January Releases eARC Reviews: Miss Austen & How Quickly She Disappears

miss austen gill hornbyMiss Austen by Gill Hornby

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Categories: Historical Fiction

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I received an advance copy via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Miss Austen is the story of Cassandra Austen, who famously destroyed most of the letters exchanged with her sister Jane. I enjoyed the witty dialogues, so very like the way the books are written, and I think it’s where it shines. I was however bored with it rather soon, despite its attempts at making a (fictional) dramatic account of Cassandra’s love life, Jane’s depression and jealousy of other women. All the characters seem to be taken right out of Jane Austen’s novels (on purpose, I assume), all wit and clear heroines vs antagonists, which did not work well for this novel, in my opinion. I hoped for more well-rounded characters. I was engrossed by the story at times, but much too often I was simply bored. The predictability of the plot (which, considering it’s based on real events, can’t be avoided) was not helped by the writing, or the characters. If you’re craving some Austen in your life, I think you’ll enjoy this, especially how much you see of Cassandra in this. I itched to know more about their real lives. The novel, although witty and loosely based to real events from the Austen family’s lives, did not feel quite strong enough. Continue reading

eARC Review: My Dark Vanessa, by Kate Elizabeth Russell

my dark vanessa kate elizabeth russelRating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery

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I received an advanced copy via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

My Dark Vanessa was among my most anticipated books for 2020, and justifiably so. This intense, consuming book is an exploration of the psychological effects of abuse a teenage girl suffers from when she’s fifteen all the way into adulthood, and the love story she is convinced she lived, instead of the horrific reality of the abuse. It’s not an easy read, and it’s not for every reader. It was a rewarding experience to read this – I was left destroyed and with so many thoughts going through my head, I had no idea how to write this review. Continue reading

Mini-Reviews: Queen of Nothing, The Deep, To Drink Coffee with a Ghost, Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered

queen of nothing holly black Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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I really enjoyed the first two books in the series, especially for how cutthroat Jude was, and all the scheming and twists and betrayals were just really exciting to read. This final book, however, just felt like one long ode to how amazing Cardan is, how worthy of love and how secretly a good guy he was all along. There is not much going on at all for most of the book, and even what conflict is there was too quickly resolved, too neatly wrapped up. I did enjoy the book, just felt a bit disappointed by it. The audiobook was really good, though! Continue reading

eARC Review: Cleanness, by Garth Greenwell

cleanness Garth GreenwellRating: ★★★☆☆

Categories: Literary Fiction, M/M

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I received an advanced copy via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

I have not read Garth Greenwell’s other work What Belongs to You, and it was with no expectations and hardly any memory of the synopsis that I started it. What I knew of the book is that it would be an exploration of sexuality and identity, which is absolutely true. This book is very sexually explicit and beautifully written, the sentences not too flowery but still poignant. I was not sure I liked this book for the majority of it, because although I appreciated the writing and the themes, erotic literature is not quite what I normally pick up, and I felt uncomfortably like a voyeur. Basically, if you’re a prude like me, maybe skip this book. The main character, an American teacher, tells episodes of his life in Bulgaria, and how they reflected previous experiences he had in the US years before. I really enjoyed reading about Sofia and had my heart broken when learning the reality of homophobia there. Reading this a very immersive experience. Continue reading

Review: Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

fleishman is in trouble taffy brodesser-aknerRating: ★★★☆☆

Categories: Contemporary Fiction

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Toby Fleishman is divorcing at forty-one, and finds himself suddenly addicted to the easy sex that dating apps provide for a man like him, despite the short height he’s always been insecure about, despite his age and the fact that he has children. When he starts finally enjoying the life as a single man after a miserable and loveless marriage, his ex-wife suddenly disappears, and he has the children over at his place for longer than he expected, and no idea where his ex might be. Is she alive, is she avoiding him, is she ok? As he tries to find her and juggle his job, the children and dating, he’s forced to face some truths about his marriage he might have been ignoring for years. Continue reading

eARC Review: A Beautiful Crime: A Novel by Christopher Bollen

a beautiful crime christopher bollenRating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Mystery, M/M

Goodreads

I received an advanced copy via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

A Beautiful Crime tells the story of two young men who are planning the scam of their lives to save themselves from financial ruin. Nick, a handsome boy from New York, is meeting his boyfriend Clay in Venice for what will be the adventure of a lifetime – or his worst mistake. With Nick’s charming personality and Clay’s knowledge of their target, they are sure they can succeed. But can they?

I think it is inevitable to compare this book with The Talented Mr. Ripley, and the similarities in atmosphere and even the plot mirrors it a bit: two Americans meeting in Italy, scams and even murder. I had a lot of fun reading this character-driven novel! It is a mystery, and I would hesitate to call it a thriller due to the plot being definitely too slow for that, but I was positively anxious by the end of the book and just had to know what happened next. Continue reading

Review: Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, by Patrick Radden Keefe

say nothing patrick radden keefeRating: ★★★★★

Genres: Non-Fiction, History

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In December 1972, Jean McConville was kidnapped from her home, in front of her children, and never seen again. The criminal investigation for this disappearing would unleash several decades later the release of the tapes of Project Belfast, a secret oral archive of the Troubles.

Say Nothing is a fantastic book – and one of the best non-fiction I’ve read all year. You definitely don’t need to be too knowledgeable about the violent conflicts during the Troubles in Northern Ireland to pick this up at all, and this fascinating read has it all: drama, violence, twists, betrayals and so much blood spilled for an ideal. It’s for those reasons a great pick also for people who, like me, are more used to reading fiction. Continue reading

Review: 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World, by Elif Shafak

10 minutes and 38 seconds in this strange world elif shafak

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Categories: Literary Fiction, Contemporary, Historical Fiction

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Leila is dead – but her brain still shows activity for another 10 minutes and 38 seconds; and in those moments after death, she remembers the tastes and smells that bring her back memories from her childhood and then eventually becoming a prostitute in Istanbul.

This is a book that had everything to become an instant favorite for me. It tells the story of Leila, who worked as a prostitute in Istanbul, but also of her five closest friends, all of which are part of minorities living in the margins of Istanbul, and each one will probably end up in the Cemetery of Companionless, a real cemetery in the outskirts of the city for those who are unclaimed or unwanted. I liked how much diversity in the characters and their personalities there was – I also liked how Leila was strong and kind, despite all the things she goes through. Continue reading

Mini-Review: The Man Who Saw Everything, by Deborah Levy

the man who saw everything deborah levy

Rating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Literary Fiction, Contemporary, Historical Fiction, M/M

Goodreads

In The Man Who Saw Everything, Saul Adler goes to East Germany in 1988 to do research and in exchange write a favorable report about the GDR. That is the very short description I can give about the plot of this book, but it is so much more than that.

Saul is a historian, a narcissistic, gorgeous-looking man whose narrative is deeply unreliable and it was both strange and fascinating to read. He’s clearly obsessed with himself and his own beauty, but also constantly defies gender in a nonchalant manner. He was one of the most interesting narrators I’ve seen in a long time. Little by little, we piece together what happened in East Berlin, the fate of the people in his life, but we’re never really sure if we’re reading the absolute truth. I found myself laughing sometimes, and at other times my heart broke to tiny, tiny pieces, which is a feat for a 200-page book! This engrossing, brilliant read was such a highlight for literary fiction this year for me, and I highly recommend it.

Review: In the Dream House: A Memoir, by Carmen Maria Machado

in the dream house carmen maria machado

Rating: ★★★★★

Categories: Memoir, LGBTQ+ (lesbian and bisexual)

Goodreads

In the Dream House is the true story of the author’s experience with violence in a queer relationship. The beautiful prose and the choose-your-own-adventure style of the book sets this apart and describes a story that has happened for as long as people have been in relationships, but is hardly ever acknowledged.

This is the first book by Carmen Maria Machado that I’ve read, and it immediately made me add Her Body and Other Parties to my to-be-read list. In the Dream House is one of the most difficult books I’ve read this year, a painful look into domestic violence in a queer couple, as experienced by Carmen herself. The author divides this story into several chapters, most of which are one page long, and told in different styles, and always in second person. Continue reading