Review: The Woman in the Window

“Watching is like nature photography: You don’t interfere with the wildlife.”

In his debut novel A. J. Finn tells the story of a troubled heroine that will have you unable to put it down until you have finished it. This book is film noir in novel form. The plot is fantastic, the twists are surprising, and The Woman in the Window is going to be the novel new upcoming psychological thrillers will have to beat.

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Anna Fox is a 38 year old, agoraphobic, who hasn’t left her home in uptown Manhattan in over a year. She spends some time logged on to a website counseling other agoraphobes, watching old film noir movies, and spending time with her cat, but, mostly she drinks wine and spies on her neighbors.

Among her neighbors is a family who she has particularly become invested in. The Russells are a troubled family. After Ethan, the Russell’s 16 year old son, hints to Anna that his father is violent towards both him and his mother, Anna starts watching them more intently. After she witnesses something violent happen in their home, and the police tell her to let it go, Anna becomes obsessed with what happened, while everyone else believe that her excessive wine drinking and her prescription drugs have impaired her judgement.

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Before I go spoiling the rest of the book I want to talk about some of the things that I absolutely loved about this novel. Finn writes a believable woman. I think there can be disconnects when men write female characters, making them do or say things that are maybe a little too cliché or that just aren’t believable characters but Finn’s Anna Fox is completely believable as a woman. And not just a woman, but a woman suffering from mental illness and trauma, and she’s struggling to preserve her sanity. One of the reasons that I think Finn triumphed in this feat is because he himself has struggled with depression, and he used his experience to develop his “tortured heroine”.

And, if we want to talk about unreliable narrators, all other unreliable narrators can sit down because Anna Fox takes the cake. There were so many times in the novel that I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to believe the things that Anna was seeing or saying or not. While Finn does do a great job in making Anna unreliable, mainly with the help of her alcoholism and the mixing of her alcohol with her prescription drugs, one thing that is a little tiring is the woman who are alcoholics trope. I wish the thriller/mystery novel would find a different way to make female characters unreliable.

Overall this novel was thrilling, Hitchcockian, suspenseful, and most of all beautifully written. I am anxiously waiting for A.J. Finn’s next novel.

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Have you read The Woman in the Window yet? Tell me what you thought of it down in the comments!

– Hannah

March Wrap Up

March was a very good month for me. Probably the best month of the year. 2018 is just getting better and better… but I better knock on wood before it decides to fall apart.

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So I honestly don’t know if I’m going to keep doing these wrap up posts. Ultimately I kind of just use them to see how I’ve done with my goals for that month.. but then I come to write them and I feel like a lot of the time I’m saying the same thing as I did last month.. what do you guys think? Maybe I’ll just do one when I’ve had a super spectacular or interesting month. Who knows. I’ll figure it out….

ANYWAY

The Unread Shelf Project

I managed to knockout eight more books on my unread shelf this month…but per usual I went a little overboard on buying books. I had two significant hauls and this is what they looked like:

and now I am back on a book buying ban… but it is just a short one. I am putting myself on a book buying ban just until June when I go to NYC to go to BookCon! Which is only two months away. That’s nothing. I can make it two months. Psh. Easy Peasy. *hyperventilates into a paper bag*.

My Blog

I listed two goals last month when talking about my blog and they were as follows:

  1. Post one review a week, hopefully going up on Sundays.
  2. Try and get a post up that isn’t a review but still having to do with books at least twice.

I got three reviews up, and one extra post up (that wasn’t my February review). So I did about the same as February, and I’m going to try and be better about actually doing my reviews right when I finish the book. Instead of catching up with reviews from the month before. I have a few more books I wanted to review from March so hopefully I can get those up soon!

Books I Read

Like I said earlier, I had a really successful month when it came to my actual reading goals. I had seven books on my TBR list and I managed to read eight. And I enjoyed all of them for the most part. I only had one 3 star read and nothing less than that.

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  • The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn – 5 ⭐️’s
  • The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory – 4 ⭐️’s
  • Lady Killers: Deadly Woman Throughout History by Tori Telfer – 4 ⭐️’s
  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones – 5 ⭐️’s
  • The Mothers by Brit Bennett – 4 ⭐️’s
  • Still Life: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel by Louise Penny – 3 ⭐️’s
  • The Lady of the Camellias by Alexandre Dumas Fils – 5 ⭐️’s
  • The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah – 5 ⭐️’s

I am wanting to review so many of these but because I’m behind already I’ll never catch up if I do, so let me know in the comments which of these you’d want to read a review of!

Next Month

I am very excited for the TBR I have planned for April. I have another lift of eight books. A couple of them that I’m very excited for are Shape of Water by Guillermo del Toro and Daniel Kraus (because the movie was the most beautiful thing I’ve seen since my daughter was born) and The Hearts Invisible Furies by John Boyne because I have heard nothing but amazing things about it. I hope it lives up to the hype. Norse Mythology is also my IRL book clubs April pick this month!

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What do all of you have on your TBR lists for April. Did you read any of the books that I read in March? What did you think of them?

– Hannah

Review: An American Marriage

Tayari Jones’s fourth novel and Oprah’s 2018 Book Club pick, An American Marriage, is an emotional, powerful and gripping novel about love, family, and the criminal justice system and its injustices. It is an intimate portrait of love and how tragic events can cause that love to falter. How sometimes, love, just isn’t enough.

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Synopsis from Goodreads: “Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.”

An American Marriage was my Book of the Month pick for February and I am so happy that I ended up choosing it. The writing was spectacular, the characters were rich, and the story was moving. Jones does not pull any punches, her writing hits you in the gut with emotion from all sides. I read this book in two days, and on the first day I started crying on page 35 and didn’t stop until I put the book down on page 138.

Told in part by letters between Roy and Celestial, and then told from the perspectives of the three main characters, this isn’t the story of courtroom drama, like one might expect when you find out one of the characters is wrongly committed of a crime, but one of the devastation of a family. Both Roy and Celestial are doing all of the right things, they are hard working, in love, and young, they still suffer the fate of having their lives dashed. An innocent man, confined to a prison cell for 12 years, the action of someone else derailing Roy’s life, leaving him powerless to stop what is going to happen – it is this that makes the slow burn of the book all the more powerful.

“Love makes a place in your life, it makes a place for itself in your bed. Invisibly, it makes a place in your body, rerouting all your blood vessels, throbbing right alongside your heart. When it’s gone, nothing is whole again.”

While this story is very much about the personal story of Celestial and Roy, you can not dismiss the racial context of the story. Roy is a black man, convicted wrongly of rape, and he loses his freedom for it. However, throughout the story, the characters mainly remain thankful that he is even alive, Celestial says at one point that there is “no appealing a cop’s bullet.” While even though Roy has done everything right, he has a good job, he is a good man, he makes good choices, even his family have lived good middle class lives, he recognizes that what happened to him could have happened to anyone, and when he says this, his friend, Andre responds with, “You think I don’t know that? I been black all my life.” Now released, he is set to become someone that society all too frequently casts aside and dismisses: the ex-convict. Although Jones makes it clear that this doesn’t have to be Roy’s future. That there is still hope.

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This book moved me, and it stuck with me for the next couple days after I finished it. It still sticks with me now as I think about it. My conflicts with the characters and the decisions that were made, my heartbreak for them, and the overwhelming sense of hopelessness that I felt with Roy for most of the book. All I wanted was for these characters to find happiness, and I think Jones gives it to them, and for that I am grateful.

– Hannah

p.s. After I finished reading I immediately cast my perfect movie adaptation and it goes as follows:

Roy: Michael B Jordan

Celestial: Lupita Nyong’o

Andre: Daniel Kaluuya

It would be perfect. You’re welcome to the future production company that chooses to make this book into a film. I’ve done all your hard work for you.

 

 

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Favorite Female Authors

Happy Women’s History Month everyone! As a woman, I wanted to take the time to celebrate women in literature this month, today I want to talk about some of my favorite female authors and how they have impacted and inspired me and my love of reading.

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I think in a world that has always been very dominated by men, especially since it was a lot less “acceptable” for women to be successful authors in our history, it is important to reflect on the great work that women have done in the literary world.

9780553213300.jpeg   1. Kate Chopin

Born in 1850, Chopin is now considered to be one of the best female authors of her time. Some of her most influential short stories are “Desiree’s Baby”, “The Story of an Hour” and “The Storm”, and her novel The Awakening is one of the first pieces of work that addresses womens issues without condescension. The Awakening and “The Story of an Hour” are both stories that have stuck with me since I read them. The Awakening tells the story of Edna Pontellier, who starts to figure out who she is as her own person; learning she has her own wants, needs and desires, separate from her life as a wife and mother. “The Story of an Hour” is the tale of Mrs. Mallard and the hour in her life after learning that her husband has passed away, and the drastic changes to a person’s sense of self that can happen in an hour. Both of these pieces of literature I read in college and I have continued to pick them up and reread them throughout the years. Both of them deal with the idea of freedom and femininity, and how learning who you are as a woman, as a whole person, can bring you freedom.

“but whatever came, she had resolved never again to belong to another than herself.” – Kate Chopin, The Awakening.

Unknown.jpeg 2. Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Gilman who was born in 1860, has been a role model for many feminists going forward due to the lifestyle that she lived and the views that she held. Her most famous piece of work “The Yellow Wallpaper” is one that is semi autobiographical – after having been given the “rest cure” (being confined to bed in order to treat an illness, usually in the case of “hysteria” in women) after developing severe postpartum psychosis after her daughter was born. The Yellow Wallpaper discusses how the lack of women’s autonomy is detrimental to them, mentally, emotionally and physically. This is another short story that I read while I was in college, and one of the things that struck me is how women’s mental health has been treated throughout history. Women were told that they are mentally ill by the very people who are preventing them from becoming well and happy, by forcing them into reclusiveness and forcing them to renounce their own personhood to become strictly a wife and mother.

“There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will.” – Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper.

Unknown-1.jpeg 3. Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich was a feminist icon, becoming heavily involved with anti-war, civil rights and feminist activism in the 1960s. She was an essayist and poet and her poetry is some of the most beautiful prose I have ever read. She writes in a way that even a person who doesn’t love poetry would enjoy it. My favorite book of her poetry is The Dream of a Common Language. Published after she came out as a lesbian in 1976, she splits the book into three sections: The Power, Twenty-One Love Poems, and Not Somewhere Else, But Here. “The Power” is a section of poetry talking about individual women and their accomplishments while she relates these accomplishments to women in general at the same time. “Twenty-One Love Poems” is a section in which she discusses the love that women have for each other and the way that our culture denies the existence of that kind of love. The section, “Not Somewhere Else, But Here” talks about the relationship between women and nature. All of these poems are some of the most moving poems I have read.

“No one’s fated or doomed to love anyone. / The accidents happen, we’re not heroines, / they happen in our lives like car crashes, / books that change us, neighborhoods / we move into and come to love.” – Adrienne Rich, The Dream of a Common Language. 

59716.jpg 4. Virginia Woolf

One of the things that I love most about Virginia Woolf’s prose is that she so often uses almost a stream of consciousness way of writing her novels. Most of her novels you get most of the depth from them when you are looking introspectively into the characters as they are thinking about and reacting to the things that are happening around them. In To The Lighthouse there is no specific narrator, instead it relies on the shifting perspectives of the characters to tell the story. As with many women of the time, Virginia Woolf also struggled with mental illness and the lack of compassion and understanding that went along with it.

“And all the lives we ever lived and all the lives to be are full of trees
and changing leaves.” – Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse.

Unknown.jpeg 5. Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre is a novel that has stuck with me ever since I read it. Jane Erye is a classic for a reason, and it’s the way that Bronte wrote it, and how she wrote her character that makes it stick around. Bronte has been called “the first historian of the private consciousness” for the way that she writes about the inferior life that women were being forced into leading and the way she exposed a woman’s thoughts and feelings throughout the novel.

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” – Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre.

Unknown-1.jpeg 6. Edith Wharton 

Edith Wharton was a writer, designer, and the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize when she won it in 1921 for The Age of Innocence. Her novels focus on the lives of those who lived during the nineteenth century when wealth was declining. The craftsmanship, and the subtle ironies and hypocrisies that are woven throughout all of Wharton’s novels should be admired as she consistently discusses the class system and money, while still exploring the individual characters themselves. In reading the The Age of Innocence in todays world, Ellen Olenska becomes a feminist character struggling with her identity as a woman and what it means to live her own life. At the same time, May Welland is now seen as manipulative when she was only using what means she had at her disposal to save what was important to her – her marriage. Wharton’s prose when it comes to her descriptions are what really give you depth to what is going on around these characters, the attention to detail is immaculate.

“And you’ll sit beside me, and we’ll look, not at visions, but at realities.” – Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence.

Unknown-2.jpeg 7. Anne Sexton

Anne Sexton and the next author on my list, are two of my very favorite poets. Sexton is often grouped in with other poets who write Confessional Poetry, poetry that often focuses on their individual experiences. Often her poems are considered autobiographical, which caused her to become known for writing poems about topics that were often not discussed, like her long battle with depression and suicidal thoughts, but also her personal relationships. Sexton struggled with depression her whole life, spending time in and out of hospitals, which ultimately caused her to take her own life. Her ability to turn her pain into beautiful prose that sings is something that inspires me in my efforts to write.

“I am stuffing your mouth with your
promises and watching
you vomit them out upon my face.” – Anne Sexton, “Killing the Love”.

Unknown-3.jpeg 8. Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath was also grouped together with poets who wrote confessional poetry, although she is given a lot of the credit for advancing it. Plath was a poet, a novelist and a short story writer who suffered from depression. Throughout her writing, she discusses her struggles with mental illness quite thoroughly. The Bell Jar is a semi-autobiographical novel she stated was about describing the loneliness that one feels while suffering a breakdown. Plath spent time in mental hospitals and was even treated for her depression with Electroshock Therapy. Like Sexton, Plath famously committed suicide shortly after The Bell Jar was published. Her journals have always been something that has spoken to me, everything she talks about regarding her relationships and her struggle with mental illness is amazing to read. How much of themselves that Plath and Sexton put into their writing is overwhelming to read sometimes.

“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar.

Unknown.jpeg 9. Jane Austen

Jane Austen is a staple for many people who have a love of books, and her novel Pride and Prejudice is one of the most popular examples of English literature. In a lot of Austens work, the major theme is the importance of the upbringing and the environment in which her young characters grow up, and the idea that a good marriage is one of the most important things a woman can accomplish as that is one of the only ways to bring her into a place of good standing and class. In Pride and Prejudice Austin looks at marriage and what a good marriage is vs. what a bad marriage is. Is a good marriage one that is for love, or is it for money, or maybe is it a combination of both? Throughout the novel, as the characters interact and come closer to the end it is obvious that Elizabeth and Darcy love each other, but Elizabeth does still come out on top with an higher place in society and more money then she had prior to her marriage.

“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.” – Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice.

Unknown.jpeg 10. Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood is a novelist, poet, activist and many other things and the way that she writes is incredibly moving and upsetting all at the same time. While Atwood has never actively put the label of feminist on her writing, it is pretty hard to ignore the politics of most of her novels, like The Handmaid’s Tale, or The Heart Goes Last, as feminist. Her novels are often focused on the issues of female sexuality, relationships, and the brutality of men in a patriarchal society and the way that women suffer at the hands of men. Her novels never seem to be something that won’t ever happen, too often in fact they seem to be very possible if only a few key changes were to happen in our modern day world, and I think that is one of the things that intrigues and terrifies me most about Atwood’s writing.

“The past is so much safer, because whatever’s in it has already happened. It can’t be changed; so, in a way, there’s nothing to dread.” – Margaret Atwood, The Heart Goes Last.

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Most of the authors that I identify with do share a lot of the same qualities, often they are writing about things like feminism, female sexuality, and mental illness. And more often than not, a lot of them suffer from their own mental illnesses. It is inspiring to me to see women putting their own personal struggles into their writing so that they can do something bigger with it. Allowing other people to find peace from their own demons through reading about theirs.

Did I miss any of your favorite female authors? Whose writing has inspired or impacted you?

– Hannah

Review: The Wedding Date

Alexa and Drew are strangers and after finding themselves stuck in an elevator together, and hitting it off, Drew convinces Alexa to accompany him as his plus one to his ex-girlfriends wedding. It’s the stuff of a rom-com dream. As what was supposed to be fake relationship turns into a one night stand turns to weekend trips to see each other, Alexa and Drew have to decide what exactly they mean to each other.

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This romance novel was a breath of fresh air when it comes to romances. The characters are equally relatable, both are charming and both have their flaws which keeps the story moving. They have their own inside joke about sandwiches which pops up multiple times during the story which makes their relationship seem all the more realistic and relatable. And there are even some quirky friends that add even more flavor to the story.

There is a lot of sex in the book, but it is not off putting at all. It doesn’t seem over done and it isn’t raunchy or distasteful. It flows well with the story, especially since Drew and Alexa’s relationship started being based solely on physical attraction.

Now what did I really love about the book? Well Jasmine Guillory wrote a female character that I find is uncharacteristic towards the normal rom-com heroine. She is a larger African-American woman, who is consistently unapologetically herself. She is down to earth, she knows her worth, she is strong and confident in who she is and in her own skin, and she LOVES to eat. There was so much talk of food and eating in this book it was amazing. I don’t know how many times in a romance or rom-com I’ve heard the leading lady talking about how she forgot to eat that day, or that all she had was a salad. It was nice to be seeing something different embracing that body positive and food positive lifestyle.

Guillory also looks at and highlights interracial relationships and what race can mean when it comes to dating. Alexa is much more aware of situations that can be difficult for her due to her experiences and as she communicates about those situations to Drew, he learns more about his own privilege, and another reason why I love this book – he doesn’t question her experience. There was a scene when she told him that she had experienced racism at the hands of someone he knew, he didn’t question her experience at all, took her side immediately and then did what he needed to do to make sure she didn’t experience that again. Basically, he reacted exactly the way any white person should react when a person of color is explaining the racism that they face on a day-to-day basis.

I gave this book 4 stars. I really enjoyed this book, it was the perfect read when I was in the mood for something quick, fast paced, relatively light, and delicious. If that is what you are looking for – look no further. The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory is just what you need.

– Hannah

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Review: The Girl in the Tower

Now – before I get into this review, which I am SO EXCITED to do – this is the second book in a series, so this review may have some spoilers for the first book, The Bear and the Nightingale.

“Think of me sometimes… When the snowdrops have bloomed and the snow has melted.”

Synopsis from Goodreads: “The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingale continues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.”

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.”

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If you loved the first book in The Winternight Trilogy: The Bear in the Nightingale, you will love it’s sequel. This book, actually this series, is some of the best historical fiction I have ever read. The combination of the history and folklore of Russia is absolute perfection. And the way that Katherine Arden flawlessly combines history, folklore and the fantastical makes this novel a magical and compelling read. If you ignored my previous warning of spoilers, and you haven’t started these books, I need you to stop what you’re doing right now and go read them. Okay? Go. Now.

Before I go into my more detailed review – this book shouldn’t be read as a stand alone. You should definitely start with The Bear and the Nightingale (it’s worth it). Arden doesn’t start the book with a lot of refresher information, she jumps right into the action and that is one of the things I love most about it. There were definitely details that related back to the first book, but I never felt like we were rehashing plot points that had already been discussed and wrapped up. It was like I had just turned the page of the first book into the second and it really helped the pace of the book (which was excellent throughout).

This book was also fantastically feminist. Vasilisa (Vasya) is a fiercely independent woman who has no desire to comply to 14th century Russian culture and rules. She risks her life, and her family’s lives, in order to try and find herself and her purpose, without being forced to spend her life locked away as some man’s wife or in a nunnery. She fights for what she believes is right, without fail, no matter what the consequences might be. She is smart. She listens to her heart. And above all, she knows that being a woman does not make her any less of a person than if she was a man. She is a woman who I ardently admire.

“Do you think that is all I want, in all my life—a royal dowry, and a man to force his children into me?”

Side note: Hi my name is Hannah and I am hopelessly in love with a frost demon named Morozko.

The relationship between Morozko and Vasya was an absolute treat to read.  Morozko’s desire to keep Vasya safe, and Vasya’s refusal to be treated as anything less than she is, is a combination that I am 100% here for. And while Morozko does try and protect her at all costs, with spring coming fast, the Winter King can only do so much. As Morosko and Vasya struggle with their feelings for one another their relationship goes to new depths that will make you fall in love and Katherine Arden doesn’t hold back any punches either.

“You are immortal, and perhaps I seem small to you… But my life is not your game.”

This book is atmospheric, magical, beautiful and heartbreaking. I am always nervous when moving on to the second book in a series when I loved the first book so much because I am nervous of the second book not living up to my expectations. This book lived up to and surpassed my expectations. It was a page turner and there were many times that I had a hard time setting it down. Arden’s characters have been added to my short list of characters that I would absolutely die for. The last book in the trilogy, The Winter of the Witch, set to be released in August 2018 is one of my most anticipated of 2018. I can not wait to see where Arden has Vasya going next in her journey. I have very high hopes.

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– Hannah

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February Wrap Up

So I know I’m late with this February Wrap Up as we are already 4 days into March BUT better late than never right? …Right?

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(Thank you Walter.)

February was a short month and I didn’t get as much reading done as I had wanted to. I had wanted to read quite a bit of fantasy, thanks to the Fantasy in February challenge that I was participating in. All, except for one of my books, were fantasy books and I really enjoyed them for the most part but I really fell in love with the first trilogy I read so I ended up deciding to take my time with it so I could really enjoy it. This however, did have an impact on the amount of books I was able to get through, but I wouldn’t go back and read them faster if I had the option to, so I’m okay with it.

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(This was my February TBR list.)

The Unread Shelf Project

So I’m doing a really good job about reading only books on my Unread Shelf list. I have not reread any books and I’m doing a really good job sticking to my TBR lists. In February I ended up being able to get through seven more books from my Unread Shelf.

Y’all… I CAN’T STOP BUYING BOOKS.

I know. I know. January I was on a complete book buying ban and that went TERRIBLY. So February I was like, I can make it through one month without buying a book. That can’t be too hard. I mean, get yourself together and have a little self control.

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(Justin literally can’t even with me right now.)

I’m not even going to lie to myself anymore about being on a book buying ban. Is it worth it to deprive myself of all the books that are practically begging to be on my shelves? I don’t think so. And it certainly isn’t worth buying the books and then feeling guilty for having so utterly failed in my book buying ban. SO I’M GIVING UP. I mean, if buying books is my vice, it could be so much worse. I could have worse vices and we all need one so…

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(My friend Gwen sent me this, and if it’s not accurate to my life, I don’t know what is.)

My Blog

February was a really good month for me and my blog. I got up three reviews and I made a post about my favorite literary bad boys for Valentines Day. So I am really pleased with how February went. But since nothing is perfect, I know I could improve for March, so my goals for March are to:

  1. Post one review a week, hopefully going up on Sundays.
  2. Try and get a post up that isn’t a review but still having to do with books at least twice.

I’m feeling confident March will be a good month to succeed with those goals. I have a pretty awesome TBR which I’m super excited to get through.

Books I Read

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Out of the nine books on my February TBR I got through six of them, which for a short month I am pretty pleased with. I also read my IRL BookClubs pick of Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King, which if you read my review (found here) you’ll know I wasn’t super impressed by it which I was disappointed about. Other than that book though I really enjoyed the books that I read in February and it was awesome being able to get back into reading fantasy, a genre I always love but sometimes forget to read since their is always so many classics and contemporary fiction that I want to get to as well.

  • A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab – 5 ⭐️’s
  • A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab – 5 ⭐️’s
  • A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab – 5 ⭐️’s
  • The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert – 3 ⭐️’s
  • Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve – 3 ⭐️’s
  • The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden – 4 ⭐️’s
  • Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King – 2 ⭐️’s

Next Month

In March I don’t have any specific challenge that I am participating in but I do have a pretty awesome TBR planned. A couple of the books on my list are The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah and An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. My book club’s pick this month is The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn. So I know March is going to be a good month and I can’t wait.

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How was your February? Did you participate in Fantasy in February as well? I want to hear all about your month so let me know in the comments below!

– Hannah

Review: Sleeping Beauties

Synopsis from Goodreads: “In a future so real and near it might be now, something happens when women go to sleep; they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed or violated, the women become feral and spectacularly violent; and while they sleep they go to another place… The men of our world are abandoned, left to their increasingly primal devices. One woman, however, the mysterious Evie, is immune to the blessing or curse of the sleeping disease. Is Evie a medical anomaly to be studied? Or is she a demon who must be slain? Set in a small Appalachian town whose primary employer is a women’s prison, Sleeping Beauties is a wildly provocative, gloriously absorbing father/son collaboration between Stephen King and Owen King.”

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This was my IRL book clubs first book pick. It did not go over so well. Out of the six of us only two, myself included, actually finished the book. Nobody else was able to get into it and part of this I blame on the deadly pacing at the beginning of the book.  The beginning of the book drags as we get introduced to the characters, and while the book seems to pick up steam once the Aurora virus gets started, it doesn’t keep the pace for the rest of the novel. There were plenty of times that I felt like I needed the pick up of caffeine in order to stay awake for this just like the woman of Dooling WV.

The book starts not in the middle of the Aurora Virus, which this mysterious sleeping disease starts to be called, but right before it. That is one of my favorite parts of the book, I liked the dissent from the normal world as we know it and the swift dissent into chaos as the women slowly start to fall asleep. Now, don’t feel too bad if you start to forget who the characters are, there are over 70 characters and the book starts off with a character list. And for all of these characters I think the one who got the least credit was the fox, the last character listed. A talking fox who had more emotion than our female protagonist, Evie Black.

While I was very intrigued by the idea I wasn’t quite happy with the outcome. I don’t know if that’s just me, I don’t always like Stephen King’s endings to his novels, they always seem to let me down, I always imagine the book ending differently than it did. I spent most of the book asking if what had been happening in the previous pages were actually important to the rest of the book, and I’m still not sure that half of it did, and if any of it actually meant anything.

Am I the only one who doesn’t love Stephen Kings endings? Am I the crazy one?

– Hannah

 

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Review: My Absolute Darling

This debut novel by Gabriel Tallent, My Absolute Darling, is an excellent but unsettling novel of extreme child abuse. It is heart breaking and devastating to read but it captivates you and makes it hard to stop, even when you feel like you can’t take anymore. The novel has a pretty even pace as you move through it, but as you get closer to the end, the pace quickens, making it almost impossible to put down.

Turtle, whose real name is Julia, although only her teacher and principal call her that, lives with her father Martin, a sociopath who believes that the world is due for an ecological disaster any day. In the house she shares with him she suffers severe and traumatic emotional, physical, and sexual abuse at the hands of her father. The way that Tallent details the abuse is difficult to read, in the very first scene of the book Martin is calling her a “little bitch”, and it only gets worse from there.

As the novel progresses, Turtle starts to realize that she needs to escape. This urge to escape is only heightened when she meets two high school boys, and develops a crush on one of them, Jacob. The boys instantly take a liking to Turtle, and the way that they talk makes her dizzy.  The boys also bring some light hearted scenes to the novel which helps break up the otherwise disturbing content of the novel.

The language that Tallent uses to convey these violent scenes of horrific abuse that Turtle undergoes at the hand of her father is uncomfortable to say the least. He explores Turtle’s case of Stockholm syndrome in a way that makes you feel for Turtle, but never have pity on her. She is a 14 year old who faced with the violence that she is subjected to is strong and brave, and even finds herself able to provide moments of tenderness when it is needed. He is really able to convey why a victim of abuse sometimes chooses to stay with their abuser, even if they know on some level that it’s wrong.

I gave this novel five stars. The writing is beautiful and lush, all of the characters are full and well rounded, and the story is dark and captivating. There are going to be people who don’t like the way that Tallent described Turtle and her relationship to her father, almost as one who likes her abuse, “In the waiting she by turns wants and does not want it. His touch brings her skin to life, and she holds it all within the private theatre of her mind, where anything is permitted, their two shadows cast across the sheet and knit together.” Tallent makes it clear that it is abuse, but also wants it known that the characters love each other, although not neccesarily a love that should be celebrated. Martin’s love for Turtle is a possessive love, denying Turtle her individuality. Turtle’s a complex mix of a daughter’s love for her father and a 14 year old girl suffering from Stockholm syndrome.

I had a hard time walking away from this novel, as I turned the page I was hoping for more but at the same time, I don’t think I could have taken anymore. I am very excited to see what Gabriel Tallent does next.

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– Hannah

 

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My Favorite Literary Bad Boys

So it is Valentine’s Day. The hallmark holiday to celebrate love. I am a hopeless romantic, thanks to years and years of reading and a secret love of rom-coms (the more unrealistic and tear-jerking the better, thank you very much).

However – I think the idea that I have of love; this kind of “can’t eat, can’t sleep, reach for the stars, over-the-fence, worlds series kind of stuff” (Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen movie style), is unrealistic and unattainable in the real world, especially if we look at some of the men that I have had literary crushes on. So today I want to talk about those men – why do I love them, and for some; why I shouldn’t.

6. Stanley Kowalski, A Streetcar Named Desire – Tennessee Williams; Honestly, I’d be lying if I said a lot of the reason why I love Stanley wasn’t because in the film (one of my favorites actually) he’s played by Marlon Brando in his prime, and can you blame me for that? Look at him:

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(I mean, really)

Stanley Kowalski is a man’s man. There is nothing about Stanley that doesn’t scream masculinity. He is almost a caricature of it. He is brutish when you are first introduced to him, he’s literally swinging a package of meat around, I mean lets read into that for a minute. He is violent to both of the leading ladies in the play, Stella, his wife (who also is pregnant with his child) and Blanche, Stella’s sister who comes for an indefinite stay with them. His violence towards women is appalling from hitting his wife to even raping Blanche.

I honestly struggle to come up with any reason to like Stanley, and then I picture the scene where he is screaming for Stella at the bottom of the stairs, distraught and begging for her to come home and I have to admit my heart melts a little bit.

5. Erik, Phantom of the Opera – Gaston Leroux; The Phantom is probably the worst on my list. He is obsessed with the innocent Christine Daae, stopping at nothing, even killing, in order to try and be with her. This screams unhealthy yes? I LOVE HIM. I’ve got no good explanation for you. I don’t have any excuses. But I absolutely adore him. I first was introduced to The Phantom of the Opera when I listened to the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber. I then read the book, and the movie version with Emmy Rossem and Gerard Butler is one of my favorites. It never fails to have me sobbing at the end. There is something about a brooding man that sets my heart a flutter – I’m sure you’ll pick up the pattern as I move forward in my list. Plus, check out Gerard’s skill with that cape:

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(yaaaasssss)

4. Jay Gatsby, The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald; What’s not to love about Jay Gatsby? He’s handsome, rich, throws great parties and he is madly in love with Daisy. The problem with Jay Gatsby? He has built his whole life around reclaiming the past. He is self centered enough to believe that Daisy will abandon everything about her life to be with him, because he did all of this for her. When you look at it on the surface it seems so hopelessly romantic, a man willing to do anything to win back the woman that he loves. When looking closely, you realize that Gatsby is chasing an unattainable dream, he is fatally idealistic. He believes he is doing what is right, however he fails to realize that Daisy ultimately does not want to be with him. The worst part is, the woman that he’s done all of this for is not the woman that Daisy is, it is the woman he believes Daisy to be.

3. Heathcliff, Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte; Okay. So thinking about it, I don’t have any good reasons why I love Heathcliff or this book. Both he and Catherine Earnshaw are awful people. Neither of them have any good qualities really, and the only redeeming thing about them was their love for each other. I mean, Catherine’s ghost haunts him after she dies, pretty intense stuff. And I’m a sucker for a happy ending, or as happy a ending as you can get with a book as dark as Wuthering Heights.

2. Mr. Rochester, Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte; Something about these Bronte sisters and their ability to write a wonderfully brooding man. If I had to chose though, Mr. Rochester is my favorite leading Bronte man. Mr. Rochester, while not described as particularly attractive, offers Jane her first sense of love and a real home. He is a complex character, wounded and brooding because of a mistake and he’s able to melt any woman’s heart the way that he talks. And then we find out he’s hiding a wife by keeping her locked in a tower. Why Mr Rochester??

“I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you—especially when you are near me, as now: it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame.” Mr Rochester

1. Rhett Butler, Gone With the Wind – Margarett Mitchell; My favorite bad boy of the bunch. I don’t know if I love any one more than I love Rhett Butler, at least any literary characters. He’s dashing, bold, charismatic, and doesn’t give a damn about the rules or what people think of him. He is unapologetically himself at every turn. He can be brutish and a rascal, but underneath that rough exterior he has a heart that is warm and full. He loves Scarlet for who she is and wants her to be the best her possible. Not the best version of her which society will like, but her true self, and he loves her the most when she is being her most authentic self, which I adore him for.

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(swoons)

So tell me, who are the literary characters that you fell in love with? Are any of them bad boys that I missed?

– Hannah