Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Witch of Willow Hall [review]

The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox
Published by Graydon House on October 2, 2018
my rating: ★★★
Goodreads avg: 
3.79 (as of 2018-12-17)
cw: familial death, incest, suicide, miscarriage, child death
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.

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

Two centuries after the Salem witch trials, there’s still one witch left in Massachusetts. But she doesn’t even know it.

Take this as a warning: if you are not able or willing to control yourself, it will not only be you who suffers the consequences, but those around you, as well.

New Oldbury, 1821 

In the wake of a scandal, the Montrose family and their three daughters—Catherine, Lydia and Emeline—flee Boston for their new country home, Willow Hall.

The estate seems sleepy and idyllic. But a subtle menace creeps into the atmosphere, remnants of a dark history that call to Lydia, and to the youngest, Emeline.

All three daughters will be irrevocably changed by what follows, but none more than Lydia, who must draw on a power she never knew she possessed if she wants to protect those she loves. For Willow Hall’s secrets will rise, in the end…

Sometimes I feel as if we are standing on opposite sides of a great chasm, and I must watch helplessly as the gaping space between us widens.

→ What I Liked:

The Romance

I enjoyed the connection between the main character, Lydia, and her love interest. Their interactions were by far my favorite to read and the romance was really what kept me going through this. I really wanted to know how things came together (or didn’t) for the two of them.

The Readability

While it took some time to gain my interest, this took on an unputdownable quality for me. It really turned into quite the page turner and I read the entire second half of the book in one sitting.

→ What I Didn’t Like:

The Characters

Besides Lydia and, to some extent, her love interest, there wasn’t much depth among the characters. They all felt quite one-dimensional and were defined by one or two qualities that didn’t really change. I also hated the way the older sister Catherine was written — she was a stereotypical catty teenage girl whose only purpose was to cause strife. I’ve been over characterizations like these for a while now.

The Lack of Subtlety

I was literally rolling my eyes at the beginning of this with how hard it was hitting me over the head with the witch stuff. There were plenty of “hints” about Lydia’s true nature, but they were so blatant that they may as well have been screaming off the page. It really drew from the story itself for me.

The Ending

There was so much stuffed into this ending that it felt very rushed to me. A lot of it just felt so very… convenient. And the focus was so much on the romance and so little on the witchcraft that I was left dissatisfied and with very many questions. I want a sequel to learn more about Lydia’s abilities and family history, but felt like the way this ended didn’t leave much room for that.

→ TL;DR:

  • Romance was enjoyable
  • Page-turner
  • Side characters needed work
  • Lots of eyerolls
  • Ending was way too busy
  • Would recommend, but think of this more as a YA romance with paranormal elements than a fantasy or horror with romance on the side
  • Will pick up Hester Fox’s next book
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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Mini-Review Compilation #10

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The Woman in Black
cw: child death

At that moment I began to doubt my own reality.

This was my first Susan Hill read and I can say that I’m now very excited to explore some of her other works. I don’t read a lot of gothic horror, but this definitely worked for me and I’d like to wade a little further into the genre. The writing conveyed such a strong atmosphere and I found myself really swept up in everything. It was definitely spooky, but didn’t outright scare me, which is a nice happy medium. I thought the characters were well-done, although we only spend time with a few of them. My only complaint was that the ending felt rushed and a little abrupt.

Buddy read with Sarah!

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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River of Teeth (River of Teeth #1)

I had high hopes for this one, but it just didn’t really do anything for me. The characters were good, but the story felt rushed and I didn’t get very invested in it.

Rating:⭐⭐.5

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Sadie
cw: pedophilia, CSA, abuse, drug addiction
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.

Every little thing about you can be a weapon, if you’re clever enough.

It seems like nearly everyone has been talking about Sadie lately. Intriguingly, pieces of it felt like they tied pretty closely to The Female of the Species, which I read directly beforehand. The formatting is what was most interesting about it. Half of the book is a podcast — where I’d imagine the audiobook version would have come in very handy — and the other half is from Sadie’s perspective directly. In this way, things that we could never necessarily know from one perspective are revealed to us through the other. While this method could be flawed in the wrong hands, Courtney Summers is able to carefully craft a chilling masterpiece, slowly (but not too slowly) revealing the full story to her readers.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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(All covers courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Dangerous Girls [review]

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Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas
Published by Simon Pulse on May 6, 2014 (originally 2013)
my rating: ⭐️⭐️.5
Goodreads avg:
4.12 (as of 2018-09-26)

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

Spring break. Aruba. Swimming, sunshine, and drinks. Lots of drinks.

It’s supposed to be the best time of Anna’s life. Perfect.

But then Anna’s best friend is found brutally murdered.

And as the local police begin to investigate the gruesome crime, suspicion and evidence unfathomably point to one person—Anna.

Now trapped in a country not her own, Anna must fight for her freedom and prove her innocence. But as she awaits the judge’s decision, it becomes clear to Anna that everyone around her thinks she is not only guilty, but dangerous.

Very dangerous.

And when the truth finally comes out, it’s more shocking than anyone could have ever imagined…

Oh, do I have some conflicted feelings about this book. Spoilers abound. I read this as the last book in the postal book club I joined last year. I honestly wasn’t expecting much going into it. It seemed like a typical YA thriller and I thought it could be a fun read. On the plus side, I was correct about the latter part. I blew through this fairly quickly, and the story is super easy to get pulled into. The dialogue was a little awkward and left something to be desired, but otherwise there wasn’t much wrong with the writing itself.

The premise of the book is pretty simple: a bunch of high school kids are on vacation and one of them is brutally murdered. There’s a lot of jumping around between timepoints, which I found to be a little confusing and not super well-done. We go between the history of the MC and the murdered girl, the vacation itself, and the aftermath. But it’s confusing because it jumps around different parts of the aftermath as well, so sometimes it’s hard to know where exactly you are.

Parts of the story really got to me. It’s implied that there’s some sort of sexual tension between the girls and it makes me feel really uncomfortable for reasons I’m having trouble fully describing. I was absolutely livid at the plot twist. This is not how you write an unreliable narrator. We are given absolutely no reason not to believe everything the MC is thinking and saying. That’s the problem. We’re inside her head and she seems completely normal and then at the end — surprise! We find out she’s a sociopath and has been lying the whole time. I hate plot twists and characterizations with no support, and this is the epitome of that. A twist just doesn’t feel satisfying if the book hasn’t actually been building up to it.

Okay, that rant may make it sound like I completely hated the book, but I didn’t. Like I said, it was a fun read and I honestly couldn’t put it down. I just really wish the ending had gone differently or had been supported by the rest of the book. I think this would be good for someone who wants a mindless YA thriller, but I wouldn’t recommend expecting a lot out of it.

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Bad Man [review]

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Bad Man by Dathan Auerbach
Published by Doubleday on August 7, 2018
my rating: ⭐️⭐️.5
Goodreads avg:
3.38 (as of 2018-09-17)
cw: child abduction, abuse, fat-shaming, racism/slurs
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.

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

Reddit horror sensation Dathan Auerbach delivers a devilishly dark novel about a young boy who goes missing, and the brother who won’t stop looking for him.

Eric disappeared when he was three years old. Ben looked away for only a second at the grocery store, but that was all it took. His brother was gone. Vanished right into the sticky air of the Florida Panhandle. 

They say you’ve got only a couple days to find a missing person. Forty-eight hours to conduct searches, knock on doors, and talk to witnesses. Two days to tear the world apart if there’s any chance of putting yours back together. That’s your window.

That window closed five years ago, leaving Ben’s life in ruins. He still looks for his brother. Still searches, while his stepmother sits and waits and whispers for Eric, refusing to leave the house that Ben’s father can no longer afford. Now twenty and desperate for work, Ben takes a night stock job at the only place that will have him: the store that blinked Eric out of existence.

Ben can feel that there’s something wrong there. With the people. With his boss. With the graffitied baler that shudders and moans and beckons. There’s something wrong with the air itself. He knows he’s in the right place now. That the store has much to tell him. So he keeps searching. Keeps looking for his baby brother, while missing the most important message of all. 

That he should have stopped looking.

I’ve been leaning into a lot of spooky reads recently and was very excited at the concept of reading a novel written by someone who was so well-known on r/NoSleep. I was a little worried about someone who was used to shorter fiction writing a novel (not that I know much about Dathan’s writing history besides the blurb on Goodreads). Unfortunately, I do think that the length got the best of him in this one.

The start of the book was nothing short of incredible. The more I read, the more I forgot how strongly it had started, so I’m grateful to past me for making note of that. Dathan is clearly a master of crafting atmospheric environments and did a wonderful job of setting up the story. I almost missed by stop on the train and at one point, while reading on my lunch break, I got spooked by someone walking by my desk in broad daylight.

It began to lose me around the 50% mark. I felt like the story was dragging and I didn’t really feel invested in seeing what would happen next. In fact, I’m not sure I would’ve finished the book if it weren’t an ARC that I felt obligated to read and review. Most of the characters other than Ben, the MC, felt really flat and I had no idea what was going on with the plot. There were also these weird inserts between chapters that, while they made sense in the end, didn’t accomplish much except for pulling me out of the story to roll my eyes.

Ben is also fat and there’s a lot of negative, unchallenged fat-shaming (both from Ben himself and others) that doesn’t feel like it has much of a purpose. Part of Ben’s weight is explained by his disability (a permanent leg injury), but it’s hard to tell whether the author is intentionally fat-shaming or is examining internalized fatphobia. Regardless, as I said, it’s not challenged at any point and may be difficult for readers who find that type of content to be triggering.

I will say that the book picks back up and I tore through the last 25% of it, frantic to know what was going on. I wasn’t quite satisfied by the end, but I think it was pretty well-done. It is absolutely horrific and did send chills through me, because it hits on something that freaks me out a lot personally. There were some things that definitely could have been tidied up, but nothing major.

Overall, it was an ok read. I’m right on the fence between “liked it” and “didn’t like it” and am probably gonna stay there. I think I would’ve liked it a lot more if the middle had been trimmed up and if the author had been able to maintain throughout the atmosphere he conjured at both the beginning and the end. If you think this is going to be your thing, I say go for it, but I’m also not anticipating putting this on any recommendation lists.

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Rust & Stardust [review]

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Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood
Published by St. Martin’s Press on August 7, 2018
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5
Goodreads avg:
4.25 (as of 2018-08-21)
cw: kidnapping, rape, CSA, abuse, suicide
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.

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

Camden, NJ, 1948.

When 11 year-old Sally Horner steals a notebook from the local Woolworth’s, she has no way of knowing that 52 year-old Frank LaSalle, fresh out of prison, is watching her, preparing to make his move. Accosting her outside the store, Frank convinces Sally that he’s an FBI agent who can have her arrested in a minute—unless she does as he says. 

This chilling novel traces the next two harrowing years as Frank mentally and physically assaults Sally while the two of them travel westward from Camden to San Jose, forever altering not only her life, but the lives of her family, friends, and those she meets along the way.

It’s a shame I read this one so soon after Eden, because the two handle similar subjects in such different ways and I think Rust & Stardust ended up killed by comparison. Whereas Eden handles mainly the aftermath of a kidnapping, including the lifelong implications of trauma, Rust & Stardust follows the kidnapping itself and examines how it impacts everyone in the main character’s social circles. Where Eden is entirely fictional, Rust & Stardust is loosely based on a true story, something I actually didn’t realize until the end.

The book had such a strong start that I was certain it would be a five-star read. I found Sally’s naivety irritating yet realistic and thought the compounding issues in her life (her mother’s chronic illness and the suicide of her step-father) brought an interesting complexity to things. I thought the story itself was compelling and was interested to see what would happen next. Unfortunately, this only lasted until somewhere around the 50% mark. What followed felt like a lot of monotony; I think I really became tired of the constant abuse. While it was interesting to see the relationships that Sally built as she and Frank traveled, I struggled to stay immersed and was waiting for the story to move on.

Gasoline, gasoline, gasoline.

I also found the ending abrupt and unsatisfying. Reading the author’s comments after and finding out that this was the ending to the real-life Sally’s story helped me understand that a little better, but I think things could have been fitted together in a more cohesive way. I guess that’s the problem with true stories, though — they don’t always make sense.

While this seems like a good read for lovers of true crime and/or historical fiction, it just didn’t strike a chord for me. I’m glad to see that others have liked it, though, and think that speaks to T. Greenwood’s strength as a writer. I also want to warn that it has a lot of triggering content in it, and that all of the items mentioned in the content warning are covered in pretty great detail on page.

Her arms were as long as her legs, and she used them to embrace the whole damn damaged world.

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Art of Escaping [review]

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The Art of Escaping by Erin Callahan
To be published by Amberjack Publishing on June 19, 2018
320 
pages.
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg: 
4.25 (as of 03/11/2018)
cw: statutory rape, ableism, homophobic slurs, alcoholism, depression

Spoiler-free Review of an eARC Provided by the Publisher via NetGalley

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

Seventeen-year-old Mattie is hiding her obsession with Harry Houdini and Dorothy Dietrich from everyone, including her best friend Stella. When Stella takes off to boarding school for the summer, all of Mattie’s anxieties bubble to the surface, leaving her feeling adrift. To distract herself, she seeks out Miyu, the reclusive daughter of a world-renowned escape artist whose life and career were snuffed out by a tragic plane crash.

With Miyu’s help, Mattie secretly transforms herself into a burgeoning escapologist and performance artist. Away from the curious eyes of her peers, she thrives in her new world of lock picking, straitjackets, and aquarium escapes. But when Will, a popular varsity athlete from her high school, discovers her act at an underground venue, she fears that her double life is about to be exposed. But instead of outing her, Will tells Mattie something he’s never told anyone before and the two of them find out that not all secrets can remain secret forever.

Told through the perspectives of the witty main characters, this funny and fresh debut explores the power of stage personas and secret spaces, and speaks to the uncanny ways in which friendships transform us.

This ended up being a relatively cute contemporary read that I worked my way through pretty quickly. The writing was good, the plot itself was very original, and the characters were well-developed. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t love it, and I think that’s because I didn’t feel invested enough in the story itself. At no point did I feel any concern that things wouldn’t turn out okay.

Maybe I’m just too distanced from high school now, but Mattie’s problems just… didn’t feel like real problems to me. She’s training to be an escapologist — a death-defying badass — but she’s terrified that people will find out and post something mean about her on LifeScape (this world’s version of Facebook). I feel like a story that focused more around her struggling through the training itself and less around her fears of exposure would have been more compelling for me.

There were actually more things (Mattie’s training aside) that didn’t feel fully fleshed out to me. Near the beginning, Mattie randomly has a nightmare about… LifeScape. This struck me as bizarre, but what struck me as more bizarre was that these (allegedly regular) nightmares didn’t come up again. Sure, her fear of being ridiculed on LifeScape came up a few more times, but it seemed more like an afterthought than anything else. I’m hoping this ends up more fully developed or pulled altogether from the finished copy.

The implication that Mattie’s secret double life and Will’s sexuality were on a similar level of potential life-destruction also made me uncomfortable. This is touched upon, but placing them side-by-side and making Mattie’s problems the main focus really felt to me like it was inadvertently minimizing the very real issue of coming out. I don’t think this was intentional by the author at all, but that was still the impact that I personally felt.

It also really caught me off guard and really upset me that Mattie is constantly disgusted by her brother’s inability to do anything when the narrative makes it clear that he is depressed and an alcoholic. To be fair, the author did note that the final copy clears up some ableist language, but I’m not sure how thoroughly this part of the plot was changed — the implication is that Mattie thinks she can inspire her brother to pull himself together, or something? When it seems like he really needs help and everyone is just… letting him languish.

Besides that, there were a few other things that made me cringe. Mattie sleeps with her older brother’s drunken friend — but she was 16 or 17 at the time, and he was in his mid-twenties. She also has hella “not like other girl” vibes. I think it’s fine to be different and quirky, but this treads dangerously on “I’m better than other girls because I do alternative things” territory. There are a couple other things, but mentioning them would be spoilers and I’m going to avoid that for now.

Overall, it was a fun, enjoyable read, but I worry about some of the content and hope things were cleaned up for the final copy.

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

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Unwifeable [review]

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Unwifeable by Mandy Stadtmiller
Published by Gallery Books on April 3, 2018
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
3.78 (as of 2018-05-29)
cw: alcoholism, drug use, sex, kink, statutory rape, incest, animal death

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

From the popular, “candid and bold, tender and tough” (Cheryl Strayed) dating columnist for New York magazine and the New York Post comes a whirlwind and “gutsy” (Courtney Love) memoir recounting countless failed romances and blackout nights, told with Mandy Stadtmiller’s unflinching candor and brilliant wit.

My story is not unique. Single girl comes to New York; New York eats her alive. But what does stand out is my discovery that you can essentially live a life that appears to be a textbook manual for everything one can do wrong to find love—and still find Mr. Right.

Mandy Stadtmiller came to Manhattan in 2005, newly divorced, thirty years old, with a job at the New York Post, ready to conquer the city and the industry in one fell swoop. Like a “real-life Carrie Bradshaw” (so called by Jenny McCarthy), she proceeded to chronicle her fearless attempts for nearly a decade in the Post, New York magazine, and xoJane.

But underneath the glitz and glamour of her new life, there is a darker side threatening to surface. She goes through countless failed high-profile hookups in the New York comedy and writing scene. There are soon too many nights she can’t remember, and the blind spots start to add up. She begins to realize that falling in love won’t fix her—she needs to fix herself first.

Unwifeable is a New York fairytale brought to life—Sex and the City on acid. With hysterical insight, unabashed sexuality, and unprecedented levels of raw, honest pain, Unwifeable is a “blisteringly candid” (Sarah Hepola, New York Times bestselling author of Blackout) book that you can’t help but respond and relate to—perfect for fans of Amy Schumer and Chelsea Handler.

This was a really difficult read for me. It felt like rubbernecking, like witnessing someone else’s painful life-changing crash and not looking away even though you know you should. This memoir was unbelievably candidly honest, peeling back the layers none of us want to see. It was awkward and filled with secondhand embarrassment, it was graphic and showy, I had no idea how to feel about it and I honestly still don’t.

I never played games at all with men. Ever. Unless the game was to act like the kind of nightmare who hysterically cries at the drop of a hat and replies on a man for all manner of self-validation, self-worth, and approval to fill that giant gaping hole inside.

This memoir details Mandy’s life in New York City and her experiences with alcoholism — and addiction of all kinds. It details her relationships with men, most of which crash and burn. It’s hard for me to evaluate how to feel about this, because I know in general people tend to be much harder on women when it comes to being frank about raunchy behavior. The thing is, I just don’t love reading about raunchy behavior.

As an adult, I can have all the alcohol I want, anytime I want. Which, when you have no boundaries, is a dangerous combination.

It would feel more like someone’s life journey if it weren’t for the incessant name dropping. She lists maybe every celebrity she’s ever had an encounter with, and makes sure to emphasize the particularly unsavory encounters. This makes it feel more showy than anything else and it’s hard to take her accounts more seriously than a continued cry for attention. I don’t know Mandy and I’m not going to pretend to know anything about Mandy, but she talks a lot about how oversharing in her writing has done her so much harm in her past, and I guess it’s hard for me to understand how this isn’t just a continuation of that.

Is it fun? I don’t know. Is self-harm fun? You be the judge.

Regardless, this is a pretty worthwhile read. Mandy is an incredibly good writer, and it’s easy to cruise through this book — if you don’t have to keep putting it down every time a particularly embarrassing scene pops up. I think a lot of good topics are discussed, I just wish there had been more of an emphasis on recovery than detailing every dirty encounter she ever had.

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(Blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

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Borne [review]

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Borne by Jeff VanderMeer
Published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux on April 25, 2017
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
3.91 (as of 2018-05-26)

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

In a ruined, nameless city of the future, a woman named Rachel, who makes her living as a scavenger, finds a creature she names “Borne” entangled in the fur of Mord, a gigantic, despotic bear. Mord once prowled the corridors of the biotech organization known as the Company, which lies at the outskirts of the city, until he was experimented on, grew large, learned to fly and broke free. Driven insane by his torture at the Company, Mord terrorizes the city even as he provides sustenance for scavengers like Rachel.

At first, Borne looks like nothing at all—just a green lump that might be a Company discard. The Company, although severely damaged, is rumoured to still make creatures and send them to distant places that have not yet suffered Collapse.

Borne somehow reminds Rachel of the island nation of her birth, now long lost to rising seas. She feels an attachment she resents; attachments are traps, and in this world any weakness can kill you. Yet when she takes Borne to her subterranean sanctuary, the Balcony Cliffs, Rachel convinces her lover, Wick, not to render Borne down to raw genetic material for the drugs he sells—she cannot break that bond.

Wick is a special kind of supplier, because the drug dealers in the city don’t sell the usual things. They sell tiny creatures that can be swallowed or stuck in the ear, and that release powerful memories of other people’s happier times or pull out forgotten memories from the user’s own mind—or just produce beautiful visions that provide escape from the barren, craterous landscapes of the city.

Against his better judgment, out of affection for Rachel or perhaps some other impulse, Wick respects her decision. Rachel, meanwhile, despite her loyalty to Wick, knows he has kept secrets from her. Searching his apartment, she finds a burnt, unreadable journal titled “Mord,” a cryptic reference to the Magician (a rival drug dealer) and evidence that Wick has planned the layout of the Balcony Cliffs to match the blueprint of the Company building. What is he hiding? Why won’t he tell her about what happened when he worked for the Company?

I had started reading Borne for the Reddit /r/books book club. I had been intending to read it anyway, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I first read VanderMeer when I picked up Annihilation in January, and then Authority in March, and I really enjoyed his writing style. I was impressed by how he was able to pull readers into such bizarre environments and weave such strange tales.

The first half of the book went by pretty quickly for me. There wasn’t much of an introduction to the world itself and as a reader you found yourself thrust into it pretty quickly. It’s a confusing environment — decimated city, giant flying bear, you get the idea — and it’s difficult to orient yourself, but VanderMeer does a pretty good job of immersing you within it and revealing the context slowly.

The pacing was a bit off and I sort of lost interest in the second half of the book, which caused me to finish it a lot slower than I had intended. I became a bit too confused and it was hard to be invested in the story when I didn’t understand what was going on. I really didn’t understand the cause and effect of certain events, so I spent more time trying to figure out what had happened than I spent reacting to them emotionally.

The end pulled things together pretty well, but I had already been lost for long enough that it didn’t redeem things for me. I was disappointed because it didn’t really feel comparable to the first two thirds of the Southern Reach trilogy to me, but I think I also wasn’t in the mindspace to read this kind of book right now, so take that with a grain of salt.

I definitely recommend this for other lovers of VanderMeer and sci-fi lovers in general, but it just didn’t do it for me this time around.

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(Blurb and cover courtesy of Goodreads.)

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Mini-Review Compilation #6

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Emergency Contact
cw: alcoholism, racism, sexual assault, parental neglect.

This was exactly the kind of fluffy contemporary romance I’ve been needing in my life. Watching Penny and Sam’s romance blossom via text was heartwarming and anxiety-inducing and so, so relatable. I loved both of the MCs so much and literally could not put this book down. Unfortunately, I tore through it so fast that I didn’t really take enough notes for a proper review and all I can do is gush about how cute and wonderful it was. The writing was excellent and I enjoyed the plot. There were serious topics, which were all good to see and which were handed well, in my opinion. I loved loved loved this book and cannot recommend it enough if you’re looking for a cute NA contemporary.

Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Quiet Rumours: An Anarcha-Feminist Reader

I’m pretty new to anarchism and political theory in general, so this was my first foray into a book dedicated to the subject. I found it really informative and a good jumping-off point, it helped me to compile a list of further reading materials. It was sort of loosely put together and probably could have used a little more context for each of the essays/pamphlets and seemed a bit outdated, so that’s why I knocked off one star. I definitely plan to check out some more AK Press releases, though!

Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Gone Girl
cw sexual assault, domestic abuse, many many many things

I almost DNFed this, but everyone told me to hang in there. I hated both of the MCs, but things really picked up after a plot twist about halfway through. It was worth reading, but I still didn’t end up loving it. [SPOILERS] I can appreciate unlikable characters, but I can’t get behind anything that reinforces the stereotype that women lie about being raped and/or abused just to punish or get back at men. A small thing, but Amy also states as fact that she doesn’t get catcalled at all after the gains weight and there’s no way that would be true and is really telling of what the author thinks of fat women. [/SPOILERS] Yeah, anyway I didn’t really find this very special and thought it was fine.

Rating:⭐⭐⭐

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Awayland [review]

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Awayland by Ramona Ausubel
Published by Riverhead Books on March 6, 2018
224 
pages.
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg: 
3.89 (as of 2018-04-06)
cw: suicide, familial death, incest, pedophilia

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

An inventive story collection that spans the globe as it explores love, childhood, and parenthood with an electric mix of humor and emotion.

Acclaimed for the grace, wit, and magic of her novels, Ramona Ausubel introduces us to a geography both fantastic and familiar in eleven new stories, some of them previously published in The New Yorker and The Paris Review. Elegantly structured, these stories span the globe and beyond, from small-town America and sunny Caribbean islands to the Arctic Ocean and the very gates of Heaven itself. And though some of the stories are steeped in mythology, they remain grounded in universal experiences: loss of identity, leaving home, parenthood, joy, and longing.

Crisscrossing the pages of Awayland are travelers and expats, shadows and ghosts. A girl watches as her homesick mother slowly dissolves into literal mist. The mayor of a small Midwestern town offers a strange prize, for stranger reasons, to the parents of any baby born on Lenin’s birthday. A chef bound for Mars begins an even more treacherous journey much closer to home. And a lonely heart searches for love online–never mind that he’s a Cyclops. 

With her signature tenderness, Ramona Ausubel applies a mapmaker’s eye to landscapes both real and imagined, all the while providing a keen guide to the wild, uncharted terrain of the human heart.

Where she had once been a precise oil painting, now she was a watercolor.

I’ve been looking forward to this for a while. I’ve been really into short story collections, particularly “””weird””” ones, for a while now and had Awayland on my TBR for a couple months prior to its release. I was actually stoked when I opened up my library copy and realized that Ramona had also written A Guide to Being Born, which has been on my TBR for ages and just looks gorgeous and great.

She grew up with the feeling that children must simply appear, unbidden. Who would want to make any more of them? It was as if they hatched in some dirty, neglected corner like so many baby cockroaches and the grown-ups had had no choice but to try to raise them.

This particular collection was sorted into four sections, each with its highs and lows. I had a couple I vibed with particularly strongly and others that didn’t really stand out to me. I’ll list the sections, stories, and individual ratings below:

I remember being sixteen and feeling so in love with my friends that it seemed like they would be enough to sustain me for the rest of time.

A. Bay of Hungers
You Can Find Love Now  ⭐⭐⭐
Fresh Water from the Sea  ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5
Template for a Proclamation to Save the Species  ⭐⭐⭐⭐

B. The Cape of Persistent Hope
Mother Land  ⭐⭐⭐
Departure Lounge  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Remedy  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

C. The Lonesome Flats
Club Zeus  ⭐⭐⭐
High Desert  ⭐⭐⭐
Heaven  ⭐⭐

D. The Dream Isles
The Animal Mummies Wish to Thank the Following  ⭐⭐
Do Not Save the Ferocious, Save the Tender  ⭐⭐

She was too tired now, too worn through to love anyone back.

My average rating was 3.32 stars, which I rounded down to 3. As you can see I had a few favorites toward the beginning but the second half fell a bit flat for me. I still recommend this book, particularly to lovers of literary fiction, and I’m looking forward to picking up more of Ramona’s work!

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(Cover and blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)