Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Sea Beast Takes a Lover [review]


The Sea Beast Takes a Lover by Michael Andreasen
Expected publication by Dutton Books on February 27, 2018
240 pages.
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
goodreads avg: 
cw: see review

Spoiler-free Review of an eARC provided by NetGalley.



Bewitching and playful, with its feet only slightly tethered to the world we know, The Sea Beast Takes a Lover explores hope, love, and loss across a series of surreal landscapes and wild metamorphoses. Just because Jenny was born without a head doesn’t mean she isn’t still annoying to her older brother, and just because the Man of the Future’s carefully planned extramarital affair ends in alien abduction and network fame doesn’t mean he can’t still pine for his absent wife. Romping through the fantastic with big-hearted ease, these stories cut to the core of what it means to navigate family, faith, and longing, whether in the form of a lovesick kraken slowly dragging a ship of sailors into the sea, a small town euthanizing its grandfathers in a time-honored ritual, or a third-grade field trip learning that time travel is even more wondrous–and more perilous–than they might imagine.

Andreasen’s stories are simultaneously daring and deeply familiar, unfolding in wildly inventive worlds that convey our common yearning for connection and understanding. With a captivating new voice from an incredible author, The Sea Beast Takes a Lover uses the supernatural and extraordinary to expose us at our most human.

From the instant I saw the cover, I knew I just HAD to read this book. It had already been on my TBR when I stumbled across it on Netgalley and slammed the request button reflexively. I love bizarro short stories, I love cephalopods, and I love anything with an octopus on the cover.

Unfortunately, these stories just didn’t mesh well with me. It wasn’t a bad read, it just wasn’t anything over-the-top outstanding. If you’re interested, I’d say give it a shot regardless. Michael Andreasen is a talented writer and I’m intrigued to see what else he comes out with!

Below I’ve rated and provided content warnings for each of the individual stories.

Our Fathers at Sea ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Bodies in Space ⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Sea Beast Takes a Lover ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The King’s Teacups at Rest ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
He is the Rainstorm and the Sandstorm, Hallelujah, Hallelujah ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Rockabye, Rocketboy ⭐️⭐️ 
(cw porn, pedophilia, stalking)
The Saints in the Parlor ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Andy, Lord of Ruin ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 
(cw animal abuse/animal death)
Jenny ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 
(cw assault)
Rite of Baptism ⭐️⭐️
Blunderbuss ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Avg: 3.36 rounded down to 3

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(Covers and blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Text Me When You Get Home [review]


Text Me When You Get Home by Kayleen Schaefer
To be published by Dutton on February 6, 2018
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:

Spoiler-free review of an eARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley.

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

From Girls to Parks and Recreation to Bridesmaids, the female friendship has taken an undeniable front seat in pop culture. Text Me When You Get Home is a personal and sociological perspective – and ultimately a celebration – of the evolution of the modern female friendship.

Kayleen Schaefer has experienced (and occasionally, narrowly survived) most every iteration of the modern female friendship. First there was the mean girl cliques of the ’90s; then the teenage friendships that revolved around constant discussion of romantic interests and which slowly morphed into Sex and the City spin-offs; the disheartening loneliness of “I’m not like other girls” friendships with only men; the discovery of a platonic soul mate; and finally, the overwhelming love of a supportive female squad (#squad).

And over the course of these friendships, Schaefer made a startling discovery: girls make the best friends. And she isn’t the only one to realize this. Through interviews with friends, mothers, authors, celebrities, businesswomen, doctors, screenwriters, and historians (a list that includes Judy Blume, Megan Abbott, The Fug Girls, and Kay Cannon), Schaefer shows a remarkable portrait of what female friendships can help modern women accomplish in their social, personal, and work lives.

A validation of female friendship unlike any that’s ever existed before, this book is a mix of historical research, the author’s own personal experience, and conversations about friendships across the country. Everything Schaefer uncovers leads to – and makes the case for – the eventual conclusion that these ties among women are making us (both as individuals and as society as a whole) stronger than ever before.

I was stoked when I saw this book on NetGalley, a feminist book about how important female friendships are? It was right up my alley. Unfortunately, I ended up being somewhat disappointed by the content. Overall, the book is well-written and makes a lot of important points. But these points are surrounded by a meandering narrative that ultimately seemed without purpose.

This is because women who say, “Text me when you get home,” aren’t just asking for reassurance that you’ve made it to your bed unharmed. It’s not only about safety. It’s about solidarity. It’s about knowing how unsettling it can feel when you’ve been surrounded by friends and then are suddenly by yourself again.

There were also a couple of points made that I didn’t agree with. First and foremost was the idea that a woman could not have a man as a best friend, “it just doesn’t work that way.” I disagree wholeheartedly. While I see where the author is coming from, I have several male best friends who I’m just as close to as my non-male best friends. There’s nothing I don’t feel comfortable sharing with them, and while they may not have gone through all the same experiences as me, they’re still my best friends.

For something so widely believed, the idea that girls are mean is relatively new.

The majority of the book is anecdotal, with references to pop culture. There’s a bit of historical research mixed in and very little, if any, current research. It’s the author talking about her friendships with women, and interviewing other women about their friendships. All these stories seem to come from a very limited subset of women — upper-middle class straight women. At least, that was the vibe I got. I didn’t mark down details about every single woman she interviewed, but this seemed to be the pattern I saw.

There were a few other things that gave me some serious “yikes” vibes. The author made jokes about strokes, and put in jokes about stalking quotes from an interviewee. There was also one line that really irritated me. The author is talking about a pair of best friends, one straight and one gay. She shared that the friends would go to gay bars together, which is fine, but that “Susanna liked being the only straight girl.” Being queer myself, I’m pretty sick of straight women co-opting gay spaces as their own and I found this inclusion completely unnecessary.

Additionally, the author shared that she didn’t really care about feminism at all until Trump was elected. I think this goes to show the kind of privilege she has lived with, and that she isn’t really qualified to speak for women at large. I was surprised that she even admitted to this, but I think that just means that she doesn’t see any issue with it.

I will note again that I am reading an unfinished copy, so it would be interesting to know if any of these things were left out of the final copy.

Overall, Text Me When You Get Home was an enjoyable read. It was nice reading about relationships between women, but I didn’t feel like I was learning anything. I would be interested in seeing a book written about relationships between women that goes more in depth than this one, and that discusses women from different backgrounds. I won’t tell anyone not to read this book, but I think it’s good to go into it not expecting it to be a gamechanger.

All quotes have been taken from an unfinished copy and may be changed prior to publication.

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(Cover and blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Ready Player One [review]


Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Published by Crown Publishers on August 16, 2011
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
cw: transphobia

Spoiler-free Review 

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website


In the year 2045, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

Obviously, Ready Player One is one of the most hyped books at the moment. While it was published in 2011, the movie releases in just a few short weeks. Since I’d never read it, I figured now was the perfect time to. I’ve seen many conflicting reviews from many people I trust, and wasn’t sure what to expect when going into it.

At the beginning, I found the story fun and endearing. The world Cline had created was interesting, as was the way OASIS had taken over as the both dominant means of interaction between people and the most common form of escapism. I found Wade (aka Parzival) to be a bit of a cringey, although fairly realistic, character and enjoyed becoming immersed in his day-to-day life.

Anyone with a penchant for 80s nostalgia will love the pop culture references in this book, as they hit hard and heavy. Even though a lot of the stuff referenced was over my head, I still enjoyed following Wade as he solved the puzzles — and I thought the DnD-related bits were great. There were also a lot of humorous moments peppered throughout the book, which were nice.

There were also some not-so-great aspects. For one, I felt very uncomfortable with a lot of the ways Wade spoke about and to his love interest. He joked about cyberstalking her, and actually did cyberstalk her, which I don’t consider to be a funny topic. During one conversation where they talk about how he only knows her through OASIS and has no idea what her real-life identity is, he makes a comment about how as long as she’s a “female human who hasn’t had a sex-change operation,” he still wants to date her. Glad to know transphobia is alive and well in 2045 (/sarcasm).

Avoiding specific spoilers, there is one point during which Wade puts the integrity of the hunt over the actual lives of actual human beings, which kind of ruins his integrity as an empathetic human being in my eyes. The second half of the book as a whole kind of made me lose interest. Things continually drop into Wade’s lap in increasingly unbelievable ways, until it hits a point where the stakes don’t really feel like they matter anymore. No matter how dire things become, as a reader you just kind of assume he’ll figure it out and don’t really care how, because the solution will just turn out to be absurd anyway. For me, it ruined any suspension of disbelief I had and was a large part of why this didn’t receive a higher rating from me.

Clearly Ready Player One is a much-beloved book with a large fanbase. I definitely think it was worth reading, and I definitely expect a lot of the people going into it to like it. It just didn’t hit expectations for me and really does read like a debut novel, particularly in the second half. I’m interested to see what Cline does in the future and will certainly pick up other books by him. If you think Ready Player One sounds like it’s in your wheelhouse, I would recommend you give it a shot.

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(Cover and blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Oliver Loving [review]


Oliver Loving by Stefan Merrill Block
To be published by Flatiron Books on January 16, 2018
my rating: ⭐️⭐️.5
Goodreads avg: 
cw: school shootings, pedophilia, domestic abuse

Spoiler-free Review of an ARC provided by the publisher as part of a giveaway.

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

​From a celebrated literary talent comes a brilliant, propulsive novel about family, the traumas and secrets that test our deepest bonds, and the stories that hold us together. 

One warm, West Texas November night, a shy boy named Oliver Loving joins his classmates at Bliss County Day School’s annual dance, hoping for a glimpse of the object of his unrequited affections, an enigmatic Junior named Rebekkah Sterling. But as the music plays, a troubled young man sneaks in through the school’s back door. The dire choices this man makes that evening —and the unspoken story he carries— will tear the town of Bliss, Texas apart.

Nearly ten years later, Oliver Loving still lies wordless and paralyzed at Crockett State Assisted Care Facility, the fate of his mind unclear. Orbiting the still point of Oliver’s hospital bed is a family transformed: Oliver’s mother, Eve, who keeps desperate vigil; Oliver’s brother, Charlie, who has fled for New York City only to discover he cannot escape the gravity of his shattered family; Oliver’s father, Jed, who tries to erase his memories with bourbon. And then there is Rebekkah Sterling, Oliver’s teenage love, who left Texas long ago and still refuses to speak about her own part in that tragic night. When a new medical test promises a key to unlock Oliver’s trapped mind, the town’s unanswered questions resurface with new urgency, as Oliver’s doctors and his family fight for a way for Oliver to finally communicate — and so also to tell the truth of what really happened that fateful night.

A moving meditation on the transformative power of grief and love, a slyly affectionate look at the idiosyncrasies of family, and an emotionally-charged page-turner, Oliver Loving is an extraordinarily original novel that ventures into the unknowable and returns with the most fundamental truths.​

Let me start off by saying: this is not a bad book. But I have put off writing this review for over a month now because I just didn’t like it at all. There are people out there who will probably love this book. Unfortunately, I just wasn’t one of them.

But you were a boy who had developed a nearly anaphylactic aversion to prolonged eye contact, and you looked away, gaped awkwardly up at the sky: a poor decision.

The Good: Stefan Merrill Block is an incredible writer. The writing in this book is just so lyrical, so beautiful. I had to stop to reread passages several times because they struck me just so. There’s even a queer character! Nice!

The tragedy of love, you had learned from ten years spent looking up at your mother, is that it is only possible to love perfectly a person who is lost to you…

Unfortunately, everything felt far too scattered for me. The book tried to cover a plethora of topics and in doing so, didn’t really pay justice to any of them. I didn’t find myself connecting to any of the characters, they all felt too flawed, in a way. Rebekkah felt like a cardboard cutout of a teenage girl. Oliver didn’t actually care about any of the bad things happening to her as long as he got to be the white knight that saved her. I also had an issue with the way assault victims were portrayed that I can’t really get into without spoiling anything.

So, for me, there was just too much bad to outweigh the good. If it sounds like something that would interest you, I think it’s worth a shot! But if you don’t find yourself enjoying it, I think it’s also worth DNFing.

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(Cover and blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

These Violent Delights [review]


These Violent Delights by Victoria Namkung
Published by Griffith Moon on November 7, 2017
243 pages.
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
goodreads avg:
eating disorders, suicide, sexual assault, pedophilia

Spoiler-free Review of an eARC provided by NetGalley.

Goodreads IndieBound |  Author’s Website

At Windemere School for Girls, one of America’s elite private schools, Dr. Gregory Copeland is the beloved chair of the English Department. A married father with a penchant for romantic poetry—and impressionable teenage girls—he operates in plain sight for years, until one of his former students goes public with allegations of inappropriate conduct. With the help of an investigative journalist, and two additional Windemere alumnae who had relationships with Copeland as students, the unlikely quartet unites to take him down.

Set in modern-day Los Angeles, These Violent Delights is a literary exploration of the unyielding pressures and vulnerabilities that so many women and girls experience, and analyzes the ways in which our institutions and families fail to protect or defend us. A suspenseful and nuanced story told from multiple points of view, the novel examines themes of sexuality, trauma, revenge, and the American myth of liberty and justice for all.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when going into this book. I loved the cover and when I skimmed the blurb, it definitely seemed like something up my alley. While the book had several positive points, it was overall underwhelming for me and kind of fell in the middle of the road as far as enjoyment went.

Overall, the message in the book was great. It was extremely supportive of survivors from all over the spectrum — the MC often feels guilty and like her assault wasn’t “bad enough” and is quickly disagreed with by the other characters. I also like how all of the survivors were their own people, they had different experiences, different histories, and different reactions. It demonstrates that anyone can be a survivor and that there isn’t one “right way” to deal with things.

I felt like the writing itself could have used some more work. I didn’t feel emotionally connected to any of the characters, and so the book wasn’t as hard-hitting for me as it should have been. There was a romance that felt largely out-of-place to me and I wasn’t sure why it had been included. There was some stuff toward the end that I felt was mostly for the sake of shock value and that added very little to the story, for me anyway.

I wouldn’t steer anyone away from this book if they’re interested, but I also don’t see myself recommending it to anyone. I feel like there are better portrayals of assault survivors out there to read.

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(Cover and blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Fen [review]

Fen by Daisy Jonhson
Published by Graywolf Press on May 2, 2017
208 pages.
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
eating disorders, pedophilia, incest

Goodreads IndieBound | Author’s Website

Daisy Johnson’s Fen, set in the fenlands of England, transmutes the flat, uncanny landscape into a rich, brooding atmosphere. From that territory grow stories that blend folklore and restless invention to turn out something entirely new. Amid the marshy paths of the fens, a teenager might starve herself into the shape of an eel. A house might fall in love with a girl and grow jealous of her friend. A boy might return from the dead in the guise of a fox.

Out beyond the confines of realism, the familiar instincts of sex and hunger blend with the shifting, unpredictable wild as the line between human and animal is effaced by myth and metamorphosis. With a fresh and utterly contemporary voice, Johnson lays bare these stories of women testing the limits of their power to create a startling work of fiction.

I saw a staff member recommendation in a local bookstore that this was similar to Karen Russell’s work. Vampires in the Lemon Grove is my favorite short story collection, so I was really stoked to get my hands on this! The library didn’t have a copy, but ordered it shortly after I sent in a request. I was delighted to get it. I think all of the versions have beautiful covers and I was contemplating buying one of each if this ended up being a 5-star read. As is, I still may end up picking up a copy of my own.

Watch out for the affection. It comes at odd, awful moments, mainly when he is not there: brushing your teeth, opening the door for a parcel, at the photocopying machine. There is nothing much about him you can see which would do this to you. Affection, you tell your housemates, is a sort of sickness.

Johnson has such a smooth, unique voice. Her writing is quite beautiful and her prose borders on poetry. Even when it comes to disturbing content, she writes with a soothing cadence. I have absolutely no complaints as far as her writing goes, but the stories themselves just weren’t for me. There were a few that I really liked, but most of them didn’t do much to capture me. Below, I’ve provided a list of the stories included and my rating for each:

Starver   ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Blood Rites   ⭐️⭐️⭐️
A Bruise the Shape and Size of a Door Handle   ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
How to Lose It   ⭐️⭐️
How to Fuck a Man You Don’t Know   ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Language   ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Superstition of Albatross   ⭐️⭐️⭐️
A Heavy Devotion   ⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Scattering   ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Birthing Stones   ⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Cull   ⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Lighthouse Keeper   ⭐️⭐️⭐️

If the blurb intrigues you, I would absolutely recommend that you read this. While it didn’t quite work for me, I think that this is a collection that is well-worth reading if you like the concepts hinted at. Although, do keep in mind the CWs I posted above, as there are some sensitive topics covered. If you do check it out–or if you’ve read it already–please let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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(Blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

All the Crooked Saints [review]

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
To be published by Scholastic Press on October 10, 2017
320 pages.
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5
I would like to thank Scholastic for providing me an ARC of the book. This in no way impacts my review.

Goodreads IndieBound | Author’s Website

Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.

At the heart of this place you will find the Soria family, who all have the ability to perform unusual miracles. And at the heart of this family are three cousins longing to change its future: Beatriz, the girl without feelings, who wants only to be free to examine her thoughts; Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, who performs miracles for everyone but himself; and Joaquin, who spends his nights running a renegade radio station under the name Diablo Diablo.

They are all looking for a miracle. But the miracles of Bicho Raro are never quite what you expect.

I don’t think Maggie Stiefvater’s prose will ever fail to do anything less than stun me. In each of her works, she has such a beautiful, unique voice and I find myself scribbling quotes into my notebook at a rapid pace. All the Crooked Saints was no exception.

…the truth is that we men and women often hate to be rid of the familiar, and sometimes our darkness is the thing we know the best.

On the other hand, I’m fairly certain that if this hadn’t been written by Stiefvater, I would have DNFed it. In fact, I almost did, probably ~80 pages in. I typically give books around 50 pages to really pull me in, sometimes more if I’m really on the fence. And I was really on the fence here, but I kept telling myself, “Hey, this is Maggie! Ya gotta keep going.” Don’t worry kids, I’m glad I kept going.

…and he knew to search for her in all of the places you might hope to find a cat or a venomous lizard–on top of roofs, hooked on tree branches, stretched in the dust beneath trucks.

I think my biggest issue with this book was that I didn’t feel invested in the characters for quite some time. I thought the writing was lovely, but I also just… didn’t care about the plot. I felt like it was written so matter-of-factly that I found it difficult for me become emotionally engaged with the content. I mean it makes sense, considering Beatriz’ manner of thinking, but I just struggled too much to connect.

One compliments a man when one compliments his chosen home…

The last third of the book really pulled things together for me. I felt that things were tied up well and I liked everything that happened, I finally found myself drawn into the story. It just didn’t hook me deep like a 4- or 5-star book would, though. I still love Stiefvater’s work and I will absolutely pick up whatever she puts out next, but All the Crooked Saints just didn’t do it for me this time around.

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(Blurb courtesy of Goodreads.)

Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Mini-Review Compilation #3

Paper Girls, Vol 1.

I think this graphic novel just moved a little too fast for me. I got really lost plot-wise and had no idea what was going on, so I found it difficult to enjoy. I plan on picking it up again around Halloween, as I’m sure I’ll enjoy it much more as a reread! I also plan on continuing the series, so I’ll make sure to get my hands on Volume 2 at some point. Definitely an interesting read, even if it is confusing!

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️


Six of Crows

There’s not much I can say about this that hasn’t already been said. I was worried I wouldn’t enjoy this as much as everyone else, but it truly lives up to the hype. Leigh Bardugo builds an incredible world and introduces us to a (mostly) lovable cast of characters. I have not felt this immersed in a book in ages. I cannot wait to read the sequel and you better believe I’m adding the rest of Bardugo’s books to my TBR.



I went into this hoping it would be good, but not expecting a lot and it blew me away. This is one of those books that I couldn’t even stop to take notes during because I was so enthralled. I had to put it down a few times just to breathe. I adored this story every step of the way, but the end wrecked me. I had predicted half of the twist, but didn’t see the other half coming. I’m really intrigued to see how Lu continues this series!


Thanks for reading! Have you read any of these books? If so, what were your thoughts?

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My Best Friend’s Exorcism [review]

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
Published by Quirk Books on May 17, 2016
336 pages.
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Goodreads IndieBound | Author’s Website

Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act…different. And as the strange coincidences and bizarre behavior start to pile up, Abby realizes there’s only one possible explanation: Gretchen, her favorite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not about to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend. With help from some unlikely allies, Abby embarks on a quest to save Gretchen. But is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?

cw: sexual assault, parental abuse

I was anticipating this read a lot and it really let me down. Let me be clear, I wasn’t expecting it to be my new all-time favorite book, but I thought it would be a really enjoyable read. It started out well, I liked seeing the friendship between Abby and Gretchen develop. I found all the character dynamics interesting. For the first 25% or so, I was really into the story and got through it relatively quickly.

From there, it kind of devolved for me. Part of it was the frustration of all these bad things happening. EVERYTHING kept going wrong and it was painful to read through. But I also just didn’t find it interesting. I wasn’t scared at any point, if anything I was just grossed out. There are a lot of graphic depictions of gnarly stuff, and things coming out of mouths.

I’m also just suuuper over the catty teenage girl trope, which is what this entire book is about. Gretchen is mean and catty because she’s possessed, all of the other girls are mean and catty because they’re girls. It’s tiresome and annoying and I’m really over seeing girls depicted like this and talked about like this. Also also, there is a lot of casual homophobia, which I felt like didn’t have a place in the book. Besides some comments the girls make, Gretchen and Abby have this “no homo” thing that drives me out of my mind.

Anyway, overall it was just kind of meh to me. It wasn’t bad, it just pushed the wrong buttons for me. If you really, really want to read it, I think you should! But if you were on the fence about it, maybe lean the other way. It really depends on what you’re looking for in a story.

Have any of you read this yet? What are your thoughts?
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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**


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.