“Stories have always created understanding and connection between humans. In this great era of misunderstanding, I wish to help rein us back to our shared humanity.”
The story of Shugri’s life opened a new door for me, one that helped me to understand the life of women in Somalia. Born to a nomadic tribe, she describes the beauty and brutality of a life spent simply trying to survive on what the earth provides. The stories of her clan and the fierceness of her ayeeyo (grandmother) herding goats and camels to protect them from lions and hyenas were immersive. I loved understanding the importance of ancestry in the oral history of the nomadic people. Shugri’s circumstances were quite different to the other girls of her tribe because her father valued education. She is pulled from her life in the wild and forced into boarding school and goes from learning essential skills in one world to a completely different set of skills for a different life.
There are lots of heavy stories related to the view of females as property and sexual violence which are hard to read. Shugri describes in detail the experience of her female circumcision, known to us in the western world as genital mutilation. We learn the value of a woman is completely based on her intact virginity, her ability to provide male children and take care of the home.
I loved gaining an understanding of how religion and culture balanced with the need for the day to day survival in modern Somalia. Shugri describes the impact of disease, injury and warfare on the average citizen. She describes the attempts at bringing women to equality and how religious conservatives fought deeply against that transition. How warfare brought clan against clan without regard to the actual people within those clans. The trauma of the people forced to leave under these conditions and flee their homes as refugees.
The proverbs at the beginning of each chapter were my favorite part, they gave such insight into the Somali mind. The Last Nomad is a powerful story of female survival and what it means to equally love and feel the need to overcome your culture. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Thanks to Algonquin Books for a copy of this novel. All opinions above are my own.
The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein envisions a young ward of the Frankenstein family who captures the eye of Victor. Escaping from her life of poverty seems like a dream and she ingratiates herself with the family becoming a companion to their unusual son. She begins to see that something might be not quite right with Victor but with each incident she brushes it under the rug to preserve her place in this home.
The story has all of the building uncomfortable, unsettling creepiness of Shelly’s original work. Mostly subtle clues about Victor’s true nature build to a fabulous crescendo. The unraveling of what Elizabeth thought she was coping with and the true horror was masterfully done. Elizabeth reminded me a lot of Kerri Maniscalco’s Audrey Rose.
I had to take off a half star for the epilogue, another case where the ending was just perfect without it. I really hate this trend of feeling you need an extra bow at the end when the original ending is already well done. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫
“The only thing more powerful than a wish is purpose.”
The Raybearer was one of my favorite fantasy reads of last year and Redemptor is a beautiful ending to the story. Tarisai is the principled heroine that we all need in our lives. She learns some hard lessons as she must build her council and enter the Underworld. We see benevolent Dayo, brave Sanjeet and kindhearted Kirah by her side as she must find 12 new rulers to bear her Ray. We see more interesting cultures and characters from Aritsar and Songland, some who are ruthless and power hungry and others who are perhaps even more principled than Tarisai.
For me it is the characters who carry this story but the world building continued to be immersive and the temptations and horrors of the Underworld were fabulous. That would be my one criticism, I wanted more time trekking through the Underworld.
Redemptor is a fabulous ending to the series, I’d love another book in this world though! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Thanks to Netgalley for a copy of this novel. All opinions above are my own.
Also showing off my awesome Faecrate Raybearer T-shirt, I am getting into bookish t-shirts… drop all your shop recommendations below.
“Only the Lord knows what wickedness is kept in the hearts of men.”
…or maybe not. If M. Night Shyamalan and Blake Crouch teamed up to write a YA book, it would be this one. Small Favors is The Village meets Wayward Pines. The Downing family lives in a small hamlet cut off from the rest of the world by a forest filled with evil creatures. The town has a set of rules to protect them and limits their interactions with the world to seasonal supply runs. When one of these supply runs is massacred, the panic reaches a fevered pitch. The town decides to forgo the suppy run before winter and we see the impact of isolation, mysterious crop failures and lack of supplies from the outside world. The infighting and paranoia runs rampant but is this just normal human behavior or the influence of something more sinister.
The fantasy elements in this one are minimal but the building of the town and its characters as we head towards a climax reminded me a lot of The Crucible. Lots of pointing fingers and lifelong relationships torn apart as the living conditions get worse. The evil is balanced by a heavy religious hand of the town parson and we see how dangerous blind belief can be in the face of real danger.
Ellerie is a great main character because while she is an elder teenager she tries to approach everything with logic and is dedicated to taking care of her family. We see how principled she is and what it takes to tempt her away from her responsibilities. You really feel for her as she faces adversity and the impact of her choices.
Also if you’re a fan of bees and beekeeping, the Downing family are beekeepers and there are some lovely passages about their care. Probably my favorite parts! Small Favors is the perfect creepy YA with a dash of magic. It is a long book but the pace flows nicely. The big baddie is slightly predictable but I think that just meant there were good clues along the way!
Thanks to Random House Children’s for access to this novel. All opinions above are my own.
The Martian is one of my favorite books, as a science nerd and a space nerd, it hit all the marks for me. But when Artemis came out, I thought it was just ok, so I was super nervous about PHM. I wanted so badly to love it… AND I DID!!!
I don’t want to give away any spoilers and that’s hard because everything is a spoiler. My favorite character is even a spoiler. 🙈 IYKYK 🤗 The basic plot is there is an otherworldly threat to the Earth’s survival and the time is ticking before it’s too late to fix it. We join an astronaut who wakes up mid-mission with no recollection of who he is or what’s going on. Through a series of minute discoveries of the ship around him and intermittent flashbacks we learn what the threat is and just how in-equipped our hero is to actually save the day. This book is awesome! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
It checks all the boxes:
Fabulous characters that you want to root for / know / be ✅
Space nerdy space ✅✅
Amazing science ✅✅✅
More amazing science ✅✅✅✅
Maybe too much science ✅✅✅✅✅
What’s the last book that made you buzz with excitement because it was so perfect for YOU?
I feel sad that I didn’t love this one as much as I wanted to. I mean I met my husband on the subway as well. I thought this story would be tailor made for me. Don’t get me wrong, it was cute. It had some depth. But there were just too many plot holes you could drive a train through them (pun intended). All of the parts of a great story were there but I need better explanations for the time travel aspect. I needed more of a reaction from Jane when she found out what was happening. I needed to connect to August more than I did.
Ultimately, this makes a good beach or poolside read. It has great queer rep but I just didn’t connect to it the way I did Red White and Royal Blue. ⭐️⭐️⭐️
What’s the last book you had high hopes for but didn’t quite do it for you?
Beautiful and brutal. These are the first two words that come to mind after finishing Sistersong. In the vein of the modern mythology re-tellings, Holland pairs beautiful prose with strong women and tragic circumstances to weave a masterpiece. As with all myths and fairy tales, this is a cautionary tale that reminds us the value of being genuine, the importance of discernment and to be careful what you wish for.
Keyne, Riva and Sinne are siblings, children of the King of Dumnonia. The kingdom has been abandoned by the Romans but is still struggling with their traditional devotion to the gods of the land and Christianity. We see the effects of a people who believe that magic, celestial festivals and devotion to their gods has left the kingdom prosperous. When the Queen finds herself under the council of a priest, she begins to turn the king and the kingdom to Christianity. This tears at the people and coincides with poor harvests and the increasing threat of war with the Saxons. It also forces Keyne, Riva and Sinne to hide their magical ties and use them in secret. We see the whims and desires of the three lead them down paths that will change the kingdom forever.
This book is so great! It’s right up there for me with Circe, Ariadne and A Thousand Ships as a perfect retelling with feminist themes, sibling rivalry, challenging societal norms and the darker side of religion and magic. I was so caught in the world, I could barely put the book down. The impending doom was easy to see but you hold on to hope that the right side will win out in the end. The writing had me gritting my teeth in frustration, cheering with joy, swelling with pride and mourning with grief (not necessarily in that order!). This is definitely in the running for my favorite book of the year! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I got this edition from Goldsboro books and I think it’s in contention for the most beautiful book I own. What’s the prettiest book on your shelves?
Impersonation is the story of a woman who is a freelance ghostwriter, she is stuck having to balance her own mediocre “must make ends meet” world with the worlds of her fabulous subjects. She’s a woman who had her own dreams and is having to balance the reality of how life turned out.
So as someone who is not a mother, a freelancer or someone who would particularly call myself feminist, I was reading this book as a window into those things. And of course for the humor. To be honest, I’m connecting slightly better with her monster of a client, Lana than I am Allie, the protagonist. But then again, I’m a career first professional woman and Allie is anything but.
I’m about halfway through and really enjoying the anecdotes and humor of the story. The writing is sharp and I’m easily driven from page to page.
Thanks to Algonquin Books for this copy. Check Goodreads in a few days for a full review.
“After a while, you start to realize that your life isn’t the thing that happens between the monsters, your life is the monsters.”
Grady Hendrix is one of my favorite authors, his creepy creations are just everything for me. The Southern Book Club’s Guide for Slaying Vampires was in my top ten last year, so when I got the opportunity to read his new one, I jumped on it! The Final Girl Support Group is fricking non-stop action from the drop, it’s an homage to one of those 80s / early 90’s slasher films where you barely have a chance to catch you breath before the next threat is around the corner. Lynette is our main focus and she belongs to a support group for girls who survived vicious attacks, not once but twice -“final girls.” We see the various paths that trauma has taken these women, some have gotten famous and rich by selling their stories and some are just mentally on the run every second of every day.
We slowly learn the horrors and massacres that these women survived, so you get a bunch of vignettes in amongst the current day story where they are all under threat again. Someone is systematically targeting them again and only Lynette sees what’s happening until it’s too late. She’s desperately trying to save herself and ultimately all of them from certain death, but her credibility with these women is shot after years of therapy together. They know each other’s weak spots and so when they find themselves under attack they don’t want to believe it or any of Lynette’s theories as to who it might be targeting them.
The break neck pace was intense. There were twists and turns I didn’t expect, several of which made me spitting mad (in a good way of course). Losing yourself in these pages will leave you with a sweaty sheen of panic, paranoia and desperation on your upper lip. If you liked Horrorstor, this will be right up your alley. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Thanks to Berkley for a copy of this novel. All opinions above are my own.
What’s the next upcoming release that you’re super excited about?
“… you have a doctorate, right?” “Yes.” “Is it in stupidity? Is that what you studied?”
Have I read two books about people who stole the plot of a book this summer?
Yes, yes I have.
The first one missed a lot of elements for me. This one is exactly what I was looking for.
Have you ever done something really stupid, but you knew would come back to haunt you later but you just couldn’t resist. The chance that if you did everything exactly right, that you could pull it off? Well, that’s what happens to Conner in Kill All Your Darlings.
He has stolen someone else’s work, published it as his own and gotten away with it.
Or has he?! Conner is a professor in a small town university, his career is barely floating and he can’t get tenure without a publication. He decides to use the thesis of one of his students who has gone missing. As the book becomes a blockbuster she resurfaces demanding her fair share. But why did she disappear in the first place? Could it have something to do with her book? A book that mirrors a murder that happened in town?
As a story and rivals you begin to wonder which characters you should actually feel sorry for and which ones are wolves in sheep‘s clothing. I’ll admit I figured out the real culprit pretty early, but that doesn’t detract from me enjoying the other characters figuring it out.
If you enjoyed The Plot, I’d suggest you check this one out. I think it was a better execution of a similar premise. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Thanks to Berkeley Books for a copy of this novel. All opinions above are my own.
When you read two books with a similar premise do you find yourself comparing them or are you able to separate them when you rate?