Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Memory Police [review]

The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa, transl. by Stephen Snyder
Published by Pantheon in August 13, 2019 (originally 1994)
my rating: 3 stars
Goodreads avg:
3.75 (as of 2022-05-25)
Spoiler-free review
Goodreads

I wish I had gotten along with this more, but it was a little flatter than I expected. It was reminiscent to me of 1984 in some ways, although I wouldn’t draw a tight comparison between the two. I thought the titular Memory Police would play a more pivotal role in this, but it felt like they only existed to add stakes to the story. I just felt a lot of “why?” reading this. I could draw connections to colonialism and the erasure of cultures, or the oppression of afab bodies, but it didn’t feel like a fully formed commentary was there. I was largely bored by this and although some aspects were compelling, I felt let down.


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Build Your House Around My Body [review]

Build Your House Around My Body by Violet Kupersmith
Published by Random House in July 6, 2021
my rating: 3 stars
Goodreads avg:
3.87 (as of 2022-05-23)
Spoiler-free review
Goodreads

I’m still not sure whether I read this book or whether it was all a fever dream that I imagined. Build Your House Around My Body spans decades and follows an ever-changing cast of characters through a dark, fantastical story. The ‘main’ character, Winnie, is a Vietnamese-American woman attempting to find herself in Vietnam while slipping deeper and deeper into a depressive spiral.

While I appreciated this story overall, I found myself swinging between bored, confused, and intrigued. Sadly, too much of my time was spent waiting to get to the end of the story rather than appreciating the journey itself. This novel is often difficult to follow, although I was impressed by the way Kupersmith was able to connect the characters to each other. There were many instances where I found myself highlighting lines that would have meant little-to-nothing in another book, but that gave me an ‘aha!’ moment in seeing another connection.

I would recommend this with the caveat that if you don’t like sweeping storylines that take their time to intersect and become clear, this is probably not the book for you. It does have a lot of interesting commentary on colonialism and bodily autonomy, but I struggled to untangle this from the story itself.


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Blood and Ash Series #1-4 (review)

This review WILL be filled with spoilers, as I read all 4 books in one whirlwind and want to discuss them in more detail.

  • From Blood and Ash, 5 stars
  • A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire, 5 stars
  • The Crown of Gilded Bones, 3.5 stars
  • The War of Two Queens, 3.5 stars

I picked this series up because I had heard that there was some drama around the 4th book — specifically drama around a triad that developed. I’m polyamorous and always looking for more rep, so I was intrigued. I couldn’t have imagined that I’d tear through all 4 books (none of them less than 600 pages) in less than 2 weeks. I fell deeply in love with the world and the people JLA created and adored this even more than the ACOTAR series.

The first book follows Poppy, the Maiden — a young woman who is Chosen by the gods and who is not to be looked at, touched, or spoken to. She leads a solitary life interacting with almost no one but her guards and her closest friend, her lady in wait. And the duke and duchess who watch over her. And then Hawke steps into the picture. If you like bad boy romances, you’ll love Hawke. I could not put this book down, loving the relationships between the characters (particularly between Poppy and Hawke).

I was truly shocked by the twists in this. Obviously the Ascended were awful and were doing very suspect things, but I could never have guessed that they were vampires (this series calls them vamprys) taking children to feed on. I had guessed that Hawke was an Atlantian after the scene under the willow tree and eventually also guessed that he was ‘The Dark One.’ And that ENDING! I lowkey love the cliffhangers these books end on, and the first was probably the best.

The second book picks up exactly where the first leaves off and I loved this one just as much. Seeing Poppy develop herself and her powers was great and I loved seeing more of her and Casteel (formerly Hawke). I did get annoyed at times when they were SO CLOSE to talking about their feelings and then didn’t, or didn’t understand each other. But they figured it out in the end. Meeting more of the wolven and the Atlantians was so nice, too. I got very [eyes emoji] about Poppy/Kieran/Cas.

The third book is where I began to tire a bit. Things start to go off the rails and it feels like there’s almost too much going on. Poppy is Ascended, but she’s not. She’s a deity? She’s a god? Who knows! I was shocked that the triad didn’t develop during this book tbh. There is a LOT of [eyes emoji] happening between them. I felt like Poppy was getting a little OP and was confused about how much we were going back and forth on her heritage and who she was.

Book four made my dreams come true, but other than that I was underwhelmed again. It was exhausting reading what I felt like was the same interaction over and over again between Isbeth and Poppy, Isbeth and Cas, Cas and Callum, etc. Poppy is truly OP at this point and just cannot control her temper. There were more shocking reveals that had me throwing my hands up, I can only take so many twists and back and forths before they start to bore me. The end was total chaos.

I’m just glad I finally got my triad, which has been steadily building since book 2. Kieran and Poppy’s interactions in this book made my heart all bubbly and happy. I really hope that their relationship develops more, because right now it definitely feels a little lopsided. I know Poppy and Cas are heartmates, but I’d like things to feel a little more equal. I am intrigued to see where things go, because JLA definitely left it a little vague. I really do hope book 5 is full of threesomes that are a little less chaotic than the one in this book.

Anyway, yeah I loved this series and I’m excited to read more from JLA (and more of this series). But for now, I’m looking forward to picking up some books that won’t keep me up until 2am every night.


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Near the Bone [review]

This post contains affiliate links; if you use these links to make a purchase, I may earn a commission. Thanks for reading!

Near the Bone by Christina Henry
Published by Berkley on April 13, 2021
my rating: 5 stars
Goodreads avg:
3.77 (as of 2022-03-11)
Spoiler-free review

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This book was scary as hell. I felt like I didn’t breathe for the three hours it took me to read it — in one sitting, since I literally could not bring myself to put it down. I found Mattie to be an incredibly compelling main character and loved rooting for her. I will say that at times William felt almost cartoonish in his evil and I wish he were a bit more three dimensional, but that’s really my only complaint. The tension in this was so thick, and I truly didn’t know what would befall any of the characters. I’m really excited to pick up more by Christina Henry and think this is going to end up being one of my top books of the year.


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The Assassin’s Blade [review]

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The Assassin’s Blade (Throne of Glass #0) by Sarah J Maas
Published by Bloomsbury Childrens on March 4, 2014
my rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.34 (as of 2022-01-16)
Spoiler-free review

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Where do men find it in themselves to do such monstrous things? How do they find it acceptable?

Part of me wishes I had read this prior to starting the ToG series, but it was also nice to read it after seeing more of Celaena’s character. To new readers I’d definitely recommend the novellas before Throne of Glass, though. These were a bit of a mixed bag for me, but overall I liked them! They each focus on a different story but move chronologically and build off of each other.

  1. The Assassin and the Pirate Lord – 4 stars
    This was a nice introduction to Celaena and her values as well as her relationship with Sam. I really enjoyed reading their interactions and seeing how they played off each other’s strengths even when they weren’t getting along.
  2. The Assassin and the Healer – 3 stars
    Easily the most forgettable of the five, I actually had completely wiped it from my memory until I went to write down my individual ratings. It’s nice, but not particularly strong.
  3. The Assassin and the Desert – 5 stars
    I loved this one! I could easily read a full-length novel about the Silent Assassins and hope that they possibly feature more in future books. I did not guess that twist, though!
  4. The Assassin and the Underworld – 4.5 stars
    This featured a lot of Celaena and Sam, which I loved! We get a better feel for how Celaena’s life with the assassins goes, and how she starts drifting from Arobynn.
  5. The Assassin and the Empire – 4 stars
    Heart-wrenching! Bits of it felt a little overdone to me, but this shows us how Celaena got to where we find her at the beginning of Throne of Glass, as well as her state of mind there.

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The Lost Girls [review]

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The Lost Girls by Sonia Hartl
Published by Page Street Kids on September 14, 2021
my rating: ★★ (2 stars)
Goodreads avg:
3.59 (as of 2022-01-04)
Spoiler-free review

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I was a vampire. Undead, immortal, powerful. I would not be brought to my knees by a mortal girl with a gorgeous smile and terrible dance moves.

2 ⭐️

This was such a fun concept with so much promise, but unfortunately it fell quite short for me. Although this was a quick read, I found the writing really clunky, the characters flat, and the story itself boring. I kept waiting to feel something regarding the main romance but there was just no chemistry for me. Ida and Rose were truly interchangeable to me and I could never remember who was who. Elton just felt like an evil caricature. The worldbuilding was somewhat interesting – lots of new vampire “rules” – but that couldn’t carry the rest of the book for me. I ended up skimming the last quarter because I just didn’t care. So bummed this didn’t work out for me, but I didn’t find it enjoyable enough to overlook the poor writing.

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Throne of Glass [review]

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Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Published by Bloomsbury Children’s in September 2021 (originally 2012)
my rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.18 (as of 2021-11-23)
Spoiler-free review

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This is certainly not SJM’s best writing, but since I read the entirety of acotar this year I needed something else to pick up. I went into this expecting something fun and that’s what I got! I actually really liked Celaena and loved watching her develop over the course of the book. I also loved her relationships with Chaol and Dorian (all I want is a triad here), and with Nehemia. While I found this incredibly readable, sometimes we would see other character POVs that completely pulled me out of the story. These felt a little lazy to me and were clearly just a way to quickly show something that Celaena couldn’t have known. It was like SJM was tipping her hand to show us everything rather than leaving us with some mystery. Regardless, I’m excited to continue the series!

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Iron Widow [review]

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Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao
Published by Penguin Teen on September 21, 2021
my rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.37 (as of 2021-11-04)
Spoiler-free review

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I probably wouldn’t have even picked this up if I hadn’t found out that this was a love triangle solved by polyamory plot. But boy howdy I am so glad I did. I liked having an anti-heroine in Zetian. She is fueled by nothing but vengeance and Zhao makes that very clear from the start. She’s selfish, she’s rude, and she will sacrifice anything to get the revenge she requires. She’s flawed beyond measure and I still loved reading about her.

This did lose me in a few places, hence the four stars. At points it felt really rushed to me; I felt like we blew through a lot of plot in just 400 pages and my head was kind of spinning at the end. The end in general felt like it went a little off the rails, although I had guessed the big final twist when I was still at the beginning of the book. I just hadn’t expected it to come up in this installment. I also couldn’t connect to the characters sometimes and struggled to get a real feel for their personalities.

I’m going to chalk all that up to this being Zhao’s debut novel, though, and will say that despite its flaws this is very much a book worth reading if you like YA sff. I’m devastated that I have to WAIT for the sequel but am really excited to see more of this world and its characters — particularly my sweet little triad. Seriously, if anyone has recs for polyamory rep like this PLEASE pass it on.

content warnings: Misogyny & femicide, Rape mentioned, Physical & emotional abuse, Suicidal ideation, Alcoholism, Blood & gore depiction, Murder, Torture (per the Trigger Warning Database).

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The Dead and the Dark [review]

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The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould
Published by Wednesday Books on August 3, 2021
my rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.00 (as of 2021-10-24)
Spoiler-free review

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this was so fun and spooky with a really nice sapphic romance! the small town energy was on point. i was really glad to see such an upfront portrayal of comphet and how easy it can be to lose yourself in others’ expectations. i didn’t realize this was a debut until i hit the acknowledgements and was really impressed with Gould’s writing. i think some things in the final act didn’t quite work for me, but this was still so compulsively readable that i tore through it in just a couple sittings. i’m so excited to see what Gould comes out with next (more lesbians, she’s promised) and have already decided that she’s an auto-buy author for me.

content warnings: Homomisia & homomisic slurs; Hate crimes; Death of a child; Murder & attempted murder; Gun violence; Attempted drowning; Vivisepulture (being buried alive) (per the Trigger Warning Database)

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The Last Graduate [review]

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The Last Graduate (The Scholomance #2) by Naomi Novik
Published by Del Rey Books on September 28, 2021
my rating: ★★★.5 (3.5 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.49 (as of 2021-10-06)
Spoiler-free review

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I definitely didn’t like this quite as much as the first book. The info-dumping didn’t get any better and, honestly, I felt like I ended up unintentionally skimming a LOT because we would go into pages of detail on how exactly the magic system works. It also felt like there was a lot of day-to-day slogging, following the characters way more closely than necessary. I felt bored for a lot of the first half.

The second half was much better, and I found myself much more invested in the plot even though it also struggled with some of the points noted above. I truly wish Novik would have spent a little less time cramming every bit of info she had about the magic systems into this and a little more time showing us more character interactions. It made the story feel a lot more at arm’s length and harder to get invested in when having information beat into my brain instead of getting to know the characters more.

Anyway, I did like this! I blew through the last third of the book (even though I think the end is mildly ridiculous) and am looking forward to the sequel. And I’ll probably preorder it so I have pretty matching books on my shelves.


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