Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

This Common Secret [review]

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

Goodreads | Bookshop | Author’s Website


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

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

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

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


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Surviving the White Gaze [review]

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Surviving the White Gaze by Rebecca Carroll
Published by Simon Schuster on February 2, 2021
my rating: ★★★ ★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.02 (as of 2020-04-06)
Spoiler-free review

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Rebecca Carroll is a very impressive writer and I found her memoir difficult to put down. As a white person from rural New Hampshire, the complete lack of diversity and the perpetual casual racism became very visible to me once I had moved to more urban areas and began to learn about race. Carroll, the only Black person in her town, didn’t have that luxury. She’s raised by two white adoptive parents and in late childhood meets her white birth mother; she doesn’t meet her Black father until well into adulthood. Her familial relationships are charged and her journey to form her identity is long and eventful. Overall, I found this incredibly powerful and compelling; my only complaint is that it feels a bit jumbled in certain areas and the timeline isn’t always clear. I think this is a really important read, particularly for those from primarily white areas and/or parents who have or plan to adopt a child of another race.


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The Empress of Salt and Fortune [review]

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The Empress of Salt and Fortune (The Singing Hills Cycle, #1) by Nghi Vo
Published by Tor.com on March 24, 2020
my rating: ★★★ (3 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.07 (as of 2020-03-13)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads | Bookshop | Author’s Website


Obviously are reviews are subjective, but I want to emphasize that all my ‘issues’ with this book are purely personal preference. I think this was well-written and it is clearly beloved by many! I just didn’t really jive with the writing style, it’s very much a story-inside-a-story and I had trouble parsing it all out. The prose is truly beautiful though, and the characters are all distinct and interesting. I did feel like a lot of the relationships were implied rather than spelled out; I tagged this as ‘polyamorous’ and don’t even know if that’s canon but it is how I read it personally.

I’ll definitely be recommending this even if it didn’t quite work for me, and while I don’t intend to continue the series I’ll still be keeping an eye out for Vo’s future works.


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Station Eleven [review]

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Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Published by Knopf on September 9, 2014
my rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.05 (as of 2020-02-07)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads | Bookshop | Author’s Website


Jeevan was crushed by a sudden certainty that this was it, that this illness Hua was describing was going to be the divide between a before and an after, a line drawn through this life.

This was certainly… timely to read during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was actually eerie at points — although thankfully what we’re living through is much less severe. I had actually been given this in March (a week before lockdown!) and am glad I put off reading it until things had calmed down a bit.

The book itself is incredibly readable. St. John Mandel creates realistic characters in a world that feels true to life. It’s really difficult to describe what the story is ‘about’, as it runs the gamut as far as content goes and utilizes flashbacks heavily. If you dislike non-linear storytelling, this definitely won’t be for you. But it’s not your typical dystopian story, and I really appreciated the author’s creativity here. This felt like nothing I’ve read before and while at times I felt a bit like I was just waiting to see where things went, I was never bored. It was also hauntingly beautiful at times. Seeing how the characters were interconnected and following their stories was magical, even when it was tragic. Bits that seemed irrelevant eventually became important — although some bits did seem irrelevant to the end.

Overall, I really enjoyed this and am glad I finally got around to it!


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Devolution [review]

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Devolution by Max Brooks
Published by Del Rey Books on June 16, 2020
my rating: ★★★★.5 (4.5 stars)
Goodreads avg:
3.92 (as of 2020-01-14)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads | Bookshop | Author’s Website


Bigfoot’s as American as apple pie and guns in schools.

While it’s been a while, I loved World War Z so much that I’ve read it through 2 or 3 times. I was worried Devolution wouldn’t live up to my recollection of Brooks’ writing, but I was completely wrong. While the two books differ in content and structure, I found them both absolutely riveting. I read this in just a few sittings because I just didn’t want to put it town. I found Kate to be a great narrator and the plot itself was extremely compelling. This is really a gritty reboot of the bigfoot myth, depicting them as the apex predators they would likely be. In addition to the tension and horror written into this, there’s also a gentle examination of the characters themselves and the ways in which we react to tragedy and adversity. I’ll be recommending this left and right for ages.


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The Caves of Steel [review]

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The Caves of Steel (Robot #1) by Isaac Asimov
Published by Spectra on April 13, 2011 (originally 1954)
my rating: ★★★ (3 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.17 (as of 2021-01-14)
Spoiler-free review

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Jehoshaphat!

I probably wouldn’t have read this if it hadn’t been chosen as a book club pick, but I don’t regret picking it up. It gave me old-timey-detective-novel vibes — but set in the future, and with robots. Sadly, although I only finished the book a couple days ago, it’s already largely left my thoughts and I can’t think of much to say about it. I probably won’t finish the series and I probably won’t prioritize reading more Asimov. The writing felt somewhat stiff to me, and the characters were all pretty one-dimensional. It’s a quick read, though, and probably worth picking up if you’re interested in the history of the C/Fe (or sci-fi) genre.


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One by One [review]

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One by One by Ruth Ware
Published by Scout Press on September 8, 2020
my rating: ★★★ (3 stars)
Goodreads avg:
3.73 (as of 2020-12-16)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads Bookshop | Author’s Website


One by One is my first Ruth Ware book and was picked up on a whim after seeing a lot of buzz. I figured a thriller would be a good way to get myself back into reading since it’s been [checks notes] four months since I’ve read anything. And this was a fine book to break my reading slump. It was inoffensive, easy to get into, and decently written. It just didn’t have much more than that going for it. It was fast-paced and I devoured it in two sittings, but I wasn’t super satisfied upon finishing. I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a run-of-the-mill thriller, but caution not to expect much more than that.


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Confessions [review]

Confessions by Kanae Minato, translated by Stephen Snyder
Published by Mulholland Books on August 19, 2014 (originally 2008)
my rating: ★★★.5 (3.5 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.08 (as of 2020-08-24)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads Bookshop | Author’s Website


Earlier this year, I read Penance by the same author and decided to pick up Confessions for Women in Translation month. Minato definitely seems to have a theme in her writing; both novels are highly disturbing in their own ways and deal with the topic of child death. I really liked the different perspectives in this and how the reader slowly got a fuller picture of what had happened and what was actively happening. I honestly wasn’t able to guess any of the twists, so I was kept on the edge of my seat the whole time. The matter-of-fact tone in which the whole thing was told added to the atmosphere as well. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out to see if any more of Minato’s work is translated.


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Mexican Gothic [review]

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Published by Del Rey on June 30, 2020
my rating: ★★ (2 stars)
Goodreads avg:
3.83 (as of 2020-08-16)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads Bookshop | Author’s Website


While I can see what others may have gotten out of it, this book just wasn’t for me. The first half dragged, and even when things picked up I didn’t find myself interested in continuing. I could go days without reading it just because I didn’t care. Even though the pacing and story didn’t really click with me, I recommend picking this up if you’re interested. The book is exactly what it labels itself: Mexican gothic. It is a genre I’d like to read more of, and I found myself reminded of Lovecraft Country in a lot of bits. I am glad to see I do seem to be in the minority as far as disliking this goes, and would like to give more of Moreno-Garcia’s work a shot.


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Upright Women Wanted [review]

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey
Published by Tor.com on February 4, 2020
my rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
3.71 (as of 2020-08-06)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads Bookshop | Author’s Website


What kind of good man becomes a sheriff these days? What kind of good man joins his posse?

Queer librarians on horseback! Is there anything else for me to say? The cast in this is excellent, with many wlw characters as well as a non-binary love interest. There are also hints of polyamory, which I’m always a fan of. This is a Western that felt historic at first, but revealed itself to be a futuristic dystopia in which the US has reverted to the old days of horses and wagons. I would love more books set within this world to flesh out the setting, particularly a sequel to see what Esther gets up to next. The only thing I really struggled with a bit was the characterization of Esther, who I initially thought was much younger than she actually was. Even now, I’m not quite sure how old her character is meant to be. Otherwise, I really enjoyed this and am looking forward to picking up more from Gailey!


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