Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Mini-Review Compilation #19

Ella Enchanted
Spoilers!

I haven’t read this in I don’t know how many years, but it holds up! I’ve been in a mini-slump recently but was able to slam through this old favorite. There were parts where I actually found myself laughing out loud. Ella’s humor is so great. Really my only complaint is that Ella is canonically unable to save herself but can save… a dude she’s in love with. Not my favorite trope, and not my favorite message to send (that a man is more important than you, even though I’m sure it wasn’t intended to come across that way).

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (reread)

Far From You
Minor spoilers!

Me during the first 95% of this book: Yeah this is good I guess
Me during the last 5%: [sobbing, but make it queer]

Anyway, this was pretty much your typical YA thriller. The writing was a little hit-or-miss at times but it was a mostly entertaining read. It went a little hard on the internalized homophobia and I kind of hated the deceased best friend because of how she treated the main character. Their relationship was way more toxic than it was cute. She was redeemed somewhat toward the end, but that didn’t really undo all the time she spent treating people poorly? Feel free to pick this up if you’re interested, but I’d keep expectations low.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

The Grownup

Not perfect, but definitely a pretty great short story! It was just lengthy enough to get me invested, and the twist did take me by surprise. This is probably my favorite piece by Gillian Flynn so far. My only complaint is that the ending seemed a bit silly and abrupt, but I have no regrets reading this.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


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Trail of Lightning [review]

Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse
Published by Saga Press on June 26, 2018
my rating: ★★★★★
Goodreads avg:
4.00 (as of 2019-11-18)
Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author Website

While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.

Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine.

Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel to the rez to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.

As Maggie discovers the truth behind the disappearances, she will have to confront her past—if she wants to survive.

Welcome to the Sixth World.


I’m familiar with Rebecca Roanhorse because she was a panelist at the sci-fi/fantasy convention I went to last year. While there, I heard a lot of praise for Trail of Lightning and added it to my TBR (along with 100 more books). After seeing some great reviews and seeing that the Dragons and Tea Book Club had chosen it for their November read, I checked it out from the library and absolutely blew through it.

The world-building here is just fantastic. This is a near(?) future version of the US, where the oceans have risen and the world is in minor chaos. Maggie Hoskie lives in what was formerly a Navajo reservation and is now one of the only places safe from the Big Water. In this new world, the gods and monsters of old have arisen again, and Maggie has made a career out of hunting them. Along with gods and monsters, we have a great deal of magic floating around. It’s all based on Navajo legend, which is really cool. Some of the characters have “clan magic” and I loved seeing all the varieties that existed.

I had conflicted feelings about Maggie as a character, honestly. I found her quite irritating at times, but a lot of her flaws came from her struggles with PTSD and were kind of realistic in that way — and it’s great seeing her work through her trauma in order to get to a place where she can start healing. She was a fun character to follow, but I also just wanted to shake her and help her make better decisions. The romance was also quite obvious from the start, but I thought it was really well-done regardless and enjoyed seeing her and Kai interact.

The plot itself was somewhat intriguing but felt secondary to the characters. I got a little lost in it towards the end and felt some of the twists required a bit too much suspension of disbelief, but I was still absolutely glued to the pages. This is one of those books where the flaws are far outweighed by the things I loved.

I was confused when I went to shelve this as “adult” and saw that it had been shelved mostly as “young adult.” I couldn’t recall an age being mentioned, but definitely got adult vibes, although I was waffling on whether this could be considered “new adult.” I happened to come across an interview with Roanhorse where she admits she intentionally left Maggie’s age vague but that she’s “more like 20” and is definitely not a teen. So I guess just a heads up that the author would not classify her book as YA and respectfully asks that others not do so.

Anyway, I really loved this book and am excited to pick up the sequel! I have minimal experience with urban fantasy, but after this I’m thinking I may have to explore the genre a bit more.


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Girl Made of Stars [review]

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Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on May 15, 2018
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
4.25 (as of 2018-09-18)
cw:rape, molestation, pedophilia, biphobia, homophobia, victim blaming, depictions of anxiety and panic attacks, PTSD

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

For readers of Girl in Pieces and The Way I Used to Be comes an emotionally gripping story about facing hard truths in the aftermath of sexual assault.

Mara and Owen are as close as twins can get, so when Mara’s friend Hannah accuses Owen of rape, Mara doesn’t know what to think. Can her brother really be guilty of such a violent act? Torn between her family and her sense of right and wrong, Mara feels lost, and it doesn’t help that things are strained with her ex-girlfriend, Charlie. As Mara, Hannah, and Charlie come together in the aftermath of this terrible crime, Mara must face a trauma from her own past and decide where Charlie fits into her future. With sensitivity and openness, this timely novel confronts the difficult questions surrounding consent, victim blaming, and sexual assault.

As I said in the brief, one-sentence review I managed to spin out immediately after finishing Girl Made of Stars: This is one of the most painful, difficult reads I’ve ever experienced, and it still managed to end on an empowering, hopeful note. It’s been on my radar for a while now and I just hadn’t gotten around to it yet. I was actually picking up another book from the library for a buddy read that I’m doing when it caught my eye. I spontaneously snatched it up and I’m so, so glad I did. I think it was truly the perfect time for me to read this book.

I wish I could take a picture of myself right now, so I can remember this fiery girl, hold on to her.

It’s difficult to know where to begin with a review like this. First and foremost: take care of yourselves, loves. This is about the nitty gritty of rape culture, the many ways in which women can be both assaulted and undermined. It’s about the guilt, and the uncertainty, and the grey areas of being a survivor, as well as the difficulty of learning that someone you trust isn’t as safe as you thought they were. I managed to finish it in one evening, but I had to put it down a couple times to just take a spin around the apartment to get my head out of the story. Ashley Herring Blake writes a world that feels so real and is so easy to live in, that it grips you in a deeply emotional way.

It’s changed me forever, but changed doesn’t mean broken.

Everything is handled so beautifully in this book. In addition to focusing on rape culture and survivors, the main character also deals with sometimes crippling anxiety and PTSD. She’s also bisexual, which is mentioned explicitly on-page (as a bi woman, I was extremely excited about this), and her best friend/ex is genderqueer (this is the only rep I can’t speak to personally, but I’d be happy to share ownvoices reviews if y’all have any). There are also some great scenes where actively asking for consent is demonstrated and emphasized, which I’m always a huge fan of seeing (particularly in YA).

For all the girls whose names I’ll never know.
For me.
Girls made of flesh and bone.

I can’t even get into everything this book manages to explore, but somehow it does it all without feeling like the author is trying to pack too much in. I went through the full gamut of emotions while reading this. I spent the last half an hour of reading just sobbing in bed, but that was in part because I felt so validated and loved and understood. If you can manage the content, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It was truly a beautiful, if difficult, experience and deserving of so much support and recognition.

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Pisces [review]

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The Pisces by Melissa Broder
Published by Hogarth Press on May 1, 2018
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
3.37 (as of 2018-07-26)
cw: animal abuse, animal death, suicide, domestic abuse, graphic sex

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

An original, imaginative, and hilarious debut novel about love, anxiety, and sea creatures, from the author of So Sad Today.

Lucy has been writing her dissertation about Sappho for thirteen years when she and Jamie break up. After she hits rock bottom in Phoenix, her Los Angeles-based sister insists Lucy housesit for the summer—her only tasks caring for a beloved diabetic dog and trying to learn to care for herself. Annika’s home is a gorgeous glass cube atop Venice Beach, but Lucy can find no peace from her misery and anxiety—not in her love addiction group therapy meetings, not in frequent Tinder meetups, not in Dominic the foxhound’s easy affection, not in ruminating on the ancient Greeks. Yet everything changes when Lucy becomes entranced by an eerily attractive swimmer one night while sitting alone on the beach rocks.

Whip-smart, neurotically funny, sexy, and above all, fearless, The Pisces is built on a premise both sirenic and incredibly real—what happens when you think love will save you but are afraid it might also kill you.

Let me lead this off by saying that this is an extremely divisive book — the goodreads rating makes that pretty clear. I’ve been looking forward to reading this since October. As soon as it was on my radar, I knew that it was something I would enjoy. I mean, I am a pisces after all. If that’s not explanation enough, I also love stories that incorporate fantasy elements into an otherwise realistic setting.

I knew that what I wanted was something that couldn’t exist. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t something I wanted.

I found myself incredibly emotionally invested in the main character from the start. I connected deeply to her in a way that I haven’t connected to a fictional character in quite some time. She’s depressed, suicidal, lovesick, and a hopeless romantic. She is struggling with an addiction of sorts, and she does arguably terrible things to get what she feels she needs. She is an extremely flawed character and yet, I also found her to be one of the most sympathetic characters I’d ever read. I felt for her so hard that I continually had to take breaks from the book because I felt it would drag me down otherwise.

I have no desire to feel in a contained way. For me, it is all or nothing.

There were a lot of other uncomfortable elements to this book as well. This was by no means an easy read, yet for some reason I found myself thinking “I wish I could read this book every day for the rest of my life” the entire time. This was a really beautiful story of self-discovery through pain, and I think that provides some hope to those of us who go through similar pain.

And why would I choose to recover unless everything was total and complete shit? If there was one sparkle, one possibility of getting as high as I could off a person, why would I throw that potentiality away? You had to hold out for these moments until you knew for sure they were gone and never coming back.

Like I said, though, this book is truly not for everyone. This seems to be one of those books that you either really vibe with or really don’t. I was lucky enough to fall into the first category and I’ll be very surprised if read another book in 2018 that I love as much as this one. I’ll be recommending this to almost everyone I know, with an emphasis on checking the content warnings before going into it. If you can handle this book, it is absolutely worth picking up.

I hadn’t known that I‘d wanted joy either. I had not ever known that I could have it. Now I was crying because it felt like a miracle — not only that I would want to live at all, but that I actually could.

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(Blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Starfish [review]


Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Published by Simon Pulse on September 26, 2017
320 pages.
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
cw: 
sexual assault, racism, emotional abuse, victim blaming, portrayals of anxiety, suicide

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads IndieBound Author’s Website

Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.

But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.

This is a book I really wish my younger self could have read. There are so many deep, important subjects here that I feel are covered in a healthy, realistic way. Kiko is a biracial girl living in an overwhelmingly-white town who finds herself dealing with the intersection of several different issues: racism (both from her classmates and her white mother), abuse (both emotional and sexual), and mental illness (severe social anxiety).

I feel weird just standing there listening. Do other people do that? Move from circle to circle, socializing with everyone like they all know each other? It seems invasive. I don’t know the rules.

As a white woman who was raised in rural New England, I am constantly learning and growing when it comes to issues surrounding race. Because of this, I defer to own voices reviews when it comes to aspects of race in books. However, I can speak to some extent to the latter two topics mentioned above. I felt that Akemi’s portrayal of sexual assault and social anxiety were both spot-on. Of course, everyone’s experiences are different, but I really saw my own reflected here, which made me feel understood and validated. My one issue being that both Kiko and her friends tended to joke about and/or accuse her abusive mother of being bipolar or narcissistic. It was definitely a bummer to see an author attempt to destigmatize one form of mental illness while at the same time continuing to stigmatize others.

I paint three faceless people–one becomes the sky, one becomes the ocean, and one becomes the sun. They live apart for eternity because they don’t belong together.

I loved pretty much everything else about this book. I found myself hooked into the plot right from the beginning. I really felt like I was in Kiko’s head and her emotions became my own. I adored the focus on her art and the descriptions of her pieces (or lack thereof) at the end of each chapter. I thought it was just wonderful to have a romantic subplot that wasn’t the focus of everything, and it was wonderful to have a character whose emotional well-being was not tied to their romantic relationship. I think a lot of folx (myself included) struggle to find a balance in relationships where they are able to use their partner for support without using them as a crutch. I was so happy that Akemi was able to depict a protagonist who could do this, especially since it was depicted as something that involved conscientiousness and work to do.

He looks confused, and of course he is. Normal people don’t need to prepare for social interactions. Normal people don’t panic at the sight of strangers. Normal people don’t want to cry because the plan they’ve processed in their head is suddenly not the plan that’s going to happen.

In short, I loved this book and I cannot recommend it enough. I’m so glad that I got my hands on a copy and I really can’t wait to see what Akemi puts out next. Please let me know if you’ve read this and, if so, what your thoughts were! If you haven’t read it, do you plan to? Also, how beautiful is the cover??

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(Blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)