Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Priestdaddy [review]


Priestdaddy: A Memoir by Patricia Lockwood
Published by Riverhead Books on May 2, 2017
336 pages.
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
cw: 
rape, victim blaming, suicide, pedophilia

Goodreads IndieBound | Author’s Website

The childhood of Patricia Lockwood, the poet dubbed “The Smutty-Metaphor Queen of Lawrence, Kansas” by The New York Times, was unusual in many respects. There was the location: an impoverished, nuclear waste-riddled area of the American Midwest. There was her mother, a woman who speaks almost entirely in strange koans and warnings of impending danger. Above all, there was her gun-toting, guitar-riffing, frequently semi-naked father, who underwent a religious conversion on a submarine and discovered a loophole which saw him approved for the Catholic priesthood by the future Pope Benedict XVI – despite already having a wife and children.

When the expense of a medical procedure forces the 30-year-old Patricia to move back in with her parents, husband in tow, she must learn to live again with her family’s simmering madness, and to reckon with the dark side of a childhood spent in the bosom of the Catholic Church. Told with the comic sensibility of a brasher, bluer Waugh or Wodehouse, this is at the same time a lyrical and affecting story of how, having ventured into the underworld, we can emerge with our levity and our sense of justice intact.

Let me start this off by saying: this is not a book I would have chosen to read on my own. My extended family is Catholic, but I have never had an interest in religion and this didn’t really appeal to me. However, I am in a postal book club (#5 on this list, if you haven’t heard of this concept) and this was chosen by one of the other members. And, to my surprise, I actually enjoyed it a lot!

Lockwood is an incredible writer. She has a unique, lyrical voice and a great sense of humor. This memoir covers a lot of difficult topics with grace. It made me experience emotions that cut me deep, but separated these moments with stories that made me smile and laugh.

How did I become a person who almost never left the house? Until I was twelve, I lived as an element of nature, tending to my untamed Rooms, wading through creeks and waist-high grasses, and bicycling diagonally across vacant lots after the sun had flared down.

Lockwood has a complicated relationship with her family, which I can appreciate. Her father is a conservative Catholic priest, who says and does an infinite number of absurd things. My father is a conservative atheist, who says and does an infinite number of absurd things. Some of the things he says are an insult to me and the things I believe in, but I love him anyway. That’s the way it goes with family sometimes.

You know it took me so long to write this piece because I kept trying to make it beautiful and finally I just had to shake myself by the scruff of the neck until a more natural sort of grunting came out. You can’t make something sound beautiful. It’s either beautiful or it’s not.

As an aspiring writer of sorts, this book was also inspirational for me to read. Every time Lockwood mentioned jotting down a quote from a family member, I yearned to do the same. I struggle with finding things to write about, but I think that’s because I haven’t figured out how to turn my observations into words. Carrying around a notebook like this was something I had heard about but for some reason, actually witnessing the practical applications of this finally flipped the switch for me and I’ve been scribbling things into a moleskine obsessively for the past few days.

Overall, this was a really nice read and I would definitely recommend it to aspiring writers as well as folks who like reading about dysfunctional families. Please let me know if you’ve read this, and what you thought about it, in the comments!

Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram
(Blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

Advertisements
Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Mini-Review Compilation #2

22050397

A Safe Girl to Love
cw: sexual assault, kink

This was such a lovely collection of short stories, focusing on trans women. Most of the stories had a pretty emotional impact on me, which says a lot about the writing. Each story is fairly quick to get through. While I enjoyed it, a lot of the characters kind of melded together for me and I felt that there was too much of an emphasis on a certain kind of sexuality (almost all of the sex was very rough, which could be triggering for some). I dropped one star for those two reasons.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

228296

Rosemary’s Baby
cw: sexual assault

I put this on my TBR after reading a post about it written by Bernadette @ The Spine Cracker and it did NOT disappoint. Bernadette recommended not reading the blurb beforehand, so I went in cold and I’d like to echo that suggestion. Do NOT read the blurb beforehand! It definitely gives away part of the plot and, imo, is a better read if you don’t know. Anyway, it was a great book, spooky without being scary scary. It actually pulled me out of a bit of a reading slump, which was great! Drags on a bit occasionally, but overall very good.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

35120598

Gena/Finn
cw: trauma, grief

Wow, this was adorable!! Definitely a quick, cute read (that gets surprisingly deep). It’s told entirely through blog posts, IMs, letters, etc. so I’d recommend reading a physical copy, as it didn’t translate well into an ebook version imo! My qualms are really just that it felt a little rushed in places and the end felt abrupt to me. [SPOILER] Finn, Charlie, and Gena are canonically a triad and no one can convince me otherwise, sorry not sorry!! [/SPOILER]

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thanks for reading! Have you read any of these books? If so, what were your thoughts? You can also find me on Twitter and Goodreads.

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Dancing After Hours [review]


Dancing After Hours by Andre Dubus
Published by Knopf on February 13, 1996
234 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0-67943-107-7
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
cw: self-harm

Goodreads IndieBound

I picked up Dancing After Hours a couple years ago at a library used book sale and proceeded to forget about it entirely. I finally made a pile of the owned-yet-unread books I had clogging up my shelves and when it came time for the Make Me Read readathon, I decided to pull books exclusively from this pile. And I’m glad I threw this one into the mix.

Always in the office she felt that she was two people at once. She believed that the one who performed at the desk and chatted with other workers was the woman she would become as she matured, and the one she concealed was a girl destined to atropy, and become a memory.

Dancing After Hours is an incredibly well-written collection of short stories. The writing itself is so compelling and the characters all have rich interiors. Each story, many of which are intertwined, provides a glimpse at the reality of humanity and the motivations behind us all. I can’t remember the last time I highlighted so many phrases in a book. And!!! I counted multiple instances of women-loving women, which was a nice touch for me. I’d highly recommend this book to anyone interested.

Standing in electric light, she gazed at its beauty out there under the dark sky, and felt the old and faint dread that was always a part of her thrill when she saw falling snow, as though her flesh were born or conceived with its ancestors’ knowledge that this windblown white silence could entrap and freeze and kill.

Thanks for reading! You can also find me on Twitter and Goodreads.

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

A Darker Shade of Magic [review]


A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
Published by Tor Books on February 24th, 2015
400 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0-76537-645-9
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black. 

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

I’m a little late to this series, but I read A Darker Shade of Magic for the first time recently and I really enjoyed it! I’m actually planning to start in on the second book very soon (I already have it checked out of the library).

They got to their feet, neither willing to walk away just yet, and Kell looked down at Delilah Bard, a cutthroat and a thief, a valiant partner and a strange, terrifying girl.

The characters are wonderful. Kell is incredible and I kind of ended up falling in love with him. He’s a little bit of a rule-breaker, and can be a little obtuse, but he was so endearing and the love in his heart really got to me. Lila is amazing. She’s kind of your typical badass fantasy girl: a rogue, independent and stubborn to a fault, and very good with a knife. She also talks really negatively about other women, which got on my nerves. In spite of that, I really liked her.

It was nice to have a canonically lgbtqia character, Rhy, but he also felt like a negative bisexual stereotype. One of the most prevalent stereotypes about bisexual people is that they’re greedy and will sleep with anyone and that’s basically 90% of Rhy’s personality. All we really see him doing is flirting with people or talking about flirting with people and it’s heavily implied (if not outright said, I didn’t write the quote I’m thinking of down so I can’t remember) that he’ll sleep with essentially anyone. Like, that’s basically how his character is introduced. And that’s pretty much all I remember about him, except for some important plot stuff toward the end.

Overall, the plot was good. The writing was good. I definitely had a good time reading this book. I gave it four stars instead of five because it just didn’t pull me in like a five star book. I’m intrigued to see where the rest of the trilogy goes and I’m glad y’all got me to read it!

Thanks for reading, please share your thoughts in the comments. You can also find me on Twitter and Goodreads.

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Policing the Black Man [review]

NOTE: I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion. This in no way impacts my review.

Policing the Black Man edited by Angela J. Davis book cover
Policing the Black Man edited by Angela J. Davis
To be published by Knopf Double Day Publishing Group on July 11, 2017
ARC eBook Edition, 336 pages, ISBN-13: 978-1-101-87127-0

Policing the Black Man is a collection of essays detailing both the history of racism in the United States’ criminal justice system and the issues we face today. These essays were written by various criminal justice experts. The essays are strongly connected to modern issues, discussing recent killings of black men by police and the Black Lives Matter movement.

The essays are laid out in a common sense manner, beginning with the roots of racism in criminal justice and moving forward to where we are today. They are all extremely well-written and, for the most part, easily digestible by the layperson. Some of the material presented was things I already knew, but the details and additional statistics provided allowed me to more fully grasp what has been going on. A decent amount of the material provided was brand new to me–for instance, I had no idea to what extent prosecutors were involved in racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

This book was extremely eye-opening to me, particularly as a white woman of relative privilege. This book provided everything I look for in a non-fiction book, from good writing to fascinating content. I highlighted endlessly, whenever notable statistics or vital information came up. Its only downfall was that a handful of sections became a little too technical at times and I got lost in them. Otherwise, this was an incredibly important read that I recommend to all, particularly those with an interest in racial relations and/or the criminal justice system.

Rating: ✪✪✪✪

Thanks for reading! Please let me know what your thoughts are in the comments! You can also follow me on Twitter and Goodreads.

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Stranger [review]


The Stranger by Albert Camus
Translated from French by Matthew Ward
Published by Random House, Inc. in 1989 (originally in 1942)
First Vintage International Edition, ebook format, 124 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0-307-82766-1
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I read The Stranger at the behest of my cousin, Debbie because she wanted me to read The Meursault Investigationwhich probably doesn’t make any sense to read by itself as it is an independently-written sequel of sorts. I had never read The Stranger and I typically don’t like classics, so I honestly wasn’t expecting much. It’s a short read, so I figured I’d zip through it, read The Meursault Investigation, write brief reviews for both, and move on with my life. I do have to say, I was very pleasantly surprised. (Just a quick content warning for domestic abuse. It won’t be brought up in my review, but it is present in the book.)

Then he asked me if I wasn’t interested in a change of life. I said that people never change their lives, that in any case one life was as good as another and that I wasn’t dissatisfied with mine here at all.

The book is written in first person, which is typically off-putting for me, but it wouldn’t have worked in any other format. I desperately wish I had read this in school because I’m positive there is so much I didn’t pick up on that would have led me to appreciate it even more. The tone is relatively dry and matter-of-fact, which I disliked at the outset. It’s kind of a “this happened, and then this happened, and then that happened” kind of story.

I would have liked to have tried explaining to him cordially, almost affectionately, that I had never been able to truly feel remorse for anything.

Camus starts off the book with the death of Meursault’s mother, an event which seems to have little to no impact at all on the man. As the book continues, it becomes clear that Meursault moves through the world like an automaton: he goes about his daily life with barely a hint of emotions. He seems content, if contentedness differs from happiness.

Meursault started off as a flat, boring character, but he became fascinating to me. He has no moral code, he has no real sense of right or wrong. He’s not malicious, he just doesn’t seem to understand that the people around him feel. He mentions at one point that the deaths of others don’t bother him because he’ll just forget about them. He expects that when he eventually dies, that they’ll forget about him too. He falls into the same trap that many of us sometimes fall into: he cannot comprehend what others are experiencing because that is not what he is experiencing.

I truly felt for him. Is it possible to feel empathy for someone who cannot feel? It’s just a projection of my own feelings onto him. I place myself in his shoes and know how I would feel, so I feel that for him. But isn’t that exactly what he’s doing? He’s placing himself in others’ shoes and assuming they feel (or don’t feel) the same way he does. I don’t know, it was a fascinating concept, and very well-executed. The Meursault Investigation is next on my TBR, but I’ll also probably look into some essays and articles on The Stranger so I can wrap my head around this all a little more.

Have you read The Stranger? If so, please share your thoughts! If not, do you have any interest in reading it? It’s certainly a strange book, but also a quick one to get through.

Thanks for reading! You can also follow me on Twitter and Goodreads.

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Glass Castle [review]


The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Published by Scribner in 2006
First Scribner Trade Paperback Edition, 288 pages, ISBN-13: 978-0-743-24754-2

You can’t kill something just because it’s wild.

Oh wow, I have so many feelings about this book. This was my first time reading The Glass Castle. In all honesty, I didn’t even realize it was a memoir until I sat down with it and really took a look at the blurb on the back. I’ve been hearing about this book for ages and the fact that it’s getting a movie finally pushed me to read it NOW. So when I saw a used copy for sale at a bookstore recently, I couldn’t help but pick it up.

The Glass Castle is a memoir by Jeannette Walls that focuses mainly on her relationships with her family. Jeannette had an atypical upbringing; her father was a manic alcoholic and her mother spent most of her time daydreaming instead of parenting. Jeannette and her siblings had to raise each other and often had to go without food and proper shelter.

I could hear people around us whispering about the crazy drunk man and his dirty little urchin children, but who cared what they thought? None of them had ever had their hand licked by a cheetah.

Jeannette perfectly conveys the intricacies of the difficult relationships we sometimes have with the people we love. In many ways, Jeannette’s father reminded me of my own and reading her story hit harder to home than I expected it would. While there are countless differences between her experience and mine, I can relate to some of the things she has dealt with and I can understand loving someone in spite of things that could be seen as unforgivable by others.

She was keeping it, she explained, to replace the wedding ring her mother had given her, the one Dad had pawned shortly after they got married.

“But Mom,” I said, “that ring could get us a lot of food.”

“That’s true,” Mom said, “but it could also improve my self-esteem. And at times like these, self-esteem is even more vital than food.”

While I deeply appreciated the story, the writing itself fell flat for me at times. Jeannette is descriptive and often paints a full picture of the scenes in her life, but at the same time she feels somewhat removed. Her story is told matter-of-factly, often with little emotion. While this is commendable in some ways, it also made it hard for me to really get into the story at some points. Although I may have struggled for a bit, I did find myself quickly devouring the last third of the book.

Overall, Jeannette presents a fascinating, well-written story that I would recommend to all.

Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

You can also follow me on Twitter and Goodreads.