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  • Book Review #49: White Magic by Elissa Washuta (2021)

    ,Rating: 3 out of 5⭐️
    Title: White Magic: Essays
    Author: Elissa Washuta
    Published: 2021 (Tin House Books)
    Pages: 432 (Hardcover)
    Genres: Non-Fiction, Essays, Spiritual, Adult, Biography
    CW: Rape, Abuse, Native American Traumas, Strong Language, Colonization, PTSD, Alcoholism
    Link Here

    My borrowed copy of White Magic against some cards/prints on my wall

    Okay… Let me begin by stating that I have a lot and a little to say about this book. This week I finished reading a collection of essays by Native American writer Elissa Washuta called White Magic: Essays. I cannot remember how I came across this book or what made me want to read it. Maybe it was the description, which made it seem insightful, or maybe it was the pretty and simplistic cover design. But after completing this book, I have so many mixed feelings. I’m writing this review while re-watching Twin Peaks, a series Washuta mentions a lot in her book. Re-watching a series I also love felt appropriate to get my head into this review. Anyways, I feel the best way to approach this review after I describe the synopsis is to list out the pros and cons.

    I don’t like the story I keep hearing: all these white men fracking the frontier, no wives, only work, so some of them rape. If the oil business is the problem, why did I get raped in the city? The movie kills off a villain. At the end, text on the screen tells us that in real life, Native women are missing. Wind River Reservation is real, but justice is the climax of a white fantasy. Before colonizers fracked, they raped” – Elissa Washuta, White Magic

    White Magic is a collection of the author’s short stories where she describes in great detail about her tumultuous love life, her experiences with the spiritual and religion, witchery, battle with alcoholism and her experiences as a Native American person and her findings of Native history. She also goes into detail about her pop culture influences, and her thoughts on what she sees and hears in detail. White Magic felt essentially like the author’s diary, but in literature form and prose.

    “In your gut, you know that your relationship is bad, as in expired, like milk. Philip’s white man face is not a mask, and he can’t see it. He doesn’t love you. He is not wicked, never abusive, never mean, so you know you must hold on to this for as long as you can, because if you lose him, the next man might kill you” – Elissa Washuta, White Magic

    Pros:

    The content was well-spoken and poetic, Washuta has a unique voice. She also provided a lot of facts and history about Native persons that was insightful to read, especially coming from a Native perspective herself. She also provides a lot of insight into what women face, especially Native women, with PTSD and relationship abuse/rape. These subjects could be a trigger to you though, fair warning – she does go into a lot of detail. Some of the stories were relatable as well, and her telling of what a lot of women face in relationships and in life really spoke to me personally.

    But where else would I live? Not my ancestral territory, where I couldn’t imagine a way to make a living. Now, I wonder whether I wasn’t taking on a share of settler guilt, willing to suffer for them – for meaning in their place, but also as in for their entertainment, because they want the suffering. Settler colonialism wants me flagellating myself, because it’s a good distraction: nobody might notice the DOJ findings that, of the Native women they surveyed who were victims of sexual violence, 96 percent were harmed by non-Native perpetrators” – Elissa Washuta, White Magic

    Cons:

    There were some points where I could not stand the structure and style. The subject matter most of the time felt all over the place, and did not connect well at all to some things she stated in the same paragraph. I mentioned this a little before, but really this book felt like someone published the author’s diary about her daily thoughts. She also spent most of the book talking about the same ex-boyfriend on and off… which makes sense for being in a personal essay, but he was in all the essays.

    What do David Lynch & your ex have in common? Neither of them owe you closure” – Elissa Washuta, White Magic

    Maybe it’s my fault for approaching this book with different expectations. This was always a book of essays. But I think I expected it to be more factual about spiritual or witch practices than what it really was, the author’s collection of angst about her ex-boyfriends and the same subjects/repetitive topics mentioned in every essay. I think this book will resonate more with other persons, but it definitely did not with me. Why should you read this book? If you enjoy works of memoir/essays from Native perspectives, but also dives deep into difficult and fem-relatable subject matter, this is the book for you. To me, the author’s style felt like a more-Native Lena Dunham, which can be both a complement or not one…

    I give this one a 3 out of 5! (I thought about giving it a 2-star, but there was enough I liked about it to make up for the negatives)

    _Elizabeth


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  • Book Review #48: The Atmospherians by Alex McElroy (2021)

    Rating: 4 out of 5 ⭐️
    Title: The Atmospherians: A Novel
    Author: Alex McElroy
    Published: 2021 (Atria Books)
    Pages: 288 (Hardcover)
    Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Adult, Humor, Satire, Literary
    CW: Eating Disorders, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, Childhood Abuse, Suicide, Violence, Trolling/Doxxing, Cults, Sexual Content

    My borrowed copy of The Atmospherians against a brick wall

    Hello! I finished another book this week, by some miracle or way. Two in one week! I actually finished this one reading in a park, which seemed appropriate due to the naturalist cover (see photo above). Today has been pretty rough, but I’m glad to be ending it on a better note as I write this. My newest read is one I never expected to come across. The Atmospherians (or the_atmospherians …?) by Alex McElroy (they/them) is the first novel I’ve read by the author, and this is their first novel. I went into this one with a very open mind, because I literally had no idea what to expect. But by the end, I was equally entertained and perplexed!

    Your pain won’t impress anyone. The people your pain does impress aren’t worth impressing” – Alex McElroy, The Atmospherians

    The Atmospherians is a work of contemporary fiction. Sasha Marcus is a young social media influencer who created and led a popular wellness brand, until it was all brought down by a troll and a grievous error over social media, and now Sasha is officially cancelled and doxxed. As Sasha’s life crumbles around her, as both her boyfriend and best friend leave her, one of her oldest friends comes out of the woodwork, Dyson Layne, a flailing actor and visionary who decides that he needs a change and Sasha needs something to restore her reputation. Dyson asks Sasha to join his venture, which is leading a cult called The Atmosphere. The Atmosphere is a place in rural New Jersey where men victim of toxic masculinity are transformed to be better human beings in society. Told through sharp humor, Sasha and Dyson go through the challenges of running a cult and growing as much and as little as possible themselves.

    Blake crooned cartoonishly to mock the top 40 hits on the radio. He considered these musicians beneath him, sellouts, but his envy was so obvious to me, and I felt closer to him – and distracted from my dread – by seeing into the feelings he’d never admit to” – Alex McElroy, The Atmospherians

    The novel deeply focuses on the issues of Sasha and Dyson, either the friendship between them and individually. The book also calls out various social issues, and themes such as how we deal with toxic masculinity as a society and cancel culture. It almost felt satirical regarding current influencers/social media culture. There are hints in the narration like the storyteller is recalling a past event or maybe even subtly foretelling, but that is not so clear throughout the whole novel. The brief page interludes, though interrupting, were also divisive in telling the story. The writing was absolutely wonderful and clear though, and I was deeply entertained. McElroy used many literary devises extremely well, which may come from their education background (McElroy has a MA and PhD). But there were parts of the story and character progressions that felt dry to me, honestly, and at times I felt like there were more interluding periods than actual story development. The plot progression did feel a little all over the place at times, but it was not an issue for me.

    A smart friend of mine, this philosophy guy who quit on college to work construction, used to tell me God is a novelist: Nothing is too convenient for God. You think: I couldn’t possibly lose my daughter at the same age as my brother. But God – and I don’t mean God god, because fuck him, I mean whatever’s shaping this world – only has so many notions” – Alex McElroy, The Atmospherians

    For the characters not being the best human beings, both for Sasha and Dyson, I felt really attached to their development. Normally when characters tend to have anti-hero tendencies, I get a bit annoyed at them. But in The Atmospherians, I was rooting for Sasha and Dyson the entire time, which was shocking. Not even for them to fail, but for them to find some kind of satisfying conclusion, a happy or sad one. I was looking forward to seeing how it would turn out for them (I won’t give anything away though). The tone of this novel felt extremely satirical though, and often times outrageous. Also, this novel had many hard triggers to be aware of, including eating disorders, if that is a concern for any readers.

    Despite her beset intentions and bitterness, she couldn’t withstand the expectations imposed on her appearance. And in doing so she taught me a valuable lesson in the inevitability of concession. The world encouraged me to see myself as an object of men’s desires. And for years I conceded. I shaped myself to the demands made on my body – kept it slender and pretty and fit – because I feared what would happen to me if I didn’t. I’d heard stories about the women who didn’t. When Dyson said, Show me how to have a body like yours, what I heard was: Show me how to internalize the expectations of magazines and commercials and lip-licking men in the street. Show me how to obsess over myself. To hate myself. To see my body as something both valuable and worthless, something constantly under construction. That was, I believed, what he anted from me, and regrettably, that’s what I taught him” – Alex McElroy, The Atmospherians

    Why should you read this book? If you enjoy literary, satirical fiction about protagonists trying to start a cult based on reforming toxic men and find out more about themselves (mostly) and each other along the way, this is the book for you.

    I give this one a 4 out of 5!

    _Elizabeth


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

  • Short Review #38: The Maidens by Alex Michaelides (2021)

    Rating: 4 out of 5 ⭐️
    Title: The Maidens: A Novel
    Author: Alex Michaelides
    Published: 2021 (Celadon Books, Audible Audiobook)
    Pages: 9 hrs 19 min (audiobook)
    Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Mythology, Suspense, Audiobook
    CW: Murder, Death, Childhood Abuse, Grief, Mental Health Issues, Violence

    Image Credit: amazon.com

    Hello and happy Sunday! I hope everyone is having a satisfactory end to their week. I did so by finishing The Maidens by Alex Michaelides on Audible Audiobook. I have definitely slowed down on the audiobooks and upped my physical book reading material. This is mostly due to being less inclined to listen to audiobooks as I’m doing my daily tasks or during my drives to/from work. I’m on a music listening trend right now… and most likely itching towards a podcast kick before I resume my audiobook kick. Anyways, after reading The Maidens, I was totally intrigued and pressed for more by the end.

    “‘Love isn’t conditional’, Ruth said. ‘It’s not dependent on jumping through hoops to please someone—and always failing. You can’t love someone if you’re afraid of them, Mariana. I know it’s hard to hear. It’s a kind of blindness—but unless you wake up and see clearly, it will persist throughout your whole life, affecting how you see yourself, and others too'” – Alex Michaelides, The Maidens

    Mariana Andros is an intelligent group therapist who is still reeling from a personal tragedy when she receives news her niece, Zoe’s, best friend has been brutally murdered at Cambridge, where her niece is also attending university. Mariana is convinced the murderer is the charming Edward Fosca, a Greek Tragedy professor who is notoriously popular with students and is the leader of a campus society of women called The Maidens, named after the mythos. Mariana stays to help investigate the murder using her psychoanalyzing specialties as a favor to Zoe, who is like Mariana’s own daughter. Mariana’s obsession with proving Fosca is the killer grows, and after another murder takes place she is left questioning what is true and what might be more nefarious than Mariana is prepared for. The Maidens is a slow thriller that builds and builds through suspense and conversation.

    “Reading about life was no preparation for living it” – Alex Michaelides, The Maidens

    I was more captivated by The Maidens than I thought I was going to be. I have not read Michaelides’ other hit novel, The Silent Patient, but I know that one was also beloved by thriller fans. Michaelides writing style really impressed me. And as I’ve been saying in my reviews recently, sometimes I get really tired of the cheesiness of thriller novel’s twists, especially in recent publications. But The Maidens‘ twists did not feel forced, and the progression to direct the readers attention was really masterfully done. The characters were also beautifully described, and I felt as though I knew them well as I read. The psychology topics were very interesting as well, and the author’s perspective felt very informed. Of course, the ending had to have a little cheesiness, but the turnout was much more satisfying.

    Don’t glorify the events of your life and try to give them meaning. There is no meaning. Life means nothing. Death means nothing. But she didn’t always think that way” – Alex Michaelides, The Maidens

    Why should you read this book? If you enjoy clever and slow thrillers with supernatural topics and ethereal psychoanalyses, this is the book for you. I read other reviews with criticisms that the ending was not very satisfying, but I actually thought the opposite. My opinion was that this novel had more closing than some other thrillers receive. Definitely pick this one up if you’re looking for a good end-of-summer thriller! I also enjoyed the narration and the narrator’s voice over audiobook, and I had no issues following along.

    I give this one a 4 out of 5!

    _Elizabeth


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

  • Short Review #37: Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily Austin (2021)

    Rating: 3.5 out of 5⭐️
    Title: Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead: A Novel
    Author: Emily R. Austin
    Published: 2021 (Atria Books)
    Pages: 256 (Hardcover)
    Genres: Adult Fiction, Contemporary, LGBT, Queer, Humor
    CW: Suicide, Alcoholism, Mental Health Issues, Death, Homophobia, Grief

    My borrowed copy of Everyone in This Room… by my keyboard at work

    Hello and Happy Saturday! I hope everyone’s week is ending on a good note, and hopefully mine will too. I was very excited to finish my latest read though, Everyone in The Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily Austin, a new Canadian author I had not heard of before seeing this book. After reading good reviews, I thought I would pick this one up! Plus the plot sounded hilarious and interesting.

    It turns out the crackers I stole are the body of Christ. After eating more than half the bag, I googled the cracker brand and learned that I paired marble Cracker Barrel cheese with God’s transubstantiated body. I had originally googled the crackers so I could leave them a review. I planned to write: BORING. Whoever created these is unimaginative. These crackers are tasteless and bland” – Emily Austin, Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead

    Our heroine Gilda, is an atheist, lesbian twenty-something who needs a job and cannot stop thinking about illness, death, her obsession with animals and building the perfect dirty dishes tower. When she stumbles across advertised free therapy at a Catholic Church, a priest named Jeff believes she’s there for an interview as the church’s receptionist. Gilda gets the job and replaces the previous receptionist, Grace, who recently died under mysterious circumstances. As Gilda fools everyone into thinking she’s a pious Catholic and straight, she becomes engrossed in Grace’s life and communicates via email with one of her friend’s, Rosemary, pretending to be the deceased Grace in order to avoid the awkwardness of telling Rosemary her friend passed. As Gilda navigates a new romance, her health, family life and what really happened to Grace, she learns more about herself and existence.

    My mother had a baby, and her mother had a baby, and her mother had a baby. Every woman in my family before me lived to have a baby – just so that baby could grow up to have another baby. If I don’t have a baby, then all of those women reproduced just so that I could exist. I am the final product. I am the final baby” – Emily Austin, Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead

    Austin’s novel is filled with clever and thoughtful writing, I loved her contemporary writing style and it was honestly my favorite part. The succession of events following Gilda were also well-received and I had a great time reading this one. The only big downside was I did not care for how dry Gilda’s character could be at times. And sometimes I could not follow her progression as a character. Gilda was hilarious and the existentialism was relatable and palpable, but sometimes I felt as though I didn’t truly understand where the novel was heading. The novel definitely had more promise in the beginning, but the end did not follow through as much as I had hoped. The subjects of mental illness and family issues were sensitively, while also being boldly, told and reflective. But why should you read this book? If you’re into contemporary novels about unique and LGBT characters that question existential issues, this is the book for you.

    I give this one a 3.5 out of 5!

    _Elizabeth


    Curious how I rate my books? ⭐️ Click here

  • Short Review #36: Survive the Night by Riley Sager (2021)

    Rating: 4 out of 5 ⭐️
    Title: Survive the Night: A Novel
    Author: Riley Sager
    Published: 2021 (Dutton, Penguin Random House)
    Pages: 324 (Hardcover)
    Genres: Historical Fiction, Thriller, Suspense, Mystery
    CW: Murder, Crime, Violence, Brief Gore, Car Accidents, Mental Illness, Rated-R Movie References

    My borrowed copy of Survive the Night outside of a cabin in Alaska

    Was anyone else excited to pick up this title? I was for sure! Since Sager announced his newest book sometime last year, I’ve been really looking forward to it. Like many other thriller fans, I really enjoyed his other titles, some I reviewed in the past and are linked in the following: The Last Time I Lied, Lock Every Door, Home Before Dark, and Final Girls. But I just finished this book during my vacation to Alaska. By the way, I finished TWO whole books on vacation! Maybe the key to truly enjoying reading is while you’re on vacation…. I’m no expert though, it had been a long time since I was on a vacation. Anyways, after finishing Survive the Night by Riley Sager, I was definitely impressed by the end!

    In that moment, she understands that she’s in charge of her own destiny. She’s Ellen Ripley. She’s Laurie Strode. She’s Clarice Starling. She’s Thelma and Louise, kicking up dirt in a final fuck-you as they choose freedom over life. Their choice. No one else’s. Now it’s Charlie doing the choosing” – Riley Sager, Survive the Night

    It’s 1991 and film enthusiast, grieving college student Charlie Jordan, needs a ride home from her New Jersey campus after a tragedy. She meets Josh Baxter through a ride share board on campus, and she agrees to have him drive her home in the middle of the night in exchange for sharing gas money. As Charlie gets to know Josh during the drive, she suspects he may actually be a serial killer. Will Charlie survive the long drive home, or is it all in her head? Survive the Night is a work of suspense that leaves the reader questioning what they’re reading. The story is told over the course of the drive, and there are clear transitions between chapters. I also loved how he wrote the main character’s inner thoughts, I think it was one of his more introspective female leads. In all of Sager’s books, he always has a female lead and the perspective is from her view.

    She blamed herself and hated herself and punished herself because that’s what women are taught to do. Blame themselves. Blame the victims. Tell themselves that since the Angela Dunleavys and Taylor Morrisons and Madeline Forresters of the world had sat through the same lessons on assault…. It must have been their fault they were attacked. Or raped. Or killed. No one tells women that none of it is their fault. That the blame falls squarely on the awful men who do terrible things and the fucked-up society that raises them, molds them, makes excuses for them. People don’t want to admit that there are monsters in their midst, so the monsters continue to roam free and the cycle of violence and blame continues” – Riley Sager, Survive the Night

    Overall, I really liked the story for such a campy title and plot lines! The sequence flowed fantastically, and I think this was my favorite development out of all his books. I think this is his best well-written novel yet, he’s definitely been developing his writing. But as for my favorite story, I’m impartial to Lock Every Door. The movie references were also on par, and I have to admit I was geeking out over them. This was the fastest I ever read one of his novels too, I was definitely invested! My only real negative was that the twists felt a bit forced and cheesy towards the end, but I’ve gotten that impression from some of his books in the past. But sometimes I get tired of thrillers handing out some of the cheesiest plot points more than other book genres… Why should you read this book? If you’re a Riley Sager fan, or if you love campy thrillers with killer movie endings, this is the book for you.

    I give this one a 4 out of 5!

    _Elizabeth


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

  • Book Review #47: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid (2021)

    Rating: 4 out of 5 ⭐️
    Title: Malibu Rising: A Novel
    Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
    Published: 2021 (Ballantine Books, New York)
    Pages: 365 (Hardcover)
    Genres: Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction, Drama
    CW: Alcoholism, Drug Use, Strong Language, Sexual Content, Marital Affairs, Mental Health Issues

    She had to choose what, of the things she inherited from the people who came before her, she wanted to bring forward. And what, of the past, she wanted to leave behind” – Taylor Jenkins Reid, Malibu Rising

    Hello! I’m here to interrupt your hopefully decent Saturday to talk about a wonderful book I finished last week, Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I was excited for this one, because I loved another of Reid’s novels, Daisy Jones & The Six. So when I saw this one was being released, I knew I had to read it. The plot seemed intriguing, and the cover looked pretty (see pictured above). Malibu Rising seemed to be a divisive narrative about family and legacy. Plus, I loved Reid’s writing style in Daisy Jones so I knew this one was going to be a contender.

    Your whole world can be falling apart, she thought, but then Springsteen will start playing on the radio” – Taylor Jenkins Reid, Malibu Rising

    Malibu Rising is a work of narrative fiction taking place in 1983 about the Riva siblings: Nina – a surfer married to a pro-tennis player living in a Malibu mansion, Jay – a world-renowned surfing champion, Hud – a famous photographer, and Kit – the baby, college-aged sister and wannabe surfer. The siblings, even though they are the children of famous crooner singer Mick Riva, are bound by tragedy and hardship amongst beautiful Malibu. The story takes place over the course of a day, the day Nina holds one of her famous parties, where locals and celebrities gather for one last raving all-night party of the summer. The parties have grown larger as each year goes by, but this year the party is not the usual rave. The siblings are each dealing with their own personal struggles, and eventually those struggles and unspoken feelings clash together to reveal a truth about each of them. Malibu Rising is a spectacular work of fiction about legacy, family, identity and love. The book jumps narratives between the siblings perspectives, to flashbacks of their mother’s story in the 60s with their father, Mick Riva – only reinforcing the theme of legacy.

    When there is only you, you do not get to choose which jobs you want, you do not get to decide you are incapable of anything. There is no room for distaste or weakness. You must do it all. All of the ugliness, the sadness, the things most people can’t stand to even think about, all must live inside of you. You must be capable of everything” – Taylor Jenkins Reid, Malibu Rising

    I was really impressed by this novel. There were a lot of good quotable quips about the major themes in the book, and the author’s writing was also definitely still on par. The plot, for being a little underwhelming at times, was intriguing for the most part and kept my interest. I was definitely dying to know what happened next when the narratives switched to another story line. This was a great summer read too, especially due to the dreamy descriptions of 1980s Malibu. The way the author described the setting was believable and sufficient. There were a few difficult and adult subject matters in this book as well that were a little hard to get through, but nothing too heavy. The way the author wrote about the inner dialogues of the main characters were heartfelt and authentic.

    Nina understood, maybe for the first time, that letting people love you and care for you is part of how you love and care for them” – Taylor Jenkins Reid, Malibu Rising

    Why should you read this book? If you’re a fan of speculative adult fiction taking place in 1980s Malibu, CA with serious undertones, this is the book for you. I definitely recommend Malibu Rising, especially if you’re a fan of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s other novels. This novel touches on a lot of topics and emotions many persons can relate to, and Reid communicates them very well, which is why I think this was a rewarding read.

    Do you have a favorite novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid?

    I give this one a 4 out of 5!

    _Elizabeth


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

  • Short Review #35: Hairpin Bridge by Taylor Adams (2021)

    Rating: 3.5 out of 5 ⭐️
    Title: Hairpin Bridge: A Novel
    Author: Taylor Adams
    Published: 2021 (William Morrow, HarperCollins, New York)
    Pages: 306 (Hardcover)
    Genres: Thriller, Fiction, Suspense, Mystery, Crime
    CW: Rape, Violence, Suicide, Murder, Crime/Police, Gun Violence
    Link Here

    Copy of Hairpin Bridge in the library where it is home to

    Hello everyone, it’s great to be back!! I hope you all have not forgotten about me. It’s been a long time since I wrote a review on here. I briefly spoke before about why I have not been reading and writing reviews as much recently. It is mostly due to the reading funk that I was recently involved with for the longest time. But the dry spell became way worse, and I’m six books behind my Goodreads Challenge 2021 goal too… I’m hoping I can catch up, I really want to meet my goal this year. My mental health has also declined a bit along with a lot of difficult life things going on in the background, and most days reading is not what I want to do. Recently, I made it a goal to keep reading despite what life throws at me and to make the best effort I can for my mental health. Reading, in the past, was a positive medium for my mental health after all. Anyways, I have a lot of reading and catching up to do! Thank you all for bearing with me, and I cannot wait to slowly start integrating back into the book world. Today, I’m here to talk about the highly rated thriller novel, Hairpin Bridge by Taylor Adams. This is the first book I read by Adams, but I’ve heard good things previously about his other thrillers.

    ‘It’s not your fault, Lena.’ There it was… It was only a matter of time before he stumbled across the blue-ribbon Thing People Tell You When your Sister Commits Suicide. And here it was…. Let the living stay blameless. Blame the person who’s not here anymore, who can’t defend herself. It made Lena so deeply sick” – Taylor Adams, Hairpin Bridge

    Lena Nguyen, a famous and grieving internet blogger, has decided her twin sister Cambry did not commit suicide by jumping off the remote Hairpin Bridge outside of Missoula, Montana. Lena decided Cambry was murdered, because of the suspicious circumstances around her death, like the multiple 911 calls, her suicide text note and the testimony of Corporal Raymond Raycevic, the cop who found Lena’s body. Raycevic’s testimony is the most suspicious of all, and Lena is determined to uncover the truth and find out what really happened to Cambry and maybe get revenge for her twin sister who was gone too soon. The book switches perspectives between the main event and written commentary from the narrator.

    I wish I had spent my time with you differently” – Taylor Adams, Hairpin Bridge

    Overall, I had a great time reading this book! It had a solid story from start to finish. The concept and twists were not particularly creative and did not quite pique my interest, but the narrative and transitions between perspectives were smooth. I enjoyed getting in the head of the main character, and the author did a great job of putting the reader in her shoes. For a fairly unoriginal story, the plot and devices were compelling and really made the book what it was. The only big downside for me was how cheesy and typical the twists turned out to be. Why should you read this book? If you’re a fan of any other of Taylor’s books or if you’re looking for a quality, grisly thriller, this is the book for you.

    I give this book a 3.5 out of 5!

    _Elizabeth


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

  • 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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