Reviews

  • 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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  • 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


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  • 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


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  • 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


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  • 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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  • ARC Review: The Imposter by Marin Montgomery (2021)

    Rating: 3 out of 5⭐️
    Title: The Imposter
    Author: Marin Montgomery
    Expected Publication Date: March 9, 2021 (Thomas & Mercer)
    Pages: 431 (ARC eBook)
    Genres: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Suspense
    CW: Violence, Trauma, Suicide, Alcoholism, Brief Sexuality, Assault, Mental Illness
    Link Here

    Side Note: I received an Advanced Readers Copy of The Imposter by the author through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This title will be released on March 9th 2021.

    I’m finally catching up on my ARCs this week! Specifically, Marin Montgomery’s new suspense thriller, The Imposter. Sadly, this one has been sitting in my TBR stack since December. But on the bright side, this review comes at a good time since this book comes out soon, March 9th to be exact. I was excited when the author reached out, and asked me to read it. This is the first book I have read by Montgomery. And she also lives in my hometown of Phoenix, AZ so it is definitely a huge plus to be reading a book by a local author. The plot sounded suspenseful, and I was definitely intrigued. Despite this book falling off my radar, I made an effort to pick it up back up, and I’m glad I did.

    The Imposter centers around mother and daughter, Deborah and Sibley Sawyer. Deborah is a middle-aged and troubled single widow living on her family’s farm in a small town in the Midwest, and Sibley is an alcoholic and successful divorce lawyer in Arizona who lives with her husband, Holden, a college professor who is on his last nerve with Sibley. Deborah and Sibley had a falling out and had not spoken for many years, until Sibley shows up on Deborah’s doorstep on the run from her crumbling life looking to make amends. As Sibley reconnects with familiar faces in her home town and truths are revealed, both characters have to come to terms with their own secrets that have stayed buried in their small town. Under suspicious circumstances, the two women also question their reality when strange events begin to occur. But is it too late for their relationship and themselves to be repaired, and the better question is, who can be trusted?

    The aspects I liked about this book was that the plot and story were full of suspense, and no parts of this book dropped or ever felt boring. Montgomery does a wonderful job keeping the story going from start to finish. Yet the pacing reminded me of watching a TV drama or something similar. The writing, for being super cheesy, was communicated well. And the plot was carried through the main two character’s inner struggles. The author I can best compare her to is Shari Lapena. But the aspects I was not a fan of was that the characters felt unreliable, and frankly I was tired of some of the side characters pretty quick. Without giving too much away, the main two characters were not trustworthy to the reader at any point in the book. Maybe that was partially the point, but there were hardly any directions toward the truth besides of course how the book rounded out in the end. The ending seemed to fall together without much of a clever set-up, and relied completely on the suspense. Plus I found a few parts of the plot and character’s engagements with each other to be far stretched and choppy. But for how messy it all seemed at times, this book had an interesting dialogue about relationships and second chances.

    Regardless, this book was definitely entertaining and engaging. Literally, the story was entirely growing suspense from start to finish. Why should you read this book? If you enjoy suspense thrillers centering on estranged familial relationships and reading about two women seemingly going insane under the same roof, this is the book for you. This is a book I will not be forgetting any time soon.

    I give this one a 3 out of 5!

    _Elizabeth


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  • Book Review #41: Swimming in the Dark by Tomasz Jedrowski (2020)

    Rating: 4 out of 5⭐️
    Title: Swimming in the Dark: A Novel
    Author: Tomasz Jedrowski
    Published: 2020 (William Morrow, HarperCollins, New York)
    Pages: 191 (Hardcover)
    Genres: Fiction, Historical, LGBT, Queer, Contemporary, Romance
    CW: Sex, Political Unrest, Violence, Discrimination, Drug Use
    Link Here

    My borrowed copy of Swimming in the Dark against a bath wall

    Hello everyone! I’m back this week to talk about this emotionally gripping and heartbreaking novel, Swimming in the Dark by Polish author Tomasz Jedrowski. This is the first book I have read by Jedrowski. I can’t remember where I stumbled across this one, but it was a while ago and I saw many positive reviews. When this read became available at my local library, I wanted to give it a shot. But I have to admit when this book was described as “Call Me By Your Name set in Communist Poland”, it definitely piqued my interest.

    And yet, it occurs to me now that we can never run with our lies indefinitely. Sooner or later we are forced to confront their darkness. We can choose then when, not the if. And the longer we wait, the more painful and uncertain it will be” – Tomasz Jedrowski, Swimming in the Dark

    Swimming in the Dark is like a long love letter and recounting narrative directed towards the main character’s love interest, Janusz. Literally, the narration is directed to a second person from beginning to end. Our narrator, Ludwik Glowacki, is a young man living in Communist Poland in the early 1980s, and is about to become a true adult in the world finding his place in his country when he meets his first great love, another young man named Janusz. They begin a torrid affair during the summer they first meet at an agriculture camp. They bond over James Baldwin’s novel Giovanni’s Room, a book not accepted in Poland. The book affects them for different reasons, and how they see their gay identities, especially Ludwik’s. Both men struggle with the social and political pressures their country throws at them, and both deal with the pressures of having the hide who they are. Ludwik and Janusz eventually fall on different very different paths in their society as they get acquainted into their own identities as they go out into the world and grow apart. Ludwik quickly realizes life isn’t as simple as it was that summer they met in the countryside, and questions whether he wants to remain in the country that restricted his freedoms to choose. Swimming in the Dark is a story of love, history, loss and growing into one’s identity. This book, overall, is incredibly speculative and powerful.

    This wasn’t distraction or entertainment: here was a book that seemed to have been written for me, which lifted me up into its realm and united me with something that seemed to have been there all along and that I seemed to be a part of. It felt as if the words and the thoughts of the narrator – despite their agony, despite their pain – healed some of my agony and my pain, simply by existing” – Tomasz Jedrowski, Swimming in the Dark

    This book was like a collection of poetry at times. I was not sure about the narration style at first, but I grew to love it. Jedrowski does a wonderful job of diving into the inner feelings and desires of the main character. I could not identify with any of the characters, especially Ludwik, but I was still feeling for him by the end of the novel. The writing was intense and contained a tender message about a cold time in Poland’s history. Jedrowski is very descriptive when it comes to his writing, and to put it frankly, uses a lot of words to describe certain ideas and emotions. It only makes the narrative seem more like poetry, and at times I questioned how necessary it was. I’m not the author though. Also, the history in the book itself was super fascinating. I did not know a lot about Communist Poland post-WWII, and also when Poland fell under martial law and the decline of communism occurred in the 1980s. Jedrowski describes the history, and the feelings of the people around the events so vividly and I feel like I learned a lot in the process.

    Because you were right when you said that people can’t always give us what we want from them; that you can’t ask them to love you the way you want. No one can be blamed for that” – Tomasz Jedrowski, Swimming in the Dark

    Why should you read this book? If you enjoy historical fiction about LGBT narratives and young-adult characters centering around Communist Poland, this is the book for you. This book is definitely rewarding in itself, and if you’re looking to expand your queer and LGBT reading, this is a good place to continue. The story also summarizes the experience of growing up not fitting into your environment, and remaining on the outside because of your identity very well. I only became emotional at some points reading this book, but not as much as I’ve heard others have. The story and difficult situations can be a lot to take in at times so be prepared.

    I give this one a 4 out of 5! There were not that many negatives, and the story was complete in itself and communicated very well.

    _Elizabeth


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  • Short Review #29: Twelve Nights at Rotter House by J.W. Ocker (2019)

    Rating: 3.5 out of 5⭐️
    Title: Twelve Nights at Rotter House
    Author: J.W. Ocker, Narrated by Matt Godfrey
    Published: 2019 (Turner, Audible Audio: Highbridge)
    Duration: 7 hrs 47 min
    Genres: Horror, Fiction, Paranormal, Mystery, Haunted House
    CW: supernatural, murder, violence, sexual references, crime
    Goodreads 2021 Reading Challenge: 5/52
    Link Here

    Twelve Nights at Rotter House displayed on my phone over my new bedspread

    Hi all, this is my second review in one week! I’m really catching up on my reading. But this week I did something different – I devoured this one as an AUDIOBOOK. And I do not normally listen to audiobooks. Since my commute to work has become longer, I thought this was a good time to start getting into audiobooks again. I definitely prefer cold and hard physical paperbacks or hardcover books over audiobooks any day. And for the longest time, I said I would not listen to audiobooks. But I decided to give audiobooks a fair chance. I’m hoping they grow on me. Maybe you will (hopefully) see me talk about them more often in the future. Anyways, I’m glad one of the first ones I’ve listened to in a long time was this spooky book. This week I finished the horror fiction book, Twelve Nights at Rotter House by J.W. Ocker. I’ve been wanting to read this one for a long time, and I’m glad I finally took the leap to read it.

    Because you trust your house, right? It’s your house. It protects you from the world and, even more important, all the people out there. It sees you naked every day. It knows your sins. It’s the only place where you are your true self. So when that gets corrupted, when that becomes haunted, that’s terrifying” – J.W. Ocker, Twelve Nights at Rotter House

    This is the first book I have read by Ocker, and I was not disappointed. Twelve Nights at Rotter House follows travel writer Felix Allsey as he gains access to the supposedly haunted and eerie Rotterdam Mansion, or Rotter House as most call it. In order to boost his writing career and maybe write a book, Felix decides to lock himself in the famous house with a past or Rotterdam Mansion for 13 nights. Felix’s rules are that he must stay in the house the entire time, and sleep during the day and only be awake at night to witness the supposed happenings that go bump in the night. Soon, his best friend Thomas Ruth joins Felix during this paranormal journey. The reader gets to know Felix and Thomas, and the rift that had occurred between them that still affects their friendship. And to this moment, I’m still questioning parts of this fairly wide-spread narrative even though event-wise not a lot happens.

    First of all, I loved the conversation and banter between Felix and Thomas. The conversations were honestly one of my favorite parts of this book. Ocker does a wonderful job highlighting the important plot points through their conversations, and keeping the characters seem like relatable persons. The conversations were suspenseful but pretty tame, except for the occasional disturbing twist thrown here and there into the dialogue. The content of this book became pretty dark at a few parts so I do not recommend this one if you’re unsure about horror books in general. The climax though was not as astounding or as masterfully timed as it could have been. The final twist was not very inspired or original, and that would have been fine, but only if the timing was just a bit different. This is definitely a book where I enjoyed the journey more than the destination/ending.

    Why should you read this book? If you like suspenseful, haunted house books with witty characters and dialogue, this is the book for you. Honestly, any horror fan should give this book a chance at least. It is one of the better haunted house books I’ve read in a while.

    I give this one a 3.5 out of 5!

    _Elizabeth


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