- Short Review #24: The Invention of Sound by Chuck Palahniuk (2020)
Rating: 3 out of 5 ⭐️
Title: The Invention of Sound: A Novel
Author: Chuck Palahniuk
Published: 2020 (Grand Central Publishing, New York)
Pages: 229 (Hardcover)
Genres: Fiction, Horror, Thriller, Adult, Contemporary
CW: Ages 18+ Only, Sex, Violence, Child Death, Strong Language, References to Child Molestation
I hope everyone is having a great Thanksgiving weekend so far! Mine has been filled with too much hot apple cider (not complaining though). To celebrate such an American holiday, I finished a book by an author that has used his writing in the past to formulate satire about American societal culture. I have to say, I am not the biggest fan of Chuck Palahniuk’s writing. He’s written such globally popular books, he has made some good points about culture, his set ups are scathing, and he’s formed excellent and twisted story lines. And a few books have been turned into movies. But his writing is what gets me. It feels like he’s rushing through his books, and the writing feels messy. Definitely my opinion only, and this doesn’t get better in his newest release, The Invention of Sound.
“Since the dawn of films when young women had been tied to railroad tracks and tied to logs sent into huge sawmill blades, Hollywood had never lacked new ways to take pretty girls apart” – Chuck Palahniuk, The Invention of Sound
I was really skeptical about the plot, but honestly I ended up liking the execution in the end. The novel centers around two perspectives: Gates Foster, a father who lost his 7 year old daughter Lucinda a long time ago who is obsessed with finding out what happened to her, along with trying to punish child molesters everywhere. And Mitzi Ives, a young, reserved Foley artist who creates screams for movies by taking over her father’s business. Her screams are in high demand in Hollywood, and sound a little too realistic…
“Taco Tuesday. Only in prisons and aboard submarines were people more excited about food than they were in office jobs” – Chuck Palahniuk, The Invention of Sound
Of course, their stories connect and the book’s ending is in true Palahniuk fashion. I think if I was a bigger Palahniuk fan, I would like this book more. But the plot, for being incredibly basic sounding, was executed really well and I looked forward to what happened next. The perspectives between Mitzi and Foster change very quickly (sometimes paragraph to paragraph) back and forth. But I found I was still able to follow along. Full of 18+ subject matter including violence and a lot of sex, I wouldn’t read this unless you are an adult, for sure. Even though his books are very good, I do find him a bit overrated due to his major success with publications like Fight Club.
“‘A major trait of psychopaths,’ she explained, ‘is that they don’t yawn when people around them yawn. Psychopaths don’t feel empathy. They lack the mirror neurons’” – Chuck Palahniuk, The Invention of Sound (Side note: this is actually true, I fact checked it here)
When I read Chuck Palahniuk, I imagine him writing in a dingy basement somewhere in a large city on some type of drug or too much coffee on a typewriter. I even found a few blatant grammar errors, but I’m hoping it was on purpose… It might have been. Anyways, why should you read this book? If you like Chuck Palahniuk’s writing or enjoy fast-paced thrillers about questionable and risque subject matter full of violence and redemption, this is the book for you.
I give this one a 3 out of 5!
How do I rate the books I read?? Click here.
Also, if you want to follow me on Goodreads, here’s my profile. I want to see what you all are reading too. ✨
- Short Review #23: Verity by Colleen Hoover (2018)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 ⭐️
Author: Colleen Hoover
Published: 2018 (Hoover Ink, Inc)
Pages: 314 (Paperback)
Genres: Fiction, Thriller, Romance, Suspense, Adult
CW: Ages 18+, Death, Murder, Sexual Content, Cancer, Mental Illness
Hello everyone! I have not posted in a while, because I needed to take a break from writing reviews. I’ve been doing plenty of reading and posting on my social media, but I needed to take a step back and make sure I still enjoyed writing on my blog. I still want to look forward to reading at the end of the day, and not because I need to post about it. Reading is a large passion and comfort, and keeping sight of that is important to me.
“Some families are lucky enough to never experience a single tragedy. But then there are those families that seem to have tragedies waiting on the back burner. What can go wrong, goes wrong. And then gets worse” – Colleen Hoover, Verity
Anyways, now I’m ready to talk about my latest read, Verity by Colleen Hoover. I kept seeing Colleen Hoover’s name all over my social media, and I decided I needed to give one of her books a chance. Hoover is the author of Young Adult, thriller and romance books… and more. Her books have attracted a lot of attention for their well-rounded characters, and she seems to enjoy mixing multiple genres and themes. By the end of Verity, I understood the hype and I was surprisingly struck by this book.
The book centers around female protagonist, Lowen Ashleigh, a flailing and failing young writer on the brink of financial ruin after the passing of her mother. Lowen is ready to lose all hope until she receives an incredible offer – to ghost write and finish a series by one of the most acclaimed, best selling fiction authors, Verity Crawford. Lowen is hired by Verity’s attractive husband, Jeremy. Lowen finds out Verity was in a terrible car accident that left her partially brain dead, and Jeremy essentially takes care of her full-time in their Vermont home. As Lowen spends time in their home researching and pouring over Verity’s notes on the series, she discovers a sinister manuscript written by Verity that leaves Lowen asking questions about what Verity was like before her accident and how it connects to the death of her twin daughters.
I do not want to give away too much, but this plot gets juicier as the book goes on up until the climactic end. The plot is essentially my favorite part of the book. I enjoy the way Hoover writes about her characters, and the details and twists were imaginative. This was a perfect and entertaining combination of a thriller and romance. And please keep in mind, the sex scenes are… descriptive and explicit, I definitely did not expect that. And this book definitely becomes very dark at times with disturbing elements. This book was a nice change of pace to what I’ve been reading recently, and overall the mood felt more unhinged as the story went on.
Why should you read this book? If you enjoy adult romance and thriller books that leave you on the edge of your seat with mildly disturbing elements, this is the book for you. Verity is also one of Hoover’s self-published projects and not through her main publisher, Atria Books at Simon & Schuster. I haven’t read a self-published book in a while, and I did not find anything negative because it was.
I give this a 3.5 out of 5!
- Book Review #36: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (2020)
Rating: 4 out of 5 ⭐️
Title: The Midnight Library: A Novel
Author: Matt Haig
Published: 2020 (Viking, Random House)
Pages: 288 (Hardcover)
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Science Fiction, Adult, Mental Health
CW: death, addiction, mental health topics, suicide
I just finished my next read with a beautiful view on a clear day in the park (pictured above). On the West Coast, the weather is not too shabby this time of year in the fall! It did not take me long to finish the new fiction release, The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. This is the first book I’ve read by Haig, but I heard a lot of good things about his writing. His latest book has a lot of hype over the internet. He is a children’s book and speculative fiction author who is widely known for his writing, and commentary on mental health.
“Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices… Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?” – Matt Haig, The Midnight Library
By the end of this contemporary novel I was hooked, and couldn’t put it down! The story centers around Nora Seed, a young woman who is having a difficult time and contemplates dying. She then finds herself in the Midnight Library, a place between life and death where she can change her circumstances, and live a different life in a number of parallel universes. She faces her regrets, and begins to see things as they really are throughout the book as she decides which ‘book’ or universe she wants to live in. Nora slowly learns what makes life worth living, and rethinks her outlook. The characters and story are enchanting from start to finish. There’s a fantastical but dismal quality about Haig’s writing not only from the plot.
“A person was like a city. You couldn’t let a few less desirable parts put you off the whole. There may be bits you don’t like, a few dodgy side streets and suburbs, but the good stuff makes it worthwhile” – Matt Haig, The Midnight Library
My first thought was that this book reminded me of a more contemporary It’s a Wonderful Life. But it’s a female protagonist, takes place mostly in a cosmic library, and not meant to be shown around Christmas time… among other reasons. Haig appropriately describes mental health issues through Nora with honesty and succinct directness. This novel makes great points about putting life and the choices we make in perspective. It was encouraging with a lot of quips that sounded like they were from an inspirational book, and also a little saddening at the same time. I also found myself connecting to the characters almost immediately, and they felt incredibly human.
“Maybe it wasn’t the lack of achievements that had made her and her brother’s parents unhappy, maybe it was the expectation to achieve in the first place” – Matt Haig, The Midnight Library
This book was a little hard to get into at the beginning, but once the details and plot lines started to connect, the story became more engrossing. The structure of the novel is definitely contemporary, and causes the reader to really follow the details. And Haig has a surreal writing style which I loved, and definitely added to the fantastical realism elements. I also liked how he describes small, everyday details with such purpose. The ending itself though was my favorite part, and basically made the rest of the book worth it. I won’t give any spoilers away though.
“If you aim to be something you are not, you will always fail. Aim to be you. Aim to look and act and think like you. Aim to be the truest version of you. Embrace that you-ness. Endorse it. Love it. Work hard at it. And don’t give a second thought when people mock it or ridicule it. Most gossip is envy in disguise” – Matt Haig, The Midnight Library
Why should you read this book? If you’re a fan of contemporary fiction with magical and cosmic parallel universes addressing life’s greatest problem which is navigating it itself, this is the book for you.
I give this book a 4 out of 5!
Also, on a complete side note, I’ve decided to start linking the books I write about on one of my favorite sites, Bookshop, instead of Amazon. I don’t know if it will be a permanent thing on my blog yet, but I just learned about them and I love the organization. It’s a one-stop book seller to support independent book stores across the US and UK, they donate most of their sales to independent bookstores. You can also buy from a specific bookstore on the site or have the proceeds from your sale sent to the store directly.
How do I rate the books I write about? Click here!
- Book Review #35: The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio (2020)
Rating: 4 out of 5 ⭐️
Title: The Undocumented Americans
Author: Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
Published: 2020 (One World, Penguin Random House, New York)
Pages: 185 (Hardcover)
Genres: Nonfiction, Memoir, Social Justice, US Immigration
CW: Death, Illness/Cancer, Assault, Abuse, Violence, Disasters
Hi everyone! I am back this week to talk about this genuine and spirited work of nonfiction about a controversial topic in the United States: immigration, specifically, undocumented immigrants, or as author Karla Cornejo Villavicencio appropriately calls them, Undocumented Americans. I saw a lot of positive reviews about this one, and knew I’d have to pick this one up. This is Cornejo Villavicencio’s first book, but she has written for multiple print publications from The New York Times to Vogue. She is undocumented, and a Harvard graduate pursuing her PhD at Yale. Cornejo Villavicencio writes about a variety of topics, but this time in her first book, she writes about her own experiences to help tell the stories of other undocumented persons like herself as she traveled around the country recording them. Overall, this book is rewarding in itself, and I recommend most Americans should read this to add to the debate of US immigration.
“One study found that family income dropped around 70 percent after a deportation. Another study found that American-citizen children born to immigrant parents who were detained or deported suffered greater rates of PTSD than their peers” – Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, The Undocumented Americans
Undocumented Americans explores the lives of different persons experiencing similar and different economic and social issues in the US, because of their immigration status. She highlights experiences from persons in New York, Miami, Flint, Michigan, Cleveland and New Haven. The author comments on her own experiences as well as an undocumented immigrant on DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), and in a University setting. She also comments on her relationship with her undocumented family, and how it impacts her mental health and daily life in the US. Though this book did appeal to emotion at some parts, it objectively highlighted persons’ actual experiences as undocumented. This book was not like a social media influencer calling for government or NGO action about immigration, or someone aiming to change people’s hearts and minds. These memoirs are derived from actual experiences and stories, and gives the reader another side to read about immigration as a social struggle.
“What I saw in Flint was a microcosm of the way the government treats the undocumented everywhere, making the conditions in this country as deadly and toxic and inhumane as possible so that we will self-deport. What I saw in Flint was what I had seen everywhere else, what I had felt in my own poisoned blood and bones. Being killed softly, silently, and with impunity” – Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, The Undocumented Americans
I really enjoyed the writing style, and the way the author told others stories. She did so with her own perceptions about the persons, but respecting their wishes and image at the same time. Overall, I thought this book was fantastic, and a must read if you want to learn more about the life of undocumented Americans in the US. I do not read many books that cover topics like US immigration (besides what I read about in the news), which is surprising to me because of how often I’ve been part of discussions about it amongst family and friends.
“I think every immigrant in this country knows that you can eat English and digest it so well that you shit it out, and to some people, you will still not speak English” – Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, The Undocumented Americans
Why should you read this book? If you enjoy nonfiction books about social justice issues and immigration, which objectively lay out life for those who are undocumented, this is the book for you. This book made me think about my assumptions about those who are undocumented, and my place of privilege as an American citizen as well. It also made me want to keep up with current policy, and I realized how much I did not know. The author’s personal stories mixed in as well only add to the narrative, and I enjoyed seeing how it applies to why she wrote this book in the first place.
I give this a 4 out of 5!
How do I rate the books I write about? Click here!
- Short Review #22: These Women by Ivy Pochoda (2020)
Rating: 4 out of 5 ⭐️
Title: These Women: A Novel
Author: Ivy Pochoda
Published: 2020 (Ecco, HarperCollins New York)
Pages: 335 (Hardcover)
Genres: Fiction, Thriller, Crime, Contemporary Fiction
CW: prostitution, language, murder, violence, grief
This week I’m writing from home while sick. I’m not COVID-19 ill, as far as I know (I’m currently waiting on my test results just to be safe). But this means I have extra time for reading, and I just finished reading These Women by Ivy Pochoda. This is the first book I’ve read by Ivy Pochoda, who is the author of several other works of fiction and her writing has appeared in many major publications including The New York Times. I have not seen a lot of hype over this book, but saw a lot of good reviews online. The premise sounded interesting, and I’m trying to expand my crime drama repertoire especially regarding social issues. Overall, by the end, I was hooked!
“… A warning about the senselessness of rage. Because in the end it’s just you. It will always be you. So it’s a waste of energy sending all that venom and anger out into the world because the return is nothing. It’s a one-way ticket. You give and give your anger and get nothing in return except more anger, leaving nothing behind” – Ivy Pochoda, These Women
This novel is narrated from the perspectives of five different women in a South Los Angeles community surrounding a series of serial murders of prostitutes from the 90s and then in 2014. Between the daily dramas of women who walk the streets of West Adams in LA as prostitutes to the cop trying to face her own demons and find a serial killer, this novel of fiction contains a diverse cast of characters that shed light on real-life community problems. This heart-gripping story highlights different social issues such as police departments not taking murders of women who have ‘high-risk professions’ such as prostitution seriously, minority women not being believed or taken seriously by positions of power, and racial and community tensions.
“These photos are a truth far beyond the reaches of Marella’s creativity. As for her work – well, she can only tell stories and not even her own. These women, the powerful mess of them. The confidence fading to vacancy. The power dissolving into despair. The challenge they pose to the viewer, the confrontation and the temptation. The strength and desperation” – Ivy Pochoda, These Women
I ended up enjoying this novel! It was slow to start, but by the end I was really into the story. I loved the way the author revealed details to the reader that were outside of the plot, but added to the reader’s suspicions of what was going to happen. I like that aspect regarding works of contemporary fiction, especially when it’s well communicated in the story line. I won’t give away any spoilers, because I want you, reader, to read this book. The author touched on some important issues regarding race and privilege in various ways to think about. And she told the stories regarding women who face these issues well without romanticizing it inappropriately. Also, the drama and story was entertaining as hell. Why should you read this book? If you’re a fan of crime dramas surrounding serial killings, but touch on social issues among the grittiest parts of LA, this is the book for you.
I give this a 4 out of 5!
How do I rate the books I write about?? Click here
- Book Review #34: Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi (2018)
Rating: 4 out of 5 ⭐️
Title: Frankenstein in Baghdad: A Novel
Author: Ahmed Saadawi (Translated to English by Jonathan Wright)
Published: 2018 (English, Penguin Books, New York), 2013 (Arabic, al Kamel)
Pages: 281 (Paperback)
Genres: Horror, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Contemporary, Arabic Fiction
CW: Violence, War, Magic, Death, Gore, Sexual Content
Happy Halloween, fellow readers and bloggers 🎃 This is the day we have been waiting all month for, and I hope everyone has a safe and fun day! Eat some candy, dress up in costumes, have small or socially distanced gatherings to celebrate all things spooky, or do whatever you want. I’ll be watching scary movies, and sitting by a fire on a chilly night. That being said, today I have a tactfully spooky book to talk about: Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi.
“‘Yet I ask you not to spare me: listen to me; and then, if you can, and if you will, destroy the work of your hands’ —Mary Shelley, Frankenstein” – Ahmed Saadawi, Frankenstein in Baghdad
This quite extraordinary book was written by notable author, Ahmed Saadawi, who was the first Iraqi to win the International Prize for Arabic Fiction where he won for this novel in 2014. He also won France’s Grand Prize for Fantasy. He is a novelist, poet, screenwriter and documentary filmmaker. Quite an extraordinary author for an extraordinary book. But I have to be honest, I was confused at some points in this novel where I really had to pay attention to the character list at the beginning and connect events and developments to different points in the novel. You definitely need to follow the events and characters closely. I found the English translation easy to read and follow, but like any internationally translated novel, there may have been meanings not carried over into the English translation.
“We try to avoid meeting one another, although we are moving around in search of one another” – Ahmed Saadawi, Frankenstein in Baghdad
Taking place in US-occupied Baghdad, this novel focuses on a contrast of characters in relation to a monster referred to as many things including The Whatsitsname, created by a junk collector named Hadi. Hadi stitches together a single corpse from human body parts left over from acts of violence and bombings as a statement in order for the government “to recognize the parts as people and to give them proper burial” (p. 27). What Hadi did not expect was the corpse coming to life, and leaving his home to carry out a mysterious mission of murderous revenge, and soon the monster begins committing plain-old-murder towards those left in his path. This monster needs human flesh to survive, physically and spiritually, and is more intelligent and sensitive than he appears. To me, Saadawi derives the monster from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein‘s Monster, who was created out of grief and goes on a rampage. Which is much like The Whatsitsname who was also created out of the citizens of Iraq’s grief, and is animated by a vengeful but noble ghost of a security guard who carries out his revenge and executes the criminals he sees fit.
“If you can foresee what’s going to happen, then that’s a gift from God, and He’s telling you that you can change fate for the better” – Ahmed Saadawi, Frankenstein in Baghdad
There is a large cast of characters that can be tricky to follow along, like I stated previously, but this political allegory was complexly and wonderfully executed. The parallels between this book and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein were clear, but this time the backstory is war-torn Baghdad switching between the characters’ viewpoints of the events, who are journalists, Syriac Christians, business owners and other ordinary Iraqi citizens. Overall this book is kind of wild, and I’m still not 100% clear of what I just read. This book is scary in a war realism and science fiction standpoint, but nothing extremely frightening. Unless you do not like gore and murder, then it’s pretty frightening.
Following the monster’s psychology and how other characters viewed the monster was very interesting, and my favorite part of this novel. Some of the events and attitudes definitely left me guessing how this novel was going to play out. Honestly, I wish I had more intelligent things to say about this novel and go on about my ideas of what I thought events/ideas meant, but I don’t know where to begin. There was so much going on besides the monster at times like magic, family, prophecy, violence, government bureaucracy, ambitions in journalism, love and longing, and more.
Anyways, why should you read this novel? Read if you like science fiction, horror or contemporary novels focusing on gruesome monsters hellbent on murderous intentions who try to prevent more death and destruction in a warn torn country. Unless you can’t stand the complexity or hate science fiction or gore, you won’t be disappointed.
I give this a 4 out of 5!
I read a lot of this book listening to a Spooky Spotify playlist I absolutely loved that I wanted to share with you all! I’m sorry (but also not) if this music is not your thing.
How the heck do I rate the books I read? Click here
- Book Review #33: The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel (2020)
Rating: 3 out of 5 ⭐️
Title: The Familiar Dark: A Novel
Author: Amy Engel
Published: 2020 (Dutton Books, New York)
Pages: 238 (Hardcover)
Genres: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Crime, Suspense
CW: murder, corrupt police, family abuse, violence, mentions of sexuality
Two reviews in one week! But the book I’m here to talk about was a quick read. Anyways, I read another spooky book, but this one was more crime-thriller spooky than horror spooky (the next book in my stack is a monster of a novel, though). Currently, that book is The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel, who also wrote The Roanoke Girls. Engel is a thriller novelist who also, fun fact, used to be a criminal defense attorney (according to Goodreads). I don’t talk about this enough on my blog, but I actually like reading blurbs about the author’s I read. I view it like finding a credible news publication, sometimes the insight into their backgrounds makes the content all the more worthwhile. This definitely is not the case every time though.
“I thought about all the press conferences I’d seen over the years, parents trotted out for missing kids, killed kids, abused kids. Everyone feels sorry for those parents, those mothers, until they don’t. Until the mothers are too put-together or not put-together enough. Until the mothers are angry. Because that’s the one thing women are never, ever allowed to be. We can be sad, distraught, confused, pleading forgiving. But not furious. Fury is reserved for other people. The worst thing you can be is an angry woman, an angry mother” – Amy Engel, The Familiar Dark
Eve is a single-mother living in a small town called Barren Springs in the Missouri Ozarks, and is a lot like the others in the town: poor white trash, knocked up as a teenager, and hanging onto the hope she will leave Barren Springs one day. When her 12-year-old and only child, Junie, is murdered on a playground she once played on, Eve discovers she wants revenge and takes a page from her own abusive, cruel mother’s book to make whoever committed the crime pay. During which, Eve battles her own grief, while facing her own demons and the injustices she’s been handed since she was a child.
“Truth is, there’s no good way to navigate being female in this world. If you speak out, say no, stand your ground, you’re a bitch and a harpy, and whatever happens to you is your own fault. You had it coming. But if you smile, say yes, survive on politeness, you’re weak and desperate. An easy mark. Prey in a world full of predators. There are no risk‑free options for women, no choices that don’t come back to smack us in the face” – Amy Engel, The Familiar Dark
This book was a fantastic crime thriller! I definitely recommend if you can get past the triggers in the CW section I mention at the top. I heavily want to note the violence. But overall what I liked most was the perspective of this novel. Sometimes I’m personally exhausted by the increasing popularity of the ‘true crime’ podcasts, books and Netflix shows. As interesting as they are, at the end of the day, the producers and authors are showcasing a family or friend’s tragedy and putting it on display for the world to comment and criticize in a sick fascination. That’s it. Only occasionally do these publications ‘help find the killer’. Otherwise it’s the same thing as publishing a shooter’s name in the news, I believe. (But on a rare occasion I watch/listen to these so I’m fully acknowledging right now I’m slightly hypocritical…) I believe The Familiar Dark comments on this by offering the mother’s perspective with her own criticisms on how others are handling her daughter’s murder. The book also briefly addresses the ‘true crime’ craze, and it was certainly somewhat enlightening.
Why should you read this book? If you enjoy crime thrillers taking place in a small Ozark town in the victim’s family’s perspective, this is the one for you.
I give this a 3 out of 5! (I didn’t think this book was absolutely amazing or original)
How do I rate the books I write about? Click here
- Short Review #21: The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher (2019)
Rating: 3 out of 5 ⭐️
Title: The Twisted Ones
Author: T. Kingfisher (alias of author Ursula Vernon)
Published: 2019 (Gallery/Saga Press, New York)
Pages: 385 (Hardcover)
Genres: Horror, Thriller, Fiction, Folk Horror, Supernatural
CW: violence, supernatural elements, mild sexual themes, abuse
Hello, everyone! This week’s review is going to be pretty short. Not because of anything negative about this book, but because I do not have much to say on it. This is the first book I’ve read by alias T. Kingfisher, a.k.a Ursula Vernon, who by her real name writes children’s books and comics. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this one, and by the end of it, I was mostly not disappointed.
“A semi came screaming around a bend in the road, interrupting my thoughts and reminding me suddenly of why walking by the side of the road on a country lane was best reserved for historical romance and Led Zeppelin songs” – T. Kingfisher, The Twisted Ones
This work of supernatural and folk horror is about a young woman nicknamed Mouse as she goes to clean out her recently deceased grandmother’s old home in North Carolina. Mouse’s grandmother was a a hoarder, and a pretty severe one at that. But as Mouse starts clearing away the piles of creepy dolls and newspapers, she finds something more sinister watching her from the woods. Between the creepy tales from her step-grandfather’s journals to noises that go bump in the night, this tale is pretty sinister from start to finish.
“Books on World War II appear spontaneously in any house that contains a man over a certain age. I believe that’s science” – T. Kingfisher, The Twisted Ones
I liked this spooky read! Lovecraftian in style and execution, The Twisted Ones keeps the reader guessing. This book was spine-tingling creepier in certain aspects, but lacking in actual gory and bone-chilling horror. The author’s writing was simple but witty, and to me, the narration fell in line with the fast paced quips of a true crime podcast. The only part I wish were different is more emphasis on character development, and focus on some of the lesser-mentioned characters. But maybe because this book was supposed to feel more like an oral tale, the character details were not the main focus. I would read another book by T. Kingfisher, but maybe not by Ursula Vernon… but only because she writes children’s books.
I give this a 3 out of 5!
How do I rate my books? Click here for more details
- Book Review #32: Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell (2020)
Rating: 3 out of 5 ⭐
Title:️ Utopia Avenue: A Novel
Author: David Mitchell
Published: 2020 (Random House, New York)
Pages: 574 (Hardcover)
Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Contemporary, British Novel, Music Scene, LGBT
CW: Drugs, Sexual Content, Violence, Mental Illness, Child Death
Hi all! This week I did not read a spooky book, but the next one I have lined up is pretty spooky. Anyways, I finally got my hands on this new release from the library, Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell. British-born Mitchell is the author of a fairly well-known novel Cloud Atlas (which side note, I did not care for the movie version). He has written several other popular novels over the years, and Utopia Avenue is his latest release.
“My Dutch grandfather used to say, ‘If you don’t know what to do, do nothing for eight days’, Dean asked ‘Why eight?’, ‘Less than eight is haste. More than eight is procrastination. Eight days is long enough for the world to shuffle the deck and deal you another hand’” – David Mitchell, Utopia Avenue
Utopia Avenue follows the rise of a fictional psychedelic, folk-rock band by the same name. Based out of Britain, the band consists of four very different persons: folk singer and higher-brow front woman and pianist Elf Holloway, demon struggling blues-style bass guitarist Dean Moss, psychologically troubled and talented guitarist Jasper de Zoet, and rough-and-tough Yorkshire drummer Peter Griff or ‘Griffin’. Their adventures start from very different styles and beginnings to a masterful partnership and family found in each other. The band is fictional, but several of the characters mentioned are based on real persons in the 60s music/art scene. The story and vast dialogues are filled with art, music, drugs, mental illness, love, family and of course, psychedelic tropes and ideas of the 1960s.
“… For a brief spell, we share a stage. Other are coming to kick us off. But while you’re here, write yourself a good part. Act it well…. There’s nothing else to say because there’s nothing more to say” – David Mitchell, Utopia Avenue
Overall, I really enjoyed this one. I felt invested in the counterculture of 1960s Britain, and how it’s youth were changing and forming music at the time. Mitchell does a great job of immersing the reader in the story and characters. The contemporary style of storytelling also really emphasizes the trippy and imaginative feel of this novel. This is, admittedly, the first novel I’ve read by Mitchell, but I’ve heard a lot about him. As I kept reading, I felt like I had no idea what to expect next. I didn’t think this book was absolutely amazing, but I was invested in the demanding and sensory prose. The way he brings the reader into the music scene during this time, and makes them feel like they’re apart of what’s happening was my favorite part.
“Your best teachers aren’t always your friends. Sometimes your best teachers are your mistakes” – David Mitchell, Utopia Avenue
But I do have to say, this book was super long. I haven’t read a book this verbose in a while. It honestly felt like I was reading Charles Dickens at certain times, like some passages seemed so unnecessarily lengthy. But of course, the story itself was long and spread over a certainly wide period of time, I believe. Plus there were a lot of flashbacks, and rapid back-and-forth between current and past moments for each main character, which only added to the contemporary feel.
“‘It’s your body,’ says Elf, ‘Your news. Your timing’… ‘If that’s feminism’ says Imogen, ‘sign me up’…’It’s not feminism. It’s just… true’” – David Mitchell, Utopia Avenue
Why should you read this book? If you enjoy contemporary but historical fiction novels about 1960s British psychedelic rock bands that challenges societal notions and difficulties, this is the book for you. It really was good, but I don’t think this author is as fantastic as everyone says it is. He’s definitely talented and invested so much care in crafting his stories, but that’s all he is, admirable and celebrated for his efforts. I would have also liked to see more involvement and focus on other side characters and one of the main band-mates (I won’t say who, but it’s not the bassist this time..), instead of only the four band-mates, and at rare times a few of their family members.
“Art is memory made public. Time wins in the long run. Books turn to dust, negatives decay, records get worn out, civilizations burn. But as long as the art endures, a song or a view or a thought or a feeling someone once thought worth keeping is saved and stays shareable. Others can say, ‘I feel that too’” – David Mitchell, Utopia Avenue
(The above quote is my favorite, by the way) I give this book a 3 out of 5!
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- Book Review #31: Writers & Lovers by Lily King (2020)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5⭐️
Title: Writers & Lovers: A Novel
Author: Lily King
Published: 2020 (Grove Press)
Pages: 324 (Hardcover)
Genres: Literary Fiction, Contemporary, Adult, Romantic
CW: sexual content, cancer, pedophilia, assault, adult situations
Hi all! This week I read a book that was not-so-spooky. Writers & Lovers has caused a lot of hype in the book community since its release, and I’ve seen so many reviews for this novel online. Already a celebrated author, Lily King really hit me in the gut in numerous ways with her humorous and fractured protagonist in Writers & Lovers. And fair warning – I have a lot to say about this one.
“I don’t write because I think I have something to say. I write because if I don’t, everything feels even worse” – Lily King, Writers & Lovers
The novel centers around 31-year-old writer and former golf prodigy, Casey Peabody, a woman down on her luck after a failed romance, piling student loan debt she cannot pay off, and losing her mother. Casey moves back to her hometown in Massachusetts to start over somewhere familiar, and finish her novel. The reader divulges into the nook-and-cranny aspects of Casey’s life, along with her heartache, ambitions and conflicts. Casey is a highly relatable character, who honestly made every other section of this novel a punch in the gut if you’ve ever been a woman who lost direction in life, lost a relative/friend, been through a horrible breakup, assaulted in any way or just been through any emotional crisis at all. The reader follows Casey’s journey while she writes her novel, and the relationships she has on the way during the summer of 1997.
“There’s a particular feeling in your body when something goes right after a long time of things going wrong. It feels warm and sweet and loose… For a moment all my bees have turned to honey” – Lily King, Writers & Lovers
I definitely did not love this novel as much as others. For how amiable I seem towards it, I was really unsure of both this book and myself as I put it down after finishing. The writing was definitely well-done, and almost poetic at times. But I almost thought it was a bit pretentious, not just with the main character, but her community as well. I probably would have given it a higher rating if it hadn’t been so, and also if it had flowed better in real emotion. Maybe the pretentiousness was purposefully done, to show us how the literary community actually interacts and treats each other, and I understood that at times. The characters just seemed so privileged and tedious, including the main character even though I know she went through horrible traumas, and no one of note was down to earth about literally anything whatsoever. Casey is either complaining about not having money or about others who have money/status/fame for a majority of the novel, but my question is: how was she able to live in Spain, and travel all around the world throughout her 20s? There had to have been some money somewhere. I know she pulled out loans for school, but I’m sorry, if you had the time/ability to get an Bachelor of Arts and a MFA in Creative Writing, and sit in cafes talking to other writers a lot of your time when you weren’t waitressing, you’re not that underprivileged. But I leave the possibility open that I may not have understood something about her situation. How can I better summarize this book? It was like Girls (the HBO series created by Lena Dunham) meets Kicking & Screaming (1995 indie film), but was written by Nora Ephron.
“I squat there and think about how how you get trained early on as a woman to perceive how others are perceiving you, at the great expense of what you yourself are feeling about them. Sometimes you mix the two up in a terrible tangle that’s hard to unravel” – Lily King, Writers & Lovers
This novel was full of familiar tropes and situations, but King’s style of storytelling and prose was refreshing and humorous. Despite my negative comments before, I did enjoy reading this novel, and my heart ached at times during some of Casey’s experiences. I found some aspects of her romances and debt experiences almost painfully too familiar. Plus, the experiences of working in the food industry such as waitressing were on par… even in the 90s when this story takes place. And the summarization of the misogyny problem among male writers in the literary community was also spot on.
“Nearly every guy I’ve dated believed they should already be famous, believed that greatness was their destiny and they were already behind schedule. An early moment of intimacy often involved a confession of this sort: a childhood vision, teacher’s prophesy, a genius IQ …. Later, I thought I was just choosing delusional men. Now I understand it’s how boys are raised to think, how they are lured into adulthood. I’ve met ambitious women, driven women, but no woman has ever told me that greatness was her destiny” – Lily King, Writers & Lovers
Like I said, I would have given this novel 4 stars, but the pretentiousness made me question how much I was actually enjoying it. It was like a charming, privileged New American Colonial setting meets psychological and societal problems among ‘failure to launch’ Gen-X’ers. Honestly, I’m not sure why I’m so critical of this novel, because it’s not like I haven’t read books with privileged characters before. But anyways, I found this novel highly quotable with enjoyable quips (can you tell by how many quotes I included in this review?). I also loved the prose and conversations between characters, except for Casey and Silas… That relationship I’m still questioning even as I write this. I won’t say why, because I do not want to give away spoilers.
“I hate male cowardice and the way they always have each other’s backs. They have no control. They justify everything their dicks make them do. And they get away with it. Nearly every time. My father peered through a hole at girls, possibly at me, in our locker room. And when he got caught, he got a party and a cake” – Lily King, Writers & Lovers
Why should you read this book? If you enjoy contemporary, literary fiction about Gen-X’er writers who are down on their luck, among their romantic escapades, this is the book for you. This book was in fact about writers and lovers. On a side note, I had to listen to my 90s alternative, indie rock playlist as I wrote this review. Looking back now, this is one of my lengthier reviews… maybe I thought higher of this book than I evaluated?
I give this a 3.5 out of 5! (Still super conflicted about my rating)