Contributor Book Review of ‘Into the Water’

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Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
Review by: Noelle Simonson

Warning: This review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.

If you’ve read Girl on the Train, you are aware of Paula Hawkins’ writing expertise. She knows how to craft a world and the people within it. However, this book was different. Into the Water, while also a thriller, wasn’t quite as thrilling. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it. If I could, I’d probably rate it 3.5 stars because it doesn’t quite hit that 4-star mark.

The world within Into the Water is a complex one. With at least eight different narrators, it is somewhat hard to follow. I was listening to the audiobook on my way to and from work and that made it easier to comprehend because of the different voices for the narrators. It took me until about halfway through to remember who was who and what their background story was. Though I understand the necessity of having this many characters, it might have been better to have longer excerpts from each narration, not as many character jumps, and to tighten up the loose ends. There are still some parts of the story left unanswered and that’s part of the reason for my middle-high rating.

Lena and Jules were mainly the only characters within this novel that I found interesting. Everyone else, except for Erin, fell a little flat. I found the ending to be somewhat predictable and didn’t leave me wanting more. It’s like I already knew what was going to happen before it did. I don’t want to keep comparing this to Girl on the Train, but after such a compelling page-turner, this is not what I had hoped it would be. The writing was just as good but the story was not. The characters were complex and some of them were even horrifyingly bad. As in, most of the people within the town were just not good people. Each of them had their own personal vendetta and seemed guilty of Nel’s death. I wish we could have seen more from Nel’s perspective as it would have been easier to sympathize with her and understand why she did what she did.

Overall, I recommend reading this book. It wasn’t a difficult read by any means and it was definitely enjoyable. Just don’t expect the world.

You can purchase Paula Hawkins’ Into the Water here.

Contributor Book Review of ‘Annihilation’

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Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
Review by: Noelle Simonson

Warning: This review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.

Annihilation is truly that: annihilating. But in a good way. It blew me out of the water. After watching the movie, which is usually a no-no for me as I like to read the books first, I decided that I absolutely had to read it. After waiting for three months, due to extremely long waits at the library, I finally got the book. Or rather, the audiobook. Listening to this story was unbelievably enthralling. Catherine McCormack, the narrator, did a better job at narrating than I could have ever imagined. Her voice helped carry the biologist’s story. Though the book was definitely very different from the movie, I find myself looking at them as two separate entities. I usually like the movie to follow the book to the detail but this was so different that it can hardly be seen as the same story and I actually didn’t mind this time. Both stories were strong in their own right and both had complicated characters that I enjoyed learning about and following. The biologist in the book was much more complicated than Natalie Portman’s version of her. She was almost inhuman. She had so many qualities about her that were cold and distant, which made for an unreliable narrator. Those are, of course, my favorite kinds of narrators. Because she hardly knew what was going on inside of Area X, that means we hardly knew. We learned with her. We speculated with her. We tried to sympathize and understand her thoughts and actions no matter what she did. The biologist is a character that I would like to dissect. Her many different facets are what make her so unique to any other character I’ve seen. I can’t imagine how hard it was to create her.

Though the biologist is one of the main reasons I enjoyed Annihilation so much, I was also entranced by the writing itself. Because I was mostly listening to the words and not reading them, they were just powerful enough to keep my attention. I’m usually not great at listening to audiobooks because I get distracted but this was such an animated and interesting read that I didn’t want to stop listening even when I had to. There are so many phrases that shook me to my core because of the beauty of the words themselves. For example, “The effect of this cannot be understood without being there. The beauty of it cannot be understood, either, and when you see beauty in desolation it changes something inside you. Desolation tries to colonize you.” Desolation colonizes you! I’ve never heard such a beautiful and destructive phrase all at once.

To anyone on the edge, wondering if they should spend their time reading this, the answer is yes. Annihilation will sink its teeth into you and not let go until you’ve read every last word. You won’t regret it.

You can purchase Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation here.

Book Review: “Call Me By Your Name” by André Aciman

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While the statement, “the book was better”, is almost always the case, André Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name was one of the most prominent examples of this. This is not to say that the adaptation was lacking in beauty, accuracy, or craft, but the book was just so, so, so much better. It holds a depth that a film simply cannot capture. Internal thought played a massive role in Elio and Oliver’s story and, without that, it isn’t the same. I enjoyed the movie as a complement to the book, but feel genuine sorrow for those who didn’t have the backstory and deeper rooted understandings of these characters prior to their viewing experiences. The film was all surface, while the book was made up of eye-opening, universally relatable, poetic prose. This book is being added to my “most treasured” list. It meant so much to me and I highly recommend it.

Here is the synopsis, for those interested in seeking out this book:

“Andre Aciman’s Call Me by Your Name is the story of a sudden and powerful romance that blossoms between an adolescent boy and a summer guest at his parents’ cliffside mansion on the Italian Riviera. Each is unprepared for the consequences of their attraction, when, during the restless summer weeks, unrelenting currents of obsession, fascination, and desire intensify their passion and test the charged ground between them. Recklessly, the two verge toward the one thing both fear they may never truly find again: total intimacy. It is an instant classic and one of the great love stories of our time.”

You can purchase André Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name here.

Have you read and/or watched Call Me By Your Name? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

February 2018: Current Reads and My Favorite Book of the Year (So Far)

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Thus far into 2018, I’ve read six (almost eight–finishing up two more right now) books. In the past month and a half, I have read the fourth installment of the Runaways comic series, helium by Rudy Francisco, Peluda by Melissa Lozada-Oliva, We Slept Here by Sierra DeMulder, Glass, Irony, and God by Anne Carson, and Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.  I am currently reading Still Me by Jojo Moyes, What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons, Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon, Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson, and Apathy and Paying Rent by Zach VandeZande. I recently posted a video on YouTube that covers my most anticipated reads of 2018, which you can watch here:

Though I haven’t yet read much so far this year, my favorite, at this point, is Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. In fact, it quickly became one of my favorite books I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Here is the synopsis from the back of the book:

“From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides.  Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.”

This book has received a ton of praise and it is well deserved, in my opinion. It will be pretty tough for a book to top this one as my favorite read of 2018. You can purchase Little Fires Everywhere here. I’ll keep you all updated on what I’m reading this year with recommendations and reviews, so stay tuned!

Have any of you read Little Fires Everywhere? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Book Review: ‘The Peacock Door’ by Wanda Kay Knight

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Credit: Read, Sav, Read. 

The Peacock Door by Wanda Kay Knight

Warning: This review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.
Continue reading “Book Review: ‘The Peacock Door’ by Wanda Kay Knight”

10 Holiday Gift Ideas for the Bookworm in Your Life

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The holidays are just around the corner, which means now is the time to purchase gifts for your loved ones. While I may not be the person to tell you what your tech-y brother or your garden-loving aunt have on their wish lists, if you have a book lover in your life, this list should help ease your gift buying trepidations.

Readers Gonna Read Enamel Pin

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Help the bookworm in your life promote their book-obsessed lifestyle with this adorable enamel pin.

“Books Turn Muggles into Wizards” Socks 

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Every bookworm knows that books turn muggles into wizards, so now they’ll have some adorable socks to prove it.

Gift Card(s)

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If you don’t know which books the bookworm you’re shopping for is longing for, a gift card to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Half Priced Books, Book Outlet, or Thrift Books are an excellent alternative!

Frostbeard Candle

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Bookworms love candles, so bookish candles will surely be a hit. Frostbeard has a multitude of different scents that come in different forms and sizes.

Edgar Allen Poe Socks

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The bookworm in your life’s feet will be cold nevermore.

“When In Doubt, Go To the Library” Shirt

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Because you can’t go wrong with a Hermione Granger quote t-shirt.

“Please Go Away I’m Reading” Throw Pillow

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Finally, a throw pillow that says what your bookworm really wants to say.

Book Page Holder

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Now, the bookworm in your life can keep those pesky pages in check.

Book Beau (Protective Book Sleeve)

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Book lovers always keep their current reads on hand, which typically means they’re either being tossed into a purse or backpack (and getting bent) or being held (and getting rained on or risking being dropped). This book sleeve from Book Beau will solve all of their problems, while also being their most stylish bookish accessory. The Book Beau comes in many different patterns and sizes.

Book Beau Bean (Lap Pillow for Reading)

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The Book Beau Bean makes reading more comfortable! Give your bookworm the gift of relaxing reading this holiday season.

Do you have more bookworm gift ideas that you want to share? Leave some links in the comments section below. Share this post to drop not-so-subtle bookish gift hints to your Facebook friends. Happy holidays, bookworms!

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Book Review: ‘Girls Like Me’ by Nina Packebush

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Credit: Read, Sav, Read. 

Girls Like Me by Nina Packebush

I just finished reading this book and am at a loss for words. This book is revolutionary! Here is the synopsis included on the back of the book:

“Sixteen-year-old queer-identified Banjo Logan wakes up groggy in a juvenile mental ward. She soon realizes that the clueless therapist and shiny psychiatrist can’t help her come to terms with her genderqueer boy/girlfriend’s suicide, the fetus that’s growing inside her, or answers the question of why she cuts.

She’s befriended by two fellow patients–a strange and slightly manic queer Ethiopian girl and a shy, gay boy disowned by his born-again Christian parents. Girls Like Me is a powerful coming of age story of a pregnant gay teenager who realizes that friends may make the best medicine.”

Being a queer teen mom, reading this book was moving, to say the least. It’s a struggle to be different–to be an outcast. When you fall on the outskirts of society’s pressured norms, you end up feeling really alone. I am a major bookworm and find it really special when I can relate to a story in a way that makes me feel less alone in my experiences. With that being said, this is the first book that has applied to that particular area of my life. I so, so wish that I could have gotten my hands on a copy of this book four years ago when I was pregnant. However, I am overjoyed that queer teens and teen moms and queer teen moms will have this book to comfort them. Girls Like Me was diverse, in terms of race, gender, sexual orientation, mental health, social class, and so much more. I appreciate Nina Packebush for telling a story that has desperately needed to be told.

This is a book that I couldn’t stand to put down and I highly recommend that you all buy and read it as soon as possible! You can purchase your own copy of Nina Packebush’s Girls Like Me here.

Hooray for diversity and representation. Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!