Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

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 *I received an advance copy of this title from Putnam Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review* 

 "For years, rumors of the "Marsh Girl" have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life--until the unthinkable happens."

Where the Crawdads Sing is split amongst two timelines: one centers on Kya in 1952 at the age  of seven until the end of her life, the other is set in 1969 and early 1970 and follows the death of a prominent local man, the investigation, and the subsequent murder trial.

Typically, dual narratives frustrate me. I always prefer one over the other and find myself rushing through some chapters just to get back to the story I care about, but that was not the case with Delia Owens' fiction debut. I was fully invested in both stories, anxious to see how and when they would intersect.  And honestly, I'm still impressed by this fact. When one story is a murder mystery, I can almost guarantee that will be the story line I care about most, but I loved watching Kya grow up, seeing how she navigated her small, lonely world and found the fullness in it.

The nature language in this book is incredible. I lived in the south for three years, minutes away from the ocean, and never once in my life did I enjoy it. I hated the heat, the humidity, the ginormous sea birds and apocalyptic bugs. But seeing the marsh of Nouth Carolina through Kya's eyes was a beautiful, moving experience. The marsh was a vital, vivid character in the book.

Sometimes she heard night‑sounds she didn’t know or jumped from lightning too close, but whenever she stumbled, it was the land who caught her. Until at last, at some unclaimed moment, the heart‑pain seeped away like water into sand. Still there, but deep. Kya laid her hand upon the breathing, wet earth, and the marsh became her mother.

Where the Crawdads Sing is a moving character study and a beautiful coming of age story that is easily one of my favorite reads of the year, and likely one of my favorites of all time. I can't recommend Kya's story enough. It was about human connection, love and heartbreak, redemption, and beyond anything else, hope.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens will be published on August 14th, and I absolutely plan to get myself a physical copy.

What is one of your favorite coming of age stories? 

Happy Reading, 

Mallory

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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Okay, first of all: why did I wait so long to read my first Taylor Jenkins Reid book? So many friends kept singing her praises, but I paid them no mind and continued deliberately not reading her books. Finally, a few weeks ago I picked up One True Loves on a whim and promptly devoured it in two days. This book was such a fast, compelling read.

The gist is this. Emma Blair married her high school sweetheart, Jesse. One year after their wedding, he is on a helicopter over the Pacific Ocean when it disappears. When the wreckage of the crash is eventually found, Jesse is presumed dead. Emma does her best to move on and eventually, years after the crash, she runs into an old friend, Sam. She is able to fall in love again and she and Sam get engaged. Then, Jesse calls. He's alive. He has been found and is ready to come home to her. Emma is then left to decide who her one true love really is.

Taylor Jenkins Reid does a great job of making this cheesy sounding plot not seem cheesy at all. The book could have focused mostly on Jesse's crash and rescue and been very gimmicky, but Reid chose instead to place most of the focus on the relationships. She painted an intimate picture of how it can be possible to love more than one person, and how love can change and shape you. I couldn't help but read along and wonder what I would do in Emma's situation. If nothing else, this book made me think a lot about my own marriage. I kept putting the book down to ask my husband questions--Who would you choose if I disappeared and when I came back, you had already remarried? Would you be mad at me if I was remarried after you went missing? How long do you expect me to wait to remarry if you die? (It can seem like a dark conversation, but it was rather enlightening.)

Praise aside, I do have a few small complaints. The first is that both Jesse and Sam felt way too perfect. Both of them seemed to place Emma's needs above their own, and while that is commendable, it didn't feel wholly realistic. In this kind of emotionally charged situation, I expected a few more fireworks. I needed more arguing and turmoil. Don't get me wrong, the book was never boring and it held my interest, but I think there would have been a bit more back and forth conversation between Sam and Emma, especially. He is her fiance and it felt like he took a serious back burner when Jesse showed up.

Also, the time between Jesse's return and Emma's decision was very short, and I think it could have taken place over a longer period of time. Reid seemed to have no issue with jumping around. We see Emma and Jesse in high school, at their wedding, and then a year later when Jesse goes missing. We see Emma meeting Sam two years after Jesse went missing and then her current life with him a year after that. The book bounces around a lot where necessary, so I didn't understand why Emma had to make her decision between Jesse or Sam in the span of one weekend trip. Deciding whether to be with your high school sweetheart and husband or your current fiance is a decision that should maybe require more than seventy-two hours to mull over.

I had a few other nit picky things that are spoilery, so I'll avoid posting them here. But otherwise, I truly enjoyed this book. It was a fast-paced book that dealt with some serious topics, but was ultimately a sweet romance I would recommend to anyone. I now plan to read all of Taylor Jenkins Reid's other books!

Have you read Taylor Jenkins Reid? Which of her books is your favorite?

Happy Reading,

Mallory

I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

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I found a kindred spirit in Michelle McNamara. She sat up late at night, pouring over cold case files, cross referencing eye witness accounts of a serial killer and rapist who had eluded capture for over forty years. Similarly, I often take late night deep dives into Wikipedia pages about unsolved crimes...

Okay, so maybe what we do isn't exactly  the same. Michelle McNamara is the ultimate amateur sleuth. She fought incredibly hard to solve the mystery of the Golden State Killer, and unfortunately, passed away a few years before his capture. However, her diligence and hard work helped shine a spotlight on these crimes, and I don't think it is any coincidence that the crack in the cold case came around the same time as the publication of her book.

Michelle's passion for the Golden State Killer case was palpable in every page of her book. The language and descriptions were so lush I could almost forget I was reading non-fiction. (And the case is so terrifying that I often wished I wasn't reading non-fiction.) It has now been weeks since I've read the book, and I still catch myself looking over my shoulder when I walk through a dark room and double checking I've locked all the doors before going to bed at night. And I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy of the book one day AFTER Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested and charged with being the Golden State Killer. I can't imagine how afraid I would have been if I'd read this book while he was still walking free. She truly puts the reader in the mind of the people living in the neighborhoods the killer stalked. While reading I found myself hunkering down beneath the covers and stopping to listen to every distant noise, wondering whether someone wasn't prowling just outside my window.

Ultimately, I could gush on and on about Michelle McNamara's insane writing talent, the awestruck horror with which I read about the details of the Golden State Killer's crimes, and the beautiful way she wove her own life story into the narrative, creating a true crime/memoir mashup; however, it will do to simply tell you that you must read this book. McNamara writes about the most depraved among us, while also being a beacon of hope and humanity. I will not be surprised to see I'll Be Gone in the Dark topping the lists as one of the best true crime novels of all time.

Happy Reading,

Mallory

Stillhouse Lake and Killman Creek by Rachel Caine

Hey Everybody!

Life has been pretty hectic. We moved into an apartment in December that turned out to be an actual circle of Hell, and after dealing with that for several months we decided in the span of about ten days to pack up and move cross country. Needless to say, I've been busy. So, I read Stillhouse Lake and Killman Creek by Rachel Caine back in January, but didn't have a chance to review them. UNTIL NOW *cue intense theme music* I'm going to write a quick review for each book below (no spoilers), though if you have not read Stillhouse Lake yet, then I would recommend not reading the review for Killman Creek until you have. Cool? Cool. Let's do this.

Stillhouse Lake Review

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"Gina Royal is the definition of average—a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor—the ultimate warrior mom.

With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. Though still the target of stalkers and Internet trolls who think she had something to do with her husband’s crimes, Gwen dares to think her kids can finally grow up in peace.

But just when she’s starting to feel at ease in her new identity, a body turns up in the lake—and threatening letters start arriving from an all-too-familiar address. Gwen Proctor must keep friends close and enemies at bay to avoid being exposed—or watch her kids fall victim to a killer who takes pleasure in tormenting her. One thing is certain: she’s learned how to fight evil. And she’ll never stop."

First things first, this book opens in Wichita, KS, which is pretty cool for me because I grew up about 45 minutes away from Wichita in Hutchinson, KS. If you weren't aware, Wichita had an actual serial killer roaming the streets for almost 40 years before he was caught in the mid-2000s. Google 'BTK' if you're interested. It seems as if Caine plays off of BTK quite a bit, so it was actually interesting to have a working knowledge of the real serial killer's crimes. (I'd recommend reading this article about BTK's daughter. It helped me understand the characters a bit more.) 

If I'm being honest, I knew right away who the killer was in this book. It felt rather obvious to me, and I definitely had one of those horror movie moments where I was shouting at the character to not be such a dimwit. The answer is standing right in front of you, you idiot! However, that did not in any way keep me from enjoying this book, especially because the ending still had a pretty great twist! The story had great pacing that kept me on the edge of my seat and made it difficult to put the book down. If I had any real criticism, it would be that there wasn't enough murder. Now, before you call the police and report me for being a psychopath, let me explain. I expected this book to be a slasher, and slashers are meant to be...slashery. They come with a body count, and if they don't, then you are actually reading a story about a stalker. So, I was disappointed. Now, it could be that this book should be classified as a thriller rather than a slasher, but even then, I think more characters should have died. It would have upped the tension. But again, I did still enjoy this book quite a bit.

*If you have not read Stillhouse Lake yet, again, I'd urge you to not read the description or review for Killman Creek below. There will be spoilers for Stillhouse Lake. Okay, bye.*

Killman Creek Review

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"Gwen Proctor won the battle to save her kids from her ex-husband, serial killer Melvin Royal, and his league of psychotic accomplices. But the war isn’t over. Not since Melvin broke out of prison. Not since she received a chilling text…

You’re not safe anywhere now.

Her refuge at Stillhouse Lake has become a trap. Gwen leaves her children in the protective custody of a fortified, well-armed neighbor. Now, with the help of Sam Cade, brother of one of Melvin’s victims, Gwen is going hunting. She’s learned how from one of the sickest killers alive.

But what she’s up against is beyond anything she feared—a sophisticated and savage mind game calculated to destroy her. As trust beyond her small circle of friends begins to vanish, Gwen has only fury and vengeance to believe in as she closes in on her prey. And sure as the night, one of them will die."

Okay, so Stillhouse Lake ends with Gwen saving her kids from Melvin Royal's accomplices, but now Melvin has escaped prison (what kind of modern day prison allows a serial killer to escape? I mean, come on.) and he is after his former family. 

Killman Creek is where the story takes a shift from slasher/thriller to...action? Detective book? I'm not entirely sure how to classify it, but it's not a slasher. Because of that simple fact, I didn't enjoy this book as much as I did Stillhouse Lake. However, once again, the story is still very much worth reading. I breezed through it in a couple of days and it was an edge of your seat, must find out what happens next kind of read.

Killman Creek branches off into multiple points of view, and I think some of the character's POVs were a bit weaker than others. Also, a lot of tie was spent digging into the inner-workings of each character's mind, which was interesting, but also slowed the story down a bit. My main issue with Killman Creek came with some of the character's decisions. I don't want to give anything away, but there were a few points where it felt like the characters were making reckless, idiotic decisions. Normally that is par for the course in a thriller, but Gwen and her two kids proved in the first book that they were more then equipped to take on a killer and wouldn't fall for simple traps, so it felt like they lost some of their mojo in this second book.

Overall, I enjoyed both books and I fully intend to read the next book whenever it is released.

If you've read these books, what did you think? What is your favorite slasher/serial killer book? Let me know in the comments!

Happy Reading,

Mallory

Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett

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Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett had been on my radar for quite awhile, so I finally bought it on a trip to my local independent bookstore. Then...it sat on my shelf for the better part of a year. Nevertheless, I finally picked it up at the end of October and devoured it in a matter of days. I now regret every month that Annie Hartnett's quirky, heartwarming characters weren't in my brain. It is easily one of my favorite books of 2017.

"Twelve-year-old Elvis Babbitt has a head for the facts: she knows science proves yellow is the happiest color, she knows a healthy male giraffe weighs about 3,000 pounds, and she knows that the naked mole rat is the longest living rodent. She knows she should plan to grieve her mother, who has recently drowned while sleepwalking, for exactly eighteen months. But there are things Elvis doesn’t yet know―like how to keep her sister Lizzie from poisoning herself while sleep-eating or why her father has started wearing her mother's silk bathrobe around the house. Elvis investigates the strange circumstances of her mother's death and finds comfort, if not answers, in the people (and animals) of Freedom, Alabama."

First things first, Elvis Babbitt is a marvelous narrator. She is an endearing mix of child and scientist, and her view of the world is both enlightening and naive. More than anything, though, she is ridiculously entertaining. Even when the plot of the story feels a little thin--because the plot does take a backseat to the characters--you don't mind a bit because the world through Elvis' eyes is fascinating. She is a child grappling with very adult issues, though she oftentimes seems like the only character in the book equipped to handle the tragedy life has dealt the Babbitt family.

With a character who makes over 1,000 rabbit-shaped cakes to break a world record, a parrot who can perfectly mimic the voice of Elvis' deceased mother, and a statue of Jesus made out of ocean trash and seashells, quirky is the one and only word I can use to adequately describe this book. If you love Where'd You Go, Bernadette or any character from any Wes Anderson movie ever (Sam Shakusky and Suzy Bishop from Moonrise Kingdom spring to mind), I have no doubt you'll love Rabbit Cake.

I'm not going to continue to gush (though I really really could), because every minute you spend reading this review is another minute you waste not reading this book. I have nothing negative to say about it. Zero complaints. NONE. And if you know me, you know that is rare. I love to complain. So, seriously, you must get your hands on this one in whatever format you can (legally, of course, because Annie Hartnett deserves all the royalties and stealing is wrong). Rabbit Cake has secured its place as one of my absolute favorites, and I hope it will be one of yours, too.

Have you read Rabbit Cake? Thoughts? What are some of your favorite quirky books? Let me know in the comments.

Happy Reading,

Mallory

There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

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As I've mentioned too many times to count on this blog and in my everyday life, I am obsessed with slashers. Regardless of format (movie or book), I'm a sucker for the genre. Something about watching people make horribly dumb choices while running from a knife-wielding maniac is so entrancing. I love to shout clues at the characters, warn them of their inevitable demise, and make guesses as to who the killer is. Stephanie Perkins' There's Someone Inside Your House made me do all of those things.

Makani Young came to live with her grandmother in landlocked Nebraska, and she's still adjusting to her new life. And still haunted by her past in Hawaii. 

Then, one by one, the students of her small town high school begin to die in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, Makani will be forced to confront her own dark secrets.

The opening chapter began in the perspective of a character who was not Makani (similar to how most slasher films open with a scene containing one or more characters whose only purpose in the entire story is to die in the opening scene), and I immediately knew this book was going to be a fun read. And I was right! I began reading it just before 10 PM and stayed up until 1 AM reading. Then, I woke up at 8 AM and read for two more hours until I finished. I was hooked. I needed to know who would live and die, and which character/s was deranged enough to commit these gruesome murders.

Now, this book being a fun, quick read I could not put down does not mean it didn't have its faults. For one, it felt like Perkins was writing two separate books. On one hand, you have a burgeoning romance between two characters with dark, mysterious pasts. On the other, you have a psychopathic serial killer murdering teenagers. A lot of horror movies/slashers have these two elements, but typically they mesh a little better than they did here. In this book, it constantly felt like either the romance was detracting from the slasher or the slasher was detracting from the romance. Rarely did the two story threads find a good balance. 

Second, Makani's two best friends were incredibly under utilized. I blame this mostly on the fact that when the story wasn't focused on the serial killer, it was entirely focused on Makani's romantic life, her friends being almost all but forgotten. Part of the fun in any slasher is to get to know the main character and their friends and watch as they all try to solve the case together, all while you are wondering which of them will die by the killer's hand. Perkins tried to do this at times, but it fell pretty flat. Because we didn't see much of the friends, the story lost a lot of it's heart. The characters being stalked and murdered were, for the most part, no-name side characters, and while that is great news for Makani and her friends, it was pretty bad news for the tension.

Now, my next critique is a bit spoilery. I won't say who the killer is or reveal any major details about the plot or anything like that, but if you want to read this book and be pulled all the way to the last page with a curious suspense, then read no further. I will simply leave you with this: I really enjoyed this read, despite it's issues, and I'd recommend it to anyone who digs YA and slashers/horror. Now, go to the comments and tell me your favorite slasher movie/book! I hope my review was helpful!

Okay, for everyone who wanted to read the only slightly spoilery bit, this next paragraph is just for you. *I repeat, the next paragraph contains slightly spoilery information.*

Any slasher fan knows that any slasher worth its weight in fake blood has a twist. The twist is so common in a slasher that the real twist would be not having a twist. So, in that regards, There's Someone Inside Your House threw me for one heck of a loop. About two-thirds of the way through the book, the killer is "revealed." I use quotes around that because I was certain there was going to be more to the reveal. It was going to have been a big misunderstanding or there would be multiple killers or something along those lines. Nope. That was it. The killer was revealed. So, I spent the last third of the book looking for clues as to who the real killer/killers would be, only to be left rather disappointed when I realized there was no twist. The killer Perkins revealed was it. No twist. I repeat, there was no twist. It was shocking. But, like, in a bad way. 

Like I said above, overall, I enjoyed this book. I had a really fun time reading it and it definitely kept me entertained. However, if you are looking for a slasher book that will blow your mind, redefine the genre, and blow every slasher before it out of the water, this book is most definitely not for you. My advice would be to pick up this book knowing that it will be an incredibly fast, fun read, but keep your expectations for the story a little low. 

What is your favorite slasher movie/book? Do you plan to read There's Someone Inside Your House? Or have you already read it? Let me know your thoughts!

Happy Reading,

Mallory

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DisClafani

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The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls was recommended to me several months ago, and then I was #blessed enough to find it at a library book sale for $1. So, it seemed this book and I were destined to cross paths, and who am I to tempt fate? Here is a short description from Goodreads:

It is 1930, the midst of the Great Depression. After her mysterious role in a family tragedy, passionate, strong-willed Thea Atwell, age fifteen, has been cast out of her Florida home, exiled to an equestrienne boarding school for Southern debutantes. High in the Blue Ridge Mountains, with its complex social strata ordered by money, beauty, and girls’ friendships, the Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls is a far remove from the free-roaming, dreamlike childhood Thea shared with her twin brother on their family’s citrus farm—a world now partially shattered. As Thea grapples with her responsibility for the events of the past year that led her here, she finds herself enmeshed in a new order, one that will change her sense of what is possible for herself, her family, her country.

First things first, the pacing of this book was incredible. Honestly, I'm still not sure how DisClafani managed to draw out the mystery of why Thea Atwell was sent to Yonahlossee for so long without me growing frustrated. But, by great talent or witchcraft (still sorting out which), she did, and it was wonderful. The story moves back and forth between Thea's life before Yonahlossee and her life at Yonahlossee. The before story line is building up to the big reveal, which is what Thea did to get her sent away to Yonahlossee, so it is very tense, and I found myself constantly searching for hints and clues about what would be her undoing. However, the after story line--Thea's life at Yonahlossee--was where the story faltered slightly for me. 

The cast of characters grew significantly when Thea went away to school because she was surrounded by her classmates, and DisClafani didn't seem to have a firm grasp on all of their characters. There was definitely an attempt made to give each girl a distinct personality, but to be honest, they all meshed together in my head. Aside from Thea, there were four characters from the school that I was able to picture and imagine clearly, but otherwise, the rest of the girls were jumbled in the background, and each time one of their names were mentioned, I had a hard time remembering who was who. This was not a huge obstacle in my ability to enjoy reading the book, but it made me feel slightly unmoored as I moved through the story. 

Overall, The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls was beautifully written, extraordinarily paced, and a very interesting look into the narrow, yet deep world of a young girl in the 1920s. The book delved into issues of passion and expectations, both social and familial, all set against the looming threat of the Great Depression. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Yonahlossee, and though there were a few hiccups, I will have no problem recommending it in the future.

Have you read anything by Anton DisClafani? What is your favorite historical romance novel? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy Reading,

Mallory

Where'd You Go, Bernadette By Maria Semple

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Hey all!

The last few weeks have been rather hectic in the land of Mallory. Not only are we in the single digit week countdown to Baby Burgey's arrival (7 weeks, 4 days!!), but I have been working like a mad woman. Freelance ghostwriting is amazing because I get to make my own schedule and work from home, however, that also comes with the serious downside that I have always been terrible about 1) taking on too many projects at once and 2) sticking to a schedule. I'm working on fixing both of those issues, however, the last couples weeks have been non-stop writing and crossing things off the baby to-do list. So, needless to say, my reading life suffered. I started September with the goal to read 25-pages per day of Anna Karenina, but that very quickly went out the window (though I am still making my way through AK, and very much plan to finish it before the year is out), and I was also reading a graphic novel called My Favorite Thing is Monsters and a memoir about dying called (you guessed it) Dying: a Memoir. Basically, the books on my nightstand were either very dense or very far from the cozy, fun read my brain needed. So, having just picked up a copy of Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple from the Houston Public Library book sale for $1 (!!!) a few weekends ago, I decided to crack into it, and boy was that a great decision.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette has been on my list for a very long time now. However, for some reason or other, I never managed to pick it up. Despite the amazing reviews I kept hearing and the beautiful cover art, I just kept putting it off. Now, though, I have read it, and I have so many feelings. 

First and foremost, the characters in this novel are fantastic. They are quirky and crazy, but in the most believable way, which is a very hard line to tread for many authors. The relationships between these characters was front and center thanks to the unusual format of the book (it was told through emails, handwritten letters, Psychiatrist notes, and FBI files). The reader is able to see how the characters talk to one another, and how the way they talk changes depending on the audience. It shined a light into the deepest corners of their minds, and never flinched. 

Second, the world Maria Semple built for her characters was phenomenal. The book takes place in Seattle (and partially in Antarctica), but these characters live in a bubble. The size of their world feels oppressive at times, but it only helps to strengthen the narrative and the characters. The Fox family lives in a 12,000 square-foot home that was once a home for wayward girls, and the crumbling structure is only held together by the blackberry roots that also threaten to overtake the structure (the basement is already lost to the roots and completely inaccessible to the family). The house symbolizes the entire world these characters inhabit. The things that bind them together, also threaten, at every turn, to rip them apart.

Honestly, I wish I had a criticism of this book. I am, unfortunately, the kind of person who leans heavily towards classics and literary fiction, believing somewhere in the back of my mind that "light, fluffy fiction" is barely worth my time. So, I picked this book up thinking it would be nothing more than mildly entertaining and a quick read. However, I put the book down knowing I would be recommending it over and over again to everyone I talked to. The highest compliment I can give this book is that it felt like a combination of Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom and Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands. In my mind's eye, everything was bathed in pastels and shot in perfect symmetry, but cast with characters so flawed that they were capable of burning everything around them to the ground on a whim.

Have you read Where'd You Go, Bernadette or do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Happy Reading,

Mallory

 

Three Short Reviews

The point of this entire blog was to read and review books. However, occasionally I read a book (or a series of books), and don't feel like I have enough to say to justify a full review. So, I've decided to do a quick round-up of a few of those books. Below you will find reviews for three books/series I read this year, but didn't formally review.

1) Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

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I picked this book up on Saturday at a library book sale for $1, and then promptly began reading it. The cover is so cute and I have a strong fondness for Mindy Kaling, so I couldn't really resist. I finished this book in only a few sittings over a 24-hour period. If you are looking for a quick, fun read, this book is definitely for you. Overall, it wasn't laugh out loud hilarious, and there were definitely some chapters that I skimmed through. However, it is such a quick read that none of that really matters, and I'd still highly recommend this book.

2) The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

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I read this entire trilogy in one week, so that sort of speaks for itself in terms of whether or not I liked it. In general, I like YA series because they are a nice way to break up my heavier reading. I'm typically not picking up a YA book because I'm in search of a profound experience. I'm usually just in search of a quick read. So, on that front, The Grisha Trilogy definitely delivered. However, I did notice that the series began to trial off as the books continued. I grew less attached to the characters and felt like the plot wavered a bit, especially in terms of the various romances going on. One of the male romantic leads was so unlikable for me that I couldn't understand why Alina liked him or, frankly, put up with him at all. Overall, though, the series was gripping, and I wanted to know how it would all end. 

3) Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi

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Okay, so I did actually write a review for Shatter Me when I read it in early 2016 (find that review here), but I then waited another year before picking up the next book in the series. Which, for a YA series, is pretty unusual for me. I read YA books so quickly that I like to pick them up one after another and knock them out all at once. However, when I did finally pick up the second book in the series, Unravel Me, I finished it within two days and immediately reached for Ignite Me. So, make of that what you will. Overall, my main review for these books can be boiled down into two words: purple prose. 

Tahereh Mafi is a fan of flowery language. There were certain lines that on the surface seem pretty, but as soon as I thought about them for a second, were actually strange and melodramatic. However, she created an interesting dystopian world and delivered an angsty teen romance that I admittedly kind of loved.

 

Have you read any of these books? Thoughts? Opinions? Let me know in the comments!

Happy Reading,
Mallory

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

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I honestly can't say why I waited two years to pick this book up. I remember when it was first published, I thought, "That sounds really interesting. I should read that." And then when the entire internet exploded with love for this book, I said, "Yeah, I should definitely read that." Yet, somehow, it didn't happen for over two years, and now that I have finally read it, I have some feelings. 

First things first, here's a quick description:

"Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.

So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. 

A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another."

The first line of this book was eye catching, but immediately left me feeling wary. I've read a lot of books where a main character's death is announced in the first sentence, and honestly, it typically doesn't do it for me. I find that it can often take away a lot of tension from the story. However, Everything I Never Told You surprised me, and I think the main reason for this is that the story was never centered on Lydia's death. It wasn't a family mourning her loss and trying to move on without her, but rather a family trying to come to terms with her life. A life that, after her death, they realized they knew very little about. Also, the story changes time periods and perspectives, and gives you a deep, introspective look into each character's point of view and life. Often, there was so much going on in the story that I could almost forget Lydia had died at all, which, as strange as that sounds, is very high praise. 

Now, while I loved the beautiful writing and the fully fleshed out characters and familial relationships, there were still times when I wanted a little less narration and a bit more plot. A few areas dragged a bit for me. However, all in all, this was a great book and one I would highly recommend. 

Have you read Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng? Thoughts? Let me know in the comments!

Happy Reading,

Mallory

The Grip of It by Jac Jemc

*I received a copy of The Grip of It from FSG Originals in exchange for an honest review*

There are few things I love more than a good ghost story. The idea of an unseen, or at least untouchable, enemy is terrifying, but incredibly fun to read about. So, when I heard about Jac Jemc's The Grip of It, I was ALL IN. I wanted it. I needed it. And FSG Originals was kind enough to hear my desperate pleas over the internet and send me a copy. So for that, I thank them tremendously.

A quick synopsis: James' addiction to gambling sends he and his wife Julie running to the suburbs to start afresh. But their new house has other ideas. Almost immediately, strange things begin happening--stains move on the walls, rooms appear and disappear and change location, and both James and Julie deteriorate under the house's control over them. Whether the house is haunted or not, there is no question. Rather, the burning question is: will James and Julie be able to make it out?

Let's start with the good. Rarely have I read such a subtle, yet encompassing image of what marriage can look like. Jemc uses alternating perspectives to give the reader a deeper insight into both of these characters and the struggles of their marriage, and it works flawlessly. I bought this relationship from page one. A particular line I loved was:

We run out of things to tell each other. We share second- and even third-tier stories we’d never bother other people with. Those minutiae calcify into the bones of our intimacy.

More than the actual spirits in the book, it felt as though James and Julie were haunted by their own pasts and their doubts and insecurities in the relationship. Their somewhat tortured, yet loving marriage acted as another character in the book, and it was a good one.

Also, as I've just not so subtly hinted at above, I loved the writing in this book. Unlike a lot of horror books which can tend to rely purely on the thrill of the plot, The Grip of It is told in lyrical prose that is captivating and beautiful, while making your skin crawl. 

While there were many positives about this reading experience, there were also, unfortunately, some negatives. The first being that the tension rose very quickly in the story, and then it was just maintained. There didn't seem to be any exceedingly heart pounding or climactic moments, so it read a little one note. 

I also feel like the book never quite made good on it's promises. When reading a haunted house story, I want to: 1) know why the house is haunted, 2) know who is haunting the house, and 3) see the ghost. This book never allowed more than a passing hint at what was going on and we never saw the ghost or learned who the spirit was. And, although I loved the writing in this book, because the language was so lyrical and poetic, there were some moments that could have been terrifying, but instead felt as if you were seeing them through a big stained glass window. Your view of what was going on was pretty, but rather obscured. 

Overall, I really did enjoy reading this book. It wasn't unbelievably gripping and definitely not a book I could have read in one sitting, but the story pulled me along well enough that I finished it in a few days, and I absolutely don't regret reading it. 

Have you read this book or do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Happy reading,

Mallory

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

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*I featured this book in my blog post, 10 Short Books to Read in a Day. Check it out and let me know which short book from the list I should read next!*

There is no denying that Shirley Jackson is one heck of a story writer. We Have Always Lived in the Castle didn't captivate me from page one, but after I adjusted to her writing style, I was hooked. I HAD to know how the story would end.

Merricat Blackwood, one of three Blackwood family members not killed by a fatal dose of arsenic in the sugar bowl at dinner one night, lives on the family estate with her big sister Constance and her Uncle Julian. The villagers hate them and Constance never leaves the house, so they spend their days happily alone. That is, until cousin Charles arrives. Merricat senses the danger in Charles' sudden appearance, and she knows she must act swiftly to protect her family from his plans. 

The thing about this book that truly captivated me were the characters. They are all unreliable in their own way. You never know who exactly you can trust and what their intentions are. This created an immense amount of tension in even the most mundane of scenes. For me, Merricat and Constance, especially, drove this story forward. Their relationship with one another and their individual characters were both endearing and problematic at times. Jackson writes characters who can't be simply labelled as "likable" or "unlikable," but instead exist in this dichotomous space where they simply just are. It's refreshing and, as I'm sure she intended, frustrating at times. Especially when you just want to know what is going on!!

I'm hesitant to say what I had trouble with in this book because I fear it may turn people away from picking it up, which I absolutely do not want! I think We Have Always Lived in the Castle is well worth reading and I highly recommend it. However, I did feel that the ending was slightly anticlimactic. Like the rest of the story, the ending was ambiguous and open to interpretation, which was nice, but in such a slim book I wanted to be left with a real punch at the end. Also, the big reveal was kind of a let down because I saw it coming from very early on in the book.

Now, none of this is to say the ending was a total loss. It wasn't! There is a very clear climax and you are left with an ominous feeling after the final page. I just feel there could have been a little more. I don't know. Maybe I'm being thick and this ending was poetic and perfect and I'm just not getting it. If you've read the book and you think this is the case, please drop me a comment/email/carrier pigeon and let me know your thoughts!! 

Overall, I truly enjoyed We Have Always Lived in the Castle and would recommend it to anyone who loves some gothic vibes. Also, if you've read this book already and loved it, may I recommend Kelly Link! Her short stories are amazing and you'd love them. Trust me. Check out her short story, "The Summer People," from her collection Get In Trouble. It's a masterpiece.

What is your favorite gothic story/novel/poem? Let me know in the comments!

Happy Reading,
Mallory

Final Girls by Riley Sager

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*I was gifted a copy of Final Girls from Netgalley and Dutton in exchange for an honest review.*

Quincy Carpenter went on a weekend trip with her college friends, and returned the sole survivor of a massacre. This tragedy swept her into an elite club of survivors: the final girls. Despite her past and the foggy memories she has of that horrible weekend, Quincy manages to form a life for herself. She has a fiance, a baking blog, and a quiet existence she keeps neatly separated from that bloody night she experienced ten years prior in Pine Cottage. However, when one of her fellow final girls turns up dead, and the other turns up on her door step, Quincy begins to come to terms with her past in ways she never expected. Memories long forgotten resurface and she is left to rethink everything she thought she knew about that night in the woods, and whether or not someone has come back to finish what they started.

It is no secret that slashers are my peanut butter and jelly. So, when I saw Final Girls floating around the internet ether, I had to snatch a copy. Upon receiving it, I devoured the entire book in less than 24-hours, my engrossed reading interrupted only by my annoying human habit of needing to use the restroom and fuel my body with food. Seriously, this book was so good. 

The thing about slashers is that I've read my fair share and seen even more. So, it's pretty hard to surprise me. Those who have had the extreme pleasure of watching a slasher movie with me can attest to my habit of shouting out what will happen next. Now, while I read Final Girls alone, I still made my fair share of predictions. In fact, from the very beginning I had a pretty good idea of where this story was headed. I even made a note in my journal that said "Great writing, cliche plot." And oh my, how young and foolish I was. Final Girls surprised me at every turn. I sat on my couch with my jaw in my lap on more than one occasion, soaking in the awesomeness that was this book. Every single one of my predictions was wrong. Flat wrong. And I've never been so thrilled to be proven wrong before. The book was a joy to read and I can't wait until they make it into a movie. BECAUSE IT HAS TO BECOME A MOVIE. IT WOULD BE SO GOOD AS A MOVIE.

Now, to be fair, if you aren't a fan of slashers, then: 1) thanks for reading this far into a review about a book you will probably never read. I dig your support. 2) you probably won't like this book. However, if, like me, you love yourself a scary story full of sharp knives and murderers who lurk in the shadows, this book will not disappoint. 

Final Girls by Riley Sager is out July 11, 2017. 

What's your opinion on slasher books? Have any great recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments!

Happy Reading,

Mallory

The Gypsy Moth Summer by Julia Fierro

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*I received a copy of The Gypsy Moth Summer by Julia Fierro from Netgalley and St. Martin's Press in exchange for an honest review.*

 There's too much going on in this novel to provide a thorough description within the confines of this book review, so enjoy this teeny tiny snippet: A gypsy moth infestation is raining down on Avalon Island, but the bugs are the least of the islander's worries. Fierro flutters between several different perspectives, managing to weave together stories of young love, an evil corporation, gangs of outsiders, familial abuse, and an aging matriarch eager to cling to her lifestyle while her husband succumbs to delusions.

We'll start with the good. And, to be clear, there was a lot of good. Fierro created strong characters that I wanted to spend time with. In a lot of books with alternating perspectives, I find myself bored with certain characters. However, that was not the case with The Gypsy Moth Summer. I enjoyed every single character's unique voice and viewpoint and I hung on every word. Also, the setting of Avalon island felt vivid and real. Fierro's descriptions of the gypsy moth infestation had me grossed out yet riveted, and the tension between different social classes and races was gripping and terrifying at times. Basically, Fierro is a great writer.

Now, for the not as good. I won't say 'bad,' because I honestly don't believe there was anything bad about this book. There were simply things that weren't as good, in my opinion. First, going back to my opener, there was too much going on in this novel. For a large part of the book I didn't mind, but the many different story threads grew a little tangled by the end. After 400 pages, you expect there to be a rather satisfying conclusion; however, I didn't get that. I was left wanting, for sure, and not necessarily in a good way. If I had to diagnose the problem, I'd say this book had a VERY large middle and a teeny tiny ending. More time could have been spent tying up loose ends. Even still, I think Fierro provided enough information to offer a satisfactory ending, if only just barely. Second, (and this could simply be me being a prude, so feel free to ignore this) there were portions of the book that got a little too graphic for my taste. More than once I felt like I'd accidentally stumbled into an erotic novel. Now, I'm fine with a tasteful sex scene or two, but I don't want to have to close my book because I'm afraid the woman next to me in the doctor's office waiting room will catch a glimpse of the page and think I'm a pervert (yes, this actually happened).

Overall, I think The Gypsy Moth Summer by Julia Fierro is well worth a read and perfect for your summer TBR. However, be prepared to finish the book with a few burning questions about the ending. 

The Gypsy Moth Summer by Julia Fierro is out now.

Happy Reading,
Mallory

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen

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I was given a copy of The Refugees by Grove Atlantic in exchange for an honest review.

Presently in our country, the word “refugee” doesn’t register as human lives thrown into chaos, but rather as a political issue. A talking point. Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Refugees rectifies this.

Many want to think of refugees as people eager to storm into America and claim it for themselves, but Nguyen tells the story of people torn asunder, cast into the unknowable place between where they want to be and where they are. These eight stories explore the emotional and physical toll forced migration can have, in this case the forced migration from Saigon during the Vietnam War. From a ghostwriter reliving the horrors of a Trans-Pacific boat ride, the trauma of which has left her emotionally and literally hiding in the shadows, to a professor with dementia who begins to call his wife of forty years by the name of a former lover. Each of Nguyen’s characters experience the world differently. They remember Vietnam in different ways, desire different things in America, and struggle with different issues within their families. It’s a slim 224 pages, but each story is powerful and unique, making for an overall great read.

There was no stand out story for me really, but the story I go back to over and over again in my mind is “I’d Love You to Want Me.” It falls in the middle of the collection and follows a couple, married for forty years, as the husband is falling ill with dementia. He keeps a list of his mistakes in a little notebook—names forgotten, tasks left undone—to help him remember, but the one mistake he continuously makes is calling his wife by the wrong name. The name of a former lover, to be exact. The story is heartbreaking enough, but pair that with the couples long-awaited return trip to Vietnam where they find the street they once lived on renamed by the Communists. Even Saigon itself has been renamed Ho Chi Minh City. The wife, long ago tossed from her homeland, is now being rewritten and erased from her husband’s mind. The symbolism is shattering and effective.

Overall, I loved The Refugees. I wish I had a criticism to offer—because, let’s be honest, I love being the cynic—but I honestly don’t. I can’t recommend this book enough. In a time where everything feels political, The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen sounds like a book you'd want to avoid, wanting to keep reading time safe from the craziness of the "real world." However, this collection rises above the political smog to offer up eight stories that don't push an agenda, but simply offer a glimpse into other lives. Lives that feel whole and important. Lives that, had things been different, could have been our own. Lives that, as much as some want to avoid it, remind us of our own.

The Refugees was published on February 7, 2017 and is now available for purchase. Buy it here.

Happy Reading,
Mallory

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

“Linda has an idiosyncratic home life: her parents live in abandoned commune cabins in northern Minnesota and are hanging on to the last vestiges of a faded counter-culture world. The kids at school call her 'Freak', or 'Commie'. She is an outsider in all things. Her understanding of the world comes from her observations at school, where her teacher is accused of possessing child pornography, and from watching the seemingly ordinary life of a family she babysits for. Yet while the accusation against the teacher is perhaps more innocent than it seemed at first, the ordinary family turns out to be more complicated. As Linda insinuates her way into the family's orbit, she realizes they are hiding something. If she tells the truth, she will lose the normal family life she is beginning to enjoy with them; but if she doesn't, their son may die.”

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund transcended so many genres it is hard to pin down exactly what it is. Part contemporary coming-of-age novel, part suspense novel, part enigma. This story had so many moving parts that, honestly, a significant reason I kept reading the book was simply to figure out what Fridlund was trying to do with them. Linda, as an adult, narrates the story of her fourteenth year spent babysitting the four-year-old son of her new neighbors. (Note: this story is broken up with several smaller story lines that served, for me, as little more than a distraction from the main event. I’ll talk about those later.)

One consistently strong aspect of History of Wolves is the sheer dreariness imbued into every word, description, and situation. The language Fridlund uses to describe the weather and the landscape of her northern Minnesota home is enough to send permanent chills down my spine. Every moment, even the seemingly happy ones, feel as if they are shrouded in despair. This makes sense considering an adult Linda is relaying the story back to us with full understanding of how each and every event of that year played into the heartbreaking conclusion.

Linda, as a character, also worked very well for me. What a protagonist! She has moments of real insight followed by moments of childlike naivete, and her ability to be both kind and cruel is maddening, particularly when you feel she is being kind to all the wrong people. Again, though, these frustrating attributes work to the character’s benefit. Linda felt like a real teenage girl, wrapped up in selfishness, self-doubt, and a deep desire for acceptance.

However, on a sour note, I wanted more from this debut novel. There are threads woven through this story that seem unfinished. Small (and occasionally large) details from the narrative that feel as if they are meant to hold more meaning for the reader than they do. As I said earlier, this story had a lot of moving parts, and, unfortunately, I’m not certain I closed this book with a complete understanding of how all those parts fit together.

Overall, Emily Fridlund’s debut novel, History of Wolves, entranced me with its powerful language and beautifully complicated protagonist, but the story itself took a few wrong turns. I even had the thought at one point during my reading that I wish this book had been split into two separate stories rather than ground down into one watered down version of both. However, I wouldn’t want these criticisms to act as a deterrent from reading this book. Emily Fridlund is an author I intend to follow, and I can’t wait to read what she writes next. 

Buy a copy of Fridlund's debut novel, published in January 2017 by Atlantic Monthly Press. 

Happy Reading,
Mallory

Pull Me Under by Kelly Luce

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Pull Me Under by Kelly Luce was the first book I chose to receive as part of my Book of the Month subscription. (Honestly, if you love books and aren’t subscribed to Book of the Month…you are seriously missing out. It’s like bookish Christmas every month. But I digress.) Immediately, the book description had me aching to read the story of Chizuru/Rio.

“Kelly Luce's Pull Me Under tells the story of Rio Silvestri, who, when she was twelve years old, fatally stabbed a school bully. Rio, born Chizuru Akitani, is the Japanese American daughter of the revered violinist Hiro Akitani--a Living National Treasure in Japan and a man Rio hasn't spoken to since she left her home country for the United States (and a new identity) after her violent crime. Her father's death, along with a mysterious package that arrives on her doorstep in Boulder, Colorado, spurs her to return to Japan for the first time in twenty years. There she is forced to confront her past in ways she never imagined, pushing herself, her relationships with her husband and daughter, and her own sense of who she is to the brink.”

Kelly Luce writes beautifully and the beginning of Rio’s life is so haunting that it wasn’t difficult to get sucked in. The Prologue, simply titled “Before,” is written in the past tense, and there is a real sense of separation between the narrator Rio and child Rio. It feels like the narrator is telling the story of someone else, a stranger locked away for murder. The narrator also keeps the reader at a distance, sharing her story, but never enough to fully allow the reader to put the pieces of her life together. You get the feeling that the adult narrator has not accepted the traumatic parts of her past, and, in the beginning, this distance feels purposeful. Then, just like that, we are whisked into Chapter 1 and into the present tense. The mundane life she is leading with her husband and daughter is sharply juxtaposed against the news she receives of her father’s death, a symbolic representation of the pain of her past and a reminder that she hasn’t fully dealt with it yet. Yet again, even though the story is told in first person, there is a distance.

You may be noticing a pattern—I’m mentioning “distance” a lot. This is because the distance between Rio Silvestri as an adult and her as a child and, separately, the distance between Rio Silvestri and the reader is so vital to how this story is told. However, in this review, this distance is also one of the few problems I had with the book. We, as the reader, are meant to go with Rio on her journey back to Japan for her father’s funeral, but I never felt like I could fully connect with Rio. Even up until the last pages of the book, this distance is palpable between the reader and Rio. Long past when Rio should have been accepting the crime she committed as a child and growing closer to her family, it felt instead like she was holding everyone at arm’s length, including the reader. I’m not sure if this was the author’s intention, or if Kelly Luce simply didn’t manage the tension the way she should have. Either way, it made the book, particularly the last third, drag a bit. I wanted to shake Rio at times and beg her to just come clean. REVEAL YOUR SECRETS! Rio is a woman who, as a child, murdered someone. That must carry a lot of weight, and I felt like she never gave it more than a few passing thoughts of regret. Frankly, I wanted more. I wanted more emotion, more connection, and more of a change.

Issues aside, I really enjoyed this reading experience. Every character felt vivid and unique, even if they only played a minor role in the plot, and the slow reveal of Rio’s past and the life of her father since she’d last seen him helped to keep the tension building. Overall, I would recommend Pull Me Under, but I’d caution any would-be readers to keep their expectations relatively low and try to savor Kelly Luce’s beautiful writing. 

Happy Reading,
Mallory

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson

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“The Psychopath Test is a fascinating journey through the minds of madness. Jon Ronson’s exploration of a potential hoax being played on the world’s top neurologists takes him, unexpectedly, into the heart of the madness industry. An influential psychologist who is convinced that many important CEOs and politicians are, in fact, psychopaths teaches Ronson how to spot these high-flying individuals by looking out for little telltale verbal and nonverbal clues. And so Ronson, armed with his new psychopath-spotting abilities, enters the corridors of power. He spends time with a death-squad leader institutionalized for mortgage fraud in Coxsackie, New York; a legendary CEO whose psychopathy has been speculated about in the press; and a patient in an asylum for the criminally insane who insists he’s sane and certainly not a psychopath.

Ronson not only solves the mystery of the hoax but also discovers, disturbingly, that sometimes the personalities at the helm of the madness industry are, with their drives and obsessions, as mad in their own way as those they study. And that relatively ordinary people are, more and more, defined by their maddest edges.”

Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test piqued my interest the moment I heard about it. The idea of monsters and ghosts can be creepy, but nothing is more disturbing than the idea of a human being becoming the ultimate villain. Ronson makes it clear that not all psychopaths are villains, but he also makes it clear that a psychopath’s lack of emotions and self-control make them significantly more likely to be villains. So, with my predilection for all things true crime, I dove head first into this book.

The book opens with a rather long mystery Jon Ronson was asked to solve that has nothing to do with psychopaths, but helps to explain how he found himself tangled up in the world of psychopaths. This section, while well-written (because everything Jon Ronson writes is well-written) felt superfluous. If you decide to read this book, please hang in there through the first chapter. It gets better, I promise.

Surprisingly, my favorite parts of the book weren’t Ronson’s meetings with Tony in the asylum or with the death-squad leader in prison, but rather the research he did on the history of psychopathy. Ronson describes the different methods used to try and treat psychopaths over the years, one of which included naked, LSD-fueled meditation sessions. (Psychopathy is now believed to be incurable, which is no wonder considering the treatment was naked, LSD-fueled meditation sessions, amirite?) And he explains in extensive detail how mental disorders came to be categorized and diagnosed. Hint: it’s not as scientific as you’d hope.

To be honest, though, I’m genuinely surprised this book held my interest the way it did. While Ronson did talk a lot about psychopaths, the book was more a collection of stories than an overarching study into psychopathy. He spent a lot of time talking to presumed or potential psychopaths, but that’s where his investigation kind of stopped. Avoiding any hard-drawn conclusions, Ronson aimed instead for letting the reader decide whether the subjects he interviewed were psychopathic. This tactic played well with the second half of his book, which pointed the finger back at psychiatry, postulating that perhaps everyone is a mix of crazy and sane, including psychopaths. However, I can’t say for sure whether the tactic played well with me.

Overall, I really enjoyed this read. Ronson has an undeniably funny writing style that is disarming and makes you want to continue reading. I’m not in the habit of rating books on any sort of scale, but if I were, this book would get a solid 3.8/5.

Happy Reading,

Mallory

Gilmore Girls Revival and Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham

 

I am a huge Gilmore Girls junkie. I've seen all seven seasons of the original series at least four times. The crazy antics of the Stars Hollow residents never gets old. So, when I heard Lauren Graham would be releasing a memoir of sorts to coincide with the revival series, I knew I had to buy it.

First things first, I must address the elephant in the room. Yes, I watched the revival episodes. Yes, I enjoyed them. And no, I didn't much care for them. To keep things short (because this is a book review not a Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life review), I think the show creators lost sight of who Rory and Lorelai are. Both women have histories of being slightly self-centered and immature, but never as a rule. They would slip up, do something narcissistic and self-serving, and then see the error of their ways. In these episodes, though, narcissism reigned supreme. Rory kept forgetting about her long time boyfriend (OF TWO YEARS!) and cheated on him several times just to kick him while he's down, I guess. She also kept whining about how no one would offer her a really great writing job after she'd written one well-received article for a magazine. Entitled, much? And Lorelai…ugh…even after being together for ten years, Lorelai still treated Luke as if he should fit into her life rather than building one together. She never questioned what he wanted or how he felt, and even their ending showed Luke being willing to bend over backwards, disregard his own dreams, and change himself in any way possible to please Lorelai. The writers basically took the gruff, no-nonsense Luke we'd all grown to love and neutered him on screen for the world to see. Don't even get me started on Lane…Lane deserved better, gosh darn it. Paris was okay as a personality, but I have some deep and probing questions for the writers about Paris's life choices. The only character who received a suitable ending was Emily Gilmore. She ended the episode looking empowered and emboldened, ready to take on life as a widow, and she had the truest portrayal throughout the series.

That went on longer than I planned, but I have a lot of feelings.

Now, to get to why I’m writing this. Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham is a book of short essays covering, as the title suggests, "From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (and everything in between)." We learn a bit about her early life, her college years, and how she ended up in acting. She shares funny stories about being single in Hollywood and all the no-name, stereotypical roles she took before catching her big break as Lorelai Gilmore on Gilmore Girls. Lauren Graham's humor shines through on every page, making it a light, easy read that anyone who has watched Gilmore Girls will enjoy.

However (and yes, sorry, there is a negative side to this review) the information she shared about Gilmore Girls could have been written by any schlub who'd seen the show. Basically, Lauren never watched her own show, so for this book, she went back and rewatched all of the episodes to jog her memory. Rather than talking about relationships between cast mates behind the scenes, which scenes were the most grueling to shoot, or even which of her on-screen boyfriends she most wanted to date, she talks about Lorelai's hair and clothing. She rewatched the episodes and then gave us information along the lines of, "Phew, look at that early 2000's fashion!" I mean…really? That's it? There was a bit of meat to the section about her first run on Gilmore Girls, but it was nothing like what I was expecting. And, to be honest, the section about the revival of Gilmore Girls wasn't much better. It had a few bits of cool information, but most readers are coming to this book as Gilmore Girls fanatics and they are being served up lukewarm information they'd more than likely already gathered from the cast interviews.

Overall, I enjoyed Talking as Fast as I Can. Lauren Graham is funny and insightful, and she has had the privilege of being on two very beloved television shows, so she talks a lot about landing those roles and what it was like playing the TV sister to her real-life boyfriend. However, if you buy this book hoping for shocking and scandalous secrets, then I'll warn you now that it simply won't deliver. 

Happy Reading,

Mallory 

2016 in Review: My 8 Favorite Reads and the Reading Slump to End All Reading Slumps

2016 was a tough reading year for me. A couple things happened, both personally and professionally, that left me unable to focus on what I was reading. I would start a book, get halfway through, and then grow bored with it. I kept picking up books thinking, “surely this will be the one to end my slump,” but it never really happened. I finished 2016 dead center in the middle of a slump. So, rather than wallow in self-pity, ashamed of the fact that I can’t write a Best 16 Books of 2016 list (for the pure reason that it would basically end up being a list of the books I read this last year—I only finished 22 books…), I’m going to share with you 8 books that I loved, and 8 books that I started in 2016 and look forward to finishing in 2017.

My reading goal for 2017 is 30 books, but I very much hope to exceed that goal. I have also created a rule whereby I can only read a new book once I have read 3 books currently on my shelf. My book buying reached new heights this last year despite the fact my reading had taken a SERIOUS hit. Here’s to hoping the reading slump ended with 2016!

8 Favorite Books From 2016 (Click links to read my review)

1)      Illustrated Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
2)      Illustrated Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
3)      A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold
4)      Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
5)      Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
6)      Mermaids by Patty Dann
7)      The Girls by Emma Cline
8)      Tenth of December by George Saunders (I never got around to reviewing this short story collection, but it was amazing.)

 

8 Books I Look Forward to Finishing in 2017

1)      Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
2)      War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
3)      A Monster Calls by Patrick Nes
4)      Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain
5)      Get in Trouble by Kelly Link
6)      Life of Pi by Yann Martel
7)      Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang by Joyce Carol Oates
8)      In Cold Blood by Truman Capot

Let me know what you read last year and what you plan to read this next year!

Happy Reading,
Mallory