissa, and Damian and Stephanie. Michael and Melissa have recently had their second child. Michael misses the spark that their relationship used to hold, hungers for the woman he felt Melissa used to be. Melissa has lost any desire for Michael and instead feels trapped in her role as a mother, anxiety continuing to mount within her as the book progresses. On the other hand, Damian has recently lost his father and seems to be pulling away from his wife as he refuses to process his grief. Stephanie holds strong and is determined to keep their relationship afloat.

For the sake of love, for the sake of chocolate, for the sake of their children, she did what he wanted.

I’m not sure whether all the characters were meant to be equal, but Michael and Melissa certainly felt like the main characters to me. Melissa in particular drew my sympathy and interest. Michael seemed to think his problems were unbelievably important, but from my perspective they were inane compared to Melissa’s. I don’t know if it was intentional, or if I’m just sick of men who think the world revolves around them, but it did make for an interesting reading experience. I won’t get into it any further than that, or else I risk edging into spoiler territory.

He doesn’t belong to me. Fidelity is so overrated. I think it’s childish, the way people think of it.

Overall, I found it a really enjoyable read. It definitely made me feel quite grateful to be reading the Women’s Prize longlist, as this is something I absolutely would not have read on my own. I can only hope the rest of the books serve me equally well. Anyway, I recommend picking this one up if you’re looking for something introspective to pick up, but not if you’re looking for anything wildly exciting plot-wise, although I will argue that there were some very innovative bits. I may have to check out some more of Evans’ work, as she is quite an impressive writer.


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

Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Facebook

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Mini-Review Compilation #13

Tarot Elements
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.

I’ve been meaning to read Kitchen Table Tarot by Melissa Cynova for ages now, so when Destiny let me know that Tarot Elements was available for request on NetGalley, I was stoked. The spreads all seemed immensely helpful and Melissa described their purposes very well in addition to providing some exercises to help you stay in the proper headspace for each element. My only complaint is the specific examples given for each spread. While these were helpful to a certain extent in understanding how the spreads worked, they felt quite repetitive and I ended up skimming through most of them. Regardless, I did enjoy reading through this and will definitely use these techniques in the future!

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Squire (Protector of the Small #3)

I’ve been trying to draft a review of this for almost a week, but I’m struggling to piece something together because I feel like I covered it all in my reviews of the first two books! The series continues much as it has been, with Kel experiencing ups and downs and learning along the way, this time as a squire. The big difference here, besides Kel truly getting her feet wet as a soldier, is that we finally have a solid romance plot. Without spoiling anything, my only complaint was that the romance felt a bit abrupt and that I didn’t feel there was much build-up. Other than that, this book was amaaaazing. I finished it in one day, which I haven’t had the energy or focus to do in a while!

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Shift (Silo #2)

Shift is book two of the Silo series, which I first devoured in 2014 and which (thankfully) stood up to the test of time, just as Wool did. The best thing about waiting so long to reread these is that I had almost entirely forgotten the specifics of the plot. I was on the edge of my seat all over again, waiting to find out what would happen. While not quite as compelling as the first book and, clocking in at almost 600 pages, just a tad too long for its own good, Shift still stands well as a sequel. We are introduced to some new characters while also getting to know some familiar faces a bit more thoroughly. Any more explanation than that may start heading into spoiler territory, but I will say I was kind of disappointed to see that only men received POV chapters in this one as far as I can recall. If you’ve started the Silo series, I highly recommend continuing. I can’t wait to pick up Dust!

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5


Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Facebook

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark [review]

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
Published by Harper Collins on February 27, 2018
my rating: ★★★★.5
Goodreads avg: 
4.19 (as of 2019-03-14)
Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

A masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer—the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California for over a decade—from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case.

“You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark.”

For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called “the Golden State Killer.” McNamara pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

At the time of the crimes, the Golden State Killer was between the ages of eighteen and thirty, Caucasian, and athletic—capable of vaulting tall fences. He always wore a mask. After choosing a victim—he favored suburban couples—he often entered their home when no one was there, studying family pictures, mastering the layout. He attacked while they slept, using a flashlight to awaken and blind them. Though they could not recognize him, his victims recalled his voice: a guttural whisper through clenched teeth, abrupt and threatening.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark—the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death—offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Framed by an introduction by Gillian Flynn and an afterword by her husband, Patton Oswalt, the book was completed by McNamara’s lead researcher and a close colleague. Utterly original and compelling, it is destined to become a true crime classic—and may at last unmask the Golden State Killer.


I think almost everyone has heard of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark at this point. It is the true crime book of the last few years. The disturbing, intriguing mystery is enough to pique interest, but Michelle McNamara’s sudden death combined with the fact that the Golden State Killer (aka the East Area Rapist, aka the Original Night Stalker) was arrested shortly after the book’s release makes I’ll Be Gone almost impossible to disregard. I bought a copy of the book back in August and put off reading it for the “right” time, afraid to pick it up for fear it would trigger a bought of paranoia that even a locked door wouldn’t fend off.

There’s a scream permanently lodged in my throat now.

Fortunately, that was not the case. While a decent portion of the book is devoted to the Golden State Killer’s crimes, the focus is more on his methodology than any graphic details. Although, what we are told about is chilling: a startlingly literal form of stalking, wherein the GSK learns every pertinent detail of his victims’ lives so that he might have complete control over them while attacking. Our homes are sacred places to us, and any safety or comfort residents of the communities he attacked may have felt was ripped away from them in the aftermath of these events.

The EAR is a card face down on a table. Our speculation is a cul-de-sac. Round and round we go.

More than the crimes themselves, McNamara focuses in on the process of hunting the GSK. It seemed he foiled investigators at every turn. Even after the study of DNA analysis continued to grow, even when they had multiple samples linking him to countless crimes, they were unable to determine who this man was. Instead of presenting the experiences of faceless cops, McNamara digs deep into the investigators’ involvement and brings them to the forefront as their own fully-fledged selves. We even watch her build personal connections with them as she herself attempts to unveil this masked predator they all have in common.

“Has he ever gone back?” the thirteen-year-old asked the investigators interviewing her after the attack.
“Never,” said the first investigator.
“Never, ever, ever,” said the second.
“The safest house in the area,” said the first.
As if any house was ever going to feel safe again.

In this way, I’ll Be Gone is more than just a compilation of the events and evidence surrounding the Golden State Killer; it is a memoir detailing McNamara’s relationship with the investigation itself. We learn about her life, how her obsession alarms her in the way it mirrors the killer’s own obsessions. We learn where she was when learning vital pieces of information, as well as how deeply she was willing to dig in order to uncover this night terror made real. McNamara was no mere true crime writer; she was truly part of this investigation in a way that few seemed to be.

A ski mask won’t help you now.

The book isn’t perfect, but there’s no way it could have been. Michelle McNamara passed away suddenly while still writing, leaving her editor and friends to piece together her work into what has become its final form. The last part of the book, the shortest, is more of a summary of notes than anything else. But, somehow this works. I shed tears more than once while reading, knowing McNamara was unable to see what had come of her work. Her husband, Patton Oswalt, wrote an afterword that left me absolutely heartbroken. Somehow, the book manages to end on a positive note: a letter from Michelle McNamara to that shadow in the dark, the absolute nightmare of a man who she knew would someday be caught. And knowing that he has been strengthens this letter into the triumphant swan song of a woman who left this world just too soon.


Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Facebook

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

If, Then [review]

If, Then by Kate Hope Day
To be published by Random House on March 12, 2019
my rating: ★★★★.5
Goodreads avg: 
3.69 (as of 2019-02-21)
cw: infidelity, grief
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

The residents of a sleepy mountain town are rocked by mysterious visions of an alternate reality in this dazzling debut that combines the family-driven suspense of Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere with the inventive storytelling of The Immortalists and Station Eleven.

In the quiet mountain haven of Clearing, Oregon, four neighbors find their lives upended when they begin to see themselves in a parallel reality. Ginny, a devoted surgeon whose work often takes precedence over her family, has a baffling vision of her beautiful coworker in her bed, and begins to doubt the solidity of her marriage. Ginny’s husband Mark, a wildlife scientist, sees a vision that suggests impending devastation–and grows increasingly paranoid, threatening the safety of his wife and son. Samara, a young woman desperately mourning the recent death of her mother and questioning why her father seems to be handling it with such ease, witnesses an apparition of her mom healthy and vibrant, and wonders about the secrets her parents may have kept from her. Cass, a brilliant scholar struggling with the demands of new motherhood, catches a glimpse of herself pregnant again, just as she’s on the brink of returning to the project that could define her career.

At first the visions are relatively benign, but they grow increasingly troubling–and in some cases, frightening. When a natural disaster threatens them all, it becomes clear that the visions were not what they first seemed, and that the town of Clearing will never be the same.

Startling, deeply imagined, and compulsively readable, Kate Hope Day’s debut novel is about the choices we make that shape our lives and determine our destinies–the moments that alter us so profoundly that it feels as if we’ve entered another reality.


I’m sure all of us have wondered what if. All those little — and big — choices that we’ve made throughout our lives. What they would have led to, where we’d be today had we chosen a different path. If, Then explores what would happen if we got a glimpse of these once possible other lives. The plot is mostly slow-moving and even when big things happen, the focus is almost entirely on the characters’ internal lives. Kate Hope Day is a remarkably good writer, and I was surprised to find this was her debut novel. She writes flawed, believable characters whose lives you will truly care about. It’s hard to delve too much into without reaching “spoiler” territory, but I’ll try.

She waits for a rush of gratitude for all the good, solid things in her life. But it doesn’t come. Her life will continue just as it is. She’ll go home and figure out what to make for dinner. She’ll have a glass of wine, feed the cats, and talk to Mark about what to do if school is cancelled next week. She’ll iron a shirt for clinic tomorrow.

Ginny was probably my favorite character (although I’m probably biased because she’s queer). She starts out as the stereotypical woman-who-can’t-have-it-all, a surgeon who doesn’t have time for her family, but as her thoughts and experiences are exposed to us she becomes her own person outside of the trope she lives. I do wish that her husband, Mark, had felt a bit more sympathetic to me, but I think that’s also due to some personal bias. It was interesting to see how Ginny’s perception of their relationship seemed to change the nature of the relationship itself, although Mark had something to do with that as well.

She’s not very good at it — loving and being loved.

Samara is deep into mourning the loss of her mother, and I enjoyed seeing their relationship explored in a different way than Ginny and Mark’s. Most would assume that the death of a person ends your relationship with them, but it was clear that Samara’s bond with her mother was able to strengthen even after the death of the latter. I liked how this was displayed, through Samara imagining the things her mother would say and how those things shifted after Samara’s impression of her had changed.

The picture Cass has of herself — it doesn’t match the woman in the rocker at all. When she thinks of herself the picture is colorless, all light eyes and skin and hair. Washed-out. Static. An overdeveloped driver’s license photo that lives permanently in her mind. But this other Cass is a polychromatic wonder. Full of agile, assured movement, even in routine pose. Full of grace.

Last but not least, I just adored Cass and seeing how her relationship with herself changed. Cass is a new mother and former doctorate student who put her studies on hold in order to care for her child. After giving birth, she lost all motivation to write and sees no way of returning to her former life in academia. As someone with depression and chronic fatigue, I can relate to having the need to do something while also lacking the ability to do it. Watching Cass grapple with this internal struggle felt simultaneously saddening and inspiring. With not just Cass, but the entire cast of characters, Day shows that change, even when necessary, is not easy.

What I really loved was the ending. There is a slowly rising wave of emotions building throughout the novel that come to a thrilling climax near the end. The aftermath of this wave is examined in a thoughtful and realistic light, and Day makes no promises of easy happy endings. She recognizes that although things are hopeful for these characters and their futures, difficulties still lie ahead. I’m no longer satisfied by carefree endings and enjoy the more nuanced world Day was able to provide. The journey of these characters is not at an end, and that is made clear to the reader. I put down the book with a surge of emotion, and hope that Day’s next novel will give me a similar experience.


Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Facebook

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet [review]

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
To be published by Hodder & Stoughton on August 13, 2015 (originally 2014)
my rating: ★★★★ ★
Goodreads avg: 
4.17 (as of 2019-03-05)

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

Follow a motley crew on an exciting journey through space—and one adventurous young explorer who discovers the meaning of family in the far reaches of the universe—in this light-hearted debut space opera from a rising sci-fi star.

Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman who learned early to keep to herself, she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain.

Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. It’s also about to get extremely dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. Tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet is definitely lucrative and will keep them comfortable for years. But risking her life wasn’t part of the plan. In the far reaches of deep space, the tiny Wayfarer crew will confront a host of unexpected mishaps and thrilling adventures that force them to depend on each other. To survive, Rosemary’s got to learn how to rely on this assortment of oddballs—an experience that teaches her about love and trust, and that having a family isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the universe.


I know I’m late to the party on this one, but I’m just glad I finally got around to it. Everyone has been singing praises of The Long Way for what feels like ages, but I kept putting off reading it because for some reason I get intimidated by “hard sci-fi” books even though I almost always end up loving them. Luckily, I managed to win a giveaway thrown by Debbie’s Library back in August, and received a copy of it then! I finally got around to picking it up and wow am I glad I did.

With a terrible silence, the sky ripped open. It swallowed them.
Rosemary looked out the window, and realized that she’d never really seen black before.

As is typical of a longer book with a larger cast, it took me a bit to get into The Long Way. Chambers does a skillful job of introducing us to the world and the characters, but I always get overwhelmed anyway. Once I made it through the first hundred pages or so, I was hooked. The majority of the book takes place aboard a spaceship called The Wayfarer, as the multispecies crew is joined by their newest member, Rosemary. While there’s a decent amount of action, what I really fell in love with was the world and the characters that Chambers has created.

Being alone and untouched… there’s no punishment worse than that.

The characters are all so unique in wonderful ways, but my favorites are definitely Sissix and Rosemary. It felt like Rosemary was our portal into this otherwise foreign world — she had grown up planetside and was unfamiliar with a lot of the ins and outs of space travel (although through her studies she had learned a lot about different alien cultures). This was a nice way to ease the reader in without making it seem like they were being spoon fed every piece of information about the world. Meanwhile, I really loved learning about Sissix’s culture. She comes from a lizard-like bipedal species that’s polyamorous as hell and relies strongly on physical contact to express affection. I found it interesting to learn more about them, and to see how Sissix is able to modify her own methods of socialization in order to mesh better with the crew.

He was not a prisoner of those memories. He was their warden.

That’s really just the tip of the iceberg as far as the new species and cultures Chambers has come up with. She’s also able to navigate some interesting ethical dilemmas that may evolve with more progressive technology, such as advanced body modifications, cloning, and the potential rights that could be given to AI. Somehow she can incorporate all these elements without sounding preachy or like she’s squeezing too much into the story.

I’ll never understand how the rest of you expect brand new adults to be able to teach kids how to be people.

Overall, I just loved this book and truly didn’t want it to end. I felt a wild wave of emotions crest over me when I turned the last page, because in a way I was losing some new friends it seemed I had just gotten to know. While I’ve been known to get emotional over books, they rarely make me feel quite this strongly. The Long Way is really something special and I highly recommend picking it up if you’re interested. I just can’t wait to see what Chambers’ other books have in store for me.


Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Facebook

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Lady from the Black Lagoon [review]

The Lady from the Black Lagoon by Mallory O’Meara
To be published by Hanover Square Press on March 1, 2019
my rating: ★★★★
Goodreads avg: 
4.72 (as of 2019-02-06)
cw: suicide, sexual harassment
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

The Lady from the Black Lagoon uncovers the life and work of Milicent Patrick—one of Disney’s first female animators and the only woman in history to create one of Hollywood’s classic movie monsters.

As a teenager, Mallory O’Meara was thrilled to discover that one of her favorite movies, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, featured a monster designed by a woman, Milicent Patrick. But for someone who should have been hailed as a pioneer in the genre there was little information available. For, as O’Meara soon discovered, Patrick’s contribution had been claimed by a jealous male colleague, her career had been cut short and she soon after had disappeared from film history. No one even knew if she was still alive.

As a young woman working in the horror film industry, O’Meara set out to right the wrong, and in the process discovered the full, fascinating story of an ambitious, artistic woman ahead of her time. Patrick’s contribution to special effects proved to be just the latest chapter in a remarkable, unconventional life, from her youth growing up in the shadow of Hearst Castle, to her career as one of Disney’s first female animators. And at last, O’Meara discovered what really had happened to Patrick after The Creature’s success, and where she went.

A true-life detective story and a celebration of a forgotten feminist trailblazer, Mallory O’Meara’s The Lady from the Black Lagoon establishes Patrick in her rightful place in film history while calling out a Hollywood culture where little has changed since.


I was so excited when I learned that Mallory O’Meara was putting out a book. If you’ve ever heard her speak (and if you haven’t, you should give her podcast Reading Glasses a shot!), you’ll know that she’s passionate about filmmaking, feminism, and literature. This book, part biography, part memoir, and part film history, not only combines these interests but also allows Mallory’s strong voice and devotion to shine through. You can tell from the very first page that she has poured every ounce of her being into this story.

Milicent was holding open a door for me that I never realized I had considered closed. Come on, she said. We [women] belong here, too.

I did feel that the writing started off a bit choppy — something that may have been smoothed out in the final version — but it steadily finds its footing. Regardless, even when the writing feels like it may use a little work, the content itself is arresting. Mallory sets up Milicent’s place in history by describing the gender inequality we still see in the film industry today through an effective mixture of statistics and personal anecdotes. She also makes it clear that otherwise privileged women — straight, white, cisgender, and able-bodied — are just the tip of the iceberg. If even these women are kept from succeeding, how can women facing additional layers of oppression have a chance?

Women are the most important part of horror because, by and large, women are the one that horror happens to.

After sinking her hooks into you with this introduction, she begins wading into the life of Milicent Patrick. I will admit that I felt a little lost toward the beginning. She starts well before Milicent’s birth and I felt that for the first third or so, more attention was given to certain pieces than seemed necessary. While it certainly set a context for Milicent’s life, I found it a bit difficult to remain attentive while reading it. Luckily, Mallory breaks up the history by sharing pieces of her own journey to discover Milicent.

The problem with being the only woman to ever do something is that you have to be perfect… This way of thinking is a maladaptation women have developed over the years to be able to deal the fact that we’re getting passed on for jobs because we’re female. You force yourself to believe that there just haven’t been any women good enough for the job, rather than accept the fact that the entire system just doesn’t want you in it.

This book is truly as much about Mallory’s relationship to Milicent as it is about Milicent herself. Through her, Mallory was able to find inspiration, was able to see women as belonging in what had always been more of a boys’ club. It is clear that Mallory is not just fascinated by Milicent as a person, but also Milicent as a beacon to all the girls out there with interests in fields that they may find themselves excluded from. Because she dared to stand out, Milicent was buried in the pages of history. Thankfully, Mallory was able to dig her back out.

One of the hardest things about misogyny in the film industry isn’t facing it directly, it’s having to tamp down your anger about it so that when you speak about the problem, you’ll be taken seriously.

This book doesn’t fill just one niche, and I can see it sparking the interest of many. Enjoy reading about film history? Crave feminist non-fiction? Love a good humorous memoir? The Lady from the Black Lagoon may hit the spot for you. I was a little nervous picking it up because, while I love a lot of non-fiction, I’m not very interested in film-making. I was glad to find myself entertained, educated, and satisfied upon finishing. If you find your interest piqued after this review, I definitely recommend picking Mallory’s book up.


Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Facebook

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Page [review]

Page (Protector of the Small #2) by Tamora Pierce
Published by Ember on January 2, 2018 (originally 2000)
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
4.24 (as of 2019-02-12)
cw: past abuse, attempted assault

My review of the first book can be found here!

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

As the only female page in history to pass the first year of training to become a knight, Keladry of Mindelan is a force to be reckoned with. But even with her loyal circle of friends at her side, Kel’s battle to prove herself isn’t over yet. She is still trying to master her paralyzing fear of heights and keep up with Lord Wyldon’s grueling training schedule. When a group of pages is trapped by bandits, the boys depend on Kel to lead them to safety. The kingdom’s nobles are beginning to wonder if she can succeed far beyond what they imagined. And those who hate the idea of a female knight are getting desperate—they will do anything to thwart her progress.


For the first time she could understand how someone in a rage might do murder. “How dare you touch an unwilling woman?” she asked.

This book follows Kel through her second, third, and fourth years as a page. I was surprised that this was all to be packed into one book, but it made sense that there was only so much to be covered once the probationary period was out of the way. We get to see the return of all Kel’s friends along with meeting some new ones, including her new maid Lalasa.

Lalasa is a great character in her own right, a young woman who has suffered from great abuse at the hands of men. She is timid when she first enrolls in Kel’s service, but quickly comes into her own with the page’s encouragement. We get to see Lalasa develop alongside Kel in a mirror image of sorts. It’s really nice to see this friendship between women blossom in such a male-centric environment.

Kel also has to deal with the beginnings of puberty while undergoing her trials as a page. One thing I love about Tamora Pierce is that she’s not afraid to write the real stuff. She’s blunt and honest without being crude. Kel begins to grow breasts, experiences several jumps in height, and gets her first period. If only we also lived in a world where a magical talisman was the solution, but I guess we have birth control!

It’s also really great to see Kel further dealing with her phobia. As revealed in the first book, her terror of heights came out of previous emotional abuse she experienced from her brother. While resistant at first she knows that overcoming, or at least confronting, these fears are key to her becoming a knight. As someone who has dealt with severe anxiety, I think it’s really important to see strong characters who struggle with it as well.

Overall, I continue to adore Kel as a character and find her story fun to follow. I usually don’t tend to like lawful good characters as I find them a bit boring, but Tammy is a master of developing people you love to read about. I mean, how can you not love a girl knight-to-be taking down abusers? I’d definitely recommend this book, and the series, to any lovers of Tamora Pierce as well as readers of YA fantasy.


Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Facebook