Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

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

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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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In the Woods [review]

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In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad #1) by Tana French
Published by Penguin Group on May 17, 2007
my rating: 2 stars
Goodreads avg:
3.78 (as of 2022-02-14)
Spoiler-free review

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I did NOT get the hype on this one, lads. I’d heard rave reviews about this for years and finally decided to pick it up. My first letdown was when I realized the main character was a man — it didn’t really matter, but I do tend to prefer reading about people who are not men. I continued regardless, but really found it to be a slog from start to finish. Every time I would pick it up, it was with a sense of dread because I was just bored.

Rob was truly the most roll-your-eyes boring white man. He’s supposed to be broody and complex, with his PTSD and growing instability. I just found him to be insufferable, unprofessional, and of poor judgment. Do I have to like the characters I read? No, but I do need to find them somewhat interesting or compelling. Rob didn’t hit either of those.

Around the halfway mark, I had already figured out who was behind the murder (although the means didn’t fully come together until later on) and started to skim more and more. I didn’t want to DNF after putting so much into the book already, but I certainly didn’t want to take my time finishing either. Unfortunately, the ending was just as bad. There was a missed resolution that was essentially the only thing I had been waiting for, and it gave me a gut-punch far too emotional for how incredibly uninvested I had felt throughout the book.

I have to say I will not be recommending this to anyone in the future, but I know there are plenty of people who LOVED this, so take this with a pinch of salt.


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Fingersmith [review]

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Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Published by Riverhead Books on October 1, 2002
my rating: ★★ (2 stars)
Goodreads avg:
3.98 (as of 2022-01-01)
Spoiler-free review

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Sometimes she would close her eyes. ‘How well you know me,’ she might say. ‘I think you know the turning of all my limbs.’

This was my first Sarah Waters and it may very well be my last, unless someone wants to convince me otherwise. Maybe it was my mistake reading this during the dark dreary parts of winter, but this was just absolutely miserable. While I loved bits of the relationship between Sue and Maud, I found most of the characters themselves to be incredibly irritating. Sometimes it felt like we were spending full chapters watching them just mope. I think that I would have enjoyed this more if a lot had been cut out; at some points it truly just dragged.

I’ll try to stay vague to avoid spoilers, but I also really struggled to suspend my disbelief when it came to some of the twists. I don’t need my fiction to be 100% realistic, but there were moments where I just thought, “Really?? You expect me to believe they got away with this?” At first I was impressed with how Waters managed to catch me by surprise, but eventually it felt more like she was trying to write something as complicated as possible regardless of how much sense it made.

That being said — I do see what others could enjoy in this. Sometimes I think I find myself a little too empathetic when it comes to reading fictional POVs, which means I can struggle with darker content. This book really pulled me down into its mood and was a difficult reading experience. I did enjoy the Victorian lesbian romance as well as the commentary on women’s lack of agency. I think it would have made a big difference if I didn’t feel so, well, miserable reading it. I do think this is worth trying if you enjoy historical fiction and are looking for something sapphic and mysterious, but just be prepared for some sob stories.

click for content warnings

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The Lost Village [review]

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The Lost Village by Camilla Sten transl. Alexandra Fleming
Published by Minotaur Books on March 23, 2021
my rating: ★★★ (3 stars)
Goodreads avg:
3.56 (as of 2021-10-27)
Spoiler-free review

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disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. All of the opinions presented below are my own. Quotes have been taken from the advanced copy and are subject to change upon publication.

The comps for this were spot on — it truly is Midsommar meets Blair Witch Project, but somehow less compelling than either of the two. It was incredibly readable, but really fell apart in the last act for me. There was a hint of a paranormal element that just wasn’t fully explored in any way, and some plot points that I wish had been expanded upon were just glossed over. By the end, I just kind of felt like “that’s it?”

The treatment of mental illness in this was also… not great. I did like that the author addressed how draining it can be to be the sole support of a friend in the midst of crisis, but that was canceled out by writing off an entire character as psychotic and violent because they [checks notes] take abilify.

The concept itself was really interesting and could have turned out so much cooler with some more thought-out writing. I will say that I got pretty creeped out at some parts and it was an incredibly atmospheric read. This would be a fun horror read if you’re not looking for anything too well put together.

(SPOILERS HERE)
Side note — I got huge queer vibes between Alice and Emmy and was so disappointed when nothing happened between them. I thought it was obvious that they were in some kind of intense queerplatonic relationship with unspoken (or forgotten?) feelings between the two of them and can’t believe that wasn’t the case.


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The Dead and the Dark [review]

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The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould
Published by Wednesday Books on August 3, 2021
my rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.00 (as of 2021-10-24)
Spoiler-free review

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this was so fun and spooky with a really nice sapphic romance! the small town energy was on point. i was really glad to see such an upfront portrayal of comphet and how easy it can be to lose yourself in others’ expectations. i didn’t realize this was a debut until i hit the acknowledgements and was really impressed with Gould’s writing. i think some things in the final act didn’t quite work for me, but this was still so compulsively readable that i tore through it in just a couple sittings. i’m so excited to see what Gould comes out with next (more lesbians, she’s promised) and have already decided that she’s an auto-buy author for me.

content warnings: Homomisia & homomisic slurs; Hate crimes; Death of a child; Murder & attempted murder; Gun violence; Attempted drowning; Vivisepulture (being buried alive) (per the Trigger Warning Database)

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Don’t Look for Me [review]

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Don’t Look for Me by Wendy Walker
Published by St. Martin’s Press on September 15, 2020
my rating: ★★ (2 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.01 (as of 2020-04-30)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads | Bookshop | Author’s Website


disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. All of the opinions presented below are my own. Quotes have been taken from the advanced copy and are subject to change upon publication.

I loved Emma in the Night, so I was really excited to read Don’t Look for Me. Unfortunately, it fell incredibly short of my expectations. While this was a very fast-paced novel with high stakes, I really struggled to care about the characters and only finished this to see how the story would end. I actually guessed one of the major twists before the halfway mark and ended up skimming from about 80% onward because I didn’t feel compelled to spend more time with this than absolutely necessary.

While I know thrillers require some suspension of disbelief, this really didn’t feel like it had any authenticity to it. The characters and their problems felt so manufactured and it made it difficult to truly care about or root for them. I’d compare this to one of those trashy Lifetime movies that you throw on to pass the time and don’t really enjoy, but just have to see the end of because you’re curious about the plot. Except this required more time and effort than a Lifetime movie.

So just go watch a Lifetime movie instead, tbh. (Honestly though, I am clearly very much in the minority and suggest you check out some other reviews if you’re interested in this because maybe you’ll vibe with it more than I did!)


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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

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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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One by One [review]

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One by One by Ruth Ware
Published by Scout Press on September 8, 2020
my rating: ★★★ (3 stars)
Goodreads avg:
3.73 (as of 2020-12-16)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads Bookshop | Author’s Website


One by One is my first Ruth Ware book and was picked up on a whim after seeing a lot of buzz. I figured a thriller would be a good way to get myself back into reading since it’s been [checks notes] four months since I’ve read anything. And this was a fine book to break my reading slump. It was inoffensive, easy to get into, and decently written. It just didn’t have much more than that going for it. It was fast-paced and I devoured it in two sittings, but I wasn’t super satisfied upon finishing. I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a run-of-the-mill thriller, but caution not to expect much more than that.


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Confessions [review]

Confessions by Kanae Minato, translated by Stephen Snyder
Published by Mulholland Books on August 19, 2014 (originally 2008)
my rating: ★★★.5 (3.5 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.08 (as of 2020-08-24)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads Bookshop | Author’s Website


Earlier this year, I read Penance by the same author and decided to pick up Confessions for Women in Translation month. Minato definitely seems to have a theme in her writing; both novels are highly disturbing in their own ways and deal with the topic of child death. I really liked the different perspectives in this and how the reader slowly got a fuller picture of what had happened and what was actively happening. I honestly wasn’t able to guess any of the twists, so I was kept on the edge of my seat the whole time. The matter-of-fact tone in which the whole thing was told added to the atmosphere as well. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out to see if any more of Minato’s work is translated.


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