Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Mini-Review Compilation #12

An Anonymous Girl
cw: sexual assault, infidelity, domestic abuse
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.

This story starts out with a somewhat intriguing, if not completely exciting, premise. At first it’s difficult to figure out where things are going, but things begin to fall together soon enough — at least, that’s what we think. I was impressed with the twists in this, although the ending does leave something to be desired. I felt things were tied up a little too nicely and a little too quickly, so I didn’t end up feeling very satisfied by it. Overall, though, it’s a quite compelling read and worth picking up.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

If I Was Your Girl
cw: homophobia, transphobia, violent hate crimes, suicide

I’m not planning to write a proper review because it took me forever to read this (because I started it on audiobook, had my hold expire, and then took a while to get the eBook). The audiobook is excellent, so well-narrated. The story itself is great and I loved it. My only nitpick was that the Homecoming scene felt overly convenient and not necessarily super realistic but that’s really quite minor. Overall I’d definitely recommend this!

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Raven King (The Raven Cycle #4)
cw: racism

While I’m bummed to see this series come to an end (although I believe there is an additional novella out and potentially a new series coming out?), I thought this was a really nice way to wrap things up. I’ve been working my way pretty slowly through the books and left a lot of time between reading each so I wouldn’t binge them and get sick of it (as I’ve been known to do). It’s hard for me to write a traditional review of this, because all I want to do is gush about it. I care so, so deeply about all of these characters and can envision all of their mannerisms and I think Maggie is such a talented writer. She’s definitely going on my must-read list and I’m excited to see what kind of work she has in store for us in the future.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


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Book Tags, Bookworm Blogging

Book Postscript 2018 [tag]

Rachel tagged me in this a couple of weeks ago and I’m getting to it extremely late! 2018 posts are pretty much done, but here’s one (hopefully last) one from me. 🙂 The tag was created by Adam @ Memento Mori on booktube.

The longest book you’ve read this year and the book that took you the longest to finish.

Crooked Kingdom was the longest book I read, at 536 pages. But Quiet Rumours took me the longest–a whopping 126 days!!!–because I kept forgetting to read it!

A book you read in 2018 that was outside of your comfort zone.

I’d say The Body is Not an Apology was a bit outside of my comfort zone. I don’t read much self-help, but picked this up at the recommendation of a friend.

How many books did you re-read in 2018?

I re-read 5 books and I am JUST NOW realizing they were all Tamora Pierce books. I read The Immortals quartet for the billionth time, and the first book in the Trickster’s Choice duology for the millionth time. (I’ll be re-reading the second in the duology soon!)

Favorite re-read of 2018.

I’m taking Rachel’s answer as well and saying all of them! Tamora Pierce are comfort books for me and I love coming back to them.

A book you read for the first time in 2018 that you look forward to re-reading in the future.

The top three books on my Top 10 Reads of 2018 list are all ones I cannot wait to revisit again.

Favorite single short story or novella that you read in 2018.

I don’t remember many of the short stories I read, but Ghost Wall certainly stands out a LOT to me.

Mass Appeal: A book you liked and would recommend to a wide variety of readers.

I’ll have to agree with Rachel on this and say The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. It checks a lot of boxes!

Specialized Appeal: A book you liked but would be hesitant to recommend to just anyone.

The Pisces! I get so anxious and also excited when people read it because I have no idea what they’ll think, but it’s one of my all-time favorites now.

Reflect on your year as a bookish content creator (goals met, good/bad memories, favorite videos blog posts you made, etc).

This is… such an intense question, ha. I definitely developed much more of a habit of blogging. I got onto a mostly consistent schedule, made and solidified friendships in the community, and had consistently better and better stats as the year went on. I feel really good going into 2019! I feel reinvigorated and am hoping I can keep up the same pace this year.

Tag some fellow bookish content creators.

Since we’re already almost 3 weeks into 2019, I’m not going to tag anyone BUT please feel free to do this and drop your link so I can see your responses!


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Mini-Review Compilation #11

In Her Skin
cw: domestic abuse, self-harm

The only people who talk about dead like it’s something pretty and fanciful are people who haven’t seen it up close.

I’ll admit that although I found the premise somewhat interesting, most of the reason I picked up this one was because it took place in Boston. That aspect was really fun, since I recognized most of the places mentioned and could really imagine myself there. The writing itself was interesting, too. It was a mixture of first and second person and worked really well for the story. Kim Savage ended up keeping me on my toes and I absolutely inhaled the last half or so in one sitting. My only complaint was that it felt kind of queerbait-y and I ended up pretty frustrated by that.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Unrequited 
cw: graphic sex, power imbalances, sexual assault, infidelity, suicide, off-page drunk driving, stalking, and probably much more

They’re a perfect match. I think anybody who’s in love with anyone is a perfect match. I don’t believe in crap like There’s somebody better for you out there. I don’t want better. I want the guy I’m in love with.

I picked this up on a whim after seeing Melanie’s glowing review and it was absolutely worth it. While the morals throughout are highly questionable, the writing is great and the author knows how to do steamy scenes well. I rarely read straight-up romance novels, but in this instance my rating is based more on personal enjoyment than objective quality. I’ve been going through a rough time and this was exactly the kind of read I needed to distract me from that. If you’re looking for a fun romance that’s a little on the kinkier side, this should hit the spot for you.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Sex at Dawn

I’ve read some of the criticisms of this book, and also recognize that it was published almost a decade ago and may be a bit outdated. Regardless, it’s nice to read a book that validates your sexuality and makes you feel more “normal” than society at large might have you believe. As a queer, polyamorous woman I thought this was a really good starting point to learn about human sexuality. I’ll certainly be picking up some other works and doing further research, but I found this book to be well-written, humorous, and just what I needed.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


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(All covers courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Ghost Wall [review]

Ghost Wall book photo

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss
To be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux on January 8, 2019
my rating: ★★★★.5
Goodreads avg: 
4.01 (as of 2019-01-04)
cw: domestic abuse
disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in a Goodreads giveaway. All of the opinions presented below are my own.

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

In the north of England, far from the intrusions of cities but not far from civilization, Silvie and her family are living as if they are ancient Britons, surviving by the tools and knowledge of the Iron Age.

For two weeks, the length of her father’s vacation, they join an anthropology course set to reenact life in simpler times. They are surrounded by forests of birch and rowan; they make stew from foraged roots and hunted rabbit. The students are fulfilling their coursework; Silvie’s father is fulfilling his lifelong obsession. He has raised her on stories of early man, taken her to witness rare artifacts, recounted time and again their rituals and beliefs–particularly their sacrifices to the bog. Mixing with the students, Silvie begins to see, hear, and imagine another kind of life, one that might include going to university, traveling beyond England, choosing her own clothes and food, speaking her mind.

The ancient Britons built ghost walls to ward off enemy invaders, rude barricades of stakes topped with ancestral skulls. When the group builds one of their own, they find a spiritual connection to the past. What comes next but human sacrifice?

A story at once mythic and strikingly timely, Sarah Moss’s Ghost Wall urges us to wonder how far we have come from the “primitive minds” of our ancestors.

Without a house, it occurred to me, it is much harder to restrict a person’s movement. Harder for a man to restrain a woman.

→ What I Liked:

The Characters
I enjoyed how distinctly different all the characters were. Much like The Stepford Wives, the women seemed much more well-developed than the men, who had a more singular purpose. I thought Sylvie and her thoughts were well-written, and I really appreciated the relationship between her and Molly. I also loved that Sylvie was queer-coded, although that wasn’t the focus of the story at all.

The Writing
Sarah Moss is able to slowly build up such an intense feeling of dread that it’s impressive. While the story begins in a rather innocuous manner, it’s revealed bit by bit that something just isn’t quite right. This is done in a rather impressive manner and eventually leads to an emotional climax the likes of which I haven’t experienced in quite some time. I’ll admit it, I may have shed a tear or two at the last line.

Cold water wavered over my legs, stroked some of the soreness from my skin. I imagined the shame carried away like blood in the water, visible first in weedy streams, curling and flickering like smoke and then dissolving, fading, until although you know it would always be there you couldn’t see it anymore.

→ What I Didn’t Like:

The Beginning
The flip side to this subtle build is that the story is a bit of a slow burn. While short, the beginning pieces felt a bit boring to me and I had just a little difficulty getting invested. Luckily this doesn’t last for long and it is absolutely worth it to stick with it on this one.

The Style
This is one of those books that has foregone quotation marks in dialogue, which can occasionally make it a bit tricky to pick apart who is saying what. It took me a bit to get adjusted to this, which probably also contributed to my difficulty getting invested, but once I did the story flew by much more quickly.

Here I am, then. So kill me.

→ TL;DR:

  • Wonderful characterization
  • Slow emotional build, but the payoff is worth it
  • Writing style takes just a bit of adjusting to

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Book Tags, Bookworm Blogging

T10T: 2019 Anticipated Reads

ttt-new

Top Ten Tuesday was originally put together by The Broke and the Bookish and has been taken over by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is anticipated reads for the first half of 2019. It’s pretty self-explanatory, so let’s get to it!

The Dreamers

In an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a freshman girl stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep—and doesn’t wake up. She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate, Mei, cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics who carry her away, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital. Then a second girl falls asleep, and then another, and panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town. As the number of cases multiplies, classes are canceled, and stores begin to run out of supplies. A quarantine is established. The National Guard is summoned. 

Mei, an outsider in the cliquish hierarchy of dorm life, finds herself thrust together with an eccentric, idealistic classmate. Two visiting professors try to protect their newborn baby as the once-quiet streets descend into chaos. A father succumbs to the illness, leaving his daughters to fend for themselves. And at the hospital, a new life grows within a college girl, unbeknownst to her—even as she sleeps. A psychiatrist, summoned from Los Angeles, attempts to make sense of the illness as it spreads through the town. Those infected are displaying unusual levels of brain activity, more than has ever been recorded. They are dreaming heightened dreams—but of what? 

Written in gorgeous prose, The Dreamers is a breathtaking novel that startles and provokes, about the possibilities contained within a human life—in our waking days and, perhaps even more, in our dreams.

Our Year of Maybe

Aspiring choreographer Sophie Orenstein would do anything for Peter Rosenthal-Porter, who’s been on the kidney transplant list as long as she’s known him. Peter, a gifted pianist, is everything to Sophie: best friend, musical collaborator, secret crush. When she learns she’s a match, donating a kidney is an easy, obvious choice. She can’t help wondering if after the transplant, he’ll love her back the way she’s always wanted.

But Peter’s life post-transplant isn’t what either of them expected. Though he once had feelings for Sophie too, he’s now drawn to Chase, the guitarist in a band that happens to be looking for a keyboardist. And while neglected parts of Sophie’s world are calling to her—dance opportunities, new friends, a sister and niece she barely knows—she longs for a now-distant Peter more than ever, growing increasingly bitter he doesn’t seem to feel the same connection.

Peter fears he’ll forever be indebted to her. Sophie isn’t sure who she is without him. Then one blurry, heartbreaking night twists their relationship into something neither of them recognizes, leading them to question their past, their future, and whether their friendship is even worth fighting for.

Inheritance

The acclaimed and beloved author of Hourglass now gives us a new memoir about identity, paternity, and family secrets—a real-time exploration of the staggering discovery she recently made about her father, and her struggle to piece together the hidden story of her own life.

What makes us who we are? What combination of memory, history, biology, experience, and that ineffable thing called the soul defines us?

In the spring of 2016, through a genealogy website to which she had whimsically submitted her DNA for analysis, Dani Shapiro received the stunning news that her father was not her biological father. She woke up one morning and her entire history—the life she had lived—crumbled beneath her.

Inheritance is a book about secrets—secrets within families, kept out of shame or self-protectiveness; secrets we keep from one another in the name of love. It is the story of a woman’s urgent quest to unlock the story of her own identity, a story that has been scrupulously hidden from her for more than fifty years, years she had spent writing brilliantly, and compulsively, on themes of identity and family history. It is a book about the extraordinary moment we live in—a moment in which science and technology have outpaced not only medical ethics but also the capacities of the human heart to contend with the consequences of what we discover.

Timely and unforgettable, Dani Shapiro’s memoir is a gripping, gut-wrenching exploration of genealogy, paternity, and love.

The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali

Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, but lately she’s finding that harder and harder to do. She rolls her eyes instead of screaming when they blatantly favor her brother and she dresses conservatively at home, saving her crop tops and makeup for parties her parents don’t know about. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life in Seattle and her new life at Caltech, where she can pursue her dream of becoming an engineer.

But when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana’s plans fall apart. Her parents are devastated; being gay may as well be a death sentence in the Bengali community. They immediately whisk Rukhsana off to Bangladesh, where she is thrown headfirst into a world of arranged marriages and tradition. Only through reading her grandmother’s old diary is Rukhsana able to gain some much needed perspective. 

Rukhsana realizes she must find the courage to fight for her love, but can she do so without losing everyone and everything in her life? 

The Cerulean

Sera has always felt as if she didn’t belong among her people, the Cerulean. She is curious about everything and can’t stop questioning her three mothers, her best friend, Leela, and even the High Priestess. Sera has longed for the day when the tether that connects her City Above the Sky to the earthly world below finally severs and sends the Cerulean to a new planet.

But when Sera is chosen as the sacrifice to break the tether, she doesn’t know what to feel. To save her City, Sera must throw herself from its edge and end her own life. But something goes wrong and she survives the fall, landing in a place called Kaolin. She has heard tales about the humans there, and soon learns that the dangers her mothers warned her of are real. If Sera has any hope to return to her City, she’ll have to find the magic within herself to survive. 

The City in the Middle of the Night

Set on a planet that has fully definitive, never-changing zones of day and night, with ensuing extreme climates of endless, frigid darkness and blinding, relentless light, humankind has somehow continued apace — though the perils outside the built cities are rife with danger as much as the streets below.

But in a world where time means only what the ruling government proclaims, and the levels of light available are artificially imposed to great consequence, lost souls and disappeared bodies are shadow-bound and savage, and as common as grains of sand. And one such pariah, sacrificed to the night, but borne up by time and a mysterious bond with an enigmatic beast, will rise to take on the entire planet–before it can crumble beneath the weight of human existence.

I’m Telling the Truth, But I’m Lying

A deeply personal collection of essays exploring Nigerian-American author Bassey Ikpi’s experiences navigating Bipolar II and anxiety throughout the course of her life.

Bassey Ikpi was born in Nigeria in 1976. Four years later, she and her mother joined her father in Stillwater, Oklahoma —a move that would be anxiety ridden for any child, but especially for Bassey. Her early years in America would come to be defined by tension: an assimilation further complicated by bipolar II and anxiety that would go undiagnosed for decades.

By the time she was in her early twenties, Bassey was a spoken word artist and traveling with HBO’s Russell SimmonsDef Poetry Jam, channeling her experiences into art. But something wasn’t right—beneath the façade of the confident performer, Bassey’s mental health was in a precipitous decline, culminating in a breakdown that resulted in hospitalization and a diagnosis of Bipolar II.

Determined to learn from her experiences—and share them with others—Bassey became a mental health advocate and has spent the fourteen years since her diagnosis examining the ways mental health is inextricably intertwined with every facet of ourselves and our lives. Viscerally raw and honest, the result is an exploration of the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of who we are—and the ways, as honest as we try to be, each of these stories can also be a lie.

We Set the Dark on Fire

At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children, but both are promised a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class. Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her bright future depends upon no one discovering her darkest secret—that her pedigree is a lie. Her parents sacrificed everything to obtain forged identification papers so Dani could rise above her station. Now that her marriage to an important politico’s son is fast approaching, she must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society, where famine and poverty rule supreme.

On her graduation night, Dani seems to be in the clear, despite the surprises that unfold. But nothing prepares her for all the difficult choices she must make, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio. Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or to give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?

The Lady from the Black Lagoon

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.

Daisy Jones & the Six

Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice. 

Do You Dream of Terra-Two?

The publisher’s editorial director, Anne Perry, pre-empted world English language rights for Do you dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh as part of a two-book deal from Judith Murray of Greene & Heaton and will publish the title in spring 2019.

The novel begins a century ago with scientists who believed that a habitable planet existed in a nearby solar system. In the modern day, 10 astronauts depart a “dying Earth” to find it. An S&S spokesperson said: “It will take the team 23 years to reach Terra-Two, years spent in close quarters with no one to rely on but each other and no rescue possible, should something go wrong. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet meets The 100 in this unforgettable debut by a brilliant new voice.”

The Waking Forest

The waking forest has secrets. To Rhea, it appears like a mirage, dark and dense, at the very edge of her backyard. But when she reaches out to touch it, the forest vanishes. She’s desperate to know more—until she finds a peculiar boy who offers to reveal its secrets. If she plays a game.

To the Witch, the forest is her home, where she sits on her throne of carved bone, waiting for dreaming children to beg her to grant their wishes. One night, a mysterious visitor arrives and asks her what she wishes for, but the Witch sends him away. And then the uninvited guest returns.

The strangers are just the beginning. Something is stirring in the forest, and when Rhea’s and the Witch’s paths collide, a truth more treacherous and deadly than either could ever imagine surfaces. But how much are they willing to risk to survive?

If, Then

In the quiet haven of Clearing, Oregon, four neighbors find their lives upended when they begin to see themselves in parallel realities. Ginny, a devoted surgeon whose work often takes precedence over her family, has a baffling vision of a beautiful co-worker in Ginny’s own 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 coping with such ease, witnesses an apparition of her mother 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 disturbing—and, in some cases, frightening. When a natural disaster threatens Clearing, it becomes obvious that the visions were not what they first seemed and that the town 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.

The Trial of Lizzie Borden

The Trial of Lizzie Borden tells the true story of one of the most sensational murder trials in American history. When Andrew and Abby Borden were brutally hacked to death in Fall River, Massachusetts, in August 1892, the arrest of the couple’s younger daughter Lizzie turned the case into international news and her trial into a spectacle unparalleled in American history. Reporters flocked to the scene. Well-known columnists took up conspicuous seats in the courtroom. The defendant was relentlessly scrutinized for signs of guilt or innocence. Everyone—rich and poor, suffragists and social conservatives, legal scholars and laypeople—had an opinion about Lizzie Borden’s guilt or innocence. Was she a cold-blooded murderess or an unjustly persecuted lady? Did she or didn’t she?

The popular fascination with the Borden murders and its central enigmatic character has endured for more than one hundred years. Immortalized in rhyme, told and retold in every conceivable genre, the murders have secured a place in the American pantheon of mythic horror, but one typically wrenched from its historical moment. In contrast, Cara Robertson explores the stories Lizzie Borden’s culture wanted and expected to hear and how those stories influenced the debate inside and outside of the courtroom. Based on transcripts of the Borden legal proceedings, contemporary newspaper accounts, unpublished local accounts, and recently unearthed letters from Lizzie herself, The Trial of Lizzie Borden offers a window onto America in the Gilded Age, showcasing its most deeply held convictions and its most troubling social anxieties.

Internment

Rebellions are built on hope.

Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.

With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp’s Director and his guards.

Heart-racing and emotional, Internment challenges readers to fight complicit silence that exists in our society today. 

The Weight of the Stars

Ryann Bird dreams of traveling across the stars. But a career in space isn’t an option for a girl who lives in a trailer park on the wrong side of town. So Ryann becomes her circumstances and settles for acting out and skipping school to hang out with her delinquent friends. 

One day she meets Alexandria: a furious loner who spurns Ryann’s offer of friendship. After a horrific accident leaves Alexandria with a broken arm, the two misfits are brought together despite themselves—and Ryann learns her secret: Alexandria’s mother is an astronaut who volunteered for a one-way trip to the edge of the solar system. 

Every night without fail, Alexandria waits to catch radio signals from her mother. And its up to Ryann to lift her onto the roof day after day until the silence between them grows into friendship, and eventually something more . . . 

The Meaning of Birds

Before, Jessica has always struggled with anger issues, but come sophomore year that all changes when Vivi crashes into her life. As their relationship blossoms, Vivi not only helps Jess deal with her pain, she also encourages her to embrace her talent as an artist. And for the first time, it feels like the future is filled with possibilities. After In the midst of senior year, Jess’s perfect world is erased when Vivi suddenly passes away. Reeling from the devastating loss, Jess pushes everyone away, and throws out her plans to go to art school. Because art is Vivi and Vivi is gone forever.

Desperate for an escape, Jess gets consumed in her work-study program, letting all of her dreams die. Until she makes an unexpected new friend who shows her a new way to channel her anger, passion, and creativity. Although Jess may never draw again, if she can find a way to heal and room in her heart, she just might be able to forge a new path for herself without Vivi.

These Witches Don’t Burn

Hannah’s a witch, but not the kind you’re thinking of. She’s the real deal, an Elemental with the power to control fire, earth, water, and air. But even though she lives in Salem, Massachusetts, her magic is a secret she has to keep to herself. If she’s ever caught using it in front of a Reg (read: non-witch), she could lose it. For good. So, Hannah spends most of her time avoiding her ex-girlfriend (and fellow Elemental Witch) Veronica, hanging out with her best friend, and working at the Fly by Night Cauldron selling candles and crystals to tourists, goths, and local Wiccans. 

But dealing with her ex is the least of Hannah’s concerns when a terrifying blood ritual interrupts the end-of-school-year bonfire. Evidence of dark magic begins to appear all over Salem, and Hannah’s sure it’s the work of a deadly Blood Witch. The issue is, her coven is less than convinced, forcing Hannah to team up with the last person she wants to see: Veronica.

While the pair attempt to smoke out the Blood Witch at a house party, Hannah meets Morgan, a cute new ballerina in town. But trying to date amid a supernatural crisis is easier said than done, and Hannah will have to test the limits of her power if she’s going to save her coven and get the girl, especially when the attacks on Salem’s witches become deadlier by the day.


How many of these are on your TBR? And what’s your most anticipated read for the first half of 2019?

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Stepford Wives [review]

The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
Published by HarperCollins on April 26, 2011 (originally 1972)
my rating: ★★★★
Goodreads avg: 
3.74 (as of 2019-01-03)

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

For Joanna, her husband, Walter, and their children, the move to beautiful Stepford seems almost too good to be true. It is. For behind the town’s idyllic facade lies a terrible secret — a secret so shattering that no one who encounters it will ever be the same.

At once a masterpiece of psychological suspense and a savage commentary on a media-driven society that values the pursuit of youth and beauty at all costs, The Stepford Wives is a novel so frightening in its final implications that the title itself has earned a place in the American lexicon.


An odd medicinal smell soured the air — coming on the breeze at her back. It almost reminded her of something in her childhood, but fell short.

→ What I Liked:

The Characters
This is a rare instance in which the female characters seem to be more developed than the male characters, and I loved it. They had so much individuality (aside from the Stepford wives of course), whereas the men were defined more by their jobs than anything else. One of the women was even implied to be asexual!

The Writing
While simplistic in style, the way the story was written was just fantastic. It started off relatively innocuous (even knowing what the ending would be), but built to an incredible climax full of anxiety. He pulls off a similar climb in Rosemary’s Baby, which I also really enjoyed.

→ What I Didn’t Like:

The Foreword
To be fair, this was added later to the book and was not written by Ira Levin. The fact remains, however, that Peter Straub’s introduction was painfully condescending. He went on and on about how the average reader wouldn’t be able to properly appreciate Levin’s writing and how subtle and literary it is. I can appreciate him wanting to explain the nuances of this simplistic writing style, but the way he did it just really rubbed me the wrong way.

The Ending
While I understand to a certain extent why the ending felt so abrupt, I wish it hadn’t. I felt pretty unsatisfied by it, even though I “get” it. Maybe Peter Straub was right and I just can’t properly appreciate it. 😉

→ TL;DR:

  • Well-developed female characters
  • Great pacing
  • Pretentious foreword (not written by the author)
  • Abrupt ending

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Bookworm Blogging, Monthly Wrap-Ups

2018 Reading Statistics

This year was my first year using a spreadsheet to document my reading and I LOVED it. I used Brock’s spreadsheet, which I plan on using again this year. It helps me keep all my reading organized, keep track of which books I still need to review, and gives me plenty of fun stats. So, today’s post will be a nice little wrap-up of my reading stats for 2018!

I read more SF/F than I originally realized!
I split pretty evenly between ebook, hardcover, and paperbacks!
Look at all those library books!
Lots of 4-star reads!
You can pretty easily see where I slumped.
I read mostly adult books this year.
I DNFed a LOT, but mostly toward the beginning of the year.

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Bookworm Blogging, Monthly Wrap-Ups

December 2018 Wrap-Up

Hi friends! Compared to last month, December was a bit better to me. My reading and blogging were more on track, although still slower than I’d like them to be. I’m hoping January is good to me. Hopefully I can spend lots of time snuggled up and reading. My sister and I cleaned most of the apartment this week and I think the vibes are much better now, so it should be easier to be more productive! Anyway, let’s get on to the wrap-up.

Books Read:

Books read: 5
Average rating: 3.6 stars

Other Posts:

Notable Posts by Others:

Reading Goal Progress:

This month I read 5 books, which put me at 75 books for the year. I ended up right on my reading schedule and ended up at exactly 100% of my goal for the year. In 2019, I plan to set my reading goal at only 50 books, so that I can give myself more leeway to allow for bad weeks or months and so that I don’t beat myself up for reading less than I’d like to.

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Bookworm Blogging

My Top 10 Reads of 2018

Ahh, it’s that time of year. Time to reflect back on all the books we’ve read and rank them based on completely subjective opinions. I love seeing everyone’s new favorites, and I hope you all are excited to see mine! Any book I read for the first time in 2018 was eligible for this list, but here were the best 10 that I read, in my extremely humble opinion:

10. Emergency Contact by Mary HK Choi

A cute, contemporary NA romance about a relationship that blossoms through text messages. While not life-changing, it was definitely one of the most enjoyable books I read this year.

9. Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

One of the few books I did not review this year, Red Clocks is set in the not-so-distant future and tackles a lot of issues surrounding reproductive rights, and one’s place as a woman. I went through a gamut of emotions while reading this and writing about it makes me want to reread it again in 2019.

8. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Two unreviewed books in a row on this list! Crooked Kingdom was SUCH a fun fantasy novel and I absolutely devoured it. I definitely recommend the Six of Crows Duology if it sparks your interest, you’ll end up sucked into the world and will fall in love with the characters.

7. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Certainly one of the most influential books I’ve read this year, I already want to pick this up again. Shirley Jackson creates such a spooky atmosphere out of so little and I am wildly impressed with her mastery of writing. I’m actually thinking of getting a small tattoo inspired by this work and might reach out to my artist about it sometime in early 2019.

6. Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

I am apparently very bad at reviewing books I love, but this was another one that I just raced through. I’m really enjoying The Raven Cycle and have been putting off reading the last book in the series because I don’t want it to end! I basically lived for the romances in this one because I’m a hopeless romantic and love mushy books, sorry.

5. A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

Fun fact: this is the only book on this list that I consumed as an audiobook. I listened to almost the entire thing in one day because it was so compelling. And I had a long bus ride after work. I just loved how the story was laid out and can’t wait to pick up another one of Paul Tremblay’s books. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long!

4. Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

Honestly, my heart hurts even thinking about my reading experience with this. There was no way I couldn’t include it. This was one of the most meaningful books of the year for me. I read it all in one sitting and ended up just sobbing my eyes out by the end. It deals with a lot of intense subjects, but imo it was all handled in such a great way. I definitely recommend reading this if you’re in a place to do so.

3. Ask Me About My Uterus by Abby Norman

Possibly THE most meaningful book I read this year, this was a timely experience for me. This is a memoir detailing the author’s life with and diagnosis of endometriosis. I’ve talked about this a bit on twitter, but I’m currently dealing with an undiagnosed medical issue, potentially endometriosis, potentially not. I’m glad I started off my year reading this, as it’s been helpful in making me advocate for myself as well as making me believe in what my own body is telling me. I really, really highly recommend everyone read this.

2. The Pisces by Melissa Broder

This book struck me so deep that I put Melissa Broder’s memoir on my Christmas wishlist because I just know I’ll love it. This is an extremely divisive book, as I note in my review, but it was the perfect read for me. I wanted to pick it back up as soon as I finished it so that I could experience it all again. Ugh, I just can’t even express how much this book means to me.

1. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

I think I knew within the first 20 pages that this would be making my end of the year list, although I don’t think I realized it would be #1. The writing in this just cut me right to my core, Jeff VanderMeer is such a talented author. While I’ve enjoyed the rest of the books I’ve read by him, nothing has held up to Annihilation so far.


And there you have it! Those are my top 10 books of 2018. I’m glad I got to read so many wonderful books this year and can only hope I’m just as blessed in 2019. Make sure to let me know what your top books were in the comments, and drop a link if you’ve made a similar post!

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Book Tags, Bookworm Blogging

TBR Lows & Highs #9

Okay, so I’d been doing Down the TBR Hole for quite some time and really loved it. BUT, it started to feel a bit like a chore, which is why I’d cut down on it. Luckily, Destiny decided to create a new similar-but-different feature that’s loads of fun called TBR Lows and Highs!

She recently tweaked it a little bit, and I LOVE the tweak because I’ve been struggling to remove more and more stuff! Here is the new additional rule: I’d like y’all to pick ONE book from the “lows” that you think I should prioritize and I’ll add the top pick to my TBR ASAP shelf. So comment with your vote! 🙂

Rules:

  • Link back to the original post at Howling Libraries
  • Sort your Goodreads TBR shelf by date added, ascending
  • Find 5-10 (or more, if you feel ambitious!) titles to purge from your TBR (the “lows”)
    • ALTERNATIVE OPTION: Find 5+ titles that are at the BOTTOM of your TBR—books you want to read someday, just not right now! (Thank you for this idea, Ari!)
  • Post those 5 books in the list, with a brief explanation
  • Next, sort your Goodreads TBR shelf by date added, descending
  • List the last 5 (or more!) books you added to your TBR, with a synopsis or your brief summary of why you added it (the “highs”)

The Lows

Annabel
This one appears to have a main character who is intersex, which I don’t think I’ve experienced in a book before!

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
This is some real Vintage Gay. Believe it or not I haven’t seen the movie yet, so I figure I may as well read the book first!

P.O.W.ER
Seems like some fun fantasy stuff!

An Unquiet Mind & Night Falls Fast
These were both recommended by my old psychiatrist, so I’m hoping to get around to them at some point.

The Highs

I’m Telling the Truth, but I’m Lying & The Trial of Lizzie Borden
These were both featured at What’s Nonfiction? on this list of 12 titles to look forward to in 2019. There are a lot of intriguing titles on there, so definitely check it out if you like to read non-fiction — or if you want to start!

Bad Blood
This was reviewed by Hannah and sounds like an extremely fascinating read. It’s also somewhat related to the field I work in, so that makes me want to read it extra badly!

Gossip Girl
I never managed to read these when I was younger, nor did I watch the TV show BUT my sister and I recently started watching it together so I think I’d like to give the books a shot at some point.

Sugar Town
I saw my friend Kyra had rated this highly AND the blurb calls it “a bisexual, polyamorous love story” which is totally what I’m all about.

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