Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

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

Goodreads | Bookshop

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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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Lost Girls [review]

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The Lost Girls by Sonia Hartl
Published by Page Street Kids on September 14, 2021
my rating: ★★ (2 stars)
Goodreads avg:
3.59 (as of 2022-01-04)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads | Bookshop


I was a vampire. Undead, immortal, powerful. I would not be brought to my knees by a mortal girl with a gorgeous smile and terrible dance moves.

2 ⭐️

This was such a fun concept with so much promise, but unfortunately it fell quite short for me. Although this was a quick read, I found the writing really clunky, the characters flat, and the story itself boring. I kept waiting to feel something regarding the main romance but there was just no chemistry for me. Ida and Rose were truly interchangeable to me and I could never remember who was who. Elton just felt like an evil caricature. The worldbuilding was somewhat interesting – lots of new vampire “rules” – but that couldn’t carry the rest of the book for me. I ended up skimming the last quarter because I just didn’t care. So bummed this didn’t work out for me, but I didn’t find it enjoyable enough to overlook the poor writing.

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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

Goodreads | Bookshop


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.

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Vagina Problems [DNF review]

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Vagina Problems by Lara Parker
Published by St. Martin’s Griffin on October 6, 2020
my rating: ★★ (2 stars)
Goodreads avg:
3.78 (as of 2021-11-24)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads | Bookshop


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.

After reading some other reviews, I’ve decided to DNF this at 18% (~40 pages). After the introduction and two chapters, I feel like I’ve already read everything Parker is going to say. This is an incredibly repetitive book, with some of the exact same phrases being repeated word-for-word over and over again. As someone with “vagina problems” I did find some of this very relatable and I fully agree that it’s a vital topic to talk about — but Parker’s writing is clearly better suited to blog posts than a full-length book. And I’m sure her blog posts are very worthwhile and will bring a lot of awareness to the disorders she suffers from! But I can’t say this is a book I recommend reading. I’d actually point to Ask Me About My Uterus for a better read about vagina problems (specifically endometriosis). I’m really disappointed that Vagina Problems didn’t work out for me and I want to acknowledge that Lara Parker is doing important work — this book just didn’t quite hit the mark.


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Underground Railroad [review]

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The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, narrated by Bahni Turpin
Published by Random House Audio on September 3, 2016
my rating: ★★ (2 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.04 (as of 2021-09-23)
Spoiler-Free Review

Goodreads | Bookshop


I truly feel bad that I didn’t like this. There was not much with the book itself; Whitehead is an excellent writer who creates believable characters. I do wish the Railroad itself was featured more heavily or more creatively, as is this was really just an over the plate historical fiction where the Underground Railroad happens to be a literal railroad. The concept itself felt underutilized and I think the book would have had the same impact on me had Whitehead not changed this, which left me wondering why he did.

It feels wrong to say that I felt bored reading this, but I truly did. I didn’t feel attached to Cora or any of the other characters and didn’t feel very involved with the plot itself. I kept wondering where it was going to go. This is where I mention that I think it was my mistake to read this book — I rarely enjoy straightforward historical fiction and I read this thinking it was going to be something different because of the railroad. The fact is, this read like any other historical fic novel and it’s a me problem that I didn’t enjoy that.

I definitely recommend readers interested in historical fiction, particularly Southern history, pick this up. It’s well-written and is obviously enjoyed by many. Unfortunately I just wasn’t the right audience for this.


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

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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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Wicked Sister [review]

The Wicked Sister by Karen Dionne
To be published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons on August 4, 2020
my rating: ★★ (2 stars)
Goodreads avg: 
4.03 (as of 2020-07-22)
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.

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website


But you can be evil even if you don’t choose it.

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 was absolutely blown away by The Marsh King’s Daughter earlier this year and was highly anticipating Dionne’s newest release. Unfortunately, this one really fell short on expectations. If you want a mindless thriller with disturbing elements, please look no further. If you’re looking for anything more than that, perhaps think twice.

I was unconvinced from this from the start; the premise that this woman spent 15 years institutionalizing herself because she thought she did something that could have been disproven by a single line in a police report is quite frankly absurd to me. There continued to be inconsistencies and hyperbole that would pull me out of the story completely. For one, Rachel grew up learning the woods like the back of her hand. She was a vegetarian, essentially a pacifist, and deified nature. So how am I to believe that she repeatedly chucks her cigarettes to the ground and leaves them there? I know this is such a minor point to nitpick, but it just goes so vehemently against her character that I honestly couldn’t believe it! I saw the twist coming from a mile away, and one of the characters became so cartoonishly evil that it felt like Dionne wasn’t even taking things seriously anymore.

Never mind the fact that I’m starting to tire of the psychopath child trope and this truly added nothing to the genre of thrillers that rely on it. It really seemed like most of the thrills relied on pure shock value. This does work to its benefit in some ways: it’s difficult to put the novel down and it’s a fastpaced read. Something dreadful is truly lurking around every corner here.

There was also a strange fabulist element integrated into this — Rachel can apparently converse with animals. I thought at first that this was meant to skew the reader’s judgment of her: is she actually insane? But it really seems to serve little purpose other than furthering the plot in certain areas and getting Rachel to where she needs to be. It really felt like something that should have either been left out or utilized more thoroughly by Dionne.

So, this didn’t work for me at all I’m afraid. If you’re looking for something fast and simple and are able to suspend your disbelief, this could totally be the book for you. But if the above elements would be an issue, perhaps skip this one this time around.


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Vita Nostra [review]

Vita Nostra by Marina Dyachenko & Sergey Dyachenko, translated by Julia Meitov Hersey
Published by Harper Voyager on November 13, 2018 (originally 2007)
my rating: ★★
Goodreads avg:
4.12 (as of 2020-05-24)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads IndieBound 


Love is not when you are aroused by someone, it’s when you are afraid for that person.

I’m clearly in the minority here since all my friends loved this, but I found this book to be utterly incomprehensible. I had no idea what was going on 95% of the time and had so much difficulty following things. The book really leaves its reader to do a lot of the heavy lifting, so be prepared to make some leaps on your own to figure out what’s happening. There were aspects of it that were really compelling, which is why it gets 2 stars instead of 1, but I got very little out of reading this and felt like it was so much longer than 400 pages.


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Mini-Review Compilation #20

You Are Not Alone

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.

I wish I had much to say about this, but I don’t. I’m sure this will satisfy a lot of people as an entertaining thriller. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the plot was compelling and thought that Shay was sort of a weak, boring character. Usually thrillers have me desperate for answers, even if they’re lacking otherwise, but I didn’t have that experience here. It was readable enough for me to finish, but I think the biggest issue is that I didn’t feel a sense of urgency; I felt sure Shay would get out of this mess and instead of worrying for her, I just waited to see what would happen. The only piece I really liked was the running theme of statistics. Shay is a big and I loved the data book she kept. Clearly I’m in the minority on this though, and it is great that the somewhat large cast is almost entirely female.

Rating: ⭐⭐.5

Enduring Love

Objectively, I can see the appeal to this. It is generally well-written and there are some interesting aspects to it. Unfortunately, it totally lost me. I found myself mostly bored and not caring enough about the outcome to bother picking it up unless I had nothing else to do. I can certainly see this working for other people, but it definitely wasn’t for me.

Rating: ⭐⭐

Penance

This was, uh, strange. I struggled with it a lot and am not sure if that’s due to the writing itself or things getting lost in translation. The tone felt strangely monotone, which made it difficult for me to fully engage with the story. I also struggled to differentiate all the characters — partly because of the flat tone and partly because I felt like I was constantly having names thrown at me. I wish I had enjoyed this more because the format was interesting, as was the story itself. It will definitely stick with me, but it wasn’t something I really enjoyed reading.

Rating: ⭐⭐


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Mr. Mercedes [review]

Mr. Mercedes (Bill Hodges Trilogy #1) by Stephen King
Published by Pocket Books on December 29, 2015 (originally 2014)
my rating: ★★
Goodreads avg:
3.96 (as of 2020-01-14)

Goodreads IndieBound | Author Website


Minor spoilers ahead.

This was generally quite readable, but I didn’t find myself invested in the main character at all. The romance was half-baked, didn’t feel real, and was only included so the LI could be fridged in order to further motivate Bill. The casual/explicit racism in this runs rampant: King is constantly using the n-word, gives a black side character a recurring joke about being a literal slave to the white MC (to the point where the kid calls him “Massa Hodges”), and makes the villain vilely racist in a way that I felt was just not necessary.

Hodges has read there are wells in Iceland so deep you can drop a stone down them and never hear the splash. He thinks some human souls are like that.

Both Bill and the aforementioned side character, Jerome, treat a second side character, Holly, like absolute garbage because of her mental illness. She seems to suffer from only anxiety and OCD, but gets treated like she’s a lunatic because she takes… lexapro. Lexapro is an extremely common medication used for anxiety and depression. I felt like mental illness was being hugely stigmatized here, especially because Holly is treated like she’s soft and useless. King is almost able to flip the trope he’s using, but falls short. Instead of having Hodges and Jerome admit their preconceived notions were wrong, he has them say shit like “it’s humbling to find he’s been scooped by a Lexapro-dependent neurotic.”

The last sound she makes on earth–everyone should be so lucky–is a laugh.

Anyway, I just didn’t have any patience for this. You can write realistic, flawed characters while still challenging problematic viewpoints, which wasn’t accomplished here. To add insult to injury, I didn’t find anything compelling about the plot itself. While I could sit down and read for sizeable chunks of time, I was still just reading for the sake of finishing it and not because I truly wanted to. Mr. Mercedes was honestly a huge disappointment and I have no plans to finish out the trilogy.


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