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#book review

Finished November 29, 2020. Four stars.

Old in Art School: A Memoir of Starting Over by Nell Painter

Have I declared my love for memoir on here yet? I do so love a memoir–especially when it’s a woman writing about her own life, in her own words. Add to that that this is an older Black woman writing about being an older Black woman, who has a highly successful career as a historian and decides to go to art school, beginning with a BFA. I loved it. I mean, it was worth reading alone to hear the way her thought process evolved over time, this dynamic between history and art that so occupies her thoughts and creative process. I also found her writing about the ways in which grad school ground her down and how she felt isolated from her peers to be weirdly validating and comforting? At least if only because I had a similar experience in my second Masters program–though not for the reasons Painter does.

I loved so much of what Painter wrote, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and I’d love to read her academic, or at least other nonfiction texts. Reading about artists–in all their iterations–and their creative processes and lives creating and the way they think really just gets me revved up. It’s also nice to know that you can start your life over or reinvent yourself whenever you want.

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“Why do you think they built so many churches here? Somehow the men and women of this city knew: their streets were home to other gods.”


Sometimes you read books and it feels like you’re being told the story. The narrator puts you squarely in the audience and proceeds to regale you with their tale. This is not a bad thing, it has its time and place, but my favorite way to experience literature is to live through it. I love the type of storytelling that puts you not between the pages but in them. I read books because reality is disappointing and there’s no better feeling than getting lost in a story. This is what Ninth House is like. From the first page you are thrust into the words, standing beside Alex as she examines her wound in the mirror. You see it, you feel it. You are pleasantly confused as Bardugo never tells you, only shows. You put the pieces together as you go along, slowly understanding the world and its rules. The plot glides forward; despite the story being told through layers of flashbacks and introspection, it feels seamless. Alive. Aware of itself.


Galaxy Stern sling shots from one end of the spectrum (hidden from society via poverty and drug addiction, rendered faceless and useless by capitalism and a guilt that passersby can’t shake so they aggressively ignore it) to the other (a talented artist in a position of indelible privilege, living in a world of magic and obscene wealth), and that seems to loosen her grip on reality, on her identity. “She had the eerie sense that they were dreaming her, a girl in a dark coat who would disappear when they woke.” Do you ever feel like you don’t exist? Or get the overwhelming feeling that you’re dreaming? A sudden hyperawareness, Am I here? Do they see me? I often feel like I’m playing the part of Woman on Subway in someone else’s story, that I serve no purpose other than fleshing out a scene, lending some reality to an otherwise unrealistic story.


“With his other hand he pushed the fabric of her shirt up the slope of her forearm. It felt like a prelude.” This is why books are so much more exciting than real life. In my aggressively normal existence, this would simply be “a man pushes up my sleeve”, but in literature it is something else entirely, words like slope and prelude make it feel big and meaningful. It makes the simple act of moving a sleeve something dramatic, something noteworthy.


“Darlington was a good talker, but he was happiest when no one was talking to him, when he didn’t have to perform the ritual of himself and he could simply be left to watch others.” If I had written this sentence, I probably would have just said “Darlington was a good talker, but he was happiest when no one was talking to him, when he didn’t have to perform and he could simply be left to watch others.” I, too, feel like I’m acting in almost all social situations (most of my smiles are fake) and would have thought saying “perform” conveyed the sentiment well enough. But by adding “the ritual of himself” Bardugo makes it seem more like a burden, something heavy and sad. Ritual is defined as an “observance of set forms in public worship” and “an established or prescribed procedure for a religious or other rite” and that describes it infinitely better than relying solely on “perform”.  Is that not exactly what it is? All of us worshipping social niceties and the status quo by behaving as we’re shown, by sticking to the script?


“’Yes,’ said Alex, leaning forward. This was what Alex’s mother had never managed to grasp. Mira loved art and truth and freedom. She didn’t want to be a part of the machine. But the machine didn’t care. The machine went on grinding and catching her up in its gears.” For all the time I’ve spent lamenting an “average” life and working a boring “regular” job, I’ve been living an average life and working boring, regular jobs. I don’t know how to exist outside of the machine. It is everywhere. It is everything. Perhaps it’s time to admit defeat. Was there ever a future where it didn’t win?

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book review | I’ll Be the One

Author: Lyla Lee

Genre: YA fiction, romance

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I went into this book knowing very little about K-pop, Korean American culture, or the experiences of women who are plus-sized, but I expected a pretty wholesome read and that’s what I got. I’ll Be the One is a story about Skye Shin, a Korean American teen who has dreams to break into the K-pop scene with her vocal and dancing talents. In an attempt to do this, she enters a K-pop talent competition set exclusively in sunny Los Angeles despite all the pushback she receives from her mother and others who think Skye should stay out of the spotlight because of her appearance.

Read on for the review!

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Book review: The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

It’s 1634 and something dark is brewing aboard the merchant ship transporting world famous detective Samuel Pipps and his loyal bodyguard Arent Hayes to Amsterdam. Ghosts stalk the decks and demons demand offerings, but Pipps and Arent suspect one of their fellow passengers to be behind the supposedly supernatural events.

Stuart Turton’s debut The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle was one of the most bizarre, original stories I read last year, and as soon as I heard that Turton had penned a second novel, I knew I had to get my hands on it. This tense murder mystery set on the high seas has that same spark of originality, intriguing characters and plot twists that keep you reading late into the night, telling yourself “just one more page”.

Pipps and Arent are a classic detective duo, reminiscent of Holmes and Watson, or Poirot and Hastings. Fellow passenger Sara Wessel is also a stand-out character and I especially enjoyed the chapters from her perspective. Turton employs several detective mystery tropes throughout the novel, and has fun with them - you can clearly tell that he loves the genre he’s writing in.

The only thing keeping me from giving this book 5 stars was the ending, which I’m still undecided on - there’s some great twists, but I felt that tensions between certain characters were wrapped up a bit too easily.

That said, this is another excellent supernatural-tinged mystery and I’m looking forward to reading more from this author!

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Rating:  4 stars | ★★★★✰
Review cross-posted to Goodreads

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Finished Ken Liu’s collection The Paper Menagerie and other stories and it was just an amazing mix of fantasy, sci-fi, history, and strong Asian, mainly Chinese cultural influences/explorations.

Some favorites:

  • The Bookmaking habits of selected species
  • Good Hunting - eastern magic and fox spirits meets steampunk
  • The Literomancer - magic of words, identity and belonging, and the tragedy of the Cold War era
  • The Waves - almost modern or alternative more fantasy take to Issac Asimov’s The Last Question
  • All the Flavours- wholesome cross cultural exchange set in Idaho during gold rush period with intercepted Chinese mythology/Romance of the Three Kingdoms excerpts
  • The Litigation Master & The Monkey King - speaks for itself. Discussions around heroism and individual actions against oppression
  • The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary- should come with a trigger warning as it discusses Unit 731 attrocies, memory and how we can know and honor history
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“The vessel is cracked.

The vessel is breaking.

The vessel is my body.


This book is stunningly beautiful and heartbreakingly tragic and yet the ending is uplifting.

Gelya lives in a convent. She is innocent, she is pure of heart, and she is a vessel of her god. But after meeting Tavik, a Kantari Two Swords, she becomes a vessel of another god, actually a goddess, that seems to be bent on not allowing Gelya to feel control over her own body.

This has an enemies to lovers, slow-burning romance, that will seriously melt your heart. It did mine. The main characters, Gelya and Tavik, are charming and play of each other humorously. This book could not be more perfect and I highly recommend it!

“Love trumps hate. Every time. Even in the face of world destruction, love is the better choice. ”

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Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is my fourth time rereading ACOMAF and I fall in love with it even more each time. This book is about healing, discovering yourself, and finding love when darkness over takes you. ACOMAF takes place a few months after Feyre goes Under the Mountain and dies and becomes remade into Fae. She is struggling. Tamlin keeps her away from doing things and she is going crazy and letting her grief eat her alive. He does nothing to help her cope. On her wedding day to Tamlin, she silently begs anyone to rescue her. Rhys shows up and calls in his one week a month bargain. From there the book picks up with the threat of war and coping from grief and healing.

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5 stars

Emilia and Vittoria are twins stregas who have grown up hearing the stories of how they should protect themselves against dark creatures and especially the wicked princes of Hell. Shortly after their eighteenth birthday, Vittoria is brutally murdered and Emilia will stop at nothing to find out who did it and make them pay. Even it means aligning herself with a wicked prince.

This sounded so good. Witches, demons, murder, and enemies to lovers. And let me tell y'all, Kerri Maniscalco writes it well. There’s nothing I can’t stand more when people promise me enemies to lovers and they fall in love within ten pages. Give me the hate and the distrust!!!! Kerri gives us plenty to make it feel like both equally don’t trust each other and both equally and slowly start to warm up to each other while still being enemies.

I’ve read her first series Stalking Jack the Ripper which is a lovely series and while it’s a little overboard on cheesiness and leans heavily on slight romanticism of macabre tones/goth tones, and the romance is nearly sickeningly sweet. It’s so nice to see her writing something completely different. Kingdom of the Wicked felt real and honestly hungry a lot when it talked about food. It didn’t feel like SJTR but it’s own series.

Emilia is a great character, I loved her from the beginning. I never felt like she was being annoying or stupid about obvious things. She’s so full of determination and vengeance, it’s refreshing to see a character act that way. Vittoria kept secrets and slowly Emilia searches for the answers, constantly out of her depth but refusing to give up. I’m rooting for her.

Wrath is great and I love the idea of demon etiquette. I love that he’s not a bad boy with a secret heart of gold, he’s literally a demon prince with his own agenda. I really am looking forward to the second book now especially in due to Wrath.

This is a little bit of a spoiler so BEWARE: I do remember thinking how come Emilia just doesn’t offer up herself as bait earlier if she wants to stop the killings? But I’m glad she didn’t because the set up for the end is good.

I would absolutely recommend this book! It was really fun and interesting, and the writing was great. She describes someone as ‘lethally angelic’ and I loved that. Book 2 can’t come fast enough. We need more female characters ready to throw down.

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Uptown Girls 1

Attorney Frank Tripp had fought his way to his current position as legal counsel and part-time fixer for his wealthy clients.  Mamie Greene, daughter of one of his clients, is frequently finding trouble as she explores the world past her privileged environment.  She also tries to help the poor through legal and illegal means, but Tripp’s continuing interference is impeding her efforts.

I was so excited when I saw that one of my huge number of long delayed ARCs included a couple of romances.  More bonus points for it being a historical romance!  And then I started reading it.  The synopsis sounded intriguing, but the application was not.  Mamie came across as a bored socialite looking for something exciting to do rather than having actual compassion for the poor.  

Then there is the fact that I saw absolutely NO CHEMISTRY between Frank and Mamie.  He seemed to be more fixated on Mamie (and her breasts), almost stalkerish in some sections.  Mamie was willing to have a fling, but knew she would marry one of her own kind.  Despite the author’s best efforts, I never felt it.  They both seemed shallow and boring, despite what they were both involved in.


Originally posted by magobjects

I was so bored, even when the heroine was pickpocketing a patron at the upscale casino she and her sister were gambling at.  I struggled on as long as I could before I finally said “enough” and gave up.  

This is the first Shupe book that I’ve ever read.  Can’t say I’ll give her another try anytime soon, although I’ve heard from a few others that this was a weaker book than usual.  It is also one of the few Golden Age historical romances that I’ve read.  That can be an intriguing and exciting time period as so much was changing during those years.  Sadly, this book didn’t give me that excitement.  DNF  2 out of 5 for what I did read.


Originally posted by tp-etra

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Red Queen review


Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers for Red Queen (under the cut) so don’t read if you don’t want to be spoiled!

Overall rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

I read Red Queen before, back when it originally came out and I never got around to finishing the series so I decided to finally go back to it and re-read the first one. I remembered most of the main plot points in the story but forgot some of the smaller details so it was just as thrilling to read it a second time around. 

The story’s main plot point is the whole divide between those with red blood who are ‘normal’ people and those who have silver blood which allows them to wield special powers and makes them better than the reds. It is definitely an interesting concept, especially when I think about what it would look like to bleed silver blood. Victoria Aveyard put in so many little details relating to this that I loved such as showing that when those with silver blood blush, their skin goes pale instead of darkening. 

The main plot of the generic ‘normal’ girl who somehow finds her way into the royal family is not the most original idea. However, the reason that I loved reading this book even a second time around is the complexity in the characters, the many betrayals and plot twists that still made me gasp. Even though I remembered most of them, I didn’t forget how I felt reading it the first time around and feeling utterly betrayed and shocked by the end of the book. 

Spoilers ahead! 

Keep reading

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This month my book off my bookshelf was My Ántonia, which I own mostly because I know my mom really liked it as a child. As someone raised on Laura Ingalls Wilder, this book is very nostalgic. I liked that it had a frame story built into the preface (that the author received this autobiographical manuscript from a friend).

I did *not* like the parts of this book which were blatantly racist in the way that “pioneer” genre books are, or the underlying message of “the country was empty and these brave white people tamed it”. I don’t think that means that people shouldn’t read it, but I’m glad that as an adult I’m now able to identify that insidious, underlying message.

Final rating 4/5 for nostalgia

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The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston

Since the days of conquistador Hernán Cortés, rumors have circulated about a lost city of immense wealth hidden somewhere in the Honduran interior, called the White City or the Lost City of the Monkey God. In 2012 Douglas Preston climbed aboard a rickety, single-engine plane carrying the machine that would change everything: lidar, a highly advanced, classified technology that could map the terrain under the densest rainforest canopy. In an unexplored valley ringed by steep mountains, that flight revealed the unmistakable image of a sprawling metropolis, tantalizing evidence of not just an undiscovered city but an enigmatic, lost civilization. Venturing into this raw, treacherous, but breathtakingly beautiful wilderness to confirm the discovery, Preston and the team battled torrential rains, quickmud, disease-carrying insects, jaguars, and deadly snakes. (adapted from goodreads)

I learned some interesting things from this book, but ultimately, I wished that most of them were being told to me by someone else. Preston, while definitely making some efforts to be aware of the problematic portions of adventure archaeology, tended to be defensive about his involvement in this expedition and about the problems of the expedition. He also would say things like “this isn’t a justification” when it clearly was intended to be a justification. I got very tired of him deflecting blame.

However, I did think that the site that he describes, and the jungle, sounded really interesting and beautiful, and I quite enjoyed the portions that described their actual expedition. Of course, those sections were brief, because he spent a lot of time talking about things other than the sites that they surveyed, like the disease they all got afterwards, the funding of the trip, a history of the Maya despite the site not being Maya in origin, etc. Ultimately, I felt like I would have gotten more out of scientific papers about the site than from this book, but I did learn something from it.

Actual Rating: 2.25/5

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Warnings: parent death in childbirth, more or less absent parent, some violence, some blood. 


Title: Entwined.

Author: Heather Dixon Wallwork.

Goodreads page.

Summary: Just when Azalea should feel that everything is before her—beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing—it’s taken away. All of it. And Azalea is trapped. The Keeper understands. He’s trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. So he extends an invitation.

Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest, but there is a cost. The Keeper likes to keep things. Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.

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