Followers by Megan Angelo: An Intriguing Novel on the Over-Trusting Nature We Have With the Internet (Spoilers)

Well that title was a mouthful, wasn’t it? I didn’t really know what else I wanted to title it. This post is going to be part review and part discussion so I kind of just word vomited what I thought was fitting.

Seeing as this is a blog post, on the good ole internet I guess I’ll start off with this question: How safe do you feel using the internet?

In recent years we’ve had increasing jokes about the “FBI guys” in our cameras, we’ve had plenty of conspiracy theories about tech (ALA Shane Dawson and many others), and Black Mirror has sprung plenty of discussions about the future of tech and the world.

Ever since my freshman year of college when I took a class called Media Literacy I’ve been somewhat skeptical of tech. But am I overly cautious? In short, no. In fact I think I could do a lot better with how I use technology. But I do things like cover my cameras, and I’ve slowly but surely deleted accounts of mine and limited what I do on the internet. At the same time though I still overshare. I have a TikTok account where I crack niche jokes about mental health and rant about my customers at work. I walk a fine line with my balance but as far as I’m concerned I’m fine with what I do on the internet.

Followers is a book that takes a look at this relationship that people have with social media and the internet. It’s intriguing and I think it had the potential to be very poignant and relevant but I didn’t love it.

Followers

Synopsis

An electrifying story of two ambitious friends, the dark choices they make and the stunning moment that changes the world as we know it forever

Orla Cadden is a budding novelist stuck in a dead-end job, writing clickbait about movie-star hookups and influencer yoga moves. Then Orla meets Floss―a striving wannabe A-lister―who comes up with a plan for launching them both into the high-profile lives they dream about. So what if Orla and Floss’s methods are a little shady and sometimes people get hurt? Their legions of followers can’t be wrong.

Thirty-five years later, in a closed California village where government-appointed celebrities live every moment of the day on camera, a woman named Marlow discovers a shattering secret about her past. Despite her massive popularity―twelve million loyal followers―Marlow dreams of fleeing the corporate sponsors who would do anything to keep her on-screen. When she learns that her whole family history is based on a lie, Marlow finally summons the courage to run in search of the truth, no matter the risks.

Followers traces the paths of Orla, Floss and Marlow as they wind through time toward each other, and toward a cataclysmic event that sends America into lasting upheaval. At turns wry and tender, bleak and hopeful, this darkly funny story reminds us that even if we obsess over famous people we’ll never meet, what we really crave is genuine human connection.

Rating

Untitled design-3

Review/Discussion

Followers reminded me of the celebrity centered books that I used to read as a teen. The peek into a seemingly glamorous life that so many people crave but this book took a modern spin with adding in the reliance on technology. I can see where the author was coming from, wanting to write a hard-hitting moralistic novel about how we trust the internet with so much and how it could eventually come back to bite us but it wasn’t overly impressive. As a debut novel, I thought that it had showed a lot of promise and if Angelo publishes something else and it sounded interesting enough I would most likely give it a chance.

As someone who is already skeptical about the internet this didn’t read as very electrifying nor did any of the events truly shock me. This was marketed as sci-fi but if I’m being honest, there wasn’t much about it that felt unrealistic. Sure there was technology in the future sections of the book that doesn’t exist but this book mostly centered about personal endeavors and tech critique instead of focusing on the technology itself.

I wasn’t a fan of either of the main characters. Orla and Marlow were both incredibly annoying in their own ways and I thought they were so wishy-washy and unremarkable that I was very quickly bored throughout. My main motivation to finish reading this book was to find out about the cataclysmic event that took place that caused such a strong before and after in the plot. If I’m being honest the event was somewhat unremarkable. Since I’ve grown up with the internet, I’ve done my fair share of oversharing, I’ve done my fair share of dumb things but so has most other people my age. The “current day” portion of the book took place in 2015 and 2016 and to read about what ended up taking place, this event known as the “Spill” I found myself rolling my eyes at how people reacted. From the description and the lead-up, it was obvious that the Spill caused a bunch of people to lose their lives thanks to good ole technology. What I wasn’t expecting was that these people were losing their lives to suicide. The Spill happened because some hackers, in an act of cyber terrorism, shut down technology and then turned on the citizens of the world by sharing their deepest darkest secrets that were on the internet with everyone.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think some of the things that I’ve done on the internet would be pretty humiliating if they got out but even if they got sent to everyone I’ve ever known I don’t think I’d ever kill myself over those things. And especially considering that the internet was down and barely salvageable in the aftermath of this I doubt anyone could use this information against anyone. The bullying could only happen in person, yes relationships could be ruined but if every single person was having their worst shared about them with absolutely everyone, why care? Maybe living the event would be different, or maybe if I was older than I am I would feel different but I’ve grown up with people oversharing. Hell, people share everything online now, people make tasteless jokes and there are hundreds of people making bank off of selling their nudes. So maybe I wasn’t the target audience for this book because I was bored! I didn’t care that all of these people had their lives destroyed by the internet. I do think that people 100% rely too heavily on the internet but I also don’t think that this book is as timely as one might think.

AAAAND now I feel bad for saying that I thought it was unrealistic that people took their lives for having their darkest shared to everyone… I swear I’m not trying to be a horrid person I just personally feel like a lot of people, especially my peers, would not feel the life ending need for these things to come out. I mean back in 2016 I was in college and was dating my first boyfriend. I think the worst that could be put out about me was the smutty fan fiction that I read but nowadays people are open about any and all smut they read, hell there’s even a read-a-thon specifically for reading smutty books.

The internet is a vast place. It is both a dark and light space and I think a lot of people could use some breaks from it from time to time. I think that Followers was a book that posed some interesting questions about influencer culture and the power that the internet holds but overall I was bored with it. This book was thought provoking and I think there is an audience out there for it but it just wasn’t the perfect fit for me.

 

Rant Review: Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert (Spoilers)

Get a Life, Chloe Brown (The Brown Sisters, #1)

Synopsis

Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?

• Enjoy a drunken night out.
• Ride a motorcycle.
• Go camping.
• Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
• Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
• And… do something bad.

But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.

Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.

But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…

Rating

Untitled design-2

Review

I really wanted to love this book, I really did. So many people have raved about this book that I could not wait to get my hands on it. Which is why it took me by surprise when I read the first chapter and immediately wanted to DNF it. The writing felt so awkward to me and I was honestly shocked to find out this book takes place in the U.K. I know it doesn’t need to be explicitly said but I have no knowledge of Talia Hibbert or where she lives and so I guess I had book culture shock when Chloe was referred to as “love” on like the second page. Which is such a small critique but then it took me well over 100 pages to get into the flow of reading it. Now here’s the kicker for anyone who has followed me since last summer… This book reminded me of Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey and in case you don’t know, I actively despise that book. Well and truly hated it. So for this book to remind me of that, it’s highly disappointing.

The premise of this novel was so hopeful, it sounded so good. I was so excited to read about the representation and honestly, that chronic illness/pain and the rep for coping with abusive relationships were the only things that I liked about this book. As someone who has experience with both of these things I think that Hibbert handled it all really well and I appreciated that at least. I think if Chloe and Red had been “normal” people I would have rated this one star or I might have even gone through with DNF’ing this book before I got any substantial amount through it.

I think this book was dramatic smut hidden under the cutesy illustrated cover that leads readers to believe otherwise. I couldn’t see why Red and Chloe had any reason to get together other than for the convenience of it. Literally I felt like between the prologue to the first chapter I was missing an entire book… Or at least a few chapters. I have no idea who Chloe is, why her family is so rich they live together in a family home and Chloe and her sisters get monthly stipends. I don’t know what her relationship is like with any of her family members other than through extremely brief interactions. These brief interactions or introductions are how every single character in this book is treated. Even Red’s introduction was so brief I was taken aback. He was just there with no explanation and with absolutely no shock literally no explanation as to why the hell they hated each other in the first place. I can give a bit of leniency to not fully developing character back stories but even Red’s mother, who seems to be incredibly central to his life, gets one scene unless his finger tattoo that says “MUM” is brought up in conversation.

And now for the freaking romance. INSUFFERABLE, lackluster, instant, horrid. UGH.

I like fluff. I like cutesy. I like happy even when it is laced with pain. This was lust. Like I cannot bring myself to describe it in any other manner. One second they hate each other and the next second they are ripping each other’s clothes off. The first smutty scene took place in PUBLIC which is something that automatically gets many points taken off from any book. It’s not okay, it’s literally against the law. So keep it in your freaking pants and be on your way. Beds are far better for those sorts of activities. The other sex scene that drove me up the dang wall was the camping one. Of any place to have the first “all the way” scene to take place, why the HELL was it in a TENT. Who goes camping and thinks about sex??? Granted their camping trip was different and not as strenuous but STILL. TENTS ARE NOT QUIET. WAS THERE LITERALLY NO ONE ELSE AROUND??? I’m genuinely confused and concerned.

And in the end THEY SAID I LOVE YOU AFTER TWO WEEKS. Considering these are two deeply damaged (that’s such a bad sounding word but I feel it is the best way to put it) individuals I could not put the ending of this book out of my head. Talk about some instant fucking love. I genuinely could not understand the chemistry between the characters. I wasn’t a fan. I still feel like I don’t even know who either of the characters really are.
Oh and considering things started off early on with Chloe spying on Red through her window. Immediate anger from me. Spying, prying, peeping, whatever the heck you want to call it is never okay. It’s not funny, it’s not cute, it’s a huge invasion of privacy and should never be tolerated. Writing it into books (and now I’ve seen it in two highly praised novels) just lets it seem like it’s okay which it’s not and never will be.

I was so disappointed with this book. I had really high hopes and was let down entirely. It was underdeveloped and felt like dressed up smut which I have never been a fan of. I’m really glad I got this through Kindle Unlimited because I was originally planning on buying my own copy of this because I was so excited to check it out but I definitely dodged a bullet there.

If you’ve stuck around this long, does anyone have any good cute and fluffy recommendations for either adult or young adult romance/contemporary books? I’m on a kick and need some good ones to read to make up for this one!

Graphic Novel Review: Eat, and Love Yourself by Sweeney Boo

*This post may contain spoilers*

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC of this graphic novel. Eat, and Love Yourself is out today for purchase 🙂

Eat, and Love Yourself

Synopsis:

A story about Mindy, a woman living with an eating disorder who has to learn how to love herself again.

In pursuit of the perfect body, Mindy buys the low-fat diet products and the glossy magazines which promise the secret to losing weight. One night, while perusing the aisles of the neighborhood convenience store for a midnight snack, she finds a new product. A chocolate bar called “Eat and Love Yourself”. On a whim, Mindy buys the curious candy, not knowing that with every piece of chocolate she eats, she will be brought back to a specific moment of her past — helping her to look at herself honestly, learn to love her body the way it is, and accepting love. Perhaps, she will even realize that her long lost high school best friend, Elliot, was more than just a friend…

Rating:

Untitled design-3

Review:

TW: Depression, Bulimia, Body Dysmorphia, Eating Disorders

I was intrigued by this graphic novel from the get go. I stumbled across it on NetGalley and wanted to read it right away and while I absolutely loved the artwork, the story itself fell somewhat flat.

Body image and eating disorders and anything that falls in that realm is incredibly nuanced and complex and I think that one aspect of this story that missed the mark was the length. I think that anyone would say that 160 pages would be difficult to tell a complete story in, especially one that contains the topics that this one does and I feel as if this could have benefitted from more content. The synopsis (which I didn’t read until after I had finished reading it) tells the story entirely. While normally I wouldn’t mind, as it does a great job of summing up the story, it made me realize that I really felt like the story was too short. There wasn’t enough explanation, inner thought, or conclusion. I ended my time reading only wanting more, but not in terms of a sequel, just more from what I was given. The ending was abrupt and everything else really only breached the surface of the topic at hand.

From the story that we were given I feel wishy washy in terms of my opinion. Again, I loved the artwork but because nothing related to the plot was fleshed out I was left with more questions than answers. I loved the arc of self acceptance and was overall pleased with the story in general but I constantly felt like I was reading the highlights or a sneak peek of this graphic novel rather than an almost finished product. I know that this book was about self love but I couldn’t help but wonder where the interpersonal relationships were, why the characters interacted the way that they did, why certain conversations led to others. The flashback scenes only provided so much context.

I think if the author was going for a broad, more universally understandable story about a woman’s journey to self love she hit that mark. But this story held so much potential that just wasn’t there. It has the important messages of looking back at oneself and finding contentment and self love in the midst of disordered eating and thoughts but it was all surface level. As someone who has spent much of their life struggling with self image and disordered eating I loved the memories that Mindy was given that allowed her to step back and look at how she ended up in the spot that she was in. The book did open up the line of self reflection which I know is something that a lot of people struggle with.

This is the type of book to spark conversations and again, I cannot praise the artwork more, and if you’re looking for a graphic novel that ties in body positivity and relearning how to love yourself in the midst of personal struggles I would recommend it.

 

Review: Docile by K.M. Szpara

*This post may contain spoilers*

Docile

Synopsis:

There is no consent under capitalism

Docile is a science fiction parable about love and sex, wealth and debt, abuse and power, a challenging tour de force that at turns seduces and startles.

To be a Docile is to be kept, body and soul, for the uses of the owner of your contract. To be a Docile is to forget, to disappear, to hide inside your body from the horrors of your service. To be a Docile is to sell yourself to pay your parents’ debts and buy your children’s future.

Elisha Wilder’s family has been ruined by debt, handed down to them from previous generations. His mother never recovered from the Dociline she took during her term as a Docile, so when Elisha decides to try and erase the family’s debt himself, he swears he will never take the drug that took his mother from him. Too bad his contract has been purchased by Alexander Bishop III, whose ultra-rich family is the brains (and money) behind Dociline and the entire Office of Debt Resolution. When Elisha refuses Dociline, Alex refuses to believe that his family’s crowning achievement could have any negative side effects—and is determined to turn Elisha into the perfect Docile without it.

Rating:

I have decided to forgo rating this book because I don’t feel comfortable assigning a point system to my feelings regarding this story. More on this in my review.

Review:

CW: Abuse (physical, sexual, mental, emotional), rape, drug use, suicide attempt, suicidal ideation

Docile started out strong, I found the plot interesting, I found the characters to be compelling, and overall I was incredibly interested in seeing where this story took us. I finished reading this a little over a week ago and knew I wanted to write a review but realized I needed time to properly record my thoughts about this novel.

This book was well written and hard to put down but I think the way that it skewed towards trying to be some sexual dystopian story really took away from what it is at the core. This story is about slavery.

The following quote is lifted from a Goodreads review about a Tweet posted sometime last year describing Docile. If I’m able to locate the tweet itself I will insert that here but as of now, this is what I have.

“Dramatic Trillionaire Content
BDSM & then some more BDSM & then a lot more BDSM
Hurt/comfort & hurt/no comfort
Cinnamon roll of steel
The most scandalous kink: love
Courtroom drama, bedroom drama, Preakness drama
Debt & Decadence”

I have also seen now, numerous people describe it as “gay 50 shades of grey” and genuinely all I have to say is *what the actual fuck did these people read in comparison to what I read*. This is not some kinky romantic BDSM lovey book. This is disturbing, it is literally about slavery. It literally says in the description that THERE IS NO CONSENT UNDER CAPITALISM. This book is about rape, it is about abuse of power, it is about a dystopian capitalist future, it is fucked up. I think that there’s a really big disconnect between the content and readers, well not only that but a huge disconnect between content and marketing. I for one went into this book expecting something far different than what I was presented. From the get go I was incredibly disturbed by what I was reading and in the end was let down by an utter lack of critique of capitalist culture and disregard for the historical impact of slavery on the United States.

One of the main characters, Elisha was broken from a very early stage and completely lost his agency and I think that this ended up leading to most of the issues that I had. There may be two viewpoints that this story is told from but because Elisha is unable to think for himself within a short portion of the book and thus the whole novel is skewed to show the trillionaire lifestyle as more positive than it is. In the end, you can see the psychological damage that has happened to Elisha but the author tries to create a happy ending in which it implies that he will eventually go back to his abuser, Alex, because Elisha has somehow magically overcome the damage that has happened to him. In that same vein, Elisha’s mother is magically cured by a drug that was barely tested, I’m assuming, in order to once again try to give Alex some form of humanity to make him more likable.

Disclaimer: I do think that Alex did show a bit of character growth from the opening of this book to the end but I also think that it was a bit too convenient that he so quickly realized the error of his entire lifestyle solely because he was “in love” with Elisha. Yes, his entire life was dismantled because he realized that Dociles are also people but I genuinely have no sympathy for him.

Back to the characters, I find it unfortunate that I ended up thinking so many of them to be flat. There were numerous plot points that took me by surprise that involved certain characters but I felt like we were just supposed to take this information and go with it. The relationships between any characters except for Elisha and Alex were boring and it pained me to see neither of them narrate even a slightly broader backstory to either of their family’s or friend groups. Elisha’s family treated him poorly after he came back to visit but yet we have no understanding as to why they think what he’s done is awful. We know that Elisha’s mother had an adverse and long term reaction to Dociline but Elisha didn’t take it and if Elisha hadn’t left, his sister would have been the one to sell herself into this debt slave system so it makes no sense to me that Elisha’s father would have such an extreme reaction to what Elisha did. Not only did he sell off his entire family’s debt, they were also getting a monthly stipend which should have made things at least slightly better for them so the reaction that Elisha’s father had seemed outlandish. From the very brief interactions and descriptions of Elisha’s sister she seemed to be written as knowledgeable and headstrong and it wouldn’t make sense for her to fall prey to an idealistic world as long as she was able to keep off Dociline and away from the debt slave system.

I also found the world in this book to be incredibly underdeveloped and I would have appreciated more backstory as to how this debt system came about, how the world functions outside of the trillionaires and honestly even just how the trillionaires functioned as well. It was all quickly glossed over that this master/slave system was created to dissolve debt and that the center of it all was this drug (Dociline) but the “whys” were just *not there*. From what was mentioned, this system is not used worldwide, it seems that it wasn’t even used across the entirety of the United States. So this makes me wonder how the rest of the world handles debt and the treatment of those who don’t have money. We saw very small glimpses into the development of Dociline through Alex’s work but I’m still unsure why it was developed in the first place, why it needs new versions and why there isn’t more of an uproar in the outside communities because there’s absolutely no way that Elisha’s mother was the only person to have had a non life term that ended in an adverse reaction. I also had hoped to see more of a critique of capitalist culture as this book is very eerie in terms of the future of the United States but we’re all just lead to believe that everyone just accepts the debt and accepts this slave system. There’s an undercover resistance group but they don’t do anything to try and put forth revolts, nothing to try and undermine the system, they do what they can but I was expecting a full blown revolution and this didn’t give me even a crumb of that.

Before I sign off, I want to leave you with some reviews that I think are very well written that speak far more in depth about some of the issues that I had that I didn’t know how to speak on:

A review that goes in depth about the slave/master aspects, AKA talking about how this is slavefic

This review says everything I wanted to say and more. The quote below is from this review and I couldn’t agree with that statement more.

If a white author uses slavery as a focal point of their book’s plot, a plot that revolves around dismantling capitalism and consent in AMERICA, there needs to be a serious interrogation of like…context, history, trauma on the bodies of BIPOC. It was like slavery and racism never existed in Docile and that continues to bother me! It’s bothersome to have two white narrators as the lenses through which we see the horrors of slavery, because UH…all of these things happened to BIPOC!

Lastly, I wanted to share this review but not review that really tackles race within Docile

PLEASE, if anything, go read the above linked post because this says everything I could have wanted said about this book.

I have never read anything related to slavefic. I’m not a fan of relationships where there is a nonconsensual abuse of power. But I am always interested in seeing where people go wrong with the way that they handle issues of race because these issues will always be prevalent and they will always be important. Docile was an interesting book, I’ll give it that, but I think in terms of everything else it has a long way to go before being a book that should be praised the way it has been. I appreciate that there are people out there who are much better than me at raising critiques and questions because I knew as uncomfortable as I was when I was done reading this book, I could never adequately describe what I needed to say. I think that Docile was poorly and incorrectly marketed and it kind of disgusts me that people would praise this for the sexual nature.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I have decided against rating this book and would like to warn anyone that does want to read this to go into it with these critiques in mind. Or to read critiques afterwards because there’s a lot left unsaid within the novel.

Take care everyone, and enjoy your weekends.

 

 

Review: The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling

Woah, y’all. I finally finished a book!! It’s been like an entire month and I still have no reading motivation but I did it!! Also my last class of the semester ends in just a few days so fingers crossed I’ll get some reading motivation back once I have a month where I don’t have homework deadlines looming in the background!

So, what book did I read? Well if you didn’t pay attention to the title of this post it was The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling.

The Luminous Dead

Here’s the synopsis:

A thrilling, atmospheric debut with the intensive drive of The Martian and Gravity and the creeping dread of Annihilation, in which a caver on a foreign planet finds herself on a terrifying psychological and emotional journey for survival.

When Gyre Price lied her way into this expedition, she thought she’d be mapping mineral deposits, and that her biggest problems would be cave collapses and gear malfunctions. She also thought that the fat paycheck—enough to get her off-planet and on the trail of her mother—meant she’d get a skilled surface team, monitoring her suit and environment, keeping her safe. Keeping her sane.

Instead, she got Em.

Em sees nothing wrong with controlling Gyre’s body with drugs or withholding critical information to “ensure the smooth operation” of her expedition. Em knows all about Gyre’s falsified credentials, and has no qualms using them as a leash—and a lash. And Em has secrets, too . . .

As Gyre descends, little inconsistencies—missing supplies, unexpected changes in the route, and, worst of all, shifts in Em’s motivations—drive her out of her depths. Lost and disoriented, Gyre finds her sense of control giving way to paranoia and anger. On her own in this mysterious, deadly place, surrounded by darkness and the unknown, Gyre must overcome more than just the dangerous terrain and the Tunneler which calls underground its home if she wants to make it out alive—she must confront the ghosts in her own head.

But how come she can’t shake the feeling she’s being followed?

Caves are one of my biggest fears, the darkness and sickening sense of claustrophobia that come with them send chills down my spine with just a thought. My mom and aunt can’t go a family gathering without talking about the time I said I’d be fine going past the point of no return in a cave tour and then ended up having a breakdown. (Sidenote: I was like 7 at the time and I got my sweatshirt hood caught on a railing so I thought someone was grabbing me, like YOU go through a spooky cave and think someone is grabbing you and come out of the experience unscathed!!!!) So anyways, when I saw this book I knew that if I wanted a horror book that could genuinely terrify me, well this is it.

The writing in this was so good, there was more than one scene in which I was left with goosebumps and the hairs on the back of my neck standing up because I was so spooked. This definitely played into my own fears and I found myself questioning every single thing I read which, to me, adds so much to the horror aspect. I think that if I would have had the attention span to read this in one sitting, I would have, but it ended up taking me about a month and a half to finish this which made it a little bit jarring each time I picked it up again. Despite the gaps between reading, once I did get back into reading it was easy to immerse myself back in the story. I feel like horror is one genre where if I can’t be fully immersed then I’m not going to fully enjoy it so I am happy to report that this is quite an immersive story.

With a cast of two characters I was really interested to see how this would play out and the way the relationship between Gyre and Em would develop from the beginning to the end. My emotions were all over the place and I’m not going to lie when I say that I would greatly enjoy some further addition to this story. There was definitely a conclusion but I feel like there is so much of this world left to explore that I would be down for any sort of epilogue that the author would like to give us. This aspect of the story, with Gyre and Em, was so complex and frustrating and yet I could see so fully the motivations of each character and I loved that. Each was so fully developed and the balance between heartbreaking, tender moments and sheer terror and stress and anger was so well done.

I feel like this book would appeal to those who aren’t normally fans of horror too. It’s thrilling and shocking and left me feeling like I should check over my own shoulder but for horror, I felt it was pretty tame. There isn’t anything overly gory and I feel like it’s more of a psychological horror that just burns nice and slowly until it gets you right at the end.

In the end, I rated it 4 stars because there were parts of this that left me feeling a bit dry. I highly recommend picking this up and I look forward to reading whatever Caitlin Starling comes up with next!

You can pick up your own copy of The Luminous Dead at these links:

Amazon (Affiliate Link) // Barnes & Noble // Book Depository

Review: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Can we all just be excited for a second at the fact that my most anticipated book of the year lived up to my own personal hype??

I’ve only read one of Leigh Bardugo’s young adult books, the first book in the Grisha trilogy, and it was right around the time when it was first released and I didn’t really love it. I’ve had no interest in reading any of her other books up until now and when I first read the synopsis for Ninth House I was immediately like “YES, I NEED TO READ THIS”

I like dark stories and oh boy, did this deliver on that. I’m going to say what everyone is saying about this book: it is an adult book and should be categorized as such. This is a very, very dark adult book and is not suitable content for younger readers.

ninthhouse

Before I get into my review, here’s the synopsis from Goodreads:

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

Like I had said at the beginning of the post, this was my most anticipated read of the year. I got nervous as I started to see more and more reviews of people reading this and rating it lower than anticipated and I kept stopping myself from starting it because I didn’t want to be disappointed. Luckily, in the end, I was so far from disappointed, I rated this 5 stars.

Untitled design-5

This book was a behemoth and I read it over the course of about three days. Each chapter title gives you the time at which the events in the chapter are taking place. “Winter” and “fall/late fall” were the main ones and the perspective switched between our main character, Alex, and Darlington, Alex’s mentor in Lethe. Lethe is essentially a group that has been created to be guardians to the secret societies of Yale.

From the get go, I connected with Alex and her struggle with being a survivor. The fight for life and for survival is something I relate to deeply and it was emotional to see how strong she was in order to do anything. I also really enjoyed reading from both her and Darlington’s perspectives in order to get a more in depth view of the story. I personally felt like if we had only followed Alex, that we never would’ve learned some of the things that Darlington shared in his chapters.

I genuinely wish that I would have kept a tally of how many times I said “oh my god” or “wtf” while reading this because it was lot. Some parts of the book I totally saw coming, but others blew my mind. I think that I can say that I am a big fan of paranormal/fantasy type thrillers because unlike thrillers that take place in “real life” basically anything can happen. We can get those big twists and shocks because literally anything could happen. This whole book had me turning the next page thinking “what could possibly happen next?” It was compelling and devious and I adored it.

A lot of the reviews I’ve seen are from people who thought that this book was boring, or at least the first half was boring. I felt like this book was chock full of information but to me, it felt balanced. If it had all been jam packed with action, I think it would have been overwhelming. But with less action and more exposition, it would have been too dry. There really wasn’t any point in this that I felt like I wanted to skip sections or chapters because I genuinely wanted to see what every page had in store. If you’re looking for a simple read, this probably isn’t for you! It’s full of names and stories and is so layered that it takes a lot of brain power to really engross yourself in it. But let me tell you, it is well worth it if you like dark adult fantasy.

So when it comes to recommending this, I want to preface this with this book is really disturbing at times. One scene in particular made me physically gag and many others left me feeling drained. It was dark, definitely not quite what I expected, but in the end I was left with overwhelming hope for this group of characters that had been beaten down and broken more times than I could count. I adored the characters in this book, flaws and all and I genuinely can’t wait to get my hands on book two. But please be careful when picking up this book and if you are interested in content warnings I’ll have those at the end of the review.

I think that if you’re a fan of dark stuff, give this a try. If you like a unique cast of characters and a wild story, pick this up.

If you’re interested in purchasing a copy, you can find it here.

Content warnings:

Sexual assault (child rape and date rape), murder, gore, drug abuse, drowning, death, suicide, forced consumption of human waste. 

 

Review: Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Do you ever read a book and then just spend forever rolling it over in your mind because you have literally no idea what you think of it? That was this book for me.

Wilder Girls by Rory power was an incredibly highly anticipated read of this year and while it didn’t sound quite up my alley (books about quarantine and disease are not usually a hit for me) I was looking forward to giving it a try.

42505366.jpg

It follows a dual perspective of two girls at Raxter School for Girls, a boarding school that has been placed under a quarantine for the last 18 months after a mysterious disease called the Tox took over the island. They’re completely cut off from the world while the disease changes everything in strange and violent ways. Girls have grown gills, second spines, scales, and more. It’s essentially supposed to be the female version of Lord of the Flies (which I get but also it’s vastly different so…) So with that really brief description, let’s get into the review.

I think I’m just going to start right off with my star rating. It took me over an hour to decide on this but I went with three stars.

Untitled design-3

I thought this started off incredibly slowly and up until about 150 pages in I was tempted to DNF this. There were definitely small pieces of the story that kept me wanting to continue so in the end I kept going.

The story itself was really compelling, it brought up so many questions about what could possibly be happening to this island and these girls. The plot is what kept me connected to the book and essentially nothing else. I didn’t really connect with any of the characters, I definitely empathized with them and their situation but I felt like I barely knew anything about any of them. When they switched perspectives from Hetty to Byatt, it was really jarring. I mean it was over 100 pages into the book by the time that happened so it felt weird to all of a sudden read from another perspective.

I also didn’t feel like this perspective change was all that well done. Byatt had a very distinctive voice but her pieces didn’t really fill in many holes of the story, they just added more. By the end of the book I had so many questions that I was shocked that I had reached the final page. This book was marketed as a standalone and I have absolutely no idea how it could possibly have just ended the way it did. I mean talk about a cliffhanger.

I enjoyed the crazy crescendo that was the ending of this book. But again, all the unanswered questions just left me wondering why the heck I just spent two days reading this. I wanted to get to the end and find a resolution and the fact that there wasn’t one left me mulling over why I had read this book in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand why some people would absolutely love this book but I also understand why there are people who wouldn’t like it. If I had known there weren’t going to be answers waiting for me at the end of this book, I don’t think I would have pushed through that beginning portion, so now I’m really stuck wondering if we’ll ever get a sequel, or maybe just some sort of epilogue.

This was marketed as a feminist Lord of the Flies and honestly, I really and truly don’t understand that. It’s a survival story at heart, I’ll give them that, but that’s as far as I’d take the comparison… Also I don’t care but I’m going to say it and say that changing the entire cast of characters to female doesn’t inherently make it feminist (because that’s essentially the only thing I could take from that comparison, idk). I’m interested to see what Rory Power writes next, her writing is quite nice and I really hope that in her next books her characters stand out as much as her story does. I think she creates a spectacular story but I just wish that everything else didn’t fall so flat.

If you’re looking for a borderline scary and a little bit gory YA survival story, I would recommend trying this. But if you’re hoping for something that hands you the plot all wrapped up in a box with a bow on top, this isn’t for you.

 

Middle Grade Monday: The Ghost Collector by Allison Mills

43783388

I have a Middle Grade Monday post ready for next week about a few books with spooky storylines and ghosts but I felt that there was no way that I could group this book into that post so it’s getting one of it’s own. Today I’ll be discussing and reviewing The Ghost Collector by Allison Mills.

After losing her mother unexpectedly, Shelly begins to hoard ghosts. A gift that has been passed down through generations of women in her family, Shelly has the ability to see ghosts, catch them, and help them move on. When she realizes that her mother has not come back as a ghost, she can’t let the other ghosts go.

Rooted in a Cree worldview, Shelly and her grandmother use their long hair to catch ghosts and then help to guide them onward to whatever comes after death. I thought that The Ghost Collector was a really deep story of a young, grieving girl who has to learn how to let go. It was so interesting to see how different ghosts could be, anywhere from the old, the young, animals, happy, sad, angry… The list goes on.

It was heartbreaking to see what Shelley was going through, just wanting to see her mom one more time. I think this was a unique and beautiful story about death, grief, and learning to let go. It is so important to share stories like this with young readers, to give them a more broad perspective of the topic of death, dying, and more. I really enjoyed reading a “ghost story” that wasn’t scary. I feel like what is often the case is that ghosts are made out to be malevolent and while those stories are definitely fun, it’s good to see stories where ghosts are just existing too.

In terms of reviewing this book, I gave it three stars. I would highly recommend it to anyone but I personally felt that parts of the story were underdeveloped. The origins of a few characters felt unexplained as did the backstory as to why Shelley and her grandmother were able to see ghosts and catch them in their hair. I would have loved more explanation and a bit of world building in that regard… I did try to do some internet research on the topic of ghosts and Cree beliefs but came up with nothing! Regardless of these qualms that I had, I thought this book was spectacular and have definitely thought about this story a lot since originally reading it.

If you are interested in a book that handles grief well and provides a new view on ghosts and death, this might be the book you’re looking for! Definitely worth checking out.

**I received an ARC of this from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

 

 

Review: Rebel Girls by Elizabeth Keenan

37021699._SX318_

I recently received an ARC of Rebel Girls by Elizabeth Keenan from NetGalley in order to review.

Before I get into my thoughts, here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

It’s 1992, and there’s a rumor spreading in Baton Rouge…

When it comes to being social, Athena Graves is far more comfortable creating a mixtape playlist than she is talking to cute boys—or anyone, for that matter. Plus her staunchly feminist views and love of punk rock aren’t exactly mainstream at St. Ann’s, her conservative Catholic high school.

Then a malicious rumor starts spreading through the halls…a rumor that her popular, pretty, pro-life sister had an abortion over the summer. A rumor that has the power to not only hurt Helen, but possibly see her expelled.

Despite their wildly contrasting views, Athena, Helen and their friends must find a way to convince the student body and the administration that it doesn’t matter what Helen did or didn’t do…even if their riot grrrl protests result in the expulsion of their entire rebel girl gang.

In this day and age, this book and the topics within it are just as important as they would have been back in 1992 when this book takes place. However, I found that the way this book was executed fell very short of any expectations I had of this book. I am very aware that I am not the target audience of this book. I’ve recently turned 23 and very much don’t fit in to the young adult age range anymore but I still feel like this book was bad. From my own context of reading this, I could understand why it might appeal to a younger audience however I personally could not find it in myself to appreciate any part of it.

I’m also going to preface this by saying that in my review I will not be talking about the actual debate of pro choice or pro life. Just the way that this book handles it.

I’ve decided to rate this book 1 star.

Untitled design

***This review contains minor spoilers***

The feminist aspects of this book did not come across the way that I feel like they were intended to solely because the main character, Athena, did not seem to convey why she felt the need to believe the things that she did other than the fact that her Riot Grrl heroes felt that way. This can easily be explained away by her being a teenager because teenagers very easily blindly believe things (I mean I know I did!) but she has the ability to explain why the people she trusts feel the way that they do. So much of Athena’s inner dialogue was her saying sexist things and then backtracking because she “shouldn’t think like that”. There’s no real motivation to her beliefs, she’s still very much sucked into the popularity contests of high school and she falls on the “not like other girls” spectrum at her Catholic school.

The entire book dealt with issues that Athena’s sister, Helen, was encountering but was all told from Athena’s perspective I’m assuming because Helen didn’t have the same beliefs as Athena did so that’s why Athena was chosen to force feed us her thoughts. I really felt like that this book should have been from Helen’s perspective, even if she was pro life. I think that it could have been an interesting character arc for her to go from being strictly pro life to seeing the reasons why people might be pro choice and possibly even changing her beliefs.

I think all of the characters in this book were flat. They were all stereotypes that played into a dramatic high school story. The mean girls, the jocks, the cute boys, the outcasts, etc. It played at being diverse but things like the fact that Sean (Athena’s best friend) was a star football player but hid his love of comics really played into the “everyone must fit their stereotype” line. Sister Catherine was my favorite character in this whole book and she hardly played a big role at all which was really disappointing. I felt like she was also the most realistically portrayed. The guidance counselor character literally made me want to scream. I cannot believe that there was a character that demeaning and malicious written in to this book… Same with the lady that worked at the “fake abortion” clinic. I am well aware of how much fear mongering goes in to pro life campaigns but I can’t imagine why the pro life characters in this book needed to be so graphically rude. Or the locker scene, oh my dear lord the locker scene literally made me sick to my stomach with rage.

Before I can get too angry, like I’m trying really hard to keep my thoughts straight here… But I just think this book lacked empathy. Athena was one of the most unempathetic characters ever. I understand that she’s a teenager but if this book is supposed to center around her younger sister being bullied because of rumors surrounding an alleged abortion I just think it’s in poor taste that the first 100 pages of this book revolve around a crush. I felt like Helen was the only character who really “grew” throughout the book and I wish that she would have been the main character instead of Athena.

In the end, I feel like the message in this book had the potential to be something really good but I spent the entire book getting more and more frustrated over everything. The overall plot wasn’t even revealed until 100+ pages into the book because the first quarter was filled with fluff about crushes and typical school drama. This also had an incredible lack of empathy towards any character. There was so much cruelness from multiple characters that it physically hurt to read. And if that was the point to try and bring shock value into getting teenagers to believe in being pro choice, well, then I guess this book did that? I wish I could say that I wanted to recommend this but I can’t.

 

Reread Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

If you were to ask me my favorite book, since the age of 13, my answer has steadfastly been Graceling by Kristin Cashore. My grandma gifted me this book (along with Twilight) for Christmas when I was in seventh grade. I’m not really sure which of those two books I was more obsessed with at the time but I devoured both of them within a matter of hours.

graceling.jpg

Graceling is a young adult fantasy story set in a world where if you are born or develop two different colored eyes you are considered a Graceling. Each Grace is different but it basically means that the person has some sort of extreme skill in regards to one thing. It could be fighting or mind reading, sewing or baking, or even something like being able to predict the weather.

It follows a Graceling named Katsa, a girl with one blue eye and one green eye and born with the Grace of killing. She is the niece of a king and has grown up as his thug, doing his bidding throughout the kingdoms. She then meets Prince Po and sets off on a deadly mission to uncover the secrets that could potentially destroy all seven kingdoms in their world.

I used to reread Graceling on a yearly basis. This was sort of my tradition with all of my favorite books. As I grew up though it got harder and harder to do this and I think was the first time I’ve read Graceling since high school. It was sort of bittersweet to dive back into this incredibly familiar story and I got so emotional as it unfolded over the pages. I know the plot like the back of my hand and I cheered on every triumph and got sad and angry at every obstacle. It felt like going home.

This story held so many firsts for me. The first time that I ever saw myself in a character, the first OTP I ever had, the first book that ever shocked me. It was life changing for me.

Katsa is a kick-ass female character that really stood out to me in a way that no once since Hermione Granger really had. She was hesitant about men, didn’t want kids, didn’t want to get married… She had a lifetime of trauma that led to her trying to be cold hearted and cruel because that’s all that she thought she could be. A killer. A girl Graced with the ability to kill anyone. It was almost heart warming to read about someone who felt like me in so many ways  and that still could have someone fall in love with her and care about her.

Now rereading this story I see so many parallels between Katsa and Celaena from the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas and I wonder if that’s another reason as to why I was so drawn into the ToG series when it originally was published. I think that if you are a fan of ToG that you should pick up Graceling as well!

After this reread I have decided to maintain my original rating of 5/5 stars. This book will be timeless to me and I think it will forever be considered my favorite. If you are looking for a unique fantasy with a really strong female lead I highly recommend picking up Graceling.

This following section contains spoilers:

This book is one that I will continue to read again and again. It’s such a unique concept and I still fall in love with everything about this book even now. However, now that I’m older there are things about this that I sort of wish I could change. Like I really wish that Katsa was asexual… Or demisexual. I just feel like there are so many reasons for her to be that way and sometimes I just consider her to be demisexual anyways. I absolutely love her romance with Po but it could have been just as amazing without the added sexual element.

I also have always considered Raffin to be gay or bisexual. It just made sense to me. He’s not really accepted by his father (granted this is because of his interest in chemistry and whatnot), the king, and he doesn’t really have an interest in getting married. He’s very close to Bann, his assistant but I never chalked that up to them being in a relationship (though I could be that crazy shipper if I wanted to). And I mean Katsa and Raffin had discussed they themselves getting married just because they’d each allow the other to keep on doing whatever they wanted to do. It would have been a marriage of convenience over a marriage of love and I think it would have been interesting just to see how Cashore could have written in a queer prince.

Other than that I feel like I was blind and still am blind to any issues this book may have and I was surprised when I read a note from the author in the back of the anniversary edition of the book that I bought to replace my lost original copy. Po has the Grace of being able to sense people and as the book unfolds his Grace strengthens to be able to sense just about every aspect of the world around him… So when he gets injured to the point of being blinded it never once occurred to me that his Grace being this “cure” for his disability could be considered offensive. But that’s what Cashore apologized for in her note. That at the time of writing she never realized how unfair it could be to write of someone who can be “magically cured” by this skill that he has. It was kind of shocking to me but it made a lot of sense and I really appreciated that she took the time to include that note in the new and future copies of the book.

I think that this is an important step for all authors to take when they realize that something that they had done in the past may be realized to be not “okay” anymore. It could have been so easy for Cashore to just let this go and ignore anyone who tells her that it might be considered offensive. I mean it’s just magic, right? Anything can happen in a fantasy world… But the fact that she admitted to being a bit uninclusive in her writing was really admirable to me.

Now I’ve got to go back and reread Fire and Bitterblue. I was always so unimpressed with Fire and I’ve only read it maybe three times and I’m not sure if I’ve ever reread Bitterblue so I’m very interested in seeing how my opinions on those may have changed over the years.

Now my question I pose for you is if you were a Graceling, what do you think your Grace would be? I feel like I would have ended up with something really pointless. A Grace for cooking would be kind of awesome though since I’m absolutely horrible at it. Or maybe the ability to speed read. Then maybe I’d get through my TBR pile in a bit more timely manner.

If you’re interested in picking up your own copy of Graceling, here’s a link.