Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Dark Circles [review]

Dark Circles by Caite Dolan-Leach
Published by Ballantine Books on April 19, 2022
my rating: 2 stars
Goodreads avg:
3.41 (as of 2022-08-29)
Spoiler-free review
Goodreads

disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. Quotes have been taken from the advanced copy and may differ from the final publication.

The stories told about us are not our own.

I had to pick this up because I really liked We Went to the Woods by the same author. I found it well-written and compelling at first, so the average Goodreads rating confused me, but We Went to the Woods also has a low average so I brushed it off. I really enjoyed the setup, meeting Liv and the House of Light. Olivia is an actress who had a recent public outburst that prompts her assistant slash best friend Jess to send her to rehab. The House of Light is more of a spiritual retreat and Liv thinks she knows exactly what she’s in for. Since this is a literary thriller of sorts, I think we all know that things end up taking a turn.

After the first third, this began to drag for me. I felt like the various elements didn’t quite mesh and some things began to get repetitive. It was just missing that something to make it feel compelling. It was a bit of a disappointment for me because I did like the concept of integrating a podcast into the narrative (which I think was done well here) but I struggled with the novel as a whole. I also found one of the final twists to be unsatisfying and wasn’t convinced by some of the character motives. I’m really hoping I get along better with Dolan-Leach’s next book.


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Sorrowland [review]

Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon
Published by MCD Books on May 4, 2021
my rating: 2 stars
Goodreads avg:
3.83 (as of 2022-08-21)
Spoiler-free review
Goodreads

disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. Quotes have been taken from the advanced copy and may differ from the final publication.

The forest didn’t mind illiterates and mad girls. Didn’t mind that screaming was sometimes a person’s only language.

This was my first Rivers Solomon and I hate to say it but I was definitely disappointed. I went into this pretty cold and wasn’t really expecting the extreme fantastical elements — which I’ll admit is on me. It’s definitely a book that some people will love, but it was a little too out there for me. I had difficulty following some things and just didn’t get along with the writing in general. I did appreciate how queer this was, though, as well as the messages Solomon was conveying. I have a copy of The Deep which I’ll definitely also be trying out.


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

And I Do Not Forgive You [review]

And I Do Not Forgive You by Amber Sparks
To be published by Liveright on February 11, 2020
my rating: DNF
Goodreads avg:
3.7 (as of 2020-01-27)
Spoiler-free Review
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.

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author Website


I unfortunately only made it through 50% of this before DNFing. I think the title and cover art made me think this would be more about revenge than it was. The stories here felt largely unrelated to that and were also so frustrating to read. Either a story would feel unfinished altogether, cutting off where it felt like it was just starting, or I would feel completely uninvested until the last paragraph, having it end just as I was getting excited. I hadn’t realized going in that I had tried to read another of Amber Sparks’ collections and DNFed that as well for similar reasons, so I think her work just isn’t for me. Below are my ratings and minor comments for the stories I did end up reading:

Mildly Unhappy, with Moments of Joy, ⅘. thought i would cry at the end.
You Won’t Believe What Really Happened to the Sabine Women, 2.5/5.
A Place for Hiding Precious Things, ⅗.
Everyone’s a Winner in Meadow Park, 2.5/5. felt unfinished, didn’t get invested until the very last page and then wanted more.
A Short and Slightly Speculative History of Lavoisier’s Wife, ⅕.
We Destroy the Moon, ⅖.
In Which Athena Designs a Video Game with the Express Purpose of Trolling Her Father, ⅖.
Is the Future a Nice Place for Girls, ⅖.


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Education of a Coroner [review]

**Note: I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion. This in no way impacts my review**

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The Education of a Coroner by John Bateson
To be published by Scribner on August 15, 2017
368 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1-50116-822-2
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
[Goodreads[IndieBound[Author Website]

In the vein of Dr. Judy Melinek’s Working Stiff, an account of the hair-raising and heartbreaking cases handled by [Ken Holmes] the coroner of Marin County, California throughout his four decades on the job—from high-profile deaths to serial killers, to Golden Gate Bridge suicides.

cw: death, murder, sexual assault, rape culture, sexism, racism

It’s been a hot second since I’ve read some nonfiction and I was really looking forward to this book. I plucked it off Netgalley, thinking that it looked fascinating. From the beginning, it reeled me in. I think a lot of us find the concept of death fascinating, and the idea of what follows here, in the corporeal world, isn’t something I’ve thought much about, even though I’ve watched many crime dramas.

For instance, I had no idea what a coroner’s job entails. What I’ve gathered is that it’s a great deal of investigative work and a position that requires intensely strong people skills, observational skills, and strength. Coroners quite literally see it all, and they assist the police very closely in their work when a death doesn’t appear to be natural. It was really interesting to discover how the system operates after a person dies.

As much as I enjoyed Holmes’ anecdotes towards the beginning, things began to feel off to me about a quarter through the book. There’s one specific quote that set me off, in which Holmes completely discredits a woman’s rape allegation by saying that she was too heavy and not attractive enough to have been raped. He also throws in some casual racism regarding the situation.  I have no idea why the author thought this was appropriate to include because, to me, it discredits Holmes as a serious investigator. How many other alleged crimes has he shrugged off because of how a woman looks? He talks about the injustices that the dead face, but how about the living?

Holmes then went on to tell what he thought was a heartwarming, funny story about a late coworker who egged on a bartender by speaking in a “Middle Eastern” accent. In talking about a robbery that he experienced, Holmes explained that he didn’t pull out his gun because the store was “filled with women” who could have been hurt–as if he is only concerned with hurting women. And there was a horrifying story in which a man told Holmes that he was going to kill himself and Holmes did nothing.  In most instances it is required, if not legally then at the very least morally, to inform someone in a situation like that. Not only did Holmes keep this information to himself until after the fact–he also seemed not to express remorse for this decision, which struck me as shady and wrong.

In addition to all of that, I felt super uncomfortable about the fact that the book referred to all the deceased by name and revealed intimate information about their lives and families. Some of these cases were decades old, but some weren’t. I understand that most, if not all, of this information is probably public record, but it just felt really voyeuristic and like it was taking advantage of the deaths of all of these people just for the personal gain of these two men, Holmes and the author.

After these issues started creeping in, the book began to drag on for me. It’s less about the life of a coroner in general and more a memoir about one specific coroner’s career. It is also important to note that Holmes is a relatively privileged man working in an extremely privileged environment (“Marin ranks in the top one percent of counties nationwide in terms of affluence and overall health”) and that this is an extremely biased view of both life and death.

Generally an okay read and maybe something I’d recommend to folks interested in forensics, but I enjoyed it much less than I thought I would.

Thanks to all for reading! Do you plan to read The Education of a Coroner? Please share your thoughts in the comments. You can also find me on Twitter and Goodreads.