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  • Short Review #34: Picnic in the Ruins by Todd Robert Petersen (2021)

    Rating: 3 out of 5 ⭐️
    Title: Picnic in the Ruins: A Novel
    Author: Todd Robert Petersen
    Published: 2021 (Counterpoint Press)
    Pages: 328 (Softcover)
    Genres: Fiction, Crime Thriller, Archeology, Adventure, Adult
    CW: Sexual References, Violence, Gun Violence, Cultural Appropriation, Looting, Strong Language
    Link Here

    Hello all! This week I’m here to talk about a novel with, what I think is, a very pretty cover: Picnic in the Ruins by Todd Robert Petersen. This is the first book I have read by Petersen, and I have not heard of him before I saw this title at a Barnes & Noble recently when I was browsing. The copy I read is from the library though, of course. This book does not have a huge following, as far as I can tell, but I found it was a surprisingly delightful read!

    I’ve heard people talk about museums like they are some kind of pirate ship, but in reality, they are privateers, since their theft is so often sanctioned by the state… I grew up hearing her (my mother) talk about the way her own country… was systematically plundered by the British and French. This is true of Central America, China and Ireland – pretty much every place on the planet has had its heritage stolen and relocated somewhere else, usually accompanied by people talking about how the civilized world can help let light into the dark areas of the globe. Sometimes these places were called backward sectors. The U.S. president has other names for those parts of the world” – Todd Robert Petersen, Picnic in the Ruins

    Picnic in the Ruins is an adult adventure novel about a group of people interconnected by a larger scheme surrounding the preservation and degradation of Native American cultural sites along the Utah-Arizona border. Sophia Shepherd, an intelligent anthropologist, is researching the impact of tourism at different cultural sites near the Utah-Arizona border looking to make a difference, when she becomes mixed up with the two criminal, bumbling Ashdown brothers stealing a set of maps from a disliked collector of Native American artifacts, which sets in motion a dangerous and deadly plot with a surprise outcome and ending. The story also features a small-town local Sheriff Dalton who just wants to mind his own business, an attractive and mysterious park ranger named Paul, and a German tourist named Reinhardt who wants to have an exciting adventure in his romanticized idea of the Southwest. The author covers a lot of controversial topics about site and cultural preservation, cultural appropriation and ethics, and even more serious topics about how the US population affects national parks and the lack of Native American influence in their care.

    ‘Beauty is a construct’… ‘We Should save all of it, even if it is ordinary, maybe because it is ordinary’…’And the tragedy is that most people have no idea what they are looking at, and so entire cultures have become decorations, fetishes, trinkets to be bought and sold. They love artifacts, but it stops there. I don’t see these people supporting clean water projects or advocating for the thousands of Indigenous women who have gone missing’” – Todd Robert Petersen, Picnic in the Ruins

    I really enjoyed this one! The plot and writing were exciting, and the author does a wonderful job jumping around the different perspectives of the characters in order to tell the story. The reader can see the author’s knowledge of cultural preservation and anthropology come through in his writing. The only aspect I was not a fan of was the lack of conversations from Native American persons in the novel about the issues spoken about regarding their land. It was mostly brought up and discussed by the non-Native characters. It is what it is, but I think this would have made the book more compelling. How the author wrapped up the ending was also a little questionable for me. But overall, the topics were educational and the dialogue flowed well which made the book worthwhile.

    Why should you read this book? If you enjoy adventurous novels with a heavy emphasis on real-life Native American cultural and land preservation topics, this is the book for you. I read this book on a plane last weekend, and it was just the adventure I needed for my own traveling adventure!

    I give this one a 3 out of 5!

    _Elizabeth


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  • Book Review #46: Speak, Okinawa: A Memoir by Elizabeth Miki Brina (2021)

    Rating: 4 out of 5 ⭐️
    Title: Speak, Okinawa: A Memoir
    Author: Elizabeth Miki Brina
    Published: 2021 (Knopf Publishing, New York)
    Pages: 289 (Hardcover)
    Genres: Memoir, Autobiography, Asian Cultural, Nonfiction
    CW: Loss, Violence, Xenophobia, Racism, War, Nationalism, Alcoholism
    Link Here

    My borrowed copy of Speak Okinawa next to a bowl of Cheerios

    I hope everyone in the US had a great holiday weekend! This week I am back to talk about a book that took me quite some time to finish, but it was well worth it in the end. I finished the quite emotional and unforgettable memoir Speak, Okinawa by author Elizabeth Miki Brina (Elizabeth is a great name… by the way 😉). This is the first work I have read by Brina, and at first I was not sure what to think, but by the end I was touched by her words. It was definitely a rewarding read.

    I believe we inherit sin as much as we inherit trauma. I believe inherited sin is its own form of trauma. But maybe we have a chance at redemption. By being aware, being honest. By giving up power. By letting the world change. By changing ourselves. By apologizing. By forgiving? What would atonement and forgiveness look like? Within a person, a family, a nation?” – Elizabeth Miki Brina, Speak, Okinawa

    Speak, Okinawa is a memoir written about the author’s complicated relationship with her family growing up and into adulthood. Brina’s mother is a humble and spirited waitress from Okinawa who married her white blue-blooded American father while he was stationed as a soldier in Okinawa. After he brought his new wife back to the US and after they had Elizabeth, she began to struggle with fitting in, which affected both Elizabeth and her father in different ways. Elizabeth’s relationship with her mother turned into a struggle and the author describes the resentment and cruelty she showed her mother growing up. Brina also shares her internal struggle with identity, shame and the mistakes she made along the way. Brina focuses separately on her parents, and how her relationships with them formed her into the person she became and how they inspired her search of learning about the history of Okinawa.

    America, you spend money on military than half of the world combined. America, why? Who threatens you? China? North Korea? Russia? Iran? So far, you have used our island to bomb Iraq and Afghanistan and Iraq again. America, as we speak, you are dumping sand and soil into our ocean. Not for our defense. Not for our protection. America, it’s not too late. No matter how far you’ve gone down the wrong path, it’s not too late. Turn back. Turn back. Free Okinawa!” – Elizabeth Miki Brina, Speak, Okinawa

    I feel as though I won’t describe this book as well as I want to, but I wanted to emphasize how informative this memoir was more than anything. I learned a lot about the history of Okinawa, and I loved how the author turned the history into an informative narrative. As you may see by all the quotes I included in this review, the author provided a lot of backstory about the history, attitudes and feelings of the people of Okinawa. Plus I had no idea how involved the U.S. military was and still is there. I have not fact checked anything Brina cited though. Brina says her parent’s story inspired her to look into the history of the place of her heritage.

    Since 1972, nearly nine thousand crimes – including murders by shooting, by stabbing, by strangulation, vehicular homicide, theft, arson, rape, sexual assault – have been committed by U.S. military personal stationed in Okinawa. One hundred sixty-nine court-martial cases for sexual assault – a higher record than at U.S. military bases in any other nation – have occurred in Okinawa. Today, twenty percent of Okinawan land mass is still controlled by the U.S. military. More land controlled by a foreign military than in any other nation” – Elizabeth Miki Brina, Speak, Okinawa

    Speak, Okinawa was written like poetry, but also as an introspective narrative about carefully meditated thoughts from the author. Brina writes in an amazing way that is heartfelt yet intelligent in insight. Her writing is also succinct and to the point. For writing from solely her own perspective, she captures her parent’s feelings well in her writing from only many years of observation. This book had a lot of sad and grievous moments from the author’s life, but the lessons of forgiveness and seeking your identity were powerful.

    Yet these memories are impossible to forget, regardless of whether we actually lived through them. I believe they stay in our bodies. As sickness, as addiction, as poor posture or a tendency toward apology, as a deepened capacity for sadness or anger. As determination to survive, a relentless tempered optimism. I believe they are inherited, passed on to us like brown eyes or the shape of a nose” – Elizabeth Miki Brina, Speak, Okinawa

    Why should you read this book? If you enjoy memoirs and stories from an American Asian/biracial persons perspective, which covers significant and heartbreaking lessons of life in a humanistic way, this is the book for you. This book was difficult to read at times, but it was perfectly worth it. Overall, I loved Brina’s writing style, and her inward dialogue made the entire book.

    I give this one a 4 out of 5!

    _Elizabeth


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  • Short Review #33: Later by Stephen King (2021)

    Rating: 4 out of 5 ⭐️
    Title: Later
    Author: Stephen King
    Published: 2021 (Hard Case Crime, Titan Books, London)
    Pages: 248 (Paperback)
    Genres: Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, Thriller
    CW: Paranormal Horror, Strong Language, Adult Situations, Assault, Sexual References
    Link Here

    My copy of Later while I was sitting by the pool

    Hello all! I’m here to talk about a book that I’ve picked up on-and-off since one of my friends gifted it to me for my birthday in April. It was definitely an unexpected gift, but not unwanted by any means! Let me be honest by starting with the fact that I am not the biggest Stephen King fan. It is not the genre or the stories themselves, but it’s his way of writing that gets me. Sometimes I feel like I’m reading a Victor Hugo novel with all the backstory and the drowning details when I read some of his books. Not that I don’t understand him, but it feels very verbose and unnecessary. But I do enjoy the dialogue between characters and vernacular in the narrative is smooth and understandable. And that’s a big reason why I really liked his newest book, Later.

    Looking back on it, I sometimes think my life was like a Dickens novel, only with swearing” Stephen King, Later

    Later is part of the Hard Case Crime series by Titan Books. This is one of three by Stephen King (no relation in story, I believe), and is the latest installment with the previous being Joyland and The Colorado Kid. I haven’t read either of these yet. Later is the fast-paced story of young upper east side New Yorker Jamie Conklin and his single-mother and tough literary agent, Tia Conklin. Jamie narrates his experiences as a child/teenager as an adult in the future, looking back at the time he discovered his unusual gift and the consequences it brought him. Jamie can see the dead (not like The Sixth Sense ‘I see dead people’ sort of dead), specifically he can see the dead right after they die in a meaningful place for them for a few days before they go into a non-described after life. He can also talk to and ask them questions, and they have to tell him the truth. Jamie only wants a normal childhood, but his gift draws in human enemies and after an unfortunate event, a hateful spirit that isn’t like the others and shocks Jamie to his core.

    You get used to marvelous things. You take them for granted. You can try not to, but you do. There’s too much wonder, that’s all. It’s everywhere” – Stephen King, Later

    This book is a horror novel, the narrator Jamie often describes it as such breaking the fourth wall, but it had the fast-paced story like a suspense and thriller. I was really impressed by and definitely had a great time reading this book. My friend who gifted this book told me that Stephen King has a formula for his storytelling. While I’m not sure what that is, I can say I loved the layout and how King told the story right up until the ending. Maybe I’m not a fan of all King’s books, but I definitely liked this one. This was also an easy read, and it didn’t take me very long to finish once I got into it.

    Belief is a high hurdle to get over and I think it’s even higher for smart people. Smart people know a lot, and maybe that makes them think they know everything” – Stephen King, Later

    Why should you read this book? If you like Stephen King’s books, or enjoy thriller and supernatural crime thrillers with coming-of-age themes, this is the book for you. I’m not turned completely, but I definitely do not have a lot of bad things to say about this novel. Maybe I’ll have to give his books a chance again.

    What’s your favorite Stephen King book? Comment below for recommendations if you’re a fan of his.

    I give this one a 4 out of 5!

    _Elizabeth



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  • Book Review #45: Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian (2021)

    Rating: 4 out of 5 ⭐️
    Title: Gold Diggers: A Novel
    Author: Sanjena Sathian
    Published: 2021 (Penguin Press, New York)
    Pages: 344 (Hardcover)
    Genres: Fiction, Novel, Magical Realism, India Cultural, Adult, Literary Fiction
    CW: Language, Sexual Content, Magic, Xenophobia, Adult Situations, Drug & Alcohol Use
    Link Here

    My borrowed copy of Gold Diggers while I sat in my car

    Hello everyone, It’s finally the weekend, and I’m back for another review! I felt a little proud of myself for taking the time to finish this book during my reading slump… but of course I think not feeling well and having to stay in bed helped a little. I’ve been holding onto this one for awhile, procrastinating and renewing this book at the library, but I’m finally finished! This is the first book I’ve read by author Sanjena Sathian. I believe this is her second book according to Goodreads, but she’s written a lot of nonfiction and short fiction for multiple publications. And by the end of this book, I was a fan of her writing and perspective. This is my review for Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian.

    Anyway, that was all I grasped about change: that it occurred above me, around me, that by the time I noticed it, it was too late; that I would always be catching up to it” – Sanjena Sathian, Gold Diggers

    Gold Diggers is a work of narrative, contemporary fiction about Neil Narayan, the charming son of immigrant Indian parents living in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. Taking place during two different periods of Neil’s life, the author tells his story about growing up in Atlanta and then living on the West Coast in Berkley and Silicon Valley as an adult. The event that unites both places and impacts Neil’s life forever is meeting Anita Dayal, his neighbor and romantic crush, and her mother Anjali. Neil discovers their secret, they brew a secret gold potion using alchemy from real-gold Indian jewelry and drink it to harness the ambition of their owners in their basement. Neil becomes in on their project forever changing the course of his life, and in turn, affecting their suburban community when things get out of control. Ten years later, as a drug-addicted adult and historian on the California Gold Rush, Neil meets Anita in Silicon Valley and she bring him in once again on a scheme to help her mother who is in trouble. Filled with magic, history, wonders, and comedic relief – Gold Diggers is a biting and intelligent novel about growing up and finding your identity and path on your own terms.

    Time that, as Chidi would say, was all everyone wanted – more time for the big, and the small, a chance to undo resentments, a chance to witness your child’s future slowly unfurling, a chance to go on another walk around the sun-warmed cul-de-sac” – Sanjena Sathian, Gold Diggers

    Can you tell by my description above that I was a fan of this book? If not, yes I was a fan of this book! At first, it was hard for me to get into it. But once I reached the first quarter to middle of the book, I could barely put it down. I had to know what happened next as the story progressed. The writing and dialogue were clever, and the author’s insight into Indian suburban communities in Atlanta was well constructed and informative. I also loved Neil and Anita, not wanting to give away any spoilers, but their story intertwining together was constructed well and was actually realistic. By the way, I love reading novels that contain romances and relationships where the characters’ actions are a bit more realistic and true to a real persons. The author’s way of describing Neil’s inner dialogue about his world and feelings was fantastic as well. Also, the topics brought forth about communities of persons from India and their American descendant children were a new one for me personally. I have not read a lot of novels that focused on Indian communities and commentary, and that is definitely a shame I know. I try to diversify my reading when I can, but I’m not always best at it. I hope to change that as I go along though.

    This was what it felt like growing up. Adults and kids constantly gossiping about one another, judging whether or not you were Indian enough, using I don’t know what kind of standards. And at that point, it’s worse than gossip. It’s actually part of what I wrote my thesis about, at Stanford—because I went back, by the way, and graduated magna cum laude” – Sanjena Sathain, Gold Diggers

    Why should you read this book? If you love great novels that contain adult themes while adding a bit of magical realism with a moral twist that also take place with a cast of mostly Indian-decedent characters, this is the book for you. If you’re on the fence about this one, definitely give it a chance! I’m really glad I did. This was the perfect work of adult fiction I needed in my life right now. I’m slowly moving out of my reading slump, and I’m glad I can focus a bit better on books I want to reflect on.

    I give this one a 4 out of 5!

    _Elizabeth


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  • Short Review #32: The Guest List by Lucy Foley (2020)

    Rating: 3 out of 5⭐️
    Title: The Guest List: A Novel
    Author: Lucy Foley
    Published: 2020 (William Morrow, Audible Audiobook Version)
    Pages: Audible – 10 hrs 22 min
    Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction, Suspense, Crime
    CW: Violence, Murder, Revenge Porn, Crime, Sexual Content
    Link Here

    The Guest List on my phone on my portable desk

    Hi everyone! Long time no see.. I’m finally going to post for the first time in almost a month… Again, doing life and reading have been very difficult to do recently. Luckily, with the help of a few entertaining audiobooks, I’m about to get into it again. In the past, reading has proven to be a great escape, but sometimes I get lazy and I’m not perfect. Plus, sometimes I would rather do other things besides reading, and that’s okay too for anyone out there! Anyways, last week I finally finished The Guest List by Lucy Foley over Audible audiobook. I’ve been hearing a lot about this one for a while, and all the good things about it. By the end, I was thrillingly entertained, but also not astounded.

    “It’s always better to get it out in the open – even if it feels shameful, even if you feel like people will judge you for it” – Lucy Foley, The Guest List

    The Guest List is a crime mystery, thriller novel by UK author Lucy Foley. It takes place on an island off the coast of Ireland surrounding the destination wedding of two high-profile people: an ambitious internet magazine founder, and a gorgeous reality TV star. The story’s perspective jumps around between a few of the guests per chapter, leading up to the moment of a grisly murder taking place on the island after the wedding. The reader is set-up to figure out who is the murderer and who is the killer as the novel progresses until the reveal. We learn the backstories and motives of the guests and wedding party in detail, and learn that not all is joyful on the surface. Who has the motive, and who has the disposition to be killed?

    “If I didn’t pay attention, one of those currents could grow into a huge riptide, destroying all my careful planning. And here’s another thing I’ve learned – sometimes the smallest currents are the strongest” – Lucy Foley, The Guest List

    The story was wonderfully entertaining, and I loved the backstories of the characters. As far as originality and the big reveal and twist, I was not astounded. The ending did not have the climactic finish I thought it was going to have based on reviews. Maybe it was just me, but I was not too enthusiastic about how it rounded out. The writing and the way the author told the perspectives were great though. And as far as the audiobook version – I loved the audiobook. There were multiple persons narrating for each perspective chapter, and they were all easy to listen to and clear.

    “Marriage is about finding that person you know best in the world. Not how they take their coffee or what their favourite film is or the name of their first cat. It’s knowing on a deeper level. It’s knowing their soul” – Lucy Foley, The Guest List

    Why should you read this book? If you enjoy easy-to-get-through mystery thrillers taking place on desolate destination wedding islands in a castle, this is the book for you. I’m actually going to a destination wedding myself in July, but it’s in the US Alaskan wilderness so… a bit different than an island off the coast of Ireland. A lot to look forward to though after reading this book, even though I kind of wish I was going to Ireland instead…

    I give this one a 3 out of 5!

    _Elizabeth


    How do I rate the books I write about? Click here

  • Book Review #44: The Bad Muslim Discount by Syed M. Masood (2021)

    Rating: 3.5 out of 5 ⭐️
    Title: The Bad Muslim Discount: A Novel
    Author: Syed M. Masood
    Published: 2021 (Doubleday, New York)
    Pages: 360 (Hardcover)
    Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Historical, Literary, Islam, Immigrant Stories
    CW: Domestic Violence, Assault, Islamophobia, Discrimination, War, Death, Nationalism
    Link Here

    My borrowed copy of The Bad Muslim Discount as I was reading by a man-made pond in a park

    Hello! This week I finished another interesting book, and it had the coolest cover art… I honestly love the cover art despite the colorful cheesiness of it all. This book is the novel, The Bad Muslim Discount by Syed M. Masood. This is the first book I have read by Masood, and I believe he is a fairly new author. I was definitely attracted to the story upon first stumbling onto this book online. And after reading this wise novel, I was a fan!

    ‘Yet you are not modest like a Muslim woman. Your dress betrays what is in your heart’….
    She spoke sweetly, but her words had the edge of a knife. ‘And your gaze betrays what is in yours
    ‘”
    – Syed M. Masood, The Bad Muslim Discount

    The story focuses on the perspectives of the two main characters: Anwar Faris, a smart and sharp-tongued man from Pakistan who lives in San Francisco near his close-knit family, and Safwa, a young and fiery woman who grew up in war-torn Baghdad, and had a tumultuous time immigrating to the US with her domineering father. Their paths cross in San Francisco directly affecting their communities as they each tell their story. This novel examines what it is like to be an immigrant from a Muslim country in America, and the bonds formed with a tight-knit familial community united by Islam. The author also covers difficult historical and current topics of Islamophobia in America, the Muslim Ban in 2017 and America’s war-time presence in Iraq in the 2000s. For how downtrodden the story was at times, there were also more positive themes such as hope, community and love.

    It isn’t enough to be right. When you raise your voice to speak, you must speak the truth, but you should speak it in the most persuasive way possible” – Syed M. Masood, The Bad Muslim Discount

    Overall, I liked this one! It definitely was not the most impactful or revealing novel about the Muslim community experience in America. Honestly, it was a bit more lighthearted and not depth-filled as I thought it was going to be. The humor and conversations between characters is fantastic though, and the author’s witty writing really shines in this novel. This mostly comes from the main character’s personality, Anwar, though. But the emotion is really felt in the writing and it was a joy to read at times. I read in the bio about the author, Masood, that he also immigrated from Pakistan so I wonder how much of his experiences reflect the experiences of the main character and community in the novel.

    “For Anvar and Americans like him, their election was the most important thing in the world – and maybe that was fair – but these people, who claimed to be leaders of the free world, didn’t know the world at all. They didn’t understand its nature or its size. They thought it was smaller that it was, and that they were bigger than they were” – Syed M. Masood, The Bad Muslim Discount

    The only aspect I was really not a fan of were the love stories in this novel. It was super cheesy, and maybe that is just me (because I’m not into super cheesy love stories). But it was pretty cliche, and I was not a fan of how they rounded out. The romance aspect was definitely in a male perspective, which was interesting. But overall, I get how it tied the characters and some of the story together. There could have been more in-depth exploring between the characters and their relationships instead of relying mostly on small dialogue between them.

    “Clocks cannot measure time. They can count seconds, minutes and hours, but those are not accurate measures of our experience of time. A day of hunger is longer than a day when you’ve eaten. How quickly time passes isn’t constant. An hour can stretch out and seem unending. A year can pass you by before you know it” – Syed M. Masood, The Bad Muslim Discount

    Why should you read this book? If you’re into novels with characters with a lot of heart and wit that explore Muslim and immigrant experiences in America in a humorous and exploratory way, this is the book for you. Definitely go into this one with an open mind, and be prepared to read some difficult subject matter. But it’s worth it if you’re interested in reading more novels that explore the topic of Muslim immigrant experiences.

    Have a great weekend everyone!

    I give this one a 3.5 out of 5!

    _Elizabeth


    How the heck do I rate the books I write about? Click here

  • Book Review #43: City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert (2019)

    Rating: 4 out of 5⭐️
    Title: City of Girls: A Novel
    Author: Elizabeth Gilbert (Audio Book Narrated by Blair Brown)
    Published: 2019 (Riverhead Books – Audible Version)
    Pages: 15 hrs 8 mins (Audible Audiobook, Unabridged Version)
    Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance, Adult Fiction, Coming-Of-Age
    CW: Sexual Content, PTSD Triggers, Death, Alcohol Abuse, Infidelity, War
    Link Here

    My audiobook copy of City of Girls next to my NYC mug

    It’s Sunday everyone… another weekend has passed sooner than I would have liked. But, another audiobook is in the books (literally)! I just finished the turbulent and enchanting novel, City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert. I actually did not realize until I started reading this one that it was written by the same author who wrote Eat, Pray, Love. This is the first novel that I have read by Gilbert. But, after much thought and contemplation about this book, I really enjoyed the overall story. I do not read a lot of WWII-era setting novels, but this one had a lot of heart and was unique for a few vibrant reasons.

    “…We may fall victim to the misconception that time will heal all wounds and that eventually everything will shake itself out. But as we get older, we learn this sad truth: some things can never be fixed. Some mistakes can never be put right—not by the passage of time, and not by our most fervent wishes, either” – Elizabeth Gilbert, City of Girls

    City of Girls is a novel in the format of the main character, Vivian Morris, writing a letter to a woman named Angela about her life looking back as an old woman. That is, her life starting from arriving to New York City at 19 years old in 1940 after dropping out of Vassar College. Vivian, as an old woman, looks back at her life in fondness and describes her rises and failings as she grows up and the colorful cast of characters, friends and family in her life. Vivian experiences love, loss, Broadway theater, deep humiliation, the effects of World War II – all within the city of famous glittering lights. It’s a coming of age story about an inconsequential, beautiful and privileged person who lived a large life. The book itself was very exciting and vibrant, and Gilbert makes the city come to life from start to finish.

    Anyway, at some point in a woman’s life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time. After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is” – Elizabeth Gilbert, City of Girls

    It took me a bit to get into this one. The beginning started out promising, and I heavily enjoyed the story. But like so many others I read reviews from, I found the middle dreadfully dull and uneventful. It seemed to be the longest part of the book with absolutely no build up, it was like a hiatus of sorts. The middle took me the longest to finish and I kept stopping. Luckily the story redeemed itself, and there was purpose to it all… for the most part, it definitely could have been shorter though. I don’t want to give away any spoilers so I won’t say more than that. The narrator, Blair Brown, was great and she voiced Vivian in a way that I could imagine her sounding. Some of the accents she did for the other characters, especially male ones, I was not too much of a fan of… But I don’t want to be too picky, she was a satisfactory narrator overall. The characters were absolutely well-formulated and eccentric, and the dialogue was capturing. Gilbert did a wonderful job transporting the reader to another time and era.

    The world is always changing. Learn how to allow for it. Someone makes a promise, and then they break it. A play gets good notices, and then it folds. A marriage looks strong, and then they divorce. For a while there’s no war, and then there’s another war. If you get too upset about it all, you become a stupid, unhappy person—and where’s the good in that?” – Elizabeth Gilbert, City of Girls

    I thought I would dislike the main character, especially with her being so childish and vain at times. But she ended up having a charming and effective voice, and the way the author wrote her as this oddball outsider for someone who was incredibly privileged, white and upper class was incredibly interesting. But Vivian was an outsider compared to the time she was living in. Why should you read this book? If you are interested in historical fiction novels taking place in mostly WWII-era/1950s about odd and colorful persons in New York City with some drama and romance mixed in, this is the book for you. I could not get enough of the vivid and capturing descriptions of New York and the places the characters went and visited.

    … But to become an adult, one must step into the field of honor. Everything will be expected of you now. You will need to be vigilant in your principles. Sacrifices will be demanded. You will be judged. If you make mistakes, you must account for them. There will be instances when you must cast aside your impulses and take a higher stance than another person—a person without honor—might take. Such instances may hurt, but that’s why honor is a painful field” – Elizabeth Gilbert, City of Girls

    I’m definitely glad I read this book. The format was strange for me, in the format of writing a letter, but it was effective and eventually made sense in the end. Try to power through the middle if you try to pick this one up and have the same problem I had, the ending is definitely kind of beautiful and rewarding! Plus this book is advertised as a romance, but honestly, don’t expect this great love story from start to finish with trials and tribulations. There is a some-what traditional love story, of course, but my favorite love story in the book was between Vivian and New York City.

    I give this one a 4 out of 5!

    _Elizabeth


    How do I rate the books I read? Click here

  • Short Review #31: The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriquez (2021)

    Rating: 4 out of 5⭐️
    Title: The Dangers of Smoking in Bed: Stories
    Author: Mariana Enriquez (Translated by Megan McDowell)
    Published: 2021 (Hogarth Press, English Translation)
    Pages: 187 (Hardcover)
    Genres: Short Story, Fiction, Horror, Magical Realism, Spanish Literature
    CW: Sexual Content, For Ages 17+, Strong Themes, Rape, Murder, Gore, Death
    Link Here

    My borrowed copy of The Dangers of Smoking in Bed on top of my notebook next to pens

    Good Evening! This week I finished this much unexpected and spine-tingling book that I cannot remember where I heard of it. The Dangers of Smoking in Bed is by Argentinian author, Mariana Enriquez. This is the first book I read by Enriquez. This edition of her short stories is the first version to be translated into English, I think this book originally was released in 2009 and has been published several times since. I was on the library wait list for this book for quite some time, so long that I cannot remember when I reserved it or why. Still, it was a pleasant surprise to receive the notification that it was ready for me to pick it up. By the end of the book, I was equally surprised and disturbed by these stories (not in a negative way).

    The Japanese believe that after they die, souls go to a place that has, let’s say, limited space. And that when that limit is reached, when there is no more room for souls, they will begin to return to this world. That return is the announcement of the end of the world, actually” – Mariana Enriquez, The Dangers of Smoking in Bed

    The Dangers of Smoking in Bed is a collection of fictitious short stories that center around different societal and sociopolitical themes usually regarding feminine subjects and difficult issues. Enriquez’s stories have a macabre ending or lesson, and the stories themselves are quite fantastical, sort of like magical realism with the supernatural and spiritual. This is not like Black Mirror and not all of the stories have a strong, moral lesson… actually most of them do not. Her narratives follow a sort of dark path about humanity and bring in an element of pure horror and disgust. Enriquez’s stories include subjects such as a woman who has an anatomical heart fetish, murdered teenagers coming back from the dead, deceitful witches, a rotting ghost baby, other vengeful ghosts, tape voyeurism and lake spirits.

    We both knew what the ending might be, and we didn’t care” – Mariana Enriquez, The Dangers of Smoking in Bed

    I love Enriquez’s bold style, and how she writes with such personal and introspective detail. She is not afraid to bring up the most disturbing and dirty parts of human existence. She goes into such vivid detail when it comes to sex, masturbation, blood, anatomical parts and even pooping. This book is challenging in a good way, and I definitely recommend this book to those ages 17 and up (if you couldn’t tell already by the CW and this review so far…). Some of the details and parts are a little droll, but I found a lot of the stories to be eye-catching and I found myself holding my breath at some parts. Enriquez wrote a truly refined set of disturbing stories, and it took guts to take it all in at times. There are ghosts in her writing not only because of the supernatural elements, and she addresses often unspoken and macabre parts of existence, and is not afraid to get ugly. These are all written in a female’s perspective, which makes this collection even better, honestly. The translation was well-done and clear, too.

    I can’t ever take the evil out of you, because the evil is in your picture, in the water, and the photo has rotted away by now. The evils stayed there in your picture, stuck to you” – Mariana Enriquez, The Dangers of Smoking in Bed

    Why should you read this book? If you enjoy challenging, sophisticated and macabre short stories that challenge and touch on sociopolitical themes and make you visibly shudder while reading them, this is the book for you. For how strongly I talk about this book, if this type of book interests you reader, give it a chance! I have not heard a lot of people talking about this new release (I believe), and it is quite a shame.

    I give this one 4 out of 5!

    _Elizabeth


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  • Short Review #30: Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz (2020)

    Rating: 4 out of 5⭐️
    Title: Moonflower Murders (Sequel to Magpie Murders)
    Author: Anthony Horowitz
    Published: 2020 (Harper, New York)
    Pages: 608 (Hardcover)
    Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Crime, Thriller, British
    CW: Murder, Sexual References, Violence
    Link Here

    My copy of Moonflower Murders on my staircase railing

    Hi everyone, I’m still in a bit of a reading slump due to life situations, but I’m trying to keep up on reading. I know it’s been awhile since I posted on this blog. I’m still in a strange transition phase, and I have been reevaluating certain aspects of my life a lot recently. That being said, I hope everyone is doing well out there and reading all that you are able to! Anyways, this week I finally finished the book that took me several weeks to read, Moonflower Murders by British author, Anthony Horowitz. Moonflower Murders is the sequel to Magpie Murders (2017). I read Magpie Murders a couple years ago, so of course I had to read the sequel. Overall, this read was definitely rewarding for how long it took me to finish it.

    “...people who were so insistent on the truth were very rarely telling it” – Anthony Horowitz, Moonflower Murders

    British murder-mystery, Moonflower Murders is Horowitz’s sequel to book editor Susan Ryeland’s fiction series. After the tragic end events that transpired in Magpie Murder‘s story, Susan is now retired and living with her boyfriend, Andreas, in Crete running an old hotel called The Polydorus together. The hotel brings new challenges, and Susan is fairly satisfied until two inn owners, the Trehearnes, from Suffolk turn up asking for Susan’s help. A murder had occurred at their inn, Farlingaye Halle, eight years ago on the eve of their daughter’s wedding in the same inn. And now that same daughter, Cecily, has disappeared after realizing Susan’s former murder-mystery author Alan Conway wrote a book based on what happened eight years ago after visiting the inn post-murder. Cecily realizes Conway’s book actually contains the identity of the real killer of Frank Parris, not the one who confessed to the crime and is serving a life sentence in prison. The owners hire Susan to find their daughter since Conway is deceased and she published his book, they believe she may have insight into Conway’s mind. Susan accepts and begins investigating in Suffolk, where she ends up learning more about her former author’s life, and she just might find out who really killed Frank Parris eight years ago.

    …The greatest evil occurs when people, no matter what their aims or their motives, become utterly convinced that they are right” – Anthony Horowitz, Moonflower Murders

    Besides the lengthiness, which I honestly got tired of really quickly, this book was really well-written and structured! Horowitz returns with his contemporary mystery-in-a-mystery style like in Magpie Murders. Literally there’s a whole separate mystery story inside the main story, both are relating and support each other of course. I do not believe the reader needs to read Magpie Murders before Moonflower Murders unless you care about reading in order. There are a few details someone who hasn’t read Magpie Murders wouldn’t understand, but the book and story stands fairly well on its own. This was a satisfying murder-mystery like in the style of Agatha Christie, and definitely a classic whodunit for such a contemporary style. There were some slow parts for certain, but it definitely picked back up and had an intriguing ending. For such a different style of writing, the book was incredibly typical to the genre. Why should you read this book? If you’re into classic British murder-mysteries that have a large cast of characters and short side plots, this is the book for you. I would also recommend reading Magpie Murders if you haven’t already. Moonflower Murders was definitely a great read, and is worth the time!

    I give this one a 4 out of 5! Besides the length, there were not many negatives to note because it hit all the marks structure and plot wise.

    _Elizabeth


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  • Book Review #42: Quit Like A Woman… by Holly Whitaker (2019)

    Rating: 4 out of 5 ⭐️
    Title: Quit Like A Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol
    Author: Holly Whitaker
    Published: 2019 (Dial Press, New York)
    Pages: 368 (Audible Audiobook)
    Genres: Nonfiction, Self-Help, Autobiography, Health, Lifestyle, Feminism
    CW: Alcoholism (of course…), Eating Disorders, Strong Language, Mental Health Topics, Abuse, Toxic Relationships and Parents
    Link Here

    Alright, are you wondering how I came across this book? If you asked, reviews and posts kept coming up on my Goodreads and Instagram feed about this book often recently, and it’s because I’m pretty sure the paperback version just came out. I do not read a lot of self-help books, especially about alcoholism, but after reading the premise for this one and the reviews, it sounded appealing to me. Let me start off by saying, I am not an alcoholic (I did not finish this book thinking now I’m an alcoholic either). In the past, I briefly spoke about drug and alcohol addiction being a large part of my close family member’s lives. So addiction has always fascinated me, and also how outsiders view and cope with a loved one’s addiction. And after my own stint of sobriety for health reasons last year, I thought this book would be appropriate for me to read. And oh boy, was I in for a ride reading this one!

    The largest single use of ethanol is as an engine fuel and fuel additive. In other words, we drink, for fun, the same thing we use to make rocket fuel, house paint, anti-septics, solvents, perfumes, and deodorants and to denature, i.e. to take away the natural properties of, or kill, living organisms. Which might make sense on some level if we weren’t a generation of green minded, organic, health-conscious, truth seeking individuals. But we are….. We are hyper-vigilant about everything we put into our body, everything we do to our body, and we are proud of this. We Instagram how proud we are of this, and we follow Goop and Well+Good, and we drop 40 bucks on an exercise class because there are healing crystals in the floor….. The global wellness economy is estimated to be worth $4 trillion. $4 TRILLION DOLLARS. We are on an endless and expensive quest for wellness and vitality and youth. And we drink f*cking rocket fuel” – Holly Whitaker, Quit Like A Woman

    This book was wholly nothing I expected. Quit Like A Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol is written by Holly Whitaker, CEO and founder of her program, Tempest, and former director of a San Francisco health tech start-up. By what I understand, after her own battle with alcohol addiction, Whitaker comes to the conclusion that no one is an ‘addict’ and no one should be labeled as such. People simply suffer from addiction due to life and stressors that are unique to that person, and can take form of alcohol or anything else. She is passionate about advocating for not labeling alcoholics or claiming they’re ‘incurable’. Whitaker created her own program of support based on her own research, one that opposes the out-of-date ideas preached in Alcoholics Anonymous (if you read this book you’ll find out she really does not like AA) and related ideas, and tailored more towards women with supporting research and other programs such as Allen Carr’s. She cites Allen Carr A LOT in this book, by the way.

    We love to protect alcohol and our right to consume it, and to vilify people who can’t handle it. We venerate the substance; we demonize those who get sick from using it” – Holly Whitaker, Quit Like A Woman...

    Whitaker makes a lot of excellent points about alcohol and its effects on the body and on us as a society, especially in America. Despite your position on alcohol, and whether you’re sober or not, I think this is a very interesting and crucial read, especially if you’re a Millennial and woman. She associates the problem of alcohol on the body, through marketing like cigarettes, the myths and problems about associating “alcoholic” with addiction, etc. She touches on harder-to-swallow subjects as well, such as calling out large wellness-centered companies like Goop, and speaking a lot about social justice activism in connection with addiction. Her writing is also fantastic for someone who is primarily business oriented. I listened to the audio book recording of this book, and she is entertaining to listen to in a humorous feminist way, kind of like Rachel Hollis or Gabrielle Bernstein (who she also quotes a lot).

    To properly heal from addiction, we need a holistic approach. We need to create a life we don’t need to escape. We need to address the root causes that made us turn outside ourselves in the first place. This means getting our physical health back, finding a good therapist, ending or leaving abusive relationships, learning to reinhabit our bodies, changing our negative thought patterns, building support networks, finding meaning and connecting to something greater than ourselves, and so on. To break the cycle of addiction, we need to learn to deal with cravings, break old habits, and create new ones” – Holly Whitaker, Quit Like A Woman…

    Overall, I really enjoyed this book and at times I could not get enough! The only aspect I was not so sure about was how often and personally she spoke about social justice issues, even though she is a cis white female… I’m glad she’s using her platform to speak on all women’s rights in a positive way, but I’m kind of exhausted of hearing about social issues from cis white females, and would have rather heard more first-hand accounts from persons of color she could interview. Her preachy-sounding tone was also a turn-off during some points. And at times, I wish she stuck to talking about her own personal experiences in her life and addiction, and left the larger experiences of “all women” out of it. But this is all mostly me though.

    There is the life that most of us live, and then there is the life we have buried deep inside us, the life we know we’re supposed to be living” – Holly Whitaker, Quit Like A Woman…

    Why should you read this book? If you enjoy reading self-help books, but about a personal, humorous and enlightening take on alcohol addiction and how it practically affects our current society and attitudes, this is the book for you. I hope you all give this book a chance if you can!

    I give this a 4 out of 5!

    _Elizabeth


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