Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Lady from the Black Lagoon [review]

The Lady from the Black Lagoon by Mallory O’Meara
To be published by Hanover Square Press on March 1, 2019
my rating: ★★★★
Goodreads avg: 
4.72 (as of 2019-02-06)
cw: suicide, sexual harassment
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 Lady from the Black Lagoon uncovers the life and work of Milicent Patrick—one of Disney’s first female animators and the only woman in history to create one of Hollywood’s classic movie monsters.

As a teenager, Mallory O’Meara was thrilled to discover that one of her favorite movies, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, featured a monster designed by a woman, Milicent Patrick. But for someone who should have been hailed as a pioneer in the genre there was little information available. For, as O’Meara soon discovered, Patrick’s contribution had been claimed by a jealous male colleague, her career had been cut short and she soon after had disappeared from film history. No one even knew if she was still alive.

As a young woman working in the horror film industry, O’Meara set out to right the wrong, and in the process discovered the full, fascinating story of an ambitious, artistic woman ahead of her time. Patrick’s contribution to special effects proved to be just the latest chapter in a remarkable, unconventional life, from her youth growing up in the shadow of Hearst Castle, to her career as one of Disney’s first female animators. And at last, O’Meara discovered what really had happened to Patrick after The Creature’s success, and where she went.

A true-life detective story and a celebration of a forgotten feminist trailblazer, Mallory O’Meara’s The Lady from the Black Lagoon establishes Patrick in her rightful place in film history while calling out a Hollywood culture where little has changed since.


I was so excited when I learned that Mallory O’Meara was putting out a book. If you’ve ever heard her speak (and if you haven’t, you should give her podcast Reading Glasses a shot!), you’ll know that she’s passionate about filmmaking, feminism, and literature. This book, part biography, part memoir, and part film history, not only combines these interests but also allows Mallory’s strong voice and devotion to shine through. You can tell from the very first page that she has poured every ounce of her being into this story.

Milicent was holding open a door for me that I never realized I had considered closed. Come on, she said. We [women] belong here, too.

I did feel that the writing started off a bit choppy — something that may have been smoothed out in the final version — but it steadily finds its footing. Regardless, even when the writing feels like it may use a little work, the content itself is arresting. Mallory sets up Milicent’s place in history by describing the gender inequality we still see in the film industry today through an effective mixture of statistics and personal anecdotes. She also makes it clear that otherwise privileged women — straight, white, cisgender, and able-bodied — are just the tip of the iceberg. If even these women are kept from succeeding, how can women facing additional layers of oppression have a chance?

Women are the most important part of horror because, by and large, women are the one that horror happens to.

After sinking her hooks into you with this introduction, she begins wading into the life of Milicent Patrick. I will admit that I felt a little lost toward the beginning. She starts well before Milicent’s birth and I felt that for the first third or so, more attention was given to certain pieces than seemed necessary. While it certainly set a context for Milicent’s life, I found it a bit difficult to remain attentive while reading it. Luckily, Mallory breaks up the history by sharing pieces of her own journey to discover Milicent.

The problem with being the only woman to ever do something is that you have to be perfect… This way of thinking is a maladaptation women have developed over the years to be able to deal the fact that we’re getting passed on for jobs because we’re female. You force yourself to believe that there just haven’t been any women good enough for the job, rather than accept the fact that the entire system just doesn’t want you in it.

This book is truly as much about Mallory’s relationship to Milicent as it is about Milicent herself. Through her, Mallory was able to find inspiration, was able to see women as belonging in what had always been more of a boys’ club. It is clear that Mallory is not just fascinated by Milicent as a person, but also Milicent as a beacon to all the girls out there with interests in fields that they may find themselves excluded from. Because she dared to stand out, Milicent was buried in the pages of history. Thankfully, Mallory was able to dig her back out.

One of the hardest things about misogyny in the film industry isn’t facing it directly, it’s having to tamp down your anger about it so that when you speak about the problem, you’ll be taken seriously.

This book doesn’t fill just one niche, and I can see it sparking the interest of many. Enjoy reading about film history? Crave feminist non-fiction? Love a good humorous memoir? The Lady from the Black Lagoon may hit the spot for you. I was a little nervous picking it up because, while I love a lot of non-fiction, I’m not very interested in film-making. I was glad to find myself entertained, educated, and satisfied upon finishing. If you find your interest piqued after this review, I definitely recommend picking Mallory’s book up.


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Page [review]

Page (Protector of the Small #2) by Tamora Pierce
Published by Ember on January 2, 2018 (originally 2000)
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
4.24 (as of 2019-02-12)
cw: past abuse, attempted assault

My review of the first book can be found here!

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

As the only female page in history to pass the first year of training to become a knight, Keladry of Mindelan is a force to be reckoned with. But even with her loyal circle of friends at her side, Kel’s battle to prove herself isn’t over yet. She is still trying to master her paralyzing fear of heights and keep up with Lord Wyldon’s grueling training schedule. When a group of pages is trapped by bandits, the boys depend on Kel to lead them to safety. The kingdom’s nobles are beginning to wonder if she can succeed far beyond what they imagined. And those who hate the idea of a female knight are getting desperate—they will do anything to thwart her progress.


For the first time she could understand how someone in a rage might do murder. “How dare you touch an unwilling woman?” she asked.

This book follows Kel through her second, third, and fourth years as a page. I was surprised that this was all to be packed into one book, but it made sense that there was only so much to be covered once the probationary period was out of the way. We get to see the return of all Kel’s friends along with meeting some new ones, including her new maid Lalasa.

Lalasa is a great character in her own right, a young woman who has suffered from great abuse at the hands of men. She is timid when she first enrolls in Kel’s service, but quickly comes into her own with the page’s encouragement. We get to see Lalasa develop alongside Kel in a mirror image of sorts. It’s really nice to see this friendship between women blossom in such a male-centric environment.

Kel also has to deal with the beginnings of puberty while undergoing her trials as a page. One thing I love about Tamora Pierce is that she’s not afraid to write the real stuff. She’s blunt and honest without being crude. Kel begins to grow breasts, experiences several jumps in height, and gets her first period. If only we also lived in a world where a magical talisman was the solution, but I guess we have birth control!

It’s also really great to see Kel further dealing with her phobia. As revealed in the first book, her terror of heights came out of previous emotional abuse she experienced from her brother. While resistant at first she knows that overcoming, or at least confronting, these fears are key to her becoming a knight. As someone who has dealt with severe anxiety, I think it’s really important to see strong characters who struggle with it as well.

Overall, I continue to adore Kel as a character and find her story fun to follow. I usually don’t tend to like lawful good characters as I find them a bit boring, but Tammy is a master of developing people you love to read about. I mean, how can you not love a girl knight-to-be taking down abusers? I’d definitely recommend this book, and the series, to any lovers of Tamora Pierce as well as readers of YA fantasy.


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It Devours! [review]

It Devours! (Welcome to Night Vale #2) by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
Published by Harper Collins on October 17, 2017
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
4.08 (as of 2019-02-09)

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

From the authors of the New York Times bestselling novel Welcome to Night Vale and the creators of the #1 international podcast of the same name, comes a mystery exploring the intersections of faith and science, the growing relationship between two young people who want desperately to trust each other, and the terrifying, toothy power of the Smiling God.

Nilanjana Sikdar is an outsider to the town of Night Vale. Working for Carlos, the town’s top scientist, she relies on fact and logic as her guiding principles. But all of that is put into question when Carlos gives her a special assignment investigating a mysterious rumbling in the desert wasteland outside of town. This investigation leads her to the Joyous Congregation of the Smiling God, and to Darryl, one of its most committed members. Caught between her beliefs in the ultimate power of science and her growing attraction to Darryl, she begins to suspect the Congregation is planning a ritual that could threaten the lives of everyone in town. Nilanjana and Darryl must search for common ground between their very different world views as they are faced with the Congregation’s darkest and most terrible secret. 


I’ve had this on my shelf for close to year, and finally got around to reading it! I used to be a huge fan of the Welcome to Night Vale podcast, but stopped listening a couple years ago because I personally found that the content felt a bit repetitive. I also read the first book and didn’t find it really held my interest, but thought it was still worth it to give the second one a shot. I’m glad I did! It was an interesting, compelling read. While not plot-dependent on the podcast or the first book, if you take in the content out-of-order you probably will spoil yourself, just as a heads up.

Sometimes it’s okay to find something beautiful without correctly understanding it.

The book itself ran me through a lot more emotions than I expected it to. Honestly, I was almost in tears at the end of the first chapter. No joke. There’s just enough of a mystery that you’re not quite sure what’s going on without encroaching too far into nonsense, which could have been easy to do with a world filled with such fantastical elements. There were a few places where I didn’t feel quite as invested in the story as I could have, but it really held my attention for the most part.

Sometimes where you live is just a place, no matter how long you live there.

I really adored the main characters. Nilanjana was great and I liked getting to see her struggles as an outsider in Night Vale. I found Darryl really interesting as well, especially with his background and how it tied in to some events towards the end of the book. Unfortunately, the rest of the characters didn’t have much characterization. Carlos was given some depth, but I felt like the rest of the scientists and Darryl’s friends all seemed like caricatures and were quite one-dimensional.

When considering our place in the universe, we must recognize that by having this one position we are negating every other possible position we could have.

So, overall it was a fun read and I would definitely recommend it to fans of Welcome to Night Vale or to anyone else who finds themselves interested in it. I don’t see myself picking it up again in the future, but I definitely don’t regret reading it!


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The Mystery of Hollow Places [review]

The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos
Published by Balzer & Bray on January 26, 2016
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
3.48 (as of 2019-01-20)
cw: portrayals and discussion of bipolar disorder and severe depression

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

All Imogene Scott knows of her mother is the bedtime story her father told her as a child. It’s the story of how her parents met: he, a forensic pathologist, she, a mysterious woman who came to identify a body. A woman who left Imogene and her father when Imogene was a baby, a woman who was always possessed by a powerful loneliness, a woman who many referred to as “troubled waters.”

Now Imogene is seventeen, and her father, a famous author of medical mysteries, has struck out in the middle of the night and hasn’t come back. Neither Imogene’s stepmother nor the police know where he could’ve gone, but Imogene is convinced he’s looking for her mother. And she decides it’s up to her to put to use the skills she’s gleaned from a lifetime of reading her father’s books to track down a woman she’s only known in stories in order to find him and, perhaps, the answer to the question she’s carried with her for her entire life. 


…with enough time and the right conditions, precious stones could grow in hollow places.

This was my second Rebecca Podos book (my first being her 2017 release Like Water) and it was just as great as I had hoped it would be. I was honestly shocked when I got to the end and realized that this was her debut novel. This was one of those books that sucked me right in and filled me with emotion. Following Imogene on her journey felt both meaningful and real. It was easy to see where her thoughts, feelings, and coping mechanisms (or lack thereof) came from. The story follows Imogene as she attempts to find her long-lost mother and, in turn, her newly missing father. While she has little in the way of clues, between her wits and the assistance of her best friend Jessa she starts out on a path that will impact her life forever.

I thought Imogene was a sympathetic, believable main character and enjoyed being inside her head. While her constant Sherlock references wore on me a bit, I understood the point being made. Her relationship with Jessa was appropriately complicated, I liked the reference to symbiosis as I think we all have friendships that rely on shared exchanges like these. There were some romantic undertones between Imogene and Jessa’s brother, Chad, but I think this was well-balanced and certainly wasn’t anything close to the main focus of the story.

I really enjoyed the portrayal of Imogene’s non-traditional family structure. She spent most of her life living alone with her father, who struggled with bouts of severe depression where his daughter had to fend largely for herself. Her mother left before she could remember and exists only in the peripheries of scattered photographs. Lindy, her stepmother, is a family therapist and recent addition to the family. To be honest, I never grew to like Lindy very much. While I could absolutely see where she was coming from and didn’t actively disliked her, I just didn’t think I was given enough to really develop much in the way of positive feelings toward her — but that could definitely have just been me.

But if there’s one thing Dad’s bad times have taught me, it’s this: I never, ever want to have something I can’t survive without.

The only downside was that I didn’t love the end. There was a climax that I enjoyed, but after that I felt like I was just skimming the last bit to finish out the book. It was sort of like in movies where they have the on-screen text to explain what happened to each of the characters in the aftermath of the main plot. I personally didn’t feel that it added much, although I’m not sure what I would have suggested as an alternative.

Overall, though, this was an excellent read that I would highly recommend to lovers of contemporary YA, as well as those who like a bit of mystery in their books. I’m really excited to see what Rebecca Podos comes out with next, as she’s proven herself to be quite a strong writer! I think this is one that I’ll definitely be thinking back to in the future.


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First Test [review]

First Test by Tamora Pierce
Published by Random House Children’s Books on May 23, 2000 (originally 1999)
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
4.25 (as of 2019-01-19)

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

In the medieval and fantastic realm of Tortall, Keladry of Mindelan is the first girl to take advantage of the decree that permits females to train for knighthood. Up against the traditional hazing of pages and a grueling schedule, Kel faces only one real roadblock: Lord Wyldon, the training master of pages and squires. He is absolutely against girls becoming knights. So while he is forced to train her, Wyldon puts her on probation for one year. It is a trial period that no male page has ever had to endure and one that separates the good natured Kel even more from her fellow trainees during the tough first year. But Kel Is not a girl to underestimate, as everyone is about to find out…


I read this quite some time ago, but only owned the first book and never continued with the series. For Christmas, I received books 2-4 and decided to re-read this so that I could jump into the rest. I had forgotten most of the plot, although all of it felt familiar to me. While I couldn’t have predicted anything that happened, once it happened I thought to myself “oh yeah, I remember that.” Luckily, I enjoyed it just as much as Tammy’s other books and am very excited to finally finish the series!

One of the things I love about Tammy’s writing is that she’s able to create such distinct characters. While most of her books focus on “strong” women, they’re not all the same. Where the Lioness is hot-tempered and loud, Daine is timid yet stubborn, Aly is quiet and calculating, and Kel is even and impenetrable. Each of her characters have different strengths and weaknesses, and I think that makes it possible for girls to find representation they are able to relate to.

This book follows Kel in her initial (probationary) year as a page, the first female page to enter the program since girls were allowed to join. There are plenty of obstacles along the way: a lot of the boys think that a girl doesn’t belong there alongside them. Kel’s advantage is that she and her family had lived with the Yamanis as an ambassador for most of her early life. The Yamani culture is much different from the one Kel has transitioned back into and one of the biggest things she has learned is to “be as stone” and hide all of her emotions behind a smooth mask.

Overall, I found the pacing to be great and the story fun to follow. I worked through the book fairly quickly and am looking forward to what comes next, although I plan to wait until Fantastic February to continue reading since this series is obviously perfect to put on my TBR for it. I recommend this to all Tamora Pierce fans, as well as anyone looking for some YA fantasy with a strong female character.


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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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The Stepford Wives [review]

The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
Published by HarperCollins on April 26, 2011 (originally 1972)
my rating: ★★★★
Goodreads avg: 
3.74 (as of 2019-01-03)

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

For Joanna, her husband, Walter, and their children, the move to beautiful Stepford seems almost too good to be true. It is. For behind the town’s idyllic facade lies a terrible secret — a secret so shattering that no one who encounters it will ever be the same.

At once a masterpiece of psychological suspense and a savage commentary on a media-driven society that values the pursuit of youth and beauty at all costs, The Stepford Wives is a novel so frightening in its final implications that the title itself has earned a place in the American lexicon.


An odd medicinal smell soured the air — coming on the breeze at her back. It almost reminded her of something in her childhood, but fell short.

→ What I Liked:

The Characters
This is a rare instance in which the female characters seem to be more developed than the male characters, and I loved it. They had so much individuality (aside from the Stepford wives of course), whereas the men were defined more by their jobs than anything else. One of the women was even implied to be asexual!

The Writing
While simplistic in style, the way the story was written was just fantastic. It started off relatively innocuous (even knowing what the ending would be), but built to an incredible climax full of anxiety. He pulls off a similar climb in Rosemary’s Baby, which I also really enjoyed.

→ What I Didn’t Like:

The Foreword
To be fair, this was added later to the book and was not written by Ira Levin. The fact remains, however, that Peter Straub’s introduction was painfully condescending. He went on and on about how the average reader wouldn’t be able to properly appreciate Levin’s writing and how subtle and literary it is. I can appreciate him wanting to explain the nuances of this simplistic writing style, but the way he did it just really rubbed me the wrong way.

The Ending
While I understand to a certain extent why the ending felt so abrupt, I wish it hadn’t. I felt pretty unsatisfied by it, even though I “get” it. Maybe Peter Straub was right and I just can’t properly appreciate it. 😉

→ TL;DR:

  • Well-developed female characters
  • Great pacing
  • Pretentious foreword (not written by the author)
  • Abrupt ending

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Believe Me [review]

36399240

Believe Me by JP Delaney
Published by Quercus on July 24, 2018
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5
Goodreads avg:
3.69 (as of 2018-11-16)
cw: slut shaming, gore, CSA, self-harm, 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.

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

In this twisty psychological thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Before, an actress plays both sides of a murder investigation.

A struggling actor, a Brit in America without a green card, Claire needs work and money to survive. Then she gets both. But nothing like she expected.

Claire agrees to become a decoy for a firm of divorce lawyers. Hired to entrap straying husbands, she must catch them on tape with their seductive propositions. The rules? Never hit on the mark directly. Make it clear you’re available, but he has to proposition you, not the other way around. The firm is after evidence, not coercion. The innocent have nothing to hide.

Then the game changes.

When the wife of one of Claire’s targets is violently murdered, the cops are sure the husband is to blame. Desperate to catch him before he kills again, they enlist Claire to lure him into a confession.

Claire can do this. She’s brilliant at assuming a voice and an identity. For a woman who’s mastered the art of manipulation, how difficult could it be to tempt a killer into a trap? But who is the decoy . . . and who is the prey?

But then, this isn’t lying. This is behaving truthfully under imaginary circumstances. Which, as you will discover, is very different.

→ What I Liked:

The Twists
While I’m not one of those people who can guess the ending to every mystery, I can sometimes be hard to please with twists. I like them to be somewhat believable, meaning that there needs to have been an indication somewhere that this was a possibility. Not necessarily anything glaring, just something to point back to as a foundation. This was actually one of my biggest issues with Dangerous Girls. While the very last bit of the book is so full of twists it’s messy, JP Delaney masterfully puts together most of the pieces in such a way that the reader can’t help but be impressed. I really thought I knew where this book was going at the beginning, but I was very wrong.

The Characters
Claire, our narrator, is a British actor living in NYC. It’s clear from the start that although she’s down on her luck, she’s just brimming with talent. She’s easy to sympathize with, but far from perfect. Although she has somewhat of a stereotypical background, in my opinion she was quite an original character. Patrick, the man accused of murdering his wife, felt really well-done as well. While at first the reader thinks they have him pinned down, that soon comes undone. Seeing him through Claire’s eyes, we find out just how difficult it is to discern who someone truly is.

→ What I Didn’t Like:

The Ending
I tore through the entirety of this book, loving the build-up, but felt entirely dissatisfied by the ending. The author threw in so many red herrings I could barely see straight. Everything began shifting wildly and rather than astounding me, it caused me to lose any suspension of disbelief I had. It felt cheesy and cheap and I’m positive JP Delaney had the talent to create something better than this.

→ TL;DR:

  • Great twists
  • Page-turner
  • Believable characters
  • A terrible ending
  • Would recommend

 

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

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The Haunting of Hill House [book review]

15808307

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Published by Penguin Classics on October 3, 2013 (originally 1959)
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
3.89 (as of 2018-11-07)
content warnings: gaslighting, suicide

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

The classic supernatural thriller by an author who helped define the genre. First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting;’ Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

Nothing is ever really wasted, she believed sensibly, even one’s childhood, and then each year, one summer morning, the warm wind would come down the city street where she walked and she would be touched with the little cold thought: I have let more time go by.

Hi all!! I’m trying a new review layout that I feel really helps me organize my thoughts better. Let me know how you like it. 🙂

→ What I Didn’t Like:

The Characters

Our main character, Nell, gave me a lot of mixed feelings. At times I adored her and at times I found her unbelievably annoying. The rest of the characters I disliked even more. I didn’t understand the motivations of most of them, and I found their sudden changes in mood and demeanor off-putting. I can see the purpose of this: to wonder whether it was all in Nell’s head, whether it was caused by the house, and/or whether these people were truly acting like this. The problem was, I found it so distracting and confusing that it detracted from the atmosphere of the novel for me. I was, quite frankly, annoyed by most of the characters.

→ What I Liked:

The Writing
While I had issues along the way, the fact remains that Shirley Jackson is an incredible author. She is just fantastic at atmospheric writing (although as noted above, the characters ruined some of that for me) and knows how to add in twists that you won’t expect, even if her books aren’t outright scary. In fact, the ending saved this book entirely for me. It was a solid 3-star read until the last bit, which had me on the edge of my seat. That ending cemented Nell as a solid character in my mind and I really felt what she was feeling.

→ Additional Thoughts:

I was quickly convinced that this book was a huge inspiration for House of Leaves, one of my favorite books. From the general aura of the house, to the scientific exploration of the unnatural, to the strange dimensions, this had an HoL vibe through and through. In fact, I’m sure in the months to come, I’ll be noting a lot of books and movies that are influenced by Jackson, as she has clearly made a mark on literature with her writing.

→ TL;DR:

  • I found the characters somewhat annoying
  • Spooky vibes, but not really scary
  • Shirley Jackson is a god-tier writer
  • The ending is SO GOOD
  • Definitely helped inspire House of Leaves
  • Recommend!

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)