Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Her Name in the Sky [review]

Her Name in the Sky by Kelly Quindlen
Published on February 23, 2014
my rating: ★★★.5
Goodreads avg:
4.23 (as of 2019-08-16)
Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

Hannah wants to spend her senior year of high school going to football games and Mardi Gras parties with her tight-knit group of friends. 

The last thing she wants is to fall in love with a girl–especially when that girl is her best friend, Baker. 

Hannah knows she should like Wally, the kind, earnest boy who asks her to prom. She should cheer on her friend Clay when he asks Baker to be his girlfriend. She should follow the rules of her conservative Louisiana community–the rules that have been ingrained in her since she was a child.

But Hannah longs to be with Baker, who cooks macaroni and cheese with Hannah late at night, who believes in the magic of books as much as Hannah does, and who challenges Hannah to be the best version of herself. 

And Baker might want to be with Hannah, too–if both girls can embrace that world-shaking, yet wondrous, possibility.


Oof, this was a tough read. As the blurb states, this is about a girl falling in love with her best friend and struggling with those feelings. What the blurb leaves out is that both girls attend Catholic school and that their faith is quite important to them, as well as the people around them. Having grown up surrounded by plenty of Catholic family members, I found this quite an interesting slant to things, but I can definitely see that making this a difficult or impossible read for some people.

She wakes, hours later, in terror. She sits straight up in bed with her heart sprinting in her chest. Her face and neck are damp with cold sweat. She sweeps the back of her hand across her forehead and remembers, with the force of a stone slinging down into her belly, that she had been dreaming about God.

I thought Kelly Quindlen did an excellent job portraying high school friendships. The kids were all goofy and raucous and constantly referencing inside jokes. Unfortunately, it was so realistic that it grated on me at times and I found it a bit over-the-top and obnoxious. But I can respect the fact that this book was certainly not written for a 27-year-old, so the things that bother me aren’t likely to bother a teenage reader. And in a way it was quite nostalgic. I’ve had friendships like those and they are something very high school. Additionally, juggling a cast of six characters is quite difficult, but Quindlen handles it well. They are all their own discrete people with different mannerisms.

She tries to ask God, but she can’t seem to find God anywhere. 

As I’ve already stated, I found the religious aspect to be quite interesting. Hannah struggles deeply with what she’s always been told about gay people contrasted with the feelings she herself is feeling. There’s a lot of potentially triggering content, as Hannah literally tries to pray the gay away. The scenes with her begging God for answers were absolutely heartbreaking and, while not really religious myself, I desperately hoped she would find a way to reconcile her faith with her sexuality. And it is really nice to see a book that seeks to find a connection between queerness and religion rather than abandoning faith entirely due to conflict. I think a lot of religious, particularly Catholic, folks in the lgbtq community will see themselves in this and appreciate it.

Sometimes I think God reacted the way he did because he was so, so anguished that Adam and Eve hated something about themselves. They didn’t realize how beautiful they were in the Garden. They didn’t realize how perfect they were in their love. When their eyes were opened—when they saw that they were naked—they felt as if they had to cover themselves. They thought what God had made was shameful and embarrassing and wrong. Can you imagine how that made God feel? How his heart must have ached to see them denying their beauty, their humanity, in front of him like that? It’s the most heartrending part of the story.

Overall, I think this is quite an important book for young adults. It offers a new path that I think a lot of stories bypass. And that’s fair, I can see why religion is hard for a lot of lgbtq people, but I can also see how it helps others. This is a tough read, but it’s also an important story of self-revelation and self-acceptance. I definitely recommend it if you think you’d find these topics interesting, or if you’re intrigued by any aspect of the premise.


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

We Went to the Woods [review]

We Went to the Woods by Caite Dolan-Leach
Published by Random House on July 2, 2019
my rating: ★★★★
Goodreads avg: 
3.15 (as of 2019-08-13)
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

Certain that society is on the verge of economic and environmental collapse, five disillusioned twenty-somethings make a bold decision: They gather in upstate New York to transform an abandoned farm, once the site of a turn-of-the-century socialist commune, into an idyllic self-sustaining compound called the Homestead.

Louisa spearheads the project, as her wealthy family owns the plot of land. Beau is the second to commit; as mysterious and sexy as he is charismatic, he torments Louisa with his nightly disappearances and his other relationships. Chloe, a dreamy musician, is naturally able to attract anyone to her–which inevitably results in conflict. Jack, the most sensible and cerebral of the group, is the only one with any practical farm experience. Mack, the last to join, believes it’s her calling to write their story–but she is not the most objective narrator, and inevitably complicates their increasingly tangled narrative. Initially exhilarated by restoring the rustic dwellings, planting a garden, and learning the secrets of fermentation, the group is soon divided by slights, intense romantic and sexual relationships, jealousies, and suspicions. And as winter settles in, their experiment begins to feel not only misguided, but deeply isolating and dangerous.


We Went to the Woods is a quietly intense novel following five not-quite-yet adults as they leave the comforts of the modern world to create a commune of sorts in upstate New York. All are there for different reasons but the narrator of the novel, Mack, is attempting to escape her infamy after a very public experiment goes awry. While the threads of a mystery are woven throughout, this is very much not a thriller; the focus is held much more deeply on the characters and their relationships and introspections than on the plot itself.

Even if most of my days felt useless, days where I came home with some cash felt like they hadn’t been entirely wasted. This depressed me, this feeling that my life mattered only as it was measured out in paper dollars.

Mack herself is quite relatable in some ways: she has fallen into this tightly knit friend group and feels more like an outsider than anything else. As readers, we are not privy to the ins and outs of the four other characters and must slowly figure them out alongside Mack. There is a strong element of voyeurism to this and it was difficult not to be torn between wanting things to settle down and wanting to watch the drama unfurling.

Could I learn to live? The clouds opened up and I let them drench me, waiting to feel something. The intensity I wanted seemed close, attainable — the chill I felt out here and the coziness I would feel inside, with them? Was that what I hoped for? The distance between two feelings?

I found the parallels drawn between past and present to be quite interesting. Mack begins researching older communities that had struck out from society at large in similar ways. It seems obvious that humanity keeps making the same mistakes rather than learning from those who came before them. Even when drawing comparisons to the Collective, another nearby commune, this much is obvious. Whilst Mack’s group has struck out alone in an effort to avoid existing groups and their mistakes, this means they simply turn around and make their own.

But action is not something that has ever come easily to me; I wait for others’ decisiveness, not choosing for myself. Never recognizing that my passivity, too, is a choice.

There is a lot to be said about the portrayal of sexuality in this novel, and I’m intrigued to see what others have gotten from it. It is clear that Mack’s draw to the others in the group is firmly rooted in the erotic tension they all share. This is something that Mack herself focuses heavily on, literally obsessed with the physical relationships between each of them. There seems to be little delineation as far as gender or sexual orientation goes and most of the focus is on “free love” though it is clear that not all of the characters enjoy participating in non-monogamy. Indeed, it’s clear that any lack of boundaries is more forced than natural, particularly as secret upon secret is slowly unearthed.

But then, how can one small group of committed individuals hope to alter a whole society bent on injustice?

As much as I enjoyed the novel, there were some aspects that I felt could have been handled better. For one, Mack’s infamy is a point of interest throughout the book that I felt was played up a bit too much. It is quite some time before the reader finds out what had happened and in my opinion, the eventual reveal was quite anticlimactic. It felt heavy-handed and clunky in the moment and I felt it could have been woven in better. Aside from that, the reason itself just confused me. Sure, what Mack did was terrible, but I was expecting something so much worse and felt let down by what had promised to be a major confession. Where Mack ends up in the end also irritated me and seemed like a throwaway, but that’s something I can’t get into without spoilers.

“That is the saddest thing I’ve ever heard,” Jack said, musing. “The idea that you don’t have a home inside your own head. That breaks my heart.”

Speaking of which, what an ending it was! While the tension slowly builds throughout the novel and a climax is strongly alluded to (there are a lot of “had I known what I was coming…” reflections), I was still unprepared for where it led. Again this is difficult to discuss without spoilers, but I’d compare Caite Dolan-Leach’s writing to a well-done score: it is easy not to realize how much it is impacting you until you realize you are taut with anxiety and all hell is about to break loose.

“Do you think it’s because of the pesticides?” I asked finally. “I think it’s because of the whole damn world, Wee Mack. There’s nowhere to get away from the poison.”

Anyway, yeah this is a doozy of a read. I wasn’t sure what to think of it as I progressed but I have to say that the last act really cemented things for me. I was actually racing through the pages and dreaded the idea of not finishing before I would have to put it down. There’s much more to think about than what I touched on here, and even what I discussed could be analyzed at great length. I’m really interested in seeing what others have gotten out of this, and definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a slower, more intense read.


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Amatka [review]

Amatka by Karin Tidbeck
Published by Vintage on June 27, 2017 (originally 2012)
my rating: ★★★.5
Goodreads avg:
3.80 (as of 2019-08-11)
Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

Vanja, an information assistant, is sent from her home city of Essre to the austere, wintry colony of Amatka with an assignment to collect intelligence for the government. Immediately she feels that something strange is going on: people act oddly in Amatka, and citizens are monitored for signs of subversion.

Intending to stay just a short while, Vanja falls in love with her housemate, Nina, and prolongs her visit. But when she stumbles on evidence of a growing threat to the colony, and a cover-up by its administration, she embarks on an investigation that puts her at tremendous risk.

In Karin Tidbeck’s world, everyone is suspect, no one is safe, and nothing—not even language, nor the very fabric of reality—can be taken for granted. Amatka is a beguiling and wholly original novel about freedom, love, and artistic creation by a captivating new voice.


Amatka is quite creative as far as dystopian novels go. The world we’re dropped into is a strange place where everything must be labeled and referred to with its proper name (CHAIR, TABLE, etc.) or else it turns into a pile of goo. Language is vital for keeping the world together here. Our main character, Vanja, has traveled to the city of Amatka for a research project assigned to her by her employer. As is typical in most dystopian novels, things are not quite as they appear and some deep secrets are uncovered.

I had a lot of mixed feelings about some aspects of the novel. As is indicated in the blurb, Vanja falls in love with her housemate Nina. Interestingly, absolutely no ado is made about this and it’s clear that same-sex relationships are treated just as any others. The issue really is that there is no clear reason for Vanja and Nina’s relationship. We don’t see much besides lust develop between the two and while it’s obvious Vanja’s former life left much to be desired, it seemed bizarre of her to drop everything to stay. I will say Vanja’s relationships with others are similar: they exist only for the sake of the plot and don’t develop much otherwise.

The pace of the plot was quite good, as was the way things were gradually revealed. The reader is forced to pick apart clues along with Vanja and watch as she must decide whether it’s more important to fit in or to discover the truth. As is typical in this genre, things build slowly but steadily until they reach a frantic climax that is impossible to look away from. I had some mixed feelings about the ending itself, which I can’t discuss without touching on spoilers. I’ll just say that I didn’t love the way things were left and found the last bit of the novel to be a bit too frantic to take in easily.

Overall, though, this was a really neat book that I’m glad I picked up. I had no idea what to expect going in and I’m not sure how it even ended up on my TBR but I’m glad it did. I’ll probably be picking up some more of Karin Tidbeck’s works to see what else she’s been able to come up with.


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Truth or Beard [review]

Truth or Beard (Winston Brothers #1) by Penny Reid
Published by Cipher-Naught on July 21, 2015
my rating: ★★★.5
Goodreads avg:
3.96 (as of 2019-08-04)
Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

Identical twins Beau and Duane Winston might share the same devastatingly handsome face, but where Beau is outgoing and sociable, Duane is broody and reserved. This is why Jessica James, recent college graduate and perpetual level-headed good girl, has been in naïve and unhealthy infatuation with Beau Winston for most of her life. 

His friendly smiles make her tongue-tied and weak-kneed, and she’s never been able to move beyond her childhood crush. Whereas Duane and Jessica have always been adversaries. She can’t stand him, and she’s pretty sure he can’t stand the sight of her…

But after a case of mistaken identity, Jessica finds herself in a massive confusion kerfuffle. Jessica James has spent her whole life paralyzed by the fantasy of Beau and her assumptions of Duane’s disdain; therefore she’s unprepared for the reality that is Duane’s insatiable interest, as well as his hot hands and hot mouth and hotter looks. Not helping Jessica’s muddled mind and good girl sensibilities, Duane seems to have gotten himself in trouble with the local biker gang, the Iron Order.

Certainly, Beau’s magic spell is broken. Yet when Jessica finds herself drawn to the man who was always her adversary, now more dangerous than ever, how much of her level-head heart is she willing to risk?


This was the first book I read out of the Hilariously Ever After collection, which I snagged while it was free on Amazon. I’ve been in such a bad slump recently and decided some romance might help me through. And boy, was I right! I devoured Truth or Beard in one lengthy sitting, finishing sometime around 2:30am with no regrets.

I’ll get the things I didn’t like out of the way first, because there were a few. The first is probably the most minor and it’s the writing style. I literally almost DNFed on the second page because I couldn’t stand how it was written, but I persevered and ended up adjusting to it very quickly. There were still a few moments where I was thrown out of the story by the writing, but for the most part it wasn’t too bad.

There were also quite a few moments of questionable consent, which really rubbed me the wrong way. First and foremost is a scene where Jess thinks she’s getting hot and heavy with one twin when it turns out to be another. But throughout the whole book, Jess keeps physically accosting Duane even when he is definitely not giving enthusiastic consent — and she’s noticing that he’s not! I know that this kind of portrayal is common in romance novels, but I just couldn’t help but feel really icky every time it came up.

Thirdly was the slut-shaming leveled at Jess’ cousin Tina, who is a stripper and groupie for the local biker gang. One line about her was literally “I couldn’t talk to her about anything, because she didn’t know about anything other than townie gossip, biker gossip, how to work a pole, and how to spread her legs.” Loove the air-headed slut trope, thanks /sarcasm. On a related note, the last thing that I didn’t like was everything involving the biker gang. I agree with Destiny that it actually subtracted from the plot, and that I ended up skimming a lot of those interactions.

But, there was still plenty to like! The characters were all super well-fleshed out. There were plenty of funny lines to laugh at, too. Duane’s relationships with his brothers basically made the whole book for me. I adored them all so much and am actually quite excited to continue the series so I can get some more time with them. The chemistry between Duane and Jess, while perhaps overemphasized, was legit as well.

While it looks like there’s a lot more to dislike than to like, I really found this to be quite a fun read. If you’re looking for some easy-to-read romance, this is definitely a good candidate. I’m hoping some of the issues I had are remedied in the rest of the series, and I’ll definitely be trying them out.


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Wilder Girls [review]

Wilder Girls by Rory Power
Published by Delacorte Press on July 9, 2019
my rating: ★★★★
Goodreads avg: 
3.87 (as of 2019-07-28)
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


A feminist Lord of the Flies about three best friends living in quarantine at their island boarding school, and the lengths they go to uncover the truth of their confinement when one disappears. This fresh, new debut is a mind-bending novel unlike anything you’ve read before.

It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.

But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.


Wilder Girls thrusts you into the midst of an epidemic unlike any you will have encountered before. The story is centered around a group of three friends who have all fallen prey to the Tox, which has overtaken their boarding school as well as the island it sits upon. Many lives have been claimed by the Tox, both students and teachers alike. The girls have become quite accustomed to the situation, and seem to have accepted their fates.

Part of what I adored was how original the Tox was. I think we’ve seen plenty of sci-fi stories focusing on diseases, but Wilder Girls took this to a whole other level. We aren’t fed much info about the plague, which makes it feel quite mysterious, but its result is a whole lot of body horror that plays out differently in each girl. And believe me when I say it is a LOT of body horror. This book is really not for the faint of heart.

At first I had a bit of trouble discerning the differences between the characters themselves. It took me quite a bit to become attached to them and their relationships. The three girls at the center of the book kind of blurred together in my mind until about a third through. Luckily, I felt this issue was resolved and came to love them all in their own ways.

Also, believe the hype when it comes to how queer this book is. Hetty, one of the POV characters, is bi/pan/queer (she mentions liking both boys and girls, but no label) and Reese, another one of the characters, self-identifies as queer. Byatt, the third in the trio, doesn’t have her sexuality mentioned at all as far as I remember. There is a f/f romance that is not the focus of the story at all, but was very cute and did add a lot!

Overall, I think this was just a lovely sapphic YA horror novel that gave off some serious Annihilation vibes. If any of that sounds interesting to you, you’ll probably adore it. While I’d love a sequel (or a spinoff?), I do think the ending left things tied up quite nicely. I’m impressed by this debut novel and am quite excited to see what Rory Power puts out next!


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Mini-Review Compilation #15

Your Tarot Court

This felt more like a reference book than something you would take in front-to-back, but I enjoyed it and will definitely look back at it in the future. I enjoyed the various exercises provided as well as the wealth of information provided about the tarot court. The author also does a pretty good job at removing gender from the equation and speaking about each card more as a general archetype than anything else. I found it informative and would definitely recommend to those who partake in tarot.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Delay, Don’t Deny

This is a really helpful primer if you’re interested in intermittent fasting (IF). It mainly discusses using it for weight loss reasons, but does talk about other benefits as well. What I really liked was how Gin emphasized that this is actually a lifestyle change; any weight loss or benefits you experience WILL go away if you revert back to old habits completely. I liked that there wasn’t any of this magic bullet BS a lot of other people will try to peddle. She also explained the biology behind how it all works and provided extensive sources, referring readers to other books so that she could give a summary without bogging this book down with technical details. I’m still a little skeptical of some aspects, but am definitely interested in trying it out and learning more!

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Ancillary Justice

I wish I had more to say about this, but it unfortunately didn’t leave too much of an impression on me. Aspects of it were certainly interesting. The implication of AI having free will, and being intelligent and independent enough to pass as human beings was intriguing to consider. The mundanity of gender. A few other things that I can’t delve into without getting into spoiler territory. The issue mainly being that this is such a slow burn, making it feel unnecessarily long at parts. I found myself getting confused relatively easily at some points and just didn’t feel like whatever I got out of the book heavily outweighed the work I was putting into it. Still, I do find it intriguing and would like to see where the series goes so I plan to continue.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


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The Invited [review]

The Invited by Jennifer McMahon
To be published by Doubleday on April 30, 2019
my rating: ★★★.5
Goodreads avg: 
3.93 (as of 2019-03-04)
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

A chilling ghost story with a twist: the New York Times best-selling author of THE WINTER PEOPLE, returns to the woods of Vermont to tell the story of a husband and wife who don’t simply move into a haunted house, they start building one from scratch, without knowing it, until it’s too late…

In a quest for a simpler life, Helen and Nate abandon the comforts of suburbia and teaching jobs to take up residence on forty-four acres of rural land where they will begin the ultimate, aspirational do-it-yourself project: building the house of their dreams. When they discover that this charming property has a dark and violent past, Helen, a former history teacher, becomes consumed by the legend of Hattie Breckenridge, a woman who lived and died there a century ago. As Helen starts carefully sourcing decorative building materials for her home – wooden beams, mantles, historic bricks — she starts to unearth, and literally conjure, the tragic lives of Hattie’s descendants, three generations of “Breckenridge women,” each of whom died amidst suspicion, and who seem to still be seeking something precious and elusive in the present day. 


Jennifer McMahon’s The Winter People became one of my favorites when I read it last year so of course Rachel let me know the second she saw it on Netgalley and I requested it immediately. McMahon’s books combine my love of horror with my love of all things Vermont (and New England) and I’ve been meaning to pick up more of her books for quite some time now. Rachel actually lent me a copy of The Night Sister, which I’ve got sitting in my physical TBR pile. Unfortunately, while I enjoyed The Invited, it just wasn’t as strong a book as I had hoped for.

What people don’t understand, they destroy.

As with The Winter People, McMahon sets up alternating perspectives. We have Helen, an outsider who is building a house with her husband Nate on supposedly haunted property. We also have Ollie, a girl in her early teens who is searching for a treasure that may or may not exist. I sympathized with Helen and while I found Ollie a bit irritating at first, I quickly warmed up to her as well. I also adored Ollie’s aunt, Riley, with her dyed hair and many tattoos and love of local lore. At one point I briefly hoped that Helen would leave her husband for Riley, but alas, that was wishful thinking.

Sometimes Olive got so caught up in her own grief that she forgot other people were grieving, too.

The plot itself is somewhat interesting: Ollie searches for the treasure and for traces of her mother who had left while Helen searches for more information about the spirit that may haunt her new home. McMahon puts her own unique twist on the classic ghost story, incorporating new elements and giving us just the right amount of red herrings. A lot of my nitpicks came less from issues with the story itself and more from inconsistencies in the writing and the difficulty I had getting invested until about a third in. Hopefully some of this gets pulled together better in the final copy.

“Sometimes a vivid imagination is a curse,” her mama used to tell her.

Overall The Invited was interesting and enjoyable, but it unfortunately lacked the oomph that would have given it a higher rating and put it on my favorites list. Still, Jennifer McMahon manages to explore the storied history of New England and its comparison to modern-day life. I definitely recommend this to anyone who has read and liked any of her other books, as well as to those who like the exploration of relationships between women in horror.


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My Sister, the Serial Killer [review]

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Published by Doubleday Books on November 20, 2018
my rating: ★★★★
Goodreads avg:
3.82 (as of 2019-04-26)
Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

My Sister, the Serial Killer is a blackly comic novel about how blood is thicker – and more difficult to get out of the carpet – than water…

When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other…


I would argue this is probably the most “accessible” Women’s Prize book I’ve read so far due to its readability. This was so easy to breeze through, in part because the pages in my copy were quite small, in part because of its length, and in part because it’s such a page-turner. The narrator of this little novel is Korede, a young woman whose sister Ayoola is a serial killer. Korede is the responsible older sister and works as a nurse. Ayoola is the spoiled younger sibling who spends her time at home designing clothing or out being courted by men.

While Ayoola’s purported innocence is explored somewhat, the focus of this book lies far more in the characters’ various relationships as well as the malleability of our own morality. As we discover during the story’s beginning, Korede has helped Ayoola cover up her crimes and deals with immense guilt for playing a part in the deaths of potentially innocent men. At the same time, she feels an intense responsibility to protect her sister, particularly due to their shared history which is slowly revealed as the story unravels.

I really loved Korede, and felt like she was an incredibly sympathetic character. She has grown up with a gorgeous younger sister who turns heads everywhere she goes, while she herself is not nearly as aesthetically gifted. She is responsible and works hard and seems to suffer for it, as she is not appreciated by her coworkers nor her own family. I became extremely invested in her story and found myself becoming frustrated and sad alongside her. Of course, Korede comes to a fork in the metaphorical road where she must decide how to proceed with her sister. Can she allow Ayoola to continue on as she has been, or will she finally find a way to intervene? There seems to be no easy answer and I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen.

Overall, I found this to be quite an enjoyable read. I wouldn’t summarize it as a traditional thriller or mystery, although that’s what I’ve seen it shelved most often as. As I said above, it is more an exploration of interpersonal relationships and how these impact our morals. I’ll definitely be recommending this one around, though, as I think it will interest a wide variety of readers. It’s probably close to the top of my favorites list for Women’s Prize books so far.


More Women’s Prize 2019 Longlist reviews:
The Pisces
Ghost Wall
Ordinary People
Circe
Lost Children Archive
Praise Song for the Butterflies
An American Marriage
My Sister, the Serial Killer
Normal People
Freshwater
The Silence of the Girls

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Mini-Review Compilation #14

Praise Song for the Butterflies

This is a difficult book to review; it feels wrong to give it a number and talk about it as “good” or “not good.” The story follows the life of a girl named Abeo, who is born into a relatively privileged West African family. After bad luck befalls them, Abeo is brought to a shrine and is left in ritual servitude. Praise Song for the Butterflies is quite simplistically written, but its matter-of-fact tone makes the horrors within all the more appalling. Unfortunately, it also holds the characters at arms length and makes it difficult to empathize with them on anything more than an artificial level. While the story is important and eye-opening I didn’t find it to be a meaningful literary experience. I’d recommend it to anyone interested, if you can stomach the content.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐.5

An American Marriage
[spoilers below]

I’ve struggled for days to write this review. An American Marriage is well-written and engaging and while I appreciate what Tayari Jones did with this book, I just felt so frustrated reading it. Roy, the husband in the couple at the center of the story, treats his wife Celestial like little more than property and at one point even tells her he could rape her if he wanted to. I felt like he was irredeemably awful at times to the point where I wanted to put down the book and not pick it up again. I wish I had loved this more and it certainly wasn’t bad, but it also isn’t something that I see sticking with me.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

The Lovely and the Lost
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 blew through this book, which I requested from NetGalley on a whim. It follows a girl named Kira who trains search and rescue dogs with her adoptive family. Kira herself has a mysterious past that slowly comes further to light as the story progresses. While there were a couple of moments that seemed a little overdramatic and pulled me out of the story, I found this to be wildly compelling otherwise. The characters were all distinct in their own ways and I loved seeing their relationships play out on the page. The plot kept me interested, and I didn’t predict the twist at the end. Overall a really good read, and I’ll definitely be checking out more of Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ work.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Lost Children Archive [review]

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
Published by Knopf Publishing Group on February 12, 2019
my rating: ★★★★
Goodreads avg:
3.96 (as of 2019-04-16)
Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

From the two-time NBCC Finalist, a fiercely imaginative novel about a family’s summer road trip across America–a journey that, with breathtaking imagery, spare lyricism, and profound humanity, probes the nature of justice and equality in America today.

A mother and father set out with their kids from New York to Arizona. In their used Volvo–and with their ten-year-old son trying out his new Polaroid camera–the family is heading for the Apacheria: the region the Apaches once called home, and where the ghosts of Geronimo and Cochise might still linger. The father, a sound documentarist, hopes to gather an “inventory of echoes” from this historic, mythic place. The mother, a radio journalist, becomes consumed by the news she hears on the car radio, about the thousands of children trying to reach America but getting stranded at the southern border, held in detention centers, or being sent back to their homelands, to an unknown fate.

But as the family drives farther west–through Virginia to Tennessee, across Oklahoma and Texas–we sense they are on the brink of a crisis of their own. A fissure is growing between the parents, one the children can feel beneath their feet. They are led, inexorably, to a grand, unforgettable adventure–both in the harsh desert landscape and within the chambers of their own imaginations.

Told through the voices of the mother and her son, as well as through a stunning tapestry of collected texts and images–including prior stories of migration and displacement–Lost Children Archive is a story of how we document our experiences, and how we remember the things that matter to us the most. Blending the personal and the political with astonishing empathy, it is a powerful, wholly original work of fiction: exquisite, provocative, and deeply moving. 


I can easily see a lot of people hating this book. In fact, I can see myself hating this book. It’s dense and it’s work to get through. This is yet another one I would almost definitely not have finished if I wasn’t reading it for the Women’s Prize. The writing style isn’t my thing and it’s immediate from the start that layout of the book itself is atypical, for lack of a better word. It’s a “family story” and a “road trip book,” both of which I also tend to stay away from. There are plenty of reasons why I shouldn’t have enjoyed this book, but somehow I did.

The thing about living with someone is that even though you see them every day and can predict all their gestures in a conversation, even when you can read intentions behind their actions and calculate their responses to circumstances fairly accurately, even when you are sure there’s not a single crease in them left unexplored, even then, one day the other can suddenly become a stranger.

There are so many layers to this, and I know I didn’t fully understand all of it. The main character and her husband are sound archivists, which right away makes for a bit of an intriguing tone. It explains the unusual formatting and lets our narrator examine things in a light we may not be accustomed to. It also helps to incorporate the underlying theme of the novel: illegal immigration in the United States.

No one thinks of those children as consequences of a historical war that goes back decades. Everyone keeps asking: which war, where? Why are they here? Why did they come to the United States? What will we do with them? No one is asking: why did they flee their homes?

The narrator and her husband meet while working on a project to record all of the languages being spoken in New York City. The narrator herself was born in Mexico and becomes obsessed with the children crossing the border, hoping to join their family on the other side. Once the language project is complete, she decides to make her next project about giving voices to these lost children. Meanwhile, her husband’s next project is on the other side of history: he has become deeply obsessed with the history of the Apache tribes of Native Americans.

[…] reading others’ words, inhabiting their minds for a while, has always been an entry point to my own thoughts.

I found myself becoming deeply emotionally connected to the narrator throughout the first half of the book, until the focus shifts to the son. From there, I became more enthralled with the plot itself. I found the switch interesting; I went from somber introspection to a more dreamlike reading experience. I enjoyed both parts of the book and felt like they really balanced each other out.

Hard to explain why two complete strangers may suddenly decide to share an unbeautified portrait of their lives. But perhaps also easy to explain, because two people alone in a bar at two in the morning are probably there to try to figure out the exact narrative they need to tell themselves before they go back to wherever they’ll sleep that night.

There are so many deep themes to this that I wish I could discuss in detail, but just can’t grasp strongly enough to wrangle into a coherent analysis. I really wish I had read this in a lit class in college, I know I would have gotten so much more out of it. Regardless, I’ll probably be reading whatever pieces I can find on this, so if you happen to see something interesting please send it my way!

Once he even recorded our voices talking in the backseat of the car, and then played them for Ma when they thought we were both sleeping and not listening. And it was strange to listen to our own voices around us, like we were there but also not there. I felt like we’d disappeared, thought, what if we are not actually sitting back here but only being remembered by them?

All in all, while this was a challenging reading experience for me, I really felt it was worth it. Luiselli succeeded in making me think deeply while consuming her work, and I hope to return to it in the future — perhaps with a better context to place it in. I recommend picking this up if you’re looking for some slower moving literary fiction to make your brain work.


More Women’s Prize 2019 Longlist reviews:
The Pisces
Ghost Wall
Ordinary People
Circe
Lost Children Archive
Praise Song for the Butterflies
An American Marriage
My Sister, the Serial Killer
Normal People
Freshwater
The Silence of the Girls

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