Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark [review]

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
Published by Harper Collins on February 27, 2018
my rating: ★★★★.5
Goodreads avg: 
4.19 (as of 2019-03-14)
Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

A masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer—the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California for over a decade—from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case.

“You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark.”

For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called “the Golden State Killer.” McNamara pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

At the time of the crimes, the Golden State Killer was between the ages of eighteen and thirty, Caucasian, and athletic—capable of vaulting tall fences. He always wore a mask. After choosing a victim—he favored suburban couples—he often entered their home when no one was there, studying family pictures, mastering the layout. He attacked while they slept, using a flashlight to awaken and blind them. Though they could not recognize him, his victims recalled his voice: a guttural whisper through clenched teeth, abrupt and threatening.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark—the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death—offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Framed by an introduction by Gillian Flynn and an afterword by her husband, Patton Oswalt, the book was completed by McNamara’s lead researcher and a close colleague. Utterly original and compelling, it is destined to become a true crime classic—and may at last unmask the Golden State Killer.


I think almost everyone has heard of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark at this point. It is the true crime book of the last few years. The disturbing, intriguing mystery is enough to pique interest, but Michelle McNamara’s sudden death combined with the fact that the Golden State Killer (aka the East Area Rapist, aka the Original Night Stalker) was arrested shortly after the book’s release makes I’ll Be Gone almost impossible to disregard. I bought a copy of the book back in August and put off reading it for the “right” time, afraid to pick it up for fear it would trigger a bought of paranoia that even a locked door wouldn’t fend off.

There’s a scream permanently lodged in my throat now.

Fortunately, that was not the case. While a decent portion of the book is devoted to the Golden State Killer’s crimes, the focus is more on his methodology than any graphic details. Although, what we are told about is chilling: a startlingly literal form of stalking, wherein the GSK learns every pertinent detail of his victims’ lives so that he might have complete control over them while attacking. Our homes are sacred places to us, and any safety or comfort residents of the communities he attacked may have felt was ripped away from them in the aftermath of these events.

The EAR is a card face down on a table. Our speculation is a cul-de-sac. Round and round we go.

More than the crimes themselves, McNamara focuses in on the process of hunting the GSK. It seemed he foiled investigators at every turn. Even after the study of DNA analysis continued to grow, even when they had multiple samples linking him to countless crimes, they were unable to determine who this man was. Instead of presenting the experiences of faceless cops, McNamara digs deep into the investigators’ involvement and brings them to the forefront as their own fully-fledged selves. We even watch her build personal connections with them as she herself attempts to unveil this masked predator they all have in common.

“Has he ever gone back?” the thirteen-year-old asked the investigators interviewing her after the attack.
“Never,” said the first investigator.
“Never, ever, ever,” said the second.
“The safest house in the area,” said the first.
As if any house was ever going to feel safe again.

In this way, I’ll Be Gone is more than just a compilation of the events and evidence surrounding the Golden State Killer; it is a memoir detailing McNamara’s relationship with the investigation itself. We learn about her life, how her obsession alarms her in the way it mirrors the killer’s own obsessions. We learn where she was when learning vital pieces of information, as well as how deeply she was willing to dig in order to uncover this night terror made real. McNamara was no mere true crime writer; she was truly part of this investigation in a way that few seemed to be.

A ski mask won’t help you now.

The book isn’t perfect, but there’s no way it could have been. Michelle McNamara passed away suddenly while still writing, leaving her editor and friends to piece together her work into what has become its final form. The last part of the book, the shortest, is more of a summary of notes than anything else. But, somehow this works. I shed tears more than once while reading, knowing McNamara was unable to see what had come of her work. Her husband, Patton Oswalt, wrote an afterword that left me absolutely heartbroken. Somehow, the book manages to end on a positive note: a letter from Michelle McNamara to that shadow in the dark, the absolute nightmare of a man who she knew would someday be caught. And knowing that he has been strengthens this letter into the triumphant swan song of a woman who left this world just too soon.


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

If, Then [review]

If, Then by Kate Hope Day
To be published by Random House on March 12, 2019
my rating: ★★★★.5
Goodreads avg: 
3.69 (as of 2019-02-21)
cw: infidelity, grief
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. All quotes have been taken from the advanced copy and are subject to change upon publication.

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

The residents of a sleepy mountain town are rocked by mysterious visions of an alternate reality in this dazzling debut that combines the family-driven suspense of Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere with the inventive storytelling of The Immortalists and Station Eleven.

In the quiet mountain haven of Clearing, Oregon, four neighbors find their lives upended when they begin to see themselves in a parallel reality. Ginny, a devoted surgeon whose work often takes precedence over her family, has a baffling vision of her beautiful coworker in her bed, and begins to doubt the solidity of her marriage. Ginny’s husband Mark, a wildlife scientist, sees a vision that suggests impending devastation–and grows increasingly paranoid, threatening the safety of his wife and son. Samara, a young woman desperately mourning the recent death of her mother and questioning why her father seems to be handling it with such ease, witnesses an apparition of her mom healthy and vibrant, and wonders about the secrets her parents may have kept from her. Cass, a brilliant scholar struggling with the demands of new motherhood, catches a glimpse of herself pregnant again, just as she’s on the brink of returning to the project that could define her career.

At first the visions are relatively benign, but they grow increasingly troubling–and in some cases, frightening. When a natural disaster threatens them all, it becomes clear that the visions were not what they first seemed, and that the town of Clearing will never be the same.

Startling, deeply imagined, and compulsively readable, Kate Hope Day’s debut novel is about the choices we make that shape our lives and determine our destinies–the moments that alter us so profoundly that it feels as if we’ve entered another reality.


I’m sure all of us have wondered what if. All those little — and big — choices that we’ve made throughout our lives. What they would have led to, where we’d be today had we chosen a different path. If, Then explores what would happen if we got a glimpse of these once possible other lives. The plot is mostly slow-moving and even when big things happen, the focus is almost entirely on the characters’ internal lives. Kate Hope Day is a remarkably good writer, and I was surprised to find this was her debut novel. She writes flawed, believable characters whose lives you will truly care about. It’s hard to delve too much into without reaching “spoiler” territory, but I’ll try.

She waits for a rush of gratitude for all the good, solid things in her life. But it doesn’t come. Her life will continue just as it is. She’ll go home and figure out what to make for dinner. She’ll have a glass of wine, feed the cats, and talk to Mark about what to do if school is cancelled next week. She’ll iron a shirt for clinic tomorrow.

Ginny was probably my favorite character (although I’m probably biased because she’s queer). She starts out as the stereotypical woman-who-can’t-have-it-all, a surgeon who doesn’t have time for her family, but as her thoughts and experiences are exposed to us she becomes her own person outside of the trope she lives. I do wish that her husband, Mark, had felt a bit more sympathetic to me, but I think that’s also due to some personal bias. It was interesting to see how Ginny’s perception of their relationship seemed to change the nature of the relationship itself, although Mark had something to do with that as well.

She’s not very good at it — loving and being loved.

Samara is deep into mourning the loss of her mother, and I enjoyed seeing their relationship explored in a different way than Ginny and Mark’s. Most would assume that the death of a person ends your relationship with them, but it was clear that Samara’s bond with her mother was able to strengthen even after the death of the latter. I liked how this was displayed, through Samara imagining the things her mother would say and how those things shifted after Samara’s impression of her had changed.

The picture Cass has of herself — it doesn’t match the woman in the rocker at all. When she thinks of herself the picture is colorless, all light eyes and skin and hair. Washed-out. Static. An overdeveloped driver’s license photo that lives permanently in her mind. But this other Cass is a polychromatic wonder. Full of agile, assured movement, even in routine pose. Full of grace.

Last but not least, I just adored Cass and seeing how her relationship with herself changed. Cass is a new mother and former doctorate student who put her studies on hold in order to care for her child. After giving birth, she lost all motivation to write and sees no way of returning to her former life in academia. As someone with depression and chronic fatigue, I can relate to having the need to do something while also lacking the ability to do it. Watching Cass grapple with this internal struggle felt simultaneously saddening and inspiring. With not just Cass, but the entire cast of characters, Day shows that change, even when necessary, is not easy.

What I really loved was the ending. There is a slowly rising wave of emotions building throughout the novel that come to a thrilling climax near the end. The aftermath of this wave is examined in a thoughtful and realistic light, and Day makes no promises of easy happy endings. She recognizes that although things are hopeful for these characters and their futures, difficulties still lie ahead. I’m no longer satisfied by carefree endings and enjoy the more nuanced world Day was able to provide. The journey of these characters is not at an end, and that is made clear to the reader. I put down the book with a surge of emotion, and hope that Day’s next novel will give me a similar experience.


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The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet [review]

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
To be published by Hodder & Stoughton on August 13, 2015 (originally 2014)
my rating: ★★★★ ★
Goodreads avg: 
4.17 (as of 2019-03-05)

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

Follow a motley crew on an exciting journey through space—and one adventurous young explorer who discovers the meaning of family in the far reaches of the universe—in this light-hearted debut space opera from a rising sci-fi star.

Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman who learned early to keep to herself, she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain.

Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. It’s also about to get extremely dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. Tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet is definitely lucrative and will keep them comfortable for years. But risking her life wasn’t part of the plan. In the far reaches of deep space, the tiny Wayfarer crew will confront a host of unexpected mishaps and thrilling adventures that force them to depend on each other. To survive, Rosemary’s got to learn how to rely on this assortment of oddballs—an experience that teaches her about love and trust, and that having a family isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the universe.


I know I’m late to the party on this one, but I’m just glad I finally got around to it. Everyone has been singing praises of The Long Way for what feels like ages, but I kept putting off reading it because for some reason I get intimidated by “hard sci-fi” books even though I almost always end up loving them. Luckily, I managed to win a giveaway thrown by Debbie’s Library back in August, and received a copy of it then! I finally got around to picking it up and wow am I glad I did.

With a terrible silence, the sky ripped open. It swallowed them.
Rosemary looked out the window, and realized that she’d never really seen black before.

As is typical of a longer book with a larger cast, it took me a bit to get into The Long Way. Chambers does a skillful job of introducing us to the world and the characters, but I always get overwhelmed anyway. Once I made it through the first hundred pages or so, I was hooked. The majority of the book takes place aboard a spaceship called The Wayfarer, as the multispecies crew is joined by their newest member, Rosemary. While there’s a decent amount of action, what I really fell in love with was the world and the characters that Chambers has created.

Being alone and untouched… there’s no punishment worse than that.

The characters are all so unique in wonderful ways, but my favorites are definitely Sissix and Rosemary. It felt like Rosemary was our portal into this otherwise foreign world — she had grown up planetside and was unfamiliar with a lot of the ins and outs of space travel (although through her studies she had learned a lot about different alien cultures). This was a nice way to ease the reader in without making it seem like they were being spoon fed every piece of information about the world. Meanwhile, I really loved learning about Sissix’s culture. She comes from a lizard-like bipedal species that’s polyamorous as hell and relies strongly on physical contact to express affection. I found it interesting to learn more about them, and to see how Sissix is able to modify her own methods of socialization in order to mesh better with the crew.

He was not a prisoner of those memories. He was their warden.

That’s really just the tip of the iceberg as far as the new species and cultures Chambers has come up with. She’s also able to navigate some interesting ethical dilemmas that may evolve with more progressive technology, such as advanced body modifications, cloning, and the potential rights that could be given to AI. Somehow she can incorporate all these elements without sounding preachy or like she’s squeezing too much into the story.

I’ll never understand how the rest of you expect brand new adults to be able to teach kids how to be people.

Overall, I just loved this book and truly didn’t want it to end. I felt a wild wave of emotions crest over me when I turned the last page, because in a way I was losing some new friends it seemed I had just gotten to know. While I’ve been known to get emotional over books, they rarely make me feel quite this strongly. The Long Way is really something special and I highly recommend picking it up if you’re interested. I just can’t wait to see what Chambers’ other books have in store for me.


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Mini-Review Compilation #12

An Anonymous Girl
cw: sexual assault, infidelity, domestic abuse
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.

This story starts out with a somewhat intriguing, if not completely exciting, premise. At first it’s difficult to figure out where things are going, but things begin to fall together soon enough — at least, that’s what we think. I was impressed with the twists in this, although the ending does leave something to be desired. I felt things were tied up a little too nicely and a little too quickly, so I didn’t end up feeling very satisfied by it. Overall, though, it’s a quite compelling read and worth picking up.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

If I Was Your Girl
cw: homophobia, transphobia, violent hate crimes, suicide

I’m not planning to write a proper review because it took me forever to read this (because I started it on audiobook, had my hold expire, and then took a while to get the eBook). The audiobook is excellent, so well-narrated. The story itself is great and I loved it. My only nitpick was that the Homecoming scene felt overly convenient and not necessarily super realistic but that’s really quite minor. Overall I’d definitely recommend this!

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Raven King (The Raven Cycle #4)
cw: racism

While I’m bummed to see this series come to an end (although I believe there is an additional novella out and potentially a new series coming out?), I thought this was a really nice way to wrap things up. I’ve been working my way pretty slowly through the books and left a lot of time between reading each so I wouldn’t binge them and get sick of it (as I’ve been known to do). It’s hard for me to write a traditional review of this, because all I want to do is gush about it. I care so, so deeply about all of these characters and can envision all of their mannerisms and I think Maggie is such a talented writer. She’s definitely going on my must-read list and I’m excited to see what kind of work she has in store for us in the future.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


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Mini-Review Compilation #11

In Her Skin
cw: domestic abuse, self-harm

The only people who talk about dead like it’s something pretty and fanciful are people who haven’t seen it up close.

I’ll admit that although I found the premise somewhat interesting, most of the reason I picked up this one was because it took place in Boston. That aspect was really fun, since I recognized most of the places mentioned and could really imagine myself there. The writing itself was interesting, too. It was a mixture of first and second person and worked really well for the story. Kim Savage ended up keeping me on my toes and I absolutely inhaled the last half or so in one sitting. My only complaint was that it felt kind of queerbait-y and I ended up pretty frustrated by that.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Unrequited 
cw: graphic sex, power imbalances, sexual assault, infidelity, suicide, off-page drunk driving, stalking, and probably much more

They’re a perfect match. I think anybody who’s in love with anyone is a perfect match. I don’t believe in crap like There’s somebody better for you out there. I don’t want better. I want the guy I’m in love with.

I picked this up on a whim after seeing Melanie’s glowing review and it was absolutely worth it. While the morals throughout are highly questionable, the writing is great and the author knows how to do steamy scenes well. I rarely read straight-up romance novels, but in this instance my rating is based more on personal enjoyment than objective quality. I’ve been going through a rough time and this was exactly the kind of read I needed to distract me from that. If you’re looking for a fun romance that’s a little on the kinkier side, this should hit the spot for you.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Sex at Dawn

I’ve read some of the criticisms of this book, and also recognize that it was published almost a decade ago and may be a bit outdated. Regardless, it’s nice to read a book that validates your sexuality and makes you feel more “normal” than society at large might have you believe. As a queer, polyamorous woman I thought this was a really good starting point to learn about human sexuality. I’ll certainly be picking up some other works and doing further research, but I found this book to be well-written, humorous, and just what I needed.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


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(All covers courtesy of Goodreads.)

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Ghost Wall [review]

Ghost Wall book photo

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss
To be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux on January 8, 2019
my rating: ★★★★.5
Goodreads avg: 
4.01 (as of 2019-01-04)
cw: domestic abuse
disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in a Goodreads giveaway. All of the opinions presented below are my own.

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

In the north of England, far from the intrusions of cities but not far from civilization, Silvie and her family are living as if they are ancient Britons, surviving by the tools and knowledge of the Iron Age.

For two weeks, the length of her father’s vacation, they join an anthropology course set to reenact life in simpler times. They are surrounded by forests of birch and rowan; they make stew from foraged roots and hunted rabbit. The students are fulfilling their coursework; Silvie’s father is fulfilling his lifelong obsession. He has raised her on stories of early man, taken her to witness rare artifacts, recounted time and again their rituals and beliefs–particularly their sacrifices to the bog. Mixing with the students, Silvie begins to see, hear, and imagine another kind of life, one that might include going to university, traveling beyond England, choosing her own clothes and food, speaking her mind.

The ancient Britons built ghost walls to ward off enemy invaders, rude barricades of stakes topped with ancestral skulls. When the group builds one of their own, they find a spiritual connection to the past. What comes next but human sacrifice?

A story at once mythic and strikingly timely, Sarah Moss’s Ghost Wall urges us to wonder how far we have come from the “primitive minds” of our ancestors.

Without a house, it occurred to me, it is much harder to restrict a person’s movement. Harder for a man to restrain a woman.

→ What I Liked:

The Characters
I enjoyed how distinctly different all the characters were. Much like The Stepford Wives, the women seemed much more well-developed than the men, who had a more singular purpose. I thought Sylvie and her thoughts were well-written, and I really appreciated the relationship between her and Molly. I also loved that Sylvie was queer-coded, although that wasn’t the focus of the story at all.

The Writing
Sarah Moss is able to slowly build up such an intense feeling of dread that it’s impressive. While the story begins in a rather innocuous manner, it’s revealed bit by bit that something just isn’t quite right. This is done in a rather impressive manner and eventually leads to an emotional climax the likes of which I haven’t experienced in quite some time. I’ll admit it, I may have shed a tear or two at the last line.

Cold water wavered over my legs, stroked some of the soreness from my skin. I imagined the shame carried away like blood in the water, visible first in weedy streams, curling and flickering like smoke and then dissolving, fading, until although you know it would always be there you couldn’t see it anymore.

→ What I Didn’t Like:

The Beginning
The flip side to this subtle build is that the story is a bit of a slow burn. While short, the beginning pieces felt a bit boring to me and I had just a little difficulty getting invested. Luckily this doesn’t last for long and it is absolutely worth it to stick with it on this one.

The Style
This is one of those books that has foregone quotation marks in dialogue, which can occasionally make it a bit tricky to pick apart who is saying what. It took me a bit to get adjusted to this, which probably also contributed to my difficulty getting invested, but once I did the story flew by much more quickly.

Here I am, then. So kill me.

→ TL;DR:

  • Wonderful characterization
  • Slow emotional build, but the payoff is worth it
  • Writing style takes just a bit of adjusting to

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We Have Always Lived in the Castle [review]

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We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Published by Penguin Books on June 5, 1984 (originally 1962)
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
4.03 (as of 2018-10-25)
content warnings: Familial death, domestic abuse, agoraphobia
(I forgot to make notes on these so they’re from memory, alas)

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods—until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiosity and hostility of the villagers. Their days pass in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears. Only Merricat can see the danger, and she must act swiftly to keep Constance from his grasp.

In this village the men stayed young and did the gossiping and the women aged with grey evil weariness and stood silently waiting for the men to get up and come home.

This was my first Shirley Jackson novel and it far exceeded any expectations I could have set for it. After reading The Woman in Black, I knew that gothic horror was a genre I could get into and I found myself eyeing some of Jackson’s works. Fate worked in my favor: my friend Jackie lent me her copy of We Have Always Lived in the Castle around the same time Destiny and I decided to buddy read it. Destiny and I split the book up into three parts to read over three days, but I truly believe I could have devoured this all in one sitting if I hadn’t been so busy during when I started it.

The truly incredible thing, to me, is how Jackson is able to write the most mundane things in such an eerie way. Nearly every scene is drenched with tension and I felt a sense of dread that continued to build as the book went on. Even at the start, our main character Merricat is going about her regular routine, running errands in the village. It’s an ordinary task, but it’s all just off enough to give the reader a sense of unease. I found myself absolutely terrified of the townspeople without even knowing why. And on it continues, every scene off-kilter enough that you can’t retain any sense of balance. The building anticipation makes it impossible to put down. I absolutely had to know what was going to happen next, and how the story would climax.

On top of the fantastic atmosphere that really drives the plot, I thought the characterization was great as well. Merricat is such a strange yet fun character to follow and everything is colored through her peculiar point of view. Constance, her sister, is intriguing and you can’t help but wanting to know more about her, even as you feel wary of her. Uncle Julian is certainly an unreliable character — it’s hard to piece together everything he’s saying, and you’re not quite sure what is true — and I liked him as well. The fourth human character (because we can’t forget Merricat’s pet cat Jonas, who I adored) is cousin Charles. I thought Jackson did a really lovely job of portraying the single mindedness of a child who truly believes someone is evil, and made Charles quite terrifying.

Overall, I honestly I don’t know if there’s a thing I would change about this book. I had unanswered questions, but it almost feels like they should remain that way. I genuinely think this story is a true masterpiece and I can’t wait to start in on Hill House, which I’m picking up from the library very soon!

I was chilled.

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

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Mini-Review Compilation #10

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The Woman in Black
cw: child death

At that moment I began to doubt my own reality.

This was my first Susan Hill read and I can say that I’m now very excited to explore some of her other works. I don’t read a lot of gothic horror, but this definitely worked for me and I’d like to wade a little further into the genre. The writing conveyed such a strong atmosphere and I found myself really swept up in everything. It was definitely spooky, but didn’t outright scare me, which is a nice happy medium. I thought the characters were well-done, although we only spend time with a few of them. My only complaint was that the ending felt rushed and a little abrupt.

Buddy read with Sarah!

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

33099585

River of Teeth (River of Teeth #1)

I had high hopes for this one, but it just didn’t really do anything for me. The characters were good, but the story felt rushed and I didn’t get very invested in it.

Rating:⭐⭐.5

Sadie_FINAL cover image

Sadie
cw: pedophilia, CSA, abuse, drug addiction
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.

Every little thing about you can be a weapon, if you’re clever enough.

It seems like nearly everyone has been talking about Sadie lately. Intriguingly, pieces of it felt like they tied pretty closely to The Female of the Species, which I read directly beforehand. The formatting is what was most interesting about it. Half of the book is a podcast — where I’d imagine the audiobook version would have come in very handy — and the other half is from Sadie’s perspective directly. In this way, things that we could never necessarily know from one perspective are revealed to us through the other. While this method could be flawed in the wrong hands, Courtney Summers is able to carefully craft a chilling masterpiece, slowly (but not too slowly) revealing the full story to her readers.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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(All covers courtesy of Goodreads.)

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Girl Made of Stars [review]

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Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on May 15, 2018
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
4.25 (as of 2018-09-18)
cw:rape, molestation, pedophilia, biphobia, homophobia, victim blaming, depictions of anxiety and panic attacks, PTSD

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

For readers of Girl in Pieces and The Way I Used to Be comes an emotionally gripping story about facing hard truths in the aftermath of sexual assault.

Mara and Owen are as close as twins can get, so when Mara’s friend Hannah accuses Owen of rape, Mara doesn’t know what to think. Can her brother really be guilty of such a violent act? Torn between her family and her sense of right and wrong, Mara feels lost, and it doesn’t help that things are strained with her ex-girlfriend, Charlie. As Mara, Hannah, and Charlie come together in the aftermath of this terrible crime, Mara must face a trauma from her own past and decide where Charlie fits into her future. With sensitivity and openness, this timely novel confronts the difficult questions surrounding consent, victim blaming, and sexual assault.

As I said in the brief, one-sentence review I managed to spin out immediately after finishing Girl Made of Stars: This is one of the most painful, difficult reads I’ve ever experienced, and it still managed to end on an empowering, hopeful note. It’s been on my radar for a while now and I just hadn’t gotten around to it yet. I was actually picking up another book from the library for a buddy read that I’m doing when it caught my eye. I spontaneously snatched it up and I’m so, so glad I did. I think it was truly the perfect time for me to read this book.

I wish I could take a picture of myself right now, so I can remember this fiery girl, hold on to her.

It’s difficult to know where to begin with a review like this. First and foremost: take care of yourselves, loves. This is about the nitty gritty of rape culture, the many ways in which women can be both assaulted and undermined. It’s about the guilt, and the uncertainty, and the grey areas of being a survivor, as well as the difficulty of learning that someone you trust isn’t as safe as you thought they were. I managed to finish it in one evening, but I had to put it down a couple times to just take a spin around the apartment to get my head out of the story. Ashley Herring Blake writes a world that feels so real and is so easy to live in, that it grips you in a deeply emotional way.

It’s changed me forever, but changed doesn’t mean broken.

Everything is handled so beautifully in this book. In addition to focusing on rape culture and survivors, the main character also deals with sometimes crippling anxiety and PTSD. She’s also bisexual, which is mentioned explicitly on-page (as a bi woman, I was extremely excited about this), and her best friend/ex is genderqueer (this is the only rep I can’t speak to personally, but I’d be happy to share ownvoices reviews if y’all have any). There are also some great scenes where actively asking for consent is demonstrated and emphasized, which I’m always a huge fan of seeing (particularly in YA).

For all the girls whose names I’ll never know.
For me.
Girls made of flesh and bone.

I can’t even get into everything this book manages to explore, but somehow it does it all without feeling like the author is trying to pack too much in. I went through the full gamut of emotions while reading this. I spent the last half an hour of reading just sobbing in bed, but that was in part because I felt so validated and loved and understood. If you can manage the content, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It was truly a beautiful, if difficult, experience and deserving of so much support and recognition.

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Mini-Review Compilation #9

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Disquiet
cw domestic abuse; stillbirth

I found this novella in a local thrift shop and picked it up on a whim. I thought the cover was nice and the story sounded interesting — and told myself that even if I didn’t like it, I’d only be working through 120 or so pages. I’m glad I went for it because this is one of those hidden gems that I probably never would have found otherwise. It’s simply written, but hauntingly beautiful. It’s a little odd in a way I can’t put my finger on, but also in a way that really piqued my interest. I definitely recommend it and know I’ll be picking it up again sometime.

Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐

Give People Money
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.

I’m really glad I picked this up, as I felt it provided a pretty comprehensive overview of the idea of a universal basic income (UBI). The author talked about the history of the idea and research that had been done on similar programs both within and without the United States, as well as the potential pros and cons of setting such a thing in motion. She also spoke of the difficulties of trying to change the current system in a way that I (in my limited knowledge and experience) thought seemed realistic without being cynical. Overall, this felt like a really good primer and makes me want to seek out more information, both about this particular idea and related ones. I highly recommend this read for anyone who finds the concept of a UBI interesting, as well as anyone who wants to learn some ways we can create a more nurturing society that’s less focused on the worth of individuals only insofar as they’re valued in the workplace.

Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐

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The Vegetarian
cw: rape; self-harm; disordered eating

Why, is it such a bad thing to die?

I’m not sure I can give this a proper review, as I had a very… complicated relationship with the text. A lot of things struck me very hard (this was definitely an instance of finding a book “at the right time” for me), but a lot of these things ended up connecting strongly to very personal aspects of my life. Aspects that I don’t currently feel comfortable sharing in a book review. I’ll simply say that this was a beautiful, haunting read and one that I know will stick with me for a long time. I’d been meaning to pick up some of Han Kang’s work for a while now and this was honestly the perfect introduction for me. I highly recommend this book, even though it may be a difficult read for some.

Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

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(All covers courtesy of Goodreads.)