Bookworm Blogging, Discussions

My “TBR ASAP” Shelf

I was inspired by Ally’s Top TBR post to share my own prioritized TBR shelf with y’all. I’ve been using one for a while, as I find it really helpful to remind me of the things I don’t want to get lost in my general TBR shelf — which always happens. I have still been neglecting this shelf somewhat but with most of the Women’s Prize list behind me, I plan to prioritize my TBR ASAP shelf, my owned TBR, and the ARCs I have.

I’ll be ordering this list by date added and am going to try Destiny’s trick of providing a brief summary of the book and/or why I’m prioritizing it, along with the genre.


  • Broke Millennial
    • Nonfiction, self-help, finance
    • Erin Lowry was a guest on the Bad with Money podcast, which made me really want to read her book
  • Faking Ms. Right
    • Romance, contemporary
    • Hannah posted about reading this lately and I thought a cute fake dating romance sounded nice
  • Nonviolent Communication
    • Nonfiction, self-help, psychology, communication, relationships
    • A lot of people in the Multiamory Discord have been discussing this recently and I decided it would be worth reading
  • How to Be Everything
    • Nonfiction, self-help, psychology
    • I just happened to see this on my Goodreads feed but it seemed right up my alley

Do you all have a way to keep track of the books you’d like to prioritize?

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

It Devours! [review]

It Devours! (Welcome to Night Vale #2) by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
Published by Harper Collins on October 17, 2017
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
4.08 (as of 2019-02-09)

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

From the authors of the New York Times bestselling novel Welcome to Night Vale and the creators of the #1 international podcast of the same name, comes a mystery exploring the intersections of faith and science, the growing relationship between two young people who want desperately to trust each other, and the terrifying, toothy power of the Smiling God.

Nilanjana Sikdar is an outsider to the town of Night Vale. Working for Carlos, the town’s top scientist, she relies on fact and logic as her guiding principles. But all of that is put into question when Carlos gives her a special assignment investigating a mysterious rumbling in the desert wasteland outside of town. This investigation leads her to the Joyous Congregation of the Smiling God, and to Darryl, one of its most committed members. Caught between her beliefs in the ultimate power of science and her growing attraction to Darryl, she begins to suspect the Congregation is planning a ritual that could threaten the lives of everyone in town. Nilanjana and Darryl must search for common ground between their very different world views as they are faced with the Congregation’s darkest and most terrible secret. 


I’ve had this on my shelf for close to year, and finally got around to reading it! I used to be a huge fan of the Welcome to Night Vale podcast, but stopped listening a couple years ago because I personally found that the content felt a bit repetitive. I also read the first book and didn’t find it really held my interest, but thought it was still worth it to give the second one a shot. I’m glad I did! It was an interesting, compelling read. While not plot-dependent on the podcast or the first book, if you take in the content out-of-order you probably will spoil yourself, just as a heads up.

Sometimes it’s okay to find something beautiful without correctly understanding it.

The book itself ran me through a lot more emotions than I expected it to. Honestly, I was almost in tears at the end of the first chapter. No joke. There’s just enough of a mystery that you’re not quite sure what’s going on without encroaching too far into nonsense, which could have been easy to do with a world filled with such fantastical elements. There were a few places where I didn’t feel quite as invested in the story as I could have, but it really held my attention for the most part.

Sometimes where you live is just a place, no matter how long you live there.

I really adored the main characters. Nilanjana was great and I liked getting to see her struggles as an outsider in Night Vale. I found Darryl really interesting as well, especially with his background and how it tied in to some events towards the end of the book. Unfortunately, the rest of the characters didn’t have much characterization. Carlos was given some depth, but I felt like the rest of the scientists and Darryl’s friends all seemed like caricatures and were quite one-dimensional.

When considering our place in the universe, we must recognize that by having this one position we are negating every other possible position we could have.

So, overall it was a fun read and I would definitely recommend it to fans of Welcome to Night Vale or to anyone else who finds themselves interested in it. I don’t see myself picking it up again in the future, but I definitely don’t regret reading it!


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Mystery of Hollow Places [review]

The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos
Published by Balzer & Bray on January 26, 2016
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
3.48 (as of 2019-01-20)
cw: portrayals and discussion of bipolar disorder and severe depression

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

All Imogene Scott knows of her mother is the bedtime story her father told her as a child. It’s the story of how her parents met: he, a forensic pathologist, she, a mysterious woman who came to identify a body. A woman who left Imogene and her father when Imogene was a baby, a woman who was always possessed by a powerful loneliness, a woman who many referred to as “troubled waters.”

Now Imogene is seventeen, and her father, a famous author of medical mysteries, has struck out in the middle of the night and hasn’t come back. Neither Imogene’s stepmother nor the police know where he could’ve gone, but Imogene is convinced he’s looking for her mother. And she decides it’s up to her to put to use the skills she’s gleaned from a lifetime of reading her father’s books to track down a woman she’s only known in stories in order to find him and, perhaps, the answer to the question she’s carried with her for her entire life. 


…with enough time and the right conditions, precious stones could grow in hollow places.

This was my second Rebecca Podos book (my first being her 2017 release Like Water) and it was just as great as I had hoped it would be. I was honestly shocked when I got to the end and realized that this was her debut novel. This was one of those books that sucked me right in and filled me with emotion. Following Imogene on her journey felt both meaningful and real. It was easy to see where her thoughts, feelings, and coping mechanisms (or lack thereof) came from. The story follows Imogene as she attempts to find her long-lost mother and, in turn, her newly missing father. While she has little in the way of clues, between her wits and the assistance of her best friend Jessa she starts out on a path that will impact her life forever.

I thought Imogene was a sympathetic, believable main character and enjoyed being inside her head. While her constant Sherlock references wore on me a bit, I understood the point being made. Her relationship with Jessa was appropriately complicated, I liked the reference to symbiosis as I think we all have friendships that rely on shared exchanges like these. There were some romantic undertones between Imogene and Jessa’s brother, Chad, but I think this was well-balanced and certainly wasn’t anything close to the main focus of the story.

I really enjoyed the portrayal of Imogene’s non-traditional family structure. She spent most of her life living alone with her father, who struggled with bouts of severe depression where his daughter had to fend largely for herself. Her mother left before she could remember and exists only in the peripheries of scattered photographs. Lindy, her stepmother, is a family therapist and recent addition to the family. To be honest, I never grew to like Lindy very much. While I could absolutely see where she was coming from and didn’t actively disliked her, I just didn’t think I was given enough to really develop much in the way of positive feelings toward her — but that could definitely have just been me.

But if there’s one thing Dad’s bad times have taught me, it’s this: I never, ever want to have something I can’t survive without.

The only downside was that I didn’t love the end. There was a climax that I enjoyed, but after that I felt like I was just skimming the last bit to finish out the book. It was sort of like in movies where they have the on-screen text to explain what happened to each of the characters in the aftermath of the main plot. I personally didn’t feel that it added much, although I’m not sure what I would have suggested as an alternative.

Overall, though, this was an excellent read that I would highly recommend to lovers of contemporary YA, as well as those who like a bit of mystery in their books. I’m really excited to see what Rebecca Podos comes out with next, as she’s proven herself to be quite a strong writer! I think this is one that I’ll definitely be thinking back to in the future.


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

First Test [review]

First Test by Tamora Pierce
Published by Random House Children’s Books on May 23, 2000 (originally 1999)
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
4.25 (as of 2019-01-19)

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

In the medieval and fantastic realm of Tortall, Keladry of Mindelan is the first girl to take advantage of the decree that permits females to train for knighthood. Up against the traditional hazing of pages and a grueling schedule, Kel faces only one real roadblock: Lord Wyldon, the training master of pages and squires. He is absolutely against girls becoming knights. So while he is forced to train her, Wyldon puts her on probation for one year. It is a trial period that no male page has ever had to endure and one that separates the good natured Kel even more from her fellow trainees during the tough first year. But Kel Is not a girl to underestimate, as everyone is about to find out…


I read this quite some time ago, but only owned the first book and never continued with the series. For Christmas, I received books 2-4 and decided to re-read this so that I could jump into the rest. I had forgotten most of the plot, although all of it felt familiar to me. While I couldn’t have predicted anything that happened, once it happened I thought to myself “oh yeah, I remember that.” Luckily, I enjoyed it just as much as Tammy’s other books and am very excited to finally finish the series!

One of the things I love about Tammy’s writing is that she’s able to create such distinct characters. While most of her books focus on “strong” women, they’re not all the same. Where the Lioness is hot-tempered and loud, Daine is timid yet stubborn, Aly is quiet and calculating, and Kel is even and impenetrable. Each of her characters have different strengths and weaknesses, and I think that makes it possible for girls to find representation they are able to relate to.

This book follows Kel in her initial (probationary) year as a page, the first female page to enter the program since girls were allowed to join. There are plenty of obstacles along the way: a lot of the boys think that a girl doesn’t belong there alongside them. Kel’s advantage is that she and her family had lived with the Yamanis as an ambassador for most of her early life. The Yamani culture is much different from the one Kel has transitioned back into and one of the biggest things she has learned is to “be as stone” and hide all of her emotions behind a smooth mask.

Overall, I found the pacing to be great and the story fun to follow. I worked through the book fairly quickly and am looking forward to what comes next, although I plan to wait until Fantastic February to continue reading since this series is obviously perfect to put on my TBR for it. I recommend this to all Tamora Pierce fans, as well as anyone looking for some YA fantasy with a strong female character.


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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.)

Bookworm Blogging, Readathons

Short-a-thon 2018

I can’t remember the last time I participated in a readathon (I’m so bad at them!) but Destiny @ Howling Libraries and Kathy @ Books and Munches have put together this super fun one that I just had to join. 🙂

Here’s all the important info, snagged directly from Destiny’s post:

SHORT-A-THON!

Short-a-thon is a readathon that is going to take place from 12:00AM December 21st to 11:59PM December 31st. (You can go by your own time zone!)

The goal is simple: to focus on reading the SHORTEST books in your TBR! These can be short stories, novellas, graphic novels, manga—if it’s got a low page count, it works! Of course, our ideas of “short” books will all vary, so go by whatever YOU consider short!

We liked the idea of hosting this readathon for two reasons:
1) It’s unique!
2) BOOST THOSE READING CHALLENGE NUMBERS! Your December end-of-year wrap could look amazing with a big stack of short books thrown on top!

Here’s how you can join in…

Create a TBR in a blog post, tweet, or whatever else you like to use. We recommend making a list of your TEN (10) shortest books!

Leave a comment here or on Kathy’s post with a link to your TBR so she can add you to our official participants list (you can do this any time between now and December 21st).

Use #shortathon18 on social media so we can all find each other and cheer one another one, and be sure to follow us on Twitter at @shortathon! We’ll be hosting reading sprints and challenges everyday.

My Short-a-thon TBR

I decided to choose the same method as Destiny: I’ll write out a list of shorter books on my TBR (all under 150 pages) and choose my TBR at random. I’ve also split them up based on number of pages, like Destiny did! Some of these may not be published yet, and some I may not be able to get a hold of. I’ll select and random and read whatever I actually can and skip what I can’t. 🙂 Here are the books I’ve selected as options:

1-50 Pages: 

  1. A Monstrous Love: Two Halloween Romances – Magen Cubed
  2. Wet Nails – Shira Glassman
  3. Heaven or This – Topaz Winters
  4. Hex Wives #1 – Ben Blacker
  5. The Goddess Collection – Ailie Wallace
  6. Waiting on a Bright Moon – J.Y. Yang
  7. Complementary and Acute – Ella Lyons
  8. A Guide to Undressing Your Monsters – Sam Sax
  9. Throttle – Joe Hill
  10. A Jury of Her Peers – Susan Glaspell
  11. Hunting Monsters – S.L. Huang

50-100 Pages:

  1. The Terracotta Bride – Zen Cho
  2. We Should All Be Feminists – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  3. New American Best Friend – Olivia Gatwood
  4. In the Tall Grass – Stephen King
  5. By the Bog of Cats – Marina Carr
  6. Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions – 
    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  7. The Grownup – Gillian Flynn
  8. Sour Candy – Kealan Patrick Burke
  9. Avi Cantor Has Six Months to Live – Sacha Lamb
  10. Rose – Li-Young Lee
  11. This Way to the Sugar – Hieu Minh Nguyen
  12. The Little Red Wolf – Amélie Fléchais
  13. White Nights – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  14. The Curse Catcher – Laura Thalassa
  15. Night Sky with Exit Wounds – Ocean Vuong
  16. Black Helicopters – Caitlín R. Kiernan
  17. Riding the Track – Kara Ripley
  18. Bingo Love – Tee Franklin
  19. Learning Curves – Ceillie Simkiss
  20. Don’t Tell My Mother – Brigitte Bautista
  21. I’m Afraid of Men – Vivek Shraya
  22. The Lost Path – Amélie Fléchais
  23. ApocalyptiGirl – Andrew MacLean
  24. Jealousy Survival Guide – Kitty Chambliss
  25. Bluets – Maggie Nelson

100-150 Pages:

  1. Pizzeria Kamikaze – Etgar Keret
  2. Ongoingness – Sarah Manguso
  3. The Atrocities – Jeremy C. Shipp
  4. Ariel – Sylvia Plath
  5. Some New Ambush – Carys Davies
  6. Heathen Volume #1 – Natasha Alterici
  7. Afterlife – Melissa Jennings
  8. The Black God’s Drums – P. Djèlí Clark
  9. Do/ Story/ – Bobette Buster
  10. Wenjack – Joseph Boyden
  11. Water Memory – Mathieu Reynès
  12. The Backstagers Vol. 1 – James Tynion IV
  13. The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion – Margaret Killjoy
  14. Heavy Vinyl Vol. 1 – Carly Usdin
  15. Evidence of the Affair – Taylor Jenkins Reid
  16. Women & Power – Mary Beard
  17. A House at the Bottom of a Lake – Josh Malerman
  18. Moonstruck Vol. 1 – Grace Ellis
  19. The Devil You Know – KJ Parker
  20. Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time – Hope Nicholson
  21. Taproot – Keezy Young
  22. Giant Days Vol. 1 – John Allison
  23. Stairway – Matt Hawkins
  24. Kingdom of Needle and Bone – Mira Grant
  25. Sex Criminals Vol. 1 – Matt Fraction
  26. You Should Have Left – Daniel Kehlmann
  27. The Murders of Molly Southbourne
  28. Written on the Body – Lexie Bean
  29. The Buddha in the Attic – Julie Otsuka
  30. Dead Leaves – Patrick Kealan Burke
  31. All Hail the House Gods – Andrew J Stone
  32. The Reason I Jump – Naoki Higashida
  33. Zodiac Starforce Vol. 1 – Kevin Panetta
  34. Mockingbird Vol. 1 – Chelsea Cain
  35. Spell on Wheels – Kate Leth
  36. Runaways Vol. 1 – Rainbow Rowell
  37. Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat! Vol. 1 – Kate Leth
  38. Oh Honey – Emily Austin
  39. My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness – Kabi Nagata
  40. The ABCs of Socialism – Bhaskar Sunkara
  41. Batgirl Vol. 1 – Gail Simone
  42. Almost Midnight – Rainbow Rowell
  43. The Stepford Wives – Ira Levin
  44. Cold, Thin Air – CK Walter
  45. The Melody of You and Me – M. Hollis
  46. Anarchism and Its Aspirations – Cindy Milstein
  47. The Man in the Picture – Susan Hill
  48. Roadside Picnic – Arkady Strugatsky
  49. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? – Martin Noble
  50. May We Shed These Human Bodies – Amber Sparks

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Believe Me [review]

36399240

Believe Me by JP Delaney
Published by Quercus on July 24, 2018
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5
Goodreads avg:
3.69 (as of 2018-11-16)
cw: slut shaming, gore, CSA, self-harm, 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.

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

In this twisty psychological thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Before, an actress plays both sides of a murder investigation.

A struggling actor, a Brit in America without a green card, Claire needs work and money to survive. Then she gets both. But nothing like she expected.

Claire agrees to become a decoy for a firm of divorce lawyers. Hired to entrap straying husbands, she must catch them on tape with their seductive propositions. The rules? Never hit on the mark directly. Make it clear you’re available, but he has to proposition you, not the other way around. The firm is after evidence, not coercion. The innocent have nothing to hide.

Then the game changes.

When the wife of one of Claire’s targets is violently murdered, the cops are sure the husband is to blame. Desperate to catch him before he kills again, they enlist Claire to lure him into a confession.

Claire can do this. She’s brilliant at assuming a voice and an identity. For a woman who’s mastered the art of manipulation, how difficult could it be to tempt a killer into a trap? But who is the decoy . . . and who is the prey?

But then, this isn’t lying. This is behaving truthfully under imaginary circumstances. Which, as you will discover, is very different.

→ What I Liked:

The Twists
While I’m not one of those people who can guess the ending to every mystery, I can sometimes be hard to please with twists. I like them to be somewhat believable, meaning that there needs to have been an indication somewhere that this was a possibility. Not necessarily anything glaring, just something to point back to as a foundation. This was actually one of my biggest issues with Dangerous Girls. While the very last bit of the book is so full of twists it’s messy, JP Delaney masterfully puts together most of the pieces in such a way that the reader can’t help but be impressed. I really thought I knew where this book was going at the beginning, but I was very wrong.

The Characters
Claire, our narrator, is a British actor living in NYC. It’s clear from the start that although she’s down on her luck, she’s just brimming with talent. She’s easy to sympathize with, but far from perfect. Although she has somewhat of a stereotypical background, in my opinion she was quite an original character. Patrick, the man accused of murdering his wife, felt really well-done as well. While at first the reader thinks they have him pinned down, that soon comes undone. Seeing him through Claire’s eyes, we find out just how difficult it is to discern who someone truly is.

→ What I Didn’t Like:

The Ending
I tore through the entirety of this book, loving the build-up, but felt entirely dissatisfied by the ending. The author threw in so many red herrings I could barely see straight. Everything began shifting wildly and rather than astounding me, it caused me to lose any suspension of disbelief I had. It felt cheesy and cheap and I’m positive JP Delaney had the talent to create something better than this.

→ TL;DR:

  • Great twists
  • Page-turner
  • Believable characters
  • A terrible ending
  • Would recommend

 

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Haunting of Hill House [book review]

15808307

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Published by Penguin Classics on October 3, 2013 (originally 1959)
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
3.89 (as of 2018-11-07)
content warnings: gaslighting, suicide

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

The classic supernatural thriller by an author who helped define the genre. First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting;’ Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

Nothing is ever really wasted, she believed sensibly, even one’s childhood, and then each year, one summer morning, the warm wind would come down the city street where she walked and she would be touched with the little cold thought: I have let more time go by.

Hi all!! I’m trying a new review layout that I feel really helps me organize my thoughts better. Let me know how you like it. 🙂

→ What I Didn’t Like:

The Characters

Our main character, Nell, gave me a lot of mixed feelings. At times I adored her and at times I found her unbelievably annoying. The rest of the characters I disliked even more. I didn’t understand the motivations of most of them, and I found their sudden changes in mood and demeanor off-putting. I can see the purpose of this: to wonder whether it was all in Nell’s head, whether it was caused by the house, and/or whether these people were truly acting like this. The problem was, I found it so distracting and confusing that it detracted from the atmosphere of the novel for me. I was, quite frankly, annoyed by most of the characters.

→ What I Liked:

The Writing
While I had issues along the way, the fact remains that Shirley Jackson is an incredible author. She is just fantastic at atmospheric writing (although as noted above, the characters ruined some of that for me) and knows how to add in twists that you won’t expect, even if her books aren’t outright scary. In fact, the ending saved this book entirely for me. It was a solid 3-star read until the last bit, which had me on the edge of my seat. That ending cemented Nell as a solid character in my mind and I really felt what she was feeling.

→ Additional Thoughts:

I was quickly convinced that this book was a huge inspiration for House of Leaves, one of my favorite books. From the general aura of the house, to the scientific exploration of the unnatural, to the strange dimensions, this had an HoL vibe through and through. In fact, I’m sure in the months to come, I’ll be noting a lot of books and movies that are influenced by Jackson, as she has clearly made a mark on literature with her writing.

→ TL;DR:

  • I found the characters somewhat annoying
  • Spooky vibes, but not really scary
  • Shirley Jackson is a god-tier writer
  • The ending is SO GOOD
  • Definitely helped inspire House of Leaves
  • Recommend!

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

We Have Always Lived in the Castle [review]

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We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Published by Penguin Books on June 5, 1984 (originally 1962)
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
4.03 (as of 2018-10-25)
content warnings: Familial death, domestic abuse, agoraphobia
(I forgot to make notes on these so they’re from memory, alas)

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods—until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiosity and hostility of the villagers. Their days pass in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears. Only Merricat can see the danger, and she must act swiftly to keep Constance from his grasp.

In this village the men stayed young and did the gossiping and the women aged with grey evil weariness and stood silently waiting for the men to get up and come home.

This was my first Shirley Jackson novel and it far exceeded any expectations I could have set for it. After reading The Woman in Black, I knew that gothic horror was a genre I could get into and I found myself eyeing some of Jackson’s works. Fate worked in my favor: my friend Jackie lent me her copy of We Have Always Lived in the Castle around the same time Destiny and I decided to buddy read it. Destiny and I split the book up into three parts to read over three days, but I truly believe I could have devoured this all in one sitting if I hadn’t been so busy during when I started it.

The truly incredible thing, to me, is how Jackson is able to write the most mundane things in such an eerie way. Nearly every scene is drenched with tension and I felt a sense of dread that continued to build as the book went on. Even at the start, our main character Merricat is going about her regular routine, running errands in the village. It’s an ordinary task, but it’s all just off enough to give the reader a sense of unease. I found myself absolutely terrified of the townspeople without even knowing why. And on it continues, every scene off-kilter enough that you can’t retain any sense of balance. The building anticipation makes it impossible to put down. I absolutely had to know what was going to happen next, and how the story would climax.

On top of the fantastic atmosphere that really drives the plot, I thought the characterization was great as well. Merricat is such a strange yet fun character to follow and everything is colored through her peculiar point of view. Constance, her sister, is intriguing and you can’t help but wanting to know more about her, even as you feel wary of her. Uncle Julian is certainly an unreliable character — it’s hard to piece together everything he’s saying, and you’re not quite sure what is true — and I liked him as well. The fourth human character (because we can’t forget Merricat’s pet cat Jonas, who I adored) is cousin Charles. I thought Jackson did a really lovely job of portraying the single mindedness of a child who truly believes someone is evil, and made Charles quite terrifying.

Overall, I honestly I don’t know if there’s a thing I would change about this book. I had unanswered questions, but it almost feels like they should remain that way. I genuinely think this story is a true masterpiece and I can’t wait to start in on Hill House, which I’m picking up from the library very soon!

I was chilled.

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Mini-Review Compilation #10

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The Woman in Black
cw: child death

At that moment I began to doubt my own reality.

This was my first Susan Hill read and I can say that I’m now very excited to explore some of her other works. I don’t read a lot of gothic horror, but this definitely worked for me and I’d like to wade a little further into the genre. The writing conveyed such a strong atmosphere and I found myself really swept up in everything. It was definitely spooky, but didn’t outright scare me, which is a nice happy medium. I thought the characters were well-done, although we only spend time with a few of them. My only complaint was that the ending felt rushed and a little abrupt.

Buddy read with Sarah!

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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River of Teeth (River of Teeth #1)

I had high hopes for this one, but it just didn’t really do anything for me. The characters were good, but the story felt rushed and I didn’t get very invested in it.

Rating:⭐⭐.5

Sadie_FINAL cover image

Sadie
cw: pedophilia, CSA, abuse, drug addiction
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.

Every little thing about you can be a weapon, if you’re clever enough.

It seems like nearly everyone has been talking about Sadie lately. Intriguingly, pieces of it felt like they tied pretty closely to The Female of the Species, which I read directly beforehand. The formatting is what was most interesting about it. Half of the book is a podcast — where I’d imagine the audiobook version would have come in very handy — and the other half is from Sadie’s perspective directly. In this way, things that we could never necessarily know from one perspective are revealed to us through the other. While this method could be flawed in the wrong hands, Courtney Summers is able to carefully craft a chilling masterpiece, slowly (but not too slowly) revealing the full story to her readers.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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(All covers courtesy of Goodreads.)