Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Dark Circles [review]

Dark Circles by Caite Dolan-Leach
Published by Ballantine Books on April 19, 2022
my rating: 2 stars
Goodreads avg:
3.41 (as of 2022-08-29)
Spoiler-free review
Goodreads

disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. Quotes have been taken from the advanced copy and may differ from the final publication.

The stories told about us are not our own.

I had to pick this up because I really liked We Went to the Woods by the same author. I found it well-written and compelling at first, so the average Goodreads rating confused me, but We Went to the Woods also has a low average so I brushed it off. I really enjoyed the setup, meeting Liv and the House of Light. Olivia is an actress who had a recent public outburst that prompts her assistant slash best friend Jess to send her to rehab. The House of Light is more of a spiritual retreat and Liv thinks she knows exactly what she’s in for. Since this is a literary thriller of sorts, I think we all know that things end up taking a turn.

After the first third, this began to drag for me. I felt like the various elements didn’t quite mesh and some things began to get repetitive. It was just missing that something to make it feel compelling. It was a bit of a disappointment for me because I did like the concept of integrating a podcast into the narrative (which I think was done well here) but I struggled with the novel as a whole. I also found one of the final twists to be unsatisfying and wasn’t convinced by some of the character motives. I’m really hoping I get along better with Dolan-Leach’s next book.


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Sorrowland [review]

Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon
Published by MCD Books on May 4, 2021
my rating: 2 stars
Goodreads avg:
3.83 (as of 2022-08-21)
Spoiler-free review
Goodreads

disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. Quotes have been taken from the advanced copy and may differ from the final publication.

The forest didn’t mind illiterates and mad girls. Didn’t mind that screaming was sometimes a person’s only language.

This was my first Rivers Solomon and I hate to say it but I was definitely disappointed. I went into this pretty cold and wasn’t really expecting the extreme fantastical elements — which I’ll admit is on me. It’s definitely a book that some people will love, but it was a little too out there for me. I had difficulty following some things and just didn’t get along with the writing in general. I did appreciate how queer this was, though, as well as the messages Solomon was conveying. I have a copy of The Deep which I’ll definitely also be trying out.


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The Pallbearers Club [review]

The Pallbearers Club by Paul Tremblay
Published by William Morrow & Company on July 5, 2022
my rating: 2 stars
Goodreads avg:
3.39 (as of 2022-07-30)
Spoiler-free review
Goodreads

I’m so disappointed that I didn’t like this. I’ve read two five stars, two four stars, and one three star by Tremblay, so I have pretty high expectations that I’ll like his work at this point. The Pallbearers Club had such a different vibe from the rest of his work, and I hesitate to even classify it as horror. It’s more like a literary thriller, but one that I found myself pretty bored by. The novel itself is meant to be a memoir written by the fictional Art Barbara (a pseudonym), but the ‘memoir’ has been found by Art’s friend Mercy, whose notes fill the margins, her words quite literally filling in the gaps that Art leaves out. Art and Mercy have a complicated relationship, spending years estranged before finding one another yet again. This was… so meandering, and I couldn’t connect with either of the characters. Art was self-absorbed and irritating, and Mercy just didn’t feel real to me. I’m hoping Tremblay’s next book works better for me again.


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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

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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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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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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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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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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