Bookworm Blogging, Monthly Wrap-Ups

September 2019 Wrap-Up

September was another great reading month, in terms of quantity if not quite quality. I felt like the month flew by (faster than the others!), but I moved to a new apartment, which took up quite a bit of time and energy. I’m getting settled in to my new neighborhood and I love it! I also applied to grad school for Spring 2020 admit and should be hearing back within the next month or so. Fingers crossed! If I get into the program I want, I’m sure my blogging will both slow down and get some new topics thrown in, so be prepared.

Books Read:

  • Aquarium by David Vann. 4.5 stars, review.
  • Rebel Girls by Elizabeth Keenan. 2 stars, review.
  • The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith. 3 stars, review.
  • The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie. 4 stars, review.
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. 4 stars, review.
  • The Wolves of Winter by Tyrell Johnson. 3.5 stars, review.
  • Pet by Akwaeke Emezi. 4 stars, review.
  • The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 2: Fandemonium by Kieron Gillen; Jamie McKelvie; Matt Wilson; Clayton Cowles. 2.5 stars, link.
  • Buddhism Without Beliefs by Stephen Batchelor. 2 stars, review.
  • Sick: A Memoir by Porochista Khakpour. 2.5 stars, review.
  • How Doctors Feel by Danielle Ofri, MD, PhD. 4 stars, review.

Books read: 11 books
Average rating: 3.27 stars (eep)

Other Media:

Notable Posts by Others:

  • Genie in a Novel shares some great reasons for using a book journal.
  • Bina shows us 30 books being released by WOC in September
  • Kal teaches us how headings work in WordPress (I didn’t know they mattered for anything except visuals!)
  • Ren shares the dates and themes for Nonfiction November!
  • Gemma writes an incredibly good review for Midsommar.

My Month in Photos:

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

What Doctors Feel [review]

What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine by Danielle Ofri
Published by Beacon Press on June 4, 2013
my rating: ★★★★
Goodreads avg:
4.16 (as of 2019-09-27)
Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author Website

Physicians are assumed to be objective, rational beings, easily able to detach as they guide patients and families through some of life’s most challenging moments. But doctors’ emotional responses to the life-and-death dramas of everyday practice have a profound impact on medical care. And while much has been written about the minds and methods of the medical professionals who save our lives, precious little has been said about their emotions. In What Doctors Feel, Dr. Danielle Ofri has taken on the task of dissecting the hidden emotional responses of doctors, and how these directly influence patients.

How do the stresses of medical life—from paperwork to grueling hours to lawsuits to facing death—affect the medical care that doctors can offer their patients? Digging deep into the lives of doctors, Ofri examines the daunting range of emotions—shame, anger, empathy, frustration, hope, pride, occasionally despair, and sometimes even love—that permeate the contemporary doctor-patient connection. Drawing on scientific studies, including some surprising research, Dr. Danielle Ofri offers up an unflinching look at the impact of emotions on health care.


What Doctors Feel explores how doctors’ emotions impact both their own lives and the lives of their patients. This isn’t a non-fic where you’ll find yourself getting bored. Dr. Ofri writes conversationally and includes specific examples from her years as a doctor to get her point across. The only downside being that you’ll have to be someone who can stomach hearing about some less-than-pleasant things. I didn’t feel myself losing interest at any point while reading, and found this to be quite a compelling read. I was expecting there to be more of an academic focus, but Dr. Ofri relies fairly heavily on anecdotal storytelling. Make no mistake: she always specifies whether her assertions can be backed up by solid research or whether they are yet unexplored hypotheses. This combination helps the reader learn while also being able to tie everything discussed to real-life situations.

High empathy scores predict which students will excel in their clinical clerkships, who will be nominated by their peers for exemplary professionalism, and who will be ranked as highly empathic by residency program directors and by patients themselves.

One thing I found quite fascinating was the differences medical students can experience during their third year of med school. This is the time students spend in clinic, following interns and residents around while learning all they can. This third year can be a roll of the dice and make or break the student’s education as well as influence their path moving forward. Medical students also adjust to the humor used by physicians and in doing so can begin using phrases that phase out empathy — by making jokes about drug addicts, for instance, instead of empathizing with their difficulties. Indeed, there is a documented decline in empathy at this point in a medical student’s education. While Dr. Ofri is clear to caution that these results are preliminary, studies have shown that patients of doctors with higher empathy scores experience things like better medication compliance, higher quality of life, and even less severe colds.

When continuing into residency, Dr. Ofri shares how there is little to no time for clinicians to process emotional situations. She shares specific instances of doctors who witnessed traumatic deaths without so much as blinking, only to break down later on in the throes of PTSD. Additionally, doctors are driven to strive for perfection. It makes sense after all, patients can die from mistakes. But there is often a dichotomy perceived: either you are a perfect doctor or you are a failure, no grey areas allowed. In the medical field, it is difficult to learn from one’s mistakes without feeling an overwhelming sense of shame and self-doubt — and shame can prevent someone from coming forward to admit their mistake. Coming forward may be the right thing to do, but studies have also shown that acknowledging and discussing such errors leads to changes in clinicians’ behavior that prevent future mistakes.

Fear, like all emotions, is neither good nor bad; it is simply one of the normal states of being. Overwhelming fear can be incapacitating, as I learned during my first code. But appropriate fear, as I witnessed in my obstetrician, can be crucial for good medical care, especially during critical situations.

Overall, I really enjoyed this read and recommend it to anyone interested in the inner workings of the healthcare industry, particularly where the impact of emotions is concerned.


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Sick: A Memoir [review]

Sick: A Memoir by Porochista Khakpour
Published by Harper Perennial on June 5, 2018
my rating: ★★.5
Goodreads avg:
3.41 (as of 2019-09-25)
Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author Website

For as long as author Porochista Khakpour can remember, she has been sick. For most of that time, she didn’t know why. Several drug addictions, some major hospitalizations, and over $100,000 later, she finally had a diagnosis: late-stage Lyme disease. 

Sick is Khakpour’s grueling, emotional journey—as a woman, an Iranian-American, a writer, and a lifelong sufferer of undiagnosed health problems—in which she examines her subsequent struggles with mental illness and her addiction to doctor prescribed benzodiazepines, that both aided and eroded her ever-deteriorating physical health. Divided by settings, Khakpour guides the reader through her illness by way of the locations that changed her course—New York, LA, Santa Fe, and a college town in Germany—as she meditates on the physiological and psychological impacts of uncertainty, and the eventual challenge of accepting the diagnosis she had searched for over the course of her adult life. 

A story of survival, pain, and transformation, Sick candidly examines the colossal impact of illness on one woman’s life by not just highlighting the failures of a broken medical system but by also boldly challenging our concept of illness narratives.


It seems impossible to separate Khakpour’s life of illness from the remainder of her life. As she details, no one has been able to ascertain for certain when exactly she acquired Lyme. Some doctors have pointed to her health problems in childhood as symptoms, while others have indicated that college seemed like a likely bet. Having gone through one trauma after another, it’s also difficult to disentangle the symptoms of her Lyme from symptoms of primarily unrelated PTSD, depression, and anxiety. As she mentions, women typically struggle more with Lyme because they are often treated as psychiatric cases only and therefore left undiagnosed and untreated longer. As a quick note, there are extensive discussions of both drug abuse and suicide throughout the book, so if you find those triggering it may be best to steer clear.

And there it came: his half smile. And here it followed: my rage.

One thing that bothered me a lot was that she’s somewhat judgmental of one of her friends in Chicago, a wealthy woman who eventually reveals she’s a prostitute. This judgment comes unchallenged by the present Khakpour looking back and it’s clear she was sickened by the thought of her friend making money in this way, and pities her even though she herself is weak and slowly disintegrating while her friend is happy and stable. It was strange reading about someone who can look down so strongly on others when they themselves are struggling even more.

I also kept saying something I had heard some other therapist or doctor say at some point, maybe in the psych ward: Let’s get to the bottom of this once and for all. I was mesmerized by what “the bottom of this” could be, but I knew I wanted it.

Occasionally, the timeline feels mixed up. She’ll jump ahead only to jump immediately back and I forget where we are in the story. There are bits repeated throughout — stories she tells multiple times, to my confusion — that give the whole thing a sense of deja vu. Its meandering nature felt sometimes without purpose and I found myself checking where I was in the book to see if it was close to over. Her story itself is exhausting to read, and god knows how much more exhausting it must have been to live through, but its monotony made it disengaging when combined with the matter-of-fact tone she communicates her experiences in. Having had (much less serious) chronic illnesses of my own, I understand how hopeless the seemingly endless chain of doctors who don’t know what’s wrong with you is, but the negativity also felt like it would drown me without adding much to my experience as a reader.

So many men had tried to fix me; so many men were convinced they could help. What was one more.

Overall, in spite of my criticisms, I think this book is worth reading if you’re interested even if it didn’t quite work for me.


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Pet [review]

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
Published by Make Me a World on September 10, 2019
my rating: ★★★★
Goodreads avg: 
4.30 (as of 2019-09-23)
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

Pet is here to hunt a monster. Are you brave enough to look?

There are no monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. Jam and her best friend, Redemption, have grown up with this lesson all their life. But when Jam meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colors and claws, who emerges from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of Jam’s blood, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster, and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also to uncover the truth, and the answer to the question–How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?


After absolutely loving Freshwater, there wasn’t a question in my mind of whether or not I’d pick up Pet. I was actually lucky enough to grab a copy off Netgalley! Pet tells the story of a black trans girl named Jam, who lives in a utopian society where all “monsters” have been vanquished. The problem is, an otherworldly creature crawls out of a painting created by Jam’s mother and insists that there is a monster, and that it has come to hunt it.

But unpleasant things must be done for unpleasant purposes out of unpleasant necessity.

I found that I loved a lot about the characters in this novel. As far as I remember, none of the characters were white. Jam herself is trans, which was just a fact of life and not the source of any kind of conflict, and is also implied to have selective mutism. She speaks sign language with most of the people around her, who have learned it so that she can communicate more comfortably. Jam’s best friend Redemption also has parents who are in a polyamorous relationship, which I was thrilled to see!

I found the message of the story to be quite important: that monsters are often hiding in plain sight, and that we must be willing to look for them. The problem with this utopian society was that in believing all of the monsters were gone, they no longer kept their eyes open and were blind to the reality in front of them. While it’s scary to realize that we’re not as safe as we think, it’s important to look out for red flags and to protect everyone around us. I thought this was really well-done and hope that this story can reach children and young adults — and even adults — who need to hear this message.

One of my only complaints was that I struggled to pick apart most of Redemption’s family. They all sort of blurred together for me, save for his uncle Hibiscus and brother Moss. I think this is less that they don’t have distinct personalities and more that not enough time is spent with them for those personalities to feel fully developed. It didn’t cause much trouble for me, but did occasionally get a bit confusing.

The truth does not change whether it is seen or unseen, it whispered in her mind. A thing which is happening happens whether you look at it or not. And yes, maybe it is easier not to look. Maybe it is easier to say because you do not see it, it is not happening. Maybe you can pull the stone out of the pool and put the moon back together.

Overall, this was definitely a solid read and I’m glad that Emezi is able to spread such an important message.


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The Wolves of Winter [review]

The Wolves of Winter by Tyrell Johnson
Published by Scribner on January 2, 2018
my rating: ★★★.5
Goodreads avg:
3.75 (as of 2019-09-18)
Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author Website

Forget the old days. Forget summer. Forget warmth. Forget anything that doesn’t help you survive in the endless white wilderness beyond the edges of a fallen world.

Lynn McBride has learned much since society collapsed in the face of nuclear war and the relentless spread of disease. As the memories of her old life continue to haunt, she’s forced to forge ahead in the snow-drifted Canadian Yukon, learning how to hunt and trap and slaughter.

Shadows of the world before have found her tiny community—most prominently in the enigmatic figure of Jax, who brings with him dark secrets of the past and sets in motion a chain of events that will call Lynn to a role she never imagined.


I tend to enjoy plague dystopians, but this one was a little different in that it didn’t really focus on the illness itself. It did feel a little different, a little more realistic than most: the “end of the world” really came through a culmination of believable factors rather than one big bad thing. The Wolves of Winter follows one family who has escaped to the great white north in the aftermath of society’s downfall. They are almost entirely cut off from humanity, and live like survivalists until the day a Mysterious Stranger happens by.

Snow is the quietest kind of weather.

As much as I enjoyed this, a lot of it was a bit heavy-handed. The twists are hinted to generously, and are easy to see coming. Lynn’s grief for her father felt overdone and less than genuine. It certainly had its place, but I often felt more annoyed by the repeated references to his death rather than feeling sympathetic or saddened. Aside from Lynn, her parents, and Jeryl, the other characters all sort of blurred together for me. Jax, Ramsay, and Ken didn’t feel like they had much in the way of personality other than just being men — Jax was really only easy to tell apart as the outsider.

My stomach stirred like I was hungry. But I wasn’t hungry. I didn’t like the feeling.

I will say that I did like Lynn, but she was sort of the stereotypical one-of-the-boys-and-stubborn-as-nails heroine. My favorite character was probably Jeryl, just because he felt the most lifelike. Thinking about it, though, pretty much all the characters were kind of stereotypes in their own way. The plot itself is also kind of formulaic and I didn’t really end up getting caught by surprise much, although I wasn’t able to predict all of the details and thus was interested in finding out “the truth” alongside Lynn.

“And nothing can happen more beautiful than death,” Walt Whitman says. Fucking liar.

Overall: this wasn’t anything groundbreaking, but it was a fun read and I wouldn’t be opposed to picking up more by this author!


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Everything I Never Told You [review]

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Published by Penguin Press on June 26, 2014
my rating: ★★★★
Goodreads avg:
3.85 (as of 2019-09-16)
Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author Website

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.

So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos.

A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.


I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this, but I found myself hooked within the first fifty pages. This is the quietly beautiful examination of a family as they struggle with the loss of one of their children. The middle child of an interracial couple, Lydia is the dream girl, everything her parents couldn’t be. Losing her finally upsets a balance that had no business continuing as long as it did, and the family must come to terms with what they’ll discover, or risk losing everything.

At its core, this is really the story of secrets gone wrong. There are so many tipping points at which, had the characters chosen to act differently, a divergent outcome could have been triggered. James, the father, has rejected his background as the child of Chinese immigrants, wanting nothing more than to fit in. Marilyn, the mother, regrets allowing motherhood to overtake her dreams of medical school. Nath, the oldest son, feels unloved and forgotten. Lydia is pressured by both her parents to fit in and to succeed where they could not. Hannah, the youngest daughter, watches quietly from the background and notices what the others are too preoccupied to notice.

There is so much that is deeply explored here, and it is difficult to point fingers and place blame. One must come to terms with the fact that everyone in this book has made mistakes, and that their silence has come at a cost. Each of the characters is deeply sympathetic in their own ways and all of their stories are equally important. Don’t come into this book expecting an exciting thriller, because the who of Lydia’s death is less important than the why, and what will happen afterward.


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The Price of Salt [review]

The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
Published by She Winked Press on March 1, 2011 (originally 1952)
my rating: ★★★
Goodreads avg:
3.96 (as of 2019-09-13)
Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound 

Soon to be a new film, The Price of Salt tells the riveting story of Therese Belivet, a stage designer trapped in a department-store day job, whose salvation arrives one day in the form of Carol Aird, an alluring suburban housewife in the throes of a divorce. They fall in love and set out across the United States, pursued by a private investigator who eventually blackmails Carol into a choice between her daughter and her lover.


While this didn’t end up becoming a new favorite, I was able to appreciate both the writing and the importance of the novel in history. The Price of Salt was written in the 50s and is the book that the movie Carol was based off of. What I was expecting was the development of a relationship between two women with the quietest hints of romance; what I got was a frank exploration of a young woman’s blossoming sexuality. 

She wished she could kiss the person in the mirror and make her come to life, yet she stood perfectly still, like a painted portrait.

The main character, Therese, is a 21-year-old sales clerk at the outset of the book. She has a boyfriend who she feels little for and hopes to make a living as a set designer for plays. While working at a toy counter in a department store, she meets Carol, who quickly changes her life. The relationship between these two women was all-consuming and a little bit frightening. Therese is quite unsure of herself and there is a layer of anxiety the reader must wade through as the novel progresses. Therese and Carol eventually embark on a road trip that only enhances their whirlwind romance.

An indefinite longing, that she had been only vaguely conscious of at times before, became now a recognizable wish.

I’ll clarify here that classics and I do not always get along very well; I find the writing style in older books to be a bit more difficult to follow and think that a lot gets lost on me. It’s possible that this is what happened here. I did not understand Therese’s attraction to Carol, other than the fact that she was inexplicably drawn to this woman. I did not understand how she came to love Carol so deeply; to me she seemed quite cold and didn’t have much going for her. While Therese was quite a sympathetic character, I found myself a little lost and didn’t emotionally connect as strongly to the novel as I had hoped I would.

I feel I stand in a desert with my hands outstretched, and you are raining down upon me.

Overall, though, I do think this is worth reading. It is enjoyable to watch Therese find herself, and the book is littered with beautiful prose. Not only that, but it is refreshing to see queer women represented in literature written over 60 years ago. I have yet to see the movie, but am hoping to now that I’ve finally read the book that inspired it.


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Rebel Girls [review]

Rebel Girls by Elizabeth Keenan
Published by Inkyard Press on September 10, 2019
my rating: ★★
Goodreads avg: 
3.68 (as of 2019-09-12)
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 it comes to being social, Athena Graves is far more comfortable creating a mixtape playlist than she is talking to cute boys—or anyone, for that matter. Plus her staunchly feminist views and love of punk rock aren’t exactly mainstream at St. Ann’s, her conservative Catholic high school.

Then a malicious rumor starts spreading through the halls…a rumor that her popular, pretty, pro-life sister had an abortion over the summer. A rumor that has the power to not only hurt Helen, but possibly see her expelled.

Despite their wildly contrasting views, Athena, Helen, and their friends must find a way to convince the student body and the administration that it doesn’t matter what Helen did or didn’t do…even if their riot grrrl protests result in the expulsion of their entire rebel girl gang. 


This book was, unfortunately, a struggle for me. I loved the cover and was excited to read a political, feminist YA.  It just didn’t quite feel like that’s what I got. At first, I really enjoyed Athena’s thought processes and politics. What initially got me was how she ruminated upon the conflict one can face when trying to be a “good” feminist and respect other women while also struggling with the instinct to put them down when we feel threatened, something mainstream culture seems to have primed us to do. It gave me hope that the rest of the book would expand on this, and frame other struggles similarly. 

I slowly realized that this wouldn’t go any further; sure, Athena thinks these things, but she doesn’t do them! She is judging women and putting them down based on her superficial slotting of them into roles. Every character here is just a trope, and Athena herself doesn’t make any effort to see them differently than that. We are told that Athena is a good feminist who struggles to fight against what she has been conditioned to feel for other women, but we aren’t shown this to be true. This gave the book a superficiality that made it impossible for me to become invested in.

To get more into the characters themselves, they’re truly just an amalgamation of the pop culture they consume. Everyone is described only by what they listen to or read — except the mean girls, who are cardboard cut-out characters who have absolutely no redeemable qualities and are given absolutely no sympathy. I truly don’t understand how a book supposedly about justice and girl power could write women like this, but oh well. The constant pop culture references got stale very fast, and I found myself rolling my eyes every time they were brought up.

The plot was also confusing, I didn’t really understand what the author was trying to accomplish. The focus of the book is that Athena’s sister Helen is accused of getting an abortion. The book is mostly about Athena trying to figure out how to dispel these untrue rumors, but it’s also about Athena’s relationship with some guy who she had zero chemistry with? The scenes between them felt awkward and pointless and he only existed to further the mean girl plot. In an otherwise well-done book, I could have seen it as a play on how women are used as plot devices, but I truly don’t think that was the intention here. It felt like it was just thrown in to add to the drama Athena was going through. Not to mention that I essentially had to drag myself through the book; I kept checking the Goodreads page because I couldn’t believe that this was only 300 pages.

I feel bad, because I really wanted to like this and there was the potential for some good rep — Athena’s best friend is half Vietnamese and her other best friend is black — but none of the characters were sufficiently utilized or explored. Between that and the lack of an interesting plot, this just really fell flat for me.


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Aquarium [review]

Aquarium by David Vann
Published by Atlantic Monthly Press on March 3, 2015
my rating: ★★★★.5
Goodreads avg:
3.72 (as of 2019-09-10)
Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

Twelve-year-old Caitlin lives alone with her mother—a docker at the local container port—in subsidized housing next to an airport in Seattle. Each day, while she waits to be picked up after school, Caitlin visits the local aquarium to study the fish. Gazing at the creatures within the watery depths, Caitlin accesses a shimmering universe beyond her own. When she befriends an old man at the tanks one day, who seems as enamored of the fish as she, Caitlin cracks open a dark family secret and propels her once-blissful relationship with her mother toward a precipice of terrifying consequence.

In crystalline, chiseled yet graceful prose, Aquarium takes us into the heart of a brave young girl whose longing for love and capacity for forgiveness transforms the damaged people around her. 


Having added this to my TBR about a year ago and not remembering why, I checked this out of the library on a whim since I had some time to kill. I didn’t re-read the synopsis before jumping in and found myself being pulled through a curious story that in turn felt both unbelievably real and not real at all. In the simplest terms possible, this is the story of a girl named Caitlin who lives an unremarkable life with her single working mom. In actuality, nothing about this book is that simple.

I Google the street and see the crime rate at three times the national average, car theft almost six times higher. I think of my mother and the teachers at school letting me walk that route every day, and I’m filled with a rage that will never go away because it comes from some hollow vertigo unfinished. I feel dizzy with fear for my former self, and how can that be? I’m here now. I’m safe. I have a job. I’m thirty-two years old. I live in a better section of town. I should forgive and forget.

The story veers wildly between slice-of-life literary fiction and edge-of-your-seat drama. While I can see how this wouldn’t work for some, I was entranced by the characters and their stories. There is very little I can get into without spoilers, but there are some deeply, deeply horrifying moments squirreled away in here. And some deeply heartwarming ones as well. I really felt like I ran the gamut of emotions while reading this.

Lungfish can slow to one-sixtieth their normal metabolic rate, but this slows time, also. One night becomes sixty nights. This is the price for hiding. Just hold your breath for one minute and find out what a minute becomes.

Worth noting is also the fact that I hadn’t taken notice of the author’s gender and spent the entirety of this book thinking it had been written by a woman. While others have disagreed, I felt this was quite authentically written and was surprised by how carefully done some aspects were. Without giving too much away, I’ll say that the main character is in love with her (female) best friend and while there are some scenes that are sexual, they are portrayed in a way that I found quite tasteful and and innocent in nature.

Each thing that happens to us, each and every thing, it leaves some dent, and that dent will always be there. Each of us is a walking wreck.

Overall, I found myself deeply impacted by this book. Parts of it are truly harrowing, but the experience itself was worth it. I was quite impressed by Vann’s writing and really look forward to exploring more of his work.


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Mini-Review Compilation #16

The Night Sister

Jennifer McMahon has been a little hit-or-miss for me. I absolutely adored The Winter People but felt The Invited wasn’t quite what I was looking for. Fortunately, The Night Sister put her writing back on track for me. This is a creepy little novel that takes place in Vermont, where a mystery is unfolding over three different generations, all tied closely to The Tower Motel. 

I thought the time jumps were handled quite well and I suffered minimal confusion with them. I also quite liked most of the characters, although I felt the relationship between Piper and Amy was a little queerbait-y and wished there had been more to it (this was also something I struggled with in The Invited, but that may just have been my reading of it). The horror itself was handled well, it was spooky but not terrifying. And the way the plot unfurled was great, I didn’t see the twists coming and wasn’t sure how things would end until they did.

Overall, it was definitely an enjoyable book and a quick read. I’d definitely recommend it and will be reading more of McMahon’s work in the future.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Good People

This novel follows Nóra as she grapples with the grief of losing both her daughter and her husband. Left alone to care for her grandson, Micheál, who at four years old is no longer able to walk or talk, she takes in a maid named Mary to help her around the house. The book focuses quite closely on Irish superstition with particular attention paid to changeling lore. While the townspeople as a whole are quite superstitious, Nóra experiences a psychotic break of sorts that leads her to believe her grandson has been changed and is a fairy. She funnels her rage toward the boy, desperate for a cure.

What this book suffers from most, in my opinion, is it’s length. I felt like it took far too long to pick up its pace and was far too drawn out near the end. The content is difficult and this should have been a much more difficult read than it was, but I struggled to connect emotionally to any of the characters. There were a few parts where I felt some anxiety and really wanted to know what happened next, but for the most part I was just trying to get through it.

Rating: ⭐⭐.5

A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing

This book and I just didn’t get along well. I can see why others would get something out of it, but it is a difficult read. I felt like I couldn’t fully comprehend the story and the message due to my struggle with the writing and it didn’t feel fair to halfheartedly finish this only to give it a poor rating because it was a bad fit. And, honestly, some of the content is harrowing and I’m really just not in a good place to push myself through that as well.

Rating: DNF


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