Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Luster [review]

Luster by Raven Leilani
To be published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux on August 4, 2020
my rating: ★★★★.5 (4.5 stars)
Goodreads avg: 
4.18 (as of 2020-07-17)
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. Quotes have been taken from the advanced copy and are subject to change upon publication.

Edie is stumbling her way through her twentiessharing a subpar apartment in Bushwick, clocking in and out of her admin job, making a series of inappropriate sexual choices. She’s also, secretly, haltingly figuring her way into life as an artist. And then she meets Eric, a digital archivist with a family in New Jersey, including an autopsist wife who has agreed to an open marriagewith rules. As if navigating the constantly shifting landscapes of contemporary sexual manners and racial politics weren’t hard enough, Edie finds herself unemployed and falling into Eric’s family life, his home. She becomes hesitant friend to his wife and a de facto role model to his adopted daughter. Edie is the only black woman young Akila may know.

Razor sharp, darkly comic, sexually charged, socially disruptive, Luster is a portrait of a young woman trying to make her sense of her life in a tumultuous era. It is also a haunting, aching description of how hard it is to believe in your own talent and the unexpected influences that bring us into ourselves along the way.

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website


I think of all the gods I have made out of feeble men.

This is an absolutely stunning debut from Leilani. From the first page, I was hooked by the writing style; the flat tone elevated my reading experience, emphasizing just how much Edie has given up on life and boosting my emotional connection to her. While at first the novel appears to focus on her relationship with Eric, a mediocre white man in an open marriage, it shifts (thank god) and focuses more strongly on Edie’s relationship with Eric’s wife, Rebecca, and his Black daughter, Akila. Their friendship is tenuous and charged and impossible to look away from.

Not everyone is going to get along with this; I’d shelve it into the same category as Supper Club and The Pisces. Luster is about a messy woman who is just barely keeping it together. She makes terrible decisions, and knows that she makes terrible decisions. It’s heartening to see this kind of novel featuring an ownvoices Black woman: as Edie herself comments in the novel, society has lower expectations of Black women and they have to be twice as good to be recognized as such. To allow a Black woman to be messy and difficult is all the more important in this context.

I’m honestly stunned that this is a debut and will be keeping a sharp eye out for Leilani’s future works. I’ll go as far as to say that she may have cemented herself as an auto-buy author for me and I am not complaining. Definitely recommend this if it sounds like it would be your kind of thing, and am hopeful that we’ll see this longlisted for the Women’s Prize.

I am a white woman and my review is written through that lens. If you are an ownvoices reviewer who would like your review linked here, please let me know!


Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Facebook

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Disappearing Earth [review]

Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips
Published by Knopf on May 14, 2019
my rating: ★★★★.5
Goodreads avg:
3.90 (as of 2020-08-02)
Spoiler-free review

This post contains affiliate links; if you use these links to make a purchase, I may earn a commission. Thanks for reading!

Goodreads Bookshop | Author Website


One hand came up to press on her sternum. Her heart hurt. If Marina could peel off her left breast, crack back her ribs, and grip that muscular organ to settle it, she would.

Let me start off by noting that this novel is primarily literary fiction; while a mystery sits at its core, there is little-to-nothing in the way of thrills and readers are going to be disappointed expecting them. The setup itself is atypical: essentially a collection of interconnected short stories, each following a different character (all women, if I recall correctly?). Think There There by Tommy Orange or Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo. Like these comparisons, Disappearing Earth also has a great deal of commentary to make on race, specifically racism impacting the indigenous peoples of Russia.

I was honestly shocked to discover that this was a debut. Phillips skillfully traces the web of connections surrounding the mystery of the two missing girls and was able to make me care so deeply about the majority of the characters in the single chapter she devotes to them. There were so many moments in this that felt like a punch to the gut, so many stories that made my heart ache. And all of this in less than 300 pages.

I’m so glad I read this and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for Phillips’ future works.


My current 2020 Women’s Prize Squad Longlist rankings:

  1. The Body Lies
  2. Disappearing Earth
  3. Girl, Woman, Other
  4. My Dark Vanessa
  5. Supper Club
  6. The Man Who Saw Everything
  7. My Name is Monster
  8. Ninth House
  9. Bunny
  10. The Mercies
  11. Frankissstein

Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Facebook

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Butterfly Lampshade [review]

The Butterfly Lampshade by Aimee Bender
To be published by Doubleday Books on July 28, 2020
my rating: ★★ (2 stars)
Goodreads avg: 
3.15 (as of 2020-07-04)
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. Quotes have been taken from the advanced copy and are subject to change upon publication.

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website


“What would I do?” “You would cry,” she says. “And what would you do?” She looks at me with surprise. “Honey,” she says. “I would stop.”

At its core, this feels like a book about processing trauma through fantasy. In theory it sounds like something I would enjoy, but I just found the execution lacking. While highly readable (I managed to get through this in a single day), I just didn’t feel particularly connected to the characters or the story. I wasn’t reading because I wanted to see what would happen next, but because I wanted to finish the book and get on to another. Those who like slow-moving plots and magical realism are more likely to get along with this, but I found it just didn’t hit the spot for me.

content warnings: intrusive thoughts; psychosis


Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Facebook

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

I Hold a Wolf by the Ears [review]

I Hold a Wolf by the Ears by Laura van den Berg
To be published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux on July 28, 2020
my rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg: 
4.49 (as of 2020-07-13)
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. Quotes have been taken from the advanced copy and are subject to change upon publication.

I Hold a Wolf by the Ears presents a collection of women on the verge, trying to grasp what’s left of life: grieving, divorced, and hyperaware, searching, vulnerable, and unhinged, they exist in a world that deviates from our own only when you look too close. With remarkable control and transcendent talent, van den Berg dissolves, in the words of the narrator of “Slumberland,” “that border between magic and annihilation,” and further establishes herself as a defining fiction writer of our time.

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website


Auribus teneo lupum and all that.

It may be the first work I’ve read by Laura van den Berg, but this collection absolutely gutted me. Almost every story was devastating to some extent, often in ways I wasn’t expecting. The stories all feel properly connected and seem like they are occurring in the same universe, happening to similar people. van den Berg allows the women she writes to be flawed human beings and doesn’t pull any punches. They do and think bad things, but they’re always sympathetic — and fascinating to read about. There’s a lot of commentary on grief, trauma, and gender, and I urge readers to tread lightly and to look up content warnings if necessary. I’ve included an incomplete list below. On the whole, I was incredibly impressed by this collection and will be looking to read more of van den Berg’s work.

-Last Night, 3.5 stars
-Slumberland, 5 stars
-Hill of Hell, 4 stars
-Cult of Mary, 2 stars
-Lizards, 4 stars
-The Pitch, 4 stars
-Volcano House, 3.5 stars
-Friends, 4 stars
-Karolina, 4 stars
-Your Second Wife, 4 stars
-I Hold a Wolf by the Ears, 3.5 stars

average: 3.77 stars, rounded up to 4

content warnings: sexual assault; loss of a loved one; domestic abuse; mass shootings; miscarriages; kidnapping; attempted suicide.


Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Facebook

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Supper Club [review]

Supper Club by Lara Williams
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons on July 4, 2019
my rating: ★★★★
Goodreads avg:
3.58 (as of 2020-07-01)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads IndieBound | Author Website

Roberta spends her life trying not to take up space. At almost thirty, she is adrift and alienated from life. Stuck in a mindless job and reluctant to pursue her passion for food, she suppresses her appetite and recedes to the corners of rooms. But when she meets Stevie, a spirited and effervescent artist, their intense friendship sparks a change in Roberta, a shift in her desire for more.

Together, they invent the Supper Club, a transgressive and joyous collective of women who gather to celebrate, rather than admonish, their hungers. They gather after dark and feast until they are sick; they break into private buildings and leave carnage in their wake; they embrace their changing bodies; they stop apologizing. For these women, each extraordinary yet unfulfilled, the club is a way to explore, discover, and push the boundaries of the space they take up in the world.

Yet as the club expands, growing both in size and rebellion, Roberta is forced to reconcile herself to the desire and vulnerabilities of the body–and the past she has worked so hard to repress. Devastatingly perceptive and savagely funny, Supper Club is an essential coming-of-age story for our times.


Watching programs on cannibalism, reading horror stories about lovers devoured, reports of people searching the Internet for someone to eat them, I’d think: I get it. My whole life was the push/pull of appetite: wanting to consume but also to be consumed.

This is one of those books that strikes me as being similar to The Pisces in that it will probably be very divisive. The characters are messy and not necessarily enjoyable to read. But I’ve grown to love reading about messy women and Supper Club was no exception. I found Lara Williams’ writing style enthralling. She writes quite simply, but I felt a great depth of emotion while reading this. She was able to describe the most inane of interactions in a way that made me incredibly anxious. This novel also contains far more character examination than plot; Roberta is really trying to figure out who she is and how to make herself happy.

There is a lot to be said in this book about trauma as well as various forms of abuse or toxicity. The majority of Roberta’s relationships contain one or both of these, but it’s difficult for her to see that just as it’s difficult for many survivors of abuse. I did struggle with trying to figure out whether or not Roberta is queer, as one of her toxic ‘relationships’ is with a queer woman, but by the end I was pretty convinced she was straight and that this was just a seriously codependent friendship. There’s also a trans woman in this book who is misgendered when the narrator recounts her childhood and her discovery of the lgbtq community, as a heads up to any trans folks who may read this.

Overall, I found this was very much a worthwhile experience for me. I really enjoyed Supper Club and appreciate how Williams was able to write such a chaotic and messy book while still holding my attention fully. I do think a lot of people will dislike the ending, but I found it to be a satisfying finish to the book. Pick this up if you liked The Pisces. Don’t pick this up if you hated The Pisces, dislike reading about women who are constantly making poor life choices, and/or can’t stand detailed descriptions of food, drink, and emesis.

content warnings: on-page sexual assault; fatphobia; detailed descriptions of food; on-page self-harm; misgendering; emesis


My current 2020 Women’s Prize Squad Longlist rankings:

  1. The Body Lies
  2. Girl, Woman, Other
  3. My Dark Vanessa
  4. Supper Club
  5. The Man Who Saw Everything
  6. My Name is Monster
  7. Ninth House
  8. Bunny
  9. The Mercies
  10. Frankissstein

Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Facebook

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Bunny [review]

Bunny by Mona Awad
Published by Viking on June 11, 2019
my rating: ★★★
Goodreads avg:
3.50 (as of 2020-06-01)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads IndieBound | Author Website


Sometimes you have to kill your darlings, you know?

i wish i had liked this more because it had a lot of potential. i just found it to be a little too disjointed for my tastes. i was at a loss a lot of the time and didn’t feel like the journey was fully worth the destination — as great as i found that destination to be. i even put this down for a few days because i was just bored reading it, which is a shame considering how wild the content itself is. i do think it’s worth giving a shot if the premise intrigues you, even if it didn’t work for me personally.


My current 2020 Women’s Prize Squad Longlist rankings:

  1. The Body Lies
  2. Girl, Woman, Other
  3. My Dark Vanessa
  4. The Man Who Saw Everything
  5. My Name is Monster
  6. Ninth House
  7. Bunny
  8. Frankissstein

Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Facebook

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Man Who Saw Everything [review]

The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing on October 15, 2019
my rating: ★★★.5
Goodreads avg:
3.72 (as of 2020-05-25)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads IndieBound | Author Website


I was frightened of everything in the past and whatever was going to happen next.

This is a short novel that packs quite a punch. The first half feels slow, and a little strange at times, but everything is suddenly turned on its head in the second half. There is so much going on and yet it never seems like too much for the page count. A lot of the writing is very simplistic, which I think works. Had it been more complex, I think it would have been easy to get lost in. It’s hard for me to say much about this without spoilers, but I do think this was quite a worthwhile read although I was left wanting. Not a new favorite, but I can see why this has been so highly lauded and perhaps worth an eventual reread to see if that ties things together a bit better.

content warnings: domestic abuse; nazi mentions; homophobia.


My current 2020 Women’s Prize Squad Longlist rankings:

  1. The Body Lies
  2. Girl, Woman, Other
  3. My Dark Vanessa
  4. The Man Who Saw Everything
  5. Ninth House
  6. My Name is Monster
  7. Frankissstein

Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Facebook

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Braised Pork [review]

Braised Pork: A Novel by An Yu
Published by Grove Press on April 14, 2020
my rating: ★★★ (3)
Goodreads avg: 
3.56 (as of 2020-05-13)
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. Quotes have been taken from the advanced copy and are subject to change upon publication.

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website


She had never felt such yearning for another person’s body — it was beyond the flesh and the consciousness, it was not merely lust, neither was it love. Perhaps the best way to describe it, she thought, was like being a lone traveller in a desert, exhausted and desolate, when the most beautiful and fruitful peach tree blossomed in front of her.

I found this quick and readable but unfortunately feel like I didn’t quite “get” it. There were a lot of ideas that felt a bit half-formed; either they weren’t fully realized or I was unable to connect the dots. I did enjoy the commentary on ownership and gender roles: the main character has to come to terms with the fact that she was completely reliant upon her late husband and feels that she doesn’t actually “own” anything he left her. I also didn’t end up feeling very attached to the characters, so it was difficult to become very invested in the storyline.

content warnings: death of a loved one, attempted suicide


Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Facebook

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Kept Animals [review]

Kept Animals by Kate Milliken
Published by Scribner on April 21, 2020
my rating: ★★★★★ (5)
Goodreads avg: 
4.07 (as of 2020-05-10)
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. Quotes have been taken from the advanced copy and are subject to change upon publication.

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website


The thing about trauma is that even after it is over, it is still happening. It is a memory in motion, forever present.

This absolutely devastated me. Kate Milliken has been without a doubt added to my must-read list of authors. Kept Animals is a novel about so many things: grief, toxic relationships, trauma, sexuality. I feel like it’s impossible to pin my thoughts on this down. I found it compelling from the start, but the deeper into the story I got, the more impossible it was to stop reading. I felt such an incredible depth of emotion reading this, and even cried at the end. It was quiet, but there was an underlying tension throughout reminiscent of a thriller — we are, after all, trying to find out what happened on one fateful day in 1993. All I can really say is: I highly recommend this if you’re interested in a dark, depressing, queer literary novel.

content warnings: drunk driving; child death; both casual and violent homophobia; sexual assault; racism and xenophobia; parental neglect; substance abuse.


Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Facebook

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Frankissstein [review]

Frankissstein: A Love Story by Jeanette Winterson
Published by Vintage Digital on May 28, 2019
my rating: ★★
Goodreads avg:
3.71 (as of 2020-05-04)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads IndieBound | Author Website

In Brexit Britain, a young transgender doctor called Ry is falling in love – against their better judgement – with Victor Stein, a celebrated professor leading the public debate around AI.

Meanwhile, Ron Lord, just divorced and living with Mum again, is set to make his fortune launching a new generation of sex dolls for lonely men everywhere.

Across the Atlantic, in Phoenix, Arizona, a cryonics facility houses dozens of bodies of men and women who are medically and legally dead… but waiting to return to life.

But the scene is set in 1816, when nineteen-year-old Mary Shelley writes a story about creating a non-biological life-form. ‘Beware, for I am fearless and therefore powerful.’


I am a poor specimen of a creature, except that I can think.

It is an understatement to say that I have issues with this book. I should preface this review with the caveat that while I am queer, I am also cis, so my opinions are colored by that. If you’re an ownvoices reviewer and would like me to link to your review, please let me know! Edit: Here is a great one-star review posted over at Revolution in the Pages!

I took great issue with Winterson’s portrayal of a trans person. Ry is a character completely without agency. Every single person they come into contact with in the book misgenders them and while on occasion they will make an effort to correct someone or to explain their identity, they feel like nothing more than a plot device to fuel a discussion surrounding gender rather than an actual character. At one point Ry is physically attacked, demeaned, and left alone cowering on the ground in a scene that seemed to hold little-to-no meaning in the greater plot. They were constantly fetishized and objectified by Victor, who seemed to think of them little more than a toy and a sex object. They were defined solely by their relationship to Victor and their trans identity. It seemed that Ry had no trans friends (really, no friends at all) and when Victor mentioned that he had never met a trans person before, Ry just replied that most people haven’t. If this is indeed set in the present or near future, I find that an absurd statement. Many cis people may think they have not met a trans person, but they would have no way of knowing.

It’s horrible, I said. You’re a doctor, he said. You know how useful horrible is.

Victor himself was impossible to read. I don’t think he was meant to be a likable person, but that doesn’t change the fact that I hated reading about him. Although he’s meant to be a “transhumanist” (he wishes his consciousness could be uploaded to a computer) and insists mankind will move beyond gender, race, etc., he spends all his time misgendering Ry, insists he’s not gay, and equates being a man with having a penis. As for the other characters, Ron, Claire, and Polly D all felt like one-dimensional caricatures and for half the book I thought Claire and Polly were the same person.

The formatting just didn’t work for me at all. I thought the two stories being told were completely disparate and didn’t mesh together at all. The commentary felt half-formed and I kept wanting Winterson to push a little further, or to adjust her trajectory. It just didn’t seem like she was in a position to be comparing trans people to monsters and machinery and I wish more had been said about life and death instead.

None can know the human mind. No, not if he read every thought man ever wrote. Every word written is like a child striking a flame against the darkness. When we are alone it is the darkness that remains.

Can someone also let me know whether the sex scenes were supposed to be erotic? Because they were completely devoid of passion and emotion and I literally couldn’t have cared less about them. It genuinely felt like an excuse to obsess over Ry’s genitalia more than anything else.

The only saving grace here is that there were beautiful moments of prose that I just loved. I highlighted a lot of lines while reading just because I was so struck with them. I cannot deny that Winterson has a way with words and a lot of this book was very readable. I also didn’t mind the lack of quotation marks because, for the most part, Winterson’s writing was so adept that it was clear where they should have been and who was speaking.

Even our best endeavours turn against us. A loom that can do the work of eight men should free eight men from servitude. Instead, seven skilled men are put out of work to starve with their families, and one skilled man becomes the unskilled minder of the mechanical loom. What is the point of progress if it benefits the few while the many suffer?

This is review is a lot to sum up, but I’ll just say: I think Winterson completely missed the mark here and I found this to be a painful reading experience.

content warnings: transphobia; [transphobic] sexual assault; sexism; misgendering; miscarriage; child death.


My current 2020 Women’s Prize Squad Longlist rankings:

  1. The Body Lies
  2. Girl, Woman, Other
  3. My Dark Vanessa
  4. Ninth House
  5. Frankissstein

Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Facebook