November Monthly Wrap Up

Hey Readers!

I can’t believe that it is already time for another monthly wrap up. This month/this year seems like it has FLOWN by. I honestly don’t know where the time has gone. I had an amazing reading month and a pretty good blogging month too. Despite being crazy busy, spending about a week sick, being halfway through my second to last class for my bachelor’s degree, and with the holidays, I read eight books and wrote four (five if you count this one) blog posts!

Here are some posts that you may have missed that I suggest you check out:

A review on a dark thriller read I read in October.

My dream cast for an upcoming Amazon TV show for a fantasy series that I am currently reading.

A (spoiler-free) review on my favorite fantasy series… ever.

A review of another book I read in October which also happens to be one of the most depressing and beautiful novels I have ever read.

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Now, for some brief thoughts of the books I read this month:

IMG_3527 Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand

I read this as the first pick for my book club, @monstersandstrangerworlds, which is run on Instagram with some of my favorite book friends (@worldswithinpages, @booknerdnative, and @fictionalflowerday – check them out!). I will have a full review once we’ve had our discussion on our Instagram page but this was an enjoyable read. I read it in about two sittings.

IMG_3946 The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

I spent about a week sick this month and I read this cute and sexy romance in one day. It was the perfect light reading that I needed. I didn’t love it as much as I loved The Wedding Date, Guillory’s first novel, but I really enjoyed it.

IMG_3967 The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda

This was the second book I read in a day when I was sick. It is a quick thriller that is good enough to keep you turning the pages, however, I didn’t connect with the main character and a lot of what she did bothered me.  I also didn’t *love* the ending.

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The Shadow and Bone Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

I really enjoyed this trilogy, I flew right through the series in about a week. It was by no means my favorite fantasy series, there are some problematic tropes in the novels but I had fun reading them. Also, at what point do you become old enough not to fall for the bad boy? Because I’m here for the Darkling, not gonna lie.

IMG_3768 Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

So in truth, I snuck this one in right under the radar because I just finished up this collection of short stories today. This is Adjei-Brenyah’s first book and I really hope that it isn’t the last because these stories were something else. The stories are razor sharp, deep, dark and captivating. These stories look at racism and capitalism and with Adjei-Brenyah’s unique voice they should be considered mandatory reading.

IMG_3700 The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan 

This is my one re-read of the year, and I can not tell you how much I had forgotten about this book. SO much happens in this first book, and I am completely in love all over. As I’m reading it I just keep remembering details I had completely forgotten about and I’m sitting here just waiting for Nynaeve and Lan cause I ship them HARD.

 

What books did you read in November? Let me know in the comments!

– Hannah

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Review: The Butterfly Garden

Hey Readers,

When I first saw The Butterfly Garden as I was scrolling through my instagram feed, I had heard absolutely nothing about it. After I did a little digging and read the plot summary I was instantly intrigued. When I first started the book, I was hooked by the first page and just could not put it down. I ended up reading the entire book in one session.

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The Butterfly Garden is about a man who has kidnapped young women, tattooed intricate butterflies upon their backs, and then holds them hostage in this garden that is attached to his secluded mansion. The Gardner, as the girls call him, is obsessed with capturing and preserving what he sees as his beautiful specimens. The book starts with the girls having just been rescued, with one of them Maya being interviewed by the detectives. As she is interviewed, we learn what happened to her and the other girls in the Garden and we’re left wondering what else she could be hiding.

This book is dark, twisted and graphic and definitely not for everyone. I mean, it’s about a man who kidnaps women and then turns them into butterflies, if you didn’t expect a book like that to be at least a little dark and twisted, I’m not really sure what to tell you. However you do need to suspend disbelief for this story, because most of these characters are over the top. You keep waiting for someone to do something and nobody does, and while that ends up helping you turn the pages and feel like your on the edge of your seat, it seems unrealistic just how many people do absolutely nothing about the circumstances. Granted, who knows what I would do if all of a sudden I was trapped in a garden having a butterfly tattooed on my back. But that isn’t just about what the victims don’t do, because honestly they don’t *have* to do anything. It’s the other supporting characters who keep being faced with choices that I feel continue to make choices that aren’t very realistic.

“Some people stay broken. Some pick up the pieces and put them back together with all the sharp edges showing.” Dot Hutchison; The Butterfly Garden

One of the things that I really enjoyed about this book was that it wasn’t like all of the other serial killer books out there. Instead of watching the detective try and find the serial killer to save the victims, the detectives have already saved them, they’ve already found the killer and now they need to piece together all of the evidence to figure out what exactly had happened and why. This structure, and the way it flashed back from Maya’s time in the garden to present day when she is being interviewed by the FBI was one of the best parts of the book.

Dot Hutchison’s writing was visceral. The way that she described the harrowing events that these girls had gone through, and of Maya’s struggles prior to being kidnapped was gripping. There is a lot going on in this novel that is hard to get through, awful scenes of abuse and torture, and reveals that you weren’t prepared for. She describes all of these things without the shock value associated with a classic “slasher” thriller. Hutchison stays away from these kind of scares instead using her writing to genuinely upset the reader as they move towards the conclusion of the story.

The one element that really didn’t work for me however was the conclusion. I felt that the twist at the end of the book, and the wrap up of the story in general, felt rushed and overly dramatic. For a book that relied on the drama to keep readers enthralled with the story and to keep them so engrossed, the rushed drama of the end just felt messy and not completely thought through.

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Overall, I really enjoyed The Butterfly Garden and I plan on reading the next two books in The Collector series: The Roses of May and The Summer Children soon.

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

– Hannah

Review: VOX

*This review does contain a spoiler towards the end, so please keep that in mind when reading!*

One thing we have to thank this administration for is the endless ideas for feminist dystopian novels. I’ve read and loved a few of them this year already; The Power by Naomi Alderman and Red Clocks by Leni Zumas. And we can not forget Margaret Atwood’s classic, The Handmaids Tale, which has been a terrifying dystopia since it was published in 1985 and when it was turned into a TV show on Hulu in 2017. Christina Dalcher doesn’t hold back in her world in which women have only 100 words to speak a day in her novel, Vox.

We follow Jean, a thriving cognitive linguist who was on the brink of discovering a cure for individuals who were left without the ability to speak after a stroke, who has now been regulated to being a stay at home wife and mother. After the election of a totalitarian leader to the presidency, and the Pure Movement sweeps the nation, there are new laws which prevent women from holding jobs, reading, writing, and speaking. Also, don’t think about non-verbal communication, there are camera’s everywhere to make sure you don’t do that either.

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The exposition of Vox is where Christina Dalcher thrived. We start the novel when the president is already in charge, laws have already been made and women have already had their speech limited. Woman from babies six months and up have been fitted with bracelets that prevent them from speaking more than 100 words a day, to be electrocuted if they go over their limit. Yet, through Jean’s reflection we see how the country got to the state that it was in. We see so many groups of people: the feminists who rallied and fought, the white women like our narrator, who sat by and did nothing, the LGBTQ+ community who have been either “converted” or imprisoned, and the men who and those who don’t agree with the politics yet are still thriving. The exposition is full of reflection of the world and how America got to where it is. Not just in the novel, but also where we are as a country today. For example; while Donald Trump wasn’t written by name, the allusion between the president in the novel and himself is very clear.

However, once we get to the action it loses track of all of the ideas and speculation that was set up by the exposition and becomes a fast paced thriller. While it does grip the reader and leaves one on the edge of their seat, the real grit of the novel fails to hold up under all of the pressure of the action. When Dalcher has set up such a intense novel with her political and social climate it is a shame the novel doesn’t keep that commentary up and instead sinks into a action movie where the plausibility doesn’t hold up with convenient, lucky and unbelievable resolutions that leave a less than feminist taste in ones mouth.

I was disappointed by this novel. I had a lot of high hopes and after hearing it compared to The Handmaid’s Tale I knew that I had to have it. I wanted more of and was expecting more of the social and political commentary and less of the face paced thriller in which our feminist novel has all of the really hard work completed by men and in which the saving of the world is done by men. In a novel that is supposed to be talking about feminism and empowerment for women, I think it really lost is message when *spoiler alert* a man is the one who ultimately saves the day and rescues our damsel in distress.

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With that said, would I recommend this book? Absolutely. I think even with the fast paced thriller and unrealistic resolutions this book has a lot of things to unpack that really should be discussed. One of those things is the idea of the white women in America who do not do anything, who sit by and let things happen and don’t get angry until we are losing our rights. Jean is the perfect example of this, at one point when her roommate Jacko, a lesbian feminist, is upset about the currently climate, Jean says “You’re getting hysterical about it.” to which Jacko responds, “Well, someone needs to be hysterical around here.” While I think there was so much that could have been done with this novel, the message is clear and is important. We need to do more, especially those of us who have privileges that others don’t, before we don’t have the ability to anymore. We need to all be speaking up so that our feminist dystopian novels can stay novels, and not continue to be our reality.

 

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

– Hannah

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