Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

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!

Goodreads | Bookshop


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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The Girl With All the Gifts [review]

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The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey, narrated by Finty Williams
Published by Hachette Audio on June 6, 2014
my rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
3.94 (as of 2021-06-15)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads | Bookshop


I went into this knowing pretty much nothing except that the general plot ‘zombies but different’ and think that was the right way to do it. I think this was an incredibly creative take on the zombie genre and was very impressed with the science of it — although I can’t attest to how accurate it was. I really loved Melanie and getting to know the rest of the characters was great as well. My only pet peeve was that it was very apparent that this was written by a man; there were bits where the group would be in life-or-death situations and the men would be thinking about having sex or masturbating. The sex and romance felt shoehorned in and took away from the story imo. Aside from that, this was an incredible book that I’ll be recommending quite a lot.


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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

Goodreads | Bookshop


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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Station Eleven [review]

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Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Published by Knopf on September 9, 2014
my rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.05 (as of 2020-02-07)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads | Bookshop | Author’s Website


Jeevan was crushed by a sudden certainty that this was it, that this illness Hua was describing was going to be the divide between a before and an after, a line drawn through this life.

This was certainly… timely to read during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was actually eerie at points — although thankfully what we’re living through is much less severe. I had actually been given this in March (a week before lockdown!) and am glad I put off reading it until things had calmed down a bit.

The book itself is incredibly readable. St. John Mandel creates realistic characters in a world that feels true to life. It’s really difficult to describe what the story is ‘about’, as it runs the gamut as far as content goes and utilizes flashbacks heavily. If you dislike non-linear storytelling, this definitely won’t be for you. But it’s not your typical dystopian story, and I really appreciated the author’s creativity here. This felt like nothing I’ve read before and while at times I felt a bit like I was just waiting to see where things went, I was never bored. It was also hauntingly beautiful at times. Seeing how the characters were interconnected and following their stories was magical, even when it was tragic. Bits that seemed irrelevant eventually became important — although some bits did seem irrelevant to the end.

Overall, I really enjoyed this and am glad I finally got around to it!


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Devolution [review]

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Devolution by Max Brooks
Published by Del Rey Books on June 16, 2020
my rating: ★★★★.5 (4.5 stars)
Goodreads avg:
3.92 (as of 2020-01-14)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads | Bookshop | Author’s Website


Bigfoot’s as American as apple pie and guns in schools.

While it’s been a while, I loved World War Z so much that I’ve read it through 2 or 3 times. I was worried Devolution wouldn’t live up to my recollection of Brooks’ writing, but I was completely wrong. While the two books differ in content and structure, I found them both absolutely riveting. I read this in just a few sittings because I just didn’t want to put it town. I found Kate to be a great narrator and the plot itself was extremely compelling. This is really a gritty reboot of the bigfoot myth, depicting them as the apex predators they would likely be. In addition to the tension and horror written into this, there’s also a gentle examination of the characters themselves and the ways in which we react to tragedy and adversity. I’ll be recommending this left and right for ages.


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The Caves of Steel [review]

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The Caves of Steel (Robot #1) by Isaac Asimov
Published by Spectra on April 13, 2011 (originally 1954)
my rating: ★★★ (3 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.17 (as of 2021-01-14)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads | Bookshop


Jehoshaphat!

I probably wouldn’t have read this if it hadn’t been chosen as a book club pick, but I don’t regret picking it up. It gave me old-timey-detective-novel vibes — but set in the future, and with robots. Sadly, although I only finished the book a couple days ago, it’s already largely left my thoughts and I can’t think of much to say about it. I probably won’t finish the series and I probably won’t prioritize reading more Asimov. The writing felt somewhat stiff to me, and the characters were all pretty one-dimensional. It’s a quick read, though, and probably worth picking up if you’re interested in the history of the C/Fe (or sci-fi) genre.


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The Light Brigade [review]

The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley
Published by Saga Press on March 19, 2019
my rating: ★★★ (3 stars)
Goodreads avg:
3.96 (as of 2020-07-21)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads IndieBound | Author’s Website


“Starting to think communism is better than being dead.”

This was certainly, uh, a novel. This was my last read of the Hugo noms for this year and while I absolutely agree with its inclusion on the list, I can’t say I particularly loved this book. The nonlinear timeline is extremely confusing, in part because this is first person narration and the MC also has no idea what’s going on. It’s also just a confusing concept, period. The lack of linearity and large-ish cast also made it difficult to keep characters straight.

I did find a great deal of it to be compelling enough to keep me glued to my kindle, but also hit some spots where I was ready for us to wrap things up. I’m also not a huge fan of war narratives and felt like it hit a point where Hurley was hitting me over the head with her messages; on the other hand, a lot of the fascist elements were frighteningly timely. There was some interesting stuff done with gender, but I just didn’t get why it was handled the way it was; it would have been far more interesting to have a gender neutral MC than to wait until the final act to reveal the MC’s gender.

I guess I’m just not fully convinced by this one. I’ll definitely be recommending it to hard sci-fi fans and those who like war stories, but it wasn’t a big hit for me.


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a torbie cat looking up happily while sitting next to a copy of The City in the Middle of the Night
Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The City in the Middle of the Night [review]

The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders
Published by Tor Books on February 12, 2019
my rating: ★★★
Goodreads avg:
3.56 (as of 2020-06-29)
Spoiler-free review

Would you give up everything to change the world?

Humanity clings to life on January–a colonized planet divided between permanently frozen darkness on one side, and blazing endless sunshine on the other.

Two cities, built long ago in the meager temperate zone, serve as the last bastions of civilization–but life inside them is just as dangerous as the uninhabitable wastelands outside.

Sophie, a young student from the wrong side of Xiosphant city, is exiled into the dark after being part of a failed revolution. But she survives–with the help of a mysterious savior from beneath the ice.

Burdened with a dangerous, painful secret, Sophie and her ragtag group of exiles face the ultimate challenge–and they are running out of time.

Welcome to the City in the Middle of the Night

Goodreads IndieBound | Author’s Website


Part of how they make you obey is by making obedience seem peaceful, while resistance is violent. But really, either choice is about violence, one way or another.

This was such a strange book that felt almost needlessly complicated in some aspects. I could tell that Anders was extremely into her world building but I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief for some aspects of it. It reminded me a bit of Amatka: a society filled with unyielding rules. The comparisons largely end there, though.

I never felt strongly connected to any of the characters. Sophie didn’t feel solid enough as a pov character; she never really bypassed concept into full-fledged character for me and I didn’t feel like she had much agency. I struggled similarly with Mouth, who started off as a caricature and morphed into something softer that I didn’t quite understand. I just never felt fully convinced by either of them. The dialogue itself, while largely good, felt stilted in some parts. There were random scenes where I thought, “no one talks like that.”

I really struggled with the message of the story for a bit. It sort of felt like it was trying to push too many storylines together at once. If it was expanded into a series this would have made more sense, but as is it had a kind of claustrophobic feel to it. My mind was constantly dragged in several different directions and I wasn’t really sure what to expect next, but not necessarily in a good way.

I did really admire the way this tackled toxic relationships. Sophie is deeply in love with her best friend Bianca, although seemingly unable to admit it to herself. Bianca is privileged, self-centered, and blind to anything that doesn’t impact her directly. It was frustrating watching Sophie return to Bianca over and over, but it also makes sense in the context of their relationship (until their last meeting — that didn’t make sense to me).

Regardless of my criticisms, this was highly readable and I hope people will still give it a shot. I hit points where I just didn’t want to put the book down because the writing was so compelling and I really wanted to see what would happen next. It’s a good book, but I think cutting down a little would have gone a long way.


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Waking Gods [review]

Waking Gods (Themis Files #2) by Sylvain Neuvel
Published by Del Rey Books on March 13, 2018 (originally 2017)
my rating: ★★★.5
Goodreads avg:
4.04 (as of 2020-05-18)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads IndieBound | Author Website


Well, I’m sorry the apocalypse isn’t convenient for you. Now go to bed.

I literally could not put this down. It was so fun to be thrown back into the Themis Files, but I did struggle a bit with the format. I listened to Sleeping Giants on audiobook, which made it easy to tell the characters apart. The written format made that a bit more difficult, which is frustrating because any easy solution would have been to just write the characters’ names. I also got a little lost in what was going on at times and felt like the ending was… bizarre. It felt kind of thrown together and didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Those few reasons are what knocked an otherwise very compelling read down a star or two.


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The Hidden Girl and Other Stories [review]

The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu
Published by Gallery/Saga Press on February 25, 2020
my rating: DNF
Goodreads avg:
3.94 (as of 2020-05-09)
Spoiler-free review
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.

Goodreads IndieBound | Author Website

From award-winning author Ken Liu comes his much anticipated second volume of short stories.

Ken Liu is one of the most lauded short story writers of our time. This collection includes a selection of his science fiction and fantasy stories from the last five years — sixteen of his best — plus a new novelette.


I made it soo far into this, but unfortunately had to put it down. I found some of the stories really compelling but found they didn’t outweigh the ones I didn’t enjoy. At around the halfway mark, this morphed into a lot of interconnected stories that I was kind of struggling with, so it seemed best not to finish.

The stories I read, and the ratings I gave them:

Ghost Days, 2 stars
Maxwell’s Demon, 3.5 stars
The Reborn, 4 stars
Thoughts and Prayers, 4 stars
Byzantine Empathy, 4.5 stars
The Gods Will Not Be Chained, 2 stars
Staying Behind, 2.5 stars
Real Artists, 3 stars
The Gods Will Not Be Slain, 2 stars
Altogether Elsewhere, Vast Herds of Reindeer, 2 stars

Average: 2.95 stars

I think there are a lot of people who will really like these! They just weren’t for me. So if this seems like something that’s up your alley, I definitely recommend giving it a shot.


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