Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Convenience Store Woman [review]

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Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata transl. by Ginny Tapley Takemori
Published by Grove Press in August 2019 (originally 2016)
my rating: 3.5 stars
Goodreads avg:
3.72 (as of 2022-05-18)
Spoiler-free review

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This short novel (or is it technically a novella? I never know) is a pleasantly written examination of societal expectations. It’s set in Japan so while expectations are a little bit different than what I’m used to seeing in my area of the US, I think this is a book everyone can relate to in some way. Keiko has been working at the same convenience store for 18 years and at 36 has friends and family who are concerned about her apparent lack of ambition regarding both her career and romance. Our narrator, on the other hand, is happy with her life. She understands the flow of the convenience store, is able to predict its needs the way one might do with a lover or a child. She doesn’t see the need to expand her horizon, and doesn’t understand why others may be so concerned with it.

This really felt like the perfect length to me; we had plenty of time to understand Keiko’s life, routine, and mindset before the obligatory conflict and subsequent disaster set in. I liked the humor in this and found it easy to get through. It did make me think a lot about how we judge people for not hitting certain ‘milestones’ whether it’s what they want or not. I loved how she was so happy with herself and her life and didn’t understand why that wasn’t good enough for others.

I thought this was great at doing what it was meant to do, but it was just missing something for me, which is why my rating is a little lower. I did enjoy it overall, though, and will be recommending it! Additionally, it is not explicitly stated but I found it heavily implied that Keiko is autistic and aroace. She faces a lot of critique and discrimination for this, so I would make sure you’re in the right headspace to read this if that’s something that could be difficult for you to read!


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Blood and Ash Series #1-4 (review)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Bad Blood [review]

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Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
Published by Knopf on May 21, 2018
my rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.40 (as of 2022-01-27)
Spoiler-free review

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If someone had written this as a fictional story, readers would have said “this is unrealistic” and “there’s no way that could happen.” Unfortunately, this really happened.

I first learned about Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos (I will never get over how bad this name is) when my friend Zoey recommended the podcast The Dropout. Compelling and well-research, I listened from the beginning and caught up just as Holmes’ trial began. I was absolutely flabbergasted at the depth of Theranos’ misdeeds. I almost skipped Bad Blood, thinking that the podcast was adequate. I’m glad I didn’t.

Carreyrou is able to get into the real nitty-gritty details of this story. While I still highly recommend The Dropout, particularly the episodes analyzing the trial itself, there were even more unbelievable details in Bad Blood. I dropped a star off this review because I found the first third or so a bit dry, but once things start getting wild, it’s almost impossible to put this down. There were literal jaw-dropping moments, and I found myself shaking my head almost every other page. It is truly unbelievable that Holmes thought she could get away with all of this — but it’s even more unbelievable that she DID get away with this for so long.

I’ll be highly recommending Bad Blood (and The Dropout!) to everyone I meet, whether they already know about Theranos or not.

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The Assassin’s Blade [review]

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

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

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

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

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Mediocre [review]

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Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America by Ijeoma Oluo
Published by Seal Press on December 1, 2020
my rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.46 (as of 2022-01-16)
Spoiler-free review

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The people who need to read this the most are those whose minds will be most closed to its message. That being said, I appreciated the macro-to-micro approach Oluo took with each chapter of this. She chose a topic, spoke about it on a broad scale, and shared individual instances of each. I learned SO much through this; from the storied history of football to the origins of the SATs. Oluo’s writing is conversational and easy to follow; this isn’t a dry history book by any means. I think its greatest downfall will be its lack of hand-holding — if you don’t already understand the downfalls of white supremacy to some extent, Oluo’s unapologetic and self-assured tone (fully warranted, by the way) is unlikely to convince you. Sadly, the truths in here will seem impossible to many, who will run away with their fingers in their ears finding it impossible to believe there could be this level systemic racism even though segregation just barely ended.

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Nothing But Blackened Teeth [review]

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Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw
Published by Tor Nightfire on October 19, 2021
my rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
2.89 (as of 2022-01-12)
Spoiler-free review

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One girl each year. Two hundred and six bones times a thousand years. More than enough calcium to keep this house standing until the stars ate themselves clean, picked the sinew from their own shining bones.

Okay, I was genuinely shocked when I came on here to give my rating and saw the average goodreads rating. I can see how this wouldn’t work for some people — most of the characters are insufferable and the clarity is a bit lacking at times. But I found the writing so lyrical and the main character, Cat, so immensely relatable. As a queer person with depression, yeah I felt very seen. The atmosphere was truly immersive and I felt like I was standing right there with Cat as we watched our bad friends make bad decisions. It also had a little bit of a The Cabin in the Woods feel with its self-awareness, the characters knowing they were essentially living through a horror movie and making their decisions accordingly. I found that the dread built so well, even if it lost itself a bit in the climax. I was impressed by this and look forward to reading more of Khaw’s work!

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The Only Good Indians [review]

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The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
Published by Gallery/Saga Press on July 14, 2020
my rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
3.73 (as of 2021-12-06)
Spoiler-free review

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Holy shit. This was, like, a lot. I can easily see why so many people love Stephen Graham Jones so much, and I can also easily see why his work may not be for everyone. I felt this might have worked better as a novella, as there were a few points where I was like, “…okay, get on with it.” The last lengthy ‘scene’ is one example — while it was incredibly tense, it started to lose that for me the longer it dragged on. But this is a minor qualm, most of the book had me on the edge of my seat in anticipation or terror.

The characters are all flawed in their own ways, but you can’t help but root for them even as you see the damage they’ve caused and the things they’ve done. I’m not very well-versed in Native American culture and SGJ doesn’t hold your hand through the slang and the customs. It takes a little bit of adjustment, but the way he contextualizes everything makes the learning curve an easy one. I also struggled at first with the way SGJ hones in on minor details, but quickly came to appreciate it and the way it informed readers.

The graphic horror is something that I think will lose a lot of people, which is fair. There are a lot of gruesome descriptions of both animals and humans. But the violence doesn’t feel gratuitous to me; it all feels like it has a place, not that it’s just there for shock value (as shocking as it all may be). At times I would have to put the book down for a moment just to breathe because of how impactful some of the depictions can be.

I will say I was also left with some questions and couldn’t pin down some of the ‘rules’ of this entity, although perhaps there are no rules to follow. The timeline just didn’t make sense to me, although I can’t really say more without risking spoilers. While this wasn’t a five star read for me, I do still wholeheartedly recommend it to folks who find themselves interested, but caution that you check out the content warnings and avoid this if graphic animal death is a no-go for you. Stephen Graham Jones is a great writer and I’m really excited to check out more of his novels!

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Waves [review]

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Waves by Ingrid Chabbert and Carole Maurel transl. Edward Gauvin
Published by BOOM! Archaia on May 1, 2019 (originally 2017)
my rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.06 (as of 2021-11-25)
Spoiler-free review

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Wow, just wow. I put this on my TBR after seeing Destiny post about it and finally picked it up recently. This is the incredibly devastating, partially autobiographical account of a miscarriage and its aftermath. Even though I went into it knowing this would be an emotional read, I did not expect to sob through most of it — but I did.

This story was beautiful — both visually and in its message. My only real complaint was that it felt a little rushed and abruptly short. It was difficult to connect on a deeper level than “fuck, this was sad” because of that. Chabbert notes after the story’s conclusion that she had intentionally not written very much about her attempts to conceive, lest they take over the story, but I found this to be a weakness. While the story was obviously quite emotionally impactful, helping readers to fully understand the context of this loss would have added a lot and allowed more connection to the characters.

I definitely recommend this, though. In fact, I texted a friend just after finishing to recommend it to her. If you can handle the sensitive content, this is a quick read that packs a lot of punch.

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Throne of Glass [review]

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

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

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Iron Widow [review]

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

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

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

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

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

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