Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

I’m Not Missing [review]

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I’m Not Missing by Carrie Fountain
To be published by Flatiron Books on July 10, 2018
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
4.00 (as of 2018-06-14)
cw: underage drinking, consensual sex, sexual assault
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 Miranda Black’s mother abandoned her, she took everything—the sun, moon, and stars—and Miranda found shelter in her friendship with Syd, who wore her own motherlessness like a badge of honor: Our mothers abandoned us. We won’t go begging for scraps.

When Syd runs away suddenly and inexplicably in the middle of their senior year, Miranda is abandoned once again, left to untangle the questions of why Syd left, where she is—and if she’s even a friend worth saving. Her only clue is Syd’s discarded pink leopard print cell phone and a single text contained there from the mysterious HIM. Along the way, forced to step out from Syd’s enormous shadow, Miranda finds herself stumbling into first love with Nick Allison of all people and learning what it means to be truly seen, to be finally not missing in her own life.

I’m Not Missing is a beautiful contemporary YA romance that also tackles a handful of serious topics. From the beginning, I found it to be a compelling read and worked my way through it pretty quickly. I started it while I was on vacation and finished it soon after returning home. This will definitely make a nice summery beach read!

I really liked the main character, Miranda, because I related to her a lot. I’ve always been a bit of a hopeless romantic and her endless fawning over her crush reminded me of myself in high school and college. It seemed to me like a really accurate portrayal of teenage romance. Miranda also had her own unique quirks, like reading a book of saints every night before bed and reciting the Gettysburg Address when nervous. The book also demonstrated a really nice relationship between Miranda and her father. Miranda is latina and her father is white, so the story also delves a bit into how that has impacted Miranda’s life. The romance itself was cute and I enjoyed it. The love interest, Nick, was a nice boy and treated Miranda well. The author also wrote in a lot of affirmative consent, which I thought was fantastic.

Miranda’s best friend, Syd, is an interesting character because we get to see her in so many different lights. Before Syd runs away, Miranda holds her in such high regard. She seems to rely on Syd in a plethora of ways and thinks that Syd always knows what to do. After Syd leaves, this begins to change. Miranda is able to take a step back and to see Syd as she truly is. She’s also able to rely on herself more and to grow more independent as a person, making her own decisions instead of depending on others to make them for her.

Overall, this was a really great story and I loved reading it. I’d recommend it to all YA contemporary readers, in particular to folks who enjoy books that hit some serious issues alongside the fluff.

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Winter People [review]

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The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
Published by Random House Audio on February 11, 2014 
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5
Goodreads avg:
3.77 (as of 2018-06-19)
cw: child death, grief, gore, underage drinking/drug use

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

 

West Hall, Vermont, has always been a town of strange disappearances and old legends. The most mysterious is that of Sara Harrison Shea, who, in 1908, was found dead in the field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter.

Now, in present day, nineteen-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara’s farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister. Alice has always insisted that they live off the grid, a decision that has weighty consequences when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished. In her search for clues, she is startled to find a copy of Sara Harrison Shea’s diary hidden beneath the floorboards of her mother’s bedroom. As Ruthie gets sucked into the historical mystery, she discovers that she’s not the only person looking for someone that they’ve lost. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself.

 

Much like A Head Full of Ghosts, The Winter People is another audiobook I happened to pick up that I found myself completely enthralled by. My new methodology for finding audiobooks is to sort my TBR by random and to go down the list until I find a book that a) is available on audiobook and b) has a narrator that I like. I listen to the sample and if I like it, I download it and take off. It seems to be working fairly well for me.

The Winter People doesn’t fit neatly into any box. It’s a bit of horror, a bit of fantasy, a bit of historical fiction, and a bit of thriller. It actually has two narrators, as it switches not only between past and present but also between POVs within each time period. It’s hard to nail down, and the reader can’t even be entirely sure what’s happening until close to the end. I will say that it does a pretty good job of answering all your questions, though, so if you hate ambiguous endings you’ll probably like this one.

There are a fair amount of characters, but Jennifer McMahon does a good job of giving them all their own unique voices (well, the narrators probably help there too). I never really found myself mixing them up, and felt like they were all distinctly different people. My favorite is probably Sara Harrison Shea herself, in part because her narrator was unbelievably good. Both of the narrators were great, in fact. I also loved the setting. I have a soft spot in my heart for books set in New England, particularly when I know a lot of the places mentioned. This book took place mainly in Vermont, with a few flashbacks to scenes in Boston.

My biggest (and only, really) issue with this book was the ending. There was a scene that I was positive was the end and I was almost entirely satisfied with where it left off — but then it continued. In my opinion, this kind of caused the book to fizzle out and made for an awkward finish. It meandered just a bit too long. I also felt like things weren’t wrapped up entirely well. There were reasons given for everything that happened, but some of them felt so artificial. Like, it felt like the author couldn’t come up with an organic way to incorporate some stuff into the story but decided to keep it in anyway. Those minor reasons were why I knocked off half a star, they kind of pulled me out of the story I was until that point so invested in.

Overall, I thought this was an incredible read. Halfway through, I started adding more Jennifer McMahon books to my TBR and will definitely prioritize picking up something else by her. I highly recommend anyone with any interest pick this up. If you enjoy horror stories, particularly those with a historical setting, you’re going to love The Winter People.

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Providence [review]

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Providence by Caroline Kepnes
To be published by Lenny on June 19, 2018 
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
3.54 (as of 2018-06-07)
cw: animal death, ableism, domestic abuse, cancer

Spoiler-free Review
An advanced copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

From the acclaimed author of YOU comes a novel that is part love story, part detective story, and part supernatural thriller.

Growing up as best friends in small-town New Hampshire, Jon and Chloe are the only ones who truly understand each other and their intense connection. But just when Jon is ready to confess the depth of his feelings, he’s kidnapped by his substitute teacher, a discredited scientist who is obsessed with H.P. Lovecraft and has a plot to save humanity.

After four years in captivity, Jon finally escapes, only to discover that he now has an uncontrollable power that endangers anyone he has intense feelings for. He runs away to Providence to protect Chloe while he searches for answers. Across town from Jon, Detective Charles “Eggs” DeBenedictus is fascinated by a series of strange deaths–young, healthy people whose hearts just . . . stop. Convinced these deaths are a series of connected, vigilante killings, he jeopardizes his job and already strained marriage to uncover the truth. 

With heart, insight, and a keen eye on human frailty, Kepnes whisks us on a journey through New England and crashes these characters’ lives together in the most unexpected ways, exploring the complex relationship between the powerful and the powerless, love and identity, self-preservation and self-destruction, and how the lines are often blurred between the two

 

I requested this title on Netgalley mainly because I saw that the main characters were from New Hampshire. I always want to read books that take place at least in part in places that I’ve lived. The plot also looked interesting, so I gave it a shot. I’m really glad I did because this ended up being a very good read.

People who live to know a sicko are very eager to tell you their story. There’s a pride, a sense of having survived something.

Caroline Kepnes is a great writer. This is the first work of hers that I’ve read, but immediately after finishing this, I added You to my TBR. She does a fantastic job of pulling the reader right into the story and creates interesting characters that you can really relate to. I really liked both Claire and Jon, as well as the relationship between them and how it changed over time. I also loved the Lovecraft references. I haven’t read much Lovecraft myself, but am really drawn to Lovecraftian stories.

When I die, if there is a place called hell, I will go there.

I did think, however, that the characters could have been given a little more complexity. Jon and Claire are both overwhelmingly “good” people and don’t really have any flaws (at least, none that they can control). I also didn’t really enjoy the addition of Eggs into the story. I understood how he functioned as far as the plot went, but felt like he didn’t add much to the story as a character. Maybe it’s just because I didn’t like him. He was constantly lying to his wife and essentially pretended that his autistic son didn’t exist. By the end there is some redemption, but I still really don’t think he deserved to be treated so well.

I hit the road, New Hampshire bound, I’m a typical Rhodie in the sense that I think we’re the best. In Massachusetts, you have all these sweet-toothed Massholes stuffing their face with ice cream covered in jimmies, all puffed up with self-righteousness they get out of that little rock down in Plymouth. Never mind Maine; try being a woman in that state, let me know how it works out. Vermont has the worst Italian food I ever had in my life. And New Hampshire, all you gotta know is that they take pride in rocks, granite, tax-free shopping, and bottle rockets, their handles of grain alcohol so they can go home and light themselves on fire.

Otherwise, this was a fantastic read. I almost missed my train stop multiple times while reading and I kept getting so sucked in that I wasn’t sure how I could put the book down. I may end up grabbing a physical copy of this for myself, but at the very least I will certainly recommend this book to others. This will be good for fans of thrillers, contemporary sci-fi pieces, and/or the writings of Lovecraft.

I settle on a little pink dress but then I remember Carrig’s family, the wall of them, why are you so dressed up? That should be the state fucking slogan of New Hampshire.

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Horns [review]

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Horns by Joe Hill
Published by William Morrow on March 1, 2010 (originally 2009)
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
3.92 (as of 2018-06-05)
cw: homophobia, racism, rape, pedophilia, torture, pretty much anything you could think of

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

Ignatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke up the next morning with a thunderous hangover, a raging headache . . . and a pair of horns growing from his temples.

At first Ig thought the horns were a hallucination, the product of a mind damaged by rage and grief. He had spent the last year in a lonely, private purgatory, following the death of his beloved, Merrin Williams, who was raped and murdered under inexplicable circumstances. A mental breakdown would have been the most natural thing in the world. But there was nothing natural about the horns, which were all too real.

Once the righteous Ig had enjoyed the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned musician and younger brother of a rising late-night TV star, he had security, wealth, and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more—he had Merrin and a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.

But Merrin’s death damned all that. The only suspect in the crime, Ig was never charged or tried. And he was never cleared. In the court of public opinion in Gideon, New Hampshire, Ig is and always will be guilty because his rich and connected parents pulled strings to make the investigation go away. Nothing Ig can do, nothing he can say, matters. Everyone, it seems, including God, has abandoned him. Everyone, that is, but the devil inside. 

 

Y’all I had NO idea what to expect going into this one. I got this as a gift in a recent exchange and had been meaning to read it for a while (I’m hoping to get through all of Joe Hill’s work within the next year or two). I hadn’t reread the blurb and hadn’t even seen the trailers for the movie, so didn’t really know what the plot would be, just that it involved, well, horns. Let me say right away that this book is not for the light-hearted. There are some… pretty messed up things going on. People do and say the most heinous things you can think of. So, keep that in mind if you’re thinking about picking this one up.

He threw the bible into the trumpet case as well. There had to be something in there, some useful tips for his situation, a homeopathic remedy you could apply when you came down with a bad case of the devil.

That said, this is incredibly well-written and compelling story about a man trying to solve the murder of the woman that he loves. He runs into a few snags — namely the fact that he’s the main suspect. Oh, and the horns growing out of his head. Which do come with a few side-effects that I don’t want to spoil for you. I liked how the story was layered, switching back and forth between past and present. In some books this ends up being jarring, but Joe Hill does it well here. He knew how to time it and used it to slowly bring the full story to light.

If you were in a boat and did not save a drowning man, you would burn in Hell for certain; yet God, in His wisdom, feels no need to use his power to save anyone from a single moment of suffering, and in spite of his inaction He is celebrated and revered. Show me the moral logic in it. You can’t. There is none. Only the devil operates with any reason, promising to punish those who wanted to make earth itself Hell for those who dare to love and feel.

If you’re a Joe Hill fan, you’ll probably like Horns. This was one I just couldn’t put down and I finished the last portion in a two-hour binge. I’d also recommend it for fans of horrors, thrillers, and mysteries, as it contains a little of each. The horror isn’t as much outright scary as it is unsettling, but I’d say that’s the most appropriate category to place it in.

She was innocent. All snakes were, of course.

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Sometimes I Lie [review]

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Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney
US Edition to be published by Flatiron Books on March 13, 2018
258 pages.
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
goodreads avg:
4.02
cw:
fat-shaming, sexual assault, rape

Spoiler-free Review of an ARC provided to me by Flatiron books.

Goodreads IndieBound |  Author’s Website

My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:
1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie.

Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it’s the truth?

This was an incredibly well-done novel that had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. Even though the unreliable narrator is made clear from the very start, I still had a very difficult time piecing together what was true and what wasn’t. Amber’s character is extremely compelling and it’s difficult not to trust her.

A lot of people would think I have a dream job, but nightmares are dreams too.

The novel is split up by time periods: the coma, the week before the coma, and childhood. The chapters are carefully crafted so that just enough anticipation builds up before the time period changes and the reader is left wondering what happened. This method really works with the story, allowing us to piece together just enough for the plot to move forward while still wanting more.

There is always a moment before an accident when you know you are going to get hurt, but there is nothing you can do to protect yourself.

There were so many twists that I felt were truly surprising, I had a couple of literal jaw-dropping moments while reading. The end felt a tad rushed and I didn’t quite agree with how everything went down, but overall it was a highly enjoyable read. I’d definitely recommend this to anyone interested in a good thriller.

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(Cover and blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Sea Beast Takes a Lover [review]

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The Sea Beast Takes a Lover by Michael Andreasen
Expected publication by Dutton Books on February 27, 2018
240 pages.
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
goodreads avg: 
3.95
cw: see review

Spoiler-free Review of an eARC provided by NetGalley.

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GoodreadsIndieBound 

Bewitching and playful, with its feet only slightly tethered to the world we know, The Sea Beast Takes a Lover explores hope, love, and loss across a series of surreal landscapes and wild metamorphoses. Just because Jenny was born without a head doesn’t mean she isn’t still annoying to her older brother, and just because the Man of the Future’s carefully planned extramarital affair ends in alien abduction and network fame doesn’t mean he can’t still pine for his absent wife. Romping through the fantastic with big-hearted ease, these stories cut to the core of what it means to navigate family, faith, and longing, whether in the form of a lovesick kraken slowly dragging a ship of sailors into the sea, a small town euthanizing its grandfathers in a time-honored ritual, or a third-grade field trip learning that time travel is even more wondrous–and more perilous–than they might imagine.

Andreasen’s stories are simultaneously daring and deeply familiar, unfolding in wildly inventive worlds that convey our common yearning for connection and understanding. With a captivating new voice from an incredible author, The Sea Beast Takes a Lover uses the supernatural and extraordinary to expose us at our most human.

From the instant I saw the cover, I knew I just HAD to read this book. It had already been on my TBR when I stumbled across it on Netgalley and slammed the request button reflexively. I love bizarro short stories, I love cephalopods, and I love anything with an octopus on the cover.

Unfortunately, these stories just didn’t mesh well with me. It wasn’t a bad read, it just wasn’t anything over-the-top outstanding. If you’re interested, I’d say give it a shot regardless. Michael Andreasen is a talented writer and I’m intrigued to see what else he comes out with!

Below I’ve rated and provided content warnings for each of the individual stories.

Our Fathers at Sea ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Bodies in Space ⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Sea Beast Takes a Lover ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The King’s Teacups at Rest ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
He is the Rainstorm and the Sandstorm, Hallelujah, Hallelujah ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Rockabye, Rocketboy ⭐️⭐️ 
(cw porn, pedophilia, stalking)
The Saints in the Parlor ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Andy, Lord of Ruin ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 
(cw animal abuse/animal death)
Jenny ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 
(cw assault)
Rite of Baptism ⭐️⭐️
Blunderbuss ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Avg: 3.36 rounded down to 3

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(Covers and blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Her Body and Other Parties [review]

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Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
Published by Graywolf Press on October 3, 2017
248 
pages.
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.75
Goodreads avg: 
3.99
cw: basically everything

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

In Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado blithely demolishes the arbitrary borders between psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. While her work has earned her comparisons to Karen Russell and Kelly Link, she has a voice that is all her own. In this electric and provocative debut, Machado bends genre to shape startling narratives that map the realities of women’s lives and the violence visited upon their bodies.

A wife refuses her husband’s entreaties to remove the green ribbon from around her neck. A woman recounts her sexual encounters as a plague slowly consumes humanity. A salesclerk in a mall makes a horrifying discovery within the seams of the store’s prom dresses. One woman’s surgery-induced weight loss results in an unwanted houseguest. And in the bravura novella Especially Heinous, Machado reimagines every episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a show we naively assumed had shown it all, generating a phantasmagoric police procedural full of doppelgangers, ghosts, and girls with bells for eyes.

Earthy and otherworldly, antic and sexy, queer and caustic, comic and deadly serious, Her Body and Other Parties swings from horrific violence to the most exquisite sentiment. In their explosive originality, these stories enlarge the possibilities of contemporary fiction.

I love weird fiction and I love short stories and I love literature with a feminist slant, so this collection was 100% for me. Machado’s writing is just beautiful and the prose in every piece stands out so strongly. There were only a couple pieces that fell flat for me, the rest of the collection was fairly hard-hitting. I definitely recommend this to everyone, but warn that there are a lot of sensitive topics tackled, so anyone with triggers should proceed with caution.

Brides never fare well in stories. Stories can sense happiness and snuff it out like a candle.

My rating for each story:

Her Body and Other Parties ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Inventory ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Mothers ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Especially Heinous ⭐️⭐️
Real Women Have Bodies ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Eight Bites ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Resident ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Difficult at Parties ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

“It’s not that I hate men,” the woman says. “I’m just terrified of them. And I’m okay with that fear.”

I actually had to double-check my math, because it turns out that these scores averaged out to 4.75 stars. I guess the two-star story threw me off. I’m rounding down to 4 on Goodreads because it just doesn’t feel like a five-star collection to me. There was just… something missing. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. It’s just not quite there for me yet. I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for future works of Machado’s.

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(Cover and blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Strange Weather [review]

Strange Weather by Joe Hill
Published by William Morrow on October 24, 2017
432 
pages.
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg: 
4.01
cw: see below

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

A collection of four chilling novels, ingeniously wrought gems of terror from the brilliantly imaginative, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Fireman, Joe Hill.

“Snapshot” is the disturbing story of a Silicon Valley adolescent who finds himself threatened by “The Phoenician,” a tattooed thug who possesses a Polaroid Instant Camera that erases memories, snap by snap.

A young man takes to the skies to experience his first parachute jump. . . and winds up a castaway on an impossibly solid cloud, a Prospero’s island of roiling vapor that seems animated by a mind of its own in “Aloft.”

On a seemingly ordinary day in Boulder, Colorado, the clouds open up in a downpour of nails—splinters of bright crystal that shred the skin of anyone not safely under cover. “Rain” explores this escalating apocalyptic event, as the deluge of nails spreads out across the country and around the world.

In “Loaded,” a mall security guard in a coastal Florida town courageously stops a mass shooting and becomes a hero to the modern gun rights movement. But under the glare of the spotlights, his story begins to unravel, taking his sanity with it. When an out-of-control summer blaze approaches the town, he will reach for the gun again and embark on one last day of reckoning.

As y’all may or may not remember, I went to Joe Hill’s release of Strange Weather a little while back and I finally finished this masterpiece recently. As the above blurb indicates, this is a compilation of four short novels written by Joe Hill. Each novel has an eerie twist to it — most are supernatural in some way and one isn’t.

This collection was an easy five stars for me. Each story blew me away in one way or another. Joe’s writing never fails to be any less than spectacular, he really is an incredible storyteller. Below I’ll go through and detail my thoughts on each story (and also share some of the relevant content warnings). They were all five-star reads for me, so ratings aren’t necessary this time around!

“Snapshot” is the first piece in the book and it reeled me right in. I had a visceral reaction to this one, it had me on the edge of my seat and I could actually feel the fear coursing through me. It was the combination of the tone of the writing and the content itself. The only cw I can think of currently is for memory loss, as it’s pretty heartbreaking in the context of this story. I may or may not have cried at the end of this one.

There was no obvious reason for caution — but a lot of our best thinking takes place well below the level of conscious cognition and has nothing to do with rationality.

“Loaded” was the second piece and it was an intense one, a take on modern gun violence and police brutality. This was also a very painful read, there are a few scenes that I wasn’t expecting and I damn near lost my mind reading them. I actually had to put down the book and message Destiny at one point because I knew she would wail over one scene in particular with me. cw racism, domestic abuse, suicide, alcoholism

“Aloft” was the third piece. I had heard an excerpt from this at Joe’s reading, so I knew a bit about the piece and where it was going. Where it went after that excerpt was kind of wild, though. It went in a direction I wasn’t really expecting, but I enjoyed that aspect of it a lot! This was probably the weakest story in the collection imo, but still very good.

It is odd how much we want to be in love when you think about how much anxiety comes with it, like a tax on money you win in the lottery.

“Rain” was yet another heart-wrenching story. But!!! The main character is a queer woman, so that’s rad. The concept here was really cool too, especially because there was a somewhat scientific aspect behind it (although I can’t speak to how accurate that actually was). cws for homophobia and animal death, there’s actually a somewhat graphic illustration on the title page (right after “Aloft”) that might startle or upset some people, so please keep that in mind!!

Overall, this was such a stunning collection and I can’t wait to get my hands on the rest of Joe Hill’s work, as there’s still some stuff I haven’t read yet!

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Where Am I Now? [review]

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Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson
Published by Penguin Books on September 13, 2016
259 pages.
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
cw: 
maternal death, anxiety, OCD

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads IndieBound Author’s Website

Mara Wilson has always felt a little young and a little out of place: as the only child on a film set full of adults, the first daughter in a house full of boys, the sole clinically depressed member of the cheerleading squad, a valley girl in New York and a neurotic in California, and one of the few former child actors who has never been in jail or rehab.

Tackling everything from how she first learned about sex on the set of Melrose Place, to losing her mother at a young age, to getting her first kiss (or was it kisses?) on a celebrity canoe trip, to not being “cute” enough to make it in Hollywood, these essays tell the story of one young woman’s journey from accidental fame to relative (but happy) obscurity.

But they also illuminate a universal struggle: learning to accept yourself, and figuring out who you are and where you belong. Exquisitely crafted, revelatory, and full of the crack comic timing that has made Mara Wilson a sought-after live storyteller and Twitter star, Where Am I Now? introduces a witty, perceptive, and refreshingly candid new literary voice.

I’ve been a fan of Mara Wilson for ages now. Like almost everyone else, I loved her in Matilda, but I kind of lost track of her after that. A few years ago, I ended up following her on Twitter and found myself deeply admiring the person she had grown into. She’s witty, deeply into social justice, and has a take-no-shit attitude that I love. So when I heard Where Am I Now? was coming out, I knew I had to read it. Of course, it took me a while to actually get to it, but I’m really glad I did!

Being a celebrity meant being vulnerable. It meant my face, my body, even my death were for public consumption — none of them was mine alone.

Where Am I Now? is a series of stories and essays about Mara’s life. Each chapter has a theme, usually one that revolves around something specific that she experienced. She covers everything from child acting, to high school girls, to the death of her mother. Somehow she’s managed to capture the perfect mix of humor and solemnity, speaking about grave topics with grace.

There must have been days when I did more, but I have no memory of them.

The sections that resonated most with me were about Mara’s experiences with mental illness, including depression, anxiety, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. While I don’t have any personal experience with OCD, my depression and anxiety both began in childhood and while reading, I kept gaping at sentences that I felt described my past self perfectly.

This ended up being a very quick read for me (two or three days?) and I can see this becoming one of my most highly-recommended books. I think that Mara’s writing is very accessible, and that this is something that can be enjoyed by just about everyone. Definitely pick it up if you get a chance!

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(Cover and blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance [review]

**Note: This book was received through NetGalley. Review was written May 12, 2017.


Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang
To be published by St. Martin’s Press on November 7, 2017
Kindle NetGalley Edition, 352 pages, ISBN-13: 978-1-250-11204-0

I downloaded Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance off NetGalley by chance. My account there had been languishing for, well, years. I decided to hop back on and see if I could find anything worth reading. And after just a few minutes, I stumbled across BoEC. I loved the cover and thought the synopsis seemed intriguing, so I downloaded my copy and set off.

To be honest, I didn’t really enjoy the book as I was starting out! It took me a bit to get used to the first-person POV and the writing seemed a little infantile. I did note that the characters we heard from at first were children, so infantile was realistic. And I’m glad I pushed through and gave it a chance, because it just got better and better.

BoEC is a story set in modern America about a boy named Weylyn Grey who has inexplicable abilities, namely communicating with animals and influencing the weather. The book is a story of his life, told almost entirely through the perspective of others. The POV switches frequently, and we get to see Weylyn through many different eyes, though almost never through his own. I don’t want to get too much into the plot because it’s easy to give things away, but I will say that it kept me interested and that I was never quite sure what was going to happen next.

There were a couple characters that I wish had been touched on more. First, Weylyn’s parents. They do come up, and we quickly learn that he’s an orphan, but they just sort of feel really hollow to me. It’s obvious that they were just killed in order for Weylyn to have this journey. They never really come up except when convenient to the plotline at hand. I also wish there had been more about Weylyn’s adopted mom and Mary’s dad. They both kind of just vanish after they serve their purpose, making them feel more like plot points than characters. This is true of some of the other secondary characters as well, but these folks feel like they should have been of more importance to both Mary and Weylyn’s lives.

Overall, though, I loved this book. Once I got into the rhythm of things, I didn’t want to put it down. I almost missed my T stop several times while reading. I really felt immersed in the world Ruth Emmie Lang created and sympathized so much with the characters. No spoilers, but the ending made me SO emotional and gave me so many goosebumps. Lang really knows how to thread an ending together.

Takeaway: This book is beautiful. Please read it. Please, please read it.

Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

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