Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

A Lab of One’s Own [review]

A Lab of One’s Own by Rita Colwell, PhD and Sharon Bertsch McGrayne
To be published by Simon & Schuster on August 4, 2020
my rating: DNF
Goodreads avg: 
3.75 (as of 2020-08-04)
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

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i really struggled with the writing in this. i don’t think it was particularly bad, but really felt like it was rushing through things. while the timeline was somewhat linear, following Colwell’s career, it also branched off haphazardly to describe other scientists and events. this might mesh better with someone more strongly interested in the history of the field and who is more familiar with the names mentioned. it also honestly felt more like a summary of Colwell’s resume than anything else, like she was trying to go down a list rather than provide an actual narrative. while easy enough to read, i just didn’t really find it engrossing at all.


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

In the Dream House [review]

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
Published by Graywolf Press on November 5, 2019
my rating: ★★★★★
Goodreads avg:
4.61 (as of 2020-02-08)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads IndieBound | Author Website


I wish there was a way for me to intellectually discuss In the Dream House but it seems impossible. This is truly one of the most incredible, gut-wrenching books I have ever read. In this memoir, formatted very differently from anything else you have ever read, Carmen Maria Machado details her abusive relationship with another woman. That alone points to why this would be such a difficult review, but Machado’s skill with writing is truly something I have never seen before. I just counted and I’ve tabbed 17 different pages with quotes or scenes that dug deep into me — and that was me trying to restrain myself. 

A reminder, perhaps, that abusers do not need to be, and rarely are, cackling maniacs. They just need to want something, and not care how they get it.

God, even just reading through these tabbed pages to write this review has me on the verge of tears on my couch. There are points at which I merely drew a line down the entire page; there was no way to separate out one meaningful line or set of sentences from their larger context. To me, that’s indicative of an incredible writer. Nothing in this feels extraneous, it all feels essential and imbued with significance.

Even the enduring symbol of queerness–the rainbow–is a promise not to repeat an act of supreme violence by a capricious and rageful god: I won’t flood the whole world again. It was a one-time thing, I swear. Do you trust me? (And, later, a threat: the next time, motherfuckers, it’ll be fire.)

Another impressive aspect is Machado’s ability to set this within its greater context. As a queer woman, it can be so much more difficult to navigate what would already be difficult situations. She speaks to her naievety as a baby gay and the fact that we always see men portrayed as abusers. On top of that, the time period in which this relationship took place was one where lgbtq rights were tenuous and it felt important not to “look bad.” I understand all this, and it feels so important that Machado was able to explain it in such a succinct way.

Do you see now? Do you understand?

In the Dream House will certainly remain one of my favorite books of all-time, I can already tell. I absolutely cannot recommend this enough, but want to emphasize that it is an extremely difficult read and to take care while reading. To me, this book is a place of understanding and a way to process for (particularly queer) survivors of abuse; it is also a place where those who may not have experienced abuse can come to understand it further. I applaud Machado for being able to write this, and cannot wait to see what she puts out next.

You have no reason to believe me.


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Mini-Review Compilation #17

The Abyss Surrounds Us

This was a fun book! Sapphic pirates and sea monsters galore. I had a fun time with it overall and really appreciated that the power discrepancy in the romance was explicitly acknowledged. There were some bits that could have used some more fleshing out or revision (stuff like, “she suddenly stopped paying attention to me” followed a page later by “she was spending more time with me to make up for not paying attention to me” with no reasoning or resolution?) but it is a debut novel. I’m hoping to get to the sequel soon!

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Buddhism without Beliefs

This was not a complete waste of time, but was close to it. The book detaches buddhism from religion and formats it not as a belief system, but a certain way of living. At first, I was really impressed with the ideas presented and felt I was getting a lot out of it. According to Dealing with “anguish” seems to be hinged on creating a perspective in which all is temporary: our “cravings” have not always existed, thus they will not always exist. It is turning our feelings into things we can watch ebb and flow rather than something that will overtake us entirely. Action is repeatedly emphasized as the key to dharma practice.

The formatting of the book seems to be without logical flow; it felt more like a general rambling than something coherently laid out. The chapters themselves confused me, as I felt like the author was talking himself around ideas and as soon as he began to approach what I thought was the point, the chapter would end unceremoniously. It was frustrating, since it started out explaining so many interesting ideas only to turn into something unstructured and unhelpful. It seems this may have made a better essay than an entire book. Also, the author is weirdly obsessed with someone they call S, who they refer to as their enemy and who apparently riles them up often. It was strangely distracting.

Rating: ⭐⭐

The Widow of Pale Harbor

After enjoying The Witch of Willow Hall, I was quite excited for this one. Unfortunately, it just didn’t live up to expectations. I had difficulty connecting with the characters and was completely unmotivated to finish. I finally decided to put it down in favor of reading something I’d feel more excited about.

Rating: DNF


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Mini-Review Compilation #5

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Would You Rather?

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for giving me an eARC in exchange for my honest review.

Would You Rather? is a lovely memoir about a woman who grew up in a sheltered, moderately conservative area coming to terms with her sexuality. The reason this is so revolutionary is because, as Katie herself says, there are so few widespread stories about adults realizing they’re gay. So many people say that they always knew, it leaves little room in the narrative for people like Katie, who didn’t always know. Overall, it was an enjoyable read that I’m glad I picked up! My only complaint was that it does meander at times and that the end kind of trails off for me instead of ending strongly.

Rating:⭐⭐⭐.5

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The Body Is Not an Apology

Systems [of oppression] do not maintain themselves; even our lack of intervention is an act of maintenance.

This was a nice read that focused on what Sonya has dubbed “radical self-love.” The messages embedded in it are deeply important and focus on breaking down “the belief that there is a hierarchy of bodies.” It was quite inspiring to read and made me want to work harder on changing the belief systems cemented within our culture. At times, the book felt a little too structured and, well, self-help-y, but it wasn’t really much of an issue. It’s also an extremely fast read. All-in-all, I’d definitely recommend this book as a jumping off point for leaning more into body positivity.

Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Children of Blood and Bone

This pretty much lived up to the hype for me and I’m really glad I picked it up! I don’t remember the last time I lost myself in a book like this, I ended up reading for 3 hours straight to finish it and I literally couldn’t put it down. The half star loss was because it took me a bit to get invested in the characters. But once I did, ooooh boy, I was INVESTED. Highly recommend.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Education of a Coroner [review]

**Note: I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion. This in no way impacts my review**

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The Education of a Coroner by John Bateson
To be published by Scribner on August 15, 2017
368 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1-50116-822-2
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
[Goodreads[IndieBound[Author Website]

In the vein of Dr. Judy Melinek’s Working Stiff, an account of the hair-raising and heartbreaking cases handled by [Ken Holmes] the coroner of Marin County, California throughout his four decades on the job—from high-profile deaths to serial killers, to Golden Gate Bridge suicides.

cw: death, murder, sexual assault, rape culture, sexism, racism

It’s been a hot second since I’ve read some nonfiction and I was really looking forward to this book. I plucked it off Netgalley, thinking that it looked fascinating. From the beginning, it reeled me in. I think a lot of us find the concept of death fascinating, and the idea of what follows here, in the corporeal world, isn’t something I’ve thought much about, even though I’ve watched many crime dramas.

For instance, I had no idea what a coroner’s job entails. What I’ve gathered is that it’s a great deal of investigative work and a position that requires intensely strong people skills, observational skills, and strength. Coroners quite literally see it all, and they assist the police very closely in their work when a death doesn’t appear to be natural. It was really interesting to discover how the system operates after a person dies.

As much as I enjoyed Holmes’ anecdotes towards the beginning, things began to feel off to me about a quarter through the book. There’s one specific quote that set me off, in which Holmes completely discredits a woman’s rape allegation by saying that she was too heavy and not attractive enough to have been raped. He also throws in some casual racism regarding the situation.  I have no idea why the author thought this was appropriate to include because, to me, it discredits Holmes as a serious investigator. How many other alleged crimes has he shrugged off because of how a woman looks? He talks about the injustices that the dead face, but how about the living?

Holmes then went on to tell what he thought was a heartwarming, funny story about a late coworker who egged on a bartender by speaking in a “Middle Eastern” accent. In talking about a robbery that he experienced, Holmes explained that he didn’t pull out his gun because the store was “filled with women” who could have been hurt–as if he is only concerned with hurting women. And there was a horrifying story in which a man told Holmes that he was going to kill himself and Holmes did nothing.  In most instances it is required, if not legally then at the very least morally, to inform someone in a situation like that. Not only did Holmes keep this information to himself until after the fact–he also seemed not to express remorse for this decision, which struck me as shady and wrong.

In addition to all of that, I felt super uncomfortable about the fact that the book referred to all the deceased by name and revealed intimate information about their lives and families. Some of these cases were decades old, but some weren’t. I understand that most, if not all, of this information is probably public record, but it just felt really voyeuristic and like it was taking advantage of the deaths of all of these people just for the personal gain of these two men, Holmes and the author.

After these issues started creeping in, the book began to drag on for me. It’s less about the life of a coroner in general and more a memoir about one specific coroner’s career. It is also important to note that Holmes is a relatively privileged man working in an extremely privileged environment (“Marin ranks in the top one percent of counties nationwide in terms of affluence and overall health”) and that this is an extremely biased view of both life and death.

Generally an okay read and maybe something I’d recommend to folks interested in forensics, but I enjoyed it much less than I thought I would.

Thanks to all for reading! Do you plan to read The Education of a Coroner? Please share your thoughts in the comments. You can also find me on Twitter and Goodreads.