Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Olga Dies Dreaming [review]

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Olga Dies Dreaming by Xóchitl González
Published by Flatiron Books on January 4, 2022
my rating: 3 stars
Goodreads avg:
4.03 (as of 2022-05-18)
Spoilers at bottom of review

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I liked how complex and easy to root for these characters were, even as they waded through gray areas of morality and made mistake after mistake. Olga is a wedding planner for the elite and her brother Prieto is a congressman. Both of them are of Puerto Rican descent, born and raised in Brooklyn. This novel explores their personal lives as well as the impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria on Puerto Rico itself. 

Olga and Prieto are both middle aged and still dealing with being abandoned (and subsequently emotionally abused) by their mother, although in different ways. Prieto has hidden himself behind a mask that is beginning to crack and Olga has avoided any kind of emotional connections. Prieto begins to question the way he’s been doing things, while Olga meets the odd-yet-endearing Matteo.

This is an interesting examination of familial trauma, race, and gentrification that works in a lot of ways but ultimately tried to hit too many topics. One of my biggest issues was that the ending felt far too neat for me, like González needed to tie everything up in a bow. I felt like we went from realistic literary fiction to a run-of-the-mill romance novel in the 11th hour; it just didn’t fit the tone of everything that preceded it.


Overall, I did enjoy this though, it just ended up knocked down a few pegs for me. Everything from here on is spoiler territory, as there are some aspects of the ending that rubbed me the wrong way. Content warning for discussion of rape ahead. The first is that the ‘third act breakup’ is preceded by Olga being raped and having a complete mental breakdown. It honestly felt like the assault was just a tool to get to this conflict, and could have been replaced by anything else. When she finally tells Matteo, he’s like ‘wow that sucks and it’s not your fault, but you can’t ignore me when you’re upset.’ Like?? Maybe cut her a little more slack dude, she was literally just raped. 

Secondly, one of the unrealistic aspects of the ending is that Matteo just happens to be rich so he can say, ‘oh don’t worry about getting a job, we can just be together and money doesn’t matter!’ How is he rich? He’s a landlord. It’s okay, though! He’s a good landlord! He’s fighting gentrification! By being a landlord! Especially coming right after the ‘sorry you were raped but don’t ignore me’ conversation, this just left a bad taste in my mouth. Matteo is supposed to be a good guy, we’re supposed to be happy. I wasn’t.

Like I said above, this is still a good book. I still recommend it. I just couldn’t love it and have trouble looking past its faults.


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Milk Fed [review]

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Milk Fed by Melissa Broder
Published by Scribner on February 2, 2021
my rating: 4.5 stars
Goodreads avg:
3.59 (as of 2022-04-23)
Spoiler-free review

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The Pisces was my top book of 2018, so I had high expectations for Broder’s sophomore novel. While I didn’t love this quite as much, I still devoured it. While The Pisces felt like a deep exploration of depression to me, Milk Fed is an exploration of disordered eating. Rachel, the narrator, is a Jewish woman who was raised by an overly critical mother and who uses food restriction as a religion, spending all her time thinking about eating.

I found the portrayal of binge eating in this incredibly spot-on, and thought Rachel’s changing relationship with her body — and Miriam’s — was interesting. I think there are going to be some varying views on the fat representation here and I’m not positive where I fall. Miriam never felt like a fully-formed character to me, but I think that was part of the point: Rachel coveted her in an unhealthy way, obsessing over Miriam’s body the way she obsessed over her own.

Much like The Pisces, I’m not sure who I would recommend this to. It certainly won’t please everyone, but if you’re able to let go and trust Broder I think you’re in for a good ride.


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Blood and Ash Series #1-4 (review)

This review WILL be filled with spoilers, as I read all 4 books in one whirlwind and want to discuss them in more detail.

  • From Blood and Ash, 5 stars
  • A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire, 5 stars
  • The Crown of Gilded Bones, 3.5 stars
  • The War of Two Queens, 3.5 stars

I picked this series up because I had heard that there was some drama around the 4th book — specifically drama around a triad that developed. I’m polyamorous and always looking for more rep, so I was intrigued. I couldn’t have imagined that I’d tear through all 4 books (none of them less than 600 pages) in less than 2 weeks. I fell deeply in love with the world and the people JLA created and adored this even more than the ACOTAR series.

The first book follows Poppy, the Maiden — a young woman who is Chosen by the gods and who is not to be looked at, touched, or spoken to. She leads a solitary life interacting with almost no one but her guards and her closest friend, her lady in wait. And the duke and duchess who watch over her. And then Hawke steps into the picture. If you like bad boy romances, you’ll love Hawke. I could not put this book down, loving the relationships between the characters (particularly between Poppy and Hawke).

I was truly shocked by the twists in this. Obviously the Ascended were awful and were doing very suspect things, but I could never have guessed that they were vampires (this series calls them vamprys) taking children to feed on. I had guessed that Hawke was an Atlantian after the scene under the willow tree and eventually also guessed that he was ‘The Dark One.’ And that ENDING! I lowkey love the cliffhangers these books end on, and the first was probably the best.

The second book picks up exactly where the first leaves off and I loved this one just as much. Seeing Poppy develop herself and her powers was great and I loved seeing more of her and Casteel (formerly Hawke). I did get annoyed at times when they were SO CLOSE to talking about their feelings and then didn’t, or didn’t understand each other. But they figured it out in the end. Meeting more of the wolven and the Atlantians was so nice, too. I got very [eyes emoji] about Poppy/Kieran/Cas.

The third book is where I began to tire a bit. Things start to go off the rails and it feels like there’s almost too much going on. Poppy is Ascended, but she’s not. She’s a deity? She’s a god? Who knows! I was shocked that the triad didn’t develop during this book tbh. There is a LOT of [eyes emoji] happening between them. I felt like Poppy was getting a little OP and was confused about how much we were going back and forth on her heritage and who she was.

Book four made my dreams come true, but other than that I was underwhelmed again. It was exhausting reading what I felt like was the same interaction over and over again between Isbeth and Poppy, Isbeth and Cas, Cas and Callum, etc. Poppy is truly OP at this point and just cannot control her temper. There were more shocking reveals that had me throwing my hands up, I can only take so many twists and back and forths before they start to bore me. The end was total chaos.

I’m just glad I finally got my triad, which has been steadily building since book 2. Kieran and Poppy’s interactions in this book made my heart all bubbly and happy. I really hope that their relationship develops more, because right now it definitely feels a little lopsided. I know Poppy and Cas are heartmates, but I’d like things to feel a little more equal. I am intrigued to see where things go, because JLA definitely left it a little vague. I really do hope book 5 is full of threesomes that are a little less chaotic than the one in this book.

Anyway, yeah I loved this series and I’m excited to read more from JLA (and more of this series). But for now, I’m looking forward to picking up some books that won’t keep me up until 2am every night.


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My Favorite Half-Night Stand [review]

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My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren
Published by Gallery Books on December 4, 2018
my rating: ★★★ (3 stars)
Goodreads avg:
3.79 (as of 2022-01-15)
Spoiler-free review

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I wish I had liked this more, but I definitely didn’t dislike it. If the miscommunication trope is not your jam, I highly recommend you skip this one. The heroine is very out of touch and noncommunicative when it comes to feelings in general, and romance is no exception. That’s what ended up frustrating me here, most of the conflict stemmed from her deceiving the hero and then being too afraid to talk about it. I also just didn’t connect enough with either of them. There were also a couple unchallenged comments about weight/food that I didn’t appreciate, but it wasn’t a huge deal. Thankfully it was a quick and easy read overall. I think there are definitely loads of people this will work for, but I found it a solid ‘meh.’

click for content warnings

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Outlander [review]

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Outlander (Outlander #1) by Diana Gabaldon, narrated by Davina Porter
Published by Recorded Books on July 13, 2006 (originally 1991)
my rating: ★★★.5 (3.5 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.23 (as of 2021-09-17)
SPOILERS AHEAD!

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Wow, this is very much a product of its time. I’m going to be delving into some spoilers, and want to put a content warning up front for discussion of pedophilia and sexual assault. It took me a bit to settle into the writing style, which I found to be elegant if a little dry at first. I’m not sure I would have made it very far if I wasn’t listening to the audiobook. The narration was so immersive and really added to the experience. Once I got into the rhythm, I found that I really loved the book!

That wore off about halfway through. I know a certain amount of sexism is to be expected given that Gabaldon wrote this in 1991 and it takes place over 200 years ago. But there was a lot I really could not handle. At one point Claire leaves where Jamie has left her only to be captured by the Big Baddie and is saved just before being raped. Jamie then BEATS HER for disobeying his orders because otherwise the other men will be ~upset~, as if almost being raped wasn’t severe enough. I was absolutely livid and considered DNFing, but managed to keep listening and ended up enjoying the story again.

Lol, just kidding. I mean, I did manage to get back into the story but unfortunately it went way off the rails again. There are two gay men in this book and one of them is a pedophile. At least he’s portrayed as harmless enough… as harmless as a pedophile can be portrayed, I guess. The other gay character is a sociopath who tortures people mercilessly and literally rapes the male love interest. Again, I know this was written in 1991 but seriously? The rape plotline really soured the end of the book for me, and I couldn’t wait for it to end.

It sucks because the first half of the book had me expecting a 5-star rating and recommending it to my friends. The second half made it really difficult to decide on a rating and had me rescinding those recommendations. I don’t even know if I’m going to be able to continue the series and I really don’t know if I want to. I guess I can at least check out the TV series. I hate that I ended up being so disappointed by this after loving it so much. I’m not sure I can recommend this on good conscience without warning about everything mentioned in the spoiler brackets above; some of the content truly made me nauseous.

content warnings: sexual assault, pedophilia, domestic abuse, gore (graphic injuries), animal death


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I’m Afraid of Men [review]

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I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya
Published by Penguin Books Canada on August 28, 2018
my rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.28 (as of 2021-05-31)
Spoiler-free review

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In I’m Afraid of Men, Vivek Shraya reflects on her experiences from being “sensitive” and feminine boy who learns to perform masculinity through her adulthood as a transgender woman. She explores how her relationships to and perceptions of men have changed with a bluntness that is educational to those who may not have experienced the intersection of misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia that she has faced. This is an incredibly compelling set of essays that force one to examine how they may be complicit in the ongoing oppression of others.

She describes how carefully her life must be navigated, how she often goes out in public dressed as a man to avoid violence, how she will remove her makeup before leaving a show she’s performed at, how her boyfriend sometimes accompanies her as a bodyguard of sorts. She reflects on how this anxiety, this terror, has weathered her body and her mind:

My fear of men… both protects my body… and erodes it… I have been stricken with numerous freak pains… that practitioners are unable to explain or cure. When they suspiciously ask me, ‘Are you sure nothing happened? You didn’t fall somewhere?’ I want to respond, ‘I live in fear.’

As she reflects on her experiences with men, she notes the women in the background. The girlfriend of the classmate who spit on her, who giggled instead of stopping him. A friend at a bar who told her she should be flattered when she was repeatedly groped. Cisgender women who dismiss her stories of transmisogyny, assuming the oppression they face is the same that she faces. Women with internalized misogyny who continue to tear down other women. As she recounts them, she adds “I’m also afraid of women.”

Shraya’s essays provide unique insight into how boys are socialized and how expectations of masculinity can be damaging, both to boys and men and the people they interact with. She also shares how dangerous life can be for men who do not adhere to our expectations for masculinity as well as for transgender women. This was a short, informative read that I highly recommend. I would love to see a full memoir from Shraya someday and will keep my eye out for more of her writing.


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This Is How You Lose the Time War [review]

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This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone
Published by Saga Press on July 16, 2019
my rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
3.96 (as of 2021-05-27)
Spoiler-free review

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I am more sensitive to your footsteps, I think, than anyone alive.

This was an absolutely beautiful novella that I had a difficult time settling into. It took me probably ~30-40 pages to feel like I wasn’t completely lost, but I was still able to enjoy the poetic writing until I got there. A lot of the worldbuilding feels simultaneously intense and quite vague, but focusing on the characters was enough to pull me through. While there is a plot, this feels more like a dialogue than a story for the most part. I truly loved both Red and Blue and their relationship had me equal parts grinning and crying; I genuinely shed tears during the last quarter or so of the book. I’m so incredibly impressed with how El-Mohtar and Gladstone were able to weave this together and know that future rereads will certainly yield more. I look forward to picking this up again in the future!


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Beach Read [review]

Beach Read by Emily Henry
Published by Berkley on May 19, 2020
my rating: ★★★★★ (5 stars)
Goodreads avg: 
4.11 (as of 2020-08-06)
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.

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

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | Bookshop | Author’s Website


Ohh my god, I absolutely adored this book. I had high hopes and was worried it wouldn’t live up to expectations, but it most certainly did. Both January and Gus were such lovely, fully realized characters and I had such a great time reading about them. Their banter was absolutely perfect and I can’t tell you how many times I giggled reading their back-and-forths. But this book isn’t all sunshine and roses! In fact, there’s a lot of darker content, from grief to recounting past abuse, so tread lightly. This was a book that made me laugh and cry and stay up as late as I could to read. Emily Henry is now going to be an auto-buy author for me (I really liked her debut and need to read more of her work!) and I’m excited to see what she comes out with next.


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Rafe [review]

Rafe: A Buff Male Nanny (Loose Ends #1) by Rebekah Weatherspoon
Published on September 26, 2018
my rating: ★★.5
Goodreads avg:
3.81 (as of 2020-04-15)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads IndieBound | Author Website


the heroine is absolutely great: a black woman who is a successful surgeon! the hero is great too: a tall, tattooed guy who loves kids! there is plenty of extremely nontoxic masculinity to be found and it’s really refreshing. the characters were also communicative adults who talked about their feelings and what they wanted! unfortunately, this book lacked a lot of what i look for in romance novels. namely, chemistry! i felt absolutely no chemistry between Rafe and Sloan, which meant i wasn’t super motivated with my reading. there also felt like there was a lot of filler that i found myself skimming over. the ending was so abrupt that i was taken aback by it. annnd a few places that could have used a bit more editing (but it’s really not too bad).

i’ll probably be recommending this book to others, but with the caveat that it’s not the best i’ve read.


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The Dare [review]

The Dare by Lauren Landish
Published January 31, 2020
my rating: ★★★
Goodreads avg:
3.93 (as of 2020-04-15)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads | Author Website


this started off SO fun and i thought it would be 4-5 stars for me. i tore through the first 2/3 in one sitting. unfortunately, it turned into family drama and i got so bored that it took me days to get around to finishing it. not to mention the fact that everything going on was so far-fetched — which i wouldn’t have even minded if i was still having a good time reading it. also, the MC gets so slut-shamey about another woman and i hated that! i’d probably still recommend this, but it’s not going to be a favorite.


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