eARC Review: Luster by Raven Leilani

Luster by Raven Leilani

Category: Contemporary Fiction

First Publication Date: 4th August 2020


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


Synopsis: Edie is stumbling her way through her twenties—sharing a subpar apartment in Bushwick, clocking in and out of her admin job, making a series of inappropriate sexual choices. She’s also, secretly, haltingly figuring her way into life as an artist. And then she meets Eric, a digital archivist with a family in New Jersey, including an autopsist wife who has agreed to an open marriage—with rules. As if navigating the constantly shifting landscapes of contemporary sexual manners and racial politics weren’t hard enough, Edie finds herself unemployed and falling into Eric’s family life, his home. She becomes hesitant friend to his wife and a de facto role model to his adopted daughter. Edie is the only black woman young Akila may know.

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eARC Review: Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami

breast and eggs mieko kawakami

Rating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Contemporary, Translated Fiction

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

Breasts and Eggs tells the story of three women: the thirty-year-old Natsu, her older sister, Makiko, and Makiko’s daughter, Midoriko. Makiko has traveled to Tokyo in search of an affordable breast enhancement procedure. She is accompanied by Midoriko, who has recently grown silent, finding herself unable to voice the vague yet overwhelming pressures associated with growing up. Her silence proves a catalyst for each woman to confront her fears and frustrations.

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Review: Kept Animals by Kate Milliken

kept animals kate millikenRating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Coming-of-Age Fiction, F/F

It’s 1993, and Rory Ramos works as a ranch hand at the stable her stepfather manages in Topanga Canyon, California, a dry, dusty place reliant on horses and hierarchies. There she rides for the rich clientele, including twins June and Wade Fisk. While Rory draws the interest of out-and-proud June, she’s more intrigued by Vivian Price, the beautiful girl with the movie-star father who lives down the hill. Rory keeps largely separate from the likes of the Prices—but, perched on her bedroom windowsill, Rory steals glimpses of Vivian swimming in her pool nearly every night.

After Rory’s stepfather is involved in a tragic car accident, the lives of Rory, June, and Vivian become inextricably bound together. Rory discovers photography, begins riding more competitively, and grows closer to gorgeous, mercurial Vivian, but despite her newfound sense of self, disaster lurks all around her: in the parched landscape, in her unruly desires, in her stepfather’s wrecked body and guilty conscience.One night, as the relationships among these teenagers come to a head, a forest fire tears through the canyon, and Rory’s life is changed forever. Continue reading

eARC Review: The Harpy by Megan Hunter

Categories: Contemporary Fiction


Lucy and Jake live in a house by a field where the sun burns like a ball of fire. Lucy has set her career aside in order to devote her life to the children, to their finely tuned routine, and to the house itself, which comforts her like an old, sly friend. But then a man calls one afternoon with a shattering message: his wife has been having an affair with Lucy’s husband, Jake.

The revelation marks a turning point: Lucy and Jake decide to stay together, but make a special arrangement designed to even the score and save their marriage—she will hurt him three times.

As the couple submit to a delicate game of crime and punishment, Lucy herself begins to change, surrendering to a transformation of both mind and body from which there is no return.


As I started the book, it seemed to me it would be too much of an indulgent revenge fantasy story, and it is definitely that, but it’s also an addictive read and with surprising depth. There is definitely no shortage of books about infidelity in marriage, but this one definitely stands out with its daring plot.

The author tries to give us glimpses of the life of Lucy and how she came to have this violence inside her, how the patterns of the life of her parents repeated themselves and so on, which I found a bit overdone. The interesting thing about the story, for me, was that she could have been any wife, any woman who’s been cheated on and fantasized about taking revenge. By giving Lucy so much backstory, it felt to me that she was over-explained.

If you enjoy stories about messy women making bad choices on purpose (this reminded me a bit of Supper Club in that regard: a story about women’s hunger for darker things than society expects them to), then I think this will be an enjoyable read! If you hope for a literary work with a deep exploration of relationship dynamics, violence and guilt (as I did), then you will be disappointed – this is more a revenge story that also showcases the daily pressures, trauma and violence women go through. I also expected a more lyrical prose (the blurb talks of poetic prose), but found it quite regular. As a last and petty complaint, I love magical realism in a story, and I really liked the harpy allegory, but I did not think the magical part of the story was well-executed, it felt clunky and forced.

In the end, I enjoyed the read and devoured this book, but I doubt it will be very memorable for me down the line. This is Megan Hunter’s sophomore book, and I think it was a very intriguing one even though I did not love it, and I will keep an eye out for her next books.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

eARC Review: Hysteria by Jessica Gross

hysteria jessica gross

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Categories: Contemporary Fiction

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

In HYSTERIA, we meet a young woman an hour into yet another alcohol-fueled, masochistic, sexual bender at her local bar. There is a new bartender working this time, one she hasn’t seen before, and who can properly make a drink. He looks familiar, and as she is consumed by shame from her behavior the previous week— hooking up with her parents’ colleague and her roommate’s brother— she also becomes convinced that her Brooklyn bartender is actually Sigmund Freud. They embark on a relationship, and she is forced to confront her past through the prism of their complex, revealing, and sometimes shocking meetings. With the help of Freud—or whoever he is—she begins to untangle her Oedipal leanings, her upbringing, and her desires.

This became immediately one of my most anticipated reads for this year the moment I saw this cover and the synopsis. I adore the “messy woman” trope, dark-toned stories about 20-something women who misbehave wildly, get into a lot of trouble and often don’t get the therapy they so sorely need. It’s just really an enjoyable kind of read for me. Continue reading

Bilingual Review [EN/PT]: The House in Smyrna / A Chave de Casa by Tatiana Salem Levy

a chave de casa tatiana salem levy

(Keep scrolling down for the English review.)

[Português]

Nota: ★★★★☆

Categorias: Ficção Contemporânea

Passando por temas como a morte da mãe, a relação com um homem violento, viagem, raízes, herança e etc, A chave de casa é um livro pulsante, cheio de vida e emoção. A autora tece um romance de vozes diversas – como são as vozes da memória -, histórias que se complementam num tom de densa estranheza. Romance de estréia da jovem escritora Tatiana Salem Levy. 

Fiquei surpresa ao ver que este é o romance de estréia da autora – sua maestria na escrita de um romance com diversas narrativas fragmentadas me encantou completamente. Seu estilo me lembrou um pouco de Virginia Woolf e Clarice Lispector, com uma linha da história alternando entre pontos de vista, ano e país, fragmentadas, e obrigando o leitor a se esforçar para entender a narrativa não-linear. Eu pessoalmente gosto muito desse tipo de história (embora não tenha me dado bem com os romances de Clarice ainda), em que o leitor tem que se concentrar e se entregar à história, tentando desvendar vários pontos da narração ao mesmo tempo em que desconfia dela. No final o sentimento  que tive ao terminar o livro é de gratificação por ter uma imagem da personagem e como ela chegou a ser quem é, as coisas que ela passou, como ela pensa e se sente. Não é um livro fácil, mas é curto e, levando em conta que ele venceu o Prêmio São Paulo de Literatura, sinto-me confiante ao recomendá-lo. Continue reading

Review: It Would be Night in Caracas by Karina Sainz Borgo

noite em caracas karina sainz borgo Rating: ★★★☆☆

Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Translated Fiction

It Would Be Night in Caracas tells the story of Adelaida Falcón, whose mother has just died and she now finds herself despairing with grief and alone in the world, in a country torn by unrest, violence and scarcity.

Despite having given this book 3 stars, I actually really enjoyed It Would Be Night in Caracas and it left a strong impression on me. The portrayal of Venezuela and the violence, uncertainty and fear of its people was unforgettable and heartbreaking, and it opened my eyes to things one vaguely hears about on the news, and very often pays not much attention to. Venezuelan people have been under a dangerous government for years now and the political situation does not look like it will get better. Novels like these are incredibly important for bringing empathy to non-Venezuelans and putting the suffering of people on the foreground, instead of being relegated to something happening elsewhere and therefore unimportant. Continue reading

Review: Supper Club by Lara Williams

supper club lara williams

Rating: ★★★★☆

Categories: Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Goodreads / Skoob / The StoryGraph

Roberta spends her life trying not to take up space. At almost thirty, she is adrift and alienated from life. Stuck in a mindless job and reluctant to pursue her passion for food, she suppresses her appetite and recedes to the corners of rooms. But when she meets Stevie, a spirited and effervescent artist, their intense friendship sparks a change in Roberta, a shift in her desire for more. Together, they invent the Supper Club, a transgressive and joyous collective of women who gather to celebrate, rather than admonish, their hungers. They gather after dark and feast until they are sick; they break into private buildings and leave carnage in their wake; they embrace their changing bodies; they stop apologizing. For these women, each extraordinary yet unfulfilled, the club is a way to explore, discover, and push the boundaries of the space they take up in the world. Yet as the club expands, growing both in size and rebellion, Roberta is forced to reconcile herself to the desire and vulnerabilities of the body–and the past she has worked so hard to repress. Devastatingly perceptive and savagely funny, Supper Club is an essential coming-of-age story for our times. Continue reading

Review: Bunny by Mona Awad

bunny mona awad

Rating: ★★★★★

Categories: Contemporary, Horror, Satire, Sapphic MC

Goodreads

In Bunny, Samantha is an outcast at the very expensive and elite Warren University, where she’s doing her MFA program. She’s made no friends there, and has an almost hostile relationship with her peers, four young women in her class who call each other “Bunny” and seem to think and behave like one mind, talking in childish voices and hugging each other nonstop. When one day Samantha gets a surprising invitation to join the Bunnies in a party, she finds herself inexplicably there on time, drawn to those girls and their weird friendship. Continue reading

Mini-Review: Red at the Bone, by Jacqueline Woodson

red at the bone Jacqueline WoodsonRating: ★★★☆☆

Categories: Contemporary Fiction

Goodreads

Red at the Bone tells the story of Melody and her family, going through different point of views as they revisit their relationships with each other as the years go by.

It’s hard to describe this book, mostly because there isn’t too much of a plot, except that Melody and her family tell their stories, their dreams and their frustrated ambitions. It’s a book about family versus dreams, about family heritage versus new beginnings. It’s a beautifully written story, which had its moments of brilliancy, but that left me wanting so much more out of it. There was hardly any emotional connection with the characters, the ending felt weird and forced, and there was little development for most of the characters. I loved the story of Melody’s mother, a difficult woman who did not want to be a mother and chose her career instead, but who would like to reconnect with her daughter one day. Who falls in love with a woman but can’t help but lie to her. In the end, I would have loved this book a lot more if it had been through her perspective, a hard-hitting book full of emotion and pain, but as it was, Red at the Bone didn’t leave much of an impression on me. Still, it was a nice afternoon read!