Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Vagina Problems [DNF review]

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Vagina Problems by Lara Parker
Published by St. Martin’s Griffin on October 6, 2020
my rating: ★★ (2 stars)
Goodreads avg:
3.78 (as of 2021-11-24)
Spoiler-free review

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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.

After reading some other reviews, I’ve decided to DNF this at 18% (~40 pages). After the introduction and two chapters, I feel like I’ve already read everything Parker is going to say. This is an incredibly repetitive book, with some of the exact same phrases being repeated word-for-word over and over again. As someone with “vagina problems” I did find some of this very relatable and I fully agree that it’s a vital topic to talk about — but Parker’s writing is clearly better suited to blog posts than a full-length book. And I’m sure her blog posts are very worthwhile and will bring a lot of awareness to the disorders she suffers from! But I can’t say this is a book I recommend reading. I’d actually point to Ask Me About My Uterus for a better read about vagina problems (specifically endometriosis). I’m really disappointed that Vagina Problems didn’t work out for me and I want to acknowledge that Lara Parker is doing important work — this book just didn’t quite hit the mark.


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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

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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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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

A House at the Bottom of a Lake [review]

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A House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman
Published by This Is Horror on October 31, 2016
my rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
3.23 (as of 2021-10-26)
Spoiler-free review

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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 was nervous to pick this up after seeing so many middling-to-low reviews of it, but am glad my curiosity won out! I thought Bird Box was fantastic and had to pick up more of Malerman’s work.

The concept itself is so interesting – a mysterious house at the bottom of a lake! It took me a few pages to gel with the writing (it’s a lot of teenagers being teenagers), but I was both literally and figuratively at the edge of my seat the whole time. The plot itself is relatively slow-moving, but the tension really got to me. It felt like I was holding my breath through half of this book and I had to put it down a few times to take a quick breather here and there. I kept texting people to be like, “this book is freaking me out!!”

I tore through this in just one sitting and have already recommended it to several other people. If the concept interests you, give this a shot!


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

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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Beach Read [review]

Beach Read by Emily Henry
Published by Berkley on May 19, 2020
my rating: ★★★★★ (5 stars)
Goodreads avg: 
4.11 (as of 2020-08-06)
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.

This post contains affiliate links; if you use these links to make a purchase, I may earn a commission. Thanks for reading!

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | Bookshop | Author’s Website


Ohh my god, I absolutely adored this book. I had high hopes and was worried it wouldn’t live up to expectations, but it most certainly did. Both January and Gus were such lovely, fully realized characters and I had such a great time reading about them. Their banter was absolutely perfect and I can’t tell you how many times I giggled reading their back-and-forths. But this book isn’t all sunshine and roses! In fact, there’s a lot of darker content, from grief to recounting past abuse, so tread lightly. This was a book that made me laugh and cry and stay up as late as I could to read. Emily Henry is now going to be an auto-buy author for me (I really liked her debut and need to read more of her work!) and I’m excited to see what she comes out with next.


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A Lab of One’s Own [review]

A Lab of One’s Own by Rita Colwell, PhD and Sharon Bertsch McGrayne
To be published by Simon & Schuster on August 4, 2020
my rating: DNF
Goodreads avg: 
3.75 (as of 2020-08-04)
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.

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | Bookshop | Author’s Website


i really struggled with the writing in this. i don’t think it was particularly bad, but really felt like it was rushing through things. while the timeline was somewhat linear, following Colwell’s career, it also branched off haphazardly to describe other scientists and events. this might mesh better with someone more strongly interested in the history of the field and who is more familiar with the names mentioned. it also honestly felt more like a summary of Colwell’s resume than anything else, like she was trying to go down a list rather than provide an actual narrative. while easy enough to read, i just didn’t really find it engrossing at all.


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The Wicked Sister [review]

The Wicked Sister by Karen Dionne
To be published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons on August 4, 2020
my rating: ★★ (2 stars)
Goodreads avg: 
4.03 (as of 2020-07-22)
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.

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website


But you can be evil even if you don’t choose it.

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 was absolutely blown away by The Marsh King’s Daughter earlier this year and was highly anticipating Dionne’s newest release. Unfortunately, this one really fell short on expectations. If you want a mindless thriller with disturbing elements, please look no further. If you’re looking for anything more than that, perhaps think twice.

I was unconvinced from this from the start; the premise that this woman spent 15 years institutionalizing herself because she thought she did something that could have been disproven by a single line in a police report is quite frankly absurd to me. There continued to be inconsistencies and hyperbole that would pull me out of the story completely. For one, Rachel grew up learning the woods like the back of her hand. She was a vegetarian, essentially a pacifist, and deified nature. So how am I to believe that she repeatedly chucks her cigarettes to the ground and leaves them there? I know this is such a minor point to nitpick, but it just goes so vehemently against her character that I honestly couldn’t believe it! I saw the twist coming from a mile away, and one of the characters became so cartoonishly evil that it felt like Dionne wasn’t even taking things seriously anymore.

Never mind the fact that I’m starting to tire of the psychopath child trope and this truly added nothing to the genre of thrillers that rely on it. It really seemed like most of the thrills relied on pure shock value. This does work to its benefit in some ways: it’s difficult to put the novel down and it’s a fastpaced read. Something dreadful is truly lurking around every corner here.

There was also a strange fabulist element integrated into this — Rachel can apparently converse with animals. I thought at first that this was meant to skew the reader’s judgment of her: is she actually insane? But it really seems to serve little purpose other than furthering the plot in certain areas and getting Rachel to where she needs to be. It really felt like something that should have either been left out or utilized more thoroughly by Dionne.

So, this didn’t work for me at all I’m afraid. If you’re looking for something fast and simple and are able to suspend your disbelief, this could totally be the book for you. But if the above elements would be an issue, perhaps skip this one this time around.


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Luster [review]

Luster by Raven Leilani
To be published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux on August 4, 2020
my rating: ★★★★.5 (4.5 stars)
Goodreads avg: 
4.18 (as of 2020-07-17)
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.

Edie is stumbling her way through her twentiessharing a subpar apartment in Bushwick, clocking in and out of her admin job, making a series of inappropriate sexual choices. She’s also, secretly, haltingly figuring her way into life as an artist. And then she meets Eric, a digital archivist with a family in New Jersey, including an autopsist wife who has agreed to an open marriagewith rules. As if navigating the constantly shifting landscapes of contemporary sexual manners and racial politics weren’t hard enough, Edie finds herself unemployed and falling into Eric’s family life, his home. She becomes hesitant friend to his wife and a de facto role model to his adopted daughter. Edie is the only black woman young Akila may know.

Razor sharp, darkly comic, sexually charged, socially disruptive, Luster is a portrait of a young woman trying to make her sense of her life in a tumultuous era. It is also a haunting, aching description of how hard it is to believe in your own talent and the unexpected influences that bring us into ourselves along the way.

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website


I think of all the gods I have made out of feeble men.

This is an absolutely stunning debut from Leilani. From the first page, I was hooked by the writing style; the flat tone elevated my reading experience, emphasizing just how much Edie has given up on life and boosting my emotional connection to her. While at first the novel appears to focus on her relationship with Eric, a mediocre white man in an open marriage, it shifts (thank god) and focuses more strongly on Edie’s relationship with Eric’s wife, Rebecca, and his Black daughter, Akila. Their friendship is tenuous and charged and impossible to look away from.

Not everyone is going to get along with this; I’d shelve it into the same category as Supper Club and The Pisces. Luster is about a messy woman who is just barely keeping it together. She makes terrible decisions, and knows that she makes terrible decisions. It’s heartening to see this kind of novel featuring an ownvoices Black woman: as Edie herself comments in the novel, society has lower expectations of Black women and they have to be twice as good to be recognized as such. To allow a Black woman to be messy and difficult is all the more important in this context.

I’m honestly stunned that this is a debut and will be keeping a sharp eye out for Leilani’s future works. I’ll go as far as to say that she may have cemented herself as an auto-buy author for me and I am not complaining. Definitely recommend this if it sounds like it would be your kind of thing, and am hopeful that we’ll see this longlisted for the Women’s Prize.

I am a white woman and my review is written through that lens. If you are an ownvoices reviewer who would like your review linked here, please let me know!


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Butterfly Lampshade [review]

The Butterfly Lampshade by Aimee Bender
To be published by Doubleday Books on July 28, 2020
my rating: ★★ (2 stars)
Goodreads avg: 
3.15 (as of 2020-07-04)
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.

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website


“What would I do?” “You would cry,” she says. “And what would you do?” She looks at me with surprise. “Honey,” she says. “I would stop.”

At its core, this feels like a book about processing trauma through fantasy. In theory it sounds like something I would enjoy, but I just found the execution lacking. While highly readable (I managed to get through this in a single day), I just didn’t feel particularly connected to the characters or the story. I wasn’t reading because I wanted to see what would happen next, but because I wanted to finish the book and get on to another. Those who like slow-moving plots and magical realism are more likely to get along with this, but I found it just didn’t hit the spot for me.

content warnings: intrusive thoughts; psychosis


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I Hold a Wolf by the Ears [review]

I Hold a Wolf by the Ears by Laura van den Berg
To be published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux on July 28, 2020
my rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg: 
4.49 (as of 2020-07-13)
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 Hold a Wolf by the Ears presents a collection of women on the verge, trying to grasp what’s left of life: grieving, divorced, and hyperaware, searching, vulnerable, and unhinged, they exist in a world that deviates from our own only when you look too close. With remarkable control and transcendent talent, van den Berg dissolves, in the words of the narrator of “Slumberland,” “that border between magic and annihilation,” and further establishes herself as a defining fiction writer of our time.

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website


Auribus teneo lupum and all that.

It may be the first work I’ve read by Laura van den Berg, but this collection absolutely gutted me. Almost every story was devastating to some extent, often in ways I wasn’t expecting. The stories all feel properly connected and seem like they are occurring in the same universe, happening to similar people. van den Berg allows the women she writes to be flawed human beings and doesn’t pull any punches. They do and think bad things, but they’re always sympathetic — and fascinating to read about. There’s a lot of commentary on grief, trauma, and gender, and I urge readers to tread lightly and to look up content warnings if necessary. I’ve included an incomplete list below. On the whole, I was incredibly impressed by this collection and will be looking to read more of van den Berg’s work.

-Last Night, 3.5 stars
-Slumberland, 5 stars
-Hill of Hell, 4 stars
-Cult of Mary, 2 stars
-Lizards, 4 stars
-The Pitch, 4 stars
-Volcano House, 3.5 stars
-Friends, 4 stars
-Karolina, 4 stars
-Your Second Wife, 4 stars
-I Hold a Wolf by the Ears, 3.5 stars

average: 3.77 stars, rounded up to 4

content warnings: sexual assault; loss of a loved one; domestic abuse; mass shootings; miscarriages; kidnapping; attempted suicide.


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