Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Vita Nostra [review]

Vita Nostra by Marina Dyachenko & Sergey Dyachenko, translated by Julia Meitov Hersey
Published by Harper Voyager on November 13, 2018 (originally 2007)
my rating: ★★
Goodreads avg:
4.12 (as of 2020-05-24)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads IndieBound 


Love is not when you are aroused by someone, it’s when you are afraid for that person.

I’m clearly in the minority here since all my friends loved this, but I found this book to be utterly incomprehensible. I had no idea what was going on 95% of the time and had so much difficulty following things. The book really leaves its reader to do a lot of the heavy lifting, so be prepared to make some leaps on your own to figure out what’s happening. There were aspects of it that were really compelling, which is why it gets 2 stars instead of 1, but I got very little out of reading this and felt like it was so much longer than 400 pages.


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Braised Pork [review]

Braised Pork: A Novel by An Yu
Published by Grove Press on April 14, 2020
my rating: ★★★ (3)
Goodreads avg: 
3.56 (as of 2020-05-13)
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. Quotes have been taken from the advanced copy and are subject to change upon publication.

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website


She had never felt such yearning for another person’s body — it was beyond the flesh and the consciousness, it was not merely lust, neither was it love. Perhaps the best way to describe it, she thought, was like being a lone traveller in a desert, exhausted and desolate, when the most beautiful and fruitful peach tree blossomed in front of her.

I found this quick and readable but unfortunately feel like I didn’t quite “get” it. There were a lot of ideas that felt a bit half-formed; either they weren’t fully realized or I was unable to connect the dots. I did enjoy the commentary on ownership and gender roles: the main character has to come to terms with the fact that she was completely reliant upon her late husband and feels that she doesn’t actually “own” anything he left her. I also didn’t end up feeling very attached to the characters, so it was difficult to become very invested in the storyline.

content warnings: death of a loved one, attempted suicide


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Frankissstein [review]

Frankissstein: A Love Story by Jeanette Winterson
Published by Vintage Digital on May 28, 2019
my rating: ★★
Goodreads avg:
3.71 (as of 2020-05-04)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads IndieBound | Author Website

In Brexit Britain, a young transgender doctor called Ry is falling in love – against their better judgement – with Victor Stein, a celebrated professor leading the public debate around AI.

Meanwhile, Ron Lord, just divorced and living with Mum again, is set to make his fortune launching a new generation of sex dolls for lonely men everywhere.

Across the Atlantic, in Phoenix, Arizona, a cryonics facility houses dozens of bodies of men and women who are medically and legally dead… but waiting to return to life.

But the scene is set in 1816, when nineteen-year-old Mary Shelley writes a story about creating a non-biological life-form. ‘Beware, for I am fearless and therefore powerful.’


I am a poor specimen of a creature, except that I can think.

It is an understatement to say that I have issues with this book. I should preface this review with the caveat that while I am queer, I am also cis, so my opinions are colored by that. If you’re an ownvoices reviewer and would like me to link to your review, please let me know! Edit: Here is a great one-star review posted over at Revolution in the Pages!

I took great issue with Winterson’s portrayal of a trans person. Ry is a character completely without agency. Every single person they come into contact with in the book misgenders them and while on occasion they will make an effort to correct someone or to explain their identity, they feel like nothing more than a plot device to fuel a discussion surrounding gender rather than an actual character. At one point Ry is physically attacked, demeaned, and left alone cowering on the ground in a scene that seemed to hold little-to-no meaning in the greater plot. They were constantly fetishized and objectified by Victor, who seemed to think of them little more than a toy and a sex object. They were defined solely by their relationship to Victor and their trans identity. It seemed that Ry had no trans friends (really, no friends at all) and when Victor mentioned that he had never met a trans person before, Ry just replied that most people haven’t. If this is indeed set in the present or near future, I find that an absurd statement. Many cis people may think they have not met a trans person, but they would have no way of knowing.

It’s horrible, I said. You’re a doctor, he said. You know how useful horrible is.

Victor himself was impossible to read. I don’t think he was meant to be a likable person, but that doesn’t change the fact that I hated reading about him. Although he’s meant to be a “transhumanist” (he wishes his consciousness could be uploaded to a computer) and insists mankind will move beyond gender, race, etc., he spends all his time misgendering Ry, insists he’s not gay, and equates being a man with having a penis. As for the other characters, Ron, Claire, and Polly D all felt like one-dimensional caricatures and for half the book I thought Claire and Polly were the same person.

The formatting just didn’t work for me at all. I thought the two stories being told were completely disparate and didn’t mesh together at all. The commentary felt half-formed and I kept wanting Winterson to push a little further, or to adjust her trajectory. It just didn’t seem like she was in a position to be comparing trans people to monsters and machinery and I wish more had been said about life and death instead.

None can know the human mind. No, not if he read every thought man ever wrote. Every word written is like a child striking a flame against the darkness. When we are alone it is the darkness that remains.

Can someone also let me know whether the sex scenes were supposed to be erotic? Because they were completely devoid of passion and emotion and I literally couldn’t have cared less about them. It genuinely felt like an excuse to obsess over Ry’s genitalia more than anything else.

The only saving grace here is that there were beautiful moments of prose that I just loved. I highlighted a lot of lines while reading just because I was so struck with them. I cannot deny that Winterson has a way with words and a lot of this book was very readable. I also didn’t mind the lack of quotation marks because, for the most part, Winterson’s writing was so adept that it was clear where they should have been and who was speaking.

Even our best endeavours turn against us. A loom that can do the work of eight men should free eight men from servitude. Instead, seven skilled men are put out of work to starve with their families, and one skilled man becomes the unskilled minder of the mechanical loom. What is the point of progress if it benefits the few while the many suffer?

This is review is a lot to sum up, but I’ll just say: I think Winterson completely missed the mark here and I found this to be a painful reading experience.

content warnings: transphobia; [transphobic] sexual assault; sexism; misgendering; miscarriage; child death.


My current 2020 Women’s Prize Squad Longlist rankings:

  1. The Body Lies
  2. Girl, Woman, Other
  3. My Dark Vanessa
  4. Ninth House
  5. Frankissstein

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Ninth House [review]

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
Published by Flatiron Books on October 8, 2019
my rating: ★★★★
Goodreads avg:
4.09 (as of 2020-05-02)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads IndieBound | Author Website

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.


By the time Alex managed to get the blood out of her good wool coat, it was too warm to wear it.

One hell of a first sentence, and an easy way to reel in your reader. Set at Yale in a universe where magic is real but fairly well-hidden, I thought the atmosphere of this book was so well-done. I could easily see the streets of New Haven in my mind and loved hearing about the different buildings the societies had. I also adored the characters. Alex is gritty and a bit of a stereotype, but still fun to read. Darlington reminded me a lot of Gansey from TRC, who I loved, so I liked reading about him as well. Dawes was GREAT and I loved how much time she and Alex got to spend together. I firmly feel that Alex is queer and the chemistry between her and Dawes was [eyes emoji]. Alex/Dawes/Darlington OT3, honestly.

There were always excuses for why girls died.

I only had a couple complaints, really. The plot felt convoluted at times and I struggled to follow some things. Some of what’s going on is really complicated and I was confused about how some conclusions were drawn or what had really happened. I also took issue with the first sexual assault scene. While the others felt like they had purpose to them, the first involved the rape of a minor and didn’t seem to add anything to the book. It was clearly supposed to be the foundation for Alex’s drug addiction and PTSD, but it just wasn’t clear to me why another device couldn’t have been used. That being said, from what I recall it was relatively brief and didn’t take too much away from the story for me.

We are the shepherds. But who would protect them from the wolves?

Overall though, I found this extremely compelling and did not want to put it down. I almost let myself stay up way too late reading it because I kept wondering what would happen next and wanted to spend more time with the characters. I’m bummed I’m going to have to wait for the sequel, but am so glad this is not the last I’ll be seeing of Alex and her crew!


My current 2020 Women’s Prize Squad Longlist rankings:

  1. The Body Lies
  2. Girl, Woman, Other
  3. My Dark Vanessa
  4. Ninth House

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Girl, Woman, Other [review]

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
Published by Black Cat/Grove Atlantic on November 5, 2019
my rating: ★★★★
Goodreads avg:
4.43 (as of 2020-04-28)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads IndieBound | Author Website

The twelve central characters of this multi-voiced novel lead vastly different lives: Amma is a newly acclaimed playwright whose work often explores her Black lesbian identity; her old friend Shirley is a teacher, jaded after decades of work in London’s funding-deprived schools; Carole, one of Shirley’s former students, is a successful investment banker; Carole’s mother Bummi works as a cleaner and worries about her daughter’s lack of rootedness despite her obvious achievements. From a nonbinary social media influencer to a 93-year-old woman living on a farm in Northern England, these unforgettable characters also intersect in shared aspects of their identities, from age to race to sexuality to class.

Sparklingly witty and filled with emotion, centering voices we often see othered, and written in an innovative fast-moving form that borrows technique from poetry, Girl, Woman, Other is a polyphonic and richly textured social novel that shows a side of Britain we rarely see, one that reminds us of all that connects us to our neighbors, even in times when we are encouraged to be split apart.


this was a really lovely exploration of black individuals in the UK. 11 of the characters followed are women and one is a non-binary person who uses they/them pronouns. it was really refreshing to read about such a variety of people; many of these characters are queer, and some are even non-monogamous. the term polyamory is also explicitly used! it was really lovely to see these kinds of relationships normalized.

Amma experienced commitment to one person as imprisonment, she hadn’t left home for a life of freedom and adventure to end up chained to another person’s desires

this is essentially a series of overlapping short stories, each focused on an individual character. these characters are all interconnected, in ways that become increasingly clear as the book moves forward. there was one real WOW moment at the end that got me right in the gut. i was impressed at how well Evaristo layered these stories and built such a rich, real story.

she wishes her mother was alive to enjoy her new life she me now, Mama, see me now

my only complaint is really that the breadth of characters makes it difficult to follow. by the time a character was mentioned again, i would sometimes forget them or important information about them. i also found the first half of the book a little difficult to connect with. it was highly readable, but not extraordinary compelling. luckily, that changed in the second half, which i read in one day, unable to put the book down.

sadly, there wasn’t a sapphic bone in her body

i think this is a really important book and i’m glad it’s gotten so much recognition! i’ll definitely be recommending it to others. additionally, feel free to link me any ownvoices reviews to share, as i may be queer and polyamorous, but i am also white and american and can only review through that lens.


My current 2020 Women’s Prize Squad Longlist rankings:

  1. The Body Lies
  2. Girl, Woman, Other
  3. My Dark Vanessa

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My Dark Vanessa [review]

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
Published by William Morrow on March 10, 2020
my rating: ★★★★★
Goodreads avg:
4.15 (as of 2020-04-20)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads IndieBound | Author Website

Alternating between Vanessa’s present and her past, My Dark Vanessa juxtaposes memory and trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. Thought-provoking and impossible to put down, this is a masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence and its repercussions that raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, and victimhood. Written with the haunting intimacy of The Girls and the creeping intensity of RoomMy Dark Vanessa is an era-defining novel that brilliantly captures and reflects the shifting cultural mores transforming our relationships and society itself.


Wow. So, I read this almost entirely in one sitting and was absolutely blown away by it. Yet another book that tackles the intricacies of abuse and how things aren’t always black & white. While as a reader it is easy to condemn Strane and even to see where Vanessa went “wrong,” the novel also delves into the impact of grooming and how it can impact one’s thought processes for life. It faces head-on the idea of agency in young women and why some people may opt to see themselves as something other than a victim. This is unbelievably compelling and unbelievably important and in lieu of a full review (that would just be me gushing), I’ll leave you with some of the lines that struck me most while reading this.

It’s important that you never feel coerced. That’s the only way I’ll be able to live with myself.

“Haven’t you always felt like an outsider, a misfit?” he asks. “I’ll bet for as long as you can remember, you were called mature for your age. Weren’t you?” I think back to third grade, how it felt to bring home a report card with a teacher’s note scribbled on the bottom: Vanessa is very advanced, seems like she’s eight years old going on thirty. I’m not sure I was ever really a kid at all.

Slowly guided into the fire–why is everyone so scared to admit how good that can feel? To be groomed is to be loved and handled like a precious, delicate thing.

Because if it isn’t a love story, then what is it?


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Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me [review]

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell
Published by First Second on May 7, 2019
my rating: ★★★★★
Goodreads avg:
4.13 (as of 2020-04-18)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads IndieBound 


This was an amazing graphic novel that absolutely blew me away. Similar to but lighter than In the Dream House, this does an incredible job at demonstrating that queer relationships can also be toxic and abusive, which is imperative for lgbtq youth to be aware of. I really loved Freddy’s character and her friend group, which felt so real and relatable. I just wish we had seen some more of her friends! Laura Dean clearly has no idea what she’s doing wrong, which I think is unfortunately often the way of some abusers. The art itself is absolutely stunning and I was blown away by it from the start. This is a really incredible book that I’ll absolutely be trying to get others to read.


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Rafe [review]

Rafe: A Buff Male Nanny (Loose Ends #1) by Rebekah Weatherspoon
Published on September 26, 2018
my rating: ★★.5
Goodreads avg:
3.81 (as of 2020-04-15)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads IndieBound | Author Website


the heroine is absolutely great: a black woman who is a successful surgeon! the hero is great too: a tall, tattooed guy who loves kids! there is plenty of extremely nontoxic masculinity to be found and it’s really refreshing. the characters were also communicative adults who talked about their feelings and what they wanted! unfortunately, this book lacked a lot of what i look for in romance novels. namely, chemistry! i felt absolutely no chemistry between Rafe and Sloan, which meant i wasn’t super motivated with my reading. there also felt like there was a lot of filler that i found myself skimming over. the ending was so abrupt that i was taken aback by it. annnd a few places that could have used a bit more editing (but it’s really not too bad).

i’ll probably be recommending this book to others, but with the caveat that it’s not the best i’ve read.


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The Dare [review]

The Dare by Lauren Landish
Published January 31, 2020
my rating: ★★★
Goodreads avg:
3.93 (as of 2020-04-15)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads | Author Website


this started off SO fun and i thought it would be 4-5 stars for me. i tore through the first 2/3 in one sitting. unfortunately, it turned into family drama and i got so bored that it took me days to get around to finishing it. not to mention the fact that everything going on was so far-fetched — which i wouldn’t have even minded if i was still having a good time reading it. also, the MC gets so slut-shamey about another woman and i hated that! i’d probably still recommend this, but it’s not going to be a favorite.


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Wrong [review]

Wrong (Wrong #1) by Jana Aston
Published by Rutherford Press on October 7, 2015
my rating: ★★★★
Goodreads avg:
3.92 (as of 2020-04-15)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads |Author Website


there are a lot of… problematic elements to this, but if those don’t bother you then it’s a good read! super steamy, well-written, and the MC’s friends were a blast. i’d read the second book in the series but i think it’s a side relationship from this book that i had a loooot of issues with that i can’t personally overlook (namely, stalking! but haha don’t worry it’s cute). i’d read other works by Jana Aston, though!


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