The Grownup by Gillian Flynn | Book Review

★★★☆☆
May 20th

I guess this is technically more of a “short story review” than a book review. This is a 60-ish page psychological short by Gillian Flynn of Gone Girl fame.

I’ve read Gone Girl, and I really enjoyed it. I tried to read both Sharp Objects and Dark Places and couldn’t get into it. Since I’m right in the middle of a tough reading slump, I headed over to my favorite place to find short books, which is r/bookinasitting. I find that when I’m in a reading slump, the best thing that I can do to get myself out of it is read something short. Usually a 50-100 page story, or even a graphic novel can help. Something about having something that you start and complete helps me get back into reading full-length stories. Which is good, because I really want to finish the two books I’m currently in the middle of.

But back to the review at hand. This book is definitely in the adult genre, as all of Flynn’s work is. It has her typical style of being brash and having women speak their minds. I’m not always a huge fan of Flynn’s characters, but what I did like about this was the atmosphere it had. It really creeped me out. Usually thrillers (and some horror) can scare me, but this one really did a great job of making the reader feel afraid for the main character.

Since this is so short, I’m not sure that it’s totally worth spoiling, and I would definitely recommend picking it up and giving it a read. Reviews that I’ve read are fairly mixed. I thought that it was just okay, and it was exactly what I was looking for, but it wasn’t anything special. Given how I’ve seen how truly great Flynn’s writing can be (I’m looking at you, Gone Girl ending), I’ve come to expect more from her. That being said, you really can’t ask for much more out of around 60 pages.

If she ever writes anything short like this again, I would definitely pick it up, but I think I’m going to hold off on diving into any of her longer novels anytime soon.

-Siobhan

Becoming by Michelle Obama | Book Review


★★★★☆
April 1st – May 1st

I’m still trying to read more non-fiction. Becoming has been getting rave reviews, and several of the blogs and reviews that I’ve read and watched have been talking about this. I ended up getting the audiobook as a part of a promotion, and decided to listen my way through this.

I really like Michelle Obama. She’s an amazing person, an incredible mother, and a hard-working human being. I’m interested in her life, where she came from, and how she became who she became, so this seemed like the logical place to start. There was a lot I didn’t know about her. I didn’t know where she went to school, where she grew up, what her career was prior to being First Lady. I was ignorant about a lot of her life, and I’m really glad that I read this book.

The writing is real and down to Earth. I loved the natural flow of her story, from the pain of watching her father’s disability take over his life slowly, to watching her mother stay strong and resilient, even during her stay at the White House. I loved reading about her relationship with President Obama, and how at times their relationship took compromise and tending to. Relationships take work, and this didn’t gloss over the difficulty of that, especially as he made the transition into office.

The part that I had the most difficulty with in this book was the last third. Listening to the political discourse, and especially the parts about Sandy Hook felt very close to the heart and were difficult to get through. The overall message was positive: a call to stay resilient and keep fighting against those who think that racism and fear are a path to success. I’m not a political person, or a news person, so I recognize that I’m not the demographic for this part of the book.

What I especially loved was hearing about the strong women that helped her along the way, how she had mentors help her become who she was. I liked hearing how she could pass this along to her daughters and help them be just as resilient.

I would definitely give this book a read (or a listen, as Michelle Obama reads the audiobook herself) if you’re at all interested in her as a person.

-Siobhan

Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini | Book Review

★★★★★
April 13th

I’ve found that these shorter poetry-style books are very hit or miss for me. This is an extremely short piece by Khalid Hosseini, who famously wrote The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. This is a prayer about the safe travel of refugees, and the reality that these people face as they leave their home in search of something safer.

I found the book incredibly moving and loved the space that it took. The illustrations were absolutely gorgeous, and the formatting allowed for contemplation between short paragraphs. There’s gravity to the situation, and gravity to Hosseini’s words. Each choice is deliberate, and the pacing of the piece is slow and methodical, allowing the reader to digest.

I think this is an incredibly powerful piece. From online reviews that I’ve seen from parents, this is a book that many are reading to their children, which, though heavy in subject matter, is an important topic. I would definitely recommend this, as it provides such important insight into a reality which I wish that no one had to deal with.

-Siobhan

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence | Book Review

★★★★★
April 1st – 6th

This review has been proving difficult to write, and I’m not entirely sure why. I loved this book. I feel like I’ve been looking for a series I can sink my teeth into for such a long time, and this was definitely the start of that.

Nona Grey is a peasant from an unnamed village. Her people gave her to a man who sells children, where she was sold to become a fighter. But along the way something violent occurs and Nona is accused of trying to murder the son of one of the wealthiest men in the country. As she’s about to hang for her crime, she’s saved by Abbess Glass of the Sweet Mercy convent and ushered into training to be a sister.

There’s a lot to unpack here. It’s a high fantasy novel that takes place on a planet which is mostly covered in ice, where only a 50 mile stretch of land is still inhabitable around the equator. The ice is kept at bay by an artificial moon which focuses the heat of a dying star to keep it away. There’s magic and poison and fight sequences and relationships all within this book.

About 100 pages into the story, I realized I was totally hooked. And the best part was that I was hooked without anything really having happened yet. When I’m hooked by the world-building, I know I’m in for a great ride. Red Sister didn’t disappoint in this way, and Lawrence’s writing is absolutely breath-taking, even when he’s just describing the day to day happenings of Nona and her friends.

The full trilogy is out now, and I’ll definitely be continuing in this series.

-Siobhan

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite | Book Review

★★★★☆
March 28th – April 1st

I wish I remembered where I was recommended this book. It may have been an algorithm, or a human, or a video, or something, but somewhere I stumbled upon this strange little gem and I’m really glad that I did.

This book is weird, and not the type of thing that I would usually enjoy, mostly because it has romance and love at the base of its motivation.

The story follows Korede, a Nigerian nurse whose sister has killed several men, and had Korede help to pick up the pieces. But when she begins a relationship with the doctor that Korede has feelings for, she begins to question her loyalty to her sister.

I liked the relationship between sisters. I was less interested in the romantic aspect, but the entire plot seemed more based in jealousy that Korede feels for Ayoola.

I was mostly interested in the setting of this one. I don’t know that I’ve ever read another book set in Nigeria, and if I have, it definitely was not in a modern-day setting. I was hoping it would have a bit more humor, and a bit more nuance than it did. It felt very formulaic.

I’d love to read more by this author to see what other relationships they explore in the future, because that’s definitely where Braithwaite’s strengths are.

-Siobhan

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan | Book Review

★★★★☆
March 21st – 28th

I’d like to clarify something that I’ve said a few times surrounding Young Adult novels. It’s very clear to me now that I’m no longer the target demographic for these books. Even with a book like this one, the characters are 17, and I’m no longer in that phase of my life. When it comes to fantasy novels though, I feel like I can put those feelings aside to more easily enjoy the story. Maybe it’s just my natural affinity for science fiction and fantasy settings, but I find that the teenage characters are more believable in that setting.

The same was definitely true for Girls of Paper and Fire. I had been hearing things about this book for several months now, and was really eager to try it out. There was still that lingering piece of me that thought “But this book isn’t for you, you’re not going to enjoy it.” I pushed that part of myself away to give the book a chance, and I’m so glad I did.

Girls of Paper and Fire takes place in a fictional country with a three-tiered caste system. The Paper Caste, people who are entirely human, Steel Caste, those who have a bit of demon in them, and the Moon Caste, those who are entirely demon and take on animal forms. The Moon Caste reigns supreme, and our Paper heroine is brought into the focus of all three castes when she is chosen to be one of the Demon King’s eight Paper Girls.

I liked this book a lot. I really enjoyed what it does for the genre and how well it handled difficult topics without shying away from their severity, or making jokes of them. I liked how it handled the romance aspect, and I was really glad to see that romance in a YA fantasy novel.

My main critique of the book came from the predictability of the story and the way it was headed. I wished that there were more twists or reveals, but this is also only the first book of a series. I’m excited to see where this series continues, and will definitely be checking out the sequel to this one in November of this year.

-Siobhan

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton | Book Review

★★★★☆
February 1st – March 21st

This book seemed so far up my alley I was convinced it was written for me. Every night at 11, Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered. If you want to escape, come to the lake and explain who did it.

I love mysteries. I love self-contained murder mysteries, and I love the idea that the main character woke up in a different body every morning to try and solve the murder.

So I can’t really explain why I didn’t love this book. There are spoilers ahead.

The entire time, I felt like I was trudging through it. The plot interested me, but I felt like I was reading molasses trying to get to where it picked up. This book had so many peaks and valleys it was insane. With every peak, I would think to myself “This is it, this is where the book is going to pick up, and I’m going to love it from here on out.” And then it would slide back down and I would feel myself wading back through it when I wanted to fly.

The characters were fascinating. I loved how the lives of Aiden’s hosts, and their personality influenced his own investigation. I liked the looming figure of the Plague Doctor, and the uncertainty of Anna. I even liked the twists of who was trustworthy and who was not.

It really came down to the way the book was written for me. I can enjoy historical fiction, but it isn’t always my favorite genre. I’m over-generalizing, but I find that the genre has a certain style of writing to it which I can’t really attach myself to, and this was written in that style. I was hoping that they mystery elements would overshadow the writing style, but it just didn’t work for me, which was hugely disappointing.

I was also hoping that in the last 50 pages, everything would turn around, I would be able to love the book for the ending, but once again, the ending fell a bit short for me, and I was hoping the whole time that I had solved the case wrong and that there was a bigger twist that I didn’t see coming.

That being said, a bit of praise for the book: the mystery is entirely self-contained. I like mysteries where the reader can figure it out along with the characters. Too many mysteries rely on external information, like knowing a particular type of poison comes from a particular country, or having the knowledge of a connecting murder from 20 years ago that the reader has never heard about until the end. This book handled the clues, and the dispersal of clues very well (these were the peaks I talked about earlier).

This was Stuart Turton’s debut novel, and he’s currently working on his second piece. I hope he stays in the mystery genre, because I think he has a lot of potential as a writer, and I’d be interested to see what else he comes up with.

-Siobhan