Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Lost Village [review]

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The Lost Village by Camilla Sten transl. Alexandra Fleming
Published by Minotaur Books on March 23, 2021
my rating: ★★★ (3 stars)
Goodreads avg:
3.56 (as of 2021-10-27)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads | Bookshop


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. Quotes have been taken from the advanced copy and are subject to change upon publication.

The comps for this were spot on — it truly is Midsommar meets Blair Witch Project, but somehow less compelling than either of the two. It was incredibly readable, but really fell apart in the last act for me. There was a hint of a paranormal element that just wasn’t fully explored in any way, and some plot points that I wish had been expanded upon were just glossed over. By the end, I just kind of felt like “that’s it?”

The treatment of mental illness in this was also… not great. I did like that the author addressed how draining it can be to be the sole support of a friend in the midst of crisis, but that was canceled out by writing off an entire character as psychotic and violent because they [checks notes] take abilify.

The concept itself was really interesting and could have turned out so much cooler with some more thought-out writing. I will say that I got pretty creeped out at some parts and it was an incredibly atmospheric read. This would be a fun horror read if you’re not looking for anything too well put together.

(SPOILERS HERE)
Side note — I got huge queer vibes between Alice and Emmy and was so disappointed when nothing happened between them. I thought it was obvious that they were in some kind of intense queerplatonic relationship with unspoken (or forgotten?) feelings between the two of them and can’t believe that wasn’t the case.


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Chemistry [review]

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Chemistry by Weike Wang, narrated by Julia Whelan
Published by Random House Audio on May 23, 2017
my rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
3.72 (as of 2021-09-23)
Spoiler-Free Review

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Reading this while on medical leave from graduate school and in the midst of a depressive episode (the very same school our narrator is attending, in fact) was… tough, to put it lightly. Wang succeeds in portraying the deep ambivalence and lack of motivation that mental illness and loneliness bring. The narrator’s history slowly unravels to the reader as we follow her through this breakdown. The daughter of two Chinese immigrants, she feels immense pressure to succeed in obtaining her Chemistry PhD and can think of little else. She avoids unpacking her childhood trauma at all costs and sees little value in looking backward, even when it keeps her from moving forward.

A short and sweet novel, I found this incredibly compelling and felt deeply for our unnamed narrator. I certainly see how this wouldn’t be for everyone, but highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys quietly introspective literary fiction.


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Underground Railroad [review]

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The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, narrated by Bahni Turpin
Published by Random House Audio on September 3, 2016
my rating: ★★ (2 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.04 (as of 2021-09-23)
Spoiler-Free Review

Goodreads | Bookshop


I truly feel bad that I didn’t like this. There was not much with the book itself; Whitehead is an excellent writer who creates believable characters. I do wish the Railroad itself was featured more heavily or more creatively, as is this was really just an over the plate historical fiction where the Underground Railroad happens to be a literal railroad. The concept itself felt underutilized and I think the book would have had the same impact on me had Whitehead not changed this, which left me wondering why he did.

It feels wrong to say that I felt bored reading this, but I truly did. I didn’t feel attached to Cora or any of the other characters and didn’t feel very involved with the plot itself. I kept wondering where it was going to go. This is where I mention that I think it was my mistake to read this book — I rarely enjoy straightforward historical fiction and I read this thinking it was going to be something different because of the railroad. The fact is, this read like any other historical fic novel and it’s a me problem that I didn’t enjoy that.

I definitely recommend readers interested in historical fiction, particularly Southern history, pick this up. It’s well-written and is obviously enjoyed by many. Unfortunately I just wasn’t the right audience for this.


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Outlander [review]

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Outlander (Outlander #1) by Diana Gabaldon, narrated by Davina Porter
Published by Recorded Books on July 13, 2006 (originally 1991)
my rating: ★★★.5 (3.5 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.23 (as of 2021-09-17)
SPOILERS AHEAD!

Goodreads | Bookshop


Wow, this is very much a product of its time. I’m going to be delving into some spoilers, and want to put a content warning up front for discussion of pedophilia and sexual assault. It took me a bit to settle into the writing style, which I found to be elegant if a little dry at first. I’m not sure I would have made it very far if I wasn’t listening to the audiobook. The narration was so immersive and really added to the experience. Once I got into the rhythm, I found that I really loved the book!

That wore off about halfway through. I know a certain amount of sexism is to be expected given that Gabaldon wrote this in 1991 and it takes place over 200 years ago. But there was a lot I really could not handle. At one point Claire leaves where Jamie has left her only to be captured by the Big Baddie and is saved just before being raped. Jamie then BEATS HER for disobeying his orders because otherwise the other men will be ~upset~, as if almost being raped wasn’t severe enough. I was absolutely livid and considered DNFing, but managed to keep listening and ended up enjoying the story again.

Lol, just kidding. I mean, I did manage to get back into the story but unfortunately it went way off the rails again. There are two gay men in this book and one of them is a pedophile. At least he’s portrayed as harmless enough… as harmless as a pedophile can be portrayed, I guess. The other gay character is a sociopath who tortures people mercilessly and literally rapes the male love interest. Again, I know this was written in 1991 but seriously? The rape plotline really soured the end of the book for me, and I couldn’t wait for it to end.

It sucks because the first half of the book had me expecting a 5-star rating and recommending it to my friends. The second half made it really difficult to decide on a rating and had me rescinding those recommendations. I don’t even know if I’m going to be able to continue the series and I really don’t know if I want to. I guess I can at least check out the TV series. I hate that I ended up being so disappointed by this after loving it so much. I’m not sure I can recommend this on good conscience without warning about everything mentioned in the spoiler brackets above; some of the content truly made me nauseous.

content warnings: sexual assault, pedophilia, domestic abuse, gore (graphic injuries), animal death


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No One is Talking About This [review]

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No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood
Published by Riverhead Books on February 16, 2021
my rating: ★★★★.5 (4.5 stars)
Goodreads avg:
3.74 (as of 2021-06-21)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads | Bookshop

This ended up being an incredibly impactful read for me, although I wouldn’t have known that from the start. I went into this relatively cold, knowing only that it had ‘two parts’ and had a lot to do with online culture. Both of those things are very true, but what I wasn’t prepared for was how absolutely this would destroy me.

The first part reads much like a Twitter feed and contains plenty of internet humor; I was nearly cackling at both how relatable it felt and how Lockwood was able to condense and present these collective internet experiences. If you are not capital-O Online, I worry that you’ll be lost and/or hate this. If you hate books about the internet, definitely do not read this. I personally found it to be a unique take on tackling the intricacies of modern technology and was looking forward to seeing where Lockwood took it.

Enter, Part 2. I had absolutely no idea where Part 2 was going to go and won’t discuss it too thoroughly because I think going in without expectations will give it the biggest impact. Let me just say that I think Part 1 sets the stage perfectly for the tragedy that unfolds in Part 2. It provides the foundation to understand how the narrator copes and to see the lens she views the world through.

I feel like this will be a divisive book so I hesitate to recommend it to anyone who isn’t fully convinced by the concept. I struggled myself a little bit towards the beginning to read this in anything other than small bits. But close to Part 2, I was able to sit down and and carefully inhale the rest. I really, really enjoyed this though and very much look forward to reading more by Lockwood.

content warnings: see Goodreads review



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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Girl With All the Gifts [review]

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The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey, narrated by Finty Williams
Published by Hachette Audio on June 6, 2014
my rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
3.94 (as of 2021-06-15)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads | Bookshop


I went into this knowing pretty much nothing except that the general plot ‘zombies but different’ and think that was the right way to do it. I think this was an incredibly creative take on the zombie genre and was very impressed with the science of it — although I can’t attest to how accurate it was. I really loved Melanie and getting to know the rest of the characters was great as well. My only pet peeve was that it was very apparent that this was written by a man; there were bits where the group would be in life-or-death situations and the men would be thinking about having sex or masturbating. The sex and romance felt shoehorned in and took away from the story imo. Aside from that, this was an incredible book that I’ll be recommending quite a lot.


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I’m Afraid of Men [review]

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I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya
Published by Penguin Books Canada on August 28, 2018
my rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.28 (as of 2021-05-31)
Spoiler-free review

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In I’m Afraid of Men, Vivek Shraya reflects on her experiences from being “sensitive” and feminine boy who learns to perform masculinity through her adulthood as a transgender woman. She explores how her relationships to and perceptions of men have changed with a bluntness that is educational to those who may not have experienced the intersection of misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia that she has faced. This is an incredibly compelling set of essays that force one to examine how they may be complicit in the ongoing oppression of others.

She describes how carefully her life must be navigated, how she often goes out in public dressed as a man to avoid violence, how she will remove her makeup before leaving a show she’s performed at, how her boyfriend sometimes accompanies her as a bodyguard of sorts. She reflects on how this anxiety, this terror, has weathered her body and her mind:

My fear of men… both protects my body… and erodes it… I have been stricken with numerous freak pains… that practitioners are unable to explain or cure. When they suspiciously ask me, ‘Are you sure nothing happened? You didn’t fall somewhere?’ I want to respond, ‘I live in fear.’

As she reflects on her experiences with men, she notes the women in the background. The girlfriend of the classmate who spit on her, who giggled instead of stopping him. A friend at a bar who told her she should be flattered when she was repeatedly groped. Cisgender women who dismiss her stories of transmisogyny, assuming the oppression they face is the same that she faces. Women with internalized misogyny who continue to tear down other women. As she recounts them, she adds “I’m also afraid of women.”

Shraya’s essays provide unique insight into how boys are socialized and how expectations of masculinity can be damaging, both to boys and men and the people they interact with. She also shares how dangerous life can be for men who do not adhere to our expectations for masculinity as well as for transgender women. This was a short, informative read that I highly recommend. I would love to see a full memoir from Shraya someday and will keep my eye out for more of her writing.


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This Is How You Lose the Time War [review]

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This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone
Published by Saga Press on July 16, 2019
my rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
3.96 (as of 2021-05-27)
Spoiler-free review

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I am more sensitive to your footsteps, I think, than anyone alive.

This was an absolutely beautiful novella that I had a difficult time settling into. It took me probably ~30-40 pages to feel like I wasn’t completely lost, but I was still able to enjoy the poetic writing until I got there. A lot of the worldbuilding feels simultaneously intense and quite vague, but focusing on the characters was enough to pull me through. While there is a plot, this feels more like a dialogue than a story for the most part. I truly loved both Red and Blue and their relationship had me equal parts grinning and crying; I genuinely shed tears during the last quarter or so of the book. I’m so incredibly impressed with how El-Mohtar and Gladstone were able to weave this together and know that future rereads will certainly yield more. I look forward to picking this up again in the future!


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Don’t Look for Me [review]

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Don’t Look for Me by Wendy Walker
Published by St. Martin’s Press on September 15, 2020
my rating: ★★ (2 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.01 (as of 2020-04-30)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads | Bookshop | Author’s Website


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. Quotes have been taken from the advanced copy and are subject to change upon publication.

I loved Emma in the Night, so I was really excited to read Don’t Look for Me. Unfortunately, it fell incredibly short of my expectations. While this was a very fast-paced novel with high stakes, I really struggled to care about the characters and only finished this to see how the story would end. I actually guessed one of the major twists before the halfway mark and ended up skimming from about 80% onward because I didn’t feel compelled to spend more time with this than absolutely necessary.

While I know thrillers require some suspension of disbelief, this really didn’t feel like it had any authenticity to it. The characters and their problems felt so manufactured and it made it difficult to truly care about or root for them. I’d compare this to one of those trashy Lifetime movies that you throw on to pass the time and don’t really enjoy, but just have to see the end of because you’re curious about the plot. Except this required more time and effort than a Lifetime movie.

So just go watch a Lifetime movie instead, tbh. (Honestly though, I am clearly very much in the minority and suggest you check out some other reviews if you’re interested in this because maybe you’ll vibe with it more than I did!)


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This Common Secret [review]

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This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor by Susan Wicklund
Published by PublicAffairs on December 7, 2007
my rating: ★★★ ★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.28 (as of 2020-04-07)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads | Bookshop | Author’s Website


“I know exactly what kind of work you do, and it is a good thing. People like you do it safely so that people like me don’t murder their best friends.”

This is an incredibly powerful book that quickly puts to rest the most common misconceptions about abortions. If you believe that life begins at conception and therefore abortion at any stage is murder, this isn’t going to change your mind but then again, nothing is. If you hold any other reservations about abortion regarding the process and its outcomes, I think this would be an interesting read for you. Even as a staunch pro-choice advocate, I learned a lot reading this.

But this is not just about abortion, this is also Dr. Wicklund’s memoir and her experiences with anti-abortion activists are truly harrowing. I did not realize the full extent of harassment and danger that abortion providers face; Dr. Wicklund is stalked, threatened, barricaded in her driveway, and even had her home broken into. She somehow still manages to go in day after day to help her patients. Her philosophy and practice comforted me a lot: she ensures that every patient is positive they want an abortion before she’ll perform one, and she always covers the alternatives available. This should be the case with any elective procedure, but particularly abortion.

My only qualms were that some conversations just didn’t feel real. Perhaps some stories were amalgamations of other stories, but at times they just felt scripted. I guess when you have the same conversations day in and day out, that can be the case though. It’s not that I felt they weren’t real, just a little too polished. But this was really a minor complaint and I’m really glad I finally got around to reading this and would recommend it to pretty much everyone.


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