Tag Archives: book review

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado (Review)

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⭐ ⭐ (2.5 Stars)

I had high expectations for Her Body and Other Parties based on the blurb and reviews I’d seen floating around the internet. After I read it, all I could think was “meh” but no, I don’t think this is a bad collection of short stories. It just didn’t work for me. This book has elements of eroticism, queerness, horror, feminism, science fiction and magical realism – a seemingly perfect read for October… 

“Many people live and die without ever confronting themselves in the darkness.”

“The Husband Stitch” was my favourite story of the bunch. I didn’t know this but the story is based on a creepy story called The Green Ribbon. I interpreted this story as a feminist tale having interesting themes like body autonomy and self-worth. The second story “Inventory” is set in a dystopian world riddled with plague in which the narrator recounts her sexual adventures. “Eight Bites” and “Real Women Have Bodies” are horrific explorations of society’s obsession with thinness. Unfortunately, I didn’t ‘get’ or enjoy the other stories in Machado’s collection.

The women in these stories are multifaceted: some are beat down (literally and otherwise) and some rise above their predicaments. Some women encounter ghosts of their pasts or society’s present, and some women get consumed by their own madness. Carmen Machado is amazing at writing and writing ideas but I didn’t adore her plots. Her Body and Other Parties is shortlisted for the National Book Awards 2017, so it’s worth checking out if the blurb piques your interest.

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White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi (Review)

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⭐ ⭐ ⭐ (3.5 Stars) 

Helen Oyeyemi has me stumped for words. After reading Boy, Snow, Bird, I knew I had to pick up more of her works, and truly, each novel is like a little gem. My rating might not reflect that but I’ll explain why. White is for Witching is different from anything I’ve ever read (and will ever read). Let’s start with the weird narrators, shall we?

                                                           “Miri I conjure you”

In the beginning, our young protagonist Miranda Silver has gone missing. In the first few pages, we are introduced to the three narrators: her twin brother Eliot, her friend (and lover) Ore and her house (yeah, I know). After the twins’ mother Lily passes away, Miranda’s mental health goes berserk and pica (passed down to her, matrilineally) controls her life. Pica is an obsession with eating non nutritious food and in Miranda’s case: chalk and plastic.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t like reading this book for the first 100 pages. It became a lot more interesting after that. To backtrack a little, the story is set in Dover where the Silver family own a Bread & breakfast. Grief and pain are visible and tangible elements present at the centre of it all. Miranda stops eating, there’s some weird stuff with her brother (not explained) and her father feels very much like an outsider. The house acts as a ‘protector’ to Miranda, it wants to shield her from things that can hurt her later on like love and attachment.

White is for Witching can certainly be interpreted in various ways, realistically or in a more paranormal sense. All the subtle fairy tale elements put a smile on my face. And racial issues are addressed too, but not in a huge way like in Boy, Snow, Bird. If you’re looking for a plot based narrative, steer away from this – the reason why I couldn’t rate this a 4 or 5 stars. Oyeyemi’s world building is interesting: she combines observations, psychology and magical realism in a compellingly sinister and dream-like tale.

Final Girls by Riley Sager (Review)

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First of all, we need to talk about that cover. Dark forest or trees? Tick. Girl running away? Tick. Mist, dark colours, creepy atmosphere? TICKTICKTICK. I’m a fan of all the clichés. From what I gathered on the internet, Riley Sager is a pseudonym for a previously published author called Todd Ritter (don’t sue me if this isn’t true), and it’s interesting… because:

Aaaand suddenly: 

A little push from Stephen King is all that’s needed to create a bestselling thriller novel, apparently. Oh, and I bought into it. This book is fantastically entertaining. I knew this was a hyped up book and didn’t read the blurb. It’s best to get into Final Girls without any prior knowledge or anticipation of the story.

But if you’d still like to know more about it, well, keep on reading! If you’re a fan of compulsive thrilling reads or slasher films, this is for you. Personally, I’m not a fan of slasher films but I can see myself consuming books in this horrifying genre. For one, slasher stories are less scary on paper. But hey, it’s still creepy. 

So, a little bit about Final Girls: Quincy Carpenter was the sole survivor of a massacre when she was a teenager. All her friends died that night. The media calls her and women who went through similar experiences as ‘Final Girls’, named after the trope in popular horror movies. Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead under mysterious circumstances. Is Quincy next? Final Girls was simultaneously predictable and unpredictable. I thought the ending was satisfying, and one of the best I’ve read this year in thriller novels.

The writing isn’t too bad, though a little generic at times. Coming back to clichés, this novel is full of them. Just a few examples: good girl gone bad, sex hurts for her first time, girls with frenemies. Despite all the eye-rolls and thinking “this is clearly written by a man!” (no offence to men out there) I loved the plot and will look forward to reading Riley Sager’s future novels 😄📚

Tin Man by Sarah Winman (Review)

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⭐ ⭐ ⭐

(Mild spoilers)

I’m conflicted about my feelings for Tin Man. Whilst I’m glad I read it, the latter half of the novel frustrated me a little. Beyond that, Sarah Winman’s writing is exquisite and I felt deeply connected to her characters. Tin Man is about two boys, Ellis and Michael, who love each other. This love follows them into adulthood until Ellis meets and marries Annie. Friendship blossoms between the three but also distances Michael from Ellis.

Tin Man is a novel that tries to be about hope. Instead it is about angsty love, loneliness, and tragedy. I’m all for a sad & cozy read but I couldn’t enjoy Tin Man after a certain point. Some character arcs and motivations go unexplained. Also, other gripes I had while reading is there are no quotation marks in the entire novel and the different time periods (past memories and present happenings) are confusing.

Okay, final thoughts: it’s a beautiful tale about (un)requited love that was touching but I want to read happy lgbtq stories. The writing was absolutely poetic particularly the descriptions of landscapes. The metaphors and themes were enticing but couldn’t stay that way given the nature of the story. Would I recommend Tin Man? Yes, if you’d like to get your heart broken by a pile of pages! 

The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, illustrated by Yuko Uramoto (Review)

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

This was adorable. 

I’m not a big self-help books fan. That is, I don’t think I’ve read any self-help. My boyfriend and I decided to read ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ by Dale Carnegie many a months ago and never got around to finishing it. I’d rather hear advice and stories on a podcast, if that makes sense. Marie Kondo’s book is wildly popular and I never thought to pick it up myself but it was lying around the house (my brother gifted it to my mother) and I thought why not?

A super quick and helpful little book this turned out to be! The illustrations are gorgeous. In the story, Chiaki is a 29-year old woman who works in sales. Her apartment and love life are a mess, she procrastinates on chores and no longer cooks at home. But fret not, Marie Kondo is there to save the day. She helps Chiaki get rid of unnecessary or excess clothes, books (which was a little tragic, personally), and other stuff that piles up and never goes away. Kondo’s main idea is that if a thing doesn’t spark joy in you, let it go (bin it or donate).

Now, I’ve always lived in a messy house. On the odd occasion when stuff is put away in their proper places, it feels odd! I need a personal Marie Kondo pronto to physically push me to organise my house. I thought this book was super cute and gave some sound & practical advise. If anything, I know how to correctly fold and store my underwear now. Amazing.

Three Creepy Novellas (Book Reviews)

Such Small Hands by Andrés Barba (Translated by Lisa Dillman): ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

This is quite an unsettling little read! Life-like dolls and creepy orphan girls? Sign me up. Such Small Hands is actually based off a real life incident that happened in Brazil during the 1960s which is a complete spoiler so I’ll avoid mentioning those details for this review. The story follows seven year old Marina who loses her parents in a car accident and is put in an orphanage. She is bullied incessantly by the other girls, out of fear and envy (or both). The writing is very atmospheric and well done but confusing at times and I wished for a longer or a more fleshed out story from Barba.

You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann (Translated by Ross Benjamin): ⭐⭐

Did I miss something? I’m sure that a re-read would help me understand the plot more but I’d rather not. From what I remember, You Should Have Left is about a writer and his family who are renting a house up in the mountains. And it was supposed to be Lynchian. The way this novella is set up is confusing – there are snippets about the writers life that read like a diary, and then the snippets about his screenplay with characters and scenarios that make zero sense.

He’s trying to salvage his marriage and has super weird dreams at night. He experiences some House of Leaves-esque things and shit hits the fan. Again, I wish this was longer!

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Queer vampire classic set during the Victorian times? All the yes’s. I remember reading the “steamy” bits when I was younger and now years later, I’d say its hella cute 😂 Carmilla is set in Styria and is about Laura, a young woman, who meets and forms a romantic bond with Carmilla. Laura’s steadily declining health and vigour combined with Carmilla’s strange sleep routine raise some eyebrows. The novella peters out into a below-average horror film production but it was super entertaining nonetheless.

Audiobook link: https://tinyurl.com/y8vun397

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry (Review)

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⭐  ⭐  ⭐  ⭐

I went to the dentist today and had two of my teeth extracted (RIP teeth). What has that got anything to do with the review, you ask? Well, after my procedure (half my face was numb) I read pages 396 and 397 of The Essex Serpent for about 45 minutes. Does that ever happen to you? You zone out of the story but continue to read the sentences over and over again…

Just me? Okay 😂

You are a woman, and must begin to live like one. By which I mean: have courage.

The Essex Serpent is a historical novel set during the 1890s in… you guessed it, Essex! (and, by extension, London). Recently widowed, Cora Seaborne is finally  free to explore her interests in science and moves to a small town with her (feminist-socialist) maid named Martha and son who may or may not be autistic. Through friends, Cora meets a vicar called Will Ransome. They instantly get along and collide – this oddly paired man of faith and woman of reason. An unlikely love story, to be sure!

William Ransome and Cora Seaborne, stripped of code and convention, even of speech, stood with her strong hand in his: children of the earth lost in wonder.

At the centre of this story – which ties everything together – is the fictional legend of a serpent let loose. The town believes it to be an evil that heralds the end of the world, Cora believes it to be an undiscovered beast that still lives on and Will believes it all to be nonsensical fear. Every page of The Essex Serpent is a goldmine. The language is lyrical and expressive. I could describe this novel as being ‘cinematic’ (i.e. I saw the story playing out clearly in my mind) but that would be a lie. I felt not like a reader but a spectator of sorts… as if I was spying on these characters’ lives. Don’t even get me started about the themes! 

Faith and reason, religion and science, cities and towns, myth and reality, love and friendship. This was a really fascinating read, and I highly recommend it to everyone 😸