Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Such Pretty Flowers [review]

Such Pretty Flowers by KL Cerra
To be published by Bantam on February 7, 2023
my rating: 3 stars
Goodreads avg:
3.58 (as of 2023-01-02)
Spoiler-free review
Goodreads

disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. Quotes have been taken from the advanced copy and may differ from the final publication.

Releasing next week, Such Pretty Flowers was a solid thriller (with some horror elements) that moves along steadily as we follow Holly in the search for the truth about her brother’s death. Holly becomes obsessed with the enigmatic Maura, who her brother Dane was newly engaged to. This was a quick read — I devoured it in just two days. My only qualms were that I found myself bored at parts and that some of Holly’s actions seemed a little absurd to me. I know characters often make ridiculous decisions in thrillers but I was often internally screaming at Holly as she continued to fall in deeper and deeper. I definitely recommend this to thriller fans, especially those with an interest in botany.


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The Atlas Paradox [review]

The Atlas Paradox by Olivie Blake
Published by Tor Books on October 25, 2022
my rating: 3 stars
Goodreads avg:
3.74 (as of Jan 8, 2023)
Spoiler-free review
Goodreads

I’ve seen people say that it feels like this was meant to be a duology that Blake had to expand into a trilogy and I agree with that sentiment. Thinking back, I remember almost nothing that happened in this book. It was a lot of talking, repetitive conversations, and exposition, I guess? This suffers immensely from second book syndrome and the only thing that kept me going was the characters and their relationships. Thankfully I still found myself deeply invested on that front. I expect the next book to be more cohesive and plot-filled. And as always, I ship the polycule. ❤

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Delilah Green Doesn’t Care [review]

Delilah Green Doesn’t Care by Ashley Herring Blake
Published by Berkley on February 22, 2022
my rating: 5 stars
Goodreads avg:
4.19 (as of 2022-10-11)
Spoiler-free review
Goodreads

I read this in basically one sitting and just adored it. I’ve seen a lot of criticisms of Delilah’s character, and they’re all legitimate. I can see how she would be irritating to read. Thankfully, I just loved her. Womanizer lesbian with trauma returns to her hometown and falls in love with her sister’s best friend? Yes, please!!! I found Delilah and Claire both so fun to follow and their relationship made me just so happy. I don’t have much to say about this other than gushing, but I did also really like following Delilah as a photographer. I’m super excited that this is going to be a series and look forward to Astrid’s book coming out shortly!

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The Hellbound Heart [review]

The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker
Published in 1986
my rating: 3 stars
Goodreads avg:
4.06 (as of 2022-10-11)
Spoiler-free review
Goodreads

This was… bizarre. This is one of those books that makes me think I need to read some essays and interviews before I can understand it. I buddy read this with Destiny in preparation for the Hellraiser remake because (surprise to me!) this was the novella that Hellraiser was based on! Having never seen the film and going into this pretty cold (I knew what Pinhead looked like and that was it), I was definitely… surprised. My first read by Clive Barker was a middle grade horror novel, so this adult erotic horror novella was a bit of a turn.

Unfortunately, I just don’t feel like I got this. The writing was excellent – Barker certainly has that going for him – but the story itself was too bizarre for me to follow. I somehow only learned Barker was gay after reading this and I think having that lens would have been helpful for me to get more out of it.

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Carrie [review]

Carrie by Stephen King
Published in 1974
my rating: 4 stars
Goodreads avg:
3.98 (as of 2022-09-20)
Spoiler-free review
Goodreads

No one was there—or if there was, He/It was cowering from her. God had turned His face away, and why not? This horror was as much His doing as hers.

I’ve read this at least once before, but it’s been years so I figured I’d pick it up before Kayla’s community reads The Weight of Blood (inspired by Carrie). I’m happy to say this is probably one of my favorite books by King. There’s no unnecessary length (King does tend to be overly wordy) and while there is still some offensive content, it’s not as front-and-center as it is in some of his other works. Overall, the story and characterization were wildly compelling. I hadn’t remembered the epistolary aspect, which really added to the book. There were a few moments that had me rolling my eyes at King, but as a whole I do recommend this and I’m glad I reread it. I will be excited to pick up a retelling written by a woman, though.

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Piranesi [review]

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing on September 15, 2020
my rating: 4 stars
Goodreads avg:
4.26 (as of 2022-09-15)
Spoiler-free review
Goodreads

There is a thing that I know but always forget: Winter is hard.

What a bizarre little book. This is difficult to review without giving anything away, but I’ll give it a shot. I went into this pretty cold, knowing only that it was somewhat related to mythology and fairly fantastic. I honestly think that was best, it took me a bit to settle into the narrative style but witnessing the story unravel while trying to figure out what was going on was very satisfying. Piranesi is an oddly satisfying character to follow, I appreciated his emphasis on logic and his understanding of the world around him. Although his naivety could have been frustrating, I found it more sad than anything else and I found him very sympathetic. Clarke did an excellent job with this and I’m glad it was the Women’s Prize winner of 2021.

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Just Like Home [review]

Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey
Published by Tor Books on July 19, 2022
my rating: 4.5 stars
Goodreads avg:
3.53 (as of 2022-09-14)
Spoiler-free review
Goodreads

This book is dedicated to anyone who has ever loved a monster.

I can’t seem to stop reading divisive books! This was my fourth Gailey read and I have to say that I am so impressed by their range. From historical fiction to thriller to horror, it seems like they can do it all. Just Like Home is about a woman named Vera who returns to her childhood home at the behest of her estranged dying mother. Vera’s father was a serial killer and her memories in this house are slowly revealed to us over the course of the book. There is also a horror element that readers seem to either love or hate — I loved it. There were just a handful of things I wish Gailey had done differently, but I found this so atmospheric. I had to tear myself away from the book at night because even though I was getting so spooked, I didn’t want to put it down. I found both the characters and the story itself incredibly compelling and really can’t wait to see what Gailey comes out with next.

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The Perfect Nanny [review]

The Perfect Nanny by Leïla Slimani transl. by Sam Taylor
Published by Penguin Books on January 9, 2018 (originally 2016)
my rating: 4 stars
Goodreads avg:
3.39 (as of 2022-09-08)
Spoiler-free review
Goodreads

Already the rumor is spreading. Something terrible has happened to the children.

I picked this up after listening to a re-run of an interview with the author on the podcast Literary Friction. I was a little anxious seeing the average rating (apparently the last month or so has been me accidentally reading plenty of lowly-rated books), but decided to give it a go anyway. I’m glad I did. This is a book following Louise, a French nanny who seems perfect in every way. But the book begins with the death of the two children Louise has been nannying. This is a retrospective, more literary than thriller, giving us the greater context for this tragedy.

I could have easily read this in one sitting. I found the story and its characters utterly compelling, even if none of them were particularly likeable. Louise is outwardly perfect in every way, going above and beyond, but privately she is drowning in the debts of her late husband and is completely estranged from her daughter. I liked how we were exposed to voices from Louise’s past as we follow her in the very recent past throughout her career with these two children. The tone of this book was immaculate, with creeping dread building steadily as the family and the nanny become increasingly more codependent in their relationships.

This will be a particularly horrific read for parents and I caution you to make sure you’re prepared if you have or want kids. But Slimani is an excellent writer who is able to pack so much into such a slim novel and I will absolutely be recommending this.

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Detransition, Baby [review]

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
Published by One World on January 12, 2021
my rating: 5 stars
Goodreads avg:
4.00 (as of 2022-08-31)
Spoiler-free review
Goodreads

[…] her life as a woman arrived with pain; pain that had to be endured, withstood, pain that was the same as being alive, and so was without end.

This was really incredible. Torrey Peters is an incredible writer and I was constantly awed by how clever this was. ‘A whipsmart debut’ indeed. Reese is a trans woman living in New York who is figuring out herself and how to get what she wants in life. Ames is her ex-girlfriend, now detransitioned but not quite a cis man, trying to live a ‘normal’ life. Ames has gotten his current partner, his boss, pregnant and is frantically trying to decide what to do.

Before I knew this was authored by a trans women, the inclusion of detransition concerns me. I mean, we’re surrounded with right-wing rhetoric about how allowing trans children to be themselves will lead to all these horrible things, and how soo many people detransition. But Peters is trans and I felt that she handled this topic gracefully, emphasizing how so many trans folks are forced to detransition because it is so difficult to live in such a transphobic world.

While I am not a trans woman, as a member of the queer community I did find a lot of comfort and familiarity in this book. I’m also polyamorous and seeing the development of this triad warmed my heart — even if they have far to go when it comes to communication. But this book deals with a lot of dark topics, things that I don’t think could have been left out of a story like this. There is an interesting commentary about various forms of colonization and oppression; Ames’ partner Katrina is a cis woman but is biracial. Reese is used to viewing all cis women as privileged, but has to confront the fact that not all cis women are cis white women.

I also appreciated that Peters didn’t pause the story to introduce concepts of Gender 101; she used in-group language without explanation in a way that I found immersive and important. I appreciate when authors do this for any kind of culture — sprinkling in definitions often feels forced or pulls a reader out of the story. We all have access to Google and are able to look up anything we don’t understand from prior knowledge or context alone.

There were so many fascinating explorations of misogyny and transmisogyny and I’m excited to come back to this someday to pick up on more than can be processed via a first read. I feel like each page could spawn dozens of essays. Peters brought a remarkable book into this world and I’m looking forward to picking up her next one.


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Dark Circles [review]

Dark Circles by Caite Dolan-Leach
Published by Ballantine Books on April 19, 2022
my rating: 2 stars
Goodreads avg:
3.41 (as of 2022-08-29)
Spoiler-free review
Goodreads

disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. Quotes have been taken from the advanced copy and may differ from the final publication.

The stories told about us are not our own.

I had to pick this up because I really liked We Went to the Woods by the same author. I found it well-written and compelling at first, so the average Goodreads rating confused me, but We Went to the Woods also has a low average so I brushed it off. I really enjoyed the setup, meeting Liv and the House of Light. Olivia is an actress who had a recent public outburst that prompts her assistant slash best friend Jess to send her to rehab. The House of Light is more of a spiritual retreat and Liv thinks she knows exactly what she’s in for. Since this is a literary thriller of sorts, I think we all know that things end up taking a turn.

After the first third, this began to drag for me. I felt like the various elements didn’t quite mesh and some things began to get repetitive. It was just missing that something to make it feel compelling. It was a bit of a disappointment for me because I did like the concept of integrating a podcast into the narrative (which I think was done well here) but I struggled with the novel as a whole. I also found one of the final twists to be unsatisfying and wasn’t convinced by some of the character motives. I’m really hoping I get along better with Dolan-Leach’s next book.


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