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.

Book Reviews

Emma in the Night [review]

**Note: This book was given to me by St. Martin’s Press as part of a sweepstakes. This in no way impacts my review. Review was written in May of 2017.


Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker
To be published by St. Martin’s Press on August 8, 2017
Advance Readers’ Edition, 305 pages, ISBN-13: 978-1-250-14143-9

I honestly do not know where to begin with this book. I entered the sweepstakes to win a copy of the ARC of Emma in the Night on a whim. The cover was enticing, the plot looked interesting. Hey, why not. I had not read anything else by Wendy Walker and I had not heard anything about this release yet. Boy, was that a good decision. This is an incredible read that could otherwise have slipped me by.

Emma in the Night is a story about a girl and her sister, who vanish without a trace. Three years later, the younger sister reappears. She seems willing to tell the authorities everything she knows about their disappearances. There’s a lot going on, however, that she isn’t willing to talk about. The story is told from the perspectives of Cass, one of the sisters, and Dr. Walker, an FBI agent who can see deeper than anyone else working the case.

At first, I found the disjointed storytelling to be confusing and frustrating. We were just getting bits and pieces of the story from Cass herself or secondhand from Dr. Walker’s recounted conversations with Cass. Right off the bat, the writing style made me feel really lost in the story. As things progressed, I realized how intentional (not to mention essential) this was. Cass is an unreliable narrator, and makes it clear that she only feels the need to reveal things that will help her cause: finding her sister.

The characters were fascinating, complex, and well-developed. The plot and the writing were phenomenal. I could not make myself put this book down. I loved watching the story unravel, seeing things make both more and less sense as we progressed until it all came together with an impressive flourish. I knew there were twists coming, but I truly had no idea what was in store for me.

Wendy Walker blew this out of the water. Her writing is immersive and carefully crafted. I cannot emphasize enough how much I enjoyed this book–and I’m sure it will be great as a re-read as well. I’d recommend it to all who enjoy a good plot twist, but particularly to fans of thrillers and crime novels.

 

Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

A Darker Shade of Magic [review]


A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Published by Tor Books on February 24th, 2015
400 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0-76537-645-9
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black. 

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

I’m a little late to this series, but I read A Darker Shade of Magic for the first time recently and I really enjoyed it! I’m actually planning to start in on the second book very soon (I already have it checked out of the library).

They got to their feet, neither willing to walk away just yet, and Kell looked down at Delilah Bard, a cutthroat and a thief, a valiant partner and a strange, terrifying girl.

The characters are wonderful. Kell is incredible and I kind of ended up falling in love with him. He’s a little bit of a rule-breaker, and can be a little obtuse, but he was so endearing and the love in his heart really got to me. Lila is amazing. She’s kind of your typical badass fantasy girl: a rogue, independent and stubborn to a fault, and very good with a knife. She also talks really negatively about other women, which got on my nerves. In spite of that, I really liked her.

It was nice to have a canonically lgbtqia character, Rhy, but he also felt like a negative bisexual stereotype. One of the most prevalent stereotypes about bisexual people is that they’re greedy and will sleep with anyone and that’s basically 90% of Rhy’s personality. All we really see him doing is flirting with people or talking about flirting with people and it’s heavily implied (if not outright said, I didn’t write the quote I’m thinking of down so I can’t remember) that he’ll sleep with essentially anyone. Like, that’s basically how his character is introduced. And that’s pretty much all I remember about him, except for some important plot stuff toward the end.

Overall, the plot was good. The writing was good. I definitely had a good time reading this book. I gave it four stars instead of five because it just didn’t pull me in like a five star book. I’m intrigued to see where the rest of the trilogy goes and I’m glad y’all got me to read it!

Thanks for reading, please share your thoughts in the comments. You can also find me on Twitter and Goodreads.

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Girl in Snow [review]

**I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion. This in no way impacts my review. Written on July 17, 2017.

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Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka
To be published by Simon & Schuster on August 1st, 2017
ARC eBook edition, 368
pages. ISBN-13: 978-1-50114-437-0
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Content Warnings: Domestic violence, pedophilia, stalking, animal death.

When a beloved high schooler named Lucinda Hayes is found murdered, no one in her sleepy Colorado suburb is untouched—not the boy who loved her too much; not the girl who wanted her perfect life; not the officer assigned to investigate her murder. In the aftermath of the tragedy, these three indelible characters—Cameron, Jade, and Russ—must each confront their darkest secrets in an effort to find solace, the truth, or both.

I haven’t really been looking forward to writing this review, because I have so many conflicting feelings and am not sure I’ll convey them properly–but hey, it’s worth a shot. There will be some spoilers in this review, as that is the only way I can properly discuss my thoughts.

The first thing that struck me was how lyrical the writing was. Kukafka has quite a way with words. Regardless of the content, each sentence seemed to flow beautifully and at times the book felt more like poetry than prose. For most of the book, I had on an ambient playlist in the background which only served to reinforce how beautifully written it was.

The second thing that struck me was how uncomfortable I felt about Cameron, who was clearly a stalker. Cameron is portrayed as innocent, well-meaning, lovesick, and mentally ill. He obsessively watches Lucinda at night and draws picture after picture of her. It’s clear he means her no harm, but he is still an extremely unsettling character and I felt very uncomfortable with the portrayal of stalking in this book–none of the other characters seem to care at all and it is never damned in any way. Cameron also makes multiple negative judgments about women’s bodies that make me extremely uncomfortable and are seemingly without purpose.

Russ is a weak-willed puppet of a police officer. His character development does make him somewhat redeemable, but he covered up the assault and battery that his former partner committed on a young woman, which really doesn’t put me in his corner. There are a lot of instances in this book that demonstrate the ability to love someone in spite of what they’ve done and I think this is meant to be one of those, but I dislike the way it was handled. Russ covers up Lee’s crime because he’s in love with him, we’re led to believe that Lee committed this crime because something happened between Russ and Lee. I don’t love the implication that internalized homophobia caused a man to beat a woman to a pulp because he almost held another man’s hand. I understand that all the characters are morally grey, but we already have enough poor portrayals of lgbtqia characters and I’m not psyched to see more.

Jade was the only main character I could even stand. She had plenty of faults and was imperfect, but had committed no crimes I could not forgive. Her screenplays were random and kind of annoying, but I understood their purpose. She was also voyeuristic, but in a far more acceptable way. I didn’t love her hatred of all other girls, but she seemed to hate everyone indiscriminately, so I gave her a pass on that.

Choosing a star rating was extremely difficult here. I wanted to give it two stars, as I was constantly making faces and shifting around uncomfortably while I read. But I think that discomfort was part of Kukafka’s intent. I don’t love what she used to achieve it, but I can appreciate that she’s a great writer. So I give her three stars for fantastic writing, subtracting the last two for content.

Thanks for reading! Have you read this book, or do you plan to? Let me know in the comments. You can also follow me on Twitter and Goodreads.

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Policing the Black Man [review]

NOTE: I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion. This in no way impacts my review.

Policing the Black Man edited by Angela J. Davis book cover
Policing the Black Man edited by Angela J. Davis
To be published by Knopf Double Day Publishing Group on July 11, 2017
ARC eBook Edition, 336 pages, ISBN-13: 978-1-101-87127-0

Policing the Black Man is a collection of essays detailing both the history of racism in the United States’ criminal justice system and the issues we face today. These essays were written by various criminal justice experts. The essays are strongly connected to modern issues, discussing recent killings of black men by police and the Black Lives Matter movement.

The essays are laid out in a common sense manner, beginning with the roots of racism in criminal justice and moving forward to where we are today. They are all extremely well-written and, for the most part, easily digestible by the layperson. Some of the material presented was things I already knew, but the details and additional statistics provided allowed me to more fully grasp what has been going on. A decent amount of the material provided was brand new to me–for instance, I had no idea to what extent prosecutors were involved in racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

This book was extremely eye-opening to me, particularly as a white woman of relative privilege. This book provided everything I look for in a non-fiction book, from good writing to fascinating content. I highlighted endlessly, whenever notable statistics or vital information came up. Its only downfall was that a handful of sections became a little too technical at times and I got lost in them. Otherwise, this was an incredibly important read that I recommend to all, particularly those with an interest in racial relations and/or the criminal justice system.

Rating: ✪✪✪✪

Thanks for reading! Please let me know what your thoughts are in the comments! You can also follow me on Twitter and Goodreads.

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Glass Castle [review]


The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Published by Scribner in 2006
First Scribner Trade Paperback Edition, 288 pages, ISBN-13: 978-0-743-24754-2

You can’t kill something just because it’s wild.

Oh wow, I have so many feelings about this book. This was my first time reading The Glass Castle. In all honesty, I didn’t even realize it was a memoir until I sat down with it and really took a look at the blurb on the back. I’ve been hearing about this book for ages and the fact that it’s getting a movie finally pushed me to read it NOW. So when I saw a used copy for sale at a bookstore recently, I couldn’t help but pick it up.

The Glass Castle is a memoir by Jeannette Walls that focuses mainly on her relationships with her family. Jeannette had an atypical upbringing; her father was a manic alcoholic and her mother spent most of her time daydreaming instead of parenting. Jeannette and her siblings had to raise each other and often had to go without food and proper shelter.

I could hear people around us whispering about the crazy drunk man and his dirty little urchin children, but who cared what they thought? None of them had ever had their hand licked by a cheetah.

Jeannette perfectly conveys the intricacies of the difficult relationships we sometimes have with the people we love. In many ways, Jeannette’s father reminded me of my own and reading her story hit harder to home than I expected it would. While there are countless differences between her experience and mine, I can relate to some of the things she has dealt with and I can understand loving someone in spite of things that could be seen as unforgivable by others.

She was keeping it, she explained, to replace the wedding ring her mother had given her, the one Dad had pawned shortly after they got married.

“But Mom,” I said, “that ring could get us a lot of food.”

“That’s true,” Mom said, “but it could also improve my self-esteem. And at times like these, self-esteem is even more vital than food.”

While I deeply appreciated the story, the writing itself fell flat for me at times. Jeannette is descriptive and often paints a full picture of the scenes in her life, but at the same time she feels somewhat removed. Her story is told matter-of-factly, often with little emotion. While this is commendable in some ways, it also made it hard for me to really get into the story at some points. Although I may have struggled for a bit, I did find myself quickly devouring the last third of the book.

Overall, Jeannette presents a fascinating, well-written story that I would recommend to all.

Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

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Book Reviews

The Roses of May

**Note: This book was received through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.


The Roses of May by Dot Hutchinson
To be published by Thomas & Mercer on May 23, 2017
Advanced Reader’s Copy E-book Edition, 302 pages, ISBN-13: 978-1-503-93950-9

Right off the bat I’m going to give my trigger warnings for this book, although it isn’t necessarily a comprehensive list. I will not be discussing these triggers in my review. Content warning for The Roses of May for: eating disorders, stalking, and sexual assault.

I was STOKED when I saw this on NetGalley. I had just read The Butterfly Garden a month or two beforehand and couldn’t believe my luck in stumbling across an ARC of the sequel. I gave The Butterfly Garden five stars and was really looking forward to what Dot Hutchinson was up to next.

Let me just start off by saying that even though I hyped this book up in my mind, it completely lived up to it. I didn’t even read the plot summary because I was so sure that Dot would pull out another wonderful work. It was kind of nice to go in cold and without much in the way of expectations as far as plot goes, but I will briefly cover the story.

The Roses of May is definitely a sequel to The Butterfly Garden. I think I’ve seen a few folks say it could work as a standalone piece, but I really disagree. I mean, it’s certainly possible to read it without any context, but I just don’t think it’ll hold up as well. A lot of the characters carry over and their stories are so closely tied that I don’t think it would do the story justice not to have that background.

The Roses of May focuses on a young woman named Priya whose story is largely unrelated to The Butterfly Garden, save for the fact that the same group of FBI agents had worked a case close to her. Dot Hutchinson uses this connection to weave Priya’s story in with that of the Butterflies’. This book follows Priya’s life five years after the murder of her older sister. Naturally, the killer returns and the agents are on the case. It sounds a little cheesy, but it’s really well done in my opinion.

Dot Hutchinson’s writing is fantastic, per usual. I remembered being struck by her writing in The Butterfly Garden and was glad to experience it again so soon! The story was immersive, the characters were wonderful, and it was almost impossible for me to put down. It was also wonderful to read a book with women of color as the main characters! There are also two notable lgbt women, which I was super excited about! There are so many complex women in Dot Hutchinson’s books, I love it. It was also great to see a really nice mom-daughter relationship, which I feel like we don’t see enough of.

Overall, The Roses of May was a fantastic read that I would highly recommend to anyone interested, but would probably be best for lovers of thriller and crime. I can see why it wouldn’t work for some people, but I loved it!

Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

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Book Reviews

The Goddess Revolution

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The Goddess Revolution by Mel Wells
Published by Hay House UK on June 7th, 2016
Kindle Edition, 291 pages, ISBN-13: 978-1-781-80712-5

Alright y’all, let’s dig in! My most recent read was The Goddess Revolution. I’ll admit, I was pretty excited for this one. The subheader reads “Make Peace with Food, Love Your Body and Reclaim Your Life.” Without getting too much into my issues, I’ll just say that I’ve struggled with my self-image just about as much as everyone else in the modern world has. While I’ve never hit any extremes, I have always struggled with eating in a healthy, moderate way and with feeling good about my body. So I was really excited to pick up Mel Well’s book and really hoped that it’d help me change my ways of thinking.

I definitely had a few problems with this book, but overall it was good! The main message really came down to this: listen to your body, listen to your feelings, and love yourself the way you are. Pretty straightforward and you’d think it would be common sense, but Mel really opened up my eyes to a lot of things I hadn’t focused on before.

She talks about paying attention to how you’re feeling when you’re eating, and how you’re feeling after you’re eating. I practiced this a little today and it actually helped me rein in myself a few times when I would have otherwise eaten more than I should have. This didn’t take a lot of willpower–I just thought “am I actually hungry?” And the answer was no, so I didn’t pick up a bag of chips. Of course, sometimes things are more complicated than that, but the little moments add up.

Life is short. Don’t miss out on 95 per cent of your life just to weigh 5 per cent less. –The Goddess Revolution, Mel Wells

The writing itself was pretty informal, and Mel definitely takes more of a coaching stance than a teaching stance. It’s like a 300-page pep talk! This manner of writing comes with some cons, however. The book was really a compilation of inspirational messages with some testimonials peppered in. And the testimonials were exactly that–I think they were meant to be stories the reader could connect to, but they really just came across as sales pitches. I didn’t feel like I was sharing another woman’s story so much as reading an advertisement for Mel’s skill as a life coach.

The ideas just didn’t really feel fully-formed to me. The transitions between chapters were jarring and I was never really sure what I was in for next. I definitely found some techniques to help me improve my own life, but I also really felt that it could use some more direction. I wish there had been some fun exercises or activities that I could have done while reading. It would have been nice if there was a little more about how to turn these principles into actions, but I also understand that a lot of it is just retraining your brain.

I did have one issue that I really wanted to address, and that was one instance of cissexism that rubbed me the wrong way. The phrase I had an issue with was “Got a vagina? Congratulations. You are officially a real woman.” This mindset completely erases the very real experiences of trans women, who are also goddesses, and trans men, who can have vaginas but certainly are not women. I don’t think this was intentional or malicious on Mel’s part, but it is something important to be aware of. I think that it’s important to keep in mind how your words can hurt and exclude others.

Anyway! Overall, I loved the message of this book. I’ll almost certainly read it again, as I really want to cement a lot of these ideas into my head and incorporate them into my lifestyle. Thanks Mel Wells for putting out a book that has hopefully benefited many people and will continue to do so!

Rating: ⋆⋆⋆

Book Reviews

The Circle

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The Circle by Dave Eggers
Published by Vintage Books in May 2014
First Vintage Books Edition, 497 pages, ISBN-13: 978-0-385-35140-9

I’ll get it out of the way now: I was really disappointed in this book.

I went into The Circle pretty cold. I honestly didn’t even know the basic premise until I happened to see the movie trailer, which is what prompted me to finally get my hands on the novel. I borrowed my roommate’s copy and dove in with only the cinematic preview and the written blurb from the paperback as my references. It really seemed to be my thing: contemporary fiction with some sci-fi and thriller vibes thrown in? I was so down.

If you’re like me and have apparently been living under a rock, here’s the general premise: A young woman, Mae, is hired at a successful tech company in California (basically Super Google) thanks to a powerful connection–her college friend Annie, who is a higher-up employee of some kind. This company, the Circle, seems to do everything. It controls essentially all social media and is responsible for a great deal of new technological growth.

At first this all seems great! Mae finally has a job that makes her feel important, technology has evolved in such a way that crime may soon be close to wiped out, and it is easier than ever before to connect to others. It quickly becomes apparent, though, that things are more complex than they first appear. The story gets a little predictable–technology gets out of hand and the reader is really forced to confront their morals. At what point does surveillance become too much? At what point is our right to privacy breached?

I really did enjoy the book at first. It sucked me right in and I was really intrigued to see how the culture of the Circle would be developed and what specific problems would arise. I really related to Mae–her willingness to please and to learn, her insecurities, her desperation to mean something to the world. I think we can all relate to this to an extent.

I would say referring to this story as a “heart-racing novel of suspense” (as the blurb on my copy does) is really a stretch. I hit a wall with it about halfway through and had to push myself to finish. Everything started to feel really mechanical and scripted to me. The characters felt two-dimensional, I didn’t really have any stake in whether or not they succeeded, and some of the ideas seemed incomplete to me. I felt like we were kind of speeding through everything and a lot of things got lost in the shuffle.

For instance, Mae’s relationship with Francis confounded me. After their initial speedbump, I didn’t really understand his purpose in reappearing. Her passion for kayaking was dropped without a backward glance, and I almost forgot about it entirely. She abruptly started talking about some “tear” inside her, which was never elaborated on or resolved.

Honestly, the more I think about this book, the less I like it. Sure, it had a great deal of potential and we really should consider the moral conundrums unique to the modern digital age. Had the story itself been more fleshed out, I would have absolutely liked it more. As is, it is more of a poorly concealed word of warning than a well-written piece of literature. This may be one of the only time the movie trumps the book for me–but I’ll have to go see it before I decide that.

My final say is: Read The Circle if you’re already interested, but if you’re on the fence don’t go out of your way to read it.

Rating: ⋆⋆