We Were Liars by E. Lockhart | Book Review

★★★★☆
July 24th – 26th

We were liars is the type of book that I feel like I missed when I was a teenager. This book came out right after I graduated high school, and every time I walked into Barnes and Noble, I felt like I was missing something by having not read this. When I look at the book on Goodreads, basically everyone that I know has read it. So why didn’t I?

It’s not my type of book, to be completely honest. It’s contemporary, it’s about rich people on their own island, and it speaks to a very particular time in YA, a time when I was totally checked out of reading and was definitely not interested in this.

I found this book difficult to rate because of that. With increasing frequency, I’m having trouble rating YA. It’s not for me. I’m not the target demographic, so what validity do my ratings as a 25 year old human being have, on these characters who were 15/17?

There were parts I related to, and parts that I definitely didn’t. I think that the twist ending, though predictable, was done very well. Especially for this demographic, I can see how this may be the first time that someone of that age group encounters that twist, and I think this is a great way to introduce it. I also think that this is a great book for someone who reads mostly contemporaries to start delving into something a little more mystery/thriller.

What I’m most confused about by this book though (spoiler warning) is the possible paranormal aspect? As with a lot of the information in this book, it’s a little bit vague and open to interpretation. I took most of that with a grain of salt, since the main character was sick, but I would have liked some more clarification on whether or not there was a fantasy/paranormal aspect to this.

Definitely a good summer read, and I’m glad that I finally got to read this. I know that E. Lockhart has plenty of other books, but the next one I’m interested in by them is Genuine Fraud, so I may check that out soon.

-Siobhan

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand | Book Review

★★★★☆
July 5th – 6th

I knew nothing going into this book. I had seen the cover, and a bunch of people I follow had read the book and rated it well. I didn’t know what it was about, or what genre it was even. But it was next on the list, so I decided to give it a shot.

Sawkill Island is a small island off the Eastern Coast of the United States. For centuries, girls have gone missing there, each case tied to a mysterious family at the center of the island. Marion and her family have just moved there after her father’s accident. Zoey has lived there for years, suffering her own losses as her friend Thora became one of the missing girls. Val is responsible, the person at the center of everything, her family feeding a hungry power that feasts on the missing girls.

This book was weird, magical, and fantastic. I loved the representation brought to the surface, especially for Zoey, and her relationship with Grayson. I loved the mystery of the island and the intrigue of what was going on. The writing was fast-paced and kept me reading for hours. The descriptions of the island were beautiful, and I loved the imagery of the woods and the trees. There were a few times where the dialogue felt a bit clunky (especially with Zoey), but I find that I have that complaint with a lot of YA, so this wasn’t entirely surprising.

My biggest complaint was the fluctuating perspectives. I had a hard time determining the voices of each of the three girls, even though the book was written in third person. Within each girl’s chapter, there were also times where it would switch to show the thoughts or the feelings of a different girl, which I found hard to follow at times.

I also had a few gripes with the ending, mostly surrounding the resolution with Val’s mother, and how everyone was suddenly more willing to accept a supernatural situation into their lives without question. I suppose that’s a part of the suspension of disbelief though, considering how long these disappearances had been going on.

I’ll definitely consider picking up another Claire Legrand book. Her ideas are fascinating, and I can’t wait to see what else she writes.

-Siobhan

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid | Book Review

★★★★☆
July 4th – 5th

This was the second book that I’ve read by Taylor Jenkins Reid, and I find myself asking how she creates characters that I instantly care so much about.

Evelyn Hugo is a hugely famous movie star. The novel follows Monique, a journalist struggling with her own personal and work relationships, as she becomes Evelyn Hugo’s biographer. Within the first few chapters, I was already hooked on finding out more about this person, her relationships, and all of the marriages that she had during her life.

I loved reading about this character. What I love about this author is how the relationships are so developed and so complex. I loved reading about her relationships with each of her husbands, and her overarching relationship with Celia. I liked the complexities of her relationship with her daughter, and I loved how much Monique grew as a result of listening to Evelyn’s life story.

This book handles a lot of things really well. Bisexuality first and foremost is a major component of Evelyn’s life and the way she identifies, and I think that it’s given the time on the page and the respect that it deserves. In addition, I think that the book handles her relationship with her first husband, a man who hits her, in a way that shows how complex difficult relationships can be.

This book was so close to being a five star read for me. My only criticism was that I didn’t like the “hooks” that kept insinuating at a mystery or a twist coming towards the end, and one which I felt was somewhat predictable. Though I don’t think I would have preferred for the twist to come completely out of nowhere, I didn’t need the bits at the end of the chapters which said things like “I was going to want to kill her by the end of this”, which I’m totally paraphrasing.

I’ve come to really love the way that Taylor Jenkins Reid writes, and though I probably won’t dive into the romance novels she’s previously written, I’ll continue to read new books she comes out with.

-Siobhan

We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix | Book Review

June 27th – July 3rd
★★★★☆

This is the second novel that I’ve read by Grady Hendrix, the first being his super weird, super awesome, super eighties novel My Best Friend’s Exorcism. I read that one last year after seeing it recommended in my local bookstore and immediately after, I knew I’d read whatever Hendrix wrote. So here’s this book, in all it’s weird, amazing metal glory.

I’ve been on a symphonic/viking metal kick lately, (which is probably one of the weirdest sentences I’ve written on this blog) so now seemed like the perfect time to pick up We Sold Our Souls. The story goes like this: Kris’s band Dürt Würk almost was famous. They came very close to their big break, and then everything fell apart (or so we’re led to believe). Now Kris is working miserably at a Best Western and hasn’t played a note on her guitar in six years. She’s in her fifties, and she’ll never have her chance at glory.

When her former bandmate Terry Hunt’s band Koffin (a hugely famous metal band) announces a farewell tour, Kris goes a little nuts and goes to visit her former bandmates. We learn about Dürt Würk’s album, the one they almost made, as well as what happened when they were all offered contracts to be a part of Koffin.

But this is where Hendrix’s books have a tendency to go off the rails, in the best possible way. There are UPS men who act as covert assassins, coverups, conspiracies, prophecies, and a lot of metal references. The mystery and suspense is one of the best parts, so I really don’t want to give too much away.

I loved this book a lot. Kris was a fun character, and was probably the oldest female character I’ve read from the perspective of. I loved the interplay between her and Melanie, whose dream is just to start over. I liked the supernatural aspect of it, and the lyrics from Dürt Würk’s never published album being interspersed to tell Kris where to go and what to do.

It was a super enjoyable read, and I’ll keep reading everything Hendrix writes.

-Siobhan

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo | Book Review

★★★★☆
June 24th – 26th

When I was in my senior year of high school, I had poetry first thing in the morning. All of my best friends were in the class, and it was taught by an English teacher who also did the choreography for the school musicals. I felt safe in this class, and for the first time in my 16-year-old life, I felt my writing really told a story and did something. I wrote a lot of poems in that class. I’m sure a lot of them were awkward, or cringe-worthy, and if I were to read them back now I’m sure I’d slam the cover shut and put the notebook away.

The Poet X follows the story of Xiomara, a girl growing up in Harlem under a strict and religious mother who just wants to express herself. The entire book is written in verse, through Xiomara’s eyes as she navigates first relationships, feeling guilty towards her parents, wanting to do poetry, and wanting to be able to be proud of it.

Though my high school experience was not nearly as strict or as intense, I really connected with this character. In this book I saw a lot of the same emotions and internal struggles that I felt that senior year of high school, and I felt very attached to this book, in a way I haven’t felt about a Young Adult book in a long time. I wish that 16-year-old me could have had this book, because I think it would have meant a lot to me at that time.

One of the best parts of this book was listening to the audiobook. I tried reading it a while ago, but since several lines and sometimes entire poems are in Spanish I felt disconnected. Hearing Acevedo read the poems herself made a huge difference, and I think that’s the best way for this to be heard. Acevedo came out with another book this year, which I’ll definitely be adding to my TBR in the future.

-Siobhan

Her Body & Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado | Book Review

★★★☆☆
June 21st – 23rd

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at a total loss for how to rate this. Her Body and Other Parties is a collection of light fantasy/science fiction feminist stories that explore women’s sexuality. There were a few stories that I really enjoyed, a few I did not enjoy at all, and one I didn’t understand so much that I ended up not finishing it.

I also want to preface this by saying that I’m very aware that this collection is important to a lot of people, and my review is not a reflection of anyone’s experiences. I think that this should go without saying, but this review is entirely how I felt about each of the stories. I’m going to break down each one with a small paragraph and a rating for that individual story.

The Husband Stitch – ★★★☆☆
I think this story was decent, but it being the first one definitely meant that I had to adjust to Machado’s writing style. I think that if I were to go back and re-read this one again, having read the others, I might like it a bit more.

Inventory – ★★★☆☆
This story is a series of small paragraphs about all of the partners that the main character has had over their life set over the background of a contagion-style epidemic. I listened to this one on audiobook, and I really liked the narration style, but it felt very list-like to me.

Mothers – ★★☆☆☆
I would be completely lying if I said that I understood any part of this story. I had no idea what was going on, and I’m sure that people will think I’m uncultured or didn’t get it. They’re right. I didn’t get it at all, and this one definitely was not for me.

Especially Heinous – DNF
This is… perhaps the weirdest thing that I’ve ever read. The whole thing is a bunch of paragraphs about each episode of Law & Order SVU. I’ve never watched an episode of SVU. I had no context for what was happening, and because everything was disjointed, I couldn’t force myself to sit through 272 of them with no context.

Real Women have Bodies – ★★★★☆
This was my favorite of all of the stories. This one takes place in a setting where women are fading away. The main character works in a dress store where the dresses seem to be shimmering and slightly magical. The story itself is very clearly a comment on beauty standards, but I really liked this one.

Eight Bites – ★★★☆☆
This one was almost four stars. This is about a woman who has a surgery to make herself thinner, which is what she thinks she wants. As with the last one, it’s a comment on beauty standards, but what I liked about this was that it was also more commentary about her loving herself, before and after.

The Resident – ★★★★☆
Another more vague story, this is all about introspection and being lost inside of your own mind. Though the whole thing is character based, I liked the voice of the main character the best here, and I liked her past paralleling what was happening in her present.

Difficult at Parties – ★★★☆☆
This story follows a woman who’s recently had something terrible happen to her, though it’s never explicitly stated exactly what. She has trouble with physical contact, though she wants more of it. This one was the most middle-of-the-road for me, and I liked the tone of it.

Total, I think that the full collection is important and worth reading. This book is more feminist than what I typically read, so I’m not very well-versed in this type of collection or genre. Machado has a memoir expected to come out in November, which I may add to my list of non-fiction for the future.

-Siobhan

Bound by Mark Lawrence | Book Review

★★★☆☆
June 20th – 21st

Bound is a short story which takes place in the Book of the Ancestor series by Mark Lawrence between the events of the second and third books. I read online that it’s best to go into the third book having read this, and now I can definitely see why.

Following the events of Grey Sister, this short story goes deeper into the relationship between Ara and Nona, as well as Nona and Regol. To be completely honest, this love triangle that’s being developed is my least favorite part of the series, so I was a little disappointed that the story has more to do with that than anything.

What was interesting to me is the setting of this. Like in the second book, Nona has a thread bond which is explored in this story, which I enjoyed. I liked the progression of the bond, and I’m interested in where that will go in Holy Sister. Kettle, as per usual, is fantastic and the voice of reason in every situation. I wished that this was a little bit longer, but what I’m really wishing for is to read Holy Sister, which I’ll be starting soon.

-Siobhan