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

Normal People by Sally Rooney | Book Review

★★★★☆
June 18th – 19th

I said in my review of The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren that I was trying to read outside my comfort zone. This book definitely falls into that category. Sally Rooney’s second novel is strange and intimate, following Connell and Marianne as their relationship changes in late high school, through college.

The first thing to note about this book is the way it’s written. There’s no quotation marks bringing the dialogue into the forefront and dragging your attention away from the description. I found I had to read this book slower than I usually do to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Conversations in real life are like that: if you aren’t paying attention, you’ll miss what someone says. This book perfectly described that feeling without saying it.

I found the first half of this book enormously frustrating. I continuously felt like all of the misunderstandings could be avoided if only the characters spoke to each other, and really spoke to each other. Connell and Marianne would fall into this dance of dialogue, both avoiding the topic at hand and going around in circles until someone said something they didn’t mean, or someone meant something they didn’t say. One would leave, the other would stay, and as the reader I’m left wondering who I should be hoping will change in this relationship. The answer is both of them.

As the characters get older, make mistakes, and move past them, I found myself liking them more. They do things that people will do. They’re frustrated and they agonize over decisions and implications, but only sometimes. They do things without thinking, like normal people.

This book is a snapshot into the lives of two teenagers growing up and growing together. There are things that were hard to read, like Marianne’s family life and how she dealt with it through her relationships. But there are other things that are refreshing, like Connell’s anxiety and depression, and how it was portrayed. So often I see these things as a whirlpool, or a spiral, or a tornado of being overwhelmed. But in this instance, Connell was simply existing, and sometimes that wasn’t enough. It was refreshing to see this take on anxiety, and see him get help and move past it. It was also refreshing to see that therapy wasn’t a catch-all place for him that solved all of his problems. It was shown as a process, and though I wished that more of this novel took place in the places where he was struggling, I was glad to see him make it out.

This book is more of a character study than a novel. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read before. I may dip into Sally Rooney’s other work at some point, but I need to be in the mood for something that can take my focus and weigh it down for a little bit.

-Siobhan

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides | Book Review

★★★★☆
June 11th – 12th

After reading this book, the cover says a lot more than I thought it did. Looking at it now, it’s very clearly the back of the painting, torn at the mouth of the person painted. When I originally looked at this cover, I was not a fan of it. It’s somewhat bland, and the red font struck me as far too dramatic and very typical thriller. Yet the book kept hitting list after list of thrillers to read in 2019.

And now I see why. The Silent Patient feels dreamy. The quick chapters bring you from one scene to the next without digestion or anything in between. You’re left wondering if Alicia did kill her husband, and more importantly, why.

I’ve found that there are three types of thrillers. There are thrillers that you expect coming from a mile away, the twists feeling more like my daily commute to work than a journey. These thrillers usually feel somewhat lackluster. There are the thrillers that totally surprise you, but these are few and far between. And then there’s the third type, which you can see coming, but it’s murky, not entirely clear. You can see the pieces and how they fit together, but it’s actually satisfying when they come together and make the image you were expecting.

The Silent Patient was this type of thriller. Though the twist did not come out of nowhere, it was a well written and slow burn. I really enjoyed it, and I think that it deserves its place on the many lists it’s made it onto.

-Siobhan

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren | Book Review

★★★☆☆
June 10th – 11th

In an attempt to widen the genres of books I’m reading, I decided to try and get on the Christina Lauren bandwagon. I had seen several good reviews of this book, and the plot sounded like the type of thing I might enjoy if it were made into a movie, so I decided to give it a go.

Having just finished a darker fantasy novel, I was really surprised by how different it felt reading this. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a contemporary, and I wasn’t accustomed to the pop culture references, technology use, and slang. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, it just felt more jarring than I was expecting.

That being said, I wasn’t a huge fan of the story. Olive is perpetually unlucky, and her twin sister Ami is. When Ami’s wedding goes horribly wrong, Olive and her nemesis Ethan (her sister’s new husband’s brother… say that 5 times fast) must take their honeymoon.

The concept is interesting. This is a hate-to-love romance, but it was decidedly lacking in hate. I was expecting Olive to be dripping in contempt for Ethan. I was expecting them to actually hate each other, and to be honest, they didn’t. Their whole “hate” relationship was built off of a misunderstanding.

This was a quick read. I finished the book in just a few hours. I think I would recommend this to people who enjoy reading in this genre, but it doesn’t feel like it’s for me.

-Siobhan