Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

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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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

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.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

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: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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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

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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.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

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.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Song of Achilles [review]

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The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Published by Ecco on August 28, 2012
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5
Goodreads avg:
4.3 (as of 2018-09-06)
cw: rape, brutal murder, everything you would expect from war

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

Achilles, “the best of all the Greeks,” son of the cruel sea goddess Thetis and the legendary king Peleus, is strong, swift, and beautiful irresistible to all who meet him. Patroclus is an awkward young prince, exiled from his homeland after an act of shocking violence. Brought together by chance, they forge an inseparable bond, despite risking the gods’ wrath.

They are trained by the centaur Chiron in the arts of war and medicine, but when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, all the heroes of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the cruel Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

Alright, I can see what all the fuss is about now. I had been intending to pick this up for a while now, mostly due to the hype. Luckily, someone in my postal book club chose it, so I had a great excuse to read it!

As if he had heard me, he smiled, and his face was like the sun.

I went into The Song of Achilles relatively blind, knowing not much except that it was about Achilles and was allegedly super gay. Both of these things are true. I’m not very familiar with the mythology, so almost all of the plot was new to me. I’m not sure whether this enhanced or detracted from my experience, but it definitely brought a lot of surprises! I think I could have benefited from knowing the other players a little more, as they sort of blurred together for me, but I also found the story itself more enjoyable because I didn’t know what would happen next.

I feel like I could eat the world raw.

It’s hard to classify this into a genre. It’s kind of fantasy, kind of historical fiction, and kind of romance. And let me tell you, Madeline Miller really knows how to write a romance. Even though I’m not typically one for historical fiction or classics, I found myself really drawn into both the plot and the writing. The characters were so well done and I felt I really understood Patroclus and his motivations. It was incredible to watch both the boys mature and change in their own separate ways.

My mind is filled with cataclysm and apocalypse: I wish for earthquakes, eruptions, flood. Only that seems large enough to hold all of my rage and grief. I want the world overturned like a bowl of eggs, smashed at my feet.

Overall, this was a really nice read and I’m glad I got around to it! I definitely recommend it to anyone who hasn’t gotten a chance to pick it up yet (I may have been the only one left).

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Mini-Review Compilation #8

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Sleeping Giants

This was so much better than I could’ve even imagined, in great part because I listened to the audiobook version. A lot of people recommended the audio as the go-to version and they were definitely spot-on with that. There are different voice actors for all of the characters, which I thought allowed the listener to really separate each of them. I can struggle to distinguish character voices in audiobooks and this really helped me understand what was actually going on.

The characters themselves were great and I enjoyed their interactions for the most part. I thought the romance felt a little forced, but luckily it didn’t play too too much into the story. The twists all made sense, but weren’t necessarily things I saw coming. I also really liked the writing style, but I was a huge World War Z fan, so that’s to be expected. Overall I really loved this book and I highly recommend it.

Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

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Acceptance (Southern Reach #3)

You could know the what of something forever and never discover the why.

I did really like Acceptance. It did a great job of tying everything together while still letting Area X keep its air of mystery. If you want answers to your questions, you’re going to hate how this series ends. I personally thought it was very well-done. The chapters switch between perspectives, giving us some new POVs and some insight into characters that had previously been pretty mysterious. I loved that we were able to delve back into Area X, which I find to be such a compelling environment. I think Jeff VanderMeer does an incredible job of creating the atmosphere there and I just adore reading about it. If you’ve enjoyed the series so far, it’s definitely worth it to continue with this one.

Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle #3)

As Gansey shut the door behind him, he heard Adam say, “I don’t want to talk,” and Ronan reply, “The fuck would I talk about?”

I’m so sorry, because I’m not one of those people who has “book boyfriends” and whatnot but I am possible deeply in love with Gansey. I don’t know how or why Maggie Stiefvater did this to me, but I want her to stop. I also don’t want her to stop. I almost ran out and bought The Raven King immediately after finishing BLLB, but I don’t want the series to end, so I’m trying to drag things out for myself. Anyway, this is definitely my favorite book in the series so far and I know this isn’t a review so much as a gush, so again I’m sorry, but UGH. Damn, Maggie knows how to write romances.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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(All covers courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Baby Teeth [review]

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Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage
Published by St. Martin’s Press on July 17, 2018
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5
Goodreads avg:
3.83(as of 2018-07-31)
cw: medical PTSD; domestic abuse; gaslighting
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.

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

Sweetness can be deceptive.

Meet Hanna.

She’s the sweet-but-silent angel in the adoring eyes of her Daddy. He’s the only person who understands her, and all Hanna wants is to live happily ever after with him. But Mommy stands in her way, and she’ll try any trick she can think of to get rid of her. Ideally for good.

Meet Suzette.

She loves her daughter, really, but after years of expulsions and strained home schooling, her precarious health and sanity are weakening day by day. As Hanna’s tricks become increasingly sophisticated, and Suzette’s husband remains blind to the failing family dynamics, Suzette starts to fear that there’s something seriously wrong, and that maybe home isn’t the best place for their baby girl after all.

From blazing new talent Zoje Stage, Baby Teeth is a story about a perfect-looking family, and a darling little girl who wants nothing more than to kill her mother.

I skimmed through Goodreads reviews before writing mine and it seems like this is a very divisive book. The average rating isn’t bad, but there are a lot of 1-2 star reviews out there, and the writers seem livid about this book. As you can see above, I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum. I picked this one up because I love psychological thrillers, and I was really intrigued by the concept and I thought that Zoje Stage followed through remarkably.

Hanna and Suzette are the main characters of this story, and I felt that the author did a great job of bringing them to life. Suzette is dealing with Crohn’s (this is an ownvoices book!), as well as her psychopathic daughter who gaslights her at every turn and you have to feel empathetic for her. I could just feel the exhaustion pouring out of her as she struggled with her day-to-day tasks. It wasn’t long before I felt like I wanted Hanna off my hands, too.

The thing is, even though I know that the things this kid does is wrong and even though I want Suzette’s life to turn around, Zoje also makes us feel sympathetic for Hanna. I could understand the simplistic thought processes that led her to hate her mother, and I longed for her to realize that she was wrong. This isn’t a black-and-white story where the child is irredeemably horrible for no reason, it really deals with the subjectivity of actions and morality.

Overall, I found it to be an enjoyable read. I got through it quickly and found myself thinking about it when I wasn’t reading.I was satisfied by most of the ending, but didn’t love the very last bit of it. I’d definitely recommend this to anyone who likes creepy kids and disturbing stories.

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Pisces [review]

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The Pisces by Melissa Broder
Published by Hogarth Press on May 1, 2018
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
3.37 (as of 2018-07-26)
cw: animal abuse, animal death, suicide, domestic abuse, graphic sex

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

An original, imaginative, and hilarious debut novel about love, anxiety, and sea creatures, from the author of So Sad Today.

Lucy has been writing her dissertation about Sappho for thirteen years when she and Jamie break up. After she hits rock bottom in Phoenix, her Los Angeles-based sister insists Lucy housesit for the summer—her only tasks caring for a beloved diabetic dog and trying to learn to care for herself. Annika’s home is a gorgeous glass cube atop Venice Beach, but Lucy can find no peace from her misery and anxiety—not in her love addiction group therapy meetings, not in frequent Tinder meetups, not in Dominic the foxhound’s easy affection, not in ruminating on the ancient Greeks. Yet everything changes when Lucy becomes entranced by an eerily attractive swimmer one night while sitting alone on the beach rocks.

Whip-smart, neurotically funny, sexy, and above all, fearless, The Pisces is built on a premise both sirenic and incredibly real—what happens when you think love will save you but are afraid it might also kill you.

Let me lead this off by saying that this is an extremely divisive book — the goodreads rating makes that pretty clear. I’ve been looking forward to reading this since October. As soon as it was on my radar, I knew that it was something I would enjoy. I mean, I am a pisces after all. If that’s not explanation enough, I also love stories that incorporate fantasy elements into an otherwise realistic setting.

I knew that what I wanted was something that couldn’t exist. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t something I wanted.

I found myself incredibly emotionally invested in the main character from the start. I connected deeply to her in a way that I haven’t connected to a fictional character in quite some time. She’s depressed, suicidal, lovesick, and a hopeless romantic. She is struggling with an addiction of sorts, and she does arguably terrible things to get what she feels she needs. She is an extremely flawed character and yet, I also found her to be one of the most sympathetic characters I’d ever read. I felt for her so hard that I continually had to take breaks from the book because I felt it would drag me down otherwise.

I have no desire to feel in a contained way. For me, it is all or nothing.

There were a lot of other uncomfortable elements to this book as well. This was by no means an easy read, yet for some reason I found myself thinking “I wish I could read this book every day for the rest of my life” the entire time. This was a really beautiful story of self-discovery through pain, and I think that provides some hope to those of us who go through similar pain.

And why would I choose to recover unless everything was total and complete shit? If there was one sparkle, one possibility of getting as high as I could off a person, why would I throw that potentiality away? You had to hold out for these moments until you knew for sure they were gone and never coming back.

Like I said, though, this book is truly not for everyone. This seems to be one of those books that you either really vibe with or really don’t. I was lucky enough to fall into the first category and I’ll be very surprised if read another book in 2018 that I love as much as this one. I’ll be recommending this to almost everyone I know, with an emphasis on checking the content warnings before going into it. If you can handle this book, it is absolutely worth picking up.

I hadn’t known that I‘d wanted joy either. I had not ever known that I could have it. Now I was crying because it felt like a miracle — not only that I would want to live at all, but that I actually could.

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(Blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

I’m Not Missing [review]

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I’m Not Missing by Carrie Fountain
To be published by Flatiron Books on July 10, 2018
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
4.00 (as of 2018-06-14)
cw: underage drinking, consensual sex, sexual assault
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.

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

When Miranda Black’s mother abandoned her, she took everything—the sun, moon, and stars—and Miranda found shelter in her friendship with Syd, who wore her own motherlessness like a badge of honor: Our mothers abandoned us. We won’t go begging for scraps.

When Syd runs away suddenly and inexplicably in the middle of their senior year, Miranda is abandoned once again, left to untangle the questions of why Syd left, where she is—and if she’s even a friend worth saving. Her only clue is Syd’s discarded pink leopard print cell phone and a single text contained there from the mysterious HIM. Along the way, forced to step out from Syd’s enormous shadow, Miranda finds herself stumbling into first love with Nick Allison of all people and learning what it means to be truly seen, to be finally not missing in her own life.

I’m Not Missing is a beautiful contemporary YA romance that also tackles a handful of serious topics. From the beginning, I found it to be a compelling read and worked my way through it pretty quickly. I started it while I was on vacation and finished it soon after returning home. This will definitely make a nice summery beach read!

I really liked the main character, Miranda, because I related to her a lot. I’ve always been a bit of a hopeless romantic and her endless fawning over her crush reminded me of myself in high school and college. It seemed to me like a really accurate portrayal of teenage romance. Miranda also had her own unique quirks, like reading a book of saints every night before bed and reciting the Gettysburg Address when nervous. The book also demonstrated a really nice relationship between Miranda and her father. Miranda is latina and her father is white, so the story also delves a bit into how that has impacted Miranda’s life. The romance itself was cute and I enjoyed it. The love interest, Nick, was a nice boy and treated Miranda well. The author also wrote in a lot of affirmative consent, which I thought was fantastic.

Miranda’s best friend, Syd, is an interesting character because we get to see her in so many different lights. Before Syd runs away, Miranda holds her in such high regard. She seems to rely on Syd in a plethora of ways and thinks that Syd always knows what to do. After Syd leaves, this begins to change. Miranda is able to take a step back and to see Syd as she truly is. She’s also able to rely on herself more and to grow more independent as a person, making her own decisions instead of depending on others to make them for her.

Overall, this was a really great story and I loved reading it. I’d recommend it to all YA contemporary readers, in particular to folks who enjoy books that hit some serious issues alongside the fluff.

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)