Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Fen [review]


Fen by Daisy Jonhson
Published by Graywolf Press on May 2, 2017
208 pages.
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
cw:
eating disorders, pedophilia, incest

Goodreads IndieBound | Author’s Website

Daisy Johnson’s Fen, set in the fenlands of England, transmutes the flat, uncanny landscape into a rich, brooding atmosphere. From that territory grow stories that blend folklore and restless invention to turn out something entirely new. Amid the marshy paths of the fens, a teenager might starve herself into the shape of an eel. A house might fall in love with a girl and grow jealous of her friend. A boy might return from the dead in the guise of a fox.

Out beyond the confines of realism, the familiar instincts of sex and hunger blend with the shifting, unpredictable wild as the line between human and animal is effaced by myth and metamorphosis. With a fresh and utterly contemporary voice, Johnson lays bare these stories of women testing the limits of their power to create a startling work of fiction.

I saw a staff member recommendation in a local bookstore that this was similar to Karen Russell’s work. Vampires in the Lemon Grove is my favorite short story collection, so I was really stoked to get my hands on this! The library didn’t have a copy, but ordered it shortly after I sent in a request. I was delighted to get it. I think all of the versions have beautiful covers and I was contemplating buying one of each if this ended up being a 5-star read. As is, I still may end up picking up a copy of my own.

Watch out for the affection. It comes at odd, awful moments, mainly when he is not there: brushing your teeth, opening the door for a parcel, at the photocopying machine. There is nothing much about him you can see which would do this to you. Affection, you tell your housemates, is a sort of sickness.

Johnson has such a smooth, unique voice. Her writing is quite beautiful and her prose borders on poetry. Even when it comes to disturbing content, she writes with a soothing cadence. I have absolutely no complaints as far as her writing goes, but the stories themselves just weren’t for me. There were a few that I really liked, but most of them didn’t do much to capture me. Below, I’ve provided a list of the stories included and my rating for each:

Starver   ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Blood Rites   ⭐️⭐️⭐️
A Bruise the Shape and Size of a Door Handle   ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
How to Lose It   ⭐️⭐️
How to Fuck a Man You Don’t Know   ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Language   ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Superstition of Albatross   ⭐️⭐️⭐️
A Heavy Devotion   ⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Scattering   ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Birthing Stones   ⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Cull   ⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Lighthouse Keeper   ⭐️⭐️⭐️

If the blurb intrigues you, I would absolutely recommend that you read this. While it didn’t quite work for me, I think that this is a collection that is well-worth reading if you like the concepts hinted at. Although, do keep in mind the CWs I posted above, as there are some sensitive topics covered. If you do check it out–or if you’ve read it already–please let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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(Blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

All the Crooked Saints [review]


All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
To be published by Scholastic Press on October 10, 2017
320 pages.
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5
I would like to thank Scholastic for providing me an ARC of the book. This in no way impacts my review.

Goodreads IndieBound | Author’s Website

Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.

At the heart of this place you will find the Soria family, who all have the ability to perform unusual miracles. And at the heart of this family are three cousins longing to change its future: Beatriz, the girl without feelings, who wants only to be free to examine her thoughts; Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, who performs miracles for everyone but himself; and Joaquin, who spends his nights running a renegade radio station under the name Diablo Diablo.

They are all looking for a miracle. But the miracles of Bicho Raro are never quite what you expect.

I don’t think Maggie Stiefvater’s prose will ever fail to do anything less than stun me. In each of her works, she has such a beautiful, unique voice and I find myself scribbling quotes into my notebook at a rapid pace. All the Crooked Saints was no exception.

…the truth is that we men and women often hate to be rid of the familiar, and sometimes our darkness is the thing we know the best.

On the other hand, I’m fairly certain that if this hadn’t been written by Stiefvater, I would have DNFed it. In fact, I almost did, probably ~80 pages in. I typically give books around 50 pages to really pull me in, sometimes more if I’m really on the fence. And I was really on the fence here, but I kept telling myself, “Hey, this is Maggie! Ya gotta keep going.” Don’t worry kids, I’m glad I kept going.

…and he knew to search for her in all of the places you might hope to find a cat or a venomous lizard–on top of roofs, hooked on tree branches, stretched in the dust beneath trucks.

I think my biggest issue with this book was that I didn’t feel invested in the characters for quite some time. I thought the writing was lovely, but I also just… didn’t care about the plot. I felt like it was written so matter-of-factly that I found it difficult for me become emotionally engaged with the content. I mean it makes sense, considering Beatriz’ manner of thinking, but I just struggled too much to connect.

One compliments a man when one compliments his chosen home…

The last third of the book really pulled things together for me. I felt that things were tied up well and I liked everything that happened, I finally found myself drawn into the story. It just didn’t hook me deep like a 4- or 5-star book would, though. I still love Stiefvater’s work and I will absolutely pick up whatever she puts out next, but All the Crooked Saints just didn’t do it for me this time around.

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(Blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Raven Boys [review]


The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (The Raven Cycle #1)
Published by Scholastic Press on September 18, 2012
409 pages.
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
cw: 
domestic abuse, self-harm

Goodreads IndieBound Author’s Website

So I am finally jumping on the TRC train! I first read The Raven Boys in late 2013, I believe. I had gotten it as a gift and was on winter break from college–winter break is such a good time to get reading done and I miss it so much–and I just remember devouring it. Quite a while later, I picked up The Dream Thieves and I just… couldn’t get it into it. Mostly because it had been so long since I had read TRB that I could barely remember a thing! So I DNFed it and haven’t picked up any TRC books since.

For a while now, I’ve been thinking that the series deserved another shot from me. My bff Grace mentioned that she wanted to reread the series (she adores it), so I suggested a buddy read! And here we are. I’ve completed the first book, and it will probably be a couple more weeks until we move onto the second. In the meantime, here’s my review!

I can’t believe I forgot how wonderful this book is. Everything Steifvater does in it is incredible. The prose itself, the dialogue, the characters, the settings. It all just comes together to create this beautiful experience. I tore through the book in just a couple days and loved every second of it.

Even when they were quiet, people really were the noisiest animals.

Okay, y’all know I’m not usually one to gush, but I neeeed to gush about these boys. Adam is honestly perfect and I want to shrink him down and put him in my pocket and keep him safe from literally everything in this cruel world. Ronan is a Bad Boy and sulky and dark and loves his baby bird and is basically everything high school me would have loved. Gansey is living in his own world and somehow manages to offend everyone while also being a precious angel. And Noah is darling and cute and sad and I adore him. (Sidenote: There is NO WAY Adam does not know how to drive a stick shift and I refuse to believe that he doesn’t.)

Sometimes, Gansey felt like his live was made up of a dozen hours that he could never forget.

Of course Blue is the best character out of all of them. Part of me is like “you should try to be critical, is she a Mary Sue?” and the rest of me is like “who cares, she’s awesome and we deserve more female characters like her.” I want to say Blue reminds me of me, but she’s like a way cooler version of me, kind of. Anyway. Blue. She’s great.

Gansey looked up to them, and she saw in his face that he loved this place… She recognized the strange happiness that came from loving something without knowing why you did, that strange happiness that was sometimes so big it felt like sadness. It was the way she felt when she looked at the stars.

I cannot recommend this book enough. Stiefvater’s writing is just gorgeous and even if the story isn’t your thing, I think anyone can appreciate the talent she has. It’s worth a shot, anyway. To be honest, though, I didn’t love the ending. It was too abrupt and a little confusing to me–and I think I felt the same way the first time around. But I’ll see how it ties in to the rest of the series before I make a full judgment.

Okay, TRC fans: please let’s discuss. I am all about this book right now. And people who haven’t read TRC: read it so we can discuss, okay?

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Mini-Review Compilation #3


Paper Girls, Vol 1.

I think this graphic novel just moved a little too fast for me. I got really lost plot-wise and had no idea what was going on, so I found it difficult to enjoy. I plan on picking it up again around Halloween, as I’m sure I’ll enjoy it much more as a reread! I also plan on continuing the series, so I’ll make sure to get my hands on Volume 2 at some point. Definitely an interesting read, even if it is confusing!

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

22294935

Six of Crows

There’s not much I can say about this that hasn’t already been said. I was worried I wouldn’t enjoy this as much as everyone else, but it truly lives up to the hype. Leigh Bardugo builds an incredible world and introduces us to a (mostly) lovable cast of characters. I have not felt this immersed in a book in ages. I cannot wait to read the sequel and you better believe I’m adding the rest of Bardugo’s books to my TBR.

Rating:⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Warcross

I went into this hoping it would be good, but not expecting a lot and it blew me away. This is one of those books that I couldn’t even stop to take notes during because I was so enthralled. I had to put it down a few times just to breathe. I adored this story every step of the way, but the end wrecked me. I had predicted half of the twist, but didn’t see the other half coming. I’m really intrigued to see how Lu continues this series!

Rating:⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thanks for reading! Have you read any of these books? If so, what were your thoughts?

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Wild Girls [review]


The Wild Girls by Pat Murphy
Published by Viking Juvenile on October 18, 2007
288 pages.
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
cw: 
alcoholism, domestic abuse

Goodreads IndieBound 

It is the early 1970s. Twelve-year-old Joan is sure that she is going to be miserable when her family moves from Connecticut to California. Then she meets a most unusual girl. Sarah prefers to be called Fox, and lives with her author dad in a rundown house in the middle of the woods. The two girls start writing their own stories together, and when one wins first place in a student contest, they find themselves recruited for a summer writing class taught by the equally unusual Verla Volante. The Wild Girls is about friendship, the power of story, and how coming of age means finding your own answers rather than simply taking adults on faith.

Wow, I cannot even begin to recommend this book enough. I don’t remember how it made its way onto my TBR list, but all I can say is that I’m glad it did and that I’m glad my Down the TBR Hole posts led me back to it! I’ll definitely be pushing this in the face of everyone who asks me for book recs for a while to come.

They were shocked. They were angry. They were afraid.

We were the wild girls who lived in the woods. We had won a contest, we had put on our war paint and nothing would ever be the same again. We were the wild girls, and they did not know what we might do.

The Wild Girls follows the blossoming relationship between two girls, Newt and Fox (or Joan and Sarah). Although neither of the girls were canonically queer, I definitely read them as such and saw a lot of myself in both of them. They spend their free time getting muddy in the woods and writing stories and see no point in fawning over boys or trying to fit in.

The book really teeters between middle grade and young adult. The writing is simple in some ways, but not boring by any means. Joan is surprisingly mature, but still childlike. The issues that come up are realistic and complex. In my opinion, readers of all ages will enjoy the story. I found myself captivated the entire time and finished it in just a couple sittings.

There is a solid plot running through the book, but the focus of the story is really on the relationships between characters. We see not only Newt and Fox, but also the people that Newt and Fox interact with on a regular basis. We get to see how they all fit together and how they grow to learn more about each other.

There were a couple things that did rub me the wrong way. The “not like other girls” trope was present for a bit at the beginning, but luckily faded away after that. There was a lot of mentions of “war paint” which felt like cultural appropriation, as did the brief talk of “spirit animals” by the college student who had studied a Hopi tribe–it wasn’t extensive, but it seemed a bit troublesome. Those were really the only issues I had with it, though.

Maybe the best part to me is that Murphy manages to create a happy story. Although some deep stuff goes down, the characters manage to make it through these events with the support of their friends and families. This was a soft, nourishing read–and I don’t know if I’ve ever described a book as nourishing before. I wanted to curl up with it and let it lull me to sleep. This is a book I wish I had been able to read years ago, when I was growing up feeling outcast and lonely and not knowing how to make it through life’s curves. It was beautiful.

I truly recommend this book to everyone, but particularly writers and particularly particularly young writers. Please read this book, y’all. It is wonderful.

Thank you for reading! Please let me know if you’ve read The Wild Girls and what your thoughts were on it. You can also find me on Twitter and Goodreads.
(Blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Mini-Review Compilation #2

22050397

A Safe Girl to Love
cw: sexual assault, kink

This was such a lovely collection of short stories, focusing on trans women. Most of the stories had a pretty emotional impact on me, which says a lot about the writing. Each story is fairly quick to get through. While I enjoyed it, a lot of the characters kind of melded together for me and I felt that there was too much of an emphasis on a certain kind of sexuality (almost all of the sex was very rough, which could be triggering for some). I dropped one star for those two reasons.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

228296

Rosemary’s Baby
cw: sexual assault

I put this on my TBR after reading a post about it written by Bernadette @ The Spine Cracker and it did NOT disappoint. Bernadette recommended not reading the blurb beforehand, so I went in cold and I’d like to echo that suggestion. Do NOT read the blurb beforehand! It definitely gives away part of the plot and, imo, is a better read if you don’t know. Anyway, it was a great book, spooky without being scary scary. It actually pulled me out of a bit of a reading slump, which was great! Drags on a bit occasionally, but overall very good.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

35120598

Gena/Finn
cw: trauma, grief

Wow, this was adorable!! Definitely a quick, cute read (that gets surprisingly deep). It’s told entirely through blog posts, IMs, letters, etc. so I’d recommend reading a physical copy, as it didn’t translate well into an ebook version imo! My qualms are really just that it felt a little rushed in places and the end felt abrupt to me. [SPOILER] Finn, Charlie, and Gena are canonically a triad and no one can convince me otherwise, sorry not sorry!! [/SPOILER]

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thanks for reading! Have you read any of these books? If so, what were your thoughts? You can also find me on Twitter and Goodreads.

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

My Best Friend’s Exorcism [review]


My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
Published by Quirk Books on May 17, 2016
336 pages.
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Goodreads IndieBound | Author’s Website

Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act…different. And as the strange coincidences and bizarre behavior start to pile up, Abby realizes there’s only one possible explanation: Gretchen, her favorite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not about to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend. With help from some unlikely allies, Abby embarks on a quest to save Gretchen. But is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?

cw: sexual assault, parental abuse

I was anticipating this read a lot and it really let me down. Let me be clear, I wasn’t expecting it to be my new all-time favorite book, but I thought it would be a really enjoyable read. It started out well, I liked seeing the friendship between Abby and Gretchen develop. I found all the character dynamics interesting. For the first 25% or so, I was really into the story and got through it relatively quickly.

From there, it kind of devolved for me. Part of it was the frustration of all these bad things happening. EVERYTHING kept going wrong and it was painful to read through. But I also just didn’t find it interesting. I wasn’t scared at any point, if anything I was just grossed out. There are a lot of graphic depictions of gnarly stuff, and things coming out of mouths.

I’m also just suuuper over the catty teenage girl trope, which is what this entire book is about. Gretchen is mean and catty because she’s possessed, all of the other girls are mean and catty because they’re girls. It’s tiresome and annoying and I’m really over seeing girls depicted like this and talked about like this. Also also, there is a lot of casual homophobia, which I felt like didn’t have a place in the book. Besides some comments the girls make, Gretchen and Abby have this “no homo” thing that drives me out of my mind.

Anyway, overall it was just kind of meh to me. It wasn’t bad, it just pushed the wrong buttons for me. If you really, really want to read it, I think you should! But if you were on the fence about it, maybe lean the other way. It really depends on what you’re looking for in a story.

Have any of you read this yet? What are your thoughts?
You can also find me on Twitter and Goodreads.

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Juliet Takes a Breath [review]

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

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Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
Published by Riverdale Avenue Books on January 18, 2016
276 pages.
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
(cover from Goodreads)

Goodreads IndieBound | Author’s Website

This girl made me lose my train of thought. I wanted to watch her eat strawberries and make her a mixtape.

Wow! Wow! WOW!!!! Y’all this book is SO GOOD!!!! Juliet Takes a Breath reeled me right in and didn’t let me go. The representation is excellent: Juliet is a chubby Puerto Rican lesbian and the entire book is chock full of non-white characters and lgbtqia+ characters–often intersecting. We get to see a lot of different dynamics at play, which is really cool.

I fell asleep with that book in my arms because words protect hearts and I’ve got this ache in my chest that won’t go away.

I’m white and don’t want to take up a ton of space with a review when there are plenty of ownvoices reviews that y’all should look at instead, so I’ll just say a few things that came up for me when I was reading it.

I try to be intersectional, but the callout against White Feminism was a good reminder for me to work harder to be more inclusive and to actively fight for folx who might not be within my specific demographic. I love how casually polyamory was discussed and how it was normalized within the story. I love how much Juliet loves her body and how much she talks about loving her body.

Juliet Takes a Breath is a tremendous read that I would absolutely recommend to everyone out there. It’s well-written with great characters, and is super easy to get through! If you’ve read it, please give me your thoughts in the comments.

You can also find me on Twitter and Goodreads.

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Dancing After Hours [review]


Dancing After Hours by Andre Dubus
Published by Knopf on February 13, 1996
234 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0-67943-107-7
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
cw: self-harm

Goodreads IndieBound

I picked up Dancing After Hours a couple years ago at a library used book sale and proceeded to forget about it entirely. I finally made a pile of the owned-yet-unread books I had clogging up my shelves and when it came time for the Make Me Read readathon, I decided to pull books exclusively from this pile. And I’m glad I threw this one into the mix.

Always in the office she felt that she was two people at once. She believed that the one who performed at the desk and chatted with other workers was the woman she would become as she matured, and the one she concealed was a girl destined to atropy, and become a memory.

Dancing After Hours is an incredibly well-written collection of short stories. The writing itself is so compelling and the characters all have rich interiors. Each story, many of which are intertwined, provides a glimpse at the reality of humanity and the motivations behind us all. I can’t remember the last time I highlighted so many phrases in a book. And!!! I counted multiple instances of women-loving women, which was a nice touch for me. I’d highly recommend this book to anyone interested.

Standing in electric light, she gazed at its beauty out there under the dark sky, and felt the old and faint dread that was always a part of her thrill when she saw falling snow, as though her flesh were born or conceived with its ancestors’ knowledge that this windblown white silence could entrap and freeze and kill.

Thanks for reading! You can also find me on Twitter and Goodreads.

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Lost at Sea [review]


Lost at Sea by Brian Lee O’Malley
Published by Oni Press on July 24, 2012 (originally 2003)
160 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1-93266-416-4
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author Website

Raleigh doesn’t have a soul. A cat stole it — or at least that’s what she tells people — or at least that’s what she would tell people if she told people anything. But that would mean talking to people, and the mere thought of social interaction is terrifying. How did such a shy teenage girl end up in a car with three of her hooligan classmates on a cross-country road trip? Being forced to interact with kids her own age is a new and alarming proposition for Raleigh, but maybe it’s just what she needs — or maybe it can help her find what she needs — or maybe it can help her to realize that what she needs has been with her all along. 


Okay, so full disclosure: this book has been sitting on my shelf for I don’t even know how long. Maybe two years? Maybe more? I believe I got it as a Christmas gift and then never got around to it. I honestly haven’t read any Bryan Lee O’Malley except for a bit of Scott Pilgrim in high school (which I’ve been meaning to read in full at some point). I put Lost at Sea on my TBR for the Make Me Read readathon since it’s a relatively short book and a graphic novel to boot. And I am so, so glad I finally got around to reading it!

I get thoughts like:
I look in the mirror and I don’t belong there. I see myself and I look all wrong. Stephanie looks bold and bouncy and fresh and normal, and I look like something else. Too long, too stringy, too pasty, too squarish,
kind of inhuman.

Oh boy, this whole thing hit me right in the heart. Rileigh isn’t flat-out labeled as having depression, but I related a lot to the ways in which she acted and the thought patterns that she had and it felt very similar to my own experiences with depression. It was incredible reading this, feeling like O’Malley reached into my brain and plucked the words right out and put them in the pages of this book.


The illustrations were just gorgeous as well. Sometimes I get distracted while reading graphic novels if I don’t enjoy the art, but I thought this was just beautiful. The style was perfect and I felt things were conveyed very well. I think I posted about a thousand pictures to my Instragram story as I was reading. I can’t wait to read this again after letting in marinate in my mind a little. I definitely highly recommend this book to all and am so glad that I have my own copy, which is something that I don’t usually consider a necessity as far as books go anymore.


Anyway, thanks for reading! Please let me know in the comments what you thought of Lost at Sea or, if you haven’t read it, whether you’ll consider adding it to your TBR. You can also find me over on Twitter and Goodreads.