Book Review: My Name is Monster by Katie Hale

My Name is Monster

My Name is Monster by Katie Hale / ★★★★★

She is lost and alone in this big broken empty world. I can help her. I can teach her language, and I can teach her survival.

Wow, this book was really something. It begins with a young woman who only goes by her nickname, Monster. She believes herself to be the lone survivor of what appears to be the end of the world, which has been wiped out by war and sickness. She begins her trek home to Scotland, where she has accepted a lifetime of solitude, only to one day discover a young, untamed girl. She immediately takes this girl in as her own, with the intention of teaching and “creating” her from the apparent blank slate that she is.

I did not expect to love this book as much as I did, possibly because Robinson Crusoe was a book a I read in college and did not enjoy much, and seeing that this was partly inspired by it put me off. But I was hooked from the very first page of Monster’s journey. I found her character, an aloof engineer who prefers solitude to the company of almost any sort, and her journey through an empty world, fascinating. While the book never deeply delves into why the world is in its post-apocalyptic state, frequently mentioning war and “The Sickness,” I didn’t mind. The book didn’t necessarily feel about that, and it felt like a reflection of the characters’ mental states to not know, to not think about it.

The book is divided into two parts, the perspective of Monster the adult, and the perspective of the little girl, who is subsequently named Monster, as Monster renames herself Mother. I loved the contrast between their perspectives as the book explored themes of survival, of womanhood, of motherhood and of freedom. This book is not fast paced, but I finished it in just a few days because I found it so captivating. It’s not an easy read, either. It’s troubling and uncomfortable and encapsulates so many layers.

While undoubtedly this book will not satisfy every reader – it can be vague or too subtle, and it does not answer every question – I enjoyed it immensely and don’t think it could have been written any other way and have had the same effect. It’s one that will continue to leave me thinking.

Book Review: Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo / ★★★★☆

her morning mantra in the bathroom mirror I am highly presentable, likeable, clubbable, relatable, promotable and successful

This book follows the narratives of twelve different characters told in pairs of three in a collection of what is essentially interwoven short stories. While at first I wondered if jumping from narrative to narrative would make it hard for me to stay invested in this book, I was very quickly proven wrong. Each character, most often a black woman, had something new to offer within the themes of feminism, sexuality, race, identity- the list goes on.  Even if I was sad to see one story come to an end, I looked forward to what the next would bring, and to discover how ultimately every story and character was connected.

I did find that I felt that the first half, or first six stories, to be more engrossing than the second half. I think this was because the book almost became oversaturated with characters and perspectives concerning the same things. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and in fact was something I also enjoyed immensely. However, after a while it began to feel like Evaristo was simply speaking through her characters rather than letting her characters do the talking, in an almost lecture-esque way. Despite this, I still loved her distinct narrative style, and any dissatisfaction I had was more than made up for by the intrigue I had in the characters.

I really, really enjoyed this book. It was one of those books that I just enjoyed my time in. It wasn’t a quick read by any means but it was one I was able to spend hours in without putting down. I loved that I was able to feel empathy for each character, despite how good or flawed they were. And even though it was a bit oversaturated, there was still much to be gained from the scope that Evaristo captures within this novel. I really, really enjoyed it and it definitely deserves all its accolades.

Book Review: King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

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King of Scars (King of Scars Duology #1)/ ★★★.5

“Stop punishing yourself for being someone with a heart. You cannot protect yourself from suffering. To live is to grieve. You are not protecting yourself by shutting yourself off from the world. You are limiting yourself.”

I think I have to end up giving this book 3.5 stars. Set after the Grisha trilogy and the Six of Crows Duology, we take off with Nikolai, Zoya, and Nina into the next chapter of the Grishaverse.

The good- I loved getting reacquainted with these characters again. We learn previously unknown backstories in Nikolai and Zoya, and we get to see where the future is taking Nina after the events of the Six of Crow duology. I liked the budding romances- it’s mild in this book, definitely taking it slow, but I like where it’s taking us. It was the characters, really, that I loved about this book, Zoya and Nikolai especially, and I loved the introduction of Hanne in Nina’s parts of the novel. What I found most intriguing in this book was definitely the dynamics between characters- some old, some newer, and some brand new.

The bad- King of Scars just didn’t need to be as long as it is. It’s over 500 pages, but I didn’t feel like enough happened to justify it being that long, and some parts felt frivolous and unnecessary (coughIsaak’spovcough). It was entertaining, but it took some slogging through slower parts to get to the more interesting parts. The plot simply didn’t feel as tight as Leigh’s other books in this world. This book also did a lot of recap of the Grisha trilogy, which was good because I didn’t remember the finer details of those books, but sometimes it felt like a bit too much- like this book was relying more on the past for this story, than taking us forward. But since this is the first book of a duology, I’m assuming this is setting up a lot, and the next book will bring us forward. I gotta say, though- not a huge fan of the ending, but like I said, I think it relied too much on the past series to make it shocking and exciting, but I don’t like the regression- I want to move forward.

All-in-all I enjoyed this, but I think the slow pace of the plot made it tough for me to fully enjoy it. But I loved the characters and the universe, and I’m still eager and excited for the sequel.

Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

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Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens / ★★★★☆

Kya knew judgment had no place here. Evil was not in play, just life pulsing on, even at the expense of some of the players. Biology sees right and wrong as the same color in different light.

This book had its obvious imperfections, but I still found it to be a compelling, entertaining read. About Kya, the “Marsh Girl,” who was abandoned by her family at a very young age, we follow her as she grows up in isolation in a North Carolina marsh. The book opens with with the death  of Chase Matthews, former star quarterback, in the marsh.

This is a slow read, and as slow as it was I never really found myself bored, but because it’s about a girl living by herself in the marsh, it can feel a little stifling. Still, I found that worked for it. It alternates between the past as we watch Kya growing up, and the present, as investigators try to solve the mystery of Chase Matthews’ death. I thought it helped pace the book well and gave us a little reprieve from Kya’s solitary world. I found this book compelling and unique, upsetting and frustrating at times, but overall not as dark as I expected it to be. Once I finished it, I had an “I see what you did there” moment when I fully understood how the author tied all the elements she used in this book together. To say anything would be to spoil it, but while I didn’t find perhaps as shocking as it meant to be, I thought it was satisfyingly clever.

Like I said, this book did have some obvious imperfections. For as beautiful a the writing was, I found it to be inconsistent at times, especially once we crossed over into the second half of the book and the plot began to pick up. I’d gotten used to the slow prose depicting Kya’s days when suddenly parts felt cheaply summarized, or the dialogue a little tacky. The pacing, which had been fairly consistent for the first half, starts to jump all over the place. I didn’t think it was terrible, just very noticeable. And in the intermediary chapters where two officers try to uncover the cause of Chase Matthews’ death, I don’t know if it was intentional, but these guys had no personalities. I couldn’t tell one apart from the other, I don’t even remember their names, and it made it a bit hard to focus on those chapters sometimes. Fortunately, they were always short.

But while imperfect, I did thoroughly enjoy this book. It’s a slow, thought-provoking read that I do recommend if you’re intrigued by all the hype around it. I would just recommend you set your expectations for something interesting and entertaining enough, but not a masterpiece.

Book Review: Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater

Call Down the Hawk (Dreamer, #1)

Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater (Dreamer Trilogy #1) / ★★★★★

“Do you understand? For you, reality is not an external condition. For you, reality is a decision.”

I loved every single part of this. This sequel series to The Raven Cycle is shaping up to be even more than I realized I needed from that universe. Not only was it a fun re-introduction to characters that I love, but it was an incredibly entertaining story all the way through.

I hesitate to compare it to The Raven Cycle, because this is completely different from the Raven Cycle. The mood, the atmosphere, the story, the characters- are incredibly different. I positively loved it.  We meet lots of new characters, and revisit several characters from The Raven Cycle that really get their time to shine in this book that didn’t in The Raven Cycle (Declan. I’m talking about Declan). This book was more concrete, darker, and spooked me out in a genuine way that the Raven Cycle never achieved. I just loved it.

Call Down the Hawk had some great new characters. It’s the Ronan show now, and the cast is full of lots of new members. And wow, I loved them. We get the thieving and forging Jordan Hennessy and her girls, and Farooq-Lane and her deadly mission. Sometimes, it can be hard to accept new characters in a place we feel comfortable with the old ones, but these ones fit right in, and brought so much more. It wasn’t hard to grow invested in their personalities and motives as they unfolded. I loved stepping away from Ronan and discovering what they had to add to this universe. And I gotta say, it was great to have a healthy does of female characters. The only new character – and possibly aspect of this book – I wasn’t feeling so much was Byrde, but he feels a little ambiguous right now. Mostly, he just talked too much and didn’t seem to be saying a whole lot.

And old characters! The Lynches. I loved Ronan before, and Declan and Matthew I liked well enough, but – and I feel like I keep saying this – this book just added so much more that I didn’t realize I needed from them. Declan, especially. I have so much I want to say about Declan that would be way too spoilery for a review, but man. The growth and nuance in his character was fantastic. I love Declan. Returning to Ronan was wonderful, especially since his story was so obviously not over at the end of the Raven Cycle. I’m already loving the growth there, and I can’t wait to see where he ends up at the end of this series.  And Matthew- Oh, Matthew.

As for the plot! It was full of intrigue and action and mystery that genuinely unnerved me. There are dreamers, and there are people hunting dreamers, and there are things in dreams that must be hunted. There wasn’t any point in this book that I got bored. It was entertaining, and fun, and funny, and dark. The only thing I’m sad about is that when I finished, I couldn’t move on to book 2.

I loved The Raven Cycle, but honestly, I think this is the story Maggie Stiefvater has really been meant to write. This story is her sweet spot, and it’s my favorite book by her so far.

Book Review: The English Wife by Lauren Willig

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The English Wife by Lauren Willig /  ★★★.5

Summary: Bayard, from the esteemed Van Duyvil family, is found with a knife in his chest, and his wife, Annabelle, goes missing, presumed drowned, on the night of their Twelfth Night ball. The press goes wild with rumors, but Janie, Bay’s sister, teams up with an unlikely reporter to uncover the truth.

It wasn’t the big decisions that set the course of one’s life; it was the slow accretion of all the little ones.

This book was a fun mystery! It was a relatively quick, dramatic read, and if you’re looking for something dark, yet entertaining, this is a great book to pick up. I loved the format- it jumps around in time and switches between the POVs of our main character, Janie, who is trying to solve the mystery of her brother’s death and sister-in-law Annabelle’s disappearance, and Annabelle herself, and the events leading up to that fatal night. I love the un-chronological reveal of information, and the guessing game this book had me playing. It was definitely full of twists and turns.

I think the thing that docked this book a star was that I simply wasn’t fully invested in the characters. The romance – though fitting with the style of writing and with the drama of the story – was a bit theatrical for my taste. I liked the characters, but no one really made me care deeply about how the whole story played out, and I really just wasn’t invested in the romance. Some parts of this book were also a bit draggy, and descriptions and dialogue were a bit kitschy,  but for the most part it kept me interested.

This is a book that really keeps you guessing. Except! While I wouldn’t describe this book as being predictable, about halfway through I took a stab at randomly predicting who I thought the killer might be- and ended up being right. So in the end, while I didn’t love this book, it did leave me feeling satisfied and somewhat victorious.

Book Review: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Remains of the Day

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro /  ★★★★★

Summary: At the end of his three decades of service at Darlington Hall, Stevens embarks on a country drive, during which he looks back over his career to reassure himself that he has served humanity by serving “a great gentleman.” But lurking in his memory are doubts about the true nature of Lord Darlington’s “greatness” and graver doubts about his own faith in the man he served.

What is the point in worrying oneself too much about what one could or could not have done to control the course one’s life took? Surely it is enough that the likes of you and I at least try to make our small contribution count for something true and worthy. And if some of us are prepared to sacrifice much in life in order to pursue such aspirations, surely that is in itself, whatever the outcome, cause for pride and contentment.

While I absolutely loved Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, and fully expected to enjoy this book, The Remains of the Day still came as somewhat of a surprise with me. The first thirty pages of this book took me an entire month to get through- I just couldn’t grasp all the talk of butlering. The life of our narrator, Mr. Stevens, revolves entirely around being a butler in the home of an old English Lord. He tries to be one of dignity and to simply be the best of the best. When I finally sat down and told myself to finish the book- the characters grasped me and story really began, and I couldn’t put it down.

It’s incredible how well Ishiguro is at telling a story explicitly through what is not said, and at evoking emotion where none is stated. Throughout this book Stevens recounts his time as a butler for the infamous Lord Darlington, alternating between past and present. Because of this, we have a vague idea of how things are going to play out, yet it didn’t make the end, or the events leading up to it, any less heartbreaking. I love how well Ishiguro writes an unreliable narrator. Stevens is very biased- but more than that, he’s seeking to reassure himself that his years of service were not wasted, and that the choices he made were not wrong. I loved how Ishiguro could write one thing, yet we as the reader can see it means the exact opposite- and it was heartbreaking to read.

This book is relatively short, only just over 250 pages, but so much is packed inside- a man’s journey of self-awareness, social and historical commentary, and a love story. I love Ishiguro’s writing, and even though this book had a tough start, I absolutely loved it, and can’t wait to read more of Ishiguro’s books in the future.

TL;DR review in 5 thoughts: A little slow. SO MUCH BUTLERING. Wait…these characters are really interesting. WAIT…is this a love story. Why did things have to be go way?? 😦

Book Review: The Idiot by Elif Batuman

The Idiot

The Idiot by Elif Batuman /  ★★★★★

Summary: The year is 1995, and email is new. Selin, the daughter of Turkish immigrants, arrives for her freshman year at Harvard. She signs up for classes in subjects she has never heard of, befriends her charismatic and worldly Serbian classmate, Svetlana, and, almost by accident, begins corresponding with Ivan, an older mathematics student from Hungary. Selin may have barely spoken to Ivan, but with each email they exchange, the act of writing seems to take on new and increasingly mysterious meanings.

“And you are different? You do not love truth?” 

I thought about it. “Truth is okay,” I said. 

For months, this book had been in the back of my brain, nagging at me to read it. I only had a vague sense about what it was about – a young Turkish-American girl and her first year as a Harvard student in the 1990s – but FINALLY I picked it up off of my dusty shelf, and wow. I loved it.

The Idiot is a meandering, surprisingly absurd tale, in which our main character Selin falls all-consumingly in love with a Harvard classmate, Ivan, who she first begins conversing with over email. I did not expect this book to be as funny as it was- there were times where I caught myself actually laughing out loud. But this book is not a romance. Because on the other hand, there is a pensiveness and uncertainty that pervades it, brought on by Selin’s puzzlement in her “place” in all of this- in the world, with other people, with herself.

She is a writer, but she doesn’t like to think about being a writer, or for other people to acknowledge that she is a writer. And it’s not just because I too enjoy writing that I found her to be extremely relatable -in fact, it’s amazing how much is said about writing, without Selin actually acknowledging writing very often. It’s that her confusion about her place in the world is done quietly, internally and furiously at times. She embodied my experience as an introverted and reserved person, who observes the world around her and how people go about their lives, and lets herself get roped along, regardless of the absurdity of it, or how much she’s actually invested. Selin tries many things in this book, goes through many of experiences in order to find answers to her uncertainty. Despite this, I never felt like Selin didn’t know what she was doing. She’s very aware, she knew what was good for her and what was not, but she chose to do certain things – good and bad – regardless, and never on some crazy impulse, but often because she was hoping for the best. Selin’s character struck me as someone who doesn’t always want to follow her head, and is sometimes disappointed in other people’s hearts, and I think that’s where her character struck a chord with me the most.

I would venture to guess that this is not the type of book that would please everyone, but I loved the humor of it, and I don’t mind a meandering story, especially if I like the characters.  I do think that it did get a bit too slow in the middle, and while I still enjoyed it, I found myself waiting a bit for the next turn in events. Regardless, I found this to be a very enjoyable read (even if the love interest, Ivan, was actually infuriating). It’s a book that, while quiet, has a lot to say, and one I feel like I could talk about for a long time. I think The Idiot could very well end up on my list of favorite books I’ve read this year. 

TL;DR review in 5 thoughts: LOL. Meandering plot. Extremely relatable main character. Can this guy LEAVE. A++ ending lines.

Circe Review and Why I’ve Been Gone…

SORRY I have been gone over the last few months! Things got a little…not good…earlier this year, which I explain a bit of down below, but I have returned with a review! And some very mini mini reviews of the books I’ve read in the last few weeks. Sorry if my review writing is a little rusty….


Circe by Madeline Miller ★★★.5

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves…

I had an….interesting time with this book. I really enjoyed the first half of it, I liked Circe, I liked her kindness and her naivety even though it was a weakness to her. The pace of this book is not fast, but I read the first half very quickly, was intrigued by the way the mythology played out in Miller’s style.

Then I hit a wall. Things just got…… too slow. I’m not even going to look on Goodreads to see the dates that I started and finished this book, because it felt like years. An eternity. As long as Circe’s immortal life. Because Circe is just kind of stuck on an island and after a little while I was starting to really feel that. And if that was the point, then bravo, but if not, then, well, hmm. Much of what we learn about the outside world is summarized to us by other characters, and even then, I didn’t really care. It felt removed, and not very important or threatening to me. Circe can’t leave, Circe can’t die, she turned vengeful, but not in a way that riveted me.

But I kept going, and I ended up loving the ending. What I had enjoyed about the first half of the book seemed to return, and I felt a renewed affection for the characters, and a vivid interest in how the plot was going to wrap up. If it wasn’t for the patch in the middle where things got slow and disinteresting for me, I’d be giving this book 4 stars. As it is, even though it was a little tough to get through, I did genuinely enjoy this.

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