Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Memory Police [review]

The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa, transl. by Stephen Snyder
Published by Pantheon in August 13, 2019 (originally 1994)
my rating: 3 stars
Goodreads avg:
3.75 (as of 2022-05-25)
Spoiler-free review
Goodreads

I wish I had gotten along with this more, but it was a little flatter than I expected. It was reminiscent to me of 1984 in some ways, although I wouldn’t draw a tight comparison between the two. I thought the titular Memory Police would play a more pivotal role in this, but it felt like they only existed to add stakes to the story. I just felt a lot of “why?” reading this. I could draw connections to colonialism and the erasure of cultures, or the oppression of afab bodies, but it didn’t feel like a fully formed commentary was there. I was largely bored by this and although some aspects were compelling, I felt let down.


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Dead Silence [review]

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Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes
Published by Tor Nightfire on February 8, 2022
my rating: 4 stars
Goodreads avg:
4.12 (as of 2022-02-16)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads | Bookshop

Okay yes, this did fit the ‘Ghost Ship in space’ bill everyone was assigning it, and did a great job at it. Dead Space follows Claire Kovalik and her crew as they find a seemingly abandoned luxury spacecraft that had gone missing two decades prior. As expected, spookiness ensues. Sidenote, do not read this if you have an issue with body horror or gore. It’s not on every page but it’s certainly prominent enough.

I did really enjoy this, the vibes were immaculate and I found myself putting it down for a minute every couple chapters to breathe. But then I would pick it right back up again and keep chugging along. Barnes really succeeded in creating a tense, claustrophobic atmosphere and an intriguing mystery. I fully did not see that plot twist coming!

It did have a couple weaknesses, though. Claire is supposed to be in her mid-thirties, but I found her somewhat juvenile. I know that’s probably because of her PTSD, but that’s another thing that bothered me. I felt like her backstory was pushed a little too hard. This might just be me, but I get really bored with books where the MC has a ~tragic backstory~ that is CONSTANTLY alluded to. I found her really frustrating to read at times because of this.

The romance subplot also seemed completely unnecessary to me. I did like Kane, but I was just like [shrug] we’re in a ghost ship in space! Why are we talking about romance! I think if this had been removed, the book could have leaned in a little farther with developing the creep factor.

All in all, though, I really enjoyed this and found it to be a unique reading experience. If anyone has recs for books similar to this, I am ALL ears. I am definitely going to be recommending this to horror fans and hope to see more from Barnes in this genre!


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The Stand [review]

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The Stand by Stephen King
Published by Anchor on June 24, 2008 (originally 1978)
my rating: DNF
Goodreads avg:
4.34 (as of 2022-02-04)
Spoiler-free review

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DNF @ 69% (~930 pages)

I really tried with this one, y’all. I found it really compelling to start! The first third or so was interesting but had me wondering ‘where is this going?’ The next third kind of answered that question, but I just didn’t find the answer something I cared about. I did intentionally read the ‘uncut’ version and I found it way too long for its own good. In addition to being bloated, it also contained some really disturbing imagery that I didn’t find worth it. I know this is SK and I know this is horror, but there was some animal cruelty that made me downright nauseous and haunted me throughout my day even when I wasn’t reading. I think this interested me so much at the start because it felt similar to Covid in a lot of ways, which I wasn’t expecting! But I just could not bring myself to finish it and definitely won’t be going out of my way to recommend it. I’m really glad I looked up a thorough summary of the last third because it truly wasn’t going to be worth it.

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Dune [review]

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Dune by Frank Herbert
Published by Macmillan Audio on May 17, 2007 (originally 1965)
my rating: ★★★ (3 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.25 (as of 2022-01-24)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads | Bookshop


I can see the appeal of this, but it wasn’t really my thing. Listening to the audiobook helped a lot except how distracting I found the switch between narration and full cast. Sometimes the general narrator would read out the dialogue and sometimes the individual actors would, for no discernible reason. Paul was like THE most boring character, which reinforced how I felt about him when I watched the movie. Watching the new movie before reading did honestly help me understand the book more (and reading afterwards helped me understand the movie more as well). Honestly I wish the whole book had been focused on Jessica, she was truly the coolest character. I briefly considered continuing the series but the next book is about more PAUL, so I think I’m going to pass. Also, it was incredibly distracting how Herbert constantly described how fat the Baron was, and I hated how he played into the ‘predatory gay’ trope, but I guess it was written in the 60s.

click for content warnings

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Throne of Glass [review]

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Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Published by Bloomsbury Children’s in September 2021 (originally 2012)
my rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.18 (as of 2021-11-23)
Spoiler-free review

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This is certainly not SJM’s best writing, but since I read the entirety of acotar this year I needed something else to pick up. I went into this expecting something fun and that’s what I got! I actually really liked Celaena and loved watching her develop over the course of the book. I also loved her relationships with Chaol and Dorian (all I want is a triad here), and with Nehemia. While I found this incredibly readable, sometimes we would see other character POVs that completely pulled me out of the story. These felt a little lazy to me and were clearly just a way to quickly show something that Celaena couldn’t have known. It was like SJM was tipping her hand to show us everything rather than leaving us with some mystery. Regardless, I’m excited to continue the series!

content warnings

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Iron Widow [review]

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Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao
Published by Penguin Teen on September 21, 2021
my rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.37 (as of 2021-11-04)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads | Bookshop


I probably wouldn’t have even picked this up if I hadn’t found out that this was a love triangle solved by polyamory plot. But boy howdy I am so glad I did. I liked having an anti-heroine in Zetian. She is fueled by nothing but vengeance and Zhao makes that very clear from the start. She’s selfish, she’s rude, and she will sacrifice anything to get the revenge she requires. She’s flawed beyond measure and I still loved reading about her.

This did lose me in a few places, hence the four stars. At points it felt really rushed to me; I felt like we blew through a lot of plot in just 400 pages and my head was kind of spinning at the end. The end in general felt like it went a little off the rails, although I had guessed the big final twist when I was still at the beginning of the book. I just hadn’t expected it to come up in this installment. I also couldn’t connect to the characters sometimes and struggled to get a real feel for their personalities.

I’m going to chalk all that up to this being Zhao’s debut novel, though, and will say that despite its flaws this is very much a book worth reading if you like YA sff. I’m devastated that I have to WAIT for the sequel but am really excited to see more of this world and its characters — particularly my sweet little triad. Seriously, if anyone has recs for polyamory rep like this PLEASE pass it on.

content warnings: Misogyny & femicide, Rape mentioned, Physical & emotional abuse, Suicidal ideation, Alcoholism, Blood & gore depiction, Murder, Torture (per the Trigger Warning Database).

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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!

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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